Archives for the month of: February, 2014

I attended the Descanso Planning Group meeting last Thursday (Julie, you said you’d meet me there. I’m still waiting for you!). The company proposing a local solar farm in our community had a representative who briefly spoke about the plans.

On one hand, I was relieved to see it is not the scope that is planned in other areas, but still, I have my reservations. One being that it is being proposed on an extremely scenic view of Descanso. Coming from the east on Old Hwy. 80, the first thing you see when you hit Hwy. 79 is the scenic valley view. It’s something to behold, and may be ruined.


I’m trying not to be a NIMBY (but of course, I am). And I’m waiting to see plans and renditions before I comment much further. The verdict is still out on these solar farms.

Here is a story from Fox News, an entity known for being business friendly with little sympathy for environmentalists: Birds Being Scorched in Nevada Desert

And another post from THE most business friendly publication, the Wall Street Journal

When right-wing, business publications are having second doubts, that worries me.

Here is my latest post in the East County Magazine reporting on this very preliminary stage of what may happen not only in my community, but many other small backcountry communities:

Descanso Solar Farm



After an up-and-down year in 2013, I’m digging 2014. So far, not just “so good,” but great.

We lost several people last year — my Uncle Kikie, Cousin Ken, a few friends, but the hardest for me was my sister, Marion. A year ago, if someone had even suggested that Marion would be gone, I would not have believed it. She was the invincible one. The one who always made lemon meringue pie out of lemons (pshaw on lemonade!). The one who prevailed.

I’ve written a lot about her loss, but you know what? Almost eight months later I still cannot grasp it. She was such a presence in our lives and it’s unbelievable that she is gone. I think about her every day.


With each loss comes something new. This past Tuesday, my nephew and niece Travis and Jill gave birth to a beautiful, healthy redheaded baby girl named Maylee Mary McCleary. Such a lyrical, sing-song aspect to that name. I love it, and man, did I fall in love with that baby girl. She’s an angel. She’s perfect.

Looking at my redheaded nephew so protective and loving toward his new daughter, I can’t help but wonder about my own redheaded dad, Ralph, when his first redheaded daughter, Marion was born.


Life was so different back in 1942. My mom spent 10 days in the hospital, and she said she couldn’t walk after being in bed so long. Dads were not allowed anywhere near that.

Travis spent the two nights in the hospital with Jill and baby Maylee. That’s a positive change. The whole family bonding, as it should be.

Holding that baby girl, I couldn’t help but think she seems like an old soul. I don’t claim to know anything, but this I do believe: love is what continues. It is the most important thing in life. As each life grows and passes on, love is the one thing that binds us to each other. We need to keep the memories alive.

I am so much in love with Maylee; I love her parents Jill and Travis; I love my sister Marion; I love my dad, who loved all four of his redheaded children. I love all my family.

If I die tomorrow, I hope each of my family members know and keep that love.

Here’s to you Maylee — I hope I can give you some happy memories before I die.

Who knew there is so much drama with school boards and tiny community groups? I guess whenever you get two or more people together, there will be conflict. Especially when money and power are involved. My experience lately of covering these types of things make me realize the power plays that go on even in the smallest of organized groups.

Here is my latest story in East County Magazine:

My passions are writing and photography. I am by training a photojournalist, but have been learning more formal photography techniques over the last seven years. I had a great session on portrait lighting the other day (with a great photographer named Rob Andrew). I also had the good fortune to photograph a beautiful model named Brooke. Lighting is, of course, the first key in any photograph, and Rob showed us how to manipulate studio lighting for great effects. I can’t wait to do more. For any budding photographer, I highly recommend hands-on training sessions. Books are great, but you need to get together with professionals and start snapping that camera.

Here are just a few outtakes from that session (you can see more of my shots of Brooke by going to my photo sharing site).








The current view of the land where a proposed solar farm would go


The lot on Viejas Blvd, where a solar farm may go

Newberry Springs panel washing 9-18-13byRobertBerkman

Scale of what one panel looks like. The solar farm may contain up to 200 of these. Not only an eyesore, but they require constant washing in a community that uses groundwater; and they have the potential to be a fire hazard.

Getting more involved in my community and learning about what is happening around me has been one the biggest blessings of my retirement. Before, I got up at the crack of dawn, commuted 45 minutes to work; spent the day in a windowless office; drove another 45 minutes to get home after maybe running a few errands in town; then had about three to four hours in the evening for dinner, household chores, time with my husband, dogs and cats, and maybe a little relaxation before bed. I didn’t have time to find out what was happening in my own little town.

Now that I’m freelancing, I’m discovering so much. Not all of it good.

In my latest story in East County Magazine, I covered a story about our utility company wanting to update and retrofit existing electrical lines in the Cleveland National Forest ( Sounds reasonable on the surface. It was for safety and fire hardening. But in working with some local environmentalists, I discovered plans for some massive energy projects in the backcountry — one of which was about a mile from my house. The lot in question is due south of where my cousin has lived since 1970 in a home she and her late husband built overlooking the valley.

Plans are in a “pre-approval” stage for a solar farm on a lovely lot in our mountain community.

I believe solar energy is an important step in the right direction. But I am talking about affordable solar panels on everyone’s rooftops, or covering commercial garages in town. These types of solar farms are large, industrial eyesores that have absolutely no benefit for our own community; in fact, only harm. The purpose is to generate more electrical capacity for growth and development elsewhere.

Here is what Descanso would gain from this solar farm:

  • Increased risk of wildfire, impediments to fire fighting, loss of chaparral carbon sequestration
  • Industrial conversion of a centrally located viewpoint of rural land in order to serve distant cities
  • Perhaps a million gallons or more of irreplaceable groundwater resources for construction (in a community where many homes use private wells and the rest of the community is on a public well)
  • Potential harmful levels of noise
  • Proximity to existing residences, decreasing quality of life and property values
  • Potentially health threatening levels of electrical pollution through ground, air and utility lines
  • Severe environmental impacts to wildlife, including the golden eagle

I now plan to be more involved than ever before. I will do what I can to make sure this plan is not approved. I know that all of the other residents in my town feel the same way (minus one; the man who would become lucratively compensated for leasing out his beautiful property to this monstrosity). Another David and Goliath story here in the backcountry, but David has a history of victory with some of these battles.

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