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Gwin Paden: Celebrating Don Phillips’ birthday, and miscellany

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Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 12:00 am

The garden is all excited about spring. An azalea by the front porch is electric with its purple-red blossoms providing a bouquet for everyone to admire. It’s fairly preening itself, but it needn’t get too uppity. There are signs there might be a couple of others coming into the same color. The iris keep surprising me, each blooming at its own pace, telling me I must be patient and not pull out corms that seem finished with life.

So all this beautiful activity going on around me and what am I doing each morning? After the flurry of feeding three cats, changing three water bowls, feeding squirrels, putting in a load of laundry (some days), doling out my pills for the day, and finally making my breakfast, I treat myself to my favorite part of the day — sitting in a chair with my feet up and enjoying the morning paper with my breakfast, very lazily.

I hate Mondays — no News-Sentinel. Sure, I enjoy the Record, too, but it’s not the same. It’s a funny thing — I always read the paper and catalogs from back to front. Always have. With the paper it’s because front page stories are always jumped to the back page, and then the obits are on the back of that, so why not keep on going? Catalogs have some of the most interesting stuff in the back, and, besides, I have to tear my name and address off for shredding.

So, having told you more than you really wanted to know about my mornings, let’s move on.

***Miscellany: I can’t believe it! Putting a solution into a “vile” instead of a “vial”? ... Is blotting paper still available? Ink on the surfaces of some greeting cards doesn’t dry well at all. Why are Valentine gifts and cards always for women and hardly ever for men? ... My niece tells me we teach what we need to learn. Hmmm ... The ancient Mayans had a written language, paper, and paved roads, as well as massive temples that still stand ...

Permeable pavement is a great thing for the environment. It percolates rain water through stoneor soil-filled joints between pavers into an underground gravel base that filters gasoline, car oil, and other contaminants out of storm drains and, ultimately, lakes, rivers, and oceans. Because more water soaks into the ground, less is wasted, and the need for existing runoff systems can be diminished or eliminated ...

The word lieutenant can be hard to spell for some. Just remember it is French and means “place holder.” “Lieu” is another word for “place” or “stead” in crossword puzzles and “tenant” is a familiar word when discussing property, rents, etc.

***One catalog has some fascinating stuff — if you’re wealthy. How about an electric car with no top that’s powered by at least two people pulling on rowing bars? Only $60,000! And how about a flying, fire-breathing dragon with a nine-foot wing span (and four clawed feet hiding wheels) that can climb and dive? What wouldn’t that do to a neighborhood on Hallowe’en!? Again, $60,000. One needs a lot of space to house a nine-foot wide dragon that’s also nine feet long! To be fair, most items in this book are useful, helpful, and a lot less expensive.

***Per a request, here is the number to call to stop sales calls on your cellphone or landline phone: 888-382-1222. Call from the phone you want to be protected. Also, online it’s

Don Phillips’s 90th birthday was a great occasion. Lots of friends congregated in the outside sheltered eating area to congratulate him and enjoy cupcakes and wine while listening to a talented pair of young fiddlers, Sarah Spenker and Drew Snotterly, and Arthur Brogli, a wonderful yodeler, singer and accordionist who regaled the group with singable, danceable tunes from years past. He also entertained at the next day’s monthly meeting of Okinawa veterans, a group of which Don has long been a member.

Cards, best wishes, tributes from his family, and an enormous cake also marked the birthday. I’m sure everyone who reads the News-Sentinel saw the great letter of tribute to Don written by his grandson Jeff, a letter I’m sure echoes the feelings of many in the Lodi area. Don and his wife Jeannie have for years contributed to the community in more ways than we all can count. What many people now know only as the highly successful Michael~David Winery was begun by this visionary pair as Phillips Farms, with farm produce grown and marketed at roadside stands.

A sort of open air informal eating place was added to the main produce stand on Highway 12 many years ago, and this is now the busy café which is adjunct to the wine salesroom. It has always been a friendly place where steady customers from Lodi and elsewhere have come regularly for special occasions or to just enjoy a meal and a reunion with staff they have come to know as family friends. Special brunches on Mother’s Day and other occasions have been like family reunions, and reservations for many a birthday luncheon or business meal have marked the years. One way or another, people chose Phillips Farms as their home place.

Children brought in by school bus or by their parents have for years been thronging in October to the annual Pumpkin Patch, where they have been welcomed by Grandpa Don and his pet turkey and introduced to a number of young farm animals and a family of ducks on the pond. Music and costumed characters added to the fun. No more animals now.

Farm produce is still on sale, as are bunches of flowers from the picking gardens, Jeannie Phillips’ special interest, and more flowers are on the tables. In cold weather, a corner fireplace makes the café warm and inviting. I like coming here and other places where almost everybody knows me.

There are very few such places left anywhere anymore. Most are geared to visiting tourists, and so efficient service is more to the point when tour buses limit eating times. Personally, I don’t care for the increasing impersonality creeping into most forms of human relationships — some induced by too much to be done and the lack of time to do it, others simply the result of plain not caring about others’ needs. Thank God for the smaller enclaves like family, close friends and associates, and churches and other groups which make the world easier to live in.

And one to end on: “The woods would be silent if only the best birds sang.” — Amish proverb

Gwin Paden has lived in Lodi since 1957. She served in the Women’s Army Corps, worked for local newspapers, and taught English at Lodi High School and San Joaquin Delta College.

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