Ken Sartain, YLOA director

Who are YLPers? Why, all of us who call Yosemite Lakes Park our home. We’re more than an HOA, we are a community of people who love where we live!
More than just a place of majestic mountain views, YLP is people — individuals of all backgrounds and interests. In this series of periodic profiles, we hope to introduce you to many of these folks — to YLOA board members, to managers, to employees, to our valued volunteers and notable neighbors who share our 21 square miles of Sierra foothills. We hope you enjoy learning about these YLPers.

This week it’s Ken Sartain, a member of the YLOA and YSPUC Board of Directors, a dedicated volunteer and community contributor.

Ken Sartain at home in YLP

Tell us about your early life

[He grew up with his family in the Los Altos area between San Francisco and San Jose in the ‘50s when it was mostly orchards.]

My parents were both working class and they always instilled in my siblings and myself a strong work ethic, all the kids learned that if you want to make something of yourself that you would work, it was just a given.

[He has an older brother and two older sisters. When he was about 8 and they were in their teens] we all went and picked (sweet) corn…. That was my first real exposure to work.

A story my mother liked to tell….When I was about 3 years old, this is probably in the 1953 time frame, they had bought the first TV in the neighborhood. So it’s a pretty big deal for that time! One day my mother came into the room, and she called my name, “Where are you?”  She said I didn’t answer right away then popped my head up. I was behind the TV set. And I had gotten one of my dad’s screwdrivers and I was proceeding to take the back of the TV off and she says, “What are you doing!?” And I said “I’m fixing it!” It was good timing on her part. Had I succeeded it might not have ended well. So that curiosity about how things work and “fixing” things has always been a pattern in my life to this day.

What about your schooling, what did you want to be?

School was something that I didn’t have much interest in other than, you know, if I could learn something that did interest me, then I would get really good grades. So I got through high school just average, nothing particularly great. During high school, I actually I took a lot of drawing and industrial design classes and that sort of thing.

[Coming of age during the Vietnam War, he received a draft notice but both of his parents were opposed to the war and he registered as a conscientious objector, doing alternate service as a teacher’s assistant in an autistic children’s care facility.]

In the early ’70s, My aunt had left me a small amount of money so I decided I wanted to be in the restaurant business. I opened up a deli, really small. Then I opened a restaurant and also had a catering business on the side. It got too much for me handle after a few years so it was time to move on.

Since I always loved the industrial arts and working with mechanical stuff. I managed to get myself into Stanford School of Engineering at the High-Temperature Gasdynamics laboratory which suited me very well. I worked on an extremely dynamic and potentially dangerous large scale research project call magnetohydrodynamics. It’s a method that basically uses a rocket engine to fire a hot plasma through a high-powered magnetic field to extract electrical energy. When we got it going, the whole building shook! It was actually one of the few things that we did with the Soviets as a co-research project and one of the earliest projects for alternate energy sources.

Silicon Valley at the time, in the ‘70s, was booming. There were startups going left and right. I got a phone call from a small company that had a technology that they had patented — a self-regulating heating technology. Their main product was a high-tech soldering tool, which was used quite a bit in the (electronics) industry at that time. They hired me to find new ways to use the technology. Also, there I helped invent a new way to join pipe by heat fusion. I work there for a few years and then a new opportunity presented itself.

I became a laboratory manager of startup company that made flow meters. That lasted a few years and it was time to move on to bigger and better things and I began working at a large semiconductor equipment manufacturer, Applied Materials, as a senior reliability engineer for a new division. I was the fifth employee hired. We came out with a new machine for manufacturing flat panels — so that screen that you have on your computer, I had a fairly large part in engineering the machinery that manufactures them. This job brought me to about 2006 where another opportunity came up.

I went back to Stanford where I began, I loved working there before, so I’ll work there again. I worked for the last 10 years of my career at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory which is a Department of Energy National Laboratory. My years of management and technical experience was a good match there.

I was incredibly lucky as I had really good, interesting jobs my whole career.

How about your family life?

[In his early career, he bought a fixer-upper in Redwood City and ended up building it anew for his family.]

[He is quite proud of his two grown children, Loren and Brian.] My son is a supervisor for a large electrical contracting company. Right now, he’s working on a new Facebook building. My daughter was in marketing for years, then left to go to beauty college… and now has her own salon in Burlingame.

Michele came into the picture when they were pretty young, 8 and 10 years old. She had a successful childcare business, …. We met on the internet back in the days of AOL, when you have to dial up your modem, you know, and we met in a chat room. She lived in Missouri and I lived in California and, yeah, so that’s how we got started. We just celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary.

Ken Sartain, on the ladder, works with volunteers Doug Dorsey, left, and Wayne Rodriguez, right, on the deck kitchen project.

What brought you to YLP and when?

Before I retired we looked for land or house up here because it was centrally located…. Michele’s family is down in L.A. and mine’s up in the Bay Area. So we kind of got the map out and zeroed in on this area. And we started coming up here on a very regular basis, hunting for places. That was about 10 years ago…. We ended up buying some acreage with the idea that we would build something in a few years.

[Then they got a house in YLP. Michele moved in and Ken commuted to Stanford, coming home on weekends.]

We wanted to be close to the city but yet far enough away that was more country. So Michele came up with the saying “YLP is Country Lite.”

What have you learned in your time on the YLOA board?

I hadn’t given much thought about becoming a board member but Marie Touitou gave me a call one day and she says, you know, you ought to think about getting on the board and I said no, I just don’t want to do that. Social media was cranking up then and there were a few people that were complaining about various things… I just didn’t want to put up with it.

But when the elections came along, I thought what the heck and threw my hat in. It was a big surprise when I did get on the board because I didn’t realize how bad a shape the place was in. Having some business background and running projects and that sort of thing, I had a pretty good idea of what’s good and what’s bad on the balance sheet and the place was a train wreck.

I thought…We’ve got our new manager now and the guy seems pretty sharp. Maybe I can contribute something to this place. As it turns out, Jonathan is probably the best thing that ever happened to this place. I mean, I’ve known a lot of exceptionally smart people, I’ve been blessed to be in different industries with highly educated, just plain brilliant people and he’s right up there with them. So, I really respect him for what he’s done. I mean previously we literally had to use cash in order to pay for things and now we’ve got money in the bank and the improvements that we’ve made, just really a game-changer for improving our community.

What would you tell others who may want to run for the board?

There’s a time commitment there, you know that? You can put in a minimal amount. We’ve had some board members that have done that or you can really throw yourself into it. It depends on how you feel about it and how much time you have. For me, it’s turned into a job of sorts, but one that I enjoy doing, because I know what I’m doing is for the good of the community.

[For people who move here] I would encourage them to get involved. I mean, it’s easy just to sit back and, you know, live on your own piece of the world. But put yourself out there, you might find yourself getting a lot of satisfaction from what you do.

What do you desire for YLP?

I think our strategy for The Five-Year Plan is really great. The first part of it is that we do the things that we can do and with the money that we have; they’re not little projects, but they’re not huge projects either. So we were able to fix up the clubhouse and stop the deterioration. I personally know that there was a lot of structural damage in the clubhouse and amenities that needed to be taken care of. So all this work benefits everyone by raising property values and just makes it a nicer place to live.

As Board members, It’s our fiduciary duty to take care of the place, like keep the infrastructure in good shape, and a duty I take seriously. Of course that takes money…. And Jonathan is always looking for ways to cut costs, or move money from one place to another, where it has the most impact. People need to understand a budget is a guideline and not a strict path. We need to be especially flexible as this is a very dynamic world we live in now.

[Also] I think that we can do a better job of communicating to the community, and we are working on that. We have this huge long-term project, replacing pipes and replacing roads which are hugely expensive and we get no assistance from our tax dollars from the government. We don’t qualify for government funding because we’re a private entity. So we have to do it all on our own and it’s going to take a long time to do and it’s going to be very, very expensive to do but it’s something that needs to get done.

One of the things the board and management has done is the formation of YLP Cares [which]  I think is probably one of the most important things that we’ve done. We created it as a way for people to not feel so pressured if they are having a hard time paying their dues or paying their water bill.

We finally have gotten it rolling as a nonprofit separate from YLP. A lot of the community, the directors and employees also contributed to the funding of it. I’m really thrilled and happy that we’re able to do that and I encourage the community to not only contribute to it, but partake of it if they need help, don’t be shy. That’s why it’s there. We did it because once again we want everybody to be included.

What are your outside interests?                                                           

There’s still a lot of things I have ideas that when I get the time I’m going to work on inventions and tinkering in my shop. And there’s always a project around the house. Also,  Michele and I like traveling and hope to do more.

I went fishing with Doug [Dorsey], first time in years, really enjoyed that, went out on Bass Lake. I enjoyed hiking. You know, I used to be an avid backpacker but haven’t done that in a while.

For now though, I have lots of YLP projects that keep me busy!

PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SERIES

Jonathan Penrose, YLOA-YSPUC General Manager

Sandy Eigenman, YLOA president 2020-21

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Proposed ADU/JADU guidelines

The YLOA Board of Directors recently approved proposed ADU/JADU guidelines to follow local and state government law. Guidelines are now posted for a 28-day review and comment period. They can be seen here and on our Public Documents page. Comment for these guidelines can be submitted to QA@yosemitelakespark.org.

 

Jonathan Penrose, General Manager

Who are YLPers? Why, all of us who call Yosemite Lakes Park our home. We’re more than an HOA, we are a community of people who love where we live!
More than just a place of majestic mountain views, YLP is people — individuals of all backgrounds and interests. In this series of periodic profiles, we hope to introduce you to many of these folks — to YLOA board members, to managers, to employees, to our valued volunteers and notable neighbors who share our 21 square miles of Sierra foothills. We hope you enjoy learning about these YLPers.

This week it’s Jonathan Penrose, YLOA and YSPUC General Manager — a UCLA alumnus with MBA, innovator for multiple companies, father, swimmer, biker…who loves YLP and YLPers and is passionate about becoming a more connected community.

What is your background?

I was born and grew up in Bakersfield, about two and a half hours south of YLP. I had a great childhood. I was the oldest of six and It was really a great place to grow up. And from there, I went to school at UCLA for my undergraduate work.

As a kid, what did you want to be?

There were two things that really probably defined my personality and my childhood. My mom tells me I would drive her crazy because I would always ask, “How come?” And the second piece was that I was very independent and wanted to “do things my own self.” My mom says that when we went on walks, I would insist on holding my own hand. Yeah, I don’t know exactly what that says about me but it’s an interesting thing to ponder.

Well, the first thing I ever remember wanting to be, was part of a think tank. I believe I was in sixth grade when I first heard the concept of think tanks. And I thought that would be the coolest job because you got to sit around and think about how things work and how to make things better….my favorite thing is finding creative solutions to complicated problems.

What was your education experience?

I started in college as an English and physics double major, because I couldn’t make up my mind what I wanted to do because there were so many things that were interesting.

There was a small multidisciplinary program at UCLA that combined study of physics, chemistry, biology, math, computer science, computer modeling, engineering and psychology.

I’ve always been fascinated by connections and patterns and so, my bachelor’s degree is in cybernetics with a specialization in computer studies and i was also a departmental scholar in computer science at UCLA, which let me take graduate level computer science courses while still an undergraduate. (Jonathan also earned an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.)

How does a cybernetics background help you manage a community?

Well first let me tell you cybernetics is not Dianetics, right? Sometimes people get those two confused but cybernetics is the study of systems control and communication theory, and it studies the interactions between people and people, between people and machines or between machines and machines.

I would say that an HOA represents a complex system and a lot of people with a lot of different ideas with a lot of different financial applications. (Cybernetics helps you find) where you’re going based on the information you have available. So, I think those fundamental skill sets apply and it’s not just technology, it also is the study of how people interact with technology or how people interact with each other and trying to predict outcomes.

How did you pursue your goals? (education, employment)

(Having been a competitive swimmer in high school and college, Jonathan’s first job was teaching and coaching swimming. Among his students was an Olympics medalist, Gabe Woodward.

(He then did computer work for accounting and entertainment industry clients, and then the insurance industry. He later created his own technology and business consulting company.)

I saw a trend coming in the change of how computer consulting worked, which was historically based on hours, you know, you charged a given rate for a certain number of hours of work. Well, the problem with that is if you were good at what you were doing, you got it done a lot faster so if you fix everybody’s problems, you put yourself out of work and you actually made less money by doing a better job and I said this is a silly business model.

What we should do is we should align our interests so that we both win and so if we do a good job, we make more money and if we do a good job, you have fewer problems. So I started a company with the idea of subscription IT services, where you would pay us a fixed amount per server and workstation and we would provide all of your support for your computer network for that price…. And so that ultimately became, it’s called the managed service model now, and this is how most IT services are done today.

(Jonathan continued working in managed services until joining a Fresno company that provides and manages energy efficiency programs for California utilities. When that company took a different direction that Jonathan felt he could no longer help with, he assisted with setting up a nonprofit in Hawaii and then returned to Fresno and family.)

Jonathan and daughter Catherine

What brought you to YLP? (How did you find out about this job and why were you interested?)

(Jonathan saw the general manager position posted for YLP, where his family was residing.)

And I said you know what, the job posting, what was described really hit a lot of the areas I had experience with — technology, accounting, management.

And then I really like this community and I love, you know, what we were doing, I thought there were some things that we could probably do better, that we could apply some technology (and) better financial practices and that I had the experience to do that.

What were the biggest challenges YLP faced when you arrived?

Before I accepted the position, I reviewed our financial statements and it was clear… that we weren’t operating from a position of financial strength, that we had lots of deferred maintenance, that we had extremely low amounts of money in reserves….that we didn’t really even have sufficient operating capital to even handle the day-to-day things.

I knew there were answers to those because you can almost always find ways to save money in the existing processes and solutions that are in place. And we did find several ways to do that and we’re still in the process of implementing.

Some of those are in automation, computers, scanners, a better website, better communications and those are all ongoing things. I knew we could make a plan to get us where we needed to go over time.

Social media dilemma

I didn’t at the time understand how contentious things were. You know, even though I’m a techie, I’m not, you know, a big fan of social media. I think it can be incredibly useful and beneficial and in past parts of my career I did a lot of social media work for marketing and advertising.

The first manager’s meeting that I had with our managers here was pretty Illuminating. The single biggest concern that our managers had was the social media criticism and negativity, and the second-biggest was how much turnover there had been in the general manager position….

We didn’t have a long-term plan of how we were going to solve the problems. There was a lot of frustration about things that were promised or put into the budget that weren’t actually done or completed. We had items that, you know, like redoing the men’s bathroom, for example, that Dave (Pol) had asked about getting when he was here the first time, you know, 15 years ago.

Competing desires

HOAs have their certain patterns that repeat in all HOAs and there’s always a diversity of opinion. There’s always, you know, people that think we should spend more money. There are people that think we should spend less money. They all have like their own little piece of what they’re interested in. And that creates a set of challenges.

Some people really value our security services. Some people think we shouldn’t have security at all. Some people really value and love our restaurants. Some people think we shouldn’t have for restaurants at all. Some people think the golf course is the best thing about YLP and some people think we should shut the golf course down.

But you still have to build consensus, right? You still have to because each of our amenities is important to a different segment of our community….

You have to be strong enough in your vision and convictions to not be reactive about what we do and what we spend our money on. We have to have a multi-year vision.

Why do dues need to keep rising?

Costs go up. That is inevitable, inflation. What materials cost today is not what materials cost 20 years ago. Labor costs today are not what labor costs were 20 years ago. And so, if we expect that dues will not go up, that’s a faulty assumption. They have to go up to even stay at the same level just because costs increase and the only (funding( source a homeowners’ association has is the association members.

I understand that there have been people that have lived here for a long time that are on fixed incomes. In fact, that’s the foundation of Proposition 13…. (Unfortunately) that’s contributed very dramatically to the decline in infrastructure and the quality of the infrastructure in the state of California because that was the revenue source for municipalities.

We don’t always anticipate the side effects of an action or of a choice… And that’s essentially what happened here with us where we kept dues low. The focus was on keeping dues low without thinking ahead that we were going to have to spend money in the future.

Just like your house. At some point, you’ve got to replace the roof, or you have to repaint your house. Hopefully you set aside funds and planned for that, but it doesn’t change the reality that it’s going to happen at some point.

Any disappointments?

I think the thing that I’m most disappointed about what we’ve accomplished in the last three years, is that we haven’t really given legs and life to YLP Cares. I really think that that is a game changer in multiple ways. I think it helps people that truly are in need of help.

There’s a piece about giving and volunteering and donating funds, that it absolutely helps the person receiving that but it also provides a benefit in the value to the people doing it.

JANUARY 2019 TOWN HALL ON HOA COMPARISONS

What do you regard as your biggest accomplishments so far?

So, what am I proud of? I’m actually really proud of the of the evolution that we’ve had in our employee culture. (Also) putting us on track with a (Fix Our Stuff) plan that is addressing the 20 years of deferred maintenance and updating amenities, actually executing on that plan. That’s not just me, of course, that includes the boards as well. But I feel good about that.

I can point to specific accomplishments or specific things, but the goal was never those specific things. The real goal and the real vision is moving us forward to create a more connected community…. My belief is that when you create better spaces, it ultimately helps to lead to better engagement and connection with our neighbors and community.

What are your other interests, hobbies?

Most of what I’ve been doing the last three years is spending a lot of hours trying to figure out how to make all this stuff work…

I love to scuba dive. I think that’s connected to my swimming experience. I just love being in the water or being around the water. I’ve always wanted to have a vision of someday sailing around the world. I do plan to do that someday…I was fortunate enough to find a great deal on a sailboat over in San Francisco Bay. It was just kind of serendipity, you know, the boat’s actually as old as I am. I have a motorcycle and love the sense of wind blowing in your face and you know, riding up through the hills and up into the Yosemite area.

Recently, I’ve been looking at powered paragliders because there’s much more opportunity to to use them. You don’t have to travel up to a top of a mountain somewhere.

I love to read. I mean for fun, I mostly read science fiction. (Last year, he did online readings from “Lord of the Rings” on the YLP website during the pandemic shutdown.)

I thought having a reading would be a fun community event and I really enjoy it. I mean, I competed in speech and debate in high school and, you know, I enjoy doing the different voices and I love literature.

His request of the community

I’ve been in a lot of organizations of all different kinds, but I will tell you that I have never been part of an organization with employees that care as much as the ones do here.

You know, there’s nobody here to get rich. The people are here because they want to make a difference.

Mostly we have fantastic interactions with our homeowners and residents. But there’s one thing that I could ask, is that people would treat each other and treat our staff with respect and make requests instead of demands.

We’re never deliberately doing something here with the purpose of bothering or hurting somebody else or making their lives difficult.

Almost universally the natural response from the staff is a desire to help; except when they are approached by people that make demands, positioning themselves above, as in, “Well, I’m a homeowner, I pay your salary.” While that’s true, many of our staff are YLP homeowners, too.

As chef Dave likes to say, ‘Be nice’. It works a lot better when we treat each other with respect and kindness. 

It really is a phenomenal group of people, OK? I mean this place is more like a family more than it is like a business. We have a certain amount of dysfunction, like all families, but there is compassion and caring and concern and real people.

PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SERIES

Sandy Eigenman, YLOA president 2020-21

Gardening in a ‘foreign country’

By JEANNIE COSBY

Jeannie Cosby at the Salvia Creek Garden.

I moved from Los Angeles to Yosemite Lakes Park ten years ago, full of confidence that I was going to have one of the most beautiful yards here in YLP!  Of course, it would be wonderful.  For years, all I had to do was stick a plant in the ground and it would grow.  What I didn’t understand, for too many years, is that this part of California is like a foreign country in the gardening world.

Did I say it took me years to realize this?  Yes, sadly it did.  Maybe I could say I am a slow learner.  You see, I was sure that I could plant all the previous type plants that I had relied on in LA, and by the sheer force of my will (and hard work) it would grow.  I was sure I could conquer all the critters, amend the soil just enough, and have the energy in my late 60’s and 70’s to keep my property weed-free.  I won’t even mention the issue of the heat in summer.

I can’t tell you how much time, energy and money, not to mention water, that was spent to try and recreate a yard that was straight from my Southern California dreams.  Eventually, I began to discover that I would not conquer the critters. They would win. Well, they would win most of the time! 

I realized that paying for lots of water is not cost-effective, and is squandering a much-needed resource for years to come, just to have plants die.

My stubborn mindset of “I can and will do this my way” just made me feel hopeless.  

The Salvia Creek Garden in spring bloom

Then, two years ago, a wonderful thing happened. Along came a lady who introduced me to the world of California native plants!  Plants that can and will exist and grow well in our soil.  They can thrive on much less water, and many of them the “critters” will not eat.   Who Knew!

Slowly, (remember I told you I’m a slow learner), I began learning a new way of thinking about gardening.  By the way, you do need to be willing to re-learn a lot.  I am inviting you to join me as we find the best way to garden in our area.

Check out the Native Plants Live Here website for volumes of information and resources.  Take the time to park at the corner of Yosemite Springs Parkway and Long Hollow.  Stroll thru the garden of California native plants that has been created by many local volunteers who are on the same learning curve as I am.

Get on the NPLH email list so that you can receive information about attending our Zoom meetings and other events.  Together, one yard or public area at a time, we can make YLP an even more beautiful place to live.

—————————————————————————-

Jeannie Cosby, a slow learner who is loving gardening with California natives.

Sandy Eigenman, YLOA President

Who are YLPers? Why, all of us who call Yosemite Lakes Park our home. We’re more than an HOA, we are a community of people who love where we live!
More than just a place of majestic mountain views, YLP is people — individuals of all backgrounds and interests. In this series of periodic profiles, we hope to introduce you to many of these folks — to YLOA board members, to managers, to employees, to our valued volunteers and notable neighbors who share our 21 square miles of Sierra foothills. We hope you enjoy learning about these YLPers.

Sandy Eigenman at Blue Heron Lake

Today’s profile: Sandy Eigenman, current YLOA Board of Directors president. “Hippy” grandma, quilt maker, dog trainer, volunteer, retired securities, banking and insurance compliance officer. She’s proud of the progress YLP has made in the past two years and has tough-love advice for those who want to be future YLP leaders.

Excerpts from the interview

Her background and experience

Sandy was born in Burbank, lived in Sacramento and then Santa Rosa in Sonoma County. She joined State Farm Insurance in 1976, and worked her way up to compliance, becoming a licensed securities principal.
“We traveled the state all the time visiting with agents to confirm that the agents were in compliance with laws and regulations…. It’s a very interesting business….”

Her volunteer work

Besides being elected to the YLOA board in 2019 and then chosen president a year ago, she’s also been a board member of Ladies of the Lakes. She’s also a volunteer at an assisted living facility in Fresno and volunteer puppy raiser for the organization Canine Companions for Independence, based in Santa Rosa. She’s an avid quilter with a home quilting studio.


Why did you run for the board?

“I was interested in and regularly attended board meetings. I became more interested in actually how things work. Not just you know, like what we were hearing as a member sitting in the audience of a board meeting. I was more interested in how the decisions are made.”

What’s been your most satisfying moment on the board?

“Just a sense of giving back to the community. It’s not that there is any one thing necessarily that shines above the rest, but that I feel like I’m making a difference.”

How much time do you put in as president?

“Many weeks are 30 hours, it’s a lot. It depends on how much effort you want to put into it. It’s not just board work. It’s committee work as well. And that’s what also ramps it up to many more hours a week than you would anticipate just being on the board because board members are expected to chair committees and that committee work involves quite a bit of time as well… Be prepared to work a lot of hours if you really care.”

You’ve emphasized the importance of YLOA committees. Why?

“One of my priorities is to get the committees motivated, get them working on projects and things that are a value to the association.”
“You know, board members are not experts in every single thing and by having committees and having our association members join in on those committees, that pulls in more expertise than any one board could possibly provide. That has been a big priority for me.”

You have also been quite involved with the Environmental Control committee.

“A priority for me has been… a bigger focus on educating the residents about the rules and why we have them and the importance of following them.”
Another recommendation is going to be that “we be more proactive with safety issues… you know anything that really presents a hazard or a potential issue for the association as a whole.”
She believes ECC has made progress in following up on ECC-approved homeowner projects: “We’ve got a process so after somebody’s given permission for something that the inspector goes back to confirm that it’s done the way it was approved.”

What’s been the biggest surprise since you joined the board?

“I would just say that the scope, what it takes to run this organization. Being on the board brings you to a different level of understanding of what it really takes… You’re running a little city here and the board is responsible for that.”
She also wants members to know that board service is not easy: “Our general manager isn’t just making decisions for no reason and the board is not making decisions for no reason. It takes a lot of educating yourself and research and reading and ultimately understanding before you make the decisions.”

What would you like to see happen in the months and years ahead?

“The general manager came to us highly qualified with some great ideas and plans which the board approved and we have made great strides.”
“We’re in year two of that plan. I would like to see the plan go forward and the improvements should bring, I would hope, more pride in our community… We’ve seen home values go up recently. People want to live here. They’re coming here….We are financially strong.”

What do you like most about YLP?

“YLP is very much like where I grew up in Geyserville. It’s a country atmosphere with proximity to medical care.These are the reasons we moved here. It brought us back to the landscape that we grew up. It’s pretty quiet….As we’ve always said, you know, you’re below the fog and above the smog.”

She and her husband, Bill, have been together 34 years. Bill is an active golfer at the YLP course.
And what about that “hippy grandma” stuff? She doesn’t mind talking about her “hippie” past as a California teen in the ‘60s, someone who even made her own clothes. “I wanted to go to Woodstock so bad. I mean to the point I was going to run away.”

“But yeah, my granddaughter starts conversations with, ‘Bama when you were a hippie….’ She cracks me up.”

Spring is for the birds

Male wild turkey

Spring is for the birds, I say. But some readers might submit that there is nothing so soothing as the direct sun warming your skin after a long, cold winter. Having attended graduate school in Wisconsin, I can attest to the sensation of release after doffing several layers of heavy clothing, and standing on the Commons, soaking up the rays with my classmates while wearing a t-shirt, as the snow melted at our feet.

Others might offer that spring is for the wildflowers that magically appear as daylight extends its reach across the sky. Here, in the oak woodland foothills of the Sierras, we are treated to landscapes blanketed by lavender pillars of Lupine, chest high forests  of yellow Fiddleneck, and the resplendent golden crowns of California Poppies. Yes, I’ll agree, Spring is all of that.

But still, spring is really for the birds.

It is a time of dawn to dusk birdsong by individuals looking for mates, and migrations to both near and far reaches of the globe. We say goodbye to our winter residents, and welcome those feathered friends that will be with us throughout the summer.

Already, many of the White-crowned Sparrows who serenaded us come rain or shine throughout the winter have departed. In their place, Western Kingbirds are now arriving.

Western kingbird

Their effervescent, sputtering chatter makes me laugh every time I hear it. They seem to be declaring “Its great to be home again.” I love them so:

Recording by Taylor Brooks, Xeno-canto #34893

Year-round residents, like Western bluebirds, are busily gathering materials for their nests. A nest box I installed on an oak tree is currently receiving lots of attention. Last year, my bluebirds abandoned a half-competed nest in that box, and that was a disappointing development. The in-and-out activity happening right now, however, gives me hope for a joyous chorus come May.

Western bluebird

Canada geese are laying eggs along the shoreline of Blue Heron Lake. I’ve counted eight nests just this past week. Loose eggs pushed out of a nest are all around if you look for them; watch your step. Come the end of April or early May, fuzzy, little goslings will be forming long conga lines as they paddle across the placid water. Mallard ducklings won’t be far behind.

Canada goose tending nest

Best of all, Spring is the moment when an entertaining, and most regal pageant takes place across our oak woodlands: Wild turkeys are on parade. Rafters of hens and toms forage throughout the neighboring hills and hollows. There is nothing quite like the sound of hopeful toms gobbling for the attention of a wild and willing hen. You can hear them from a mile away.

One recent morning, I watched with fascination as one lone male gobbled in place, repeatedly, for several minutes, trying to attract nearby, but unseen, hens; all the while, a deer rested in the grass at its feet. Hope springs eternal in the heart of a wild tom.

Where the females forage, males follow, strutting and twirling, fanning their tails and flashing their beautiful, iridescent  feathers (all 5,500 of them). There is little time for eating if you are a tom determined to pass on your genes for a future generation.

Until next time,

Keep birding

Robert Groos

For more from Robert Groos, visit:

robertgroosphotography.com


Robert Groos is a published photographer and keen observer of nature who lives in Yosemite Lakes Park. He shares some of his outstanding images of our local feathered friends along with some tidbits of interesting facts about each. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. 

Previous posts:

Birds going nuts over berries
California Scrub-Jay
Killdeer
Great-tailed grackle
What’s good for the goose
It’s nesting time
Wild turkeys on parade
The Pied-Billed Grebe
Hunchback of YLP: The black-crowned night heron
The bluebird
Talking turkey
The secret world of the phainopepla
Acorn woodpecker 
Oak titmouse
Swallows
White-breasted nuthatch
California quail
Bald eagle
Western kingbird
The turkey vulture