Notes from Darrell and Pat

From Darrell…

The above picture was taken on my annual pilgrimage to the EAA Air Show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. If it looks like Pat and I could be flying first class with all that leg room and the big eye level curtained window, you’re right. What you can’t see is that we’re traveling in a 70-year-old Douglas DC-3 passenger airliner.  All this comfort — plus I get a couple of flight time hours as co-pilot.

My passion for planes and flying equals Pat’s for cooking and traveling and they blend together beautifully. Some of you experienced this first-hand when Orchard Hill organized a nostalgic DC-3 sightseeing champagne lunch flight that had fabulous reviews.

I wonder if it’s time to step back in time again.


From Pat….

This may be a good time (the launching of our fourth website) to tell our story.  I could be shooting myself in the foot as we usually respond to inquiring guests that they would have to return many times for this chapter to be revealed. 

Twenty-five years ago we were spending a relaxing Sunday afternoon watching Bill Moyers interview Joseph Campbell on Public Television.  They were discussing Campbell’s series, "Myths", and the topic was “following your bliss.” Wives are supposed to ask their husbands probing, crazy-making questions... this time it was Darrell’s turn and there ensued an off again/on again discussion that lasted for weeks. We both were approaching our mid-fifties and recognized that good health permitting; our best days could be ahead. We concluded that with some imagination and a whole lot of shaking and moving, we could effect a huge change in the course of our future.  At that time, we lived the fast-paced life of a corporate executive and a successful designer with two beautiful homes, several cars, investment property…way too much stuff.

Lists were reduced to a plan that for Darrell, was trading our on-the-beach lifestyle for a large parcel of private land and a John Deere tractor. For me, less of everything, and to be situated in a great environment surrounded by over-the-top natural beauty—and it would have to be in Southern California.  Above all, we wanted it so that whatever came our way would involve a creative process, and we would do it together.

The rest you know.

April, 2014


The Christmas Tree

When guests walk into our lodge, they often wonder why we have a Christmas tree displayed all year long in our Great Room.  Well, we'd wonder the same thing. The following is an article published in 1972 about this iconic Orchard Hill tree.  - Pat and Darrell


Home Designed Yule Tree Stands Tall in La Habra Heights Home

By Estelle Burton

(Reprint from Star-Progress Women’s Section, December 21, 1972)

The heritage of a beautiful home designed family Christmas tree stands proudly in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Darrell Straube in La Habra Heights.  The love, devotion and time that was spent on constructing this 75-year old tree cannot be described in a few words or just a glance. The Straubes, as they related some of the  history behind it, seemed to bring the tree alive.

 The artificial tree was made in 1911 by Great Grandfather Straube, and it was created as a result of Great Grandmother Straube setting her clothes afire (Santa Claus costume) at Christmas the year before.  To prevent this from reoccurring Great Grandfather started Thanksgiving night to construct his tree and at Christmas time it was completed. 

The tree needles were from string and twisted on wire by a lathe and all the wiring was done internally.  The branches, limbs and candle lamps were made from wood and brass.  The bird bath, fountain, street lamps, wagon and cart are all solid brass.  The tree is wired and turns when switched on.  It is ten feet tall.

The scene at the base depicts the turn of the century everyday living at home and on the farm.  The little house built on the tree table is an exact scale replica of the home the Straube family lived in when they moved to California in 1901.  The family had lived in St. Louis until a tornado demolished their home, and they decided to move West and settle down in Boyle Heights and the old place is still standing.  The banana and palm trees were made by hand and each little palm was individually soldered.  The white fence around the tree table was made from wire, bent to shape and painted white.

When the tree lights were turned on, the tree will turn, and the house lights up, street lamps go on, the fountain spouts water, and the boat rows on the pond.  No wires can be seen anywhere and all the parts were made for easy repairs.  Great Grandfather Straube purchased the toy animals and bisque dolls in shops around Los Angeles.  During that period the little animals, such as a pig, had pig skin glued on its body.  The different skins were used for the various animals.

Great Grandfather Straube was a very creative gentleman.  He made all the toys for his children, including a piano three feet tall and four feet long.  He made cameras, radios, airplanes, a glider and photographs.  He was born in 1871 and passed away in 1957.  He had many talents and was very devoted to his family.

A few of the original ornaments are on the tree now and are over 100 years old and they were brought over from France by Great-Great-Great Grandparents.  These ornaments are covered with wax from the early candle lit trees.

The tree has been stored for the past 12 years and this year Pat  and Darrell  decided to restore and decorate it.  It took three weeks to assemble, repair and to get everything in the right place.  Perhaps each year it will be assembled in the Straube home for their children, relatives and friends to view and enjoy.



Darrell’s  Master’s thesis was titled “Resistance to Change.”  Fitting his “half-empty” personality type, “embracing change” was not a subject I would have expected him to want to elaborate on.  Around twenty or so years ago in a surprising shift, he declared that if one does not change, one might as well die.  I ran with that thought.

There have been numerous changes at Orchard Hill recently.  Lodge rooms seven and eight have been totally redecorated, and, if I must say,  they are quite nice.  Most of our cottage bathrooms now sport granite tops, allowing for greater counter space...and they look quite luxurious. While some might say that these rooms look much the same,  Darrell can point to the innumerable changes over the years to each and every room.

Of  much greater significance, we have a fabulous new Chef, Calvin.  Those of you who have paid us a visit since Chef Doris left last July know firsthand that several frogs were kissed before discovering this prince!  In a very short time Chef Calvin has made significant and very tasty changes to our menu.  Utterly delicious braised short ribs, a new salad dressing,  poached cod with dill and bay shrimp….oh my!  All I can say  is that it's so easy to embrace change when it tastes this good.


May 24, 2014


Summer Solstice

For me there is a sense of mythos associated with the calendar event called Summer Solstice.  Stonehenge and Camelot come to mind as do long haired maidens dressed in flowing robes  that dance under moonlit skies hoping to lure the Gods who rule nature’s bounty to be generous.

In Julian, we tend our gardens and watch the developing fruits of our orchards and judge the season accordingly.  It is going to be a fine year for stone fruit and it’s a wonder given the winds of spring and the meager rainfall. Summer, confirmed this very day by the calendar is indeed here.

Our daughter Darrian, almost settled in Julian discovered her first glow worm, the bats perform their twilight ballet  and the early morning songs of the birds have become our alarm clock.  It  is time for lingering evenings out on the patio sipping cold white wine while our favorite old songs slip into the gentle warm air of evening.  I leave the moonlight dancing to the maidens of mystical Camelot.  I’m content to sit and revel in the summertime magic of San Diego’s backcountry.  This year’s bounty is secure.


June 21, 2014


Thunder Showers

Last week, an expecting young guest called inquiring if the forecasted thunder shower was anything he should be concerned about?  His visit to Orchard Hill was to be a post honeymoon romantic getaway.  It didn’t take long to know that this devoted new husband was a meticulous planner and that my making light of the pending weather event was not going to satisfy his sense of obligation to care for his bride. 

I told him that most people find thunder showers fun, and that a few overhead clouds duking-it-out were downright thrilling, nature at its best.  He pressed on and it seemed appropriate to remind him of our cancellation policy and that it would be rather costly to call everything off.   I suggested throwing an umbrella in the trunk and toss caution out the car window once they got on the 215.  He said they would arrive in time for hors d’oeuvres. 

As planned, just as the crudities and ratatouille were placed, in walked our celebrating newlyweds, more than slightly wet. They were laughing and I jokingly chided him about his abundance of concern.  They thought a glass of wine was in order.  They were exquisitely dear and I thought of what great parents they would be some day.

Other guests expressed wishing to dance in the streets of Julian as the huge bellowing clouds released their precious contents.  I wondered if anyone had been tempted to do a Gene Kelly dance routine, stomping and splashing in the water puddles exuberantly celebrating the joy and appreciation that comes from recognizing our dependence upon nature for life’s most essential element.

No one seemed to know who Gene Kelly was!  I decided to get a glass of wine and walk on the porch and breathe in the incredible air and keep my thoughts to myself.


PS  I received my very first traffic ticket last month for speeding.  Drive with caution and watch for lurking black and whites.  Take my word for it  — a sense of humor is not a CHP requirement for employment. 

August 13, 2014