The Annex

by cheri sabraw


This weathered structure  sits like an old, wrinkled Indian storyteller, waiting for a little one to beg for a tale about “the way it used to be.”

Once Tom and Kate Palache’s cook’s cabin, it has rested way too comfortably on our land for ten years. Although we do not know its exact age, we have learned that in 1923 the Palaches journeyed from San Francisco to buy acreage from A.A. Moore, who owned most of the property in the vicinity. Historians have told us that the house, in which the Palaches slept while staying on this property, appears on a land grant map in 1877.

Tom was an insurance agent. Kate was a medical doctor. They lived in San Francisco on Ellis Street. Tom was an amateur photographer: we found his camera and many boxes of lantern plates taken before the turn of the 20th century. We even have a slide of U.C. Berkeley in 1898 and the San Francisco Bay before the Bay Bridge was built. A framed stock certificate with Thomas Hood Palache’s name and his purchase of one share  sits above our library door. One intriguing side note we learned some years ago was that Tom Palache was William Keith‘s insurance agent. When Keith lost many of his paintings in the San Francisco 1906 earthquake, Palache was more than helpful.

Tom and Kate were childless. When unable to spend time on the TK Rancho, they sold the property to Kate’s niece, Margaret. She and her husband Ed lived in the Palache’s original home which was 50 feet from the cook’s cabin– until Margaret died in 1982. Ed wanted out of the dark house, made so by the enormous canopy of non-native trees the Palaches had planted. After selling some of his property to us, he moved across the creek and onto a treeless, hot spot where he plunked  a mobile home down that he called The Establishment.  Ed died in 1993, a year before we finished building our house.

Ed called the Palache’s cook’s  little cabin The Annex.

The Annex is about 215 square feet with a bedroom, a sitting room, and a bathroom. Our son Ben was forced to inhabit the Annex while we were living in a fifth-wheel trailer, building the house. A junior in high school, he was a good sport; that is, until a big black spider bit him on the chest and left a welt the size of a dried apricot. Things really soured when he brought his gorgeous Junior Prom date, Laurie, up the road for pictures, and as he was pinning on the rosebud corsage,  she burst out laughing. Those days in the early part of the 1990’s seem long ago.

I’ve always thought the Annex would be a perfect place for me to write without the distractions of a Labrador Retriever whose nervous system is calibrated to my every movement.

So, today, I decided to clean it up. The process, I think, will be glacial.

I’m impressed with before and after pictures, so today, I catalogued the before.


This is the back of the Annex. We found a number of treasures though that little door on the lower right. I might add that mice, rats, and squirrels have also appreciated the darkness of the Annex’s underbelly.

You can see the overgrowth of Vinca, the thick pile of oak and walnut leaves, and dirt that has solidified into a cement.

You can see the overgrowth of Vinca, the thick pile of oak and walnut leaves, and the dirt that has solidified into a cement.

To walk down to the front door is a hazard. The rock walls that the Palaches built all over the property in the 1920’s are now camouflaged , buried under adobe dirt and sycamore, oak, walnut, pine, and mulberry leaves. I know there is a “secret sidewalk” somewhere near the Annex that provided hard footing for the cook to deliver the meals to the Palache’s house, so today, like an archeologist, I intend to locate it and resurrect it to its former function.

With my rake in hand, a leaf blower, a shovel, gloves, and a long gizmo to trim the branches, I began my labor.

My project for today: to clean around all of the bricks and rocks.

My project for today: to clean around all of the bricks and rocks.

The Annex has potential!

The Annex has potential!


As you can see for yourself, if you don’t stay on top of the land, it will stay on top of you.

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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16 Responses to The Annex

  1. Richard says:

    As the annexe quietly reveals its secrets in this beautiful piece of writing and photography, so will it inspire the pen of CB Sabraw.

    As she has unfolded here the years, so may her talent speak of the treasures deep within her heart and mind.

  2. Christopher says:

    Seeing your pictures of The Annexe, I thought: 1920s, Faulkner, shabbily-clad men making Moonshine…..

    • Ladybugg says:

      Good one, Christopher. You are right. The imagery is all there. I do need an old rocker to put out on that porch. If only the Annex were clean and spruced up, I could include a little bookshelf with only Faulkner’s work. No. I’d include Eudora Welty ( I’m reading her little book “On Writing” right now, Tennessee Williams, Ferrol Sams, Flannery O’Connor, and other terrific Southern writers.

  3. A charming piece of writing Cheri. A fairyland of possibilities.

  4. Brighid says:

    Love the old places, they often have stories to unveil. I will follow your journey of discovery with interest.

    • Ladybugg says:

      I don’t know if I have the elbow-grease to get this job done. After two days of weed-eating and dirt-blowing, every muscle in my back and legs is telling me to quit. Good god.

      • Brighid says:

        Think of what great shape you are going to be in… We moved so much, and have remodeled so many places, you would think I would never ever want another project. Not so I learned a bunch of different skills and one has tangible results in the end.

  5. Cyberquill says:

    Are you renting it out? How much? And does it have a broadband hookup?

    • Ladybugg says:

      A few folks have tried to stay in the Annex before. A couple we knew who lost their house, my husband’s brother (for a spell) and of course, Ben. It has no kitchen. How will you feed yourself? Oh yes. One requirement: whoever lives in the Annex has to put in 20 hours of labor on the property. Are you up for that?

      • Cyberquill says:

        Hard labor would be fine. 20 hours. 40 hours. Whatever. And I’m cool with doing the raw food vegan thing. Just a fridge and some running water would be nice. The shack does have plumbing and electricity, right?

        • Ladybugg says:

          The plumbing is temperamental and at the moment the electricity does not work. Still OK?

          • Cyberquill says:

            Depends on the definitions of “temperamental” and “at the moment.” Aside from the 20 hours of mandatory yard work, are there any employment opportunities in the area, like diners or supermarkets where they might need a cashier or shelf stocker or something? And would you need your own car to get there?

  6. shoreacres says:

    Oh, what a lucky woman you are! That’s my kind of project. Hard work? Yes. But every hour you put into it will yield a concrete, visible result. Come to think of it, that’s part of the reason I started varnishing boats. It was such a kick to end a work day and actually see what I’d accomplished.

    I like The Annex. And I love southern writers, as you may have picked up on. I had to laugh when you mentioned Faulkner. I thought to myself, “There she is — an intruder in the dust!”

  7. Ladybugg says:

    What a terrific literary reference. Your memory is impressive, to say the least. I could use a person just like you to help me with the Annex. If the varnishing business loses its luster, let me know. (Happy face)

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