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.
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.