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Valley People (December 23, 2020)

IN LOCAL COVID NEWS, AV Fire Chief Andres Avila told the Board that 30 of the 42 active volunteers in the Department plan to take the covid vaccine as soon as it’s available.

SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS: “Our new Abandoned Vehicle Abatement contract was approved by the Board of Supervisors yesterday. We will remove abandoned unoccupied vehicles as soon as we can. There is a backlog from our previous contractor going out of business. Approval of Agreement with All In One Automotive Repair & Towing (AIO), in the Amount of $625,000, for Abandoned Vehicle Tow and Disposal Services in the Unincorporated Area of Mendocino County, Beginning on December 15, 2020, and Expiring on June 30, 2023”


Norm Clow Writes: “I was catching up with some Valley People columns and saw the bit about Clare’s Cafe.

This ad is from the 1955 AV High School yearbook. Based on the fact that the Philo Cafe also appears adjacent, Clare’s was, given the lack of candidates, in all likelihood housed in what became the Last Resort. 

One of the side benefits of having all those yearbooks scanned from the 1940s through 1979, plus some earlier ones one from the 20s - 30s, is being able to reconstruct through the ads what the valley business community looked like in those halcyon years (as well as in several other communities in Mendoland and Sonoma County that purchased ads). (“McKinney’s” was the Philo Market, also the proprietors of the Philo Cafe.)” 

NCO TO THE RESCUE: Live in Anderson Valley? Want to help others in your community? Our volunteer Grocery Deliverers make sure households in isolation throughout Anderson Valley receive the supplies they need, quickly and safely. To sign up, go to and select the orange “Mendocino County Volunteer Enrollment Form” button. For more information, call 462-1959.

DESPITE ALL that's come at us in 2020, Boonville, and the Anderson Valley, looks downright jolly at night. Christmas lights everywhere, and some so distant from the Valley floor that their optimistic reds, whites and blues seem somehow doubly hopeful. “Things are looking up,” said Micawber. “They always are.”

Jan Wasson-Smith's splendid Christmas tree on Anderson Valley Way

I WAS PLEASED to see this comment by Bob Abeles on the ava comment line: "I hate to break it to you, but 5G in Mendocino County isn’t going to happen. Why? Physics, that’s why: Genuine 5G (28 and 39 GHz) can’t penetrate foliage, and it most certainly cannot penetrate our horizontally challenged landscape. That leaves the 600 MHz band (n71) that has only enough bandwidth to handle voice and text. On the other hand, the carriers will tout the low speed service as ‘5G,’ because they can fool most of the people most of the time.”

TINFOIL HAT-ISM being prevalent in Mendocino County, it's positively bracing when someone local steps forward who actually knows what he's talking about. 

PHILO has never been more exciting. The FBI is investigating the Ray's Road non-profit called OneTaste, some of whose former customers are claiming is a cult that ripped them off for lottsa money. OneTaste says it merely tunes up one's orgasm, a tune up that'll run you thousands more than an oil change and new spark plugs but the human body is more complicated than your transportation. The group's estranged members have described topless women dubbed “high priestesses” being sexually stroked by seven men in a ritualistic sex practice. (Didn't the hippies used to do that for free during their full moon “boogies”?)

TWO PEOPLE, a man and a woman, told the feds how they witnessed the ritual and other bizarre practices like mass piercings at a retreat organized by OneTaste, whose leader is an enterprising woman called Nicole Daedone, and hardly the first person to monetize credulity. The company lured thousands of paying members with the promise of “changing the world” through “orgasmic meditation,” a practice that involves a half-naked woman and , uh, … this being a family newspaper you will have to imagine the rest of the sordid ritual yourself. OneTaste claimed the practice could improve their suckers’ lives, and when life went on as it tends to do, the duped called in the lawyers.

LIVING RURAL, BOONVILLE: “Our breakfasts, lunches, and sometimes dinners have become a meditation on birds. Inside, the dining table is surrounded on two sides by large windows facing the garden we conjured starting sixteen years ago from a dry weed infested yard that lay beneath a huge muscular ancient valley oak. Outside, the two picnic tables beneath a covered overhang where we gather for our lunch breaks, everyone working that day, are in the garden. When we arrived there were few birds other than the acorn woodpeckers who owned the oak...and still do. (We are lucky that our house is concrete block!)

At present, starting at first light in any season the garden is alive with birds pecking and scratching their way through the mostly oak duff, fighting over acorns, kicking up bugs, digging for worms, sucking from flowers and squabbling, chasing and sharing. A jay perches on a post beating the shell from an acorn while a varied thrush waits below for a piece of meat to drop. When it does he's not quick enough and the jay grabs it back with a squawk. A hummingbird loves the flowers on the now blooming loquat and is there all day every day resting occasionally on the bare branch of the neighboring Santa Rosa plum for a moment. A flock of determined pointy beaked birds lands on the upper branches of the Empress tree picking seeds from the dried seed pods that hang on for several years, meanwhile a pair of scrub jays pick off the flower buds that have already set for a spring showing.

Some of the trees were planted by us, one of each plum, loquat, ceanothus, and Empress, while others were planted by the birds, two toyons fruiting now and causing more squabbling because gorging on the overripe berries makes them drunk, a large manzanita and a couple of coast live oaks. The small pond we dug is a bathing, drinking and not always friendly meeting place. There is definitely a pecking order and the small birds bow to the larger or louder ones. Our house wren shares the spiders from the underside of the shade roof with the swallows and they give us an acrobatic aerial show in the process. Silence and stillness occurs only when a Coopers hawk swoops in or the sun is setting. At sunset we've watched the birds sit in the flowering quince and stare into the setting sun, seeming sad to see the day end. In this season when I see several birds sitting in the dusk on the bare branches of a tree I think of Christmas tree ornaments.

I began writing this with a very different direction in mind but realize it could go on forever. What is most remarkable and encouraging is to see the resilience of nature. I'll continue next month with the thought...if I happen to remember it (;>) Until then, have masked and distanced but warm and loving holidays. Stay well and look outward and beyond the "devices".

(Nikki Auschnitt and Steve Kreig, Petit Teton Farm, Boonville)

THE ANCIENT MARINER of the Boonville school board, Dick Browning, a retired school administrator explains the school board’s hunt for a new leader: "I’m writing to update you on our search for our next superintendent. As you may know, Superintendent Michael Warych is retiring at the end of June, 2021, after three years of exceptional service to our district. We have begun the process to hire our district’s next superintendent.

"Scott Mahoney is assisting us with the process. Scott was superintendent in the Waugh School District in Petaluma for nineteen years and retired from the Ross School District. Since retirement he has assisted thirteen districts with their searches for a superintendent. Scott will be reporting to our School Board during the process. Between now and January, 2021, Scott will be gathering input from both individuals and groups of employees, parents, and community members regarding desired professional qualifications and personal attributes of our next superintendent. The input will be used to develop advertising materials, screening criteria, and interview questions. Scott will be meeting with:

  • Current superintendent
  • Employees in groups (Zoom), via a survey, and individually (if desired)
  • Parents in groups (Zoom), a SurveyMonkey Survey, and individually
  • Anderson Valley Teachers leadership
  • Anderson Valley Classified Employees Association leadership
  • District English Learner Advisory Committee
  • Community members in meetings and using a SurveyMonkey Survey
  • School board members
  • School Office Managers
  • School Principals (individually at their sites via Zoom)
  • Special education staff members
  • High School students using a SurveyMonkey Survey
  • District Office staff members
  • Other groups and individuals as needed"

USED TO BE that Mendocino County's schools were run by their school boards. Those boards hired an administrator and left the educational task to him or her. The school board was directly responsible for the superintendent. No more. The Boonville School Board has hired an outside guy, handsomely compensated of course, to find candidates for the superintendent position that this outside guy feels are right for the Anderson Valley. And he will consult every possible person and/or entity en route to the handful of finalists his consultations with everybody and everybody's brother have filtered up to him. The prob with this process is that ultimately no one in Boonville is responsible for whomever the outside guy selects for us. 

THE SCHOOL BOARD should advertise the job, interview the respondents who look good, pick one of them. You are the people we elected — or were dragooned into serving because no else one wants the job — but there you are and you should be responsible. Don’t shirk your duty. If you aren’t confident you can handle it, resign, otherwise all you’re doing is sitting around and signing off on whatever is shoved in front of you by a boss you didn’t hire.

AN INTERESTING building rehab is underway in Navarro where an ancient structure last inhabited by Chris Isbell and family has been jacked up prior to what? A basement? A great big foundation? A second floor? I hope to talk to the contractor, and would have talked to him this week but the County Building Inspector was there. I said a silent prayer for the builder, as I wondered why it is that in a county with a mere 90,000 people spread over a vastness stretching from Gualala on the Pacific to Covelo only one small mountain range over from the Sacramento Valley, everyone I know dreads dealing with the county, especially its famously arbitrary and legendarily unhelpful Planning and Building Department. 

IT'S BEEN SIX YEARS since I had to deal with them, and I still marvel how many complications Planning and Building managed to create for a straight-ahead, simple project. Lasting memory is of a large young woman who, after several no-shows, finally appeared to “sign off on the septic system,” first mentioning that she was eager to get across the street to buy some chocolate. Our septic system had been installed by the great Mike Luchetti of Hopland, a maestro of everything and anything involving tractors and the movement of dirt. In a rational world all Planning and Building would need to know is that Luchetti is doing the work and, therefore, the work can be assumed to be not only up to code, but perfectly up to code. But until Ms. Rubenseque gave us the ok, the maestro's work had to remain uncovered. When she finally showed up, she strolled over to the exposed septic tank and, smiling, said, “Looks ok.” Then she got into her new county SUV and drove 100 feet across the street to the chocolate shop.

PLATO said whenever a town grew larger than 5,040 citizens it was too big to manage efficiently. Hah! The old boy should see US! We think Mendo's rural with a mere 90,000 people and because we're so lightly populated management shouldn't be all that complicated. But… But everywhere you look, chaos, no sensible planning, no one in charge



Some people are curious about cedar trees growing in places thought to be unlikely. There are many scattered populations of organisms, in this case trees, that appear out of place but aren’t. As climate changes gradually over the eons and as sudden changes such as large fires alter the mix of plants, some formerly large and widespread populations shrink in area and are cut off from one another. Such plants are called “relict,” with a “T”. 

In a favorable location, cedars are vigorous and invasive. In just 10 years in the Greenhorn mountains of the southern Sierra, I saw a grove of them burn to the ground, immediately grow a new patch that burned again, and then sprout a third forest. It’s not a surprise that they might find a congenial spot in a region like the north coast with all its diversity.

A major reason for plants seeming to be out of place is their status as relict, abandoned by the slow ending of the recent ice age. Local cedar patches may have been more widespread when things were wetter and cooler. Higher elevations in the Diablo range (California’s unknown and ignored mountains from Carquinez Strait to the Cuyama River) have many small forests of yellow pine, alone on the ridgelines with the grass and oaks, that are remnants of once much larger stands. 

Before it all burned in the Glass Fire, there was one solitary yellow pine holding on in deep shade on the mountainside near my house, almost overwhelmed by the Douglas firs around it; themselves surrounded by pure stands of tall Gower cypress growing in the serpentine. This last of its kind was a relict of an earlier age. 

In Placer County, on a remote bit of the American River plateau, is a tiny grove of redwoods, so isolated that botanists argue over whether they are a distinct species, living as they do hundreds of miles from the Giganteas to the south and the Sempervirens to the west. Where did they come from, if not as relicts from a much larger forest?

In the Providence Mountains of the central Mojave Desert, redwood trees grew only 2000 years ago, so consider that time is long, and that to whatever the degree of climate change humans are accelerating, what we see, or believe we see, is just a fragment of this planetary organism acting at its own speed.

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