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Mendocino County Today: December 16, 2013


Approximation of area and lighting Tuesday Night
Approximation of area and lighting Tuesday Night

THE MAJOR & THE BUMP IN THE NIGHT… (Updated, rewritten…)

Cruising down the Willits end of the Willits Grade last Tuesday evening about 6:30, traveling in the slow lane at a leisurely, lawful 60mph in my battered 2004 Prius, I was startled from whatever tedious reverie was reverberating off the walls of my skull when I hit something, something big, something I feared might be alive, something I instantly feared I might have killed. Had some disoriented transient made a sudden dash across 101 and I, a liberal, had run him over? Or had I merely hit a deer, a kind of rite of passage for rural motorists; drive enough country miles and eventually you hit one. The Editor, who claims to be a three-deer man, says he's also had a buzzard crash through his windshield. He says, in the avuncular tones he adopts when he's passing out suspect advice, “Son, drive right through 'em. Whatever you do, don't swerve. People die when they swerve.” But the instant I hit whatever the hell I hit, I remember thinking, “I wonder how many people know that the official plural of Prius is Prii (Pri-i)?”

I HADN'T SEEN ANYTHING in the roadway. As a Senior Citizen, I won't pretend my hawk-eyed vision and lightning reflexes are what they were, but all I saw was a vehicle one or two carlengths ahead in the fast lane. I quickly assumed I’d somehow hit a big rock, and silently cursed Caltrans. Maybe, though, I'd hit a dead animal, some kind of bulky half-dead road kill, and I cursed Caltrans and the CHP for not keeping 101 free of all obstacles, including hippies protesting the nearby bypass.

I KNEW FOR SURE I was screwed for major repairs. I should explain that I do not fetishize my transportation. If it reliably gets me there, I could care less what the transportation looks like. But we all know that nobody actually fixes anything anymore. They just order up a new parts and you pay thousands of dollars for them. I thought about going to a backyard Mexican Boonville body repair guy I happen to know; he could pound out enough dents to make the thing driveable.

WHAT I REALLY FEARED was being stranded. I wasn't driving to Willits for the pure delight of it on a frigid winter's night, I had the AVA in my care, the 12 flats I was carrying to Printing X-press, America's last newspaper to Mendocino County's last web press. I could not, would not be deterred from my mission! I still remember the morning years ago when Judi Bari, Naomi Wagner and their roving posse of dwarf bully girls briefly hijacked the paper on some see-through politically correct pretext. Never again!

WillitsSafewayPumpsI DROVE ON. My Pius was not disabled. Wounded, disfigured perhaps, it soldiered on down into Willits and the fuel pumps at Willits Safeway where I stopped for gas and a look-see. No sooner had I pulled up to the pumps than a slender, graying middle-aged man in a dark sedan drove up and asked, “Are you all right?” “Um, yes…” I replied, tentatively, mindful that one engages strangers anymore at one's peril. My new friend said, “You just ran over a mountain lion.”

MARONE! I love mountain lions! I'd rather kill myself than one of God's great creatures. Not that I've ever seen one outside a zoo, but what kind of psycho would want to run over grace and beauty?

(Not the actual lion, but a possible similarity)
(Not the actual lion, but a possible similarity)

MY GAS PUMP informant told he'd seen the lion streak across the highway right in front of him, left to right. “I think I may have nicked him with my right bumper,” he added. We looked at the front end of his car where there was indeed a fresh dent in his right bumper. Somehow the first bump from his car must have jolted the lion into a position of full-body vulnerability in front of me. I hit him with my left front bumper and ran over him with both driver’s side wheels. There were several obvious dents in my bumper and my hood. The bumper was partially dislodged but still more or less in place; the front grill was broken and loose but still attached. There was no fur or telltale blood.

AFTER THE PRINT RUN, the car ran okay. I drove back to Boonville, mission accomplished, saddened that an endangered species had perhaps taken another loss. On my way back to Boonville, I scanned the roadsides for my victim. I didn't see him, and I'm going to assume he lives on. On Wednesday I made an appointment with the Ukiah Pious dealer to have the front end inspected. Sure enough, I'm out two grand.

I DROVE ON. My Pius was not disabled. Wounded, disfigured perhaps, but my Toyota soldiered on down into Willits and the fuel pumps at Willits Safeway for gas and a look-see. No sooner had I pulled up to the pumps than a slender, graying middle-aged man in a dark sedan drove up and asked, “Are you all right?” “Um, yes…” I replied tentatively, mindful that one engages strangers in late capitalist America at one's peril. My new friend said, “You just ran over a mountain lion.”

MARONE! I love mountain lions! I'd rather kill myself than one of God's great creatures. Not that I've ever seen one outside a zoo, but what kind of psycho wants to run over grace and beauty?

MY GAS PUMP informant told he'd seen the lion streak across the highway right in front of him, left to right. “I think I may have nicked him with my right bumper,” he added. We looked; there was indeed a fresh dent in his right bumper. Somehow the first bump from his car must have jolted the lion into a position of full-body vulnerability in front of me. I hit him with my left front bumper and ran over him with both driver’s side wheels. There were several obvious dents in my bumper and my hood; the bumper was partially dislodged but still more or less in place; the front grill was broken and loose but still attached. There was no fur or telltale blood.

AFTER THE PRINT RUN, the car ran okay. I drove back to Boonville, mission accomplished, an endangered species perhaps one species down. On Wednesday I made an appointment with the dealer in Ukiah to have the front end inspected.


THERE ARE SEVERAL RECOMMENDABLE INTERVIEWS in Beth Bosk’s latest New Settler Interview, Winter 2013/Spring 2014 edition. The longest interviews are with Sara Grusky, one of the primary organizers of the Willits Bypass protest, and another one with AVA reporter Will Parrish. Ms. Grusky was arrested and jailed in May for trespassing and obstructing a police officer at the construction site and held at the Mendocino County Jail overnight while awaiting arraignment. She described her time in jail:


“The jail is not full of criminals. The people there, basically, they are poor. And they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or they have addiction problems. They are caught up in this treadmill of the probation system. It's ridiculous. One young woman who was brought into the holding cell was on a trip with her husband and kids from Eureka. She was passing through Ukiah. Her kids were getting fussy so they pulled over into the park to take a break from driving. The kids were running around and her husband was spinning her and she was screeching. She was excited and a little bit scared. He was spinning her around and the kids were screaming. Somebody thought it was a case of abuse and called the police. It turns out she has an outstanding warrant for something that has to do with not fixing her car. So they took her to jail. She was a Mexican-American woman in the wrong place at the wrong time. She had an outstanding warrant. The next woman who came in was a woman who had been in an abusive marriage for decades. Finally, she decided to leave her husband. She went home to her family. Her husband, who was an ex-law enforcement person, got a restraining order against her and then invited her over. So she came into the cell barefoot with dirt on her feet, in shorts and a T-shirt. She had been out gardening. She had no idea the restraining order had been filed with the police but never delivered to her. She had no idea there was a restraining order on her. So she was sobbing, very upset. The third woman who came in was a single mom who works at the Motel 8 in Fort Bragg. She had grounded her oldest teenage daughter and then her daughter had run out the door. She didn't know what to do so she called the police. When the police came she and her daughter were having an argument and she struck her daughter. She was arrested for slapping her daughter. The fourth and fifth women who came into the holding cell that day were there as a result of a pot arrests. They were doing a small pot grow in addition to farming. Like many farmers in this area, they have a huge orchard and lots of fig trees. The woman is actually a local chef, an amazing cook. So she and her friend were sobbing. Her friend, who was arrested with her for growing weed, is also a single mom who moved from Rhode Island to try to make a little money. During the whole time we were in the holding cell she was saying: "The worst decision in my life! I have bills to pay. I was just trying to make ends meet for my son. Everyone told me it was safe. I didn't know what I was getting involved in, but there are no jobs in Rhode Island." She was from a small fishing town in Rhode Island. Now we were all way into the nighttime. And the next woman who was brought in was at the Sierra Nevada Music Festival and, as you probably know, DUI arrests are another racket in our county. She was arrested for DUI. She had come from Texas to visit a friend at this festival in Boonville and she had drunk a little too much and was walking back to her car and was arrested for drinking too much. She wasn't driving. She was walking towards her car as she was arrested for public intoxication. The next woman arrested was also arrested for— she actually wasn't sure what she was arrested for. She had driven home and parked her car and got out of her car and was walking to her mother's house and on the way to her mother's house she was detained. I guess her alcohol level was too high and she had been driving a car. But she wasn't sure if they arrested her for DUI because she wasn't in the car when she was arrested. Anyway, you get the drift. Everybody in the holding cell was basically there for non-real criminal activity. And that's everyone in the holding cell. On the women's side of the jail I did not meet anyone who was a criminal either. I met a lot of women who have addiction problems. Oh, I forgot. Another woman who was arrested. And this to me is a classic. Because as I got into the general population and talked to more women there I realized that most of the women inside (because many who go through that holding cell are bailed out by friends and family), but people who are actually in the jail population are mostly people who have probation violations. So the last woman in the holding cell was an example of this. She was a meth addict. And she was also a single mom. She has to make appointments with her probation officer regularly. And if she misses them then she gets pulled back into the prison system. She had missed a probation appointment so she got a babysitter for her kids and just turned herself in. She sat on the back steps of the jail — she knows everybody in the jail and they know her — she sat on the back steps reading a book. She never has time to read with her kids and all. She had brought a book to read and she was sitting on the back steps of the jail until they had time to intake her. And they put her back into the prison system for having missed a probation appointment. She went to her arraignment hearing with me. She thought they would just make her serve a couple of days to compensate for missing her probation date. But it turned out they held her for a couple of weeks. And so again! She was in a situation where she didn't know who was going to take care of her kids. The babysitter thought it was just for a couple of days. As I spoke with more and more women in the jail I realized that many of them were there for probation violations. Because if you are single and have been jailed before it is hard to get a job. Plus you have probation appointments to meet. And you probably don't have a car and public transportation is terrible and you have to get to your probation appointments. And you have to get babysitting for your kids and you are trying to hold down a job so you can feed your family. So you miss appointments. How do you hold down a job, feed your kids, get babysitting, meet your probation appointments? So in the end you just always end up back in jail again. Even if you're not using. But often times because your life is so miserable you continue using and there are no decent rehabilitation programs, no support in this community.”


PETER SEAMUS O'TOOLE, actor, born 2 August 1932; died 14 December 2013 — Stage and screen actor who brought a touch of danger to his roles in Lawrence of Arabia, Becket and The Lion in Winter

PeterOTooleKatherine Hepburn his consort in The Lion in Winter (1968), once told Peter O'Toole that he was profligate with his talent as an actor. But perhaps O'Toole's metier was always risk. Even in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), when he was not quite 30, he looked like an elegant wreck, dipped in suntan, his eyes full of fever. O'Toole, who has died aged 81, made his height, his giddy conviction and his theatricality hold that epic together. He was a freed bird in white robes, yet he shuddered like a schoolboy at the thought of torture.

Was O'Toole a great actor? Some said so — not least those who watched him grow up at the Bristol Old Vic in the 1950s. Did he sometimes stray into misguidedness or grotesquerie? Did he occasionally seem “unwell”? He is remembered for the disaster that was his Macbeth at the London Old Vic in 1980 — a performance that sold more steadily the more furiously it was debunked. But that was half the point to being O'Toole. He was a phenomenon and, night to night, moment to moment, you might shift your opinion as he zigzagged in the crosswinds of his own turbulent imagination. He coincided with the method, or realism in acting, but he ignored it.

O'Toole was plainly fascinated by ham acting and theatrical travesty — in one of his most entertaining films, My Favourite Year (1982), he played an actor, Alan Swann, a swashbuckler in the tradition of Errol Flynn. It earned him his seventh Oscar nomination but he lost to Ben Kingsley for Gandhi. Seven Oscar failures was a rueful glory he shared for awhile with his old pal, Richard Burton. In 2003, he was awarded an honorary Oscar. He accepted but did not agree to be finished. There would be an eighth “failure” — his resplendent record.

O'Toole was born, he said, in Connemara, western Ireland (others say Leeds, where he grew up), the son of a wandering bookmaker. They were apparently following the horses at the time, but the family moved about a lot. He went to a Catholic school in Leeds and learned to read at an early stage. He was a teenage boozer, getting into scrapes and fights; wrapped parcels for a living for a while; and tried journalism on the Yorkshire Evening Post. He was told his writing was too colorful. After he and a friend hitchhiked to Stratford-upon-Avon, where they saw Michael Redgrave in King Lear, he knew acting was what he wanted to do.

Having undertaken two years' national service in the navy, in 1954 he entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where his fellow students included Alan Bates and Albert Finney. He was a rebel at the acting school, often at odds with his teachers, but he stood out at a time when a new provincial realism was creeping into British acting. Somehow, he could make Connemara and Leeds sound Athenian. After graduating, he got the job at Bristol. In three years there, he played more than 50 roles. These included Vladimir in Waiting for Godot (his favorite play), Alfred Doolittle in Pygmalion, Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger, the dame in pantomime, and a Hamlet that drew Peter Hall and Kenneth Tynan down to Bristol. He often played men older than he was, and his model at Bristol was Eric Porter — “because of his great looseness and power.”

He left Bristol in 1958, and did Willis Hall's The Long and the Short and the Tall in London in 1959 (directed by Lindsay Anderson, with Terence Stamp as his understudy). From there, he went to Stratford for a season, where he played Shylock in a 1960 production of The Merchant of Venice. His Portia, Dorothy Tutin, graciously stepped aside at the final curtain to signal the debut of a new star. He was also Petruchio, opposite Peggy Ashcroft, in The Taming of the Shrew.

By then he was married to the actor Siân Phillips and they had the first of two daughters. It was a marriage full of fights and reconciliations, but all his friends testified to O'Toole's deep devotion and need for a wife who was his equal in most dramatic flights.

The theatre was poised for its great new talent, even if a few critics noted his tendency to “bark” out the words, but the movies already had their hooks in him. In 1960 he had a small part in Kidnapped, an odd one in Nicholas Ray's The Savage Innocents and a much better one in The Day They Robbed the Bank of England. He was being talked about. Elizabeth Taylor even interviewed him for Mark Antony in her forthcoming Cleopatra (1963). They met, he whipped her at backgammon, and they agreed to disagree.

O'TooleLofAIt was in 1962 that he was cast by David Lean as a far too tall, much too florid, yet riveting TE Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia. Sam Spiegel, the producer, had wanted Finney (and Marlon Brando before him), and they never got on well. But Spiegel did say O'Toole had “probably the most heady blend of sensitivity and vitality I have known in an actor.” It was a big picture, of course, and O'Toole was often rebellious and difficult. In hindsight, the character and the film are not always clear, but the faults are more in the screenplay than in the acting. He was nominated for an Oscar, and lost to Gregory Peck for To Kill a Mockingbird.

He went straight into another movie, Becket (directed by Peter Glenville, 1964), with Burton, and he elected to do Brecht's Baal on the London stage as it was the kind of rogue play no one else would touch. O'Toole was seldom in the mainstream. But since that flopped, Laurence Olivier honored him by asking him to play Hamlet in the National Theatre's London debut at the Old Vic — with Olivier directing. Everyone who had seen O'Toole's Bristol Hamlet believed that it was more urgent than the London show.

But O'Toole was now an international celebrity — there was another nomination for Becket (he and Burton were edged out by Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady). And so his movie career took over, producing dismay: Lord Jim (1965), a failure; What's New, Pussycat? (1965), an interesting comedy that never lived up to all its starry contributors; How to Steal a Million (1966), a dud with Audrey Hepburn — viewers asked which star was thinner and more wide-eyed; The Bible: In the Beginning (1966) — as several angels — for John Huston; The Night of the Generals (1967); Great Catherine (1968); Murphy's War (1971); Under Milk Wood (1972) — with Burton and Taylor; Man of La Mancha (1972); Rosebud (1975); Man Friday (1975).

It was an utterly unpredictable course for the actor whose Lawrence and Hamlet had seemed to command the world. There were silly, big-salary choices, to be sure, and the press was full of merry stories about O'Toole's wildness, his drinking and his carefree attitude. But he had loved Donald Wolfit's example; he was most excited by melodrama and going to the brink. He was already aware of another role, himself — O'Toole, in interviews, sitting at a bar, melodious and completely drunk. It was a grand part for which he did not have to learn lines.

The Lion in Winter was different — though, in truth, not quite as good as it is supposed to be. But O'Toole and Hepburn relished the union in which she was old enough to be his mother. That was another nomination — bowing to Cliff Robertson in Charly. O'Toole's schoolteacher in Goodbye, Mr Chips (1969), far too sentimental, then lost to John Wayne in True Grit. The film roles that stand out are his deranged lord in The Ruling Class (1972) and the monstrous movie director Eli Cross in The Stunt Man (1980), two pictures that deliberately court extremism, and which might have been written for O'Toole. He was outstanding in both, but his bravura left vague the question of just how good the films were. He was nominated for both — and he lost to Brando in The Godfather and Robert De Niro in Raging Bull. That was a mark of cult work, true to his private spirit, but not close to the public pulse.

For several years he was away from the London stage, yet he worked in Dublin and in 1973 returned to Bristol for a season — working for next to nothing and playing a fine Uncle Vanya. In 1975, he was found to be suffering from pancreatitis. He underwent surgery, lost much of his stomach, then came back from it all to appear in a good adaptation of Geoffrey Household's novel Rogue Male for British television in 1977.

In 1979, his marriage ended. That year he appeared as Tiberius in the Bob Guccione-sponsored version of Caligula, a fairly sordid movie — and unfortunately compared with the BBC's version of I, Claudius (in which his wife had been a shining player). Far more controversial was his Macbeth, at the London Old Vic in 1980, directed by the film-maker Bryan Forbes, with Frances Tomelty as Lady Macbeth. It was not just that critics deplored the concept, the stagecraft and O'Toole's own playing (monotony was frequently mentioned). Rather, it was the sense that O'Toole had set himself up against the world — that he even fed on the rebukes.

He married the actor Karen Brown in 1983; they had a son, Lorcan, but the marriage did not last long. The work, meanwhile, was often reckless and indifferent. Far from a versatile actor, he had become someone who could play only versions of himself. In which case, in 1989, he was blessed by providence. It came in the form of Keith Waterhouse's play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell. O'Toole took the part of the alcoholic, fatalistic and self-destructive Spectator columnist with laconic restraint. It played every night to standing ovations and may have been the triumph of O'Toole's life. Yet there was also his tactful, delicate portrayal of the English tutor in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor (1987).

In 1982, he did George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman in London, and sometimes wavered as he strolled across the stage. On screen, he did almost anything — Svengali (1983), Supergirl (1984), Club Paradise (1986). Much was awful, nothing was dull. And then, in the 1990s, he found another self, the literary autobiographer, and published two volumes about his early life, under the title Loitering With Intent. More atmospheric than factually helpful, they were the works of a real writer and helped alter his public reputation.

With his honorary Oscar, did he think of retiring? Out of the question. He did Bright Young Things (2003), directed by Stephen Fry; he played President Paul von Hindenburg in Hitler: The Rise of Evil (2003); he was an incredulous Priam in Troy (2004) and Casanova as an old man in the 2005 mini-series starring David Tennant. Then grace fell upon him, like a fine rain. Hanif Kureishi wrote, and Roger Michell directed, Venus (2006), a small story about a small-time, dying actor and a young woman. It was as touching as anything O'Toole had ever done. He got an eighth nomination, and smiled as the prize went to Forest Whitaker for his Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. Still he worked on, and it was characteristic that his Pope in the TV series The Tudors (2008) was as lowdown as his derelict in Venus had seemed aristocratic. In Michael Redwood's film Katherine of Alexandria, due for release next year, he plays the Emperor Constantine's orator, Cornelius Gallus.

What can one say, in summary, of so many astonishing performances by a man who had become a warning figure for young actors? He was one of those who make us ponder the terrible stress of the job and its art, its curse and its inspiration.

He is survived by his daughters, Kate and Pat, and Lorcan.


Connecting With Local Food #14


by Brennon, Krissy, Johnny, Katie & Melinda

BoonvilleHotelAt the Boonville Hotel and Table 128 we all share a love for beauty and food. It is what has brought us all together. We are a group of individuals working together to focus on what we hold dear. We have the restaurant, Table 128, serving a family style prix fixe menu, the Hotel with 15 rooms, events throughout the season, and our continually evolving and growing garden. These pieces of our business bring local foods into play every­day. Our prix fixe menu focuses on what comes from the garden and local farmers each week. The garden provides an opportunity for guests to roam and discover what the season brings. The Hotel provides a space for the Boonville Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings May through October. We have a retail room featuring local products and also use the Hotel as a venue for supporting community organizations. As a group we've all written a few words to describe what we do here in sup­port of local food and people, from the kitchen, the garden and Hotel.

At Table 128, dinners are planned based on the bounty that each season brings. Our prix fixe menu changes every night and allows us to focus our energy to create three or four course meals that showcase the freshest local produce available. We work with what is available in our garden and with local farms, such as Blue Meadow Farms and Anderson Valley Community Farm, to source as much produce as we can from the Valley and supplement what we cannot from Sonoma Organics. Knowing where our ingredients come from and the farmers involved makes dinner at the Boonville Hotel a unique and intimate experience. We serve homemade pasta with wild mushrooms from the coast, soup made of roasted peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant from our garden, and salads with fresh goat cheese from Pennyroyal Farm and figs from a friend’s tree. Braised Sonoma County Poultry duck leg with Doug Mosel’s winter wheat and rustic galettes with Bill’s berries and apples from the Apple Farm are a small example of the many foods we offer throughout the year. — Brennon Moore/head chef and Krissy Scommegna/sous chef

HotelKitchenThe Boonville Hotel has always had a kitchen garden, beginning with the first amazing transformation of the space behind the building by Stephanie Tebbutt back in Vernon and Charlene's tenure, over three decades ago now. It has always been an integral, organic and vital part of what makes working in our kitchen so different from cooking in other restaurants. Interestingly enough, with the exception of Andy Balestracci, it has been led by a succession of beautiful, strong and mindful women, from Jan Kumataka to Linda MacElwee, Natasha McGuirk, Sarah Mac Cammant, and now Katie Wil­liams, as well as others I've lost track of along the way. They have each carried the torch and made do with very little physical help, money, or guidance from us and cre­ated this productive yet soulful space for all of us to enjoy and cook from. Coming from that perspective, I can't imagine ever cooking without this seasonal bounty that comes from the relatively small space out back, cre­ated by this wonderful group of women over the last 30 years. It has inspired, driven, and nurtured so many of us with its abundance and purposeful sense of design. When you step out of the kitchen, in the rush of getting ready to serve dinner to waiting guests, you get to pause, breath and inhale the beauty of this space, and somehow it all makes sense again. You return to the kitchen a bit richer in so many inexplicable ways — nourished, satisfied and renewed for the task ahead. Thank you to all those who have helped in this endeavor as it has made us all better cooks, better friends, and hopefully better humans. — Johnny Schmitt/proprietor and chef

SchmittInGardenThe vegetable garden at the Boonville Hotel is a unique and evolving project. For me personally, the Hotel garden is a wonderful meeting of worlds, combin­ing my backgrounds in landscape gardening and row crop farming. It is great to deliver the produce on foot. I turn and cultivate all the beds by hand, and am able to monitor the plants closely. The past two seasons have been a learning curve, and I feel I am beginning to un­derstand the unique microclimates of Anderson Valley.

It has been interesting to have the specific focus of working directly with a kitchen, choosing varietals they prefer, and keeping them posted on what to expect in the coming week. It is satisfying to see the garden’s bounty on the menu, and the more familiar I become with the menus and Table 128’s style, the better choices I feel I am able to make about what to plant.

Certainly a garden this size is not able to provide for all of the restaurant’s produce needs. My challenge is to try to maintain variety while using the bed space effi­ciently. Fresh greens and herbs are irreplaceable and I can’t grow enough arugula, Italian parsley, or thyme. While I love a new potato right out of the ground, I would have to plant the whole garden in spuds to accommodate the needs of the kitchen. Subsistence farming it is not, but to produce a percentage of the food needs for a restaurant on site is a success.

The aesthetic component of the Hotel’s vegetable garden creates a beautiful space for events, and is, most importantly, extremely inviting. I have had countless conversations with guests who are excited to see their soon-to-be-dinner still in the ground, want to talk about heirloom tomatoes, aphids on kale, whether drip irriga­tion would work in their home garden (yes!), and what amendments I put in the soil. I feel that whether my interactions with people are simply about how beautiful sunflowers are or about growing techniques, these are important conversations to have. While it seems natural to many members of this community that food comes out of the ground, it is sadly not the case for everyone. Public vegetable gardens are a wonderful source of inspira­tion for people, and I am grateful to be part of a space that facilitates greater understanding of our food source. — Katie Williams/gardener

Everything happens seasonally for us. The Hotel's high season is May through October and the travelers make sure to keep us on our toes. Then comes the fall harvest and we get to turn our attention to home and the community. We tend to be very food focused at the Hotel. Our community events are often aimed towards supporting those individuals working with farming and food. We've had the opportunity to host the Foodshed's fundraiser this past October. The farmers were celebrated for all their hard work and locals, alongside hotel guests, had the chance to learn about the people raising their food. “Not only was it an incredible meal, but many of the producers came, and I think that everyone felt that the evening was an extra special one,” said Barbara Goodell of the event. We also recently hosted the Tree Lighting Party to raise funds for the Anderson Valley Food Bank's holiday season. It was an absolute joy and everybody came to light up the tree and support our community with holiday cheer and cups of soup, giving us a chance to raise over $1300 on $5-10 cups of soup.

The Hotel recently renovated a retail space, giving us a venue to promote a lot of our favorite local products. We get to cook with and sell Doug Mosel's grains. We get to plant Andy Balestracci's seeds in the garden, cook with the bounty, and share the seeds with others. We get sell local wines from producers that do not have retail tasting rooms or are just wines we love. We have also added some of our own projects to the mix. We have started to grow, dry and package our Piment d'ville, a d'esplette chile from the Basque region of France. Our chefs use it as the third spice next to salt and black pepper in the kitchen. For years we bought it from France and now we are able to supply ourselves and other res­taurants for the season. The first year’s 500 plants yielded 60 pounds of the spice and this year’s 4,500 plants have given us 550 pounds to have fun with. We have a venue to promote Bite Hard Cider, made from Valley apples by Brooks Schmitt, enjoyed by us all daily, and expanding into markets throughout California.

Hosting the farmers’ market for all these years seems an appropriate way to end. To all involved in the farm­ers’ market and all the hard working farmers, we are thankful that you share with us your beautiful hard work. We are delighted to have them here every Saturday morning May through October. How lucky are we walk outside the Hotel to buy what we need for the restaurant and even luckier are the guests, friends, and family that get to relish in the foods at night. We hope that our work here at the Hotel can help teach locals and just people stopping by a bit more about our Valley and people. — Melinda Ellis/managing partner

The AV School Gardens by Jamie Lee will be featured in two weeks. For previous articles, please go to To receive the AV Food­shed emails about local events and activities, send your email to


  1. Harvey Reading December 16, 2013

    O’Toole was fantastic in Creator, made in the mid 80s. For me, he, along with David Ogden Stiers, made that movie, which otherwise was a far-fetched, grade-B fantasy. Lawrence of Arabia always seemed to me a bit overrated, particularly the first (and only) time I saw it in a theater (the only operating movie theater in Calaveras County at the time), when I was 12 or 13. I saw it two or three times in later years, thinking I must have missed something, but, if I did, I didn’t find it in the later viewings as an adult.

  2. Bill Pilgrim December 16, 2013

    Re: Peter O’Toole. It is rumored that early in the filming of “Lawrence…” David Lean (after reviewing the days shooting) quipped to O’Toole: “If you were any prettier we’d have to call it Laura of Arabia.”

  3. Mark Scaramella December 16, 2013

    I had a view similar to Mr. Reading’s until recently. But then I read Scott Anderson’s new “Lawrence In Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East,” which lead to Lawrence’s own Seven Pillars of Wisdon, which lead to the 1986 BBC biographical documentary of Lawrence. With that background and context the movie makes a lot more sense and turns out to be relatively accurate as Hollywood stuff goes. Lawrence’s betrayal by his own government turns out to be the primary root of the current middle east conflict. In that light, Lawrence of Arabia has a currency that makes it much more watchable. PS. The BBC documentary is viewable on line in seven parts beginning with:

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