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Valley People (Jan 22, 2014)

THIS GEOGRAPHICALLY CONFUSED PARAGRAPH appeared in a January 13 posting on a wine website called “”: “One of the fine-wine areas most affected is Anderson Valley, which — though it's in Mendocino County — is served by the Sonoma County Water Agency. America's new thirst for Pinot Noir has driven Anderson Valley vineyard acreage to more than five times what it was 20 years ago, and the overwhelming majority are irrigated. But the main reservoir for the area, Lake Mendocino, is at 37% capacity and dropping.”

ANDERSON VALLEY gets no water from Lake Mendocino, which is roughly 25-30 miles east, as the crow flies, from any area of Anderson Valley. Many AV wineries and vineyards have built ponds which they fill from local streams during the rainy season.

IN FACT, as Kristy Charles, president of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association explained in the same errant posting, “The majority of the wineries and vineyards collect rainwater. People are talking about putting off pruning. People are upping their crop insurance,” Ms. Charles said.

IN THE END, everything depends on rainwater. No rain, no water. The crisis in this county at this time runs from Willits and its suburb of Brooktrails to Redwood Valley. These entities are just about completely out of water.

ATTENTION CRAFTS PEOPLE! Ward Hanes of Boonville is doing business as Mendo Central, and he's looking for Mendo-specific goods to sell out of his store in the center of Mendocino County's most happening town, which is Boonville if you need reminding. A solidly reliable guy and a long-time member of our fine community with whom your goods and non-perishable food goods would not only be safe but likely to be converted to cash, call Ward at 707 489-9273.

CALL FOR ANDERSON VALLEY AUTHORS AND THEATER GOERS, by Lanny Parker: In preparation for their upcoming show, Rene Auberjonois and Howard Hesseman have requested that local residents submit their own short stories and/or poems to: Please submit before February 1st, so they can try to work them into their show entitled, “HEADS UP-back by peculiar demand.” The performance is on Sat. Feb. 15th at the Philo Grange. No-host snacks and drinks at 7pm, curtain at 8pm. This is an AV Education Foundation benefit. Tickets are $25 (under 18, $10). Tickets available at All That Good Stuff, Laughing Dog Books, Lemons’ Market and Lauren’s Restaurant. Get your “stories “ in soon, please. What a thrill it would be to have your work read by these two pros. Info: 895-2644 (Lanny)

CHRIS ROWNEY of CalFire reminds us that fire season has resumed. No burning with or without a permit. Yes, it's that dry out there.

THE SONOMA COUNTY WINEGRAPE COMMISSION is hoping to make all of SoCo's vineyards “sustainable” by 2019. By “sustainable” the Commission, according to its president, Karissa Kruse, means, “It's being a good steward, a good employer and a good neighbor.” More specifically, using fewer chemicals and less water.

IN MENDOCINO COUNTY, of course, the industry operates in a kind of regulatory free fire zone where the more conscientious, neighborly growers have gone organic and to drip irrigation simply because it's the right thing to do. Others, particularly the outside-based operations, remain heavy industrial ag, replete with chemicals.

THE CLOSING of Laughing Dogs Books is another body blow to the commercial life of central Boonville. Worse, it's a right to the jaw of our town's cultural life. You can also say it's a third blow to the tourism we are now so dependent on because Laughing Dogs' charming proprietor, Loretta Hauck, also functioned as the go-to person for many travelers-through, and so good at it it was almost as if she'd been specially selected for the task. As Loretta's farewell letter makes clear, book stores (like newspapers) are endangered species. Our culture, never too robust to begin with, has moved to cyber-space, and too many heedless book buyers have moved to Amazon with that awful paradigm shift. The insatiable small business-eating corporation that's eating its way through the freest sectors of free enterprise has been especially hard on independent book stores. The loss of Laughing Dog is a very big loss indeed.

Laughing Dogs Books
Laughing Dogs Books

AMONG THE MANY BLESSINGS we count daily as residents of this unique place, are the talented artists  who also make their homes here. Our clandestine reviewer has looked at two exhibits, one at Mosswood, the other at Lauren's Restaurant.

MOSSWOOD is showing the work of Will Lewis. There was a poignant page about the artist on the wall in which he talked about the "pathos we must endure," and certainly this phrase describes his work. His art, while accomplished, is not beautiful. He seems to make the ancient point that physical beauty has little to do with spiritual beauty. "People will become beautiful only when we truly know them," a debatable proposition for many of us, but I understood what he meant, I think, in that familiarity can make us more sympathetic rather than contemptuous. I sat there imagining that the pieces, in the manner of Blake, were there just for me —breasts, blues, blacks.  All his  faces are filled with pain, longing, agony or other dark emotion.  Yet Lewis used the harsh blues/blacks in the context of pastels capturing a merging quality, all the emotions yearning. I felt it was raw, primitive, tribal:  sprung up from the dark depths of the unconscious.

LATER, AT LAUREN'S, it so busy and crowded that it was difficult to go close to any of the work, quite the night of noise and laughter. And of course, it was quite opposite of the Lewis work.  The two artists are both in their 90's. Lucille Estes' landscapes are lovely, beautiful and pure visions of the Valley that reflect the beauty and majesty of this place.  One view from Peachland Road is absolutely lovely. Another of "The Ridges" captures the light beautifully as it reflects off a distant view. One felt as though you were looking through windows outside to the views of familiar places cherished.  And the other watercolor artist , Evelyn Ashton, also gave off a perfume of sweetness and luminosity, a simple ethereal quality in soft pastels of yellow, gold, purple, lavender in collage like movements. There were abstracts and a nice collection of small pieces that were simple and pure — an old car, an old shed, and a few mandalas which were quite nice.  The simplicity and lightness of being of her work was easy to enjoy and uplifting.  How wonderful that Lauren would showcase two women in the 90's who paint straight from the heart.  And it was Lauren't birthday the night I was there, and the popular proprietor received a loud and rousing birthday song and applause.

WHO COULD HAVE IMAGINED that endlessly sunny days, day-time temperatures in the  70's, could become ominous, oppressive even to those of us who assume rainy winters? We're writing lots about the drought because it is the story for California. Every day brings new revelations of the drought's wide-ranging effects, from mid-winter fire warnings to Sierra bears so disoriented by the warm weather they can't hibernate, and are foraging for food in the same range land that firefighters worry could begin to burn out of season.

BEING A MENDO-CENTRIC publication, we assume our readers are as interested as we are in the drought's multiple effects. So far, those effects are most worrisome inland along the 101 corridor from Willits and its Brooktrails suburb to Redwood Valley. These communities are down to their last drop. Ukiah has so far settled for voluntary water cutbacks, as have water districts from Hopland to Point Arena to Gualala. If it doesn't rain until November, we'll all be living in a disaster area of little to no water for household use, and no water to fight the inevitable fires with.

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