Valley People

by AVA News Service, July 31, 2013

ROBERT TOMPKINS, 74, has died at his Philo home. Mr. Tompkins is survived by his wife, Shirley, and his son, Chris Tompkins, owner-operator of Northwest Tire and Oil, Philo.

THAT HEAVY SMOKE up and down the Mendocino Coast on Sunday through Tuesday is, according to the National Weather Service, drifting south from Southern Oregon. The Douglas Complex Fires, as in Douglas County, Oregon, is the source of most of the smoke in Mendocino County. There are no fires in Mendocino County. The Mendocino Air Quality Control Board issues air quality alerts but the office seems to be on auto-pilot on weekends. According to their website the air is as clear as the morning God first breathed it.

HOWEVER, a Potter Valley reader comments on our website, “While there may not have been any reported fires in Mendocino County on Sunday, it is possible that a report on Sunday’s Potter Valley fire will be made available on Monday. Smoke from the fire drifted and dispersed primarily towards the northeast. Some where around 15 acres flat grasslands and wooded riparian habitat were involved. CalFire air support was provided from 10:30 to noon, consisting of helicopter with bucket, air tanker, and incident commander spotter plane. Potter Valley Fire District staffed mop up operations until late afternoon. No structure were believed involved, other than some wooden fence posts partially burnt at the base.”

THERE'S THAT and there are those gold flags up and down 128 heralding a barrel tasting, a big event among oenophiles who get to sample the booze before it goes into the bottle.

THAT, THOSE and them, the Not So Simple Living Fair at the Boonville Fairgrounds, masterfully organized by Julie Liebenbaum and Friends. Drew a large crowd, as always, to learn (or be dismayed by) a range of presenters about how to do practical stuff on the land. From all accounts, the instruction was mostly reality-based but, Mendo being Mendo, some was, well, ethereal, I guess you could say. A nice event, though, and certainly a timely one given the state of the national economy.

THE LITTLE RED SCHOOLHOUSE MUSEUM will no longer be open on Fridays, Sheri Hansen tells us, because the museum is short of docents. “We are hoping this is a temporary situation. If you know anyone that can work a 3 hour docent shift once a month, please call Bob and Sandra Nimmons 895-9020.”

UPDATE FROM GRANGE CENTRAL, from the desk of the indefatigable Greg Krouse: “Local Organic tomatoes, coastal bacon and lettuce in BLTs at the next local Organic Pancake breakfast at the AV Solar Grange 669 in Philo from 8:30-11am with local organic music. We are feeding musicians and Poets local organic food for playing, so they will be at least temporarily organic. That means free to playing musicians, folks! That could be AVA reporters and editors too! We promise to make no friends with them. The local Organic pancakes with fresh ground Doug Mosel’s Mendocino Grain Project tasty red Fife wheat and locally made organic buttermilk is worth the stop alone. The Fort Bragg Grange, who recently fed 450 patrons, raved about the AV Grange pancakes, asked about source and recipe. Now there’s a real critique! “

MENDOCINO COUNTY FAIR AND APPLE SHOW ENTRY BOOKS are now available in the Fairgrounds Boonville Office. Enter your goats and sheep, string beans and tomatoes, your cut flowers and arrangements, cakes and pies, blackberry jam, quilts and clothing, paintings and photography. And please encourage the Juniors you know to enter in their divisions. Entry deadlines vary. Most are August 16th.

THE ANDERSON VALLEY CSD will host a budget presentation by the County's CEO, Carmel Angelo, and deputy CEO, Kyle Knopp, at the Boonville Fairgrounds Dining Hall, Wednesday, August 21, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The presentation is the fourth in a series of five presentations that will be delivered in each supervisorial district before the County’s Final Budget hearings, which begin on September 9th.

IN FULL PRESS RELEASE MODE, the County CEO's office elicited this orphic statement from 5th District Supervisor Hamburg: “We appreciate the Fifth District holding the budget presentation in Anderson Valley and encourage everyone to attend so they can ask about Anderson Valley issues.” (Huh?

“THE PRESENTATION will include highlights of the County’s 2013/2014 Recommended Budget, a State of the County update, and items of interest to the Fifth District. The intent of these presentations is to inform the audience of the workings of County government and to provide a high level of transparency and accountability to all Mendocino County residents. It is hoped that those interested in performing their civic duty will continue to stay engaged in the workings of local government.”

OH, PLEASE. The true state of County finances can be summed up in one word — precarious. Like municipalities everywhere, our local government has, over the years, obligated itself to much more than it can now pay for and, of course, its budgets are written in a way impenetrable by mere citizens, hence these occasional traveling propaganda shows. The current crop of supervisors, the best overall in many years, has kept the SS Mendo afloat mostly by lopping off line workers and not filling job vacancies. In our opinion, however, there remain a series of indefensible expenditures and positions — beginning with for instance, now that they bring it up, the Assistant CEO position. Then there's the Wellness office, the entire travel and conference budget, the Promotional Alliance, most of the lawyers in the County Counsel's office, administrators paid far above what is rational, and on and on.

SUPERVISOR HAMBURG himself has added to the County's debt burden by suing the County he serves, which is a helluva unprecedented note around here. He thinks the taxpayers should fund the lawsuit he caused by failing to bury his late wife in accordance with existing law. He won't win the suit but the County will have to spend lots of money defending itself.

COINCIDENTALLY, this presentation by the County's leadership occurs on the same day and at the same time as the next CSD meeting, so the sponsors will be able to do no more than make perfunctory introductions and then return to their own meeting across the street. We predict the CEO's Boonville appearance will draw exactly two people — Gene Herr and Barbara Goodell. The only other likely attendee, Major Mark Scaramella, USAF ret., will be across the street at the CSD meeting. Mail it in, Carmel.

COUPLA WEEKS AGO we bought some chicks, having fed 11 of 20 of our adult hens to the larger predators which, we think now, is probably a fox. Something has been getting in the pen going on two years now. Soon as we think we’ve got the pen critter-proof, there goes another chicken.

WE PUT the new chicks in what we thought was a secure enclosure and, overnight, several of the popcorn-size chicks and another hen were murdered in their sleep. And not eaten. The creature that did it was a thrill killer.

WE INITIALLY suspected a rehabbed feral cat, Newman, that we adopted two years ago from a Ukiah rescue center. Maybe Newman wasn’t fully rehabbed. Maybe he wanted to see if his old survival skills were still viable, and had somehow heaved his great bulk over the fence and into the pen. But Newman’s general sloth, his odd fear of adult chickens in the daytime, and his regular meals seemed to exclude Newman as the culprit. One afternoon, as a gopher dug a hole literally in front of his face, Newman took one look and dozed off. Any other cat would have immediately launched into full pounce mode. I can’t believe he’d go to all the trouble to knock off a bunch of two week-old chickens just for the thrill.

I’VE HAD chickens before, and I’ve lived in Boonville for a long time. In all my rural years I’d never heard of a chicken-killing cat, but it isn’t often a topic of conversation even in the outback. Most rural people simply build their chicken coops as invincible as they can and hope for the best. A civit cat wiped out three successive flocks of mine once. That was years ago, but I finally caught him in the act.

IF A FOX, even a proverbial one, got into the henhouse, wouldn’t he chow down once he was in? All our other chicken fatalities had been consumed, or at least partially consumed. Until last week, when a rat dog drove a fox out of his well-hidden little lair across the fence, the only known chicken killers on the place were possums and skunks, and neither of them or any of their relatives had been seen in months.

SO I WROTE to Petite Teton, the thriving little farm out Yorkville way. Of farming necessity, Petite Teton battles everything from the elements, to wild critters, to the Mendocino County Health Department. Nikki said she thought a feral cat or a reformed feral cat could not be eliminated from the suspect pool. She said she’d heard of bears, foxes and weasels supposedly killing for fun but had no experience with these creatures. Petite Teton’s problem, she said, is “more mundane: bobcats. We've live-trapped and deported five of them this month, but only after they killed ten of our chickens. They work both at night and in the daytime, and since we interrupted the killings each time (two chickens per kill), they didn't get to eat their victims. But it meant we had fresh killed chicken to butcher five different times right at our dinnertime. Very upsetting and exhausting. The cats are beautiful and were every age from baby to grandpa/ma.”

OUR PLACE is more of a neighborhood than it is purely rural. Bobcats might wander through, but we’ve never seen any signs of them. There’s fox scat all over the place, all over Anderson Valley, in fact. You can hear them everywhere if you’re up at 3am.

PETITE TETON has the heaviest concentration of bobcats I’ve heard of in The Valley; I’ve seen them occasionally deep in the hills, and on those occasions only once did I get a good look at one before he shot off into the underbrush. They're magnificent creatures, almost exciting to suddenly see as mountain lions, their larger cousins. It's undoubtedly the fox who's been getting our chickens, which he sometimes eats, sometimes doesn’t eat. We’ve beefed up the pen. Again. And hope for the best.

FOX TALK, A MENDO READER WRITES: “We were just saying that if and when we decide to get chickens, we will have to build a seriously hermetic coop and pen knowing these woods are full of foxes. A longtime local said he's noticed that in a drought year when the foxes eat most of the bunny rabbits, they then become much more aggressive about harvesting fruit and chickens and cat and dog food. I trust you will find a solution. Eggs make the world go round.”

The Toohey, Holcomb, and Hale families, are pleased to announce the engagement of Benjamin Holcomb Toohey of Boonville, and Katrina Jean Hale of Rocklin, CA. A wedding is being planned for the Summer of 2014.

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