Valley People

by AVA News Service, October 30, 2013

ANDERSON VALLEY'S latest legal crop? “Boonville piment d'ville, a sweet, spicy, basque red chile, sown, grown & harvested by locals, Mendocino County, fall 2013 crop.” The peppers, not grown anywhere else in the United States, as Johnny Schmitt tells me, were planted at the old Stella Cadente property not even a mile from the Farrer Building, central Boonville. And just to the rear of the Farrer Building early Tuesday afternoon, in a very busy tin shed, a three person crew was grinding and packaging chili powder, ten tons of it from a bonanza second year crop. The ever-enterprising Schmitt now faces the formidable task of marketing the stuff which, of course, shouldn't be too difficult because this magically enhancing substance is much sought after by knowledgeable cooks.

THE FARRER BUILDING'S back forty was also humming with site prep for “Dark Carnival,” a Halloween bash and benefit for KZYX.

THOSE HELICOPTERS buzzing Boonville much of Tuesday belong to PG&E, not the DEA as of yesteryear. PG&E was replacing power poles in the Airport Estates neighborhood.

AND THAT BIG fancy bus disgorged a bunch of young people near Lemons Market, Philo, who immediately boarded a pair of sinister-looking black vans, windows darkened, of the type our stumbling federal government drives around in, and off the vans zipped down Ray's Road bound for Blackbird Ranch.

SHERIFF'S DEPUTY LUIS ESPINOZA, born and raised in the Anderson Valley, has been promoted to a position that requires him to function at least part time as a detective. Word out of the Sheriff's headquarters in Ukiah says Luis will work out of a Fairgrounds office when he's in town, and deputy Craig Walker, we're assured, will be full-time in The Valley very soon. Both Espinoza and Walker spend a lot of time where most of the crime occurs — Ukiah.

SPEAKING of the law enforcement community, Sheriff Allman can be seen on the AXS Channel as Dan Rather's guide for a story called “Gone To Pot.” In one segment, the Sheriff leads Rather to a large-ish marijuana grow just off Highway 101 near Hopland where Rather, mildly shocked at the size of the huge plants, exclaims, “Oh! Hello!”

STEVE LEDSON has his Boonville property for sale. His tasting room is already gone and, for $1.6 mil his now partially occupied building and the rental house a few steps to the east is yours. One local said that Ledson remarked to him, “Boonville is not going the way I'd hoped,” a statement open to interpretation. Boonville seems to be going quite well and, with the exception of Mr. Ricard's rambling wreck of a structure at the south end of town, Boomsville is the most happening burg anywhere in Mendocino County.

HUMCO DA MARK GALLEGOS ON POT GARDENS: “It’s like lightning in the rain. We all go out into a rainstorm and don’t worry about being struck by lightning because the odds of that happening are so low. Same with our local marijuana growers. With over 4,000 identified outdoor grows they don’t worry about arrest and prosecution because the odds of it happening are equally low. We need your help on the federal level. Either legalize marijuana or give us the resources to go after the criminals.”

MENDOCINO COUNTY must have just as many mega-grows — the northern tier of the County has lots of big greenhouse grows — but the industry is somehow less obtrusive, less flagrant in Mendo than it is in HumCo, although at this time of year in, say, the Anderson Valley, you can smell the bud just driving through town. It's all anecdote, really, and I'm adding to the anecdotal load here by saying the hills where I hike are drier this year than I've ever seen them. Are dope growers diverting more streams than in years past? Are the parched hills a result of both the pot people and the grape brigades taking water in historically unprecedented amounts? Global warming? Cyclical weather patterns? Old timers remember the Navarro drying up as far as the Greenwood Bridge in the 1920s when there wasn't nearly the draw on local streams that there is no, so very dry years are not unprecedented. Clearly, though, there's a radically increased demand for our finite water sources over the past 40 years, and just as clearly, as Supervisor Pinches said to me recently, “I've never seen the criks in my area (Laytonville) dry up like they have this summer. Growers are responsible, no question.”

THE ANDERSON VALLEY High School football team, along with principal Michelle Hutchins, a few teachers, and a lively contingent of students, followed a fire truck filled with cheerleaders to the Fairgrounds where the Homecoming games soon began last Friday afternoon. Upon their arrival, the boys headed towards the field to begin warming up. The field was already set with music to pump the boys up, but Point Arena proved to be a tough opponent. By halftime, when the Anderson Valley Cheerleaders performed to Wipeout by The Beach Boys, the AV football team was down ten points, 32-22. This difference proved to be difficult to close, and the Panthers fell 46-28 to the visiting Point Arena Pirates. The Homecoming King and Queen were crowned following the football game. The candidate couples rode on to the field in front of the grandstand, and Ms. Hutchins, who would share with the audience the candidate’s career goals, favorite movies and some words of wisdom, introduced each candidate. After all the excitement and waiting, the King and Queen were announced as Daniel Espinoza and Adelina Sanchez. The drawing followed, and the Homecoming Queen’s younger brother, Abraham Sanchez, took home the prize of just over $4,000. As the evening's grand finale, the AV soccer team defeated Point Arena 5-0, and a happy crowd of students walked back through Boonville to the high school gym where they enjoyed a tropical-themed homecoming dance. — Mayte Guerrero

COACH DAN KUNY'S Panthers play the much improved Laytonville Warriors at One Goal Stadium here in Boonville this Friday. Our JV's kick off against the Covelo JV's at 5:30, varsity versus Laytonville at 7:30. The Panthers have a longshot chance at the playoffs depending on how the Point Arena-Mendocino game this Saturday in Point Arena comes out.

THE DUCKHORN WINERY, based in St. Helena and Philo, is applying to put 314 acres of Anderson Valley land into tax-free “ag preserve.” (See Legal Notices on Page 11.) The property is presently divided into three parcels. Wine grapes as ag? That's stretch number one. Stretch number two is granting a large tax exemption to a company valued at $250 million and owned by a group of multi-millionaires. (Majority interest in Duckhorn belongs to a private equity firm, the people who brought us the crash of 2008 and are poised to do it all over again.)

DEBBIE HOLMER culls local history from the pages of ancient Mendocino Beacon-Advocates, and has unearthed this one from October 24th, 1911 in the wake of women getting the vote: “The ladies are taking advantage of their recent victory at the polls and are availing themselves of the chance to take a hand in politics. Mrs. Eleanor Maud French of this place was the first to register, closely followed by Mrs. W.T. Saxon of Willits, Mrs. T.P. Hopkins of Potter Valley and Mrs. T. Hutsell of Boonville.” (Anderson Valley boasts Hutsell Lane just south of downtown Boonville which west a little more than a mile out to the Bradford Ranch.)

HALLOWEEN TIPS FROM JEFF COSTELLO: For those who enjoy making and displaying jack o'lanterns, here is the secret trick for having the best pumpkin on the block: Get a pumpkin small enough to fit in your freezer — the bigger the freezer, the bigger the pumpkin. The day before Halloween, clean the guts out of the pumpkin and carve whatever face you want into it. Put the hollow, carved pumpkin into the freezer overnight and all day on Halloween. When it gets dark, take it out of the freezer, put the candle in it and light it up. The light is refracted by the ice crystals in the pumpkin's flesh and the whole thing becomes translucent. It's good for two-three hours, depending on the outside temp, before the ice melts.

KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS: Eliane Herring, president of KZYX's somnolent board of directors, is a former staff counsel at Lockheed, where she met her husband, Jim Goltz. Herring and Goltz now own Retech at Hopland, a Defense Department sub-contractor. Station manager John Coate, we understand, is a former Tennessee communard, truck driver, odd job man. His dad was a big shot Democrat in the Edmund “Pat” Brown era. Reading between Coate's biographical lines he looks like many latter day Mendo remittance men — successful parents, dropped out scion, coupla decades of drugs and decadence, and on into self-reinvention as this or that public bureaucrat in Mendocino County, where everyone is whatever they say they are, and history starts all over again every morning.

THE LATEST kerfuffle at Mendocino County Public Radio, incidentally, is emblematic of years of inept management practices. The latest trouble began when, for no reason other than Coate and station hatchet lady Mary Aigner didn't like his associations, Coate and Aigner fired long-time volunteer and station loyalist, Doug McKenty. McKenty's crime? Affiliating himself with station reformers. Not surprising that Coate and Aigner would play lo-ball, but one would think Ms. Herring would know better since, unlike most of the personalities in play here, she's been out in the big wide world where she's functioned in high level positions of trust.

TRUSTEE John Sakowicz is now in the Coate-Aigner crosshairs for the same reason McKenty was — demanding managerial transparency. The rest of the station trustees are being told that Sakowicz is this, that and the other thing, none of the slurs at all pertinent to the issues he's raising. Sako's board colleagues seem to think it's reasonable that anyone who criticizes station management can be written off as “crazy.” This kind of grotesque ostracism has been going on for years at KZYX, all the way back to Mitch Clogg and Marco McClean, offed by station founder Sean Donovan who saw the talented pair as a threat to his untalented self. Aigner is the constant in station paranoia since the day she abandoned her Fed Ex delivery route and climbed on into an executive position at the Philo radio station. Coate's predecessor, Laura Miller, tried to fire Aig but, with the backing of the usual drearies, especially the station's programmers, it was Brenda who hit the road. Aig's enemies list is as long and as forever as Nixon's. PS. The station's programmers have, as always, been absolutely and unanimously spineless. McKenty, a long-time colleague, is non-personed for no reason, but the same dreary thumbsuckers who have played the same music for 20 years now don't even look up from their turntables.

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