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Valley People (August 19, 2020)

THE ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING CO. in Boonville is listed on PG&E’s list of 13 planned Community Resource Centers during planned power shut offs this year. The list is part of a long presentation PG&E is delivering to the Supervisors on Tuesday. “Locations will be activated as needed, depending on event scope and potential customer impacts,” says PG&E. “During a PSPS event, the locations will be made available on and via social media, local news and radio.” Resource Centers are expected to provide covid health & safety info, restrooms and handwashing, device charging, wi-fi hotspots, bottled water, snacks, tables/chairs, some blankets, and some will have bagged ice and heating and cooling provisions. They will be staffed and operate from 8am to 10pm. Some of them will be mobile/trailers, others will be tents, and many will be indoors.   

SORRY to learn that our old friend Janese June was medi-vacced outtahere last Friday night when she was discovered in a state of serious collapse at her Ornbaun Road home.

THAT TWO-HOUR power outage a week ago Monday has been attributed to a downed power line near the CalTrans yard at the north end of Boonville. Fortunately, no fire on a hot afternoon with a stiff breeze blowing in off the Pacific.

AND THIS MONDAY the 17th of August? The morning was overcast and muggy until 11:10am when lightning flashed, thunder rumbled and a heavy rain poured down for exactly 8 minutes, stopped, and resumed heavy at 11:35, stopped, started, stopped for good by 12:30. There was a report of trees (plural) on fire from a lightning strike near the junction of Mountain House Road and 128, with both Boonville-based and Cloverdale firefighters responding.

AND the day thundered on with bursts of heavy rain falling in brief downpours. A Boonville man said the rain added up to a quarter inch at his place. Another man engaged in love drug production said rain in August won't hurt Mendocino County's number one export crop, "but would be catastrophic a month from now." Wine grapes? An Anderson Valley farmer put it this way: "This is just educated guesswork.  I think that we haven't had enough rain to cause much damage, though I am less familiar with thin-skinned Pinot noir than I am with thicker skinned Zinfandel.  One concern, if the grapes have not gone through veraison, is that they will mildew in this wet/humid environment.  Veraison is when the grapes go from green to red.  Once they are red they are impervious to mildew, though botritus (sp?) can then be a factor.  Again, this hasn't been a lot of rain and I think things are probably drying out pretty quickly.  For us up here, we harvest really late and we often get rained on late in the season (late Sept - early Nov); we know the grapes can handle some of that but if there's going to be several inches we then have to make a decision as to picking.  I don't think this will do too much damage."

IN MY FIFTY years as a Boonvillian, I have never seen the area as dry as it is this year. Con Creek, for instance, the year-round stream the flows past the north end of the elementary school, has been dry for a month. Ordinarily, it flows year-round.

GRIM CONFIRMATION from Brian Wood: “Anderson Creek in Boonville is dry. In the 20 years I’ve lived along it the only other time it dried up was in August of 2008. I mentioned yesterday that Anderson Creek near my house is dry, which is unusual. There is an old orchard well located right about where the 500 year flood line is behind our house. The well itself is about 120 feet; deep. I’ve been measuring the water level often since 2015 and this morning it is 23 feet; 2 feet; below the rim, two feet lower than I’ve ever recorded before. The highest level I’ve recorded was in January, 2019, when it was 7 feet down.”  

THE COMPANY KITCHEN in Philo is offering majorly good food for the next four Fridays, 11:30 to 2pm. You can sit in the patio out back or call in to order to go. Despite the covid-induced hardships, our Anderson Valley restaurants struggle on, and AV, from Yorkville to Navarro, is twenty miles of fine prepared meals.

THE NAVARRO GENERAL STORE’s popular barbecue is back all day from Wednesdays through Sundays with its famous menu, outdoor seating and dining, deli, and much more. More details to come. For info call 895-9445.

BACK in the day, the day when newspapers reigned, in extraordinarily hot weather like now, an inevitable feature was a front page photo of someone, typically a housewife, frying an egg on a sidewalk. "Mrs. John Smith prepares little Bobby's breakfast," and there would be the two of them, mom posed with a spatula, little Bobby grinning in anticipation of his picture in the paper, the egg frying on the sidewalk.

OUR THERMOMETER, a lying piece of primitive technology if there ever was one, said it was 112 in the shade in Boonville on Friday, but once the mercury climbs over a hundred, well, all we can do is hope that PG&E doesn't do a rolling blackout on us. I was trying to remember when we became so dependent on AC. Americans of my vintage grew up without it, and lots of us still prefer life without no matter how hot it gets.

AND INDEED LARGE PARTS of Sonoma and Marin Counties with tens of thousands of households were blacked out by PG&E Friday evening. PG&E said high power usage during the covid/heatwave was too much for them in those areas. Boonville hasn’t been hit with an intentional blackout yet.

GETS KINDA LONELY in the ava bunker these days, what with the covid-isolation mandated during our long days and nights spent bringing you ingrates THE TRUTH. The long days used to be broken up by drop-in kibitzers and random thrill seekers, but any more we can go an entire day without a single visitor. We used to joke that on busy days our office was kind of like a variety show, with a procession of, ah, unique personalities popping in, doing their act, popping out just in time for the next one, everything but dance routines.

YESTERDAY I mentioned that I'd never seen Con Creek just north of Boonville's elementary school so dry, so I wasn't surprised when Steve Wood noted yesterday that "Anderson Creek in Boonville is dry. In the 20 years I’ve lived along it the only other time it dried up was in August of 2008."

GOT IN, COULDN'T GET OUT. AV Fire Chief Andres Avila writes: “AV Fire had a call mid-morning (Sunday) for a missing hiker with a dog in the area Clow Ridge Road (behind Handley Cellars, west of Philo). We were provided GPS coordinates that apparently came from an alert device of some sort. Units searched the area until CalStar 4 was able to locate the woman near a vineyard fence. She was in steep, difficult terrain and couldn't get through the tall fences with the large dog nor could she backtrack. AV Fire was able to find her, cut the fence, and get her out of the situation. The patient did not need medical attention and was given a ride home by a sheriff's officer.” (The lost soul was a local woman in her early 70’s stuck near Handley vineyard.)

A LOCAL NOTES: “What fun these Anderson Valley Grange Drive-In Theater nights are for everyone, including children, who for the first time get to experience outdoor movie showing!  Rolling snack bar, Covid-busted bathrooms, and social distancing protocols galore! Heard this Grange fundraiser is gonna happen every other week throughout the summer! You can even Venmo your donation to @AVgrange!”

DRIVE IN MOVIES AT AV GRANGE. We've tested the big screen, the sound system and snacks. Everything is working wonderfully. We are registered with the county and are following all Covid protocols. We plan to show movies every other Saturday evening starting at dark until the rain chases us away. The lot opens for parking at 7:30 or thereabouts.

COMING UP Sat. Aug. 29th at dark: “The Muppet Movie.” Not just for kids, and by all accounts it's the best of the Muppet films. So come prepared with your masks and help us all stay safe. Bring a donation and a thank you to the Grange for finding a way to share safely.

LIKE everyone else in these parts I've enjoyed Brad Wiley’s reminiscences of Navarro, and laughed when he mentioned Masonite’s plan to develop an 800-lot subdivision along the Navarro between Hendy Woods and Lazy Creek. As I recall that ghastly and hugely destructive scheme, it was 800 condos piled in one area of a larger commons of forest and meadow, which struck me in its disproportionate size a lot like that failed lunatic development at Shelter Cove in Southern Humboldt County.

THEN-AVA PUBLISHER Homer Mannix was for it, perhaps because… Well, all expenses-paid weekend trips to the developer's headquarters in San Diego may have helped persuade Homer that 800 condos were just what the Anderson Valley needed. But tensions ran high between the fors and the againsts until the project was finally abandoned mostly, as I recall, because even the retro county authorities in Ukiah questioned its viability.

BUT IN THE ANDERSON VALLEY, the controversy played out as Hippies vs Old Timers, and the lines were firmly drawn. One memorable night a public meeting was convened in the high school gym with "hippies" arrayed on one side of the basketball court, old timers on the other. The developer was represented by the usual forked-tongue lawyer who passed out slickly-produced brochures showing handsome white people riding horses, playing tennis and gazing at each other over glasses of wine. To us hippies, that vision represented everything we'd fled, a suburban nightmare plunked down in our freshly discovered rural paradise, an urban architectural curse following us north from the city. (I wasn't a hippie, by the way, but for political purposes, and as a newcomer, I always got lumped in with the shaggy beasts.)

EVERYTHING the developer's rep said was cheered by the old timers, groaned at by the counterculture troops arrayed opposite them, until order nearly broke down altogether when Lovella Sand, an old timer, took the speaker's lectern and fairly shouted, "What do we want in this community, nice homes for nice people or teepees for hippies?" The hippies began to chant, "Teepees! Teepees!" as the old timers yelled back, "Nice homes! Nice People!"

BUT THE NIGHT was won by ancient Cecil Gowan of the famous pioneer Gowans who tottered forward to present an environmental history of the area proposed for the monstrosity, how it wouldn't produce enough water for a development of the size envisioned, how generally wrong-headed it was. Old Cecil could hardly be described as a hippie, or one more impertinent newcomer telling old timers how to run their affairs. Nope, Cecil wasn't one of those dope-headed communists or whatever the hell they were. Cecil went all the way back to Indians and hop fields. He was older than the old timers! And Cecil prevailed, and that was that, and the hippies married into the old timers to produce hippie-rednecks, and these little hipnecks grew up and married Mexicans, each iteration smarter and better looking than the last.


  1. Marshall Newman August 21, 2020

    Re: that Masonite development proposal. It may have been Cecil Gowan who pointed out that in 1953 (or was it 1954?) there was NO Navarro River flow during the summer at the site of the proposed development. The lack of water and community opposition both were key elements in torpedoing the proposal.

  2. Bruce Anderson August 21, 2020

    True. Cecil emphasized that he’d seen the Navarro go dry several times during his long life.

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