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Valley People (July 12, 2023)

GOWAN’S GRAVENSTEIN APPLEWINE CIDER wins big at world’s largest cider competition — Philo’s Gowan’s Cider has racked up a fourth major title for its popular Gravenstein Applewine Cider this year: best-in-class cider at the prestigious Greater Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition. The competition, which is the largest cider competition in the world, takes place over three days during which judges review hundreds of ciders from around the globe. Gowan’s Gravenstein competed against 78 “modern” sweet ciders and was named third in its class, an important distinction. This is the cider’s fourth big win this year. Earlier this year, it won a Good Foods Award, a gold in the North Coast Wine Challenge and a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

OLD MYSTERIES are often unfounded mysteries. A recent caller claimed that County investigators had looked into a drowning death, which occurred at the old Clearwater Ranch (Philo) in February of 1976, and had found no evidence to support a claim by a Clearwater grad that the death was not accidental but the deliberate murder of an autistic child by a member of the staff who was bathing her. But even the most far-fetched allegations get a look by the Sheriff’s Department because one can never be too sure that a crime hasn’t been committed. The authorities simply don’t write these reports off but make an effort to discover the truth regardless of the obstacles or unhappy repercussions.

YEARS AGO, a wine guy told me that roughly half of all the grapes grown in Mendocino County are processed elsewhere which, as the wine guy pointed out, begs the question: Couldn’t a number of fairly well-paying jobs be created here in Anderson Valley and in places like Ukiah and Hopland if more grape processing facilities were built in-County? Olives have caught on, and there’s now a busy olive oil processing plant in Hopland. 

A WINERY/BOTTLING OPERATION in Redwood Valley turns grapes into wine, as does Roederer right here in the Anderson Valley; there are several other wineries as well. But most grapes not bottled locally are grown on vineyard land owned by outside corporations or are contracted and sold to out-of-county vintners and trucked outta here for processing. 

DUNNO WHY this has occurred to me on a hundred degree day in July, but a Fort Bragg guy called one rainy day in January with a unique strategy for directing all the drips from a nearly porous roof into one mini-Niagara to fall in one bucket. I tried it in my leaky kitchen and darned if string theory didn’t do as my informant promised, directing three separate leaks into one catchment bucket where there had been three. Ready? Thumbtack a piece of string to the drip and run the string where you want the water to go. It’ll travel along the string to the desired destination, at least it did for me.

THERE'S A RATTLER-INFESTED site about six miles up the Ukiah-Boonville Road. I discovered it quite by accident while hiking with my outta control dog, whose previous owner called him Rothko but I called Roscoe. Roscoe had flunked obedience school. Twice. And he was a terrible racist, menacing any dark-skinned person who came near him. 

SO, I'd take him up in the hills where he could roam at will, well away from anyone he might display his Klan symptoms. Roscoe was embarrassing as hell in urban settings because the innocent souls he growled at probably assumed I'd trained him to be a race psycho. 

WE WERE TRUCKING along one day on a brief stretch of pavement which used to be the topmost leg of the old Ukiah-Boonville Road. Roscoe was about twenty yards in front of me when I suddenly spotted a half dozen rattlers sunning themselves on the crumbling asphalt. I yelled at Roscoe to stop although I knew he paid zero attention to my commands. But he trotted right on past a half-dozen or so snakes like they weren't there. I thought for sure they'd get him, but he was unmolested.

I'VE NEVER SEEN a rattlesnake in any other place. To make sure my experience with Roscoe wasn't a natural fluke, that I'd never see another rattler even at that seemingly snake-friendly place — hot pavement beneath a rocky bank — I went back two more times, each visit tying my heedless canine to a tree to prevent him from waltzing on through snake heaven. Each visit there were snakes. One snake, then two. 

PRINT READERS are diminishing by the day, our numbers replenished only by the occasional home-schooled child who, when he or she reaches our age, will likely be regarded as a curiosity in the same way the Amish are, with their famous Amish refusal to capitulate to the electronic deluge or the modern world generally. You print dinosaurs probably need no reminder that the Anderson Valley Lending Library at the Boonville Fairgrounds is a living oasis, Tuesdays 1:30-5pm and Saturdays 2-4pm.

THE LAST TIME I had to resort to a Have-A-Heart trap for stray cats, I snared a skunk. Which presented me with the tricky problem of freeing the troublesome little critter. Slow as skunks are in maneuvering themselves into position to spray, when they’re confined to small space there’s no way to simply open the trap door to let them walk out. You’ll get hosed down for sure. Skunk spray, incidentally, is a unique shade of lime green and quite beautiful, as I discovered in the long process of removing a skunk from my Have-A-Heart. And my skunk had a seemingly endless reserve of his liquid armor, which he kept up in my general direction for a couple of minutes while I admired the display. Finally, I threw a tarp over the trap and maneuvered the cage with a ten-foot bamboo pole to where the trap’s gate would open on its own, and the skunk, having been turned upside down a few times, finally sauntered out to resume his cozy life under my front porch, with dinners nightly in my compost bin.

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