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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sonoma County Water Rationing Mandates - 30 - 50%

North Bay Water Storage Hits Unchartered Territory,
New Projection Prompts 30-50% Mandatory Rationing

The Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) is about to alert 750,000 residents in portions of Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties that their water storage is projected to hit new historical low levels. Residents should expect a call for a minimum of 30 to 50 percent mandatory rationing within weeks.

“The projection will show that we have entered unchartered territory,” said Pam Jeane, deputy chief engineer of operations. “A 30 percent mandatory rationing order is just the beginning – further decline in reservoir levels could necessitate 50 percent cutbacks.”

Impacts of the low water storage levels will be addressed, including Russian River flow levels, salmon fishery concerns and possible economic impacts including loss of jobs. The storage projection is based on past and projected rainfall patterns, Russian River flow requirements, and recent agricultural and municipal water demands in the Russian River above Healdsburg.

Stay tuned for more information...

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Business Tips to Handle Uncertain Economic Times

“Fear of failure is the flipside of fear of success; you have nothing to loose,” says SSU Business Professor Nick Gurney who has his own top ten tips for axiomatic success to keep a business going during uncertain economic times. Repetition of these axiomatic 10 points is proven to deliver results.

The ten ideas he says can help regain momentum in achieving goals, hopes and dreams.

By Nicholas Gurney

Get Your Self Back on Track

An international business writer once said ”The more things change the more they remains the same.” Is there anything really new under the sun? Not really; though, we are definitely coping with more vertiginous progress since the beginning of time. And most of us are striving to
better manage ourselves and help others to do the same.

1. Don’t allow fear to overcome your optimistic desire for a compelling future. Your brain is programmable to go towards the rewards of success rather than the penalties of failure. Thinking in pessimistic terms validates what some call the law of negative attraction; it dates to the Bible ”What you fear most will come to pass.” Focus on short term goals and projects that are achievable and measurable. Action feeds optimism.

2. Make a daily action plan, remembering to stay focused on what is doable now! Revisit this plan at day’s end checking off what you have achieved and focus on a punch list of items that warrant further action tomorrow or within the week. The past is prelude to the future. Derive strength and satisfaction from your accomplishments. Nothing motivates better than short term goal gains.

3. "If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail." Be systematic and establish a plan and follow it as rigorously as possible. If you work with others include everyone in the planning or at least the implementation of it. Keep the people around you informed.

4. Resilience is a key component to emotional health, according to K. Sulowitz, MD. Be emotionally resilient; this is also a key to building optimism. When you are optimistic it is catching and will help others around you to build resilience.

This enables everyone to move over the current challenges and build a stronger organization with stronger people. Building on it is a critical factor in how we all respond to change and tough times. Practice thinking optimistically, with small steps and raise the bar when you sense you are ready.

5. Did it start in Hollywood by exiled New Yorkers or not? “Fake it til you make it” has been a proven practice which gains it’s own momentum. Keep in mind your ethics, tolerance for ambiguity and ones’ sense of self.

Make it a fun game to keep you keeping on. Look at successful retailers, wholesalers, the competition, inspiring individuals and model what you believe sets them apart. Japan, Taiwan, China, India and others, used to copy western goods, services and are now becoming world leaders; it didn’t happen overnight. So it is for individuals, it takes focus and work. John Wooden, famed sports coach stated; “if it’s easy everyone would be star athletes.”

6. Be adaptable: Take your cues from world class athletes, astronauts, JPL… Find what works for you and then remember; practice makes perfect. As Sonoma based Dr. David Clancy, says, “the human mind and capacity for renewed imagination differentiates us from animals and provides the wherewithal to improve.”

7. Another senior staff member of a global operations and financial consulting firm, DCG, LLC, explains simply and accurately “Communication is the base for success in everyway, everywhere.” Countless tomes, books web sites, classes, self help programs deal
with this cornerstone skill for any relationship; a book, course or training seminar on presentations or negotiation is a great way to dissipate anxiety.

8. Invest in your people – and yourself. What can everyone one do a little more of to build an incredible future now? Can everyone sell? Can everyone find savings? Each day do one more little action.

9. Leverage the knowledge of everyone. Can everyone contribute 1% more of what they know to build a future of which we can all be proud?

10. Extraordinary times calls for extraordinary people: using your doable daily action plan consider working Saturdays and or Sundays

Nicholas Gurney
International Business Professor
Sonoma State University

- Course Offers Student Mentors to Aid Small Biz Owners
- Top Ten Ideas to Handle Uncertain Economic Times


It is possible to thrive in this recession says Business Professor Nick Gurney who is again offering the chance for small businesses to be mentored by his students this spring semester.

The popular course brings business students together with local companies to develop strategies to success. Four to six companies are chosen every year and a donation of $500 is asked to cover
student scholarships.

Under the guidance of SSU faculty, business students meet with small-business owners in the North Bay to develop a scope of work and confer with proprietors on a weekly basis. Students participate in intensive real-life studies of active businesses, and take dynamic roles
in shaping the future of an enterprise.

At the conclusion of the spring semester, the student consultants present a final analysis, including findings and proposals for future operations. These include performance audits, strategic and financial planning, market research, financial forecasting, personnel policies, and customer acquisition and retention programs.

Businesses that have employed this service include Feed This Pet Foods,Kim Manley Herbals, the SSU Costume Shop, Rohnert Park Gymnastics, Montessori Services and The Housing Company.

Other companies that have also employed SSU's business consultation services include Copperfield's Books, Mrs. Grossman's Paper Products and Oliver's Markets.

For more information or to apply, contact Nicholas Gurney at
(707) 824-4418 or e-mail:
Inquiries are welcomed now through January 30, 2009.

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Armstrong Redwoods Celebrates 75 Years – Old Photos Needed

California State Parks and Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods are honored to announce that Armstrong Redwoods is turning 75 years old this year.

Special thanks to John De Salvio for generously donating a new logo for the year’s festivities. A number of celebration days are in the planning stages, the first being on Saturday, April 18th to launch the historic event. The planning committee is asking the community’s help in acquiring old photos of activities that took place in the park during the past 75 years. Many families have fond memories of weddings and other gatherings in the park that are needed to develop a commemorative display. Please contact Michele Luna, Executive Director of Stewards with any information that you may be able to provide. or (707) 869-9177 x4#.

Michele Luna, Executive Director
Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods
PO Box 2, Duncans Mills, CA 95430
(707) 869-9177 x4#
(707) 869-8252 Fax

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Red Cross Looking for Sonoma County Heroes to Honor

6th Annual Real Heroes Breakfast to highlight acts of extraordinary

They were a college student who donated a kidney to her mentor, a woman who created debriefing teams to relieve stress in those who serve at emergencies, and an Army Specialist who survived a bomb explosion in Afghanistan and helped the other ambushed Rangers. The
American Red Cross, Sonoma & Mendocino Counties, honored those heroic community members, and many others, at last year’s Real Heroes Breakfast.

Now the Red Cross is seeking new heroes to honor at their sixth annual breakfast on April 29, 2009. The breakfast benefits the local disaster relief fund and supports other essential, local Red Cross services. It will be held in Rohnert Park at the Doubletree Hotel.

The Red Cross wants to know about anyone in either Sonoma or Mendocino County who has shown an extraordinary gift for human compassion since January 2008. Nomination forms, which must be received by February 27, are available on or from the Red Cross by calling 577-7600.

Major sponsors for the Real Heroes Breakfast to date include Medtronic and Eileen Adams.

A panel of community leaders will review nominations. The categories are Animal, Education, Environmental, Good Samaritan (Youth, Adult, and Senior), Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, and Professional Rescue.

Heroic acts must be ongoing or have occurred between 1/1/08 and 2/27/09. Heroes for all categories must live in, or heroic acts must have taken place in, Sonoma or Mendocino County.

There is no admission fee, however guests will be encouraged to support the efforts of our local chapter.

The full breakfast begins at 7:30 a.m. and the event is done by 8:45 a.m. To attend or to find out more about sponsorship, call (707)577-7600.


American Red Cross is a neutral, humanitarian organization that provides relief to victims of disasters, and prepares people to prevent and respond to emergencies. Our chapter, like all Red Cross chapters, is self-sustaining and receives no funding from the national organization. All disaster assistance provided by the Chapter is free and is made possible by voluntary donations of time and money by the people of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. Donations can be made online at, via mail to 5297 Aero Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95403, or by phone at 707-577-7600. Mendocino residents can call locally, (707) 463-0112.

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What is an American?

OK - I like this one enough to pass it along. My contention is that our current president - Barrack Obama - is the embodiment of what is American. Many of us are very proud of being the Melting Pot of the planet. Mixed races, nationalities, religions, etc. I have a firm belief that when our blood is sufficiently mixed, when we are all related…war will end. It's simply not easy to kill family and friends. So this little essay that came over the internet speaks volumes about our mixed blood. Thank you for reading - Vesta

Written by an Australian Dentist

To Kill an American
You probably missed this in the rush of news, but there was actually a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper, an offer of a reward to anyone who killed an American, any American.

So an Australian dentist wrote an editorial the following day to let everyone know what an American is. So they would know when they found one. (Good one, mate!!!!)

'An American is English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish , Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be Canadian, Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani or Afghan.

An American may also be a Comanche, Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, Seminole or one of the many other tribes known as native Americans.

An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan.The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them chooses.

An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.

An American lives in the most prosperous land in the history of the world.

The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence , which recognizes the right of each person to the pursuit of happiness.

An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return.

When Afghanistan was over-run by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country!

As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan .

The national symbol of America , The Statue of Liberty , welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed. These in fact are the people who built America .

Some of them were working in the Twin Towers the morning of September 11, 2001 earning a better life for their families. It's been told that the World Trade Center victims were from at least 30 different countries, cultures, and first languages, including those that aided and abetted the terrorists.

So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo, and Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung, and other blood-thirsty tyrants in the world. But, in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.


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AB 885 Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems in California

Possible Re-Schedule of Workshop/Hearing and Extension of deadline - stay tuned!

The Workshop/meeting on Tuesday, January 27th ended abruptly because fire marshals assessed the overflow crowd as being more than the space could hold and therefore unsafe. People had come from many miles and hours away to attend. Many were angry. Deadline for comments is February 9th - read on! - Vesta

I guess the State Water Resources Control Board had no idea how many people would show up for this workshop. The Merlot Theater at Wells Fargo Center in Santa Rosa was packed from wall-to-wall and out into the halls. Standing room only doesn't quite describe the throngs who are interested - and angry - about this proposed legislation.

As the room spilled out into the foyer, I spent some time with a couple from Clear Lake. One year ago they had completed construction on a brand new house 17 feet above the water. “Over our dead bodies,” was their reaction to the concept that they would have to have their septic system inspected every five years, upgrade, or have their property condemned if it didn't meet non-polluting standards. So in addition to being angry that the state is proposing strict regulations for waste disposal systems near bodies of water, they were also angry that the meeting was shut down after they had driven so far to attend.

From an environmentalists view, I understand completely why the state wants - and needs - to protect our water systems. From a homeowners perspective, I understand how people feel alarmed that they may not be able to do anything but move. Until California legalizes and regulates alternative waste systems, we are stuck with septics and sewers. For many areas, sewer systems are out of the range of possibility and septic systems that meet modern regulations are impossible. Either there is too little land near the home or the home owners have insufficient funds to deal with an upgrade.

Many people are proposing that homeowners get financing/funding available through the state if they have to upgrade. Along the Russian River, many homes are former summer cabins and are considered existing Affordable Housing in our communities. If these properties are condemend because the septic systems no longer function efficiently, then the people living in the homes will be dispalced.

At prevoious meetings over the last few years we have brought up the conept of composting toilets and other alternative systems that are not currently approved by the state and county. These systems have been proven as efficient and function well for decades, but have yet to be considered as alternatives to septics. One of the reasons brought up at a previous meeting is that they would open up currently un-buildable lots to building. Perhaps it's time to consider that these systems could solve problems efficiently and relatively inexpensively.

Condiser that a to-code septic system can cost between $10,000 to$60,000 to install. That a sewer system costs millions and costs homeowners thousands to hook into, then includes annual fees. Composting toilets look mighty cheap by comparison. There are still issues of waste disposal, however, so it's not a perfect solution.

There's much to learn - and read.

Please read below to learn more and if you have comments that you want put on record, please submit them on the DEIR so that the state will consider your thoughts.

State Water Resources Control Board
Division of Water Quality
1001 I Street • Sacramento, California 95814 • (916) 341-5455
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 100 • Sacramento, California • 95812-0100
FAX (916) 341-5463 •

To: All Interested Parties

Available for review and comment are the Assembly Bill 885 (AB 885) Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS) proposed regulations, proposed statewide conditional waiver of waste discharge requirements (proposed waiver), and draft environmental impact report (DEIR). We are sending you this notice because of your potential interest in this important subject.

The full texts of the proposed regulations, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and the Initial Statement of Reasons are posted on the State Water Resources Control Board’s (State Water Board’s) website at The proposed waiver and DEIR are posted and are also available for review with the proposed regulations at the libraries listed on Enclosure 1 in this notice. You may also contact the person listed below for a copy. The documents are described below:

Proposed Regulations: The proposed regulations are intended for all OWTS statewide and contain differing requirements for new and existing OWTS. They are written to satisfy the requirements of sections 13290 through 13291.7 of the California Water Code. The proposed regulations will be included in Title 27, Division 5 of the California Code of Regulations and consist of the following four articles:
Article 1: Definitions, applicability of the regulations, and general requirements;
Article 2: Groundwater level determinations for new OWTS;
Article 3: Requirements for supplemental treatment and OWTS dispersal systems;
Article 4: Requirements for protecting impaired surface waters.

Proposed Waiver: The proposed waiver is independent of the proposed regulations but contains the same requirements. The proposed waiver will allow owners of OWTS to avoid filing a report of waste discharge to a Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) as long as the provisions of the proposed waiver are complied with. Regional Water Boards would retain the authority to issue individual waste discharge requirements or region-wide waivers as long as they are no less stringent than the waiver proposed for adoption by the State Water Board.

DEIR: Adoption of the proposed regulations and proposed waiver is a discretionary action by the State Water Board and is therefore subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), California Public Resources Code section 21000 et seq. In compliance with CEQA requirements, a DEIR has been prepared for the proposed regulations and proposed waiver.

WORKSHOPS: State Water Board staff is also conducting eleven (11) public workshops and a hearing (see Enclosure 2) to receive oral and written comments regarding the State Water Board’s proposed regulatory actions. We encourage attendance at any or all of these workshops regarding the proposed regulations, the proposed waiver, and DEIR.

COMMENTS: Comments on the proposed regulations, proposed waiver, and DEIR must be received or postmarked on or before February 9, 2009. Please submit comments regarding these documents to or to the address below:
State Water Resources Control Board Division of Water Quality
Attn: Todd Thompson, P.E.
1001 I Street, 15th Floor,
P.O. Box 2231
Sacramento, CA 95812
f you have any questions, please contact Mr. Todd Thompson (primary) at (916) 341-5518 or

The following is a list of public libraries where the State Water Board’s Draft Programmatic EIR for the Statewide Onsite Wastewater Treatment Regulations is available for public review.

San Diego Public Library
820 E Street
San Diego, CA 92101-6416

Kern County Library
701 Truxton Avenue
Bakersfield, CA 93301

Orange County Public Library
1501 E. St Andrew Place
Santa Ana, CA 92705

Riverside Central Library
3581 Mission Inn Avenue
Riverside, CA 92501

Los Angeles Public Library
630 West 5th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Riverside County Library
Palm Desert Branch
73-300 Fred Waring Drive
Palm Desert, CA 92260

Fresno County Public Library
2420 Mariposa Street
Fresno, CA 93721

Palmdale City Library
700 East Palmdale Boulevard
Palmdale, CA 93550

Norman Feldheym Central Library
555 West 6th Street
San Bernardino, CA 92410

Modesto-Stanislaus Central Library
1500 I Street
Modesto, CA 95354

San Francisco Public Library
Stegner Environmental Center
Civic Center
100 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

Sacramento Central Library
828 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Fairfield-Suisun Community Library
1150 Kentucky Street
Fairfield, CA 94533

Central Sonoma County Library
211 E Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Shasta County Library
1100 Parkview Ave.
Redding, CA 96001

Humboldt County Library
1313 Third Street
Eureka, CA 95501

Salinas Public Library
350 Lincoln Ave.
Salinas, CA 93901

San Luis Obispo City-County Library
P.O. Box 8107
San Luis Obispo, CA 93403

WORKSHOPS AND HEARINGS - coming up (they have been having these since early December)

January 27, 2009; 7 p.m.
Wells Fargo Center for the Arts
Merlot Theater
50 Mark West Springs Road
Santa Rosa, CA

January 28, 2009; 7 p.m.
Eureka High School Auditorium
1915 J Street
Eureka, CA

February 9, 2009; 1:30 p.m.
Byron Sher Auditorium
Cal EPA Building
1001 I Street
Sacramento, CA

Here are some comments that will be presented on February 9th in Sacramento - maybe these will help you draft your comments:

The Water Board knows the level of hardship they will be imposing, and their Draft EIR fails to do two simple arithmetic exercises to "connect the dots" and make the point clearly:

1. The Water Board adoped a "Small Community Wastewater Strategy" in SWB Resolution 2008-0048 which adopted the USDA's affordability criteria of 1.5% of median household income for wastewater outlays. 1.5% is $900 per the 2007 Calif MHI of $60,000. If the State Revolving Fund loaned the entire $45,000 cost (per the DEIR estimate) of a replacement septic, at its lowest 2.5% interest and maximum 20 year loan, the payments would be $2861/yr, plus $2000/yr estimated maintenance, totalling $4861/yr which is 8.1% of MHI, or 5.4 times the "affordability criteria." This is a significant economic impact under the best of circumstances.

2. In Section 13291.5 of the AB885 text, it state the intent of the Legislature to lend financial assistance to Owners whose cost of compliance exceeds 1/2 of 1% of the current assessed value of their property. With a Calif median home value of $350,000 (July, 08), 1/2 of 1% is $1,750, obviously it was less when AB885 was passed in 2000. Clearly, the Legislature intended the compliance costs to be modest, or backstopped with State assistance. The regs are not modest and there is no State assistance. The estimated septic replacement cost to comply is $45,000, and with no State assistance, the homeowner is facing a cost 25 times the Legislature's intent. Surely the Water Board is aware that this costly regulation oversteps the Legislature's intent. There is no mention of this economic impact or any discussion of this intent in the circulated docs.

How could the Water Board fulfill its AB885 mandate with less economic impact?

Several suggestions:

1. Delay compliance until grants are available to fund that portion of costs exceeding a reasonable baseline of affordability.
2. Adopt a lesser standard. AB885 doesn't mandate the that the Water Board adopt the toughest new standard in the nation, just that it adopt uniform minimum standards. They could adopt Statewide a pre-existing Basin Plan's standards with far less upset and strife.
3. Provide for "readily achieveable" compliance to a lesser standard based on baseline affordability costs and an engineer's recommendation on the best measure for the dollars available and the site in question.
4. Embrace new technologies.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ask EcoGirl: Happy Traveling on Public Transit

Dear EcoGirl: I want to use public transit, both for the planet’s well-being and my convenience, but I’m not sure how to start. Any advice? Signed, Stuck in Traffic

Dear Stuck: Thank you for your question. Yes, using public transit is a wonderful way for us to help decrease car pollution, reverse global climate change, embody a greener lifestyle, and trim our wealth transfer to oil-rich nations. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, transportation is the largest source of U.S. air pollution and accounts for over 25% of our greenhouse gas emissions.

Shifting to public transit can also bring personal benefits, reducing driving hassles and cutting costs for gas, insurance, repairs, and parking. I see it as a “chauffeur for the rest of us,” transforming tense travel time into a chance to read, write, ponder, savor the scenery, connect with new folks, and experience our community in richer detail. Plus, our patronage brings vital support to the system, especially important with today’s government cutbacks.

Getting Started
• Begin with something easy, such as planning one trip. Consider how you’d take transit to work, school, shopping, the airport, a park, or an event. Look first for journeys that don’t require transfers and where timing isn’t critical, to help keep things relaxed. Use the resources below to identify appropriate routes, stop locations, schedules, costs, and parking options. (Note: Sports fans might be interested in Golden Gate Transit’s express bus from Santa Rosa to 49ers games.)

• Explore bus routes that stop near your house, visiting recreational destinations along their paths. (This idea comes from transit advocate Alice Linn.)

• Play with others. For instance, journey with friends to San Francisco or the coast. (For the latter, columnist Tish Levee recommends Sonoma County Transit’s summer route 29.) Also, Sebastopol Walks (, 823-3032) offers bus-walk trips that combine exercise and camaraderie.

• Experiment with various types of trips, to learn what works best for you. Note: Some workplaces offer free transit passes to employees!

Key Resources
• Peruse information about area transit systems at or call 511 (toll-free). Here you’ll find route maps, schedules, and fares, plus information on discount passes, bringing bikes on transit, and accessibility.

Another useful resource is Getting There on Transit, with overview maps of Bay Area systems. Download it at ( or request a free print copy from 510-817-5836 or ( It’s from 2007, so confirm any route specifics.

• Learn the local options. Start with Sonoma County Transit (, 576-7433, 800-345-7433), which links to various city systems. Also look at Golden Gate Transit (, 415-455-2000), which goes to San Francisco via both bus and ferry. Download their New Rider’s Guide at ( These two transit agencies can link you to other area systems and points beyond.

Traveling Tips
• Prepare for your comfort. Dress for expected temperatures, ideally in layers, and with comfortable shoes. Bring water, maybe a snack, plus items to amuse yourself, such as reading or knitting.

• Make the connection. To ensure that you catch your bus, confirm that your schedule is current and arrive a little early. Bring exact change, a timepiece with the correct time, and the schedule in case your plans shift. Check that you’re at the right transit agency’s stop, on the correct side of the street, and boarding the desired bus.

• Enjoy the adventure. Your travel time can be an opportunity to get work done, find new perspectives, share engaging conversations, and discover new places.

Riders often experience memorable interactions. For example, Novato’s Lionel Gambill recalls meeting a Mongolian woman grateful that here she’s allowed to travel without her husband. Alice Tucker fondly remembers singing Motown on Route 20 to the River one night and meeting an Internet bride from the Ukraine. “Driving in a car can isolate you from people,” Alice comments. “It’s good to know your species.”

Santa Rosa’s Marsha Vas Dupre loves riding the MTA route from Santa Rosa to Sea Ranch. “Most riders are regulars,” she says, who chat with each other and welcome new passengers into conversations. Plus, she adds, “It’s soooo great not to have to drive and to be able to look at the incredibly beautiful scenery!”

And, of course, to feel part of creating a healthier world and future for all.

Thank you to the riders who shared their perspectives with me.

“EcoGirl: Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone.”

© Copyright Patricia Dines, 2008. All rights reserved.

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Artist Profile – Hester Zoutendijk

Hester Zoutendijk is clearly a master of drawing animals – horses, dogs, cats, sheep, cows ….

The list goes on. Her sketches are created with graphite or water soluble color pencils on 23 x 29 inch sheets of 100% rag vellum white paper with exact detail to the personality of the subject. I was introduced to Hester through a friend who owns horses. My friend gave me a beautiful note card with a high quality reproduction of a horse portrait. She mentioned that the horse was her gelding, Paragon. Little did I know the specialness of this gesture until I met Hester in her studio nestled in a field off of Starr Road outside of Windsor.

Horse enthusiasts have known Hester as a horse trainer and teacher of dressage since her arrival in Sonoma County in 1990. Her home is on a two acre horse ranch and her professional life was totally consumed with horses. In 2000, Hester was kicked by a horse in the forearm while training. The injury was serious and the trauma was a wakeup call for Hester. She began experiencing fear while working with the horses which, of course, they could sense. She had a six year old daughter and a wonderful husband and she needed to pursue a less physically demanding profession.

Hester has drawn creatures throughout her life. She liked to create fantasy animals and funny sketches to amuse herself and her large family during her childhood. She also has an affinity for the animal world and early in her life found that she was a natural vegetarian. She remembers as a child saving her money to purchase caged birds at the pet store, sketching them and then releasing them into freedom. She attended an art school in South America as a teenager and eventually graduated from the Royal Academy of Art in Amsterdam. Her deep connection with animals allows her to portray the personality of the animal and not just the superficial exterior appearance.

She drew her first animal portrait of a Jack Russell in 1992 as a gift for a friend. The response was delight. Hester’s ability to capture the essence of an animal created a loyal following of pet and livestock owners who wished to have their companions memorialized in a work of fine art. Although Hester has always exercised her artist skills, the efforts were for her personal pleasure and not something that she considered a professional activity. That all changed within six months of the accident.

As always, I wanted to know the story of Hester’s journey to Sonoma County. With the surname of Zoutendijk, there is little doubt that Hester is Dutch. But according to Hester, “Holland was not large enough to handle” her, her adventurous parents and her seven siblings. Shortly after she was born, Hester’s parents moved their eight children to the Dutch Colony of New Guinea where her father was a school principal. They remained there until New Guinea reverted back to Indonesia. The Zoutendijks returned to Holland for a few years and then ventured to Suriname, a Dutch Colony located on the northern edge of South America where Hester’s father started a center for performing arts.

At age 17, Hester left her family to attend the Royal Academy of Art in Holland. After school, Hester sailed, traveled and recorded her adventures through sketching. She eventually returned to Holland and began working with horses. On vacation, she visited one of her sisters who lived on Mark West Spring Road. Recognizing that Sonoma County offered one of the best year round climates in the world, she moved here in 1990 bringing her horse, dog and parrot. She finally had found a place where she could settle down and grow real roots.

Seeing Hester’s work is a special treat. I learned while visiting her that with each original portrait, she provides an 8.5 x 11 print and two note cards with smaller prints. I now hold one of those small prints of Paragon. Hester has ventured into Sonoma County landscapes that always include some creature, baby portraits and other observations. You will find her work at the St. Helena Hometown Harvest Faire, Windsor Town Green events (check out the Windsor Official Website 2008 Fine Art Gallery) and various horse shows. Hauck Cellars has graced their Sauvignon Blanc with a portrait of winery dog Margaux by Hester. Two venues in Windsor, Lupe’s Restaurant and Copperstone Coffee Shop currently have exhibits of Hester’s work. Check out for prints for sale, price lists for custom portraits and to learn more about Hester.

You can email your comments to

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CINEMA CHATTER: Man on Wire, Benjamin Button, The Duchess

A good movie is comprised of many elements. First is the story, then acting, next editing, if a period piece the set decoration and costume are important. Controlling all these is the director’s vision and decisions.

Director David Fincher whose vision gave us Seven & Fight Club have gone in a whole new direction in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Starring Brad Pitt in the title role, his curious case is he is born old and ages backward, toward youth, childhood and eventually becomes an infant. The story begins on Armistice Day World War 1 1918 in New Orleans and moves through the 20th century and beyond when Hurricane Katrina is about to slam the birthplace of Jazz. Oddly enough these events are both the beginning of this fascinating and well done movie.

The extraordinary Cate Blanchett is the love of his life and since she ages the usual way they manage to meet in the middle. This movie does run long (2hours and 45 minutes), and my experience is people either run hot or cold on the experience. I however found this a thought provoking film examining ageing, love, and parental responsibility. Screen writers Eric Roth and Robin Swicord have done a wonderful job weaving a story going in two directions at once with humor, suspense and lots of loving emotion.

The Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival is going to be happening from March 6th until March 8th .They will be screening 44 films at five different venues. These films have a wide range of diverse subjects. For more information contact or call 707-829-4797

My documentary pick this month Man on Wire reminds me of an old Electric Light Orchestra song “Hold on Tight to Your Dream.” This is exactly what Philippe Petit, French high wire artist did. While waiting for a dentist appointment in 1966 this man saw a drawing of the still to be built World Trade Towers. He promptly tore the page out of the magazine and left the dentist office taking his toothache and stolen article with him. Mr. Petit knew at that moment he HAD TO string a wire between these two towers and walk 1,350 feet above New York City! He planned and trained and waited until August 7, 1974 to achieve his dream. This fascinating documentary chronicles his quest from that day in 1966 until he lives the dream eight years later. This outrageous story is told with suspense The wonderfully French music soundtrack fits each situation to perfection.

My home viewing pick this month is The Duchess. A delightful frothy confection of a film about a long past era. The story is about Georgiana Spencer who was Princess Dianna’s 18th Century ancestor. Both were thrust into an arranged marriage while in their teens. Georgiana (played be Keira Knightly) was married to the Duke of Devonshire (played by Ralph Fiennes) at the age of seventeen. Both husbands had a roving eye and enjoyed a dalliance outside of the marriage, finally both women were icons of the fashion world.

In Georgiana’s case it was mile high hair festooned with feathers. This chapter in history is told with perfect pitch by cinematographer Gyula Pados who with the help of costume designer Michael O’Connor and set decorator Rebecca Alleway have created an environment so authentic you are pulled into the film as if you are witnessing the story in person. The strict social code of behavior and mandated political attitudes are on display and fascinatingly told with an eye towards the lack of power or influence of women then.

Mr. Fiennes performance as the Duke is nuanced, multi layered and quietly powerful. Director Saul Dibb has assembled all the factors in making a great film and presented it to us with such an ease and fluidity that you are barely aware of the complexity of knowledge being presented.


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The foot is primarily associated with walking, movement toward the outside world, from yin to yang, and constitutes one of our modes of communication. In supporting the principle of the body in the walking mode, the foot is not only the symbol of grounding, but also of our inner strength in the sense that it supports the upright position and also our vulnerability. The feet our first stage of development is standing and walking and the foot establishes contact with the earth. The footsteps we leave on the ground bear witness to the path we are on, either good or bad.

In my practice I have worked with so many different types of foot problems such as tendonitis, cold feet, neuropathy, bone spur and plantar fascitis. These are just several of the many aside from toe pain that is sometimes involved. All of these disorders are diagnosed in accordance with the Qi. Most often plantar heel pain indicates a yin access and can be eliminated by needling certain kidney points. It can also be an excess problem in some cases and that would involve draining certain points around the foot. Tendonitis can be an athletic injury and can range in its severity, however, when untreated a minor injury can quickly turn into a severe injury. There are three places that tendonitis can occur along the heel. This pain needs to be distinguished from bone spur and rheumatoid arthritis.

Bone spurs are treatable with acupuncture and herbs. Since this has to do with the bone, in Chinese medicine it is related to the Kidney energy, which is in charge of building bone. Bone spur is a common problem on the foot and is an overgrowth of bone most commonly seen at a joint, the place where the two bones meet and allow for movement. Abnormal motion at the level of the joint over the course of time will cause the spur to form. You can also have spurring of the joint as a result of excessive tension on the bone from where the tendon attaches. Normal aging will also cause bone spurs to form. The most famous bone spur occurs on the heel. I have had good luck combing acupuncture and also I use a Chinese formula, which has worked wonders on many patients. Personally I have seen too many botched surgeries and I am not one to condone cortisone shots.

Neuropathy is another peripheral vascular disease that can be a very serious problem. This is also called the diabetic foot and is sometimes overlooked until it accelerates to a total loss of sensation. As diabetes progresses many diabetics lose sensation in their feet but it can also present as relentless burning, tingling or numbness. I have treated many patients over the last ten years and they have all experienced a difference with the combination of acupuncture and herbs. This is also related to the kidney but I have seen the liver and spleen meridians involves as well. In the foot in Chinese medicine there are the Liver, Gall Bladder, Kidney and Spleen meridians that all run through different parts of the foot. So many times through a diagnosis I can decipher the problems as an organ problem it the presentation goes right down a specific channel. Also I have noticed that many patients can present the same problem but it will demand a different diagnosis depending on the patient.

The last common complaint is Cold feet. In addition to cold weather, a poor functioning thyroid, blood deficiency, Raynauds disease, rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure, many people need to change their diet and stay away form cold foods, caffeine and smoking in order to allow their Qi to move through their body into their feet. Cold damp weather with further restricts the blood flow that goes to the toes. I also have many patients who work outdoors and need to protect themselves better from the cold. Circulation and blood flow are the main things to increase with cold feet. Chinese medicine does not usually refer to western terms but rather the patient comes in and presents their symptoms and the acupuncture treats them according to what they see, their pulses and their tongue are the diagnostic tools.

Through its transport points, the foot is a place of exchange between human Qi and universal Qi. It is one of the branches of the body. I believe rehabilitation can take place without surgery and there are many different approaches through the use of acupuncture and herbs that are extremely effective.

Marcy Basel is currently in private practice in Sebastopol and has been using Herbs and Acupuncture for over seventeen years. She has an extensive pharmacy on location and also does Nutrition and Cranial Sacral Therapy. To make an appointment or to get information please call 707-824-8747. Marcy also offers a free fifteen-minute consultation for free on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.


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GAIL'S GARDEN: Learning about Sustainable Gardening

New Years Resolutions
Happy New Year West County Gardeners! I hope you had a joyful Holiday Season and are ready to dive into a productive year in the garden with me. I thought I would share with you some of my hopes for my garden in 2009: perhaps you may be inspired to try some of the same.

First, I want to continue to learn more about soils, plants, climates, and techniques to improve my garden. There are so many great educational opportunities for gardeners here in Sonoma county that it is a shame not to take advantage of at least a few. Try the free educational programs at local nurseries that are announced here in the Gazette: I will be teaching a class at Bassignani’s Nursery on January 10 on Rose Pruning, and Tony Bassignani teaches about Fruit Tree Care on January 24.

If you want to learn more about caring for your plants, don’t miss my Hands-On Pruning Intensive on January 17th: for only $20 you will receive a morning’s instruction and practice in pruning for roses, shrubs, perennials, and even small trees! (e-mail to register: class size is limited, so please register soon). I will also be teaching a 6 week class ‘Designing Sustainable Gardens’ with my friend and fellow garden designer Ruth Bracken beginning in February (see SRJC Community Education website for registration

There are great classes for a reasonable price at the Santa Rosa Junior College ( I hope to take Dave Fazio’s class ’Unique Shrubs, Vines and Groundcovers for Nothern California’ this spring. Try a weekend seminar offered by Horticulture Magazine (, or the Garden Conservancy Open Days ( for exciting learning opportunities. And for those of you who are really ambitious, consider the Master Gardener program ( for a really in-depth learning experience.

No time for classes? Why not subscribe to a new magazine this year? Sunset ( is an old standby, of course, but I also enjoy Horticulture Magazine (, Organic Gardening, and Fine Gardening ( This is an easy way to learn and be inspired in your gardening.

Second, I want to make my garden as sustainable and earth-friendly as possible. I will continue to work to make my irrigation systems as efficient as possible to avoid wasting water, and I will decrease the size of my lawn (the most water intensive part of any garden).

I plan to increase my composting of kitchen wastes, which will improve the health of my garden and soil. There are so many ways to compost that each of us should be able to find a simple and relatively easy way to make our own great ‘brown gold’ to nourish our plants. And if you can’t make your own compost, you can buy from Sonoma Compost ( wonderful products made from local household green waste (Improved Mallard Mulch is my favorite for both soil amendment and mulching).

I will use only natural methods of pest and weed control, even if it means a little more work: I hope that you will all join me in this resolution to improve the health of our planet, our families and our fellow creatures on this earth.

I plan to contribute to the larger garden community this year: there are so many ways that we can help others! Community gardens like Harvest for the Hungry ( in Santa Rosa always need help, and every school in the county has a garden which can use volunteers. Or perhaps you have an elderly neighbor or family member who would appreciate your help in making their garden more beautiful.

On a more national level you should consider becoming a member of the Garden Conservancy ( or Royal Oak Society ( both excellent organizations dedicated to preserving some truly spectacular gardens for the future.

I will spend time in my garden each day: even on a rainy and cloudy day, it is invigorating for my spirit to be outside in the fresh air, exercising and enjoying my plants. Eat outside, sit outside, enjoy your garden with your family and friends.

I resolve to have fun in my garden and try something new this year. I hope you will join me!

Blue Hill Garden Design
Gail Fanning
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 829-2455

Bassignani Nursery
‎1841 Gravenstein Hwy S
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 823-3984

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I am reminded time and time again about the importance of the act of LISTENING!

After I wrote the last article for the Gazette I pondered, “What should the focus be for my column in the New Year”? Ideas came and went! Then as December came to a close and the New Year rolled around, I continued my thought process. I wanted something NEW… something DIFFERENT… something to catch everyone’s attention. Several subject entered my mind but no decision was made! My considerations continued.

Life continued! Day after day, situations arose where the absolute necessity for “LISTENING 2 CHILDREN” arose. I was reminded time and time again about the importance of the act of LISTENING!

• Listening to the infant as her eyes focus on the first rain!
• Listening to the four-year old feeling snow for the first time!
• Listening to the child who just learned to ride her bike!
• Listening to the crying toddler who just had his ice cream fall!
• Listening to the young women who has just fallen in love!
• Listening to the teen that just lost his job!

Opportunities arise around us all the time where listening is needed! However, in this busy busy world, sometimes, the act of listening is not given the importance that it deserves.

Listening deepens the connection between two people greatly! Listening bonds people together in miraculous ways. When two people take the time to be in conversation, sharing and talking, a synergy develops that is so special. Conversations cannot be hurried. Well, they can be hurried, but if one wants the delight and pleasure and closeness that comes from listening, then conversations should be given the time they deserve!

When listening doesn’t take place, the person not listened to may end up holding on to un-processed thoughts and feelings. When such thoughts build up time after time, they can cause emotional upsets. I’ve seen this happen time and time again in classrooms. Teachers wonder WHY is this child acting out? Nine times out of ten when I see an incident that has happened where a child is upset, I’ve been able to trace the ‘cause’ back to something that happened that was not addressed. The importance of listening begins at birth and continues into adulthood and beyond!

Over the past months I’ve had the marvelous experience of having one of my children ‘fall in love’! She’s over 30 and has been SO patient in dating and finding Mr. Right. And now everything is falling into place! Although she’s known him for 3 years, they were not serious until recently. Then they became a couple! Almost immediately he was offered a fabulous work promotion but it entailed a move to another state! A BIG decision had to be made! It was amazing to listen to her talk about all the conversations they were having about the move. At one point, I had MORE questions than she had answers so I had to sit quietly and wait!

This reminded me that sometimes, the process of listening requires SILENCE! So, silence it was for about 10 days! But tonight, we spent over 90 minutes on the phone discussing their trip next week out of state to locate housing and their upcoming move. The timing wasn’t great for me, but if I had said no to the call tonight, what I would have lost out on would be irreplaceable! I would have missed listening to her talk about what furniture to take, how she found a matching piece to her wild purple flowered luggage and the huge significance of this time in her life! Yes, listening is crucial to close relationships when our children are 3 months or 30 years.

It’s never too late to begin listening again! And the very act of listening can change lives! It can bring people together! And it can create a connection so strong, so beautiful, so special!
AND it can all begin with just 10 minutes of listening! I call this the 10 Minute Miracle. JUST listen to a loved one for 10 minutes. Have no agenda other than listening! Listening is a miracle that can last a lifetime!

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ASK THE LOAN MAN: Your Loan…Refinance or Modify?

Your Loan…Refinance or Modify?

OK, let’s start with my area of expertise – refinancing. With almost 2 decades in the real estate and mortgage business, I have helped thousands of people get into a home or refinance the home they are in. I have traveled the country and spent thousands of dollars to further my education and I am most definitely an expert and I am going to give you the exact same advice that I give to every one of my clients when they ask – Should I refinance?......
My answer is I DON’T KNOW!

Well there you go, you now have free expert advice. Here is the deal, I honestly don’t know until I run the numbers. If the answer is yes then I don’t know exactly what loan program or features you should get until we compare options on a spreadsheet. These days, most people are getting a 30 year fixed rate because they are so low (Yes, rates are 4.5% to 5.5% right now). There are a lot of choices when getting a 30 year fixed rate mortgage: Points or no points? - Pay the costs out of pocket or roll them in? – Should I pay off debts? – Should I take some cash? etc. etc.

The hardest part about refinancing today is that we have much different questions that we have to ask and some of the answers are making it impossible for people to refinance. Some people who would have qualified 2 years ago won’t qualify today. The house that I live in and the duplex I rent out have both lost equity to the point that I simply don’t have enough equity to refinance and so I can’t even get a loan for myself.

So, what happens when you can’t refinance? Well, in my case, I wait. I can’t get a better interest rate and selling doesn’t make sense so I wait. Luckily for me, that was my plan anyway. Some people will want to take a look at a loan modification and this is a completely different animal from a refinance.

A loan modification is when you contact your current mortgage holder and you ask them to modify the terms of your mortgage. The bank can lower the interest rate, take past due amounts and tack them on to the back of the loan, lower the principal balance, let you skip a couple of payments… Why would the bank do this you say? That is a good question and you need a really good answer or they won’t. If you are behind on payments and your mortgage has just adjusted from a low rate to a higher rate then you may be a good candidate for a loan modification. If you just don’t have enough equity to fit into a refinance and you want a better rate then you are not a good candidate for a modification.

You entered into a contract for a mortgage and the bank wants to get paid. If they feel you are in danger of losing the house to foreclosure then they will want to work with you to keep you in the home and save their loan. The bottom line is that you need to prove to the bank that you can’t continue on the path that you are on and then you need to show them what you can do and strike a bargain. A couple of things to consider….. Getting them to lower your principal is almost out of the question and getting them to even speak with you if you are current with your payments probably won’t happen either. I am not a loan modification expert and I do not do them for my clients. There are a lot of new companies out there and many of them are predatory companies looking to make a quick buck. I have been offering advice to clients and referrals to reputable companies and helping clients prepare to tackle these on their own.

I welcome questions about home loans and the real estate market in general. Please let me know what you want to hear about in future articles.

Hans Bruhner, CMPS is licensed in CA & HI. If you have a question, please contact Hans at (707) 887-1275 or . First Priority Financial, Inc. is licensed by the CA DRE #00654852.


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MITZVAH MOMENTS - Easy New Year Resolutions

Have trouble keeping New Year’s Resolutions?
Here are some easy ones with great rewards.

• Click daily at and access five other charities. When joined with other people clicking daily, you can make a real difference in less than a minute. Last year clicking––and shopping––provided 72 million cups of food for the hungry, nearly 7600 mammograms for needy women, health care for nearly 1,000,000 children worldwide, over 500,000 books for underprivileged children, nearly 78 million bowls of food for needy animals, and preserved nearly 15,000 acres of land.

• Donate blood regularly. Every three seconds, someone needs blood. Although 5 million Americans need blood annually, less than 10% of those eligible donate. Now while helping save a life, you can improve your own health. A recent long-term study of more than 1,0000,0000 Scandinavian blood donors showed a possible link between donation and a lower risk of certain cancers (liver, lung, stomach, and throat) and a possible reduction in heart disease in men. While there aren’t yet results for women, donating can’t hurt their health––you get a mini-checkup including a blood pressure test each time you donate. Now you can schedule a donation online at either the blood bank or at a mobile blood drive; go to or call 707-545-1222.

• When you’re grocery shopping, buy something extra for the Redwood Empire Food Bank’s Winter Food Drive. With the economy in serious trouble, and unemployment rising, more people need the Food Bank’s help. REFB serves 60,000 people monthly, including 22,000 children and 9,000 seniors. Of the 18,8000 households they serve, 7,300 are working families. Drop foods in barrels at G&G Supermarkets, Longs, Lucky, Safeway, and Whole Foods or call 707-523-7900 for other locations.

You can’t separate one from the other. Global warming, water, fuel use, and electricity are all interwoven.

• Save water. We are now into our third drought year. Last spring was the driest in recorded history. From July 1st to January 1st, Sonoma County rainfall was only about 50% of normal. We appear to be in a “la Niña” weather pattern, with another dry spring on the way. Measurements of the water content in the Sierra snow pack are 83% of normal; unseasonably warm weather, an affect of global warming, could evaporate much of that. Drought isn’t the only factor affecting our water supplies. A growing population––partly from people moving here, but mostly from people born here who choose to stay here, new and expanding industries and agriculture, and protecting the salmon and steelhead runs, all mean we’ll need to conserve more water, all year around. With so little rain this winter, gardens still needs watering. Save water when you turn on the hot water tap in the shower or kitchen sink by capturing the cold water and using it to water plants. Start planning ahead for a dry summer––go to to view the Sonoma County Water Agency’s water saving CD.

• Save gas. The less gas we use, the less global warming, which also means we’ll have more water. Last year gas prices soared to nearly $5/gallon, and Americans responded by driving 100 billion less miles; gas consumption was down 3.2% in 2008. Prices dropped dramatically during the fall, but now they’ve bottomed out. The situation in the Middle East, OPEC reducing its output, a dispute between Russia and the Ukraine, and reduced refinery capacity all contributed to gas prices rising steadily since December. Also, Congress may increase the gasoline tax by 10 cents/gallon to offset the loss of funds for roads. So all the things we learned when gas prices were soaring still apply. And while we’re saving money and fossil fuels, we’re helping to reduce global warming. One idea––take public transit once a week. (See Patricia Dines’ column Ask EcoGirl on public transit experiences in this issue.)

• Save electricity. PGE has to purchase power from non-renewable sources in dry winters and when water supplies are low, because there’s not enough water for hydroelectric generation, so saving electricity means less fossil fuel will have to be burned. Unplug electronics and battery chargers when they’re not in use. If all Californians did this, it would be like taking 120,000 cars off the road. For other energy saving ideas go to


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Soonoma County Restaurant - Humble Pie, Penngrove, CA


West Sonoma is such a wonderful and unique place that I have no trouble finding interesting places for eating out. But I wandered into Penngrove with friends one night in November to go to a restaurant that I want to share with you.

First off, Penngrove reflects the charm of many West County small communities. As you drive east on Old Redwood Highway turn right on Main Street and after you cross the railroad tracks there is an old building that is itself “pie shaped” and houses the Black Cat Bar and the Humble Pie Restaurant as well as hotel rooms on the second floor. When you visit the restaurant be sure to check out the memorabilia in the bathroom that takes up the “pointy end” of the pie shaped building. The address is 10056 Main Street, Penngrove, and the phone number is 664-8779. HUMBLE PIE is open Wednesday and Thursday from 5 P.M. to 11 P.M. and Friday and Saturday 5 P.M. to 12 A.M. I am one of those night time people who love to find a place you can get a really fine dinner at 10:00 at night. Starting this month Humble Pie is also serving Sunday Brunch from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M.

You will be greeted by Joshua Norwitt who owns this restaurant with Miriam Donaldson and partners Dan Mccann and Brook Mccann. Dan is the one on the right in the picture and the Chef for the Restaurant. Miriam also does much of the cooking and Josh takes care of the front of the house. The restaurant has six tables and holds twenty five to thirty people. Music is played on a turntable on the counter by the kitchen and you are encouraged to look over the LP vinyl records and play what you like. Perhaps you might want to bring your own LP and share it with the rest of the diners for the evening. There is a door between the restaurant and the bar so you can always order whatever you want from the bar in this friendly and cozy atmosphere. Miriam tells me the customers are mostly local and range in age from a more mature crowd (usually the early diners) to a younger crowd (often later diners) and those in between.

Miriam and Joshua are independent survivors. They met in San Diego but moved up here to live with other family members on a 165 acre ranch toward the coast. Various family members share the interest in gardening and ranch life. The first step in preparation for the restaurant business was to plant a huge garden and experiment with as many varieties of vegetables and fruits as seemed practical. Canning and preserving the food they grow is high on their list. They are now adding 3 or 4 goats and are considering raising a pig. The ranch had been a sheep ranch in the past and still is home for two old cows living out their golden years.

As you would expect, the food at the Humble Pie reflects all the fresh and seasonally local produce that is available. They change the menu every week but there are a couple things that the customers insist they keep on the menu.

One is ‘BLUE BALLS & HANDMADE KETCHUP – beef and pork meatballs stuffed with Point Reyes Blue Cheese’ which is one of the “small plate” offerings for $8. But since most everything changes I am going to give you the menu from the first week in January. Two other small plates include ‘Winter Salad – buttery croutons’, roasted butternut squash, green apple, black currants, cabbage and bacon” for $8 and Cheese Ball – goat cheese and green onion rolled in sweet red pepper and walnut served with cucumber slices and sliced baguette for $7.

For the supper section you have 4 choices: MUSHROOM KINGDOM – parmesan polenta cakes, slathered in vegetable ragout, served cheesy with a green salad for $15; PORK CHOPS – two center cut pork chops with apple & black currant compote on mashed potatoes served with a salad for $17; GREEN ON GREEN – handmade spinach fettucine with avocado cream sauce topped with rosemary tomatoes and bacon served with a salad for $15; and GLORIOUS GRAVY AND ROSEMARY BISCUITS along with local sausage served with a big ol’ green salad for $13. For dessert you can have a piece of pie ( there may be more than one choice) and topped with vanilla ice cream, if you like, for $5. (by the way – you’ll love the prices on the wine list.)


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YOUR WATERSHED - Isn't Clean Water Worth It?

You don’t have to travel far in this part of Northern California to see what protecting our water quality means: a sparkling coastline, rivers we depend on for drinking water, irrigation and recreation. Local governments’ business is to work for the public interest. As long as clean water is vitally connected to our economy, public health, the environment and our quality of life, then cities, counties, and utility districts must to do what they can to keep the water clean. Yet there is another reason that local governments strive for clean water: It’s the law.

The Clean Water Act is the primary federal law that governs water quality. Prior to its passage in 1972, water pollution across the country was widespread. Raw sewage was commonly piped directly to lakes, rivers and bays. Pressed by an alarmed public, Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 (a.k.a the Clean Water Act) and set out to achieve two national goals: eliminate the discharge of untreated wastewater from municipal and industrial sources into the nation’s waterways, and improve water quality to protect fishing and swimming.

To jumpstart the effort, the federal government provided billions of dollars for construction of wastewater treatment plants across the nation. It also established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop water quality standards and enforce the reduction of pollutants into waterways by industries and municipalities.

Over the past 30 years, a myriad of regulating agencies at all levels have worked to implement the Clean Water Act as well as each state’s own clean water laws. The California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal-EPA) develops and enforces the state's environmental protection laws, including those linked to clean water. The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) regulates wastewater discharges to both surface water (rivers, ocean, etc.) and to groundwater (via land). Along with the SWRCB, each of the nine Regional Water Boards also regulate storm water discharges from construction, industrial, and municipal activities; discharges from irrigated agriculture; dredge and fill activities; and other activities that could degrade water quality.

At the receiving end of the regulations are local governments that must comply with the law to meet clean water goals. The regulators develop standards and provide guidance on such things as how clean drinking water is; how pure recycled water must be for use on crops, parks and landscaping; or how much water to release from dams during fish spawning season. This regulation greatly affects the way that municipalities operate their water, wastewater and storm drain systems. As water quality standards become more rigorous, local governments and utilities are compelled to look at increased public outreach and education, more legal authority, comprehensive land use controls, newer technologies and updated infrastructure. And this all costs money.

Who pays for all these water quality efforts?
While the majority of clean water regulations come from the federal and State government, most funding for drinking water and wastewater treatment comes from local ratepayers and taxpayers. The constant challenge for local governments and utilities is that they are under pressure to keep rates as low as possible, but need to collect enough revenue to operate and maintain the systems to ever-stringent water quality standards. Additionally, since the pumps, pipes and plants that make up our water and wastewater systems are aging, financial reserves must be built to eventually replace vital infrastructure. Complying with the law and providing clean water aren’t free.

Regulating agencies, local governments and utilities, and ratepayers often seem at constant tension. For the regulators who must enforce the law, more work remains to be done: 40% of the nation’s waterways still have an unacceptable level of pollutants. For local governments and utilities, meeting increasingly strict water quality standards strains already-lean resources. For ratepayers, paying even more for water and sewer is hard to do in these tough financial times.

Ultimately, we all want the same thing – clean water. The environmental progress achieved since the 1970’s is due to the guidance and enforcement of regulatory agencies, the demands of citizen and watchdog groups, and the constant efforts of local governments and utility districts to protect the public interest and comply with the Clean Water Act. Isn’t clean water worth it?

This article was authored by Eydie Tacata, a Management Analyst with the City of Rohnert Park on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, fisheries restoration, and watershed enhancement.

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Dear Readers:
As a New Year gift to YOU--the outstanding and altruistic neighbors of Sonoma County—I offer my three “top picks” of painless legally-related steps you can take to reduce the chance of being sued and to protect your assets. (My typical “Dear-Abby-Q&A-styled-column” will resume next time). Forget the resolutions to lose weight, exercise, or clean out your closets—they fade in six weeks. Act on some or hopefully all of my free tips--they will last a lifetime:

Tip #1: Don’t let strangers plan your wake.
OK...can we talk? We will die…eventually. If you do not have a will or trust, you do in fact have an “estate plan”. Strangers, not you, will decide the fate of EVERYTHING you own—the home, the bank and stock accounts, and that one-of-a-kind 1920’s chandelier that graced your Aunt’s Shangri-La. Those “strangers” are our State Legislature, as under California law, when you die without a will or trust (legally termed “intestate”) your “stuff” will likely go through probate court. Probate proceedings may take up to 1½ years. If the delay isn’t enough to bring you down a few clouds from your angelic state, think about the costs….probate costs can consume 5-10% of your estate. Even more moola will go to other fees and our Golden State (55% of your estate can go to Uncle Sam).

If your final wishes are not clearly defined in a Will and Trust, find a lawyer that specializes in estate planning. Ask a trustworthy friend or neighbor if they can recommend a reputable estate planning attorney or you can email me and I’ll reply with the contact information of local estate planning attorneys whom I trust.

Tip #2: Save a life—your teenagers, your grandparents, or an innocent driver.
If your teenager is learning to drive, consider a defensive driving class as a prerequisite to their permit or license. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) offers an outstanding classroom program called “Start Smart” for 15-19 year-olds. Check out the CHP website or contact your local CHP office. Also, take the time to enter a contract with your teenager which outlines terms such as hours of driving, geographical limits, and responsibilities of passengers. Sample contracts are available on-line. Be cautious—some sites will try to sell you a contract—freebies are available. Just remember, the contract is a written promise between you and your teen. You can and should add any terms that you and the teen agree to. Talk it out and put it on paper.

Do you know any senior drivers? Classes to sharpen and refresh driving skills are also regularly offered to seniors (and may also reduce your automobile insurance premium). As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, “the secret of education is respecting the pupil”. Rephrased, love your I-pod-tooting teenager and your Uncle George—send them to driving safety class.

Tip#3: Spend a few extra bucks for certain types of insurance and save ten-fold.
Many of my potential clients come into my law office and are sure they have “full coverage” to help pay the bills from a car crash. Their belief is sometimes not the reality. Insurance is tricky—there are so many types of coverage. California law requires that only “liability insurance” be purchased. Liability coverage “kicks in” if the insured is found to be at fault, and the minimum required in California is only $15,000.

If the at-fault person has no insurance, you may have little recourse unless you have UM/UIM coverage and Med Pay on YOUR policy. An “umbrella policy” also offers additional protection. UM/UIM, Med Pay, and an umbrella policy will provide additional protection and peace of mind, at a fraction of the cost of your required liability coverage. Call your automobile insurance company or your insurance agent now to update your policy so that you are indeed “fully” protected.

Be Safe. Be Healthy. Laugh often and embrace every day of the New Year!

Got a legal question? Email Debra – This column is designed as community service to address general legal principles and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Debra A. Newby is a resident of West County and has practiced law for 26 years. She maintains an active law office in Santa Rosa and emphasizes personal injury law (bicycle/motorcycle/motor vehicle accidents and fatalities, dog bites, trip and falls, etc.) and expungements (clearing criminal records). Debra can be reached via email (, phone (707-526-7200), fax (526-7202) or pony express (930 Mendocino Avenue, Suite 101, Santa Rosa, 95401).

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WINE BANTER - Celebrity Wine Wizards

Dick Starr explores the realm of celebrities in the California wine industry.
California’s Political Wine Patron
I would like to extend a note of appreciation to State Senator Pat Wiggins who chairs the Senate Select Committee on California Wine Industry and has initiated and supported legislation to assist California wine growers and producers. Pat, an enthusiastic supporter of California’s wine industry, is a product of an audaciously intrepid family; her father was the stuntman for the wing walking maneuvers in The Great Waldo Pepper and her mother, like Pat, was an accomplished parachutist. In rare but prized respites, Pat enjoys a dollop of her favorite varietal, Pinot Noir.

Celebrity Wine Wizards
In addition to Dan Aykroyd’s varietals that I reviewed last month, wine world is expanding exponentially with celebrity bon vivants who want to broadcast an urbane lifestyle. Up 20% in grocery store sales since last year and accounting for 1% of total wine sales, it has become an increasing challenge to identify a celebrity gourmand that hasn’t sanctioned a tailored grape. Many have actually cultivated an authentic master’s tasting palate. Just to dash off a few of these famed wine pundits and wanna-be oenophiles– living and posthumously – who have had one or more grape-tinged body parts:

The Rolling Stones, Kiss, Celine Dion, Pink Floyd, Barbara Streisand, Madonna, Jerry Garcia, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Joe Montana, Santana, British Soccer Star David Beckham, Porn Star Savanna Samson, Vince Neil (Vince Vineyards), Fred Mac Murray (Mac Murray Ranch), former NFL coach Mike Ditka (Mendocino Wine Co.), director Francis Ford Coppola (wineries in Napa County and Geyserville – pass on daughter Sofia’s canned sparkling wine), pro-golfer Greg Norman (Greg Norman Estates), former inmate Martha Stewart (E. & J. Gallo), Paul Newman (Trinchero Family Estates), French actor Gerard Depardieu (Gerard Depardieu Winery), Elvis Presley (Blue Suede Shoes Chardonnay by Graceland Cellars), Marilyn Monroe (Flagship is Marilyn Merlot by Nova Wines), auto racing icon Mario Andretti (Mario Andretti Winery), Olympic skating gold medalist Peggy Fleming (Fleming Jenkins Vineyards & Winery), Sopranos’ psychiatrist Lorraine Bracco (Bracco Wines), Raymond Burr (Raymond Burr Vineyards in Dry Creek), Kenwood resident Tommy Smothers (Remick Ridge Vineyards – take a pass if your looking for potable wine), Fleetwood Mac founding member Mick Fleetwood (Mick Fleetwood Private Cellar), Olivia Newton John (Koala Blue Wines), Sting (II Talagio’s Vineyards in the Chianti region to be released about 2010), and Bob Dylan (Planet Waves by Fattoria Le Terrazze).

Ledson’s anachronistic winery – an architecturally Gothic nightmare that defies any amicable appropriateness to Sonoma Valley – offered a Jeff Bridges meritage to sell for somewhere in the low three figures. The buyer was expected to purchase for the celeb name only since no tasting was offered. This is a good example of no pretense to quality or lack of it, just another luminary name.



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