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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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wild Hog Vineyard - Eco Friendly Winery, Delicious Wines

Perched high on a hillside between Cazadero and Fort Ross, is Wild Hog Vineyard. Daniel Schoenfield, the winemaker, (who is also owner alongside his wife Marion) sent a rather detailed 4 pages of directions to the winery with explicit instructions not to use any Mapquest or Google Maps to find him. He was quite correct, the trip is better made with a four-wheel-drive vehicle, through wilderness and along many dirt roads I never knew existed in Sonoma County. The scenery is spectacular, though the drive somewhat precarious. Daniel and Marion do welcome visitors by appointment, and their friendliness and generosity of time, as well as a diverse selection of wines are well worth a visit, though not in the winter months, nor as part of a day visiting other wineries (you’ll need one day just for them) - and make sure you have water and a spare tire; cell service is spotty at best.

I found myself making the trip to visit Wild Hog Vineyard some four years ago, when, after weekly requests from locals, I decided it was time I tried Wild Hog wines for myself. I always prefer to visit winemakers in their vineyards, as it is there that I find them to be more likely to impart their winemaking philosophy and processes in detail, surrounded by their art.

The Wild Hog 110-acre estate grows several varietals including pinot noir, zinfandel, syrah and petite sirah. Wild Hog estate vines are grown organically. The vines are dry farmed (no irrigation, except to start new young vines), no filtration is used, the winery and their home is powered by solar and hydro electricity. Daniel also purchases grapes from several other vineyards, including Saralee’s Vineyard and Porter Bass in the Russian River Valley appellation and from some nearby counties. Marion tends a 3-acre organic garden and fruit orchard on the estate to feed the family.

Wild Hog wines are distributed nationally, but it has been most important to Daniel for his wines to be available locally, and these he delivers himself to select retail stores and restaurants across Sonoma County (occasionally with a selection of some sumptuous fruits and vegetables from Marion’s garden…)

The Wines
From the current releases, I think the 2007 Wild Hog Saralee’s Pinot Noir is one of the finest (as are so many 2007 releases from Sonoma County), and is ready to enjoy now (ret $24-$27). It is the first vintage from Wild Hog’s Saralee’s pinot noir I’ve tasted that has both a balance of concentrated red fruit flavors and the black fruit flavors that are typical of past vintages. Wild Hog’s 2005 Nova Zinfandel from Mendocino County (ret $22-25) is the most popular Zinfandel in my store under $30 – great black fruit flavors of blueberry and blackberry, bordering on jammy. The Wild Hog Estate Pinot Noir 2006 is ready to drink now and needs no decanting. The first ridge pinot noirs typically have a mineral finish and more concentrated fruit flavors due to the cool climate, and this is a fine example. The Estate pinot noir has a great capacity for aging, properly cellared. Not available now, but Wild Hog’s Montepulciano is probably my favorite of all the other varietals Wild Hog produce. It’s a very limited production, watch out for it upon release.

Many Wild Hog wines are locals’ favorites, as I have discovered for good reason: the Schoenfields put their heart and soul into their winemaking, and put into practice the true meaning of living in harmony with the land. It yields results.

Old Grove Festival
On another note, Wild Hog Vineyard happens to be one of the many generous supporters of the Old Grove Festival (Friday, Saturday & Sunday, September 25-27, 2009 in Armstrong Redwoods). Several other Sonoma wineries are supporting this event, including (but not exclusively) Rosenblum Cellars, Deloach, Sbragria and Hartford – truly some spectacular wines that will be available by the glass at the festival and will help support the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods and all their incredible work in protecting and preserving our State Parks (

John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, The Sonoma Wine & Cheese Market in Monte Rio, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open 11am – 7pm, closed only on Wednesdays.

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Astrology October 2009 - Rio Olesky

Saturn is one of the movers and shakers of the solar system. It provides us with the energy to take responsibility for our lives. It enables us to feel empowered in the creation of our reality. The transits of Saturn tell us where work needs to be done. It indicates what area of our life that needs definition and something to achieve. If we are successful in realizing the goals, we remove blockages from our path and avoid feeling fearful and limited.

Saturn transits through each sign for approximately 2 years. On October 29th, Saturn will move into Libra. It will remain there until April 2010 when it retrogrades back into Virgo until July, at which time it moves into Libra and stays there until October 2012.

Libra is the sign of harmony and balance. Two of its primary points of focus are social interaction and the arts. Socially, Libra is oriented toward one-to-one relationship in the personal life and justice and equality collectively. Artistically, Libra is sensitive to aesthetics, either nature-made or human-made. It can also be drawn to creating beauty in various mediums.

With Saturn in Libra, therefore, we will be challenged to define specific goals that we would like to achieve both socially and creatively in the next few years. If we don‚t define any goals, or do any work in these areas, we are liable to feel blocked in them. For example, we could feel limited in our options to either begin a new relationship or improve an existing one. One way out of that involves taking responsibility to define what we need and what we offer to a partner. Then define a strategy that can be employed in very concrete ways that is designed to alter behavioral patterns and achieve the goals. This could pertain to any important one-to-one relationship, personal and romantic or professional. This could also involve our desire to become active in a cause that pertains to social justice. Change will occur when we are clear about our goals, pursue them diligently and are realistic about our limits and boundaries. Without those parameters, we might project the cause of our frustration onto the partner or the situation in general. We might even feel too fearful of rejection to even address these issues within ourselves, let alone interactively. Sometimes, lack of awareness and work in this area can leave us in a codependent state, feeling that if we can at least satisfy our partner‚s needs and desires that somehow that will bring us happiness and satisfaction. In fact, that strategy leads to increased frustration.
Similarly, strive to become aware of creative goals. Think of the arts in a broad context, not limited to the so-called plastic arts‚ writing, painting, sculpting or music. Flower arranging, cooking, interior design (even a new coat of paint in the kitchen) are also artistic endeavors that can bring increased harmony and pleasure. Without clearly defining a format and a goal, we could feel creatively stuck. We might fear that others won‚t enjoy or appreciate our efforts and judge us as not being good enough or acceptable in some way.

The lower octave of Libra is experienced through indecision, often accompanied by valuing others‚ opinions or needs above our own. We put the creation and maintenance of the harmony of a relationship or an environment as the only important goal to achieve. The main problem with that goal, however, is that it can gloss over our own needs and feelings. The higher octave of Libra enables us to be thoughtful of others and relating to them with tact and diplomacy. Negotiation and compromise are prioritized over the need for positive feedback from others. Saturn in Libra is a transit that enables us to find an internal balance point. First we tune in to ourselves. Then, we define our needs. Then we share that information with others with the intention of creating a relationship that is equitable and fulfilling for both parties. By extension, we also work to create a harmonious environment that is aesthetically pleasing, and maximizes the potential for many people to function effectively in that context and benefit from our efforts.
Remember to personalize this transit by noting what house in your natal chart is occupied by the sign Libra. That is the area of your life experience wherein this work will need to be done over the next few years.

Aries: Early month is a good time to try new things, especially if they involve home and family. Be open to inspiration that may require some innovation or experimentation on your part. Later in the month, be careful that your natural tendency to be your authentic self at all times doesn’t push you into narcissism. Growth for you this month comes from being willing to negotiate and compromise with others while remaining true to yourself.

Taurus: Many challenges for you this month, mostly occurring mid-month. One of the points of contention will revolve around your need for stability in the face of unexpected and possibly destabilizing changes. One way out is to be clear about where you are and are not willing to compromise. Another important point involves self-discipline but stops short of being excessively self-limiting.

Gemini: Working on mental discipline in early month enables you to take advantage of opportunities for change, either at work or in family matters. Mid-late month brings the energy for self-exploration and the ability to understand yourself at deeper levels. Joy, faith and compassion are available throughout the month. Tuning in to them can bring clarity and awareness of opportunities in other areas.

Cancer: The full Moon in Aries on the 3rd could bring issues at work to a head that have been simmering for a while. Growth for you comes from knowing yourself and speaking your truth. The new Moon on the 17th in Libra brings feelings of joyfulness and optimism and opportunities for positive social activities, creative inspiration or expansion of faith.

Leo: This is a month when your natural tendencies to be joyful and generous can be expressed. Social activities involving partners and family should bring fulfillment. Your energy level should increase significantly from mid-late month. Use this to be physically active in whatever ways you choose, but be careful to avoid gross ego-centrism that would lead to contention between yourself and others.

Virgo: Creative and social energy abounds for you this month. Growth comes from developing the self-awareness that will enable you to be confident enough to openly express what you feel in either context. This is also a good time to find solutions to health or financial issues. Mental discipline is strong during this period, but avoid tendencies to focus only on the negative.

Libra: Six planets will be passing through Libra this month, so the information about Saturn‚s transit is particularly important to you. The key is to find or create balance in your life. Strive to be thoughtful but not co-dependent, diplomatic but not superficial, artistic but not dilitantish. The most important component of these transits is you. Try not to externalize the energy to the point where you are seeing yourself through others.

Scorpio: Intellectual or spiritual inspiration could be profound, especially early in the month. Challenges could come from the desire to be expressive, combined with your natural tendency to be private. Growth comes from taking the time to get clear about your need to feel safe to share, with whom and at what time. Transformation can come from being open in the right time and place.

Sagittarius: This is a time to implement changes in your social life that you might have been contemplating for several months. There should be the support from others to do this, either in the form of opportunities that enable the integration of new patterns or from those who notice and appreciate your changes.

Capricorn: Early to mid-month is the time to put some finishing touches on projects you have been working on for some time. Refine and perfect what you have already done. Late month, the Saturn in Libra transit challenges you to start the work on relationship stated above. Failing to do so could lead to power struggles and control issues in important relationships.

Aquarius: You may feel pushed, pulled and prodded for most of this month. Much of the struggle could involve areas that have been challenging for about a year, namely finance and relationship. Growth comes from clarification of your values. Get in touch with your inherent resources that provide the clarity and strength to know that you can overcome the difficulties and, in the long run, prevail.

Pisces: While others around you may be challenged at this time, you might find smooth sailing. Growth comes from being compassionate and serviceful to those who need your support, without falling into the martyr role. Take advantage of the harmonious, supportive energies to enhance both your social and spiritual lives.

Rio Olesky has been studying astrology since 1967 and been a practicing professional since 1976. The author of Astrology and Consciousness, Rio offers classes in beginning astrology through SRJC and ongoing classes through Crystal Channels in Santa Rosa. His next class at the JC begins Wednesday October 14. Call 527-4824 to register. To make an appointment for a reading, call Rio at 707-887-1820. Check out his website:


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Divorce - Self Representation vs. Attorney

Q: My wife of 15 years said to me, “enough of this”. Our separation has been amenable enough—we mutually care for our 16-year old son.. and we even worked out all the “messy stuff” (property, mortgage, inheritance, etc) while living separately for 3 years. We are ready—should we get a divorce on our own?

Signed: T-Man--Testing the Waters.

A: Dear T-Man:

Your question evokes more than a “toe-tipping” into the waters—it is more like the swirling eddies of multiple crosscurrents. Of course, you and your wife will have to make the emotional decision of whether to split for good, but I can tell you that just because you may live and act like you are not married, does not make it legally so.

The dissolution of a marriage is a technical legal proceeding that requires court intervention and approval. Think of it as breaking a contract or promise, so the court must review all the terms of the “breach of contact”, which of course typically involves issues such as child custody, visitation, distribution of community property assets and debts, etc.

So, if you decide to get a divorce, let me offer you a very brief description of what to expect, followed by three tips.

Step One: Play the song “Going to the Chapel ‘cause I’m gonna get Married”, backwards. It sounds like this…”Going to the courthouse ‘cause I’m gonna get divorced”. The only way you can be legally divorced in Sonoma County is to show up at the new Family Law Courthouse with $350 bucks in hand (filing fee) and a fistful of legal papers. The legal papers are quite complicated but can be found on the website of the Sonoma County Superior Court.

Once you file, you will then need to hire a process server (or the Sheriff) to “serve” your soon-to-be ex. Once the other party is served, he or she has 30 days to file an “Answer” to the first pleading. Wait. We are not done. Then the parties must file a more detailed document, termed the “Marital Settlement Agreement”, which in essence contains all the “stuff” that you think you agreed upon. This Marital Settlement Agreement is then attached to the court’s Judgment. You are not divorced until the Court’s Judgment is entered into the court record.

Now, don’t get cold feet or overwhelmed by this process. If you do decide to do it on your own, you will be in the majority. It is estimated that 75-80% of family law litigants in Sonoma County represent themselves (called “Pro Se” or “Pro Per”). How long will it take? If you do it right, maybe as little as 6 months. You see, if all the papers are in order from the get-go, the court has the jurisdiction to terminate the marriage six months and a day from the first filing.

Do not fear, oh great adventurer, though. Here are three “free tips”:
1) Tip #1: Check out the Family Law Facilitator Self-Help Center, located at 3055 Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa. 707-521-6545. The Center has drop-in appointments (bring a bag lunch—you’ll be there awhile) or I believe you can make an appointment. Volunteer attorneys and legal assistants will guide you through the complicated paper process. They will not, however, appear with you in court, negotiate your terms of agreement, etc.
2) Tip #2: You can always hire a reputable private attorney. Find one that emphasizes family law. Most offer a 15-20 minute free consultation so you (and the attorney) can determine if it is a good fit. Of course, this option could be more of a white water ride—fun, exciting, but expensive!
3) Tip #3: You can also hire a “Document Preparation Service”. The papers are prepared by an experienced attorney for a flat fee. One service that comes to mind is “Legal Eagles”. Call 707-526-1460. (And in the spirit of full disclosure, I must inform you that this service is operated by an attorney who shares the same professional office space with me).

It’s your call and your wife’s call. Enjoy the ride!

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Conservation Works! How Sonoma County Can Do Their Part

Conservation really works, but don’t stop now.
As a result of conservation efforts, Lake Mendocino, projected to be dry by now, is actually 1% higher than last year’s low level of 60%. Continued conservation will ensure a high enough lake level to release water into the Russian River for the fall Chinook salmon run as well as for municipal water supplies drawn from the river.

Get free faucets and more.
Local water agencies are offering free low-flow plumbing hardware such as showerheads, faucet aerators, and hose nozzles. Some also offer water surveys and rebates for High Efficiency toilets and washing machines. For offers in your area, click on your local water agency at

Keep chemicals from medication out of our waterways.
Don’t flush old prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and supplements––or put them in the trash. The Safe Medicine Disposal Program has been expanded; pharmacies in most of the county are accepting medications––including liquids, lotions, ointments, and creams––in the original containers (take pill containers home and recycle). For more information, call 707-833-2553 (Russian River Watershed Association), 707-543-4368 (Sebastopol, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, and Cotati), or 707-521-1820 (Guerneville and Sonoma, where the sheriff’s substations are also drop-off sites).

Go Local––Shop Local
Save your local economy…three stores at a time.

Go to for more information about saving locally owned businesses. For every $100 spent in an independently owned store, $68 stays in the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. If you spent that in a national chain, only $43 would stay here, and if you spent it online $0 would remain locally.

Help offset global warming––buy mate beverages locally.
Loss of the rain forest accelerates global warming. Buying Guayakí’s yerba mate products helps reverse that process. Mate, one of the world’s most popular caffeinated drinks, is now part of the North American mainstream beverage market––Guayakí’s projects sales of $12 million this year. This Sebastopol company, which pays the 45 families of the Guayakí tribe for the use of its name, has helped restore 17,000 acres of rainforest by working with farmers, small businesses, and indigenous tribes, to create sustainable development.

National chains can do good things at the local level, too.
• Help Foster Kids

Drop off school supplies for foster kids at Sleep Train® Mattress Center on south Santa Rosa Avenue by September 30th or bring in children’s coats and jackets from September 21st to November 1st to benefit the Children’s Village of Sonoma County and Valley of the Moon Children’s Foundation.
• Help Others Find Their Strong Suit
Until September 30th, join the National Suit Drive. Donate gently used suits, sport coats, slacks, dress shirts, ties and belts at your local Men’s Wearhouse––1001 Steele Lane, across from Coddingtown Mall. Providing unemployed men with professional work attire builds their self-esteem and makes a good first impression during job interviews. (And you’ll be reducing landfill, too.) Last year 35,000 men received suits for that all-important interview. Go to for more information and applications for local non-profit partners.
• A pint for a pint
Baskin-Robbins donates coupons good for a pint of ice cream when you donate a pint of blood at the Blood Bank of the Redwoods on Monday. Call 707-545-1222 for appointments or blood drive locations.
• Easily recycle CFLs responsibly.
We all know how energy efficient and long lasting CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) are. But when they finally wear out, after 10+ years, you can’t put them in the trash, because of their mercury content. Now you can take them to the Customer Service counter at Home Depot, and they’ll recycle them responsibly.
• Buy organic cotton
Cotton, the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world, accounts for 25% of all pesticide use. The USDA estimates cotton uses more than 50,000,000 lbs. of pesticides in the U.S. annually (one T-shirt uses ¼ pound). Besides polluting our soil and waterways, pesticides adversely affect the health of agricultural workers.
Santa Rosa Indigenous Designs (707-571-7811) distributes organic and Fair Trade clothing through Whole Foods and online. Wal-Mart is the world’s largest provider of organic cotton––10,000,000 pounds’ worth in 2006, and J.C. Penney’s Simply Green line, available locally, includes organic cotton as well as other renewable and recyclable products.

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Ask The Loan Man - Conventional or FHA Home Loan?

I was thinking the other day that the mortgage industry is much like that famous line from the Blues Brothers movie when the band was booked at a bar that did not look quite like the usual places they played and Dan Akroyd asks the bartender what kind of music they usually have there and she replies, “We got both kinds, Country AND Western.”. Right now in the mortgage business, we seem to have conventional AND FHA loans available. With almost everyone getting a 30 year fixed rate mortgage and the line between conventional and FHA pretty clear most of the time, a lot of people wonder exactly what my role as mortgage advisor is today.

Well, let me tell ya cowboy, the line between FHA and conventional is not as clear as you might think. There seems to be even more opportunity for me to give good advice today than any other time.

I recently had a couple come in who were selling their current home and buying a smaller home (empty nesters) and they planned to put all of the money from the one home into the next home and getting a 30 year fixed conventional loan. I am not saying that was a bad idea….. I just wanted to show them what it would like if they put all of their money down, 20% down and a few spots in between. I also projected out 7 years, 15 years and 30 years on all of these loans and what the total costs of the loan over time looked like for them. Next we explored 15, 20, 25 and 30 year fixed rate mortgages and what it would look like to them and I also encouraged them to take these options that we discussed to a financial planner so they could get a really good idea of what to do with any money that they did not put down on their next house. They ended up getting a 30 year fixed rate conventional and they are putting a good chunk of the money down and they are holding back a little for a rainy day. This is a little change that is going to make a huge difference in their lives and a small difference in their payments and they told me that they would not have even been thinking about these things if they had not gotten good advice from me. THAT is what gets me out of bed in the morning, my friends.

I was at a Rockabilly show last weekend. It was a great show at the Hopmonk Tavern (great venue and excellent food). There were 3 rockabilly bands and they were quite different and it got me thinking that rockabilly was a better analogy to the mortgage business today. The Aces played on the bed of one of Falcon Mike’s trucks which was extremely cool. They play a very bluesy and slow sort of rockabilly. Then we had Lee Rocker who held true to his name and rocked heavily but also slowed it down here and there and then came the Blasters which is a more soulful, bluesy rock sound….. Rockabilly is a cross between Rock, Hillbilly and Blues. It is American roots music and it was a great show.

I was just trying to figure out a way to write about the show and keep it mortgage or real estate related. In my humble opinion, it is more important today to work with top notch real estate agents and mortgage professionals. Good advice and being there a year or a decade later are important any time but with changes coming as rapidly as they are today, just getting through the transaction takes a real pro.

Please email or call me with any real estate and mortgage related questions. I am happy to answer you and it may become the topic of a future article.

Hans Bruhner, CMPS is the branch manager for Benchmark Mortgage. If you have a question, please contact Hans at (707) 887-1275 or or stop by

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Listening 2 Children - New School Year = New Beginnings!

The new school year is here! The care-free times of summer are trailing behind and the more structured time of the fall is here. September has always been a huge new beginning for me and a very special time! Seeing the gorgeous leaves on the trees turning shades of red, yellow and orange, staying up later than usual to pack school lunches and the shopping for back to school supplies and clothes are some of my favorite memories from past September’s with my children.
In addition to such changes in the environment and my schedule, each September had me inquiring as to how I wanted to approach life differently. How could I support my children in a better way? Looking back at the past, I realize that I was attempting to see through my “blind spots”. My children may not think I was successful but it was my intention to see things anew!

We each develop our own way of looking at life. I’ve come to accept that my own “blind spots” through the years, gave me a tunnel vision at times! That’s why we need each other. We can help our loved ones, see through their “blind spots” and they can help us. If we approach the subject in the right way and are not attached to another’s response or reply, it can be a growing experience for all.

In this article, I’m raising the question to myself and to you the reader, “Are you “boxed-in”? Or are you keeping the child/ren in your life “boxed in”? Do you see yourself or others in a certain way and are closed to any evidence to the contrary?

Recently, I attended a workshop by the Emmy-Award winning writer, Gene Perret. He wrote for many famous Hollywood Stars such as Bob Hope, Carol Burnet, Phyllis Diller and many others! He suggests in his book, “Become a Richer Writer,” that one should, “Expand your writing into pioneer territory.” So, I invite you to ponder if you’d enjoy expanding yourself into “pioneer territory?” In addition, how about allowing your children to expand into pioneer territory? Perhaps you are already doing this, or perhaps not? I feel it’s human nature that we get “boxed in” at times and don’t expand into new territory! We figure out a way to do some aspect of life and we keep on repeating it. Many times this is a good thing. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel. On the other hand, perhaps the time is right for some things to be “unboxed!”

For example your child might say: “Dad and Mom, this year I don’t want to take piano lessons, I want to try the violin”! Your immediate “boxed in” response might be, “Oh, honey, you are so good at the piano, you don’t want to quit now”! And that may be true! Piano may be his/her gift. However, allowing for discussions around the subject might be a way of becoming ‘unboxed’ in your thinking. The end result may be the same, however, the process would be different.

I’ve certainly created my own “boxes” at times! One of my daughters is fluent in Spanish and wants to teach her future children the language from infancy. In addition, my other daughter is very well versed in the language! When they have invited me to learn the language in the past, my ‘boxed-in’ response has been, “I’m not good at language!” However, I’ve decided to “un-box” myself in this area! This year I’m going to explore learning to speak Spanish!

So I invite you to look around and see if you have any “boxed-up” folks living in your home? Would you like to “un-box” yourself from anything? Is your child or children asking to get “unboxed” from anything in their life? Sincere listening to one’s self and others is the key to such questions!

New Beginnings can take place at any time! I happen to feel that September is one of those especially great times, for newness! Newness is refreshing! Newness breeds openness! And Newness opens up new doors!

Sharon Ann Wikoff is an educator and has been working with children and families for over 25 years. She hosts the radio program, The Voice of Change, which can be heard at

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Who is Graton Fire?

Graton Fire has a tremendous history of fighting fires both within its borders as well as the major fires in Santa Rosa, Guerneville, and Healdsburg. Eventually, Graton firefighters started responding to medical aids and vehicle accidents. Graton Fire was one of the first districts to purchase the “Jaws of Life” to pry open cars in the 1970’s and responded throughout a significant section of Western Sonoma County with them. We have been working out of the same fire station (once the train depot) since the 1940’s.

History- During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Graton experienced many bad fires. When veterans returned to Graton after World War II, they used their military fire experience to help prepare Graton to fight fires. Initially, this was done with a large soda acid extinguisher on wheels that was kept in town and people would come get it when needed. Farmers would bring water spray tanks and tenders from their fields as well. Through donations and a very committed Graton community, the fire department was formed in the mid to late 1940’s. In 1951, it was officially recognized as a Fire Protection District and officially accepted the responsibility and duty to respond to fires. We cover from the Sebastopol city limits (roughly Mill Station Road) to as far north as the top of Vine Hill and Laguna Roads and west to Green Hill Road and east to the Laguna that separates us from Santa Rosa.

Graton Fire has a tremendous history of fighting fires both within its borders as well as the major fires in Santa Rosa, Guerneville, and Healdsburg. Eventually, Graton firefighters started responding to medical aids and vehicle accidents. Graton Fire was one of the first districts to purchase the “Jaws of Life” to pry open cars in the 1970’s and responded throughout a significant section of Western Sonoma County with them. We have been working out of the same fire station (once the train depot) since the 1940’s. In 1961, the meeting room/kitchen, bathroom, office, and three engine bays were added using donated/reclaimed lumber from Graton chicken coops and the labor of the Graton volunteer firefighters.

There are no hydrants or water system in Graton or the surrounding community. You may see a hydrant in Graton; however, these are typically hooked to neighborhoods that share a water system and have limited storage. When there is a fire, we must bring the water to the fire and establish a water-hauling system to maintain the firefighting operations. This is done through a county-wide mutual aid system where all fire departments support each other during major fires.

Graton Fire is managed by a board of directors, comprised of five residents who have been elected to serve the interests of the district. They are charged with spending the money received through property taxes (roughly one percent of the tax bill) and donations from the community. The board meets the second Tuesday of every month at 7:30pm. During this meeting, the board pays bills, approves purchases over $500, reviews correspondence, and receives reports from the fire chief on how many calls and trainings happened the prior month. This meeting is open to the public and everyone is welcome to attend.

Today- From the fire chief to the trainees... every Graton firefighter is still a volunteer. We respond to more calls each year than any other 100 percent volunteer fire department in Sonoma County and more than a couple of the paid departments. We have only been able to accomplish this due to 60+ years of dedicated Graton men and women. Our roster is consistently filled with 20-30 firefighters who are willing to put their personal and professional lives on hold to respond to the 500 calls for service we receive each year.

Graton conducts its own training for new volunteers, following the standards set by the International Fire Service Training Association. After six months and a minimum of 120 hours of training, new firefighters may run calls. They, along with the rest of the department, continue to train every Thursday night to keep their skills sharp. This is accomplished through a combination of our own firefighters teaching in their areas of expertise, guest instructors, and a contract with Sonoma County for an outside fire instructor to teach one or two times a month. Occasionally, we can get live fire training when we burn homes that are scheduled for demolition. It is cheaper for the homeowner and great training for us.

Due to the level of training, equipment, water-hauling proficiency, and dedicated volunteers, Graton obtained a protection rating of 6 (out of 10) from the Insurance Services Office (ISO) in 2006. This is the service that your homeowner’s insurance company uses to rate your fire insurance. Most volunteer departments without hydrant systems score a 9.

The fire department has four types of fire engines to serve the different needs we encounter. The structure engine, of which we have two per ISO, is designed to fight house fires. The wildland engine is smaller, designed to go off-road, and attack the fire while still driving. The water tender carries 2,000 gallons of water and supports the structure and wildland engines. Lastly, the rescue squad carries equipment for vehicle accidents, medical aids, and other service calls. It carries no water or fire equipment, making it smaller and more easily adaptable to our rural driveways.

Future- The brightest light in our future is the new fire station; we are all very excited. The current station cannot fit all of our engines, there is no storage space, the building is literally falling apart, it is not seismically safe, etc. The board of directors has been saving and planning for a new station for close to 30 years. In 2006, the board purchased the Davis Tree Farm on Highway 116 using cash reserves set aside for this purpose. Of the 9 acres, only 20-30 percent are being developed for the station; the rest will remain Christmas trees and will serve as another community fundraising event for the department. The goal of the board is to use the remaining cash reserves, financing, and a federal grant to build the new station without requiring any new taxes. There is significant competition for the federal grant, which will be awarded next month. Our fire station plans were submitted to the Sonoma County building department this month.

As you can see from the chart, Graton Fire continues to serve more calls every year. The new station will support the increasing responsibility of the fire district. It will house all of our fire engines and have excellent space for training and equipment. In addition, we are designing it with space for up to four bedrooms. Establishing a “sleeper program,” where volunteers are paid a small stipend (e.g. $25) to sleep at the station, will be possible at the new building. This could be a first step towards easing the call burden on the volunteers with only “sleeper” firefighters running calls at night unless they need additional help.

Summary- The Graton Fire Protection District is very fortunate. We have a great community that supports us, a solid tax base to purchase reliable equipment, and, most importantly, an incredible group of residents who are willing to complete the training necessary to become a volunteer firefighter. Each day, we respond to 1-2 calls for service. Today, it was a lift assist for a father on hospice care at home and a vehicle accident for a car into an apple orchard. Tomorrow, it could be a house fire or another baby delivery... you never know and that is what makes volunteering so exciting!

For more information, please call the fire district at (707) 823-5515 or visit our website at

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Restaurant Review: Henweigh Cafe, Sebastopol CA

Dad comes home from work and says to son, “I saw a henweigh on the way home today.” Son asks. “What’s a henweigh?” Dad, “Oh, about 5 pounds,” DRUM ROLL –CYMBOL CRASH! That was one of the family jokes when Dennis Kelly was growing up. Now he, and partner, Lois Nielsen have decided that is the perfect name for their new venture, the HENWEIGH CAFÉ. You can find this charming place at 4550 Gravenstein Hwy N. Although the address is Sebastopol it is nestled toward Forestville in the “Mom’s Apple Pie” building and is developing a local following of people in this west county area.

Dennis and Lois didn’t get here by accident. They spent time looking at their interests and planning their future. Dennis has a background in high tech business – marketing specifically, and he likes entertaining and cooking. Lois has been in the retail business and knows her way around developing a business plan. Their plan included having a landmark restaurant, a community presence, an admired reputation, quality food while being sensitive to the economy and having a good time.

With this in mind they opened the Henweigh Café. They have an open kitchen that is neat and visible. Having competent and friendly employees and mentoring younger staff is a priority for Dennis and Lois. They want the restaurant to be a place that has a pleasant atmosphere and customers feel welcomed. There is an outside deck and the owners are dog friendly. So you can bring your pet to sit quietly by your table on the deck.

Dennis and Lois have already established partnerships with other businesses and organizations in the area. This includes developing relationships with smaller local wineries and sponsoring a local soccer team. They plan to be proactive in the community and are engaged in special activities, wine tasting events, banquets, private parties and having fun in general at all times.
While they both cook, Dennis specializes in smoking the baby back ribs. He has a industrial size barbeque smoker and along with the ribs he prepares special menus featuring Smoked Chicken and Cold Smoked Rib Eye steaks. Lois developed the menu and creates some of the recipes. Her house special is the Chicken Pot Pie. She also has created some interesting sandwich recipes. They are planning a contest in October to see which they sell more of: the Smoked Ribs or the Chicken Pot Pies.

To give you an idea of the menu they have nine choices of burgers or sandwiches served with citrus slaw and house made potato chips or you can substitute sweet potato fries. These include 4 kinds of Panini grilled sandwiches ($6 to $9 each), tuna melt or vegetable sandwich ($7) bacon –turkey ($8), pulled BBQ Pork ($8) Burger ($12) and the baby back ribs half-rack ($14) or full rack ($20). Main course entrees are Three cheese Pasta ($13) The Henweigh chicken pot pie ($14) and Bourbon Marinated Flank Steak ($18). There are 4 selections of salads from mixed greens to a salad with grilled steak and blue cheese on top which range from $6 to $10. Or you can settle on a selection of their 7 side dishes ranging from $4 to $7. For something really different try their Classic Swiss for $28 which is a fondue made with Gruyere and Emmantaler cheeses and an assortment of dipping items. This would be a nice treat with a bottle of local wine from their wine list. In the winter they will be introducing some special items such as Boston Clam Chowder.

Sundays they serve Brunch from 9:30 to 2:00 ($17). You select from Quiche, Crab & Dill Scramble, Eggs Benedict, Vanilla Malted French Toast or Poached Egg with Chorizo Hash. There are also some Ala Carte items on the brunch menu and their coffee is organic Italian Blend from Sonoma County.

Henweigh is open Wednesday and Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., on Fridays and Saturdays they serve 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and the Sunday brunch 9:30 a.m. till 2:00 p.m. You can call them at 707 829 7500. Their web site is where you can sign up for a newsletter and send them emails.


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Sonoma County's Russian River - More Restoration Needed

On September 8th, I made my second canoe trip down the river this summer, paddling from Burke’s Canoes in Forestville to a takeout spot just east of Guerneville. The purpose of the two trips – hosted and organized by Linda Burke, Russian RiverKeeper Don McEnhill and Sonoma County Water Agency staff – was to experience the river from the viewpoint of a typical Russian River visitor.

I’m happy to say that even with a flow of only 71 cubic feet per second, the river was beautiful. Yes, there were a few areas where the canoes scraped bottom but we never had to portage and there was plenty of water in most stretches. The wildlife was abundant, too. We spotted turtles, blue herons, ducks and several other bird species.

One of the most exciting moments during the trip was when we paddled by a bank stabilization and restoration project being undertaken by the Odd Fellows Park community. Crews were planting willow stumps, moving rocks and sculpting the stream bank to withstand high wintertime flows. This project, which was funded by Odd Fellows residents when State funding was lost at the final hour, was desperately needed to stop erosion that was threatening the community’s new, environmentally sound sewage treatment system. It speaks to the strength of that community that Jack Davies, Association President, was able to rally the funding from residents in just a few weeks.

Of course, all is not perfect with the river. Along with good projects like the Odd Fellows’ we also saw some questionable docks, areas where banks had been scraped clear of vegetation and several small ludwigia patches.

Fortunately, the Sonoma County Water Agency, has recently reiterated its commitment to the health of the river. On August 25, SCWA staff recommended that the Agency Board of Directors (I am a member) focus future water planning efforts on increased conservation, greater use of recycled water and enhanced local supplies.

A resolution that would set aside an environmental impact report for the Water Supply, Transmission and Reliability Project (Water Project) noted that current and future financial constraints could limit construction of large public works. The Water Project contemplated the construction of new pipes, collector wells, and other facilities, including possibly a new water pipeline from Lake Sonoma to bypass Dry Creek, to meet the peak demands of the Agency's customers. The estimated cost of the Water Project was more than $600 million.

The resolution also called for the agency to pursue 12 water supply strategies and to reconsider an application with the State Water Resources Control Board for 101,000 acre feet of water per year.

After hearing public testimony, the SCWA Board decided to consider the recommendation on September 15.

The Friends of Villa Grande won their long effort to procure Patterson Point as a community site. Through a joint effort between the Friends and the Open Space District, funds were raised to purchase the property for public access and habitat restoration. For many years, the group worked hard and long, community members came forward with money, and their effort was rewarded when the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the acquisition and matching grant on August 11th.

The Consulate of Mexico sponsored my visit to an informative conference in Mexico City with other US elected officials at the end of August. The focus of the 2 day conference was on best practices for coordinating services to underserved populations. Our future efforts, working with the United Farm Workers, Consulate of Mexico, and our Community Based Organizations will be enhanced by information shared at the event.

Our local UFW chapter in Santa Rosa was honored by a visit from Congressman Patrick Kennedy on August 25th. Congressman Kennedy was introduced by UFW national president, Arturo Rodriguez. He addressed the crowd in Spanish, speaking of his long struggle on behalf of immigrant rights. A group of 50 or so UFW and community members attended and some testified to their daily experiences. Our sympathies go out to Congressman Kennedy, whose father Senator Edward Kennedy, lost his struggle with brain cancer later that evening.

Be on the lookout for news related to our local State Parks. A closure list is expected in the next weeks, and when that happens we will all need to work together to assure the future of these valuable assets. We are fortunate to have a strong community group partnering with State Parks to preserve and promote our Russian River area State Parks. Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods offers an informative website updating the budget impacts on Parks…this is a great way to get involved and be informed. The advocacy page is at

Their annual fundraiser, the Old Grove Festival, is the last weekend of this month. Please support their important work at this critical time by attending this fabulous event.
Please join us on October 7th for a Coastal Disaster Response Forum at Horicon School in Annapolis from 6-8pm. In partnership with Coast Life Support District, Fire Chiefs from North Coast Fire Departments, the Mendocino and Sonoma Sheriff’s Departments, and Sonoma County Department of Emergency Services will conduct a panel discussion about disaster readiness and capacity which I will moderate.

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Addiction & Chinese Medicine

The idea of addiction has been a long-term topic on many levels. The past several years I have seen patients who are addicted to cigarettes, food and there own mental restlessness. This state of constant craving is never satisfied and affects the Heart and scatters the Qi. Craving also affects the Pericardium that surrounds the Heart and stirs up the fire in the Heart.

In disease, the Minister Fire refers to a pathological, excessive Empty-Fire rising from the Kidneys. The emotion of the Kidneys is fear and as this energy rises from the lower Dan Tien it begins to affect the Mind. If the Mind is settled, calm and content, the Pericardium and the Heart energy will follow and the person will lead a happy and balanced life. If the Mind is weak and dissatisfied, the Pericardium and the Heart will demand cravings and the person will constantly desire food, cigarettes and other objects but when attained they will never receive satisfaction and will be left frustrated and aroused.

Craving will cause Heart-Fire and Empty-Fire depending on the underlying condition of the patient. It seems to me that there are many emotional states such as resentment, anger, agitation, animosity, bitterness and hatred which all seem to play a large roll in the body not being balanced and for cravings to constantly occur. I believe this to be a temporary relief since the cravings seems to run the person involved with never any satisfaction. All of this bottled up emotion helps to create excessive consumptions of many things that seem to sabotage one’s spiritual growth. The positive counterpart to all of these emotions is flexibility, hope and a quiet endurance of hardship. The Heart meridian is made up of blood or substance and when this blood is deficient and there is not enough substance then the Heart and the Shen will not rest peacefully. It is important to build up this substance and open the Heart so that the cravings can longer have a hold on the patient.

Irregular eating and excessive consumption of fats, sweets, dairy foods and cold-raw foods can injure the Spleen and also create Blood and Qi stagnation. The Blood Sugar diet seems to balance out the body and make it more neutral. I have also found that deep breathing helps to shift the patient’s space and allows them to inhale deeply and oxygenate their Heart area. Over the past couple years there has been a great deal of stress on many people and they have resorted to some compulsive behaviors that take them completely out of their bodies. Sometimes I have seen the Lung play a major role in this type of addiction since the Lungs emotion in Chinese Medicine is grief and sorrow. It is important that people know that any organ can be responsible for disharmony and that my role as a practitioner is to create harmony and fullness in each patient. I do believe it is a time of Heart for many people and in opening up the Heart and pulling people back into their bodies so they can begin to experience peace.

My patient that I have been working with to stop smoking has just recently turned a corner since I have gone into deeper treatments of both His Heart and his Lung energies. He is now able to take a deep breath without craving a cigarette and feels more full and relaxed. There are many deeper issues that need to be looked at in order to get true healings. I believe all of these illnesses are an invitation to make healings within us and gain the spiritual benefits of health. We all have a right to feel good and a right to be happy and free of old patterns and of pain. The more we work on ourselves and honor ourselves the more we can move forward into true freedom.

Please call with any questions or schedule a free 15-minute diagnosis so that you can move forward into true health and freedom.

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Building Local - GoLocal in Sonoma County

What is it about guys and hardware stores? It’s the only place our family shops where my wife has to sit and wait for me. Perhaps the appeal isn’t that it’s a place to “buy stuff” as much as it’s a place to “do stuff.” And maybe that’s why locally owned hardware stores seem to be holding their own in this “tuff” (a guy term for really hard) economy.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a clerk say to me, “You really ought to have a contractor do this for you, but if I was doing the job here’s what I’d do.” Boy, does that motivate a guy! He’s saying he thinks I can do a job that would normally require a contractor. Then, as the conversation continues there’s this subtle dance in the aisle, among the pipe wrenches and twist ties, that ensues.

I try to seem smart and understand what he’s talking about and not take up too much of his time on one side. And on the other side I’m trying to glean as much knowledge as possible so I don’t electrocute myself or worse. There’s a sort of calculator that I run in my head that equates the amount of time I’m monopolizing the clerk and the money I’m going to spend. I’ll only ask one question about three dollar box of staples but that above mentioned $200 electrical service panel that could kill me, I might jawbone for fifteen minutes.

The cool thing is that there is always some little doohickey or a tool you’ll use only once that you just gotta have to do the chore. One of these days I’m going to have a barn sale and get rid of all those oddments. I’ll have a great time explaining to the do-it-yourselfers that drop by why they need have them too.

A trip to the hardware store isn’t an exercise in efficiency. Quite the contrary, the longer one can spend putting together the bits and pieces, the plans and solutions, the better. Over the years I’ve developed something of a hackers mentality; 1) If I can’t open it up and get at the innards I won’t buy it, 2) then I take it home and study up on how it’s supposed to work, and then 3) I make it do what I want it to which generally involves something that voids the warranty.

Now that you’ve got a sense of what a hardware store means to some guys, and many gals too, (me!) you can understand too why the neighborhood hardware store is such an institution. You know a good store when the staff stays the same for decades and when you ask a complex question and they practically draw up a stool to discuss it.

The thing is though that these cornerstones of our community are having more and more trouble competing. That’s why I make it a practice to buy as much as I can in locally-owned hardware stores. When I have a job that actually needs a contractor, I ask them to do the same. Cost generally isn’t an issue because locally owned stores will pretty much match any other store’s price. Nor is selection a problem. In fact many of these smaller and older stores have more of the oddball pieces that I crave.

I figure that by keeping my shopping local, I help keep their doors open and that matters because if they go out of business, I don’t just lose a place to buy stuff, I lose a place that helps me do stuff.

(A note from Vesta: last week when I was delivering papers I stopped by Sebastopol Hardware to buy a tool I didn’t have in my truck. One of my newsstands had been smashed and I needed to fix it. Heck – here I go buying another tool I already own! But no – Liz, a fellow Forestvillian) works n Seb Hdwr and she told me about the tool loaner program. I found just what I needed – signed it out – fixed the newsstands and took the tools back. How handy is that?)

For ways to learn how to Build Green as well as Build Local - go to:
Jay Beckwith

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What Does Green Mean? Ask EcoGirl Patricia Dines

Dear EcoGirl: With so many companies claiming to be green nowadays, does this word even mean anything any more? How do I know which actions really make a difference for the planet? Signed, Greenwashed

Dear Greenwashed: Congratulations for wanting to help steer our culture in a truly positive eco-direction.

And, yes, while it’s great that earth values have become more popular, it does mean that we need to look beneath claims to recognize the more committed offerings and effective approaches. Here are some tips on how you can do this.

Ways to be Wisely Green
1) Understand the criteria underneath a product’s green claims. What are the specifics? How do these elements compare with others in the same category? Common valuable criteria include: organic, less-toxic, biodegradable, used, recycled, recyclable, energy-efficient, natural, durable, minimally-packaged, locally-made, and sustainably-harvested.

2) Learn the eco-labels. While eco-terms do help us make purchase decisions, the quality of their definitions and enforcement does vary. So, for instance, “organic” food has a strong definition and is enforced by law with third-party verification. Other terms, such as “natural,” generally don’t have legally-backed specifics so you’ll need to look further to clarify the producer’s meaning. Discover more about these labels at

3) Green your activities beyond products. While a particular product might be greener within its category (e.g., recycled paper towels), an even more earth-nurturing choice might to shift to a different approach (e.g., from disposable to reusable products).

Similarly, while it’s great to include green features if you’re already building a new house, the greener choice is usually to improve an existing home instead, thus leveraging the eco-investments already paid. (For great ideas on this, check out Natural Remodeling for the Not-So-Green House. Also, see the green building criteria at

And, if you need to buy a car anyway, certainly choose one with higher fuel efficiency. However, you don’t need to buy a new vehicle to reduce your impact. You can save the financial and eco-costs of a new car by looking for ways to reduce the miles you travel in your current car — for instance, by grouping errands together, carpooling, living closer to work, or adding some biking or public transit to your transportation routine.

4) Be guided by “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” This handy mantra helps us address the core problem in our cumulative activities: we’re outstripping the earth’s capacity in the materials we take and the waste and pollution we return. By reducing our consumption throughput, we lower the impacts at all phases of production, including mining, manufacturing, transportation, use, and disposal. We can also often save money and declutter our lives as well!

Therefore, look for ways to reduce what you buy, buy just what you need, and prioritize durable over cheap products. Minimize packaging by buying in bulk. Reuse by buying other people’s used items and selling or donating your own, thus making fuller use of each product’s eco-costs. Seek to repair or update items before discarding them. And, when a product’s usefulness is done, recycle it properly, thus offering the raw materials for new products. See how close to zero waste you can get in your life!

5) Be committed, not perfect. Taking action doesn’t mean that we have to do everything all at once; it’s OK to balance your choices with other priorities. Still, let the urgency of the earth’s current situation motivate you to keep finding opportunities to move in a greener direction.

6) Have fun. Eco-action doesn’t have to be about fear or suffering. Being part of the solution and aligning with the earth’s ways can bring you increased joy, creativity, and personal expression. Constructive action is the antidote to despair!

Make a game out of finding ways to protect the earth’s ecosystems and resources. As more and more of us do this, we’ll see the future become brighter for our children and all creatures on earth.

For more specifics on these ideas, see my other columns at

Email your questions about going green to ( for possible inclusion in future columns. Also see “Ask EcoGirl” on Facebook!

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

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Russian River Fire District Needs Board Members

TWO vacancies needs to be filled on the Board of Directors of the Russian River Fire Protection District which will meet on Tuesday, November 03, 2009, at 6:00pm at the Fire Station located at 14100 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville, to fill the vacancy. All applications should be received no later than the close of business (5:00pm) on Friday, October 30, 2009.


Due to the resignation of Director James Wille (he is no longer eligible to serve since he moved out of the district and you must be a resident of the District), and Director Smith has increased family commitments and doesn't feel he can devote the necessary time, two vacancies open on the Board of Directors of the Russian River Fire Protection District. Pursuant to Section 13852(b) of the Health and Safety Code of the State of California, and Section 1780 of the Government Code, the Board of Directors of the Russian River Fire Protection District will meet on Tuesday, November 03, 2009, at 6:00pm at the Fire Station located at 14100 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville, to fill said vacancy.

Persons interested in seeking appointment to the Board of Directors of the Russian River Fire Protection District should apply in writing. Applications for the position of Director are available at the Fire Station, 14100 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville. Applications may be delivered to the District Administrative Office in person, during normal business hours, or mailed to PO Box 367, Guerneville, CA 95446. All applications should be received no later than the close of business (5:00pm) on Friday, October 30, 2009. Postmarks do not count.

Debbie Miller, Board Clerk
Executive Administrative Assistant

Bodega Bay Fire Protection District ~ 707/875-3700
Russian River Fire Protection District ~ 707/869-9089

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Gayle LaVal's BENEFIT for Hip Replacement Surgery

Gayle with her Granddaughter and Daughter

Gayle’s Miracle Fund
“It Takes a Village”

A local group of friends are enlisting the help of the community for a dear friend who is dire need of hip replacement surgery after almost two years of debilitating, chronic pain.

Gayle LaVal, a resident of Graton, is a 60 year old single grandmother. She is one of many middle class people in our country who have paid into the system and carried health insurance for most of their lives, and who are now living without medical insurance. Because she is just above poverty qualifications, she is ‘falling through the cracks” of our health care system. She lost her insurance as a result of a personal tragedy that created a financial crisis in which she had to choose between sustaining herself and her family and paying into her insurance. No one should have to make this kind of a choice! But this is happening all the time. While we can’t take care of everyone, we are choosing to do what we can by helping her. We hope you will help in your own way after hearing her story.

Due to a sudden illness that the doctors thought to be cancer, Gayle had to have her thyroid removed several years ago. She managed to pay for this surgery, but she was left with the problem that medical insurance was now unobtainable due to the high costs of coverage because of a “pre-existing” condition and her age. Ironically, Gayle has been in the healing professions much of her life as a nurse as well as a hypnotherapist, working mainly with women and trauma. She has been unable, because of her own health issues, to work for quite some time, so that is where the rest of us come in.

Ever since she was told that her hip surgery was needed in order for her to live a normal life again, she has been working with the local hospital and doctors in an attempt to negotiate the surgery, hospital, pre and post surgery medical costs to a price that would be in the realm of possibility for her. With the help of a friend and several members of the Hospital Foundation, she has worked out an agreement with Palm Drive. With the surgeon, anesthesiologist, other post and pre op medical costs, we have set a goal of $27,000. to be raised for her surgery which is scheduled in October, 2009. Her surgery is now less than six weeks away and we would like to raise as much of this as we can before her surgery.

Mario Ramos, owner of Mexico Lindo Restaurant, has generously offered to kick off our fundraising drive. On Friday, October 2nd at 8PM, we will be throwing a fiesta. This will include a Mexican buffet, music, and frivolity. Mexico Lindo is giving 100% of the proceeds to Gayle’s Miracle Fund. Admission will be $20.

We are also having an event on Sunday, October 18th at 4PM at the Subud Center in Sebastopol. This will include a spaghetti dinner, music, and a silent auction of products or services for people to bid on. Cost is $10. for admission. We already have a weeks stay at a condo near Puerto Vallerta and a gourmet canoe outing for two. If you can donate something, please contact Wanda Lee at 707-829-3044 or Linda Mollenhauer-Meyskens at 707-823-0582.

A special account with Wells Fargo has been opened under the name, “Gayle’s Miracle Fund”. Checks can be sent to “Gayle’s Miracle Fund”, 8813 Bower Street, Sebastopol. CA 95472 and include the account number 8684873881 on the check. Checks can also be deposited directly into this account by going to Wells Fargo Bank and directing the deposit to this account name and number.

We are asking the community to join us in helping Gayle by giving whatever amount you can comfortably give to this fund. Any amount that you can send will help and is most appreciated. By creating this circle of caring and extending the reach out to others, we can give Gayle the support she deserves.

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Levi Leipheimer's King Ridge GranFondo

Levi Leipheimer's King Ridge GranFondo
Presented by Road ID sold out four weeks in advance of the ride's first edition on October 3. Yet over and above being a smash hit that has drawn a who's who in US cycling among the field of 3500 riders, Leipheimer's ride could be pointing to a new direction for senior US pro riders.

Here's the deal: In recent decades US riders and teams have risen to be among the finest in the world, and this nation is now a major international player in a truly global sport. Yet one of the lingering differences between the cycling cultures in Europe and the US is the relative lack of community involvement in the sport here. Communities in the USA have not traditionally got behind cycling events unless they are major stage races or have the name Armstrong attached.

That could be about to change. Leipheimer, a resident of Santa Rosa, California, has a groundbreaking plan that could generate in excess of $500,000 annually for his community, with a good chunk of that going as a cash donation to the City of Santa Rosa coffers.
You may well say that fundraising bicycle rides are nothing new here, and you'd be right. But thus far these worthy rides have always set out to benefit a cause, such as the Livestrong Challenge, which raises money to fight cancer. Levi's ride breaks from the past in that it is specifically intended to promote and raise funds for his local community and his region.

Leipheimer's event will be held on October 3, starting and finishing at the Finley Community Center - a beautiful municipal recreation facility in Santa Rosa - and is called the Levi Leipheimer's King Ridge GranFondo - after one of Levi's favorite training routes.
Leipheimer says. "The King Ridge GranFondo is the perfect way to show everyone what myself and many of the best cycling teams in the world know: Sonoma County is a cycling heaven."

A mass-participation ride, Levi Leipheimer's King Ridge Gran Fondo, with route choices ranging from 36 to 103 miles, is expected to attract up to 3500 riders. Money raised will be earmarked for cycling causes in Sonoma County. This year that cause is the return of the Amgen Tour of California to Santa Rosa. Leipheimer has won the Tour of California outright three times.

Santa Rosa's city manager, Jeff Kolin, has a clear opinion on the matter. "Levi's King Ridge Gran Fondo will be a tremendous economic engine for our community. Cycling allows us to showcase the cornucopia of assets that Santa Rosa and Sonoma County have to offer as a place to visit, live and do business in: the wine country and farmland, redwood forests and rivers, lakes and oceans. Levi's support and involvement has been invaluable."

The most ardent cycling nations in Europe, such as Italy, Switzerland and Belgium, are chock full of famous cyclists with their own namesake gran fondo, or 'cyclosportive' as they are called in France. These mass-participation rides are produced with the intention of benefiting the communities to which particular riders have ties.

Not surprisingly, then, these towns love cycling and embrace it--as the City of Santa Rosa has done. The large entry lists and associated tourist revenue are seen as opportunities for festivity and celebration. The sport of cycling is seen as an economic boon for cities and regions across the continent.

After starting slowly in the Eighties with names such as Boyer, LeMond, Hampsten, and Armstrong, cycling heroes are now occuring more frequetly across the USA. Should some of these stars of cycling follow Levi Leipheimer's shining example, the sport could start enjoying a bright new relationship with municipalities across the nation just as this clean, quiet two-wheel activity enters a new era of prosperity.

Levi Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong riding on King Ridge in Cazadero during the Team Astana training camp, February 2009.

Photo credit: Carl Burchfiel/Stillpoint Inc.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Harvest Fun in Sonoma County

Leigh Douglass, the Gazette's self-described Calendar Girl, has put together a list of fun Fall things to do with your friends and family.

“Thank You!” to,, and for assistance with these lists.

Sept 26 ~ Early Harvest Celebration ~ recognize the contributions of volunteers & organizations who have worked to support the Garden, with host Clark Wolf. Admission $15 adult, $5 child. Noon-2:00 pm at Guerneville School 14630 Armstrong Woods Rd ~ 707-869-2864 ~

Sept 26-27 ~ Weekend Along Farm Trails ~ Visit Farm Trails members around Sonoma County and sample their bounty. Bring a cooler to take home your finds! Sat & Sun, 10:00-5:00 ~ 707-837-8896 ~

Oct 2-4 ~ Sonoma County Harvest Fair ~ Admission $2-$6. Fri 10:00-8:00, & Sat-Sun 10:00-7:00. 1350 Bennett Valley Rd. Santa Rosa ~ 707-545-4200 ~

Oct 3 ~ Community Harvest Celebration ~ Pumpkin carving & pie contests, puppet theater, kids talent contest! Free. 10:00-5:00 at the Guerneville Community Church, 14520 Armstrong Woods Rd, Guerneville ~ Info & contest applications: Rebecca 707-869-4105 or Beth

Oct 3 ~ Harvest Roll & Soul ~ Bring the whole family to dance the night away with live music by Levi Lloyd & the 501 Band. $5 at the door. 6:30-10:00 pm at the Bodega Bay Grange, 1370 Bodega Ave at Hwy 1, Bodega Bay ~ 707-875-3616 ~

Oct 4 ~ Autumn Faire & Market ~ Artisan’s fair & farmers market with a Latin flair. Gerard’s paella, piñata bashing, pumpkin decorating, face painting. Free admission. 10:00-4:00 pm at the Monte Rio Amphitheater ~ 707-865-2487 ~

Oct 8-11 & 15-18 ~ Tolay Fall Festival ~ Admission Free. Parking $6. Thu-Fri 9:00-3:30, Sat-Sun 10:00-5:00 at Tolay Lake Regional Park, Cannon Lane, Petaluma ~ 707-565-2041 ~

Oct 18 ~ Windsor Pumpkin Festival ~ 10:00-2:00 at the Windsor Certified Farmers Market on the Town Green ~ 707-838-1320 ~

Oct 24 ~ Railroad Scare! ~ Children's Parade led by Charlie Brown and Snoopy, scarecrow festival, Scare-dy Dog Parade. 11:00-4:00 pm in Railroad Square, 4th & Wilson, Santa Rosa ~ 707-578-8478 ~

All open thru Oct 31, and Admission is Free, unless otherwise noted.

Adobe Pumpkin Farm ~ 6-acre corn maze, haunted house, gift shop. Daily, 10:00-Dusk. 2478 E Washington St at Adobe Road, Petaluma ~ 707-766-7673 ~

Anderson Organic Vegetable Stand & Pumpkin Patch ~ 2-acre corn maze, mini train ride, U-pick pumpkins. Daily, 10:00-6:00. 4588 Bodega Avenue at Skillman, Petaluma ~ Jan 707-338-3363,

Forestville Pumpkin Patch ~ Oct 17 & 24, 10:00 am-4:00 pm in the parking lot across from Speer’s Market, 7950 Mirabel Road, Forestville

Grandma's Pumpkin Patch ~ Hay pyramid, corn field, climb-on tractors. Opens Sept 25, daily 10:00-Dusk. 17740 Healdsburg Ave at Lytton Springs Rd, Healdsburg ~ 707-431-8058 ~

Great Peter Pumpkin Patch ~ Dig potatoes, milk a cow, live music on weekends. Open Sept 25 - Oct 31, daily 9:00-Dusk. Spring Hill Jersey Cheese Company, 4235 Spring Hill Rd., Two Rock/Petaluma ~ 707-762-3446 ~

Hale's Apple Farm ~ 30 varieties of apples! Heirloom tomatoes, pumpkins. Daily, 9:00-5:00. 1526 Gravenstein Hwy N, Sebastopol ~ 707-823-4613

Love Farms Organic Produce ~ Certified organic, pick-in-the-field or already-gathered pumpkin patch, farm animals, refreshments. Open daily 9:00-6:00. 126 North St., Healdsburg ~ 707-433-1230 ~

Muelrath Ranches Pumpkins ~ Hay tunnel, corn maze, pumpkin slingshot. Opens Sept 26, Fri 3:00-9:00, Sat-Sun 10:00-6:00. 3800 Walker Ave., Santa Rosa ~ 707-585-2195 ~

No Chance Ranch Haunted House ~ and “Chicken” House for the scaredy-cats! Opens Oct 9, Fri 5:00-8:00, Sat 11:00-8:00, Sun 11:00-6:00. 3682 Llano Rd, Santa Rosa

Oluf's Ranch Pumpkin Patch ~ Hay maze & rides, animal corral, 4-acre corn maze. Opens Sept 26, M-F 3:30-Dusk, Sat-Sun 9:00am-Dusk. 899 Shiloh Rd., Windsor ~ 707-838-7588

Petaluma Pumpkin Patch ~ 4-acre A'Mazing Corn Maze $5; Night Maze on Fri-Sat 6:00-10:00 pm, $9. Opens Sept 25, Sun-Thu 10:00-6:00, & Fri-Sat 10:00-10:00. 550 Stony Point Rd., Petaluma ~ 707-763-3132 ~

Peterson's Pumpkins ~ feed the animals, observation beehive, picnic area. Sat-Sun in October, 10:00-6:00. 636 Gossage Avenue, Petaluma ~ 707-765-4582 ~

Pumpkin Grove ~ farm animals, hay pyramid, picnic area. No pets please. 10:00-6:00 pm daily in October ~ 3399 Petaluma Hill Rd., Santa Rosa ~ 707-523-3982

Punky's Pumpkin Lot ~ Just pumpkins, no fuss no muss. 10:00-6:00 pm at Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Rd., Santa Rosa

Ryan O’Shannan Farms ~ Sunflower maze, make butter, milk a cow. Opens Sept 26, Thu-Sun 10:00-6:30 ~ 5360 Bodega Ave., 5 miles west of Petaluma ~ 707-762-4895

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Sonoma County Focuses on Water Conservation and Reuse

Future Water Supply Focuses on Conservation, Reuse

The Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) Board of Directors agreed to focus on securing current water rights and increasing future water supplies through continued conservation, greater use of recycled water and enhanced local supplies.

The SCWA board unanimously approved a resolution to set aside an environmental impact report for the Water Supply, Transmission and Reliability Project (Water Project). The resolution also directed agency staff to work with the SCWA board, water right attorneys and agency customers to modify an application and petition to the state for additional water rights.

“In simple terms, the question is ‘Should we jeopardize the water we have by asking for more? Or secure the water rights we have by delaying our ask for more.’ Our first priority must be securing our existing rights,” said SCWA Chairman Paul Kelley.

In 1999, SCWA filed petitions to change its four water rights permits and an application with the state board to increase its current diversions from the Russian River from 75,000 acre feet a year (AFY) to 101,000 AFY. The application and petitions have not yet been acted upon. The resolution approved by the Board of Directors would allow the 1999 request to be revised to –
among other reasons – be consistent with a federally mandated Biological Opinion.

The Russian River Biological Opinion, issued by National Marine Fisheries Service in 2008, analyzes the impact of SCWA’s operations on coho salmon, Chinook salmon and steelhead. This federal mandate requires SCWA to significantly change its operations in order to continue to deliver its current allocation of 75,000 AFYf of water. During the 15-year implementation period, SCWA must reduce summertime flows in the Russian River and reduce the velocity of water in Dry Creek in order to protect young coho and steelhead in the creek.

“The Biological Opinion makes it clear that SCWA must focus on securing its existing water supply,” Kelly said.

The Water Project contemplated the construction of new pipes, collector wells and other facilities, including possibly a pipeline from Lake Sonoma to bypass Dry Creek, to meet peak demands of the agency’s customers. The estimated cost of the Water Project was more than $600 million. SCWA board members noted that the Water Project was based on assumptions that no longer existed, principally SCWA’s ability to use Dry Creek to convey all the water for the project from Lake Sonoma to the Russian River and historic diversions from PG&E’s Eel River facilities.

The SCWA board is also concerned about the energy use associated with pumping an additional 26,000 AFY of water annually. SCWA and many of its contractors have set goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2015. By focusing on water conservation, rather than new supply, the agency and its contractors can better achieve this aggressive goal.

“The connection between water and energy is clear,” said SCWA director Shirlee Zane. “We need to invest in implementing sustainable strategies to guarantee water supply for current and future generations.”

SCWA contractors include the cities of Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Sonoma and Petaluma, the town of Windsor and Valley of the Moon and North Marin water districts.

Sonoma County Water Agency provides water supply, flood protection and sanitation services for portions of Sonoma and Marin counties. Visit us on the Web at

Ann DuBay
Public Information Officer
Sonoma County Water Agency

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Champions for People with Disabilities

By Cami Weaver, Becoming Independent, Sonoma County

Anyone wondering how we’ll manage without Sen. Ted Kennedy was reassured by President Obama.

At the close of his health care reform speech to Congress, Obama cited a letter Kennedy wrote to him in advance of his death, expressing confidence that health care reform would be passed.

Kennedy’s continuing influence came alive when the President told us how Kennedy wrote that we are facing a “moral issue” in the debate over how to ensure that all Americans have access to quality and affordable health care.

“At stake are not just the details of policy,” Kennedy wrote, “but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.”

At Becoming Independent, where we work for 1200 people with developmental disabilities, we’ve recently seen “principles of social justice and the character of our country” take a back seat to details of policy.

Faced with ever increasing revenue shortfalls, the State Legislature and Gov. Schwarzenegger made policy decisions to cut or reduce programs to the infants, teens, and adults who depend on BI for help.

Our state funding is being cut by $1.2 million.

Dental care under MediCal for many of our 1,200 BI participants is on the chopping block.

The Governor penciled out $50 million in early intervention funds for at-risk infants, a penny-wise, pound-foolish act that will hurt families and kids and cost us much more money as children grow up.

Funding has been cut for our Teen Zone, a promising pilot project in Healdsburg that showed the value of afterschool programs for teenager and young adults with disabilities.

We face these financial challenges at the same time we’ve lost two champions for people with disabilities, Sen. Kennedy and his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

How can we begin to thank these two Kennedys?

Credit Ted Kennedy for the civil rights, education and health care that enable people with disabilities to live meaningful lives – the American with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Higher Education Opportunity Act, the Fair Housing Act and Voting Rights Act.

Because of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, millions of men and women with disabilities get their place in the lime light through Special Olympics. Special Olympics recognized people with disabilities as athletes. They train and have coaches and uniforms and then perform in athletic competitions that people pay attention to. The value of that can never be overstated.

So, how do we proceed without them?

First, we follow the lead of people with disabilities themselves.

And then we follow the examples set by the Kennedys and other families to help people with disabilities realize their vision of their lives.

I have no doubt the lifelong advocacy Eunice Shriver and Sen. Kennedy performed on behalf of people with disabilities is linked to the challenges faced by their sister, Rosemary Kennedy, whose perceived “mental retardation” was made worse by a lobotomy and who lived her life in an institution.

At BI we are inspired by the dedication and advocacy of parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters who want more for their loved ones with special challenges.

And we see and hear the self-advocacy of the men and women we serve. They are people with disabilities, yes, but they are people first, and they won’t be shortchanged. That was clear this past summer when 250 men and women with disabilities, their families and some staff rallied in front of the State Building in Santa Rosa to protest budget cuts.

About 30 people with disabilities took charge, and lined up at the microphone to voice their opinions.

They are the ones who best demonstrate the legacy the Kennedys leave behind.

Cami Weaver is CEO of Becoming Independent which provides job, education and support services for people with disabilities in Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties.

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