Tuesday, 23 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – Lake County Public Health officials reported Tuesday that increased visits to local health providers for influenza-like illness are indicative of the presence of the H1N1 Influenza A virus.

The news comes a day after health officials confirmed the first H1N1-related death in the county – a middle-aged man who died in the middle of last month, as Lake County News has reported.

Like counties throughout the state, influenza activity is widespread in Lake County, and the overwhelming majority of it is the new H1N1 strain, officials reported.

Concern and frustration have recently mounted as the race to manufacture and distribute the vaccine has not been as fast as originally hoped and predicted, according to Health Officer Dr. Karen Tait.

“Vaccination is our most effective weapon against influenza,” said Tait.

Since very small amounts of vaccine have been delivered to Lake County so far, it has been used to vaccinate target groups recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, Tait's office reported.

Formulations of the vaccine developed for use by pregnant women and children younger than age 3 years – two groups at increased risk for influenza complications – have not yet arrived. Lake County Public Health and the local health care community are working together to coordinate vaccination efforts.

So far, a total of 1,200 doses of vaccine have been delivered to Lake County.

“For a population of approximately 65,000 people, that is a very small amount,” say Dr. Tait. We are currently working to vaccinate emergency medical services personnel and front-line health providers who treat influenza patients on a daily basis.”

As frustrating as the seeming delays in vaccination production are, Dr. Tait pointed out that these delays are unavoidable and need to be viewed in the context of history.

“Not too many years ago, we would have considered this rapid development of a vaccine to be a scientific breakthrough. Even now, the speed of vaccine production is limited by factors beyond anyone’s control – you can’t always rush ‘Mother Nature.’ We are still fortunate to have any

vaccine to use just six months after the appearance of a new strain.”

Lake County Public Health expects additional vaccine to come into the county – both to local Public Health as well as health providers who have requested supplies – over the coming weeks and months.

The delivery schedule and quantities of vaccine being shipped remain unpredictable, so patience on the part of health providers and the Lake County community is needed.

“I wish we could be more specific with how this will roll out,” says Dr. Tait, “but we’re all in the same boat. Rest assured, though, that we are poised to move forward quickly with vaccination activities as soon as supplies arrive.”

In the meantime, good infection control measures are of paramount importance. These include covering

coughs and sneezes, staying home when ill, and regularly cleaning frequently-touched surfaces.

Illness from the Pandemic 2009 (H1N1) Influenza A virus is mild in the majority of cases and can usually be treated at home like other common viral infections.

However, people of all ages with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, and very young children may experience more severe forms of the infection and should seek medical advice early, if they become ill.

Public Health authorities are now statistically tracking only confirmed influenza patients who require

treatment in intensive care units and deaths.

To date, only one resident of Lake County has required intensive care for confirmed H1N1 infection and there has been one death. As laboratory test results become available, the number of Lake County cases is expected to increase.

Because laboratory testing is not recommended in all cases of influenza illness, there are many more cases in the community than statistics indicate.

Information about vaccination opportunities will be provided as soon as it becomes available.

For more information, visit www.cdph.ca.gov and www.flu.gov .

Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

Howard Scott of the Original Lowrider Band with actor Danny Glover at West Fest on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009, in San Francisco. Photo by T. Watts.



Some of you may have noticed that I produce a radio show entitled “In The Free Zone” on Lake County Community Radio’s KPFZ 88.1 FM. The emphasis is on music with heavy doses of Gospel, R&B, funk, jazz, blues and occasional sprinklings of rock & roll as well as reggae.

As a music journalist I also have interviewed a number of prominent artists from those genres for our listenership and radio wave archives which, I’m told, extend into eternity. My earthly remuneration pales in comparison. Well said, if I do say so myself.

My co-host D.J. Stearn and I do a weekly music calendar which entails music events locally and beyond. We are plugged into a diverse informational network of musicians and others affiliated with the music.

About two months ago, some information came to the KPFZ studio that foretold the 40th anniversary celebration of the Mother of all Rock Festivals, Woodstock. The celebration, dubbed “West Fest,” was to be held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on Oct. 25. It was expected to attract upwards of 100,000 ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, cats and kitties, hippies and squares, yeah!

The list of performers and speakers was a large one. It included Paul Kantner of the Jefferson Starship, Country Joe McDonald, Cynthia Robinson of the Family Stone, David and Linda La Flamme of It’s A Beautiful Day, David Denny of the Steve Miller Band, Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers, Jerry Harrison from the Talking Heads, the Nick Gravenites Band, Sons of Champlin, Ray Manzarek of the Doors, the original cast of “Hair,” the new Edwin Hawkins Singers, El Chicano, Narada Michael Walden and my friends the Original Lowrider Band. Those were some of the musicians and bands represented.

There were also to be speakers from different spiritual paths – a Native American blessing from Gentlehawk and Blue Thunder, as well as Yogi Raj Siddhanath. David Hilliard spoke on behalf of the Black Panther Party. Ben Fong-Torres of Rolling Stone Magazine was there along with many, many more acts and speakers.

Many of the music programmers at KPFZ announced the event. Since it was a free event, I gave deep consideration to attending. When the original Woodstock happened I was on the wrong coast and though I almost attended Altamont, thankfully I didn’t (RIP Meredith Hunter).

I had already decided to go and cover the event when I got a call from Howard Scott about a week before Oct. 25. Howard Scott is the guitarist for the Original Lowrider Band, four of whose members were founding members of the multi-platinum selling Southern California Latin funk band known as War. I have written in a prior column about why they no longer use the name. An additional famous link to their legacy is the fact that Jimi Hendrix sat in with them the last two nights of his life.

Howard wanted to know if I was coming to West Fest as he insisted he had my name on the guest list.

I resisted his lure. “Howard, it’s a free event. I don’t need to be on a list.”

“You do if you want to be backstage,” he countered.

That sealed the deal. I hadn’t thought of that …

On Saturday night, Oct. 24, I interviewed Howard Scott In The Free Zone. We purposely by prior discussion didn’t mention that I would be covering the event for Lake County News.

One of the main attractions of the event was the attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records record for the largest number of guitarists assembled to play at once. The plan was for 3,000 guitarists in Golden Gate Park to play the Jimi Hendrix song “Purple Haze,” at the same time another 1,000 were playing in London. That was scheduled for 10 a.m. just a tad too early for your CyberSoulMan reporter from Lake County.




Lowrider Band members Howard Scott, Lee Oskar and Lance Ellis at West Fest on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009, in San Francisco. Photo by T. Watts.



As it was, I left Lake County at about that time. My plan was to drive to the North Berkeley Bart Station and take public transportation to Golden Gate Park. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden Bart and was shell shocked that the round trip fare from Berkeley to Montgomery Station was now $7. The bus ride from downtown San Francisco to Golden Gate Park was $2 – not too bad – considering you get a transfer that I believe is good for the return trip if you use it before it expires.

I boarded the Bart train at about 2 p.m. and had to transfer at Macarthur Station as there is no direct San Francisco service on Sunday. Long story short, I arrived at Golden Gate Park at about 3:30 p.m. The Lowrider Band was scheduled to play at 4:20 p.m.

Somehow, I skirted the periphery of the huge (between 80,000 and 100,000) crowd to the closest stage entrance, which of course was the wrong one. I finally got to the correct one and I suppose the determination and presentation I showed the security guard was good enough. He waved me through without checking my ID or credentials.

It was intense, good-natured high energy that permeated the crowd. Oh, sure, there was evidence of all the trappings of 1960s psychedelia. Plenty of patchouli essence, clouds of ganja smoke, tie dye, face painting and other forms of body art, vendors and artisans selling all sorts of God knows what. Every earthly nation seemed to be represented and seemingly realms beyond also. There were giant leprechauns, tiny gypsies, motorcyclists of all sizes and gender, and occasional fairies and pixies.

When I finally made it to the Lowrider Band’s tent, I had enough time to drink a bottle of water and banter with Lee Oskar, B.B. Dickerson, Howard Scott and Harold Brown.

Harold Brown is the drummer. He is a history buff and always enjoys talking African history. He had a Franz Fanon tomb in his knapsack. We actually had time to discuss Fanon, J.A. Rogers, Aesop and Shaka Zulu in the 10 minutes we had before we bum rushed the stage. I say “we” because I went on stage with them and shot some cool video.

Meanwhile, as Harold and I talked, saxophonist Lance Ellis was running scales like they were going out of style. B.B. Dickerson was getting his eat on. Lee Oskar wasn’t. I learned the last time I was backstage with them that Lee never eats before the gig. And you best not mess with him after the gig until he has satisfied that hunger.

The “newer” members of the Lowrider Band – Lance Ellis, Chuk Barber and Keith Vinet – all hail from the Crescent City, New Orleans, and add a cool gumbo mix to the patented War/Lowrider sound.

Howard Scott walked coolly around the tent like an expectant dad in a waiting room. When the band got the call, we all moved out like a military unit. The band’s sound man, Andre, delicately carried Lee Oskar’s assortment of harmonicas and sound gear to the stage. As the prior band exited the stage Andre went to work like a mad scientist plugging folks in. Fernando, who is kind of like a road manager, handling CD and t-shirt sales for the band, was helping Andre along with Fernando’s son. I joined in and helped where I could.

The band was only allotted 15 minutes in their slot. There were so many acts and speakers that everyone’s time was limited.

From the stage-eye view there were people for as far as the eye could see. The energy was incredible. Andre had had a heated exchange with the West Fest stage crew for slighting Chuk Barber’s percussion tools. No anger, just high energy taking care of business.

The band ran through a dynamic set of familiar hits – “Cisco Kid,” “Lowrider,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends.” The crowd was grooving. Of course the 15 minutes went too quickly. They had to cut it short. Then it was break everything down and get the hell offstage for the next act. We got everything off in less than 10 minutes. I carried B.B.’s bass off stage.

The guys then milled around their performer’s tent and signed autographs. Danny Glover the actor came over as did Cynthia Robinson. Plenty of accolades. After about an hour, I was privileged to ride back to the hotel with the band and crew. I hung out with Chuk and some family members awhile at the hotel. Eventually, I bade the brother’s goodbye and headed back to Lake County for a 7 a.m. radio call. I think the adrenalin carried me all the way home.

By the way, the guitar record wasn’t broken for the Guinness Book Of World Records. It was too early. Any guitar player who is up before 10 a.m. is in the wrong line of work.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


RIP: On Friday afternoon, Oct. 30, our beloved friend, Norton Buffalo, passed away.

This very talented, sharp minded, loving person is already talking up a whirlwind of ideas in the next world, I am sure.

A benefit concert for Norton Buffalo to be held on Sunday, Nov. 22, in Paradise at the Performing Arts Center. The concert will feature Roy Rogers and Delta Rhythm Kings, Tom Rigney and Flambeau,

and more.

Tickets are $40. Doors open at 5 p.m., the show starts at 6:30 p.m. Call 877-397-3363, between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Mail checks for tickets to Bill Anderson, 6848 U, Skyway, Paradise CA 95969. Tickets are selling well!

If you are unable to make the concert, donations for medical bills may be made out to Lisa Flores or Norton Buffalo, 5905 D Clark Road, Paradise CA 95969.

The benefit concert will be quite an emotional affair.

Send thoughts and remembrances to Norton's wife Lisa Flores, 5905 D Clark Road, Paradise CA 95969.


Upcoming cool events:

Monday, Nov. 2

Blues Monday at the Blue Wing featuring the Fargo Brothers with Mike Adams and Larry “Mojo” Platz. 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2233 or www.bluewingsaloon.com .

Sunday, Nov. 8

Sunday brunch at the Blue Wing Saloon & Café from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mike Wilhelm performs on guitar with vocalist Neon from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2233 or www.bluewingsaloon.com .

Friday, Nov. 27, and Saturday, Nov. 28

Fifteenth annual Holiday Jazz Festival at Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino. The festival kicks off on Nov. 27 with the top-selling American jazz artist, trumpeter Chris Botti, who boasts four No. 1 jazz albums, as well as multiple gold and platinum albums and Grammy Awards. He has performed and recorded with artists such as Sting, Josh Groban, Paul Simon, John Mayer, Andrea Boccelli and Jill Scott. Nov. 28 features funky horn man Boney James. A saxophonist, producer and songwriter, James' success with contemporary jazz and R&B have made him one of the most respected and best-selling instrumental artists of our time. Doors open each evening at 7 p.m. with live entertainment beginning at 8 p.m. For tickets call Omega Events Box Office at 949-360-7800 or visit www.omegaevents.com.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at www.teewatts.biz.

LOWER LAKE – A noted car builder died this past weekend as the result of a vehicle crash.

Maynard Albertson, 69, of Sonoma died in a Saturday morning crash south of the city of Sonoma, according to Napa California Highway Patrol Officer Randall Wayne.

Wayne said Albertson was driving in a 2002 kit car made to resemble a 1930s-era vehicle when the crash happened.

Albertson was driving at an unknown speed southbound on Highway 12 north of Shainsky Road when the car went off the east roadway edge and collided with a dirt embankment, said Wayne.

The crash caused Albertson to be ejected from the car and he sustained fatal injuries, said Wayne.

Wayne said Albertson wasn't wearing a seat belt, and it appeared that none had been installed in the kit car, despite the fact that they were required.

Albertson was listed as head of the design department for the Lower Lake-based Konocti Motor Co., which builds vintage-style project cars. The company did not return a call seeking comment.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

MIDDLETOWN – The small, but much loved, 9.5-acre parcel of Rabbit Hill in Middletown received special attention recently in anticipation of a land management plan being created for the site.

Co-Directors of UC-Davis McLaughlin Reserve Paul Aigner and Cathy Koehler, Lower Lake, volunteered to walk the site to survey the site’s ecology and make recommendations.

Entering the trail head at 21281 Stewart St. at Callayomi Street, Paul and Cathy noted Rabbit Hill’s distinctive serpentine rock, few non-native plants and unique vegetation.

They identified shrubs and trees and observed birds including western scrub jay, Hutton’s vireo, lesser goldfinch, California towhee and western bluebird.

Aigner and Koehler will do a more thorough plant survey next spring, while Land Trust Director Brad Barnwell will conduct a formal bird survey.

This ecological information, and more, will describe Rabbit Hill for the land management plan and help fulfill preservation objectives of protection; education, scientific and passive recreation uses; and any needed restoration.

Rabbit Hill is special to generations of Middletown area residents who received handmade gemstone rings when they started kindergarten from Hugo “Huck” and Juanita “Skee” Hamann, who lived on the site.

In a recorded oral history of Rabbit Hill, Middletown Librarian Gehlen Palmer remembers visiting the Hamanns as a youngster, playing scrabble during stormy weather, and listening to classical music.

The Hamanns left their land to Sonoma County’s Madrone Audubon Society, which later deeded the property to Lake County’s Land Trust for protection.

Rabbit Hill Committee members are Land Trust Directors Susanne La Faver, chair, and Jon Ambrose, Hidden Valley Lake; Pete McGee, Middletown; and Michael Friel, Lakeport.

For more information on Rabbit Hill, see http://www.lakecountylandtrust.org/r_hill.htm .

Lake County Land Trust President Pete McGee will lead a stroll up Rabbit Hill for the Sierra Club-Lake Group Sunday, Nov. 15. The group will meet at Perry’s Deli at 9 a.m.



THE GEYSERS – A 3.6-magnitude earthquake occurred near The Geysers steamfield late Friday.

The quake occurred at 11:52 p.m., according to the US Geological Survey.

Its epicenter was located two miles east of The Geysers, four miles southwest of Cobb and four miles west northwest of Anderson Springs at a depth of 2.7 miles, the US Geological Survey reported.

Several smaller quakes were reported shortly afterward, with the largest measuring 2.9, according to the report.

US Geological Survey records showed that the agency received numerous reports from people who said they felt the quake.

Responses came from as close as Kelseyville and Middletown and in Sonoma County, and more than 300 miles away in Coursegold.

On Oct. 22 a 3.1 quake was reported near The Geysers, as Lake County News has reported.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

KELSEYVILLE – A late night crash Saturday closed a portion of Highway 29 for a short period of time.

The California Highway Patrol reported that the crash occurred on Highway 29 just north of Kit's Corner at Highway 281 just after 10:30 p.m.

As a result of the crash a vehicle had rolled several times, the CHP reported.

The CHP reported a vehicle was off the road and into a ravine and two air ambulances were en route.

The roadway was closed both the directions, with Soda Bay Road being used as alternate access, according to the CHP. It was scheduled to reopen before midnight, with gravel being cleaned off of the road.

There was no word late Saturday about the extent of the injuries suffered by those involved.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

SACRAMENTO – Cal Fire and the Office of the State Fire Marshal want to remind Californians that Sunday, Nov. 1, when you turn back your clocks, is the perfect opportunity to change the batteries in your smoke alarms.

“Cal Fire advocates the ‘Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery’ campaign, to help families stay safe and save lives,” said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) Director Del Walters. “By taking the time to replace the battery in your smoke alarm, you can sleep better knowing that you’ve provided one of the best ways to alert your family should a fire occur.”

When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually because batteries are missing, disconnected or dead.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the households with non-working smoke alarms now outnumber those with no smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries.

Cal Fire has the following tips on smoke alarms:

  • Test smoke alarms once a month;

  • Replace batteries in all smoke alarms twice a year;

  • Never remove the batteries from smoke alarms, not even temporarily;

  • Regularly vacuum or dust smoke alarms to keep them working properly;

  • Replace smoke alarms every 10 years;

  • Don’t paint over smoke alarms;

  • Practice family fire drills so everyone knows what to do if the smoke alarm goes off.

Find more information visit the Cal Fire Web site at www.fire.ca.gov .

LAKE COUNTY – County health officials on Monday confirmed Lake County's first death from the H1N1 influenza.

Health Officer Dr. Karen Tait's office reported that the victim was a middle-aged man who died in mid-October after hospitalization with the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus.

Tait reported that health officials hadn't been able to count the man's death as official until definitive

laboratory test results were completed.

“We know that H1N1 is present throughout our community, as it is throughout the nation,” Tait said Monday, offering her condolences to the family.

The vast majority of those cases, Tait said, will include mild or moderate illness, with the patients recovering.

She said Lake County man who died had underlying health conditions that may have placed him at risk for severe H1N1 illness. The man died from secondary complications, Tait said.

So far, 249 H1N1 deaths have been reported statewide, with a total of 4,047 hospitalizations, according to the California Department of Public Health.

A vaccine for H1N1 has begun arriving in Lake and neighboring Mendocino County in limited supplies and isn't yet widely available, health officials from both counties reported Monday.

Lake County's first H1N1 flu case was confirmed in a 39-year-old woman in June, as Lake County News has reported.

Health officials continue to advise people to take the following precautions to avoid spreading the virus:

  • Stay home when you are sick with flu-like symptoms (fever and cough or sore throat).

  • Avoid close contact with others as much as possible (two arms lengths away).

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  • Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and always wash your hands afterwards or use alcohol-based hand cleaners.

  • Wash your hands frequently.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms should call their health care provider if they have severe

symptoms, trouble breathing, are pregnant, or have underlying medical conditions such as asthma, chronic disease, or neuromuscular disorders.

A tool to assist in self-evaluation of influenza symptoms can be found at www.flu.gov . More

information about influenza also is available at www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/discond/pages/swineinfluenza.aspx .

Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .


Today we will be discussing vanilla and I will be giving you the exotic information that you don’t get on the “vanilla” daytime food shows.

Send the kids away; some of this information is for adults only. This will be an easy thing for me to write, because the one thing I have a lot of in my head is X-rated information. (I can only feel sorry for my wife who is going to be deleting paragraph after paragraph, isn’t she?)

Start the background music now … Bow-chika-Wha-WOW!

Vanilla is native to Central America and Mexico and was first cultivated by the Totonac people, but when the Aztecs conquered them in 1427 it became their mandatory tribute to the Aztec’s monarch Itzcoatl. Eventually many cultures in ancient Mesoamerican began to grow it. The Aztecs named the vine “tlilxochitl” meaning “Black Flower” after the blackened bean.

The mythology of vanilla from the Totonac people says that the goddess Princess Xanat ran away with her mortal lover, so her father – in an effort to stop the dude on deity action – sent priests after them to capture them.

When caught the pair was beheaded, and anywhere their blood hit the ground a vanilla vine grew. Princess Xanat considered it her way of blessing humans and a way to stay near them. Even in its origins, the myths surrounding vanilla are tied up in forbidden love.

The vanilla bean is the fruit of a particular species of orchid, which gives us another shocking bit of information in our study. The root word for orchid is the Greek “orchis,” meaning testicles. This comes from the fact that an orchid’s roots form a pair of tubers that look like testicles.

Of the 20,000 varieties of orchid, 60 produce a vanilla bean-like fruit, but only the three subspecies of vanilla orchid produces something actually valuable.

Hernan Cortes brought back the vanilla vine to the Old World but to their dismay Europeans never reaped any vanilla beans from the plants. They failed to understand that in its native habitat the orchid was pollinated specifically by the Melipone bee which is only found in Mexico.

Some believe that bats, birds, honeybees and hummingbirds also pollinate the vanilla blossom, but the actual amount they do is negligible. To complicate the process even more, the vanilla flower is only open for a few hours of one day, and if it isn’t pollinated the flower withers and dies.

In 1836 the Belgian botanist and horticulturist Charles Francois Antoine Morren was drinking coffee in the town of Papantla, the northernmost city in Veracruz, Mexico (and today the region’s biggest producer of vanilla), when he noticed the small black Melipone bees entering the vanilla flower near his table. Within a few days he noticed vanilla beans begin to form.

He then worked to develop a way to hand pollinate vanilla, but it is said that his method was too labor intensive and cost prohibitive.

In 1841 vanilla vines were being grown on the island of Reunion not far from Madagascar, and a 12-year-old slave named Edmond Albius created a new method of pollinating the flowers using just a small twig or blade of grass and his thumb, making vanilla cultivation far simpler, faster and much more profitable. His method is still the primary method in use today.

While Albius’s contribution to the cultivation of vanilla on the island did get him a shortened prison term at one point in his life, he died in poverty at the age of 51.

The word “vanilla” comes from the Spanish “vainilla,” which is the diminutive form of “vaina” meaning “sheath,” and so vainilla means “little sheath.” The root of vaina comes from the Latin word vagina meaning sheath for a sword.

Oh great, First the term “manhole” is changed to “personhole,” and “actress” seems to have disappeared altogether, but what will “vagina” be changed to be more politically correct? I’ll let you folks work that one out.

There are some stories that claim that vanilla was so named because of they felt the orchid flower looked similar to a vagina, but that seems to be more reverse comparison more than truth.

Vanilla is grown in tropical climates throughout the world, but there are three main growing regions that produce arguably unique types of vanilla pods.

Madagascar grows the same plant as Mexico and Central America, Vanilla Plantifolia, having been imported in 1840. The beans from this region are called “Bourbon vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the alcohol of the same name.

The island of Reunion was once called “The Isle of Bourbon” when the French House of Bourbon ruled the region, and it was at this time that vanilla started its production on the island. Bourbon Vanilla is widely known for being intensely flavored with thick, oily skin and potent seeds. Madagascar is the world leader in the production of vanilla.

Mexico also grows the varietal Vanilla Plantifolia (once known as Vanilla Fragrans), a large flavorful pod, but the quality varies extremely from orchard to orchard and also from season to season. Prices also vary greatly due to hurricanes and poor standards.

Tahiti grows Vanilla Tahitiesis, a smaller, very fragrant though mildly flavored pod with thinner skin. This type of vanilla is chiefly used in the production of perfumes and is not considered a major competitor with other culinary vanillas.

Uganda has a fledgling vanilla industry that is a priority in the country. It is currently only supplying to industrial consumers. The largest grower in the country claims to be able to produce a more potent vanilla in only four days rather than the standard six months. If true, this could completely change the vanilla industry.

The third vanilla orchid, Vanilla Pompona, is sold to the public mostly as an ornamental vine and produces a very large banana-like bean. Commercially it is used only in non-culinary applications.

Women and children are the main pollinators of vanilla since it is believed their hands can move more swiftly and accurately than men’s. The average vanilla pollinator can pollinate between 1,000 and 2,000 flowers a day. Once the flower is pollinated the bean will grow to its full size in about six weeks, but it will still need to stay on the vine another nine months before it is mature and ready to be harvested.

Once picked the beans are dipped in boiling water to stop the growing process, then they are rolled up in a tarp before nightfall and stored until morning when they are unrolled to sit in the sun to dry and cure. The bean will change from looking like a long string bean, as it severely darkens and shrivels, and a light crystalline coating will develop. This process will take about 20 days.

After that they are set in trays to ferment for three to six months before the vanilla is ready to be graded and sold. The massive amount of time and labor involved is the reason vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world, proceeded only by saffron. Estimates say that 40 percent of the cost of the vanilla bean is due to this hand pollination.

Artificial vanilla was created as a by-product of the paper making process since lignin vanillin, a vanilla-like flavoring is naturally found in wood and other natural products. This lignin vanillin is naturally extracted from the wooden barrels that wine and other alcohols are stored in.

The Tonka bean was once used as a vanilla substitute and used to stretch vanilla extract but since it is full of coumarin, an anticoagulant which is lethal in large doses, the Food and Drug Administration has banned it in the U.S.

The French, who are the world’s second largest consumers of vanilla (America is the largest), still use the Tonka bean. Artificial vanilla can be made from many products, even coal tar being one of them, but now-a-days most are made chemically. Personally, the methods used to make artificial vanilla put me off so much that I gladly pay the extra price to have natural vanilla extract.

In the 17th century an American, Dr. John King, prescribed vanilla extract as an early version of Viagra. There may be more to this than just a quack remedy since recent controlled tests done at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago found that while several odors do in fact increase penile blood flow. On average, lavender and pumpkin pie showed the most increase of 40 percent, however older men showed a considerable response to vanilla.

In 1762 a German physician Bezaar Zimmerman wrote that 342 impotent men were turned into amazing lovers after using a cure of a vanilla-based tincture. Coincidentally perhaps, Thomas Jefferson imported the first vanilla beans to the United States in 1789 after he was the ambassador to France and was introduced to the flavor on the continent. Vanilla rapidly became popular in the United States.

Vanilla has long been purported to be an aphrodisiac which has kept it popular in perfumes and seems to be the chief scent of exotic dancers everywhere. Coca-Cola is the world’s largest buyer of vanilla and caused the Madagascar economy to crash when “New Coke” switched to using artificial vanilla. Madagascar recovered with the demise of New Coke.

Stealing vanilla during times of exceptionally high pricing is a significant problem. Vanilla producers may actually scar vanilla beans while still on the vine, and that scar will remain on the bean permanently giving the grower the ability to identify any stolen beans. This scar is typically a series of pin pricks or a cut with a knife. Think of it as branding cattle.

The best way to get the full experience of vanilla is to use the bean pod. Used in custards and pastries, the pod is split lengthwise and the seeds are scraped out. The seeds and pod are then tossed in a pot of heating milk to flavor the whole dish. The pod is removed after a little while, but the black seeds remain, giving a distinctive look that lets the diner know that real vanilla beans were used.

There are over 250 naturally occurring compounds found in natural vanilla but since 95 percent of vanilla beans imported into the US are used to make extracts, they are a lower grade of vanilla. Most people have never experienced high quality vanilla, and until Lake County gets a dedicated spice merchant the Internet will be the best place to purchase real vanilla for your home.

And yeah, I was right; a lot of this column was deleted for being over the line. You can thank my wife for protecting your psyche.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, http://twitter.com/Foodiefreak .

The so-called “pure trust” – also known as the “constitutional trust” or the “common law trust” amongst its many other names – is neither a pure nor a legitimate trust. It is a scam that continues to be perpetrated for upwards of 50 years now.

It is promoted as asset protection against creditors and income tax freedom from the Internal Revenue Service. Unfortunately, the opposite is true.

The California courts and the IRS have been combating these trusts for years (see People vs. Lynam, 261 Cal App 2d 490 (1968) & IRS Notice 97-24 at www.irs.gov ).

Now let’s unravel some of the mystery.

According to pure trust promoters, American/English common-law allows the creation of separate legal entities into which anyone can irrevocably transfer their property for management and protection by others.

As the entity “is created” under the English common law (and not any state’s own statute), the pure trust is allegedly independent of any state’s sovereign law and not subject to any state law nor answerable to legal enforcement under state statutory laws.

The promoters argue that the United States Constitution and certain US Supreme Court cases validate pure trusts.

As anyone with formal legal training recognizes, however, the proof is a very misleading and purely argumentative. There is no true legal support for the pure trusts as they are drafted.

Promoters often use guile and charm to deceive people wanting to believe all the “good things” about pure trusts.

Not attorneys themselves, they justify avoiding licensed attorneys because attorneys only prepare ordinary “statutory trusts” under state law and because attorneys either do not understand pure trusts or they do not wish to let you in on their inside secret.

Like the story of the emperor’s new clothes, however, many people simply are unwilling to admit to themselves that they do not see what in fact does not exist when it comes to the lack of legal substance; yes, ladies and gentlemen, the emperor really is exposed when it comes to pure trusts.

So what is the truth?

The truth is that these “trusts” are shams that can get you into a great deal of trouble with the IRS and otherwise create a great legal mess.

These trusts will NOT provide you with any legitimate asset protection against your creditors. Moreover, as these trusts are not drafted by attorneys, they are technically deficient in how they operate.

So, even if they potentially provided asset protection and tax minimization, the internal flaws of these trusts make them hard, if not impossible, to administer.

All that glitters is not gold. Make sure you secure your future wisely, rather than buying into something that really is too good to be true.

Dennis A. Fordham, attorney (LL.M. tax studies), is a State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law. His office is at 55 1st St., Lakeport, California. Dennis can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 707-263-3235.

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