Sunday, 21 April 2024


The notion that military people are too busy training, fighting or moving between assignments to pay close attention to personal finances is challenged by results of a new survey.

The first-ever “Military Financial Capability Study” finds that service members are more likely than civilians to keep up with monthly expenses, save for their kids’ education, avoid payday lenders, invest in stocks and bonds, and even check on their own credit scores.

Where military members clearly need more financial counseling is credit card balances. Twenty-seven percent carry more than $10,000 in credit card debt versus only 16 percent of civilians surveyed.

But overall “we can definitely say that [military personnel] are more savvy than the general population” regarding personal finances, said John M. Gannon, president of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is the largest independent regulator of securities firms doing business in the United States. Its Investor Education Foundation, which sponsored the survey, operates on the fines collected from security firms that violate laws to protect investors.

Since 2006, the foundation has partnered with the Department of Defense to improve military financial readiness. It holds financial forums for service members, provides continuing education to on-base financial counselors and offers fellowships for military spouses to become Accredited Financial Counselors.

The foundation’s campaign to educate military people got its initial funding from $6 million paid by First Command Financial Planning Inc., of Fort Worth, Texas, in 2005 to settle charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission that the company had mislead military investors.

The new survey of 700 service members and 100 spouses was conducted online in June and July of 2009. The results were linked to a national civilian survey on financial capabilities FINRA conducted earlier.

The report cautions that some disparities in answers from military and civilian respondents reflect demographic differences.

Military respondents were more likely to be younger, male, employed full time and high school graduates.

Also, the military sample didn’t precisely reflect the current force. There was a higher proportion of officers surveyed (31 percent) and a smaller proportion of young enlisted (10 percent in pay grades E-1 to E-4).

Still, Gannon said, the results capture financial challenges for military families and serve as a good baseline for future surveys.

Feedback from Defense and military officials who track financial matters, Gannon said, is that “our data is very spot on” in identifying issues that the troops face.

The report can be found online at:

It’s no mystery why the survey shows military people more financially literate than the civilian population, Gannon explained.

“If you look at the level of effort that the Department of Defense has put into financial readiness compared to private sector employers, it’s really tremendous,” he said.

He noted that a personal financial manager can be found on every base and the services have mandatory financial education requirements, starting from boot camp. “There aren’t too many private sector employers that have such substantial programs,” he said.

The survey found that 36 percent of military respondents have trouble paying their monthly bills but that compares favorably to nearly two thirds of civilians reporting trouble.

Fifty percent of military respondents reported having emergency money saved to cover at least three months of living expenses if needed. That varied by rank, of course, falling to 39 percent for junior and mid-grade enlisted and rising to 67 percent for officers.

“Fortunately, military personnel and their spouses are less exposed to the financial risks of unexpected medical emergencies than civilians as they are covered by health insurance,” the report notes.

Fifty-two percent of military respondents with financially dependent children were saving to send them to college. Only 41 percent of civilians with children were doing so.

Among respondents with bank accounts, which is virtually all service members, 21 percent of military respondents versus 24 percent of civilians had taken out some sort of non-bank loan over the last five years. That could be payday loans, auto title loans, pawn shops or “rent-to-own” stores. A third of junior enlisted respondents had used these services.

Worried that such lenders preyed on the military, Congress in 2007 set a cap of 36 percent on annual interest that can be charged military borrowers. Its full effect likely isn’t seen yet in this survey, Gannon said.

Military respondents, Gannon said, already are “much more likely to comparison shop for financial products and they’re much more willing to check their credit report and credit scores. That is something that the Department of Defense, through its financial readiness program, has always stressed and the numbers are really outstanding. I mean 72 percent of military respondents have obtained a credit report in the last 12 months [compared] to 40 percent of civilians. That’s really good.”

Given this and other positive survey results, the foundation will turn more of its attention to educating on credit card debt, Gannon said.

“Non-bank borrowing is still an issue [but] at least, based on our data, the military is doing better than the civilian population,” he added.

More disturbing is that 36 percent of military respondents versus 26 percent of civilians had at least four credit cards. Ten percent of the military reported over $20,000 in credit card debt versus seven percent of civilians.

To comment, send e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120-1111.

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LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Know someone special who deserves the community's recognition?

Nominations are now being sought for the 14th annual Stars of Lake County community recognition program.

The award ceremony will take place on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011, at Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino in Upper Lake.


The awards committee is actively seeking nominations from throughout Lake County in 21 categories.

The program is sponsored by more than 30 Lake County businesses, and provides recognition for the hardworking volunteers, businesses and organizations that do so much for Lake County.

“It is the only recognition program of its kind in the county,” said Lake County Chamber of Commerce President Armand Pauly.

Pauly said that without those sponsorships the program could not take place.

More than 260 Star Awards have been given in the past 13 years of this program.

It is only through the residents of Lake County that the Chamber learns of nominees. Look around at the people, businesses and organizations you deal with daily, for potential nominees. Who will your nominee be?

The nomination form for Stars of Lake County 2011 is online at

For more information, contact the Lake County Chamber of Commerce at 707-263-5092.

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LAKEPORT, Calif. – The annual Dickens’ Christmas Market – an event that transforms downtown Lakeport into an old English village for a day full of festivities – will return to Lakeport once again this year.

The eighth annual event will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27.


Traveling to downtown Lakeport during Dickens’ Market is like traveling back through the centuries.

Costume-clad characters from the 1800s stroll along Main Street and welcome guests to browse the shops and enjoy the food and vendor booths.

Event-goers are encouraged to arrive dressed for the occasion in period costumes and enter the costume contest for a chance at cash prizes.


Restaurants in downtown Lakeport offer delicious food for sale for the occasion, and a variety of tasty treats also are available at the “King’s Food Court” on Third and Main streets.

Vendor booths along Main Street include arts and crafts, toys, and plentiful gift ideas for the holidays. Some Main Street merchants host their own booths featuring seasonal products and specialty holiday merchandise.


A full schedule of musical entertainers perform throughout the day and Christmas carolers and strolling minstrels entertain the crowds. In addition, Eleven Roses Ranch offers free “sleigh rides” through town on a seasonally adorned mule-drawn carriage.


Sutter Lakeside Hospital will sponsor Santa’s Workshop, featuring Santa Claus in Museum Park and activities and snacks for children. Santa’s Workshop hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


The Christmas Lighted Parade begins at 6 p.m. Anyone may register for the parade; applications are available at the Lake County Chamber of Commerce.

The Annual Hospice Tree Lighting will take place at Museum Park following the parade. The famous deodar cedar is decorated by the Lakeport Main Street Association.


For more information, contact the Lake County Chamber of Commerce at 707-263-5092 or visit


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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is continuing to come under fire for cuts he made to child care services earlier this month at the state budget process wrapped up.

On Tuesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell criticized Schwarzenegger's line-item veto of funding for the CalWORKS Stage 3 program, which provides subsidized child care services to low-income families.

O'Connell said the veto will have “far-reaching effects” that stretch beyond the loss of child care for struggling families.

Schwarzenegger has issued no statements from his office explaining his decision or responding to the criticisms, although the state finance department said he exercised line-item veto power to reduce general fund spending with a view to creating “a prudent reserve.”

O'Connell held a press conference in Oakland Tuesday to discuss the issue, and was accompanied by parents who may have to choose between welfare and their jobs because they can't afford child care.

“We stand at the cusp of a disaster,” O'Connell said. “The governor's veto has set the stage for a cascading set of circumstances that will disrupt struggling parents' employment, eliminate jobs of child care workers, force the closure of child care businesses, cause loss of early learning opportunities for kids, and worsen California's economic downturn.”

As Lake County News reported last week, Schwarzenegger made the cuts to the 12-year-old program on the evening of Oct. 8.

The move was completely unexpected, according to Teri Sedrick, co-director of Rural Communities Child Care, a program of North Coast Opportunities.

In Lake County, Sedrick said 73 local families, 149 children and 100 child care providers will be impacted by the cuts to the program, which helps families that have worked their way off of welfare and have been without cash aid for 24 months. This year's budget for CalWORKS Stage 3 in Lake County was $475,458.

The program ends effective Nov. 1, although legislators have indicated they plan to try to restore the $256 million in child care funds through other avenues, including seeking funds from the California First Five Commission and using savings from Assembly budget cuts, as Lake County News has reported.

O'Connell said Tuesday that the cuts will impact thousands more children around the state.

He said more than 187,000 children are already on long waiting lists for child care services, and Schwarzenegger's veto added 54,000 more names to the waiting list, which O'Connell said is a nearly 30-percent increase.

In addition, some 1,500 names will be added to the list of those children who would have moved into Stage 3 from Stage 2, O'Connell said.

Under CalWORKS, a family usually progresses from Stage 1 to Stage 3 as their employment situation stabilizes and working parents need help to cover the prohibitively high cost of child care in order to go to work and remain off public aid, state officials reported.

“The governor's veto is turning out to be a job reduction act at a time when California's unemployment rate is at a near-record high 12.4 percent,” O'Connell noted.

That's because California's subsidized child care system generates more than 130,000 related jobs, according to a study released by the Berkeley Center on Health, Economic & Family Security entitled, “Cutting Child Care Out from Under Californians,”

Sedrick said last week that supporters of the program had put out a call for people to contact the governor's office to lodge complaints.

The governor's office, in turn, directed the resulting calls to O'Connell's office, which reported being inundated with messages from people told by Schwarzenegger's staff that there are other child care programs with available funding that can help them right away.

O'Connell said Schwarzenegger and his staff knew that thousands of California children are already on waiting lists for these scarce child care services. He called that message of false hope to parents “cruel and shameless.”

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POTTER VALLEY, Calif. – Mendocino County Sheriff's officials are investigating a case involving the attempted murder of a Potter Valley man who was robbed of more than two dozen marijuana plants.

The incident occurred late last Friday, according to Lt. Rusty Noe.

Just after 11 p.m. Oct. 23 Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to a local area hospital to contact a victim of a gunshot wound.

Upon arrival deputies contacted 45-year-old Kevin Paul Allen, who reported he was inside the garage area of his residence located on DeShields Ranch Road in Potter Valley at 10 p.m. with four or five Hispanic males suddenly entered the building, according to Noe.

Allen noticed one of the men had a rifle. When Allen confronted the men about their presence in his garage the man with the rifle immediately shot him one time in the right arm, Noe said.

After being shot Allen was restrained with rope, duct tape and a pair of handcuffs. Noe said the suspects took possession of Allen’s pickup truck keys and he was physically beaten.

Sometime afterward Allen was placed inside of a shed near the residence while still wearing the restraints. Noe said Allen was able to free himself and fled his property while the males were possibly still at his residence.

Allen summoned the help of a neighbor who drove Allen to the hospital where he obtained medical treatment for his injured arm, Noe said.

Allen believed the males were at his residence to rob him of the 25 marijuana plants he was growing at the location, according to Noe.

The Hispanic males were described as being average height, having dark hair, dark eyes and a dark skin tone.

Noe said the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Detective Unit is conducting further investigations into the incident.

Anyone having information is urged to contacted the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office tip line at 707-467-9159. Noe said information can be left anonymously.

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NAPA COUNTY – Thirty cats died in a Napa County fire on Sunday.

The blaze was one of two in unincorporated Napa County that kept county and Cal Fire firefighters busy on Sunday, according to Cal Fire Battalion Chief and Napa County Fire Marshal Pete Muñoa.

The fire that claimed the lives of the cats was reported at 4:20 p.m. in the 5600 block of Silverado Trail in Napa, Muñoa said.

An accessory building, described to be a cattery to the rear of a residence, was fully involved by the time firefighters arrived at scene, he said. The 30 animals that died were located in the building.

Muñoa said investigators from the Napa County Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating the cause of the fire.

Earlier in the day, Napa County and Cal Fire firefighters responded to a residence on fire in the 2300 block of Stagecoach Canyon Road in Pope Valley, he reported.

When firefighters arrived on the scene of that fire, reported at 3:30 p.m., Muñoa said they found the home filled with smoke from a chimney fire that spread, causing damage to the attic and roof.

Muñoa said the 1,800-square-foot residence suffered approximately $15,000 in damage.

No humans were injured in either incident, Muñoa said.

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LOWER LAKE, Calif. – The Lake County Sheriff's Office is continuing the search for two armed suspects believed responsible for an attempted home invasion robbery and shooting early Monday at a Morgan Valley Road residence.

The incident led to a daylong search of the Lower Lake area and lockdowns at local schools that lasted for about three hours Monday morning, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Bauman said the two males suspects in the incident are still at large and should be considered armed and dangerous.

Both are described as black male adults. One is between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall, with short, wavy hair, wearing a black beanie and all black clothing with several tattoos about the arms. The second man had braided hair, was wearing a black beanie and gray sweatshirt, and was possibly armed with a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun.

The suspects allegedly broke into a home where they confronted Dustin Lee Wilson, 33, of Clearlake, the son of local businesswoman and council candidate Jeri Spittler, and Michelle Truong, 27, of Hercules.

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Wilson and Truong had been taken into custody on Oct. 22 for drug and weapons charges after a traffic stop in Middletown. A California Highway Patrol officer found them in possession of more than 2 pounds of processed marijuana and a handgun with two loaded magazines, the CHP reported.


Wilson also had been arrested by Clearlake Police on Oct. 16 for several felony drug charges and for attempting to bribe an officer, according to jail records.

Bauman said sheriff’s deputies responded to the Morgan Valley Road residence at around 8 a.m. on a report of a possible home invasion with shots fired. Units from the California Highway Patrol and the Clearlake Police Department also responded to assist.

When the first deputies arrived, Bauman said they found Wilson on the side of Morgan Valley Road, wearing only a pair of sweat pants with a bleeding arm that had suffered minor cuts when Wilson had run through a barbed wire fence while fleeing the home.

Wilson told deputies that he and Truong were asleep inside her home when they were awakened by two unidentified men, one of which had a gun to Wilson’s head, according to Bauman.

A struggle ensued between Wilson and the man with the gun, while Truong struggled with the second suspect, Bauman said. At some point, both suspects converged on Truong and Wilson fled the home as one of the men fired several shots at him from the front porch.

Wilson, who wasn't hit by the gunfire, went to the home of a neighbor, who called 911 after hearing the shots and seeing Wilson running to her house, Bauman said.

Bauman said Wilson told deputies he believed Truong, and possibly his 10-year-old son, were being held hostage in the home by the men.

During the ensuing 45 minutes, law enforcement secured a perimeter in the area and contacted outside agencies seeking air support, Bauman said. Lt. Brian Martin had told Lake County News earlier in the day that weather had prevented the sheriff's office from getting a helicopter from Sonoma County.

The sheriff's SWAT team also was called out, Bauman said.

Bauman said officials also notified area schools at around 8 a.m. to lock down their campuses – schools would be in lockdown until just before 11 a.m.

The schools closed down were Lower Lake Elementary, Lower Lake High School, Carlé Continuation High School and Lewis Alternative School, as Lake County News has reported.

When a call was made into the home, Bauman said Truong exited the residence and told deputies the men were gone. Deputies then entered the home and verified the suspects were in fact gone and the SWAT team was canceled.

Bauman said deputies later learned that Wilson’s son had already gone to school when the suspects entered the home.

Truong told deputies that after Wilson fled, the two men forced her into a bathroom and closed the door. She heard the men rummaging through things in the house, and then heard her vehicle start up and drive down her driveway, Bauman said. When she came out of the bathroom, she saw one of the men running from the home towards the back of the property.

Truong apparently remained in the home, not knowing where the suspects were, until the call was made into the home and deputies had her step out, Bauman said.

He said it appeared Truong's car keys were taken from the home along with some other unidentified property. Deputies located her car with the trunk open at the bottom of her approximate 200 yard driveway, abandoned at a locked gate.

Tire tracks and other items of evidence were located on a road in the back of the property. Bauman said it looked like one of the suspects tried to flee in Truong’s car until coming to the locked gate, and then presumably abandoned the car and fled on foot.

Investigators believe the other suspect fled to the back of the property and presumably drove away in the vehicle used to get to the house, Bauman said.

Deputies conducted an extensive search of the area for about five hours but were unable to locate either suspect, Bauman said.

Crime scene technicians were called in and processed the scene for evidence until about 3 p.m., according to Bauman.

He said the investigation is continuing into the home invasion, with officials looking at the motive and whether or not the victims and suspects may have been acquainted.

Anyone with information about the incident or the possible location and identities of the suspects is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit at 707-262-4200.

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LOWER LAKE, Calif. – Local law enforcement is continuing the search for two men wanted in connection with a shooting incident reported Monday.

Lake County Sheriff's deputies, California Highway Patrol and Clearlake Police are working the incident, which led to a lockdown of four county schools, according to sheriff's Lt. Brian Martin.

Martin said two male suspects reportedly fired several shots at individuals at a location on Morgan Valley Road near Lower Lake. No one was injured in the shooting.

The motivation for the shooting is still under investigation, Martin said.

Sheriff's officials believed the two suspects were possibly on foot in the area.

The first suspect is described as a black male adult, 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, who goes by “Ty” but whose real name may be “Mike.”

The man is said to have short and wavy hair, is wearing a black beanie hat and is dressed in black clothing, with several tattoos on his arms and open sores on his body.

The second suspect is a black male adult wearing a black beanie, with his hair in braids and wearing a gray sweater.

Officials said that both men are considered armed and dangerous, and anyone with information about them should immediately call 911 and not attempt to apprehend them.

As a result of the shooting, Lower Lake Elementary School, Lower Lake High School, Carlé Continuation High School and Lewis Alternative School were put under lockdown after 8:30 a.m. Monday, Martin said.

He said the lockdown was lifted shortly after 11 a.m.

Sheriff's officials had tried to have a helicopter brought in from Sonoma County to aid in the search, but weather earlier in the morning kept the helicopter grounded, Martin said.

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Devin Baker is stopped just short of the goal by Andrew Klaes on Kelseyville's first possession. Kelseyville scored on the next play on Friday, October 23, 2010, in Kelseyville, Calif. Photo by Ed Oswalt.


KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – In a penalty- and injury-plagued game, the Kelseyville Knights roughed up a bruised Lower Lake Trojans football team Friday night, dominating in the second half and posting a convincing 60-18 win in Friday night’s North Central I – North league game.

The victory extends Kelseyville’s winning streak to six games this season, and brings their overall record to 6-1 (2-0 in league play), while the Trojans fall to 4-3 overall this season and 0-2 in league play.

After the game, Trojans head coach Stan Weiper talked about playing with a significantly weakened team.

“We lost (running back Roy) Percoats this week, and he’s a very, very good player,” Weiper said. “Then EJ Jermany got hurt out there tonight, so there goes our entire backfield. After that, you’re just looking at putting in anyone with two legs in the backfield.”

Also injured was Lower Lake quarterback Devante Scott, who suffered a pulled groin in the first half, and wide receiver Aaron James, who was carried off the field by stretcher with a serious ankle injury while play was halted for 30 minutes in the second half.




Lower Lake's sack of Knights quarterback Chris Augon in the middle of the second quarter led to the game's first punt during play between Kelseyville and Lower Lake on Friday, October 23, 2010, in Kelseyville, Calif. Photo by Ed Oswalt.




Of the 60 points his team scored against the Trojans, first year head coach Rob Ishihara said, “That’s the most points we’ve ever scored since I started coaching here.”

The two teams traded touchdowns in their opening possessions for most of the first quarter of Friday night’s game, with quarterback Chris Augon scoring on a couple of one-yard quarterback keeps for Kelseyville, while Lower Lake capped touchdown drives with a 16-yard run by Scott and a three-yard dash by Trojan running back Jack O’Hara.

But with the score tied at 12-12, a bad snap on a fourth-down Lower Lake punt attempt deep in their own territory was recovered by Kelseyville at the Trojans’ seven-yard line, and the Knights scored two plays later on a five-yard sweep by running back Mike Allen.

With 2:34 left in the half, the Trojans turned the ball over on downs, and the Knights made good use of the time remaining with a 49-yard Mike Davis touchdown reception that brought the score to 25-12 after Diego Barajas made the extra point for Kelseyville.

Lower Lake tried to close the gap before the half ended, but Mike Davis intercepted a wayward Devante Scott pass at midfield and ran it back to the Trojans’ six-yard line with just 22 seconds on the clock.

Two plays later the Trojans returned the favor when defensive back Marcus Radovan intercepted an errant Chris Augon pass, and the score stood at 25-12 going into halftime.




Kelseyville's Mike Allen breaks away from the Trojans' Alfonza Daniels to give the Knights an 18-12 lead on Friday, October 23, 2010. Photo by Ed Oswalt.



“Whenever anything positive happens to us, something negative happens,” Scott lamented midway through the game.

After a couple of Kelseyville penalties helped Lower Lake drive the ball down to the Knights’ two-yard line on their opening possession of the second half, the Trojans fumbled and Davis recovered the ball in the Lower Lake end zone.

A sharp, well-timed cutback on a critical fourth-down quarterback option by Augon allowed him to sprint 30 yards downfield for a touchdown and brought the score to 33-12.

After the game both coaches cited this Trojan turnover and the ensuing Knight score as significant, with Weiper adding, “It was probably the turning point in the game.”

Kelseyville went on to score four more unanswered touchdowns in the second half, including touchdowns by Mike Allen (a 1-yard run), Davis (a 19-yard pass), Garrett Huggins (on defense, recovering a Trojan fumble in their end zone) and Braiden Wayent (a 42-yard rush), an offensive onslaught that pushed the Knights out in front of Lower Lake 60-12.

Lower Lake’s only score of the second half came late in the 4th quarter on a wild play, when Scott took a Kelseyville kickoff all the way down to the Knights’ 15-yard line before fumbling to teammate Alphonzo Daniels, who picked up the ball and carried it into the Kelseyville end zone, making the final score 60-18.

Kelseyville’s Chris Augon completed three of six passes (all to Mike Davis) for 90 yards in Friday night’s game, and his team had a whopping 513 yards total offense, while Lower Lake’s Devante Scott completed just two of 18 passes for 17 yards in the game.





Jack O'Hara (22) was one of few running back options left for Lower Lake by the third quarter in the match between Kelseyville and Lower Lake on Friday, October 23, 2010, in Kelseyville, Calif. Photo by Ed Oswalt.



Defensively for the Knights, Davis had five tackles, two assists, a fumble recovery and an interception, while Devin Baker had four tackles and six assists.

Lower Lake’s Junior Varsity team fared better against Kelseyville, scoring several times late in the second half and walking away with a 41-14 victory.

The Trojans JV squad is now 5-2 overall (2-0 in league play), while the Knights JV team is 3-4 overall and 1-1 in league play.

Next week Kelseyville puts their first-place North Central I – North league standing on the line when they travel to Middletown to face off against a formidable Middletown Mustangs football team, who beat the previously-undefeated Timberwolves at Fort Bragg Friday night by a score of 38-14 and improved their record to 6-1 overall (1-0 in league play), while Lower Lake travels to Willits to face off against the Wolverines, who defeated Upper Lake Friday night and improved their overall record to 5-2 (0-1 in league play).

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Dustin Thaxton of the Knights leaps to intercept a pass intended for Camari Onwausoeze late in Kelseyville's 60-18 victory on Friday, October 23, 2010, in Kelseyville, Calif. Photo by Ed Oswalt.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The state reported that a mosquito sample from Lake County tested positive for West Nile Virus.

The sample was confirmed last week, officials reported. It was one of 10 such samples confirmed positive around the state.

So far this year, approximately 1,294 mosquito samples from 24 counties have tested positive for West Nile Virus, the California West Nile Virus Web site reported. That's up from the 1,051 reported at this time last year.

Other than mosquito samples, Lake has reported no other West Nile Virus-positive cases this year, with no local cases reported in humans, horses, birds, sentinel chickens or squirrels, the state reported.

The state said the number of counties impacted by West Nile Virus this year is 35, down from 42 last year.

Statewide, human cases are down – 82 this year versus 92 in 2009 – while sentinel chicken cases dropped from 422 in 2009 to 271 this year, with dead bird cases also down, from 504 to 401 over the year, according to state data.

Horse cases have gone up slightly, from 17 in 2009 to 19 this year, with the state also reporting that squirrel cases jumped from 10 last year to 21 this year.

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A vehicle went off Highway 20 and landed on a dock near Clearlake Oaks, Calif., on Sunday, October 24, 2010. Photo by Gary McAuley.




LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – A weekend of heavy rains and wet roadways contributed to downed power lines and trees, boulders in roads and collisions throughout the weekend.

On Sunday there were reports of vehicles going off of Highway 20 and, in two cases, vehicles going into the embankment.

During Sunday afternoon, Northshore Fire Protection District firefighters were dispatched to a report of a vehicle in Bear Creek near Upper Lake with the occupant possibly trapped, according to reports from the scene.

Bear Creek, and its recreation area, is located about 23 miles from Upper Lake on Elk Mountain Road.

One battalion chief, one medic unit and two engines responded from Upper Lake and Nice and found a full sized, 1990s model Chevy four-wheel-drive pickup truck in Bear Creek. They did not find the driver, who had gotten out and left the scene.

Firefighters concluded that the driver had attempted to cross in approximately 4 to 5 feet of water, when he lost control and floated several hundred feet downstream before coming to rest against an outcropping of rocks in the creek, officials reported.

Campers in the area stated they witnessed a group of off-road drivers fording the creek, with several being successful, however the last driver was not, according to reports from the scene. The vehicle had been secured to some adjacent trees with ropes before the driver and his party left.

Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Ken Petz said the creek usually runs about 2 feet deep at the crossing, but this storm brought much more.

He said the creek's level should fall some this week, but another storm is expected in the area next weekend, so time is short for anyone to remove the stranded vehicle.

Northshore firefighters were once again on scene later in the day when a vehicle ended up on a dock near Clearlake Oaks after going off Highway 20.

The driver reportedly was headed eastbound shortly before 5:30 p.m. when he lost control of the vehicle, spinning 180 degrees and going off the roadway backwards, landing on the dock, based on reports from the scene.

The California Highway Patrol reported that the collision resulted in no injuries to the driver.

Gary McAuley contributed to this report.

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Northshore Firefighters worked at the scene of a car that landed on a dock near Clearlake Oaks, Calif., on Sunday, October 24, 2010. No injuries were reported in the crash. Photo by Gary McAuley.

Colorful carnival squash from Leonardis Organics of Kelseyville, Calif. Photo by Esther Oertel.


The rains are upon us, there’s a chill in the air and it’s time for the warm, hearty foods that nourish the soul.

I call this time of year my cooking season – it’s when I get most creative in the kitchen – and one of my favorite cool weather foods is the one which takes its name from the latter part of the season: winter squash.

Though winter squashes are planted in the summer, they’re harvested in their mature state, when the skin has hardened into a thick, protective rind. They’re available from August through March; however, they’re at their best in October and November when they’re in season.

They come in a plethora of colors, sizes and shapes, far more than what the typical local supermarket stocks. Unlike their summer relatives, such as zucchini and crookneck squash, they must be cooked before consuming.

We’re most familiar with pumpkins (which are members of the winter squash family) and acorn, butternut or spaghetti squash, but there are some lesser-known varieties.

Sweet dumpling squashes look like what their name suggests – round little dumplings – and their flesh is sweeter and drier than other squashes. The peel is soft enough to be eaten once cooked. Being fairly small, a half squash is equivalent to one portion. They’re typically pale yellow with orange stripes.

Kabocha squash (also known as Japanese squash or Japanese pumpkin) is a round, orange-fleshed squash with a deep green rind that has lighter green striations. Like sweet dumpling squashes, its flesh is sweeter and drier than other squashes. It tastes somewhat like sweet potatoes.

Hubbard squash has a bumpy, dark green rind that reminds me a bit of an avocado, though it has light green stripes. Its flesh is tasty, but its large size and extra thick rind makes it a bit difficult to handle.

The pumpkin-like golden nugget squash (also known as the oriental pumpkin) has a pleasant flavor, but has less flesh than most winter squashes. Like the Hubbard squash, its rind is thick and a bit difficult to cut.




Jim Leonardis' delicata squash. Photo by Esther Oertel.



Delicata squash, with its creamy flesh, is known to be one of the best tasting winter squashes. It’s long and oval shaped, with a light yellow rind that sports dark green horizontal bands. It’s sometimes called the sweet potato squash because of its taste. Choose squashes that are heavy for their size.

Squat, green buttercup squashes are known for their good taste, but may be a bit dry. Like delicata squash, they should be heavy for their size.

Long, large, smooth and yellow, banana squash are often sold in the market precut because of their size. The flesh is a rich golden color, which is beautiful as well as tasty.

Lastly (for purposes of this column) is the aptly named turban squash. With its dramatic two-tiered shape and bright colors, it makes a fantastic centerpiece. Unfortunately, its taste is not as interesting as its presentation, so it’s best used for decoration. When hollowed out, it makes for a nice soup tureen.

The variation in color, shape, size and skin type (grooved, smooth or bumpy) of winter squashes is almost unimaginable. To me, nothing says autumn more than a pile of these bright beauties, whether in a farmers’ field or the local market.

Squash is a member of the same family as melons and cucumbers and has been consumed by man for more than 10,000 years.

Today’s squashes are descendants of the wild squash that originated in an area between Mexico and Guatemala. This ancestor of modern squashes was initially cultivated for its seeds, as there was very little flesh and it was bitter.

Winter squashes are a veritable treasure trove of nutrients, with excellent stores of vitamin A, vitamin C, a variety of B vitamins, potassium, dietary fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. As well, they contain an abundance of beta-carotene, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Because of its thick skin, winter squash typically has a fairly long shelf life and, depending on the variety, can be stored for as long as six months. If picked fresh from the garden or the farmers’ field, the flavor continues to develop for about a month.

Today’s recipe offering is a duet of soups made with one of my favorite go-to winter squashes, butternut. The golden brown, pear-shaped butternut squash has deep orange flesh that adds a rich, buttery, earthy flavor to dishes made with it.

Both soups are made with pears, and I would suggest hurrying to find locally grown pears before they’re gone. Otherwise, supermarket pears will do just fine.

Farmers’ markets are winding down with this Wednesday and Saturday being the last for markets in Lakeport and Kelseyville, respectively, but winter squashes can be purchased directly from local farmers.

Sky Hoyt Specialty Growers of Kelseyville has grown a generous amount of butternut squash this year, and Leonardis Organics, also of Kelseyville, has the last of various interesting types of squash on hand. Hoyt can be reached at 707-279-0859 and call 707-483-4004 for Leonardis.

The first soup includes bacon, a nice accompaniment for winter squash, and the second one is a vegetarian version flavored with crispy sage. Enjoy!

Butternut squash soup with Lake County pears and bacon

6 strips bacon, chopped

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

4 cups chicken broth

4 cups peeled butternut squash cubes (about 1 small to medium squash)

3 large Lake County pears, such as Comice or Bartlett, peeled, cored and cubed

¾ cup chopped celery (3 – 4 ribs)

1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence

1 cup half and half

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Fresh thyme – use whole sprigs or coarsely chopped leaves for garnish

Sauté bacon in large stockpot until crisp, then remove to drain on paper towel.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon bacon grease from pot; add onion and sauté over medium heat until browned.

Add broth, squash, pears and celery to pot. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, until quite tender.

Let cool slightly, then puree mixture until smooth with an immersion blender or in a food processor or blender.

Return back to pot and add herbs and bacon. Simmer for 10 minutes more.

Stir in half and half and season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with thyme sprigs or leaves.


Butternut squash and pear soup with crispy sage

2-3 tablespoons salted butter

A healthy handful of whole, fresh sage leaves (enough to garnish each bowl, plus ten or so leaves for soup)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil (if needed)

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

4 cups vegetable broth

4 cups peeled butternut squash cubes (about 1 small to medium squash)

3 large Lake County pears, such as Comice or Bartlett, peeled, cored and cubed

¾ cup chopped celery (about 2 ribs)

1 cup half and half

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt butter in large stock pot, allowing it to brown.

Add sage leaves and sauté until crisp. Remove leaves from pot with tongs and set aside.

Add onion (and olive oil, if needed) and sauté over medium heat until browned.

Add broth, squash, pears and celery to pot. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, until quite tender.

Let cool slightly, then add about ten sage leaves and puree mixture until smooth with an immersion blender or in a food processor or blender.

Return back to pot and simmer for 10 minutes more. Off heat, stir in half and half and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle into bowls and garnish each with a crispy sage leaf.

Esther Oertel, the "Veggie Girl," is a personal chef and culinary coach and is passionate about local produce. Oertel owns The SageCoach Personal Chef Service and teaches culinary classes at Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake, Calif., and The Kitchen Gallery in Lakeport, Calif. She welcomes your questions and comments; e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Young sweet dumpling squash before developing yellow color. The squash is one of those grown by Jim Leonardis of Kelseyville, Calif. Photo by Esther Oertel.

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