Sunday, 21 July 2024


Lakeport Fire Protection District firefighters work on a blaze that broke out on the morning of Wednesday, February 4, 2009, along Soda Bay Road. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



LAKEPORT – Lakeport firefighters and air quality officials responded to a fire Wednesday morning that may have been a control burn that got away.

The fire, which burned about two acres, was first reported at about 11:30 a.m. east of the 2700 block of Clipper Lane and on the lake side of Soda Bay Road.

Lakeport Fire Protection District sent four engines and a water tender, seven firefighters and Chief Ken Wells. Two Cal Fire personnel from Kelseyville also were on scene.

Lake County Air Quality Management District staff also were on scene to investigate the burn, which officials said appeared to have started out as a control burn.

Two men on scene appeared to have been tending the fire went it got out of control, burning thistle and berry bushes and large tree branches that were being cleared from the land, and spewing thick smoke into the midday sky. A slight breeze from the south southeast may have contributed to the fire getting away.

Wells said they believed the fire had been permitted. If an investigation by air quality and fire officials reveals it wasn't, Wells said the property owners could be held liable for covering firefighting costs. That report could come out next week.

Clipper Lane residents were concerned about the nearby burning field, but Wells said the threat to the homes was reduced by the high humidity.

Lakeport Fire engines returned to the station just past 4 p.m. after getting the fire under control and mopping up.

E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




The fire burned about two acres, fire officials reported. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



ST. HELENA – The Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will conduct prescribed pile burning on BLM property around the community of Berryessa Estates in Napa County starting on Feb. 5, and continuing on rainy days for approximately the next two months.

The prescribed burning will be conducted starting at 10 a.m. and end at 1 p.m. and will be located in and around Berryessa Estates. Smoke from the pile burning may be visible from parts of Napa and Lake counties.

The return of winter moisture will enable Cal Fire personnel to implement the vegetation management tool of prescribed burning for the purpose of burning piles of vegetation that were removed to create a shaded fuel break around the community of Berryessa Estates.

Prescribed vegetation management burns are carefully planned and controlled burns and must meet strict criteria of ecological benefit, weather parameters, smoke management, and fire safety guidelines. When all conditions (prescriptions) are met, trained firefighter’s burn, while monitoring the set criteria, fire behavior, and designated fire control lines.

Shaded fuel breaks are designed to reduce the threat to a community in the event of an unexpected wildland fire by removing shrubs, small trees, and down woody materials, but leaving large overstory trees.

By leaving the larger trees, the fuel break will maintain a higher degree of shade cover, lessening the rapid re-growth associated with direct sunlight and retaining higher fuel moisture in the fuels within the fuel break.

These projects are designed to remove the understory ladder fuels and the dead/down fuels that could become hazardous in case of extreme fire behavior. Shaded fuel breaks are often constructed in strategic areas along roadsides and ridgetops to provide firefighters with improved access to suppress unwanted wildfires and to manage prescribed burns more safely.

For more information about fire safety or prescribed fire and its benefits you may go to the Cal Fire Web site at or your local Cal Fire facility.


CLEARLAKE – A Clearlake man has been arrested for child endangerment following an incident late last week in which he allegedly left his children unattended in a potentially dangerous situation.

Lt. Mike Hermann reported that Clearlake Police officers were dispatched to the Lakeview Terrace Apartments at approximately 10:24 p.m. Jan. 29 after a caller reported hearing his neighbor’s children screaming and crying for the past hour.

When deputies arrived at the apartments, the neighbor advised that he had become concerned for the well-being of the children after he was unable to get an answer at the door, Hermann said.

Officers got to the residence and were able to hear children screaming inside the location but found that the front door had been chained and blocked with an item later determined to be a reclining chair. Hermann said officers made numerous attempts to get someone to come to the door but received no response.

Due to the circumstances, officers made the decision to force entry into the location, Hermann said.

While this was being done, a male subject – identified as 26-year-old Kevin Ray Stone 26 of Clearlake – emerged from the rear bedroom at the location, said Hermann.

During the contact, Stone was determined to be under the influence of marijuana. Hermann said officers also determined that Stone's two children, a 4-year-old boy and a 1-year-old girl, had been left unsupervised while Stone “dozed off” in the rear bedroom.

While searching the apartment, officers found the bathroom door open with a bathtub filled with water and children's toys. Hermann said the floor also was wet, indicating that the children had been playing in and around the water.

Hermann said Stone was arrested on two counts of felony child endangerment, misdemeanor possession of an illegal weapon (a butterfly knife in his pocket) and possession of drug paraphernalia, in this case a glass smoking pipe commonly used for methamphetamine which also was located in the residence.

Stone was later booked into the Lake County Jail on the charges, Hermann said. The children were placed into protective custody by Child Protective Services pending their investigation.

He remained in the Lake County Jail early Tuesday.


WASHINGTON – On Wednesday President Barack Obama signed legislation into law that will provide health care to 11 million children from working families.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was created in 1997 to provide health care coverage for children in families that earn too little to afford health insurance for their children but too much to qualify for Medicaid.

The bill signed by the president Wednesday reauthorizes SCHIP through 2013 and preserves the coverage for all 7.1 million children currently covered by SCHIP, including 1,538,416 children in California and an estimated 1,600 Lake County children.

The bill also extends health care coverage to 4.1 million additional low-income children, who are currently uninsured. The bill is fully paid for.

“This is only the first step,” the president said. “As I see it, providing coverage for 11 million children is a down payment on my commitment to cover every single American.”

Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) was invited and attended the ceremony at the White House.

“Today change came to America as our country took the first major step towards reducing the number of children who don’t have health insurance,” Thompson said in a written statement. “The State Children’s Health Insurance Program has been an extraordinary success – over 1.5 million children in California get their health care through this program. However, over a million and a quarter kids are still uninsured in our state alone- which is just plain wrong.”

By signing the bipartisan bill into law, almost 700,000 uninsured children in California and 4 million uninsured children across the country will now have access to health care, said Thompson. “Our children deserve a healthy start and this legislation gives kids that chance.”

“Passage of SCHIP will result in hundreds of children in Lake County getting the health care they need and deserve,” said Gloria Flaherty, executive director of the Lake Family Resource Center. “This will mean healthier children, families and communities – and peace of mind for parents. We are proud of our congressman for his continued support and dedication to this cause, our president, for making children’s health a priority, and our country for recognizing that children’s health is important to all.”

This bipartisan bill has been endorsed by dozens of organizations, representing millions of Americans – ranging from business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses and Business Roundtable to the American Hospital Association, AARP and Families USA.


LAKE COUNTY – Indian activists from around Lake County and the state will converge in Sacramento on Thursday to shine a spotlight on critical issues facing Indian Country – from disenrollments to corruption on the part of tribal leaders.

The gathering, titled "Tribal corruption is not traditional," will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 5, on the north side of the State Capitol Building, 10th and Street and the Capitol Mall in downtown Sacramento.

United Native Americans Inc. and the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization (AIRRO) are sponsoring the event, whose guest speakers will include Lehman Brightman, founder of United Native Americans Inc.; Wanda Quitiquit, who the Robinson Rancheria Citizens Business Council has targeted for disenrollment, along with her family; John Gomez, president of AIRRO who was himself disenrolled from the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in 2004; Cesar Caballero of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok; Clayton Duncan of the Lucy Moore Foundation and a Robinson Rancheria member; Norman "Wounded Knee" DeOcampo, a disenrolled Miwok from Vallejo; and Ukiah resident Loise Lockhart, another victim of disenrollment.

"Nobody quite understands what's going on in Indian Country," said Quanah Brightman, vice president of United Native Americans Inc., based on the Bay Area.

Brightman, who is Lakota Sioux and Creek, said it's important to get beyond some current myths about Indians to get to the core of the very complex issues facing Indian nations around the country.

For one, he said, it's believed that because of casinos and an exemption from income tax that Indians are rich. “It's the furthest thing from the truth,” he said.

To emphasize that point, Brightman said the gathering is scheduled for Feb. 5, the one-year anniversary of California voters approving gaming compacts between the state and the Pechanga, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

Brightman said one of the event's goals is to give Indian leaders the chance to meet with state legislators and to educate them and the general public about the issue of disenrollment – the increasing practice of tribes kicking out members.

He called disenrollment "the new form of termination" for Indians. "We're becoming extinct," he said.

Disenrollment is having far-reaching, divisive consequences for Robinson Rancheria.

In December, Robinson Rancheria's tribal council disenrolled about 50 of its members. Those who were disenrolled included the Quitiquit family, who supported EJ Crandell for the tribal chair seat in a general election last summer. The sitting tribal chair, Tracey Avila, disputed the election, which was decertified.

Avila said the disenrollments were necessary to clean up the tribal rolls and address the membership of those whose place in the tribe had been questioned.

Last month Avila was reelected without any opposition after Crandell was disqualified from running by the tribe's election committee, largely composed of Avila's family members.

Also in January, the disenrollees formed a rival tribal council, with Crandell at its head. That group is applying to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for recognition.

Because of the Robinson Rancheria tribal constitution, the issue of tribal membership ultimately is up to the BIA, which must now also decide whether or not to grant the disenrollees' appeals and reinstate them in the tribe, which Avila has contended in a previous interview is not up to the agency.

The bureau has weighed in on disenrollments in the tribe previously, such as it did 20 year ago, when Wanda Quitiquit had faced a disenrollment, which the agency found was not warranted based on a study of her genealogy.

Troy Burdick, superintendent of the BIA's Central California Agency, received the appeals from the disenrolled Robinson members and said he forwarded his suggestion to the next level in the agency around mid-January; BIA now has 45 days to make a final decision. He would not disclose what his proposed decision to the higher levels of BIA was.

Dale Risling, BIA's deputy regional director, confirmed his office is at work on the matter.

"We're going to begin our review process of their appeals, which is called for under their tribal law," he said.

He added, "We'll be responding to the tribe with our findings on that and our position."

Another tribe that has a constitution giving the BIA the power to review appeals, the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians of San Diego County, was told by the BIA late last year that the tribe could not move forward with disenrolling about 60 members, as Lake County News has reported.

Brightman said Indian leaders plans to introduce a new state bill on Thursday that will call for an end to the disenrollment practice.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




The history of the world is written almost solely because of pepper. Arabic traders monopolized the distribution of pepper from India where they kept a tight control over its production. They concocted elaborate stories on how difficult pepper was to obtain in order to increase its value and monopolize the market.

Christopher Columbus went in search of a shorter route to ship pepper which landed him on the shores of the New World. When pepper was unavailable or not affordable, substitutions were made with great haste: grains of paradise, papaya seeds, long pepper, Szechwan peppercorns, mountain pepper, pepper grass and, of course, Christopher Columbus’s self-serving grand marketing plan, “Uh, sure, the voyage was a success, I found ‘pepper’!” – chili peppers.

It is said that peppercorns were brought from the east by Alexander the Great in 327 BCE. I don’t put much weight to that story since history tends to give credit to the famous entities rather than the real truth. Marco Polo introducing pasta to Italy is a good example. They had already had it for hundreds of years but it sounds better to credit the romantic heroes rather than Bob the shopkeeper.

Black peppercorns are the unripened berries of a tropical vine. They are picked and allowed to dry in the sun. White peppercorns are the very same berry but soaked in water until the skin disintegrates. Some producers just let the peppercorns sit in the same water until done while others use fresh water every day for a cleaner fresher flavor.

Green peppercorns are black peppercorns that are harvested early and instead of drying are either pickled or freeze dried. They are available dried or still in the brine at specialty markets. Making a Steak au Poivre (peppercorn steak) with brined green peppercorns is a dish fit for the gods!

While 99.99 percent of market peppercorns are under ripe peppercorns processed in various ways, truly ripe peppercorns are available in very limited quantities at preposterously high prices since they are so rare. The cultivation of peppercorns has been dated back more than 3,000 years so there has been plenty of time to experiment with their processing.

Pepper is one of the oldest known spices and had been used as money for centuries. Countries and kingdoms each had different forms of currency which made for difficulty in trade, but pepper was desired everywhere and simplified the exchange rates.

At many times through history peppercorns were more valuable than gold. Pepper was so valuable that in order to increase their profit unscrupulous British vendors fluffed their pepper with numerous fillers, such as charcoal, pencil shavings, papaya seeds, mustard husks and even floor sweepings. An 1875 law forbade the use of these fillers. Currently pepper is the third most used item in recipes, topped only by salt and water.

On occasion trade routes would get closed off and pepper became unavailable in Europe, so the African spice grains of paradise or pepper’s cousin, long pepper, became the replacement at the king’s table. Do YOU want to be the person to tell the king that the most valuable spice in the world isn’t available to HIM?!

If you have a tin of ground pepper on the back of your stovetop then you are cheating yourself. After years of experimenting with peppercorns I have blended my own six peppercorn combination with all of the characteristics that I love. You want to grind your pepper as close to the time of use in order to get the maximum flavor, and purchase your pepper in small quantities to get the utmost freshness. I purchase two ounces of each of my peppercorn favorites, then mix them and put them in my pepper grinder. This supplies me for over a year of heavy use.

My prediction is that someday everyone will have a pepper grinder and will grind their own pepper at home. Just as refrigerators and ovens were once only found in the houses of the very rich but now are commonplace, people who want truly good pepper will find a variety they like or even create their own signature blend and grind their own. Spice merchants even carry peppers that are blended with herbs and spices that can zest up your cooking. Varieties such as black peppercorns with slices of dried garlic, and black and white peppercorns with dried onion flakes are a couple of my favorites.

The flavor of freshly ground pepper is much more fiery and has subtle flavors that are missing in packaged ground pepper. With that said, I do have commercially ground pepper in my kitchen. My wife considers it “comfort food” because she is familiar with it and uses it instead of freshly ground in her cooking. She also prefers the uniform consistency more than the uneven grind that freshly ground gives. But even she will admit that freshly ground has more flavor.

Types of peppercorns

Black peppercorns: There are many locations that produce black pepper and each has its own aromas and flavors, but I’ve found that most of them are very hot with notes of licorice and asphalt. Some descriptions speak of “nuttiness,” “musty” and “earthy” tastes. From there you can find many popular varieties like Lampong, Malabar and Tellicherry (I use Tellicherry in my peppercorn blend).

Green peppercorns: Floral and licorice scented and the floral overtones continue in the flavor and are joined by an immediate, sustained, moderate burn with metallic undertones (as my wife said, “Like eating roses off a steel fork”).

Pink peppercorns: While not actually a member of the pepper family, these have a spicy and floral aroma with a sweet flavor that has a peppery essence with almost no heat, and the final taste has a hint of turpentine. My wife says that they smell like the yucca plant that grew in the yard of her childhood home, but I don’t know what that means. Maybe it will mean something to some of you.

White peppercorns: While not necessarily bad, the odor and flavor has a healthy manure scent and flavor. To be delicate, let’s say it has a fresh barnyard scent to it. The heat is sharp at first, then slowly tapers down but can still be felt minutes later. The manure essence may come from the process where the black peppercorns are actually soaked in water and allowed to rot to remove the skin to become white peppercorns.

Grains of Paradise: Smaller than a peppercorn with a medium brown exterior and a pure white interior, they look like tiny little coconuts when you crack them. In tasting them, the aroma of these grains even has a mild coconut essence. Their flavor is a straight hot fire with very little else. If you really concentrate you can notice a slight group of flavors in the back of your mouth but the burning of you tongue is what captures your attention.

Javanese Comet’s Tail peppercorns: They look just like a regular peppercorn but have a little bit of the stem still attached, giving them their name. They are all flavor with very little fire. Their aroma fills your nose with allspice, nutmeg and cloves, and tasting them brings all those flavors forward. There’s almost no heat, but after a minute a mild camphor-like flavor starts up.

Szechuan peppercorns: The seed of an Asian ash tree, Szechuan peppercorns were illegal in the US for a long time due to fear of spreading a canker virus. Now legal again, they are available at some merchants even here in Lake County. The outer husk of the peppercorn almost reeks of grapefruit, and the flavor of the husk is very citrus-like with a slight hint of mint but no heat. The inner bead of the peppercorn has no flavor and a sandy texture. Most people consider the husk the only usable part of the seed. The spelling of the Chinese province from which the peppercorns originate varies between Szchuan, Szechwan and Sichuan (maybe others, too). The spelling I use in this description is right off of the package I have, though I usually spell it Szechwan.

Tasmanian “mountain” pepper: Not actually related to true pepper, the berries come from a shrub native to Tasmania and the whole Micronesian area. The leaves from this group of plants are also used to add peppery flavors to local dishes where it is native. The leaves and peppercorns are both known to have antimicrobial properties. Due to their unique and heavily peppery flavor, essence of spice, sweetness, and mild tongue numbing sensation, they are increasing in popularity in the culinary community.

Long pepper: Not a peppercorn like the others, is a dried catkin (flower cluster) of a plant closely related to pepper. Hotter than regular peppercorns, it also contains a sweet aspect. Because the catkin is larger in size than average peppercorns, it can’t be used in a pepper blend in a grinder very well as it will separate out of the mixture. It can be ground up in the palm of your hands. It is a very inexpensive variety to begin branching out and experimenting with.

Even though I could go on for pages and pages about pepper, its history, future and all the different varieties, I’m going to end now so you can go out and try your own peppercorn tasting.

In the recipe below, you may have concerns about the amount of pepper on the steaks making them too hot to eat, but the act of cooking the peppercorns on the steaks actually makes the spiciness milder in the final product.

Steak au Poivre


2 steaks of your favorite cut, preferably lower fat and thick cut

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoon pickled green peppercorns (other peppercorns can be used but will taste different)

1/2 cup apple jack, brandy, or cognac, (your favorite dark hard liquor)

1 cup cream

3 tablespoon vegetable oil

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to one hour prior to cooking. Sprinkle all sides with salt. While some people think this will dry out the meat it actually can be called dry brining. The salt pulls the moisture out of the meat where it mixes with the salt, becomes a saltwater brine and then is reabsorbed into the meat. It also allows the meat to get a better sear to it.

While the meat is doing this necromancy, remove the peppercorns from the jar and drain them on some paper towels. In a mortar and pestle (or whatever your favorite way is) crush the peppercorns without completely pulverizing them. Spread the peppercorns on both sides of the steaks and press them in firmly.

Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan or cast iron skillet on high. Put the steaks in the pan and press them in for good contact and reduce the heat to medium. Cook to whatever degree of doneness you prefer, but try not to exceed five minutes per side or the meat will start to dry out. Gently remove the steaks from the pan and set aside to rest.

Add the alcohol to the pan and let heat for a moment and then shake the pan to agitate. The juices in the pan may ignite, so don’t attempt to stir with a spoon or whisk. Flaming the alcohol isn’t necessary to the process; it will dissipate on its own through the rest of the cooking. After the liquid has reduced slightly, add the cream and whisk until combined. Again reduce the mixture until slightly thickened. Season the sauce with salt to taste and serve over the steaks.

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.


NICE – A collision Wednesday evening resulted in a child being transported to a Bay Area hospital.

The collision occurred just before 8 p.m. at Highway 20 and Howard in Nice, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Initial reports indicated a vehicle struck a child on a bicycle.

REACH air ambulance lifted off at about 8:44 p.m. en route to Children's Hospital of Oakland, according to the CHP.

No other information was available late Wednesday.

Harold La Bonte contributed to this report.


Eddie Llewellyn, right, and his brother Joey show off some of their educational certificates. Eddie was one of several local students who scored perfectly on the math portion of the STAR test last year. Photo courtesy of Bill and Minsook Llewellyn.






LAKE COUNTY – Amidst the fairly glum news facing education today – severe financial cutbacks, teacher and staff layoffs, and an all-around assault on resources – it's important to remember one thing: Children are still learning, thanks to the hard work of parents and teachers.

In fact, some children are learning very well, and showing incredible aptitudes in some tough subjects.

One example is mathematics. The county is home to numerous elementary school students who last year did particularly well on California's Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test, hitting perfect 600 scores on the math portion.

This past year, the districts reported the following perfect scores in the elementary ranks: Konocti Unified, four, Lakeport Unified, two; Kelseyville Unified, five; Lucerne Unified Elementary, one. None were reported in Upper Lake Elementary, and information on perfect-scoring students was not made available from Middletown Unified.

Most of the districts do not divulge names, however, in Lucerne, the star STAR student was second grader Elizabeth McIntire, now 8, who was 7 when she took the test, the district reported.

Students in Konocti Unified were honored for their achievement last November at a school board meeting, where they received commendation certificates, plus bouquets of flowers for the girls.

Two of Konocti's top performers were 10-year-old Kayla Curtis and 12-year-old Eddie Llewellyn. Both are students in Rachel McFarland's sixth grade class at Lower Lake Elementary. The two students were fifth graders when they took the test.

McFarland said the STAR test is an evaluation of how well students meet their grade level standards, after working hard on them all year.

“Getting a perfect score is really a phenomenal thing,” she said.

A second-year teacher, McFarland said other students at the school also have had stellar achievement on the test -- including Maya Griffin, who got a perfect STAR test math score when she was only a third grader (she's in fifth grade now).



Eddie Llewellyn and Kayla Curtis, front row, at a November meeting of the Konocti Unified School District Board of Trustees. Photo courtesy of Steve and Mandy Curtis.



McFarland is very proud and complimentary of her students.

She said she will teach a lesson to the class, then assign the students work for the rest of the class period. Eddie usually is the first one done.

“He really is an extraordinary kid – a diligent worker,” McFarland said.

Eddie said math is his favorite subject, which helped him get that perfect STAR test score, no mean feat considering the questions can be pretty tough.

Although he's an all-around good student, some subjects aren't quite in the favorite category, such as English and history, which he called “a little not fun.”

He's also musical, having started taking the saxophone last March and the piano in the summer.

Eddie has a fraternal twin brother, Joey – Eddie emphasizes that he's the older twin – who also is good at math, plays the keyboards and clarinet, plus is the school's spelling bee champion, said McFarland. Spelling, said Eddie, is another one of those not fun subjects.

He said he thinks he'd like to attend the University of California, Davis, for college in the future.

Eddie and his brother live with their parents, Bill and Minsook Llewellyn – plus a dog, fish and cats – in Clearlake. When he isn't acing tests, Eddie also enjoys playing video games and baseball, taking Tae Kwon Do classes, and playing in the school music program's new rock and roll band, along with Joey.

Bill Llewellyn said both boys have attended Lower Lake Elementary since preschool.

“And it's a heck of a chore to get either one out of bed in the morning or to tidy up their room; but I'm not complaining,” he said.



Eddie Llewellyn receives congratulations from the Konocti Unified School District Board of Trustees in November 2008. Photo courtesy of Steve and Mandy Curtis.



Working at a higher level

McFarland said she doesn't have Kayla for math lessons.

Instead, the 10-year-old walks next door to Lower Lake High School, where she takes algebra with the high schoolers, said McFarland.

“She was on the radar last year for doing really superb work,” said McFarland.

So McFarland said Lower Lake Elementary Principal Greg Mucks decided he wanted to do something different when it came to challenging Kayla, who had already skipped a grade.

That's when they decided to let her try high school algebra. McFarland said when she asks Kayla about how her daily lessons are, her one-word response usually is, “Easy.”

Keeping gifted students interested and not bored is a challenge for educators, said McFarland, who explained that her approach is to focus students toward the high end of achievement, to give them something to shoot for. Every class, she said, has a wide variety of aptitudes, which is what makes teaching a challenging profession.

Kayla's parents, Steve and Mandy Curtis of Lower Lake, said Kayla has always been intellectually precocious.

“She talked real early, she did everything real early,” said Mandy Curtis.

Steve Curtis said his wife read to Kayla nonstop when she was a baby. Mandy Curtis' mom wrote Kayla little books, and with all of that encouragement – plus a little help from Dr. Seuss – the youngster figured out how to read on her own. By the time she got to kindergarten, she could read to her class.

Kayla's first-grade teacher was perplexed about what to do with her, so the Curtises said their daughter did first and second grade at the same time.

“Her teachers have been really, really great about challenging her,” Mandy Curtis said, adding that the teachers are encouraging Kayla to try new things.

Kayla is a straight-A student whose particular strengths are math and science, and who does extra credit. “It's hard to keep her from not being bored,” Mandy Curtis said.



Kayla Curtis also was honored by the Konocti Unified School District Board of Trustees in November 2008 for achieving a perfect math score on the STAR test. Photo courtesy of Steve and Mandy Curtis.



Her parents say she's always starving for new tests when it comes to math. When she was little, she was constantly asking them to make up math tests for her.

“She still does that,” said Steve Curtis, who called his daughter “his little calculator.”

Kayla's skills also extend to writing, and now she's getting into sports, particularly soccer and basketball, and is clog dancing as well, the Curtises said. Her younger brother, Cole, who is 8, also is a good student and excels in math.

Her parents say Kayle has mentioned all sort of possible future careers, including nursing and medicine – she loves to watch documentaries on surgeries, and has never been squeamish. “She likes the gross stuff,” Mandy Curtis said.

Kayla's gifts also have presented her and her family with a dilemma. She is so advanced that Mucks has suggested sending her straight to high school, where her parents said it's estimated she could finish in as little as a year and a half.

“We're trying to keep her a kid as long as we can,” said Steve Curtis, who noted that he doesn't want a Doogie Howser, referring to the television show about the boy genius who becomes a doctor when only a young teenager.

“The hardest thing I think is not putting her forward,” Steve Curtis admits.

However, she and her parents are in agreement that it's more important to let her just be a kid – albeit a really, really smart one – for the time being. That means letting the very social Kayla stay with her friends – who she doesn't want to leave – and grow along with them.

McFarland gives a big helping of praise to her star students' parents, who she called “fantastic” for their level of encouragement and support.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


I wanted to put together in one spot all the food and wine events going on around the county so people could see that this is a happening place.

Print this calendar of events and stick in on your fridge so you’ll always have something to do. Thanks to those of you who let me know what’s coming up. I’ll be posting lists of events at the end of each month for the following month, and I encourage you all to get out there and have a good time.

Reservations may be required for some of these events so please call the contact number before making plans to attend any of these events. On this calendar the date is listed first followed by the name of the event, the location, time, special information, and contact number.

Feb. 1: Brunch in the Garden at the Blue wing, Upper Lake. 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dan Meyer is performing Latin Jazz. 707-275-2244.

Feb. 2: Monday Blues at the Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Blues Farm is performing. 707-275-2244.

Feb. 6: Meet the Winemaker, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dennis Malbec and Kaj Ahlmann of Six Sigma. 707-275-2244.

Feb. 6: Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, Upper Lake. 6 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. 707-275-8030.

Feb. 6: First Friday Fling, Main Street Gallery, Lakeport. Art, music, hors d’oeuvres, and wine. 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. 707-263-6658.

Feb. 7: Meet the Winemaker, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Matt Hughes of Zoom Wines. Dishes specifically designed to match with Zoom wines will be served. 707-275-2244.

Feb. 7: Crab Feed, Clearlake Oaks Moose Lodge. 5 p.m. Sixth annual crab dinner including pasta, salad and French bread, with no host bar. $35 per person. 707-998-3740.

Feb. 7: Young Chef’s Class, Chic Le Chef, Hidden Valley Lake, 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Cooking class for children. Call for more details; 707-987-9664.

Feb. 8: Brunch in the Garden at the Blue wing, Upper Lake. 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Will Siegel & Friends performing. 707-275-2244.

Feb. 9: Monday Blues at the Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Lake Blues All Stars will be performing. 707-275-2244.

Feb. 13: Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, Upper Lake. 6 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. 707-275-8030.

Feb. 14: Third annual Lake County Wine and Chocolate Event, Kelseyville. Noon to 4 p.m. Chocolate and wine pairings, with the proceeds going to the Lake Family Resource Center. $35 in advance, $40 at the door. 707-262-1611.

Feb. 14: Valentine’s Day at the Blue Wing, Upper Lake. Tom Ganoung will be performing on the piano. 707-275-2244.

Feb. 15: Brunch in the Garden at the Blue wing, Upper Lake. 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Elena Casanova and Tom Aiken will be performing. 707-275-2244.

Feb. 16: Monday Blues at the Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Twice As Good will be performing. 707-275-2244.

Feb. 20: Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, Upper Lake. 6 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. 707-275-8030.

Feb. 21: Oyster and Sauvignon Blanc Pairing, Moore Family Winery, Kelseyville. $20 includes oysters, logo glass and wine. 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. 707-738-0507.

Feb. 21: The second annual Venetian Carnival Masquerade Party, Rosa d’Oro Tasting Room, Kelseyville. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Best mask wins a prize. $5 includes food and wine. RSVP before Feb. 18. 707-279-0483.

Feb. 21: Ducks Unlimited Benefit Banquet, Middletown Lions Club. Opens at 6 p.m.. dinner at 7 p.m. and auction at 8 p.m. Advance ticket purchase is required. 707-994-3474.

Feb. 21: Clearlake Rotary Third Annual Seafood Boil and Auction, Clearlake Community Senior Center, 3245 Bowers Road. 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. All-you-can-eat dinner with salad, bread, tri-tip, lobster, crab, shrimp, fish, clams, mussels, crayfish, sausages, corn-on-the-cob, potatoes and dessert. Dinner includes two drink tickets. Auction to follow. Sponsored by and benefit for the Rotary Club of Clearlake. Admission $60 per person. Info: 707-994-5650.

Feb. 21: Wine Release Party, Tulip Hill Winery, 4900 Bartlett Springs Road (just off Highway 20), Nice. 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. New wines paired with seasonal foods featured from cookbooks available in the tasting room. Admission fee $5 for the general public, free to wine club members. 707-274-9373.

Feb. 21: Young Chefs class, Chic Le Chef, Hidden Valley Lake, 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Cooking class for children of all ages. Call for more details; 707-987-9664.

Feb. 22: Sauce making class at Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake. 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Call 707-987-9664 for details.

Feb. 22: Brunch in the Garden at the Blue wing, Upper Lake. 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jim Williams on guitar and vocals will be performing. 707-275-2244.

Feb. 23: Monday Blues at the Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Memphis Exchange will be performing. 707-275-2244.

Feb. 27: Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, Upper Lake. 6 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. 707-275-8030.

Feb. 27: Bob Culbertson performing on the Chapman Stick, Tallman Hotel, Upper Lake. Barney Fetzer will pour Ceago wines for the evening. Information and tickets to this event can be obtained by calling the Tallman Hotel reception desk. The cost for the reception and concert is $40. 707-275-2244.

Feb. 28: Young Chef’s Class, Chic Le Chef, Hidden Valley Lake, 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Cooking class for children. Call for more details; 707-987-9664.

Ongoing activities

Langtry Estate and Vineyard Tours, Middletown

Langtry Estate and Vineyard is offering exciting and innovative tour programs. Guests ride in battery-operated Global Electric Motorcars. Tours are offered Tuesday through Saturday. The Tephra Vineyard Lunch Tours are offered at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. $40 per person includes lunch and wine tasting. 21000 Butts Canyon Road. Reservations required 24 hours in advance. Info: 707-987-2385.

Tuscan Village Friday Concert Series, Main Street, Lower Lake

Live music, food, wine tasting. Presented by 2Goombas and Terrill Cellars. 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Info: 707-994-3354.

Beer Master Dinner Series, Molly Brennan’s 175 N. Main St., Lakeport. Second Tuesday of each month, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Different brewery featured each month, with beers paired with each course of a five-course meal including dessert. Advance reservations required. Info: 707-262-1600

If you have a food or wine related event and would like to have it listed in the coming months, please feel free to call Ross at 707-998-9550.


MANCHESTER – Mendocino County officials are investigating the suspicious circumstances behind the death of a Kelseyville man.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported Tuesday that the body of Brian Richard Siberry, 41, was discovered in a rental cabin at the Manchester KOA Campground on Jan. 25.

Deputies were dispatched to the campground, located on Kinney Lane, shortly before 6 p.m. that day on the report of an injured person, according to Lt. Rusty Noe.

When they arrived at the scene they found Siberry deceased inside one of the rental cabins located on the campground premises. Noe reported that deputies noticed what appeared to be fresh injuries to Siberry's face and head, suggesting he had been the victim of a physical assault.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Detective Unit was summoned and detectives responded to the campground, according to Noe. Upon arrival detectives processed the cabin, wherein Siberry was located, for items of evidence and numerous interviews were conducted of possible witnesses.

Noe said a forensic autopsy was conducted on Siberry's body by the Mendocino County pathologist on Jan. 27. The preliminary results of the autopsy showed blunt force trauma to Siberry's face but his cause of death is pending blood alcohol and toxicology analysis.

Detectives have learned Siberry had been staying in the rental cabin with a friend for two weeks preceding his death, said Noe.

During the two-week period Siberry was contacted several times by persons working or staying at the campground. Noe said witnesses described Siberry has having been extremely intoxicated by alcoholic beverages, having poor balance and sustained accidental falls to the ground.

Witnesses described seeing the physical injury to Siberry's face the day prior to his death and hours before his death, Noe reported.

Noe said information collected to date suggests the injury to Siberry's face was caused by an accidental fall but detectives are continuing to investigation the incident.

Anyone with information that can assist with this investigation is asked to call the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Tip-Line at 467-9159.


LAKEPORT – A Willits woman remains in the Lake County Jail after allegedly being found in possession of a stolen vehicle, endangering a child and attempting to evade arrest.

Rachel Elizabeth Gregg, 23, was arrested by Lake County Sheriff's deputies last Saturday night following an incident at Konocti Vista Casino outside of Lakeport.

Captain James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported Monday that two deputies were completing a security check at the casino at about 10:20 p.m. Jan. 31 when they observed Gregg driving slowly around the casino parking lot in the dark with only her parking lights on.

Suspecting Gregg may be driving while impaired, the deputies attempted to conduct an enforcement stop on the vehicle, said Bauman.

As Gregg continued to drive around the parking lot, allegedly ignoring the deputies emergency lights and siren, sheriff’s dispatch reported the 1992 Toyota Camry Gregg was driving was reported stolen earlier that day in Willits, Bauman reported.

With Gregg continuing to refuse to yield to the deputies’ lights, one of the patrol vehicles was maneuvered in front of the stolen vehicle to force it to stop, Bauman said.

Once stopped, deputies approached the stolen vehicle on foot and found there was an infant child in the front passenger seat, said Bauman. The deputies ordered Gregg out of the car but she just shook her head and drove off again.

Bauman said Gregg continued to evade the deputies as she exited the casino parking lot and led them onto Soda Bay Road, turning onto Yellow Hammer Lane, and then onto Red Feather Lane where she was forced to stop at the cul-de-sac. Gregg immediately took the infant, later identified to be her 11-month-old daughter, and exited the car.

After Gregg initially refused to surrender the child to deputies, they were able to safely take the child from her and after a brief attempt to resist their attempt to arrest her, she was taken into custody without further incident, said Bauman.

During a routine search incident to Gregg’s arrest, deputies located a purse and cell phone in the back of the car that had been reported stolen from a parked vehicle a very short distance away on Meadow Drive earlier that evening. Bauman said a credit card belonging to the owner of the stolen vehicle was also retrieved from Gregg’s pants pocket.

Gregg was booked at the Lake County Jail for felony possession of a stolen vehicle, felony possession of stolen property, felony child endangerment, felony evading a peace officer, and misdemeanor resisting arrest.

She remains in custody with bail set at $25,000. Bauman said her 11-month-infant daughter was turned over to Child Protective Services.


T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.


I received an email from a colleague this week that contained a job posting from Caltrans about an open exam for the position of toll collector. I chuckled a bit upon receiving the notice. You see, I was a toll collector on the SFOBB from for about eight years starting in 1984. Back when the toll was a whopping 75 cents!

For the superstitious and/or the faint of heart, you may take solace in the fact that on Oct. 17, 1989, your CyberSoulMan was ensconced inside Toll Booth number 13 when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit. As you can tell, I’ve lived a few seasons since then.

I’d like to share with you some memories I have of famous folks I’ve tolled. For those of you born since Loma Prieta, you may not recognize some of these names I’m about to drop. You may take notes from this soliloquy on celebrity nuances from a guy that had his hand out. It’s just a humorous look at how some past Bay Area notables, forked it over at the Bay Bridge.


Joe Alioto cruises up in a silver Volvo. We smile hello. A $100 bill is proffered.

“Nobody would break it in Oakland,” he sheepishly explains. He thanks me as he eases toward the metering lights, out of reach of my voice.

“Hush, Mr. Mayor, methinks,” chiding him telepathically, you’re still in Oakland!


Accomplished artist and poet Maya Angelou whizzed up to my booth well before midnight one New Year's Eve past. My literary jealousies flared up, then subsided when somehow my cerebral muse of logic informed me that I was graced with the presence greatness. I gladly pay her toll. She’s flattered. Now, I too know why the caged bird sings …


I became cordial with several Bay Area television news journalists who passed through my booth. Anybody remember Van Amburg? He was polite and tight. In the days of the 75 cents toll, he never said, as blue collar people frequent did, “Keep the change.”

Gary Radnich was cool. He’d sail through in his Jag, wearing those dark, dark Ray Bans. He’d always joke that he couldn’t talk to me if I was wearing shades …

Bob McKenzie from Channel 2 News has the distinction of being the only famous person I had in the lane with no funds. People sometimes ask, “Whaddya do when someone has no money?”

We’d write what were called No Fund slips which were agreements to pay within five days. While I was writing his, McKenzie told me a great Jamaican Blue Mountain story. It wasn’t about the coffee …


I had taken actor Danny Glover’s toll three times before I recognized him. He’d hide behind the sun visor. Didn’t want to be recognized. I got him though.

“Excuse me. Mr. Glover? Danny Glover the actor?”

He nods.

“Excuse me sir, but you don’t have to hide. I just want to tell you that I enjoy your work.”

He grins.

“Thanks. See you later …”


I’ll never forget the Sunday morning I was taking toll when, in the distance I spy a yellow Rolls Royce creeping cautiously up to my booth. Lo and behold – Richard Pryor, white knuckles and all. He was gripping that steering wheel so tightly that power steering fluid was oozing from his hands!

He nervously asked me for directions to Highway 1. I shook his hand twice. He had a very fine young lady, kind of semi reclined in the back seat. She was like, posing for a photo shoot. The camera was the back of Richard’s head.

RIP, Mr. Pryor ...


The great Rock drummer and vocalist “Machine Gun” Buddy Miles was so surprised that I recognized him that he almost lost control of his gold-packaged, white Benz for a moment.

I was so intrigued by the way he intoned the phrase, “HOWAREYA,” into one word that I inserted it into my toll collecting vocabulary and used it hundreds of times daily.


Jazz songstress Kitty Margolis has personalized plates that say, “Scat It.” When she drove up, some hard bop just happened to be on the radio in my booth. Noticing the plates, I said, “Can you scat to that?” She couldn’t hear it, though I turned up the volume. Too much noise. But she tried. She’s good …


Big El Dorado with a Southern California license plate frame. Middle-aged guy with a curl and receding hairline. Hey, it’s electric saxophonist Eddie Harris. I recognize him just as the toll transaction is complete. I call his name. His face lights up as he eases toward the city …


A tale of two beamers

MC Hammer’s beamer came through my lane once. He wasn’t driving, nor was he a passenger …

Mr. October Reggie Jackson’s beamer almost flew through my toll lane. I thought I was an air traffic controller for a moment. CyberSoulTower to Reggie, come in please. There’s a flashing red light here. You’ve got to stop. Thanks buddy.

Alas, the twisted portals through which we beam!

And speaking of baseball, All-Star second baseman Joe Morgan sat for hours one morning, stuck in the mud off the frontage road adjacent to the toll plaza. I think it was some kind of weird Hall of Fame ritual …


Car pooling is not conducive to everyone’s psyche. It should be, but some people have to ride solo.

One person who rode solo through my booth was the legendary New York Yankee, Joe DiMaggio. Do you recall the somber face the camera would pan to at major baseball events? Could you car pool with someone who deadpanned like that? What would you talk about? None of my business.


And finally ...

Powerful California politician Willie Brown would drive up in a hurry, frequently with a scowl on his face and literally try to seemingly take my hand off when he paid the toll. It was like a bad marriage. The more I tried to be polite, the ruder he acted.

Power is hard to fathom sometimes. I think he should have car pooled with Angela Davis. She was an excellent toll payer …


That’s it for now. The incidents just described were real once upon a time. As is the notice to apply for the toll collector job. The deadline is Feb. 3. Check with Caltrans. And if you get the job, try not to breathe the fumes. Pretty damn toxic.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

Don’t forget Morris Day & The Time at Cache Creek Casino on Valentine's Day at 8 p.m.

The Teeny Tucker interview will be rebroadcast on on Tuesday, Feb. 3. Name of the Show? In Blues Spot. It airs from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The interview airs at 3 p.m.

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


Upcoming Calendar

07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

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