Sunday, 21 July 2024


CLEARLAKE OAKS – The Clearlake Oaks County Water District Board will hold a special meeting Thursday to select a new director.

The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at the district's office, 12952 E. Highway 20.

Last month, longtime board member Pat Shaver resigned shortly after community members began to call for her removal from the board at a particularly heated public meeting to discuss a potential rate hike, as Lake County News has reported.

Within days of Shaver's resignation, board Vice President Mike Anisman and President Helen Locke also tendered their resignations. Both had said in previous interviews that the district's serious financial condition had come as a total surprise to them after they were seated earlier this year.

Anisman's resignation became effective Sept. 5; Locke's originally was to have taken effect Sept. 5 as well.

However, that was going to leave the board without a quorum and hamper its ability to choose new directors to fill the vacant slots, so Locke pushed back her resignation date and will stay to help choose Shaver's replacement, which is the purpose of Thursday's meeting.

Four candidates have expressed interest in succeeding Shaver – Mike Benjamin, who has served in various public service capacities in the city of Wheatland; Bob White, a former board member who lost his reelection bid last November, the same time as Locke, Anisman and Frank Toney were elected; Dena Barron, owner of Lake Village Estates; and Lowell Estep, who works for Highlands Water District.

Locke told Lake County News Tuesday that the board will interview the four candidates during the special meeting and then make a decision. The board also will consider adopting a resolution to change signatures on two bank accounts.

She said the board is still finding out the protocol for how it must appoint new directors to take the seats she and Anisman are vacating. Those replacements aren't expected to be named Thursday.

Estep said Tuesday he became interested in joining the board after he heard about their original rate hike proposal, which suggested 39.4-percent increases for both sewer and water.

In his role at Highlands Water, Estep takes care of the district's pipes, so he understands how a water district operates.

He said it's important to get audits of the district's books done so informed decisions can be made.

Estep also suggested that it's important to do one's homework before going to a board meeting “screaming and yelling,” such as what happened at the rate hike meeting last month.

On Tuesday the district's recently formed finance committee met for the first time. Toney, who spearheaded the group in order to put more focus on managing the district's budget, said the meeting went well.

In addition to choosing a new director, the board is expected to adopt a previously approved resolution to change the district's meetings from 3 p.m. on the third Wednesday to 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month.

Directors agreed last month to move the meetings to encourage more public participation.

If that resolution is finalized Thursday, the district board will hold its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 18.

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



LAKEPORT – A San Francisco man is facing more than four years in state prison after being sentenced for a burglary and assault with a firearm in a 2005 incident in Clearlake Park.

Renato Hughes Jr., 24, was sentenced Monday afternoon by Judge Arthur Mann.

He was convicted last month of burglary and assault with a firearm; at the same time, he was acquitted of two homicide counts he faced under the provocative act, and robbery and attempted murder charges, as Lake County News has reported. A charge of causing great bodily injury resulted in a hung jury.

The prosecution alleged that Hughes and two friends, Christian Foster and Rashad Williams, had broken into the Clearlake Park home of Shannon Edmonds and Lori Tyler in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 2005, planning to steal Edmonds' medical marijuana.

Tyler's son, Dale Lafferty, then 17, was assaulted with a baseball bat and left with permanent brain injuries.

Mann said that, because of the violence of the burglary, he was sentencing Hughes to the upper term of six years in prison with a one-year enhancement for the burglary, plus another year for the assault charge, which was a mid-term sentence for that crime

In all Hughes received an eight-year prison sentence, according to Mann. With time served and a 15-percent time credit, he should face just over four years in state prison.

Following the hearing, which lasted more than an hour, Hughes' attorneys, Stuart Hanlon and Sara Rief, said they expected Hughes to appeal the conviction and sentence.

Hughes' case has generated significant attention in the nearly three years it's been under way, in part because he was being tried for two homicides he didn't commit.

Edmonds shot Foster and Williams as they ran from his home but has never been charged. Hughes was charged with the murder under the provocative act doctrine, which held him responsible for the deaths because he was alleged to have taken part in a crime with a possible lethal result.

Hanlon had argued that Edmonds was a drug dealer and had killed the men in a drug deal gone wrong.

In making the sentencing decision, Mann considered a 22-page probation report, victim impact statements by Tyler and Lafferty's grandmother, Deborah Besley, and arguments by Hanlon and District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

Reading her statement before the court, Tyler thanked Hopkins for “bringing out the truth” of the case.

She said she didn't have feelings of hatred for Hughes but believed that, if one of the men involved had spoken up, the incident that led to her son's near-fatal beating and the deaths of Foster and Williams could have been avoided.

"Dale was a wonderful young man with a great future and everything going for him," she said.

Today, he has to have 24-hour daycare after suffering eight skull fractures during the incident. Tyler said he had to have surgery to remove part of his brain in order to survive.

"The counselor told me that I have lost my son," she said, adding when she took him home after his hospitalization, it was like bringing home a 170-pound infant.

She and Edmonds are no longer together, and she said she has trouble sleeping at night, sometimes getting up to check the doors and windows.

"You never dream that anything this horrible cold ever happen to you," said Tyler, asking Mann for the strictest sentence.

Reading her statement, Besley said Hughes, Williams and Foster made the decision to take away her grandson's future.

"This is not a crime of race, this is a crime of burglary and assault," she said.

She asked Hughes, "Renato, do you have any idea what you have done to Dale and his family?" Hughes looked up at her from the defense table as she asked the question.

Besley said it costs $48,000 a month to care for Lafferty at a special care home more than 400 miles away.

She, too, asked the court for the maximum sentence. "Why should you get all the opportunities that Dale will never get?" she said to Hughes.

As Besley was speaking, Hughes' sister, sitting in the audience, said, "He didn't do anything," which she repeated as Besley turned to return to her seat.

Hopkins relayed to the court a brief statement from Edmonds, who said he whole life was ruined as a result of the incident, adding it has impacted his 11-year-old daughter.

Edmonds was not present at the sentencing. On Saturday, he was arrested by Clearlake Police on a drunk and disorderly charge, but has since been released from jail, according to jail records.

The families of Foster and Williams are suing Edmonds and Tyler in federal court, a case expected to come to trial next year, as Lake County News has reported.

Prosecution, defense debate sentencing

Hughes himself took the chance to speak to the judge during the hearing, appealing to Mann's sense of fairness.

“I stand by my innocence in this whole ordeal,” said Hughes, who noted he has been incarcerated for 33 months.

If he could give Lafferty back his life and bring back Foster and Williams, Hughes said he would.

He said he looks forwarding to having positive opportunities once he's released, including going to college and becoming “a productive and contributing member of society.”

He said he wouldn't continue to be degraded and humiliated by the accusations against him. “Only God can judge me.”

Hughes said he looks forward to being home with his young daughter.


Hanlon told Mann that he had objections to the probation report, and he also faulted Hopkins for statements he's made about the jury verdict in the media.

He said the fact that Hughes was acquitted of most of the charges keeps getting lost. “Those acquittals define the facts.”

Hanlon said the jury found that Hughes was not responsible for Lafferty's injuries, and asked that the entire probation report be stricken due to its lack of impartiality.

Hopkins asserted that the facts of the case still remain, and then discussed previous convictions on Hughes' record. When the 2005 incident happened, Hughes was on probation for driving under the influence, said Hopkins. Hughes also has a conviction for having marijuana for sale.


The probation officer who prepared the report for the sentencing interviewed Hughes, whose statements differ from those he made on the witness stand during the trial, said Hopkins. The report, he said, quoted Hughes as saying the police planted his blood in Edmonds' house to link him to the scene, “which is patently ridiculous,” said Hopkins.

As Hopkins began to recount testimony Hughes gave in court, Hanlon said he objected to an attempt to retry the case. Mann overruled the objection.

Mann said he didn't consider Hughes' prior record significant. However, Williams and Foster inflicted significant injury during the incident, which Mann said demonstrated planning and professionalism.


Hopkins asserted that the burglary was particularly brutal. “Someone had a shotgun, someone had a hammer, and a melee broke out.”

Hanlon responded that Hughes' level of involvement, which was “some sort of aid and abet” and not the murders or use of the bat, called for no more than a midterm sentence with no enhancements, for a total of four years.

Mann said he gave no weight to the two homicides because the jury found Hughes not guilty and Edmonds was “integrally involved.”

“I do find that there was great violence in this burglary,” said Mann, which led him to conclude it merited the upper term.

After handing Hughes the sentence, Mann explained his right to appeal. The appeal must be filed with the Superior Court within 60 days.

He asked Hughes if he had any questions about the sentence. Hughes only responded, “At least I'm not getting life” which is what he would have faced had he been convicted of the homicide charges.

Hopkins informed the court that he would not seek to retry Hughes on the single charge of assault causing great bodily injury, which had resulted in a hung jury.

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


CLSPIA President Madelene Lyon signs the contract for the new outdoor education pavilion at Clear Lake State Park. Courtesy photo.


KELSEYVILLE – On Aug. 23, the Clear Lake State Park Interpretive Association (CLISPIA) signed a contract with the California Conservation Corp to build an outdoor education pavilion.

Led by CLSPIA President Madelene Lyon, the board of directors has been raising funds to build this unique structure for more than three years.

The cooperation of the financially struggling California State Parks with CLSPIA and the local community has finally paid off. The contract has been signed and the groundbreaking ceremony is set.

The outdoor education pavilion has long been a dream of the volunteers and staff at Clear Lake State Park.

This structure will allow the hundreds of children and adults who already explore the Visitor Center museum and trails of Clear Lake State Park to enjoy more outdoor activities in an open-sided, sheltered area. The ability to observe creekbed organisms under microscopes, participate in ancient cultural activities, explore local flora and fauna will become a reality for students and other park visitors.

Groundbreaking will take place on Oct. 4 at the “Wild Affair In Your Park” celebration.

This groundbreaking event will showcase local wines, cuisine, musical talent and the outdoor adventures that the future pavilion will provide.

“In the 22 years that I worked at Clear Lake State Park, I have been dreaming of this type of outdoor education classroom,” said retired Ranger Val Nixon. “I am very excited about expanding the environmental education programs at Clear Lake State Park. I look forward to volunteering with the children's programs and using this facility. ”

For reservations for A Wild Affair in Your Park please call 279-4395.


LAKECOUNTY – It may be OK to rescue California Redemption Value (CRV) beverage containers from a public garbage can but it is definitely not OK to remove any recyclable material from a recycling container or drop off location, says one county official.

Jackie Armstrong of Lake County Public Services said theft of recyclables can be classified as misdemeanor or infraction, but if the recycling agent elects to pursue civil action, the court may award damages three times the value of the stolen recyclables up to $2,000 for a first offense and $5,000 for a second offense.

Most people agree that local scavengers are performing a service when they remove recyclable materials from garbage cans, said Armstrong – after all, no one wants to see recyclable materials taking up space in the landfill.

But she said it's another matter entirely to remove recyclable materials, including CRV containers, from recycling containers, including residential curbside totes, or a drop off recycling location.

According to California Public Resources Code Section 41950, once recyclable materials have been segregated from solid waste materials and placed in recycling containers or at a designated recycling collection location, the recyclable materials become the property of the authorized recycling agent (i.e. garbage company), Armstrong explained.

Recyclables theft doesn't constitute a serious problem in Lake County as a whole, although Armstrong said they've encountered trouble spots in some areas.

It's a serious enough problem in some parts of the state that legislation has been introduced to crack down on it. Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) authored AB 1778, meant to stop professional poaching rings operating in neighborhoods with curbside recycling services.

Armstrong said recycling poachers also increase the risk of identify theft, so if you see someone digging through recycling carts in your neighborhood, please let the poacher know that the activity is prohibited by law and call your garbage company to report the incident.

For more information about this or other waste management issues, call the county Public Services Department at 263-1980.


From left, National Guard members Staff Sgt. Everette Prescott, Sgt. James Robinson, Sgt. Chris Deshiell, Staff Sgt. John Snowden and Sgt. First Class Chad Holland were honored at a Sunday gathering to celebrate local guardsmen who have served in Iraq. Robinson returned from Iraq in 2005, while the rest of the men returned home from Iraq in May. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LAKEPORT – A Sunday celebration at Lake County's National Guard Armory officially welcomed home local guardsmen who returned from serving in Iraq this spring.

Staff Sgt. Everette Prescott, 40, of Kelseyville; Sgt. First Class Chad Holland, 36, of Kelseyville; Sgt. Chris Deshiell, 47, of Willits; Staff Sgt. John Snowden, 37, of Lakeport, and Staff Sgts. Russell Wright and Don McPherson returned in May after serving in Iraq in the 649th Engineering Unit from September 2007 to this past May.

The Lakeport Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2015 and the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951 put on the event, which welcomed all active members of the military and veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as veterans of other wars.

The afternoon event included a dinner, live music, awards and raffle prizes, led by VFW Commander Robert Deppe and his wife, Lisa.

Randy Sutton, whose son is on his fourth tour in Iraq, spoke about the importance of service.

VVA President Dean Gotham, after he was done with barbecue duty, added his note of thanks to the returning soldiers, telling them their service was both valued and appreciated.

"Welcome home," he said. "You're among friends."

The returning soldiers are among many local National Guard members who have served in Iraq in recent years, including Cliff Shores and Norman "Joe" Valdez Jr., both of whom are now retired from the service; Specialist Danny Strawn, Sgt. Jacob Taylor, Denny Salisbury and Travis Benson.

Sgt. Albert Manfredini and Sgt. Jody Helms both served in Egypt in 2004 as multinational forces observers with the United Nations, where they acted as "referees" between Egypt and Israel.

The men who returned from the deployment this spring were responsible for convoy security, working around Baghdad, Sadr City and Balad.

They come from a variety of backgrounds. Prescott works for Lake County Special Districts, Holland is a correctional officer with the Lake County Sheriff's Office, Deshiell is employed at Willits Furniture and Snowden is a full-time staffer with the local National Guard armory, where he serves as active guard reservist. Wright and McPherson did not attend the Sunday event.

None of the men had been deployed overseas to Iraq before last year. However, after Sept. 11, 2001, all of them took part in Operation Noble Eagle, said Snowden. Noble Eagle was a domestic security effort that included guarding the Golden Gate Bridge, chemical depots in Utah and other sensitive areas.

This past February, they hit a few improvised explosive devices – IEDs – and came under small arms fire on the east side of Sadr City, where they had just completed building a new combat outpost. Holland, a platoon leader, said they had some minor damage to vehicles but mostly were "ticked off."

Fortunately, none of the men were injured or saw serious fighting in Iraq. All of them, however, report trouble sleeping at night and other issues related to dealing with the stress of being in a combat situation.

Snowden said they ran their missions mostly at night. A strict curfew was in effect, so if they encountered anyone on the roads they had clearance to be aggressive in confronting them.

The men say that the situation in Iraq is not as bad as the media makes it appear. While the emphasis is on fighting and explosions, they said the new bridges and schools being built, along with new roads and water systems, don't get much coverage.

"I think, just generally, it's an unpopular war," Holland said, offering his explanation of its perception.

Although they didn't have the opportunity to meet and talk with civilians on a regular basis, in the encounters they did have they didn't experience hostility from most Iraqi citizens, who they found to be very generous and courteous.

Holland recalled a case where an Iraqi baker came out to speak to the soldiers one day, then returned to give them cake after cake, not asking for any payment, until they had to refuse to accept any more of the cakes he'd piled into their arms.

The men said they made a point of waving to people to try to present a friendly face. They also received a warm reception from school children they met, who they treated with glow-sticks. Some soldiers were known to give the children energy drinks, which the local sheik and the local school teachers didn't welcome.

There is definite hostility from some groups, however, such as the forces of Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose personal army defended Sadr City. US forces often get caught in the crossfire between Shia and Sunni Muslim factions, the guardsmen explained.

There also is the issue of weapons smuggling from nearby Iraq and Syria. Sgt. James Robinson, 37, of Lakeport, a postal worker who served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 in a Petaluma-based unit before joining the local armory, said he was part of a patrol that looked for weapons coming into the country.

Prescott, who works on the county's sewer system, said Iraq's sewer systems and its entire infrastructure is aging and, in many cases, broken down. When Saddam Hussein's government fell, it left a vacuum regarding the management of those systems, as well as the electrical grid.

The men all noted the emphasis being placed on building clean water systems in the country.

Snowden said they saw definite improvements during their time there. For one, as security increased, people began to start cleaning up their neighborhoods, which had been littered with garbage.

He said they also saw people putting their lives back together. When the men first got to Iraq, a road they commonly traveled along was often deserted, with just a few people seen along it due to fears for safety. As they were preparing to leave, they drove down it one day to find it crowded with people and soccer games, with people waving and smiling at the soldiers as they passed.

Prescott said they saw a large community garden being grown along a security barricade wall, in an area where residents hadn't frequented.

Asked about when the US could begin to pull out, none of them can offer a definitive idea of when it can happen.

Holland suggests much of it depends on the Iraqi army and police forces, both of which are under increasing threats and pressure from insurgents. He noted they are stepping up more, and have taken over Anbar Province.

The Iraqi army also was able to take over Sadr City with no shots being fired, which wouldn't have been the case if US forces had gone in, said Snowden, because of al-Sadr's anti-American stance.

Overall security continues to be an issue, with police in some areas turning blind eyes to roadside bombs planted by insurgents, or being bribed to ignore them, said Prescott.

The soldiers are concerned that if the US leaves too soon, Iran and Syria will seek to fill the void in Iraq.

"I think we're going to maintain a presence there for years to come," said Prescott.

Holland said problems with insurgents and terrorist cells aren't new. He pointed to Germany during World War II, where even after Adolf Hitler committed suicide, his forces tried to fight the Allies. However, historians continue to debate just how severe of a problem the Nazi "werewolf" forces were.

One unit member from Fulton may be facing deployment soon, but no other local members are scheduled to go to Iraq currently. All of the men have a 24-month hold before they could go back, either by order or voluntarily, said Snowden.

They approach their service matter-of-factly. "You joined up, you gotta do your fair share," said Snowden.

Robinson said he's encouraged by the increasing community support for guardsmen, such as the event put on for the men on Sunday. He called local support for soldiers "outstanding."

All of the men say they missed their children most while overseas.

Snowden said his 10-year-old daughter asks a lot of poignant questions – such as what happens when you get blown up – about his time overseas. "I don't answer most of them."

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



A cake honoring the recently returned guardsman is served at the Sunday gathering. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




WHISPERING PINES – A motorcycle rider was injured Saturday afternoon when he collided with a vehicle.

The crash was reported shortly after 4 p.m. on Bottle Rock Road in front of Pine Grove Resort, according to the California Highway Patrol.

CHP and Cal Fire responded to the scene, where the male rider was reported to have gone off the roadway.

The rider was reported to be combative, so he had to be sedated in order to be transported via REACH air ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, CHP reported.

REACH transported the man shortly after 5 p.m. to the hospital, where CHP ordered a blood draw.

The rider, whose name was not available Saturday night, was reported to have suffered minor injuries.

No information was available on the other vehicle reported to have been involved in the crash.

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


LOWER LAKE – An Old Time Bluegrass Festival will be held at Anderson Marsh State Historic Park in Lower Lake Saturday, Sept. 13 and Sunday, Sept. 14.

The event features music from Alhambra Valley Band, Sidesaddle, The Mighty Crows, Pat Ickes & Bound to Ride, Mountain Laurel Band, Public Nuisance, The Mighty Chiplings, Laura and Darin Smith, and others for performances on two stages all day.

Musician workshops will be held throughout the day on such topics as banjo, fiddle and flat-picking techniques for guitar. Attendees are encouraged to bring their instruments for workshops and informal jam session.

The Old Time Bluegrass Festival will feature demonstrations and vendors selling old-time handmade crafts, Art in the Barn, a wine garden featuring Lake County wines, and a beer garden, as well as food prepared by local service clubs and local schools’ culinary programs.

The Old Time Bluegrass Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Gates open on both dates at 9:30 a.m.

Advance tickets are $15 for Saturday, $10 for Sunday, or $25 for both days. A limited number of advance tickets will be available for purchase at various locations and on the Web site,, or call 707-995-2658. Children 12 and under may attend free but must be accompanied by a parent.


LAKEPORT – South county residents will have the opportunity to hear District 1 Supervisorial candidates James Comstock and Susanne La Faver debate the issues and outline their priorities in two upcoming debates.

The District 1 candidates debates will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17, at Lower Lake High School's gymnasium, 9430 Lake St.; and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, at the Calpine Visitor Center in Middletown, 15550 Central Park Road.

The events are sponsored by Lake County News, Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce, Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce, Lake County Farm Bureau, Lake County Association of Realtors and Calpine.

Lake County News Editor and Publisher Elizabeth Larson will moderate the debates, which will be videotaped for broadcast on TV Channel 8.

The election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 4. Absentee ballots will be mailed to voters signed up to vote by mail on Oct. 6.

Community members are invited to submit questions to Lake County News at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., the Lakeport Chamber at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., any of the sponsoring groups or in person the night of the event.

Questions received by the audience that are not asked as part of the debate due to time constraints will be presented to the candidates for written response, and will be published on

For more information e-mail Lake County News at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 245-4550.


I failed. My failure was total and easily achieved, although completely unintentional.

My friend Jessica mentioned how she was avoiding artichokes because they were so fattening with all of the mayonnaise that she uses with them. I suggested eating them with melted butter with lemon, the favorite accompaniment in our house.

Then in the back of my mind I thought, “Artichokes are healthy and nutritious; why do we always have to serve them with fatty dipping sauces? I can come up with something healthier.” So I started thinking ...

Many people think of artichokes as “fancy food” and eat them only on special occasions, but artichokes are low in calories (60 per average), full of fiber (12 percent of your daily requirement), vitamin C (10 percent of the daily requirement), they’re higher in antioxidants than 993 out of 1,000 other fruits, vegetables, nuts and other foods tested – that’s right SEVENTH highest in antioxidants!

They also have properties that fight cancer, heart disease and harmful cholesterol, and studies are being done that look at how the artichoke may help the liver regenerate. They are a non-starchy vegetable so they are safe for diabetics. Artichokes should be a staple to your diet, not a specialty item.

The origin of artichokes has been lost to history. Some people think they were most likely developed from the cardoon plant by the Romans or the Greeks. There are ancient tile frescoes in Roman ruins that show flowering cardoon plants with small artichoke like flowers. Cardoons and artichokes are closely related, and some people think that cardoon is the artichoke’s forefather, and some vice versa. There is a wild version of artichokes that grows in North Africa. The only thing that we know for sure is that the artichoke originated around the Mediterranean Sea.

The first written mention of artichokes growing comes from Greece and dates to around 300 BCE. When I finally invent my time machine I will definitely go back and find out all of the facts on the artichoke’s origin, and I will correct this article accordingly when I get back.

Queen Catherine de Medici is credited for having brought artichokes to France from her Italian homeland, and her excessive eating of them and feeding them to king Henry II was thought of as scandalous by courtiers. In those days artichokes were considered such a powerful aphrodisiac that only men were allowed to eat them (it’s good to be the king). There are even references that overeating artichokes disturbed the digestion of the Queen Mother after a wedding feast. Wow, talk about interesting historical documents, we don’t know where Jimmy Hoffa is but we know about a member of the royal court in the 1500s having the trots.

Speaking of Jimmy Hoffa (not really, but you’ll get the idea) ... In the 1920s Mafia monopolies and “the artichoke wars” prompted the then-New York Mayor La Guardia to make the artichoke completely illegal in New York City. Only his love for the delicious flower bud caused the law to be rescinded a week later.

California supplies nearly 100 percent of the country’s artichokes. Although the “Green Globe” variety makes up most of the artichokes available on the market both at the supermarket and garden center, there are several different varieties.

The artichoke doesn’t grow well from seeds so most are grown by propagation from existing plants (think of it as God’s cloning). This however is dangerous because it makes most of the artichokes in California so closely related that one good disease could almost eliminate the entire country’s artichoke supply (remember the Irish and the potatoes?).

There are at least 140 different varieties of artichoke but only around 40 are commonly cultivated worldwide. Other varieties include “Anzio” (Italian commercial), “Big Heart”(U.S. commercial), “Campania” (French commercial), “Catanese” (Italian commercial), “Desert Globe”(U.S. commercial), “Fiesole” (French commercial), “Imperial Star”(U.S. commercial), “Purple Italian” (U.S. home garden), “Violetta” (U.S. home garden), “Purple Roscoff”(U.S. home garden) and “Lyon” (French commercial).

I grow my own artichokes, a rare heirloom variety called Romanesco (Italian commercial). If you want to grow your own, you need to know that artichokes like rich soil and cool temperatures. This is why they love Castroville; it has the cool coastal air year-round.

Here in Lake County the summer temperatures are somewhat extreme and will make artichokes wilt to the ground. In order to avoid this sad look in my yard, in the spring I harvest the last of the artichoke flowers and give the plant a few more weeks to grow. But the moment the plants start to whine and shows any sign of distress from the heat, I hack them to the ground with a machete until there is nothing but a stump poking out of the ground. I keep the soil heavily mulched and moist during the summer and the plants survive and completely bounce back when cooler weather returns.

Artichokes contain a natural phytochemical “sweetener” called cynarin, and studies are being done to make it a commercially available product. If you want to do an interesting experiment to test the sweetener in an artichoke do this. Cook an artichoke and pour yourself a glass of wine – any wine will do. Before you taste any of the artichoke, try a sip of the wine and take note of the flavor. Then eat some of the artichoke and immediately sample the wine again. You will notice that the wine has a completely different taste, so much so that you will think that it is a completely different glass of wine. The cynarin left over in your mouth reacts with the sugars in the wine and change the taste. This effect is one of the reasons that restaurants that serve expensive wines don’t serve dishes with artichokes.

The myth of how artichokes came to be tells how Jupiter/Zeus (whether you are reading the Roman or Greek version) came to lust for a beautiful girl named Cynara and took her as a mistress to Mt. Olympus. When she became homesick and snuck off to visit her mother, the god of thunder became enraged and hurled her back to earth as the artichoke plant. The artichoke’s Latin name commemorates this – Cynara scolymus.

So how could I fail while dealing with this fantastic plant? Well, I wanted to make a healthier dipping sauce for artichokes, but all I managed to do is shorten my life by clogging my arteries with cheese. This is now my wife’s new favorite dipping sauce for artichokes. I’ll head back to the drawing board.

Parmesan cheese dipping sauce

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup milk

½ cup sour cream

6 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese (as little as 5 ounces will work)

2 tablespoons white wine

White pepper to taste

Put the butter and flour in a pot on medium heat. As the butter melts whisk the flour together so you get a paste. Continue cooking this for about two minutes; the color should change very slightly to a blonde highlight.

Although it’s not necessary, I recommend you microwave the milk for 30 seconds. This will keep the splattering down as you add it to the butter/flour mixture (called a roux).

Add the milk slowly to the roux, whisking constantly to combine. The mixture will start to thicken fairly quickly, so reduce the heat to low at this point. Sprinkle in about one-third of the cheese, whisking constantly. You want the cheese to melt as slowly as possible, because melting quickly will cause the cheese to clump up and make a poor sauce.

Stir the cheese mixture until all the cheese is melted and then add another third in. Whisk until that’s melted and then ... that’s right, add the final third and whisk until melted. Then add the sour cream, wine and pepper. Mix thoroughly and then ladle into dipping cups. Serve with cooked artichokes.

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.


SACRAMENTO – Assembly member Patty Berg's end-of-life information bill is waiting – along with numerous other bills by the legislature – for the governor's signature, but a state senator is calling for the bill to be vetoed.

On Aug. 28 the state Assembly approved AB 2747, the Terminal Patients End of Life Information Act,” which Berg's office reported is meant to give patients the right to receive a candid assessment of what to expect when they are dying of a terminal disease.

Berg, D-Eureka, wrote the bill to require health care providers to answer their patients questions, and to tell them about their rights and options when in their final months of life.

“I fully expect we’ll see better pain management, more use of hospice, and fewer people in a panic at the end of life,” Berg said in a statement.

The measure, previously approved by the Senate, passed the Assembly in a 42-33 vote. It now waits to be signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said last month he won't sign any more bills until the budget is done, although he made an exception for a high-speed rail bill.

A recent nationwide study by cancer doctors found that only one in three terminally ill patients were told about their treatment and pain-management options by their doctors, even when their doctors knew the patients were dying.

Those patients who did receive frank information were less likely to die in intensive care, more likely to receive hospice; and their families were better prepared for their loss than were the families of patients who were uninformed. according to the study.

The California Medical Association and many other health care organizations, as well as senior citizens’ groups, civil liberties advocates and others supported AB 2747.

It has, however, drawn opposition from groups that believe it is a back-door route to the kind of death-with-dignity bill that Berg authored in previous years. The opposing groups include California Disability Alliance, California Family Council, California Nurses for Ethical Standards, Mercy San Juan Medical Center, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, and St. Mary's Medical Center, San Francisco.

“This bill is about information and nothing else,” Berg maintained.

Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) says he's urging Schwarzenegger to veto the bill.

Aanestad, a licensed oral surgeon and vice-chair of the Senate Health Committee, said he has deep concerns about the effects of AB 2747 on patient care.

“The so-called end of life options act interferes with the medical care of people who just received the worst news of their lives,” Aanestad said in a written statement. “State government has no business intruding upon the doctor-patient relationship at that time, yet that is exactly what this bill does.”

His office reported that AB 2747 is sponsored by an organization called Compassion and Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society, which has strongly advocated for physician-assisted suicide legislation in the past. The founder of this group, Derek Humphry, once praised Dr. Jack Kevorkian for assisting in the deaths of 130 people.

Dozens of opponents testified against this measure during a recent marathon hearing of the Senate Health Committee. They included disability rights advocates, nursing organizations, doctors who care for cancer patients, minority rights groups, members of religious communities, hospitals and individuals whose lives and families are affected by this issue.

He said the measure is cloaked as compassion but actually opens the door to further “end of life” intrusions.

Aanestad said that patients facing terminal illness need information based on who they are as individuals, not an intrusion into their relationship with their doctor.

“Patients don’t need their doctors to dispense a laundry list developed by Sacramento politicians,” he said. “It’s downright cruel to take a list of treatments that may not even apply to a patient and have the doctor say, ‘Here, this is what the state of California legislates I must tell you when you find out that you’re dying and you ask me what to do.’”

Will Shuck, Berg's chief of staff, told Lake County News they're still awaiting the outcome.

“Hopefully the governor will give greater weight to the California Medical Association and all the other health organizations in support of the bill than to the opinion of a dental surgeon who may never have to tell a patient that they have a terminal illness,” Shuck said.


Chef John Ash with Lake County chefs Robert Cabreros, Jeremy Zabel and Julie Hoskins. Photo by Margaret Walker-Stimmel.


LAKE COUNTY – This year's Lake County Wine Auction will be the centerpiece of a weekend filled with activities that celebrate great wine and food while raising funds for worthy community causes.

The Wine Auction will be held on Saturday, Sept. 20, under the big tent at the Buckingham Golf and Country Club in Kelseyville.

John Ash, internationally recognized wine country chef, educator and author, is a special guest of the Lake County Wine Alliance during the ninth annual Wine Auction.

During a cooking demonstration and luncheon on Friday, Sept. 19, the day preceding the gala Wine Auction charity benefit, Ash will present an ambitious menu that starts with an antipasti plate of wild mushrooms, grilled asparagus with lemon olive oil and Pecorino, and grilled shrimp with Sangrita. His “Fire and Ice” Pear Salad is served with goat cheese, figs and Proscuitto.

The menu moves on to an entrée of fresh halibut in a spicy coconut curry broth and ends with a dessert of lemon polenta cake with fresh raspberries.

Each course of the meal will be paired with a fine Lake County wine, representing several of the vintners participating in the annual Wine Auction.

A limited number of tickets are available for the cooking demonstration and luncheon, which will start at 10 a.m. at the Buckingham Homeowner’s Association Clubhouse, 2850 Eastlake Drive, Kelseyville. Each ticket is $75 per person, after the purchase of a Wine Auction ticket for $100 per person.

Chef Ash will be assisted in the demonstration and in preparing the luncheon by Lake County chefs Jeremy Zabel of the Saw Shop Gallery Bistro in Kelseyville, Robert Cabreros of the Yuba College Culinary Arts Program and Julie Hoskins of Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake. Students from Yuba College will serve the meal.

Other special events on the evening of Friday, Sept. 19, include winemaker dinners hosted by six Lake County wineries at special venues. Participating wineries are Ceago Vinegarden, Langtry Estate, Moore Family Winery, Shannon Ridge Winery, Steele Wines and Wildhurst Vineyards. Capacity at each venue is limited. Tickets are $75 per person, after the purchase of a Wine Auction ticket.

The Wine Auction will be held at the Buckingham Golf and Country Club, 2855 Eastlake Drive, Kelseyville on Sept. 20.

U.S. Congressman Mike Thompson, First District of California, is the event chair. Andy Beckstoffer, CEO of Beckstoffer Vineyards, is the master of ceremonies. Auctioneers are Archie McLaren, founder of the Central Coast Wine Classic and a rare and fine wine consultant, and Jed Steele, owner and winemaker of Steele Wines of Lake County.

More than 20 Lake County wineries will pour wines, and 12 restaurants and caterers will present food to accompany the vintners’ selections. The evening includes live and silent auctions of wine lots, wine and travel packages, and fine art. Jim Williams and Friends will provide music for dancing.

Ten community organizations and agencies that work hard to make Lake County a better place have been chosen to receive the proceeds of this year’s Wine Auction. Over the past eight years, the Lake County Wine Alliance has donated more than $621,500 to local programs.

The beneficiaries this year are Kids 4 Broadway, Lake County Special Olympics, Wiloth Equine Therapy and Riding Center, Hospice Services of Lake County, Adult Day Care/Respite of Clearlake, the Military Funeral Honors Team, Church Women United, Operation Tango Mike, the Lake Family Resource Center, the County Literacy Coalition and the fine arts programs at five Lake County high schools.

The Buckingham Junior Golf Program receives support through the auction of golf balls to fund activities of the Lake County Junior Golf Council.

Members of the Wine Alliance board include Margaret Walker-Stimmel, president; Marie Beery, vice president; Pamela Shine-Duncan, secretary; Rob Roumiguiere, treasurer; and Jim Fetzer, Judy Luchsinger, Wilda Shock and Janet Thompson. The volunteer board and a large Wine Auction committee of volunteers meet year round to plan the charity event.

For more information and to purchase tickets for any of the events, call 866-279-WINE.


UPPER LAKE – A Friday morning fire destroyed an Upper Lake home.

Chrissy Pittman, a firefighter/paramedic with Northshore Fire Protection District, said firefighters were dispatched at 7:55 a.m. to the fire on First Street, between Main and Government streets.

The single-story home with a large attic was fully engulfed when firefighters from Northshore Fire's Upper Lake, Nice and Lucerne stations responded, along with a ladder truck from Lakeport Fire, said Pittman.

In all about 20 firefighters, including a chief and battalion chief, worked on the fire, she said.

The house's Victorian-type construction was a challenge for firefighters, said Pittman. “It took quite a while to actually get in and knock the fire down.”

Pittman said the fire was contained at just after 10 a.m., with another two and a half hours required for mop up.

There were conflicting reports about whether or not someone was in the house when the fire started, said Pittman. Firefighters had received information that children were in the home, but no one was in the house when firefighters arrived.

The house is a complete loss, said Pittman. Damage estimates are not completed.

She said the fire's cause is under investigation.

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


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