Sunday, June 30, 2013


This Tuesday, July 2nd, at 3:00pm, I am presenting my appeal of the Design Review Board approval of a project located at 961 Gravensteins Hwy, across the street from Fircrest market.

The meeting will be held at the Youth Annex at 425 Morris St.

In our recent past, Sebastopol has seen building projects that are way over-built.  A few blocks in from Hwy 116 on Litchfield Rd. you can see an example in progress - over a dozen 2400 - 3600 sq.ft. behemoths squeezed into a small parcel.  This overwhelms the community and basically destroys the neighborhood.  Some people have lived there all of their lives and wonder how they're not protected against such reckless development.

Below are images of the DRB approved project I am appealing.  Take a look.

Does this belong in Sebastopol?

Please come to the meeting and support the appeal.  If you can't attend the meeting, please write our City Council, as that can be just as effective.  You can get City Council email addresses from the City of Sebastopol Contact menu tab above.  Make sure you include City Clerk Mary Gourley and Kenyon Webster on all communication.

We need to let them know that our community deserves a better, more thoughtful approach to shaping Sebastopol's future.  It directly affects our quality of life.

Friday, June 28, 2013


It's been a dry year, so far.  Even with the recent rains, it was just enough to give our plants a refreshing drink, but it's still a year to conserve water.  Visit the following site to see how you can win some amazing eco-friendly prizes!




At 2:25 this afternoon, June 28, Winnie and I drove by the vineyard conversion by repeat offender Paul Hobbs, this particular one at 622 Watertrough, which borders 5 schools with over 700 students. "Order to Stop Work" the red sign said. "Causes: Failure to implement erosion control measures. 2) Removal of riparian vegetation." It was signed Agriculture Commissioners Office, Gail Davis, 6-25-13, Ag. and Vineyard Conversion Cooridinator.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. How many more rules has Hobbs broken and will he break in his quest for profit, at the expense of children and our bio-diverse agriculture? We citizens caught him this time and reported him. What is happening behind closed doors? Why is the local daily covering-up this newsworthy travesty rather than reporting it? Hobbs will merely pay the paltry fines and continue extracting wealth from our county and taking it away, depriving children of their health and real local farmers of work. What is wrong with this picture? 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


...I've got an idea!

I was talking to the owner of the bike shop at Rt. 12 and Morris awhile back.  I mentioned my brainstorm to have an offsite parking lot where visitors to our fair city can park and board an electric shuttle that would pick up and drop off as it travels around a loop of downtown.  FREE!

Maybe Larry McLaughlin can pilot the jitney, too.  

But I digress...

Anyway, he responded positively with words I'd rather not use, the gist of which was, "...I can rent bikes!  And that other guy can rent ELECTRIC BIKES!"

Big empty lot, meets tourists, meets commerce, meets cleaner air...

Heck, there was a plan to put a road through that piece of land.  Instead of encouraging traffic, let's decrease it!

Just sayin'.


The recent Paul Hobbs issue, though not dead, certainly is moving forward.

But there is the bigger issue at hand - the safety of everyone living in Agriculture areas.  There are no buffer zones to protect school children.  If the wind is blowing in your direction, regardless of who you are, you breath whatever spray they are applying.  In fact, just ripping the soil to prep for a new vineyard dredges up decades of toxins.  We need safer practices and applications for farming.

We need a moratorium on new vineyard development in the state.  We need to study the damage already done to our eco-systems and habitats by devastating the landscape with vineyards and how it is affecting our health.

I've said it before:  Sonoma County has become a mono-culture; an Agriculture-based community that once benefitted all, now benefits only a few; the alcohol producers who would plow our kids under to make a buck.

This from Tom Cooper...

The current orchard conversion by Paul Hobbs is exempt from the jurisdiction of the Bay Area Quality Management District whose mandate is contained within the State Health and Safety Code 41701 to investigate and enforce clean air standards, in this case drift of toxic dust.

Code 41705 states that code 41701 does not apply to Ag operations or use of Ag equipment necessary for growing of crops or raising fowl or animals.

Just don't sit there. We need to be heard.  The toxic conditions our kids are being subjected to are unacceptable.

To find out how you can help, contact the Watertrough Children's Alliance:

...or go to their website:

They are currently working through the system trying to establish buffer zones for sensitive use sites (schools, senior care centers, day cares, water ways etc.  Other counties in California have them, Sonoma County doesn't.

The ag commish has authority to implement buffer zones but hasn't.

All the addresses and contact info you need can be found on theGravenstein masthead above.

Monday, June 17, 2013


  The Killing of a Vibrant Apple Orchard

By Shepherd Bliss

Do not be deceived by the thin perimeter of a few live apple trees remaining next to Apple Blossom School and the five schools near 622 Watertrough Road in the Sebastopol countryside. A glorious, historic 40-acre orchard that nurtured people, wildlife, and the environment thrived there for many decades. Chain-sawed trees now languish on their sides with dying green apples, which will never ripen to red, cut down on June 14. Witnessing this slaughter is enough to make a grown man weep.

Paul Hobbs Winery plans yet another chemical vineyard by this clear cutting. The orchard attack is only the first in a series of blows. The downed beauties will soon be burned or disposed of in some way. The soil--which tests indicate contains DDT, arsenic, and lead--will be ripped deeply, adding more waves of deadly drift to the schools, its students, teachers, staff, and visitors.

Poisonous pesticides will then prepare the ground for an industrial vineyard with a high fence preventing children, neighbors, and wildlife from visiting where they have gone for decades. Multiple pesticides will be used regularly throughout the life of the vineyard, including the deadly fungicide Mettle, the herbicide Trigger, and the insecticide/fungicide Purespray Green, which Hobbs is documented to use. Most of life in their path will be killed, including bees that pollinate my nearby crops and beneficial insects like ladybugs and dragonflies.

Hobbs promised that such deadly deeds would not happen while children were present. An eye-witness to the devastation reported that more than 20 children were present at school at the time. Hobbs has a history of making and breaking promises and ignoring government regulations, then paying paltry fines from the millions he extracts from his global industrial alcohol empire in at least six countries.

Hobbs paints himself as a “local farmer.” Real farmers get their hands in the dirt, rather than just be the boss who reaps the profits. Many good winegrape growers and wineries in Sonoma County are genuinely local and sustainable. Paul Hobbs is not one of them. He gives the industry a bad name by being a bad apple and a bad neighbor.

Having watched Hobbs plans unfold in recent weeks--concealed for months from the public by school and government officials--I have felt a rising anger. During a walk through the deceased orchard on the day that it happened, I felt grief beneath that anger. This is partly because for the last 20 years I have managed a small number of apple trees on my berry farm and benefited from their many gifts.

Go visit, while you can, before the tall fences go up. If told that you are on private property, remember that it is adjacent to public property, schools paid for by your tax dollars. If Hobbs does not respect our public property, why should we respect his individual private property, from which his chemical assaults will trespass on the most vulnerable—our beloved children?

Drinking Hobb’s wine is alcohol made at the expense of cancer, asthma, developmental/reproductive damage in vulnerable innocent victims, as well as groundwater and air contamination.

The newly-formed Watertrough Children’s Alliance, which is mainly mothers of students at the schools, has been challenging the vineyard conversion. They have already gathered nearly 1000 signatures on an online and paper petition available at:

The comments by some of the signers are worth reading. Their website is:

What could Apple Blossom School now be called? “Vineyard School” does not have a good ring, especially for children. What will Sebastopol’s annual, long-time, popular Apple Blossom be renamed, now that there are so few apple blossoms? And the annual Gravenstein Apple Fair?

The death of yet another apple orchard and conversion to a chemical vineyard should bring grief, anger, and alarm. Change is inevitable, though not always good, especially when land is usurped by a wine baron for his own benefit, rather than for the benefit of a community.

(Shepherd Bliss belongs to the Apple Roots Affinity Group, is a local farmer, and can be reached at 


Last Saturday I had the pleasure of devouring a Hot Pastrami sandwich at the Smokehouse BBQ Bistro on Laguna Way right across from the Police Station.

It was delightful.

Alyssa was my server and, I can tell you, everything arrived at my table without incident.

Alyssa with my soup and sandwich.

The soup was kind of a hodgepodge by name; Icebox Soup, referring to the unpredictable, whatever-leftovers-are-in-the-fridge theory.  It made me quite happy.

Icebox Soup

Stop in and eat.

Oh, did I mention they have Lagunitas IPA on tap?

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Today, Paul Hobbs has started cutting down the orchard on Watertrough Rd. next to 4 school campuses.

Last night at the school board meeting, his PR person, Tara Sharp lied about the notice given to parents and neighbors re: this project.

Twin Hills Superintendent, Barbara Bickford played a key role in facilitating Hobbs' agenda, keeping it quiet for her entire first year in that position.

There's something very wrong here.  Since when does a School Superintendent side with a winemaker over the safety of our kids?

A sad and disturbing day, indeed.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Some of you may already be familiar with K-Tech Automotive.  This auto shop filled in the void left by Earth in Upheaval at 198 S. High St. just east of the Veteran's building.

I happen to be a client of theirs and can personally attest to the terrific customer service I've experience here. It helps that they know what they're doing, too.  Just the other day, we needed AAA to tow our car there and they waited past their usual hours for it to arrive.  No charge.  Just a little help for someone who needed it.  And that's why I'm posting this announcement by Kate, who you can reach at: 707 824 6881.

K-Tech Automotive is giving back to the community.  Spread the word and help someone you know.  Please read...


Do you know someone special who doesn't have a car, but their life would be so much improved if they did?  Well, we have one to give away to a lucky and deserving person.

We are hosting our Second Annual Free to Good Home Event, during which we will be giving away a 2002 Buick Regal in great condition to someone the community that you nominate.

This is a charitable event - we fix the car up, our parts suppliers help us by donating most of the parts.  We also provide a 1-year service package - all free of charge to the recipient.  The recipient needs to provide their own insurance and have a legal driver's license.

Nominations should be in writing, either mailed or email to us by July 31.  For more details, check out the event's site at:

I look forward to reading your nominations!

Gratefully Yours,

Kate Jonasse, and the K-Tech Automotive Team

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


On my way to a City Council meeting I ran into four gentlemen who I just had to thank.  These men have 51 years of combine volunteer work in and around Sebastopol Baseball Diamonds!

They do our kids and community a great service and I salute them!!!

Got the names!  But I would still imagine, being an umpire there are times you would appreciate that anonymity!

Here's to the guys who make the tough calls.  Thanks guys!

L-R: Ed Halton - S.R., John Ferrando (Ret. SFFD) - Seb, Kevin Sullivan - Seb, Les Thayer - Seb.

Watertrough Children's Alliance...

Great site with important information re: some of our less responsible citizens:

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Last Wednesday I attended the meeting organized by the Watertrough Children's Alliance re: the new vineyard conversion planned by Paul Hobbs.  At that meeting, Tony Linegar, the current Sonoma County Agriculture Commissioner railed against organic pesticides and other organic applications as being as toxic or even more toxic as chemicals used today.  (See earlier posts re: Paul Hobbs)

Here is a response by Sebastopol Farmer, Shepherd Bliss that was posted on

Tony Linegar
Yes, there are "organic pesticides," as Ag Commissioner Tony (Linegar) said at the May 29 Public Forum. Among what I use on my farm are the following: lady bugs, dragon flies, redwoods, spiders, oaks, coyote bush, etc. They create a healthy, vibrant ambience that reduces the few insect pests and weeds that prey on my berries, by making a polyculture rather than monoculture. You can even buy these "pesticides" at stores. There are also organic sprays and soaps, which are not as deadly to the soil, water, air and beneficial insects, as are the chemical sprays, especially the heavy metals.
Chemical pesticides tend to kill most or all the insects, including bees, which at least a third of our crops need. The flight pattern of the bees from my dozen hives can make it to the Watertrough schools, which is one of the many reasons I oppose the vineyard conversion. Bee colony collapse has been proven to be caused by certain pesticides, which is why the European Union have outlawed them. GMOs, such as promoted by Monsanto, have also been pulled up by the Hungarian government and recently outlawed by other governments, such as Japan. Our focus needs to remain on the 700 children in those Watertrough schools, but we are a small part of a world-wide problem, which requires global solutions--"Think globally, act locally."
Permaculture, biodynamic and other organic and authentically sustainable practices reduce pests in natural ways. By farming with nature in mind, rather than against it, one can create an ag environment that is conducive to life rather than opposed to it. Having an upper story of vegetation and using no-till practices with ample mulch and compost reduces pests. The use of herbicides de-nudes the ground, so nature then throws up the covering that it prefers, which creates the need for more chemicals and one is on the chemical path. Farmer/teacher Bob Cannard, who speaks at Bioneers, helped me change my attitude toward weeds, which conventional growers fear and tend to wage war against. Weeds are not all bad. In fact, for crops like my berries, they help them compete. They do need to be taken out at a certain point, before harvest. That can be done in a variety of ways, including the use of hands, mowers, and flame throwers.
Shepherd Bliss

For further documentation of these contentions, try to see the new film "The Symphony of the Soil" or the older film "The Future of Food," both by Deborah Koons Garcia.

What I am seeking to do here is refute one of the tales told at the May 29 Public Forum by the wine industry's advocate--the Ag. Commissioner. Do not be fooled. I am not contending that some organic pesticides do not cause damage; I am asserting that their cumulative impact is not as bad as chemical pesticides, as he contended. They do not leave DDT, lead, and arsenic in the soil to be disturbed decades later by vineyard conversions.


I was speaking with a man and his first grade grandson today who told me a hair-raising story.

It was about a Sonoma County Sheriff who drove past Screaming Mimi's late last week and noticed that the interior was kind of smokey.  Instincts had him call it in, and sure enough, a ceiling fan was overheating and smoking.  Firemen were able to gain access and remove the smoking unit before any flames erupted.  There is still a sign in the window thanking the Sonoma County Sherrif's Dept. and the Sebastopol Fire Department.

In fact, yesterday, I heard they handed out free ice cream to all in celebration of what, for me and many other local ice cream nuts, would've been a catastrophe.  In fact, Sebastopol City Council member John Eder was in the right place at the right time and was able to score one of those free cones.

When my friend's grandson said, "Man, I wish I was there to get free ice cream",  his grandfather replied, "When was the last time you paid for an ice cream cone?"

Many thanks to the Sonoma County Sherrif's Dept. and the Sebastopol Fire Dept.  And thank goodness that that little building that makes so many people happy is still there.