Unhappy Canyon Continued

In case this situation has not yet appeared in your backyard, you might be interested in some clarification of terms you will encounter when it does darken your doorstep. The two most contentious and vague terms with which you will have to familiarize yourself are “special events” and “private wine tasting.”

At first glance these seem like pretty obvious descriptions of things that might apply to the wine industry, but I have been learning that there is a whole vista of meanings that are not that obvious to the casual observer. When you look at what these terms have come to mean to vintners, it is apparent that you could drive a semi through the parameters.

“Special events” are not even related to wine per se, and the phrase loosely refers to the use of the facility, for a fee, for 150-200 people per event. For example, wedding parties are often held at wineries, and you can think of it somewhat like renting a nightclub. Very often these events will include many people from out of the area who are not familiar with our rural roads and, after the event, will negotiate them to return to their hotels in town or over the hill. This is not a good scene for our neighborhood.

Similarly, “private wine tasting” has become a favored term to indicate, falsely, that only a few “private” people, such as salespeople, wine magazine writers and the like are liable to be present to taste the wine. In reality, what has happened at other wineries is that this claim has been made and then a “club” is formed of anyone who wants to pay a minimal amount of money to join. This is an easy way to get around the regulation that is intended to minimize the number of people tasting wine and then driving through residential neighborhoods.

I thought you might want to know.


The United States Constitution

Where in America can you own property, pay taxes on it for over 80 years, have the title to that parcel validated by the court less than six months ago, and be told by local law enforcement that you cannot prevent the public from using it and that officers refuse to remove public intruders from that parcel?

Santa Barbara County is where these abuses of our constitution occur. And why is this happening? Is it because of the ultra liberal policies of the county government which, along with some of the non-property-owning public, feel that they should have access to everything? Or is it because of the locally owned tribal casino people who feel that we are all interlopers on their “ancestral” land even though their own title is questionable? Or does it come down to the ugliest reason of all — that money corrupts many people?

I spent last Saturday morning dealing with just such a situation in which the nephew of the local tribal chairman, who just weeks ago was cited with hunter trespass violations and hunting after dark as well by Fish and Game in the same spot, decided to set me up for a potential lawsuit. He brought his attorney with him and they both came up the Santa Ynez River bed on all terrain vehicles, which they parked in the Caltrans right-of-way. The attorney threatened us with legal action should we call the sheriff’s department to cite them for trespass, because they had been informed by a named deputy that this was public property.

We called the sheriff’s office and three deputies were dispatched. It appears that this whole event was staged by the attorney, the nephew and the participating sheriff’s personnel. I spoke to one of them on the phone who insisted that their superiors told them to do this and denied ever telling the two individuals trespassing that it was public property. When it became clear that this was a set-up, and no reason was forthcoming, I hung up. I called the Sheriff, who I know will not be happy to hear about this latest incident.

Even though this behavior flies in the face of legislation to be voted on this very week by county officials with the wholehearted support of our county sheriff, the deputies who were called to the scene refused to cite these two for trespassing and, further, refused to make these two individuals leave my property.

I am outraged and feel harassed and violated to the very core of my being. Every one of you who own riverbed property should feel that way too. How can this happen in America? Thank goodness the Pacific Legal Foundation (www.pacificlegal.org) is out there defending our private property rights and taking on these types of government abuses all over this country. They have been given the details of this incident and other similar incidents and will be visiting next week. Without this organization and others like it, American citizens might as well move to any other country where constitutional rights do not even exist! If we lose our private property rights, we are no better than the dictatorships that we have fought over the centuries.

This is one right we must all treasure, as it is the bedrock of our society, and I, for one, will fight for it.


Gas Station Update

I don’t know how it got there this fast — most applicants have to wait a long time before their project reaches this stage — but I was told that the gas station and minimart project on the corner of Edison and Highway 246 has been submitted to the Bureau of Architectural Review for acceptance. Apparently the applicant was told to make it more in keeping with a western town look. Looks like we have a fast track going on here, perhaps. Gee, how does that work?


Mother Nature

Have you driven over the San Marcos Pass lately or around the valley? Have you noticed the absolutely splendiferous display of wildflowers this year put on by none other than Mother Nature? Wow! I don’t think I have ever seen such volumes of lupine in the pastures. In fact, there was so much in our Thousand Acre pasture across the river from the house that I had to move my cows out of the front part to the back part where there wasn’t as much of that plant, as it is not good for livestock.

While driving the pass this morning on the way to an appointment in Santa Barbara, I was astounded with the degree of color showing this year. All of both the blue and white ceanothus (wild lilac) are blooming, yards of lupine, large patches of the cute little Johnny Jump Ups (wild pansies), my grandmother’s favorite, and splashes of color ranging from red-orange of the hybrid poppies (the native ones are a bit more pale), to the deepest blues and purples, to the yellows of mustard and a myriad of other flowers I have forgotten the names of.

My grandmother, for whom I was named, was very fond of the spring wildflowers and would take walks with whoever was willing to go along. She had many friends who would come to visit her here at the ranch, and their favorite time to come was spring because of the beautiful green hillsides and the native flowers. I often walked with her because she was such a wealth of knowledge about the flora and fauna of this place. She told me all about what we were looking at while we walked and told me details about why that particular plant did so well in that spot. She would also point out birds that flew by, what they were named and something about their habits.

I learned a lot from her and now wish I had possessed a tape recorder to capture the information she tried to impart to me. Unlike today, when virtually everything may be recorded in some fashion, small children did not have access to recording devises in those days. Unfortunately, I did not retain a lot of what she told me, but there are some pieces I do still remember. I remember her talking about the linnets that nested in my bathroom window. I was surprised to discover that the name “linnet” is not commonly used anymore, but I did find a reference to it in one book that made me feel better because that was the term I had always used. They still build nests in my bathroom window. I remember her pointing out the Johnny Jump Ups that grow close to the ground, are yellow and brown and look like miniature pansies. Shooting stars, the pretty purple ones that grow in the shade, and the apricot-colored monkey flowers that appear later in the year are a few that I still remember. Unfortunately, there are many others that I recognize but no longer know their names, and haven’t the time to look them up.

But aren’t we blessed this year with a particularly big crop of spectacular wildflowers for which we must thank Mother Nature? We don’t have a great crop of grass, so for our cattle producers it will again be a year of hard choices, but somehow the abundance of flowers will make those choices a little less painful. Enjoy the spring — all too soon it will be summer and those flowers will be gone until next year, we hope.