BJ Blanchard: Notes from Glen Ellen, Dec. 1

A bottle that survived the fires.


You must have noticed by now: the lime-green fluff spreading all over our charred and darkened hillsides. The grasses are back already, and acorns have fallen, taking root in the damp soil. And the fall hues in the vineyards are remarkable: ribbons of burgundy, chartreuse, apricot and champagne. Even the scorched oaks look like puffs of silver and orange from a distance. We are mending.

There are so many more stories from “Inside the Zone.” Rory Poole, a local arborist, stayed inside and helped with spot fires at the top of Chauvet Road. Wanting to help protect his friends, Tim Gilmour and Pam Wiley on the other side of the Valley, he knew if he left “the Zone” to reach them he would not be allowed back in. So, Rory set off on foot with a chainsaw in his backpack, hiking from downtown Glen Ellen across valleys and vineyards and dirt paths to reach his friends’ house near Rancho Bonito. There, they kicked down burning fences with their boots, soaked burning mulch and saved the home.

Did I tell you about the woman on O’Donnell Lane who took sleeping pills on Sunday night for a good night’s sleep. Woke up the next morning, dressed for work and went out the front door. Bam! – no house on the left and no house on the right. Hers, however remained intact.

Meantime, back at Beltane Ranch, Lauren Benwood Krause rummaged through the remains of their wine storage barn to see what could be saved. Several of the only surviving bottles were home-made and home-grown wine from the Jack London Ranch circa 1977, and hand labeled by Rosemary Wood, Lauren’s grandmother. Lauren and the Beltane gang are indebted to the Cal Fire and Monterey, Riverside Fire teams, who showed up with bulldozers and water tankers around 1 a.m., and National Guard Chinook helicopters dipping water from the Kunde’s pond and dousing the flames on the hills behind Beltane.

We have a newly-discovered understanding of gratitude around here. We appreciate our community in unique ways, thankful for neighbors we barely knew, gratified by the tidal wave of support, the men and women who fought the flames. We feel it deeply. It won’t be easily forgotten.

Dunbar Blooming

Come spring, Dunbar Road will be awash with bright yellow daffodils. Those scorched Trinity Oaks residents are not going to let a little thing like a catastrophic wildfire get them down. That spirit has energized over 50 volunteers in their efforts to plant tens of thousands of Narcissus up and down the bucolic road and side-streets. Bulbs were mostly donated, some purchased from a character named Bill the Bulb Baron down in Santa Cruz. Last Saturday after digging the dirt together, the neighborly bulb planters enjoyed a meal together under the oaks, provided by Catherine Venturini and John Burdick. They are planting again Saturday, Dec. 2. Check out their Facebook page called “Dunbar Blooming.” Their mantra? “Here we grow again!”

Interestingly, there is precedent for this. Miss Alice Griffin was principal of Dunbar School in 1923, when the one-room school houses of Glen Ellen, Strawberry, Enterprise, and Trinity Schools combined to become Dunbar Union School at the current site. Miss Griffin loved gardening and daffodils and was an early environmentalist, according to Henry Garric in “Childhood Memories of Glen Ellen.” She took her classes into the fields along Henno Road and upper Warm Springs. It was Alice Griffin who planted the spring daffodils along the curve outside the kindergarten yard which have bloomed lo these many years when the warm weather arrives. Come this next spring, everything along Dunbar will be coming up daffodils. Anyone for sunflowers along Arnold Drive?

Holiday meal

The Glen Ellen community spirit doesn’t end there. Historic Valley of the Moon Winery will be hosting a free holiday meal on Sunday, Dec. 3 from noon to 5 p.m. The flourishing Glen Ellen Forum has organized this event as another “community social,” and Costco has donated 117 frozen turkeys to be barbecued in 30 donated kettle grills. Afterward there will be a raffle to win a frozen turkey and one of the Weber grills.

Come on!

That naughty holiday Grinch has hit our Glen Ellen Bridge again! Mary Guerrazzi and her merry band of spirited assistants were out in force this past week-end, draping gorgeous boughs and twinkling lights to welcome the dark months. Bam, a wreath was pilfered within days. True to the Christmas spirit, many have come forward to replace the wreath, but still...

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