Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sharing is Caring

250,000 Idahoans have to make choices between food and paying bills. It isn't just me and it isn't you either.

I've had the privilege of speaking out against issues of poverty for many years.  It all started with the Idaho Foodbank and a Service Learning course at Boise State.  My advocacy has grown over the years to include Feeding America too. You'll hear more about my story in the videos below.

I don't share my story to glorify myself. It is hard to stand up and say, "I've struggled. I'm still struggling." Speaking out against issues of poverty and hunger is not something I like to do or ever thought I would do.

I do it out of love and caring.

I love my home. Idaho is a beautiful place but it is a hard place to make a living. I used to think there was something wrong with me, something in my character that kept me from achieving financial security. It is not just me. About one fifth of this state's citizens live in poverty. It is estimated that almost one in six people are food insecure--250,000 Idahoans.

I share my story because if we don't talk about these issues we can't change them.  I share my story because I want people to know they aren't alone.  I share my story in the hopes that I can open minds--the poor are not poor by choice; it is usually a set of circumstances that keep them mired in poverty. I speak out on these issues because Idaho is wonderful in many ways, but caring for its poor and vulnerable isn't a high priority.

In my home we often say,"Sharing is caring." The Idaho Foodbank has shared not only food with me but has opened my eyes to the fact that I am not alone in my struggles; it's systemic. I've shared. I hope I've started a conversation and I care.

We cannot change that which we don't acknowledge.












Tuesday, December 29, 2015

On the Edge of the Field—A Future Teachers Dream

I am, according most of my friends and colleagues, a strange throwback because I subsistence hunt. Often when I am describing a weekend effort, people flinch, some visibly recoil. Subsistence hunting just isn’t how it’s done these days. And a combination academic and hunter is an exceedingly rare, almost unheard of.

But I am a child of the farm fields. Some of my earliest memories are of the orderly rows of corn that bordered our ranch-style home in Notus. Those cornfields were full of all kinds of surprises. Bullfrogs loved the cool, moist soil and I loved their bumpy, mottled skin and throaty croaking.  Red winged blackbirds often clung to the tasseled corn tops singing and swaying with the summer breezes. Small brown field mice scurried about in the maze of tall stalks and cat spiders spun great bicycle wheel shaped webs between rows.

 The canals that fed those fields were just as magical. I walked along those ditch banks with my father, serving as a makeshift bird dog. Together we hunted the ducks, pheasants and geese of the canals and fields.


Of course, those wonderful memories came before my father decided that his life would not be made in the country and we moved to the city far from the neat green rows.

As an adult, I found a way to return to those fields—I am a hunter, specifically a bird hunter. I now walk those same fields in search of brilliant, coppery pheasant and tiny, tasty quail. But nothing ever stays the same, even the fields of my childhood have changed. I too have changed, and I return to these fields as an adult and educator. I am different, my perspectives are different, and the world around me is different. What is not different is the fact that these fields have influenced the way I interact with the all of my worlds—the world of adulthood and the world of education. But, like substance hunting, education from the local is often not how it’s done these days.

As a child, the fields stretched end to end, from one side of the field straight as an arrow to the other side.  The fields were irrigated by setting a siphon tube in the ditch, creating a vacuum, pulling the water through the pipe to drain into the furrows. My father set siphon tubes as a teen on his father’s farm and on others for a little extra cash. Every country boy or girl has at one time or another helped with this chore.

Or at least, that’s the way it was once done.

Hopping out of my pick-up the other day, to visit a field we’ve neglected for a few years—graduate school has robbed me of more hunting time than my children and work—I immediately noticed the addition of central pivot irrigation. Deep wide tire tracks crisscrossed the neat furrows and lead to where the silver behemoths sat toward the back of the odd shaped field.  Though I hate this type of irrigation for its wastefulness and change from what once was, I also recognized a benefit--large swaths of brushy land untouched by the plow or irrigation made perfect habitat for my quarry.

My husband and I began walking along the tumbleweed covered fence line. Twenty feet into the hunt, a hen jumped from under my feet. I shouldered my gun and followed the bird’s flight path; I was woefully out of practice.  My husband moved to the outside of the fence hoping to flush birds my way. I am not as proficient a hunter as he and appreciated the sacrifice.

We moved in silence, watchful.

On the fringe of the field I took note of the number of mice tunnels amid the brush. The incredible number of them was a result of all the corn lying on the ground. The fat mice in turn would feed the red tail hawk resting on top of the powerline above my head.  I muscled my way through waist-high sagebrush clogged with tumbleweeds and a cottontail darted from the tangled mess, running for the tire tracks left by the irrigation system. It dropped into the ruts and ran down the bunny highway.

I pushed on, moving along the fence, alert and ready.

Weaving through the thick foliage, trying to scramble up a hillside, my foot slid into a hole. I yanked it out and stumbled backward. As I flailed about trying to stop myself from falling, I heard a strange growl. There, in the hole I just pulled my foot from, was a mouth full of long teeth attached to the angry face of a badger.  I took a step back. It took a step forward, teeth gnashing, and growling. I took another step back; it took two quick steps forward. I shouldered my shotgun and flipped off the safety. The badger flattened itself and scuttled toward me again.

I calculated my odds; I could yell for my husband but I was sure he wouldn’t make it in time, or I could dispatch the poor animal whose home I had just disturbed, or I could try to make a run for it though I doubted I could out run a badger…it was worth a try.

 I slowly lowered my gun and took a few more steps backward. The badger continued to growl and stare me down. I turned and ran, my legs flying over the uneven ground, toward the canal. I slipped and slid down the steep bank before stopping to see if my attacker had followed. It was nowhere in sight, just as I figured.  It hadn’t wanted to hurt me at all but was defending its sett that most likely contained cubs and its feeding grounds—badgers feed on the mice and rabbits that feed on the corn.

I scrambled back up the canal and resumed my path. I headed toward the one corner of the field that remained completely untouched by the plow or irrigation—a small stand of trees in a gulley with a tiny spring. In those tree branches I found two heart-shaped faces with dark black eyes watching my every move. I guessed the larger bird to be the mother barn owl and the smaller to be a recently fledged baby. Neither bird seemed startled by my presence.

I ducked under a branch and pushed through a clump of thick bunch grass, a rooster shot up right from under my feet and turned to the right. I shoulder my gun and took aim but by the time I had a bead on him he was too near the irrigation pump to fire. He crossed the canal to safety in a pasture near the farm house.

Having worked our way around half the field I reunited with my husband. Thick mud was accumulating on my boots, making the walking more difficult and me more tired and contemplative.  My husband, ever the thoughtful one noticed my dilemma and offered to lessen my workload. I would walk the canal road above the field on the edge of the brush while he walked the edge of the furrows. Hopefully, my position above the narrow strip of weeds would encourage the birds to fly into the center of the field rather than over the canal.

In a matter of a few minutes, my husband had taken down his first rooster of the day. I’ve always admired the intricate patterns and the vibrant red, blues, and greens of the pheasant’s feathers. And this bird was magnificent—the red around the eye was as red as any rose I’ve ever seen and blue on the neck as deep as any midnight sky. Though I love pheasant meat. . . killing such a beautiful bird always makes me cringe a bit.


We resumed our trajectory. Positioned as I was above my husband and the field, and right next to the irrigation equipment, my hunt was over. I shuffled along knocking the mud off my boots with the gravel from the road. I spotted a fox den, just below the road and slightly above the waterline of the canal. The muddy bottom of the canal was stamped with its footprints. The soft cooing of doves could be heard in a small patch of willows nearby. I stopped to admire their song.

My husband hollered at me, “Hey, look!”

I turned his direction. Running up the hillside toward the farmhouse was a large, 2x3 buck.  I shook my head in wonder.

“I scared him up out of that drainage pond,” he said pointing with his gun to a shallow, mostly empty pond. “You doing ok?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. You still looking for one more for dinner?”

He nodded at me. “Let’s finish the loop, in these same positions, and see what happens.”
I nodded back. I was done with the hunt but enjoying the walk, the scenery and the animals. I found it amazing that in that narrow, uncultivated space such a completely ecosystem could exist and thrive. And, I marveled at the thought that it was the farmers corn—essentially his cast off—that fueled the whole system.  The mice, rabbits, pheasants, quail and others came for the corn. The predators like the fox, badger, owls, hawks and I came for the prey. 

Questions and thoughts about all I’d seen and felt that morning niggled at and tickled my mind. Was that functioning system and all the life it contained beautiful because of the small space it was crammed into or in spite of it?  Was the farmer’s cast-off product a gift to this system or reparation for the destruction of the natural environment? And, did the answers to those questions matter?

The resounding boom of my husband’s shotgun interrupted my train of thought—he’d taken another bird. I rushed to his side. Tonight, we’d have roast pheasant for dinner. Thrilled, I hugged my husband. Pheasant would be a nice change of pace from meal after meal of venison. I tucked the pheasant’s feet under my belt and together we headed home to eat the gift we found at the edge of the field.

As I slogged my way through the thick mud, I wondered how many children and teens knew about the gifts to be found in the field. Could they name all the animals? Could they describe the ecosystem and how it functioned? Would a comparison of a truly wild place and a cultivated farm field be worthy of exploration? Surely, my future students would have their own special places to look into and explore, as well. I tried to imagine what my future students would write about and where that writing would take them. . . .  at the edge of the field the possibilities seem endless.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

#LivingintheGap

The last several months have been a real struggle for my little family, more so than most. Money has been very tight.Things were so tight,I found myself having to work weekends and adding additional hours to my 12 hrs days just to keep our heads above water.  Add injury and illness to that already stressful situation and you have the perfect storm for a struggling, low-income family. It's an awful place to be.

So, I sat down at my computer and wrote about my pain, fears, and frustration.

That story was featured at  http://www.betteridaho.org/2015/11/in-her-own-words/ and http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/hbo/2015/nov/12/idaho-poverty-slow-death-sentence/.

The story was viewed more than 20,000 times!  

While I am proud to speak out against issue of poverty, it is still hard. I've received some hate email and some wickedly mean comments online. A few people have even demanded that I leave my Idaho home, calling me a traitor to my state. 

To those people I have this to say. "Idaho is my home and I love it. I am deeply rooted to this soil. My daughter is a fifth generation Idahoan and my husband's family have been ranching in Idaho even longer. And over the last forty years I've watched those hard working Idahoans go from hopeful to hopeless. Idaho is a beautiful place to live but a tough place to survive. Running from a fight never changes things. I am staying right here and I will continue to fight to make Idaho a better place for us all."

It has been a strange journey to say the least. But, I believe in this cause. Every American deserves access to health care. This sentiment has been echoed by most of the people who have responded to my story--90% of respondents are horrified by my situation. Apparently even the President agrees with me, because he viewed my story and responded by email! You can find a copy of his letter below.

And yet, Idaho still sees fit to keep punishing its working poor--waitstaff, laborers,caregivers, store clerks--by refusing to adopt into Medicaid a benefit that is now offered to every other American through A.C.A. Nearly everyone I know and love is in the gap. These are hard working people who just happen to be poor.

And Idaho is building the state on our broken and neglected bodies. 


A Slow Death Sentence
I woke this morning with half my face swollen and throbbing--another bad tooth.

I sat in the bathroom with an icepack pressed to my face and bawled. Not because of the pain but because of sheer frustration.  I knew the tooth was going. I’d even managed to set aside $150 for the dentist over the last six months but it was far from the $650 the dentist needs for the root canal and crown. 

Once again, I’d lose a body part to poverty.

It had only been a month since I’d lost the use of my little toe, on my right foot.  I’d stubbed the hell out of it on my piano bench and though that toe had been broken before the pain was so intense I’d thought it best to get it x-rayed. The x-ray showed a mess of splintered, fragmented bones and the tendons torn away from their anchor points.

The doctor referred me to an orthopedic surgeon who reviewed my x-rays and said, “It’s a real mess in there. I’d like to schedule you for surgery.”

He continued on telling me how the bones pieces would need to be removed from my toe and a rod would be their replacement.  He warned me that taking no action would result in the toes becoming increasingly painful and arthritic.

“Can I schedule you for next week?” he asked earnestly.

“Ummm…doctor how much will this cost?”

“Not much, about five thousand dollars. I have openings in the surgical schedule for next Thursday….” He sat there looking at me waiting for my consent. The paper cover I sat on crinkled loudly in the silence.

I dropped my head and said, “I cannot afford that. That is more than I paid for my truck and I’m uninsured.”

“Oh,” replied. “In that case I wouldn’t worry about it too much. The circulation is good. It will never work again but there is no danger of infection.” 

He shook my hand and left the room.

I hobbled back out to my truck and cried for an hour. The loss of a toe, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t that awful. I could still walk and hike for now.…but someday soon it was going to start hurting and it would never stop; constant and continuous pain.

I’d had enough pain already to last me a lifetime.

Over the years, I’ve lost about ten teeth, a finger, and a few toes to poverty.  I try to rationalize—it’s not that bad, it is just one tiny body part.

But--it is that bad. These are only the injuries that people can see.

A lifetime of stress induced by poverty has stooped my back, given me a nervous stomach that makes me throw up when my stress is too high and induces days of stomach churning diarrhea, and causes migraines so bad that sometimes I am confined to a bed for a whole day, often much longer. I lost my uterus in the same manner I lost my toe—years of battling scar tissue and severe pain resulted in a doctor telling me it would be far cheaper in the long run to remove these “parts.”

What choice does a person with no resources have? 

These are the injuries others don’t see.  They don’t see the hopelessness I feel. They don’t see the what-if fear that resides constantly in my heart. They don’t’ see my despair. They don’t see my self-worth plummeting with the loss of each little part. These are the injuries that stack up and make it even harder for me to escape poverty.

Someday, I’ll have no more body parts left to lose.

Living in poverty is a slow death sentence.

I wash the tears from my face with cold water, brush my hair, and paste a half-assed smile on my swollen face. It's time for work.

What choice do I have?


President Obama Responds!

The White House, Washington

Dear Michelle:
Thank you for writing.  The Affordable Care Act gives people greater control over their health care, and thanks to the law, millions of people have new ways to buy health insurance at a price they can afford.  However, some governors and state legislators have resisted extending affordable coverage to Americans who need it by turning down the option to expand Medicaid—even though the Federal Government would pay for virtually all of the costs.  I know many hardworking families are hurting as a result.
Thankfully, many benefits of the Affordable Care Act are available to all Americans, regardless of whether or not their state has expanded Medicaid.  Those who have previously been denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition now have access to coverage.  The law still helps millions of young people stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, and it still provides people with coverage access to free preventive care like cancer screenings that catch illnesses early on.
I will keep working with states that haven’t expanded Medicaid to make sure they do the right thing.  But in the meantime, if you need insurance, I encourage you to see if you can apply for coverage by visiting www.HealthCare.gov, calling 1‑800‑318‑2596, or contacting your state Medicaid office, since you may qualify for existing health care options.
You should also know the requirement to purchase coverage only applies to those who can afford it.  Specifically, you may be exempt from this requirement if you lack coverage because your state has not expanded Medicaid.  You can learn more about this and other exemptions at www.HealthCare.gov/Exemptions.
Thank you, again, for writing—your message will be on my mind in the days ahead.
Sincerely,
Barack Obama

Visit WhiteHouse.gov






Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Elderberries!

#Elderberries 

Whenever I tell folks I am off to pick some berries, the berry that pops into their mind is the huckleberry. The huckleberry is renowned in the West for its sweet deliciousness. However there is another purple berry in the Idaho forests that gets little attention, the elderberry. The elderberry is in my opinion an often overlooked and underappreciated fruit. It should not be viewed as the huckleberry’s poor cousin but rather celebrated for all that it is. The elderberry has a lot to offer.

 The Elderberry is a common to the Western United states, but it is a little known and under-utilized bush.  It grows in moist but not swampy areas of the forest and valleys near creeks, riverbanks, and roads.

The elderberry is a small bush six to twenty feet in height.  It lacks a central trunk.  Rather, several limbs octopus skyward in search of sunlight, then arch gracefully at the ends, resulting in an umbrella shaped bush.  The larger limbs are brittle and a grayish/brown color.  The centers of the branches and limbs are pith filled—pith is the soft tissue in the center of twigs and branches that is responsible for moving and storing nutrients throughout the plant. In new growth the pith will be white or creamy.In older growth the pith turns gray or brown or may disintegrate leaving the wood hollow. This easily hollowed wood is how the plant earned its genus name of Sambucus, from the Greek word sambuke, a wind instrument made from the wood of the alder.


These brittle, grayish branches support the grass-green, finely saw-toothed, elongated and inverted tear drop leaves. These long slender leaves are pinnately compound leaves—the leaves are arranged like a feather with the twig being the spine and the leaves sprouting evenly on either side. The lance-shaped leaflets are also pinnate; a central spine with evenly spaced veins. The lush kelly-green leaves of the blue elderberry are easily visible from great distances set against the faded yellow grasses and hillsides of Idaho in fall. 

The Elderberry is a show stopper in spring sporting creamy-white flower clusters the size of grape bunches.  By fall the blossoms have grown into heavy, clumps of deep blue berries covered in a thin white film.  This deep blue covered with a white film gives the blue elderberry its species name, cerulean, from the Latin caeruleus meaning “sky blue.”

Elderberries are classified as a drupe--a fruit consisting of a thin skin, a succulent meaty layer and a stone or woody seed in the center.  The meat is sweet and reminiscent of a blueberry but meager, and the seed is rather large for a berry the size of a pencil eraser. But, the enormous elderberry bunches, that can often weigh nearly a half a pound each, makes gathering the fruit rather easy.  One large tree can easily yield ten pounds of berries.

Historically, Native Americans have used the elderberry in making purple and green dyes, as a medicine to treat colds, sore throats, fevers, sprains, bruises, arthritis and toothaches, and the hollowed wood was fashioned into flutes.  However, there is now scientific evidence that this fruit boosts the immune system—it is being used experimentally to treat AIDS and cancer patients—bioflavonoids and certain proteins in the fruit destroy a viruses ability to 
infect cells—elderberries were used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1955. However, modern 
foragers most often use the elderberry for jelly, syrups and juice. Sugared and cooked elderberries 
taste like a cross between a Concord grape and blueberries.


The simplified name of the elderberry—sky-blue wind instrument tree—has a certain poetic ring to it.  There is a beauty in that name. However, if a name were given that properly reflected this magnificent tree it would need to be much longer—Ancient, sky blue, dye maker, food provider, dentist, doctor,flutemaker—and not nearly as aesthetically pleasing.      


  Elderberry Jelly Recipe and Syrup
3 cups prepared juice (or 3 lb. fully ripe elderberries)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine
4-1/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
1/2 cup of honey



Prepare your jars or other storage container—I often make freezer jelly rather than traditional canning methods but the recipe stays the same.

Carefully remove all the stems from the berries. Rinse the berries well. Pour berries into a large sauce pan and crush thoroughly; a potato masher works wonderfully though I run my berries through a juicer which separates the seeds and skins out. Cook over medium heat until the berry juices start to flow. Once your berries are thoroughly crushed and juicy, drain the mixture through a few layers of cheesecloth draped over a strainer or colander with a pan underneath to catch the juice. Let it drain for a few minutes. Squeeze as much juice as you can from the cheesecloth. This should leave you with between three and five cups of juice. Return the juice to the saucepot and stove. Add in lemon juice, sugar, honey. Bring to a full rolling boil. Stir constantly for about five minutes. I know my syrup is done when it clings to my stirring spoon. Measure out the hot mixture and remove enough of the juice mix to leave just three cups in the saucepan. This extra, the juice you remove from the saucepan, is your syrup. Return the mixture to the stove and bring to a rolling boil. Add pectin and stir for a full minute. Pour this into your prepared storage containers.

The syrup will last in the fridge for about 3 weeks. The jelly, if frozen, will last up to a year. Once refrigerated it should be used within a month.


Possible Jelly/Syrup Alterations
Because elderberries are so prolific and easy to gather, I’ve experimented. An equal mix of blackberries and elderberries makes a delightful jelly. If for some reason you run short of berries or juice, grape juice works well to fill the gap, though apple juice will also do in a pinch.          

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Red and Purple; August in Southern Idaho
 #Soda Fire, #Kokanee, # Elderberry

The glowing red and orange of the Soda Fire reflecting off the surface of sleepy, gentle Lake Lowell made my stomach turn and bile rise. The rolling hills surrounding the lake obstructed my view. Needing to see more, I Instructed my husband to get me closer and we drove on. As the entire fire came into view I gasped and found myself shivering uncontrollably.  The heat coming off the flames could not warm me. The thick, choking smoke added to my tears. Sitting in the cab of our truck, in relative safety, sobbing in horror, I watched the enormous red millipede march over the landscape, devouring the rangeland. Small fire tornadoes sprang to life greedily gobbling up sagebrush and Russian Olive trees. The fire’s roaring, moaning, hissing, popping and sighing all rolled into one wicked, deafening voice. So many beloved places—Givens Hot Springs, the Rats Nest and Hard Trigger areas, Silver City, Reynolds and Wilson Creek drainages—all lay in the path of this voracious beast.

Stoddard Mansion, Silver City
  
Silver City Church

August in southern Idaho is red and purple.  Red fills the minds of Idahoans with dread; August is fire season.  Fire, for a Westerner, is synonymous with danger and destruction. Just the word conjures up images of fire tornadoes and blackened soil. Fire is a reality of Western life. It comes and goes every season.  Fire is both death and birth; immediately following a fire the land looks dead but soon the rain brings new shoots of green and the landscape is reborn.

Over the years, I've watched fire greedily devour many places I love the Owyhees, Sun Valley and Ketchum, Pine and Featherville, Crouch and Garden Valley, McCall and Riggins. The list is too long to continue.  Most years, all I can do is watch the television screen in dismay as the fires are usually far from my home in the Treasure Valley.

This fire season struck me much harder than those before. When the Soda Fire started near the Idaho/Oregon border I wasn't too concerned. Small range fires are fairly common and Owyhee County is vast. However, when the fire ballooned from 10,000 acres to 200,000 acres in a day in a part of Idaho that is my backyard—my children were figuratively baptized in the waters of the Snake River; my husband and I hunt the Owyhees every year for deer; my husband’s family ranched the area since the 1880s; I’ve spent more than a decade researching an historical Owyhee county figure; blurry images of the Owyhees are some of my earliest childhood memories−my view of fire changed drastically.

When fire threatens a place you call home it becomes monstrous. Like the notoriously maligned wolf, fire is suddenly imbued with evil intent and murderous ways. This wicked, viscous thing was destroying my home, my backyard, my Owyhees.   Every hair on my body stood on end.  Grabbing my daughter, husband and a dear friend and we headed out to confront the beast and witness the devastation.

Every hour and passing day brought horrific updates—240,000 acres, 260,000 acres and evacuations, 7 miles from Silver City, Soda Fire the largest fire in the lower 48. The fire consumed me too. I could not tear myself away from the screen. I could not sleep. I had no appetite.  When I closed my eyes at night that glowing red millipede chased me.

Soda Fire from Pump Road, 2015
As of this week the Soda Fire is out. So much of the landscape I love is charred. There were no human fatalities. Several ranches lost cattle. Thirty wild horses trapped behind barbed wire died and others had to be euthanized.  Those losses are distressing but it will take years for the high desert to recover, years. The ranchers and sage grouse, antelope, mule deer and other wildlife that depend on the rangeland will suffer right along with the landscape until it is healed.

As the fire wound down, the sky filled with gray smoke, and I found myself exhausted.  My constant worry had taken a physical toll and my thoughts turned to another kind of red−spawning Kokanee.  Kokanee run every August.  I hoped at Anderson Ranch Reservoir, where the desert kisses the mountains, the sky would be clearer and I could finally leave the fire behind. 

We arrived late on a Friday night and set up our camp at Fall Creek Resort—a lovely backcountry destination with a small motel, a restaurant and bar, a marina and a campground on the banks of Anderson Ranch Reservoir.  We woke in the morning, for the first time in two weeks, to a sun that did not look like a slice of pink grapefruit and a brilliantly blue sky. We ate quickly and then headed for the creek. My daughter ran full tilt, her sun-tanned arms and legs pumping in unison. Below the black volcanic rock the creek runs through, in the cool transparent, water dozens of fire-red Kokanee struggled against the current. My daughter squealed in delight. The fish rolled and boiled and occasionally leaped, flashing red above the blue. Fascinated by the bright color, she rock-hopped to the center of the creek and attempted to touch the fish, her arm submerged up to her shoulder in the cold water. My husband threw fishing line after line trying to entice a bite.  I chose a nearby rock and settled in to watch their fun and take in my surroundings.

Spawning Kokanee
As the day wore on the smoke slowly rolled back in. Soon, the sky was once again flannel gray. The horizon was limited to only those mountains surrounding the reservoir that were mostly green having escaped the fire the summer before.  We moved lazily upstream, fishing along the way.

 In a mass of lush green plants crowding the creek, I found the spiny, glossy leaves and purple berries of the Tall Oregon grape. The plant grew at the base of a burned out Ponderosa pine, was no more than four inches tall, and had produced six grapes.  I let the little grapes be so that it might seed for next year.  The creek, I discovered, was also thick with elderberry bushes so heavy with clusters of purple, juicy berries that their branches hung all the way to the ground.  I snapped off clusters and deposited them in a grocery sack and wondered what a mix of elderberries and huckleberries would taste like in a batch of jelly. I'd gathered my huckleberries earlier in the month and stored them in the freezer.  The thought of the two flavors mingling together excited me and I couldn't wait to get home and give it a try.
Elderberry


Tall Oregon Grape

Fall Creek, 2015
 Rounding a bend in the creek, we came upon a favored fishing hole, a small waterfall tumbling into a large blue pool. Red Kokanee assembled at the base of the falls, ready to leap into the white waters and continue their efforts to reach the spawning grounds.  It had been years since we'd visited the spot and I marveled at the changes those years brought. My husband continued his fishing. My daughter caught a toad and spent the afternoon deep in conversation with the amphibian.  I sat next to the rushing water, listening to its prattle, while snapping photos.
                          
 We spent two days fishing Anderson Ranch and the nearby creeks. It was a lovely respite, Anderson Ranch and Fall Creek always are. We came home renewed, with bags full of elderberries and purple fingertips. 


 August is a strange month in Idaho. The fires are devastating but the Kokanee and the berries are life affirming—watching a Kokanee struggle upstream to spawn and start new life is amazing and wild berries taste like summer on the tongue.  August marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall—hot and cool, death and birth−red and purple represent the month well. 



Fall Creek, 2006


For more information about Fall Creek Resort please visit http://fallcreekresortandmarina.com/



Thursday, July 2, 2015




Warm Lake and The Gluch's


Sometimes life presents us with some funny coincidences.  I recently wrote an article featuring Warm Lake.  I've been visiting the area for years for fishing, scenery, and hot springs.  However, for my husband’s family Warm Lake and North Shore Lodge has been a favored family vacation spot for nearly thirty years.  Many, many family memories are centered around time spent on the beautiful high-mountain lake. 
               
My husband and his brothers tell stories of the bears who used to be so plentiful in the area that they were frequent night time visitors, poking their black heads into the circles of light from the cabin's front porch lights. My husband and I announced our engagement to his family while on a trip to the lake. Our daughter has spent most of her Fourth of July’s at the little lake blissfully unaware of the crowds or fireworks she was missing back home in the Treasure Valley. 

Warm Lake is a special and magical place.  It is a place that is hard to leave; a small slice of heaven in the Idaho backcountry. So I wrote about it and posted it to my blog, with the hopes of sharing that special, out-of-the-way location with others.

The following morning, to my delight, the Idaho Statesman printed their own article about Warm Lake, which featured a photo of my family who were visiting the week before.  It matters little to me which article drives a visitor to the lake and lodge, what is important is that they go and get a taste of what makes Idaho so special.  It is in this spirit that I  and the Statesman both share these destination articles, for these special far-flung places depend on the next generation of visitors to keep them alive and well. I've provided a link below to share with you the Statesman article and photo.

This desire to share these heavenly places has been a driving force in my life for the last four years as I've worked to complete my book, "Under My Idaho Sky" which is scheduled for publication this fall with Mill Park Publishing. The book features numerous backcountry Idaho locals and contains maps and photos of those areas.  In my home and life we use the phrase "Sharing is caring." And there is little I care about more than my magnificent home. My book is a reflection of that caring. If you are interested in reading about more of these backcountry destinations please continue to visit my blog for further information on the upcoming release date. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I Lie to My Friends

# I Lie to My Friends

I lie to my friends, a lot.  Not about anything of importance but…I live in Idaho and in Idaho all the best things are found at the end of miles and miles of winding road.  What does this have to do with lying to my friends? Plenty.

I have always had the wandering bug. My idea of a great afternoon is to explore a backcountry road I’ve never been on before.  Sometimes, just for giggles I’ll pick up an Idaho map, close my eyes, and point.  Wherever my finger lands is where we head for the day or weekend.  I’ve discovered many great destinations that way, and that is where my problems begin.

As much as I love the Idaho backcountry, I love sharing it with friends and family more.  But to share it I am often forced to lie.  I recall, years ago, telling a good friend about Warm Lake.  I painted a picture of the beautiful crystal-clear little lake, sitting peacefully below the rugged mountain peaks. 

She looked excited and then asked, “But how far is it?”

The look on her face told me I needed to answer carefully.  I smiled brightly, “Only about one hundred miles!”

My friend readily agreed to the trip based on the information I’d given her.  What I failed to tell her is that those actual one hundred-nineteen miles from Nampa would take three hours to drive−a lie by omission.

Highway 55 twists and bends following the Payette River for most of the journey.  The canyons are quiet, shaded and green.  The river roars in places with whitewater and in others it slips by silently as placid as pond water.  I am happy to watch all the sumptuousness out the window; the average speed of 35 mph doesn’t bother me at bit.
 
That weekend was one of the best trips of my friend’s life.  She loved the little lodge, the mountain peaks, the clear cold water, the fishing and nearby hot springs.  She forgave me pretty quick for my little white lie. And, since then my lying has become a habit.

I’ll never understand what folks have against bumping along a dirt road or a twisted paved road to find out what is at the end.  For me, it is a supreme pleasure; the journey is what matters.  I now lie to my friends by omission regularly and without regret. It is, in my opinion, in their best interest. They always forgive me once we are there. The Idaho backcountry never fails to impress.


Driving Directions
Beginning on Highway 55 it is nearly straight shot to Warm Lake.  The only turns involved are a right turn after the second bridge in Cascade−Warm Lake Rd−and another right onto N. Shoreline Dr.   For more information about North Shore Lodge and its amenities find them on Facebook or contact them via internet http://www.northshorelodgeidaho.com/.