Sunday, August 30, 2020

Back to School!


Do you remember the song School Days?  Written in 1907 by Will D. Cobb and Gus Edwards, its lyrics are those of a couple looking back sentimentally on their childhood together in primary school.


"School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
'Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hickory stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful, barefoot beau
And you wrote on my slate, "I Love You, Joe"
When we were a couple o' kids."

This tune echoed in my mind as we drove up to see an old one-room schoolhouse that is in Morrison, Colorado, on the other side of the foothills from where we live.  Medlen School consists of a one-room schoolhouse, a teacherage next to the school where the teacher of the time lived, two outhouses, and a water pump.  It was a charming relic of the past when the area was sparse with settlers but education was still considered important.
I nostalgically remembered my early school days that were held in a four-story building in Brooklyn, New York, during the 1960s, that held many more conveniences.  As a member of the baby boomer generation, there were almost 60 children in each of my classes throughout the eight years of primary school! 



Medlin School, located at 8579 South Turkey Creek Road (CO Road 122) south of Morrison, Colorado, was built in 1886. The schoolhouse was originally built as a log cabin but later received clapboard siding in the early 1900s. The schoolhouse was restored as an example of a 1920s schoolhouse museum by the Jefferson County Historical Society.



The Medlen School closed in the 1950s, and in 1953 it was given to a group of local citizens. The structure and outbuildings became the property of the South Turkey Creek Community and functioned as their social center.  The Medlen School was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015 and was restored as a museum. The Evergreen Mountain Area Historical Society offers an authentic "Medlen School Days" experiences for school children who have completed first through fifth grade, to experience a typical country school with several grades; to learn “the four R’s” – reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and recitation – just as children of the 1920s did; and to participate in the games they played, the songs they sang, and the fun they had. Unfortunately, those events had to be canceled this summer due to the novel coronavirus epidemic, but hopefully will be restored someday soon.

There are many other rural school buildings still standing in Colorado, and they can be viewed on this link on the History Colorado web site



The area where Medlen School is located remains somewhat rural in nature, dotted with ranches and an occasional house. The air was still somewhat filled with a smokey haze from the four large wildfires that are still burning in our state. The Pine Gulch fire on the western slope is now officially the largest fire ever in Colorado's history.  It has burned 139,006 acres of land north of the Bookcliffs near Grand Junction and is now 77% contained.  God bless all the firefighters, over 900 total personnel who have come from several states, to fight this fire that has been burning for a month. Since its start, numerous homes and cabins have been evacuated, but to date, the fire has only taken one structure, an old abandoned building. 



My grandchildren began their new school grades for the year last week.  They were very happy and excited, as all children should be to go back to school! The youngest begins kindergarten and the oldest begins Middle School. The first two weeks are remote instruction at home, and then they will begin in-school instruction.  We are all hoping for the best for this new school year. although we know there may be many challenges ahead due to the pandemic and they may return to remote learning. What are your school plans this year? 
Stay happy, safe, and healthy!

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Sunday, August 23, 2020

Colorado Green Chili



Until we moved to Colorado seven years ago from New York City,  I never heard of New Mexico Hatch Chiles or Colorado Green Chile. When I enjoyed my first bowl of the chili at a local restaurant I became almost obsessed with it. Every place we dined, if Colorado Green Chili was on the menu, I had to try it. There are many versions of the chili but the traditional chili usually contains the simple combination of pork and the smokey, thick-skinned, and spicy roasted Hatch Chile Pepper.  If you like chilis, it is irresistible!


Hatch Chiles are only grown on the Hatch Valley area of New Mexico and their flavor, texture, and hardiness are heavily dependent on their unique growing environment of valley soil, long hot days, and cool nights. The dryer the summer, the hotter the chile will become.  Outside of this part of New Mexico they are referred to as Anaheim peppers, but without the same flavor uniqueness.  The Hatch Chiles are usually harvested in late July to late August, and when I see them for sale in my local grocery store I always buy a few pounds and make chili. They are usually labeled and sold as mild, medium, and hot heat in taste. I usually buy the medium heat and try to pick the largest and thickest green chiles I can find, but sometimes I will add a red-colored one labeled "hot" to the mix.




Often, Hatch Chile roasts will pop up locally here where the Hatch Chilies will be roasted in a circular drum that is rotated over a fire.  The skin blisters and can be easily peeled off. leaving the thick-skinned chile "meat" to be enjoyed.  Then they can be chopped if desired and de-seeded, or left whole, and frozen for use all year until the next year's harvest. The Youtube video above gives tips about how to chose the chiles and how to roast and store them.

The smell of the roasting peppers is so enticing!  You can roast them at home on your barbecue grill --the best way to get the added smokey taste, or you can roast them under an oven broiler. 

(If you can't find hatch chiles in your area you can substitute Anaheim peppers, Colorado Pueblo Mirasol peppers, or even Poblano peppers.  I have also seen Hatch Chiles for sale in a can, already peeled, de-seeded, and ready for use. Your chile will lack the signature fire-roasted Hatch Chile taste, but will still be good.)




Colorado Green Chili

Serves 6


Ingredients:

3 pounds boneless pork butt roast, trimmed and cut into 1inch pieces
salt
2 pounds (10-12) Hatch Green Chiles roasted and skin removed--cut into 1inch pieces--stems and seeds removed.
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped fine
8 garlic cloves. minced
1 tablespoon good quality ground cumin
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth

Optional: seasoning with cayenne pepper, Mexican oregano, and or cilantro, and a squeeze of a lime wedge.

Instructions:

1) Roast the Hatch Chiles on a hot barbecue or in a hot oven broiler, turning frequently to make sure all sides become charred--do not overcook.  Remove the pepper from heat when charred and place in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let cool about 5 minutes. It is helpful to wear rubber gloves to prevent the chile Capsian heat get on your skin and irritate it.  Peel off as much of the skin as possible from each chile, cut off the stem, slice open the chile and remove the seeds.  Then cut the peppers into 1inch pieces, place in a bowl, and set aside. The chiles can be roasted and refrigerated up to 24 hours in advance.




2) Combine pork, 1/2 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until liquid evaporates and pork browns in its own fat about 15 to 20 minutes.  Transfer pork to a bowl and set aside.

3)  Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. 

Place the tomatoes in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground--about 4 pulses, and pour into a bowl.  Process about half of the Hatch Chile Peppers in the food processor until smooth--about ten seconds. Pour into the processed tomatoes. Reserve the other half of the chopped peppers on the side.



4) Heat oil in the now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook until lightly browned about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Stir in the broth, the processed Hatch Chile Peppers and tomatoes, and pork, and all accumulated juices. and bring it all to a simmer.  Reserve the rest of the chopped Hatch Chiles.


Cover the pot, transfer to the lower oven rack, and cook until pork is tender. 1 to 1 1/2 hour.  Remove from the oven and add the rest of the chopped hatch chiles and stir well. Taste and add salt and cayenne powder to taste if you wish a hotter flavor.




Serve with lime wedges, and top with sour cream, sliced avocadoes, or a sprinkle of cilantro or Mexican oregano on top. This time when I made the chili I added a can of white corn hominy to it in the last half hour of cooking in the oven. Make it your own with any combinations you prefer.  We dipped a wheat tortilla in ours and ate it in bites along with the chili.  It is so flavorful and delicious!  A true harvest season treat that we look forward to the most when fresh chiles are in season, and enjoyed all winter with Hatch Chile Peppers we roast and freeze for later use.



What is new around here:

I thank you for all the positive comments I received on my last post about not feeding the deer.  Wildlife needs to remain wild to survive long term. We are the kindest when we leave them alone to manage their own survival. 
The wildfires are still burning in Colorado with little containment. We are keeping the firefighters here and in California in our prayers. I am also hoping the two hurricanes coming up from the Gulf of Mexico will lose power and not impact any states.  
My grandchildren begin remote learning on Monday for two weeks and then will hopefully be able to switch to in-school learning as their parents have chosen.  I have a feeling it will be a roller coaster of a school year, but we are hoping for the best! 

Stay happy, safe, and healthy!

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Sunday, August 16, 2020

Please Do Not Feed the Deer!


Sadly, my post this week is more of a public service announcement that I feel compelled to make.  I know many people feel they are being kind to wildlife by feeding them.  Over the years when I post photos of deer I've sometimes had a comment here, and on Facebook, as to if I was leaving "cracked corn" outside for the deer to eat? When I would answer that it is not only against the law in Colorado to feed any wildlife, but it is also dangerous to their health I'd sometimes get a return answer that they were only "trying to help,"  and that it was something that they do for their local deer. It isn't helping, it's hurting.  If you look at the photo collage of my neighbor's photos above you can see a young doe that suffered and died in a neighbor's yard this past week from eating food not compatible with a wild deer's digestive system. Her two fawns stayed by her side the entire time until she died.  The neighbor offered the doe water and called both our community's rangers and Colorado Parks and Wildlife services for help. She was told that the deer likely had Rumen Acidosis, and had a 50-50 chance of survival, as there is no treatment for it. In cases like this, they decide to let "nature take its course."  The poor deer sadly did not make it.

Rumen acidosis occurs when wild or domestic ruminants (deer, elk, moose, cattle, sheep, etc.) ingest large quantities of readily digestible and highly fermentable carbohydrates. Usually grain, corn, wheat, and barley are most commonly responsible for rumen acidosis, while apples, grapes, bread, and sugar beets are less commonly involved.  Also, large quantities of birdseed can have a deleterious effect on a deer's digestion.   If bird feeders are used they should be at least 10 feet off the ground so that the deer can't reach them.   In our area, we are advised not to hang bird feeders from March until November as bears will also be attracted to the birdseed.



A deer's normal diet consists of a lot of fiber from eating plants. They certainly seem to know the ones they like to eat!  Even in winter, they find enough food to exist.  I've seen them dig under the snow for dead leaves to eat, so I try not to rake all my leaves up in the fall.  

The good news for the twin fawns of the deer that died is that at this point in their development they are basically weaned and eating the same plants as adults.


The other good news is that the twin fawns seemed to have found another fawn to follow and its doe is allowing them to follow her too. Hopefully, they will continue to thrive.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has a good article about why feeding wildlife does more harm than good and puts everyone at risk.  It's worth a read if you love nature--Feeding Wildlife Puts Everyone at Risk.



In other news in Colorado, there are four active wildfires in progress in our state.  Our state has experienced higher than usual temperatures and insignificant rain this summer.  For the first time in eight years, the entire state is in drought condition.  Thankfully, there has been no loss of life. Although these fires are located far from the Denver area we are getting much smoke blanketing the entire front range. Interstate 70 has been closed for the Grizzly Creek Fire and the Pibe Gulch Fire on the Western slope is turning into one of the largest ever fought in Colorado.
Our area is not immune from wildfire as the Black Forest Wildfire was one of the most destructive, and the Deer Creek Fire last summer was closer to home for us. 
The firefighters are working so hard--please say a prayer for their safety and also for a good drenching rain to pass through our state very soon--we really need it!  

Stay happy, safe, and healthy!

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Sunday, August 9, 2020

Happy Trails




"Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here's a happy one for you..."

~ Dale Evans

You can watch Dale Evans and her husband Roy Rogers sing the entire song on YouTube on this link.

I remember hearing Dale and Roy sing that song during my childhood. It made me imagine riding a horse up into the mountains along a dusty trail.  I'm walking on those trails these days, and glad to have over forty-five miles of them, almost in my backyard!


It has been a wonderful outlet to be able to go out and walk in different directions in the cool mornings and see and hear nature while staying socially distanced from others during this pandemic.




My husband plows ahead at a quick pace and I lag behind stopping to take a photo of this or that--a wildflower, or rock formation, or clouds in the sky...




...their combinations are too beautiful not to admire!


I do take a lot of photos!  They make me happy!





With so many trails to chose from our views are varied. In the photo above we are hiking west up towards the foothills with a view of our community in the foreground and then the hogback formations to the east.


The foothills loom over our valley and look so close, but we have to hike far to reach towards their top.  Most of our neighbors like to mountain bike on these trails. 

Wild Yucca

The Colorado foothills climate is considered high desert, with hot days in summer followed by cool evenings and nights,  We have had a very hot summer this year with temperatures in the 90's F (32 C) and it has been unusually dry so that our entire state in drought.



Even with the drought, we've seen many beautiful wildflowers on our trail walks.


The silvery lupines were prolific in July!



The Prickly Poppies were also plentiful.


More wildflowers along the trails



"Who cares about the clouds when we're together?...


...Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather..."


One morning we were entertained by watching a young girl train her horse ...


...and it is always fun to pass some friendly wildlife on our walks.


"Happy trails to you, until we meet again

Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then."

Thanks for coming along on some of our Colorado trails with me. 

Stay happy, safe, and healthy!

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 I'm linking this post to some of the following blog events:

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Monday, August 3, 2020

Summertime and the Living is Quiet



So far the summer of 2020 has been a very quiet one. June and July blended into one, and most likely so will the month of August.  My husband and I have basically stayed home except for a very occasional shopping trip for groceries or a doctor visit. We sadly canceled all our social engagements if they can't be done by computer Zoom video conference.  We are being extra precautious, as we both feel this coronavirus would hit us hard and we don't want to take any risks. I worked as an RN in medical and surgical intensive care before retiring and I took care of many ventilator patients. It is not an experience I would want to go through if I can avoid it.  So we've enjoyed "Home Sweet Home." Our favorite spot outside at home is the patio we have in front of our house as it has a wonderful shade tree and there always seems to be a pleasant breeze.



As you can see in the photo above, our community is located in a valley at 6,000 plus (1828.8) feet elevation right up against the Colorado foothills.  They rise up about 1,000 feet above us and beyond them are the Rocky Mountains.  Our county has the nickname "Gateway to the Rockies" and you can see why on this prior blog post--click here. 




It really is a beautiful location as we are only about 25 minutes away from the city of Denver, but where we live feels so rural and bucolic.  We love it here!


Someone else also loves our foothills....lots of wildlife...and occasional elk, mule deer, bobcats, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, fox, coyotes, and yes, bears!  All the bear photos above were posted by neighbors on our community Facebook page. The one standing in the street was seen very early one morning up the hill from where I live. I've only seen bears here once--click here--to read that post.   Bears have a great sense of smell--I've read that they can smell food five miles away, so living near suburbs is a hazard for them as there are too many enticing smells.  We are told to keep our garbage cans in our garage until the morning of pick up, to take down our bird feeders and hummingbird feeders until November, to clean our grills well, keep our garages closed and leave no food inside our cars, not feed pets outside and remove the fruit from trees and bushes to help keep the bears wild.  Sadly, sometimes people don't comply or forget. We are supposed to make a lot of noise to scare the bear away if we do see one--they should remain afraid of people. If they become too at ease coming into a community or associate people with food, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will come, sedate them, tag them, and relocate them.  They tell us that bears usually will come back and if it keeps happening they sadly have to be euthanized.  It's sad--we are the ones who should know better!


My husband and I have enjoyed our gardens this summer...


...and the cute local wildlife and butterflies and birds, etc that visit us.

I've realized during this pandemic that slowing down to enjoy all the little pleasures and moments in life has not been such a bad thing. It can be very peaceful.  We love to travel and see new places--last year we were in Alaska and we had planned a trip to Italy, Greece and other cities along the Adriatic Sea in Europe which we obviously canceled, but I'm content that life will one day go back to normal and we will be able to travel again. 


One experiment I tried this summer was growing zucchini! I planted them in flower pots primarily for the blossoms.  We often ate zucchini blossoms when we lived in Brooklyn, NY, as they were easy to find in markets.  They are so uniquely delicious!  

What does one make with zucchini blossoms? So many recipes! Only the male blossoms are used--the female blossoms produce the squash.


I battered and fried them, stuffed them with mozzarella and anchovy and fried them, made them stuffed with a ricotta and mozzarella cheese mixture and cooked them in sauce, made them in risotto, added them to scrambled eggs, made them into fritters, made a  frittata with them and the fresh basil I grew.  I also put them into a lemony sauce for macaroni.  I really, really, enjoyed these blossoms!  We have not ventured out to restaurants as yet so I've done all the cooking since March. It's fine as I love to cook and my husband helps and washes the pots and pans.

Life is good!  We've also walked some of the 45 miles of trails in our neighborhood, which we are very fortunate to have.   I'll show you them and the wildflowers we've seen along the way in my next post. Meanwhile, stay healthy and safe!


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