Black bear eating from my apple tree, August night, 2012

Friday, September 30, 2011

October Jaunts to Haunted Hotels

With October right around the corner, many of us are planning short trips out in the country to view the fall foliage or pick apples and pumpkins. Some of you, evidently, are also going to visit a haunted hotel and attempt to spend a night in a haunted room. In the "spirit" of Halloween, I think this sounds fun. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, an old, historic hotel would have charm to spare and probably be full of all kinds of neat antiques. And if you chatted up the locals, you'd no doubt get some interesting stories as well.

Take this poll (not mine--from and let the guys at Paranormal know if you'd be willing  and brave enough to spend the night in a haunted hotel:

At the bottom of the poll page, there are many comments from readers. Some share their own experiences in so-called haunted hotel rooms. Scroll down--makes for fun reading. Happy October, everyone.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Ludlow Massacre

I am embarassed to admit that until today, I had never heard of the Ludlow Massacre. I did some sightseeing this morning on scenic Highway 12--the Highway of Legends--here in southern Colorado. Driving north on Interstate 25 from Trinidad to Walsenburg, I saw a sign for the Ludlow Massacre Memorial and exited to view it, not knowing what it was.

Here's what the United Mine Workers website has to say about this tragic event:

After they burned the tent colonyThe date April 20, 1914 will forever be a day of infamy for American workers. On that day, 18 innocent men, women and children were killed in the Ludlow Massacre. The coal miners in Colorado and other western states had been trying to join the UMWA for many years. They were bitterly opposed by the coal operators, led by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company.
Upon striking, the miners and their families had been evicted from their company-owned houses and had set up a tent colony on public property. The massacre occurred in a carefully planned attack on the tent colony by Colorado militiamen, coal company guards, and thugs hired as private detectives and strike breakers. They shot and burned to death 20 people, including a dozen women and small children. Later investigations revealed that kerosine had intentionally been poured on the tents to set them ablaze. The miners had dug foxholes in the tents so the women and children could avoid the bullets that randomly were shot through the tent colony by company thugs. The women and children were found huddled together at the bottoms of their tents.

The Baldwin Felts Detective Agency had been brought in to suppress the Colorado miners. They brought with them an armored car mounted with a machine gun—the Death Special— that roamed the area spraying bullets. The day of the massacre, the miners were celebrating Greek Easter. At 10:00 AM the militia ringed the camp and began firing into the tents upon a signal from the commander, Lt. Karl E. Lindenfelter. Not one of the perpetrators of the slaughter were ever punished, but scores of miners and their leaders were arrested and black-balled from the coal industry.

A monument erected by the UMWA stands today in Ludlow, Colorado in remembrance of the brave and innocent souls who died for freedom and human dignity.

In December, 2008, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the Ludlow site as a National Historic Landmark. "This is the culmination of years of work by UMWA members, retirees and staff, as well as many hundreds of ordinary citizens who have fought to preserve the memory of this brutal attack on workers and their families," UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said.

"The tragic lessons from Ludlow still echo throughout our nation, and they must never be forgotten by Americans who truly care about workplace fairness and equality," Roberts said. "With this designation, the story of what happened at Ludlow will remain part of our nation's history. That is as it should be."

The dedication ceremony was held at Ludlow on June 28, 2009.

Here are a few snapshots I took today at the Memorial Site. It was a beautiful, peaceful place and am pleased to have discovered it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival

From today through Sunday, my husband will have to hold down the fort alone, as I will be enjoying the Spanish Peaks Celtic Fest  in Walsenburg and La Veta, Colorado. My friend Betsy has taken up the harp and will be participating in four days' worth of harp workshops at the festival. I, on the other hand, have no plans, other than driving her down for a roadtrip.

After looking over the festival schedule, there are a number of free events I might try. I can learn to play the dulcimer or whistle (?) in La Veta, or try beginners' harp back in Walsenburg. (I can also attempt to play the bodhran, which I found out is an Irish goatskin drum.) Several musical sessions/concerts are also free of charge, including a session at La Veta Inn Pub led by members of the traditional Scottish music group the Old Blind Dogs on Saturday afternoon. I can picture myself right now with a pint of Guinness, surrounded by musicians playing up a storm in an historic town.

The Spanish Peaks area of Colorado is absolutely gorgeous, so if I skip out on some of the festival, there's lots else to do. From the linked website (great info--check it out) at

The Spanish Peaks of south central Colorado have been among the most important landmarks of the southwestern United States, guiding Native American tribes, Spanish and French trappers, gold seekers, hunters, and American settlers. The Ute, Comanche, Apache, and other, earlier Indian tribes held the Peaks in religious awe and named the mountains Wahatoya, meaning "Breasts of the Earth." Even the ancient Aztecs believed the Peaks were a source of hidden treasure. Later travellers named them the Twin Peaks, Dos Hermanos (Two Brothers) and Mexican Mountains.

Walsenburg, by the way, is a former coal-mining town. Read more about its history, and that of La Veta Pass (gateway to Great Sand Dunes National Park), here:
Anyway, looking forward to a great time down in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with a good friend. Enjoy the week and weekend, everybody. I'm sure I will.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hot Pepper Peach Spread

During the last month, our kitchen counters have been overflowing with juicy, luscious Colorado peaches, and coincidentally, tomatoes, onions, and hot peppers have been ripening in the garden. I have always loved hot/sweet combos, so I came up with this recipe for a zippy spread. It works well as a sweet preserve or really kicks it on grilled fish, pork, or chicken. Try it in stir-fry of any kind, too. Makes a great dipping sauce for Asian food and tempuras--just heat it up a bit to make it liquid.

Anyway, the recipe link has been giving me trouble. It's easy to find, however, on if you search for it (Hot Pepper Peach Spread) under my member name: PainterCook. (I'll try to update this link if it gets fixed.)

Keep in mind that everyone has a different threshold for "heat" when it comes to hot peppers. I like my spicy dishes medium-hot with regard to chilies. This recipe can be adjusted to what kinds of peppers you have on hand--I didn't specify anything other than "fresh hot peppers." Because the spread is sweet, I added extra zip from red pepper flakes and cayenne, just to make sure it was fiery enough.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Most Ridiculous Cookbook Ever (with apologies to Peter Callahan)

Okay, perhaps I am not one of the people that Mr. Callahan was trying to reach with his new book, "bite by bite" (small caps as in the title). I was simply trying to find a new cookbook with suggestions for party food. Ever since the economy tanked, it seems that people are getting together for parties "pot luck" style, so I really have to come up with something other than devilled eggs to take to gatherings. I grabbed this book at the library after reading its subtitle: "100 stylish little plates you can make for any party."

Well, the modifier "stylish" should have tipped me off. Oh, and the fact that shortly into the intro, Mr. Callahan states that all the "It" gals in the Hamptons request these catered dishes. Whatever. The bottom line is that this book is not a cookbook. It is a book that tells you how to spend extreme lengths of time fussing over cutesy little, miniature versions of "comfort" food so your hoity-toity guests can gush and say, "how clever." Seriously. He asks you to make Fudgsicles for dessert, molded into teeny-tiny pans with teeny-tiny sticks, assembled just so. Or miniature mac n' cheese, scooped into teeny-tiny shells. Or teeny-tiny hot dogs, stuffed into teeny-tiny buns (that you have to make yourself!) and squirted with the perfect zigzag of mustard.

And instead of serving cocktails out of a pitcher, which makes a bunch of sense if you have a crowd of 30 or more, you're supposed to somehow procure 30 shot glasses and pour a swig of the cocktail into each. Forget about buying a keg! Beer (but only a mouthful) must be paired with a precious tiny hamburger in Hobbit-sized glass steins you bought in mass quantities for the occasion.

Oy-vey! There are good reasons to take this Martha Stewart approach to entertaining. OCD, anyone? Perhaps it's therapy. Focus on this silly task and see the fruits of your labor, or, instead of providing really yummy food out of a casserole dish, your insecurities tell you it's better to package each sampling as if it were going before the judges at "The Food Network." I will give Callahan credit for being honest--these are, indeed, just "bites"--they are just simply one mouthful.  None of this food requires a plate, which I guess is good if you have waitstaff offering trays to the guests at your MOMA fundraiser. But for the rest of us, this seems a bit nutty. In my book, a decent-sized, sloppy-looking shoo-fly pie wedge is always better than a tiny tart of the same ilk. Check the book out though if you appreciate the thought that goes into reinventing the wheel so that rich people with more money than they can spend will clamor to your "new" product. I'm sorry, but in the throes of an economic recession, a cookbook like this seems really ill-timed.

Here's the link to this book. Would make a great gag gift for those who can barely reheat a can of soup.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tongue Recipes, Anyone?

Yes, you read that right. I'm trying to find good recipes for beef tongue. When we bought part of a butchered, grass-fed cow last year, I asked for the organ meats as well. I've been making dog biscuits with most parts, but the tongue has me mystified and, I'll admit, a little grossed out. However, people have told me that tongue is delicious, so I am willing to attempt to cook it. If anyone has a tried-and-true recipe, please email it to me.

At the Farmer's Market on Saturday, I bought some grass-fed beef from the friendly folks at Sunrise Ranch. These guys are so nice, and they hand out free recipes for every type cut they sell. They gave me a recipe for "Tacos de Lengua"--beef tongue tacos. Someone there told me it's delicious and tastes like pulled pork. I'm not too keen on some of the directions: "scrub tongue well" and "peel off and discard skin." Eww. Peeling off cow tastebuds is not an attractive proposition, but I never back down from a challenge.

(BTW--Last day of the 2011 Farmer's Market season is October 15.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday: The Pleasant Valley Report

Who would've guessed we'd have two perfect weekends in a row? After a spectacular Labor Day, we were treated to yet another perfect Saturday and Sunday this September 10 and 11th. Skies were blue, temps were comfy, and people were out enjoying themselves.

On Saturday, the Farmers' Market was bustling with activity. Got some delicious home-baked bread and grass-fed beef at local vendors. There was also a classic car show in the streets of Old Town. It was fun to wander around looking at restored vehicles from days gone by, although I will admit, it took me aback somewhat when I realized these "oldies" cars were ones from my youth. Here in Laporte, people exhibited their own classic cars at the Overland Foods/Laporte Hardware parking lot. Antique cars and trucks, as well as farm machinery and engines, from days gone by were featured.

Although it hasn't offically become "autumn" yet, it sure seems like it's fall. Sunday morning we experienced a low of 40 degrees. The pumpkins in our front yard pumpkin patch are ripening nicely, the days are getting shorter (the chickens go to bed earlier and earlier), and the way the sun moves around the homestead is changing. It's good to think of these gorgeous days later in the year, when the cold sets in, daylight is limited, and trees and grass go brown. "To everything, there is a season." If there was no winter, would we appreciate late summer days like these?

This Saturday, considering attending this event, right up the street from our place:
Wild Shots Exhibit 2011 - Photographs of Local Wildlife - 11 a.m. to 4 p.m, Sept. 17, Bellvue Bean Coffee Shop in LaPorte, CO (Poster)(News Release)
This exhibit comes to us compliments of the Rocky Mountain Cat Conservancy. Think big cats--mountain lions! The photos on display were taken by heat and motion-detector cameras in wild areas and feature mountain lions,bears,coyote and foxes. There'll be interactive booths and wildlife experts on hand to answer questions. The Bean serves great coffee, homemade pie, and delicious ice cream, as well as sandwiches. I suggest driving your bikes to Lions Park on Overland Trail in Laporte and then biking the few miles to the Bean via the Pleasant Valley Bike Trail.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Babble: "A Decade of Hope"

With the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center just a few days away, I was genuinely surprised to be notified by my library that a book I'd requested some time ago was ready for me to pick up. Perfect timing--"A Decade of Hope" by Dennis Smith turns out to be the kind of narratives collection that I appreciate. Many books and articles dealing with the tragedy have seemed too sentimental, or too fake-patriotic for my taste. I prefer unembellished, brutal honesty, without propaganda attached. These 25 stories "of grief and endurance from 9/11 family and friends" ring true to me, particularly because the author has captured and retained the storyteller's own "voice" in each one.

We've all read the recollections of New York City police and firefighters and 9/11 widows. There are stories from more of those here, but more interestingly, also stories from people you wouldn't expect, stories that enlighten about the events of that day from different perspectives. My favorite narrative is the one by a woman who lost her sister in the attacks. Ada Rosario Dolch was a principal of a high school a mere two blocks from the Towers, where her sister Wendy worked. On 9/11, she was responsible for evacuating 600 students, some with disabilities, from her 14-story, inner-city school building, amid the crashing of the towers and the mayhem that ensued. Her story is gripping and the lessons she's learned are powerful. Each of these storytellers end their narratives sharing with us what they have learned and what they take with them to this day.

I try not to dwell on 9/11, but it's hard this time of year not to remember back to when I once ate lunch high up in "Windows on the World" back as a teenager, or think of the skyline of lower Manhattan as it was when I last visited Brooklyn, on New Year's Eve 1999. Rather than relive the horrible events that took place, I want to hear from people who were there. What have they learned from the experience? How did they survive, both physically and emotionally? It gives me hope, too, to hear of the bravery of those who gave of themselves so selflessly that day.

There are tons of 9/11 books on the market right now. Earlier this summer, I elected to ask for just one from the library--this one-- based on good reviews for the author's previous work, "Report from Ground Zero," from The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Miami Herald, The Denver Post, and The Baltimore Sun, among others. If you have the time and inclination to revisit 9/11 through reading, I recommend this book. Because there are 25 stories in it, you can go at your own pace and read just one story at a time and pause between each for as long as you need.

My new calendar calls September 11, 2011 "Patriot Day." I prefer what others have proposed--that September 11 be considered a day of service to others. However you commemorate it, please stop and reflect this Sunday on the incredible events ten years ago.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Let The Harvest Begin

Wow. I just experienced the best Labor Day Weekend of my life, weatherwise. We here in the Pleasant Valley were treated to 70-degree temps and sunny skies for three straight days. It even got down into the thirties on two nights, making for glorious sleeping weather. No humidity, gentle breezes. Absolutely perfect.

And right on schedule, it's time to start processing the goodies we get from the garden. We've been collecting groundfall apples from our two trees for weeks now, and making applesauce. Since we use no chemicals on our trees, we eat the skins, so processing the fruit is simple: cut apples into chunks off the core, drop in a crockpot with a bit of water, secure the lid, turn on "high," and come back in a few hours. When the apples are bubbly, we shut the crockpot off and remove the crockery insert to cool. Once cooled, we use an immersion "stick" blender to puree the fruits and then freeze the applesauce as is--no sugar or spices--for future use. It's quite delicious. Way more flavor than store-bought applesauce, and way better for you.

While we've been collecting apples for some time now, the grapes near the garden shed have just ripened. Every year our yield is different and this year we will break a record. Maybe it was all the rain we had this season, but we've got grapes everywhere. In years past I've caught young black bears snacking on the grapes in broad daylight. So far we've picked 11 pounds, with many more clusters still on vines. What do we do with the grapes? They aren't the "table" variety, so they are sour, but boy are they tasty. When life gives you grapes--make grape juice! Here's what I do.

I pick enough grapes to fill my stockpot--between four and seven pounds. After plucking the grapes from their stems, I add a little water and mash them down with a potato masher and set them to boil. Once boiling, I lower the heat, cover, and let simmer 15 minutes. Later, when the mushy grape mixture is cooled, I pour it all into my antique cone food mill and using a wooden pestal, extract all the juice and pulpy goodness while leaving the seeds and skins behind. Then I skim the bitter foam from the pot of juice and freeze the concentrate in square freezer containers. The concentrate can be sweetened and diluted 1:1 for the best-tasting grape juice you've ever had.

Next time I'll tell you about this wonderful peach/hot pepper marmalade recipe I came up with. I'd like to get it up on so I can easily share the recipe.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Photographer Scott Raffe Dies at Age 47

Today's post deviates from my format of writing about offbeat things on Friday. I recently found out that reknowned photographer Scott Raffe died of pancreatic cancer on the Fourth of July. He was just 47.

Scott's work is recognized around the world for its sensitivity and depth. His best professional relationship was with the European-style Circus Flora, for whom he shot portraits of performers that were true art.

You can read more about Scott here:

Scott and I were married for ten years, and although I'd lost touch with my ex, I never discounted the value of his work and his value on this planet as a very decent human being. He will be greatly missed.

This man taught me alot about storytelling through pictures and to this day, when I paint portraits of wildlife, I do so keeping in mind how he would get up close and personal with his subjects. He had an uncanny knack for bringing personality out of people. I try to pull personality out of my animal subjects too.

Death always teaches us lessons, none more important than the simple, basic truth: Life is short. We never know when our time comes to pass on. Please, be kind to your friends and family. Do good deeds every day for those you love and those you don't even know. And live every day as if it's your last.

Rest in peace Scott. Say hi to Maurie and Billy for me.