Ramble On

Monday, February 28, 2011

After Action: Berlin Reunion 2011

Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be) I haven't always been one to take a lot of photos at Berlin Reunion events.  The reasons for this are simple and obvious, "what happens at summer camp should stay at summer camp."  So the photos you are getting here are of Berlin memorabilia....

However, this did not prevent others from capturing potentially career-ending photographs and I am sure that they will be making their way into publication, mainly via Facebook, over the next few weeks.

For my part, once again, it was great to see everybody.  I know it's difficult for those who have to travel long distances to get into town for this - but one of the treats of the event is to see who was able to make it this year.  The fact that the crowd changes a little bit every year is one of the things that keeps it great, and I hope that makes the trip worthwhile for those who do come in for it.

Our crowd was probably in the 50 to 60 range - a great turnout.  I am sure Blob's appreciated the business!  And the band shouted out to us a couple of times.  The "chicken dance" was played and a large part of our area emptied out for it.

And, as far as I know, no embarrassing moments...well for the people that attended anyway.  As far as the photographs of individuals that were not there, let's just say that one of them went "'round the world" a couple of times.  Just like in real life, so I'm told. 
(Note, the photos here are items I've found over the years on the web.  As far as I recall they are from common licensed sites - I have no intention of violating copyrights.  If there is a problem with my use of the photos, send a note.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Berlin Reunion Day

My old Air Force friends will be getting together tonight for another of our annual Berlin Reunions.  In honor of the event, thought I might post this photo I found of Tempelhof Airport - where we were stationed in Berlin all those years ago. 

This photo was on Wikipedia - it is a photo of the Open House in 1984.  Very likely I am somewhere in the crowd here. 


Friday, February 25, 2011

Closing out on the Valley Complex Fire

Our PN&C arrived yesterday, and among the news of interest is additional coverage of the fires around Virginia last weekend - especially of the one at the Hope Mills subdivision near Luray.  As Mary and I drive through Thornton Gap last Saturday afternoon, as the Valley came into view, we saw the cloud of smoke and haze from this fire.  (The photo source is from the Shenandoah 75th Anniversary page, it is the same one I put up earlier in the week).

The paper says this fire grew to more than 40 acres and involved as many as 30 area firefighters to bring this one under control.  Apparently there weren't injuries, but the fire risk, increased by the high winds threatened a number of homes.  None were damaged, but a garage and some vehicles were destroyed.

Besides the Valley Complex, which involved large fires in Shenandoah National Park and in the GWNF, there was also a fire near Linden, Virginia, on Blue Mountain.  This 75-acre fire destroyed a home and sent a number of people to shelters.  All in all the paper reports that there were at least 140 fires over the weekend, all fanned by the high winds.  There's a link to the PN&C article here:  http://www.dailynews-record.com/pnc_details.php?AID=54987&CHID=42 .

For the GWNF portion of the Valley Complex, link here:  http://www.inciweb.org/incident/2151 .
The last update on this fire, was yesterday afternoon, and it was shown as the final report.  The cause of the Coffman portion of the fire was a tree that fell on a power line, the other part's cause is unknown.  The incident report shows that more than 3,400 acres were involved, and nearly 70 firefighters we called to action.

For the Smith Run, or Lands Run, portion of the fire, up in Shenandoah National Park, the link is here:  http://www.inciweb.org/incident/2150 .  The web report hasn't been updated in 2 days - Dan mentioned that the map I posted the other day was likely the final update.  The cause of this fire is still unknown, and the extent of the fire is shown as 1,950 acres.  There are still a few reports coming in about the mop up actions over on the Facebook page for this one.

It's good to know that there were few injuries related to these fires, and as far as I can determine, no fatalities. 

It's also a good time to pause and say thanks to the firefighters and law enforcement folks who helped get these things under control - including the many volunteers that participate in these efforts.  Whether the incidents are more routine or part of a major outbreak like the one we had last week, their work is very important to the community.  Thanks again to all of you!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A February Visit to Wisteria

A few days ago I noticed we were out of Wisteria's Norton red wine, so I made a plan to stop by and pick some up.  That's a visit I always look forward to - our local vineyard always has something interesting going on, and this day was no exception!

I've forgotten to upload the photo I took of the sheep in the little pasture (as usual, they were gathered around the hay).  But that pastoral scene wasn't the big news of the day in any case.

The folks there have been doing a lot of winter prep - one of the photos here shows the compost operation there.  Moussa and Sue have taken a sustainable approach to the operation, and this is an important element of that strategy.  So besides the excellent product, the wonderful environment, the fact that they are local (and Page County Grown) - well, what's not to like?

So I hinted at some news.  Turns out, they are going to add some land to the cultivation - this time the parcel that is along Marksville Road.  That's good for us, since we can enjoy watching the grapes grow on our way into Hawksbill Cabin.  But it's especially great news for them - an expansion of production is a wonderful development.  There's a photo below of the work in progress.

I had made a point of getting there early so I could be out of the way for the afternoon's tastings.  After my quick visit, I picked up the bottles of Norton I was after and hit the road.  Just as I got to my car, the next wave of connoisseurs were arriving to enjoy the place. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

SHEN Fire Update and a Look Back at Two GWNF Fires

(Photo is of the Burners Gap Fire in Fall 2010) After the precipitation Sunday night/Monday morning, the fire up in Shenandoah National Park was easier to manage. According to the incident page, the fire was 50% controlled as of yesterday evening, allowing the crews on the Valley Complex Fire to reprioritize their efforts, while continuing some mop up activities. The link is here: http://www.inciweb.org/incident/2150/ ; the weather also closed Skyline Drive for its length yesterday.

For the remainder of today’s post, I wanted to get back to the two GWNF fires from last fall, a topic I had started last week after walking through the aftermath of the Kennedy Peak fire on the way to that summit.

The first one to recall was called the Lokey Hollow fire, as I was driving to the Park’s Elkton entrance one morning for a hike I saw it smoking away over to the west. It was around Newport and I was worried that it might be close to the area where the old furnace is, so I drove back in as far as I could to check it out. The original post is at http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2010/10/fire-on-massanutten-mountain.html  - and I put up a couple of updates along the way during the month of November.

As the map shows, this fire expanded to about 600 acres, which means it was only a third the size of the Lands Run fire in the Park. The terrain is more difficult back there and that may have helped not only to control it but also slow the burn…just a hypothesis on my part. However, the fire took a long time to burn itself out, and about a week after it started the firefighters went back in to do a controlled burn to take away fuel for it. That step was the final thing they needed to put that one out.

The final fire I have info about is the Burners Gap Fire, which also happened in November. I remember this one well, it appears to be the one that I saw from Stoneyman in this post http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2010/11/gwnfmassanutten-fire-view-from-stonyman.html  - pretty dramatic, rising up the mountain there behind the Wal-Mart.

Again, this fire consumed similar acreage to the Lokey Hollow Fire. I assume that the fire was a bit more accessible, it appears to be so on the map we have, however, it did expand up and over the ridge down into Duncan Hollow.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on this subject for the next year. Mainly I’d like to know if it is just a coincidence that the fires I learned about occurred on the eastern slopes of Massanutten and the western slopes of the Blue Ridge – is that simply because of our vantage point in Page Valley, or are there forces of nature, like winds or sunshine, that make these slopes more susceptible.

A final note to close the post, thanking Dan over at NPS for sharing the maps. These were pretty insightful; it was very interesting to have a look back at them.

I’m hoping to hear the good news that the Valley Complex Fire is out and the incident ended soon, that will be my next and final post on that topic.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shen Fire Update: With Map!

Here is a little more info on the fire - a larger article with some good details (the photo I copied from the NPS 75th Anniversary Facebook page also appears here, and it looks like they have some NPS maps - added later, copied above)


Also, here are pages with some very specific information:


The Shenandoah Lands Run Fire

As we were making our drive to Hawksbill Cabin for Presidents’ Day weekend, it was a challenge to keep the car on course with the buffeting winds on I-66. There were gusts of up to 60 miles per hour on Saturday, as most of the Mid-Atlantic region knows. Besides the dangers on the roads, the winds were causing havoc in another way, fanning brush fires in the region so that they could quickly get out of control – there were reports of problems across the state of Virginia, and I’ve been hearing about problems in Maryland from friends who live there too.

It’s something of an irony here on the blog, as I am in the middle of a two-parter on last fall’s fires in the GWNF. I’ll post the second of these write-ups tomorrow.

As Mary and I approached Flint Hill on our drive, we noticed a big fire up on the Blue Ridge. By the time we reached the little town, we were driving through clouds of smoke. This fire, called the Smith Run fire, started in Warren County, apparently in the Browntown area, and by Saturday night already had burned 2,000 acres. The fire photos I have here are from the Shenandoah 75th Anniversary Facebook page, which said these images are between the 10-14 mileposts on Skyline Drive. The Drive itself was closed in the North District.

Page County had another fire to deal with – I am still gathering details, but I know that it had a large share of our local volunteer fire fighters occupied. Probably due to the danger, highlighted by this fire, we received a robo-call advising that open-air burning (a large number of Page County residents still burn their trash, and many of the getaways have fire pits – like we do at HC) wasn’t allowed given weather conditions. Here is a photo of the advisory that was posted in front of the Luray firehouse.

The fire operation for the Blue Ridge fire is complex, and since there are several other large fires in the public lands around the Valley, especially near Harrisonburg, they’ve put together a task force under the title of the “Valley Complex Fire.” The other component fires are the Pickle Branch, Chestnut Ridge and Coffman Fires. Crews from the National Park Service, the Monongahela National Forest and Asheville Interagency Hotshots continue to work the fire, along with engines from the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. While no structures in the Park are threatened, local fire services are assigned to protect private property structures; these include the Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, Rappahannock County Volunteer Fire Departments, and Virginia Department of Forestry continue to provide structural fire protection on private property. (this information from the NPS site)

The SNP fire will likely burn for the rest of the week. There are back burns and burn outs in the works to make sure that it stays under control. While we had a bit of rain and snow last night, these were not enough to put the fire out.

Some of the trail areas that are affected include:

• Mt. Marshall Trail from Skyline Drive to the intersection at the Bluff Trail;
• Appalachian Trail between Compton Gap and the Browntown Trail;
• Lands Run Gap Fire Road; and
• Jenkins Gap Trail.

I’ll keep an eye on the news for additional information and post it as I get it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Last Fall's Fire on Kennedy Peak

While we were hiking Kennedy Peak last weekend, as we approached the summit we came to an area that had burned during the fall fires.  There were three fires that I recall, and I posted on several of them back then.  I think the Kennedy Peak fire was in a November post, linked below.

The fire line extended for quite a bit of the ridge, and then down the hill on the east side, as far as we could tell.  It appeared that the west side of the trail along the ridge had only limited fire damage that didn't appear to extend far downhill, as if the fire fighters had used the trail and the ridge itself as a fire break.  Overall, I learned this one covered less than 100 acres, so it was the smallest of the three fires.

On Sunday I spoke with my neighbor Dan about the fires and finding the damage up there along the summit.  He mentioned that one of the assignments he has is to coordinate map production for fire fighting activities, as well as for reporting them after the fact.  As the conversation continued, we recalled three fires from last fall that I blogged about and that he had reported through the USFS/NPS coordination process, and he offered to share the maps he'd made in PDF.  The Kennedy Peak map is below:

The map marks the furthest extent of the fire, and also notes some of the fighting strategy that was used during the course of the fire, including drop points, and fall backs if weather made fire control difficult.

As you can see, the fire did slightly cross the ridge on the west side of the peak, but it did not spread far into the valley behind.  I remembered that after we walked through the burned areas along the trail on the ridge, once we made our turn to the west, our route went outside of the burn area and below it.  There was hardly a trace of it afterwards.

Dan shared two other maps, I'll work up some posts on them next week.

Here's the original link to my post on the Kennedy Peak fire - although I didn't call it that in the first post.  I actually didn't realize it was a separate fire from one of the earlier ones.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kennedy Peak: A Moderate GWNF Day Hike

(Photos are corrected now - added 2/18/11)
Last Friday I got into town a little bit earlier than usual, and I went directly to the Food Lion for some supplies. Before going in, I checked the iPhone and found that that my friends at Appalachian Outdoors Adventures had planned a hike at Kennedy Peak for Saturday – also known as Stephens Trail. Then, as I was checking out, CFM walked into the Food Lion…it was sort of like an omen, so I felt compelled to join them.

Now, Hiking Upward has this hike as being at its best in the early spring, before the leaves start to bloom. However, on a number of these summit hikes in the GWNF it’s a good idea to knock them out early in the year, not just because of the views. You want to get them in before the weather heats up too much because of all the critters that will likely be sunning themselves on the rocky summits.

We began our hike by meeting at the store at 10:30 – I arrived a few minutes early, only to find everybody already there and ready to go. Gary, Howard and CFM had made the plan, with me as the straggling fourth, and the dogs would be joining us on the trail as well. I’ve got a photo here of the three of them at an icy patch on the ascent, and then photos of the dogs as well. The one of Howard and the girls is at the summit.

Referring again to Hiking Upward, they have the trail at 8.5 miles, while we have the route as 9.2 miles...I don't have a way to reconcile the difference at this point, so I will go with Gary's and Howard's measure. I rushed out this time without my altimeter watch, so I couldn’t verify the altitude gain, but it’s listed at 1,390 feet. The trail is a big loop that ascends gently through one of the valleys in the GWNF before turning to climb along the ridge. As you approach the peak, the trail steepens until you are working up to the summit, where there is an observation platform with a little shelter built into it. The panorama, shown above, is 360 degrees and includes beautiful views of Page Valley.

I learned a few things on this hike – in some cases, it was info passed along by the AOA guys, but in others, it was just assimilating hiking experience. For example, they showed me an alternate parking area that provides shorter access to the summit, making an out-and-back of about 6.5 miles. And in another case, while I knew that during the winter, the leaf litter in GWNF accumulates in the trail footpaths on north-facing areas, I didn’t understand that these areas are the last to melt after snows, and can be filled with hard-frozen ice hidden under the leaves long after the precipitation has fallen.

There weren’t that many icy patches to deal with in any cases, and most of the climbs were long, gentle stretches – sometimes a couple of miles long, in fact. I have a couple of views looking at Fort Valley here, taking during one of these climbs. The last stretch to the summit was probably steepest, and then a mile or so in the shadow of the mountain was the iciest. But, there were no falls, although there were some close calls.

We took a break near the top, and everyone broke out their lunches. Gary had his backpacking stove there and fixed up a hot meal – read the gear review on his blog at: http://runtechinthevalley.blogspot.com/2011/02/kennedy-peak-loop-gsi-telescoping-spoon.html. One of the highlights of this stop was the peanut butter and raisin sammiches that CFM shared. Just one more little thing I learned on this pleasant walk.

Near the top, there were traces of a fire from the summer – I’ve done some follow-up research on this and will have a post tomorrow. And then you reach the summit with the observation platform and those views; here’s photo here of me up there.

The AOA team maintains a solid pace on these hikes, and we did the 9.2 miles in about 6 hours, about 1.5 miles an hour. That’s quicker than my usual team does these routes, we plan for a mile per hour. I think I learned a few things that will help us with the pace, which in turn will give us more planning flexibility for the summer hikes ahead.

I have wanted to do this hike a long time – Kennedy Peak simply dominates the Page Valley view, and so it’s been a destination for me since I started coming here. Now I’ve got it checked off (and the neighboring Duncan Knob, last photo), and I’m looking forward to getting a few more folks out there with me.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Die Alpha Blond Kommt

One of two highlights of the weekend was the chance I got to sample neighbor Dan’s latest home brew, which he called the “Alpha Blond.” Technically, he added, it should be the “Beaver Run Brewery Twist on the Alpha Blond.” Now if you decide to do your own research on this style of beer, be aware that there is a popular artist in Africa who has self-applied a similar moniker.

Over the holidays, Sally and Dan had made a trip to Morgantown Brewery (that’s in West Virginia) and found a kit for a blonde style ale – more on that in a moment. He decided to brew it using the ingredients in the kit, which specify an outcome of around 6.5%, which is probably where his version comes down. The twist was the addition of 3 ounces of his Cascade hops, which made for a nice finish on top of the normally sweet flavor you get with this recipe.

Dan’s had great success with the pale ales, and that is where he drew inspiration from for the additional hops. It was quite tasty. I’ll confess to having two.

I have some information below about blond ales from Wikipedia. Apparently they are meant to be milder and were originally brewed to win over drinkers from the lager styles that were more typically found in the mid-Atlantic region. Interestingly, they are considered entry-level craft ales.

  • Aroma: Light to moderate sweet malty aroma. Low to moderate fruitiness is optional, but acceptable. May have a low to medium hop aroma, and can reflect almost any hop variety. No diacetyl.
  • Appearance: Light yellow to deep gold in color. Clear to brilliant. Low to medium white head with fair to good retention.
  • Flavor: Light to moderate sweet malty aroma. Low to moderate fruitiness is optional, but acceptable. May have a low to medium hop aroma, and can reflect almost any hop variety. No diacetyl.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium-full body. Medium to high carbonation. Smooth without harsh bitterness or astringency.
  • Overall Impression: Light to moderate sweet malty aroma. Low to moderate fruitiness is optional, but acceptable. May have a low to medium hop aroma, and can reflect almost any hop variety. No diacetyl.
  • History: Currently produced by many (American) microbreweries and brewpubs. Regional variations exist (many West Coast brewpub examples are more assertive, like pale ales) but in most areas this beer is designed as the entry-level craft beer.
  • Comments: In addition to the more common American Blond Ale, this category can also include modern English Summer Ales, American Kölsch-style beers, and less assertive American and English pale ales.
  • Ingredients: Generally all malt, but can include up to 25% wheat malt and some sugar adjuncts. Any hop variety can be used. Clean American, lightly fruity English, or Kölsch yeast. May also be made with lager yeast, or cold-conditioned. Some versions may have honey, spices and/or fruit added, although if any of these ingredients are stronger than a background flavor they should be entered in specialty, spiced or fruit beer categories instead. Extract versions should only use the lightest malt extracts and avoid kettle caramelization.
  • Commercial Examples: Redhook Blonde, Catamount Gold, Widmer Blonde Ale, Coast Range California Blonde Ale, Fuller's Summer Ale, Hollywood Blonde, Pete's Wicked Summer Brew, Deschutes Cascade Golden

Monday, February 14, 2011

Remembering Lady Valentine

I had a funny thought this morning about a name that rings the bells of memory - a little off track from what you might expect on a Valentines Day morning.  Of course, the name "Lady" is in the papers and on the web everywhere this morning after the Grammy's, but that's not the topic of the post either. 

See, the name Lady Valentine was Gracie the border collie's name when our relatives and in-laws first adopted her.  Now that the kitchen remodel is in its final stages, we're going to be moving forward with finding a new rescue dog.  So we'll start out with a mention of Gracie and Sofie this morning, our forever canine valentines.

Here they are at the beach with us in North Carolina back in the spring of 2001.

A few months ago we had encountered a guy with his border collie at the Luray Triathlon.  We saw those recognizable behaviors that we missed in the four-year old, and agreed that it was just about time to start looking.  Meanwhile, we enjoyed each new encounter with our friends' dogs.

Last month Mary and I decided to put in applications with the rescue organizations that work here in Northern Virginia - Blue Ridge Border Collie Rescue, Bimmer's Border Collie Rescue, Atlantic Region Border Collie Rescue, and also Glen Highland Farms in upstate New York.  They're all easy Google finds if you are interested in checking them out.  Also of note, there is a Bimmer's dog here in the neighborhood; and I love checking out the Glen Highland Farms site - both to look at the available dogs and also for the other information they keep up on the site about the breed.

Then you have this television feature that has been on recently about the border collie who has been taught 1,100 words, nouns and verbs, and can react appropriately when given a command or phrase.  It's all reminding me of some company I miss.  Gracie and I had a word game we used to play too - that's what we were doing in the second photo here.  I would whisper something and she would react - usually the panting would stop, the tongue fold back and the mouth would close, and the border collie eyes would flash.

After the applications went out, each of the organizations got back to us telling us they'd be happy to work with us - that was a relief, since we'd heard that one of the rescue organizations (not listed here for obvious reasons) had turned down a friend's request...this friend has owned border collies for 30 years, and even has had the current dog out to the farms for sheep herding training and outings!  "Your situation isn't right for border collie ownership" our friend was told.

The next step after applications is to get a house visit, and we have that scheduled.  But to my surprise, we also got a note last night about a dog that's available.  So this thing could be moving along a little faster than we thought.  We'll keep you posted.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Introducing...Page County Grown

This morning I have some news about the Page County Grown initiative, following the two meetings this group has had so far. The post begins with the logo, which I believe is final or nearly so. Also, they’ve passed along their vision and mission statements:


Page Valley Grown is thriving family farms driving local food economies and promoting healthy communities where quality farming is a valued heritage and a staple for growth.


Page Valley Grown will bring prosperity to our community by promoting family farms; linking farmers with markets and consumers; enhancing tourism experiences and building healthier connections to locally-grown products.

Organizing work continues. The initiatives they are currently working on are standards and requirements for certifying products and producers as Page County Grown, and forming up a committee that will oversee the certifications. They plan to be a not-for-profit, so that and by-laws still need to be completed. And finally, a web-site and the other types of basics you’d expect to see from a new organization like this.

It’s all very exciting to see this happening. It’s a great example of all the good things we have going for us in Page County.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

SF Giants Fan Appreciation Day: An easy, but disappointing, day hike

(Editor's Note:  I see a lot of incoming traffic to this post about the SF Giants Fan Appreciation Day...this is a post from before the 2011 season, so you might need to go back to your search results to find what you are looking for.  Best, Cabin Jim)

Today we are taking a break for an update via cross-post from the Breakfast at Epiphany's blog, in which Brian posts about a "hike" he took one morning, after breakfast.  Original link is:  http://breakfastatepiphany.blogspot.com/2011/02/sanjalisco.html 
*Sorry Brian, this clumsy interface won't let me bring it over without the formatting.
**As Brian himself might say, "There was no rock scramble, but the eggs were hard to beat...on second thought, I guess you have to beat the eggs for a scramble."

¡Desayuno, sí! ¡Béisbol, no!


When I got up this morning, I was pretty excited as I planned on having a nice desayuno típico mexicano at SanJalísco™* (in the Mission District; see 'blog entry from June 19th, 2010) and then attending the San Francisco Giants Fan Fest 2011 at AT&T Park. I was planning on getting my picture taken with the World Series Championship trophy. Were you aware that the San Francisco Giants were the 2010 World Champions? Well, apparently 100,000's of other fans had the exact same idea ~ to go to the Fan Fest, not to eat at SanJalísco™ ~ I had no problem getting seated and fed there (the secret of the San Francisco Giants winning it all must have been leaked by the D*mn D*dgers press).

I headed over to AT&T Park after a hearty breakfast and found a (free and relatively safe) parking spot as close as I could, which was about ¾ mile away; no big deal, I figured I could walk off some of the food before waiting in the long lines for autographs and to get my picture with the trophy. I got there about an hour before they opened the doors ~ I figured "early enough to beat the crowds". I have been to the Fan Fest several times in the past, so I knew that there are usually long lines of fans there for the same purpose. However, there was no way that I was prepared for the unbelievably long line of people waiting this year. The line was at least a mile long (this is not an exaggeration, it really did wrap around outside the park for many blocks). I decided to walk to the end of the line as I was already there and figured I didn't have anything else planned for the day. After walking all the way to the end of the line (and seeing that thousands of more fans were still arriving), I decided to bag it; my mamácita didn't raise no tonto** (well, I can't speak for my other siblings, but I am pretty sure I don't fall into that category). Luckily for me, the breakfast was a very good one or my whole day (or weekend) would have seemed shot.

[Note to Jim Turner (author of 'blog extraordinaire Hawksbill Cabin): As I had to walk the entire mile or so to the end of the line and then all the way back, another ¾ mile to my car or more, I am counting this post as a cross-'blog hiking one (JT, please feel free to post it on your 'blog). I am pretty sure the altitude didn't change much from sea-level (well, seeing as the San Francisco Bay was visible from wherever I was walking, let's say it was bay-level) and it was a pretty easy hike there and back (no rock scrambles that I can remember; there were a couple of tricky steps in areas of poor or no sidewalk, though). No bottled water was even consumed during the entire journey.]

Anywayyy… SanJalísco™ offers some typical Mexican specials for the weekend breakfast crowd (none of which I can eat as they are not very vegetarian- nor kosher-friendly): Pozole de Puerco, Menudo, Birria de Chivo, and Caldo de Res; all of these seem to be pretty popular fare (don't ask me what they all entail… actually, I think "entails" are part of the main ingredients in most of them). They do have many good options for those of us that aren't into little dead piggy cuisine. Today I had Nopales con Huevos ~ Two large eggs scrambled with nopales***, onions, and tomatoes; which come con frijoles refritos y arroz, a small side salad, and fresh, warm, homemade corn tortillas. I also had a cuppa Café Mexicano ~ coffee with lots of azúcar and leche added generously to it (when I'm eating Mexican food is usually the only time I will ever add sugar or milk to my coffee).

There was lots of nopales in the scramble. I had specifically requested two of their tasty, fresh tortillas only, as I knew that three would be way too much food for me; they ended up giving me three tortillas, anyway. It really was a lot of food, as I figured it would be. I did finish all three of the corn tortillas (they are really way too good to waste). I told the owner/manager that because I finished all of their "stinkin' tortillas", he owed me a cerveza as I was planning on having two or three beers at the Fan Fest, but was now too full and would probably only be able to finish one beer. In protest, I did leave most of the side salad; who eats salad for breakfast? As an appetizer before the meal (because an appetizer at the end of the meal is called a dessert), they bring out a bowl of corn chips and some of their fresh, homemade "keeler" salsa (otherwise, they only offer Tapatío® on the tables as a hot sauce condiment); when the meal arrives, I usually like to make a nice chip-dip by mixing up the refried beans and rice, and some salsa.

So that the disappointing trip over to AT&T Park was not a complete bust, Dolly, I stopped by Philz Coffee™**** One Cup At A Time (the one on 4th Street, which is just a block away). I had a Philharmonic today. It was very good, too.


SanJalísco™: new name, new sign, new logo; same owners, same great food. As for the rest of the morning, you know what they say, sometimes the best laid plans of ratones y hombres, Jorge…

Glen Bacon Scale Rating: Nopales con Huevos ~ 6.8; Philharmonic ~ 7.2; San Francisco Giants Fan Fest 2011 ~ 5.1

*(Good for them, they have actually trademarked their name. I think this was done just in case los hijos de puta at J*rritos decided to create a new line of their crappy sodas called "San Jalísco".

In case anyone is interested in more informacíon on the Mexican State of Jalísco, here is the Wikipedia link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jalisco )

**(Useless cunning linguist pointer of the day:  Did you know that "Tonto" in Spanish actually means "fool"? Hmmm, I wonder if "Ke-mo sah-bee" really means "Kiss my shiny red ass, stupid white devil!" in Potawatomi.)

***(Nopales area simply a vegetable made from the pads of the prickly pear variety of cactus, or paddle cactus. They actually taste a lot like green beans, and appear very similar when they are sliced into green bean sized pieces. The fruit of the prickly pear are pretty darn tasty, too; I think they taste a little like a cross between a fig and strawberries.)

****(It is interesting to note that this name is also trademarked; probably just in case those bastages at St*rbucks decide to market a new line of coffeez.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Page County Grown

There is good news out of Page County on the local food front. It’s an emerging effort, but there was an agri-business forum on February 2 that was well attended, with growers, the public, and industry consumers in attendance. From what I am hearing, the idea includes branding our locally grown food as “Page County Grown” – and the group is setting about getting the initiative organized.

The first item of business is a mission and vision statement, then the courses of action and business plan. There’s a share of folks involved in every aspect of this – from those who run CSAs, to local businesses and organizations like Farmer’s Food, ARA, the school system, and the Mimslyn, and even some local financial institutions.

I’ll look forward to hearing more about their initiatives, and post about this as I have updates. The “Page County Grown” produce that Mary and I enjoy during the summer is a big part of our interest in this project.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ham, Bacon, and Pork Chop

I’m enjoying the feedback coming in from this morning’s post. Sharing a couple.

David (from Public House Produce) wrote:

"Jim, I have a several very similar stories about my daughter, Lauren. When I picked the pigs up back in Aug. they weighed about 50lbs so they were little and cute. Lauren "The Boo" and I had several discussions about the ulitmate place for the critters and she signed on! At first we did not name them, but with time they became Frankie (Photo Left), Itchy (Photo Right), Scratchy and Uncle. However, on multiple occasions I heard her explain to people that they would ultimately be Bacon, Ham and Pork Chop! It is very rewarding to watch her explain to her friends and sometimes CSA mebers where her food comes from, one of the greatest rewards of being a "farmer"!"

And Brian (Breakfast at Epiphany’s blogger) wrote:

"My next door neighbors growing up had a large pasture that they kept horses in (he was a blacksmith by trade). One year he decided to get a cow to raise for food. They named it "Freezer", because that was where it was going when it was done. The little girl next door fell in love with the cow and they ended up keeping it as a pet for many years. Freezer just thought she was the luckiest horse around as no one ever bothered riding her."

That Would Be Ham on the Right

Yesterday, I was flipping through this month's Mother Earth News and found myself thinking about a great meal last summer. With few exceptions, those mainly being the wine and condiments, everything we ate that night was grown 10 miles or less from Hawksbill Cabin. The original post is here: http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2010/08/vegetables-in-round.html .

Adding to my remembering some fine local produce, over the weekend, there was news from Public House Produce (website http://publichouseproduce.com/index.html ) that it’s time to register for the 2011 CSA. That is welcome news, because it means that the fields are just about ready to be plowed and planted - Spring's not far off. I hear that Public House will be offering a couple of variations on the traditional CSA this year, but will wait to write on it until I’ve got official word.

It’s a timely bit of news. There is a new initiative in Page County, just organizing, that will help local growers with some of the challenging aspects of setting up CSAs and getting what you’ve grown to market. The first meeting was well attended, held last week at the Luray-Page Chamber. There’ll be more news out of this in the next few weeks.

Now back to the photo that opened this post. Late last summer, David told me about getting some pigs going on the farm. There are actually four, two more in addition to the two here. It reminded me that there was a short anecdote in Michael Perry’s Coop about the pigs he started raising at his farm.

The first pair he and his family raised were named Cocklebur (the female) and Wilbur (the male). These two were always destined for the freezer, but the family still decided to name them. It was a proud father who related the tale of his daughter, with another little girl visiting who said their names. After saying their proper names, she added at the end, “But come Easter, that one’s ham and that one’s bacon!”

So when David posted these photos, I asked him which one was Ham, and which one was Bacon. “That would be Ham on the right,” he said.

Here's an Amazon link to Michael Perry's Coop:

Friday, February 4, 2011

On Reaching 30,000

For the last few days, I've noticed that we are approaching a milestone on the blog:  according to Sitemeter, today we will record our 30,000th visitor.  I'm humbled that there have been so many.  Also, I wrote my 1,000th post last month, I believe the milestone one was "The Ramen Gladiator" - one of the wittier titles, if I say so myself.

The blog is not a commercial enterprise, but I do try to keep track of what people read here.  Lately, one of the most popular posts are the little media-based review of the Suunto Core Everest Extreme watch in the Tech-Watch Geek series.  About 10 people a week get to that posts via web searches - it's an example of the randomness in social media that is fascinating.

The visitor traffic graph to the left is also worth a look.  All that traffic last February and March was during the heat of the Fibrowatt discussions in Page County (hi neighbors, thanks for reading!).  The tapering off from then to now, happening in two big steps, is because of refinements to the Blogspot interface with Facebook, I'm guessing.  Those readers don't get counted by Sitemeter, and I worked on the feed a couple of times  last year.

A second thing to look at while I pause and reflect is the countries where the traffic is coming from.  Mostly US, no surprise there.  Also notable are some spam sources - on days when I get a lot of hits from some countries, there is usually a spam linked message in the queue for mediation.

Again, this is all very humbling.  I appreciate the interest and that some of what I'm putting up here is useful.

I have a couple of campaigns in mind for the coming year, I hope you'll keep reading.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

SNP 75th Anniversary

We've noted before that this is the 75th anniversary of Shenandoah National Park.  I've been hoping to see news of some events, but it's the winter and with so many Park facilities closed, there doesn't seem to be so much action.  I'm going to look around some more - meanwhile, post a comment if you know of something that I could share on the blog.

Also in celebration, Mary and I have decided that we'll put up some new artwork in the kitchen once it is complete.  We've chosen the print shown here, which is one of the new series of vintage WPA prints you can find on line.  We are looking at one more to make a pair, but I am not going to post on it right now.  Of course, Yosemite is a candidate, and so is Smoky Mountains...we haven't decided. 

Incidentally, you can purchase a copy of the print here.  This purchase will benefit SNP.  http://www.snpbooks.org/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=SNPBOOKS&Product_Code=WPA&Category_Code=PST

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Video Tip: "The Dude" on PBS's American Masters

Short post today due to some work deadlines.

Thanks to JC for the tip on a PBS special on Jeff Bridges...hooked me with the reference to his role in "The Big Lebowski" - after all, we named our pool 'bot Dude.  A couple of links below.

Watch the full episode. See more American Masters.

A link to the full program is here:  http://video.pbs.org/video/1743456455
The bit about The Big Lebowski starts at around 51:00 -

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Strickler Knob: A Moderate (and incomplete) Day Hike

Our hiking group set out on the enterprise that is Strickler Knob a few weeks back. We had just heard too many good things about the trail from the gang at Appalachian Outdoors Adventures, and the reviews of the hike on Hiking Upward were very tempting. Never mind that we chose possibly the very coldest day of the January to make a go of it – the temperature was 20 degrees at the trailhead – or that I was still a bit jetlagged from my trip to Japan. I can never resist a mountaintop view of Page Valley, so it was easily decided.

With Tom and Andy coming down from Leesburg, and Chris and I setting off from Hawksbill Cabin, we set up a 9 am rendezvous at the Southern Kitchen. On the way to the meeting point, Chris and I drove by the trailhead parking area to make sure that Chrisman hollow was open – it was; we also continued on down to Scotthorn Gap to make sure that we could park there, since I thought we might reconsider the main route for the day.

Our plan was to use the Massanutten trailhead and hike down Waterfall Mountain to the gap between it and Strickler, head to the crossroads where Scotthorn Gap trail comes in, and then up the spine of Strickler Knob to the summit. Hiking Upward (no link today because their site won’t open, I’ll correct this later) has the total distance of 9.5 miles for this hike – very aggressive for our first hike of the season, but Strickler has been looming over us for a couple of years now and the gang was chomping at the bit to complete it.

This hike also has pretty significant altitude change, so I was prepared with a Plan B and Plan C when we met the guys at Southern Kitchen:

  • Plan A – the whole shebang, 9.5 miles, from Hiking Upward;
  • Plan B – the shorter, 5.5 mile trail from the trailhead at Scotthorn Gap; or
  • Plan C – a car shuttle, starting from either trailhead after leaving cars at both, shortening the trip to 7.5 miles.

Over a hearty breakfast, we chose Plan C…we’ve come down from Duncan Knob and Old Rag in the dark before(in fact Chris and I did the last 3 miles of Half Dome in the dark in 2005), something we didn’t want to repeat, and we decided that 9.5 miles would guarantee that same result again. (FYI, a link to Southern Kitchen is here: http://www.roadfood.com/Reviews/Overview.aspx?RefID=427 )

I’ve already mentioned how cold it was starting out. I had prepared with long underwear and flannel lined jeans, I knew I had to be careful of getting them wet, but the streams were hard frozen and that wasn’t going to be a problem. The other guys chose technical hiking pants over long underwear – I think everyone was okay for the cold, but as we warmed up from hiking it was challenging to stay comfortable.

From the Massanutten Trailhead, Strickler is a hike that doesn’t cut any slack. About a quarter of a mile in, there is a half mile long descent that plunges 800 feet in a series of switchbacks on a rocky trail – challenging footing with winter leaf litter still covering the trail and with icy spots here and there in the shade. Andy and I synchronized our Casio Pathfinders and both got good readings on the altitude change, I’m glad to say. Chris didn’t fire up this feature of the Suunto, so we didn’t compare Tech Watch results.

From the bottom of that descent to the next waypoint, the crossroads with the Scotthorn Gap trail, is about 2 miles. There is a gentle climb over this distance, and the path more or less follows a stream, which you cross twice in this valley. It was very pretty in this hollow, given the cold and the fact that the leaves were down. But you could hear the happy little stream under the ice, and nobody was complaining about the trail difficulty at all.

From our past experience, our worries about running out of daylight were driving us. Our usual pace is about a mile per hour on these hikes, and we knew that wouldn’t be good enough – it’s why we made alternate plans. Still, at one point, we did one of these miles in a half hour. I think it was part of one of the old furnace roads, and footing was tough, but we really covered that distance.

At last we reached the way point, slung off our packs for snacks, and reconnoitered our situation. We were at the start of the ridge trek for this trail, with about an hour to 90 minutes of daylight left, with 3 miles of rock scramble to look forward to before getting back here, only a mile to a mile and a half on an easy fire road trail from the car. The math wasn’t working, so we had to bag it.

Still, all in all, a good workout of about 5.5 miles, and now we are more familiar with this trail’s logistics. We’re going to take it on again at some point this winter, maybe early spring (we prefer not to do the rock scrambles in the summer due to snakes sunning themselves on the rocks).