Friday, July 29, 2005


The early harvest of Colorado peaches has started. Above is a picture of organic Regina peaches from Palisade, Colorado. In my humble opinion, Palisade is the peach capital of the world. Early season peaches are good but I prefer late season peaches like J.H. Hales and Alberta. I think they are sweeter.

Last year I was in Palisade during the late harvest picking up a couple boxes of J.H. Hales for canning. When talking to one of the local growers I discovered they are now creating different varieties of peaches for their looks rather than their taste. "Why would anyone want to do that," I asked. He handed me a pretty ugly peach and told me to taste it. It was without a doubt the juiciest, best tasting peach I have ever had. He also told me they were ripping the trees that produced that particular type of peach out of the orchard to plant a better looking variety. When I told him I thought that was a big mistake he laughed. Then he got serious and said, "Ralph, when it comes to peaches people tend to buy with their eyes." He explained that a lot of people, mainly from large towns and cities, buy peaches and produce based on how it looks rather than taste.

Every time I drive through Palisade, it serves as a reminder that we should judge people, projects, and other things in life on their substance not their appearance.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Truth in Advertising

Last Saturday we stopped by a historical site. The gift shop was several hundred feet away but it was hot and we decided to go in to look around and cool off. I noticed a brass plaque when entering the store. In case you can't read it says," On this site in 1892 nothing happened".
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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Cul-de-sac Cook-off

We had a cook-off in my cul-de-sac last weekend. I did all the cooking. It seems like when I got my Dutch Oven it started quite a controversy. Which are better Grandma’s fresh frozen country style noodles or extra wide egg noodles? Many an evening with our neighbors and certainly a lot of dinner conversations would go like this:
“These are the best noodles ever”
“No there not, I like the other ones better”
“Well yeah, but you like (whatever) too.”
“You don’t know good noodles from bad ones”

People were getting way to serious about this noodle thing. I mean, we are only talking noodles here. So, I decided to bring it to an end. Last weekend, I cook two Dutch Ovens full of beef and noodles. One used extra wide egg noodles the other had Grandma’s country style. Invitations to attend the cul-de-sac cook-off were distributed.

After the main course, I made a nice little desert of Brazilian bananas served over ice cream and called for the vote. It was evenly split.

So what did I learn? If you have two Dutch Ovens full of beef and noodles and invite the neighbors over . . . . don’t expect left over for lunch the next day.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Ralph In The Box

We have several forest fires burning in Colorado. So far, I have not been involved, which is good. These days when I get involved, something has gone wrong. Very, very wrong.

But, back when I got married, I was a crew boss (on fires not at home). A crew boss is responsible for a twenty-person crew. He is to give the crew direction through out the day, make sure they have what they need, deal with the financial issues, and most importantly make sure everyone gets home safe. Many people on the crew were in the same situation – fighting forest fires was the only opportunity we had to make additional money. We all jumped at the chance to go on fires if for no other reason than to supplement our income.

We had been on one fire for fifteen days and were heading home. I was told we were being diverted to another fire that had just started. This news had mixed reviews. On one hand, we had it in our minds we were going home but we also saw the opportunity for additional money. It really didn’t matter what we wanted. We were available; we were going to the new fire.

We arrived late in the evening and true to form, as with most new fires, things were in a state of disarray. The command post was still in the back of a U-Haul truck, communications hadn’t figured out the radio frequencies, key people in the command staff were still trying to get there, and most importantly, food and supplies were slow in arriving.

In the Spring, at night, especially at high elevations the temperature drops off rapidly. This is good for controlling the fire but bad if you and your crew were expecting sleeping bags to be available. They were ordered but hadn’t arrived. Everyone started scrambling trying to find something, anything, to keep them warm that night. It was forecasted to be in the mid thirties. Tarps are always the first to go followed closely by cardboard boxes. Many people would get two boxes and tear them down. You would sleep on one and “cover up” with the other.

I was walking behind the supply tent to get me a couple of cardboard boxes when I saw it - the most perfect cardboard box in the world. I studied it briefly and decided not to break it down. Given my stature, I figured I could fit in that cardboard box. Then by closing the flaps stay fairly warm.

The crew gave off a little laughter as I proceeded to climb into my well . . . sleeping box. Yeah, it was a little cramped and I was a little crunched up but it was warm.

Sleep did not come easy that night. I was twisted up pretty good in that cardboard boxes and supply trucks and buses bringing in additional crews were arriving about every fifteen minutes.

Just when I was about to fall asleep a hand grabbed my cardboard box and someone gave it a good tug. It almost pulled me over. That irritated me. I jumped up, kind of like well . . . a Ralph-In-The-Box. My arms were waving in the air, my hair was all messed up, and I was probably yelling something.

It was a guy from an Indian crew. He saw the box and like everyone else was just trying to find something to stay warm with. When I popped out of that box, his eyes were the size of silver dollars. He took one look at me and ran up the mountain.

The next day we got our section of line tied in with the other fire crew. That's when I realized the crew boss was the one that pulled on my cardboard box the night before. He stared at me and I stared at him. Suddenly, he had his whole crew standing around him and he was telling them something in their native tongue. I thought he might be telling them I was the great cardboard box spirit. But, the way he was crouching down and laughing, I don’t think so.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Good Times

My daughter started doing this years ago and still does it to this day. When she has had fun doing something she will tell us about it and then at the end of the story, lean back in the chair, smile, and says, "Good times. Good times."

We spent some time with Cliff and Marilyn over the fourth. It was a good time. Many things made it that way. First and foremost, just visiting with everyone and getting caught up. But, there were other things as well.

How Cliff can cook so well and make it seem so effortless is still a mystery to me. That guy can make some pretty serious biscuits and gravy and perhaps the world's best barbecued chicken. This is coming from a guy who is not all that crazy about chicken.

Then there is the town and the people in it. Everyone is really friendly. You have a question they take the time to answer you.

Then there are the folding chairs. That might not do much for you but it seems to be a mainstay of my Tekamah visits. Every time I go there, I end up loading and hauling folding chairs to some event. I guess Cliff figures it is safer to let me play with folding chairs rather than the John Deere tractor.

Then there is the parade. I've been to a couple of parades in Tekamah and both were good in their own way. The fourth of July parade was good because of the assortment of entries. The highlight had to be the geese in the picture above.

Well there is more, a lot more. But, right now I am leaning back in my chair, there is a smile on face and I am saying to myself, "Good times. Good times."
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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Knee High

There's an old saying about corn that even amateur gardeners have heard. The saying goes, "Knee high by the fourth of July". Supposedly, if your corn is knee high by July 4th it will produce some good ears. I was watching the corn throughout Colorado and Nebraska on our recently visit to the Morrow's. In northeast Colorado, the corn (what there was of it) might have been knee high. In Nebraska, the farther east you went the taller the corn. The picture above was taken on the Morrow farm on July 3rd. I am showing that it truly was knee high by the fourth of July.

While this is not sweet corn, it is doing equally as well. Cliff, tell us when the sweet corn is ready - we'll be back.
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