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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Country Cousin

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Hi Folks!

Well folks, summer is all but over for another year. By this time next week Labor Day will have come and gone. The youngsters will all be back in school if they aren’t already.

It’s sad that winter is coming, but all signs indicate that Autumn this year should be spectacularly beautiful in TIMESland. Unlike some parts of the country, we’ve had plenty of rain so trees are in good shape. Barring a long spell of foggy rainy weather the color show along our highways and byways this fall should be breathtaking.

GAS PRICES

Unfortunately, the drives we like to take on uncharted wilderness roads may be limited this year. Can’t afford the gasoline! Had a nightmare once that the pump price was over $3 a gallon, and here it is at $4.19 and rising! Put in $10 worth last night, drove home and before I got back to work the “low fuel” warning light was on again.

How did that happen???

They tell us the price jump this week is because the Gulf refineries have been shut down due to the pending hurricane, but find it awfully hard to believe the reserves are so low that prices would be impacted immediately.

Also find it hard to believe that all of the companies that sell gasoline are hit with the same shortages and the same price increases at the same time. Supposedly they don’t get together and set prices, but it seems pretty much of a coincidence that they all come up with about the same price at the same time.

Have to believe instead that it’s the greed of the oil companies, which, thanks to government policies over the last two decades or so have pretty much of a monopoly, with a severely limited number of corporations supplying the needs of our entire nation. We’re at their mercy.

When is the last time we saw a gasoline price war?

Competition no longer exists. The big oil companies seem to control the service stations and therefore the entire market, start to finish. Mom and Pop service stations are gone the way of the dinosaurs, thanks to liability laws costly regulations that made it impossible for them to stay in business.

Now we’re all paying!

It’s not bad enough that the high fuel prices scuttle our family budgets, but they also go a long way toward keeping the recession going. Most of us are spending so much on fuel that we can’t afford to do anything else.

Don’t pretend to know what the answer is at this point, but sure do wish someone would come up with a way to reign in the corporate greed.

Maybe as a long-term solution the government could open up a new oil field or two, with the successful bidder required to follow reasonable price guidelines?

Competitors would then have to offer somewhat comparable prices if they wanted to retain a share of the market, and we’d all benefit. All of us except the moguls who own the other oil companies, of course. And that would certainly be okay.

HOW MANY MILES?

Hear about the fellow who was amazed that Christopher Columbus and his sailors managed to get 3,000 miles to the gallon?

Now that’s economy!

AGING EYES

Most of us who have celebrated too many birthdays find our vision beginning to fail, particularly night vision. That can make driving difficult, especially if we’re not careful to get home before dark.

Why does this happen?

In some cases, the eye’s lenses lose flexibility, making it harder to focus. The resulting blurry vision can make it hard to read the speedometer and street signs, and also makes it hard to refocus quickly from near to distance vision, for example from checking the gauges to watching for deer on the side of the road.

Eyes also can become more sensitive to glare. This can make night driving difficult, as reflective signs and headlights of oncoming cars can prove blinding to older drivers. Some of us find driving in bright sunlight also becomes difficult, but that can be handled with sunglasses.

Peripheral vision also becomes more limited, meaning older drivers may be less likely to spot that deer ready to jump into the driving lane, or a car about to sideswipe theirs.

Older drivers often find they need more light to see clearly. Pupils sometimes react more slowly, early cataracts may cause light entering the eye to become dim and blurred, or retinas for several reasons can become less responsive to light.

Despite these problems, there are things older drivers can do to be safer drivers.

First, have regular eye exams to detect vision problems and spot eye diseases early. If you need glasses, wear them! Avoid glasses with heavy frames that can limit peripheral vision.

Don’t drive at night, dusk or dawn, especially if you’re sensitive to glare or need more light to see clearly.

Keep your windshield and mirrors scrupulously clean, inside and out.

Clean your headlights often.

Fight glare with minor adjustments. Set your seat height so you’re able to see at least 10 feet of road in front of your vehicle. This adjustment can greatly reduce the glare from oncoming headlights. Get into the habit of glancing to the lower right of the road ahead when driving past oncoming traffic.

Check your blind spots often. Turn your head frequently to adjust for any peripheral vision you’ve lost, and adjust the side mirrors to get rid of blind spots.

Don’t drive when you’re extremely tired, or if you’re taking medication that has a sedating effect. The warnings are there. If you need to go somewhere at those times, give the keys to someone whose abilities are not impaired. A driver on the wrong medication is at least as much of a hazard on the road as a drunk driver, perhaps even more. And sleepiness causes blurred vision for some of us, even those of us who do not doze off at the wheel.

ON THE SOAP BOX

CHOICES


Much as some campaigners may try to disguise it, both presidential candidates this year - incumbent Barrack Obama and contender Mitt Romney - are very wealthy, and are among the top one percent in the United States in terms of earnings.

Romney has managed to amass about $200 million, compared to “only” about $13 million for Obama, but both are way, way above the poverty line.

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour says Obama made his money writing two books about himself, while Romney earned his because people trusted his judgment enough to invest in the companies he ran, and then asks, “Which one do you figure is going to do a better job of getting our economy going in the right direction?”

Barbour urged conservatives to look past Romney’s moderate record as governor of Massachusetts, and instead look at the difference between him and Obama in terms of their vision, their plan, their policies, and their belief in the history and the fundamental principles of America. “In those areas lie the greatest difference between any two presidential candidates in my lifetime!”

INSURANCE HYPOCRISY

“Fathom the hypocrisy of a government that requires every citizen to prove they are insured... but not everyone must prove they are a citizen,” challenges Ben Stein, who adds that under Obamacare, “Many of those who refuse, or are unable, to prove they are citizens will receive free insurance paid for by those who are forced to buy insurance because they are citizens.”

STILL ON THE SOAP BOX

GREAT EXAMPLE


Those folks who care so much about the well being of our nation that they’re camped out at Tampa, Fla. to stage protests at the Republican National Convention sure do set a fine example for the rest of us.

According to a Florida news report, one of them, a fine, civic minded 24-year-old named Dante M. Sea, was charged with aggravated battery Tuesday after he hit a fellow protest camper, 60-year-old Eddie Thomas, and broke his jaw.

Reports are that the fight started because Shea took a piece of cardboard from the shed Thomas occupied in the temporary camp they call “Romneyville.”

Let’s all hope those wonderful, upright citizens are so busy mutilating each other that they forget to vote come November!

GROWIN’ THINGS

According to the folks at UWEX in Milwaukee, from now until Sept. 20 is the ideal time to seed or sod new lawns or to repair diseased or damaged areas of your yard.

They suggest preparing areas to be seeded with an application of the herbicide glyphosate 10 days before seeding or sodding, and then roto tilling to a depth of 6-8 inches. Work in extra organic matter and fertilizer.

Level and rake smooth. Rake seeded areas lightly to bury seed about 1/8 inch. Tamp to assure good seed to soil contact. Cover newly seeded areas with a very light layer of straw or floating row cover fabric to help retain moisture. Do not allow the surface to dry out until all grass has emerged - about 15 days. Mow as soon as the new grass is 3 - 31/2 inches tall.

They say Labor Day weekend is the perfect time to apply fertilizer to the lawn, and September is the only time of year when weed and feed products are actually timed right for both the weed control and the fertilization. If you do three applications of fertilizer per year, they should be on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.

In the Milwaukee area at least, seeds can be sown for late crops of leaf lettuce, mustard greens, Swiss chard and spinach. Since our growing season here in the northland is so much shorter, this may or may not work, but this has been a weird year, so it may be worth the cost of a few seeds and a bit of work to have fresh greens into fall.

COOKIN’ TIME

It looks like as long as we keep picking the garden will keep producing, especially zucchini. There are more ways to fix that versatile vegetable than perhaps any other in the world, and new ideas keep turning up. Peppers are also ready harvest in abundance, so enjoy them while you can.

GREAT GARDEN SOUP

Takes only about 15 minutes to get this going, and another half hour to cook. Wonderful with grilled cheese sandwiches. Keep a pot on hand for Labor Day weekend pop-in guests. We even like this for brunch with scrambled egg sandwiches.

2 tablespoon olive oil, preferably extra virgin

1 large onion, diced

2 teaspoons paprika, hot

28 ounce can vegetable broth or V-8

4 medium plum tomatoes, cubed

1 medium yellow summer squash, sliced

1 medium zucchini, sliced

2 cups potatoes, diced

1 1/2 cups green beans, snipped

2 cups spinach, fresh or frozen, chopped

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped or prepared pesto

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 6 minutes. Add paprika and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add broth, tomatoes, potatoes and beans; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are barely tender, about 10 minutes. Add squashes and simmer another three minutes or so. Then stir in spinach and vinegar and continue cooking 2 to 4 minutes more, until heated through. Ladle soup into bowls and top with fresh basil or a dollop of pesto.

PEPPERS MARINATED IN OIL

Canning peppers or anything else containing oil requires extra care, but it’s worth it. Be sure to leave plenty of room between the lid and contents of the canning jar, make sure rims are oil free, and follow recipe exactly for best and safest results. Recipe makes 7 to 8 pints.

3 pounds hot peppers (Jalapenos or other varieties)

7 to 14 cloves garlic

7 tablespoons dried oregano, optional

4 tablespoons sugar, optional

5 cups vinegar

1 cup water

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pickling salt

3/4 cup vegetable or olive oil

Wear rubber gloves when handling hot chilies. Do not touch the eyes or face. Wash peppers. Make two small slits in each whole pepper. Pack one or two garlic cloves and one tablespoon oregano into each clean, hot, sterilized pint jar. Pack peppers tightly into jars, leaving 1-inch head space. (I prefer to cut them into slices or rings, and remove seeds.) Combine vinegar, water, salt and oil and bring to a boil. Use either sugar or oregano, not both. Whichever you use, add it now. Simmer 5 minutes. Pour hot solution over peppers, leaving 1-inch head space. Make sure oil is equally distributed across jars. There should be no more than two tablespoons of oil per pint. Carefully wipe the jar lip so it is free of all oil. Add pretreated lids. Process in boiling water bath, 15 minutes for pints or half pints and 20 minutes for quarts. Be sure the jars have sealed, and if not refrigerate and eat soon. Otherwise, for best flavor, store jars five to six weeks before opening.

GRILLED JALAPLENO BOMBERS

Toast these over the campfire instead of hot dogs for a late-night snack over the holiday weekend.

6 jalapeno peppers

1/2 cup Philadelphia cream cheese

6 thin slices uncooked bacon

Preparation

If you want to enjoy these peppery little treats but aren’t into toasting over a campfire, cook them in the oven in a shallow roaster with a wire rack. If you soak the jalapenos in water after splitting them in half and removing the seeds it seems to take away some of the “heat.” The longer you soak them the milder they get, in case some of your guests don’t like it hot.

Also, the more membrane removed the milder the finished pepper will be. Caution: the oils and seeds from jalapenos can be very hot and can irritate the skin and eyes. Wash your hands well after handling jalapenos. Cut off stems of the jalapenos and slice them in half lengthwise.

Carefully scoop out the seeds and discard. Rinse the jalapenos under cold water. Soak them in water now if you wish. Scoop enough cream cheese into each jalapeno half to fill it level, like a canoe. Cut each slice of bacon in half and wrap a half slice around each cream cheese filled jalapeno. Secured with a toothpick. Try to ensure that the bacon covers the cream cheese to prevent leakage.

Grill over direct heat or in oven at 325 to 375 degrees. Flip the jalapenos at least once to ensure the bacon cooks on all sides. Once the bacon is cooked to your liking, 10-12 minutes usually, remove the jalapenos from the grill and serve as soon as cool enough to eat.

ZUCCHINI PANCAKES

This is one of many, many versions. I have done very well by mixing ground or shredded zucchini, vanilla, eggs, a pinch of salt and just barely enough flour to hold everything together. Eat these with maple syrup or apple sauce. Great way to get extra servings of veggies into the family, and relatively low carb at that, until you add the syrup.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon honey

3 tablespoons oil

1 cup ground zucchini

Mix all dry ingredients with fork. Combine eggs with other liquids. Add zucchini, then dry ingredients, stirring very little. Spoon batter onto lightly greased griddle at medium heat. Turn cakes when they have started to bubble. (If you want crispy edges, heat oil in a frying pan until sizzling, spoon in pancake batter and cook as you would any other pancake.) Continue cooking to brown other side. Top with applesauce, maple syrup, or wilderness syrup made by melting together equal amounts of butter and honey. Serve warm.

Thought for the Week: Government has no money of its own. What one person receives without working for is provided by someone else who worked for it but did not receive it, or at least did not get to keep it.

(Column written by Shirley Prudhomme of Crivitz. Views expressed are her own and are in no way intended to be an official statement of the opinions of Peshtigo Times editors and publishers. She may be contacted by phone at 715-927-5034 or by e-mail at shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo. com.)

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