Thursday, March 2, 2017

Memory lane through Philomath's wine country

Most my memories of Philomath are before the age of 17 when I moved to California after graduation. That was the deal I made with my parents: finish school and I could start my life’s adventure wherever I wanted. Fast-forward 17 years and I’m back, with many memories of the Golden State, and a fresh pair of eyes as I rediscover my hometown.

I grew up in a place between Kings Valley and Wren, technically Philomath, but we often called it “no man’s land.” It was rural enough that a trip to town took 30 minutes, so I spent many hours entertaining myself in the woods and pastures that surrounded us. In my absence, that place has become a local destination in the world of wine, and its pastures have been replaced with rows of grapes. A mini Sonoma, Cardwell Hill Road is now a household name.

Recently I went for a day trip to my former playground. As we pulled up to Lumos' tasting room it felt familiar. In its past life the property belonged to my childhood friend’s grandfather. As we sat on the new deck built off the old barn, I thought of my friend Jonah. We used to play in the fields below. I still have our “first day of school” photos, us side-by-side at the bus stop with our little lunch boxes and big smiles.

As we headed to Cardwell Hill Cellars on the road that is now paved, I didn’t hear the slaps of gravel against the car that I remembered growing up. We passed the spot in the road where I had a bike accident that resulted in my first stitches. I had gotten gravel lodged in my forehead when I flew over my handlebars and caught the ground with my face. I thought about how that was my first act of bravery; the day I sat still as the doctor removed the pieces.

We came upon Coyote Hill Road, the road leading to my childhood home. It now has a fancy bus stop at the bottom with solar panels on the roof, an upgrade to the umbrella I used to stand under. I recalled when the families living on that road came together to give it its name. I was too young for my vote to count, but I do remember the debates, ultimately giving namesake to the coyotes that roamed the hills. Growing up I remember seeing them slip in and out of the tree line and can still hear the cracked voices of the pups learning to howl each summer.

From the road I looked up to the place I used to call home. The house is now hidden by the trees but I could see the barn. I thought about my handprint in its foundation. I saw the gate to the garden my dad built with a “Z” pattern for my mom’s maiden name. Most of the trees that border the property were planted by us; some were our Christmas trees, some were the seedlings I brought home on Earth Day. Now those trees tower above the ground, all grown up, just like me. The saying, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago” crossed my mind and never felt so relevant.

When we got to our next stop, the Cardwell Hill Cellars property looked nothing like it used to. The wild, grassy fields that llamas once grazed are long gone. The deck off the tasting room has a view of our former property. The oldest vines in the vineyard were planted along the border of ours in the last years we lived there. I recalled the day we were at the county fair and heard of a fire on Cardwell Hill. We rushed home and found the flames spreading up the hill to our property and to Cardwell Cellar’s now vintage vines. I remember us fighting the fire with hoses and buckets before the fire department arrived. I realized I had helped protect the plants that would define the future of Cardwell Hill, possibly sipping on their fruits as I recollected.

My trip down memory lane left me thinking about how each of us leaves our mark on the world and how the world leaves it mark on us. Like the handprint in the foundation of the barn, or the “Z” pattern on the gate of the garden, sometimes our marks carry over into someone’s else’s memories, past and present colliding. Some marks last longer than others, but the best ones are those that stay with us a lifetime.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Philomath High students march with a message for administration

The town of Philomath saw a lot of action the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 22. In response to perceived injustices towards their classmates and teachers, concerned high school students organized a peaceful march so their voices could be heard. 

At 9:20 a.m. students met at the front doors of their school with a message for administrators. Student body president Chris McMorran began the day's event standing before the crowd with a handheld megaphone. "We understand your concerns haven't been heard this year," he said. March organizer Steven Graves then took to the megaphone: "We're going to start our march by going to the District Office for a couple of minutes, or however long we decide to be there." 

An energetic crowd embarked on their march as they held their homemade signs and began to chant "enough is enough!” Since last summer tension has been high stemming from the discovery of hazing-gone-wrong at a pre-season football camp. Since investigations began into the staff and administration, players have been formally charged, the coach was dismissed, and staff have been placed on administrative leave. The students have been left with more questions than answers, they say, and the forced leave of two staffers last week prompted them to take action.

Some signs had messages for superintendent Melissa Goff, some showed support for expelled quarterback Kenan Conner, others had messages of hope such as "Peace 2 PHS,” many showed support for Doreen Hamilton and Jan Kilgore, both on administrative leave since Feb. 17.

As the group of over 100 took to the sidewalks, parents and supporters standing by joined the students on their journey to the District Office. Drivers passing by honked their horns at the crowd that included babies in strollers, toddlers in rain coats, and even some family dogs. The sounds of their march could be heard for blocks as they cheered "We are Warriors!" 

Their presence at the District Office got no reaction from those inside as the students joined together to yell "it's not fair!” in front of the office. They each had their reasons for the statement; some said it for Doreen and Jan, some said it for Kenan, some said it referring to the overall situation that resulted in the cancellation of the varsity football season.

After circling the grounds of the elementary school marchers headed to the primary school and middle school. One protester yelled, “We want everyone to know that we are serious!” The students responded in unison, “Let’s get fired up!” as they continued down Applegate.

After a 50-minute loop of all five school properties, local television and newspaper reporters stood ready as the students returned to the high school.

Steven Graves held the megaphone as peers surrounded the rock in front of the school spray-painted with the message “Jan + Doreen.” Graves took to the megaphone: “If you have been positively impacted by Doreen and Jan since being in this high school give them a little scream.” In front of the cheering crowd he continued, “If you think the administration is treating people unfairly give them a little scream.” The official reason for their leave has yet to be disclosed, but many students believe the reason is related to their opinions of how the hazing investigation has unraveled.

There was one more stop to make. “Let’s all go to Kenan’s house!” Graves urged on the megaphone. The crowd burst into cheer and began their walk again.

After a few blocks to College Street, students clustered on the lawn of their expelled schoolmate. Although Kenan was not home they got him on the phone, put his call on speakerphone, and held it up to the megaphone. “Thank you guys,” he told his peers. “I love you, see you soon, I love all the support.”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Republic Services' new campaign: Empty, Clean & Dry

This January, Republic Services began a national campaign to encourage consumers to change the way they think about recycling. The idea is simple: empty, clean and dry.

In response to a changing recycling industry, Republic knows the demand for better quality recycled materials will maximize what can actually be used for new materials. As the largest recycler in Benton County, and the second largest waste hauling company in the country, Republic is focused on educating consumers on how to properly discard and sort materials.

“Our new program is Empty, Clean and Dry, so it’s really simple,” said Julie Jackson, municipal manager at the Corvallis office. “It has to do with why you prepare recycling to ensure it is usable at the processing facilities.”

With 14 million customers in 39 states and Puerto Rico, Republic has over 15,000 trucks moving materials to 67 recycling centers across the country. That correlates to 5 million tons of materials processed each year.

Last year, Benton County created 7,076 tons of co-mingled materials and an additional 3,000 tons of cardboard. This year, discarded cardboard is expected to continue to increase.

“It’s interesting that there’s more cardboard then we were seeing before,” said Jackson. “My theory is that Amazon and Amazon Prime may be contributing to this increase.”

In the past, many stateside recycled materials in poor condition were sent across seas. Because there was a home for lower quality materials, the push for high quality materials has not been on the industry radar. But now countries are changing their recycling regulations to be similar to those in the U.S.

“It used to be that we as an industry could send not-so-clean materials to Asian markets,” said Jackson. “Anymore that is not the case. The Asian markets, and all markets, are now demanding a cleaner product.”

Once put into recycling bins, if materials are not empty, spilled contents may contaminate others in the same bin. If materials are not clean, for example, paper is not white, then they may require extra bleaching or chemicals to restore it. If materials are not dry, they may become degraded and unusable.

“You have to think about recycling as a commodity like any other that is bought and sold,” said Jackson. “The product that is not-so-clean and of good quality won’t be sold as much. We have to think about our recycling the same way.”

Republic has found that many consumers don’t know the basic steps they can take to keep their recyclables in a condition that makes them a likely candidate for reuse. The 2017 campaign is designed to help increase awareness.

“When we talk to people about it it really resonates as to why they are doing it,” said Jackson. “A big piece of it is, I think, for a long time we haven’t been as transparent as an industry as to how recycling really works.”

In Oregon, for example, all plastics are processed by hand. At the processing facilities materials are put on a conveyer belt that moves 100 feet per minute. Workers have to be able to quickly and easily identify types and sizes of materials to sort accordingly. Having materials empty, clean, and dry helps weed out contaminants that don’t get recycled.

Common mistakes made by consumers using co-mingled bins include the notion that styrofoam is recyclable. Republic does not recycle styrofoam products and has to remove all such materials at processing facilities. Also a common mistake is including plastic bags or plastic films from packaging.

“Plastic bags sort of float around in the air like plastic tumbleweed in the facility,” said Jackson. “Every day at a certain time they have to shut down and have people clean out the plastics stuck in the machines.”

Such plastics should be discarded in labeled containers at the Corvallis facility, or at grocery stores with designated bins. According to Jackson, these plastics are valuable if clean and a commodity to the industry, but they need to be recycled correctly.

As Republic moves into a new year and continues to focus on sustainability, they hope to stay ahead of the industry with this initiative. All Republic customers will be informed of further details and tips in a newsletter to be sent later this month.

Apple Pie Moonshine!

There are many wonders of the fall; the cool weather, the colors, the harvest. During the winter months, opening canned items from the year’s bounty can be nostalgic. They can also be great gifts during the holiday season.

A few year’s ago I began attending an annual apple cider press hosted by a local farm with an established orchard. The event has grown into a community affair, where neighbors come to help pick the harvest and bring their own apples, pears, or quince to throw into the press, adding a unique blend of local flavors. Last year, a friend had the idea to use the fresh-pressed juice in an apple pie moonshine recipe she was perfecting. The idea turned out to be a good one.

You don’t have to use fresh squeezed juice, but if you have the opportunity, I would highly recommend it. If you don’t have enough fresh juice for the entire recipe, you can use part fresh and part store bought. The drink is an alcoholic beverage, and is easily stored in mason jars for the year to come. You can serve it hot or cold, but either way, it is bound to warm you up.

  • 1 gallon Indian Summer Apple Juice (If you choose another brand, make it a high quality juice with high concentration.)
  • 1 gallon Indian Apple Cider
  • 8 cinnamon 6" sticks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (You can also add fresh scraped vanilla from the bean to enhance the freshness and appeal. About two whole beans is recommended.)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 liter Everclear (If Everclear is unavailable you can use 151, just add half a liter more to the recipe.)
  • 4 fresh apples (Recommended: Honey Crisp, Granny Smith or Sweetango.)
  • 24 16oz Mason Jars

Step 1: In a pot large enough to hold at least 2.5 gallons pour in the gallon of apple juice, the gallon of apple cider, and mix in brown sugar, white sugar, and cinnamon sticks.
Step 2: Bring the pot to a rolling boil on high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved into the liquid.
Step 3: Remove the pot from the burner and let cool. While cooling, add the ground cinnamon and vanilla extract (and fresh vanilla if desired) and stir until mixed. Put the lid on the pot and let cool for about two hours.
Step 4: IMPORTANT: Liquid needs to be lukewarm, not hot, before you can continue this step. Pour in Everclear or 151. If the liquid mixture inside the pot is still hot the alcohol will evaporate and you will have non-alcoholic moonshine.
Step 5: Using a ladle take the liquid from the cooled moonshine and pour it into the mason jars. Fill them 3/4 full. Once all of the jars are filled, cut the apples into slices and put a slice of apple into each jar before sealing.
Step 6: Refrigerate if wanting to drink cold or heat for 2 minutes in the microwave for hot. Moonshine stays good for over a year if canned, sealed, and stored in a cool place. All it takes is a bow and they’re ready to be gifted!

Drink Your Breakfast!

In a society that makes not-so-good-for-you foods readily accessible, it’s a good idea to start your day with essential vitamins and minerals so you don’t find yourself grabbing pre-packaged foods to keep the edge off. But that’s no secret, is it? The secret is how to do it quickly and easily every day.

A smoothie is a great way to get a good dose of nutrition any time of the year. Depending on the season, there are always fresh fruits available to keep your smoothie different and delicious. Smoothies also give opportunity to add an array of other foods that may otherwise make an odd pairing on a breakfast plate.

With the help of friends who also “drink their breakfast,” I have combined several ingredients for my smoothies that help make a well-rounded meal that lasts for hours. I have done a fair amount of research to choose my ingredients, and since drinking on a regular basis I feel the difference in my energy level, have seen my hair grow faster and my nails grow stronger. And that’s just what I can see externally!

Let the yum begin as you work towards your 2017 health goals.

1 raw egg
1 banana
1 apple
1/2 cup blueberries
1 handful of spinach (or kale)
1 tsp chia (or flax) seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp raw honey
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 drop essential rose oil
1 cup juice of your choice (or milk if you want to cut down on sugar)
Handful of ice

Why is that in there??

  • Chia is one of the richest sources of soluble fiber. The seeds also have 60 percent omega-3s, making them one of the richest plant-based sources of these fatty acids. Omega-3s can help reduce inflammation, enhance cognitive performance, and reduce high cholesterol.
  • Coconut oil works as a natural anti-inflammatory, suppressing cells responsible for inflammation. It also contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which enable the oil to supply energy directly to the brain.
  • Turmeric is a potent antioxidant that boosts levels of the brain hormone BDNF, which increases the growth of brain cells and fights degenerative processes in the brain. Turmeric also helps keep your immune system healthy while improving your brain’s oxygen intake.
  • Raw honey contains bee pollen, which is known to ward off infections, provide natural allergy relief, and boost overall immunity. Many seasonal allergy sufferers have found local, raw honey to be helpful because it desensitizes them to the fauna triggering their allergic reaction.
  • Rose oil strengthens gums and hair roots, tones and lifts skin, and contracts muscles, intestines and blood vessels. This essential oil helps protect against the loss of teeth and hair, combats wrinkles, and helps keeps intestines and muscles of the abdominal area and limbs firm.