Friday, August 27, 2010

A Moonlight Adventure

Even though the high temperatures during the day are still in the 80's and there's bright sunshine most days, the days are getting shorter and the nighttime temperatures are dipping into the 50's and below.

I read a tweet this morning from a farmer who was preparing to remove the irrigation pipes from his fields as the corn and soybeans have enough moisture to make a crop and it's time for the drying process to begin. The calendar may still say summer, but all signs are pointing to autumn.

We can sense our summer of abundant river water and frequent river trips coming to a close so to celebrate we gathered our companions for what may be a final hurrah, a moonlight tanking trip on the North Platte River between Paxton and Sarben. Although safety wasn't necessarily our number one concern, we still didn't want to make headlines in the next days' paper, so the first group made a trip down in the afternoon placing glow sticks on the deadfalls and hazards, thinking to give us fair warning of danger, although we pretty much have the river memorized, even in the dark.

After that, there were burgers an brats on our patio waiting for full dark and the moon to rise. Another Twitter friend had posted earlier in the day that the National Geographic reported that this was going to be the smallest and dimmest full moon of the year, which gave us pause, but we really had no need to worry. The moon and the river were beautiful.Unfortunately, my photography skills are not such that they lend themselves to nighttime pictures, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

We got on the water at about 10:30. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the mosquitos didn't plague us too badly. The cicadas, crickets and even the bull frogs were in full voice, although with nine people in the tank, this wasn't a night for communing with nature. My throat is still sore this morning from laughing so hard on the trip.

We made it to the Sarben bridge right at midnight, and forethought by The Mister insured that all of our vehicles were there so we didn't have to do any ferrying when what we really wanted to do was just call it a night.

Great scenery, great atmosphere, great friends. If we have to call an end to summer fun, this was a pretty good way to do it.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Burwell and the Calamus Outfitters

I almost started this blog post by saying how pleasantly surprised with what a wonderful small town and beautiful part of Nebraska Burwell is, but that would be completely wrong! We knew it was going to be wonderful and beautiful, we just needed to get out there and experience it!
This little town of about 2,000 people in Garfield County boasts the largest rodeo in the state of Nebraska. Nebraska's Big Rodeo began in 1921 when town fathers made a concerted effort to use their annual celebration to be a catalyst for the growth and development of the region, to put Burwell "on the map". They succeeded, and their spirit of entrepreneurship can still be seen in this wonderful rural community.

We were fortunate enough to have the Sandstone Grill as the headquarters for our Nebraska Travel Association meeting in Burwell, which was the underlying reason for our visit. Owners Tammy Schmaljohn and Tenise Jarecke have created a cozy and comfortable yet amazingly sophisticated eatery out of an old building on Burwell's central square. As you can see from the menu below, if you have a perception of food on the great plains being nothing but "meat and taters", you are mistaken - pleasantly so, yet still mistaken!
Not only is it deliciously prepared, but it is beautifully presented.
The main course showed an equal amount of care and professionalism in its preparation and presentation. I should have eaten before I started this blog post... now I'm starving, and Burwell is a long way away!
Our trip to Burwell wasn't all about food and business, it was also about fun! You should know that about me by now - I never miss a chance to have some fun! So we all loaded up on the bus and headed out for adventure.

Burwell is just a few short miles from the Calamus Reservoir, which is fed by the Calamus river. The combination of the two make for some great water fun in the middle of Nebraska. You do remember me telling you that Nebraska has more miles of shoreline than any other state in the union, don't you? We know how to have water fun!

Even though it was an overcast drizzly day, it was warm, and the weather didn't dampen our spirits at all. We had three activities to choose from, tanking, horseback riding and a nature safari. The Mister and I joined our friends in a tank on the Calamus River. Before the end of our trip, the wind died down and the sun came out and our earlier discomfort was well worth it.
Back at the lodge of the Calamus Outfitters, we bought souvenirs of our trip and joined our friends in regaling each other with tales of our adventures. As you can see, regardless of your interest (as long as it has something to do with enjoying the outdoors!), the Calamus Outfitters will be able to show you a good time. Even if you just want to relax and spend some time enjoying nature on your own, you can do that too. Should the weather threaten, the huge barn is always there to keep you and your party warm and dry, while watching the weather systems roll across the valley. Right now you're probably thinking that the tourism industry in Nebraska is in deep trouble with this motley crew representing it. Let me tell you though - the friends you see here are some of the savvyist, most intelligent, hard working and dedicated tourism professionals you will find anywhere! We're not in it for nothing though - we know how to have a good time when we all get together.
Following an afternoon of adventure, we were all ready for a hearty meal, and the Calamus Outfitters didn't disappoint. We were treated to their signature "pitchfork steak" dinner.
Complete with all the fixin's of course!
The problem with these gatherings is that too many of our colleagues are too busy to take the time to join us, and that they are too short! We did get an educational workshop in (presented by one of Nebraska's best Economic Development Directors, Caleb Pollard of Ord) and of course the business meeting of NETA in which we importantly approved the annual budget (see boss, I was working!). Most of all we got to see and appreciate a beautiful area of Nebraska and network with our colleagues in the industry. Overall extremely successful!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Kilted For Her Pleasure

I placed my first order through CD Baby earlier this week, and I love this company! I usually just download the mp3's that I want from iTunes, but I wanted the actual CD of Marc Gunn's "Kilted For Her Pleasure".

Appropriately enough, it was at Marc Gunn's appearance at our House Concert that we presented The Mister with his very own kilt, in his clan tartan.
When I married The Mister, I also came into possession of his two-inch thick geneaolgy, which traces his ancestry back to the Scotland of the late 1600's and early 1700's, through the clearances that broke his McPheeters clan and chased them to Ireland under the protection of the McLaren clan, and finally to America to the wilds of Pennsylvania in about 1727.

We had such a wonderful time with Marc that he will be back for a return performance in August of 2011, and I definitely want a hard-copy of his CD for him to sign to me, hence my reason for ordering from CD Baby.

Now let me share with you the confirmation email I received from CD Baby, and you'll see why I love this company so much:

Thanks for your order with CD Baby!


(1) Marc Gunn: Kilted For Her Pleasure

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved "Bon Voyage!" to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, August 17, 2010.

We hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. In commemoration, we have placed your picture on our wall as "Customer of the Year." We're all exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
We miss you already. We'll be right here at, patiently awaiting your return.

It must be something to do with the personality of people associated with kilted men, because now I have to share the first page (of the nine page) quarterly newsletter that I received from Utilikilts, which is THE source for, get this, utility kilts, which will be the next purchase for The Mister's wardrobe.
2010 Summer Anti-Catalogue
Summer is in full swing here at UKHQ, and our Disco Season busy-ness has us all running around like headless poultry. But lest you think we’ve somehow forgotten you, dear reader, we sat down and scribbled out the summer edition of our quarterly-ish publication. Now, admittedly, we wrote this on cocktail napkins during happy hour at our favourite local watering hole, so we’re going to try to read our ever-drunker penmanship amidst the beer stains and whiskey slobbers, and keep it intelligible.

First up is the retail store!
Throw on your favorite Utilikilt, light up the grill and grab a cold one, because summer is here! Our favoritest time of year at the retail store, and here’s why:
1. Utilikilt = built-in air conditioning.
2. Every local brewer has a “seasonal” brew.
3. Four words: Huge Tracts Of Land
4. Summer music festivals.
5. We use The Duck Boats as moving targets for water gun fights.

There’s a fresh face sweeping the floors these days…it’s Rick! He’s our FNG and Chief Broom Pusher. He roots for the Sox and the Celtics. Truth be told, he’ll root for anyone if he’s got a cold beer in his hand. He’s been ‘kilted for about 4 years now and loves telling the story about throwing on his first Utilikilt…it was his girlfriend’s idea and involved lots of alcohol!

By the way, have you picked up your Green Camo Original yet? If not, you want to do that soon. I’ve seen the racks in the warehouse and the store…they’re looking pretty sparse if you wanna get your ass kilted in a 6 ounce rip-stop cotton. It’s lightweight, super-breezy, and won’t be around forever.

Did you know that you don’t have to wait for the newsletter to come out to find out what the freshest action on the Scratch & Dent list is? All you have to do is shoot an email to and we’ll fire back a PDF of what we currently have.

On a related note, a lot of dudes are coming into the store and saying, “Hey, I dropped a boat-load of weight and my Utilikilt doesn’t fit anymore. What do I do?” Well, Sparky, here’s the deal…whenever guys get too big or too small for their Utilikilts, we tell them to hit up one of them online auction sites (rhymes with eBay). This way, you get some cash that you can put towards a fresh Utilikilt. The other option is keeping it at the bottom of your closet just in case you need a “fat kilt”.

Some upcoming events at the retail store include a Naked/Clothing Optional ArtWalk (First Thursday in October) and we’re still trying to put some finishing touches on something we like to call BeerWalk (more on that later). In the meantime, we’ll keep truckin’ along…getting men out of their pants and into freedom!

Utilikilts Retail Store Overlord & Wrangler of Large Primates
620 1st Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104
Now, these are really our kinda people! We actually strolled by the Utilikilts store when we were in Seattle for CatchCon, and we SHOULD have stopped, but you know, all the fun with the fellow fans, Captains and Crews kept us pretty busy.

Then, in keeping with the kilt theme, just this week, one of my favorite blogs (Outlandish Observations) discussing one of my favorite authors (Diana Gabaldon), who writes about my second favorite Scotsman (James Fraser), posted an amazing collection of kilted men photographs. Be sure to take the time to read the comments below the blog post and click on the links provided. Pictures a little too risque for the original post!

So, this post maybe doesn't have as much to do with CD Baby (although I do LOVE that company), as it has to do with kilts!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on (and, check out your own copy of "Kilted For Her Pleasure")

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Visit to Fort Hartsuff

I have a confession to make. Despite the fact that I try to project to my readers that I am a sophisticated well traveled adventuress, I had never before been to Burwell, Nebraska. This isn't quite as bad as it sounds as I have now rectified that particular deficiency, but nonetheless, there it is.

However, I have made a previous trip to Fort Hartsuff, which is about ten miles south of Burwell, so I have been in the vicinity. On a recent business trip (I use the term loosely, but it WAS for business, as you'll see in a later post), The Mister and I had a chance to revisit this historic fort. It brought back wonderful memories, as my first trip to the Fort had been on one of our wonderful road trips with the Number Two Daughter.

Fort Hartsuff was completed in about 1874 or 1875. General George Hartsuff never visited the Fort, but as he had passed away shortly before completion of the fort, it was deemed fitting to name it after him. It was abandoned in 1881, so had a short but important lifespan.

It now is one of ten State Historical Parks operated by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. While it is not the largest in Nebraska (that distinction goes to Fort Robinson), it is the most complete in that it contains ALL of the original buildings. It is the most complete 1870's era fort in the entire USA!

Below is an exterior shot of the enlisted men's quarters.Fort Hartsuff is unique for a number of reasons. First, it is the only fort in the US whose primary mission was to maintain the peace between two Native American tribes. At the time of its commissioning, the local Pawnee were on a reservation to the east, near Genoa Nebraska. The Lakota whose primary residence was to the northwest, considered this entire area their hunting grounds. These two tribes were mortal enemies were constantly raiding one another, with the settlers being caught in the middle.

Let me admit right now that I am of caucasion European descent, able to trace her heritage back an entire two generations to the early teens of the twentieth century, so it wasn't MY ancestors infringing upon Native lands. OK, so the Mister can trace his Scots-Irish ancestry back to about 1740 in North Carolina, but hey, they still weren't in Nebraska!

Not to sound crass or anything, but I'm just telling you how it was told to me, not necessarily how it SHOULD have been or what was right.

Anyway, so Fort Hartsuff was unique in that one of its missions was to keep the peace between two factions of Native Americans.

Below is an interior view of the enlisted mens' quarters. The second reason Fort Hartsuff is unique, is that it is constructed nearly entirely from the equivalent of concrete. Even though you will see abundant trees in the pictures I took of the Fort, at the time it was built, there was only one tree in the area. Frequent prairie fires kept the trees burned off even the river bottoms. However there was abundant gravel, and there was a limestone kiln available near Coatsville, Nebraska, so that is what they built the fort out of.

The walls are nearly two feet thick, which had the added advantage of being cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Also, it insured that the fort would survive through the many years of private use once it was abandoned.

Below is a view of the kitchen area of the enlisted mens quarters. Back in the day, there was one company stationed at the fort at all times, which supposedly consisted of 60 infantry men. In actuality, records indicate that there were probably 39 to 55 men stationed at Fort Hartsuff at any one time.

The third thing that sets Fort Hartsuff apart from other frontier forts is that three soldiers garrisoned at the fort were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for one skirmish.

It happened like this. One day, a band of Lakotas stole a turkey from some settlers. Naturally, the settlers were unhappy with this turn of events and asked the soldiers stationed at the fort to intervene on their behalf. It was a turkey, after all!

The soldiers cornered the Indians in a blowout (hence the name "Battle of the Blowout"). During the clash one soldier was killed. Night fell, and in the darkness all of the Indians escaped. However, three soldiers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their role in the fighting.

Below is the Officers Quarters, which is a duplex, both sides being mirror images of each other. Housed here would have been two Lieutenants, the post surgeon, their families and servants.
According to one informational plaque in the home, as many as 14 people at one time may have lived here. In addition to being beautifully restored, the home is filled with period furnishings, including some that would have belonged to people who actually lived here.

Behind this house in the Sandhills is the fort's water supply, pumped by a windmill. It was surrounded by a stockade, the only one on the post, which could be reached using an underground tunnel and ditch. The women and children would have retreated here in case of a threat. Here are two people who called Fort Hartsuff home, at least for awhile. Lt. Thaddeus Hurlbut Capran and Cynthia J. (Stevens) Capron. Kind of makes the whole thing real to see their photographs hanging in the home in which they once lived. This is the view across the parade ground from the front porch of the Officers Quarters. Remember, back in the day there wouldn't have been a tree in sight! The building in the center is the guardhouse. Twelve men would move from the barracks to the guardhouse during their time on duty. There would have been four men patrolling the grounds at all times.

Inside the guardhouse are tiny boxes that would have been used for serious offenders. When I say tiny, I mean tiny! Maybe about eighteen inches wide and about four feet long and high. I would have minded my P's and Q's if that was to be my fate! Also here are more traditional cells used for minor offenses, as well as for any lawbreaking civilians.

The flag pole is a reproduction, and at 95' tall is 2' shorter than the original. It was obtained from the York Public Power District and hauled to the site by helicopter, then set by a dragline. It weighs 5 tons! The original one was cut near Long Pine Nebraska, and hauled using three wagons more than 80 miles. There is no record of how it was set, but can you imagine setting a pole weighing more than 5 tons with nothing but manpower?
This building is very interesting to me, although it isn't open to the public. For many years, it was the home of the park Superintendent. The current Superintendent lives off-site, so this completely modern home sits empty while the Game and Parks tries to decide what to do with it.

Oh, ask me, ask me! A thoroughly modern, spacious and historic home set in the middle of the Nebraska Sandhills on the grounds of one of the most historic forts in Nebraska if not the United States? Can you say bed and breakfast? I doubt it would be vacant very often, and should command top dollar. The fort is open all year long, so even in the winter it would be an attractive place to stay.
This much smaller building is the hospital, and is also filled with period furnishings, as well as artifacts found during the restoration of the fort.
Beyond that are the Quartermaster Storehouse, the Blacksmith and Carpenters Shop and the Stable, all beautifully preserved

On the far southwest corner of the fort is the laundress quarters, bakery and Commisary Sgt. quarters (not pictured). Up until a few years ago, a local baker would fire up the huge brick ovens each weekend and bake bread for visitors. The ration was a one pound loaf of bread for each soldier, so you can imagine the amount of bread that had been baked here. The entire process is shown on a film that you can watch in the baker's quarters.
We found it strange that the only building not made out of concrete was the Blacksmith shop. Wouldn't that have had the most chance to catch fire?
There you have it, your whirlwind tour of Fort Hartsuff. You really should make the trip yourself, because these pictures and the story don't come close to capturing the beauty, serenity and historic feel of the place.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hey Railfans - A Train Spotters Mecca

I'm pretty sure you've all read here that North Platte has been named Rail Town USA, since we're the home of Union Pacific's Bailey Yard, the largest railroad yard in the world. However, North Platte isn't the only community in Lincoln County that can lay claim to railroad heritage.
According to The Mister, Union Pacific has begun hiring once again in Bailey Yard, they're bringing all of the locomotives stored during the downturn out of mothballs, and car loadings are up to about 180,000 each week. All of that traffic through this yard means that the Platte River valley is home to the busiest freight corridor in the world. Today I decided to head out to see what kinds of trains I could find on a slightly overcast Sunday morning.
Nowhere on Lincoln County's 50 mile stretch of the Platte River valley can the trains be seen better than at the Railroad Park in Sutherland. This beautiful, shaded park has everything you could want - playground equipment for the kids and a covered pavilion for shade. PLUS, it's a close as you can possibly get to the action on Union Pacific's main line. Not only does Railroad Park offer a great place to relax and watch the trains go by, the convenient pedestrian walkway over the track gives you a birds-eye view of the three tracks.
As you can see, the view from the overpass gets you up-close and personal with the trains.
This morning while I was out on my photographic journey, I was fortunate enough to be able to capture a crew change. The transportation vehicle picked up the crew who was out of time, and dropped off another crew to take the train on into the yard.
As the new crew was getting settled in, they were overtaken by another train, obviously ready to go all the way into the yard.. If you happen to want to spend an extended period of time in Sutherland, you're welcome to make the home-town family owned and operated Park Motel your home away from home. As you can see, it is also conveniently located just across the highway from the tracks. If you're not into trains, this isn't necessarily a selling point.
Here is the view from the overpass to the east, looking past the lumber yard and the grain elevator You can clearly see the three tracks and the park on the left.
Now I don't claim to be a Rail Fan myself, but I think I can recognize a place that they might enjoy when I see it. If you are a Rail Fan, I will be more than happy to welcome you to Sutherland to watch all of the trains we take for granted.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is alway son.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tanking in Nebraska

I have to admit that I am addicted to checking out the stastics for my blog readership. I love looking at how many people have visited the blog, which posts are the most popular, where everyone is from, how many pages they visited, and even how long they spent on the site.

OK, so for your information (because I know you're just dying to find out), since I started publishing my blog in February of 2009, 5,279 visitors have visited 7,145 times and read 11,309 pages, averaging 1.46 minutes per visit. Visitors have come from 1908 cities in 74 countries. Kinda cool, huh?

Anyway, one of the things that fascinates me is HOW they find me. Except for the return visitors, it is predominantly through search engines, and some of the search strings are intriguing. For instance, in the last month, 49 people found my blog by searching something related to Deadliest Catch (do I really go on about DC that much?). Just about as many came to find out about Nebraska celebrities such as Miss Nebraska and Miss Rodeo Nebraska, and even a few because of my cat Adso (yes, that's a famous name, just ask Diana Gabaldon), and of course there is the ever-popular ratio of cows to people.

However, by far and away the most popular search string on my blog has something to do with tanking. Just in the last 30 days, 145 people found their way to my blog by searching, in some form, for tanking in Nebraska. Now, of course, I have blogged about tanking frequently, as it is one of our favorite summer pastimes. This year has been better than most because of the abundant water flowing down the Platte. We can tank nearly in our back yard.Here are some of the posts:

And I can't say as I blame people for their interest in tanking. It's a great way to spend time with friends and family, you get to see beautiful scenery,
And lots of wildlife. Some big...
Some small.

Of course, you know that we are fortunate enough to have access to a tank, a river that this year has had plenty of water in it, trailers and 4x4's to get us to the river. But you really don't need all of that. There are great outfitters throughout Nebraska that can get you on a river. Just this past week, we had the opportunity to go tanking with the Calamus Outfitters on the Calamus river near Burwell.
I'll be doing an entire post later on about what fun they have to offer, but even on a chilly overcast day, the tanking was wonderful.

Nebraska seems to be most known for the long, straight, flat drive along Interstate 80. I've tried to educate the world that this ain't necessarily so, and I'll continue to do so. However, at one time Nebraska was also known as The Great American Desert, and this ain't necessarily so either. In fact, Nebraska has more miles of shoreline than any other state in the country. Don't think this is true? Just look at this map that I got off of Look at all of the rivers that run nearly border to border, and of course there's the Missouri that forms the eastern boundary.
Another interesting statistic that I learned recently is that Nebraska is second only to Florida in the number of airboats operating on it's waters. Pretty cool, huh? I know of at least one outfitter, Bryson's airboats ,that offer airboat tours.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has compiled a list of all outfitters offering water adventures in Nebraska.
Nebraska River Outfitters & Rentals
State sections indicated on map inside. This list is compiled by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for the convenience of the outdoor enthusiasts. The Commission does not endorse any outfitter.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train
RR 2 Box 502
Bayard, NE 69334
North Platte River

North Shore Marina
Canoe Rental
Gremlin Cove
Harlan County Reservoir
70738 Lake View
Republican City, NE 68971
Republican River

UNL Campus Recreation
Canoe Rental
Outdoor Adventures
841 North 14th St.
Lincoln, NE 68588

Canfield’s Sporting Goods
Canoe & Kayak Rental
Rich Canfield
8457 W. Center Rd.
Omaha, NE 68124

UNO Campus Recreation
Canoe & Kayak Rental
Outdoor Venture Center
6001 Dodge St.
Omaha, NE 68182

Tanking Down the Elkhorn
Tanking Outfitter
Jill & Steve Evers
P.O. Box 45064
Omaha, NE 68145
Elkhorn River Tubing & Adventures Brock Beran - (402) 301-7482

Lakeside County Store & Grill
Canoe Rental
Fremont SRA
3120 State Lakes Rd.
Fremont, NE 68025

Missouri River Expeditions
1011 S. Hawthorne Ave.
Sioux Falls, SD 57105
Missouri River

Missouri River Tours
Marlin Roth
86990 – 564 Ave.
Randolph, NE 68771
Missouri River

Broken Arrow Wilderness
Douglas & Darla Russell
1025 N. 4th St.
Fullerton, NE 68638
Cedar and Loup Rivers

Glidden Canoe Rental
West Hwy. 2 Box 368
Mullen, NE 69152-0368
Dismal and Middle Loup Rivers

Trapper’s Creek Outdoors
Mary Hughes
RR 1 Box 64
Burwell, NE 68823 - 308-346-5024
North Loup and Calamus Rivers Allison Springs

Gary Hughes
82360 468th Ave.
Burwell, NE 68823
North Loup River

Calamus Outfitters LLC
83720 Valleyview Ave. Burwell, NE 68823 - 308-346-4697
Calamus River

Kamp Kaleo
46872 Willow Springs Rd.
Burwell, NE 68823
Loup River

Rock Barn Outfitters
Fred Egelhoff
Valentine, NE 69201

Little Outlaw Canoe & Tube
Rich Mercure
1005 E. Hwy. 20
Valentine, NE 69201

A & C Outfitters
Valentine, NE 69201
Brewer’s Canoers
Randy & Mary Mercure
433 E. Hwy. 20
Valentine, NE 69201

Dryland Aquatics, Inc.
Ed & Louise Heinert
HC 13 Box 33
Sparks, NE 69220

Graham Canoe Outfitters
HC 13 Box 16-A1
Valentine, NE 69201
Located at Hwy. 20 and 83

Rocky Ford Outfitters
Kerry & Lisa Krueger
P.O. Box 3
Valentine, NE 69201
402-376-1124 (Off Season)

Sharp’s Outfitters
Wayne Sharp
HC 13 Box 34A
Sparks, NE 69220

Sunny Brook Camp Outfitters
Steve Breuklander
HC 13 Box 36C
Sparks, NE 96220

Nola Moosman
310 W. Hwy. 20
Valentine, NE 69201

Heartland Elk Guest Ranch
P.O. Box 3
Valentine, NE 69201
Niobrara River Ranch
HC 13 Box 30A
Valentine, NE 69201
So what are you waiting for? Contact one of these outfitters, plan your trip to Nebraska, and get out on one of our great rivers!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Through The Seasons Part 4

It's now mid to late summer in west central Nebraska. The calendar would say mid-summer, but since the kids start back to school on August 19, it is very much late summer for them and their families trying to squeeze in school shopping and a few more days of fun and adventure.

A couple days late, but here is the fourth installment of my "through the seasons" series: May 5, 2010 at 6:10 p.m.
June 5, 2010, 8:30 a.m.
July 5, 2010, 10:00 a.m.
And finally, the most recent photo, taken on August 7, 2010 at about 8:30 a.m. About the only change from the July photograph is that the corn has now reached its full height. In just a few short days, the crop will be mature and the farmers will cut off the irrigation to begin the drying process, making it ready for harvest sometime in late October and November.
At this time of year, what really speaks of the summer marching on are the sounds rather than the sights. The weatherman tells us that because of our early snow last year (remember the October Blizzard?), all of the little insects that grow beneath the dirt to emerge in the spring were well insulated from the cold, and therefore survived at an unusual rate.

The most obvious of these critters right now are the locusts. Their buzzing in the trees is so loud that sometimes it's hard to hear any other souhd. This is especially true in the early evening, as we found out at Friday night's House Concert. Thank goodness the artist brought sound equipment, otherwise all we would have enjoyed would have been the concert of the locusts.

Walk through any uncut grass and the rattle of the grasshoppers song makes you think that you could be surrounded by a den of rattlesnakes, as the sound is eerily similar. Although still small, the crickets are beginning to compete with the locusts. Local news is talking about an invasion of these pests, and it's hard to take a step without destroying several cricket lives. Soon they will reach maturity and their chirping in the night will be impossible to ignore.
All of the insect eating birds should be fat and sassy this fall.

Thanks for stopping by. We can enjoy coffee on the patio enjoying the sounds of summer.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pickled Eggs - A Redneck Delight?

I might as well confess right now - I am a redneck. So is my whole family. And to prove it, I'm going to post a recipe for making pickled eggs. Now if you've never tried pickled eggs, chances are you've also never been in a small town saloon in the Outback of Nebraska, where you'll find a jar nestled alongside the rolls of chewing tobacco in the beer coolers.

To make your very own pickled eggs, you'll need the following ingredients: A gallon glass jar, 1 qt of white vinegar, 2 16-oz. jars of Jalapenos, eggs (three dozen large or four dozen medium), one onion (I use sweet Vidalia), 6 cloves of garlic, 10 dashes Tabasco sauce, and 1 T each black peppercorns, whole mustard seed, whole dill seed, and crushed red pepper. That's it - so far, so good! First you need to boil the eggs. Since I'm fortunate enough to have access to farm-fresh eggs from Seifer Farms, I have to make sure that there are some around old enough to boil properly. Use too fresh of eggs and you'll never get them peeled! If you use store-bought eggs, you should be just find (heaven knows how old those are!). Be sure to add plenty of salt so they peel easily.

To boil the eggs, place them in cold water, then heat on medium to high heat until boiling rapidly. Cover, turn the heat off and let stand about a half hour. The eggs will be thoroughly cooked. Meanwhile, get the brine ready by placing all ingredients into a saucepan. Slice the onion and peel the garlic cloves by whapping each one with the flat of your knife (please don't cut yourself). Hit them firmly, and the outer shell will peel off easily. Bring this to a boil and let it boil for 15 minutes. By now, you will be shedding tears of joy for the delicious, nutritious snack that you're going to have in your refigerator for your hungry hordes. Either that, or it is just the fumes from the hot sauce, pickled jalapeno juice and vinegar boiling on the stove! While that is boiling merrily away, you can now peel the eggs. If you've done the job right, the shells should come off nearly whole.
Place a couple spoon fulls of the pickling brine in the bottom of your jar, followed by a dozen eggs, then repeat until your jar is full. Squash as much of the mixture in as you can, but don't worry if it doesn't all fit in - just make sure to get all the eggs in.
Finally, seal the jar tightly and place in the refrigerator for one week. The eggs will be nicely pickled and deliciously spicy after a week, and the flavor only gets better the longer they last.
Of course, the jar doesn't last very long at the Nebraska Outback household, because they truly do make great snacks, which are filling, nutritious and delicious. We have two gallon jars, and pickle a second gallon when the first gallon is about half gone.

So, the entire recipe is:
3 dozen large eggs or 4 dozen medium eggs
1 large onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic
1 qt. white vinegar
2 16-oz jars pickled jalapeno peppers
10 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 T each black peppercorns, whole mustard seed, whole dill seed, crushed red pepper.

Boil the eggs in heavily salted water; peel and set aside. Combine all other ingredients in saucepan. Boil for 15 minutes.

Layer brine mixture and a dozen eggs in one gallon jar, repeating until full. Seal and refrigerate for seven days.

And there you have it, pickled eggs! Now, I'm no great hand at preserving food. I seem to have blocked out that part of my childhood, when we raised a huge garden and preserved everything to eat through the winter. So, if I can do this, you can too!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.