Friday, December 19, 2014

A Christmas story from yesteryear

By Charlie Pottenger

Recently I was invited to Dining on the Edge for a Christmas luncheon celebration with the Clearwater Tribune staff. While enjoying the festive, happy mood I realized that the beautifully decorated Christmas tree with its fantastic red beaded garlands reminded me of days long ago and my mom.

Back in the 1940’s, Christmas was, as it is now, a very special season when we rejoiced in the truth of the Savior and celebrated as a family. In our family there were four kids, a devoted mom, a hard working dad, and not too much money. We were just like everyone else I knew, and although each family had different traditions, all celebrated and shared their love with each other and all that they contacted.

At our house Mom ran the show. Beginning about now, say a week before Christmas, she would organize her little tribe of “elves” into squads working under close supervision. She had us mix ingredients to make fantastic gingerbread cookies. The dough was then refrigerated (or if it was cold, set outside on the open porch to stiffen before rolling).

Then, each of us in turn were allowed to roll out huge dough sheets, and then we all gathered around with cookie cutters to punch out gingerbread men, stars, Christmas trees, bells, circles and half-moons. The circles and half moons were cut using a drinking glass. We also made shaped sugar cookies. Naturally she insisted that we make four batches of each type.

Of course we had to add colored sugar sprinkles to some and place dried currants on the gingerbread men to represent buttons. When each kid’s dough was processed into cookies and the leftover dough had been consumed by some of the sneaky elves, that batch was baked to perfection. We were each allowed to sample one warm cookie. Then we were put to work with needles and red thread to attach little loops to each cookie so it could later be used for tree decorations. Then she carefully packed the finished edible-decorations in wrapped containers for later use.

The next job was to follow the same procedures to work as a team to produce delicious cookies called thumbprints. Each cookie was topped with a bunch of chocolate chips set into a thumb made depression and topped with a half of an almond. When cooked the melted chocolate surrounded the nut. She had a hard time hiding these well enough to have them still around by Christmas.

She also made a delicious, round, powdered sugar, rum-soaked cookie. We were able to shake the hot cookies in the powdered sugar to create the finished look. Like the thumbprints, these were hard to resist.

As we moved closer to Christmas day, she would “force us” into the duty of popping huge bowls of super-big fluffy corn kernels. When each of us had a bowl of popcorn, which we made ourselves, she would place a bowl of fresh cranberries, our bowl of popcorn, and a big, empty bowl on the table in front of each kid.

We were provided with a needle and ten feet of red thread, which we used to make popcorn-cranberry garlands. The process was simple. You doubled the thread, tied a knot, and then started alternating cranberries and popcorn kernels until you had your own five foot garland carefully placed in the empty bowl. When done she had 20 feet of edible garland ready for the tree.

In addition, it seemed that each kid had decorations made at school. Some were paper art works, some were colored construction paper chains, and some were plaster shapes similar to the cookie cutter shapes, but bearing dates and love messages, mostly directed to Mom and Dad. Some of the plaster decorations had actual black and white photos of the maker for long term memory.

When all was done Mom would get Dad to put the tree up on the night before Christmas, actually on the morning of Dec. 24. After she had put on our two strings of the big, hot lights of the time (the little lights we now have weren’t yet invented), she would add the garlands of cranberries and popcorn, plus any paper garlands that showed up from school art.

The few beautiful glass ornaments she had were then placed high on the tree, and finally we were turned loose to hang up gingerbread decorations to finish it off on the lower branches. When done we felt, each year, that we had the greatest tree ever!

On Christmas Eve we would all gather around the tree with its gleaming lights and sing carols until Dad decided it was time. Then he would get us all together on the couch—Mom, Dad, and the four of us—and he would read us the Christmas story from the Bible. We would recite the Lord’s Prayer, followed by him reading us The Night Before Christmas!

After the tree was decorated we could pick the cookies from the tree and she would replace them until the stock was depleted.

We followed this routine for years, until life’s callings began to take aging kids to new places like college, careers, and marriages.

After Christmas Mom would leave the garlands of cranberries and popcorn on the tree and place it in the yard for the birds and squirrels.

I know that those memories were largely practiced as I raised my family; however, I failed to pass on the carefully thought out program my mom used to slowly approach the Christmas celebration with the cooking traditions and the garland crafts.

I think back now and wish I’d had the discipline to engulf my kids into the old tradition, which really enhanced the family togetherness, which I still crave.

We did continue the celebration with the Bible reading, carols, and The Night Before Christmas. Also at our house we always made the kids wait until Christmas morning to open presents. Boy did they have trouble getting to sleep and did I have trouble staying awake long enough to make it really believable!

I love Christmas and wish anyone that has read this far the merriest Christmas ever!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Campground and cabin rental fees to increase on the Nez Perce-Clearwater Forests

Regional Forester Faye Krueger recently approved the recommendation from the Coeur d’Alene Bureau of Land Management Resource Advisory Committee (BLM RAC) to increase recreation fees for several sites on the Nez Perce-Clearwater Forests.

The decision to increase fees was based on recommendations by a Recreation Fee Analysis (RFA) in 2011. This was in response to the combination of the two forests’ recreation program and to severely declining budgets.

Public involvement related to the RFA process yielded significant concerns about the proposal to consider concessionaire management but yielded very little concern about raising fees. The proposed sites have recently received significant investment to improve visitor services.

Effective Dec. 1, amenity fees increased at 24 campgrounds, one visitor center, and four lookout/cabin rentals on the forests. Reservations made prior to Dec. 1, 2014 will be honored at the previous, lower rate. Most of these sites are currently closed for the winter season.

Forest recreation opportunities are found in three large geographical zones: the North Zone, including the Palouse and North Fork Ranger Districts; the Central Zone, containing the Lochsa, Moose Creek (Selway River), and Powell Ranger Districts; and the South Zone which covers the Red River, Elk City, South Fork of the Clearwater and Salmon River Districts. Approved fee increases are as follows:

North Zone

Aquarius, Hidden Creek, Kelly Forks, Noe Creek and Washington Creek Campgrounds fees increased from $7 to $10 per night.

Laird Park and Little Boulder Campgrounds fees increased from $8 to $12 per night.

Elk Creek Campground (which has electrical hook-ups) fee increased from $15 to $20 per night.

Bald Mountain Lookout rental fee increased from $35 to $45 per night.

Kelly Forks Cabin rental fee increased from $55 to $65 per night.

Liz Butte Cabin rental fee increased from $20 to $40 per night.

Central Zone

Apgar, Wild Goose, Wilderness Gateway, Wendover, White Sand, Whitehouse and O’Hara Bar Campgrounds fees increased from $8 to $14.00 per night.

Jerry Johnson Campground fee increased from $10 to $14 per night.

Powell Campground sites without hookups increased from $8 to $14 and sites with hookups from $14 to $20.

Glade Creek Group Campground fee increased from $35 to $50 (for five camping spots) per night.

Lolo Pass Visitor Center new fees are $5.00 per day, $35.00 per season, $20.00 for 5 day bundle; eliminate $5.00 second car pass.

Castle Butte Lookout rental fee increased from $35 to $45 per night.

South Zone

Castle Creek and South Fork Campgrounds fee increased from $8 to $12 per night.

Fish Creek Campground fee increased from $6 to $12 per night.

Spring Bar Campground on the Salmon River fee increased from $10 to $12 per night.

Red River Campground fee increased from $6 to $12 per night.

Jerry Walker Cabin located near the Elk City rental fee increased from $20 to $40 per night.

Reserve lookouts and cabin rentals at:

For more information, please contact your local Forest Service office or visit our website at:

Friday, December 5, 2014

IDOC director moving on following long career in state government

After 18 years as an administrator for the State of Idaho, Brent Reinke is stepping down as director of the Idaho Department of Correction. Reinke submitted his letter of resignation today to the Idaho Board of Correction.

“It’s been an incredible run, but it’s time for me to serve in a different way,” Reinke wrote in the letter.

For 10 years, Reinke served as director of the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections. In 2007, he was appointed director of the Idaho Department of Correction, which incarcerates and supervises adult, felony offenders in Idaho. Reinke is the longest-serving director in IDOC’s history.

The chairman of the Board of Correction, Robin Sandy, says Reinke is a dedicated public servant and the entire board has great respect and appreciation for his commitment to improving the lives of the people of Idaho.

“For the past 18 years straight, Brent has logged long hours and he deserves a break from the great responsibility that falls on the shoulders of a correctional director,” said Robin Sandy, chairman of the Board of Correction. “While he has chosen to take a new path, he has much more to contribute, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he does next.”

Kevin Kempf will serve as acting director starting tomorrow. Kempf is a veteran correctional professional who rose through the ranks as a correctional officer, probation and parole officer and prison warden. Kempf currently serves as IDOC’s deputy director.

Orofino woman injured in Lewiston truck crash

Joyce Vanmeeteren, 69, of Orofino, was seriously injured in a car vs. semi-truck crash in Lewiston Tuesday afternoon, according to the Lewiston Police Department (LPD).

On Dec. 2 at approximately 1:40 p.m., Lewiston Police and EMS were dispatched to a report of a car vs semi crash on US 95/ US 12, at the Hwy 128 off-ramp next to the Rose Gardens.

According to LPD, Vanmeeteren was driving a 2011 Chevrolet Equinox. She failed to yield from a stop sign at the Hwy 128 off-ramp, and drove into the path of David Welch of Lewiston, who was driving a 2001 Peterbilt logging truck. Welch was heading into Lewiston on US 95/US 12.

Vanmeeteren reportedly has a broken leg and injuries to her hands and face, according to LPD. Medics transported her to St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston.

Vanmeeteren was cited for failing to yield, according to LPD.

The highway was blocked for approximately an hour and a half, while towing crews removed both vehicles.

The Lewiston Police Department would like to remind drivers to use caution anytime they are behind the wheel, and to be sure to buckle up.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Reflections from My Trail - The End of an Argument (A Fishing Tale)

By Charlie Pottenger

Wisconsin about 1968, Dad and I were up and on the lake before dawn and were witnessing another of God’s miracle mornings. Mist was rising from the warm water on a dewy July morning and we were casting huge lures over submerged weedy reefs in search of giant muskies.

These savage, pike-like fish are extremely hard to catch, but the explosiveness of their strike and the strength of their desire to escape make them one of the great American game fish, similar to the heavy fighting steelhead and salmon of the Clearwater.

As dawn progressed and changed the eerie silence of the calm predawn to the splash of light on the water, we cast into the rising sun and my Dad’s surface lure whirred and gurgled in the invisible glare. Nearing the boat with about three feet of line left there was an explosion in the water and Dad’s hands were stripped of his expensive rod and casting reel.

He looked dumbfounded at his empty hands and said, “Sh**ty! Sh**ty!” At the other end of the boat I shouted, “I told you so!”

Thus an ongoing argument between us was resolved. Over hundreds of happy vacation hours spent in the boat seeking these huge fighting fish we had noticed a major difference in the way we held our rods when retrieving the lures in hopes of one of those explosive strikes. The difference provided something to banter about during hour after hour of boring, non-productive sessions of fishing.

I maintained that the correct hold was to grab the rod with the left hand ahead of the reel and anticipate the strike so that the fish’s pull would only sink the rod deeper into the palm. Dad, on the other hand, maintained the rod was designed with a pistol grip so the left hand could comfortably hold it with the fingers only to resist the pull of the fish.

Day after day we rehashed the pros and cons of the proper grip and I always scoffed that someday a fish would steal his rod and prove my righteous position!

That wonderful morning I was finally justified and if Dad were still alive he would tell you that I made him remember that morning almost every time we were together thereafter.

To complete my story, I began gloating immediately! Dad was really sad to have lost his expensive rod, reel and lure plus a really nice musky. I joyfully ordered him to man the oars and get ready. “Get ready for what?” he exclaimed, trying to reestablish his fatherly authority.

Since I had a sinking lure I told him that the fancy star-drag reel he was using would catch in the weeds as the giant fish tried to rid itself of the pesky lure and sooner or later the fish would jump or surface, whereupon he should row like crazy so I could cast behind the fish, snag the line and ultimately catch the brute and reclaim the rod. He said, “Bullsh*t, son!”

Well, the fish surfaced, he rowed, I snagged the line and was able to pull the rod in. The fish was still on, Dad became overjoyed. He said, “Give me my rod!” I said, “Your rod? I just salvaged this rod and this now is my fish!”

I landed the fish, sold the rod back to my Dad for a dollar and had proof that his way of holding the rod was wrong!

This is my favorite fish story and I think of it often. I highly recommend all anglers with casting rods seeking heavy fish heed this advice. I must report that Dad never changed and caught many more muskies with his poor technique, but he never was allowed to forget.

My recommended grip while retrieving a casting reel in search of heavy fish. 
My Dad’s recommended grip while retrieving a casting reel in search of heavy fish, which doesn’t always work.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Christmas tree permits available at Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests

In this area, it is a popular tradition to begin the holiday season with an outing to the forest to cut the family Christmas tree. Permits are required for each tree you are going to cut. Permits are $5 each and are limited to three per family.

The permits can be purchased from any of our Forest offices or at the following local vendors: Harpster Store in Harpster, Tom Cat’s Sporting Goods in Kooskia, Rae Brothers Sporting Goods and Tackett’s Saw Service in Grangeville, Cloninger’s Harvest Foods in Kamiah, Helmer Store & Cafe in Helmer, Idaho Rigging in Potlatch, Tri-State Outfitters and Woodland Enterprises in Moscow, and DYNW (Discover Your Northwest) at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center, and Lochsa Lodge at Powell.

“Cutting a Christmas Tree on Your Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests” brochure is available at all forest offices and on the forest website at:

As a general rule, no special areas are designated for Christmas tree cutting. Here are some tips when choosing and cutting your Christmas tree:

Cut your tree at least 200 feet away from well-traveled roads, flowing water, campgrounds and recreation sites.

It is permissible to cut trees from the cut banks and fill slopes of lesser-traveled roads.

Select your trees from thickets or overstocked areas. Avoid removing trees from plantations or other areas where tree growth is sparse.

Select a tree that is the right height for your needs. Please don’t cut a large tree just to take the top.

Pile all discarded branches away from roads, ditches and culverts.

Cut your tree as close to the ground as possible. Stumps should be eight inches or less.

Attach a permit to each cut tree prior to transporting it in your vehicle.

For more information, call or visit your local Forest Service office.

Recipes from Home: Ready for the holidays

By Jo Moore of the High Country Inn

I have entertained at the High Country Inn for several years now with High Teas, and as a middle course served homemade scones with “clotted cream,” but have never enjoyed the messy hands that result from having to handle the scone dough.

Every recipe I have ever run across has called for cold butter, cut into tiny cubes, and mixed into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of peas.

Well, just this last week, on the spur of the moment, I decided to try to get some scones made in the hour I had before going to a morning meeting. In my hurry, before I knew it, I had softened butter and creamed it with the sugar before I realized with a jolt that I wasn’t on the road to making scones at all! So I gave that idea up and went to my meeting empty-handed, after calling myself several derogatory names (including “stupid”).

Later that day I decided to just go ahead and see if I could salvage what I had started, even if it meant wasting two sticks of expensive butter! After thinking a bit, this is what I did. I went ahead and added the bowl of mixed dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, turned the mixer on low and blended it just until the whole mixture was crumbly. I then added the liquid ingredients, and it all came together, and could be turned out onto my board without being sticky.

I couldn’t believe my good luck, and proceeded with getting the scones into the oven. The finished product was better than any I had ever made before. Thinking it might just be a fluke, the next day I decided to try the same method with two different recipes, and all turned out just the same! So I became anxious to share my “new” technique. Below is my recipe for pumpkin scones, ideal for serving for Thanksgiving breakfast, or any time you feel like a delicious scone! They also freeze wonderfully to thaw and reheat in the microwave.

Next week I’ll have a different scone recipe, following the same method, and another recipe for a festive Thanksgiving breakfast.
Luscious Pumpkin Pecan Scones

Have ready: 2/3 cup chopped pecans (optional, but delicious!)

Coarse granulated sugar for sprinkling

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease or line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone (Silpat) liners.

Cream until just blended:

1 cup butter (two sticks) softened

½ cup brown sugar, packed.

Mix together in separate bowl:

4 ½ cups regular flour

4 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

1 Tb. pumpkin pie spice (Or make your own, directions follow recipe)

In another small bowl, mix together with fork:

1 cup plain canned pumpkin

Two eggs

½ tsp. baking soda

2/3 cup whole milk or half and half cream

Directions: With mixer running, add flour mixture to butter and brown sugar, mix on medium high just until mixture is crumbly, scraping bowl once. Immediately add pumpkin mixture and ½ cup pecans, and beat on low until it just comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured board, and with your hands form dough into about an 11-inch round. Brush all over the top with half and half or milk, sprinkle over this coarse white sugar and rest of chopped pecans. Cut into twelve even triangles, using a bench knife or other sharp knife, place 6 scones on each baking sheet, at least two inches apart. Bake 10 minutes, rotate pans and bake another 3 or 4 minutes or until scones are lightly browned and firm. Let cool on pan. Ice the scones with Vanilla Glaze.

Make a simple vanilla glaze, with 2 Tb. warm milk, 1 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla. Mix with whisk until well blended, and thick enough to set up (add more sugar if needed.) Pour into a sandwich zip-type bag, close and snip a tiny bit off one corner. Use this as a piping bag and drizzle criss-cross over each scone. Scones can be made and frozen ahead for a delicious start to Thanksgiving Day or any autumn or winter morning or afternoon!

Pumpkin pie spice: (If you already have the following on hand. If not, it is probably less expensive to just purchase the prepared spice.)

Blend together, crushing any lumps:

¼ cup good quality cinnamon (Saigon or Ceylon)

2TB. Ground ginger

1TB. Ground cloves Mixture can be multiplied to keep on hand.