Saturday, 13 July 2024


It takes a special person to sit on a cow hide pulled by a galloping horse, but the traditional hide ride at the Middletown Days gymkhana is always a big hit with the audience. The gymkhana runs all day Sunday following Saturday's parade, barbecue, ranch rodeo, and dance at the 49th annual Middletown Days celebration June 19 and 20, 2010. Courtesy photo.



MIDDLETOWN – The 49th annual Middletown Days celebration is set for Father’s Day weekend, June 19 and 20, with the usual parade, ranch rodeo, dance, and gymkhana, plus some possible new attractions still in the planning stages.

This year’s theme is “Spirit of the Old West.”

The parade starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 19, with lineup beginning at 7 a.m. at Perry’s Deli on the south end of Middletown.

Entry forms are available by email from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by calliing Susie Knowles at 707-987-3626.

Pick up forms at Lower Lake Feed and in Middletown at Hardester’s Market, CJS Ranch Supply, and Studio 175.

Get your entry in by June 13 to ensure a good spot in the parade lineup.

Parade entry cost is $5 for kids under 12, for $7 for adults, and $10 for organizations and groups.

Spectators should get to town by 9:30 a.m. to avoid getting caught in the detour traffic. Parking is available on all streets east of Highway 29, including a public parking lot at the corner of Washington and Douglas Streets. Parking will not be permitted on most streets west of the highway.

After the parade the fun moves to Middletown’s Central Park for a delicious country barbecue and the Ranch Rodeo. The rodeo starts at noon (signups at 11 a.m) and includes events such as mutton bustin’, junior hide ride, calf riding, a ribbon race, and a mystery event.

The traditional barbecue begins at noon and features tri-tip and chicken with all the trimmings, and the Cowboy Cafe will be open all day for hot dogs and hamburgers.

Parade awards and the karaoke contest start around 1 p.m. Vendors in the park include jumpy houses for the kids, lots of food, crafts and games.

As the sun goes down, it’s time to put on your dancing shoes for an evening under the stars with the Dave Russell Band. The dance starts at 8:30 p.m., and cost is $25 per couple, $15 for singles, and $10 for teens. Food, beer and other refreshments will be available in the park during the dance.

On Sunday morning, enjoy the annual Father’s Day Breakfast sponsored by the Middletown Lioness Club from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Cost is $7 for adults, $4 for kids 6 and under.

Then it’s on to some fun action in the arena with the gymkhana beginning at 11 a.m. (signups at 10 a.m.). Enter all five events in your age category for $30 for the day. There will be lots of great prizes.

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You never know what might happen in the annual Middletown Days parade, from a 4x4 pileup featuring the Lake County Crawlers to dancing horses and fairy tale characters. The parade takes place on Saturday, June 19, beginning at 10 a.m. along Highway 29 through downtown Middletown. Fun for the whole family follows at Middletown's Central Park on Saturday and Sunday. Courtesy photo.

Wanda Quitiquit (foreground), along with EJ Crandell, and Irenia Quitiquit and Marion Quitiquit in the background, protested her family's disenrollment at Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino in Nice, Calif., on Friday, May 7, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



NICE – Throughout the day Friday, about two dozen American Indian community members and their friends stood alongside the entry into Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino, holding signs, shouting slogans and trying to bring attention to the situation of local tribal disenrollees.

The action comes in the wake of a Bureau of Indian Affairs decision last month to uphold the December 2008 disenrollment action carried out by the Robinson Rancheria Citizens Business Council against a total of 67 tribal members, as Lake County News has reported.

Members of the Quitiquit family, several dozen of whom were disenrolled from the tribe, were back at the scene on Friday, a day they picked because it also was the fifth annual National Indian Day.

The group called for a boycott of the casino and demanded a hearing on what they argue are civil and human rights violations.

They carried signs with slogans that accused the tribe of offering the disenrollees no due process and misspending tribal and federal funding.

But the main issue was the disenrollment action, which has cut off the now-former tribal members from the rancheria and their cultural ties. They say disenrollment is an attack on their identity as American Indians.

“Why is the government backing this genocide on paper?” asked Wanda Quitiquit, one of her family's most vocal members.

A message left at the tribal office seeking comment was not returned.

Quitiquit, ironically, worked for years as a member of the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization (AIRRO), to bring attention to the growing number of disenrollment actions across California and the nation before she herself became a target of it.

AIRRO has estimated 3,500 Indians have been disenrolled in California, with a total of 11,000 civil and human rights violations across the United States as a whole.

During the Friday protest, American Indians from other tribes – including Dry Creek in Sonoma County, and the Apache and Passamaquoddy, the latter from Maine – stopped in to ask questions, as did other community members.

Natives from other areas agreed that many of the problems facing tribes is all about money.

The Quitiquits and others whose names were removed from the tribal rolls say they are planning to appeal the BIA decision, with a letter expected to go out to the agency announcing that intention this week.

“We really don't want to go into court, but if that's the last thing we have to do, that's what we'll do,” Quitiquit said.

Even a favorable court decision doesn't guarantee a welcome back into the tribe, she said, pointing to court rulings in other states that still left disenrollees without resolution.

However, there are efforts to draw attention to the disenrollment problem, both from other activists and from Lake County's congressman, who is calling for a congressional hearing on the matter.

On April 29, North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson wrote a letter to Congressman Nick Rahall, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, which includes the Office of Indian Affairs.

“Disenrollment of tribal members is an issue among tribes in my district and throughout California, as well as in other parts of the United States,” Thompson wrote. “In some cases, members are voted out of tribes for bona fide reasons such as their lack of relative bloodline and/or failure to meet membership or residency requirements in accordance with tribal constitutions. However, in other cases, there appears to be arbitrary removal of entire families for obscure reasons.”

Thompson explained that when Congress passed the Indian Civil Rights Act in 1968, tribal members who believed that their civil rights were abused had no legal recourse except to turn to the tribal bodies that were accused of civil rights infringements.

“On behalf of the growing number of disenrolled Native Americans, I believe this issue merits a congressional oversight hearing be convened to review enforcement of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968,” he said.

Late last week, Thompson's Washington, DC office told Lake County News that there had been no formal response to, or acknowledgment of, the letter yet.

Quitiquit said she and the others impacted by the disenrollment action are looking to Thompson for leadership at this time.

She credited him with being the only congressman standing up on the issue.

While the call for a hearing is welcome news to many of Lake County's disenrollees, Indian activists elsewhere are calling for more serious and systemic reform.

Laura Wass, director of the Fresno office of the American Indian Movement (AIM), is advocating for the California Indian Legacy Act.

That legislation, said Wass, “will bring everybody home and allow no more disenrollments whatsoever.”

Wass pointed out that the BIA and other governmental agencies “all love that gaming money,” which she said is a deterrent for action by some officials, who don't want to commit political suicide by going up against the tribes.

That, she said, doesn't make disenrollment a sovereignty issue, as many tribal and federal government leaders have argued.

Wass said the challenge is to get the people disenrolled from the various tribes together to work for a “full on movement,” because she believes the necessary federal changes are possible.

“It has to happen,” she said, otherwise disenrollments will continue.

“Eventually what's going to happen, I foresee, is that the tribes are going to dwindle down to families, then the feds are gonna step in,” she said.

A movement of Indians and Congress will get the necessary changes, she said.

“It's a very simple issue. You're either Indian or you're not,” she said, pointing out that Indians should qualify for membership based on blood quantum – or the percentage of Indian ancestry – and not be at the mercy of internal disputes.

Wass said that neither Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar nor his assistant deputy and BIA head Larry EchoHawk are doing anything about disenrollment.

While she believes they're willing to do something, “They are not going to do anything until they are pushed to do it.”

Wass, who is herself a California Indian, said “California is by far the worst place” for disenrollments, which she attributed to the combination of historical trauma, the fact that rancherias are made up of several tribes and that temporary fix-it policies for tribal issues are the norm.

“We don't know what it is to have a really full, strong tribal government and still maintain cultural identity,” she said.

The internal racism is “devastating,” she said, and only continues the trauma that tribes have endured historically.

As a result, Wass said the average life span for American Indians is 47, and Indians have a teen suicide rate seven times the national average. She asked how the BIA can dare turn its back on the problem.

“Here in this state we've got a major catastrophe on our hands,” Wass said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .




Disenrollee Tonia Ramos shows a picture of Ethan Anderson, described as a kind-hearted and generous member of Robinson Rancheria, who is an ancestor to some of the current tribal members accused of being responsible for the disenrollment action. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

SACRAMENTO – A judge's ruling Friday afternoon will require redevelopment agencies both locally and across the state to send payments to the state on Monday.

On Friday the Third District Court of Appeal denied the request from the California Redevelopment Association (CRA) for a temporary stay on a Sacramento Superior Court decision reached last Tuesday that upholds a state law requiring the redevelopment agency payments.

The CRA is notifying its members and recommending redevelopment agencies statewide make the required payment on Monday, May 10, even though the association said Friday that it will appeal the Superior Court ruling and is confident the appeal will be successful.

CRA said the payment due Monday is the first $1.7 billion installment the state is raiding from local communities “which would otherwise be used for projects to create jobs, economic growth and urban revitalization projects.” CRA sought the stay to protect this funding while the appeal process wound through the Court of Appeal.

The payments will be made in accordance with a ruling by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly last Tuesday which instructed local redevelopment agencies to abide by the provisions of AB X4 26.

Passed last year as part of the state budget, AB X4 26 allows the state to take $2.05 billion in redevelopment funding over two years to use for state obligations.

“Taking this funding will stall job creation efforts in California at the worst possible time,” said John Shirey, CRA executive director. “The money being turned over to fund State obligations would have been used for local revitalization projects that would have improved our communities, created jobs and stimulated our local economy. CRA plans to file its appeal in the next week or so. We expect to prevail.”

Last, officials with the redevelopment agencies for the county and the cities of Lakeport and Clearlake indicated they were prepared to make the payments if the stay wasn't granted.

Payments are due this year and next. Lakeport will pay $313,005 this year and $64,380 next year; Clearlake is due payments of $1,014,736 and $208,716; and the county will pay $764,000 and $155,000.

On Friday, Kelly Cox – the county's administrative officer and county redevelopment agency executive director – said the county would be processing its payment from the county's redevelopment agency budget on Monday for the entire amount.

“It's budgeted and we've been planning to make the payment,” Cox said. “The court decision that was issued today doesn't come as a surprise to us.”

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A Friday plane crash claimed the life of a California Highway Patrol officer.

The CHP reported that Officer Dan Benavides was killed May 7 when the Cessna 206 patrol aircraft

he was piloting crashed in a remote section of desert southwest of the Salton Sea in Imperial County.

The CHP’s Border Division-based air unit, designated as Air-63, was en route to work a speed-enforcement detail on Interstate 8, when the El Centro Communications Center lost radio contact with its pilot, Officer Benavides around 9:30 a.m.

A military and multi-agency search and rescue operation for the aircraft was immediately initiated. At approximately 4:03 p.m., debris from the aircraft was located in a rugged, mountainous, desert area near SR-78, west of Split Mountain Road by a California State Park Air Unit.

Benavides was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the collision is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

“No one can choose how they die. You can only decide how you live,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “By choosing a life with the California Highway Patrol, Dan chose a life dedicated to the

service of the people of California. Each time he put on that uniform, he became a symbol of courage, honesty and integrity.”

A veteran pilot and 13-year member of the CHP, Benavides is survived by his wife and 9-year-old daughter.

He was assigned to the Border Division Thermal Air Operations Unit as a fixed wing aircraft pilot. He had been assigned to the Thermal Air Operations Unit since July of 2006. His previous assignments included working in the Monterey, San Jose, San Diego and Oceanside CHP Area offices.

Benavides joins 215 other fallen California Highway Patrol officers who, since 1929, have given their lives in the line of duty to protect the community in which they served.

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Supervisor Rob Brown and local preschoolers enjoy learning activities during his recent stint as a preschooler for a day on Wednesday, April 28, 2010. Courtesy photo.





LAKEPORT – Proving he is truly “young at heart” and committed to quality early childhood education for Lake County’s young children, District 5 Supervisor Rob Brown recently enrolled in the Lakeport Early Connection Preschool for a one-day experience as a preschool student.

His participation is allowing advocates to raise awareness about the importance of quality early childhood education, said Shelly Mascari, director of the Lake County Child Care Planning Council.

The day began on April 28 at 8:15 a.m., and Brown enthusiastically joined circle time, during which teacher, Katie Mansell, guided the children through songs and activities reinforcing the seasons of the year, and their monthly theme of “growing and changing.”

Students were invited to bring in photographs of themselves as infants, and share with the class skills and abilities they now have that they didn’t have as babies. The children glowed with pride as they shared skills they had mastered.

This activity helps prepare children for success in elementary school, by increasing their self-esteem, and preparing them to confidently share their ideas with the group.

“Many children enter kindergarten without this ability, and those who have had the benefit of a quality preschool experience really hit the ground running and find early success, which increases positive attitudes about school,” said Shirley Littleton, site supervisor at Lakeport Early Connection Preschool.

Brown's busy morning continued with outside activities, during which the children learn the importance of physical activity for a healthy lifestyle. Mascari said he was a big hit, with the kids lining up for the tire swing.

The day’s activities continued with spatial awareness activities, like blocks and puzzles; and pre-math skills development with art and games. Mascari said Brown seemed to enjoy tracing letters in piles of shaving cream, an activity that is popular with all the students.

The highlight of the day was the creation of a worm farm, which provided a great hands-on science learning experience.

Quality early childhood education has been proven an effective way to eliminate the achievement gap and make sure all children have equal opportunity to succeed in school, Mascari said.

Recent research has definitively found that adults who had the benefit of quality early childhood education achieved (from the Perry/High Scope Preschool Study):

  • Higher monthly earnings (29 percent versus 7 percent earning more than $2,000 per month);

  • Higher percentages of home ownership (36 percent versus 13 percent);

  • Higher level of schooling completed (71 percent versus 54 percent completing 12th grade or higher);

  • Lower percentage receiving social services (59 percent versus 80 percent);

  • Significantly fewer arrests (7 percent versus 35 percent).

April was “Lake County Cares for our Kids” Month, which helped raise awareness about child abuse prevention, and the importance of quality early childhood education. Brown finished off a month of activities that included an Advocacy Walk, a Children’s Art Festival and the countywide paper doll project.

“Lake County is especially fortunate to have leaders who support children’s issues,” said Mascari.

She said that Brown enthusiastically participated in this activity, Supervisor Jeff Smith, showed his support in the Advocacy Walk and Art Festival, and Supervisors Denise Rushing, Anthony Farrington and Smith were set to participate in the Early Childhood Educator of the Year Award Dinner.

“We appreciate their support; it makes a difference,” said Mascari.

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SACRAMENTO – California’s traffic safety partners and their supporters are hoping to drive home an important message to all motorists during Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, a message that just might save a life.

Home to more than 1.2 million licensed motorcyclists, California has seen a decade-long increase in the number of victims killed or injured in motorcycle-involved collisions; according to the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), a record 586 victims were

killed and another 13,252 people were injured in motorcycle-involved crashes throughout the state in 2008.

“Although the statistics are grim, California appears to be on course to see a potential decrease for 2009 in the number of motorcycle fatalities and collisions for the first time in several years,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “While it’s encouraging, there’s still much more work ahead and challenges to overcome.”

Helping CHP get the word out to the motoring public, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is set to display an important traffic safety message, statewide on Caltrans’ Changeable Message Signs for the next week: “Save a life, look twice for motorcyclists.”

"Awareness of motorcycle safety issues is making a difference, both with riders and vehicle drivers," said Christopher J. Murphy, director of the California Office of Traffic Safety. "The Office of Traffic Safety, California Highway Patrol and many others are working together to save lives and prevent injuries of riders throughout the state."

Whether traveling by two, three, four or even 18 wheels it’s up to all motorists to help create a safer highway environment by using common sense and courtesy while on the road.

“As a motorcyclist myself, I know the importance of always wearing the right safety gear, especially a helmet, as well as being properly trained,” said Robert Gladden, general manager of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. "Whether you've never ridden or are returning to the road after taking a few years, off training is beneficial.”

The CHP strongly encourages all riders to sign up for the California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) before beginning to ride. CMSP offers the Basic RiderCourse for beginning motorcyclists and Experienced RiderCourses for riders who are interested in improving their skills.

CMSP expects to train 65,000 motorcyclists per year and operates more than 120 training sites throughout California. To find a location nearest you go to

Hoping to get everyone thinking motorcycle safety awareness, especially in Southern California, the CHP will be running a public service announcement in movie theaters and on cable channels in the four identified high-risk counties for motorcycle-involved collisions. According to SWITRS these counties include Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange and San Bernardino.

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SONOMA COUNTY – The body of an abalone diver found on the Sonoma County coast on Sunday has been identified.

On Monday, Sonoma County Sheriff detectives positively identified the diver as 43-year-old Brett Shoji Uchiyama of Santa Cruz.

Uchiyama's body was found in the ocean by another abalone diver on Sunday at about 7 a.m. near Timber Cove Reef Campground, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office reported.

Officials reported that Uchiyama disappeared while abalone diving near the Reef Terrace portion of Fort Ross State Park on April 29.

He was diving with a friend who heard Uchiyama yell for help. The friend began diving in the area where he last saw Uchiyama, but he was unable to find Uchiyama in the rough water that had poor visibility, according to the report.

California State Parks officers, Sonoma County Sheriff's deputies and the sheriff's helicopter began an extensive search for Uchiyama to no avail. The search continued for Uchiyama for the next several days, officials said.

Preliminary results from an autopsy conducted Monday at the Sonoma County Coroner's Office indicated that Uchiyama's cause of death was probable drowning. He had blunt force head injuries consistent with hitting rocks in the rough waters of the ocean.

The final cause and manner of death will be determined once all toxicology and laboratory reports are completed, which could take several weeks, officials said.

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COBB – A Kelseyville man whose mother had reported him missing after he hadn't returned home earlier in the week was identified as the victim of a fatal motorcycle crash that occurred Wednesday morning.

Justin Karsten Molini, 32, was found dead by his mother and a family friend who went searching for him Thursday morning along Seigler Canyon Road, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Based on the CHP investigation, Molini was riding his 2007 Yamaha R1 1000 sport bike at around 3:10 a.m. Wednesday westbound on Seigler Canyon Road west of Perini Road at approximately 50 miles per hour through a sharp curve.

For unknown reasons, Molini ran off the roadway and onto the shoulder and lost control of the motorcycle. The CHP said both Molini and the motorcycle went down an embankment and hit a rock creek bed.

Molini was ejected from the bike and sustained fatal injuries. The CHP report said he later was pronounced dead at the scene by fire personnel.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said Molini's mother – who lived at the same address – had reported him missing and overdue on Wednesday evening.

The CHP reported that Molini's mother and a family friend went out looking for Molini Thursday morning, and that's when they came upon the collision scene.

The CHP said the crash is still under investigation.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

LAYTONVILLE – Mendocino County officials arrested a man late last week who they allege tried to burn down the home he shared with his girlfriend.

Shawn McNeely, 42, was arrested May 7 on a charge of arson, according to Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

On May 7 deputies responded to a residence on Meadow Lane in Laytonville regarding a possible arson, Smallcomb said.

When they arrived, deputies located a fire burning in the rear of the residence, in a small yard area. Smallcomb said the deputies also noted approximately 90 marijuana plants in a small carport which had the heavy odor of gasoline on and around them.

In their investigation, the deputies located a gasoline can and lawn mower which appeared to have been the source of the fuel for the fire. With the large amount of moisture in the grass and foliage around the residence, the fire had not burned well and was easy to put out, Smallcomb said.

At the residence the deputies contacted a female adult who advised she had been in a dating relationship with McNeely, according to Smallcomb.

That day, the couple had been at their home and McNeely had been drinking, eventually becoming inebriated. Smallcomb said the female requested McNeely leave the residence due to his drunken state, which he did.

However, Smallcomb said that a short time later, the electricity suddenly went off inside the residence. The woman stated that she believed McNeely was responsible for turning off the power.

A few minutes later McNeely entered the residence through the back door, Smallcomb said. The female stated she ran out the front door fearing there would be a physical altercation. She then called law enforcement and waited outside the residence in the woods until deputies arrived at the location.

Deputies searched the house for McNeely with no success, however they continued to search the woods and surrounding areas, until such time McNeely was located and placed under arrest, Smallcomb said.

McNeely told deputies he had been burning brush all day. Due to the close proximity of the fire to the residence and the obvious use of accelerant on the marijuana plants in the carport, it appeared McNeely was attempting to burn the property of another, according to Smallcomb.

Smallcomb said McNeely was transported and booked into the Mendocino County Jail for arson.

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Esther Oertel offers advice this week on how best to use fresh, locally grown strawberries. Courtesy photo.


Strawberry season in Lake County has officially arrived. I had my first taste of the local season this week.

Just as I was biting into one of the red jewels, I could hear my son say “Wow!” in the background as he bit into his. Seconds later, my husband’s “Wow!” was heard. They’re that good when they’re fresh and local.

We visited Sky Hoyt’s Kelseyville farm and brought home a flat. If you’re hankering for some of Sky’s berries, you’ll find him at the Steele Winery farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. He has some pretty interesting farming methods which we’ll chat about later, but for now, let’s talk berry.

Strawberries are not actually berries at all, at least not by botanists’ standards. True berries have their seeds on the inside (think blueberries or cranberries) and, as you know, strawberry seeds are on the outside.

The yellow seeds covering the outside of the berry are considered individual fruits, with the sweet, fleshy part of the strawberry being the receptacle for the roughly 200 tiny fruits that cover it.

They’re members of the same family tree as the rose; in fact, in Italian strawberries are known as “fragola,” derived from the Latin word for fragrant.

They’re surprisingly nutritious. Only eight medium-sized berries provide 140 percent of our daily requirement for Vitamin C. They contain high amounts of antioxidants, which account for their bright red color. In addition, they’re a good source of folic acid, potassium and fiber.

They’re wonderful eaten fresh out of hand, sliced on cold cereal or yogurt, tossed into fruit smoothies, served on a sandwich with cream cheese and fresh mint, or added to a spinach salad (for which I’d recommend a poppy seed dressing or balsamic vinaigrette).

I love serving them fresh with balsamic vinegar and my recipe for that is below. While the combination of ingredients in the recipe may seem surprising, they work well together. The balsamic vinegar really makes the berry flavor pop.

A strawberry port wine reduction is fantastic on vanilla ice cream. For an added treat, soften the ice cream and mix in a bit of freshly ground pepper.

Strawberries should be stored in a cool, humid place; namely, your refrigerator with some special precautions. They’ll dry out without moisture, but go bad when sitting in too much dampness.

To store your strawberries, place them unwashed in a tightly covered plastic container or zipper sealed plastic bag with layers of paper towel between the berries. (Make sure to remove any bruised or moldy berries first.) The sealed container provides a humid environment and protects them from the drying effects of the fridge, while the paper towel soaks up excess moisture. I learned this method years ago from a strawberry grower at a farmers’ market and it hasn’t failed me yet!

If you’re not going to use your berries within a day or two, they should be frozen. To do this, stem, wash and dry the berries. Line a baking tray with waxed or parchment paper and place the strawberries on it with some space between them. Cover with plastic wrap and pop the tray in the freezer till the strawberries are frozen solid, then store them in zipper sealed plastic bags. Some folks roughly chop the berries and freeze in plastic tubs. That works well, too.

Frozen berries are fantastic in icy smoothies or pureed to make healthy popsicles for the kids. I like to make a fruity topping for pancakes or waffles by cooking frozen berries with a bit of water and sugar till it liquefies and then thickens into a syrupy consistency.

Now that you’ve got some practical ideas for strawberries, let’s travel back to Sky Hoyt’s farm.

Some years ago, Sky devised a clever method to grow strawberries that not only reduces harvest time backaches, but produces a better berry as well. Using salvaged material, Sky set up 12 long rows of growing tables to hold tubs of potting soil, into which he planted strawberries. (He also uses them for other crops, such as basil and carrots.) The soil is covered with white coated plastic and netting hovers above to keep hungry birds away. Ripening berries rest atop the plastic, rather than on dirt, to prevent rotting. Harvesting is made easier with the plants at waist level, as is tending the plants and checking for pests.

Sky uses a hybrid farming method, dubbed SAFE farming, that combines organic and non-organic methods for growing crops. (He’ll be happy to share a flyer with you at the farmers’ market.) His berry of choice is the Albion variety, a switch from last year’s Seascape, which can be harvested from May till October.

In Medieval times strawberries were associated with love. Whether or not they’re able to influence human love, these tasty, healthy berries are well worth your affection. Enjoy them while the local season lasts!


Strawberries with balsamic vinegar

This is a delightful way to serve this summer fruit. The balsamic vinegar brings out the flavor and color of the berries. It’s a refreshing dessert as is, or may be used as a topping for ice cream, shortcake or other desserts.

1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine first three ingredients and marinate for about an hour (but no more than four). Add freshly ground black pepper to taste just before serving.

Esther Oertel, the "Veggie Girl," is a personal chef and culinary coach and is passionate about local produce. Oertel owns The SageCoach Personal Chef Service and teaches culinary classes at Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake. She welcomes your questions and comments; e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Sky Hoyt shows off his growing methods (when this picture was taken, basil

MIDDLETOWN – A US Census worker visiting a home in Middletown on Thursday reportedly got into a scuffle with a man who didn't want to answer a questionnaire.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said the two men were involved in a physical fight but no arrests were made.

The US Census Bureau reported last week that its enumerators were beginning to go door to door in order to count people who hadn't responded by mailing back their census forms, as Lake County News has reported.

Bauman said that the census worker went to the home and asked to get the resident's information. The resident, in turn, told the census worker to go away, that he was too busy to talk to him.

The census worker reportedly said no, and asked to get the man's name and information, Bauman said.

When the worker took down the resident's name, the resident demanded the paper, saying his information was confidential. When the census worker refused, the other man tried to grab the papers and the two men began to struggle, tearing up the papers, Bauman said.

The census worker claimed that the man he was visiting pushed him down, while Bauman said the other man claimed the census worker hit him.

In the end, neither wanted to press charges against the other, which Bauman said ended in no arrests.

According to federal law, anyone failing to respond to the census either by mail or the followup visits can face a $100 fine.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

Upcoming Calendar

07.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Library Bookmobile special stop
07.16.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.17.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Free veterans dinner
07.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
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Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



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