Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Cool Tips for Hot Kitchens

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

There’s no reason to give up cooking indoors when the summer heat kicks in.
Photo by Power Creative

Just because it’s hot outside, you don’t have to stay out of the kitchen. Think beyond the backyard grill. And don’t limit your summer fare to tossed salad and cold sandwiches when you want to keep the indoors comfortable, the oven off and energy costs down.

With a little time, creativity and a few small appliances, you can save on your utility bill and still stay cool.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that cooking alone accounts for 4 percent of total home energy use. This figure doesn’t include the energy costs associated with refrigeration, hot-water heating and dishwashing.

While the thought of turning on the oven in July can be enough to make you sweat, electric ones can be an advantage during the summer months. Many professional cooks prefer electric ovens to gas for their ability to hold more even heat. Electric stoves also are more energy efficient because they don’t introduce extra moisture into your home when turned on, which can make your air conditioner work harder to cool and drive up energy use and cost.

In winter, the heat and humidity that builds up when cooking in the kitchen also can warm other parts of the home, while reducing the heating load on your furnace or heat pump.

During the summer months, though, there are still ways to use your oven more efficiently. When baking bread, cakes or any foods that require browning and rising, consider limiting the time spent on preheating. If your oven comes with a display that counts down the preheating time, use it.

Try these other kitchen tools and energy-saving tips to keep you cool:

  • Turn on the microwave. Microwaves can provide the most efficient way to cook single food items without the heat. They also use lower wattage to operate and can cut cooking time in half.
  • Reach for small appliances. Don’t forget about some of summer’s best go-to kitchen appliances: toaster ovens, slow cookers and pressure cookers. These handy appliances use less energy and generate less heat than a standard oven.
  • Use fans. Ceiling fans can be useful in the kitchen. They can reduce thermostat settings by 4 degrees and use much less energy than air conditioning. Even placing a ceiling fan in an adjoining dining area will help circulate the air and keep you more comfortable. For maximum cooling using a fan, consider installing a whole-house fan or attic fan to keep the hot air moving up and out of your house.
  • Consider the time. In most parts of the country, summer provides a little reprieve in the early morning and late evening. Take advantage of the lower temperatures or a summer breeze during these times to cook, bake, turn on the stove and run the dishwasher.
  • Regulate the dishwasher. When your summer meal is done and it is time for cleanup, it is fine to run the dishwasher. Did you know that a dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes by hand? You can save even more money and energy by removing the dishes after the wash cycle and letting them air-dry, and by running the dishwasher later in the evening during off-peak hours.

B. Denise Hawkins writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Virginia-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.


Keep Your Cool Efficiently This Summer

Use a programmable thermostat to bring your house to a comfortable temperature before you arrive home for the day.

Use a programmable thermostat to bring your house to a comfortable temperature before you arrive home for the day.

Keeping your home’s heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system in tip-top shape and operating it efficiently can have a sizable impact on your power bills.

To increase the efficiency of your HVAC system:

  • Install a programmable thermostat. Set your programmable thermostat to match your weekly schedule. It automatically will raise the temperature in your home while you are away and bring it back into your comfort zone shortly before you return. Used wisely, a programmable thermostat can save you more than $180 in annual energy costs. To maximize savings, set cooling temps at 78 degrees or above.
  • Change your air filter regularly. Check your filter monthly. If it looks dirty, change it. Even if not dirty, change it at least every three months. A clogged filter reduces air flow, makes the system work harder and wastes energy. A clean filter keeps dirt from building up in the system, which can lead to expensive HVAC repairs or replacement.
  • Have your HVAC system checked yearly. Just as you should see a doctor for an annual checkup, your HVAC system needs a checkup to stay healthy, too. Have maintenance performed by a qualified technician to catch problems before they become major. You will enjoy the benefits of energy savings and cool comfort. Need help finding a reputable HVAC contractor? Ask your friends or neighbors to recommend one.
  • Seal your ductwork. Often overlooked, leaky ducts can be big energy wasters. Properly sealing and insulating ducts can improve efficiency by 20 percent or more. Use mastic to seal ductwork seams and connections, then wrap them with insulation for optimal energy savings.
  • Consider replacing your HVAC system. If your air conditioner is more than 10 years old or no longer performs efficiently, consider replacing it with an energy-efficient model. By choosing an Energy Star-qualified system, you could save about $200 annually. Before buying, check the unit’s seasonal energy-efficiency ratio rating. The higher the number, the greater your savings will be. Look for a minimum SEER rating of 14.

Revisiting the 10 Essentials

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Want to keep it simple and lightweight? Consider carrying the “two essentials” wherever you go. They include a good knife or multitool, and waterproof matches, a lighter or flint and steel. With those basic essentials—and armed with the knowledge of how to maximize their use—you can survive any number of situations in the outdoors.
© Kamila Starzycka

Getting lost can happen innocently enough. Inattention, unfamiliarity and wrong turns culminate in the panic of not knowing where you are—a realization even more terrifying as darkness approaches.

Most of us will never experience a life-or-death survival situation in the wilds. However, wouldn’t it be nice to improve the odds if it ever did happen?

The 10 essentials is a collection of items you might need if you are ever forced to endure an unexpected night—or longer—in the woods or on the water.

The 10 essentials include:

  • Fire
  • Navigation
  • First aid
  • Sun protection
  • Food
  • Water
  • Light
  • Insulation
  • Tools
  • Shelter

This is an updated list that may be different than the one you learned as a Boy Scout or Girl Scout. It lists functions, rather than specific items. For example, you can carry a number of different things to make fire, such as waterproof matches, a lighter, or a flint and steel. Likewise, shelter, food, tools and sun protection can take many different forms.

Also, the 10 essentials on a boat may not be the same as those carried while backpacking or hiking. That is because weight and other factors can influence what items you take with you.

One more item to add to the list: a cell phone or smartphone. They can be used to call for help, or access first-aid instructions or other critical information. Most support GPS functions. While they have limitations, such as limited range and battery life, phones can be an essential survival tool.

Get in the habit of taking the 10 essentials wherever you go. Carry the basics when you hike, bike or go backpacking, and put together kits to keep in your car and boat.
The steps you take now could save your life in the future.

Fix It In the Field
Who hasn’t broken a rod tip while out on the water? Unfortunately, it often ends the fishing trip.

It doesn’t have to happen that way. There is a quick, easy fix that will have you back in business in no time.

You need three things for the repair: a spare rod tip, heat-shrink tubing, and a match or lighter. Also, you may need a knife to carefully trim away any rough or splintered rod material where the break occurred.

Simply slide a piece of heat-shrink tubing on the end of the rod, mount the new tip, adjust the tubing so it overlaps the rod and rod tip, and heat the tubing according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Behold! The new rod tip is ready for action.

Shift Into Slow Gear
“Slow and steady wins the race.” That sage advice applies to boots, too.

Begin the break-in process by wearing new boots around the house. Gradually increase the time they are on your feet, as well as the level of activity. Advance to short hikes, then longer ones.

How long the break-in period lasts varies from boot to boot. Heavyweight leather boots take the longest to break in. A good-quality leather conditioner, such as Nikwax, may help speed the process. Lightweight boots may not need a break-in period at all. Let your feet be the judge.

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication in Ruralite magazine, we will send you $25 for one-time use.

When sending a photo, identify people, places and pets, and tell us the story behind the picture. Email your submission to moc.etilarurnull@ofni.

Eyes on the Sky

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Bob Grossfeld stands between two of the 28 telescopes at the Oregon Observatory in Sunriver, Oregon. Bob is manager of the observatory and he has guided stargazers for more than 20 years.


Oregon Observatory boasts 28 telescopes and more than 10,000 visitors a year

By Craig Reed

“Are there any aliens out there?” That is a question Bob Grossfeld hears repeatedly from visitors to the Oregon Observatory in Sunriver, Oregon.

Bob, manager of the observatory that is part of the Sunriver Nature Center and Observatory, helps those visitors look skyward to see for themselves.

“The alien question always comes up,” Bob says. “Have I ever seen an alien? Do you believe in aliens? No, I haven’t seen any, but I think the potential is huge. I’m a show-me kind of guy.”

The observatory is home to 28 tele-scopes. Some can be used to look at the sun during the day and some are best for looking at the night sky with its stars, galaxies and planets.

What can be seen safely through the solar telescopes on clear days are sun spots, solar flares, solar storms and other surface details of the sun. Bob explains the sun is actually a star and is the closest star to Earth.

At night, the moon can be seen as well as several planets when they are in the sky during the observatory’s open hours. They are Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, and sometimes Neptune and Uranus. International space stations and other satellites also might be seen.

“You never really run out of things to look at,” Bob says. “I think it is an ever-changing universe. Every time I look in a telescope, it fascinates me.

“The observatory is a public education observatory. Our primary goal is to educate people about the universe, how it relates to the earth, what’s out there.

Goldendale Observatory is a popular destination for stargazers visiting south-central Washington. Photo by Dave Logan

Goldendale Observatory is a popular destination for stargazers visiting south-central Washington.
Photo by Dave Logan

The observatory is registered with the Harvard Minor Planet Center and is the largest nonprofit public viewing facility in the U.S. The Harvard center is an official organization in charge of collecting data on asteroids and comets, calculating their orbits and publishing the information.

When the Oregon Observatory opened in 1991, it drew 50 visitors a night and maybe as many as 100 on a good night. Now with more telescopes—including a 30-inch mirror reflected scope, a donation from a Seattle man—the observatory attracts 150 to 200 people a night during its summer hours. More than 10,000 visitors a year now look skyward through the Sunriver telescopes.

On a night when something special, such as a comet is visible, the observatory might attract up to 400 people.

About a dozen part-time staff and more than 60 volunteers help instruct visitors on use of the telescopes.

One visitor was Erik Anderson of Ashland, Oregon, who has been to the observatory on numerous occasions. The 46-year-old says he has had a lifelong interest in astronomy.

“As a teenager, I spent many long nights squinting through eyepieces to observe the curiosities of the night sky,” he says. “The telescopes available at the Sunriver observatory are large instruments that I could only dream about using when I was growing up.”

Sunriver provides an ideal location for an observatory because of its elevation, distance from the nearest city lights and penchant for dark, clear nights.

Bob says those factors make for optimal, spectacular viewing.

Bob, 53, has worked at the observatory for almost all of its 24-year history, starting as a volunteer, then working part time before getting a full-time position. He remembers looking at Jupiter and Saturn through a telescope as a junior high student.

“I was pretty much hooked,” he says.

Bob says it is a hobby that became a unique job.

Bob moved to Sunriver to start his own lighting and sound company, but gradually his interest in astronomy and the observatory pulled him into that profession full time. He also has taught astronomy classes at Central Oregon Community College in Bend, Oregon, the past seven years.

“I think it’s an ever changing world where generations today will learn more in the next 40 years than we’ve learned in the last 40 because they have better tools and technology,” he says. “They’ll be the first generation to go to Mars.”

In addition to sharing the telescopes and the skies with the public at the observatory, Bob takes some of the smaller, mobile telescopes to elementary and junior high classrooms in the Sunriver, Bend and LaPine areas. He wants to give those students the chance to be as fascinated as he is by what is out in space.

“To see the remnants of a super nova—stars that exploded hundreds of thousands of years ago—just knocks my socks off,” Bob says.

Oregon Observatory is open Tuesdays through Sundays during the summer. Visit for hours and other information.



Poster courtesy of SOKF

Happenings Out West
Southern Oregon
Kite Festival, July 19-20

The Southern Oregon Kite Festival has been a West Coast favorite since 1993. People come from across the country to participate and watch the waves of colorful kites perform aerial stunts in the skies above Brookings. This year’s event is July 19-20 along the beach where the Chetco River meets the Pacific Ocean. For more information, visit


Drive-In Theaters: The Sequel

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Brian Francis grew up watching drive-in movies from his back deck. Now he runs the show at the 99W Drive-In.
Photo by Mike Teegarden

Fans flock once again to nostalgic cinematic icons

By Dianna Troyer

Brian Francis still remembers the fascination he felt as a toddler watching the movie “101 Dalmatians” from the back deck of his house at his family’s 99W Drive-In theater.

“Like a lot of the old drive-in families, I grew up in the house on the property,” says Brian, 55, the third generation to own and operate the 99W in Newberg, Oregon. “Watching that movie is my earliest memory. An underground wire ran from the projection booth to the deck, so we could hear the film. Now, our kids watch movies from the deck.”

Brian’s grandfather J.T. Francis built the 300-car slot theater off Highway 99W in 1953, when drive-ins were rising in popularity.

Drive-ins thrived until the late 1970s and 1980s, when attendance waned and thousands of theaters closed nationwide.

The Francis family weathered the downturn and now is enjoying audiences’ renewed interest in the nostalgic entertainment icon.

“There are so few left that fans go to drive-ins because they’re afraid they’ll close,” says Brian. “Plus, people like nostalgia. Drive-ins have come such a long way, with technology changing recently from film reels to digital, but one thing is still the same: They’re a place to make memories.”

Drive-ins had record attendance in 2013, says April Wright, director of an 85-minute movie documentary, “Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-In Movie.”

Released last year, her film celebrates the outdoor cinema as an icon of American culture.

“A cultural movement is emerging among drive-in enthusiasts and families who want to return to simpler times and values,” says April, who visited the 99W while making her film. “Although the number of drive-ins has declined, they’re still an integral, vital and cherished part of our culture. Some have as many as 30,000 Facebook fans.”

Last year, Honda also shined a national spotlight on drive-ins. The car company launched Project Drive-In, a campaign to help owners make the costly conversion to new digital technology because studios are phasing out celluloid film.

A old-style drive-in movie speaker at the 99W Drive-In Theater. No longer used, theater goers now tune in with their car radio for a higher sound quality. Photo by Mike Teegarden

A old-style drive-in movie speaker at the 99W Drive-In Theater. No longer used, theater goers now tune in with their car radio for a higher sound quality.
Photo by Mike Teegarden

The project has donated 10 free digital projection systems—each valued at about $80,000—to drive-ins, including the 99W. Fans voted online for the winners.

“We’re blessed and grateful to Honda and everybody who voted for us last summer,” says Brian, who began using the new system in March.
He strives to blend the newest technology with vintage cinema.

“The digital picture is so bright and clear, and the colors are vibrant,” he says. “But for old time’s sake, we still run 20 minutes of vintage intermission reels from our 35mm library we’ve collected for 60 years. The projector we’ve used since 1953 still runs great with a few drops of oil for routine maintenance.”

Like Brian, April appreciates new technology and nostalgia, merging both in her movie to tell why drive-ins peaked in the late 1950s at about 5,000, but declined to fewer than 400 by the 1980s.

“Their shifts in popularity tell the story of how American culture and families evolved during the past 60 years,” says April, who worked on her film for seven years, crisscrossing the continental United States to visit 500 open or abandoned drive-ins.

Her childhood memories watching movies under the stars in Illinois and her admiration of drive-in architecture motivated her.

The completion of her film coincided with the 80th anniversary of the invention of drive-ins.

The Rise and Demise
Compelled to combine his love of cinema and cars, Richard Hollingshead Jr., a Camden, New Jersey, businessman, invented the drive-in. In 1932, he nailed a sheet between trees in his yard and propped a movie projector on his car hood. After receiving a patent in 1933 for an arrangement of tiered ramps for cars at an outdoor theater, Hollingshead opened the first drive-in theater in nearby Pennsauken with 400 car slots.

Other drive-ins soon opened.

Infused with an infatuation for cars and movies as predominant forms of entertainment, Americans flocked to drive-ins from the 1940s through the 1960s.

“A product of post-World War II optimism, the drive-in theater emerged as the perfect blend of entertainment and our car culture,” says April. “Drive-ins became an affordable destination for couples on a date or families with noisy children.”

Tim Delaney, a sociology professor at State University of New York, Oswego, says, “The ’50s was a unique and innocent decade when people felt happy and cherished the freedom and comfort their cars offered. They also loved the inexpensive, safe, relaxing entertainment of watching movies outdoors. Drive-ins reflected our societal values and norms at that time.”

During their heyday in 1958, about 5,000 drive-ins were in business, says April.

But by the late ’60s and ’70s, U.S. culture began to change drastically, causing drive-in attendance to decline.

“By then, televisions were in many homes, influencing how families spent their time,” says April. “During the early ’80s, people began spending their leisure time with computers, video games, cable and home video.”


Left, Sarah DeBois, 16, and Armin Trujillo, 17, both of Beaverton, Oregon, munch on popcorn prior the start of the movie at the 99w Drive-In.
Photo by Mike Teegarden

Economic factors also contributed to drive-in closures.

During the 1980s, big box stores and cinema complexes gained a foothold, replacing mom-and-pop businesses such as drive-ins, Brian says.

“We survived by building a two-screen indoor cinema in 1983 next to the drive-in so we could be in business during winter, when the drive-in was closed,” he says.

Drive-in owners also supplemented their income by renting their grounds from spring through fall for flea markets, craft shows, car shows, film festivals or concerts.

From 1978 to 1988, more than 1,000 drive-in screens closed, according to the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association.

“Closings were common for several reasons,” says D. Edward Vogel, administrative secretary of the association. He grew up with drive-ins. His stepfather, Jack Vogel, an architect-engineer, designed and helped build more than 300 drive-ins, with D. Edward accompanying him on business trips.

“As land values increased, many drive-in owners sold their property because developers offered them more money than they could earn running drive-ins,” D. Edward says. “Also, aging owners wanted to retire. Obtaining first-run product became increasingly difficult, too.”

The number of drive-ins has stabilized at 357 with 604 screens, according to the association.

“Right now, we’re holding on,” says D. Edward, who runs Bengies, a 750-slot drive-in open since 1956 in Baltimore.

It has the largest screen in America at 52 feet by 120 feet.

“I wish there were more drive-ins, but it’s heartening to see renewed enthusiasm for those still in business,” he notes.

Digital Conversion
Implementation of digital technology “is definitely the biggest change in presentation since the conversion from silent to sound pictures in 1929,” says Brian.

Costs of digital conversion have driven some drive-in owners out of business. In Globe, Arizona, Bobbie Hollis, longtime owner of the Apache Drive-In, closed last September, citing an inability to buy a new system.

Other owners have financed the new systems with lease options, bank loans and creative fundraising. A lease-to-own option on a used projector enabled Jeff Mexico to keep the Motor Vu Drive-In open last summer in Dallas, Oregon.

Movies now arrive on an external hard drive. An access code on the thumb drive allows the movie to be played on the digital projector. Photo by Mike Teegarden

Movies now arrive on an external hard drive. An access code on the thumb drive allows the movie to be played on the digital projector.
Photo by Mike Teegarden

“I didn’t want to use crowd-funding resources, so I did a gift card digital upgrade promotion for the drive-in and two indoor theaters I was improving in Stayton and Albany,” he says. “It raised about $20,000. The cards were basically a zero-interest loan from a massive amount of people. That amount, along with sales of other businesses, provided cash to buy the digital system.”

The Motor Vu is a destination on warm nights.

“During mid-summer, our 435 slots are usually full,” says Jeff, 50, who quit his corporate job with Hewlett-Packard in Corvallis, Oregon, in 2002 to run theaters. “I’m an average guy who wanted to give this a try, and it’s been worthwhile.”

At the 99W, Brian and his family foresee a bright future and are adding about 40 more car slots this summer.

“The 99W is a beloved local landmark and still attracts people from the region who want a nostalgic evening,” says Brian. “As long as people are passionate about preserving drive-ins and supporting the snack bar, they’ll continue.

“For me, it’s in my family and in my blood. I don’t want to do anything else. My wife and children can come to work with me. My first jobs were here, picking up the trash and working at the snack bar. Who knows, when our kids are grown, they might run it.”

Based on her research, April is optimistic about the future of drive-ins’.

“People still believe this American icon is worth saving for generations to come,” she says.

Drive-ins have a timeless appeal for professor Tim Delaney, who often went to the Finger Lakes Drive-In near his hometown of Auburn, New York, when he was in high school and college.

“They still offer entertainment for all ages,” he says. “What’s better than going to a movie with friends, family or a date while communing with nature? No one shushes you for talking on your cell phone or texting. The kids can be noisy or fall asleep in the car. Drive-ins are still wonderful.”

Spud Drive-In on Idaho Bucket List

Old Murphy greets visitors to the Spud Drive-In near Driggs, Idaho.  Photo by Dawnelle Mumm

Old Murphy greets visitors to the Spud Drive-In near Driggs, Idaho.
Photo by Dawnelle Mumm

With its iconic tan 2-ton potato mounted on a 1946 Chevrolet flatbed truck, the Spud Drive-In ranks high on an Idaho bucket list.

“It’s called Old Murphy,” Manager Dawnelle Mumm says of the truck parked at the drive-in off Highway 33 near Driggs in eastern Idaho. “People stop to take their picture with it year-round.”

Built in 1953 in the rural Teton Valley, the famous drive-in was even referenced in a question on the TV show “Jeopardy:” “What state has a drive-in with a giant potato on a truck?”

Dawnelle, 63, who has operated the Spud since 1987, says tourists and regular patrons keep the nostalgic 170-slot drive-in busy in the summer, when it is open nightly.

“I know exactly what our regular customers want on their burgers,” Dawnelle says. “It’s great to see them every week.”

To pay for a used digital projector in 2012, the owners took out a loan.

“Two-thirds of the loan has been paid off with fund-raisers and T-shirt sales,” Dawnelle says.

Besides showing movies and selling season passes, income is generated from renting the 8-acre grounds for family reunions, concerts, car shows and flea markets. Local businesses also buy advertising space beneath the screen.

“Strong community support will keep it open,” Dawnelle says. “It’s been a popular part of the valley for decades.”


Milton-Freewater Drive-In is Spiess Family Hobby

Photo courtesy of Spiess family

Photo courtesy of Spiess family

Costly setbacks have failed to discourage Mike Spiess and his wife, Lorie, owners of the Milton-Freewater Drive-In Theater, in Oregon, 8 miles south of Walla Walla, Washington.

They dealt with every drive-in owner’s nightmare in 2008 when a windstorm blew down their screen tower.

“That was the first year we were in charge of day-to-day operations after my parents semi-retired from running it,” recalls Mike, who teaches sixth grade and coaches high school football. Lorie works full time as an office manager at an eye clinic. “The drive-in is our family hobby.”

In 2011, Oregon drinking water laws required them to drill a new well. Last year, they made the costly conversion to a digital projector and sound system.

“The shift in technology has been challenging, but well worth it,” says Mike. “We have by far the biggest, brightest screen in the area. Being digital has also allowed us to show first-run movies regularly.”

Their customer base extends to Pendleton and Hermiston, Oregon, and the Tri-Cities in Washington.

Built in 1953, the drive-in has been in Mike’s family for 53 years.

“Dad, who’s now 83, and his brother Lowell bought it in 1961,” says Mike. “It supported our family in the 1970s. With our customers’ continued support, we’ll be able to keep the gates open.”


Skyline Celebrates 50 Years

Dorothea Mayes at the entrance to the Skyline Drive-In, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer.   Photo courtesy of the Skyline

Dorothea Mayes at the entrance to the Skyline Drive-In, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer.
Photo courtesy of the Skyline

Disastrous twists of fate cannot keep the resilient Skyline Drive-In closed for long. During the past three years, the theater 80 miles southwest of Seattle in Shelton, Washington, has recovered from devastating winds that ripped the roof off the concession stand, floods, fire and a lightning strike that ruined a new digital projection system.

“Drive-ins will always be a good social experience for families,” says Dorothea Mayes, Skyline’s CEO. “Young parents appreciate the reasonable price to see two movies and are often relieved to not have to hire a sitter to enjoy a night out. Grandparents will continue to take kids to the drive-in to tell of how things were when they were growing up.”

Dorothea, 63, began going to drive-ins in the 1970s after she and her husband moved to the Seattle area.

“There were none where I grew up,” she says. “I fell in love with the whole drive-in atmosphere: the big screen, seeing a movie under the stars, the snack bar food, inexpensive admission, the privacy of the car yet the community of patrons around you, the atmosphere on a warm summer night, snuggling under a blanket on a cool night … all of it. I wound up with a job in the film industry and started booking movies for the drive-ins I was so enamored with.”

Energy-Saving Technology

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Leterro stands beside the quietly running DHP compressor at the remodeled house. The home already has a buyer who is excited about the efficiency advantages of the unit.

Although ductless heat pump technology has been used for about 35 years internationally, it is a relatively new heating and cooling technology in the minds of many Americans. Ductless heat pumps have a reputation for providing a high level of home comfort and notable energy savings.

Ductless heat pumps consist of three parts: an outdoor compressor unit; at least one indoor air-handler unit that is wall- or ceiling-mounted; and a remote control to operate the settings.

Connecting the outdoor and indoor portions of the system is a refrigerant line that requires a 3-inch hole to the exterior of the house. As with other heat pumps, the system pulls available heat from the outside air to heat the home. To cool, the system reverses and releases heat to the outside air.

Unlike other heat pump systems, ductless heat pumps do not require ductwork in the home to function.

Thomas Elzinga is the energy services representative at Consumers Power Inc. in Philomath, Oregon. He is among many professionals who champion the energy-savings potential of ductless heat pumps.

“As a small cooperative utility, we are dedicated to promote the best available technology,” Elzinga says. “It helps Consumers Power meet its ongoing goal of providing reliable, affordable power.

“Ductless heat pumps are ideal because they are effective, reliable technology that promotes comfort and helps members see savings.”

Statistics from the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance based in Portland, Oregon, reflect 85,000 product installs in the Northwest. Elzinga says there were 110 installs in Consumer Power’s territory in the past 12 months. That is double the installations in the previous year.

“We’ve worked to get the word out to our members,” Elzinga says. “In conjunction with promotional efforts by NEEA, including the website, we’re educating folks.”


Dave Leterro uses the remote control to operate the ductless heat pump installed in the house he has been fixing up.

The home rental market has been slow to adopt the technology.

“We’ve often heard concerns about tenants remembering to clean filters,” Elzinga says. “And the upfront costs can be an obstacle for some landlords. But we have worked with some starting a proactive approach. They see they can retain tenants longer, attract more tenants and increase property value by installing a ductless unit.”

Dennis Sheldon, a building contractor and landlord in Monmouth, Oregon, is one such proactive landlord.

Ductless heat pumps represent an ideal opportunity to introduce comfort and energy savings to rentals and home remodels, he says.

“Many are so cost-conscious at construction they just want what costs less up front,” Sheldon says. “That’s typically using in-wall or baseboard heaters. But since I learned about the ductless systems, it’s all I tell people about.”

Sheldon’s experience with ductless heat pumps began in his own home.

“Before we had a DHP in our own home, my wife, Janet, and I had heater wars,” Sheldon says. “She would be cold and would turn up the heat. I’d be worried about the costs so I’d sneak behind her and turn it back down. We were getting $300 and $400 power bills.”

After experiencing the savings and comfort level of a ductless heat pump, Sheldon installed them in six of his seven rental duplexes and houses. His tenants rave about how well the units perform, especially when it is extremely cold.

“One of my tenants tracked the house’s energy use before and after I installed the DHP,” Sheldon says. “They reported that energy use was cut in half and they are way more comfortable now. They were freezing before at twice the cost.

“DHPs are relatively inexpensive—even better if you qualify for rebates. It just makes your place more rentable, especially when it adds humidity control, and air conditioning in summer.”

In Corvallis, Oregon, David Leterro of Stomping Grounds Management relates a similar story of his experiences with the technology.

“I do international development work,” he says. “My projects involve installing solar electric systems on schools in some West African countries. Sometimes the projects are in places that become dangerous or suffer serious disease outbreaks, so I wanted to work on some houses here until it’s clear to travel again.”

Like Sheldon, Leterro’s satisfaction with ductless heat pumps began in his own home.

“We bought our own home four years ago, and it needed a lot of fixing up,” Leterro says. “First we upgraded the attic insulation and then replaced the furnace with a ductless heat pump. From those measures we saw about a 40 to 50 percent savings. We had all the comfort of a furnace system at a fraction of the cost.”

Leterro and his wife, Carly, put their expertise to work fixing up a house to sell. He replaced the house’s baseboard and radiant ceiling heat with ductless heating in December. During a February ice storm, the house was comfortable.

“The ductless heat pump is a major selling point to those who know what they are,” says Leterro. “I really wanted to offer someone a starter home that had all the efficiency in place.”

Leterro says some real estate agents hesitate to promote the units as selling points.

“Real estate people agree the heat pumps are awesome, but they caution that it’s really new technology and people don’t know about it yet,” he says. “Ductless heat pumps are everywhere in the developing world, yet here people treat it like some new, mysterious technology, though it’s tested and proven. For reliable comfort and huge energy savings, ductless heat pumps are it.”

For more information on federal tax credits, go to For credit and rebate information for any state, go to

The Flag Man

Friday, May 30th, 2014


Robin Hickman handles the flags with genuine gentleness. As he unfurls them or refolds them, he talks to them about their history, about their purpose, with reverence in his voice.

Many of the flags in his vast collection have deep meaning for the 62-year-old. He remembers his days as a U.S. Navy sailor in the early 1970s and walking around a street corner in Singapore to see the Stars and Stripes flying over a U.S. facility.

“It represents freedom wherever you see it,” Robin says.

He also remembers how the flag gave him—and many others—comfort following the Thurston High School shooting in Springfield, Oregon, in 1998.

“We were stunned, we were heartbroken, we were angry, we wanted to do something,” says Robin, a resident of nearby Eugene, Oregon. “We felt helpless and wondered, ‘What can we do?’”

Robin was a member of the Springfield Jaycees and coordinated the club’s flag program at the time. Permission was granted for a special posting of the flags. Flags were fixed at half-staff during the night, black mourning ribbons were attached and the flags were posted around Springfield and a few in Eugene the morning after the shooting. They were posted at daybreak and struck each evening for three days.

“It gave me something to do when I felt helpless,” Robin says.

The symbolism was not lost on the Thurston students. Those who camped out at the school for a few days to remember their lost and injured classmates asked that one flag remain posted with them throughout each night.
Robin says that feeling of helplessness returned in 2001 following the Twin Towers attack on September 11.

“Everybody was gut punched,” he says. “The entire country felt under attack. Some people gave money, some people gave blood. Flags is what we know how to do.”

The Jaycees’ collection of U.S. flags had grown to about 150 under Robin’s guidance. A night was spent fixing the flags at half-staff and then they were posted and struck for six straight days.

“The whole nation was hurt and helpless,” Robin says. “I had something to do to help. A lot of people thanked us as we went along our way with the flags.”

Robin has continued to be the father of the flag program for the Springfield area, even after the Jaycees club disbanded in 2008. For the past six years he has continued to post and strike the flags on appropriate holidays and special days. He is usually a one-man crew, and earning him the title of “Your Friendly Neighborhood Flag Man.”

“I’m taking care of the flags—the flags that have taken care of me in my life,” the Vietnam veteran explains. “I’m paying it back. It’s part of who I am now. It’s part of my reason for living.

“I think every community in every state should have some kind of community flag-posting service for their town, their city, their neighborhood.”

Robin admits his passion has become a dedication. He figures he travels more than 100 miles to put out the concrete and pipe holders and the flags and then to return to pick them up.

“It gives him a sense of purpose,” says Marina, Robin’s wife of 36 years, says of the flag program. “He has a passion for patriotism, and serving his country is very important to him. I’m very proud of him for that.

“There seems to be a lot of appreciation from fellow veterans, past veterans, people who have served,. They stop quite often and thank him for his patriotism. They seem to really enjoy seeing the flags out.”

Walt Archer is a longtime friend of Robin’s and helped with the Jaycees flag program. Walt was the club president for four years, while Robin was chairman of the flag program.

“The flag program became a part of him,” Walt says of Robin. “Sadly, he did most of it himself. He lives flags, he breathes flags, he sleeps flags. Robin is the one and only flag man.”

Robin’s involvement with the Jaycees flags gradually led him to begin a personal collection of flags that now numbers more than 1,000. The garage at his home has about 100 flags on staffs. The rest of his collection is folded neatly in stacked boxes. He knows a little something, if not a lot, about each kind of flag.

The collection includes flags representing U.S. history, from 13 stars to the present 50 stars; flags of all 50 U.S. states; flags of each military branch; about 70 flags of foreign countries; and numerous specialty flags, such as Olympic and Team USA flags.

To share his patriotism and passion for flags, Robin holds one or two flag sales a year in his yard, usually before Flag Day, June 14, or before Independence Day, July 4. The sales help him earn money to buy more flags.

Robin worries about the future of the flag and whether younger generations will have respect for it and its symbolism.

He wishes there was more education on flag history and etiquette, especially for kids. He remembers being a young student, holding his hand over his heart, looking at the U.S. flag at the front of the classroom and saying the Pledge of Alliance.

“That made an impression on all of us,” he says. “I don’t want that to lose its meaning.”


‘The Star Spangled Banner’ Turns 200 This Year

June-main-sidebar-flag-35485-hi-SSB_galleryIt was 200 years ago that Francis Scott Key penned the poem—”The Defence of Fort McHenry”—that ultimately became the lyrics to “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The flag that defiantly flew over Fort McHenry the morning of September 14, 1814, after a 25-hour bombardment by the British navy and inspired the national anthem now resides at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

The flag is a shadow of its former self. The elements, time and custom have taken their toll. When the museum acquired the flag in 1912, it was discolored with age, fragile, frayed and torn.

It measured 30 feet by 42 feet when it was new, but by 1912 it was only 30 feet by 34 feet. The difference had been snipped away piece by piece and given as souvenirs by its private owners throughout the years. The pieces became highly prized and collectible in the late 1800s. Some of the snippings have been returned to the museum. However, the missing 15th star—perhaps given away as a momento—has never been located.

The flag is on display in a climate-controlled environment, where hundreds of thousands of visitors view it each year.

Seasoning for the Eye

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Eye seasoning: The shadow of a photographer adds life to the Georgia Guidestones monument in Elbert County, Georgia.
Photo by David LaBelle

Growing up, I remember listening to Merle Haggard’s ““Okie from Muskogee.” Recorded live in the Oklahoma town with the same name, the song celebrated old-fashioned country values in a fast-evolving ’60s society.

Tickled by the lyrics, a man in the audience—probably close to the stage—let loose with a spontaneous belly laugh. I laughed at his laugh. The unscripted outburst can be heard in the recording, a perfect seasoning to the song. That one quick, unexpected chuckle added something special to the performance and to the record.

Likewise, small details—a shaft of light, a rising crescent moon, a flock of birds winging across a colored sky or a human figure silhouetted against a building—can add energy to lifeless landscapes and transform ordinary photographs into extraordinary ones.

Often the difference between an average picture and an engaging photograph is an accent of light or motion.

Buildings of steel or monuments of stone come alive with dramatic light or contrasting life forms. Little things often make the big things interesting and complete. They can give them life.

The two Ps—Preparation and Patience—are gospel for any serious documentary photographer. I’m reminded of the late Galen Rowell’s breathtaking photograph of a full rainbow over a Tibetan monastery. Rowell said he saw the rain coming and the potential for a special picture. He immediately raced the elements to get in position to capture the picture he imagined. He was rewarded with an iconic image.

It is important to consider adding life forms when photographing stationary structures, such as buildings, monuments or statues. A rising moon behind a church steeple can add magic. A small detail—and accent—can be the difference between a mug shot of a building and an engaging, inviting photograph. In commercial terms for those who wish to monetize their photography, this can be considered “value added.”

When photographing famous places or monuments that have been photographed and painted thousands of times, consider which detail might make your rendition different, special. It might be your composition, such as the angle or elements you choose to incorporate into your picture or the way light strikes at a certain time of day. It is a way of putting your signature on another’s creation.

Creating a photograph is a lot like cooking: Small accents can season photographs the way herbs and spices season meals. A small pinch of something can change and enhance the experience.

You taste a creation with your eyes, and it looks bland. You know it needs something, a little seasoning. Often, the seasoning needed is dramatic light, a foreground, a background or a life form.

However, as with all seasonings, be careful not to spoil the flavor of the entrée with too many extra elements. They can steal attention from the main subject the same way too many spices steal the flavor of a meal.

So when you look through the viewfinder and feel like there is something missing, try changing angles or waiting patiently for that perfect accessory that completes the picture you imagine.

David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He grew up on a frog farm in rural California, roaming the creeks and hills with his coon dogs. Many of the lessons he learned during those magical boyhood years have been applied to photography and teaching the essence of this art form. For more information, visit

Ruralite 2015 Calendar Contest

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014


Ruralite 2015 Calendar Contest Rules

We know you live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. We want you to share that beauty with our readers by entering our calendar photo contest. Up to 13 winners will be selected. Each winner will receive $100.

Submissions will be accepted until July 25, 2014. The contest is open only to members of Ruralite and Currents utilities. Each person may submit up to two photos. Each photo should include:

  • Photographer’s name, address and electric utility of the photographer.
  • A short description of the photo.
  • An email address and telephone number where the photographer can be contacted.

Only digital JPEG photos will be accepted. Photos must be horizontal or landscape format and be at least 300 dpi at 11 inches wide by 9 inches tall. Vertical photos will not be considered. Emails larger than 10 megabytes will not be accepted.

Submissions should be sent to gro.etilarurnull@radnelac along with supporting information. Please put the words “2015 Calendar Photo Contest” in the subject line. Each person with a photo appearing in the calendar will receive five copies of the calendar.

Good luck and have fun!

By entering the contest, you agree to give Ruralite one-time rights to publish your photo in the Ruralite.

Helpful Hints

  •  Use the highest resolution setting on your digital camera.
  • Photograph beautiful places and wildlife. Selected photos will have dramatic colors or scenery.
  • While cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., are pretty, calendar photos reflect the beauty of the areas where our Ruralite and Currents readers live.
  • Submit photos that suggest a season or holiday.
  • Avoid photos of pets.
  • Pay attention to lighting. Just after sunrise and just before sunset are beautiful times to photograph.
  • Make us laugh.


  • c-143 calendar final BW all cal pagesI don’t have a computer, can I mail a CD/DVD/prints?
    No. With the volume of entries we receive the time it would take to go through loading or scanning files makes this impractical for us.
  • Why is my email bouncing back to me? You may be trying to send too much information in one email. Emails larger than 10 megabytes will be rejected by our mail server. You can send one photo per email, or you may need to use software to slightly lower the resolution of your file before you send it.
  • My photos are too large to email, can I send a link to my online gallery? No. Only photos directly emailed will be considered. Entries containing links to online galleries will be ignored.
  • I don’t have Photoshop, how do I adjust the file size? There are other applications that you can use, but explaining how to use them is outside our scope. It might be time to do some searching online.
  • How do I make my files 300 ppi? You will need some photo editing software, such as Photoshop. The photos must be 300 dpi at approximately 9×11 in size.
  • My photo is a vertical, can I enter it? No. All calendar images are run horizontal.
  • I can’t decide which  two photo to send, can I send more? No. The entry response has exceeded our expectations and we must limit each person to two submissions.
  • Will you confirm you received my email? Only if you send the email with a return receipt request through your email software.
  • Can more than one person from the same household enter? Yes.
  • Is there an age limit? No.
  • Can I add an artistic signature to my photo? No. For consistency, each photo will be credited in our uniform style.
  • Why didn’t my winning photo show up in my calendar? Some utilities produce their own calendar using photos other than the ones Ruralite provides through our contest.

Please email photos to gro.etilarurnull@radnelac

Memorial Days

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Billy Justus of Lebanon, Oregon, takes in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—otherwise known as The Wall—in Washington, D.C.

Billy Justus visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., for the first time last May. Though surrounded by other visitors, he seemed unaware of them, instead becoming absorbed by the reverence evoked by the black granite wall. His fingertips lightly brushed over the etched names of the American soldiers who died in the Vietnam War.

Billy hoped to find the names of comrades who died while serving with him in the Army in 1967-1968.

Billy, who lives in Lebanon, Oregon, comes from a long line of soldiers and sailors. His brother, James, served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. Billy’s father, Ken, 93, served in the Navy during World War II and his grandfather served in World War I.

Billy’s nephew, also named Ken, continued the family tradition and served in the Navy on an aircraft carrier during the Gulf War.

Like many Vietnam veterans, Billy says the war changed him.

“When I went, I was a naïve little boy,” he says. “I came back with my eyes wide open.”

Billy and Ken were in Washington, D.C., last May traveling with an Honor Flight group. Honor Flight is an organization that hosts World War II veterans on expense-paid trips to see their war memorial.

During World War II, Ken served on the USS Noble and drove landing craft.

“We started moving troops at Guadalcanal,” he says. “That was all secured by then.”

But there was still a lot of danger.

“We had a Kamikaze dive at us, but he missed by 8 or 10 feet,” says Ken. “He just missed us off the bow.”


Billy and his father, Ken, take time during their Honor Flight trip to visit the World War II Memorial. They are standing near the column honoring the service of Oregon veterans.

Ken also was part of the invasion on Okinawa, helping land troops on the beach.

Ken and fellow members of his Honor Flight group spent a lot of time swapping stories about the war, many detailing the near misses they experienced.

A poignant part of the trip was the stop at Arlington National Cemetery, where they witnessed the changing of the guard and a wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

While the soldiers guarding the tomb diligently performed their duties, Ken and the others watched silently.

“I was quite fascinated by the changing of the guard,” he says. “Those guys are so disciplined about what they do.”

For Billy, the changing of the guard was a moment to think about the men who died for our freedom.

“The most stirring (thing) was knowing these guys gave their lives and nobody knows who they are,” says Billy.

While Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam Memorial overwhelm visitors visually, seeing the names listed on The Wall in the order they died brought the emotions to a more personal level for Billy.

“When I put my hand on it, every one of these names I touched was a young guy like me,” he says. “I was 19, not even shaving.”

Billy’s quest to find the names of his friends on The Wall was unsuccessful, but he was not disappointed.

“Just touching it was enough,” he said quietly, as he walked away from the memorial.

Gadgets to Make Life On the Road More Enjoyable

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Photo by Michael Quirk

Hitting the open highway in search of vacation memories offers an inherent feeling of freedom. No long-term parking fees, airport security checks or missed connecting flights. It’s all about you and your destination.

All too often, though, one encounters bumps in the road, whether it has to do with safety, comfort or lack of organization.

This year, plan wisely, keep your cool and conquer the open road with these handy gadgets.

Safety First
You throw caution to the wind when traveling by vehicle. At any given moment, you can get a flat or need a jumpstart. But gadgets such as the 600 PEAK Amp Jump-Starter with Inflator offers peace of mind.

This product has an alarm and light that will warn you if you hook up the jumper cables incorrectly, which will save you from frying your car’s electrical system. It also comes with a digital LED tire pressure display, a built-in AC charger, a 12-volt outlet and a 1-amp USB port for powering portable devices. For more information, visit

Hopefully, you never have to use the ResQMe escape tool, but this inexpensive purchase could save your life.


ResQMe is a small, light emergency escape tool.
Photo courtesy of ResQMe Inc.

Imagine being trapped inside your vehicle following an accident. ResQMe has a sharp steel blade that cuts through seatbelts and a spring-loaded spike that shatters car windows, making it possible to exit your vehicle in an emergency.

The ResQMe escape tool is light enough to attach to your keychain and small enough not to get in the way. In addition, it comes in black and a variety of bright colors—blue, yellow, orange, green, pink and red—making it easy to locate in a stressful situation. The tool costs $10 to $15. To learn more, go to

The Art of Organization
Staying organized may not be your strong suit, but handy travel products can help you get organized. One of them is Grid-It! This organizer uses a system of elastic bands and zippered pockets to hold your personal items in place. From gadgets and gizmos to hygiene products and tools, Grid-It! organizers keep important items secure, making it easier to locate items when they are needed.

These organizers range in size from small to large, and come in a variety of colors. Prices are from $9.99 to $49.99, depending on size. Visit for more information.

When road tripping, there always seems to be more luggage than your car can handle. Most roof racks are expensive, bulky and difficult to use. That’s not the case with the HandiRack rooftop storage system.


HandiRack is portable, durable and easy to use.
Photo courtesy of HandiWorld

It is easy to use. Place the uninflated HandiRack on a vehicle’s rooftop, pass the strap through the open doors and clamp the strap to the heavy-duty buckle on the other side. Close the doors, inflate the rack with the pump included and strap on your luggage.

The HandiRack is portable, fits most cars and can hold up to 175 pounds. Starting around $85, it is a perfect space solution for road trips. For more information, visit

Comfort is Critical
It seems there is never a rest area around when you need one. Charmin has a solution to that problem: SitOrSquat. This useful app locates restrooms in the area and provides user reviews about the facilities. App users can narrow their search to locate restrooms that are handicap accessible or have a baby changing table.

The free SitOrSquat app can be downloaded for iPhone, iPad, iTouch and Android. Access the app at

After a long day on the road, few things are as appealing as a good night’s sleep. The last thing you want is traffic noise or your partner’s snoring keeping you awake. That’s where SleepPhones come in. Hidden within the SleepPhones headband are small, removable speakers that sit comfortably near your ears. The speakers don’t stick in your ears, so even side sleepers can indulge. Just plug your SleepPhones into your CD player, iPod or MP3 player, slip on the soft headband and turn on sounds that soothe you.

SleepPhones are lightweight, washable and come in three colors. Original SleepPhones cost $39.95; SleepPhones Wireless headphones cost $99.95. For more information, visit

Hit the Road
How you prepare for your next road trip can be the difference between smashing success or epic failure. This year, be the king—or queen—of your road trip. Take advantage of the many products on the market to assist travelers with potential predicaments and discomforts, and make life on the road more enjoyable.


Photo by Paolo81/iStock

Prepare and Carry an Emergency Car Kit
You could be in a dire situation if your vehicle breaks down or severe weather leaves you stranded. By taking a little time to prepare an emergency car kit, you can keep you and family safe even if that happens.

The American Red Cross suggests you pack your emergency car kit with the following essentials:

  • Battery powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries
  • Blanket
  • Booster cables
  • Fire extinguisher, 5-pound, A-B-C rated for multiple types of fires
  • First-aid kit and manual
  • Bottled water and nonperishable, high-energy foods such as granola bars, raisins and peanut butter
  • Maps
  • Shovel
  • Flares
  • Tire repair kit and pump
  • Matches and survival candle that can burn for several hours

There are many other factors to consider when preparing your emergency car kit. For example, if you are stuck for a long period, you will need more than just the bare essentials. Consider adding toilet paper, hand sanitizer, trash bags, duct tape, rain ponchos, tarp, rope, knife and other items, so you are ready for any emergency.