Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

A Tasty Reward

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

Photo credit Brandon Pomrenke.

Turn your kitchen into an herb garden

Large, sprawling gardens may be a great home for a plethora of tasty greens, savory root vegetables and myriad herbs, but what if large unused space is difficult to come by?

For those lacking the outdoor space but not the drive to grow, an indoor herb garden might do the trick. All it takes is a countertop or small section of wall to get started.

“No matter where you live—house, apartment or condo—if you don’t have room for outdoor gardening, there’s a lot you can grow indoors,” says Adrian Hunsberger, an urban horticulture agent at University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences extension office in Miami-Dade County. “Herbs are a perfect match for indoors. The most important thing is the sheer joy of growing your own edible crops.”

When it comes to size, material, aesthetic and variety, there is virtually no limit to indoor herb gardens. Common herbs include basil, chives, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme. Many grocery and hardware stores sell startup kits, seeds and supplies consumers need to get started.

You can choose a traditional soil-based growing method using potted plants or water-based hydroponics.

Because it involves less mess, fuss and maintenance, hydroponics is growing in popularity. Instead of soil or fertilizer, this method uses water and nutrients. Because nutrients are in the water, they are absorbed directly into the roots, resulting in faster growth than with soil.

Weston Miller, community and urban horticulturist for the Oregon State University Extension Service, extolls the many benefits to growing your own herbs.

“Fresh herbs will hopefully be eaten, increasing one’s intake of nutrients and fiber-rich plants,” he says. “Hands in the soil and growing plants also have therapeutic benefits.”

Weston says learning how to grow in a small indoor space comes with a nice perk: enjoying the aroma of herbs such as basil and mint.

Establishing a Healthy Crop
While rewarding, starting an indoor herb garden requires plenty of thought and planning.

How you pot the herbs matters.

“Use sterile containers and potting soil,” Weston says. “If reusing pots, they should be sterilized—submerged in bleach—and rinsed before use.”

Whatever growing method you select—soil or water—the key to success after planting is to provide adequate light and the right amount of water, with good drainage if using soil.

Figuring out optimal light and water is not an exact science. It often requires trial and error.

“Growing herbs indoors can be challenging because most windows do not have enough daylight to grow healthy plants,” Weston says.

Adrian reiterates the need for light, whether natural or artificial.

“The more light you get the better,” she says. “A nice window is best, but some people don’t get enough natural sunlight. You can buy grow lights that have a special color spectrum that is best for plant growth. Those are easy lights to get, especially online.”

If you decide to use mostly natural light, remember that east- or west-facing windows get the most light in summer, and south-facing windows have the brightest light and most sun in winter.

Adrian says most herbs are tolerant of indirect light or some shade.

Light kits can help alleviate the aggravation of replacing constantly dying plants. If you decide to rely on or supplement with artificial lights, place them about a foot from the plants.

According to, keep the lights on for 12 to 16 hours for full-sun plants, and adjust as necessary. Once the roots are established and your plants are strong and healthy, aim for about seven hours of sunlight.

Add Water, But Not Too Much
Indoor plants need less water than outdoor plants, but not all novice growers understand that.

“The No. 1 problem people have is they overestimate how much water plants need,” Adrian says. “That’s why a lot of plants—especially indoor plants—don’t succeed.”

To determine if a plant needs water, lift the pot. Well-watered soil will be dense and heavier, so the pot should not be light.

Adrian says novice gardeners can determine how much water different herbs need through some experimentation. Mark on a calendar when you water a particular herb. When it starts to look droopy, water it and take note of how long it takes to look healthy again.

Another way to check if a plant has enough water is to stick a finger about 2 inches into the soil. If the soil is dry, water the plant.

But Adrian warns that if a plant gets too much water, it can get root rot and die.

“It’s better to err on the side of being a little dry,” she cautions. “A lot of herbs prefer their leaves dry, so you’re only going to water the soil. For people who have to really heat or air condition their home, if they feel they need to add humidity to the air, they can just have a shallow saucer of water near the plant.”

Because most herbs are from the Mediterranean, they like it a little on the dry side, Adrian adds.

Misting with water is not a good idea, she says, noting it encourages fungal disease.

“One challenge people might face is damping off fungus,” Weston says.

The horticultural condition is caused by pathogens that can kill or weaken seedlings.

“The fungus rots seed in the soil, or will make a brown spot on the stem of seedlings, which then die,” Weston explains.

To avoid damping off, plant seeds at the correct depth—which varies plant to plant—and do not crowd the seeds.

Good drainage is important because overwatering is common.

Harvesting Your Bounty
Today’s indoor gardening methods make it possible to have fresh herbs for homecooked meals year-round.

Gardeners get to pick their herbs at the peak of freshness and flavor, Adrian says, noting when used right away, you cannot get any fresher.

Once a healthy plant has been established, using fresh herbs is as easy as snipping off a piece. Rinse and dry before adding to a dish.

While fresh herbs are great, you can dry them for later use. The trick is to harvest and dry them at the right time, preferably when they begin to flower.

Many prefer to air-dry herbs indoors because it is believed to better retain flavor and color. Bundle herbs only with the same variety, since drying times may differ.

Placing herb bundles in a paper bag speeds the drying process, but some growers prefer to hang dry plants. Keep hanging herbs out of direct sunlight.

Air-drying herbs outdoors can cause loss of color and flavor as a result of the direct sunlight. To decrease color loss, use a paper bag, which also catches seeds for future growing.

If drying seems too time-consuming, consider freezing fresh herbs. Rinse them well, pat dry and set on a flat tray in the freezer. Once frozen, store them in an airtight bag.

Help is Plentiful
Whether you prefer tried-and-true soil or simpler, no-fuss hydroponic systems, there is an indoor garden suitable for everyone and resources to help you succeed.

Cooperative extension services are available throughout the United States. Adrian says agents often are the best sources for local information.

“Almost every county has an extension office,” she says. “In Alaska, it’s by territory. Local extension offices can usually get an answer quickly. Use whatever search engine you prefer and just type in your county and the word ‘extension,’ and you’ll get straight to your local extension office.”

Keeping active and busy are great, and indoor gardening is less strenuous, so anybody is able to do it, Adrian says.

“No matter how old you are or your experience and background, it’s the magic of creating your own food or plants,” she says.

Indoor Herb Kits
If the idea of starting an indoor herb garden from scratch seems intimidating, consider an herb kit. Options vary. Some include seeds and fertilizer, while others use pods that contain both. Hydroponic set-ups also are available.Some kits even include overhead lights and automatic watering systems.

“These stand-alone systems are relatively straightforward to use and can grow great veggies and herbs indoors,” says Weston Miller, community and urban horticulturist for the Oregon State University Extension Service.


Click and Grow Smart Garden 3

Back to the Roots Water Garden

Mountain Valley Seed Co. Culinary Indoor Herb Garden

Click and Grow Smart Garden 3. This miniature countertop herb setup takes care of watering and lighting the plants. Seeds are contained in a K-cup style pod that simply clicks into the holder. Available for $74.95 at Amazon.

Back to the Roots Water Garden. This self-cleaning aquarium is a scaled down hydroponic system that uses fish waste to fertilize the plants, while the plants filter the water. Available for $99.99 on Amazon.

Mountain Valley Seed Co. Culinary Indoor Herb Garden.
Everything you need to get started is included with this 18-herb kit that works on a countertop or windowsill. Just add water and watch your new garden grow.
Available for $29.47 on Amazon.

“If you are looking for a fun and easy way to grow herbs and small veggies, then these kits are a great way to go,” Weston says.

My Personal Experience
If at first you don’t succeed, don’t despair.

In preparation for this story, I decided to create my own indoor herb garden. I bought dryer vent brackets to mount my glass jars to the wall. That went well. Then I filled the jars with soil, planted the starts—and watched them die.

But I needed to have healthy plants to photograph, so I started over. This time, I did my best to not drown the herbs. I used a method similar to urban horticulture agent Adrian Hunsberger’s recommendation, minus the calendar. I let the plants get a bit droopy, and then added water directly to the soil. Unfortunately, I was not aware that herbs want water directly on the soil, not the leaves. Let’s just say my basil and purple basil were beyond saving.

What surprised me, however, was how resilient the chives and parsley are. I don’t think a single piece of my chives was upright when I came home after four days away, which meant no water and no direct light. After a little water and about five hours under two small grow lights, the chives are alive and well.

To my surprise, it turned out too much water is worse than not enough light.

Which Should You Grow?
Which herbs you choose may depend on your favorite foods, but it also may simply be what is easiest to grow.

“There isn’t really any limitation as far as which herbs to grow,” urban horticulture agent Adrian Hunsberger says. “It’s pretty easy to get seeds or seedlings from a local garden center. Most have a nice selection, especially for those that grow well in different regions. People from other parts of the world may want to grow something they are familiar with. Online is the way to do that.”

Basil is a popular choice, but can be difficult because it needs a lot of warmth and light. Keep the soil moist to the touch, but well drained.

Mint is easy to grow, and may work best in its own pot indoors because it tends to spread. Use mint in teas or to spice up yogurts, vinegars, salads and beverages.

Chives can be used as a baked potato garnish, but also to add flavor to breads, salads and salad dressings. Chives grow best in full sun, but can grow almost anywhere.

While it needs plenty of light, parsley is considered easy to grow. If growing from seeds, soak them in warm water first. Cut parsley on the stem, preferably near the base. Use it to season chicken, salads, pesto and fish dishes.

Like basil, cilantro is not a long-lasting plant. Your best bet is to plant seeds at three- or four-week intervals to ensure a steady supply. Cilantro thrives in full light, but can grow in part shade.

Thyme can be added to many dishes, and has a decorative appeal. Mix it with garlic and rub on pork, beef or lamb for a distinctive flavor. You can sprinkle thyme in a variety of sauces and soups, or mix in vegetables for a new taste.

An Idaho Town’s Little Clinic That Could

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

Nursing student Quincy Heithecker treats Allen Hardman’s thumb, which was injured in “a wrestling match with a pallet.”

In early 2014, when the global commodities market softened, the tiny central Idaho town of Challis braced for massive layoffs at the local mine.

As the largest employer in the area, the mine provided health insurance for about 400 of the town’s 1,000 residents.

Kate Taylor, executive director of the Challis Area Health Center—the only medical clinic within 60 miles—knew the potential loss of revenue from the layoffs could be lethal for the clinic. It had enough financial reserves to survive for about 18 months before it would have to close its doors.

“The thought of going broke brings a lot of mental clarity,” Taylor says. “We needed to come up with a new and sustainable financial way forward.”

Taylor reached out to the Idaho Primary Care Association, a state organization of Federally Qualified Health Centers, also known as community health centers. The centers combine the resources of local communities with federal funds to establish clinics in both rural and urban areas around the nation.

Approximately one in five rural residents is served by a center, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Health centers provide comprehensive health services including primary care, behavioral health, chronic disease management and preventive care. These outpatient clinics qualify for grants through HRSA to serve an underserved community or service area and receive specific reimbursement under Medicare and Medicaid.

Realizing Challis met the HRSA definition of a medically underserved area, Taylor worked with the clinic’s board of directors, community members, health care providers and other stakeholders to develop a proposal for how to meet the community’s needs.

“I had all kinds of scabs on my knees from reaching out and begging for help,” she says.

One month after Taylor submitted a grant application for the clinic in October 2014, the mine laid off more than 80 percent of its workers.

While the number of clinic visits dropped, volunteer EMTs—many displaced workers from the mine—moved out of town, and the local ambulance service struggled to respond to emergency calls.

The community’s health services were on life support, and the prognosis didn’t look good.

In August 2015, 10 months after submitting its grant proposal, Challis’ clinic was awarded the funding it needed.

Today, the clinic provides comprehensive primary and preventive medical care and behavioral services for residents of Challis and North Custer County. Its integrated care model means residents can receive services in one location regardless of their ability to pay.

“We see everything,” says Steve Rembelski, who took over as the clinic’s executive director in 2016. “Primary care, seizures, heart attacks, strokes, broken legs, lacerations—I can’t think of anything we haven’t seen.”

Challis has no full-time physicians, but thanks to grant funding, the clinic added two physician assistants, bringing its total to four. The advanced-practice medical providers work under the supervision of Dr. Richard Paris, a family medicine physician who has served as the clinic’s medical director since 1999.

Paris makes the 30-minute flight from Hailey, Idaho, in his single-engine Cessna twice a month to supervise and consult with the PAs in Challis. He also follows obstetrics patients and arranges to deliver their babies at the hospital in Hailey, a 2.5-hour drive away.

Dr. Kathryn Woods, a family practice doctor and Paris’ spouse, travels with him once a month to provide women’s health services.

Paris says the community’s needs have always fluctuated.

“I’ve seen it go from two full-time doctors to barely enough work for one PA and me,” he says.

Each PA in Challis works a four-week rotation—two weeks in the clinic seeing patients, one week answering calls from the Care Line, which patients can call for health advice 24/7, and one week off. The PAs also provide backup at the clinic when things get busy. If necessary, they sometimes meet patients at the center outside of usual business hours to save them the 120-mile round trip to the closest ER.

“The whole idea of our care model is to support the community from within,” says Danny Fife, one of the PAs.

During their on-call week, providers also work as ambulance-based clinicians, riding with volunteer EMTs. Danny has flown with backcountry pilots, worked with the area search and rescue team and delivered a baby in the back of an ambulance. The PAs also arrange air transport for critically ill or severely injured patients to one of Idaho’s large hospitals.

“We are doing everything we can to care for patients,” Danny says. “It’s what I love about my job. It is what a PA is made for—extending the reach of physicians. This is how medicine should work—collaboration, not competition.”

In 2017, Challis added a full-time licensed clinical social worker who assists people with mental health and other issues, including grief, anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

A community health paramedic manages the volunteer EMS program, collaborates with the PAs and makes follow-up home visits to patients who would benefit from extra monitoring and instruction to prevent future 911 calls. The community health worker provides health education, prevention and outreach in the community.

When Challis’ only pharmacist retired, the clinic partnered with the Idaho State University School of Pharmacy to create a telepharmacy so patients could continue to get their medicine in town.

“With our new care model, there is camaraderie and teamwork,” Paris says. “There is so much power and enthusiasm.”

The once-struggling clinic has become a health care lifeline for its community, ensuring Challis residents can find the care they need when and where they need it.

Landscaping for Energy Efficiency

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

Dense evergreen trees or shrubs provide continuous shade and can block heavy winds.

Proper plants in the right locations can save money for years to come

The approach of summer has many gardeners turning their attention to planting plans. If your goal is energy efficiency, landscaping can not only beautify your home, but help you control future energy costs for years to come.
According to researchers at the Depart-ment of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, trees carefully positioned around a home can save as much as 25% of household energy consumption for heating and cooling. Shrubs can help control costs by diffusing wind or solar heating, thereby moderating the transfer of heat.

Meet Your Microclimate
For years, gardeners have used the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Hardiness Zones as guidelines for plant stock selection, seasonal cultivation and projected harvest. But understanding the impact of nearby vegetation, topography and soil science will help you know your yard better, providing flexibility for landscape planning and potentially more options for using plants to control energy costs.

Other factors influencing microclimate are the duration and intensity of sunlight over areas considered for planting, and proximity to topographic or vegetative wind breaks or wooded areas, which can regulate local temperatures by several degrees.

Trees at the Top
No matter how much you love trees, you will want to plant them at a distance.

Placed too close to foundations, pavement and plumbing, root systems or maturing branches can damage foundations or roofs.

Never plant trees close to power lines. Always consider their mature height, and make sure they will not grow into lines.

Planted in the right place, in five to 10 years a fast-growing shade tree can reduce outside air temperatures near walls and roofs by as much as 6 degrees Fahrenheit on sunny days. Surface temperatures immediately under the canopy of a mature shade tree can be up to 25 degrees cooler than surrounding shingles or siding exposed to direct sunlight.

According to the Department of Energy, deciduous trees—those that lose their leaves in autumn—are great options for seasonal summer shade. Tall varieties planted to the south of a home can help diffuse sunlight and shade the roof.

Shorter varieties of deciduous trees can be planted near exposed west-facing windows to help shade homes on summer afternoons. Mass plantings of evergreens selected for their adaptability to regional growing conditions can be planted further away on a north or northwest section of a yard to form a windbreak, shielding the home from winter winds.

Deciduous trees with high, spreading crowns—leaves and branches—can be planted to the south of your home to provide maximum summertime roof shading. Trees with crowns lower to the ground are more appropriate to the west, where shade is needed from lower afternoon sun angles.

Trees should not be planted on the southern sides of solar-heated homes in cold climates. The branches of deciduous trees will block the winter sun.

Using shade effectively requires you to know the size, shape and location of the moving shadow your shading device casts. Homes in cool regions may never overheat and may not require shading. You need to know what landscape shade strategies will work best in your climate and microclimate.

Trees are available in the appropriate sizes, densities and shapes for almost any shade application. To block solar heat in the summer, but let much of it in during the winter, use deciduous trees. To provide continuous shade or to block heavy winds, use dense evergreen trees or shrubs.

Although a slow-growing tree may require many years of growth before it shades your roof, it will generally live longer than a fast-growing tree. Because slow-growing trees often have deeper roots and stronger branches, they also are less prone to breakage by windstorms or heavy snow.

Trees, shrubs and groundcover plants can shade the ground and pavement around the home. This reduces heat radiation and cools the air before it reaches your home’s walls and windows.

Use a large bush or row of shrubs to shade a patio or driveway. Plant a hedge to shade a sidewalk. Build a trellis for climbing vines to shade a patio area.

To ensure lasting performance of energy-saving landscaping, use plant species that are adapted to the local climate. Native species are best because they require little maintenance once established and avoid the dangers of invasive species.

Properly selected, placed and maintained landscaping can provide excellent wind protection, or windbreaks, which will reduce heating costs considerably. The benefits from these windbreaks will increase as trees and shrubs mature.

Painting With Light

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

Photos by David LaBelle

Ever thought about light as a beautiful, God-given paint to be gently applied to your pictures? We can learn much about light by standing quietly and watching nature’s artistry.

Think of light as a glaze carefully applied to a ceramic piece to enhance its color and shape—just as morning light crawls across an awakening valley, painting trees, rocks and grasses in fine gold.

I had a vivid dream where a photographer was showing how to create tone separation and depth by light painting grave markers in a Civil War cemetery. I have no idea what prompted this dream other than my subconscious working overtime while sleeping.

It reminded me I have not shared the technique of light painting—using a flashlight or cellphone light to illuminate the subject of a photograph during long exposures.

Beyond being a practical way to illuminate an object or subject, this seldom-used technique might be just the accent needed to turn an ordinary-looking photograph into something special, with mood or even attitude.

Because the concentration and application of light is different from what we see from flash or continuous broad light sources, light-painted pictures feel more like works of art than static documents.

Light painting also can be an effective technique to draw emphasis to a portion of your subject. How does one do this?

  • Determine exposure before adding illumination. Underexpose your subject by at least one, preferably two, stops at the lowest ISO possible.
  • Use a tripod.
  • Exposure needs to be at least 30 seconds to give you time to paint. Experiment. Two to three minutes might give you more time to paint.
  • If using a cellphone camera, download an app ( or to allow you to manipulate ISO and shutter speed manually.
  • Experiment with different light sources and strengths—from the LCD flashlight on your cellphone to a more powerful flashlight with a directional beam.
  • Put a colored gel over your light source to give your subject a different feeling.

Remember: Light from the side reveals texture. Light from behind shows shape.When painting with a small light, play with angles.

Photographer, teacher, author and lecturer David LaBelle has worked for newspapers and magazines across the U.S. Visit

Eating On the Run (and Walk)

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

Sports bars—whether store bought or homemade—are a light, portable, concentrated food source you can’t easily replicate with bulkier foods. They also are more convenient, and make getting a meal or energy boost quick and easy. © iStock

Many of us don’t have the time, space or inclination to pack a meal before setting off on a run, hike, bike ride or fishing trip. If anything, we prefer to grab a snack and go, a proclivity that has fueled the multi-billion-dollar sports bar and gel industry.

The first sports bar arrived in the mid-1980s. For years, it was the only game in town, even though it wasn’t especially tasty and had the consistency of cold tar.

Things have changed a lot since then. Today, there are dozens of brands and hundreds of tasty choices.Choosing the one that’s right for you is the biggest challenge and depends in part on your favorite activity, its duration and intensity.

Sports bars and gels come in two basic categories: energy boosters and meal replacement or supplement bars, which are commonly called protein bars.

Energy bars and gels provide quick energy. They work best for short, intense activities. The main ingredient is fructose or high-glucose carbohydrates, supplemented with vitamins, minerals and electrolytes.

Meal replacement or supplement bars contain mostly protein, healthy fats, fiber and some carbohydrates. They also contain vitamins and minerals. They work best for longer-duration activities, when you want a no-frills bite to eat or a meal in motion.

One downside is sports bars and gels are not cheap. Trying to figure out which one is right for you can take a bite out of your wallet.

Fortunately, many sports bar companies offer coupons or free samples. For the cost of postage, get free samples from MammothBar and Verb Energy.

How to Keep Fish Fresh
For best results, keep your catch alive. A properly outfitted live well is optimal—but not always available—so many anglers keep fish on a stringer or in a dunk basket in the water. An alternative is to put fish on ice.
The idea is not to freeze them, but to activate a fish’s natural reflex to go dormant in freezing temperatures.

National Park Stats
The National Park Service offers a useful tool for planning and timing trips to sites operated by the NPS:

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If published, we will send you $25. Email your submission to moc.stnerrucadirolfnull@ofni.

June Catch of the Month Around the State

  • The Keys: bonito, barracuda, swordfish, shark, marlin, tarpon, snook, snapper and wahoo.
  • Central: bluegill and sunfish.
  • Northwest: jack, amberjack, bluefish, bluegill, cobia, catfish, drum, bonito, seatrout, snapper, barracuda, tuna, triggerfish, sheepshead, mackerel, pompano, sailfish, shark, sunfish and wahoo.
  • Central West: amberjack, bass, flounder, bluefish, bluegill, drum, seatrout, sunfish, cobia, grouper, tarpon, snapper, barracuda, ladyfish, mackerel, permit, bonito, pompano, porgy, grunt, snook and shark.
  • Southwest: jack, ladyfish, barracuda, tarpon, bass, bluegill, snook, permit, shark, pompano, sunfish, seatrout, grouper, tripletail and snapper.

A Life-Changing Legacy

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

Oral health professionals examine a patient at the RAM clinic in Pahrump.
Photos by Robert D. Lambert

At 74 and 76, Patty and Stu Wineman aren’t likely to camp out in line to buy concert tickets or the hottest new toy or video game. But there is something the couple is eager to wait all night for: health care.

Last October, the Winemans were first in line at the pop-up Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic when it visited Pahrump, Nevada—a community in the southeast corner of Nye County about 60 miles west of Las Vegas and 60 miles east of Death Valley.

RAM is a Tennessee-based nonprofit that provides free, quality health care to underserved and uninsured individuals. RAM’s corps of more than 135,000 volunteers—licensed dental, vision, medical and veterinary professionals—has treated more than 785,000 individuals and 68,000 animals, delivering $135 million worth of free care.

“The first year (2016) I got there around 1:30 a.m.,” says Patty Wineman. “I found out you need to get there a lot sooner.”

In 2018, Wineman took her place at the head of the line shortly after lunch the day before the clinic opened. With a Harlequin romance in hand and a chair to rest in, she was content to pull an all-nighter.

“I have no complaints,” she says. “Yes, you have to wait a long time. So be it. It’s free. That’s the way I feel about it.”

Every October, hundreds of people line up to seek treatment from the pop-up clinics at the Nye Communities Coalition campus. At 3 a.m. each clinic day, organizers estimate how many patients health care providers can serve and hand out tickets to those in line. While few are turned away, patients sometimes have to prioritize one treatment over another. At 6 a.m., clinic gates open.

Coalition CEO Stacy Smith says her organization teams with more than 15 partners to host the gargantuan events that have provided free medical, dental and vision services for around 450 people each of the past three years.

While patients only see the hive of activity at the clinic three days a year, the behind-the-scenes preparation is an all-year endeavor with planning meetings, advance recruitment efforts, grant writing and more.

The clinic taps resources from the entire community. From the Disabled American Veterans and local law enforcement to the Nye County School District and Valley Electric Association, everyone steps up, loaning equipment, fundraising and contributing labor.

Students studying in dentistry and medical programs and professors from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and the College of Southern Nevada pitch in too.

Smith says there’s no way the Nye Communities Coalition could pull off the event on its own.

“All of us have skin in the game,” she says. “That’s the way it is in rural communities. No agency tends to have enough resources, so it always takes all of us. Across the board, we are medically underserved for primary care, mental health and dental.”

Smith adds that the relatively new community lacks many of the safety nets that a more established community might have. Plus, Nye County—and especially Pahrump—tend to be transient and lack stability. The senior population is large but not wealthy, and many younger workers are in mining or construction, which have highs and lows.

“It’s just that general boom and bust that many people think is gone in the West but still exists for many of us,” she says.

In many medically underserved areas, the services patients need are often a few miles away in neighboring communities, but that’s not the case in Pahrump.

“If you don’t have a working vehicle, you’re not going to get to Las Vegas from here,” she says.

RAM representative Robert D. Lambert says Pahrump’s clinic last year was the organization’s 970th clinic, and RAM recently celebrated the milestone of launching its 1,000th clinic.

Lambert says in 2018, RAM provided care for 45,566 patients at more than 90 clinics around the world. Although they only have about 40 staff members, RAM tapped the talents of 17,837 volunteers to provide care valued at $15,386,013.

RAM ships in supplies and equipment, provides core personnel to help run the clinics and posts staffing needs in an online forum to attract medical professionals willing to help.

Pahrump clinic co-chairman Ryan Muccio says RAM provides vital support, but the 10 to 12 core team members that come from RAM are just the foundation of a massive volunteer effort. For each of the three days it runs, the

Pahrump clinic requires 150 to 200 volunteers—from doctors and nurses to kitchen staff. Muccio says 95% are recruited from Pahrump and Las Vegas.

“The majority came from just pounding the pavement and going into doctors’ offices and telling them about it and asking if they’d join,” Muccio says, noting that some volunteers “catch the RAM bug” and follow the organization around the world.

Dr. Carl DeMatteo, a semi-retired internist and infectious disease specialist for Dartmouth-Hitchcock in New Hampshire, travels with RAM whenever he can. When he’s the lead physician at a RAM clinic, the organization helps with travel expenses. When he’s not, he pays costs himself.

“I just love the organization,” he says. “I love working with patients. I love working with folks who aren’t getting a fair deal from the American health care system. It’s just very rewarding. The people who volunteer are wonderful folks.”

While some health providers come from a distance, others help with planning year-round. Pahrump-based Nurse Practitioner Sherry Cipollini oversees women’s health at the Pahrump clinics.

Cipollini says she’s seen myriad diagnoses at the clinic, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, chronic illnesses and abnormal pap smears. They even caught a case of breast cancer. Cipollini also talks to patients about birth control and safe sex.

Case workers are on hand to help people apply for health benefits. The Nye Communities Coalition has secured a women’s health grant to help provide follow-up care.

“There are so many barriers to care, and this helps break down those barriers and gets care to people who wouldn’t otherwise get it,” Cipollini says. “A lot of these people haven’t seen a provider in years, and they’re afraid. They don’t even realize there are resources available.”

Muccio says it’s not just people who don’t have insurance that RAM serves.

While some are homeless or jobless, many have insurance but can’t afford deductibles or co-pays.

“There was a small business owner last year who couldn’t afford the deductible for the dental work his family needed,” Muccio says. “There are so many stories—things they’ve caught, things they’ve helped people with. It’s truly amazing.”

Dr. John Quinn and much of the staff from Smiles for Life Family Dentistry volunteer at the Pahrump clinic every year. Quinn initially learned about RAM through a former classmate.

“I did it on a whim, and when I arrived there were so many patients and only two of us dentists,” he says. “So they asked me to stay the next day and the next.”

At the last clinic, he says they had three dentists plus dental students and assistants pitching in. Together they saw about 100 patients, which is 10 times what he sees on a regular day in his Las Vegas-based practice. Quinn says nine years in the Army National Guard helped prepare him to serve crowds. Among the common ailments he sees at the clinics are severe gum infection and infected teeth.

“I don’t think they have fluoridated water out there because it’s on well systems,” Quinn says. “They generally have less access to dental education and treatment, so things are pretty far gone by the time we see them there.”
Quinn says RAM brings in first-rate supplies to meet the community’s needs.

“Generally, when you go to one of these triage clinics, it’s very low budget—really crummy materials—but RAM actually has really great stuff.”

Dr. Michael Kozlowski, an optometrist, and his wife, Roni, a registered nurse, drive in from Glendale, Arizona, to volunteer at the Pahrump clinic every year.

“If we find ocular disease, we’re also equipped to be able to address that,” Kozlowski says. “We’re not just doing refractions and giving prescriptions for glasses. We’re actually doing complete ocular health examinations.”

RAM brings ocular exam equipment and a mobile lab to cut the lenses and dispense eyeglasses right away. Kozlowski says that ensures people who have unstable housing situations don’t have to worry about missing notifications to pick up their glasses at a later date.

“Patients can have their glasses right away and begin seeing better when they walk out of the building,” Kozlowski says. “They have a really nice selection of frames, and patients can get single-vision or multiple-vision glasses—whatever they need.”

Kozlowski says a lot of people try to make do with reading glasses from a drugstore or even a family member’s glasses.

“The fact that they can get a pair of glasses made to their prescription as good as they would get from any optometrist is really a gift,” he says.

The RAM clinic is scheduled to return to Pahrump October 4-6. It’s rare for RAM to continue to visit an area every year, but Smith says RAM officials recognize the need and the passion of the community.

“Their heart’s in the right place,” she says. “They’re all about service, and they go where the need is.”

While Smith is grateful to everyone who helps make the RAM clinic possible, she says she appreciates the clients most.

“They are so patient, so tolerant and understanding and so appreciative,” she says. “I’ve literally watched people have every tooth pulled out of one side of their mouth, and they show up and line up back the next day to get the other side done. The strength and grace that they have while they’re getting this done, I just can’t tell you how much I respect them.”

GET INVOLVED. To donate to RAM or inquire about volunteering as a licensed health care provider, medical or dentistry student or general-support volunteer, visit

Putting You In Your Pictures

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

David LaBelle joins his college photography class in a group photo, thanks to use of a self-timer.

Have you ever wanted to make a picture and be in it, but there was nobody else around to press the shutter button? Most of us have.

Long before ovens or thermostats or devices that turned on lights when we are away from home, cameras were designed with self-timers so the person pressing the shutter button could be in the picture without asking a passerby to compose and press the shutter.

Thankfully, most cameras today, even smartphones, have built-in self-timers that allow you time to position yourself in the frame before the picture is made.

I am not a gadget guy, a geek or a propeller head, like so many photography buffs. Truth is, I embrace the motto “less is more” in most aspects of my life. My friends are surprised I even use email.

That is why my favorite camera remains the Nikon F film camera with the eye-level prism. Without motor drive, light meter battery or autofocus, this is base photography. But it does have a self-timer!

Beyond being able to be visually present in group portraits or team photos, the self-timer feature can be a wonderful tool for making intimate self-portraits without somebody else watching, which can alter the mood of your pictures.

I am confident artists for thousands of years—before the invention of photography in the early 1800s—would have coveted a device with a self-timer to record their image, instead of painting or drawing from a reverse-reflected image.

Using a self-timer also allows you to place yourself in beautiful landscapes or historical sites. Most self-timers allow you to adjust times from 10 to 30 seconds so you have time to get in the picture and put on your best face or casual-looking pose.

A few suggestions when using your camera’s self-timer:

  • Get the exposure right, then organize the composition before jumping into the picture.
  • Stabilize the camera. Use a tripod to keep the camera still and hold the composition you arranged in the viewfinder or back of a cellphone. Tripods are made for all cameras, even smartphones.
  • Use a flash if subjects are in deep shadows
  • Make more than one image. Somebody always closes their eyes or gives a neighbor the rabbit ears.
  • Most self-timers—whether on film, digital or smartphone cameras—have adjustable time increments that allow you to get in the picture. Some have a blinking light that increases the final few seconds before the shutter fires.
  • Consult your camera’s manual or look online for instructions to engage the self-timer for your particular camera or smartphone. You may have to download an app.

Photographer, teacher, author and lecturer David LaBelle has worked for newspapers and magazines across the U.S. Visit

A Buddy: Don’t Leave Home Without One

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

One more reason to explore with a buddy: You can leave your selfie stick at home. Not only will you appear in more pictures, but you will have someone to share memories and talk about them for years to come.
© iStock/sasapanchenko

Going solo is all the rage now. It is borne of a quest to test or prove oneself, or a need for peace and solitude.

However, many of us are firm believers in the buddy system—always have been, always will be. The only time we need solitude is when nature calls.

There are countless reasons to adhere to the buddy system. Here are five tried-and-true benefits of not going it alone:

  • The safety factor. All too often, the nightly news airs tragic stories that might have turned out differently had another person gone along. A buddy can provide assistance, go for help, or treat and comfort someone who gets sick or injured.
  • Someone to share the load. Toting a canoe or hauling any gear is always easier with more than one person. For example, when backpacking, splitting up shared supplies and equipment—such as a tent, first-aid kit or cookware—lightens the load for everyone.
  • An expanded skill set. Research shows multiple people possess more or better skills than a single individual. Some people are good at fixing things. Others may be better at starting fires or cooking.
  • An extra set of hands. Hanging a tarp, pitching a tent and preparing meals are always easier when there’s another set of hands around.
  • A second opinion. Venturing outdoors often requires making choices and decisions, such as which trail to take, where to set up camp, or when to call it quits due to bad weather or extenuating circumstances. Having someone else to confer with can reduce the chances of errors.

Find Largemouth Bass in the Veggie Section
Bass love vegetation. It provides good cover. Vegetation also can provide anglers with excellent opportunities, if they know how to fish it. In dense vegetation, use heavier line and longer, heavier rods. Avoid fishing crosswind, which can otherwise impede penetration. Look for openings or soft spots in the vegetation and cast along the edges. Be prepared for quick strikes as the bait or lure sinks toward the bottom.

How to Get the Wet Out
After a soggy day of hiking, stuff each hiking boot with newspapers to absorb moisture. Replace the newspapers when they start to get soaked.To prevent cracking, avoid drying leather boots too fast, such as in the sun, in front of a heater vent or by using a blow dryer on high heat.


What’s Special About May?

  • National Wildflower Week, May 6-12.
  • National Bike Month.
  • National Barbecue Month.

Catch of the Month
Here are prime fishing opportunities around the state in May.

  • The Keys: bonito, bonefish, barracuda, grouper, martin, shark, tarpon, swordfish, tuna, snook and snapper.
  • Central: bluegill, sunfish and bass.
  • Northwest: jack, amberjack, bluefish, bluegill, catfish, cobia, drum, bonito, grouper, seatrout, snapper, bass, triggerfish, sheepshead, mackerel, pompano, sunfish and wahoo.
  • Central West: bass, crappie, flounder, bluefish, bluegill, drum, seatrout, sunfish, cobia, grouper, tripletail, snapper, barracuda, ladyfish, mackerel, permit, bonito, pompano, porgy, grunt, snook and sheepshead.
  • Southwest: bass, barracuda, tarpon, ladyfish, jack, snook, bluegill, drum, permit, pompano, sunfish, shark, seatrout, grouper, tripletail and snapper.

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use. Email your submission to moc.stnerrucadirolfnull@ofni.

Many of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons, or bird watching along the Gulf Coast with his wife. He feels fortunate having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

Look Up! Be Safe Around Electricity

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

An Illinois asphalt truck operator raised the bed so he could clean the tailgate area, contacting the overhead power lines. Miraculously, the operator was shocked three times and survived. The truck, above and opposite page, was destroyed.
Photos courtesy of Steve Hancock, Corn Belt Energy Corp.

Never take for granted the location of power lines—and always stay clear of people or objects who are in contact with electricity

When electricity comes into contact with a person or something he or she is touching, the results can be deadly.

On March 10, 2019, baseball coach Corey Crum and his wife, Shana, were killed and their 14-year-old son, Chase, was injured when they were electrocuted while installing concrete pilings for a new scoreboard at a Florida high school.

Like many places in the Florida Panhandle, the Liberty County High School baseball field in Bristol was heavily damaged when Hurricane Michael—a Category 4 storm—struck in October.

Along with members of the baseball team, parents and community volunteers, the Crums had gathered for a work day. Corey, who was in the construction business, donated the pilings and the labor to install them, in anticipation of the new scoreboard being placed later that week.

“Coach Crum was operating a boom lift and unloading a piece of equipment from a trailer when the boom of the lift made contact with overhead power lines,” the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office posted on its Facebook site. “This electrified the boom lift, electrocuting Coach Crum. The coach’s wife then attempted to aid him, and was also electrocuted. Their son also attempted to help the two, and he was electrocuted and injured.”

The couple died at the scene. Chase was hospitalized and later released.

Your Own Safety Must Come First
When seeing a loved one in distress, the instinct is to rush in to help. But when the distress is a result of contact with electricity, that is the wrong move.

Touching a person who is still in contact with an electrical source may pass the current through you—and you cannot help if you become another victim.

First responders to an accident involving downed power lines on the ground, draped across a car or touching a piece of equipment also face the possibility of a deadly electric shock.

Electricity can be an invisible killer.

You do not have to touch a live wire to suffer serious electrical injury or death.In fact, you can be electrocuted by just walking within 35 feet of a downed power line because of “step potential.”

That term refers to the difference in voltage in energized ground. Electricity spreads through the ground in invisible rippling rings, like a stone dropped in water. The voltage is highest in the ring closest to the power source. It dissipates to progressively lower voltages the further out it goes.

If someone steps from one voltage ring to another, electricity can surge through them—up one leg, through their body and down through their other leg.

A person whose body connects two different voltage points completes the circuit and becomes the path for the current.

A human hand touching someone who is in contact with a live wire and the ground completes the circuit. The same is true of a television antenna, a metal ladder, an irrigation pipe, a damp wooden pole or a tall piece of machinery.

Failure to notice high-voltage power lines can be a deadly oversight.

An asphalt truck operator in Illinois made what could have been three deadly mistakes when he came in contact with 7,200 volts of electricity a few years ago.

The operator did not notice the overhead power lines when he raised the truck bed and stepped to the back of the truck to clean the tailgate area. As electricity coursed through his body, he was blown away from the truck into a ditch. He got up to go back to the truck to retrieve something, and was shocked a second time. He made another attempt, and again was blown away from the truck.

“Believe it or not he survived,” says Steve Hancock, vice president of electric distribution for Corn Belt Energy Corp. and presenter of the live line electrical safety demonstration for the Bloomington, Indiana, cooperative.

If Possible, Stay In the Car
In accidents that bring down power lines, instinct tells us to flee danger. However, unless the vehicle is in imminent risk of catching on fire, it is best to stay in your vehicle, call 911 and wait for help.

“Knowing what actions to take to stay safe can make the difference between life and death,” says Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council and its Safe Electricity program. “After any car wreck, it is natural for people to want to get out of the car. However, when the wreck involves a power pole, that is the exact wrong thing to do.”

If you are involved or come upon an accident involving toppled power poles and lines, don’t leave your vehicle.

Although the inclination is to step in and help the injured, if the line is energized and you step out of the car, your body becomes the path for the electricity, and you can be electrocuted.

Similarly, you can be shocked while standing outside the vehicle and tending to an accident victim. That is because the voltage in the ground may be lower than the voltage in the vehicle.

Wait for trained assistance to arrive or you could become an additional victim.

While downed lines can sometimes show they are live with electricity by arcing and sparking, this is not always the case. Live power lines do not always show signs such as arcing or sparking. Treat all downed lines as energized.

If the vehicle is on fire—or you smell gas, and have reason to believe the car is going to ignite—jump from the vehicle, with both feet hitting the ground at the same time. Do not run or merely step out, and do not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Hop or shuffle to safety, keeping both feet together as you leave the area so one foot won’t be in a higher voltage zone than another.

Stepping from one voltage level to another allows the body to become a path for the electricity. A large difference in voltage between both feet could kill you.

Knowing this can mean the difference between life and death.

Oh Mama, Here They Come

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

No member of the Red Hot Mamas is left behind in the troupe, including 90-year-old Ruth McDermid in the rumble seat. Since 1991, members of the organization have
been dancing and doing monthly community service projects.
Photos courtesy of Red Hot Mamas

These red hot performers keep crowds happy with flamboyance and radiance

Mikki Stevens slips into a floral muumuu and carefully plasters on too much makeup. She is ready to perform in a parade with three dozen other women in her northern Idaho dance troupe, the Red Hot Mamas.

Pushing shopping carts—sometimes walkers—and dancing with mops or pink flamingo inner tubes nestled on their hips, the women flaunt their flamboyant outfits and flash radiant smiles.

They laugh as much as spectators do along parade routes throughout the Northwest. They have performed for two presidential inaugurations, three Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades, college football bowl games and television shows.

“Our latest fun was doing a precision marching routine with silver mops to the song ‘76 Trombones,’” says Mikki, 70, president and choreographer for the Red Hot Mamas.

Mikki devotes her time to the troupe after she gets off work teaching public speaking at North Idaho College.

Based in Coeur d’Alene, the Mamas launch their spring parade season
May 18, performing at the Lilac Armed Forces Torchlight Parade in Spokane, Washington.

“Our surprises for this year might be vacuum cleaners or chopper walkers, sort of like a motorcycle chopper only done on walkers,” Mikki says. “We’ll attach handlebars, tailpipes, motorcycle accessories and costume our traditional muumuus with a motorcycle theme.”

Besides dancing down a parade route, the Mamas provide motivational speakers and perform at fundraisers, assisted living centers, churches and “for anyone who won’t call the cops,” Mikki says.

“We’re zany entertainers and opposition overcomers,” she adds.

Seeing onlookers’ expressions and hearing them laugh, the Mamas know they have achieved their trademarked mission: “Dedicated to exploitation of merriment and enhancement of the ridiculous.”

The troupe’s performance director, Deborah Miranda, 47, says she strives to make eye contact with her audience.

“It’s hard to describe the looks on people’s faces when they see us coming down the street,” she says. “Our amazing costumes, choreography and the crazy music just puts us off the charts. When you see people’s faces light up, you can change their lives for just one little moment. I love, love, love it.”

Deborah, operations manager of Northwest Tile and Floors in Coeur d’Alene, says she became a Mama in 2014 because she wanted to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

As they dance, it is hard to tell who enjoys it more—spectators or the Mamas who connect with their audience.

“Laughter, happy tears, heartfelt joy—those are the things the audiences get from us, but those are the very same things we get from our audiences,” says Karen Welts, 74, a Mama for 22 years.

Karen joined the Mamas in 1997 after retiring as a commercial insurance agent and seeing the women in a Memorial Day parade.

A Nagging Question
Mikki launched the nonprofit troupe in 1991 after she and her husband, Dennis, moved back to their hometown of Coeur d’Alene. Facing her 40s, a timeless question nagged at her.

Is that all there is?

They had lived throughout the West and Alaska. Dennis worked in restaurants and construction. Mikki was a dancer, fitness trainer, body builder, actress and voice animator of several roles, including the teenage Pebbles, the famed Flintstones’ daughter.

To answer her question, Mikki says she envisioned a humorous entertainment and community service ensemble—one where women could “play dress up,” she says. “Dance. Sing. Hug. Wear too much makeup and too many rhinestones. Resurrect dreams. Explore gifts and talents barely imagined. Change the world by spreading hope, humor, light and joy.”

She placed an ad in a local newspaper, inviting women to embrace her vision and perform in a Fourth of July parade. Forty like-minded ladies auditioned, and the Red Hot Mamas came to life.

Ranging in age from 18 to 90, the Mamas have survived life challenges of cancer, joint replacements and loss of loves ones—yet they still manage to smile.

Mikki lives with cancer—a constant reminder to herself to live intensely every day. She attributes her energy and creativity to her spiritual beliefs.

“God’s love walked me through deep depression and cancer,” she says of her incurable follicular lymphoma. “Once you have it, you always have it. Treatments can knock it back. Oncologists don’t call it remission but say, ‘Watch and wait,’ which is good.”

Long-Distance Mamas
Not all Mamas live in northern Idaho. Long-distance members watch a video, practice, then meet at an event.

“We had a group from Texas dance with us,” Mikki says. “The girls choose which events they want to perform in and commit to those rehearsals. We’ve taken close to 80 Mamas to the two presidential inaugurations.”

They rehearse twice a week at donated parking lots and a dance studio at Spokane Valley Jazzercise. Monthly membership costs $20. The annual costume fee ranges from $100 to $150.

Mikki emphasizes the Mamas’ main purpose is community service.

“Every month, we perform for a fund-raiser or help an individual,” she says. “The big shows are dazzling and bring smiles of joy to countless people, but our steadfast underlying mission is the boots-on-the-ground service to help others.”