Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Make Room for More Fishing Gear

Friday, January 25th, 2019

Here are three ways to make every penny count when shopping for fishing gear: Don’t miss the preseason sales in late February and March, shop the deep-discount aisle and ask retailers to match prices of other stores. If you know exactly what you want, check out online sales. It’s not a bad way to shop. You avoid crowds and can score some awesome deals.
© iStock/JackF

It won’t be long now. Fishing retailers will start rolling out some of the biggest sales of the year later this month.
What better excuse to clean out and organize your tackle boxes, and make room for new gear.
Here are eight tips to help get you started:

  • Go through everything you have. That way you know exactly what you have and what you need.
  • Get rid of ineffective gear. Give it away, garage sale it or donate it to charity. Maybe someone else will have better luck with it.
  • Determine the best way to organize the keepers. There are two main strategies: organizing by type of tackle or organizing by fish species. The latter works well when dealing with less gear, while organizing by tackle type is preferable when managing large inventories. Or use a combination of both.
  • Everything should have a home. Plastic trays and bins with adjustable dividers are perfect for the job.
  • Use clear plastic storage containers. They provide better visibility and allow quicker access to tackle than opaque containers.
  • Keep similar tackle together. Arrange it according to type, size, shape and color.
  • Keep soft baits in original packaging. If already opened, store them according to type and color in plastic bags to avoid a mess.
  • Label everything. Use removable labels rather than writing directly on the containers. Add color coding to locate gear even faster.

Outdoor 101: First Aid in a Bottle
Carrying a first-aid kit is a good idea, even on day trips. To make a pocket-size version, fill a prescription bottle or similar container with a few of the essentials, such as antiseptic wipes, antibacterial cream, adhesive bandages, pain relievers and small tweezers.

Tea is Not Just for Drinking
That’s what my great-aunt used to tell me when I was a kid. She was a serious tea drinker—very British, though she had emigrated to Canada after the blitz, as she called the bombings of London during World War II.
Auntie said one of tea’s other uses is deodorizing shoes. I had an opportunity to test that claim on a sweaty pair of ski boots after a day on the slopes. I put a couple of tea bags in each boot overnight. It worked wonders. I’ve been a believer ever since.

Not surprisingly, tea is also great for soaking tired, stinky feet. I’ve learned of other uses, too, such as soothing a sunburn, bug bites or a rash.

Not to mention it’s marvelous with biscuits and jam. Quite.

What Day is It?
February 3, Feed the Birds Day
February 5, National Weatherman’s Day
February 22, Walking the Dog Day

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 gro.etilarurnull@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.

Sprouting Young Gardeners

Friday, January 25th, 2019

Elementary school students and a Captain Planet Foundation Project Learning Garden employee harvest peppers grown in the school garden. Photo courtesy of Captain Planet Foundation

Introducing children to gardening helps plant healthy habits for a lifetime

Gardening is a great way for parents and kids to spend quality time outdoors. Whether the goal is to grow flowers, herbs and vegetables; have an activity to share; learn about nature and the environment; or just break away from the pull of technology, it pays off with a bumper crop of fun and some life lessons.

“Gardening can be a wonderful bonding opportunity for parents and their children,” says Jane Taylor, nationally recognized youth gardening advocate and founding curator of the 4-H Children’s Garden at Michigan State University. “Children are too attached to their electronics, and they need to be outside more. They’re not eating healthy foods, and they’re not getting enough exercise. That’s resulting in greater incidence of childhood obesity and early childhood diabetes.

“Getting them to unplug from technology and learn to garden has so many benefits, both short term and for their lifetimes—from learning about nature to developing good nutrition habits.”

Teachers, schools and gardeners across the country have found that encouraging youngsters to grow their own vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers addresses myriad challenges and expands their curiosity.

“They’re more interested in trying new foods if they’ve helped grow them,” Jane says. “They get a chance to participate in fun, social activities outdoors, and they can spend time with adults, including parents and grandparents, as they learn about gardening, nature and the world we live in.”

Thanks to the American Horticultural Society, National Garden Clubs, Master Gardeners and 4-H, youngsters from preschool to high school are being introduced to the wonders of gardening.

In-school and community gardens allow kids to play in the dirt and see the results of their work.

Formalized junior master gardening programs are offered from Alaska to Florida. Some are community-based organizations, sponsored by garden clubs or other groups. Many programs are offered in tandem with 4-H.

“Whether kids are learning to grow beans and carrots, to make compost and recycle or solve a math problem using gardening as the basis, the benefits of engaging young people in gardening are more far-reaching than simply producing more fresh foods,” Jane says. “Beyond the obvious, we’re finding that students are becoming the teachers as they share what they’ve learned with their parents and siblings. The kids are asking their parents to create home gardens, and their enthusiasm is spreading.”

Whether you have a place for a backyard garden or need to start with containers on a deck or patio, gardening offers unlimited possibilities. Colorful catalogs and websites provide the inspiration to research plants and put a garden together.

“It’s exciting to create a sense of wonder with children as you plant seeds together,” says Kathy Lovett, who—along with her husband, Lee—received the American Horticultural Society’s Jane L. Taylor Award in 2016 for their work with children and youth gardening. “You can share the magic and a true scientific understanding of what happens to seeds that grow into plants and produce more seeds.”

If you live in a colder climate, start seeds indoors in cups on sunny windowsills. Seed packaging describes the planting depth, light and water requirements. Remember to turn the cups periodically so the plants will grow straight stems.

For container gardens, buy larger pots with drainage holes, and use good-quality potting soil. Place your plants in a sunny spot on your deck or patio.

Outside, stake out a sunny spot. Most vegetables and many flowers require at least six hours of sunlight a day. Start with a small plot to keep it manageable. Select three or fewer crops the first year.

“Gardening is a time to play outside and get your hands dirty,” Kathy says. “Wear older clothes that can be thrown in the washer when you’re finished. This is about having fun together, so don’t worry about getting a little muddy.”

You will need trowels, shovels and rakes. Make the shopping trip a family outing. Look for smaller tools that will fit kids’ hands, buying real tools rather than ineffective plastic ones prone to breaking.

Select fast-growing vegetables such as radishes, baby carrots, bush beans or cucumbers. Plant according to package instructions. Buying seedlings gives you a head start.

“Flowers like marigolds, nasturtiums and zinnias can offer quick color, and brightly colored blooms attract pollinators to further ensure the success of your vegetable crops,” Kathy says.
Herbs are an excellent way to introduce kids and their families to gardening.

“As the gateway to gardening, herbs can be harvested right away and, with the proper care and requirements, they’ll keep on producing all season long,” says Joan Casanova of Bonnie Plants.

She suggests growing basics such as basil, parsley and rosemary, and branching out with novelty herbs such as Thai basil, cinnamon basil or lemon thyme.

“Add to your growing experience by picking out simple recipes that use these herbs,” Joan says. “Consider freezing them in water in ice-cube trays so you can use extra harvest all winter long. Freezing herbs retains more of the nutrients and flavor than drying.”

To engage third-graders in gardening, Bonnie Plants delivers more than
1 million free 2-inch oversized Cross cabbage transplants to schools in the lower 48 states each season. Students take the plants home and, with their families, tend to the cabbage plants.

“Within 10 to 12 weeks, the cabbages have reached maturity, some tipping the scales at more than 40 pounds,” says Joan. “The kids are just amazed, not to mention engaged.”

The Bonnie Plants cabbage program sparks children’s interest in agriculture while teaching them not only the basics of gardening, but the importance of growing their own food, says Stan Cope, president of Bonnie Plants.

“This unique, innovative program exposes children to agriculture and demonstrates—through hands-on experience—where food comes from,” Stan says. “The program also affords our youth valuable life lessons in nurturing, nature, responsibility, self-confidence and accomplishment.”

Let children explore the dirt for earthworms, dig holes to plant seedlings and place them in the ground.

“This is a shared activity, and it’s a chance for kids—and adults—to learn,” Kathy says. “Younger ones can also help water the garden and look for insects as the crops grow.”

Take time to explain what is happening in the garden. Find age-appropriate books such as “Green Thumbs: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening” by Laurie Winn Carlson, “Square Food Gardening with Kids” by Mel Bartholomew and “Seed, Sun, Soil: Earth’s Recipe for Food” by Cris Peterson. “Kid’s First Gardening” by Jenny Hendy includes step-by-step activities and crafts for kids ages 5 to 12. “Gardening Lab for Kids” by Renata Fossen Brown offers more than 50 experiments related to gardening.

To introduce children to gardening on a larger scale, schedule a trip to a nearby farm. Many offer U-pick activities so your family can harvest fruits and vegetables. Find a simple recipe you and your kids can prepare together.

“Getting kids engaged in gardening can have lifelong benefits,” Jane says. “Not only are you helping children learn about nature and health, you’re starting them off on a hobby they can enjoy for a lifetime.”

2019 Photo Resolutions

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

Benedictine monks prepare for public worship. Writing a photo story about the monks is on my 2019 photo resolution list.
Photo by David LaBelle

My New Year’s resolutions are usually the same. I intend to spend more time in prayer, and be a better husband, neighbor, father and grandfather—and do a better job of remembering birthdays.

I go back and forth about resolutions, believing, like starting a diet or exercise program, I need not wait until the beginning of a new year to begin doing what I should be doing or quit something I shouldn’t be doing.

I don’t remember ever making photo resolutions. But this year feels different.

It has been 50 years since my first pictures were published in a newspaper and I began my photography career. I realize the shadows are longer and my days are numbered, and there are photo contributions I still hope to make. I cannot say with certainty I will do these things because only my Creator knows the time I have left.

Here, in no particular order, are my 12 photo resolutions I intend to keep and hope will guide and challenge me through the upcoming year:

  • Keep a camera handy, battery charged and always have a flash card or film.
  • Read at least two photo biographies.
  • Continue writing and learning to be a better writer.
  • Begin assembling photo books for my family—photos for my children and grandchildren to be given as graduation, wedding or anniversary presents.
  • Have prints made of our loved ones and put them up on our walls.
  • Taking the advice of now-deceased LIFE Magazine photographer Horace Bristol and begin putting my photo house (archives) in order.
  • Teach at least two photo seminars.
  • Return to Italy and, with my photographer wife, finish a book called “Postcards from Florence.”
  • Complete several other books for publication—some photo, some not.
  • Finish several photo projects, including a story about Benedictine monks in Vermont.
  • Continue teaching and growing with the Athens Photo Project—a nonprofit art program that promotes mental health recovery by providing opportunities for community members living with mental illness to express themselves creatively through photography.
  • Take a first step toward photographing (on film) with a medium or large format camera an interpretive biblical project I have dreamed of doing for 40 years.

I encourage you to make your own list. Write them down and post them in a place you and others see regularly.

Perhaps it is to buy a better camera that allows you to do more of the things your creative heart desires. Maybe there is a faraway place you wish to visit and photograph, a photography seminar you want to attend or a photo story you long to do. Perhaps you hunger to expand your awareness and competence with specific types of photography: sports, portraiture, macro-photography, nature or documentary. Maybe you have a list of pictures you want to make.

Hopefully, making a list of photo resolutions will help you discover what is important to you—your photo dreams—which should make your life and photography more rewarding while making you a better, more deliberate photographer.

It has often been said, how will we know if we have arrived if we have no idea where we were going?

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 applies many of the lessons he learned during his magical boyhood years in rural California to photography. For more information, visit

Cold-Weather Camping in Comfort

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

A campfire is somewhat of an extravagance in summer, but it’s a downright necessity in winter. That’s all the more reason to use extra care when siting and building it. If there’s not an existing fire pit, find a flat area convenient to your tent or RV, out of the wind and away from snow-laden trees. If there’s snow—and it’s not too deep—dig down to ground level. Line the spot with non-river rocks or large chunks of wood as a base to keep the fire off the wet ground.
© iStock/Maxim Rozhkov

Winter is one of the four best camping seasons. There are no crowds, no campfire restrictions, and you see and do things you won’t experience in any other season.

Something else that sets winter apart is, of course, temperature, which can be exacerbated by rain, wind and snow. But if you can overcome those elements, you are well on your way to enjoying the season to its fullest.

Wear the proper clothing. That means layers. They should be made of wool or man-made fabrics, especially your underwear. No cotton.

Locate a campsite out of the wind and away from snow-laden trees. It should have an existing fire pit or a dry, flat or slightly elevated spot to build one.

When tent camping, use a four-season tent that can withstand high wind and heavy snow. It should have a rain fly that completely covers the tent and extends to within a few inches of the ground. Do not pitch it on low ground, where cold and water can pool. Open the vents at night to limit condensation and icing on the inside walls.

Sleep with a closed-cell pad underneath you to provide insulation from the cold ground. That goes for sleeping on a cot, too.

Don’t overdress for bed, which can cause perspiration. Sleep in dry, fresh underwear, ideally the ones you will wear the next day.

If you camp in an RV, skirt its bottom. Precut and fitted foam boards are ideal, but even a tarp hung around the RV will minimize the cold and heat-sucking wind.

No matter how you camp in winter, always check the weather before leaving. Make sure your camping destination is open and accessible. Tell friends and family where you are going and when you expect to return. Also, pack extras of everything: water, food, fuel, clothing, blankets and emergency supplies.

Four Outdoor Classics You May Have Never Heard Of
Most Americans are familiar with Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” and London’s “The Call of the Wild.” A few have even read them. But they are just two of the outdoor classics written in the past 100 years.

Here are four more to curl up with in the off-season. Most people have never heard of them, but they are well worth the read.

  • “Trout Bum,” by John Gierach.
  • “Meditations on Hunting,” by Jose Ortega y Gassett.
  • “The River Why,” by David James Duncan.
  • “The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing,” by Thomas McGuane.

A DIY Zipper Solution
Zippers are one of winter’s biggest challenges. It’s nearly impossible to zip a jacket, backpack or tent when you’re wearing gloves. Fear not. Here’s a zip-it hack that will work on everything but a big mouth. Add an easy-to-grasp lanyard or loop of parachute cord to your zipper. Maybe dress it up with beads or baubles. Better yet, attach a whistle, small compass or micro flashlight for added practicality.

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 gro.etilarurnull@ofni.

The Doc Will See You Now

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

Robots are revolutionizing rural health care

When Amanda Petersen went into labor a month before her due date, she had no reason to expect complications. But after doctors at Grande Ronde Hospital in La Grande, Oregon, delivered Petersen’s daughter, Mya via cesarean section, they immediately realized something was wrong. The baby wasn’t breathing.

Rushing to stabilize Mya, medical staff whisked her away to the nursery. It was December 14, 2015, and what Petersen was expecting to be an early Christmas blessing came with a nightmare.

“It was a complete shock when they told me there were complications,” Petersen says, choking up at the memory. “I was just trying to keep it together and be strong for her because we didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Excess fluid in Mya’s chest cavity meant hydrops fetalis—a rare condition often undetectable before birth and possibly fatal. She desperately needed a neonatal specialist, and the closest one was 170 miles away in Boise, Idaho.

With time running short, hospital staff turned to technology to beam the needed specialist straight to Mya’s side.

Petersen, food service coordinator at Grande Ronde Hospital, had seen the robots around the hospital from time to time. Now, a lanky, 5-foot-tall cart with a video monitor for a head stood by Mya, projecting the face of Dr. Stewart Lawrence, a neonatal-perinatal specialist from St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise.

EDGAR, or Educated Doctor Guided Assisting Robot, is one of five telemedicine robots at this 25-bed critical-care hospital. Its digital, real-time stethoscope let Lawrence listen to Mya’s heart and lungs, and vital signs and providers’ notes were logged directly into her electronic medical record. Lawrence determined that to remove the fluid from her lungs, Mya needed emergency surgery at SARMC. The video consult and speedy transport saved her life.

“With telemedicine we’re making the impossible possible,” says Registered Nurse Doug Romer, who recently retired as executive director of Patient Care Services at Grande Ronde Hospital. Ringed by mountains, it’s the only hospital within Union County’s 2,038 square miles.

One of the fastest-growing areas of health care, telemedicine is used by more than half the hospitals in the U.S. Nearly every area turns to it, from emergency and intensive care to psychiatry and pharmacy.

“Telemedicine brings urban health care to rural settings,” says Romer. “Our network allows specialists far away to see and evaluate our patients and interact with care providers, working with them to improve and save lives.”

Maybe it’s a videoconference you have with a surgeon. It could be the virtual home monitoring of your blood glucose levels so doctors at a distance can adjust your diabetes medication. Or it can be a digital stethoscope transmitting the real-time beating of your baby’s heart to a neonatologist in the next town over.

Whatever the means, all telemedicine data zooms encrypted straight into the patient’s electronic medical record.

During the two days Petersen spent recovering from her C-section at Grande Ronde, EDGAR allowed her to visit with Mya whenever she wanted.

“It was hard not being able to hold Mya,” she says. “But getting the news that she was stable and seeing her on the monitor was such a relief. It meant the world to me.”

Once she was discharged from the hospital, Petersen traveled to Boise to reunite with Mya at SARMC’s neonatal intensive care unit. On Christmas Day, Lawrence delivered the good news: Mya was fine and could go home the next day.

Just a few years earlier, Petersen and Mya’s story might not have been possible. Bringing telemedicine to La Grande was complicated.

In 2008, administrators at SARMC invited Grande Ronde Hospital to participate in a grant program for telehealth services. Romer envisioned a multistate network of telemedicine offerings.

“We realized we couldn’t get all our needs met from one hub,” he says, referring to SARMC.

Standing in the way of Romer’s vision was an Oregon Medical Board regulation requiring that physicians pursuing a license to practice across state lines must examine the patient in person before diagnosing, treating and prescribing.

With support from the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, Romer worked to remove the requirement. While making their case for the regulatory change, Grande Ronde officials showed board members someone’s dilated pupil enlarged on the robot’s monitor. The board members were amazed by the fine detail they could easily see.

In 2009, the regulation was lifted. With that victory, the Oregon-Idaho telemedicine network was formed.

That year, the National Rural Health Association named Grande Ronde Hospital Outstanding Rural Health Organization. In 2010, Amerinet recognized the hospital with the Healthcare Achievement Award for Quality in Patient Care Delivery and Satisfaction. The hospital won the 2011 ECRI Institute Health Devices Achievement Award for excellence in the field of health technology management.

By 2014, Grande Ronde had teamed up with 20 pulmonologist-ICU physicians from Advanced ICU Care in St. Louis, Missouri. Grande Ronde added providers in intensive care, dermatology, neurology, maternal fetal medicine, neonatology, pediatrics and cardiology from SARMC, Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and Walla Walla Clinic in Washington.

Now, Grande Ronde’s Remote Presence Health System includes 95 telemedicine providers. They respond to everything from strokes and heart attacks to provider education and genetic counseling. Soon they’ll add behavioral health. There is one oncologist in La Grande who also sees patients in Enterprise and Baker City.

“If he’s gone when you need your chemotherapy dosage changed, with telemedicine we can call on four to five Oregon-licensed oncologists,” Romer says.

The hospital’s emergency department relies heavily on telemedicine. The department sees about 50 patients every month. Before telemedicine, doctors would be woken up in the middle of the night more than 100 times in a month. Romer says telemedicine has cut that number in half.

Grande Ronde now has a language access program for non-English-speaking and hearing-impaired patients. It offers real-time videoconferencing with certified medical interpreters across the U.S. and can accommodate 250 languages.

ReadyCare puts patients and their devices in touch with Grande Ronde providers for noncritical and urgent care. Bluetooth-enabled in-home patient monitoring transmits patients’ encrypted vital signs to physicians via cellphone network.

“It’s quite unique that we’re able to leverage all these areas,” Romer says. “We’re now a hub, also, instead of just a spoke.

“It’s important that we use the technology and our common sense to make sure patients receive the same care in their rural communities as they would in an urban area.”

Today, Oregon is one of the more progressive states for telemedicine legislation. Romer says Grande Ronde is leading the way, not just for Oregon, but the nation.

As Grande Ronde’s telemedicine continues to grow, so does Mya, now 3 years old.

“You’d never know she was that sick when she was born,” Petersen says. “I’ve become so much more appreciative of telemedicine. Mya’s my miracle baby.”

About the Series
This month’s on-the-ground look at how telemedicine is revolutionizing care in rural communities is the first installment in a yearlong magazine series exploring the changing face of rural health care.

This Ruralite-produced initiative will spotlight what’s working, the recipe for success and the unsung heroes behind the work.

This special in-the-field storytelling, which will cover a broad geography and diverse topics over the course of 2019, is receiving support from the Murdock Charitable Trust, which funds projects and programs that enrich life in communities in Alaska and the Northwest.

The sponsorship helps fund journalism that shines a light and makes a difference.

We welcome story ideas at gro.etilarurnull@swenhtlaeh.

Sockin’ it to Cancer

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

Martha pinned a piece of paper on each pair of socks—unless it had a tag that she could write on—and wrote the name of the place the socks came from. She received socks from several different states. Photos courtesy of Martha Curl

Ruralite reader fights cancer one donation at a time

It all started with her grandmother’s 90th birthday.

Martha Curl, a cancer registrar with Providence Health and Services, wanted to do something special for her grandmother’s milestone event. She decided to place a request in the September 2015 Ruralite magazine on the At Home page asking fellow readers for 90 birthday cards as a surprise.

A few weeks later, Martha was astonished to receive more than 900 cards and gifts from the magazine’s readership.

“I was shocked by the support I got from all of these nice people,” says Martha, who lives in Brownsville, Oregon. “You only ever see all the bad stuff in the media these days. It felt good to know there were still a lot of nice people in the world.”

More than pleased by the turnout from that At Home request, she again turned to Ruralite’s readership last October for an even more personal special occasion. Martha wanted 50 pairs of socks on her 50th birthday, to donate to children fighting cancer.

While Martha’s occupation makes her aware of the struggles cancer patients face every day, she had her own battles with the disease. In October 2008, Martha’s then-13-year-old son, Trent, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a common form of cancer that attacks the lymph nodes, causing constant pain and fatigue for those who suffer from it.

Determined to save her son’s life, Martha spent the next five months taking Trent for two-hour or longer drives to Portland, where he received aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and lived at one of Portland’s two Ronald McDonald houses. It was there that Martha’s experience with the charitable organization motivated her to support the families of children with serious illnesses as a lifelong campaign to wipe out cancer.

“The Ronald McDonald houses really are great,” Martha says. “My son was sometimes getting multiple treatments a week, and the housing they gave us really made the driving trips much easier and a lot less often. They gave us all kinds of things to help us and support us, but it’s a charitable organization, so their funds were limited. They didn’t have a budget for soaps, shampoo or any of the other toiletries that people need, so I started donating those types of items every year for the families.”

Martha is not quick to take credit or pat herself on the back, but the effort she has put toward donating to the Ronald McDonald House Charities is anything but minor.

“Martha is an absolute champion for fighting cancer,” says Kelly Deniston, a cancer registrar and Martha’s coworker. “Our company has this annual conference we all attend, and for years Martha’s been asking the hundreds of us to save all of the hotel soaps and shampoos we collect from vacations and conferences. She collects them all, sorts them and then donates them to the families staying in Portland.

“I’m not talking about a few handfuls of items. It’s hundreds and hundreds of soaps, toothbrushes, shampoos, toothpaste—all those little things people need but would probably forget because their minds are on taking care of their sick kid.”

With the 10-year anniversary of her son’s diagnosis and her 50th birthday around the corner, Martha wanted to do something more to celebrate her son’s 10-plus years of remission.

“Ten years cancer free is a big mile marker, and I just wanted to pay it forward,” Martha says. “I know it seems like a little thing, but the socks they give out at the hospital are thin and plain and they aren’t very warm. So I thought, why not donate a bunch of decorated socks? That way the kids get to pick what pair they like. They get to have a choice, which is I think really important. They don’t get to have a choice about a lot of things when they receive cancer treatment, and they get to be warm and a little more comfy during their stay.”

After placing her request in the October 2018 issue of Ruralite magazine, Martha received another outpouring of support: more than 425 donations in the form of socks, cash and personal stories from cancer survivors.

“It was really emotional for me,” Martha says. “I wasn’t expecting that kind of turnout. It was so wonderful to hear from people who went through the same experiences my family did, that I decided to personally write back to each of the cancer stories I received.”

Martha’s humble yet goodhearted nature proves to be her most consistent and endearing quality.

“She is just a very caring person,” Kelly says. “If you are down and out, she’s the first one to send you a card in the mail. Even to just coworkers that she doesn’t know very well. I swear she has a drawer full of birthday and get-well cards in her office drawer ready for whenever someone needs a pick-me-up.”

Festive Events Out West

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

Holiday cheer and a season of giving come together this month at the Festival of Trees in Canyonville, Oregon.
Photo courtesy of the Mercy Foundation

Celebrate the magic of the holiday season throughout Ruralite territory


Saturday, December 1, through Wednesday, January 8
Christmas in Ice, North Pole
Christmas in Ice is a winter park next to Santa Claus House, 101 St. Nicholas Drive. The park features Christmas-themed ice art competition pieces, ice slides and a maze. The family-friendly New Year’s Eve Spectacular on Monday, December 31, begins at 10 p.m. with free admission to the park, a countdown to 2019 with Santa, and a spectacular fireworks show on park grounds.



Saturday, December 1
Susanville Magical Country Christmas
The Magical Country Christmas Celebration, presented by the Historical Uptown Susanville Association and the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce, is from 5 to 7 p.m.

Holiday revelers will enjoy live entertainment, a Christmas parade, a tree lighting ceremony and a fireworks display at the top of Main Street.

Uptown businesses are open late and vendors line the streets selling food, beverages and custom gifts.

Toys For Tots will be on site to collect toys for children in the area. Santa will light the tree at the end of the parade.



Through December 2
Festival of Trees, Canyonville
The annual Mercy Foundation Festival of Trees celebrates its 25th anniversary at Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, Oregon. Local designers donate their talents, and individuals and businesses donate funds that buy decorations and gifts for each tree, which are displayed through the first weekend in December. During a gala Saturday, December 1, the trees are auctioned off. The festival has raised more than $4.5 million during the past 25 years for health care in Douglas County.

Saturday, December 8
The Spirit of Christmas, Vernonia
This old-time Christmas festival begins with the Ugly Sweater Run at Anderson Park and ends with the Lighted Parade and the lighting of the town tree, followed by photos with Santa. During the day, see the entries in the gingerbread house contest, take horse- and-carriage rides through town, and hear the roving Dickinson Carolers, who are dressed in period costume.

Through January 1
Festival of Lights and Holiday Village, Roseburg
Come and enjoy the Festival of Lights, where you can see the world’s largest nutcracker on display, 90 different light displays, wagon rides and more. Visit the holiday village to see Santa and enjoy some hot chocolate, a model train set, holiday goodies and more.

The Festival of Lights is at River Forks Park through January 1. The Holiday Village is open nightly through Monday, December 24. Enjoy the dazzling lights Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 to
9 p.m.; and Friday, Saturday and holidays from 5:30 to 10 p.m.

Through December 31, 2018
32nd annual Holiday Lights at Shore Acres, Charleston
Famous for its beautiful 7-acre botanical gardens and Japanese lily pond, the gardens shine with more than 325,000 lights. Enjoy this lighted wonderland from 4 to 9:30 p.m. every night through New Year’s Eve. The Garden House is open with hot cider, punch, coffee and cookies. There is a $5 parking fee per vehicle.



December 1, 2018
Lighted Farm Implement Parade, Sunnyside
The Lighted Farm Implement Parade—the oldest farm implement parade in the nation—pays unique tribute to Sunnyside’s agricultural heritage starting at 6:30 p.m. Dozens of tractors, combines and antique farm equipment are uniquely decorated with thousands of twinkling Christmas lights.

Sunday, December 2, and Sunday, December 9
Holiday Bazaar, West Richland
The West Richland Area Chamber of Commerce presents the third annual Holiday Bazaar from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sandberg Event Center, 331 S. 41st Ave. Admission and parking are free. Donation of new and unwrapped toys, clothing and non-perishables for families in need are appreciated.

Toys for Tots

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

Marines sort donations at a Toys For Tots warehouse.
Photo courtesy of Toys For Tots

How one Marine’s dream became a foundation for hope

On a damp and chilly Christmas Eve in 2007, two Marines in dress-blue uniforms parked their government vehicle outside a dilapidated duplex in Portland, Oregon. Inside, a woman and her teenage daughter were watching from a window, anxiously awaiting the Marines’ arrival. Telling her other six children to stay put and not look outside, the woman walked out to meet the Marines with her eldest daughter.

There to play the role of Santa Claus, the Marines introduced themselves and exchanged pleasantries. When they opened the trunk, the woman’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped. At the sight of the large box full of toys for her children, the woman started sobbing, overcome with gratitude and relief.

“That was the moment I dedicated myself to the Toys For Tots Program,” says Staff Sgt. Cecily Mesa about her first year distributing donations for Toys for Tots. “She was just shocked at how many toys we brought her kids. She thought maybe we’d have one toy for each kid, if we brought any at all. She wasn’t expecting a big box with lots of toys for all of them. We were like their Santa Claus that year, and I think about that night every time I volunteer.”

Every year, members of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve collect millions of toys for underprivileged children during their annual Toys For Tots collection drives. While holiday collection drives have become commonplace across the nation, there was once a time when no such programs existed.

Among the early pioneers of holiday toy drives was Marine Col. Bill Hendricks, founder of Toys For Tots. In December 1947, then-Maj. Hendricks watched his wife, Diane, lovingly craft a rag doll out of yarn in their Los Angeles home.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to give this to some poor youngster who isn’t going to have a good Christmas?” Diane asked.

Inspired by his wife’s generous spirit, Hendricks looked for a charity that could make Diane’s words reality, only to find no such charity in Los Angeles. Diane’s vision immediately became Hendricks’ mission as a Marine.

He pitched the idea to another Marine officer, and the men took the proposal to their superiors, asking to launch an annual toy drive run by Marine Corps Forces Reserve.

With the command’s approval and less than two weeks until Christmas, Hendricks—who also worked as the director of public relations for Warner Bros.—reached out to his contacts in the entertainment industry to promote the fledgling program. They gathered 5,000 toys and distributed them to war orphans and other children, working until 11:30 p.m. Christmas Eve.

The following year, Hendricks’ close friend designed the three-car train graphic that serves as the program’s logo. That friend was Walt Disney.

The same year, the Marine Corps adopted the program as a national community-action campaign, collecting and distributing toys to needy children across the nation.

“Marines are all about leading from the front, upholding traditions and being part of our community,” says Toys For Tots National Program Coordinator Maj. Ismael Lara. “Helping the less fortunate is part of that, and what Maj. Hendricks and his wife started has persisted for more than 70 years.”

According to its website, Toys For Tots has grown into a massive operation. Today, 800 Toys For Tots coordinators manage more than 40,000 Marines, Marine Corps League members, veterans and volunteers who support the annual campaigns.

In response to its massive growth and appeal, the program evolved in 1991, becoming the Toys For Tots Foundation—a national non-profit organization governed by a board of retired Marines. The foundation maintains a strong partnership with Marine Corps Forces Reserve and carries forward Hendricks’ legacy, collecting and distributing millions of toys to underprivileged children every year.

“One of the things that stands out to me is the dedication junior Marine reservists show,” says Mesa, an 11-year veteran of the program. “A lot of these Marines have families of their own, and between their civilian careers and drill responsibilities, they don’t have a lot of free time. We do most of the sorting and packing in the supply warehouse or the motor pool where there isn’t any climate control, and they sometimes work past midnight in those conditions. It says a lot about them and what this program does that they are willing to make sure kids they don’t know get to have a happy Christmas.”

Marine Reserve units continue to receive record-breaking requests for toys each year.

Recognizing that poverty drives the high demand, Toys For Tots has expanded its mission several times. In 1980, the charity established the Toys For Tots Native American Program.

“The Native American children served by the program are some of the most underprivileged kids in our country,” Lara says.

The proud legacy of the Navajo Code Talkers and their strong relationship with the Corps helped illuminate the need in Native communities, according to Lara.

The code talkers were members of the Navajo Nation who served as Marine radio operators in World War II and used their language to safely communicate sensitive information over the radio. Enemy forces were never able to crack the Navajo “code.”

While the Navajo Marines’ service is well documented and widely known—thanks in part to the 2002 film Windtalkers—Lara is quick to point out that countless Native Americans from tribes all over the country have served honorably and admirably in the Marine Corps for decades.

Until 1980, Toys For Tots operated primarily at the local level, collecting and distributing toys to needy children in the communities where they were donated.

The lack of large population centers surrounding most native reservations meant the program wasn’t serving thousands of native children. Today, Toys For Tots’ Native American Program supplies toys and books to more than 120,000 children living on reservations.

In 2008, the foundation evolved further with the creation of the Toys For Tots Literacy Program. Through the program, the foundation collects and distributes books to more than 14 million children each year.

“The literacy program provides us an opportunity to develop young minds,” Lara says. “When we invest in the education of young people as early as possible, we are investing in our future and helping to end poverty. It’s a worthy goal and something we are very proud to be part of.”

To Sgt. Eric Castillo, 6th ESB’s maintenance management chief and a seven-year veteran of the program, the book drives are just as important as the toy collection efforts, and Marines go above and beyond to support them.

“I’ve seen Marines year after year take it upon themselves to go out and buy children’s books if we don’t get enough donations,” he says. “A lot of the Marines I know joined because of the influence Toys For Tots had on them when they needed toys for Christmas, so we go all-in to make sure these kids get books with their toys. Marines have a willingness to do whatever it takes to contribute to their community, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

For Mesa, the program’s impact has an even deeper meaning than ensuring every child has a toy for the holidays.

“I think we forget just how much Toys For Tots means to the parents,” Mesa says. “When I first volunteered for the program, I was thinking about seeing the smiles on kids’ faces, but over the years—and as a parent myself—I think one of the worst things in the world is feeling like we’ve failed to provide for our children. Maybe some of these kids will remember us when they are older, but I know that the parents will never forget what the program does for their families, and that is what makes me come back and volunteer year after year. Even if it’s just one toy, the looks on the faces of those moms and dads make it all worth it.”

While donations are always needed and welcome, Mesa says those who cannot afford a donation can come out and support the program by volunteering to help sort, pack and ship toys whenever they can.

“The community has been more than generous, and we’re always impressed with the turnout at toy drops,” she says. “But this is a big job, and there are still a lot of people who don’t know about the program. I hope as others learn about what we do, they will come out and support Toys For Tots however they can.”

In the 71 years since its inception, Toys For Tots has collected and distributed more than 530 million toys to more than 244 million needy children.

It has inspired numerous other charitable organizations to launch their own toy drives and fundraising efforts for the nation’s most vulnerable children.

With its efforts in the Native American Program and 41 million book donations to the Toys For Tots Literacy Program, the Marine Corps continues to lead in the national effort to ensure every child’s needs are met during the holidays.

And it all started with a rag doll made of yarn, a couple’s charitable spirit and a determined Marine.

For information about Toys For Tots, including how to make a donation, visit

Stocking Stuffers for Anyone Who Camps

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

Stargazing and camping go together like campfires and s’mores. Gifts to enhance the experience include binoculars and other optics, books, star maps, pillows, blankets, cushions, smartphone apps and even chairs specially made and angled for stargazing. But perhaps the best gift of all is someone to enjoy the experience with.
© iStock/anitoliy_gleb

Stocking stuffers are often an afterthought. But they don’t have to be.

This year, break the cycle of sweets, books, knickknacks—and all the usual stocking stuffers—and get something outdoor enthusiasts on your list will enjoy more.

The key is to focus on what most of them do: camping. It is one of the top-five outdoor activities, in terms of participation. Even people involved in other activities often camp in conjunction with those activities.

Here are a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing:

Glow-in-the-dark waterproof playing cards by Kikkerland, $10. Use them to play games anytime, anywhere and in any kind of weather.

Stormproof strikeable fire starter sticks by UCO Gear, $10. These are great for camping, the survival kit or even at home for lighting fires in the wood stove.

The MT908 11-function stainless steel credit card multitool by SE, $5. It’s a survival tool kit that fits in a wallet.

Collapsible clover-style solar-powered LED lantern by Suaoki, $19. Fold up its three solar panels, set it in the sun and power it up. To use the lantern, hang it in the tent or on a tree branch. Adjust the lighting level by folding the three panels up or down.

The Trucker’s Friend by Off Grid Tools, $50. It just as easily could be called the Camper’s Friend, since it’s so handy around the campsite. It’s great for splitting kindling, driving tent stakes, removing hot lids and pots, and a dozen other uses.

Three Online Sites to Get Excellent Outdoor Deals
Sierra Trading Post. This website has a huge selection of overstock, seconds and last year’s name brand gear at discount prices.

Steep and Cheap. This website offers hefty discounts, but you have to act fast because quantities are limited on many items.

Campmor. For the best deals, especially on seasonal closeouts, check out Campmor’s clearance section.

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 gro.etilarurnull@ofni.

Keeping Memories Alive

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

Me and my young mother in Costa Mesa, California, before we moved to Creek Road in Ojai. I was 1 year old.
Photo courtesy of David LaBelle

In seconds they are lost forever—our homes, our dreams, our irreplaceable heirlooms and precious photographs—memories devoured by roaring winds, racing flames or trespassing waves of water.

Fifty years ago, churning floodwaters swept away our family home, taking my mother’s life and everything my parents had labored so many years to build. All documents, records, letters, family pictures, negatives from my childhood through my teenage years were lost.

My father, brothers, sister and two friends escaped when rescued by a helicopter just minutes before we were swept downriver as well. The 1969 flood claimed many lives.

During any tragedy, escaping with life is most important. We are thankful, but there is real grief in losing one’s home, pets and precious personal items that connect us to the past and present and help us keep memories alive.

For me, the only physical items I have to connect me to my mother is a small nightstand my brother retrieved from piles of debris a mile down the creek from where our home was washed away and a few copies of family snapshots my relatives had, mostly made when I was a small child. My brother refinished the nightstand and gave it to me as a Christmas present a year after the flood. After a half century and dozens of moves, I still have it.

As a news photographer, I covered many natural disasters—fires, floods, tornadoes and earthquakes. My heart ached each time I witnessed the deep pain of people who had lost loved ones, homes and personal belongings. Of all the material things lost, irreplaceable photographs was what they grieved over most.

In light of the barrage of natural disasters, take steps to save your precious memories.

  • Burn DVDs or CDs of images you want to keep. Make at least two copies. Keep one in your home and another in a fireproof, climate-controlled safe or storage facility in another state. The lifespan of a a DVD or CD is debatable. Some say they are good 7 to 10 years.
  • Make archival prints of important images and store them in acid-free archival boxes in a fireproof, climate-controlled safe or facility.
  • Store images on a designated external hard drive, although I don’t trust these as my only source of backup. There are too many stories of lost information, especially after dropping the drive.
  • Store images in “the cloud”—a network of integrated computers that store your data online, as opposed to keeping them on your hard drive. Like physical storage units where we keep our valuables, the cost of digital online storage varies, depending on how much storage you need. As long as a natural disaster doesn’t destroy the mammoth city of computers holding your pictures, your images should be safe and retrievable. But there is always a risk.

It’s a dilemma. I opposed online storage because of horror stories of photographers losing all their images when a company collapsed. With the cloud, this is highly unlikely.

I also don’t like someone else having access to my information. However, anything you post is out there. I continually see my pictures on unfamiliar sites. Once I post something online, there is no such thing as private. Somebody can access it. Always. I have somewhat made peace with this, but it still feels like living in a glass house where every stranger can see my daily life.

There is no one perfect system. In the end, I suggest you back up your most precious pictures a variety of ways.

Last month, someone took my phone with all of my images and contacts. I tried to track it, but the thief had turned the device off. I didn’t have my data—my words, contacts and pictures—backed up on the cloud, though I had downloaded many pictures.

I think I learned my lesson. Though I despise the idea of someone else holding and having access to my images and information, I am in the process of backing up my work online and keeping DVDs, negatives and hard copies.

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 applies many of the lessons he learned during his magical boyhood years in rural California to photography. For more information, visit