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Kerplink! Kerplank! Kerplunk! As the blueberries hit my bucket, it brings back memories of one of my favorite childrens’ books, Blueberries for Sal. Berry picking goes back many years with our family. It’s invariably been one of the most special days of the year, and picking enough for winter freezing a requirement.

Last week, my husband and I visited the Lazy Valley Ranch in Penn Valley. Jeannie and James Gleason inherited this 500 acres from his parents. After retiring from their careers, they moved onto the property and are still working hard. They planted blueberries in 2002. Jeannie focuses on the berry business. They do not use any pesticides and only organically approved sprays and fertilizers. James grows hay and sells whole live Angus calves, raised on mother’s milk and grass without antibiotics or hormones.

We drive through the ranch in dappled sunlight from oaks overhanging the lane. Along the road mugwort swishes in the breeze next to yellow dock flowers turning amber and brown in the warmth of the sun. The air smells of new mown hay waiting for the baler. Grass is still damp amidst the rows of berries, and bees hum in the woods.

“I love farming because it gets us closer to God and nature. The exercise keeps me young,” Jeanie told me.

Berry picking becomes a kind of community event. I see old friends and love listening to the excited chatter of the “little pickers” and moms that aren’t stressed — enjoying the family outing. I always leave happier than when I came.

Blueberries are literally the best kind of “fast food.” There’s no peeling or pitting; just rinse and they’re ready to go. All berries are low in calories and fat; high in fiber. Nutrient dense blueberries offer a bounty of antioxidants. That deep dark color comes primarily from proanthocyanins, which gives blueberries one of the highest antioxidant levels of any fruit or vegetable.

All berries are easy to freeze. Just rinse and trim off the stem end for strawberries. I allow them to drain for a while because water left on the berry develops into frost, which alters the flavor somewhat. Sometimes removing moisture with a blow drier helps. Blueberries, if grown organically, are best frozen without even rinsing to avoid that frost problem, but if small children are helping themselves it’s probably not a great idea. Berries in the freezer are a welcome sight in winter when fresh local fruit is skimpy.

U-pick makes a good way to stretch the budget, and the berries last longer in the refrigerator. The flavor of fresh picked is much more intense.

“The best picking time is from now until early July,” Jeanie told me. No reservation is necessary to pick. They’re open Sunday through Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 530-432-2234 for a voice message and/or to leave information or email lazyvalleyrancho@aol.com. Thornless blackberries will be ready in July also but call to check times and availability.

Riverhill Farm at the end of Cement Hill Road also has u-pick berries and cherry tomatoes in the coming days and weeks. The usually quite generous strawberry patch was impacted by the heavy spring rains, but it’s firing up again. Blackberries will be abundant in July. Their farm stand is open every Wednesday, 2-6 p.m. Cal 916 832-7463 for more information or go to www.riverhillfarm.com.

Showing off your berries

Crisps are humble desserts. Nothing sophisticated about them. They are simple to prepare, not too sweet and full of flavor. This recipe is gluten free. Whole wheat pastry flour could replace the almonds if you’re not concerned about that. I used one cut up apple to stretch my berries as crisps are best when the fruit is abundant.

Blue and Black Crisp

One cup ground almonds

Three quarters cup rolled oats

Four tablespoons (one quarter cup) butter at room temperature

One quarter cup brown sugar

One teaspoon cinnamon

Two cups fresh or frozen blueberries

One cup blackberries

One quarter cup apple juice

One whole apple cut into bite-size pieces

In a blender grind enough almonds to make one cup of almond flour. Alternatively, if you prefer, use one cup whole wheat pastry flour. Add the flour, rolled oats, sugar, cinnamon, and butter to a medium bowl. Work the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. Work just until the mixture comes together and has a crumbly, but not sandy, texture. Chill until ready to use. (Crisp topping can be made ahead and refrigerated for a week or frozen for up to two months.)

Add the berries, apple, and juice to a deep dish pie pan. Sprinkle on the crisp and bake at 325 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until fruit is bubbling and crisp topping is golden brown. Best to use a ceramic or glass pie pan. Metal pans will react with the acid fruit.

Crisps are delicious on their own especially warm, but are even better with a dollop of cream or ice cream.

Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author from Grass Valley. She can be reached at bess.pattia@gmail.com.

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We’ve been dogless for over a year now, and although I still hear the patter of little cat feet, I miss the tread of an 80-pound canine. To honor our departed pal during the deluges of this past winter, I still trudged through the neighborhood daily in my rain and snow gear as though I were walking him. For old time’s sake, I even waited patiently beside every tree and shrub.

You’d think I’d celebrate the absence of claw marks on freshly polished oak floors, the spotless sheen of navy blue carpets free of dog hair, and the time saved by not combing through thick fur for ticks. For me, these are losses, not gains.

Our felines offer purrs when I feed them tuna and disdain when I give them dry food. But whether I scooped kibble or an oxidized avocado into his bowl, our dog always beamed me unconditional love.

The house feels quiet and empty now. If kids who leave home create an empty nest, our dogless house feels like a vacant blanket.

I tell myself that without a dog I’m care-free, and that petting other people’s dogs is enough to fill my heart. But recently I’ve noticed that when I read the paper each morning, it usually falls open to the dog adoption section.

I’m not sure your dog will appreciate the results of the following recipes, but I hope your two-legged family will.

Red Beans and Rice Salad

Generously serves 6

Here’s the opportunity to show off your colorful pepper crop.

1 cup white basmati, cooked according to directions and cooled

1 cup chopped garden peppers

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 15-ounce can red beans, rinsed

Dressing

Whisk together:

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon orange juice concentrate

1 tablespoon honey

1 garlic clove, pressed

Salt and pepper

Toss the ingredients with the dressing and chill well before serving.

Thai Tofu

Serves 2-4

This dish may convert a few carnivores.

14 ounces of extra firm tofu

2 tablespoons cooking oil

2¼ teaspoons water

2¼ teaspoons peanut butter

1½ teaspoons tamari

1½ teaspoons rice vinegar

1½ teaspoons honey

Set the tofu on a paper towel and pat it dry. Then cut it into 1-inch cubes.

Heat the oil and slowly sauté the tofu until two sides are crisp and golden. This may take a while, so do a few yoga stretches and make the peanut sauce while you wait.

To make the peanut sauce, whisk together the water, peanut butter, tamari, rice vinegar and honey until smooth.

Dip the tofu in the sauce and let your taste buds frolic.

Sesame-Ginger Cabbage

Serves 2-3

If you’re wondering what to serve with the above recipes, look no further.

12 ounces of thinly sliced and chopped Savoy cabbage (I’ve also used whatever cabbage is currently inhabiting the refrigerator)

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger

Sauté the cabbage in the oil over a medium flame until it’s limp and a bit charred.

Turn off the flame, stir in the sesame seeds and ginger, and serve.

Ronnie Paul is a Nevada County freelance writer.

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Thanks for printing the June 19 article from the Associate Press, which reports a new milestone in the steady erosion of meaningful governmental leadership on addressing climate change and air pollution.

EPA Chief Wheeler announced the “Affordable Clean Air Plan,” which will open more coal powered plants and add to declining progress on air quality. “There were 15% more days with unhealthful air 2017-2018 than on average from 2013 through 2016, the four years when America had its fewest number of those days since 1980.”

No one should doubt that now the stakes are higher, as this cynical, unpopular action will not only further pollute our air, but also sicken or kill more people. Does your child have asthma or your spouse COPD? Prepare for more trips to the ER and greater physical vulnerability. “Affordable?”

This situation elevates the significance of your support for bipartisan, market-based solutions, such as HR 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. This legislative policy promises real progress in reducing air pollution, potentially saving thousands of lives by 2030. To learn more, check out CitizensClimateLobby.org and call the office of our representative to Congress. Talk to your friends and speak out about what is most important to our community’s health.

Brad Miller, MD

Nevada City

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Grass Valley Police Department

Monday

11:27 a.m. — A caller from the 200 block of Maiden Lane reported a brick was thrown through a car window last night.

12:46 p.m. — A caller from a towing business on Idaho-Maryland Road reported a woman lying down in front of the business, refusing to leave and blocking the driveway. She doesn’t have the money to get her vehicle out. She agreed to leave.

1:54 p.m. — A caller from a business in the 300 block of Railroad Avenue reported a man stole tools.

2:59 p.m. — A caller from the 700 block of West Main Street requested a juvenile be cited for assaulting staff.

3:45 p.m. — A caller from the 600 block of Packard Drive reported a possible attempted burglary with a broken window.

6:49 p.m. — A caller from Lidster Avenue and Hughes Road reported a man dancing in the street. He was gone when an officer arrived.

7:24 p.m. — A caller from a business the 1800 block of East Main Street reported an employee was mean-mugging him after he was told to leave.

9:28 p.m. — A caller from Condon Park reported hitting a person who jumped out of the woods in front of the caller’s vehicle.

11:08 p.m. — A caller from the 200 block of Sutton Way reported a physical fight involving a man and a woman. He said she stole his phone. A report was taken.

Nevada County Sheriff’s Office

Monday

2:30 a.m. — A man from Spenceville and Sierra roads reported people possibly trying to break into his vehicle. They were gone when a deputy arrived.

6:40 a.m. — A caller from Quail Creek Road reported a possible drug deal the night before.

8:16 a.m. — A man from Silver Way reported someone crashed through his fence and stole a dirt bike.

8:53 a.m. — A caller from Mackinac Court reported having been bitten on the finger by a rat.

9:34 a.m. — A caller from McDaniel Road reported a person with an illegal marijuana grow was leaving with a U-Haul trailer full of marijuana.

10:49 a.m. — A woman from Highway 49 and Rush Creek Way reported four armed men stole between $8,000 and $20,000 before leaving in a vehicle. A report was taken.

11:23 a.m. — A caller from Rollins Lake reported two people were thrown from a jet ski and were yelling for help. They were picked up by another boat.

11:58 a.m. — A caller from Highway 49 and Flume Street reported a man making death threats. He currently was on the side of the road selling marijuana from a table. He was gone when a deputy arrived.

12:30 p.m. — A woman from Pleasant Valley Road reported a man showed up, put gloves on and started walking around the house while armed. He was talking about how she owed him $20 for gasoline. A report was taken.

12:43 p.m. — A caller reported scammers sending pornographic text messages.

1:49 p.m. — A caller from Alta Street and Bettcher Court reported a man opening mailboxes, who could not be located.

4:14 p.m. — A caller from Bitney Springs Road reported the theft of a vehicle.

4:45 p.m. — A caller from New Rome Road reported a teen boy assaulted his adult sister, who was being taken to the hospital. It was somewhat mutual combat and the juvenile was cited for battery.

7:20 p.m. — A caller from Lark Street reported a man possibly under the influence of a controlled substance who tried to break into someone’s truck and who said he had a gun.

Nevada City Police Department

Monday

7:57 a.m. — A caller from the post office reported a man sitting on the ground possibly shooting up.

9:26 a.m. — A caller from Railroad Avenue reported hearing five gunshots.

11:47 p.m. — A caller from Commercial Street reported a man and woman in a physical fight. They were gone when an officer arrived.

— Liz Kellar

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Following the lead established by Beth and Ted Gaines, Megan and Brian Dahle are primed to establish a political dynasty in northeastern California. Get ready for Brian’s red and white State Senate signs to be transformed into red and white signs in favor of his wife, Megan, who recently announced that she plans to run for her husband’s vacant assembly seat.

Brian, who has served as our Assemblyman for the past seven years, recently was elected to represent us in the State Senate. In less than two weeks following his election, his wife, Megan, announced her candidacy to run for his vacated Assembly seat. Megan’s political experience is having served on the Big Valley School District, a 127-student school district in rural Lassen County in which their children attend.

This husband/wife political hopscotch is not new as voters only have to look to Beth and Ted Gaines to see that the Dahle dynasty is primed for success. Ted Gaines was an Assemblyman representing El Dorado and Placer Counties when he succeeded in his 2011 election to the State Senate. His wife, Beth, another political novice, piggy-backed on their name recognition and was elected in a special election to his seat. She served three, two-year terms in the Assembly.

It’s certainly not illegal nor is it unethical; it is just old-fashioned swampy politics. Most northeastern Californian voters approve of Dahle and his politics; in a special election with a low voter turnout, his wife is a sure bet to win due to name recognition. Moreover, Brian Dahle, our new State Senator, will be able to transfer his unspent campaign funds to help fund his wife’s campaign. In fact, in future elections Megan and Brian could presumably just post red and white Dahle signs around Nevada County. Moreover, talk about political backroom deals, this husband-wife duo will be the epitome of political pillow talk.

It doesn’t take rocket science to prognosticate that Brian Dahle, 53, who will be able to serve two, four-year terms as our State Senator will then be replaced in eight years by his 43-year-old wife, Megan. This further sets the stage for one of the Dahle children in eight years to assume his mother’s Assembly seat.

The really sad part of this political drama is that hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been spent on these two special elections so that the Dahle dynasty could unfold. Some form of appointment/anointment should have taken place to get past the inevitable. Brian Dahle’s senatorial ascension was shrouded with some political chicanery in questionable mailers and questionable secret candidates. Let’s hope the Megan and Brian dynasty is above-board in the future, focused on the needs of northeastern California and not on the needs of the Dahle dynasty.

Terry McAteer is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at editboard@theunion.com.

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Memorial Day is behind us for another year — and our focus was primarily on recent wars fought overseas. Our own civil war was more tragic; 620,000 deaths, and potentially disastrous; a divided nation over slavery. The ‘North’ itself was not unified in supporting President Lincoln or his decisions.

This from the website, www.mrlincolnandfriends.com, a comment on Lincoln’s choice and support of General Grant.

The editor of the Cincinnati Gazette wrote, “Our noble army of the Mississippi is being wasted by the foolish, drunken, stupid Grant. He cannot organize or control or fight an army. I have no personal feeling about it; but I know he is an ass.”

Grant, not a politician, was later elected president — the controversy continued but the Union survived. Today I often read similar opinions about our elected president.

Might we be wiser to remember, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln’s speech, 1958 and Mark 3:25.

When another president is chosen, and more to the current complainers wishes, will similar opinions be welcome and useful?

Arthur H. Krugler

Grass Valley

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Rachel Johnson and Branko Marcetic were married at the Gold Creek Inn in Nevada City on June 15. The bride is the daughter of Keith and Alice Johnson of Nevada City. The groom is the son of Slavica Marcetic and the late Milan Marcetic of Auckland, New Zealand. The wedding was attended by family and friends from New Zealand, Serbia, Chicago, and many other locations. Johnson is a 2008 graduate of Nevada Union High school. She received her B.A. in history from Smith College in 2012 and her M.A. in history from Northwestern University in 2016. She works as a curriculum developer for “Facing History and Ourselves” in Chicago.

Marcetic received his B.A. in history in 2010 and his M.A. in history in 2014 from the University of Auckland. He is currently a staff writer for Jacobin magazine and the 2019 recipient of the Leonard C. Goodman investigative reporting fellowship with In These Times magazine. His book on the life and candidacy of Joe Biden is forthcoming in 2019. The couple will reside in Chicago and are planning a February honeymoon in New Zealand.

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Austin Baker of Nevada City graduated from the University of San Diego on May 26. Baker earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering. With more than 9,000 students from 77 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest, independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. Its eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education.

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When I started my car I noticed today’s mistake of the day; I was running on fumes, the needle on my gas gauge barely moved when I started the engine.

There were no gas stations in Paradise since the town combusted in November, so, I rerouted my internal Siri and headed to the little market by Butte College.

I drove at geezer speed until I rethought. The trip was almost entirely down-hill, a familiar direction in my life. My new thought was that if I got my speed to up around my age (73), then, if I ran out of gas, I might be able to coast the rest of the way.

I was still going 50 when I hit the roundabout. I slid around the circle on my two good tires, and wheeled up to the pump with fumes to spare.

Until we got evacuated, I’d never gotten gas with a credit card so, I read the menu on the pump and followed the directions. When I finished the quiz (Pet’s name? My best friend growing up? Limbs missing?) I entered my zip code; declined. I tried two more times: declined; declined. I went inside to get help from Wayne the gas-pump jockey behind the counter.

“I tried to get the pump outside to work and it told me to come in here because nobody works in here either.”

“Well, let’s see what we can do. How much gas did you want?”

“Fill ‘er up.”

“You can go high, and get change, or pick a number short of full and we’ll run yer card right here,” he said, patting his miniature TV on the counter.

“How much is gas?”

“Four bucks twelve.”

“Okay, 40 should fit.” I kept my investment to a minimum. No matter the price of gas, I only bought 20 bucks’ worth. So, while America paid outrageous rising rates for gas, mine never went over 20 bucks. Forty sounded extravagant, but I’d done it last week.

“Okay, slide your card.”

“I slid my card down the slot then got quiz two: (name, birthdate, favorite pizza topping, and the site of my mother’s birth-mark). Finally I got to the essay portion of the test, Zip code … “declined.”

“Ok, here’s what we’re gonna do,” I did … declined.

“You’re sure you live in Paradise?”

“Well, my house is ashes on the ground now, but my cat’s there.”

“Wayne, let me do this …”

I turned around and saw there was a line of nine people behind me. I was holding up the entire county. Then, from seventh position in line, a young cowboy walked to the front of the line, while I explained to Wayne that I hadn’t been declined this many times since high school.

“Let me help you, sir,” said the cowboy-hatted stranger.

I assumed his calling me sir was a reference to my senior blond hair and premature wrinkles. I hadn’t liked a cowboy since John Wayne punched a hippie at the Democratic convention in Chicago, and I wasn’t over it. But this wasn’t just any cowboy, this man was surely a descendant of Roy Rogers, one of the good cowboys.

“Forty seven eighty two,” said Wayne.

The cowboy put his card in the slot, took the quiz and passed. The clerk bagged up the seven eighty-two, and the cowboy nudged my elbow toward the door.

It wasn’t until we got outside that I remembered I had cash. I pulled a wad of nearly 300 bucks out of my pocket.

“Put that away,” the cowboy said.

“Well, thank you, I really appreciate your help.”

“No sweat, you have a good day.”

I put the gas in my car, walked over to the cowboy who was gassing up his enormous pick-up truck that was towing a horse trailer with 10 horses in it.

I held out two twenties,”Really, man, let me give you money.”

“Thanks anyway, but I heard you say that your house burned down. When that fire happened, I was in Oregon and I felt bad that people lost everything. I wanted to do more to help but by the time I got back, everyone was being helped, and I was too busy running the ranch to pursue it. Actually, I should be thanking you for giving me a chance to help. Now put that money away, before someone thinks we’re playing Brokeback Mountain.”

I looked at the money, shrugged, put the money in my pocket. I shook his hand, thanked him again, and took off. As I sped through the roundabout, I looked at the silver hood of my car and asked aloud, “Who was that masked man?”

Jim Smith lives in Paradise.

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