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In the News - Friday, April 9, 2010


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


Jazzaffair: The time is now

   Incredible as it may seem, a decade ago Jazzaffair was teetering on the brink of extinction. After 25 years, all the forces combined to lay an egg in 1999.
   Longtime members of the Sierra Traditional Jazz Club board of directors were even batting around notions that maybe there shouldn’t even be a Jazzaffair. A storybook romance with the local jazz revival might be coming to a not-so-happy ending.

  “That’s [when the festival lays an egg] bound to happen once in awhile,” said Bill Tidwell, who in the late 1990s was responsible for booking the bands. “It really only rained one day but it snowed on the Grapevine.”
   The threatening weather was just enough to keep some of the regulars from the Los Angeles area from making the four-hour trip to Three Rivers. It hurt badge sales.
   Compounding matters for Jazzaffair ’99 was another festival in Redding that was competing for jazz bands and fans on the same weekend.
   But Jazzaffair weathered the storm that year and literally lots of other years too. In fact, when it comes to the weather, locals like to kid each other, but not Rusty Crain, High Sierra Jazz Band’s current manager and Jazzaffair director, that Jazzaffair is the only weekend of the year where Three Rivers can experience all four seasons.
   And lots of years it has not only rained cats and dogs but it has snowed too. But even in the worst weather, there are glimpses of unparalleled High Sierra beauty that creates a heavenly ambiance.
   Key members of the jazz club responded, doing exactly what its founding members like Chet and Thelma Crain would have done. They rolled up their sleeves and worked even harder to make Jazzaffair the best it could be.
   In 2001, Gator Beat came to Three Rivers and brought a new Cajun/zydeco beat that turned on a new generation to Jazzaffair. The following year, Titan Hot Seven made their local debut and reenergized the crowds with tight trad jazz and lots of shenanigans.
   Gator Beat returned in 2003 and Cornet Chop Suey made their Jazzaffair debut. With the sudden passing of Richard Domingue, the leader of Gator Beat, this group did not return. Tom Rigney and his Flambeau stepped in last year and have assumed that Cajun/zydeco tradition on the festival circuit.
   JAZZAFFAIR 2010— The true blue fan base, which supports Jazzaffair year after year, wants hot New Orleans-style jazz with a helping of Cajun/zydeco for some spice mixed into the recipe.
   The current recession that bottomed out in early 2009 has had a dynamic effect on Jazzaffair. First, a number of long-standing festivals like Redding were cancelled or combined with other nearby festivals.    Also, the prime location of Three Rivers, equidistant between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, keeps Kaweah Country within reach of the RV crowd.
   Approximately 200 RVs are expected to be in Three Rivers this weekend. Badge sales are up from 2009 and consumer confidence is returning to pre-2008 levels. The Jazzaffair formula hasn’t really changed much over the years though the recipe for success has been tinkered with and refined.
   Start with one healthy dose of the High Sierra Jazz Band as host, the all-time favorite crowd pleaser on the circuit. Add in Night Blooming Jazzmen to keep their L.A. fans buying badges, add a taste of Grand Dominion to keeps things coagulating; add generous doses of St. Louis prime cuts and hot chop house faire, bring the mix to Titan Hot; stir in Rigo’s spicy Flambeau; and top with Blue Street so our Fresno neighbors will always reciprocate our Mardi Gras visits.
   Add scenery to die for, in fact, the only place on the west side of the Sierra where you can stand at 1,000 feet and gaze upon 12,000-foot peaks. And never take the bottomline for granted: a community in a town called Three Rivers that gives its all so the bands can play on. Is it any wonder why Jazzaffair is simply the best small venue jazz fest on the planet?

Town Meeting tackles local issues

by Brian Rothhammer

  The regular monthly Town Hall meeting, sponsored by the Three Rivers Village Foundation, was held Monday, April 5, at the Three Rivers Memorial Building.
   The first speaker was Julie Doctor, recently appointed general manager of the Three Rivers Community Services District. Doctor identified her number-one project as the replacement of water lines in Alta Acres. Contracts have been awarded and approval is expected within two weeks. The work should begin in about one month.
   Tulare County Supervisor Allen Ishida began his presentation with an overview of water supply and usage throughout California, urging the audience to “look at the total picture.”

  “I’ve always stated that if you want a solid water usage plan in California you must consider [the areas] east of the dams,” Ishida stated.
   Regarding a proposed $11.2 billion water bond issue Ishida remains skeptical.

  “There’s just not enough information that has been made public to form an opinion,” Supervisor Ishida said.

  “If there is no net water gain for Tulare County, I’m going to have a very difficult time endorsing this bond. If we clean up the [San Joaquin] Delta with money from cities that dump effluent into it, I might support that proposal,” he continued.
   Ishida also announced that the county’s general plan has been released.

  “The general plan is just that: a general plan,” Ishida reiterated. “The real nuts and bolts …is when we write ordinances to fit the general plan.”
   Next up was Gamaliel Anguiano, director of the City of Visalia’s Sequoia Shuttle program. He presented a detailed account of last year’s riders, reporting that the 2009 total of 5,385 passengers was consistent with the average of 5,400 per year since the program began four years ago.
   The City of Visalia is planning to acquire two diesel-electric hybrid vehicles to add to their fleet through a partnership between the cities of Visalia and Livermore, Anguiano said.
   A stop has been added at The Barn (Shell station), corner of highways 198 and 65. Three Rivers pick-up points remain the Comfort Inn and the Memorial Building. The shuttle is scheduled to begin service the week of Memorial Day weekend
   Danny Boiano, aquatic geologist with the National Park Service, furnished an update on the High Elevation Aquatic Restoration project alternatives. He detailed various methods of restoring populations of the mountain yellow-legged frog in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.
   Boiano explained that all of the lakes above 6,000 feet were historically fish free prior to human intervention. He gave an overview of the criteria for selecting bodies of water to be restored and where certain methods to eradicate non-native trout that are eating the frogs would be the most efficient.
   These methods include gill netting, electro-fishing, and the use of piscicides (fish poison). The goal is to restore 75 of these lakes and streams and he considers this to be feasible over a 30-year period.
   The NPS will avoid the most popular fishing spots during this eradication effort citing the importance of the fisheries to park visitors, Boiano said. Over 560 high-altitude park lakes are known to contain fish.
   Later this year, a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be made available to the public.
   Lastly, Bryan Rippee of Septic Solutions West gave a presentation about water treatment through the introduction of aerobic bacteria as an alternative to conventional septic systems. He explained the simplicity and low cost of such systems and stated that after treatment, water from the system “is pure enough to drink.”

  “The use of aerobic bacteria rids the water of 98 percent of nitrates, phosphates, and other waste material,” Rippee reported.
   Rippee invited Three Rivers residents to view his system in Springville, one of 15 installed in Tulare County.
   The next Town Hall meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 3, and will feature a forum of candidates who are running for county offices in the June election.

Gallery displays 3R art history

   An exhibit of art like no other opened this month at Discoveries West Gallery and Archives in Three Rivers. It features more than two dozen artists past and present from Three Rivers, which has always been an artists’ enclave.
   There’s a poem, the exhibit’s oldest item, written in 1872 entitled “To My Wife” by a Three Rivers settler who wanted to pay tribute to his spouse on her 32nd birthday. The exhibit also includes the works of contemporary artists like Kevin Yee, who recently completed an oil portraying the Texas Rangers in the 19th century.
   The ambitious new art exhibit opened April 3 and runs through June 30 and is entitled “Three Rivers Artists: Then and Now.” It is the latest offering from John McWilliams, curator of Discoveries West Gallery and Archives.
   Works on display run the gamut of local art from the handsome burl bowls of Frank Treuting to resplendent oils on canvas by beloved artists like Lorraine Young, Rosemary Packard, and Lidabelle Wylie.

  “This exhibit defines the scope of what we are doing here at the gallery,” said John McWilliams, owner and curator. “We want to collect at least one important work from every known Three Rivers artist.”
   There are dozens of pieces, many being shown publicly for the first time, in this historic exhibit. Among the most eye-catching works are huge framed oils by local icon Ron Stivers. His use of light and color probe the imagination and subconscious of all who gaze into his sublime mountain landscapes.
   Familiar to jazz fans at Lions Arena will be a grand oil by Mike Edgerton Riley depicting the former ranch house at the Catfish Farm prior to restoration. Riley also has a Catalina Island piece on display where he has produced a larger than life perspective of the landmark Wrigley mansion.
   The gallery is located on the lower level of the Pizza Factory building and is open during Jazzaffair on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free; for directions or more information, call 561-3194.

Sustainable eating in Three Rivers

by Mona Fox Selph

   Planning for this year’s Three Rivers Environmental Weekend will begin with a meeting Saturday, April 17, 1 pm. Community members are invited to get involved. This year’s Environmental Weekend event is scheduled for October 2-3. Highlights will be a Green Home Tour and a focus on sustainable food.

   In the K’iche’ Maya creation myth, the forefather gods brought forth the earth and filled it with animals and plants. Then, on their third attempt, they successfully created man out of maize (corn) dough. As a testament to its importance to their culture, they made many images of the young maize god, Cinteotl.
   Today, we are literally the people made of corn as well. We have developed hundreds of products from this grain, some of the most basic being corn oil and corn syrup. We also feed our animals with feed corn, which is of little nutritional value. An examination of our hair isotopes proves we are made of corn.
   Ruminants such as cattle have evolved to eat grass, not corn. Yet today we feed them in crowded feedlots on government-subsidized corn, starting when they are calves. They quickly grow fat and ready for slaughter, yet the meat produced is not of very good quality or flavor.
   The animals are fed to the limit of what they can tolerate in grain, using antibiotics to hold down the development of stomach ulcers caused by their diet. This is unhealthy for the animals and the people who consume the meat and has led to bacteria that have now become resistant to these antibiotics.
   Advertisements portray our food production as a pastoral farm fantasy, but in reality most farming of today bears little resemblance to the good farming methods developed over the last 10,000 years. Most food is now a product of the industrial food system.
   A handful of mega-corporations control more than 80 percent of the production and market, as well as owning seed rights and preventing farmers from saving their own seeds. These mega-corporations are more driven by profit than the healthful production of food for the people.
   The global dilemma is to produce more and more food for an ever-growing population that, so far, refuses to control its own growth, but the cost is quality and soil and water depletion. This path is not sustainable.
   While many other cultures of pre-Columbian America developed sustainable agricultural methods, the Maya used slash-and-burn methods on their poor soil, planting for as little as two years, then having to rest the fields from seven to 15 years.
   A centuries-long drought combined with growing populations and poor farming techniques were major factors in bringing down the great civilization.
   We are in a similar situation today with populations burgeoning the world over, unsustainable agricultural techniques, and a warming planet pushed warmer by shipping huge quantities of food around the world rather than supporting local production.
   In the past several years, research has proven that properly managed grazing of animals can actually restore and renew damaged and depleted soils. Not all areas are good candidates for gardens or farms, but meat can be successfully raised in these marginal areas, such as Yokohl Valley in southern Tulare Country, for instance.
   Scientists are now looking to the past for answers to many agricultural problems. In the Amazon, for instance, an anthropogenic fertile dark soil called “terra preta” was created by incorporating partially burnt charcoal and other organic material into the soil to stabilize the nutrients. This bio-char farming technique is of major interest today, since while improving the soil it almost permanently sequesters the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, a major problem in global warming.
   We all can participate in improving our food-production system by the purchasing choices we make. Sustainable food production takes more time and labor, and so is pricier. Yet we all can do a little toward supporting it, and some can afford to do more than others.
   There are farmers’ markets in Visalia, but that is not a great option unless one has other business there on those days. Right here in our community, we have neighbors who are growing grass-fed beef, free-range chickens, and organic gardens.
   Don and Teriz Mosley, for instance, grow grass-fed, truly happy California cows. Their beef is available to the community.
On Sundays, Flora Bella Organic Farms open their produce stand from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m.
   Family Farm Fresh will bring local produce to your door, from once a month to weekly. In addition to fruits and vegetables, they have milk, cheese, eggs, honey, and nuts.
   We all travel to Visalia when the need arises. On my way, I often stop at the “Big Orange” in Lemon Cove, put my money in the hole, and pick up a bag of oranges. The grove has been organic for the past three years.
   Owner John Hamlin tells me that they have grove chickens and alpacas. The alpacas mow most of the weed plants, and the chickens pick up the weed seeds and bugs as they progress though the orange groves, depositing high quality fertilizer as they go. This simple, sweet, and sustainable system eliminates the need for commercial fertilizers and destructive poisons.
   In a world of much hunger, we are blessed to live in this community of plentiful food.
   Here, we can lend our support to the efforts of our neighbors to produce healthful and sustainable food. Our choices help to drive the changes we want to see in better agricultural methods and use of our precious land and water.
   Mona Fox Selph is an organizer of the Three Rivers Environmental Weekend.

TRUS garden created

by prospective Eagle Scout

   Andrew Moore of Three Rivers, a junior at Exeter High School and member of Boy Scout Troop 3301 of Visalia, is striving to make a difference in his community. For his Eagle Scout project, he turned his attention to Three Rivers School.
   Having attended TRUS and being aware that small schools could use a little help in these tough economic times, Andrew went before the school’s board of trustees and proposed to develop a garden behind   McDowall Auditorium. His proposal included laying decorative paving stones and creating garden beds for native plants in an area roughly 68 feet by 13 feet.
   After submitting site plans, he went to work on raising the funds to buy the materials. Nearly $5,000 later and with a little help from his fellow classmates and scouts, Andrew’s project is now a reality.

  “I even have a little money left over, so I am going to install a bench as the centerpiece,” Andrew said.
   Andrew said he learned a lot on this project from start to finish, especially about the native plants and irrigation system he installed.    He expects after completing all the paperwork he will attain his goal of becoming an Eagle Scout, and that could happen sometime later this year.


‘My single-most favorite recipe’

by Tina St. John

EDITOR’S NOTE: Regular readers of this column will know that Tina St. John was raised in a large family with nine children. For the next several installments of her “Welcome to my food column,” she will highlight one of her siblings and their all-time favorite recipe. Tina said she wants to show “what came out of a home where food preparation was such a big part of how we lived.”

This week: Marc

   Marc, my baby brother, as I had thought of him growing up, is sibling number seven. He is much younger, but many times bigger in size. I think he’s somewhere around 6-foot, seven inches, tall.   Sometimes he has to duck when entering a doorway, so that gives you an idea of how tall he is.
   I remember once when I was traveling overseas and had some unforeseen difficulties with which to contend. When arriving back in New York City, my brother Marc was there waiting for me at the airport.
   Once I saw him I knew everything would be okay. He towered over the crowd, looking like a gentle giant with his confident and captivating smile, reassuring me not to worry. What a guy!
   Marc lives in Surrey, England, with his wife Julie and their two children Malcolm and Madeliene. He is a partner with CVC Capital Partners in London.
   Bon Appetit!
   In two weeks: Part Eight of “My single-most favorite recipe.”


2 lbs. beef, cut into big cubes — stewing beef (brisket), no lean meat
2 onions, diced
3/4 cup cubed smoked bacon (about the size of small peas; they are called “lardons” in England)
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. butter, melted
5-6 shallots, chopped
2 beef bouillon cubes
Bottle of red wine – pinot noir or French burgundy
Bouquet of thyme, tied
1 or 2 bay leaves
3-4 carrots
Potatoes, parboiled
Dark chocolate

   Over a hot fire, put in the bacon and the onions into a thick casserole pot. Make the shallots sweat and cook the bacon. Remove the shallots and bacon (and drain off the grease if you’re looking to lose weight). Add the butter and olive oil over the high flame. Once melted, put in the beef to brown. When the beef is browned, add a spoonful of flour to coat the beef. Make sure that the beef is nicely coated, but not too much! This flour will make a nice gravy later on. Take everything out, including the beef, and deglaze the pan with about three-quarters of a bottle of wine (the quality of wine is critical; no plonk, please). Put everything back in with five or six chunks of dark chocolate (70%+ cacao), bay leaves, carrots, plus a fistful of fresh thyme that’s tied up (bouquet garnie). The chocolate will work wonders on the tastebuds and create a lovely unctuous sauce for your stew. Pepper to taste, but NO salt if you put in bouillon cubes.
   Cook in a low oven all day long or on the stove for a couple of hours in a casserole dish on very low heat. Toward the end, put in peeled potatoes (cut up charlotte potatoes that have been parboiled work best). Put them on top. The longer you cook the stew, the better. Many times, the bourguignon is better the next day.


Know what you eat

   One aspect of the health care bill — which President Obama signed into law on March 23 — that is taking effect immediately is that chain restaurants nationwide will be required to prominently display nutrition information. This could be a significant step in changing the food landscape in America.
   More than 200,000 fast food and other chain restaurants will have to include calorie counts on menus, menu boards, and even drive-thrus.
   The new law, which applies to any restaurant with 20 or more locations, directs the Food and Drug Administration to create a new national standard for menu labeling, superseding a growing number of state and city laws (legislation to this effect passed in California last year). This rule will also apply to vending machines carrying convenience foods.
   The idea is to make sure that customers process the calorie information as they are ordering. The new law will make calories immediately available for most items.
   It is time for Americans to become more educated and be more informed about what is actually in the food they are eating and the impact that this has on both their health and the environment. We currently have insatiable appetites for cheap processed foods and factory-farmed meats, which impacts everything from carbon emissions to water quality to pesticide and antibiotic use on farms.
   It’s possible that the passage of the health care bill could have a major impact on changing the way people eat, because health insurers will finally have a financial motive to keep people from eating unhealthy foods that can cause long-term health problems. All of a sudden, health insurers will have an interest in our health and disease prevention that they didn’t have previously.
   Processed foods and fast food contain unhealthy fat, excess sodium, sweeteners, and preservatives, none of which our bodies require to maintain health.
   The optimal way to avoid dependence on the industrial food system and to optimize health is by (1) purchasing locally grown fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets or through community-supported agriculture (or grow them yourself), (2) eat whole grains and legumes, (3) purchase meat, eggs, and dairy products from naturally raised, free-range animals, (3) select wild, sustainable fish, not farm-raised, (4) rid your diet of the white, or bleached, foods (flour, sugar, rice) and replace with whole wheat products and brown rice, and (5) don’t drink soda ever (regular or diet). To avoid eating fast food, pack up some of the above and take it with you when you know you won’t be home for a meal.
   If the majority of your diet consists of these foods and is combined with a regular fitness program, positive results will immediately appear: weight loss, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower blood glucose levels, and smaller waist size.
   Calorie information may be the first step in this journey toward our collective health as a nation. Educate yourself on your own caloric requirement so you know what the calorie listings mean.
   And teach the children!

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
© Copyright 2003-2009 The Kaweah Commonwealth