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The Incredible Versatile Vegetable: The Zucchini














Q. It’s summertime! So how can you tell if a Redding-nite has no friends?


Here’s one answer…

A. She’s buying zucchini at the grocery store.



Really, though, it’s not a laughing matter. If your neighbors and friends are gardeners and their zucchini seeds have properly propagated you’ll notice.


You’ll observe “The Desperate” ones, lurking about, smiling and ready, like a quarterback, for the hand-off. But it’s not a football they want you to snag. They’ll be trying to hand you a bag…full of oblong green veggies…. those ever-loving, prolific little bombs known as Zucchini.


Yes. Your farming family will come. Knocking at your door, toting large brown bags overflowing with long green logs…begging you to take “just a few.” You like your neighbor. You think, ” Well, I could use a few.”


And then your friend, who loving tilled a backyard patch of dirt and planted a tiny urban garden, greets you. Bulging recycled plastic grocery bags hung over his arms, shades of green peeking out, he suggests your family has to try “just a few” of these healthy squashes he’s managed to produce.


And your cousin decides to bless you with “just a few” garden fresh zucchini.


A little clarification here: The words “just a few” can’t be used in the same sentence with zucchini. That would be an oxymoron.


The first year we planted a garden at the ranch, I labeled myself an authority on the “How To” of successful small crop management. After all, I pointed out to our family and visitors, look at those zucchini plants. There was not one, but four hills of maturing zucchini vines, weaving their way towards the garden gate, encroaching on the carrots, corn, and tomatoes, heading south into the cattle pasture. I was thrilled. Inflated with pride, I bragged about our good fortune and discussed the benefits of “hilling” vs “rows” in zucchini raising. They listened. They nodded. They smiled, indulgently. (That was Not a smirk…there were no smug smiles, I’m positive).


No one shouted, “What the heck? Four hills of zucchini? Are you nuts! Are you trying to feed the entire Marine Corps?” ( Oh no…that was me…months later….screeching at the cows, grabbing zucchini from an overloaded wheelbarrow, tossing them over the garden fence, trying to entice those bovines into eating the big beautiful green zombies).


In our small rural town we leave our vehicles unlocked while grocery shopping, picking up mail at the Post Office or standing around gossiping. But, in the summertime, we watch for “The Desperate.” “The Desperate” are not difficult to identify…they’re the ones skulking in the shadows, dodging in and around parked cars, with their loaded brown bags, attempting to share their harvest when they locate an unlocked vehicle. If you are spotted casting about, like a zucchini Good Samaritan, friends and neighbors have been known to lock their car doors.


So, after you’ve given away all you can, taken boxes to the homeless shelter, and sold bags and bags at the local farmer’s market, what then? Well, you ask friends, rummage through cookbooks and surf the net for zillions of new zucchini recipes. And then you make and bake and freeze anything and everything you can dream up that could possibly include zucchini: chili, soup, spaghetti sauce, quiche, marmalade, pizza sauce, chips, bread, muffins, scones, cookies, cakes and when quite frantic, ice cream!


One of my favorite recipes is Chocolate Oh Chocolate Zucchini Cake. It’s quick, easy and freezes beautifully. If you are one of the lucky ones, with an over-abundant zucchini plant, or you have a friend who gardens, or if you’ve purchased this incredibly versatile vegetable, you’ll enjoy this delicious sweet zucchini treat.



  • 2 cs sugar
  • 3/4 c butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t baking soda dissolved in..
  • 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 cs flour
  • 1/2 c cocoa
  • 1/2 t salt, baking powder, cinnamon
  • 2 cs grated zucchini
  • 2 cs semi-sweet chocolate pieces Hold one cup in reserve.
  • 1 c chopped pecans (optional)


Cream sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla.

Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk and add to the creamed mixture.

Blend dry ingredients together and stir into creamed mixture.

Fold in the zucchini and chocolate pieces and nuts.

Pour batter into a 9X13 greased and floured pan. Top with remaining chocolate pieces.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.
Dust with powdered sugar.
Serve with ice cream if desired.


Wise Advice from a rural Sheriff….

When we lived on our rural ranch in the 1990’s, I was often alone with our children while my Sweet Husband traveled to Japan for his business. Our nearest neighbor was at least a mile down the road and the Sheriff’s Department was over an hour away.


It’s been said before, but it is true….rural people think differently than city people. We’re used to depending on ourselves or our neighbors. It’s not that we don’t appreciate “government” help, it’s just that it’s not always readily available. And most governmental agencies in rural areas expect their population to do what they can in the face of an emergency.


So, if there’s a fire on a hillside, we get our shovels, run up the hill and do what we can to contain it until the volunteer firemen get there.


One day my neighbor stopped by to tell me a convict, from our minimum security facility in the county, escaped from the crew working on our side of the mountain. I was home alone with our children. I called the Sheriff’s Department.


Deputy: Hello, how can I help you?

Me: I live in Surprise Valley and my neighbor told me one of the convicts on the work crew escaped. I’m home alone at my ranch. Can you tell me if this is true?

Deputy: Ma’am, I cannot verify that.

Me: You mean you can’t tell me if a convict escaped?

Deputy: That’s right ma’am.

Me: Well, let’s just pretend one of them did, what should I do?

Deputy: Leave your keys in your vehicle, load your gun and lock your door.

Me: Thank you. You’ve been very helpful!



See? I told you we think differently. Translation……


Leave my keys in the vehicle: Just in case the convict may want to use the car to escape. A car isn’t worth a life.


Lock my door: Why would he tell me to lock my door? Doesn’t everybody keep their doors locked? Normally we didn’t lock our doors, except maybe at night. On a ranch you sometimes have to go in and out several times a day or a neighbor might need to use your phone.


Load my gun: He presumed I had a gun and that I knew how to load and shoot it. (I did)


I’ll never forget his succinct, wise advice!


(My precious daughter-in-law took the above photograph at our ranch)





Who the ? Where the ? Why the ?

My Sweet Husband and I relished the thought of being at our ranch for a few days !

We left Redding and after about two and half hours we started up Cedar Pass.


On top, we encountered snow ! What a wonderful sight.

Dropping down into Surprise Valley, the snow disappeared.


Well, there were patches here and there.

After we did the arrival clean up, we took our tea and stood on our front porch

marveling at the quiet and peaceful view.


And then we decided to take a walk out in the corral.


My Sweet Husband…”Who the hell built this fence?”


“Where the hell is that blankety, bleep, bleep, badger?”


“Why the hell is that dog so happy?”

I suggested it might be time for another cup of calming tea !

May all your cares be soothed with a cuppa !

Happy Infusions,



Thank God It Was A Recording….

After the dump run and a few more clean up chores at the ranch, I decided to hook up my Wild Blue internet and connect with the more populous parts of the world !


Wild Blue is especially helpful to us who live in the most remote areas on God’s Great Earth ! (Birds really like Wild Blue too).


We always unplug the internet when we leave. We know from experience that an unexpected storm and power outage might occur and wreck havoc with all kinds of systems ! This has been firmly established in our minds after we lost 2 freezers full of beef !!

I plugged in the internet device. However, my computer kept saying ” perhaps you are out of range”. Well, that made me hoppin’ mad ! It isn’t cheap to have high speed internet service in the boondocks and I sure expected it to work !

I called the tech support number, which of course, re-routed me to another number and then it wasn’t even a “living” human being, but a recording asking me to go through a few simple steps. While listening, and remembering not to respond to the recording, I performed the required tasks. Like a robot I unplugged and plugged in the device again. And, still holding the phone to my ear, I saw there was another cord lying there. The recording continued to give directions, which I only half heard. I plugged in the second cord and low and behold, my device started showing the tell tale yellow light that says we have a wireless connection !


Thank God I had been talking to a recording and not a real person !

Obviously, I should have had a cup of tea first….but, you know, any time is a good time for tea !

Happy Infusions,


Watch out…..

From Cedarville to the ranch on County Road one,

you have to watch for……


and for……


also for…….


And watch out for your neighbor…..


And while you’re watching out for the critters and the farm machinery,

you also have to watch for rocks !!


Most of the the time the half hour trip is uneventful, but there have been days and nights when we have encountered all of the above !

Happy travels and don’t forget to have your tea when you get there !


Cowboy Ethics and The Last Lecture

The book and the letter from the court came in the same week.

Cowboy Ethics, a western “picture book”, written by James P. Owen, makes a case for what Wall Street could learn from the “Code of the West”. In the forward, David Stoecklein, (also the photographer), says, ” The West is a place where the fence is always tight, but the gate is always open to friends and neighbors. It is a place where a man can make tough decisions without looking over his shoulder or worrying what someone else will think. A cowboy get his strength from knowing what is right and what is wrong and being true to his beliefs”.
The Code is summarized in ten principles:
1. Live each day with courage
2. Take pride in your work
3. Always finish what you start
4. Do what has to be done
5. Be tough, but fair
6. When you make a promise, keep it
7. Ride for the brand
8. Talk less and say more
9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale
10. Know where to draw the line
At first, I viewed the book as entertaining, full of gorgeous photographs and good stories. People I know and love have always abided by similar tenets; it didn’t seem necessarily relevant to our personal lives. I decided this gem would be added to my ” Great Gift Ideas” list.
A few days later, the letter arrived from the court stating that our “friends” were filing bankruptcy . We had loaned them a great deal of money to buy equipment to start a business.
A contract had been drawn up and signed with an agreed upon repayment schedule. For the last six months we had been trying to communicate with them. All of our calls and letters were ignored.
Bewildered, we wondered why they hadn’t at least called or written to us to let us know they might be considering bankruptcy. Perhaps we could have recovered some of our loss with the sale of the equipment.
Smack !
Suddenly the book on ethics and a code of behavior became relevant. Realistically, I understand there is no way to legislate ethical behavior. Even in countries where punishment is severe, there are those who push the line and break “the rules”.
I don’t think we, us, the American people, have lost our commitment to honor principles. I do think we have to be diligent in remembering and teaching (especially by example) a code of ethics, values, what we stand for !
July 25th will be the one year anniversary of the death of Professor Randy Pausch, the author of The Last Lecture. He said in an interview with Diane Sawyer, that he wanted to leave his children memories of values, of what he stood for, not just memories of himself. The following interview is heart-rendering !

He was Dr. Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at a prestigious college in the east, but his values, his code of ethics closely resemble the “Code of the West”.
May we always remember however we describe our behavior, whether it is a “Code of the West” or “values” or “what we stand for”, the choices we make concerning our “manner of conducting ourselves” do matter !!
Happy Blessed Infusions,

Building a fence….Do It Right !

My husband commented to a young friend of ours the other day,
” You know Gabe, that fence you and I built is still in good shape !”
(Meaning the fence remains straight and taut having withstood herds of cows leaning on it, calves determined to crash through it, and deer
jumping over it).
Gabe, now nineteen, reminisced about the summer he was thirteen and stayed a week or so with us at the ranch to help build that fence.
I thought about all the fences my husband has built, starting when his mom married his second dad, Sherman. Sherman grew up in Likely, California on a ranch tucked deep into the
mountains. After Sherman married Phil’s mom, they always had donkeys or horses. Phil and his siblings built and rebuilt miles and miles of barb wire fences.
And since we’ve always had horses and cows, our son, daughters, son-in
-law to be, several nephews and young friends learned to build good strong fences capable of corralling critters and prevailing, in tact, through the years.
Barb wire fences are tough to build and maintain, especially if the terrain is steep or rocky. Post hole digging is tedious. Slamming steel post into hardened ground with a fence post driver is body numbing. It’s boring and slow moving….miles and miles of posts and wire. There is no way to avoid nicks, scratches, torn shirts and frustration. Depending on the weather, you are either sweating dirt or morphing into an icicle.
One year our rambunctious twenty year old son was in charge of the “day cowboys” ( our nephews) and fence building was the main project. On a scorching hot day, three dusty young men stomped into the house, declaring that Travis was impossible ! T.J. had just taken a measuring device and decided that the fence the boys had spent hours stretching and crimping didn’t meet his approval. He told them to rip it out and start over. They were fit to be tied !
Of course, T.J. had learned this technique from his father, and his grandfather. In ranching country how a man builds and maintains his fences affects his reputation. The fence has to be built just so…to last…to be straight…and taut…able to keep in his own stock and keep the neighbor’s bulls out !
Red Steagall, a cowboy poet, wrote a great poem, The Fence That Me and Shorty Built, summing up why it’s important to do a job right !
May all your infusions be lasting,

Shuckin’ corn in the Summertime

If you want to eat at the ranch, you have to help
with the work….

whether it’s feeding horses…

repairing a disk:









or shucking corn on the cob for dinner.



After the work is finished, you can rest your weary dogs ! And drink a little iced tea !

The proper way to Shuck Corn:

A Recipe: Corn on the Cob in Tin Foil on the Grill:

Take the husks off and clean off the silks. Using a piece of foil larger than the ear of corn, place the corn in the middle of the foil. Rub butter all over the corn and sprinkle salt and any other seasoning you like. Wrap the foil around the corn and place it on the grill. Roll the ears occasionally to make sure the corn cooks evenly.

After about 10 minutes, stick a fork through the foil to test . Kernels will be soft when the corn is done. Remove from the grill and cool for a bit. Take the foil off and enjoy !

Happy Summer Days !!



Tiny Town 4th of July Parade

Lake City, a tiny town (229 approximate population) in Surprise Valley, hosted a grand 4th of July Parade. Half the town were spectators and the other half were parade participants.

Our family had two entries:
1. Mitch on his quad pulling a trailer loaded with a goose (plastic) and the “dog that can do no wrong”, Osa. (My son’s old hunting dog).
2. Hayley, alternately riding, leading, or abandoning, Spaghetti, the “most patient pony in the world.”

Preparation for the parade :

High pressure wash the quad……

Decorate the pony….
Glitter and Bows

The quad, trailer and goose have been spruced up and loaded. Everyone takes a turn entertaining the pony so he won’t roll and mess up those perfect stars and that perky red bow.

Hey cowboy, that’s a mighty fine lookin’ horse !

Time to go. Hayley loads Spaghetti in the stock trailer.

Mitch checks his passengers before entering the line-up.

The Colors lead the way….

Uh oh…

…..who are all these people ?

Mitch’s Papa keeping pace.

Hayley and Spaghetti happy now to be with the other riders !

And a reminder for all of us….we have much to be thankful for….especially to live in the U.S.A.!

Hope you all had a blessed 4th of July !



Cousin Bonnie’s Apple Pie in a Cast Iron Skillet

  • Our current collection of cast iron cooking ware:

Bulleted List
We started using cast iron while living on our ranch in Surprise Valley. It seemed to fit our life style…durable, ( can take abuse), multi-purpose ( easily goes from stove to oven), inexpensive, lasts a life time ( or two) and cooks evenly. We still use cast iron at the ranch, but after replacing 3 Teflon skillets at our Redding home, I decided to invest in more cast iron cookware. My husband is a great cook, and the iron skillet suits his style and temperament..meaning he doesn’t want to worry about the pan he’s cooking in, while he’s cooking. An added bonus is having wrist and arms weights every time we cook !

Last week, at our Rinehart Family Reunion, in Cedarville, California, our Cousin Bonnie demonstrated how to make an apple pie in a cast iron skillet. We had asked everyone to bring a six inch cast iron skillet to make a pie for two. Twenty adult “Cousins”, and several of the younger generation, participated in this class.

Preparation began with peeling the apples: two young Rinehart cousins happily peeled 40 apples rather efficiently and floated them in water with a little lemon juice. Later, the apples were cored and sliced.

Pre-measured ingredients were stationed at two tables and dowels (our rolling pins) distributed.

Bonnie, an excellent cook, and practiced pie maker, discussed the importance of handling the dough as little as possible. This photo shows Bonnie forming the dough into a ball.

Just a little note, one time, when we were in our twenties, Bonnie got up and made three pies before daylight, so we could take them to the branding that day ! I watched with fascination…my Grandma could bake a great pie, but I’d never seen anyone do it so quickly ! I’ve been intimated about making pies for over 40 years now !

The results were stunning. The ooobh’s and aaahhh’s from delighted cousins identifying and admiring their finished handiwork filled the room. Everyone hurried through dinner so they could dig into their apple pie in a cast iron skillet !

A perfect recipe for the 4th of July weekend … Cousin Bonnie’s Cast Iron Skillet Apple Pie.

Happy celebrating & may all your infusions be as sweet as apple pie !


Cousin Bonnie’s Cast Iron Skillet Apple Pie


1 cup regular flour
1/2 cup shortening, ( Crisco, not butter or oil) needs to be kept cool
1/2 teaspoon salt
Using a fork or pastry blender, gradually work the shortening into the flour until it resembles pea size clumps

3 tablespoons water…mix in carefully
Form in ball and cut in half

Roll 1 ball on floured board/counter in circle for bottom crust, it must extend over edge of the skillet.


2 good size cooking apples (Granny Smith or other favorite) peeled, cored, sliced
3/4 cup sugar
“Scant” cup flour (just under a cup)
Shake of cinnamon
Mix well, pour into the 6″ iron skillet, mounding apples in the middle

Roll top crust larger than the skillet
Remove excess dough
Press sides of bottom and top crusts together to seal in juices
Finish edge and top as desired…include vent holes

Brush crust with milk, using pastry brush
Sprinkle top with cinnamon sugar

Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour, no matter what size

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