The creepy crawlies are coming.

Spring is here, and Colorado’s vernal display of flora and fauna will soon be in full swing.

Crawling and slithering in the midst of all that fauna will be reptilia and amphibia.

Spring days are prime time for searching for Colorado’s native creepy crawlies, from the Texas horned lizard, which shoots blood out of its eyes to defend itself from predators and to attract the sparkly attentions of one Edward Cullen, to the all-female clone armies of the checkered whiptail and the plateau striped whiptail.

In May, we’re releasing The Guide to Colorado Reptiles and Amphibians by Mary Taylor Young. It’s a helpful guide to all of the slithery and slimy beasties that Colorado has to offer.  The full-color photos and basic profiles of each critter will prove useful to novice herpetologists exploring their backyards and wilderness trails, as well as to anyone who has an interest in identifying the creepy and the crawly.

I had a pretty scary encounter with an unidentified reptilian a few weeks ago. I was shopping for a plant in the wilds of Home Depot. When I picked up a potted flower and tucked it safely in my arm, a small (but very vicious-looking) lizard darted from the plant to my jacket. I watch a lot of Born Survivor: Bear Grylls, so I knew how to react to an animal attack. But just because I knew better doesn’t mean I didn’t throw the plant on the ground while I danced around, making strange sounds, trying to take off my jacket while keeping the lizard as far as possible from my jugular vein. My husband nearly died that day from laughing so hard. If that lizard had been a Texas horned lizard, with a blood-shooting defense mechanism, I would have died from sheer terror. That’s why I take reptiles so seriously.

We’ll be posting more about The Guide to Colorado Reptiles and Amphibians in the weeks to come. I hope that our readers, like me, will be able to use it to identify herptiles in their Colorado habitats, from backyards to canyons, from creekbeds to the plant departments of big-box stores.

Fulcrum’s Own Homesteading Tips

Modern Homestead

Spring is upon us and the summer growing season is nearly here. Green-thumbs or soon-to-be green-thumbs all around the country are starting to buy seeds, clean up their yards, and plot out their summer gardens. Last week we asked our blog readers to share their best homesteading tips and ideas as we prepare for the release of Fulcrum’s newest spring title, Modern Homestead, and in honor of the always welcome change of seasons. (FYI, the Modern Homestead giveaway contest has been extended to April 5th, so comment on our blog with your best homesteading tips to be entered to win a free copy of Renee Wilkinson’s new book!)

It’s been so much fun hearing from our readers that Fulcrum’s special sales manager, Ingrid Estell, became inspired to share her own homesteading tips. Ingrid, an avid gardener and canner in Missoula, Montana, discusses what it’s like being a gardener who hates tomatoes, gives tips on what to do when a cold summer leaves you with 100 pounds of green tomatoes, and shares her wonderful recipe for salsa verde. Yum!

Ingrid: I am a gardener who hates tomatoes. Yes, I hate tomatoes. The plants give my arms and hands a rash if I don’t wear long sleeves and gloves when I’m around them. The ripe fruits are a wonderful color, but disgustingly slimy when cut. The fresh juice, just like the leaves, gives my skin a rash and can make my lips look like a botox treatment gone horribly wrong. So, I am a gardener who hates tomatoes, but I am also a gardener who loves homemade salsa and tomato sauce. Lucky for me, once tomatoes are peeled, diced, cooked, and spiced, they become the food of the gods.

I plant anywhere from 10 to 16 plants a year to feed my salsa and sauce habit: yellow pear for mellow sauce, San Marzano for homemade ketchup, Stupice for an early crop, and Costoluto Genovese and Brandywine for amazing sauce flavor. The yellow pear tomatoes I grow in pots on my deck; the rest I grow at a local community garden plot I’ve had for years.  Each plant can easily produce 10 pounds of fruit, sometimes considerably more.

I garden in Montana, and last year’s weather conditions were not the best for tomato ripening but were very good for fruit set. (Fruit set: once a flower is pollinated, it “sets,” or begins to produce the vegetable or fruit that is later eaten. Some plants have both male and female flowers, but only the female flowers produce fruit or vegetables.) The summer stayed cool; only a couple of days reached 90 degrees. Night temperatures hovered between 45 and 50 degrees. So what? you ask. Well, tomatoes are particular about what temperature they like for each part of their growing process. Soil temperature must be between 70 to 90 degrees for seeds to germinate, and plants are happiest if soil remains at 70 to 90 degrees throughout the growing season. Generally, fruit set happens between 59 and 68 degrees air temperature. Fruit ripening happens at 70 to 90 degrees air temperature that holds steady—meaning, no drops in nighttime temperatures. In 2010, the weather conspired with my tomato plants to produce many, many tomatoes, but to ripen very, very few. As cold fall weather approached, I had at least 100 pounds of green tomatoes on the vine.

What to do with 100 pounds of green tomatoes? Well, first, I picked the crop and laid it in a single layer on newspaper in a cool room with just a little light. That old adage of “ripen on the windowsill” will result in rotten tomatoes. Also, when ripening, the tomatoes cannot touch each other—just like toddlers, they spread disease and mayhem to each other. Most of the slightly red tomatoes quickly ripened up and I made them into sauce or ketchup. But many stayed a vibrant, glossy green. So, in the interest of actually using my garden’s produce, I learned to make several canned green tomato products: Piccalilli Relish, Green Tomato Chutney, and Salsa Verde (my favorite).

Here’s the Salsa Verde recipe I used:

Makes six 8-ounce jars or three pint jars. Recipe doubles easily.
7 cups chopped, cored, peeled green tomatoes
5 to 10 seeded and finely chopped jalepeño, habanero, or Scotch Bonnet peppers (for a milder salsa, use milder peppers: Anaheim, yellow wax, etc.)
2 cups finely chopped onion
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup lime juice (bottled works best)
1/2 cup loosely packed, finely chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids. If you don’t know what this means, please check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation at www.uga.edu/ncfp/how/general/recomm_jars_lids.htm.

2. Peel and core green tomatoes: make a small x in the bottom of each tomato, then drop into rapidly boiling water for 60–90 seconds. Then transfer the flash-boiled tomatoes to a bowl of ice water (or sink filled with ice water). Once they’re cool enough to touch, the skins should peel off easily with a small knife. To core the tomatoes, use a paring knife to cut out the top end (where the tomato was attached to the plant), taking out about 1/2 inch of the core.

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and lime juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in cilantro, cumin, oregano, salt, and black pepper. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace (headspace is the distance from the top of the salsa to the top of the jar, the rim). Remove air bubbles (run a knife or small rubber spatula around the inside of the jar to break-up any air bubbles—this is important, as air bubbles can harbor bacteria) and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot salsa. Wipe rim, make sure the rim is absolutely clean before putting the lid on. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

5. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process both 8-ounce and pint jars for 20 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.

6. Be sure to label and date your jars of canned goods. In general, home canned products are good for a year.

(Recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine. Toronto, ON: Robert Rose Inc., 2006.)

Salsa Verde is wonderful with chips, on tacos, or mixed into chicken noodle soup! Here’s a quick and delicious pumpkin soup recipe using a pint jar of Salsa Verde:

Serves 4–6
1 large can pumpkin (32 oz.)
1 quart vegetable broth (or chicken)
1 can black beans (16 oz.)
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 pint Salsa Verde
Sour cream, for garnish (optional)
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)

1. Place pumpkin and vegetable broth in a blender and combine (or whisk together in a stock pot).

2. Pour pumpkin and broth into a medium/large stock pot.

3. Add drained black beans, corn kernels, and Salsa Verde and heat through over medium high heat (5–10 minutes).

4. Ladle soup into bowls and top with sour cream and cilantro, if desired.

5. Serve with warm tortillas or with tortilla chips crushed and sprinkled on the top.

Adventures in Modern Homesteading

I was so excited to hear that we were publishing Modern Homestead, Renee Wilkinson’s DIY guide to urban homesteading.  A tenderfoot on the homesteading scene, I’ve long wanted to create my own self-sufficient homestead (a dream I’ve had since playing Oregon Trail as a tot), and I was thrilled to see Renee’s handy guide to sustainable living. I don’t have much of a green thumb, and in Boston the only planter I kept was the one that held cigarette butts and bottle caps on our front stoop. When I moved to Colorado in December, I was excited about the possibility of having a plot of green space bigger than a footprint and using it to grow my own food. I’m looking forward to reading Renee’s tips and tricks for homesteading newbies like myself.

I’ve already begun work on the ol’ homestead. In January, my sweet abuelita kindly offered me a wyandotte egglayer from her working farm in New Mexico to start us on our modern homesteading venture. Perhaps she had fond memories of my youth, when my brother and I would spend afternoons clinging to the screen door and screaming as chickens pecked for grain around our feet.  Abuelita presented us with an easygoing bird from her flock who was nothing like the vicious talon-wielding raptor I remembered from when I was five.

Meet Mr. Darcy Chickenator:

The finest hen there ever was.

She is a lady of fine breeding and taste, with a penchant for classical symphonies, particularly Bach. She speaks of Bach alone and nothing else.

We were delighted to receive our fluffy lil’ egg factory. We modified a standing rabbit hutch that we snagged on freecycle for her roost. Feed and grit is cheaper than the food we buy for our dog and cat.  So far it’s gone pretty smoothly. We haven’t had to resort to eating Mr. Darcy to feed ourselves, and she’s been happily spending her days clucking, laying eggs, and scaring the dog. We have fresh eggs every morning and a new appreciation for our tiny backyard, which we now call “nature’s television.” Many an evening is spent, beer in hand, watching our chicken poke around the yard.

Mr. Darcy Chickenator patrols the yard for zombies. She's ready for you, zombies.

It’s a good start to a modern homestead, and we hope to build on it, with more birds, a garden, and of course, some proper zombie fortifications. It’s a small step toward self-sufficiency for two city slickers.

GIVEAWAY: We will award one of our readers a free copy of Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create for providing their most innovative homesteading tip (in writing or picture). Please send your tip via our Facebook page, or comment on our blog. Results will be posted and a winner will be awarded on Thursday, March 31. We can’t wait to see your ideas!

Are You Ready to Ramble?

The days are getting longer, temperatures are warming, and I even spotted some little green buds on the trees in my yard this past weekend. To some of you, this means one thing—summer road trip season is nearly upon us! Many Americans venture out on the roads each summer by piling the family into the minivan or wagon à la Clark Griswold and exploring our nation’s treasures, from beaches and forests to national monuments and national parks. There’s a whole world out there and plenty to see, but sometimes it can be difficult to pick your route and narrow down the sites to visit. And sometimes you are looking for a different kind of road trip…

Eric Peterson and his Ramble books, including Ramble: A Field Guide to the U.S.A .(978-1-933108-08-8), Ramble Colorado (978-1-933108-19-3), Ramble Texas (978-1-933108-28-5), and Ramble California (978-1-933108-20-9), could be just the resources to turn to as you start planning your next offbeat rolling adventure. In these “wanderer’s guides to the offbeat, overlooked, and outrageous,” Peterson leads readers to the wild and wacky road stops, restaurants, motels, and cafés that one might miss using a standard travel book. Peterson, a Denver-based seasoned and highly entertaining travel writer, captures the must-sees across the US and shares quirky tales that will make you feel different when you take trips in the future. Fulcrum recently caught up with Eric, and he shared memories of his first road trip, his process for writing the Ramble series books, and advice for newbie road-trippers.

You say that you’ve been traveling since you were first born—what is your first or most humorous road trip memory from childhood?

 

Eric: My family took a lot of Chevy Chase–style cross-country vacations when I was a kid. The first road trip memory I have is a grappling with Paul Bunyan’s boots a toddler in Bemidji, Minnesota. I came up to his big toe. My most humorous road trip memory involved an April Fool’s Day joke: my sister Arin roused me from bed in New York City by announcing the presence of a frog in the shower. I was about eight at the time, and nothing got me going quite like a frog.

How did the idea come about for the Ramble series?

 

Eric: I was working for a mass-market guidebook, inspecting hotels and motels in the Pacific Northwest, when it struck me that I never stayed at the places I inspected, but of course I was attracted to the nearest roadside oddities that weren’t covered in that particular guidebook. The lack of a point of view in some travel books also struck me as backward, because traveling is such a personal—and definitively human—experience. So I cobbled together a concept of a first-person guidebook focused on the bizarre and unusual. That was about a decade before Ramble: A Field Guide to the U.S.A. was published.

What kind of research did you have to do for the books, and how did you happen to find all these wacky places across the US?

 

Eric: I always start out with as many library books on the state in question as I can carry home, a state map, and a bunch of little circular stickers so I can mark places I want to check out. Next comes thousands and thousands of miles of driving, biking, walking, and stumbling to all manner of offbeat attractions. But the best research always happens unexpectedly on the road, when I accidentally discover something I had no idea even existed.

What is the most outrageous place you have rambled to?

 

Eric: That’s a tough one. Places that come to mind include (but are not limited to) the top of High Dune in the Great Sand Dunes (Colorado), the bottom of Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley (California), a barstool at the Meet Rack (Tucson, Arizona), and Gibsonton, Florida, long a winter haven for sideshow performers and carnies. The whole town is just a little off.

As someone who has road-tripped and traveled professionally for many years, what advice do you have for families or individuals looking to embark on their first road trip?

 

Eric: Exit the interstate and explore the back roads. Park the car and lace up your boots. And take your time getting home.

Do you have a dream state or geographic area that you’d like to write about for a next book in the Ramble series?

Eric: I’d love to cover New York, then maybe Minnesota and Tennessee. Or Europe. Europe would be a lot of fun.

Renee Wilkinson: Blogger, Fire Escape Gardener, and Raiser of Bantam Chickens

 

It takes quite a bit to pull me off my high horse after I have done something “homemakery,” as I call it (i.e., cooking food from actual ingredients, instead of putting a TV dinner into the microwave). For instance, I baked an apple pie a few weeks ago to impress someone special, and when I pulled it out of the oven and it wasn’t burnt to a crisp nor did it taste like dog food, I wanted to immediately change my name to Martha Stewart.

Then along came Renee Wilkinson, creator of the popular site HipChickDigs.com and our newest Fulcrum author, and knocked me right off that horse. Not only does Renee cook, bake, garden, and can, she also raises bantam chickens (named Pearl, Maude, and Florence) and bees (I don’t believe she names the bees, though). This woman is amazing and so is her book, Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create (April 2011, 978-1-55591-748-7), and not just because she is so resourceful and innovative, but because she provides simple, practical advice—even for people like me, with little time, space, or know-how. (What cool tips do you have to make your urban space into a sustainable home? See GIVEAWAY details below…)

I recently caught up with Renee to discuss her inspiration for Modern Homestead and the process of writing her first book. I think she’ll quickly become your idol too. Plus, isn’t she cute?

Please talk a little bit about your decision to begin this journey and write Modern Homestead. How different is the process from writing and maintaining HipChickDigs.com?
Renee: I remember beginning my early gardening adventures and feeling really uncertain about whether I was doing it all “right.” The books I found at the time didn’t seem approachable for a beginner, so I fell back on my parents and grandparents for gardening advice. A few gardens down the road, I started to make the transition from urban gardener to urban homesteader—keeping backyard livestock, canning the harvest, and getting involved in the local food system. Around that time I started HipChickDigs.com as a way to reach more people who were interested in urban homesteading, but, like me, couldn’t find a lot of practical information online or in books.

The blog turned into a responsibility after a few years. I felt, and still do, like I owe my readers frequent posts. There are still lots of people out there looking for help, or at least looking for community. It’s nice to know we’re not alone on this adventure. When Fulcrum approached me about writing a book, I felt like this was my chance to reach even more people. This was the book I wish I had those first few years.

The process was really serious for me. I was balancing my first year of graduate school with living long distance from my partner. Researching and writing the book was my escape from all that. It was a chance to draw stories about keeping goats out of my grandparents. I got to read all kinds of books to really flesh out my knowledge on the more obscure topics. It was a pleasure to write—to just swim around in that lifestyle I love—but it was also stressful. Looking back, I’m really not sure how I balanced it all!

What was the most challenging part of creating this book? Do you have any advice to share for hopeful first-time authors?

Renee: An author friend of mine, Laura Irwin, gave me this advice before I committed to the project: “Don’t write a book unless you really, really want to write a book.” At the time it seemed silly. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to write a book? But a few months in I knew what she meant. It’s a huge project once you get a month or two in. My buddies would go out for beers and I would need to say, “No, I’ve got writing to do.” I was like a broken record for months.

Creating a production schedule was immensely helpful. It’s a massive project and you have to split it up into bite-sized pieces. It feels good to cross things off that list, knowing you are still moving forward despite the months of work ahead. I broke it down by chapter, then by section, gave myself timelines and stuck to them. I also front loaded my schedule, to leave a little wiggle room toward the end just in case I needed it. And of course I needed it.

Where do you get your energy to do all this modern homesteading? I am very impressed.

Renee: You could certainly make the argument that I am hyperproductive.  I guess I grew up in a household that valued that. We had chores, my dad was always needing our help in the garden, my mom always had a long do-to list that she needed help with…

Despite being so productive, I balance it with serious downtime and try to take really good care of myself. I can spend hours working outside, which is really meditative for me and keeps me pretty centered. I get a lot of sleep and eat pretty healthily, which keeps me fit and energetic. Life is short, sometimes too short, and I just want to get every drop I can from mine.

What is the most valuable project featured in the book that a newbie to gardening or canning or raising livestock can learn?

Renee: Boy, that’s a tough one…I’ve found that the fear of doing something “wrong” often paralyzes people into doing nothing instead. So although it’s not really a project, I think the most valuable thing a newbie can learn from the book is that we all have to start somewhere. The book is full of good projects to start this adventure.

Perhaps one of my favorite projects is the bantam chicken coop. It’s so small and easy to move, and chickens are such cute little creatures. I wish I could go back in time to some of the small rentals I lived in and build this coop. I always thought I needed to wait until I had a huge house that I owned, but this is a project great for small spaces and rentals.

For folks interested in canning, reading about how important it is to can with friends will be a huge help. Friends, finger foods, and good music will make it such a fun experience. I’ve done it without these things and the time just seems to drag on and on.

And for those getting their hands dirty for the first time, the soil information is super important. You have to know how to cultivate good soil if you want a good garden. Period.

GIVEAWAY: We will award one of our readers a free copy of Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create for providing their most innovative homesteading tip (in writing or picture). Please send your tip via our Facebook page, or comment on our blog. Results will be posted and a winner will be awarded on Thursday, March 31. We can’t wait to see your ideas!

Canoecopia 2011 Recap

Canoecopia 2011 has come and gone, and from what we’ve heard, it was a smashing success. Jack and Carolyn made it back to Colorado safe and sound after a busy weekend in Wisconsin, and we caught up with them to get their thoughts on attending the world’s largest paddlesports exposition. Read on to learn about the Last River Rat, yoga for paddlers, and a really cool sofa.

Carolyn: I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect at Canoecopia. What I found was people who not only love paddling, but who are also interested in preserving our natural world and the spiritual experiences we have out in it. Here are some of the highlights of my weekend at the show.

Beer. At what other tradeshow can you walk the floor with beer in hand?

Campfires and Loon Calls. Fulcrum’s own Jerry Apps gave an outstanding talk (twice!) on the magic of the Boundary Waters. Jerry is such a treat to hear, with hilarious stories that just roll off his tongue. He has a lot of events this month and in early April, so be sure to get yourself to one of them!

Yoga for Kayaking. World-class paddler and yoga instructor Anna Levesque of Girls At Play taught a yoga class on Saturday morning. I’ve been wanting to try yoga, and this class made it all the more relevant for me. What a great time-out from the hectic show floor and grueling presentation schedule!

Cliffs, Canyon, and Canoes: Adventures in America’s Southwest. Don Halloran showed some great historical photos and shared paddling stories of my favorite recreation place—southern Utah. I’d love to see more presentations on and vendors promoting the West at next year’s Canoecopia. There’s so much to do out here.

KayakChicago.com. I love Chicago, but it’s never occurred to me to kayak while I’m there—what a brilliant idea! We stopped by their booth and found out about all sorts of tours they do, six of them in all, including stand-up paddling (so hot right now). I’ll be signing up for the Fireworks Paddle the next time I’m in town.

Mississippi: Tales of the Last River Rat. Wow. Just wow. Kenny Salwey spent much of his life in the backwaters of the Mississippi, living a disappearing way of life. If you can track it down, check out the BBC documentary about Salwey, based on a couple of his books. During his presentation, he brought tears to my eyes, and the packed room gave him a standing ovation. A fantastic storyteller and a dedicated environmental educator, Salwey is a true kindred spirit.

This sofa. Not only can it seat all your friends, it has its own magazine rack at each end.

Jack: I came to Canoecopia worried about how I’d stack up to the folks my age with a head start in paddling. Would I feel overwhelmed by all the superfit, superinformed thirty-somethings who grew up on the water? It turned out that I hardly noticed them. (Except for this guy who was staying at our hotel who had forearms the size of my thighs. Damn!) The sessions I enjoyed most were actually those of the elders. My three favorite sessions featured old fogies talking about their adventures. Who would have guessed? If you want to get a flavor for what these old timers have to offer, check out Kenny Salwey. The BBC did a piece on him, so he’s probably the easiest to get some good info on in just a few clicks.

Of course, Canoecopia wasn’t the only thing happening in Madison this past weekend. I’ll leave the wrap-up to Sam, but I thought this photo expressed my personal theme of the weekend.

Spring Has Sprung: Fulcrum’s Staff Picks for Spring Break Reading

It is 50 degrees in Denver today (although it feels like 80), there isn’t a cloud in the sky, and all we want to do is go outside, lie in the warm grass, and read. With nearly 500 titles in our backlist, where do we start? Here are a few wonderful selections from Fulcrum staff members who would rather be outside reading (or on Spring Break) than indoors working today. Join us and pick up one of these titles, and enjoy the beginning of spring!

Dani Perea, Marketing & Sales Associate:

My ideal vacation is spent enjoying the finest morbid tourism our great country has to offer: cemeteries with resident vampires, places where rock stars croaked, hauntings, battlefields, and small towns with chupacabra problems. For my next vacation, I’ll be stowing Dick Kreck’s Murder at the Brown Palace: A True Story of Seduction and Betrayal next to my Ouija board and electromagnetic field meter. This book has all the gory details: murder, drugs, sex, and high-society living—all a gal needs to relax and enjoy herself away from home.

Jack Lenzo, Designer:

Every month I anxiously await the arrival of my beloved Outside magazine. Even though my rational mind knows to expect a few more snows, I can’t help but get excited about adventure season, and Outside does a great job of  hyping me up. But last week it got me going in a different way by focusing on the bad blood between bikers and drivers. Oh, there’s plenty! But why not start the season off on a better foot? Great Road Rides Denver is a positive step in normalizing relations between these two groups. It offers great tips and facts about safe biking as well as a number of excellent bike-friendly routes that keep the blood pressure down on both sides. And that, my friends, sounds better than putting on my helmet and preparing for battle.


Sam Scinta, Publisher:

First pick: The Stork’s Nest: Life and Love in the Russian Countryside. Love, nature, remote Russian villages…what more could a reader want? This book paints a portrait of the Russia I have always dreamed of, the one that, sadly, is disappearing. And Laura writes a lovely tale.

Second pick: Buffalo Unbound: A Celebration. Now perhaps I am biased, being a Buffalonian (or, maybe I simply have a thing for authors named Laura), but this laugh-out-loud history of Buffalo and its various subcultures is especially timely given the rebirth of old industrial cities across the country.

Katie O’Neill, Marketing Manger:

I have grand plans to travel LOTS this spring and summer (mainly around our fine state of Colorado), and the first time I step out the door with my overnight bag, some snacks, and my pup, I plan on bringing Lines from a Mined Mind: The Words of John Trudell along with me. John Trudell (Santee Sioux) is an acclaimed poet, national recording artist, actor, and activist with an international following, and Fulcrum was lucky enough to publish this beautiful anthology of lyrics from Trudell’s recording career. This is the perfect book for traveling: short pieces of beautiful, deep, and lyrical writing to read at night under the stars.

Brynn Flaherty, Marketing Assistant:

When I go on a little spring vacation this April, I plan on reading The Birth (And Death) of the Cool by Ted Gioia. I have been eyeing this book on the Fulcrum bookshelves since I started working here four months ago, and I think I’m finally going to dig in and read it. I remember enjoying The History of Jazz by Gioia when it was assigned in one of my college classes, and I’m interested to see how Gioia takes his knowledge of the Jazz Age through the 1950s and applies it to the evolution of “the cool.” In this cultural history, Gioia shows why cool is not a timeless concept and how it has begun to lose its meaning in present-day society. Whether or not we believe the cool is out of style now, I will always be intrigued by the personas and lifestyles of Miles Davis, James Dean, and the others that shaped our view of cool from the the 1950s. In my opinion, these guys will always be cool.

Plus, I think its got a really cool cover.

In the Bluff

a blog from Wisconsin’s west coastPublisher Sam Scinta

(the opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the author only, and do not represent the opinions of the company or its employees)

March 10, 2010

 

“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice.

Alice in Wonderland

As most of you are aware, things have taken a turn for the strange and the worse out here in Wisconsin. It definitely feels like we are tumbling down the rabbit hole and that these latest actions will most certainly have national ramifications. I will leave it to others smarter than I to weigh in on the legality of the Wisconsin State Senate’s move last evening (passing in special subcommittee, with no public notice and without a quorum, a bill that strips away collective bargaining for most public employees); upon cursorily reviewing the materials, a case can certainly be made for its legality. Suffice it to say, legal or not, what happened here in Wisconsin last evening was an affront to the democratic process. To rush something like this through without notifying the public (and giving cursory notice to the Democratic state senators), effectively making a secret backroom deal (when hints of compromise by both sides were being expressed just the day before) and twisting procedural and parliamentary rules to get your way, is not what we should expect from our government. I request that those who support actions like this halt any references to the founders and our constitution in making their arguments, for surely, this is not the sort of government our founders had in mind.

While almost all of the Republican state senators voted for the bill, a lone voice of dissent stood up yet again—Senator Dale Schultz. We should all thank Senator Schultz today for his stand on government transparency, for his continued willingness to find compromise on a complex and difficult issue, and for his sense of fair play. He is a modern-day profile in courage. I have had the good fortune to know and work with many courageous and principled politicians over the years, (including one of my political heroes, Wisconsin-native Dick Lamm, who was willing in many instances to stand up for his convictions even if it meant losing support of his party). Senator Schultz will be remembered long after this debate has passed, when all of the other names are forgotten, as the Republican who stood up for the people and for democracy.

So where do we go from here? The state legislature will move ahead with its actions and battle lines will continue to be drawn; legal challenges to the latest actions are almost a certainty; and protests and recall efforts will push ahead, as the citizens of the state engage in the democratic process. Because these issues represent a turning point not only for Wisconsin but for the nation, I am going to redouble my efforts through Fulcrum and its affiliates to continue providing a platform for intelligent and civil debate on the future of our country. This will include looking to the founders and their wisdom, for we need them now more than ever. Don’t confuse this with the recent trend of founder fetishization; men like Adams and Jefferson were not giants walking the earth, and they certainly made their share of mistakes. But in creating the American political system, they understood that this American experiment was subject to change and continued debate. As Fareed Zakaria noted in a recent article, “The founders loved America, but they also understood that it was a work in progress.” This much-needed debate can only occur by those willing to share and listen, to sometimes face uncomfortable truths, to show a willingness to compromise, and most importantly, to comport oneself with civility. In the coming weeks, through a variety of projects under way, we will be doing our small part to help restore the debate and forge a more perfect union.


Canoecopia 2011: Join Carolyn, Jack, and Jerry Apps in Madison, WI

If you find yourself daydreaming about summer and the upcoming canoe season, you are not alone. In fact, Canoecopia, the World’s Largest Paddlesports Exposition, starts in just three days! This year’s exhibition, held March 11–13, at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, WI, will feature Fulcrum author Jerry Apps (Campfires and Loon Calls: Travels in the Boundary Waters) on both Friday and Saturday afternoons (Friday, March 11, at 5 pm, and Saturday, March 12, at 3:30 pm). Jerry will share some of his stories (from over 25 years of Boundary Waters experience) and offer canoe camping tips.

This is very exciting news, we know, and really we could end the blog there. But this year there will be two other attendees at the show that need special attention: Fulcrum’s own editor Carolyn Sobczak and designer Jack Lenzo. Both Jack and Carolyn are newbies to Canoecopia, but not to canoeing, and when offered the opportunity to attend the show with Jerry, both jumped at the chance. We caught up with Jack and Carolyn and asked them to share a bit about their own experiences with canoe camping and their preparations for the show this weekend:

Excited to be newbies

JACK : I have this vivid memory of being six and listening to my parents read about recent deaths on the Colorado River. Then they turned to me and asked, “What day do you want to go rafting?” Never, thank you very much!

Two days later and after an hour clinging to the chicken rope, I realized how much fun everyone else was having, and I wanted in. Kind of the story of my life. So how does a chicken transition to river rat? Well, step one was to buy an inflatable kayak. I get the sense that they’re not as cool as I thought they were. But hardcore water folk be damned. I gotta start somewhere. Step two: CANOECOPIA.

 

(Pictured above: Jack at Canyon Ferry, just outside of Helena, Montana)

Really? I get to go for work? Hell yeah! I’m looking for some intel on beginner rivers out here in the West. (My plans to float the Green through Canyonlands are on hold while they rebuild the roads).

(Pictured above: Washed-out Mineral Bottom Road switchbacks. National Park Service photo by Neal Herbert)

Or maybe some classes that can give me some confidence? So here’s hopin’ that the river pros have some tips for hesitant but excited newbies.

CAROLYN : Jack and I did our first kayak trip at Lake Powell in 2009. A couple months before, we tried out the kayak in a pool, loading it up to see just how much it could handle. I was pretty confident, then, when we headed out from Halls Crossing.


(Pictured above: Jack and Carolyn in the inflatable kayak in Carolyn’s parents’ pool)

But after six hours on the water, I was finally in silent tears—water was sloshing over the sides of our kayak from the three-foot swells caused by motorboats (I guess no one follows the no-wake rules?).

Luckily, we had just rounded one of the steep canyon walls to find the perfect camping spot. Here’s a short clip of where we ended up in Moqui Canyon.

Despite ten minutes of sheer terror when I was convinced we were about to sink, I really enjoyed our trip, and we’ve since tried to get out to whatever reservoir or lake we can find (until we can schedule a river trip). I hope at Canoecopia we’ll get the inside scoop about other great places to paddle!

(Picture above: Carolyn and Jack in Lake Powell, 2009)

Tune in next week when Jack and Carolyn return from the land of Canoecopia!

 

Round-up: This week in books

Lots of news in our little corner of the bookverse this week.

Richard Hetzler’s The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook won the Gourmand “Best in the World” award in the Best Local Cuisine category. It’s the one cookbook to rule them all!

Native Citizen News Network posted this wonderful video featuring Walter Echo-Hawk and his new book, In the Courts of the Conqueror.

This week also marked the national celebration of Read Across America Day. Read Across America Day was created by the National Education Association as an annual reading motivation program that calls for every community to celebrate reading and children’s literacy on March 2,  Dr. Suess’s birthday. You can read President Obama’s official proclamation of the holiday here.

On March 2, Congress and President Obama eliminated funding to Reading Is Fundamental (RIF). The program provides free books to over 4 million children who don’t have adequate access to public libraries. As a foreign services/military brat, I spent most of my childhood with my beak buried in a book supplied to the local base by the RIF program. I was very disappointed to see the loss of a program that gave me and millions of other children access to quality books.

That’s all the news that’s fit to blog for this week. Have a great weekend, and happy reading, everyone.