The Pinyon: Pine Nut Hunting in the Virginia City Highlands

English: Shelled pine nuts.

Pine nuts are the little brown seeds that grow in the cone of the Pinyon Pine tree. The Pinyon Pine is a stocky, scrubby-looking tree that grows in the Virginia City Highlands of Nevada. If you love pine nuts, then this is a valuable tree to seek for its hidden treasure.

Beneath the hard brown shell lays the expensive creamy kernel. Why are pines nuts so expensive? Harvesting pine nuts can be labor intensive. Once the pine cones are harvested and gathered, each little brown shell must be plucked out by hand. Then the nut is boiled for a minute, until blanched, removed from the hard shell and placed out to dry.

The pine nut is one of the most nutritious nuts you can eat. It is considered a perfect food, high in antioxidants and fiber. It can be added to salads, or eaten raw, or roasted with a sprinkle of salt. I recently added pine nuts to a stuffed zucchini recipe and it was delicious.

This fall is the perfect season for pine nut hunting in the Virginia City Highlands, Nevada. While gathering the pine cones you might stumble upon a herd of wild horses, or catch a glimpse of a shy bobcat that roam the hills.

How do you like to eat pine nuts? What are your favorite recipes with pine nuts?


Summer’s Over, Welcome Autumn

English: Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe. Deutsch: Eme...

English: Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe. Deutsch: Emerald Bay mit Fannette Island im Südwesten des Lake Tahoe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the start of summer I had such high hopes. I longed to relive the summer vacations I spent as a teenager, which usually entailed trips to the Santa Monica Pier and the beach with friends, long afternoons reading every Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Danielle Steel novel (I know! Danielle Steel isn’t one of the classics, but I couldn’t help from sneaking into my mom’s secret book place and snagging one those treasures for myself).

I spent days at my cousins frigid pool where we dared each other to tolerate the cold water the longest. We would slowly dip in: first our toes, then dip lower to our hips, then waist-level, and when we couldn’t take it any longer we submerged our heads until our bodies adjusted to the temperature. I don’t know why my uncle never heated his pool. I guess since we lived in the  San Fernando Valley in Southern California, and the days were plenty hot, he thought that was good enough. I can’t remember him ever swimming in the pool come to think of it. But, anyway, I digress.

As a 40-something I knew I couldn’t totally relive the past. I have responsibilities after all! But, to snag just a bit of that nostalgia was something I yearned for this past summer. Needless to say none of it really worked out.

I spent one total day at the beach at Lake Tahoe, I never finished The Brother’s Karamazov like I was supposed to, and I had some upheavals in my personal life (which I won’t go into) that nearly derailed me. Suffice it to say, it was not the summer I dreamed.

Now that we are entering Autumn, my very favorite time of year in Reno, Nevada. I look forward to crisp days, nights by the chiminea  with a full glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, and chatting amiably with my husband.

The leaves are turning golden, and plum colored. The sky is that bright blue, unique to Sierra Nevada. I never tire of gazing at the contrasts of colors. My hopes are once again set on wonderful times spent with friends and dear family members, finishing The Brothers Karamazov, and outlining that new novel I’ve been obsessing over.

As the days get shorter did you reach the goals you set for the summer months? Or, like me as the summer months fade away you set your hopes now on a full and active fall.

Wild Horse Roundup in Reno, Nevada

English: Bureau of Land Management logo

Two days ago while driving around town, I saw an astounding sight. A helicopter was swooping and circling around a vacant field that is a well-known spot for viewing wild horses.  My curiosity was piqued and Paul and I drove over to investigate what was going on. We saw some bystanders, a neighbor lady and two guys on bicycles, and pulled over to ask them about it. Apparently, this was a federal Bureau of Land Management roundup of the wild horses. The astounding part about it was that there were a group of people out among the herd of wild horses.

The neighbor lady pointed out to the middle of the field and told us that there was a trap out there for the horses, but these people (were they PETA? We couldn’t tell, maybe they were just protective Reno citizens, or wild horse activists) were preventing them from getting put in the corral. Well, it wasn’t our fight, so we drove off, but I couldn’t help feel sorry for the horses. I really don’t know what the issues are, so it’s hard for me to take one side or the other.

The federal Bureau of Land Management has the responsibility of looking after the horses. After many such roundups

Horses in my Dreams #4

they auction off the horses. I wondered just how many horses actually get auctioned off to loving homes, or do the leftover horses get put down? They claim they wouldn’t euthanize a healthy horse, nor do they get shipped off to slaughterhouses in Canada, or Mexico. But, who really knows? I’m somewhat worried since President Obama lifted the ban on horse slaughter late last year. I’ll tell you this, I’m an American citizen, born and raised, and I have never seen horse meat on the menu of any restaurant in America that I have been to. Are they shipping our wild horses in tin cans to China, or Europe, as some have suggested?

Horse meat just does not appeal to me. Horses are pets, they are majestic and beautiful creatures, and native to this land. They helped establish the west, for heaven’s sake.

A friend of mine asked: “Well why not? It’s an animal isn’t it?”

I replied: “That’s true, but you don’t see cows and pigs entered in Olympic events do you?” What could she do, but agree with me. Aside from Cowboys riding bulls in the Reno Rodeo, no bull was ever graded on its superior ability to perform dressage.

Horse and Rider

I am against animal cruelty, and it is cruel to see the poor, pitiful creatures starve. It is a slow agonizing death. They also roam the streets at all hours of the day and night, and often get hit by drivers. That is a tragedy. They should be protected and kept off the streets. I just don’t know what a good solution would be.

I love our northern Nevada wild horses. The herds this year look healthy and strong, with glossy coats. The foals are small, but nimble and mighty. They are precious to our culture and iconic symbols of the west.

That’s what I have to say. What do you think? Can humankind ever find a way to live peaceably with the animal kingdom?

Check out these great articles on the wild horse issue:


Books: Scarlett O’Hara was Prejudiced

I’ve read Gone with the Wind probably five times, so it is fair to say that it is my absolute favorite book. Recently, I purchased the unabridged audio book and couldn’t wait to hear it in all its southern glory. Well, I was shocked to the core when Scarlett, in an inner dialogue, accuses her former overseer, Wilkerson, as being a “n*&%$# loving so and so. How had I missed that in all the years of loving this book?! Listening to someone else read a book versus reading for oneself definitely changes it up. I now  heard my beloved in a whole new way.

Was Scarlett O’ Hara prejudiced? It certainly sounded so. Was Margaret Mitchell prejudiced and it just came out in this

Cropped screenshot of Vivien Leigh from the tr...

unlikable character she created, or was she a master storyteller and knew how to give us a complex character, one whom we wouldn’t necessarily like, but fundamentally root for anyway?

If you think about it, without giving away spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read this book (it only came out more than 70 years ago, get with it people!) things don’t really go well for poor Scarlett: she suffers hardship and deprivation, she realizes only too late who her real friends are, and well…I might give it away here, but it ends with that famous quote: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” So, maybe Margaret Mitchell wanted to show Scarlett who was boss, and that she couldn’t get away with her shenanigans without consequence.

When you think about it don’t we all harbor some form of prejudice in our hearts? Some are against people of another race, some have prejudices within their own race, some don’t like this religion or that one, some are against the rich, or the poor. Some  don’t like fat people, some don’t like skinny people. Some don’t like old people, while some don’t like young ones. Heck, my own mother is prejudiced against jarred tomato sauce (which I have no problem using).

So, love her or hate her, Scarlett is merely a reflection of the times in which she lived and the unfortunate opinions of many from that time period. Gone with the Wind proudly displays a slice of American history that a few would prefer to hide (I would venture to say, however, that there are those who viewed it as their southern history and displayed it on the coffee table next to the family Bible).  But, Scarlett O ‘Hara gets into our minds and regrettably our hearts. So, while I don’t agree with the sentiments of this fictional character, she is real, she is human and her brilliantly drawn character has resonated with millions for seven decades.

That’s what I have to say. What famous fictional character resonates with you?

First Person: National Championship Air Races Grace the Northern Nevada Sky Once Again

As the Reno Air Races get under way this coming week I can’t help but reflect on last years tragic race events. I had

T6 at Reno Air Races

T6 at Reno Air Races (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

picked up my father from the airport (he flies his own plane to Reno). After getting settled at home we each took a well deserved nap. Around 5 p.m. my mother called. In a panicked voice she asked if we had been at the air races that day. “No,” I replied, “we both took a nap.” I started to giggle, what a luxurious life  I lead. My mother brought me back to the conversation.

“Did you see the news? There was a terrible airplane crash at the races today. I was so worried about you two. When Carol heard the news she came right over to be with me.”

“No Mom, we’re fine we never went today. What are you talking about?” I asked.

“A plane crashed right down into the crowd and killed a bunch of people,” she said.

“Oh my gosh!” My father walked into the room, his hair slightly disheveled, and I quickly told him there was a crash at the races today. We turned on the t.v. and were astounded by the news. It looked like some kind of war zone. People were airlifted by helicopter to the hospital. We saw a victim wheeled into the hospital on a gurney and it appeared he was missing a leg.

What happened at the races? The newscaster reported that some in the crowd were hit by flying airplane parts when the

English: Reno Air Races - Visitors Reno Air Ra...

plane crashed straight into the ground. We heard reports of beheading, sheared arms and legs. It was carnage. My father and I were completely speechless and all we could do was watch the same news report over and over.

My father, a seasoned pilot, sat and tried to figure out what had gone wrong with the pilot, or what could have possible gone wrong with the plane. He was trying to make some kind of sense of the whole thing by working out the different scenarios of what the pilot was doing at the precise moment the aircraft failed.  I reeled from the details of the crash. I told my father that had we gone to the races that day, the location of the crash is just where I wanted to sit. I felt like splurging on tickets since this weekend it was just the two of us (my husband was away from home and my mom didn’t come to Reno on this trip).

What a tragedy for the family members who lost loved ones that day and those seriously injured.

My father knew people who worked at NBC and felt he could meet up with them and hear more news about the crash, so the next day we headed to the race site to see what we could find out. It was a subdued atmosphere. The pilots were packing up their gear and planes, and heading home. We were blocked from the crash site, but the news people had been hanging around for hours waiting for a special announcement from race officials. Needless to say, we didn’t get much information, but it was depressing and unfortunate that so many race hopefuls had to pack it in before even starting.

There was no question, the races were canceled, maybe even forever.

But, here it is September, and the air races are scheduled. My father is coming and my mother too. My father has never missed a race in over forty years, except when they were canceled after 9/11. My mother refuses to attend after she witnessed one crash some thirty years ago.  I can’t really blame her.

Giant Redwood Thrives in the Urban Forest of Reno, Nevada

Now that the summer Olympics are over and the winning athletes have returned to their homes as medal bearing champions, my attention is focused on an entirely different champion this fall: The Giant Sequoia. How is a tree a champion? The Giant Sequoia, or Redwood is a champion of trees because it can grow to a staggering height of 300 feet and live 3,200 years!

Reno, NV is home to the Giant Sequoia, or Giant Redwood. The Giant Sequoia can be seen growing in random places around the neighborhoods and public parks of Reno, but the oldest was planted in 1939 and is considered a landmark tree. Even at the age of seventy-three, the Sequoia is a mere sapling. It will take another thirty years, or when the tree reaches a hundred years or so, that the top, or crown, will begin to flatten out, and take on that unique Giant Sequoia look that sets it apart from other firs and pines. With age its branches will become heavier and denser (kind of like humans).

Of course the Giant Sequoia that grow in Reno have been planted by people. While they are native to the Sierra Nevada, California I don’t believe they grow naturally here, however Reno’s cold weather climate during the winter months seems to sustain their growth.

Have you explored the urban forest where you live. I would love to hear about the landmark trees you’ve discovered. 

5. Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Goal Setting: Influence Your Own Motivation


Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my Zumba Fitness classes, but today the energy just wasn’t there. Fifteen minutes into the routine I gave myself several excuses why I couldn’t be in class today:

  • my knees hurt (early onset of arthritis?)
  • it’s too hot to dance
  • I have too much stuff to do, I don’t have time to stay longer.

I was planning on ditching class in another fifteen minutes. I was barely hanging in there with the rest of the group. Fifteen minutes went by and I told myself just hang in there, give it ten more minutes. My eyes darted to the clock on the wall, will this class never end?  I had important things to do today like go to the bank and return DVD’s (I’m too young to feel this old!)

But, with one tick of the minute hand everything changed. Was it my favorite song? No, this was a new one (I later learned it was Bhangra, a Punjabi folk dance typically performed by men, although we were a mixed group of men and women I think it was OK). Maybe it was the Bhangra,  it’s such a joyful dance, but whatever it was, something clicked into place for me and my energy levels soared. I even had my moves like Jagger groove on. So what was the deal?

I started to think about motivation and how we are responsible for creating it within ourselves. Whatever the task may be: office work, housework, cleaning out the garage, or exercise. Set your goal, envision where you want to be by days end, power through the pain  and get moving. Like the old adage, “fake it til you make it” I believe if I act like I can accomplish my goals then I believe I can succeed.

That’s what I have to say. I’d love to hear what motivates you when the energy just isn’t there.