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Where We Live by John Silveira and Richard Blunt. Photos and commentary from Oregon and New England.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.



John Silveira’s Novels

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013 by John | Comments Off on John Silveira’s Novels

If you came to this page looking for John Silveira’s novels, please use the links, below, for the Kindle and print versions at Amazon.com.

If you prefer to purchase the print version(s) by check:

To order one book, be sure to indicate which book you want.
Cost: $19.90 ($14.95 + $4.95 S&H)

Get free shipping on the second book if you order both.
Cost: $34.85 ($14.95 + $14.95 + $4.95 S&H)

Please make the check payable to John Silveira and mail to:

John Silveira
PO Box 1646
Gold Beach, OR 97444

Danielle Kidnapped: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Ice Age

Click Here for the Kindle version. $8.95

Click Here for the Print version. $14.95

Also, check out the Danielle: Kidnapped Facebook page.

  Danielle Kidnapped by John Silveira
 
The Devil You Know

Click Here for the Kindle version. $8.95

Click Here for the Print version. $14.95

  The Devil You Know by John Silveira

Ralph Nader’s Museum of Tort Law

Friday, January 1st, 2016 by Richard | Comments Off on Ralph Nader’s Museum of Tort Law

In September of 2015, Ralph Nader, an active consumer advocate and former presidential candidate,  opened this country’s first and only law museum in a vacant bank building on Main St. in his hometown of Winsted, Connecticut. In 2014, the Washington Post reported that there are about 35,000 museums in this country. That’s more than all of the Starbucks locations and McDonald’s restaurants combined. However, there is only one museum dedicated to any aspect of law, and this is it.

What the heck is a tort? Well, a tort is a wrongful act that can be the foundation for a lawsuit. For example: If you having an argument with someone and you punch that person, you can be charged with the crime of assault. The person that you punched can also sue you for the tort of battery. Tort law is essentially personal-injury law that provides us ordinary citizens with legal protection from attacks on civil justice.

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The museum contains detailed descriptions of some high profile tort law cases that acquired justice for individuals.

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Chevrolet Corvair

This controversial book , first published in 1965, confronted American car manufacturers for resisting the installation of safety features in their cars. The design disasters incorporated into the 1960-1964 Chevrolet Corvair are the most widely known subjects in the book. The museum has a pristine 1963 Corvair on display that details the car’s most serious design flaw, the rear-mounted gas tank, which was prone to exploding if the car was involved in a crash, particularly if it were rear-ended.

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The dangerous rear-mounted gas tank

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Lee Iacocca, the American auto executive best known for spearheading the development of the Ford Mustang and Ford Pinto, and for the 1979 bailout of the Chrysler Corporation. In 1968, Iaccoca decided to develop a Ford model to compete with Japanese cars being sold in the small car market in this country. He convinced Ford’s board of directors to green-light the development, production, and sale of the Pinto. During the production cycle, several design flaws were discovered in the fuel tank. Low-speed, rear-end crash testing indicated that these flaws could create a serious risk of fire in a crash. After a cost-benefit analysis revealed the cost of correcting the problem, Ford decided to continue production as initially planned. In 1974 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating crashes that were reported as being related to the problem. In 1977, an article in Mother Jones magazine exposed the Pinto’s fire danger, and revealed Ford internal documents that the company knew about the potential problem. In that year a court in Orange County, California, awarded $125 million in damages (later reduced to$3.5 million) to a driver who had been injured in a low-speed accident when his Pinto burst into flames. In 1978, all 1971-1978 Pintos were recalled and upgraded. It isn’t clear if Iacocca was aware of the problem during the design phase of the Pinto. But it is reported that one his frequent utterances was, “Safety doesn’t sell.”

Case of the Flaming Rat

The illustration below shows William Daniels, an employee of the United Novelty Company in the 1940s. Here he is using gasoline to clean a piece of  machinery in a small 8×10-foot room that also housed a working gas heater. Court testimony states that the gasoline leaked through the machine and soaked a rat hiding underneath. The rat bolted, and took cover under the gas heater that had a working pilot flame. The rat’s gas-soaked fir caught on fire and it ran back to the machine that Daniels was cleaning, resulting in an explosion that killed them both. Daniel’s estate sued the company for wrongful death. Evidence was presented that the company  knew of the dangerous cleaning procedure, and issued memos forbidding it. The jury found for the plaintiff , and the verdict was upheld by the Mississippi Supreme Court. In the court’s opinion, the company had an obligation to insure that its policies were being followed. No evidence was presented at trial that the employee had been warned. A modern term for this would be “negligent supervision.” In other words, it was the company’s responsibility to warn all of its employees not to use gas around open flames, and to enforce this warning with supervision.

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The Case of Rose Cipollone

(Cipollone v. Liggett Group — 1988)

Rose started smoking in her early teens. She died of lung cancer at age 58. In 1988, a New Jersey jury awarded her husband $400,000 after the jurors discovered that, before 1966, when Rose started smoking, the company failed to warn of the health risks of smoking its products. The jury also found that the company’s advertisements gave an expressed warranty that cigarette smoking was safe, and the company had breached that warranty. In 1986, The Federal Trade Commission amended The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1966 with the Smoking Education Act in 1986, requiring that cigarette packages include a health warning that smoking cigarettes may be hazardous to health.

Do any of you folks recognize the handsome young man in the photo on the bottom-right of this billboard? Look closely at the signature.

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Cast Iron: Is it a Practical Tool for a Modern Kitchen?

Monday, November 30th, 2015 by Richard | Comments Off on Cast Iron: Is it a Practical Tool for a Modern Kitchen?

My Cast Iron Collection

The three pieces of cast iron cookware in the middle of the photo below belonged to my mother. These three pans are stamped with the Wagner Stylized Logo, which was etched on pans manufactured at their Sidney, Ohio plant between 1922 and 1959. The two Dutch ovens on the right and left are about 10 years old, and are manufactured by Lodge Manufacturing of South Pittsburg, Tennessee.

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The 10-inch skillet in the photo below is 71 years old. This pan was my mother’s favorite and is the most versatile pan in my collection. Over the years it has become my go-to pan for sauteing steaks, frying chicken, roasting vegetables, and baking many quick breads like corn bread, biscuits, and pancakes. It is also broiler safe for browning casseroles like Shepherd’s Pie.

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Cast Iron in my Mother’s Kitchen

Cast iron cookware held a revered place in my mother’s kitchen. She preferred it to all other types of cookware. During the school year, I often did my daily homework at the kitchen table, while she was preparing dinner. This made it possible for her to cook and keep an eye on my progress with assignments. During the week she worked as an elevator operator at Jordan Marsh, one of Boston’s large downtown department stores. (Jordan Marsh was one of the first department store chains to incorporate elevator service in its stores. The early versions of these elevators were not the automatic leveling type with push button floor selection. These units required trained operators to guide them to the desired floor, and level it with the floor landing before passengers were allowed to get on and off.)

My mother usually got home at about 4 pm, which left her with limited time to prepare dinner, check my homework, and get ready for work the following day. She firmly believed that a wholesome, well-prepared dinner meal was essential  for the unity of our small family. It gave both of us an opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and share our daily experiences.  She also understood that preparing a fresh cooked dinner meal every night was a time-consuming chore that required streamlining in order to make it happen. She did this by using her cast iron cookware to prepare a selection of meals that could be prepared using only one pan, which was the 10-inch skillet in the photo above.

From time to time, as she pulled this favored skillet from the cabinet, she would ask me a familiar question. “Do you know why I chose this skillet to prepare this meal?” Of course, I knew the answer, but I was compelled to set my homework aside for a few minutes and listen to her explanation. One example of her one-pan meal wizardry was a favorite meal prepared every year on my birthday: chicken-fried steak with cream gravy, succotash, and corn bread.  Her routine for preparing this meal was a masterpiece of time management, efficiency, and culinary skill.  She would first assemble the corn bread and put it in the oven set at 400 degrees, for 25 minutes. After removing skillet from the oven and transferring the slightly cooled corn bread to a cooling rack; she wiped the still-warm skillet with a clean, lightly-oiled paper towel, and began preparing the succotash. When finished, the succotash was transferred to a Pyrex casserole, covered, and placed in a 200 degree oven to keep warm. Once again, she would clean the skillet with a clean, lightly-oiled paper towel and prepared the chicken fried steak and cream gravy. The entire meal, from start to finish, took about one hour.  She was a master at preparing meals like this. The long-lasting heat retention and cleaning ease of her seasoned cast iron skillet made it possible for her to prepare a variety of meals.

Few pieces of kitchen gear improve after years of heavy use. Cast iron cookware tops the list of equipment that will. If used correctly and given proper care after each use, it will last forever. My mother’s favorite 71-year-old skillet is a classic example.

Over the years there have been major improvements in kitchen ware, including cast iron. Like my mom, l am committed to the regular use of cast iron in my kitchen, but I also use other utensils, such as Teflon-coated, non-stick skillets and enameled carbon steel and cast iron Dutch ovens. All of these new innovations come with claims of non-stick durability and easy care, and their overall performance is often compared with that of cast iron. Time will tell if these claims are realistic.

Cast Iron Myths and Truths

Let’s talk about some of the myths and conflicting claims that exist about cast iron. Hopefully, I can shine a light of truth on some of them. If you are setting up your kitchen for the first time, or perhaps reevaluating your existing cookware and are considering adding some cast iron as a complement, this information will help you make an informed decision.

Cast Iron Myth #1

Cast iron, especially new cast iron, can be difficult to maintain. It must be babied when you first start using it, because until the pan is properly seasoned, it can rust, and the seasoning can chip and wear away if not handled gently.

The Truth

Cast iron has been in use for centuries. The advent of industrial factory production in the 1800s allowed cast iron to become a widely-available, low-cost kitchen utensil that was nearly indestructible. For this reason, the cast iron skillet quickly became an icon of American cooking. This is why you can find very old and often rusted cast iron pans at yard sales and antique shops. With very few exceptions, these neglected pieces can be restored using very simple techniques. I have used cast iron in professional kitchens where they got a rough workout and continued to perform. Most modern cast iron pans come pre-seasoned, ready for use. This factory seasoning is designed to be scratch- and chip-resistant. With routine maintenance these new pans continue to improve with time.

Myth #2

Metal utensils will damage the seasoning of the pan.

The Truth

The seasoning on a cast iron pan is chemically bonded to the pan, and is remarkably resilient. Unless you actually gouge out the surface of the metal, the pan will continue to perform. I have listened to folks complain about black flakes chipping off the pan. Most often this is the result of storing a pan without using it for long periods of time without regular use and maintenance.  Applying too much oil to the surface during maintenance or not cleaning the pan properly after use can also cause this problem. After using any of my skillets, I apply a thin coat of vegetable oil with a paper towel, and wipe the pan again with another towel until the oil sheen is no longer visible. You can’t see the oil, but it is there. Lodge Manufacturing also makes a plastic scraper that is designed to remove food particles that stick to the cooking surface. Remember, cast iron is not totally non-stick.

Myth #3

Using dish soap to clean cast iron after use will damage the seasoned surface.

The Truth

When you season a cast iron pan you are doing more than applying a thin coat of oil. When you apply a controlled heat to the pan, after adding the oil, you polymerize that oil. When fat is heated to high temperatures, especially in the presence of a good catalyst like iron, it is broken down and oxidized, after which it polymerizes (joins into larger mega molecules the same way plastics do) and mixes with bits of carbon and other impurities. This tough, impermeable surface adheres to the pores and crevices in the cast iron as it is forming. This creates a hydrophobic (water repellent) environment on the pan’s surface. Moisture is what makes food stick. Once again, regular use and simple maintenance will preserve this surface. After every use I wash my cast iron with warm water and dish soap, and a soft sponge. I then rinse the pan and dry it on a stove burner set to medium-low heat, and apply a thin coat of oil as described above. My mother taught me to do this, and it works. However, prolonged soaking of a cast iron pan in soapy water will damage the seasoning. If this happens, the pan must be seasoned again.

Myth #4

A well-seasoned cast iron pan is as non-stick as any modern Teflon-coated or diamond-infused pan on the market.

The Truth

Nope! This sounds good, but it just isn’t true. A properly seasoned cast iron pan is non-stick enough to fry an egg or cook an omelet with predictable non-stick results. You can’t expect this type of result with most food that you cook in a cast iron pan. There are  a few exceptions.  However, cast iron is not nearly as non-stick as a pan coated with Teflon, a material that is so non-stick that it requires a special bonding to get it to stick to the bottom of the pan. You can cook a batch of cold eggs on low heat, in a Teflon coated pan without any oil, and slide them out of the pan when done without any sticking. Not so with a cast iron pan.

Stir frying is one of my favorite stove-top cooking techniques. This type of cooking often calls for marinating meats in sugar-based sauces. Most often I can count on these marinated meats to stick, to some degree, in a cast iron skillet while being cooked. Attempting to cook fresh noodles when a stir fry requires them is always a disaster. The pan is not the problem. Some foods are not compatible with cast iron. Expecting a cast iron pan to cook everything with perfect non-stick results is not realistic. For stir frying I use a quality Teflon 12-inch skillet.

More to Come

In my next post on cast iron, I will shine a little light on other myths and untrue claims about the use of cast iron. I will also share some useful suggestions on using, maintaining, and restoring your pans.

Leasing a Farm to Build a Successful Business

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 by Richard | Comments Off on Leasing a Farm to Build a Successful Business

A love for working the soil along with a keen sense of how to build and maintain a thriving business in a very competitive market spells success for these talented and hard-working farmers.

Meet Jill, Carl and Family

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2015-07-12 001 003 copyOn the left is Carl’s sister, Lori, in the middle is Chynna, Jill’s niece. They help run the stand during the busy planting and growing season.

In 1997 the Connecticut State Legislature acted on a goal to protect 10 percent of this state’s open land. Legislation was passed that allows for designated private properties to come under state stewardship and be preserved as “open space.” Three important programs were developed under this legislation: The Recreation and National Heritage Trust, which acquires and preserves land for outdoor recreation; The Watershed Lands Matching Grants Program, which acquires land for preservation as watersheds; and the Purchase of Development Rights program (PDR) that provides funding to the Connecticut Department of Agriculture to purchase development rights of farmland and places a permanent restriction on nonagricultural uses of these properties. Many of the towns in Connecticut participate in this program using federal, state, and local funds to purchase these lands. The farmlands that are accepted into the PDR program remain in private ownership and the owners continue to pay local property taxes. In 1998, the first year of the “open space” program, the Department of Agriculture purchased the development rights to 125 farms and preserved more than 18,000 acres of Connecticut’s prime farmland for agricultural use.

Krell Farm

This is the story of how one farm in my hometown embraced the “open space” legislation, and with some hard work and sharp management skills on the part of individuals, created a successful business.
The town of Farmington has been active in the “open space” program from the beginning. It purchased two farms, one in 2001 and the other in 2002, acquiring 160 acres of farmland between them. Then in 2007, news that Krell Farm, the town’s largest privately-owned farm, was for sale reached Farmington residents. This land is one of the most attractive and developable parcels in the Farmington Valley and many of us feared that a private developer would buy it and replace this beautiful open space with something less attractive. To prevent such a sale, the town scheduled a voter referendum for January 10, 2008. This was to give  voters the opportunity to decide if the town should buy 90 acres of prime farmland from the Krell family. The voters approved the sale and the town purchased 90 of the 98 acres of Krell Farm for $75,000 an acre. This was a bargain when you consider that other less attractive building lots in Farmington were selling for twice that amount.

Krell Farm and its familiar farm stand have been owned by the Krell family since 1922. Over the years this family farm has become a well-known and popular place to purchase high-quality fruits, vegetables, and a variety of other farm-fresh products throughout the year.

After the land purchase, the big question around town was, “What happens next?” This property is mostly fertile farmland, which is one of greatest resources in the Farmington Valley. There was a concern that the operation of the farm would cease, and the fields would lay fallow. But after the sale, the Krell family still retained eight acres of land from the original farm. However, this property was subject to the PDR section of the Open Space legislation which requires that a family member live on the property and work it as a farm. Jill Jarrett, a cousin of the owner, saw the sale of the land as an opportunity. She knew that Krell Farm had been a successful family business for nearly 100 years and she was sure that with the consistent application of a simple business plan, she could continue operating the farm and further enhance its iconic reputation for providing high-quality farm products to Farmington Valley residents. With this in mind, she decided to lease the farm from her cousin and, using her business plan, she is running it to this day.

The first step to achieving her goal was to team up with a long-time friend and professional farmer, Carl Mahannah. Carl’s family owned and operated a successful 100-acre farm in the neighboring town of Bristol. His family still owns a portion of that farm today. Carl is also licensed trapper and experienced hunter. These are valuable skills that could benefit his partnership with Jill because controlling pests is imperative to running a successful farm.

Germinating Seeds For the Planting SeasonThis is where it all begins. Starting in late February, Carl starts germinating seeds. The resulting seedlings will be sold in the greenhouses.

Young plants ready for saleYoung plants ready for sale

Jill Managing The GreenhousesJill managing the greenhouses

Jill and Carl knew that planting just eight acres of field would not yield sufficient crops to support their business. To secure additional fields for planting, they turned to the town of Farmington, which owns nearly 500 acres of fertile farmland in several locations along the Farmington River, and two fields adjacent to Krell Farm. These fields are all prime farmland that were also acquired through “open space” legislation, and are leased to established growers like Krell for about $35 an acre.

Along with the 16 combined acres owned by the Krell and Mahannah families, Krell Farm now leases an additional 55 acres of prime growing fields from the town. Most of these fields are in an area town residents refer to as “the flats,” which are along the Farmington River This area is one of the most productive growing areas in the valley. The ground along the river is deep Windsor soil, named for one of the oldest towns in Connecticut, famous for growing high-quality tobacco used for the outer wrapping of the world’s finest cigars. This is well-drained, fertile, loamy, sandy soil formed by glacial meltwater and windblown deposits. It is the combination of this soil and the clean water from the Farmington River that makes this area one most productive farming areas in the state. Jill and Carl were now leasing an established farm with an outstanding reputation for producing high-quality fruits and vegetables, grown in the finest soil this state has to offer.

Hartford County, where Krell Farm is located, includes the Farmington Valley. The county contains 29 towns with more than 900 farms, producing crops on 54,000 acres of fertile farmland. The average farm size is about 60 acres. With all of these farms located in such a small area, a resident of the Farmington Valley can get into his or her car and drive in any direction during the spring, summer, or fall seasons and find an open farm stand before driving five miles.

Many states, including Connecticut, have developed “buy local” programs to support farmers who are selling their products directly to consumers. A growing percentage of Connecticut farmers with farm stands report increased sales that are a direct result of this “buy local” initiative.

 

 

Early Season Corn Ready for PickingEarly season corn ready for picking

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During the early season I made several tours of the greenhouses with both Jill and Carl. During these tours they share details of how they make all of this happen.

THE KRELL FARM TEAM

Four generations of family support has contributed to the success of this farm.

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