The Simple Country Life . . .

When I’m not writing about or traveling to Mexico, I try to live a simple life here in the Sierra foothills, but the month of August found me with a to-do list a mile long.

Simple and country and life. Whoever put those three words together?

First, there were the tomatoes. Bushels of them.

I’ve made endless Insalatas Caprese. I’ve made gallons of sauce. I’ve plunged tomatoes into boiling water to make the skins easier to peel and canned them in water baths. I’ve pureed them with my old food mill— a wedding gift from forty some years ago. I’ve sliced, chopped, diced and strained. You name it. Anything that can be done to a tomato has been done.

My old Wedgewood stove is so splattered with red that it looks like the scene of a crime.

Friends in the city who visit this time of year will be sent home with baskets of fresh tomatoes and bundles of basil. It’s win-win for everyone.

For those friends, here’s a little bit of advice. My Early Girl tomatoes are such a perfect combination of tart and sweet that it would be a crime to put vinegar on an insalata Caprese made with them. Besides, no Italian in his right mind would even consider it. Just a sprinkle of fine sea salt, fresh ground pepper, basil and a drizzle of Italian extra virgin olive oil and only a really good mozzerella will do.

Now, there are the eggplants! More about them next week. I have a fabulous recipe for Sicilian eggplant with mint, oregano and hot pepper I’ll give you. A perfect antipasto.

But here’s the real news!

In the midst of a hot, busy August with friends visiting and major harvesting needing to be done, we got the news that Cemex had come back, that the Board of Supervisors Meeting would be held August 28, that we had to gear up for battle once more to try to save Jesse Morrow Mountain.

We spent sleepless nights honing our arguments, reducing our speeches to the Supervisors to the minutes allowed.

Two. You got that right, two.

It was a twelve hour meeting. Cemex brought in the high-paid, slick lawyers. They trucked in the Teamsters and flew in the VP from Cemex in Houston, who waved his arm our direction and said, “Look at them. They’re old. What can they do for the economy of Fresno County?”

Here we are waiting for the verdict.

We (old people) were up against the third biggest concrete and aggregate company in the world, up against their huge, corporate law firm. Hell, we were up against the damn Teamsters Union.

I’ll never forget when this battle started seven years ago. A few of us gathered at a cattle ranch at the base of Jesse Morrow Mountain where we milled around dumping Cremora into our coffee, wondering how we were going to fight this huge, huge, huge company.

By now we’ve all become experts in open pit mining and strip mining and landslides, groundwater pollution and California’s canal irrigation system. We know about aggregate need in Fresno County about ozone precursors and air quality. We know about the mining business, about Cemex’s debt ratio.

Trust me. When I came up here to live the simple life, to write novels set in different regions in Mexico, to grow a few vegetables, to look at the dark night sky away from the city, I never counted on becoming a blogging, self-publishing, cattle-owning, rattle-snake killing, tomato canning, political firebrand. I never counted on doing battle with CEMEX!

And the very, very last thing I thought when we started this seven years ago was that . . .

WE WOULD WIN at both the Planning Commission level and with the Board of Supervisors.

Cemex will probably appeal or come back with something, but we’re committed to the fight.

Now when you turn left just past the Minkler Cash Store— which looks pretty much like it did in 1920, by the way— this is what you’ll see. No strip mine, no pit mine, no asphalt factory. Just this.

You can thank the old people, the Fresno County Planning Commissioners who voted with us and Supervisors Debbie Poochigian, Henry Perea and Susan Anderson.

The old people and the young people of Fresno County send a huge thank you, Supervisors, for doing the right thing.

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