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“Autumn is the time of year when Mother Nature says, ‘Look how easy, how healthy, and how beautiful letting go can be.’”
– Toni Sorenson  
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 9 September 2018  

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Bill Radford

  Faces of Black Forest
  Award-winning food truck based in Black Forest
  By Bill Radford

   Amid tragedy, the Black Forest Chew-Chew Gastro Truck keeps chugging along.
   
   Deanna and Dodd Johnson started the food truck business in 2016, using a truck then called The Food Train that they bought from Crazy Otto’s Diner (now Crazy Brothers). Their food is award-winning, earning the People’s Choice Award for two years in a row at the Small Business Week food truck cook-off in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The 2017 win was a big one because the truck was so new, but this year’s award was even better because there was much more competition, Deanna Johnson said.
   Johnson enters the summer –- the busy season for food trucks –- without Dodd; he died in a freak accident in January. The former minor league baseball player was 53.
   
   Dodd Johnson grew up in Austin, Texas; it’s there that he and Deanna, originally from California, met. They moved to Colorado six years ago, living in Denver for a few months before finding a place in Black Forest.
   
   “Austin’s getting so crowded, and I love the mountains,” Johnson said.
   
   She has a culinary background; her family owned restaurants when she was growing up. Along with her husband, Johnson saw a food truck as a way to test concepts and build a fan base –- a steppingstone to a brick and mortar location, which is still in the plans.
   
   “He was my behind-the-scenes man,” Johnson said. Now it’s just her and her female "pit crew." “We’re the girl truck,” she said.
   
   The food truck specializes in international street food. “So we have everything from the United States, Greece, a lot of Thailand, Korean food,” Johnson said. “I’d say we have an Asian slant.”
   
   While Johnson cooked up most of the menu, she gets ideas from her crew as well. “We’ll sit around and brainstorm idea,” she said. The menu changes every Monday, although some items stay. “It’s nice because you get to try out new things,” Johnson said.
   
   Operating a food truck is more work than it might seem at first glance, she said. It’s not just a couple of hours of serving food at a fun-filled event; there is licensing, shopping, prep work, cleanup, washing the truck and scheduling. “For people who come up and say, ‘I want to open a food truck,’ don’t work an event with us. Come work a week,” Johnson said.
   
   She said she is working more on the catering side, booking "a bunch of big graduation parties," weddings and other events. The menu can be tied to the event's theme. And with a guest list, it's easier to know how much food will be needed. At a brewery, business is harder to predict: It could be a big night or a $50 night, Johnson said.
   
   "When you first start out, you take everything, and sometimes you lose money,” she said.
   When she is not on the road with the truck, she is busy at home. At her Double D Ranch, she offers dog boarding and dog agility training, and she competes with her border collies and golden retrievers. She also has horses and a miniature donkey named Shrek –- “the sweetest creature you’ll ever meet,” she said.
   
   To find the Black Forest Chew-Chew Gastro truck, search for the truck's Facebook page, where a weekly schedule is posted. “That’s the easiest way to find us,” Johnson said. Every other Friday, you’ll find the truck at JAK’s Brewing Co., where a crowd reliably shows up to enjoy the food. It was at JAK's original location, across the street from the Falcon Safeway, that the food truck really got its start, she said, adding that “Falcon never disappoints.”
  
Deanna Johnson serves international street food out of her Black Forest Chew-Chew Gastro Truck. Photo by Bill Radford
 
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  Black Forest group files an appeal on TimberRidge PUD approval
  By Lindsey Harrison

   Members of the Friends of the Black Forest Preservation Plan filed an appeal April 24 on a decision made by the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners. The commissioners approved a planned unit development rezoning for the Retreat at TimberRidge subdivision. The 262.92-acre property is located north of the proposed Stapleton Road/Briargate Boulevard extension and is bisected by Vollmer Road.
   
   On March 6, the EPC planning commission denied the rezoning proposal in a 7-0 vote; however, on March 27, the BOCC, in a 3-2 vote, with commissioners Darryl Glenn and Longinos Gonzalez opposed, approved the request.
   
   The approved plan rezoned the property from residential rural 5 (which required that lot sizes be 5 acres or larger) to planned unit development. According to the EPC land development code, PUD density is established by the development plan, which must be approved by the BOCC in consideration of the following: adopted master plan for the area; compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood; traffic considerations; impact on public facilities, utilities and schools; the natural characteristics of the land; and water availability.
   
   Donna Arkowski, member of the FoBFPP, said approval of the PUD could allow the developer to create lots much smaller than those of the surrounding neighborhood. The approved new plan includes 212 lots of about 1/3 acre, 1 acre, 2.5 acres and 5 acres. About 72 percent of the lots are planned for the smallest lot size, Arkowski said.
   
   The area is located within the Black Forest Preservation Plan, which was first developed in 1974 and updated in 1985 to its current configuration. According to the plan, one goal for growth and land use in the area is to “preserve and enhance the sensitive natural environment and unique community character of the Black Forest Planning Area.” Additionally, the plan lists proposed actions for the BOCC when considering development proposals. It states, “Zone changes or variances resulting in densities which are inconsistent with the adopted Plan should be disapproved.”
   
   Arkowski said the FoBFPP and the Black Forest Land Use Committee strongly opposed the proposal, and the appeal of the BOCC’s decision is based on the opinion that the commissioners violated state statute that govern how PUDs are formed.
   
   “We get so annoyed with the commissioners when they suggest that it (the Black Forest Preservation Plan) is so old that it does not matter anymore,” she said. “When an area has written a small area plan, like the Black Forest Preservation Plan, and gotten it approved and included in the county master plan, in my mind, that should not be violated.”
   
   The FoBFPP is raising money to continue the legal battle against the county, which could cost about $25,000; it could also set a precedent for how development progresses throughout Black Forest, Arkowski said.
   
   “Many people in the city or in politics think people in Black Forest are elitist and trying to keep other people out, which is not the case,” she said. “There are places out here, an environment out here, that we want to maintain, which is why we moved out here in the first place.”
  
El Paso County commissioners approved a rezoning request from TimberRidge developers. The developers wanted the change so they can decrease the size of the lots, from 5 acres to 1/3 acre.
 
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  Spring art show another success
  By Leslie Sheley

   The Black Forest Arts and Crafts Guild has been promoting the arts and culinary endeavors since 1965, according to its website. Sally Burr, president of the guild, said, “We have the longest, continuous craft guild show west of the Mississippi.”
   
   The guild held their 54th annual show May 3 – 6 at the Black Forest Community Club.
   
   The show is set up differently than other craft shows. Their philosophy is to support each other and work together to promote their crafts; therefore, everything is in sections. Booths at the show included art such as pottery, jewelry and wood items; a large culinary section, a new plant section and a jam room. Burr said more than 90 artists participated in the show.
   
   As a nonprofit organization, the guild gives back to the community through annual scholarships to graduating seniors who live in the Black Forest area. Also, many visitors brought non-perishable food items to fill a basket placed at the entrance of the craft fair. The food was collected for Black Forest Cares.
   
   Despite the wind, rain and occasional snow, attendance at the show on the opening day was good.
   
   Kathy Pavek, a member of the guild, said the guild holds two shows at the community club each year –- one in the fall on the first full weekend in November and one in the spring on the first full weekend in May. Pavek made goodies for the culinary section; she also makes towels and baby bibs with pacifiers attached.
   
   Burr said the guild is composed of people who have a passion for art and live within the boundaries of Black Forest.
   
   Elaine Potter has been a member since 2008 and was part of the setup committee. She makes clothes for dolls, along with making baby quilts, blankets, pillows, potholders, aprons and crayon roll ups for kids.
   
   Patricia Neely has been a member since 1989; however, she said she has fond memories of going to the show with her mom, starting in 1971. Neely makes jam, aprons, table runners, baby quilts, bibs; and paints on wood. “I do what looks fun,” she said. Her daughter, Amanda Henegar, joined the guild last year.
   
   This was Henegar’s second show. She makes quilts and baby blankets and also bakes goodies for the culinary section.
   
   Admission is free for both the spring and fall show; the fall show is Nov. 8 to Nov. 11 and features Thanksgiving and Christmas items.
  
Amanda Henegar made this beautiful pie for the culinary section of Black Forest Arts and Crafts Guild show in May. Her talent is also revealed in this homemade quilt she made. Photos by Amanda Henegar
 
Elaine Potter shows off her hand-sewn clothes that she makes for dolls. Photo by Leslie Sheley
 
In addition to sewing and painting, Patricia Neely makes a variety of jams. Photo by Leslie Sheley
 
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  Nelson Winery
  By Leslie Sheley

   As long as people love wine, there will always be a need for more vineyards. Ben and Lisa Nelson are wine lovers; and, since they wanted to have a home-based business on the property where they lived, they decided becoming vignerons would be ideal.
   
   Three years ago, they found the perfect place for such a venture — Black Forest.
   
   The 10-acre property is old horse and cattle land, Ben Nelson said. It hadn’t been used for several years, so when they first moved there, the grass in the back where the vines are, were 3 to 4 feet tall. The grass needed to be cut down, the soil needed to be tilled and lime had to be added to raise the PH level. Otherwise, Nelson said, “The soil was in pretty good shape, especially since there was natural fertilizer from manure for years. It is sandy, rocky soil, but vines produce better quality grapes when grown in poorer conditions. You want soil that drains well, though, and is not too acidic.”
   
   Last year, the Nelsons planted 50 Landot Noir red grape vines and 50 Cayuga white grape vines. They chose cold-hearty grapes that are late bud breakers and early ripeners — all-important factors to consider with the Black Forest climate. Nelson said, “These type of grapes are hybrid; they have been trained to take on certain qualities. Some of these particular grapes weren’t available that many years ago. The University of Minnesota has done a lot to produce hybrid grapes that will thrive in colder conditions, which is why vineyards are popping up all over in states like Minnesota in particular and New York.”
   
   Vines generally take up to three years to produce a crop, he said. Last year, they focused on root growth; this year the vines will grow to be about 5 feet tall, he said. They will grow 1 to 2 inches a day, once the bud breaks.
   
   When the grapes are ready to be made into wine, they will start with used and new American oak barrels to store the wine, Nelson said. They will source in grapes from Palisades and Grand Junction, Colorado, along with the West Coast, once the winery is up and ready to run. They will add their grapes to the stock once they are ready — probably in March 2020, Nelson said. He estimated that the crop should produce 500 cases of wine the first year; doubling to 1,000 cases the second year.
   
   Plans for the future include adding 200 more vines, renovating the horse barn to function as a winery; getting their winery license and opening a tasting room.
  
Grape vines usually take about three years to produce a crop, said Ben Nelson, owner of Nelson Winery. This vine is just a year old.
 
Ben Nelson and his playful dogs, Bella and Winnie, stand in front of the Nelson Winery Vineyard.
 
This horse barn will function as a winery, complete with a tasting room, when Ben and Lisa Nelson produce their first wines. They will eventually apply for a wine license.
 
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  AARP Black Forest

   Anyone who would like to join this AARP Black Forest is welcome to visit a chapter meeting or event. There is no age requirement for chapter membership. Annual dues are $10 per person. Call Ray at 719-495-6787 or Stan at 719-596-6787 for details or visit the website at http://aarpchapter1100blackforest.weebly.com/index.html.
   
   Black Forest Chapter 1100 of AARP has been designated the Best Chapter for Community Service in Colorado for the past nine years.
  
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  Annual shredding event

   Saturday, June 2, is the free annual document shredding event, sponsored by AARP ElderWatch and AARP Black Forest Chapter 1100. The shredding event will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Black Forest Lutheran Church at 12455 Black Forest Road. Three boxes or paper bags will be accepted per car. No plastic or 3-ring binders. Fight hunger at the same time with a nonperishable food or cash donation to the Black Forest Cares food pantry. Please enter from Black Forest Road. Call Ray at 719-495-676 or Stan at 719-596-6787.   
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  No fee senior social

   A monthly informal occasion for seniors is the no fee event. They meet in the Black Forest Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall at 12455 Black Forest Road in Black Forest.
   
   Seniors are welcome at the Black Forest AARP and Black Forest Lutheran Church monthly informal gathering, held at the Black Forest Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall at 12455 Black Forest Road. The social is from 1 to 4 p.m. the fourth Wednesday of each month, and all are invited to socialize, play games, work on hobbies or to simply sit and talk about “whatever.”  Light refreshments are available. For more information, contact Lavonne at 719-494-1276.
  
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  Black Forest Women’s Club

   The Black Forest Women’s Club is taking a break for the summer, and will resume in September. Call 719-495-3846 for more information.   
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