Sunday, June 27, 2010

Beaver Brook Trail from Windy Saddle

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Ensnared by your verdant undergrowth
I stand mesmerized at the entrance to your kingdom.
My senses overwhelm me.
Warm, rocky earth under foot,
A cool whispering breeze spoken sweetly against my face,
The smells of soil, dust, a hint of pine,
Honeysuckle and primrose,
I can see the path before me for a moment
Then diving deep into your wooded dell it hides itself;
Then I close my eyes and am surrounded,
Enveloped, enraptured--
Birdsong, squirrels playing in the canopy
A bee buzzing in pursuit of sugary delights
Your softly whispering summer winds
Calling out to me, beckoning--
Breath quickens in anticipation
But one step and I am lost,
Here I am.

--jlm 6/2010

Decided to go on a hike today and I sure picked a great day to get out and wander a rocky trail for a while. I've tried to capture some of the splendor of the days sights, sounds, feelings above in words and below in images. Enjoy!

Lazuli Bunting

Yellow Breasted Chat
Blue Gray Gnatcatcher
If you open this image it almost looks like he's staring at me.
Mountain Chickadee
Verrry bizzare birds
Stellar's Jay, though the blue doesn't really come through in this shot.
Western Tanger
This guy was raising the alarm so I snapped this pick (with flash) without even looking. I think he was surprised.
Columbine
Just in time for the 5:00 shower.
Rufous Sided Towhee singing his heart out.

Monday, June 21, 2010

"To Hell You Ride"

If you were a miner in the late 1800's Telluride, Coloardo may very well have seemed like hell. However, for the bluegrass loving aficionado of the 21st century Telluride is heaven on earth. Kate and I just got back from 5 days in lovely San Miguel County Colorado. The week was one of the most relaxing, entertaining, awe inspiring I've had in a good long while. I could drone on in words for quite a while but figure images might better convey the message.
Before that I will just add the following tidbits of wisdom learned from the week at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival:
  • There is no such thing as too much shit in the car when it comes to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival: bring it all.
  • 2 days early is really 3 days late when it comes to choice camp sites.
  • A good festival chair is worth its weight in gold and a bad one will just poke you in the ass all weekend.
  • Sometimes the best show is not on the main stage (the Carolina Chocolate Drops show at the Fly Me to the Moon Saloon Saturday night was one of the best shows I've ever seen).
  • The Tarp Run is fun but by the afternoon no one cares about your tarp and they'll just come stand on it anyway so save yourself the sleep.
  • Ear plugs are the festivarians best friend.
  • Town Park is the ONLY way to go.
  • And the best advice, particularly to all the amateurs sunburned and passed out by Saturday, its a marathon not a sprint: pace yourself.
And now some pretty (and not so pretty but entertaining) pictures.
We got to 'Town Park' on Tuesday and set up camp.

Wednesday we opted to go for a hike to see some waterfalls.

This is a waterfall with a Kate in front if it lurking in the bushes.
You could walk right up and stand beneath some of the spray. (Note how its falling straight down for Kate)
The wind changed directions for me and I got soaked with snow melt...brrrrr.
We wandered up "Wasatch Trail 508" and came to more falls. Note the cool, sketchy bridge.
Just some random picture of God's Country. You can just make out Telluride below in the distance.
The festival attracted folks from everywhere.
Here's a young man from my home town...he loves Missouri too.
This fellow arrived recently from the Congo.
I have no idea where he's from but he has a way with the ladies.
There was music by fine musicians, like Keller Williams.
And there were many other off-shoot collaborations...yes that is Ed Helms on banjo.
The festival brought together cultures from around the world.
And was not with out some daily exercise in the form of the 'tarp run'
And there were plenty of opportunities for sitting around in camp and hanging out with the locals.

Couldn't have asked for a better week, a better place, better people, better music or better memories...more time on the other hand would have been perfect.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rain Delay Day 2

Nature forced yet another break again today. When I got up this morning it was again pouring, a repeat of yesterday morning. So for the second day in a row I started my morning with a mug of coffee enjoyed while sitting on the couch watching the rain fall and the house sparrows feast at the bird feeder. They didn't seem to mind the rain too much so long as it meant a free meal. While I lounged indoors the population of birds at the feeder got pretty interesting (sparrows and house finches are not that interesting.) I tried to get some pictures of our latest visitors.

Our rufous-sided towhee friend came back this morning. I first saw him in the garden on Friday but Kate didn't believe me and he was on his way before I could show her. Well today she got to see him first hand.
He seems to like the bugs and worms on the ground, and he hops about in an interesting way. Kind of an odd looking bird he has a whole range of markings.
I didn't quite get the camera on the right setting to get all the detail in his coloring, but this is close enough. He didn't hang around too long after giving our garden the once over for worms, slugs and what not. Shortly thereafter we got a visit from this big fella. I couldn't help but hear the voice of the Wild Bill character from The Green Mile in my head, "You sure are a great big f@#$er where'd you come from?" just before David Morse's character beats him in the head with a billy club. This picture only lends itself to that comparison, especially when you see the way the sparrow on the far right's head is craned to view the newly arrived giant Northern Red-Shafted Flicker. 
The Flicker sure had a hard time feeding on our feeder, but that didn't stop her from trying (we think its a female because it lacked the black markings, or moustache, by its beak. So I guess 'big fella' isn't quite fair). We'll need to get a different feeder for some suet blocks if we're going to be better hosts.
Not much phases the sparrows who didn't seem to mind sharing with their large friend. I think they're still probably out there (the flicker is gone) and may very well hang out all day. If the rain doesn't stop soon I won't get to tackle any of my lawn and garden activities before our trip next week. It will likely look like wild kingdom then when I return, with the towhees, flickers, sparrows and tigers lurking around in the tall grass and weeds.

While not a tiger per se, Zin is a feeder stalking, grass prowling, bird killing machine...that is if he's not watched like a hawk or trampled over by Presta Bean, who really doesn't care much about birds but who has a penchant for squirrels and serves as an effective "cat alarm."
The prey...

Presta hates squirrels.

Houston you are go for launch.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Nature Forces a Break

Wow May 22nd was a long time ago…sorry for the hiatus. Last night a cold front moved in to the Denver area to offer a reprieve from the stretch of dry, hot days we’ve ‘enjoyed’ recently. This morning I awoke to a gently falling rain and heavy overcast sky. I guess I’ll have to put those garden plans on hold. So here I find myself watching house sparrows and grackles pick seed out of the feeders (tossing what they don’t like on the ground for the squirrels) and I have a moment to post some updates.

Our garden is coming along quite nicely. With the stretch of warm weather all of our late spring and early summer planting is finished. I need to sow carrots again and still plan to plant some cucumber but I think everything else is in the ground if not already up and flourishing. It seemed that we leapt over a true spring and went from cold and dreary to 90 degrees in maybe a week. So I’m quite impressed that we have peas still trying to make a go of it; they’ll appreciate the cold weather this weekend. On the less hearty end of the spectrum, all of our lettuce just about ran its course. We left for Missouri with the prospect of lettuce and came home at the end of the weekend to the prospect of bolting. So we got cutting and have had two weeks of non-stop salad eating thanks to all of the lettuce, spinach and kale harvested at about the same time. I think there were days when Kate had salad for just about every meal: she definitely did her part to not waste the flavorful greens. As an experiment, I did some internet research and found that spinach and kale can both be frozen relatively easily. So I blanched some of the deep red veined spinach and hearty kale and put it in freezer bags for preservation. If that works we’ll have garden fresh greens at the height of summer when everyone else is either doing without or importing it from green houses or colder climes.
Red veined spinach ready for blanching

Big headed...lettuce that is
Cherry tomatoes ready for summer!

Our raspberries return!

Our potatoes prefer this raised bed to last year's location in ground
Carrots in the foreground, kale and sage behind.
The Breaking Ground project has seen some challenges this season but is doing really well. We’ve struggled a bit with some of the volunteer coordination with our halfway house sponsor, but with a new system for communication in place things seem to be going well. Last Wednesday the volunteer gardeners took back to their house 5 large bags of fresh bib and leaf lettuce, spinach, swiss chard and kale. We planted some of our tomato and broccoli seedlings, sowed some radishes in the shadier back beds and got the ground ready for squash and corn. It never ceases to amaze me what grows and flourishes on a plot of land that two years ago was a vacant, trashed lot and remnant of a burned out building. Hell my swiss chard never came up this season despite my best efforts and attention to soil, water etc., yet it thrived at Breaking Ground. Mother Nature must be more charitably minded than I thought.

Buried manifold: a worse sign.
This is not a good sign.

Last weekend I got a lesson in sprinkler system repair. I thought I’d have myself a very productive Sunday of mowing, weeding, watering, planting. I got the mowing down and then turned my attention to the sprinkler system. I started fixing what I thought were just broken heads but soon discovered was an issue with the valve manifold. Part of the problem was that I couldn’t find the valve manifold for the backyard. I later discovered it buried in the ground under a couple random pavers in the backyard which I was always curious about but had never investigated. In modern systems these valves are usually in a box, nice and tidy and not covered in dirt and ants. I spent most of my Sunday (which was like 98 degrees) meticulously excavating the ancient brass manifold and then researching whether I could get a replacement diaphragm for the leaking valve. No such luck, my 1976 oddly sized, brass relic belongs in a museum; manufacturers stopped making replacement diaphragms for this system back in the late 80’s. Cursing Roger Cook from This Old House, who’s web video for manifold repair made this project look so easy, I decided to rebuild the entire sprinkler manifold myself. I did a pretty good job of piecing the parts together but learned some valuable lessons in the process. First, its better to match the spacing of the old valve manifold than try and get all fancy and shrink things down with the replacement; because the second lesson is that the black plastic sprinkler tubing, at short lengths at least, is not very flexible. I fought tubing for an entire evening on Monday to get everything to connect together again. It also pays to be REALLY thorough about testing the fit of your pieces up front. I didn’t fully tighten some of my valve connections so I’ll be redoing them…when it dries out after all the rain (at least the ground is getting watered somehow).


Excavating a valve

My museum piece or brass recycling donation

Pretty new valves...spaced too close together but hey...
So we’ve been busy enough and in my book have earned a bit of a vacation. Coincidentally we’re heading to Telluride for the Bluegrass Festival next week, so we won’t have to wait too long to get one. If it ever stops raining hopefully I can finish my sprinklers and drip system for the week we’re gone, mow the lawn so its manageable when we return and make one last effort against the weeds before they get a vacation too and rise up against me in my absence. By Monday night it will be one well earned trip.