Walking Martha

Bear’s Bliss fell last night, so today Bear and I went tracking ungulates on the golf course. Moose, elk and deer.

When it snows, I can SEE what Bear smells. We get to be a team. I see footprints and , where snow has blown against a cottonwood, even urine splashes on trees.

There are a lot of low leaves on the elm and cottonwood trees between the second and fourth holes so we started there. If there had been no tracks, we’d have left the golf course and wandered out into the fields beyond the driving range where, often, we find fox, raccoon and deer tracks and sometimes animals. But we were lucky.

Tracks and tracks and tracks. Rabbit, squirrel, domestic cat and

Moose??? Elk??? Whitetail Deer???

My personal jury is out on that one. I’ve seen moose tracks on the golf course before, but these seemed a little small, though the right shape. Whitetail deer, possibly. They are around here, too.

Bear caught scent after scent. It was nice for me because I could look ahead and see where she was going. When there’s no snow, I might be yanked in a random direction — random to me.

Once we’d exhausted the tracks, and Bear had several chances to roll in the snow, it was time to check messages. On the map that’s the straight line at the bottom, on E. Prospect Avenue, right in front of Monte Vista High School. Many people walk past there with their dogs, and Bear has many messages to collect — and leave.

My dog walks me, and I love it. It’s never a brisk walk, but Bear is a constant reminder to stop and smell the elk urine.

P.S. Yes, my golf course looks like a glue gun

“What IS That?”

A few years ago my friend Lois and I went to Switzerland. We stayed in the tiny village of Obfelden (I still managed to get lost there), in an 18th century barn (refurbished) belonging to an Australian woman who taught in an international school near Lucerne. It was great and I want to go back and hope to but…

When we got there, one of the first questions we were asked was, “We looked up Monte Vista on Google. What are those circles?”

Really, they do look like they were made by aliens when you look at the satellite view.

Generally, land is measured in acres, half-acres, sections, and something vague called a “parcel.” I hear that phrase a lot less now than I did when I was a kid. The grownups (in Montana) would say, “That was a nice parcel we had down by the river.” Of course that was confusing but language is too dangerous for children.

So, this morning I looked up parcel as it pertained to land. Maybe (I wondered) it’s a legit measurement.

A quarter section is 160 acres (65 ha) and a “quarter-quarter section” is 40 acres (16 ha). In 1832 the smallest area of land that could be acquired was reduced to the 40-acre (16 ha) quarter-quarter section, and this size parcel became entrenched in American mythology. (Wikipedia)

These days when I see farm land advertised, it’s measured in circles. “Working farm, barn, outbuildings, newer house built in 2000, four circles producing.” The circles are made by Center Pivot Irrigation machines which work basically like compasses across the land. It’s an effective and efficient method of water delivery and automatically leaves part of the field fallow which is important for not draining the soil of nutrients. The water “rains” down on the crops. The fields are plowed in whatever way is best for what is growing there — for potatoes there are deep ridges that catch and hold the water taking it to the roots.

 

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Potato field in the San Luis Valley and Center Pivot irrigation

 

It seems to be a good method for dryland farming. I know that in more rain-rich areas farms are still measured in squares.

The satellite image above is centered just north and west of Monte Vista. The dark, jagged line is Rio Grande and the trees lining it. You can see some square “parcels” in the farms nearer the river — mostly pastures and grassland for grazing in winter, not land under cultivation.

It just looks like home to me.

If you’re curious, here’s some good information.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/06/rdp-tuesday-parcel/

First Snow — Report

 

Knowing perfectly well that March or April could arrive and I could, by then, be thoroughly sick of this stuff (doubtful but possible) here are some photos of our first snow of the winter. Last year we had ONE good snow storm on October 9 and that was it. Drought, no snow pack in the mountains, bad news for both of the “industries” in my valley — farming and tourism.

This year the local ski area, Wolf Creek, was the first in Colorado to open on weekends — two weeks ago with a foot of snow. Since then they’ve had (now) two more storms so it has to be pretty decent up there.

As for my big white dog and I? I was so excited at the prospect of snow I could hardly sleep. Lucky for Bear, she had no idea — or every idea through her nose that it was happening. It was wonderful to wake up to the miracle of a world transformed and quieted by snow.

 

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Not a lot of danger on the golf course today…but something smells good.

 

We were out by 8:00 to catch the snow before the day warmed up, and the snow stopped falling.

I love the feeling of cold air on my face and the vision of trees covered in hoarfrost and snow. I knew it would fade fast, and I didn’t want to miss it.

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Some of the trees still have leaves. I guess they just aren’t ready to move on. Snow on still golden branches of aspen trees is very lovely.

 

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Snow on Narrow-leafed Cottonwood

 

After about an hour, we came home and shoveled the sidewalk. The snow was like concrete at that point as the temperature had reached 32 (0 C). I shoveled my walk and my nextdoor neighbor’s because they’re out of town. There was no real need. I knew it was going to melt before night, but I like to shovel. My neighbor came across the street and helped me finish up and we visited for a while.

Bear and I just got back from the second walk. She checked her messages and then we went back to the golf course to see if we could find any tracks. Elk, I think, much to Bear’s delight, and pee on the side of a cottonwood.

There’s a lot of drama in my world during the hours from dusk to daylight, but I don’t interfere with it. I like seeing animls, but I think, even more, I like it when animals are free from me looking at them. I love the accidental meetings, though, during what I call “human” hours. We’re both surprised at the sight of each other. No sightings today.

My dog is tired, I’m tired, but we’re both very, very happy. We’ve waited a long time for this and it’s absolutely wonderful to be able to walk through the deep snow without even thinking about it. I’m looking forward to the coming months and maybe the chance to Cross-country Ski.

Peonies and Violas

“Oh thank goodness.”

“What?”

“It’s getting cold. I didn’t think she’d ever get around to putting our blankets on.”

“She always has. Always will. You need to relax a little bit. Soon after the leaves fall, she rakes them over you.”

“You don’t have the same problems with cold I do. You’ll bloom anyway.”

“True. Why are you so wimpy?”

“I’m not ‘wimpy’. I’m sensitive. Don’t forget I’m an exotic oriental blossom that has inspired poetry? I have tender petals.”

“Guess I’m glad I’m just a random wild flower.”

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“Is she going to cover you all, too? I hope so. It can’t be fun hanging out on the north side of that fence when it’s 20 below.”

“Martha will cover us soon, probably, but not until she has to. You see, we like growing and blooming and making seeds and all that. A little cold doesn’t bother any of us.”

“I see your pal the columbine is doing well.”

“She loves this. She has ice over her all winter.”

“Well, gotta’ go. Dormancy time and all that, you know. Nice chatting. See you on the flip side.”

“See you in spring.”

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P.S. The fallen leaves are so helpful to bugs, bees, flowers, and the ground I just can’t think of them as “dead.” Oh, here’s today’s bonus, a flock of Sandhill Cranes. ❤

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https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/30/rdp-tuesday-dead/

 

Life in the West (and a PSA — get your flu shot and don’t argue with me)

I’m as rugged as they come, being, as an old friend used to say, a “Modern Western Woman,” western meaning the West which is right here where buffalo roam and every second pick-up has a driver wearing a c’boy hat. I am self-reliant, don’t mind getting dirty and laugh at pain. Haha, pain.

So today I made my way to the big city and the supermarket. I never make a list because I’m rugged and don’t need frou-frou like that. The store was pretty empty except for the usual c’boys, farmers, Amish, and retirees. I went to find probiotics (since the antibiotics of the surgery, my digestion has been a little rugged) and saw there was NO ONE IN LINE AT THE PHARMACY.

“Get a flu shot,” said a still, small voice within. “Now’s the time.”

Always listen to the still, small voice within.

It takes a lot of guts to march up to that window and say, “I want a flu shot” and then they offer you one for pneumonia, too, because you’re a rugged OLD person which is even more rugged than a rugged young person. You’ll find out.

So I filled out a paper, handed over my Medicare card, and waited. People came and went. A cute little Hispanic boy about three showed me his very excellent Kung Fu moves, but since I’m so rugged, I just smiled. His mom informed me that the kid is a character. A little later a Hispanic farmer sat down beside me and said in the magical accent I’ve loved since I was a kid, “You getting a flu shot?”

“Yep,” I said which is how rugged Western people say, “Yes.”

The pharmacist called me and I went into a little room where I discovered I couldn’t get my long sleeve up high enough for him to give me a shot. No worries. Us rugged Western women wear undershirts, so I slipped my left arm out of the sleeve.

He did a good job with the shots. I hardly felt anything — and I told him.

“The pneumonia shot often hurts,” he said.

“Life is pain,” I said, grinning, embracing the misery of existence as any rugged, stoical western woman should.

Then he said, “Before you put your sleeve back on, let me see if it’s bleeding.”

I said, “I want a Band-aid. Even if it’s not bleeding, Band-aids make it feel better. Especially a Mickey Mouse Band-aid.

“Right?” he said, rummaging around in his Band-aid cabinet. “Oh!!! Wait, I have Loony Tunes Band-aids, wait!” As if I were going anywhere.

I am now wearing a Daffy Duck Band-aid on my rugged left arm.

I walked out, and the Hispanic farmer said, “I saw on the news there’s a new flu strain that kills people.”

“That’s fun,” I said. He grinned.

“Pretty soon we’ll all be wearing masks.”

“I want a Batman mask,” I said. Only Batman is more rugged than I am.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/09/rdp-tuesday-rugged/

Mitigating​ Factors

I’ve known this tree since I was 16 or so. The first time I saw it, my friend Kathleen and I climbed up the cliff face. Back then the “Bluffs” was a quiet, seldom visited, mildly wild-and-woolly place. It was Sunday afternoon after church. Kathleen and I went to the same church, lived in the same hood and went to the same high school. We walked to school together every day and hung out on weekends. She had a horse named Irish Luck and a great dog, a Border collie named Ronco. We had a lot of fun rambling around up there and life was (mostly) good.

Life in my family wasn’t so good. My dad’s abilities were deteriorating quickly from his MS, and I was scared about losing him. There were family fights almost every night. I avoided home as much as possible by doing lots of extra-curricular activities at school and getting a job.

So anyway, one Sunday afternoon Kathleen, Ronco and I went up to the bluffs, found a trail, took it until it petered out, saw the sandstone cliff, climbed up and arrived at this amazing tree. I was stunned. Out of the ‘dead’ trunk of this Rocky Mountain Juniper rose a straight new tree, back then about 18 inches tall.

I grew up with poetry and the whole thing of metaphors and symbols. I immediately saw in that tree a metaphor that was useful to me. The tree grows in sandstone. There’s no soil or anything from which you’d think it could derive sustenance. It’s hundreds of years old. Where it looked like it might have been on its last roots, it wasn’t. Right then and there I took the lesson. Whatever’s going on around, you don’t let it defeat you. You just quietly and according to your nature, keep growing. It may seem strange, but that tree became a kind of surrogate mother to me.

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From then on, pretty much every time Kathleen and I took a hike, we’d visit the tree for a few minutes unless it was our destination and then we’d go there and hang out. Today, you can drive to it if you want, but back in the late sixties, that wasn’t the case. Also, we walked from home. I’d pick up Kathleen and we’d trounce across a then nearly-deserted Academy Boulevard, run across a hay field, and into the thickets of scrub oak of the lower Bluffs, the neighborhood wilderness. That world is gone.

The day before yesterday, I saw my orthopedic surgeon. He X-rayed the hip replacement, examined me and said, “No restrictions. Go run up a mountain. Go ski. Where will you ski?”

Yesterday, my friend Lois (who grew up in the same neighborhood and also rambled around in the Bluffs with her brothers) and I went to see my tree. I had a lot to tell it. I can’t say I went up the hills like a mountain goat, but I did OK. My only struggle now is a lack of confidence in my footing. I will have to relearn the confidence I once felt on rocky slopes and sharper hills. We got near the tree and noticed a small one, pretty much just like my tree, but younger — maybe only fifty years old! It could easily be my tree’s daughter. They are the only two Rocky Mountain Junipers in this immediate area.

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Young Rocky Mountain Juniper

At my tree, I did what I did as a girl. I wrapped my arms around her. I cried, releasing all the emotion of the past several months, and I told her everything. Then, my feelings spent, I looked at her and saw how well she is doing. She has secreted sap and she was loaded with juniper berries. ❤

Have you seen God in His splendors,
heard the text that nature renders?
(You’ll never hear it in the family pew).
Robert Service, “The Call of the Wild”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/rdp-sunday-secrete/

They’re BAAAACCCKK

In the fall in the San Luis Valley, everything is in motion. The kids migrate back to school. The workers migrate to the potato and carrot fields. Trucks migrate the cattle back to the lower pastures. The elk and deer migrate to the valley floor from the high mountains. People in camo migrate to the foothills to shoot some meat. Some birds migrate away, heading south, and some birds stop their migration here as their winter destination. Some birds hang around to see if the river freezes, and if it doesn’t, they’ll spend the winter. Most important to tourism is the migration of the Sandhill Cranes.

You’d think they are the only birds that matter, but I love them, too. They are an ancient species that found a way not to migrate into extinction, even after thousands and thousands of years. I wish I could read their minds.

All this motion stimulated by the sun’s apparent migration south.

It’s one of the loveliest and most profound poems I know.

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/rdp-tuesday-migration/

Dusty and Mindy Move to Colorado in a Dodge Van with Lily and Me

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“What the fuck? This isn’t our car. It smells weird. I don’t like this, I don’t like this at all. I might lie on my back and pee in the air. This is awful. I’m scared.”

“It’s OK, Dusty. She’s here. We’re all here. Our beds are here. It’s all fine.”

“How can you be so sanguine, Mindy?”

“Well, first it’s my nature. Second, I think if she’s here we’re fine. If she comes back when she leaves us, we’re fine. I don’t worry about every little thing like SOME dogs I know. She always takes care of us.”

“But?”

“It’s OK Dusty,” I tell him from the front seat. “We’re going home. You can quit pacing and breathing hard.”

“OK.”

“See? I told you, Dusty. Lily isn’t worried.”

“Yeah but she’s a wild animal. We’re pets.”

“There is that. But really, Dusty, learn to keep it under control a bit. You’ll have a happier life.”

“You’re probably right, Mindy, but when I start getting scared, it’s a fast and slippery slope all the way to terror.”

“Lie down, Dusty,” I say.

“Do what she said. I have a feeling this time home is a long ways away.” Mindy closed her soft, sweet beautiful eyes and as a model for Dusty, went to sleep.

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/20/rdp-thursday-slippery/

Olden Days

I just saw this trailer for a film coming out this fall, and I want to see it.

I learned to ski on the “back” side of Pikes Peak. When I left Colorado in the mid-eighties, there were copious ski areas. The morning ski report was long. When I look at a ski area map now, it’s not like that. It shows the “mega” resorts that remain.

These ski areas weren’t resorts at all, many of them. They were places you could go in a day. Pikes Peak Ski Area was right off the Pikes Peak Highway — easy access. It was small, some rope tows, a poma and a chair lift. The snow was usually pretty good because it was on the north side of Pikes Peak — it was high, shaded and fairly well sheltered from the wind.

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Pikes Peak Ski Area

These ski areas often didn’t have many runs or amenities — no fancy hotel to spend the night, no shopping, food was often burgers cooked on the mountain on oil-drum grills and eaten standing up, but with season passes that cost $25 for a family, they made the sport accessible. The focus was on skiing.

Back then, too, there was a little reverse snobbery. Real Coloradans didn’t wear fancy ski clothes because skiing was part of who they were, an every day thing, nothing to get dressed up for. Fancy ski clothes revealed that the skier was from Chicago — or worse — Texas. For a while it was popular to ski in bibbed overalls. I didn’t; but I did ski in jeans. When I started X-country skiing, I wore those clothes to the down hill ski areas because there was political contention over “skinny skiers” using downhill slopes. I had to make my point, right?

Andy and Me, A-Basin, 1982

A friend and I at Arapaho Basin, 1982. I’m wearing knickers, high wool socks and layers.

Some of the small ski areas have grown up — Arapaho Basin back in the day was smallish and funky, but now it’s expanded and appears to be more closly linked to its neighbor, Keystone. I can’t say for sure; I haven’t been back.

Right now the local ski area — Wolf Creek — is the center of a big fight between conservationists and a rich Texan who wants to develop it into a resort. A ski resort would pretty much destroy the vibe that Wolf Creek wants to maintain and that the people here are comitted to. It’s a tense and murky situation since the economy of Southern Colorado is depressed and a ski resort would help, but, at the same time, it would put “our” ski area out of the reach of most people who actually live here.

I like the idea of small, local ski mountains, but economically, I can see they stopped being viable. Climate change has made the snowfall less dependable than it was when I was a young woman. Maybe there’s no connection between thousands more people driving into the mountains every weekend from Denver to Vail, Aspen, etc. than there were thirty years ago and the fact that we have less snow. No idea.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/rdp-monday-copious/

Quilt Show

As a girl, I learned all the domestic arts.  I enjoyed learning and doing them. I sewed all my own clothes through high school and started cooking when I was 7. I appreciate them very much, though I no longer participte in any serious way. Still, going to the annual quilt show in the mesmerizingly beautiful town of Creede, Colorado is a huge treat. My friend E and I went today and had a great time. I think I’m mostly just going to share pictures.

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This is the most amazing quilt (to me). This quilter combined traditional quilt patterns (Bear Paw, Canoe, Pine Tree, Berry Basket, Clouds, Geese [or ducks] in Flight) with images that reflect the patterns. My friend and I both loved this one.

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P.S. The quilt show is INSIDE a mountain. 🙂