January 31, 2009

Ve haf vays of knowing who vas pooping und vhere!

A German town wants DNA samples from all local dogs so it can fine owners when their pets foul public spaces.

"We have to do something," added the mayor. "The stink is really awful at times." The baroque eastern city of Dresden contemplated introducing a simple genetic test for the 12,000 dogs registered in it a few years ago but dropped the idea on the grounds of costs and bureaucracy.


January 30, 2009

Blog Stew with Bread Crumbs

¶ A gateway page to bird poems.

¶ If you feed ducks, you feed rats.

¶ The American Museum of Fly Fishing invites Dick Cheney (!!) as a guest speaker, and Ted Williams has a little fun with the announcement.

Siskin Slackers

Back from the Pueblo PetsMart store, where I spent $30 on black-oil sunflower seeds and $35 on Niger thistle seeds. Add sales tax and you have $70 ... on worthless, layabout birds.

I think that I am feeding every pine siskin in the northeast corner of the county named for the famous cavalry tactician.

Ought to be a tax-deductible charitable contribution, don't you think?

I have read that the original purpose of feeding wild birds near the house was to lure them in for the purpose of turning them into pies. If I were a Sicilian, junco-and-siskin pie would be on the menu.

(grumble grumble)

January 27, 2009

The St. Vrain Cemetery

St. Vrain Cemetery, Pueblo County, Coloado. November 2008. Photo by Chas S. Clifton
The St. Vrain Cemetery on the Huerfano River in Pueblo County. Click to enlarge.

As long as I am posting historic cemetery pictures, here are some graves of the Autobees / Autobee family, descended from Charles Autobees, one of the Missouri-born mountain men-traders-ranchers who tried to put down roots in the country between present-day Pueblo, Colorado, and Taos, New Mexico.

"Autobee" is carved on the large cross, as well as on the reddish stone beside it.

Charles Autobee is included in this biographical list.

Charles spoke fluent Navajo, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Lakota, and Spanish.

Or at least maybe he could say a few things in all of them.

Tough, stubborn, and adaptable (languages!), he hung on to his ranch on the Huerfano when many of his neighbors fled back to the Taos and Mora areas after the 1854 Fort Pueblo Massacre.

The cemetery, still in use, is today wedged between a gravel county road and an irrigated field--that is a center-pivot irrigation sprinkler arcing across the photo behind the graves. It would be on or near Autobee's ranch of the 1850s.

The definitive history of this area during the fur-trade era remains Janet Lecompte's Pueblo, Hardscrabble, Greenhorn: Society on the High Plains, 1832-1856.

January 21, 2009

A High Plains Graveyard

The little graveyard at Doyle on the Huerfano River. Photo copyright Chas S. Clifton. January 2009Monday's hawk-watching-and-exploration drive produced no good bird pictures, but for a dose of prairie melancholy, here is the little graveyard at Doyle, southeast of Pueblo on the Huerfano River.
(Note: the first link goes to a page that lists the cemetery as being in Huerfano County, which is incorrect. It is in Pueblo County.)

That is Pike's Peak in the distance.

January 19, 2009

Doggie Bushcraft II -- Making a Pig of Yourself

Last week someone must have shot a feral pig, of which more below.

Maybe after he (?) butchered it, he decided to make a gift to the scavengers of the head, guts, and hide.

Only instead of taking them way up on the national forest, he dumped them on an uninhabited stretch of county road about a mile from my house.

OK idea, poor execution.

Five days ago, M. took Shelby the ninja-collie on a walk up that same road, spotted the pig's head, and turned around. Too late: Shelby had the scent.

This morning Shelby disappeared. First I drove the Forest Service road up to her favorite old elk ribcage, but she was not there. Hmmm, I thought, better check the pig.

And there she was on the bank beside the road, happily chewing the hide. I drove up, she came over wagging her tail ("The car service is here."), and I loaded her into the Jeep Liberty. Doggie bushcraft strikes again.

Because it was a warm day, we decided to go look at hawks on the prairie. We saw a kestrel, numerous red-tails, and a couple of harriers, although I expected to see more hawks perched in the old cottonwood trees along the East Huerfano Road than I did.

Somewhere between Pueblo Reservoir and home, she quietly barfed about a double handful of pig parts into the back of the Liberty, managing to hit corners of M.'s daypack and the spotting-scope case. Later she brought up more on the front porch. Then she went to bed.

Eyes bigger than stomach? That saying was written for a dog.

The feral-I-assume pig's hide was solid black. I remember driving to work in about 2000, nearing the south entrance to the Pueblo Reservoir State Wildlife Area, and seeing a large black dog standing beside Colorado 96. But when I flashed by at 60 mph, I realized that it was not a dog but a pig. Do they tend to be black?

I was told back then by a Division of Wildlife employee that there are some feral pigs in the area, but apparently not many. These draft regulations (PDF) show them as being legal game all year around.

Other scavengers have removed this pig's gut pile in the last two days, but I think that I should drive up there in the old CJ-5 (no carpeting), remove the head and hide, and put them ... somewhere, so that Shelby will not keep going back.

Update: I did "disappear" the pig's head and hide on Tuesday the 20th. The gut pile was already gone.

The Former Kress Store in Downtown Pueblo

An architectural detail from the old S.H. Kress & Co. building in Pueblo, Colorado. "The Kress chain was known for the fine architecture of the stores," says Wikipedia. You can see more at this Art Deco tribute site, as well as examples of Kress stores in other cities.

This detail is the "ram of plenty," as far as I can tell.

I am not a huge Deco fan, but I do think that the style ages better than 1960s Brutalism.

January 17, 2009

News from the Recycling Front

Pushing some faux-green conspicuous consumption, Thursday's Denver Post "Room" section announced the Mode Premium All-In-One Recycling Center.

It reminds you when pick-up day is coming. The cheaper model is only $180.

But when it breaks, M. asks, can it be recycled too?

A follow-up to an earlier article on the economics of recycling: Apparently some glass recycles well.

Faux-Green Symbolism at the Inauguration

A New York Times article illustrates why it sometimes is hard to have warm feeling about national environmental organizations. Does it really matter if the carpet is recycled?

I suppose the influence must be exerted in the halls of power, but sheesh, Bo Derek, spokeswoman for the environment? She did hang with Tarzan, it's true.

January 16, 2009

Blog Stew with Truffles (I Wish)

¶ I wonder if they would like to try this fungal experiment in the Wet Mountains.

¶ Bark beetles keep killing pine trees.

¶ More discussion of aggressive urban coyotes. The comments are typically sarcastic.

Fifties Nostalgia in Pueblo

The 1950s are alive at this Pueblo barbershop.

There's a young Elvis Presley, holding a stand-up microphone. You can almost hear him singing "(You Ain't Nothin' But A Hound Dog;" Johnny Cash, freshly arrested, posing for his mug shot; several photos of Frank Sinatra, including his own mug shot; an old poster, announcing a Negro League Baseball game; Bettie Page cheesecake photos; Carl Perkins; a concert poster announcing an appearance by the Big Bopper, Richie Valens, Buddy Holly and Dion; Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Wanda Jackson, Eddie Cochrane, James Dean and other luminaries of an age that some thought passed by, but not so here at Classics.

Coincidentally, I remember that the first time I heard Don McLean's "American Pie," about the deaths of Buddy Holly, et al., I was driving into downtown Pueblo on 4th Street in my mother's Ford Falcon.

I have to say that that city does Fifties-early Sixties nostalgia well. Puebloans have never let go of that era.

January 14, 2009

Park Service "Challenged" by Conceal-Carry Law

Yellowstone National Park officials are "challenged" by the new federal regs allowing concealed-carry permit holders to do so in national parks, subject to the surrounding state's law.

Sebastian helps with a definition of "federal facility," straight out of the U.S. Code.

Yes, Yellowstone National Park does include bits of Idaho and Montana, although by far most of it is in Wyoming.

Permit holders will "have to do a lot of research," warns a former NPS employee, with the obvious implication that they are incapable of doing so.

One Web site is all you need. There, wasn't that easy?

These Park Service types remind me of the Teen Talk Barbie of 1994 that squawked "Math is hard!" when you pushed a button.

The Bird-Killing Library Wing

Tomorrow I will stop by the Colorado State University-Pueblo library to return some books.

The long-hoped-for renovation is finally underway, and this weekend more offices and the circulation and reference services will move to their temporary home in the student center.

Even the library dean herself admits that the building (as with the rest of the 1960s campus) is pure "Brutalism," and not too much can be done about that. Unlike her, I don't think the style is retro-cool.

My former office, in the attached academic wing, has been or will soon be gutted along with the rest of that floor. Good riddance.

The "wing," built about 1965, had deteriorated into the campus slum. Administrators walked its halls only in pairs. The windows were last washed in 1965. Curtains hung in tatters. The classroom that I usually used was finally re-painted after 40 years when I organized a small painting party of friends and adjunct instructors and paid them in pizza.

The architects, Caudill Rowlett Scott of Houston, had wasted no money on soils engineers. Built with inadequate foundations on expansive soils, all the 1960s campus buildings bucked and heaved in slow motion, opening cracks in the floors and walls. (I filled a couple myself with spray foam insulation to keep the whistling winds out.)

They were hard to heat and cool, wasting energy all year around. No doubt the architects were given awards by their peers in the competition for ugly Modernist buildings.

And the library building killed birds.

I used to frequently find dead house finches, sparrows, etc. by the outside door leading to the staircase to my floor.

The building design included a glass panel that served as an inadequate windbreak beside that door. I think that birds flying past the building did not always see it sticking out in front of them.

So one day I slapped up a falcon-shaped sticker that came with an Audubon Society mailing, and I like to think that the number of avian deaths decreased. The raptor's silhouette is supposed to scare other birds away.

For several years, I considered that falcon sticker to be my legacy, but it probably will not survive the renovation.

The West wind will continue sweeping across Baculite Mesa and past the stained concrete and stucco, Le Corbusier's ugly stepchildren.

January 11, 2009

Colorado Division of Wildlife Seeks Volunteers

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is seeking volunteers for the upcoming seasons.

"Rapid development and habitat loss have increased the challenges to Colorado's wildlife and the DOW is fortunate to have a dedicated group of people willing to get up early on cold mornings or work late nights to help the DOW in multiple ways," said Jena Sanchez, a Volunteer Coordinator from Colorado Springs.

"Volunteer efforts make a huge impact on helping wildlife. The value of their donated time is over a million dollars a year. Volunteers help accomplish important work that might not get done otherwise," she said.

Sanchez conceded that not all of the jobs volunteers assist with are glamorous, but they all have a positive impact for wildlife. "Counting bighorn sheep and mountain goats sounds neat. But it means getting up before dawn to climb mountains in sometimes less than ideal weather. It can be a grueling experience, but by and large every volunteer who does it comes away with a sense of personal gratification that they are making a difference."

Sanchez said the agency tries to match people with tasks they are comfortable with. Not everyone wants to get wet spawning fish, get dirty planting trees, or work with youngsters teaching hunting safety and outdoor ethics. Some volunteers do light office duty, work in customer service centers, serve as campground hosts, or staff information booths at wildlife festivals and trade shows.

New volunteer orientation meetings will be held on the following dates and locations:

Denver, Jan. 21
Pueblo, Jan. 21.
Colorado Springs, Jan. 22.
Fort Collins, Jan. 28
Grand Junction, Feb. 17

To learn more about these or other opportunities to get involved, contact the DOW volunteer coordinators.

Cheap Gear

M. and I went to Colorado Springs earlier this week and stopped by our favorite department store, the ARC thrift store at 1830 W. Uintah St. It is large, well-organized, and full of cheap gear.

Stuff that did not exist when I was younger ...

A few weeks ago, M.'s winter parka experienced catastrophic zipper failure. At ARC, she picked up a like-new Columbia Omni-Tech parka for $20. (List price about $120.)

This was my day: A Cabela's "chamois cloth" shirt, maybe a discarded Christmas present worn once to please the giver, for $7.

Barely worn athletic shoes, $4, list price $49.95.

I don't normally buy used footwear, ski boots sometimes excepted, unless they are new or like-new and not shaped to the previous owner's foot. But sometimes you find new boots and shoes on the shelf -- shop-worn merchandise donated by retailers?

Like some no-name Chinese snow boots (with extra melamine): too clunky for long walks, but fine for going to the woodpile, short dog walks, or wearing into town on snowy or slushy days. Ten bucks.

Into my head floated the memory of a winter camping trip at Rocky Mountain National Park's Bear Lake with my Boy Scout troop from Fort Collins when I was 13 or so.

I was wearing jeans. And no one said anything, because that was pretty normal back then. (Even the ski patrolers wore jeans, to show that they were too cool to fall down and get them wet.) Of course, my jeans froze stiff from the knees down. The only other option might have been some Army-surplus wool trousers from Jax Surplus, if someone had suggested that.

Long underwear: cotton or some cotton-polyester blend?

Foot gear: well-oiled leather Wellingtons. And I wore them snowshoeing. It's what I had.

Sleeping bag: Army-surplus down-and-feathers bag, probably Korean War vintage, with a short foam rubber pad underneath--and not closed-cell foam, but something taken off a chaise longue, as I recall.

I don't remember what sort of coat I had -- some flimsy parka, most likely.

The second evening, the Scout leaders took us to see some wildlife movies in a heated Park Service building. Even then, I wondered if the main reason for that was the movies or just to get the boys warmed up before crawling into our miserable sleeping bags.

No harm done. We all survived and even enjoyed parts of it.

But I could walk around in the ARC store today and find cheap gear better than what Holubar Mountaineering was selling then (except for their down-filled sleeping bags).

January 10, 2009

Guerrilla Gardening

Watch a quick introduction to guerrilla gardening on some goofy British TV show (YouTube).

Enjoy the banter: "It's like the fairies have been there!"

"It's for those people who don't want to spend a lot of time out in those grotty places."

And visit the web site for more on "seed bombs," "seed guns," and bureaucratic snafus.

How often can you talk about illicit gardening without getting the sheriff's department involved?

January 09, 2009

Another Sleazy Trick by PETA

Patrick "Terrierman" Burns has long been chronicling how the blindness of kennel clubs and breed clubs to basic genetics is producing thousands of sick, deformed pedigreed dogs.

Now he links to an article in which the makers of an exposé documentary, Pedigreed Dogs Exposed, are furious with PETA (which kills dogs) for trying to jump on their coatails.

Pedigree Dogs Exposed was the result of two years’ careful research. The film highlighted serious health and welfare concerns in pedigree dogs that many experts agree need to be addressed urgently. However, the filmmakers have no connection to PETA and are idealogically opposed to PETA’s aims.

“I am horrified that PETA is using the film to further its own, warped agenda,” says Jemima Harrison, of Passionate Productions, which made the film for the BBC. “Our film is about animal welfare, not animal rights.

“PETA’s animal welfare record is appalling. It kills 97 per cent of the dogs that come to its shelters and admits its ultimate aim is to rid the world of what it calls the “domestic enslavement” of dogs as either pets or working dogs.

On the issue of pedigreed silliness, read more fisking of gun-dog breed histories here by Craig Koshyk.

January 07, 2009

Hunter's (Blog) Stew

¶ Henry Chappell wonders if his fellow Texans are losing hunting skills and relying too much on gadgets.

¶ Galen Geer has some ideas about how hunters can see the positive truths about themselves.

¶ Patrick Burns recycles a post (but it's a good one) about "real hunting" and what is not.

¶ And hunting saves oil, leading to "green deer" jokes. (Via Michael Bane.)

Where are the House Finches?

Bird movements are not always consistent from one year to the next; this I know.

But since we started counting birds for Project Feeder Watch in 1993, house finches have been one of the reliable winter species.

Last year we had four to six individuals in most counts and 16-25 in mid-January. (Cassin's finches would usually show up mid-winter as well. )This year, two house finches on one day.

But other Colorado counters are seeing them.

Pine siskins, on the other hand, are more abundant than usual. A flock of about 30-40 birds is hanging around most days.


As Medano Creek Flows, So Do Tourists

An article on 2008 visitation to Great Sand Dunes National Park contained this observation:

In keeping with the average number of visits, [park chief of interpretation and visitor services Carol] Sperling said an average flow year at Medano Creek, which streams past the southern face of the dunes and the visitor center, had an average year. "If the creek does not flow, that's when visitation really tanks," she said.

Incidentally, "Médano" is accented on the first syllable. It comes via Spanish from an Arabic word for ... sand dune.

Doggie Bushcraft

Shelby was out scavenging sunflower seeds under the bird feeder this morning. Maybe she learned to do that from the foxes. It's all part of being a wild doggie.

In fact, I now have a name for what she does: Doggie Bushcraft.

It is no different from the people who practice bushcraft skills for fun or "just in case."

Like ranging the woods for carrion after having had a full breakfast in a nice warm kitchen.

I reckon that it is a sort of canine historical reenactment. She is a wolf reenactor. And there are certain traditional skills that go with that.

So when I find her up on the national forest happily esconced in an elk rib cage -- discarded by some hunter who had butchered the elk at home -- she is just working on her bushcraft skills.

January 05, 2009

Frugality -- It's Dangerous!

¶ These doggone frugal people! They are not spending enough!

Rick and Noreen Capp recently reduced their credit-card debt, opened a savings account and stopped taking their two children to restaurants. Jessica and Alan Muir have started buying children's clothes at steep markdowns, splitting bulk-food purchases with other families and gathering their firewood instead of buying it for $200 a cord.

That sounds like normal life to me--especially the day after I paid for next summer's farm share.

January 02, 2009

Suicide in Beautiful Settings

Suicides in national parks are increasing, says the Association Press, although the National Park Service only recently started tracking the numbers.

"It's some place where, toward the end of someone's life, when they're feeling a total sense of despondency, they want to return to a place of natural beauty ... for their final moments," [Glacier NP chief ranger Patrick] Suddath said.

That comment immediately make me think of the death of Edward G. Robinson's character, Sol Roth, in the dystopian SF movie Soylent Green. Ready to die, Sol goes to some kind of official euthanasia parlor where his last views will be panoramic movies of animals and scenery that has disappeared from this overcrowded future Earth.

No one collects these numbers, but I recall a Colorado newspaper story from the 1990s about people coming to the mountains to end it all. My little county sees one or two of these (at a minimum) every year.