June 28, 2009

Catching Rainwater in Colorado Legalized

What is odd is that I saw this in the online New York Times, but not in the Denver Post or Pueblo Chieftain. National Public Radio's version is here.

Now two new laws in Colorado will allow many people to collect rainwater legally. The laws are the latest crack in the rainwater edifice, as other states, driven by population growth, drought, or declining groundwater in their aquifers, have already opened the skies or begun actively encouraging people to collect.

A Colorado State University extension agent clarifies that the new law applies only to people not on municipal water systems.

How many people do you suppose are going to get a permit?

Thus, if you have a household-use only well, you can only use rainwater for “drinking and sanitary uses” within the home, according to the summary. Flushing toilets is in but greenhouse irrigation is out, and don’t even think about creating a decorative water feature with it. If you choose to drink, check with your local health department for tips on cleaning the water before consuming it.

With few exceptions, Colorado reporters are afraid of water reporting. I noticed that when I first joined the old Colorado Springs Sun, and indeed it was not until I was on my second paper that I made the effort to learn the basics about water issues.

June 27, 2009

Trash-picking and a Memory of Troop 97.

More volunteer work for the Division of Wildlife today: I spent about three hours cleaning camping areas and chatting with a couple of DOW guys and the other volunteers.

At the end, the local district wildlife manager, another guy, and I needed to return to the boat ramp where our vehicles were parked. I hopped in the back of the DOW pickup, since the radio gear in the cab makes it impossible to sit three abreast.

I'm riding along the dirt roads, sitting on the tool box, gazing at the mountains and the cloud-dotted sky, and I get this sort of kinesthetic memory oozing up from my body.

Then it hits me--Boy Scouts!

It was like being 12 again and working on some project for a merit badge or the Hornaday Award.

Only the truck would have been Forest Service green instead of Wildlife grey. Wayne Parsons, the scoutmaster, was a recreation manager on the Roosevelt National Forest and big on Scouting projects that dovetailed with Forest Service recreation.

Parsons, who worked for the US Forest Service, also directed the troop in work on the Hornaday Award, which several Scouts received. This national award recognizes significant contributions to conservation, and is rarely given.

For instance, we might make a five-day backpacking trip and map and measure trails the whole time. (I bet he did not even have to take vacation days!). I remember helping to survey a new campground site and learning a little about using a plane table alidade.

In my photo, Wayne Parsons doctors his blisters partway through a backpacking trip with Troop 97.

I still have the Hornaday medal. Since it just sits in its box, I might offer it for sale. Apparently eBay is full of Scouting-memorabilia collectors.

UPDATE: The Hornaday medal brought $879 at auction, which should pay for a trailer-camping trip in the Black Hills this fall.

Rags over the River: The Fix is In

Christo and Jeanne-Claude are Great Artistes, and zey have une grande vision artistique called "Over the River."

Those Coloradans who worry about the disruption of commerce, of emergency services, of their pitiful small town lives, et cetera -- they are like the squeakings of the mice. Ils sont très amusants.

Now politicians are lining up behind their "Over the River" project. All they see is the money.

If "Over the River" is ever constructed, you can forget about driving US 50--a major arterial--between Cañon City and Salida. They will need to one-lane it in certain stretches to hang the rags. Of course, Christo's people promise to minimize the disruption, but why should we believe them? Zey are artistes.

I have seen over the years what one wreck can do in terms of travel disruption on that stretch of highway, where there is no place to detour because you have a cliff on one side and the river on their other. It won't be pretty.

Then, if the rags are installed, the road will be jammed by looky-loos, tourists, and people who claim to understand Christo's art.

It occurs to me, however, that the project is planned right next to the "Blood of Christ" mountains, which matches nicely with the hubris of "JC/Christo." Is there an omen there?

Artspeak: Frequently reframing the forms and spaces of both the urban and the natural landscape, their work fosters a vital reconsideration of social dynamics, administrative systems, funding and public space.

Just think, this blog is a part of the social dynamics. We are all part of the grande vision, as were those poor mice who squeaked at the stormy public meetings.

Happy Cactus

Two of the common Opuntia cactus in the woods--the claret cup in bloom and another mini-prickly pear living on a boulder in what must be just wind-blown dirt. Thanks to the wet weather in May, however, they look pretty happy.

But as the experts say, don't mulch your cactus.

June 25, 2009

Blog Stew with Lynx

• A list of nature books for young readers from the John Burroughs Association.

• Famous Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki suffers a public meltdown over British Columbia politics.

• The Colorado Division of Wildlife reports births of some second-generation lynx kittens:

"The discovery of kittens this year is extremely promising," said Tanya Shenk, DOW lynx field researcher. "The locations of the dens show that lynx are beginning to expand their ranges and are once again finding both food and habitat necessary for successful reproduction."

In addition, two dens housed kittens from Colorado-born parents--the first kittens documented where both parents are native to Colorado. Division biologists believe there may be additional dens and kittens not found during this year's survey.

• Turtles eating things. What it says.

The "Olla" Technique for Deep Watering

It is raining right now, hurray, but rain cannot be counted on here in the Southwest. For certain flower and vegetable beds, soaker hoses or permanent drip-irrigation systems are not an option and my house, but "ollas" (Spanish for jug) work, even in our heavy clay foothills soil.

Supposedly this is an old Pueblo Indian technique—bury an unglazed clay pot with just the neck showing and then fill it as needed.

The top photo shows two models. The vinegar jug at left (heavier than a milk jug) is pierced with multiple holes (that do not show up well), made with a hot awl. The other olla consists of two flower pots joined by Blue RTV Silicone and with a stopper in the lower pot's drain hole.

Each has its pros and cons:

1. Plastic jug: Quick, easy, cheap, but will disintegrate from ultraviolet light in two years.

2. Clay pots: Breakable, must be purchased, last longer, diffuse water more gradually.

Here are two jugs with potatoes planted around them, the photo having been taken in early June. The funnel is for filling. In clay soils, the water will not seep out very far from the jug, so plants must go right next to it. The pine needles are mulch—a little difficult to arrange, but free for the gathering nearby.

Surface watering on clay soil often pools and runs off, but the jugs can release water deeper down, within a small radius.

June 23, 2009

A New Home for the Flycatchers

Not wanting to see a repeat of last year's reckless nesting behavior on the part of the Cordilleran flycatchers, I put up a nesting ledge more or less above last year's nest (and I moved the pipe).

Here is the female on her clutch of four eggs, the usual number.

I don't think that any of the other new or relocated birdhouses are occupied, however.

Evidently I understand dogs and flycatchers, but not cavity nesters.

June 22, 2009

A Raccoon by Express Mail

Don't knock the Postal Service. It can provide in-state same-day delivery of a raccoon.

After our wildlife-transport training last February, the telephone never rang. May came and went, and so did early June. Nothing.

Today, finally, we had a call and email from our Division of Wildlife contact person. Could we take a raccoon from Pueblo to Tom and Cec Sanders' wildlife rehabilitation center. (Their book is good reading: If You Talk to Animals: The Life of a Wildlife Rehabilitator.)

It was sort of like the Underground Raccoon Railway. M. and I drove to Pueblo and parked by the railroad tracks just off Interstate 25 at a certain exit. After a short wait, a semi marked "US Mail" exited and pulled up—one of the contractors who moves mail from town to town. I waved. The driver hopped out, opened his passenger-side cab door and removed a cardboard carton, which made scrabbling noises.

After a minute's chat, he drove off toward Colorado Springs, and we headed west.

The little coon, the size of a half-grown kitten, had apparently been found in a Lamar liquor store, "knocking bottles of Jack Daniel's off the shelf." A wildlife officer responded and captured it, I gather, later turning it over to the trucker for the first stage of its journey. Injured birds of prey come up to the Raptor Center in Pueblo in the same way, I gather.

Cece put him in a pet carrier for the night, with a teddy bear. The other two raccoons that she is caring for had teddy bears as well—not for companionship so much as for something to burrow under and hide behind, apparently. I will get a progress report on Wednesday--it looks like we will be making another critter run then--but this new arrival seemed healthy and feisty enough.

June 21, 2009

Solstice at FIBArk

The Sun was as high in the sky as it could be, and we were in Salida for the last day of FIBArk, catching the Crazy River Dogs Contest and the Ladies Freestyle Kayak competition. (Here is an earlier report on the river dogs.)

Some low-resolution video from my digital camera here -- yes, it's the same announcer for both events.

River dog Storm fights the current in the current in the run-off-swollen river. He missed the stick at first, which put him out of the top finishers. Being a dog, he did not know that.

Salida freestyle kayaker Nicole Mansfield, one of half a dozen competitors in the Ladies' Freestyle event, in her first of three one-minute displays.

June 20, 2009

That Wandering Wolverine

The Denver Post article about the wolverine that wandered in from Wyoming has made its web site's "most popular" list.

Bob Inman, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Yellowstone Wolverine Program, said the animal, tagged M56 and fitted with a radio collar in December, went on the move in April.

He traveled from Grand Teton National Park, crossing busy Interstate 80 in southern Wyoming, to reach timberline in the mountains of northern Colorado.

"It is great news that this animal has ventured into Colorado, where it hasn't been documented in 90 years, but it also underscores the need to manage this species at a multi-state scale," Inman said.

So how do you manage them, beyond teaching them to avoid Rock Springs on their trip south?

June 19, 2009

Working Dogs

Via Boing Boing.

And on a more serious note, what happens when a dog owner doesn't let the dog do what it was bred to do -- but with a happier outcome:

Luckily a hog hunter offered to train her to hunt wild boar, the job that was ingrained in her genetic code, to see if a job could make a difference. Despite being a vegetarian hipster chick that wanted nothing to do with hunting, I drove Sadie out to the country and left her with the hog dogger for a month. It made an incredible difference.

June 18, 2009

Habitat Stamp No Longer Required for Birding, etc.

Not any more.
In January 2006 I blogged about the new requirement for all visitors to Colorado state wildlife areas to buy a Division of Wildlife "habitat stamp," a requirement that I figured would be largely unenforced.

Now the state has switched positions. No more stamp is needed, unless you are actively hunting or fishing. "New state legislation has redesigned the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Protection Program that provides funding for wildlife habitat conservation," says the news release.

Some birders have not yet gotten the message, but it should filter out through CoBirds, etc. And as SeEtta points out in that post, buying helps pay for search and rescue if you need to be searched for or rescued.

Blog Stew with ... No! Leave It!

• Amazing dog digestive story.

• "Why didn't the kitty play nice?" Because it is, as Ernest Hemingway would say, "a big kotsy." More local coverage here.

• Not content merely to assault the kennel clubs over their harmful breed standards, Patrick "Terrrierman" Burns now goes after fish.

Adobe Airstream is a new online magazine on arts and culture in the West started by Conrad Skinner. Interesting content, complex layout--sometimes too complex. Maybe they will get the kinks out eventually.

June 17, 2009

Paying the "Rural Tax" -- Digital Version

Rural life: the county road is gravel, we have to shoot our own criminals because the sheriff is 45 minutes away, and the well water is free until you have some kind of catastrophic pump failure.

Then came the digital TV switch. I got the converter boxes (one for our house and one for the vacation-rental cabin) weeks ago, but put off facing the inevitable.

Probably these are the only two houses on our road without a satellite dish. But every time I think of paying for DirectTV or whatever, I stay in a hotel and experience "thirty channels and nothing's on."

Call us an "at-risk household."

Before the Utah trip, I installed one at the cabin, which has a large outdoor antenna. It went from getting KTSC (PBS) real well, KRDO (ABC) sort of OK, and KKTV (CBS) with lots of snow to getting KKTV's three digital channels beautifully -- and nothing else.

Back home on the 15th, I put a box on our set, which hooks to a different antenna about 30 yards from the house. "Goodbye, PBS," I thought.

Well, no. Again, there was KKTV, but KRDO, which used to come in all right on the analog signal, was flat gone. No more Desperate Housewives. Sorry, sweetie. But hey, Rocky Mountain PBS, which still thinks that Lawrence Welk and John Denver are cutting-edge entertainment, is looking good. It's a pity that their programming is so tame (or a word that rhymes with tame).

Hurray for Netflix, that's what I say.

June 12, 2009

On the Road: Price, Utah

As befits a coal-mining town, Price, Utah, has a statue in a park of a helmeted coal miner saying good-bye to his little son.

But its downtown area also features this Kokopelli as well. Any unborn children in that pack?

June 05, 2009

Is This Dumb or What?

From Yahoo (no exclamation point, thanks) News, a news story headlined "Conservatives Are More Easily Disgusted."

People who squirm at the sight of bugs or are grossed out by blood and guts are more likely to be politically conservative, new studies find.

When I read "blood and guts," I think of butchering your own wild game, and I will let you readers think about which political party (rightly or wrongly) is associated with hunters.

Maybe this article is a case of shallow science journalism (or shallow news release-rewriting) meeting obsolete political categories and producing ugly offspring.

What is a "conservative," after all? We see Republicans desperately trying to decide that question after the Bush years (fiscal conservative? cultural conservative? which culture?).

Why do many so-called conservatives, of the Rush Limbaugh variety, seem so hostile to conservation, of the natural-resources variety?

Everyone wants to score sound-bite points, but few people think about first principles.

June 03, 2009

Top Towns for Hunters, Anglers

Outdoor Life magazine named its top towns for hunters and anglers. People in Lewiston, Idaho, are probably saying "Not us again!"

In Colorado, Granby, Carbondale, and--surprise--Colorado Springs make the list.

Had anyone asked me, I might have suggested Grand Junction. I don't much care for the town itself, which is one story tall, seemingly ten miles across, and choked with traffic, but you can get to a lot of interesting places and different habitats from there.

June 02, 2009

Blog Stew with Fish

• National parks to offer three free admission on three summer weekends.

• Restaurant annoys diners with fake bird-distress and raptor calls.

• Using Thermo-Gel to protect your house from wildland fire.

• Fishing is free in Colorado on June 6-7 for both residents and visitors. Other limits and regulations still apply. More information at the Division of Wildlife's fishing page.