October 27, 2010

Dogs' Licking Exposes Them to Drugs

Dogs go into heat after licking owners' hormone creams.

In female pets, the symptoms resemble heat: swollen genitals, bloody discharge and behavioral problems. Male animals are showing up with swollen breast tissue and hair loss. Standard treatments and even repeated operations have had no effect.

Now vets have identified the culprit. The pets were all owned by women who used hormone creams on their hands, arms and legs to counter symptoms of menopause. Animals who licked or cuddled their owners, or rubbed up against their legs, were being inadvertently exposed to doses of hormone drugs.
(Via Instapundit.)

October 25, 2010

Bumper-Sticker Philosophy

Patrick "Terrierman" Burns offers what might be the ultimate pro-hunting more-than-a bumper sticker.

And another one that is actually a bumper sticker.

What is That Little Girl Doing to the Weather?

This broad-strokes weather prediction for the upcoming winter by meteorologist Art Horn suggests that much of the northern United States and Canada (and China and Europe) are in for a cold winter.

This La Niña appears to be special, at least so far. It is well on its way to being the strongest of these events since the super La Nina of 1955-1956. During that powerful La Niña that lasted two years, the global average temperature fell nearly one degree Fahrenheit from 1953 to 1956.


For the last year, the world has been dealing with the warming effects of a strong El Niño. The El Niño [sic] warms the ocean waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean and in turn heats the atmosphere. Western Russia melted under a record heat wave this summer, after freezing from record cold last winter. Many parts of the southern United States had record heat this summer, but also shivered under record cold last winter. The persistence of the jetstream to blow in patterns that changed very little for long periods of time contributed to these extremes of temperature. This locked in jetstream wind pattern enhances temperature anomalies by restricting the exchange of air flow from one place to another. What would be hot becomes very hot, and what would be cold becomes very cold.

It is common for the jetstream to behave this way when the sun is in the solar minimum, such as it has been for the last three years. We are emerging from the minimum, but the sunspot numbers are continuing to be very low. Some solar experts say this next sunspot maximum may be one of the weakest in 200 years. As a result, the tendency for the jetstream to blow over parts of the Earth with little month-to-month variability may continue this year. That would result in continued extremes of temperature. The difference would be this time cold areas would be even colder due to the oncoming super La Nina and the falling global temperature.

He is suggesting much late-winter snow in the western United States, but I suspect that such snow will mainly be a Northern Rockies event. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center suggests a warmer, drier winter for the Southwest, so if that is true, we will be worrying about water, as usual.

All weather, like politics, is local.

October 24, 2010

Rodents and Fire

How frequently do you read about someone's house being destroyed by a fire "that started in the electrical wiring," and you wonder "How? Did the wiring short itself out?"

No, maybe it was the rats. Or squirrels.

And this is the time of year when some outdoor rodents start moving indoors (attics, garages, basements) looking for warmth.

October 21, 2010

When You Own a Dog Like Fisher . . .

 . . . you come home to scenes like this.

It's like the story of the wolf who kills all the sheep in the flock for the sheer joy of it. Only this is Fisher with M.'s hoard of plastic bags, which he discovered while we were in Colorado Springs yesterday.

October 15, 2010

Grapes Among the Ruins: A McElmo Canyon Vineyard

Looking at the books on sale at the Navajo National Monument visitor center, M. commented on how books about Navajo art, culture, etc. were on one side while pertaining to the Hopis and other Pueblo peoples were on the other.

Books on ethnobotany were on both sides, however, and I went away with one:Wild Plants and Native People of the Four Corners.

We always want to learn more about Southwestern gardening and to expand our knowledge of useful plants. In fact, the book inspired me to one experiment that I hope to blog later.

As for the Anasazi, who built the cliff dwellings that the monument preserves, they ate mush. Corn mush, ricegrass mush, bean mush, whatever. It sounds like the most boring (and nutritionally risky) diet ever on which to construct large stone buildings, trek across the landscape on ceremonial pathways, and otherwise carry on daily life.

If I am correct, a thousand years ago they did not even have chile peppers to give the mush some zing.

Animal protein? No buffalo in the area, just deer, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn antelope. Given the high population levels before the Great Collapse, which must have meant a lot of agile hunters with bows and throwing sticks, I suspect that those animals numbers were low and that venison was a rare treat indeed.

Even if you brought down a cottontail rabbit with your throwing stick, it probably had to be split eight ways.

But if they had grown grapes, their joie de vivre might have improved.

Switch on the alternative-history machine: Spanish explorers in the 16th century encounter Pueblo peoples whose cool, inmost rooms contain big clay ollas decorated in black-on-white Chaco designs where the wine is stored.

Later arrivals bring other European grapes, and in protected regions of the San Juan plateau the vineyards thrive. Chaco Canyon becomes  known for its chardonnay ...

OK, that is fantasy but Guy Drew Vineyards is not. In just twelve years, with liberal application of water and money, Guy and Ruth have created an excellent winery, one of several in the area. See the "Four Corners" listing here. Lots of people are growing grapes for the new wineries.

Coming home from the Kayenta Plateau, we stopped there, sampled the reds, and left with several bottles, supplemented with the partial bottle of their Petit Verdot from dinner that night at Nero's Restaurant in Cortez.

When I see vineyards, I see permanent habitation and local culture, something that ought to last as long as "great houses" and ceremonial trackways, maybe longer. It's a hopeful sign.

October 12, 2010

"It's a Sad Occasion"

Sunset shadows over Crestone Needle, Sangre de Cristo Range, 8 October 2010.
A cold front rolled down from northern Colorado, and M. was hinting this morning that a "quick blast of fire" from the wood stove might be nice.

So I built a fire, the first one of the season, which had an official "end of summer" feel to it.

"It's a sad occasion," M. said, as she prepared to do some yoga in front of the bright orange light from the Pyrex windows.

Then she recalled that she had built the first fire last year on September 9th during a spell of cold, rainy weather. This year's fall season has been warm, and it may warm up again.

(I think that we are looking at an "open winter," as the old ranchers say, when you do not get snowed in so much.)

As a matter of religious principle, however, I never turn on the furnace until the 1st of November.

Meanwhile, there is some discussion of bread-baking today.

October 10, 2010

House of Rain, House of Pain

National Park Service Ranger Pat Jovesama, a Hopi Indian,  set off down the canyon trail at a deceptively slow amble that still kept him ahead of the group.

It had rained hard all night, one thunderstorm after another shaking our little pop-up trailer at the campground at Navajo National Monument* in northeastern Arizona.

"Administration," he said, in his soft, low-key Hopi way, might order him to abort the ranger hike to Bétatakin Ruin if the weather looked too bad.
Setting off in the sunshine down the Betatakin cliff dwellings trail.
So he did not pause to talk about flora and fauna, except to briefly point out the Ice Age-relict stand of aspen and Douglas fir—seemingly out of place here in northeast Arizona—in one side canyon.

Following him were the couple from Tahoe with their elementary school-aged two kids (getting credit for "independent study" from their charter school—what a deal!), the couple from Middlebury, Vermont, with the rented motor home (you see so many of those in the Southwest, rented at the Phoenix airport), and the middle-aged Navajo woman, herself a former park ranger at Mesa Verde, with her two teen-aged daughters. 
Part of Tsegi Caynon on the Kayenta Plateau in NE Arizona. We were walking from the rim to the bottom.
Down, down we went, hundreds of feet, almost to the bottom of Tsegi Canyon, when the word was passed forward to Ranger Pat: the Navajo woman had sprained (or maybe broken) her ankle on the loose rocks of the trail. We gathered around where she sat with her leg straight out in front of her.

Ranger Pat was doing something with his first aid kit. The woman from Vermont offered some Motrin, which were accepted.

Dilemma. He had to stay with the injured woman until help came. Unaccompanied visitors are not allowed at Bétatakin, lest they walk off with it or something, so we could not go farther. He had radioed for help, which was coming. The rest of us should just walk back out of the canyon to our vehicles.

Rain was coming too, we could feel it. (The forecast was "80 percent chance of heavy rain.") On the descent, I had noticed that one section was just steps cut lightly into the slick rock, and I had wondered what it would be like to try to climb them in pouring rain.

I hiked out with the Vermonters, who were the fastest. The two teenagers were not far behind us. ("See you later, Mom.") At the parking area we met two park rangers unloading a folding stretcher. Three men still seemed like too few to carry a rather chunky woman up the steep canyon trail.

We offered again to help, but one ranger explained that "liability issues" prevented it. The message: We are park professionals. You are park consumers. Stay on the trail.

One more ranger was coming, so maybe with four they could break into two teams.

Bétatakin cliff dwellings, from the easy trail near the visitor center.
And then later the storms did come again, lashing and rocking the trailer, only to end in a sunny late afternoon.  For the second time, M. and I walked out to the overlook where you can see the ruin from across the canyon, which is enough for many visitors.

The woman's injury might have been a blessing, she suggested, because otherwise the storm (which spawned tornadoes elsewhere in Arizona) would have caught us hiking out of the canyon. Her pain, our gain.

I have been to many other Anasazi/Ancestral Puebloan ruins. To be frank, I was mainly curious to hear how a Hopi ranger would discuss the ruin, which the Hopi call Talastima, meaning "Place of the Corn Tassel." (The Navajo name, Bétatakin, means "House on a Ledge.")

Park Service interpreters always give a bland, non-controversial spiel, and Hopis keep secrets, but still, I wanted to hear his spin on the history.

Lacking that, however, here is a quotation from Craig Childs' excellent history House of Rain, which I reviewed earlier.
[The dwellings were occupied for less than a century. Tree-ring data reveals that] Mesa Verde ... produced no tree-cutting dates after 1280. Finally the large Kayenta sites of Kiet Siel and Betatakin saw their last construction in 1285....The Anasazi made their last attempts to hunker down, and finally no one was left. Ten years after Mesa Verde fell, Kayenta went down right behind it, like the successive toppling of dominoes, a wave of immigrants and abandonments heading south, pushing down walls as they went, uprooting everyone.
*Yes, the monument protects ruins built by the ancestors of the Hopi tribe, but the Navajos lived there later and their reservation surrounds it, hence the name, I guess.

Blog Stew Without Helmets

It looks like a "La Niña" winter ahead, meaning drier than average in the Southern Rockies, according to John Orr at Coyote Gulch.

• "Bike Helmet Wars." Apparently helmet laws actually cut the number of kids who ride bikes—not good. But we can't have people making decisions when and when not to wear them—unless they are president of the United States.

• Blogger Cat Urbigkit, who with her husband is touring the world to research wolf-stopping livestock protection dogs—a trip financed largely by the state of Wyoming—is now in Portugal, her first stop.

Walking the streets and roads of the natural park, we met up with our first guardian dogs, of two native breeds. There is a program in place to distribute the Transmontano mastiff to cattle and sheep grazers in the park to protect their herds from wolf depredation. The park maintains a registry of mastiff litters and makes these dogs available to producers. Since the program’s inception in 1994, the result has been a decrease in depredations on both sheep and cattle.

In Europe, natural parks include towns and farms, hunting and livestock grazing, etc. A natural park is a protected area that includes "natural, semi-natural and humanized landscapes, of natural interest, representing harmonious integration of human activity with Nature." 

October 09, 2010

Why Bo Won't Heel & Other Snippets

• The Obamas' dog Bo joins a long line of untrained White House dogs. The reason is simple, writes Patrick Burns. Burns' linked photo says it all.

• The feds give Colorado $450,000 to lease "walk-in access" hunting rights on private agricultural land. In an age of big farms and absentee owners, plus the usual urban-rural disconnect, this is a good thing. And as the next item mentions, upland bird hunting (and small game too) get no respect from outdoor marketers.

• Or in Jay Kumar's words, "Why has everyone given up on the upland bird market?"
If you don't believe me, here's a comment left on a Field & Stream blog: "Now everyone is antler and gobbler crazy. It's what's on TV. It's what's hyped up in the ads. There is no record book or super slam for grouse. A fine morning of wingshooting isn't cool or awesome or fist-pumpy. You can't use the latest tech or signature gear. You have to like, walk around in the brush. That's no fun anymore."
• The Denver Post frets that beetle-killed lodgepole pine are not being removed fast enough in northern Colorado.

Some foresters, however, suggest that as these standing dead trees lose their limbs, they actually become less of a fire hazard than dense, live conifers. Although the Post's story mentions one fire, we have not seen "the big one" in the beetle-killed stands.

And there is the money issue:
One challenge facing contractors is getting rid of the cut trees. Timber mills in Montrose and the San Luis Valley and a pellet factory in Kremmling have been hard-pressed to pay loggers enough to make that tree-removal work profitable.

October 07, 2010

This Fall Foliage Photo Has Been Posted in Accordance with Law

Fall colors near Ouray, Colorado.
This photo of fall aspen colors is posted pursuant to the Colorado Photography Act of 1964 (familiarly called the "Ektachrome Act"), which requires that all professional and semi-professional photographers in the state—essentially anyone who has ever sold a photo—shoot at least one full roll of slide film on scenic shots featuring golden aspen groves. 

That most photography is now digital appears to have escaped the legislature, which has not updated the statute's language.

(Journalist/blogger Hal Walter demonstrates his legal compliance as well. Con Daly is not in compliance, thus far.)

October 03, 2010

The Mill at the Camp Bird Mine, 1940 and 2010

Photo by Russell Lee, 1940, for Farm Security Administration

The Camp Bird Mill above Ouray, Colorado, from a series of color photos of American life that nowadays cause people to react, "How slim they were! How dignified!" Yeah, what about that?

That building is gone, but the tailings pile remains (below), helping to give the Uncompahgre River its uniquely milky-green toxic appearance.