July 31, 2011

BLM Lets Christo Have His Way

As I said two years ago, the fix was in. The Bureau of Land Management sees no reason why ze gran artiste known modestly as Christo should not drape the canyon of the Arkansas River in plastic.

That would improve it, you see. In the words of one breathless High Art fan-girl, "It is thrilling that the BLM has embraced the idea of bringing plastic art into the natural landscape" (statement by Aspen museum director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson).
The preferred alternative identified in the BLM's final environmental impact statement largely matches the vision of the Bulgarian-born Christo and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude. They wanted to suspend 5.9 miles of silvery panels in eight sections above a 42-mile stretch of the river that mostly involves federal land.
What may be worst is that the BLM has agreed to let his construction crews block part of the  already narrow and twisting highway, which could add hours to the travel time of anyone who just wants to go from Point A to Point B.

Part of the canyon—from Parkdale to Texas Creek—could be bypassed via a longer, twistier drive on two state highways, Colorado 96 and 69. But the "preferred alternative" stupidly would let Christo's crews tie up the highway between Texas Creek and Salida, where there is no alternative highway route without going hundreds of miles out of the way—no consolation to the people who actually, y'know, live there.

All so that Christo can make a pile of money. Actually, since he makes his money from the sketches and other "conceptual" stuff, he could stop now and come out ahead. From an artistic standpoint, since he makes artworks "that go away," why not take the next step and make artworks that never existed?

After Interstate 70, which is quite a bit further north, U.S. Highway 50 is the next-busiest east-west route across Colorado. Sure, Christo has promised delays of no more than 15 minutes per work site, but there are a bunch of work sites. They are just the little people, mice nibbling around the ankles of Christo's grand artistic vision.

These rolling road-closures would last for two years during the project's construction and for months during its removal.

All the tourist-industry people licking their chops over the anticipated brief flush of visitors had better get used to some lean times first.

Sociology professor-turned-Cañon City fly shop owner Bill Edrington speaks for many:
"I'm afraid we are going to lose a lot of fisherman support on this river, and many of us here have worked all our lives to build this river into something special, and this project will destroy that work," said Bill Edrington, owner of Cañon City's Royal Gorge Anglers. "We have a law firm standing by waiting to file an injunction."

The battle now heads to the courts and the local jurisdictions, including Fremont and Chaffee counties, which must issue construction permits.
Drag it out. Time is on your side. Christo "is an artist and has courage," but he does not look too healthy.

July 30, 2011

America: A Little Less Tame

Recently a young male mountain lion walked from the Black Hills of South Dakota to Greenwich, Connecticut, where it unfortunately was struck and killed on a highway.

The appearance of this cat in Connecticut, where the only "cougars" were thought to be in the bar at the golf club, drew much media interest.

The New York Times turned to David Baron, whose book The Beast in the Garden thoughtfully explored human-mountain lion conflicts on Colorado's Front Range.
A single cougar, especially one that is now dead, is not going to transform the lives of many Americans, but what that cougar represents just might. Cougars possess a kind of Pleistocene wildness, reminding us of a time — deep in our evolutionary past — when we were prey to big cats. Even today, cougars in the West on rare occasions kill and eat people (more commonly they kill and eat dogs), and they are reclaiming former habitat, moving into the suburbs and onto the Great Plains. The Greenwich cat may have been a lone scout, but you can be sure others will follow. The resilient, elusive cats that haunt the Western landscape will increasingly haunt the East.
I walked the dogs up onto the national forest today, and they suddenly struck out for a patch of oak brush that they had ignored two days earlier.

Fisher trotted back out with a large bone in his mouth. I found Shelby standing in a smelly, fly-buzzing area of scattered hair and quickly leashed her before she decided to roll in it.

It looked at quick glance (I was busy dog-wrangling) like a lion might have killed a deer, and then other scavengers (bear? coyotes?) had moved in and cleaned up what the lion did not eat right away.

As Baron says, "America has grown a little less tame."

Velociraptor with Feathers and Other Updated Dinosaurs

One of the most famous Stegasaurus fossils was found near Cañon City, Colorado, a little more than a century ago, and the "most complete" skeleton was found there in 1992.

But a lot has changed in our understanding of dinosaurs over the intervening years, as this "top ten" post makes clear.

Some people, however, believe that dinosaurs were created by (drumroll) Satan. The Lone Star Parson has the details. What does that say about all the little boys who love dinosaurs?

Me, I do believe that there was a separate Creator for the insects—not anti-human or even anti-mammal, just profoundly alien.

July 29, 2011

Where's My Nomex Poncho?

Double rainbow in the foothills
A fire call in the middle of a thunderstorm—smoke reported somewhere along the county line to the east, where the foothills meet the mesa-and-canyon country. Given my location, I headed directly there, counting on someone else to bring the brush truck, figuring that I could be more use as a scout.

Visions of fighting a wildfire in a rainstorm passed through my head.

At the turnoff from the state highway, a Forest Service engine was parked. They were dispatched too—but had no idea where the alleged fire was. Rain beat down, and lighting crashed so close that we could hear the "click" before the boom.

A firefighter from "Mesa-and-Canyon VFD" pulled up—he and his wife had been eating at a nearby restaurant when he was "toned." (Pagers don't work in our more rugged area, so we use a combination of telephones and a siren to alert the volunteers.)

Various radio and cell-phone communications ensued. Thunder boomed. Rain poured. Our guys at the firehouse, about to roll, said they had been called back by the sheriff's office. Likewise the other department, by their county's dispatcher. Likewise the Forest Service, by whoever dispatched them.

So either it was a false alarm (mist mistaken for smoke—this happens) or else if the rain did not put it out, we will see it again in a day or two. At least there was rain.

After I filled out the incident report, I got to see this double rainbow.

Dazed and Confused, the Bull Elk Version

I had a camera up for the past week on an old logging road-turned-game trail in the Wet Mountains. Below is the first image I downloaded—and it baffled me. What kind of apparition was it?

Then I saw the one snapped fifteen minutes later. I don't know what caused this bull elk to investigate the camera in the first place—usually they ignore it—but this one did, and he got a blinding flash in the face, it looks like. So he hung around for a while? (If it's the same elk, of course. Probably.)

There is no hunting pressure at this time of year, but maybe the hot weather has encouraged the elk to be more nocturnal. Bulls are often shyer anyway. The other photo I had at a location a mile or so away from this one showed a bull moving past at 8:30 p.m.

July 28, 2011

Wounded Trees of the Wet Mountains

Trees are damaged in various ways. This big Douglas fir on a high point has been struck by lighting, which left a long scar down its trunk and produced profuse "weeping" of sap.
It's easy to see what happened to this little white fir. (Hint: It had four hooves.)

Here are a fir and an aspen, both with similar kinks in the trunk at points higher than my head. The snow never gets that deep, so what happened to them?

July 27, 2011

Anti-Christo Residents Sue State Parks-Wildlife Board

Last May, the Colorado Wildlife Commission voted against letting the artist known as Christo drape six miles of fabric panels over the Arkansas River in the narrow canyon followed by U.S. Highway 50 west of Cañon City.

The state parks board, however, liked the idea when it voted in June. (The land involved is managed by state parks as a recreational corridor, although it ultimately is under jurisdiction of the federal Bureau of Land Management.)

Then Gov. Hickenlooper rammed through the ill-conceived merger of the Division of Wildlife and the Division of Parks.

Now the new, combined board is being sued as an attempt by the anti-Christo forces (local residents, some rafting outfitters, and fly-fishing outfitters) to stop the project.
“We basically filed this lawsuit saying of they are not following their own rules,” [Rags Over The River] president Dan Ainsworth said. “They’re basically going against all of their duties and their rules and their regulations to protect the river, and they’re a big part of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area.”

Ainsworth said a tax- and fee-supported public area should not be turned over to one individual and his own private profit or gain, and the board “sold out” to Christo. . . .

Ainsworth said if OTR [Over the River]gets the green light from the BLM to proceed with the project, Christo will have complete control of the river for the next five years.

“Parks is basically giving up their control of the river and their overseeing of the activities on the river to Christo to do with as he pleases,” he said. “We think that’s shirking their duties to protect the river, protect the wildlife and protect the impacts on the residents and they’ve just totally handed it over to Christo.”

MMJ University Goes Up in Smoke

Too funny. Guys start a "medical marijuana university" (a misuse of the term, it's true) and neglect to mention the small matter of their prior felony convictions for embezzlement and mail fraud.

The state shuts "Greenway University" down.

July 24, 2011

Comparing 2011 to Other Drought Years

An informative blog post with graphics on the "Texas-centered drought" through June 2011, with comparisons to other drought years such as 1918, 1934 (still the worst), and 1956.

Blog Stew with Ticking Sheep

• Using sheep as tick bait in Scotland, partly to preserve the traditions of the Glorious Twelfth. Clever, but probably would not work in North America.

• What the American Kennel Club has in common with the Roman Catholic Church—and not in a good way.

• A National Park Service ranger (you know, the helpful ones) goes all "respect my authoritah" on a middle-aged female tourist. Sounds like NPS vehicles should have those helpful dashboard video cameras, like in Canton, Ohio.

July 23, 2011

Watching Thunder

The orchestra of thunder is tuning up behind the Wet Mountains. Like a tardy stagehand, a fire-fighting helicopter crosses from stage left to right—north to south—carrying a bucket.

Where is the fire? M. and I are at the firehouse, dropping off small appliances and boxes of kitchen ware from the "peculiar cabin" for the next fund-raising yard sale. We watch the copter pass. The telephone is silent. The alarm siren is silent. We drive home.

The lighting is flashing now with the thunder only five seconds after. I unplug the computers and the modem, take a bottle of beer out to the long veranda.

We watch rain move through the little mountain valleys, obliterating  one with mist and showing another ridgeline row of pines in sharp relief. It is moving toward us, north to south.

Then spoke Holt Mountain: DA.  And it's raining on the waste land of the Sand Gulch Fire and the Mason Fire, while the unnamed ridge behind us answers: DATTA.

Mountains are talking as the gray wave passes over us. The veranda's metal roof gives its applause.

It is raining on the ridges, where the hermit thrush sings in the pine trees. Here at the bottom of the unnamed ridge, the rufus and broad-tailed hummingbirds do not cease orbiting the sugar-water feeder. There is not even silence in the mountains.

The storm moves off to the southeast. The fire-fighting helicopter returns, that sound high in the air. It is flying fast to the north, to its base, the bucket trailing behind on its long cable, responding gaily to a hand expert with stick and throttle, the air is calm.

We need to hear the sound of water over a rock this summer.

You Know You're From New Mexico ...

Another one of those lists that goes around. Pretty accurate.

"You know Vegas is a town in the northeastern part of the state. You are afraid to drive through Mora and Española." Yeah, that takes me back.

July 22, 2011

Here's Your Paleo Diet

"Cut bear meat into pieces. Add salt and pepper. Roast meat in oven adding a little lard to pan."

From the Eskimo Cook Book, written by school children in 1952. Recipes for seasonal wild plants are included too.

"Inside of barbirch there is something that is yellowish. That is called the meat of willows. They are very good to eat. People eat it with sugar and seal oil."

Like a Fox in the Headlights

I mentioned how M. and I recently bought some land adjacent to ours that included a peculiar cabin, of which more later.

The owners made some noises about selling the furniture and appliances separately, but we just sat tight, and in the end they walked away from it all—leaving the beds still made, food in the cupboards (but not in the refrigerator, thank heaven), clothing in the dresser drawers, etc.

Taking some boxes of crackers and granola bars, some abandoned dry dog food, and some peanut butter and honey that we did not want, I decided to put it out in the woods—well away from any dwelling—and set up a camera.

The bears had been in the area—overturned basketball-sized rocks told the tale—so maybe they would find this bonanza.

But it was not the bears who came. Gray foxes got it all.

These photos were taken with the infrared flash, which also puts out red visible light. I like the second photo—the slow shutter makes it look as though one fox is dematerializing. (Click photo for slightly larger view.)

Since gray foxes are adept little omnivores, I expect that they enjoyed the granola bars, etc. and would have then gone on to looking for their next meals. This was a one-time feast that will not be repeated.

July 20, 2011

Soft-Drink Industry Fights Anti-Obesity Programs.

The carbonated water-and-high fructose corn syrup industry is trying to clog the legal process as politicians move against them.
[American Beverage Association] spokesman Chris Gindlesperger said his group made the same request as the New York Times, but that the newspaper received more information than the ABA.

"Public health departments are going out and aggressively misrepresenting our products in advertising and using taxpayer money to do that," Gindlesperger said. . . . .

At various times, states and localities have considered taxing sugary beverages to cover obesity-related health costs. In 2009 and 2010, as such proposals became more frequent, the ABA, Coke and Pepsi collectively spent $60 million on lobbying, up from $8 million in 2007 and 2008, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org.
Yeah, well, first they came for the smokers, but they died or quit. Soft-drink makers are being cast as the next deserving victims.

Cooking King Henry and Other Vegetables

Not really a Rockies story, but an interesting New York Times piece on forgotten vegetables.
The mystery of Good King Henry made me wonder about other Colonial-era vegetables that have all but disappeared from our gardens and dinner plates. Gardeners today will routinely raise a dozen varieties of tomato, a plant utterly foreign to early Americans. So why do we neglect common Colonial food plants like burnet, smallage, skirrets, scorzonera, gooseberry and purslane? And how would they taste to us now? 
When it comes to the Chenopodium genus, we do eat some of the lamb's-quarter that pops up in the garden—and anything else that comes under the category of wild greens, quelites, or whatever you want to call them.

July 19, 2011

July 18, 2011

Iran Fashion for Pet Dogs Collides with Official Islamic Morality

Says one Iranian wannabe dog owner, "After a while I didn't know if I was buying a dog or dealing in an international drug trade."

And then if you walk your dog in public, you're in trouble.

Rocky Mountain Low

Colorado and other Rocky Mountain states lead in suicides. No one knows why, but they trot out various explanations. Is because too many non-suicidal people live here?

ADDED: National parks also attract those who wish to die in beautiful settings.

July 16, 2011

A Meeting on the Trail

Last Monday, M. and I bought some land adjacent to our home. It came with a sort-of cabin on it. There is a long story behind the purchase, almost twenty years' worth, so let me just say that I wish the cabin were not there—and perhaps some day it will not be.

Now that we own the land, I plan some year-around camera-trapping up there. This was my first sort-of good picture: a mule deer doe meets an immature gray fox on a game trail just before dawn two days ago.

July 12, 2011

Industrial Detritus of the Wet Mountains

Southern Colorado's Wet Mountains in the foreground and middle distance, with the Sangre de Cristo Range farther away. The Wet Mountain Valley separates the two ranges.

Looking north. 
The Wet Mountains are older than the Sangre de Cristo range. Unlike the Sangres, they were not glaciated the last time that ice was here. (Illustration courtesy of Prof. Wayne Anderson, University of Northern Iowa.)
Multiple episodes of glaciation and deglaciation occurred in the towering Sangre de Cristo Range during Pleistocene time. No glacial deposits have been recognized in the Wet Mountains, probably because they were too low in elevation for glacial ice to accumulate.
They do, however, grow trees well, particularly white fir and ponderosa pine. Serious logging began in the 1880s and continued through the "get the cut out" years of the Reagan Administration in the 1980s.

Here is a place I often visit, which appears to be the site of an early twentieth-century sawmill. Earlier mills tended to be at canyon mouths or a little ways up a canyon, whereas this one is higher on a mountain and was probably accessed by motorized transport rather than horse-drawn.

Scattered timbers on an artificial terrace mark the site of a narrow, rectangular building—the sawmill itself?

One of several can dumps. I noticed tobacco (e.g., Prince Albert) cans and condensed-milk cans among them. Many appear to have been opened expeditiously with a knife or screwdriver.

I first saw this rusty tank about twenty years ago and thought it was the boiler for a steam engine that presumably ran a saw mill. Now I am not so sure--it has no tubes inside and no fittings for water. Anyone have an idea? Some other sort of water tank?

A more recognizable collapsed building—a bunkhouse? The roof is made from milled lumber, so as with the trash dumps, I tend to think it is early-twentieth century.

The site was evidently occupied for a while. There is no evidence of mining—this was outside the mining district that centered on Silver Cliff and Rosita.

July 09, 2011

Woodpecker Taxi

Sapsucker hatching held by rehabilitator Nancy Kelly.
The sapsucker hatchlings were still in the tree trunk, but the tree was no more.

When the telephone rings at 5 p.m., it seems to be always either a fire call or a wildlife-transport call.

This call involved some hatchling woodpeckers—probably red-naped sapsuckers or possibly yellow-bellied sapsuckers—I am not enough of a birder to tell at that age.

The story starts with someone from the Denver suburb of Littleton who owns a cabin in the Wet Mountain Valley.  They came down for the weekend yesterday, bringing some aspen logs they had cut (somewhere else?) for firewood. Or did they cut aspen there at their cabin? I'm not sure.

The nest was in a cavity in one chunk of wood. OK, they did not know about the nest when they cut that dead aspen down. But then apparently their reaction was, "Oh well. Just let 'em die."

Someone else—friend or neighbor—would not let that happen. The length of aspen trunk with the peeping hatchlings inside ended up at the office of a veterinarian in Silver Cliff.

The vet is not a bird vet. She tried contacting the local district wildlife manager. He was away. She talked to the Forest Service staffer at the FS work center next door. He suggested that she call the Sanders, the rehabbers we often deliver to.

"We don't do birds," they said, and referred her to a rehabber in Pueblo who does. Whereupon our telephone rang.

M. and I rushed through supper and then headed for Silver Cliff. All down the canyon and across the prairie to Pueblo, the Jeep was full of a cheeping sound like someone sharpening a saw with a very small file.

UPDATE, February 11, 2012: It turned out that the hatchlings' yellow color fooled us all. They grew up to be hairy woodpeckers instead, and here are more photos from rehabilitator Nancy Kelly's site.

The Bosworth Fire Trencher: Another Bright Idea

The Bosworth Fire Trencher being demonstrated in the Black Hills National Forest in 1939.

Back in the days of "Fire: Enemy of the Forest," the Bosworth was touted as a useful tool. Funny thing, you don't see them now—just firefighters with hand tools or, in some circumstances, bulldozers and tractor plows. From a late-1930s report on firefighting on the Shoshone National Forest in western Wyoming:
New improvements are being constructed in the never-ending fight to prevent or quickly control forest fires. Equipment, such as the Bosworth fire trencher, is being developed. This is a small machine which is guided by an operator and motored by a marine engine. The motor propels a series of steel lugs which kick out dirt and debris and speedily clear a fire trail down to mineral soil.
This tiller-type tool might have worked in the Black Hills, where many slopes are not too steep and you do not have any type of inter-rooted scrub oaks to contend with, just nice, straight-trunked ponderosa pines. How well it handled rocks I do not know.

In 1939, Dad was just out of forestry school at Fort Collins and engaged in his ill-fated attempt to become an Army Air Corps pilot at Randolph Field, San Antonio. A year later he was back into forestry—were he still alive, I would have asked him if he ever had encountered the Bosworth Fire Trencher. Probably not, I suspect.

I like the way that the operator is dressed: hat, leather jacket, twill trousers—classic. What Indiana Jones was imitating.

July 08, 2011

Firefighting with Steam

A week ago, I felt that I was posting too much about fire. But I maybe I should just "embrace the suck," as they say in the Army, and blog about fire. After an inch of rain yesterday, I feel briefly optimistic.

So now for something completely different. Steam-powered fire engines--not generally used in wildland fire-fighting.

I used to see photos of these smoke-belching affairs drawn by horses (and by motorized tractors for a brief time in the early 20th century) and wondered how they operated.

Thanks to (a) dedicated tinkerers who like to restore old machinery and (b) YouTube, you can see how it went.

First video: Atmosphere. An 1890s fire battalion in Brooklyn, N.Y., leaves the house (sound added in recent years, clearly).

Next, some historical and technical background:

Finally, a modern demonstration of a steam-powered pump, this one originally run to ruin during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire (the speaker says "1909," but that's a slip of the tongue). The operator had to stay fully attentive to the engine at all times!

One question still remains: I understand that the horses were stabled next to or behind the apparatus, trained to come out of their stalls and stand in position while the harness was lowered onto them. But since you could not have unvented coal fires burning inside the station house, how did they get quick ignition?

Maybe the coal was pre-soaked with kerosene, and one man tossed in a match while the horses were being harnessed. Time spent heating the boiler hot enough to make steam was always the limiting factor when minutes were precious. Otherwise, in terms of volume and pressure, the steam-powered pumps did well.

July 07, 2011

Passing of Anne LaBastille

Wildlife ecologist and conservationist Anne LaBastille has died. She was 75.
LaBastille was an outspoken proponent of environmental conservation whose book Woodswoman reached a national audience and served as inspiration for legions of women interested in the outdoors. At the same time she was a controversial Adirondack figure who served as Adirondack Park Agency (APA) commissioner from 1975 to 1993, a tenure that showed her to be a tenacious defender of the wild character of the Adirondack Park.
Besides the important of Woodswoman to women interested in the outdoor life, she had a Colorado connection too: "She left Cornell to attend graduate school at Colorado State University where she received an M.S. in wildlife management in 1961. Her master's thesis was An Ecological Analysis of Mule Deer Winter Range, Cache la Poudre Canyon, Colorado."

July 05, 2011

We May Hear More Claims Like This over Wind Turbines

An English farming family is going to court over the noise from wind turbines near their home.

Granted, North America has more wide-open spaces for turbines, but I could see something similar happening here too.

Meanwhile another  British study shows that the real money in wind farms is not so much selling electricity as it is selling the "renewables obligation certificates" to owners of fossil fuel-burning power plants.
Quite often windy periods come when demand is low, as in the middle of the night. Wind power nonetheless forces its way onto the grid, as wind-farm operators make most of their money not from selling electricity but from selling the renewables obligation certificates (ROCs) which they obtain for putting power onto the grid. Companies supplying power to end users in the UK must obtain a certain amount of ROCs by law or pay a "buy-out" fine: as a result ROCs can be sold for money to end-use suppliers.
And that comes from a study funded by the John Muir Trust.

Mega-renewable energy projects seem to be mostly about gaming the system, whether it's wind turbines in Scotland or huge solar projects in American deserts, built because the voters demanded "green energy," and big utility companies build big projects.

Solar panels belong on the end users' rooftops.

July 04, 2011

A Smokin' Hot Wedding Anniversary

Sunday was our wedding anniversary, and we planned a small celebration—a hike in the Wet Mountains followed by pizza.  (Hike photos to follow.)

On the way into Silver Cliff for the pizza, a sheriff's SUV, running hot, passed us going the other way. "Car or motorcycle wreck down the canyon," we think.

Then another sheriff's car goes by, lights flashing. No big deal. As we parked at the pizza place, a Forest Service pickup marked "Fire" heads east too, lights flashing. Did the wreck start a fire? But when someone wrecks on the national forest, the FS usually checks just to be sure—I know this from experience.

We order and are having drinks when two wildfire crew vans and a brush truck, all from Utah, go past. "OK," we said, "Those guys must have been on the Duckett Fire, and now they demobilizing."

(Those are the same vehicles we would soon find parked in our tiny meadow.)

Then we start home, in the same direction as all the emergency traffic. The sky is full of broken clouds. Is that smoke? No, it's a cloud. . . .a few miles on . . . "It's smoke." "Maybe it's south of us  . . . "

Of course it is not south of us. My mind goes into a tunnel, not thinking, just driving (floating down that "river in Egypt").

A water drop this morning--photo from my porch.
There is a roadblock at the first turnoff. I flash my county firefighter ID, say I live up that way, while M. is shouting across the seat, "Our dogs are there!" Same thing again at the next turnoff, where the San Juan Hotshots are resting by the road, faces black like old-time chimney sweeps'.

Home. Into my wildland fire clothes, then packing a few things—I try a couple of radio frequencies until I get one of our guys. "We're just parked up here on the saddle on stand-by," he says.

I ask him to radio me if the fire comes where he is, because I don't always trust the sheriff's Reverse 911 system—it has missed us before.

Again I hook up the camping trailer, load Fisher's kennel crate, my computer, etc.

M. goes to check the neighbor and hears how the rich doctor with the nearby hobby ranch had staggered to her door, head bleeding, saying only "Plane down. One dead." Her home health-care aide had driven him to a hospital.

We had seen the bright yellow biplane overhead that morning and thought nothing of it. Apparently the crash started the fire.

Another of my department calls me on the radio—he has the water tended parked where our property meets the national forest, so I walk up there and help with refilling the brush truck as needed—its crew now involved with stopping the fire where it has spread along the Forest Service road.  Mainly we hang out, swap stories, listen for updates.

And we watch the air show. Three tankers are in the crowded airspace: a small, single-engine model; a C-130, and an old P-2 Neptune (I think), plus heavy helicopters and spotter planes. At one point it appears the C-130 pilot aborts a slurry drop to miss hitting a helicopter, but we cannot hear them talking, so we do not really know.
At dusk, the engines are coming out.
At dusk the wildland fire engines start coming out, but the hand crews' chainsaws are still screaming up on the ridge. The fire has run to the crest and started burning bigger trees that had survived 2005's Mason Gulch Fire. Soon after, I walk home.

Like a good blogger, I open a beer and start downloading my photos. M. comes and puts her hand on my shoulder. ""Dear," she says,  "you really don't have to plan anything so exciting next year."

July 03, 2011

Normally I Would Be Angry . . .

Fire crew trucks from Utah
. . . if someone parked in our meadow, but when it's firefighters, I can't complain. I was standing by our department's water tender when I took this. Yes, the fire was that close. More soon.

July 01, 2011

On Being Green but not Greener-than-Thou

Cat Chapin-Bishop admits that she is a little peeved with people who parade their green credentials, even as she and her family attempt to live a more low-impact life:
We’ve all met those types, haven’t we?  I call them the Buddhist earth-mother-with-a-trust-fund people.  If you’ve learned how to grow your own tomatoes, they’ve learned how to grow all-organic heritage tomatoes from an endangered variety that has twice the vitamin C of other tomatoes, and how to can enough of them to last them through the apocalypse.

And they do it all while wearing organic cotton yoga pants, grinding their own baby food, and never watching television or using deodorant–or needing to.  (That type of woman’s armpits never smell.  Except, possibly, very faintly of patchouli.)

I admit to being seriously intimidated by these mountains of serene competency.  I run into them all the time at farmers’ markets and at our local CSA–which is one of the reasons I like farm stands so much.  (They tend to be run by plump women in polyester, wearing out-of-fashion eyeglasses.  I love those women; they are Of My People. They remind me of me.
Read the whole thing here.