January 30, 2013

Fremont County Corn

Someone was growing corn north of Cañon City in 1939, and she shows up in the famous Shorpy historic photo archive. Originally from a Resettlement Administration photo, part of the "New Deal," so maybe the woman in the photo was a refugee from the Dust Bowl, which was not that far away.

Fayhee on Destroying Other People's Cairns

Mountain Gazette editor M. John Fayhee on the benefits of going off-route, getting lost, and not marking your path.
Then, one day, I saw some orange peels, eggshells and a candy bar wrapper next to one of the glacial tarns. And I lashed out: I destroyed every single one of those goddamned cairns. I mean to say, I obliterated the motherfuckers. This was no subtle carnage. I made no effort to aesthetically replace the rocks used to construct those cairns to their natural environment. As I kicked those cairns, I cursed the people who had built them.

With regards to Pilgrim Gulch, I was likely too late. I ought to have disassembled the very first cairns I saw. I vowed then and there to never again make such a mistake.

And thus began what to this day remains a love/hate relationship with cairns and all they represent, both literally and figuratively.
Is this where I admit to building an occasional cairn—never more than two or three rocks stacked—the way I learned in Boy Scouts? There is one in the photo, two rocks stacked on a boulder, that used to guide me to Camera Trap Spring before the forest fire made everything visible.

January 28, 2013

CPW Stores Native Seeds for Revegetation

A short article with a brief video about Colorado Parks and Wildlife's new native-seeds warehouse in Delta, from a Grand Junction television station.
About 140,000 pounds of seed are currently stored in the warehouse before being dispersed to help re-vegetate soil for animals and damaged by wildfires.

There's over 30 native seeds in the Delta warehouse which officials say will only be distributed along the Western Slope.

"They're stored in climate-control conditions, and they can last for years here. When we have a fire or a big project, the seed is going to be available," said Joe Lewandowski, spokesperson for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Read the news release, which came out last month.

January 27, 2013

How Dogs Eat Starches

Anthropologist John Hawks notes a paper explaining how dogs—unlike wolves—evolved while living with humans to digest starches. In other words, they eat what we eat.
As in humans, the paper shows that dogs were selected strongly for a new agricultural diet. Just as in humans who descend from early agriculturalists, dogs have extensive duplication of the amylase gene. Humans express amylase in saliva, but as explained in the paper dogs only produce amylase in the pancreas, where it digests starches intestinally. Where this paper gets really exciting is when the authors began to investigate the entire metabolic pathway underlying starch digestion. The amylase gene AMY2B underwent duplications similar to those in humans, and not found in wolves.
Patrick "Terrierman" Burns weighs in:
Sure, you have observed that even the bunko dog food companies that sell food that costs a lot more (using nonsense words like "human-grade," "holistic," "natural" and "homeopathic" ) pack their tins and bags with potatoes and peas, quinoa and rice, pumpkin and whatever else that is not the natural diet of a wolf (i.e. dead mice, dead rats, and road-kill deer).
Dogs, unlike bloggers, do not digest snark, as far as I can tell.

January 26, 2013

Wildland Firefighting, 1969

When the "incident commander" was simply called a "fire boss" and infra-red scanning was in its infancy. But a pulaski is still a pulaski.

A few items that flashed by in the video reminded me of Dad. This video would have been made not long before he retired from the Forest Service, getting out early because he could add his WW2 military service to his career years—and, stuck in an office, the job was not as fun for him as it had been in earlier years.

  Wildlfire Today.

January 25, 2013

Colorado Lynx Photo Goes Viral

Catching a pair of lynx in a photo is something special.

The photos were posted on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Facebook page Wednesday and had more than 9,000 likes early Thursday evening, along with more than 900 comments. More than 6,400 users had shared it on their own pages.

"Wow!" commented T.A. Williams of Breckenridge. "They really do exist. Hurry up and shut this highway down because it is 'Lynx habitat'....."
Maybe I should "like" Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Facebook page and see what comes next.

Walking the Keystone Pipeline Route

This guy sets out to walk the length of the Keystone pipeline, starting in Alberta and going south, and makes a blog of it, Pipe Dreams.

It starts here, in September 2012.

January 24, 2013

Preparing for the Spring Offensive

While I squirmed in an uncomfortable plastic chair at this month's county emergency services board meeting on Wednesday, Colorado's Front Range had its first "red flag" fire warning of the year.

In January.

I think that only my friends in Southern California and Australia realize how scary that is.

We talked about the usual issues: training exercises, communications, dealing with the state and feds, money, law-enforcement issues, and again, communications.

Discussion circled around what I call the "two-radio problem." We are supposed to use a simplex channel for tactical communication on the federally mandated 800 mhz radios, and another shared channel for talking to the dispatcher and other agencies.

Fine, except that with small, volunteer departments, the incident commander (IC) is usually also a hands-on firefighter. We don't have a couple of people sitting in an SUV bristling with antennas, handling command and communications. (Switching channels involves looking at tiny print and turning two knobs.)

The IC is usually yelling over the racket of pumps and maybe the roar of flames. If he or she can manage one radio, that is doing pretty well. So we hope for the best. The first hour (if not more) at a fire is usually chaotic anyway.

Last Saturday, at the fire house, we loaded everything back into the water tender that had been out of service for some engine repairs. I drove it a couple of miles up the road and back — it ran well. But when I pressed the  electric "start' button on the pump, nothing happened. It had never been reconnected. It is connected now.

And then we all go home and wonder if the spring snows will ever come.

Today was windy, and M. and I were both on edge. It seems like we cannot look forward to summer anymore — gardening, eating outdoors, going places. We can only wonder how bad things will be.

January 22, 2013

Colorado Opens Its Largest Public Shooting Range

(news release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife):

The Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex opens to the public Jan 23 at 1:30 p.m.  The public opening will be proceeded by an invitation only" ribbon-shooting” ceremony at 11 a.m.

The shooting complex, which is the largest outdoor shooting range in the State of Colorado, is a joint project between Fort Carson, El Paso County, the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Shooters can use the range free of charge from 1:30–4 p.m. on Jan. 23.  Rates for a daily pass are $10 after that.

The 400-acre site is located on Fort Carson land near Interstate 25 just off mile marker 132. The entrance is just outside Fort Carson’s Gate 20 security perimeter. Because the entrance to the shooting range is outside Gate 20, visitors will not have to enter the military base or register their weapons with Fort Carson to utilize the range.

The opening marks the completion of the first of a three-phase construction plan. The complex currently consists of seven shooting ranges with approximately 120 covered shooting positions.  Three ranges are designated for rifles with distances from 300 to 500 yards.  There are also four designated pistol ranges and one multi-position range prioritized for law enforcement and public safety training purposes.

A small archery range will also be on site with plans to expand it as funding becomes available and a five-stand trap range is expected to be available in the spring for shotgun enthusiasts.

The second phase of the project will include the construction of five skeet & trap ranges and a clubhouse. The clubhouse will in­clude a retail store, classrooms and offices.

El Paso County has established a nonprofit organization called the Soldier’s Friend Foundation to raise funds for the next two phases of the complex.  A web site under construction will allow for donations to help fund the two additional phases of the project.

One 1,250-yard-long shooting range will be for the exclusive use of law enforcement, Monday through Friday, but open to the public on weekends.

The range complex will be staffed by military and civilian personnel. Profits from the range will be used to fund the Fort Carson FMWR program, which supports Soldiers and their Families.

For directions and hours of operation, call 719-896-6196 or visit the range's website.

January 21, 2013

Mountain Snowpack for January 2013

The Southern Rockies are not doing so well, and the Black Hills look really dry. 

Some of us were down at the fire station on Saturday, testing the new floating pump (assuming that there might be a stream to float it in), all the other pumps, chainsaws, etc., checking hoses, organizing the various items of gear on the engines. Oh for the days when I could look forward to summer. Now I would just as soon see winter last longer.

Meanwhile, it is the height of the fire season in Australia, where in some parts of the country, the debate over environment, fire, and cultural desires continues.

January 19, 2013

Close the Car-Show Loophole

"In California alone, over sixteen million traffic tickets are issued each year. That is among about twenty-two million licensed drivers. On average, a majority of car-owners are not law-abiding citizens."

We need common-sense car control.

January 17, 2013

You Tryin' To Eat Me, Eh?

A remarkably mellow resident of British Columbia dealing with a too-aggressive coyote
(Language warning).

I know a Jack Russell terrier just like this. My boots still have the scars.

January 16, 2013

Power Lines and Pine Trees

Utility workers contemplate an electrical line entangled with pine trees.
In the photo, two employees of the rural electrical cooperative contemplate a tree-trimmig problem near my house. The long yellow line is a sectional pruning saw that extends to about 40 feet  — at that length, ithe floppiness make it difficult to place the cutting edge where you want it.

I have been complaining about this problem for years, literally. Looking up and seeing scorched (from contact with the wires)  pine boughs does not make me happy.

Every so often, some technician would be here for some other purpose (replacing the meter, say), and I would point out the boughs contacting the lines, to which he would say, "Yeah, you've got a problem." And that was it.

(The trees were trimmed by a contractor — who kind of butchered them — in the mid-1990s, but oddly enough, they grew back.)

Some months ago, I wrote a letter to the general manager. That brought some workers out in the spring, but they felt that the ground was too soft to try to get close with their "cherry-picker"  bucket truck, and promised to come back when it was harder.

Now it's frozen. No problem.

Meanwhile, the co-op had been replacing a power line that comes into this area with a bigger one. That brought another technician last week, who said that the transformers on each home had to be replaced. On Monday three trucks arrived, and the guys replaced the transformer at the guest cabin and then came over to our house.

And, lo, they trimmed. What they could not reach from the truck, they did with the long noodle of a pruning saw.

In his new year's annual message, the general manager spoke of increased attention being paid to tree-trimming.

I just wonder if that had something to do with the fact that my department fought two fires started by electrical lines in 2012, including the October 23rd fire that took out fifteen homes. (Apparently, that fire had two ignition points, one a burning transformer and one wires touching tree branches — the two fires merged, part of the reason so much burned so fast.)

Four days into that fire, I was chatting with the final incident commander, the local guy who was put in charge after the Type 2 command team pulled out. He had been a volunteer in the next county south — similar terrain  — and he was full of stories about electrical lines starting fires in the pines.

Or maybe it was just my letter that got results.

You Can Take Sides in Nature, but Nature Doesn't Care

 Calling it "Mr. Whiskers" was probably not a good idea.

Patrick Burns

January 10, 2013

Canis Neanderthalensis

Last night I watched the Nova episode about Neanderthal people, with its focus on the genetic discoveries.

As I did so, the dogs sprawled on the rug in front of the wood stove, and something occurred to me.

Shelby, the collie-mix, is clearly a modern dog, like Homo sapiens sapiens — gracile and cunning.

Fisher the Chessie, on the other hand, is a Neanderthal — strong, hearty, with a high caloric need, possessed of (canine) language yet with a shorter attention span. Instinctual, in a word. And check out that heavy brow ridge.

Maybe that is what the dog psychic-in-training was getting at when she said his real name was Gunter. (But I apologize to all men named Gunter who possess advanced academic degrees.)

And now a Neanderthal trivia question (from Wikipedia, not from the show).

Q. The patterns of healed skeletal injuries in Neanderthal remains suggest a comparison with what contemporary occupational group?

A. Rodeo cowboys, another group that has frequent combative contact with large animals.

January 09, 2013

Blog Stew with the Dutchman

• In Arizona, the Lost Dutchman Mine claims another seeker after riches.

Camouflage for your house — if you like Mossy Oak brand. Might it work in Gambel oak? 

• I don't watch cable TV outdoor shows — don't have a satellite dish —so I do not know Trent Barta from Adam. But I have to admire his grit.
 "He went from this super-abrasive, 'I-don't-need-anybody, I-just-want- to-kill-something' man's man to somebody who really wants to stop and smell the roses," says Danny Kirsic, the videographer who has directed Versus filming for all seven years of Barta's show. "He lives larger now than he ever did. He asks for help. He's not an island anymore. He knows now that it takes a village. I like the new Tred."

January 08, 2013

Accused Boulder Cop was Taxidermist on the Side

Brent Curnow, one of two Boulder cops accused of poaching a bull elk in a residential neighborhood, had a taxidermy business on the side.

So we get two cops shooting the elk for a vague reason when there was no direct threat to public safety, instead of calling a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer (who are also sworn law-enforcement people too) as they should have.
Neighbors told the Camera that a police officer informed them that night that he may have to put down the elk because it was behaving aggressively and not to be alarmed if they heard a gunshot.
 The next day, however, police officials and dispatchers had no record of an elk being put down, nor had Colorado Parks and Wildlife been notified of the elk's death. Police officers are required to make a report whenever they discharge their weapons, and Parks and Wildlife is supposed to be notified when a large animal is killed.
Then they take pictures and start loading the elk into a personal vehicle. Now the district attorney is studying the case:

[Boulder DA Stan] Garnett said Deputy District Attorney Jenny McClintock -- who is his office's animal cruelty specialist -- has been assigned the case and has been assisting Parks and Wildlife with the investigation into whether charges should be pressed against the Boulder police officers involved in the killing and removal of the elk.
Any taxidermist knows that the mounted head of a big bull elk can be sold for well into four figures (and maybe I am underestimating). Someone will want it to hang in on the wall of their vacation home in Vail or whatever. Curnow's buffalopeakstaxidermy.com site has suddenly vanished from the Web.

It's a general rule when investigating such crimes: Cherchez le taxidermiste.

January 06, 2013

A Candlelight Vigil for an Elk

Boulder being Boulder, they will hold a candlelight vigil for a bull elk, shot by cops on Sunday, who liked to hang out in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood.

A friend of mine who lives there wrote on her Facebook page,
Shocking and sad news. The elk, whose photo I posted last winter when he was lounging in our garden was killed last week. Killed by an on duty police officer at night, who then had a trophy photo taken and called in a buddy off duty officer to bring his truck and take the carcass home for meat. The elk was just standing in a neighbor's garden, as usual, minding his own business. A memorial is scheduled for this evening.
The "official story" stinks: "the officer told investigators the elk appeared injured, with a limp," said the Denver Post.

So he shot him, and then he and another officer were going to take the meat home. I think the technical term for that is "destruction of evidence." 
[Neighbor Roger] Koenig said it took the three men [an off-duty sheriff's deputy showed up too] nearly an hour and a half to load the animal -- which they estimated to weigh between 700 and 800 pounds -- into the pickup truck, and even then part of its rear quarters were hanging over the open end of the bed. He said the men talked about needing a roadkill tag for the animal so it could be driven out of the area.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has gotten involved in the case. They should have been called first thing, since this was (allegedly) a wildlife issue. Now we will see if they have the balls to prosecute officer Sam Carter and his pals or if "professional courtesy" will prevail.

They could be prosecuted under "Samson's Law":
Samson's Law, passed in 1998 after a well-known bull elk in Estes Park was killed by a poacher who was fined just a few hundred dollars, adds substantial fines for the killing of trophy animals. The killing of a bull elk with six-point antlers or larger can carry a fine of up to $10,000, on top of the other criminal penalties for violating hunting rules.
 Which ought to do serious damage to someone's law-enforcement career.

January 03, 2013

A Pencil Sharpener as Survival Tool

Click image to embiggen.
From the Facebook page of Jake Griebe's School of Wilderness Medicine and Survival.

This is a good idea, one that I had never thought of. And since I saw it on Facebook, and this blog has a FB feed, by posting it here, I will have created some kind of cyber-loop.

Toss a pencil sharpener in your pack!

January 01, 2013

Waiting for Spring Snow in the Arkansas River Basin

From KRCC in Colorado Springs, a report (one of a series) on snow pack, water, and drought in the Arkansas River Basin, with photos and graphics.
Typically the snow to water equivalency in the Arkansas River basin approaches around 5 inches by mid-December. Right now it’s only 57% of average. With so much riding on this year’s snow pack – the numbers are disturbing for farmers downstream who depend on the river for irrigation.