March 29, 2016

Western Snowpack March 28, 2016

Here in southern Colorado, we are seeing the result of several storms that went north. My area got six inches of wet snow on Saturday the 26th, which was nice, but now it's dry and windy again.

March 28, 2016

Read the Secret Code of Buck Knives

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Buck 285 BLW Bantam Camo Folding Hunting Knives as a premium for donating $50 or more.

I said yes to the gift this time, because you can always use another knife, whereas M. and I are swimming in tote bags, have plenty of coffee mugs, and don't need more daypacks, baseball caps, shoulder bags, or fleece vests.

My normal-carry knife is a little hardware-store two-blade folder, dainty by today's standards ("Is that a real knife"? asked the fire chief, grinning.). It's good enough for opening packages and cutting string — maybe not for cutting three-inch hose, but when would I have to do that?

I don't understand people who load up their pockets. ("My normal pocket-carry pistol is a Model 1911, and I forget it's there!") I hate to have stuff thumping against my legs when I walk around. If it weren't too hot for vests five months of the year, I would wear one every day. (If there is any truth to the cliche of the vest-wearing cowboy, well, try reaching into your front jeans pocket when you're on horseback. Or driving a car.)

So, knife in hand, I decided to research it a little, and came across this: You can date your Buck knife by the symbol next to the model number. My new knife was made in 2015.

Maybe everyone who owns one already knows this. The symbols remind me of one of the old esoteric alphabets, like "Passing the River." Is the company sending a message, one letter per year?

March 26, 2016

Juncos Get Smart, Get Fat?

Dark-eyed juncos working on a suet cake.
This is the winter that the juncos got smart, and as a result, my bird-food costs are rising.

Along with the feeders offering sunflower seeds and niger thistle, a/k/a black gold, I usually have a couple of holders for suet cakes. The box for the current offering lists its ingredients thus: rendered beef suet, milo, millet, sunflower seeds, wheat, corn.

These suet cakes generally attract omnivorous and agile birds: jays and chickadees, plus nuthatches, who like to hang upside down and peck at them — and woodpeckers of course, which for us means mostly downies.

Meanwhile, the dark-eyed juncos, in their dozens, are on the ground under the sunflower feeders, or sometimes up in them, sometimes on the thistle feeders too, but predominately on the ground.

Until this year. It's like they suddenly figured out the suet cakes and figured, what the heck, a little beef fat won't hurt us in cold weather. Yum, beef fat!

One year, as part of Cornell University's Project Feeder Watch, which M. and I have been participating in since the mid-1990s, some bird-seed company asked us to study the preferences of different species for different seeds.

We put out samples of, for instance, milo (grain sorghun), millet, and sunflower seeds on paper plates and then were supposed to count how many and what species came to them for a span of time.

Milo and millet bulk up many of the wild bird seed mixes that you see as "attracting many species" and such, but the fact is that they are second and third choices for the birds — except for juncos, doves, and maybe pheasants — but we don't see pheasants here, and the wild turkeys rarely come into the yard.

Finches, in my experience, tend to high-grade the sunflower seeds and ignore the rest.

So now the question is, are the juncos going for the fat, or are they picking the milo out of it because they like the stuff?

March 13, 2016

Does Wildfire Threaten Your Town? Check the Map

This interactive map shows communities threatened by wildfire. The baseline is "one or more 100+ acre wildfires within 10 mile of town from 2000 through 2014." It seems to cover the Lower 48 only.

Right off, I can see that my little village is not listed, even though we had four or five fires that qualify easily. Grumble grumble. We're bigger than Springview, Nebraska, pop. 227. We have a post office.

But play with it and see what you think.

March 12, 2016

Gopher Graffiti

We have been here all winter, under the snow. Now we are waiting for you to plant tasty treats in the garden.

March 11, 2016

Don't Panic!, Mountain Biking Mecca, and Other Shorts

Outdoor Survival - Chapter 4 - Controlling Panic from Colorado Parks & Wildlife on Vimeo.

•  People outside of Fremont County, Colo., are learning that there is great mountain biking, almost year-around, on the Bureau of Land Management land north of town. Rock climbers already knew that.

• Talks are underway about extending the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument from New Mexico into southern Colorado. (Article may be partly paywalled.) 

Site of the Rough Riders reunion
• The Southwest is dotted with former Harvey House hotels and restaurants. Fred Harvey's enterprizes crosscut much late 19th and early 20th-century history:
From the manhunt for the escaped “Billy the Kid” in 1881 (a local celebrity in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where Fred had two restaurants and two hotels, which Billy sometimes patronized), to the Oklahoma Land Rush in 1889 (which left from the Arkansas City, Kansas Harvey House and Santa Fe depot), to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 (for which Fred helped cater the biggest lunch in American history for the opening ceremonies and parade).
There’s also the Rough Riders reunion in 1899 (held at the new Fred Harvey resort hotel, La Castañeda, in Las Vegas), and the development of the Grand Canyon as an international tourist attraction (Fred’s son Ford ran all the hotels at the canyon, and was a major player in the development of the national park system).

March 09, 2016

What Does and Does Not Happen on NOLS Planet

WMI instructor Amy Shambarger demonstrates creating a quick compression splint.

Last weekend was devoted to the two-day wilderness first aid class, taught by instructors from the Wilderness Medicine Institute, (WMI)  part of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Lander, Wyoming.

It is an excellent course — the instructors are strong — and to quote the website, it is for "the needs of trip leaders, camp staff, outdoor enthusiasts and individuals working in remote locations."

I have taken it twice now, with two different sets of instructors, to keep on the two-year recertification for the fire department, thinking mainly in terms of accidents during wildland firefighting — I am not an EMT and don't want to be.

But there are some curious omissions and asumptions. I suspect that they derive from the NOLS model of a trip with designated leaders that goes into a designated park or wilderness area in North America.

It is assumed that Search & Rescue and/or a medical-evacuation helicoper will come. Of course, you can now be choppered off Mount Everest, for a fee.

One odd omission was our friend the rattlesnake. (I could have guest-lectured.) I do see that the advanced version of the course (five days instead of two) includes "bites, stings, and poisonings."

Likewise, does the five-day course include gunshot wounds? I know, I should have asked. But I was busy sorting gear. ;)  I am not thinking combat-medic stuff here so much as the unfortunate accidental discharge.

I suspect, however, that guns do not exist on NOLS Planet, but "individuals . . . in remote locations" maybe ought to know. Here again, some people are teaching "shooter self-care" classes, but not in my area, unfortunately. There's an opportunity for someone.

(If you think there was a golden age of safe gun-handling, read some of the accounts of mid-19th century wagon trains, for example.)

March 03, 2016

March 2016 Western Snowpack

Averages dropped in many areas, since February was somewhat dry, but I keep hearing prediction of a snowy spring.

Meanwhile, I am sniffling from tree pollen and watched migrating tumbleweeds while driving to Colorado Springs yesterday. Troops at Fort Carson are starting grass fires in February, instead of waiting until March as usual. And a down powerline kicked off a nice little burn along the Huerfano River yesterday.

March 02, 2016

Recommendations for National Rifle Association Directors

If you are a voting member of the National Rifle Association, here are two sets of recommendations (with overlaps) from bloggers I respect.

Lawyer Dave Hardy offers his selections at his Of Arms and the Law blog.

At Shall Not Be Questioned, Sebastian weighs in selections and the Grover Norquist-recall question that is also on the ballot.
As for the rest of the candidates, I will never vote for Bob Barr of Georgia. It might be true that the Second Amendment defends the First, but Barr has demonstrated in the past that he has a poor grasp of the First.

Some people also think that colorful rocker Ted Nugent has passed his sell-by date.