April 19, 2021

Who Needs Bigfoot? We Have Mystery Beasts

 I know what they are, but where did they come from? 

First, an orange cat. He looks a lot like Charlie, a neighbor's cat who frequently visited people staying in the guest cabin in the early teens. Then he vanished, as semi-feral cats often do. But now there is another orange cat, presumably the source of cat tracks seen on snowy mornings.

Then this yellow dog has turned up a few times this spring on a scout camera near the house. We don't recognize him — and M. is the sort of person who walks a lot and knows the local dogs better than she knows their owners. But I can't believe he is living on his own.


Another camera, which was set to video, picked up some visiting black dogs — and then this, which definitely is not a dog.


That was on March 31st, between snowstorms. Obviously a pig. M reminded me that certain neighbors, who keep making inept experiments at homesteading, had two piglets last summer — once or twice they came visiting and then trotted home. 

One piglet was black, she said. I don't remember. But this one does not look like it's trotting home. In fact, it is moving in the opposite direction in a determined manner.

I have not picked it up again on a camera since then. Is it running free? Maybe there will be a good acorn crop this year, but not for six months, so root, hog, or die.

Just something else to watch out for. Like stray tortoises.

April 07, 2021

3 Nature Writers Lost in 2020: Pentti Linkola


Of the three writers I am discussing (Barry Lopez was the first), the deep ecologist Penti Linkola (1932–2020) is the least cuddly. In fact, he was pretty crusty. One Finnish academic described his writing as "a very Finnish and dark version of 'an inconvenient truth'" (from the title of Al Gore's environmental book).

Linkola wrote in Finnish, and the only work translated into English that I have seen is a collection of essays, Can Life Prevail? published by Arktos Media and available as a printed book, ebook, or audiobook.

In American terms, you might find in him Henry David Thoreau's skepticism about "progress," Ed Abbey's distrust of authority and "the experts," and  Wendell Berry's valuing of small-scale sustainable farming and traditional life style — plus a healthy dose of your favorite author of After the Big Collapse distopian novels.

And with Rachel Carson's eye for scientific observation and making connections.

Linkola made his living as an inshore fisherman from 1959 to 1995 — it is hard to imagine him taking orders from any boss. His father and his grandfather were both university administrators; he studied biology and worked as a research ornithologist for a time. He started a preservation organization that functions something like The Nature Conservancy. 

So, for example, his observations about the decline of bird populations in his lifetime — favoring those birds such as crows and jays that thrive in human-altered landscapes versus those that do not — or about the damage of invasive species or industrial logging are based in science and on personal observation.

In his preface, he condemns his fellow Finns' version of progress: "Finland is switching to the most horrid forms of market economy, to an uncritical worship of technology, to automation and media vapidity; with information technology pervading all human exchanges" (20). 

He refers to present-day circumstances as "Suicidal Society."

He jumps from how bureaucratic hygiene regulations damaged small fisherman like himself, who could not afford and did not want big seagoing boats with million-euro ice machines on board, and likewise damage small grocers, butchers, etc. to arguing that an ultra-clean home environment produces people with poor immune systems (in which he is far from alone).

I myself tend to dismiss all nutritional controversies — surrounding meat, vegetables, salt, butter, sugar — with one simple statement: if you don't eat, you die, and if you eat, you survive. It is enough to clarify that objects that harm teeth and internal organs, such as iron nails and glass fragments, should be avoided (25–26).
But there is one thing about Linkola that spooks mainstream environmentalists  — his politics.

He spent his life in Finland's parliamentary democracy, a center-left Scandinavian welfare state. He rejected it. 

Democracy, to Linkola, was a "suicidal" form of government, because people will always vote for the leader who promises more free stuff, "bread and circuses, regardless of the cost and consequences" (154). He adhered to principles of deep ecology:

There is nothing above the requirements of the continuity of life: all other interests fall below it. As the deep ecologist emphasises those factors beneficial to the preservation and continuation of life, his arguments will always be above all others. . . . What the deep ecologist loves is the whole. Therein lies the greatest beauty, wealth, and love. The deep ecologist does not understand the Christian-Humanist love of man, which even at its best only extends to a nation or mankind: this he sees as a form of inbreeding, egotism, masturbation (165).

Linkola was not the Unabomber. He admits that he has never dared to do more than speak, write, and peacefully demonstate. Yet he wrote, "The crippling human cover spread over the living layer of the Earth must forcibly be made lighter: breathing holes must be punctured in this blanket and the ecological footprint of man brushed away" (170, emphasis added). 

I have heard such sentiments expressed by North American enviros, when the whiskey is being passed around the campfire. But they don't put them in their grant applications, their legal filings, or their conference papers.

At times, he yearned for a something like Plato's Republic: a small-scale society led by a class of Guardians who are well-educated (and trained in the martial arts to balance mind and body), yet who live materially simply. Somehow, if the perfect Green dictator could arise, that person could supervise a "world made by hand," to borrow a post-Collapse book title.

At other times he echoes the ancient Chinese book of the Tao, the Tao Te Ching (Legge translation) — which is at base a political manual, not a self-help text:

In a little state with a small population, I would so order it, that, though there were individuals with the abilities of ten or a hundred men, there should be no employment of them . . . .

Though they had boats and carriages, they should have no occasion to ride in them; though they had buff coats and sharp weapons, they should have no occasion to don or use them. . . .

They should think their (coarse) food sweet; their (plain) clothes beautiful; their (poor) dwellings places of rest; and their common (simple) ways sources of enjoyment.

There should be a neighbouring state within sight, and the voices of the fowls and dogs should be heard all the way from it to us, but I would make the people to old age, even to death, not have any intercourse with it (Chapter 80).

That sounds like Linkola. Yet he also was quoted as saying, "If there were a button I could press, I would sacrifice myself without hesitating, if it meant millions of people would die."

It is not surprising that a resident of a Scandinavian welfare state who says that his own society is not only ecologically destructive but destructive of human health and well-being as well is not the sort who is invited to speak to the United Nations or the graduating classes at universities. At least in the abstract, he has advocated dictatorship:

Any dictatorship would be better than modern democracy. There cannot be so incompetent dictator, that he would show more stupidity than a majority of the people. Best dictatorship would be one where lots of heads would roll and government would prevent any economical growth.

I am reminded of the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot (1925–1998) and his war on cities in the 1970s. Not a model to follow.

Yet I can understand Linkola's call for Something Different as born from a deep love of the natural world and deep pain at its destruction. 

As with Plato 2,500 years ago, sometimes we wish for the Philosopher King who would set things right. But do we ever get one? Plato once thought that he had found such a man, but everything went sideways, and the famous Athenian philosopher had to flee for his life.

 It is not a bad thing, however, to keep his book on the shelf and to look at aspects of your life and ask, "What would Pentti think?"

April 06, 2021

Look, Ma, a Titmouse!

Juniper titmouse (Baeolophus ridgwayi) Cornell Univ.
The Juniper Titmouse is sort of the ultimate Little Gray Bird (LGB), although I suppose that Dark-Eyed Juncos would contest that ranking. (And here I go capitalizing bird names like some kind of birding writer, which I am not.)

M. and I have been loyal citizen-scientists for Cornell University's Project Feeder Watch since shortly after we moved up here, first sending in paper forms and now doing it online.

The computer generates a group of likely southern Colorado birds, and of course you can add something that is not on the list.

They don't really migrate. We live in the pale purple area—
"scarce," whereas the dark area is simply "year-round."

Every year, grouped with the Mountain Chickadee and the Black-Capped Chickadee is the Juniper Titmouse. What's that?

Until on March 12 when I looked by the lower sunflower-seed feeder, at the edge of a patch of Gambel oak, juniper, and piñon pine, and there was this triangle-headed LGB. A titmouse, clearly! And it has shown up occasionally since then.

A titmouse "cool fact": 

Like many other members of the chickadee family Juniper Titmice don’t migrate and instead stick out harsh winters on their breeding grounds. One of the ways they survive the cold, virtually insect-free season is by storing seeds in crevices of trees or other places to eat later.

But the name! While "mouse," the small rodent, comes from the Proto-Indo-European *mus," meaning mouse, the small rodent, the "mouse" in titmouse has another ancient root, from "Proto-Germanic *maison (source also of Dutch mees, German meise), from adj. *maisa- "little, tiny."

 As for "tit," the Online Etymological Dictionary says this:

1540s, a word used for any small animal or object (as in compound forms such as titmouse, tomtit, etc.); also used of small horses. Similar words in related senses are found in Scandinavian (Icelandic tittr, Norwegian tita "a little bird"), but the connection and origin are obscure; perhaps, as OED suggests, the word is merely suggestive of something small. Used figuratively of persons after 1734, but earlier for "a girl or young woman" (1590s), often in deprecatory sense of "a hussy, minx."

The British would call all the chickadees "tits" as a generic term. North Americans generally don't.

If you run into anyone named Titmouse (it happens), be sure to say it "TIT-mus."

Since I don't live on the Pacific coast, I never see boobies.

March 29, 2021

3 Nature Writers Lost in 2020: Barry Lopez


This is the first of three linked entries. First, Barry Lopez, 1945–2020.

One day in the early Eighties I was browsing in the Chinook Bookshop (1959–2004) in downtown Colorado Spriings and picked up what I thought was a work of creative nonfiction, perhaps a memoir.  I read a chapter titled "Buffalo." The last paragraph convinced me I was wrong. 

I wasn't in the habit of buying new hardback books back then, but I took this one back to the sales counter.

The book was Barry Lopez' Winter Count (1981). If I had looked at the back cover, I would have read Bill Kittredge's blurb: 

Through these elegant stories, Barry Lopez gives us over to a concrete and particular landscape which is luminously inhabited by mystery, radiant with possibilities which transcend the defeats we find for ourselves.
Wikipedia: "In a career spanning over 50 years, he visited over 80 countries, and wrote extensively about distant and exotic landscapes including the Arctic wilderness, exploring the relationship between human cultures and nature."

Of Wolves and Men (1978) made Lopez's reputation, but Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (1986) was even finer.  Reading it one warm early spring day, where I could bask in a folding chair next to a melting snowbank, I thought that I would have given my hand to have written anything so intriguing and well-constructed. To quote Wikipedia again,

Arctic Dreams describes five years in the Canadian Arctic, where Lopez worked as a biologist. Robert Macfarlane, reviewing the book in The Guardian, describes him as "the most important living writer about wilderness". In The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani argued that Arctic Dreams "is a book about the Arctic North in the way that Moby-Dick is a novel about whales."

He also wrote what would be a graphic novel if it were fiction, but maybe it's "graphic creative nonfiction" — Apologia (1997), which is about roadkill. From the dust jacket:

"It has long been a habit of writer Barry Lopez to remove dead animals from the road. At the conclusion of a journey from Oregon to Indiana in 1989, he wrote Apologia to explore the moral and emotional upheaval he experienced dealing with the dead every day."

It's no surprise that as a young man he considered the Catholic priesthood or even monastic life. But then we would not have his books like these.

I do that too when I can safely pull off. I keep an old Army entrenching tool behind the the driver's seat. Even with that and gloves though, sometimes I have resumed my trip while realizing that my fingers smell like death.

The links in this post go to Amazon. I keep this blog ad-free, but I do have hosting bills, so any purchase from a blog link is a help. Thanks.


March 28, 2021

Colorado Revives Wildlife Area "Pass" for Non-Hunters/Anglers



Tomahawk SWA offers fishing access to the South Platte River in South Park.

Last year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife identified a problem with state wildlife areas: too many people were turning them into campgrounds, etc. without holding a hunting or fishing license.

Many people do not realize that quite a few state wildlife areas are not public land. Many lakes, for example, are owned by irrigation companies and such who lease fishing rights to the state.

So CPW announced that a hunting or fishing license would be require to "recreate" on a state wildlife area, and fishing license sales rose. That is $46.48 when you throw in the required "habitat stamp." Selling more fishing licenses is good too because it means Colorado gets more

Now, something new. A state wildlife access permit! They tried that in 2006. Back then it was $10. But that fee died a quiet death. Now it's back and oddly enough, the annual pass is priced exactly like a fishing license!

Here is the news release:

(March 23, 2021 DENVER) – At its virtual meeting last week, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to approve a new Colorado State Wildlife Area Pass as an option to access state wildlife areas. The new pass will go on sale May 1, 2021.

“This is an important step in ensuring everyone who visits our state wildlife areas is contributing to their management and maintenance,” said CPW Director Dan Prenzlow.

The annual Colorado SWA Pass will be available on May 1, 2021 by visiting any CPW office or online at cpwshop.com. The pass will be priced similarly to a resident annual fishing license and revenue from the new SWA pass will be used to manage and maintain SWAs.

Colorado State Wildlife Area Pass
annual: $36.08*
1 day: $9
Youth (ages 16-17) annual: $10.07
Senior (ages 65 and older) annual: $10.07
Low-income annual: $10.07
(Fees include a $1.50 Wildlife Education Fund surcharge)
*Plus a fee of $10.40 for a Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp

The annual pass is valid from March 1 – March 31 of the following year, also aligning with the 13-month season for fishing licenses in Colorado.

History and funding of state wildlife areas in Colorado
CPW now manages more than 350 SWAs, all set aside to conserve wildlife habitat with dollars from hunting and angling licenses. Those funds are also matched with federal income from the excise taxes collected on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment.

While these properties have been identified as critical wildlife habitat, over the years they have also gained significant value for outdoor recreationists.
Because these properties have always been open to the public, not just to the hunters and anglers that purchased them and pay for their maintenance, many people now visit these properties and use them as they would any other public land.

As Colorado’s population - and desire for outdoor recreation - has continued to grow, a significant increase in traffic to these SWAs has disrupted wildlife, the habitat the areas were acquired to protect, and the hunters and anglers whose contributions were critical to acquiring these properties.

That’s why in July of 2020, new regulations went into effect requiring all visitors 18 or older to possess a valid hunting or fishing license to access any SWA leased by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

CPW had historically been bound by stringent guidance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on how income earned from these properties could be accounted for, making the creation of another kind of pass to access these areas financially unfeasible. But in late 2020, CPW received approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a new accounting approach that made adding a pass as an option for access to these properties feasible.

In November 2020, an SWA Working Group was created with CPW staff and stakeholders from around the state to determine what a new pass might look like.

A new State Wildlife Area Pass
At its January 2021 meeting, the CPW Commission heard recommendations from the SWA Working Group on creating a new Colorado SWA Pass.

Recommendations:
The group recommended pricing the annual pass at a similar level to the annual fishing license, offering discounted passes to youth and seniors priced comparably to youth and senior fishing licenses, offering a 1-day pass option priced comparably to the 1-day parks pass, requiring a Habitat Stamp and a surcharge for the Wildlife Management Public Education Fund in addition to the pass, and offering a discounted low-income annual pass option. The age at which a hunting license, fishing license or SWA pass is required to access SWAs was reduced to all persons 16 years and older to better correspond to the youth pass and license options.

Now that the Colorado SWA Pass is available, the SWA Working Group will move into Phase II of its work, completing an audit of all Colorado’s SWAs to determine which properties may require additional restrictions on allowed activities, seasonal closures for wildlife, and reviews to determine if the property is still meeting its intended purpose as a wildlife area.

More information and SWA FAQ about CPW’s state wildlife areas is available on CPW’s website.

March 23, 2021

Giving Names to Boulders

I mentioned the ill-fated Bonsai Rock on March 21st — ill-fated from the "bonsai" trees' perspective, pretty much life as usual for a boulder, except for some flaking due to heat.

Pasqueflowers growin on a boulder.
So M. and I have been walking this ridge for some years now, and we have not named too many boulders. There is Hairy Rock (its flat top catches pine needles, giving it a shaggy look), Pasqueflower Rock (they bloom there early, maybe because it warms up early), and Ringtail Rocks, a collection of huge boulders fallen from the rimrock above, including two that formed a sort of lean-to shelter.

No sign of earlier human inhabitants in the shelter though, unless some Middle Archaic hunter dived in there to get out of a thunderstorm. It's pretty cramped. But the buried hunter from a cave just a little farther north was only 5 feet 3 inches tall, said the experts. 

Two days ago, we took a different path and came to a boulder above the "shelter" that I had not examined previously, although I had been setting a scout camera not far from it, picking up ringtails, gray foxes, and occasionally black bears.

 The last of recent snowstorm was melting—and more was coming—so we were taking advantage of a typical warm pre-storm day.

A gray box barking last September. Note the boulder's base at upper right, in shadow.

On top of the boulder, we found the smallest of vernal pools . . .


"Skywater!" M. said, thinking of one of her favorite novels, Melissa Worth Popham's Skywater. (Preview it here.

I looked around and was thinking more in terms of "Fox Shit Rock." Obviously, this is the place to proclaim your superior fox-ness through high-level pooping.


But I think it's going to be Skywater Rock.

March 21, 2021

Bonsai Mullein, Drip-Irrigated Moss

I was walking in the woods today with M., our last chance before the next snowstorm hits, and she noticed the "bonsai" mullein growing out of a crack in this boulder.

We use" bonsai" as a term for all plants growing in rock cracks,  often Douglas fir or ponderosa pine. To me the term combines a certain cuteness with admiration for Life's Unwavering Force — or something like that. 

In Japanese, it means "tray planting," a term for "plants that are grown in shallow containers following the precise tenets of bonsai pruning and training, resulting in an artful miniature replica of a full-grown tree in nature."

But I like it better when it just happens. 

There is a big boulder on the way to Camera Trap Spring that I named Bonsai Rock for the little conifers growing from it. Then a forest fire came through, but I still use the name.

Her eye was caught by mullein, since it is a medicinal herb, and she keeps a mental catalog of what grows where. These plants do seem a little fragile to harvest, but there might be more growing inearby.

And in this year of "moderate drought," we crouched to admire the moss growing below. It is on the boulder's north-facing side, and it must be sustained by rain and snow melt that descends through fractures in the rock.

March 19, 2021

How to Defend Yourself against Dog Attacks

There is a kind of hostile big German shepherd-mix dog who runs through our woods sometimes. Yes, I know who owns him, and yes, if this were a just world, the dog would feast on his owner's body, but in the meantime . . . 

So I read this article on how to defend youself against dog attacks with interest.

Dog attacks occur all over the world. In Thailand and Cambodia, I’ve locked eyes with the vicious, feral dogs lurking in the alleys. In Haiti, I met what locals called “the Haiti dogs,” that have killed and even eaten humans at night. I don’t know the statistics for bites in those countries, but they can’t be any better than ours. Given the grave damage and high frequency of these incidents, it would behoove us train for these encounters. Some beasts want to bite you. Today, let’s learn how to bite back.
You have two arms, but you could get along with just one, right?

And before you start in with "What caliber for," let's remember that in some times and places, firearms may not be an option, or that using one might get you into a whole 'nother set of problems. So it is good to know your options. (Bear spray has worked for my wife and myself also.)

March 03, 2021

When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It

The director of the Raptor Center called with  a phone number of a man who had an injured juvenal red-tailed hawk at his house "in Florence." But when I called him to get the address, it was some distance out of town, out in the coal fields. 

I did not even know there were private homes in that area; I thought it was a re-claimed open pit mine. I said that I would give him another  call as soon as finished some in-town business and was on the road.

A young woman answered the same cell phone. "Ricky" was outside some place, but yeah, just come up the county road and turn at "that yellow sign at the fork in the road." 

It was the third? fourth? driveway — anyway, if you come to the blue dumpster, you missed it

The overall domestic vibe was heavy on old tires and pitbulls, but the dogs were friendly and so were the people once we made contact. The fiftyish man and the young woman with a cigarette tucked behind her ear had been at a local wetlands "natural area" the day before and found the hawk, weak and unable to fly. They had picked it up. 

"I stopped at the bait shop and bought some worms," he said proudly. "And we gave it some water with a dropper. It's been eating pretty good today." 

Worms — not what I would have thought of, but still better than the woman who fed a great horned owl with oatmeal because she "read it on the internet.  Water was a good idea. (More below)

Something is wrong with those feet.
 
Here was a juvenal red-tail then, sitting on a puffy quilt in a metal dog crate with black shade-cloth clothespinned to the top. Thoughtful!  Not having come from home, where all my own travel crates are stashed, I just loaded Ricky's crate into the Jeep and took off.
 
At the Raptor Center, the director uncrated the bird. Wings good. A bit dehydrated. No obvious burns as from flying into a power line. Los of big burrs on its underside — from when it was grounded? She snipped them out, washing and gently massaging. One foot still seemed limp.
 
Further examination was to come once it was rested and rehydrated. I left for home. I know by now that more than half of the birds that come in are past helping, but I will check back in a couple of days so that I will have news for Ricky when I bring his crate back. 

Update, March 4: The hawk is being treated for botulism, which can cause "flaccid paralysis beginning with feet and legs.”  Waterfowl carry botulism, and the hawk was found in a wetland area, which might mean something — maybe it killed or scavenged an infected duck?

February 23, 2021

Woods Work — The Firewood Scramble

I feel like I was more the grasshopper than the ant this wood-burning season. I blame that on 2020 and on repeated bouts of Influenza B — or whatever it was.

Last spring we got a bonanza of scrap wood, free for the hauling, but really it amounted to only about one cord, good until Christmas or so. The trouble was that I was feeling easily fatigued and lung-congested. The fall season was pretty much of a waste for hunting, wood-cutting, anything.

I got better after the new year, and by then we were about out of wood, so it was time for quick scavenging of Gambel oak, dead junipers, whatever. I located a nice beetle-killed ponderosa pine that I had overlooked, felled it . . . . and while the tip section was dry, the butt section was still too moist to burn. 

A smaller pine lasted ten days through the mid-February cold snap, when the lowest temperature was -16° F. — warmer than out on the High Plains, though.

And then I remembered a larger Douglas fir that was back in an oak thicket, another windstorm casualty. It had lots of forearm-size branches that make for that perfect intermediate size log to transition from kindling to big chunks. 

It might get us through March, and then April is anyone's guess.


Here is the butt section (about 16 inches diameter) of a Douglas fir that toppled
in a windstorm several years ago.
When I started splitting, it was primo — perfectly dried.
The little dirt road up back is too muddy for driving on,
so the load comes down one wheelbarrow at a time.

February 09, 2021

120 Colorado Bears Killed Last Year, Mostly over Human Trash

This bear's ear tags, caught in an infrared photograph show that it was trapped
and relocated before. "Two strikes and you're out. (My scout camera photo, 2014.)

Some 120 bears were "euthanized" (often with a state-issued .308 rifle, I think that means) in 2020, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports.

This number refers to killing judged necesary by game wardens, not by hunters during the fall season, which is tallied separately.

Another 89 were trapped and relocated.  

“Unfortunately I would classify 2020 as a fairly ‘normal’ year for bear activity,” said Area 8 Wildlife Manager Matt Yamashita. “‘Unfortunate’ is in reference to the still substantial number of conflict bear calls across the state. Compared to 2019 statistics it appears that human-bear conflict numbers have decreased and the situation is improving. However, wildlife managers are hesitant to draw conclusions from a comparison between two years.

Often you will find a sow bear being killed and its cubs sent to our neighbors the wildlife  rehabilitators. I have hauled a lot of donated food for those cubs and helped get them loaded up for return to the wild. I know the rehabbers do their very best for them. But it's still not real life, so to speak.

A skinny black bear mom and her cub.
(My scout camera photo, 2020.)

"CPW responded to almost five thousand bear reports in 2020. Of those, a third had trash documented. Bird feeders (411 reports), unsecured chicken coops (254) and livestock (391), among others, are all pieces of the puzzle wildlife officials document when tracing conflicts.

"Trash and bird feeders are typically a bear’s first association with people. It is their first step that leads them to becoming habituated, or losing their natural fear of humans. After learning this house or neighborhood has easy calories available to them in those forms, the next place they may look to for more is in an open garage, or pet food on your deck, or even break into your car for a treat it can smell.

"Being rewarded with food over time makes a bear willing to take greater risks to get the calories it needs. The next and most dangerous step they may take is to break into a home. In 2020, CPW documented 362 reports that had bears breaking into homes, cabins, dwellings and garages (forcible entry into a garage, not walking into one left open)."

This is CPW's "Be Bear Aware" page, and its advicce works outside Colorado too. 

It helps to remember this part: "With a nose that’s 100 times more sensitive than ours, a bear can literally smell food five miles away."

February 07, 2021

'Firewood Warms You Twice' — Another Cruel Lie

You cut the tree — now how many times will you lift it?

I heat with wood, mostly. There is a propane furnace to keep the house at 55° F, and my wife and I make judicious use of electric heaters, like in the bathroom when showering, but when we want to raise the overall temperature from "not-freezing" to "cozy," we burn wood. 

And there is lots of wood around: the natural self-coppicing of Gambel oak, elderly junipers, and thanks to the mountain pine beetle and its associated fungus, occasional dead ponderosa pine trees.

Tell people you heat with wood, and they will present you with their Great Wisdom(TM): Firewood warms you twice. My normal response is this mental picture (right), not for wood-cutting but for skull-slicing

Who gets the blame? Henry Thoreau drops this particular Great Wisdom (TM) in Walden (1854): "As my driver prophesied when I was plowing, [these stumps] warmed me twice—once while I was splitting them, and again when they were on the fire, so that no fuel could give out more heat."

So he admits he was just recycling some existing New Englander Great Wisdom (TM).

Yet there are earlier printed references going back as far as 1808. I will come to one in a minute.

But that's not half of it. Sometimes wood-cutting reminds of coal-mining, back when it was done with picks and shovels, only without working bent over in the half-darknesss for a ten-hour shift.

I cut a medium-sized dead pine yesterday, limbed and bucked it, and moved the rounds down to a little dirt road that runs up behind the house.

There was no way to bring my utility trailer near the tree, and if I had come as close as possible, I would still have been carrying all the rounds uphill to the trailer.

So I opted to roll them downhill, sort of a two-handed bowling. They roll a few yards, then fetch up against a pine truck or a cluster of oak brush. I pick them up and "bowl" them again. Eventually they go where they are supposed to — except for the occasional escapee that has to be tracked down.

By that point I have lifted the weight of the entire tree at least four times. That is when I start thinking about the old-time miner shoveling tons of coal.

Add it up what is left to do:

  1. Stack the rounds (that's a lift)
  2. Split them (that's more handling, another lift or two). It would be the same even with a power splitter.
  3. Load the splits into a trailer or for smaller runs, a wheelbarrow (it's a lift either way)
  4. Dump them at the house, then carry them up to the porch to the woodbox (a lift)
  5. Carry them as needed inside to the stove (a lift)

So now I have picked up that tree nine times. Warms you twice

One source for the proverb seems to be the mountainous French department of Jura. According to an 1819 text,

The peasant who sets out for that purpose [to collect fuel] of a winter's morning from his house in the valley, begins by ascending some neighboring mountain, and having there made up the pieces he has cut into the form of a rude sledge, and secured them together properly on the brink of the declivity, he takes his station on the load, so that he can touch the ground at pleasure with his feet, and committing himself to a narrow, winding, slippery path, and frequently of beaten snow, and generally bordered from place to place by precipices, he gets back to his family with almost aerial velocity. Others again, who live on the top of some naked hill, and who cannot find a declivity suitably gentle to admit of their using a sledge on the mountain where wood is to be obtained, are obliged to throw it down the precipice, at the bottom of which they afterwards collect and carry it home on their shoulders. The proverb of the country is, that wood warms a man twice.

A firewood sled. I think I tried that once with with an Army-surplus pulk. But "throwing it down the precipice"—been there, done that. Five stars, will do again.

February 04, 2021

Cañon City Is a 'Mountain Town'? Who Knew?

If you can see mountains, are you in a "mountain town"?
I am guessing this is Otero County, but you get the idea.

A website called OutThere Colorado offers a combination of clickbait headlines, barely rewritten government news releases, and possibly some original reporting.

This is clickbait: "Up to 25 inches of snow possible as second storm is set to roll through Colorado."

Unfortunately, writer Breanna Sneeringer left out the decimal point. Here in the so-called Wet Mountains, we got two-point-five inches. I don't know who got the 25 inches.

It's good for LOLs though. My latest hit was on the death of a rare albino buck mule deer in the southern Colorado town of Cañon City.

Wait, Cañon City is a "mountain town"??

Sitting in a valley known as as the "Cañon City embayment," with a landscape of rocks, cholla cactus, barbed wire, and more rocks? With an elevation about the same as Denver? 

With its primary employer being the Colorado Department of Corrections? 

With more cultural connections to Pueblo than to say Aspen, Telluride, or Crested Butter? 

If I lived in Fairplay or Leadville or Breckenridge, I would protest!

Is OutThere Colorado being written by digital drones in Bangalore?  Or do the writers just need to get out more and see the places they are "creating content" (I won't say "writing") about.

Will This Be the Next Extreme Winter Sport?

A winter trek in southern Poland (credit
Notes from Poland.com)
Do you think you're tough? I mean, Polish-winter-near-nude-hiking tough.

Poland has its own subculture of winter-swimming. Some of these  "extreme swimmers" have decided to take their game onto the land.

Growing numbers of Poles participate in chilly outdoor dips, with several winter swimming clubs opening up. An annual four-day gathering of winter swimmers in the coastal town of Mielno last year was attended by 6,000, up from 5,000 in 2019. The next edition is planned for 14 February this year. . .

The group has now also begun organising mountain treks for members dressed in shorts. “This year they have become extremely popular,” says Guzy, though he warns that they are not for novices. One should build up some experience of winter swimming before embarking on the treks, he advises.

At the start of the year the club organised a winter trek – with most of the club’s members showing up shirtless – on Kozia Góra (Stefanka) hill in southern Poland. Today, the group climbed Klimczok (1,117m), and it is soon planning a trek up Babia Góra (1,725m) on the border with Slovakia.

Asked why he does it, Guzy claims that such practices help boost immunity. He works in a coal mine and says that, despite the mass outbreaks of the coronavirus among miners last year, he has repeatedly tested negative for the virus, while other club members have also remained healthy, reports Gazeta Wyborcza.

I see one major barrier to topless hiking catching on in the Rocky Mountains. How is our vibrant outdoor recreation industry going to market it when it's all about wearing less?

January 01, 2021

Blog Stew — Best Eaten in Your Sleeping Bag

 



• Now it will be CabelasBassProShopsSportsmansWarehouse.  There is an interesting angle as to what happens to the Remington firearms brand in this merger. Maybe it becomes a sort of house brand?

An obviously incomplete "history of sleeping bags." But check out the two men repairing their reindeer skin (?) bags. Those are Teddy Evans and Tom Crean, members  of Robert Scott's last expedition to the South Pole. They survived because they were cut from the final group that "dashed" for the Pole.

• There is a new herd of genetically pure (more or less) bison in Bent County, part of Colorado State University's research herd. The site is the 25,000-acre Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve.