February 26, 2009

Hypothetical Wolves and Suburban Coyotes (1)

Reading the Denver Post lately has been like reading Predator Control Weekly.

First, the culling of elk in Rocky Mountain National Park stirred up the "Why not have wolves?" debate.

On the pro-wolf side, one Rob Edward of WildEarth Guardians. His real issue, however, is not elk, but guns -- eee-vul demonic guns that create a force-field of chaos by their very existence.

And guns mean hunters -- eee-vul psychopathic knuckle-dragging hunters violating the pristine precincts of Rocky Mountain National Park "under cover of darkness." (Has he been reading too many Nevada Barr novels?)

Rather than them, let us have gentle and saintly wolves.

On the "uh, not so fast" side, RMNP superintendent Vaughn Baker talks a lot about bureaucratic process but finally makes the key point that "there was consensus that wolves could not be contained within Rocky Mountain National Park's boundaries and would leave the park."

Imagine if these hypothetical wolves started eating snoozing Labradoodles in Estes Park or Frazier. Then would the wolf-cultists be so happy?

Wolves keep showing up in Colorado on their own, anyhow. (Hey, this could produce a new form of geocaching: "geo-wolfing." Just you wait and see.)

February 25, 2009

The Learning Curve of Squirrels

M. and I have lived here for 17 years, and we have had bird feeders up all of that time.

During those years, fox squirrels regularly pillaged the feeders for sunflower seeds. Abert's squirrels, although they live all around us, never visited the feeders (that we knew of).

As the Division of Wildlife's squirrel page notes,

Fox squirrels eat fruit, nuts and buds, and bury nuts for winter (and because they are forgetful, they plant a lot of trees). Abert’s squirrel does not hoard food, but eats whatever part of its host tree, ponderosa pine, is available in season: cones and inner bark of twigs.

So it was until this week, when one Abert's squirrel has discovered sunflower seeds. When I took the photo, it had just climbed out of the feeder and descended to the ground to feast on spilled seeds.

Has this one parted with the hallowed traditions of its tribe?

February 24, 2009

Blog Stew with Golluming

¶ On wilderness bills, jobs, and whether we "need" wilderness, from New West Network.

¶ Of dogs, "to gollum."

¶ Colorado's share of this year's Pittman-Robertson wildlife funds can be determined if you start here. Since the Colorado Division of Wildlife receives no state tax revenue, these federal excise-tax funds are a major source of money.

¶ Some people think that the Obama administration might be receptive to ending the USDA's predator-killing service.

February 23, 2009

What's in Colorado Trout Unlimited's water?

Here is something I did not expect to see: A letter in the Denver Post from Drew Peternell of Colorado Trout Unlimited, doing the bidding of the "water buffaloes."

How spectacularly wrong-headed.

While cities and developers want to move water here and there, dry up farmlands, and cut stream flows, Peternell attacks the rational idea of saving a few gallons of rain water to put on your vegetables the next week when they are dry.

Yes, doing so is technically illegal in Colorado, but the Legislature might change that.

Saving a little rain water is no threat to stream flows. If the stored water is used outdoors, it is in the same micro-drainage that it would be been originally.

If used indoors with a septic system, the result is the same.

If used indoors with a municipal sewer system, it stays at least in the same river drainage.

The real problem is run-off from paved parking lots, streets, driveways, and the like. That run-off comes in a rush, polluted with petroleum by-products, and tears up streams. See, for instance, Colorado Springs' effects on Fountain Creek downstream.

What are they drinking up there in the CTU Boulder office?

February 19, 2009

A Newbie in the "Militia"

After getting the brush-off from the local Search & Rescue group last May, I went on about life, but the idea of wanting to contribute more to the community stuck with me.

The solution was easy, actually. I called the neighbor whose backhoe-service I use when a water line needs to be dug up. I knew that he was active with the local volunteer fire department.

"How can I get involved?" I asked.

"Our next meeting is January 28th at 7 p.m.," he said. "Come on down."

And that was it. No paperwork, just a handshake.

Right: The departmental patch is generic. Custom patches cost money.

Another neighbor had tried to recruit me several years ago, but I begged off because I worked in Pueblo, 40 miles away, and was away from home a lot. Instead, I always made sure to write a check for the department's annual fund-raising drive.

I work at home now, so I don't have that excuse anymore. Writing a check seems inadequate when you see the volunteers' old truck heading up a gravel road towards a smoke column.

The issue hereabouts is usually wildfire threatening rural homes. They (we) can get there much sooner than the "feds," the interagency (BLM-Forest Service) crew from Cañon City, who have a larger area to cover.

Hence the analogy: the local militia and the "regulars" from the fort.

So far, I have attended one meeting, which was devoted partly to planning training sessions and partly to choosing a date for the fall chile cook-off fundraiser.

I have ordered a shirt at the uniform store--mainly for wearing at such fundraisers--and bought a pair of high, leather, lace-up boots at the Army surplus store so that I don't have to wear my good Patagonia hiking boots if walking through embers, etc.

Last night was the first training session, held in conjunction with the Florence VFD (which is much larger), on wildfire behavior--the influences of terrain, weather, etc.

To a Forest Service brat like me, it was all familiar territory, but newly urgent, especially when sprinkled with anecdotes from local fires--like the grass fire on the prairie east of here last Monday.

Back when the republic was young, they defined the militia as "the yeomanry of America from sixteen to sixty." (For more on that issue, see Stephen Halbrook.) Some of these volunteers are well past sixty. The department needs new blood. I was glad to see a thirty-something couple show up at last night's meeting as well.

For now, I am the new guy who has to learn almost everything. Undoubtedly there will be stuff to blog about.

February 18, 2009

Why Women Hunt

Blogger Tammy Sapp explores the question of why women hunt. (About 3 million American women do.)

The "Swamp Witches" article she references is here.

An earlier post of mine referenced a similar article from Michigan.

Other bloggers weigh in here.

February 15, 2009

Blog Stew with Hand-Drawn Maps

¶ The Pueblo Chieftain interviews Ken Salazar, who seems to have hit the ground running at Interior.

¶ I have been reading about the current Australian bushfires in Victoria state with more than the usual fascination and emailing friends there with questions about forest composition, fire weather, etc.

The story they tell is similar to ours: eucalpytus forests that the Aboriginals once burned have been left to grow thicker and thicker, while people built houses in them. And I have seen eucalyptus burn in California: Poof!!!

¶ In this age of Google Earth, Maptech, and other high-tech assists, Making Maps is a blog about "do-it-yourself cartography."

February 12, 2009

Freedom of the Heels

M. skis up a snowed-in Forest Service road in the Sangre de Cristo Range.

February 11, 2009

Portraitists, Cubists, and Camouflage

'Fast Convoy' by Burnell Poole."A Fast Convoy" by war artist Burnell Poole, 1918. (Hat tip to Dan Brock.)

‘I well remember at the beginning of the war,’ Gertrude Stein wrote in 1938, ‘being with Picasso on the Boulevard Raspail when the first camouflaged truck passed. It was at night, we had heard of camouflage but we had not seen it and Picasso, amazed, looked at it and then cried out, yes it is we who made it, that is Cubism.’

So begins Patrick Wright's review of DPM: Disruptive Pattern Material----An Encyclopedia of Camouflage in Nature, Warfare and Culture.

It's true. The "dazzle" camouflage patterns of World War I--now the subject of an art exhibit at the Rhode Island School of Design--derived directly from Cubist painting and in many cases were executed (or supervised) by the artists themselves. You can see "dazzle" paint schemes on the World War I destroyer painting and many more patterns on the RISD site.

The Cubists were not the first, however:

The man who is more persuasively claimed as the ‘father of camouflage’ was another successful portraitist and landscape artist. The American Abbott Thayer (1849-1921) was well known for his ‘angel’ paintings, in which he added feathery white wings to portraits of girls and young women. His influence in the early days of strategic camouflage derived from the fact that this New Hampshire conservationist, who admired Thoreau and revered the natural world as ‘God’s studio’, had developed a more scientific interest in plumage and animal coloration. Insisting that this aspect of natural history could be properly understood only by artists and not by zoologists (‘The entire matter has been in the hands of the wrong custodians’) he elaborated in the 1890s his own theory of protective concealment.

Hunters have hidden themselves for a long time, but military camouflage really took off in the 20th century and proliferated in amazing variety, particularly in battle dress. (Russia appears to lead in numbers of patterns.)

Naturally, the fashion world followed:

Julie Messeloff, a media studies student at Queens College, observes that “cammies” were adopted as hip-hop urban streetwear as early as the mid ’90s. Some wore original surplus and some wore camouflage designed by companies such as FUBU. Anna Sui anticipated the current trend with a sequined camouflage cocktail dress as early as 1996. Now the camouflage/sequin combo has become ubiquitous, along with other creative combinations.

(Of course, the first statement merely shows that Julie Messeloff seems unaware that military surplus cammies have been worn by outdoors types--or those who appreciate sturdy work clothes--for decades before they were "urban streetware." It's sort of like the recent fad for "trucker's hats" on the heads of people who pay $40 apiece for them in hip and ironic shops.)

Fresh snow

Horn Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Range 11 Feb 09. Photo by Chas S. CliftonDriving up to the county seat for brunch and a little ski trip ...

February 06, 2009

Snowballs and the Nanny State

Deluged with unexpected amounts of snow, the British media are full of breathless reports of danger, chaos, and a shortage of "grit," both literal and metaphorical.

And the BBC attempts to answer the question of what to do if one is a target of snowballs.

"We sometimes don't know how to respond to something like a snowball. Some adults feel it demeans their dignity and compromises their status. All their pent-up anger, all the times their boss has had a go at them, can be unwittingly released when they are hit on the head by a snowball. But if you respond too pompously, you're likely to be hit by 20 more [says 'a leading expert in body language and social behaviour'].

"And in our era of the nanny state, if you decide to join in the fun and throw a snowball back at the children, and it happens to contain a stone or too much ice, will you get into trouble?"

Thank goodness there is always a leading expert when you need one.

And comment #2 is priceless.

Stew with a Splash

¶ Great photos of a European kingfisher catching its dinner. (Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

¶ A short video touts new features in Google Earth.

¶ Mungo's bushcraft links for reading in front of a roaring fire.

February 04, 2009

Retrofitting Suburbia: Villa Italia to Belmar

If we built more livable cities, perhaps we would not ruin so much land in trying to escape from them.

Popular Mechanics interviews architects Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson, authors of Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs. Dunham-Jones says,

The term "ghost boxes" [vacant big-box stores] makes sense to everybody, though. They're just on everybody's radar, and there are a lot of them out there. Everyone understands the scale of the big box and wonders: Couldn't it be reused in some useful way?

The article is illustrated with the conversion of a former shopping mall, Villa Italia in Lakewood, Colorado, into that amorphous Denver suburb's new downtown district. Other cities are mentioned too, including Santa Fe.

I vaguely remember Villa Italia from my early teens. I should go see Belmar sometime.

Landscape architect Craig Vickers remarks poignantly, “Belmar is full of ideas intended to almost train suburban people in urban thinking...how to understand it and how to look for what to enjoy here.

Of course, there is no "mar" anywhere near this Belmar. Can we never escape real estate-ese?

False Spring's Pleasure and Panic

Up and down Colorado's Front Range, people are enjoying a "window" of warm weather, a "false spring."

At my house in the Wet Mountains, afternoon temperatures have bumped the 60-degree (F) point on some afternoons, and it's warm enough to sit and read on the southwest-facing front porch.

The normal reaction, of course, is to worry about snow and drought. From the blogroll, two responses:

At Pueblo Mountain Park Environmental Center, "Ranger Dave" Van Manen notes that cumulative snowfall this year has been only 43 inches compared to 63 inches last year, measured at the end of January. And most of it has melted off.

A little further west of me, at the edge of the Wet Mountain Valley, Hal Walter says don't worry: it is the high-elevation snow that matters. True enough, but he and I both depend on wells that are ultimately fed by more local snows, if my understanding of hydrology is correct.

And then there is the whole fire-danger issue. So it goes.

A couple other signs: A road-killed skunk on Colorad0 96 and M.'s sighting of a black-bear track about half a mile from the house both seem to show that some hibernating animals are up and about, although they will return to their dens if the weather gets colder. Bears used to be described as "not true hibernators" for that reason.

February 02, 2009

Web Cameras from Everywhere

Here is a site that gives you a screen full of Web cameras and weather information from all over. A fast connection is a must.

I get this weird "Fortress of Solitude" feeling when looking at it though.