March 07, 2010

Pix, Pulks, and Plinking

February 26-28 I went winter camping for the first time in a very long time, skiing in to a site on the Arapho National Forest north of Silverthorne, Colorado.

Blogger Sawtooth has put together a slide show about it.

It was a good trip, but my old down sleeping bag is not adequate for -18 F. (-26 C), and if I am going to repeat the experience, I need to upgrade!

March 06, 2010

A Nature Walk on Mars

"Ready for a nature walk?" asked T__, the assistant fire chief, after we had donned our self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and walked out of the Big Sister Department's building.

"On Mars," I answered. That's what it felt like, all bundled up with the sounds of inhalation and exhalation all Darth Vaderish inside my facepiece—like I was exploring an alien planet.

We walked around the building, down the alley, up along the irrigation ditch, back around to the front. Slowly, watching our breathing. "Yogic fire breathing" suggests something else, but in sense, that's what it was. We're not trying to raise kundalini, just trying to make the air in the tank last.

Right: Firefighters prepare to practice putting on breathing apparatus in less than one minute. I can't do it yet--hoses and straps get tangled ...

I grew up around wildland firefighting. I have done a little. I have my federal "red card" certification.

Now some of us in our little rural department are going through Firefighter I state-certification training.  It's the real deal. Today, for the first time, I wore SCBA (borrowed). I climbed ladders in bunker gear and practiced hauling stuff up to rooftops, such as pike poles, chainsaws, and other ladders. More weeks of training lie ahead.

Luckily, the same knots I learned as a Boy Scout are pretty much the same knots used here, and they are still in my muscle memory.

Here is the irony:  I joined the local volunteer department 14 months ago after the county Search and Rescue (SAR) outfit told me that my services were not needed. That seemed an odd way to run a volunteer operation—there is always turnover. People move away or whatever. You need new blood all the time.

Now the local weekly runs an article on how SAR is looking for volunteers. Well, too late. I am committed to the fire service.

I think the fire departments are a little more blue-collar than our county's SAR. They are the people with mountain bikes and backgrounds in rock climbing and backpacking. You see more pickup trucks with lift kits at the fire department, meet more former military NCOs. But that's only a rough comparison—I would not push it too far.

I'm going up the ladder, and I'm thinking, "Two years ago I would have been grading essays on a Saturday in March."

March 05, 2010

"No: [sic] Plants in Soil"

So, like, um, how do you do a "science fair" without science?

Once again, supporting the stereotypes about Boulder, Colorado ...

This is why at low points in my career I never thought of teaching in a public school. Based on my career as a student, I would have been kicked out for disrespecting authority figures.

The first thing I would have told them is that the colons in the list of rules are useless and ungrammatical.

(Hat tip: MacRaven)

March 04, 2010

Now We Are Six

Tuesday (when M. and I were in Colorado Springs) was Southern Rockies Nature Blog's sixth "blogiversary."

And in tribute to such longevity, here is the first post, which I did not write.

That's right. This started as a class blog for English 325, "Nature Writing in the West," a course that I designed at CSU-Pueblo. (I don't know if it survived my leaving.)

Consequently, many of the earlier postings are by students. And it was hard to get some of the student writers to hyperlink names, terms, etc. in their posts--or even put titles on them!

When the semester ended, I hated to see the blog die, so I kept posting. Later other nature-writing classes also participated.

This is post number 1,358, by the way.

March 03, 2010

Cooking (and Meat) Made Us Human?

From the BBC, scientific speculation on how a change in diet from raw to cooked foods may have speeded evolution:

Without cooking, an average person would have to eat around five kilos of raw food to get enough calories to survive.
The daily mountain of fruit and vegetables would mean a six-hour chewing marathon.
It is already accepted that the introduction of meat into our ancestors' diet caused their brains to grow and their intelligence to increase.
Meat - a more concentrated form of energy - not only meant bigger brains for our ancestors, but also an end to the need to devote nearly all their time to foraging to maintain energy levels. 

(Hat tip: Bayou Renaissance Man)

March 01, 2010

When Dogs Tell Lies

It's a common observation that dogs have a moral sense.

Today I was reminded that they can tell lies as well.

I was out shoveling snow. Fisher, the Chesapeake, was quietly gnawing a bone. But Shelby, the ninja collie, kept trying to slink away down the driveway.

Just when I was about to give up on calling her back and put her behind the gate on the veranda, she spotting something off across the gully between our house and the neighbors.

She gave out an alarm bark and charged off across the gully. Fisher leaped to his feet and ran after, barking excitedly.

I suddenly suspected the worst. Calling them, I slogged through the deeper snow in the gully and up to the other side.

It had all been a ruse. There was no intruder on four feet or two. Fisher and I were both (momentarily) snookered. He turned and came back. She was gone, as fast as she could run.

A hour later she came trotting back up the drive, having made her rounds of the neighbors' places, just checking for free food or other excitement.

She has pulled that trick once or twice before. When will I learn?

High Country News Misrepresents National Parks Gun Law

On February 22, it became legal to carry concealed weapons in national parks and wildlife refuges according to the laws of the state in which they are located.

Most states require classroom instruction, a firing-range session, and a criminal background check in order to grant a concealed-carry permit. Vermont and Alaska do not require permits. Arizona permits "open" carry.

It's been a whole week, and mass carnage has not yet erupted.

Sitting her office, Betsy Marston, retired editor of High Country News, "views with alarm" the new regulations: "tourists around you might be packing an assault rifle."

(High Country News always seasons its good environmental reporting with plenty of stereotypes and liberal guilt.)

Right. Frankly, I doubt that Mrs. Marston could define "assault rifle" if you handed her a pencil and piece of paper. And even using Wikipedia evidently is too much trouble.

Let's go back to that key word: concealed. It means, "you can't see it," and that fact pretty rules out rifles and shotguns.

But why let simple facts get in the way of editorial opinions?

National parks are not always safe places, and the dangerous predators usually walk on two legs. (I prefer pepper spray for the four-legged type.)

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Sebastian of Snowflakes in Hell puts boots on the ground, looking for carnage in parks and monuments, but he finds none.

Funny about that.

February 25, 2010

Going Camping

Blogging will cease for a few day while I take a trip. It should involve snow, skis, and tipis. Other people are in charge, so I get to ride along, try to be cheerful, and pull my weight (literally, as there is sledging involved).

No, that is not me in the photo. He is a competitor in one of the original primitive biathlons at Smugglers' Notch, Vermont.

We might be able to figure out some kind of biathlon too.

Right now the study floor is littered with gear, and Fisher, the young Chessie, has discovered the fleece sleeping-bag liner.

February 23, 2010

February 21, 2010

February 19, 2010

Once There Were Two Saloons

The local weekly's "100 Years Ago" column this week reprinted a news item about how "Under-sheriff Triplett made the trip" to our corner of the county in 1910, where he "ordered the two saloons there, running without a license, closed."

Two saloons, imagine that.

You haven't been able to walk up to the bar and order a drink here since the Great Poaching Scandal closed down the one café-and-bar at the junction back in 2004.

It seems the manager (the owner's son) and five of his buddies decided to poach a few trophy mule deer out of the pastures nearby in the early winter of 2003. They were caught and sentenced to hefty fines and suspended jail time.

And business cratered.

The owner put a notice in every box at the post office, saying in effect, "It wasn't me, and it's not true we were serving any of the venison."

But people stopped eating and drinking there, and the café, which had been in operation under various owners at least since the 1950s, closed and stayed closed.

Now the county has bought the building and plans to tear it down and make a little roadside park "with picnic tables, a pavilion, and other improvements for area residents as well as for travelers."

Some of the fire department guys wanted to burn it down for practice, but there are problems with that, such as overhanging trees.

Maybe we can just chop holes in the roof for ventilation practice before the building is demolished.

And if you have an urge to drink in a bar, it is 15 miles to the nearest such establishment.

February 18, 2010

Still Not Exactly the Joads

New York Times reporter Kirk Johnson tries to get a Grapes of Wrath vibe going in this story on nomadic retired volunteer parkies, but I don't think it works.

These people are not that desperate.

But if you like to travel, like outdoor-related work, and can stand dealing with the public, it's not a bad way to live.

Hunting Makes a Girl Feral

At the NorCal Cazadora blog, Holly considers how her hunting life is changing her both physically and psychologically.

You see, hunting is changing me. The more time I spend in the field reconnecting with what we really are - omnivorous animals who are blessed with the ability to gather lots of great food and with the cleverness to cook it beautifully - the more I seem to disdain civilization.

Don't get me wrong - I loved that appendectomy I had last year. I like the part of civilization that made it possible for me not to be dead at this moment. And obviously, I'm fond of the Internet because it has allowed me to connect with you.

But some aspects of civilization seem downright ridiculous. A special yogurt that's supposed to fix our upset tummies because we gorged on too much unhealthy food. Meds that help us overcome the stress and insomnia that accompany the hectic pace of success (been there). Or my very favorite: a freakin' video game that is being touted as a great new fitness regimen for morons who play too many video games that exercise only their thumbs. Good lord!

February 16, 2010

The Humane Society's Bogus Dog-Food Caper

The Humane Society of the United States, which has nothing to do with actual shelter animals, is now putting its name on a brand of dog food.

It is shipped all the way from Uruguay (carbon footprint, anyone?), perhaps because no American dog-food maker wants to be associated with HSUS.

It is promoted as vegetarian, but actually is not, if you read the fine print. (And what dog was ever voluntarily a vegetarian?)

Oh yes, and it's expensive. HSUS is all about the fund-raising.

Patrick Burns digs deeper here. More at the Smartdogs' blog as well.

The Dog Ate My MG

Mountain Gazette's annual mountain dog photo contest can be seen at their web site--all the submissions, not just the winners.  Lots of happy, church-going canines there. "Dog half-buried in snow" is a favorite theme.

But when you put "Mountain Dogs" on the cover, some mountain dog thinks that that issue is his chew toy.