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Friday, July 31, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

I tried to post this on July 31, but Blogger had a mind of it's own and wouldn't let me arrange the photos where I wanted them, so I am posting late. ( Edited to say: I see that since it was saved as a draft on the 31st, it is dated then, although it wasn't published until August 1.)

July 31 was my 71st birthday. I was happily surprised by the arrival, about noon, of my daughter Kat, Greg and Evan, to help me celebrate this weekend. Evan, age 7, entertained me by blowing up a balloon and letting it go to fly all around. He would also blow it up and then hold the end tightly to let the air squeal out while he giggled and wiggled.

Kat, Evan and I picniced at Centennial Park on the Arkansas River in Canon City, where Evan fed the pond ducks and threw rocks into the river until the wind started blowing so hard everyone rushed to our cars and left the park. We had planned on picking up my Mom from her assisted living home to go celebrate with ice cream, but it was blowing so hard we were concerned about taking my tiny, fragile Mom out in it, so we went to a drive thru and took the ice cream treats to her in her studio apartment. She told us about what happened on the day I was born and other old memories. When we arrived we noticed that one of the patio tables behind the home was broken.

When we got back to my house we started to drive into the driveway and were shocked to see that the far side of the carport was filled with half of the big Russian Olive tree from the front yard. We had noticed quite a few small limbs and branches that had blown off of trees, on our drive, but had no idea of what was waiting for us at home.

When we moved here 6 years ago this had been a very small tree laying on the ground in the front yard with the root ball half out of the ground. When we began to remove it, a neighbor told us that a dust devil had blown it down the previous summer, but it had continued to stay alive with green leaves. We waited until Spring and it began to leaf out, so Joe pulled it upright and staked it so it would stay in that position until the roots that had pulled out of the ground took hold again. It so enjoyed being watered and fed and generally loved by us and the birds that it grew fast and furiously. Last summer Joe was able to take off the wires and stakes.

It had gotten so tall that I wanted to get it pruned back and keep it a smaller tree. Earlier this summer the tree trimmers who trim trees that grow into the power and phone lines came by and trimmed the half of the tree that impacted the lines. This left it quite lopsided and we then realized that we needed to get the other half of the tree pruned by professionals when the season was right. Todays wind took care of half of the remaining tall limbs so now will have fewer limbs to be pruned. I just hope that there is enough there to make an attractive shape.

I know that many people consider Russian Olives to be noxious weed trees because they have begun to naturalize along our creeks and rivers, but they are an attractive tree with their silvery green leaves and the sweet smelling spring flowers (which I am happy to say, I am not allergic to) and the birds love this tree. Since I have planned this garden to be attractive to the birds and critters, that makes the decision for me.

I wasn't able to post the following before because of a vexsome virus that infected our computer, in spite of Norton. Our computer guru, son Greg, has managed to take care of it for us:

The late summer monsoons have given us some amazing weather; this past week we have had three late afternoon severe thunderstorms with heavy rains, flash flooding, winds, and damaging hail in the area, in addition to lesser thunderstorms the other afternoons.

Our daughter-in-law, Jennie, who is a librarian has just accepted a position with the state prison at Limon, which is close to Byers, and has been attending the Department of Corrections (DOC) Academy in Canon City, so we have been showing her the area during her time off. Last Sunday afternoon we took her to the most well known attraction in the area, the Royal Gorge, with it's "world's highest suspension bridge" over the 1000 foot deep gorge, and many other attractions.

When we were halfway across the bridge (it is a long bridge), walking, a high wind and thunderstorm hit us from the west. We were soon soaked to the skin but pushed on valiantly to the south rim, where we and many others took refuge in a t-shirt shop until the rain passed over. I had heard that when the wind came down the canyon the bridge undulated, but had never seen it. Believe me, it undulates.

With my weak legs, I had taken my mother's old walker with a seat and basket (it was way too high for Mom so we got her one fitted to her small size), because I didn't feel that I could manage that much walking otherwise. It worked well with my oxygen in the basket, and the seat when I became fatigued. I was pleasantly surprised that I managed the whole escapade much better than I had feared. Joe does all the refrigeration for the eating places at the Gorge so he knows the maintenance and facility supervisors, and one of them wanted to get me a ride back across the bridge with a Park Ranger, but I wanted to continue walking.

On the way back across the bridge we heard the sound of rushing water and looking over the east side of the bridge we saw a large gully running full of runoff water from the entire south rim. It was full of mud and rocks and bright red, since that is the color of the earth here. It rushed down the whole 1000 foot cliff, bouncing from crag to crag until it fell in a huge waterfall into the river at the bottom. We then saw one of the rafts coming down the river from the west. When they saw the waterfall, they stopped and the guides checked it out and then they went ahead and paddled on down the narrow area where the water was running into the river. With a lot of skill and know how they got thru just fine and continued on toward Canon City where they would disembark, probably at Centennial Park.

We were so wet and cold and could have grumbled that the storm had ruined our outing at the Gorge. Instead we were exhilerated and glad that we had a chance to experience something that most people don't get to see. I managed to get a short video clip of the rushing water with my Canon Elph camera. I hope this works, I've never posted a video before.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fledgling Day School

On the 14th I blogged about the Western Kingbird fledgling in our yard. The next day it was joined by 2 siblings perching on the line and squawking loudly. The 3 were huddled together for comfort in the big frightening world outside the nest. Mom and Dad flew back and forth calling to them and feeding them and attempting to get them to make short hops from one part of the line to another.

By the next day the parents would bring bugs and sit a short distance from them in the Russian Olive tree and tempt them to come get the bug. First one and then another would bravely fly the short distance to be rewarded with a yummy bug. Those parent birds are wise and patient in their training of the young ones; it has been a joy to watch. I wonder how long it takes till they become independent. I intend to keep watching as long as they hang around Toad Haven.

I did manage to get this photo of the 3 youngsters on the line; I could never get in position to photograph the fledglings with the parents since they didn't hang around very long. It takes constant flying trips to catch enough of those bugs out of the air.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day July 16, 2009

Sorry to be late; I was overbooked on the 15th. I took some photos last evening with the Canon Power Shot Pro but the lighting and my tremor didn't make them turn out well enough to use. Today I went back to my faithful little Canon Elph.

During June we had an inch of rain, which for us is good, but July has been hot, dry, and windy with dry lightning storms. I spend the days running out to change the hoses and sprinklers often, and sympathize with the plants for being dessicated. Last Friday we had wildfires both north and south of us. Luckily, the fact that there had been rains kept the fires from growing explosively, as they did during our recent drought years. The northern fire was on Fort Carson land, was contained quickly and threatened no structures. The other fire was just south of Florence at the base of the Wet Mountains and 200 homes had to be evacuated in several subdivisions. The fire was contained by the end of the weekend with no structures burned. How we appreciate our fire fighters in this area, most of whom are volunteers, with help from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which has a facility in Canon City because there is a lot of BLM land in Fremont County.

Given that introduction to our climate, here is what is blooming at Toad Haven today.

Wine Cups Mallow and Blue Vernonica in prairie border. These both do very well in our hot, dry climate.

Trumpet Vine in the north prairie border. I remember playing witches fingers with these as a child in Granny's garden.
Small Prairie Zinnias in the northwest corner of the prairie border next to the driveway where it has the gravel it prefers.
Echinacea and yellow Yarrow in the west prairie border. They put on a great show in the summer and I leave the seedheads over the winter for the birds. The grass behind this border is the Blue Gramma grass which is native to Colorado's prairies and makes a great lawn with far less water and cutting than the usual Blue Grass that our pioneers felt they had to have to remind them of home, which has been one of the causes of water shortages in the state. I consider myself Granny Gramma Grass Seed.

This patch of Sweet Rocket on the north side (front) of the house, was one of the few plants that had survived the previous occupants of our house, who didn't water, weed, or care for the yard in any way. When I go out front to change the sprinklers on the small patch of blue grass, the fragrance of these flowers brightens my day.

I'm particularly attracted to these Decorative Oregano flowers in the backdoor patio garden with the Lavenders and California Poppies.

Gaillaridas blooming in the corner of the dooryard patio garden. I've also just planted some Gaillarias, yellow Yarrows, and silver Artemesia in the narrow, hot bed along the south side of the house on the other side of this garden and patio. I'm trying to find something that will survive in that hellacious climate.

A volunteer Queen Anne's Lace blooms next to the Germander that borders the driveway edge of the Herb Garden.

I realize that these are not blooms, but they are the fruit of previous blooms. This is the first harvest from my tardy veggie garden. The large Eggplants are not even bloooming yet, but I am personally fond of these long Japanese fruits. Come on Zuchinni and Tomatoes!
Check out what's blooming all over the world at May Dreams Gardens

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Leaving the Nest

This noon I saw a pair of Western Kingbirds on the phone line running along the street. We have seen them often this summer sitting, then flying off to catch a bug, and coming back to sit for a while. But, this morning the difference was they had a slightly smaller version of themselves on the line with them. The parents would take turns flying to catch an insect and then return to feed the fledgling, which awkwardly hopped to look one way and then hopped back to look the other way, between accepting the gifts of love from his proud parents.
Since I didn't get a photo of the birds in my yard, I borrowed this one from the internet. Thank you, Terry. I would love to take bird photos that were this good.

This seemed particularly apropos because this morning my granddaughter, Mandy, flew away from her home in Byers (by way of Denver International Airport) on her way to the Job Corps facility in Clearfield, Utah. When Kat called me, just before noon, to tell me that Mandy was gone, we both cried, reminded each other that it was a great opportunity for her, and then cried some more. When Joe came home for lunch I cried when I gave him the news.

Mandy with her brother, Evan.

Kat hadn't been able to go through the search process at DIA with Mandy because she is still in the wheelchair after her second knee surgery, so Greg went with her until she got to the final gate, and he said he cried also. And wouldn't you know it, Mandy's number was picked and she had to go into the bomb booth in addition to the usual search process.

Since she flew into the Salt Lake City airport, before being taken to Clearfield with several other Colorado kids, her Aunt Sharon met her by the baggage claim area to hug her and wish her well on her trip to adulthood. We're happy that she will be able to spend some weekends with her aunt and cousins. She will be able to spend 2 weeks at home for Christmas.

Fly away, little bird, may your wings grow strong, and may you enjoy the wonderful wide view from up there.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

The 4th of July is my kind of holiday since I love history and fireworks!

In the Rotunda of the U. S. Capitol Building are a series of paintings of the history of the United States of America.

This one, by John Trumbull, is the representation of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1976. The 5 gentlemen standing in the middle, presenting the draft document to Congress, are John Adams (MA), Roger Sherman (CT), Robert Livingston (NY), Thomas Jefferson (VA), and Benjamin Franklin (PA).

Roger Sherman is important to my family because he is an ancestor of my children through their father's Buck family line. "He [Roger Sherman] was the only member of the Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of 1774, the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Articles of Confederation (1781), and the Federal Constitution(1788)." "[He] was also a prime mover behind the Connecticut, or Great Compromise, which broke the deadlock between the large and small states over representation. "This is why we have both a House of Representatives, which chooses the number of congressmen based on a states' population; and a Senate, which allows each state to have 2 senators.

I find that it helps me interest the youngsters of the family in history, when I tell them about their distinguished ancestor. It seems to help them to relate to what could look like a bunch of boring dates and actions. What a shame that something as exciting and vital as our own history often seems to be taught in such a boring way. It must take a lot of work to turn excitement into boredom. But then, I adore history and spend a lot of time reading and researching it. I hope some of it wears off on the kids.

Hope you enjoy the fireworks as much as I will. We don't set off our own any more, because of the fire danger in our dry climate, but we plan to watch the public display set off on top of Skyline Drive in Canon City.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Small Town Summer Concerts

Each Wednesday evening, in the summer, there is a concert in the Pioneer Park Pavilion in Florence. Local people of all ages show up with drinks, picnics, chairs, dogs, etc. to enjoy the music and visit. The Senior Citizen organization even barbeques and sells hot dogs, hamburgers and popcorn at very low prices.

Tonight a local old fashioned country gospel group, The Coffee Family, provided a rousing selection of bluegrass, and other styles of gospel music to a happy crowd, in spite of wind and spitting rain (the rain never got to the serious stage but we did get some wind blown spatters where we were sitting in our own camp chairs under the pavilion).

Jim and Star Coffee, their son, Mark, and daughter, Grace play many instruments, including guitars, bass, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, and tambourine, as well as singing. They even wrote some of the pieces that they belted out. They used a microphone and amplifier, but had powerfull voices that could probably be heard without assistance. They travel to concerts around the country and you can often see their motor home parked next to their home on Eight Mile Creek where it flows out of the Pikes Peak Massif, north of Florence, on it's way to the Arkansas River.

Joe and I so enjoyed their music, and it was also fun to see all of the expressive faces of our neighbors; a great place to people watch. While the adults sat and listened (and some did needlework), the little ones tended to run, crawl, climb and ride bikes all over the park.

I wish I could provide some of the Coffee's music for your enjoyment, but at least her are some photos I took. Excuse the fuzziness, my little Canon Elph doesn't seem to take very clear digital zoom photos any more, and my tremor is getting worse. I seem to do better with the Canon Power Shot Pro, but it is too big to carry in my pocket, and I am still figuring out how to use it.

These concerts are one of the benefits of living in this small town; we have lots of community events throughout the year, based on history/antiques, art, music and holidays. Little did we guess, when we moved here 21 years ago, how this community was going to develop into such a great place to live and/or visit.