Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bullfights and other things

The cattle report today: the two big bulls have found each other after staying out of each other's way for weeks. Remember that our whole community is 1500 acres for roaming. I was not up yet, but Mark reports the two decided to fight on the road down at the end of our hill. Not much damage done - they don't have horns, but all morning they have been quite loud in their vocal bellowing. Hmmm....the cattle are here for at least another 6 weeks, could be interesting. I'm not bothered by them at all from inside the safety of our fence. HA!

Another creature appeared on our deck this morning. A long tailed weasel. Isn't he cute! Okay, weasels look cute but are NOT. Ferocious hunters and needing to eat 40% of their body weight everyday. They eat chipmunks, gophers, etc. This is their fall color as they turn totally white in the winter.

We have been busy cutting and hauling up firewood from our woods. Dirty and exhausting work! Forests are naturally very messy if you didn't know. No idea how much firewood we'll use, especially since we'll head back to Florida the end of Oct. and then back for Xmas.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Protected feels good

Yippee! Our fence is enclosed. They come back in a week to put on the top rail (they have to hand peel it) and install the solar opener for the gate, but the important thing here is: THE COWS CANNOT GET IN! They have been marching through our woods today sidling up to the fence looking puzzled, if cows can look puzzled. One of the bulls was back & forth this morning along the fence grunting. Good test, I say; although I think an enraged bull could just smash through the wire. This one does not seem the enraged type happily...

We have also purchased at a greatly reduced price, some aspen trees from the nursery that sent us the gardener. She was at the nursery this morning and helped us enormously. Cross your fingers they will survive the winter! Imagine, the nursery is closing for the winter in Oct. Not used to that; hope the employees have alternative jobs lined up.

Lots of the wildflowers are done blooming but on the way to the nursery over Ohio Pass we saw these. I guess it's higher and they're protected a bit.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Music of early fall

We heard strange animal noises in the night, different than the usual coyotes or owls. I walked alone this morning (with spray & camera) and when I made it up to the hill above our house, I heard it. AN ELK BUGLING! Clearly it was elk noises in the night moving back down. They were around our house just like the deer for the first 6 weeks we were here, but by mid July had disappeared for higher ground. Yes, I know, we're pretty high here, evidently not high enough for elk. If you haven't heard it, the bugling is not like anything you will ever experience. Amazing sound. It's the call for fall mating, so here we are with another sign of true fall almost upon us. The male bulls can have up to 60 cows (female elk) in their harem. Really, they are called harems. No female equality here... This is an July picture of a elk cow - I have nothing recent, but hopefully soon I will.

I took a picture of a female grouse on my walk also. We see grouse frequently and have watched a lot of babies grow up. They are very slow moving birds and certain kinds are protected, I can see why - they would be very easy to hunt.

And finally, Mark has his twenty year old chainsaw back after weeks from the odd repair man in town. It wasn't supposed to take long to tune it up, but Mark had to make three trips before getting it back. Hard to say how this man stays in business. He doesn't appear to know how to converse, as in "Hello" or "Can I help you?" or "Your repair is finished". Yup and no were mostly words of choice. Not complaining really, at the end, he said he didn't do much to it anyway, so no charge. Personally I think he didn't want any more visits from Mark. Back home Mark jumped right in on the long project of sawing up the fallen trees that are down in the woods. It will take forever to get through it all, but in the meantime we'll have firewood for years.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Food and fun

Yesterday was a 50 degree, rainy off & on day. Our fence guys were able to work in between rain and continue to pound away putting in the posts. They hit a sheet of rock just under the surface which slowed things down. The rock is hard and probably 30 feet across. Hopefully their drill will hold out. The cattle continue to circle around us. Hurry fence!

For fun, last night we went to a local chef's challenge cook-off, similar to the Iron Chef concept. If you haven't seen, the chefs are given identical food to prepare multi -courses and a secret ingredient is announced they all have to use. Rosemary was the secret ingredient last night. Not too exotic, but okay. It was the final event of the summer to raise funds for the arts center. Lots of good food before the competition with 11 local restaurants serving their specialities. 200 plus people were there, amazing in this little area, and as the challenge went on with 3 local chefs, people were actually bidding hundreds of dollars to eat plates of leftover courses from the judges table. Eating off someone else's plate?? Hmmm...

I must confess that we left before the winning chef was announced. The friends we were with were in agreement that it was going on way too long - an hour challenge was 2 1/2hrs into it and not done. We're lightweights when it comes to late night stuff I'm afraid.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Smallish creatures

The cowboys (as in cowboy "Bill") came around yesterday. They stayed for hours, going all over the community, but did not move any cattle. Guess they were just checking on the group. The whole process is somewhat of a mystery to me, but Mark recently learned some cow facts from a rancher he plays golf with here. The ranchers will sell all the calves at the end of their time here (not necessarily to the stockyards, possibly just a different area, for those who are saying "oh, no!") They're still pretty young having been born in April or May. Since the bulls are in residence, we can expect next spring all these cows will have new calves, and start this process all over again. It's all a matter of timing - if calves are born before spring here, they can't survive the winter. A strange business - it's still hard for me to believe we have real cowboys here, not movie set stuff.

According to my brother George(who lives in Colo Springs) the rodent invasion will be happening soon. We certainly have tons of chipmunks and ground squirrels all around the house. I guess they are planning the strategy of how to enter inside. We've made no preparations for this - stay tuned! The photo is of a ground squirrel who has taken up residence on our deck. He visits the inside of the gas grill every day in case there are delicious drops from the grilled dinner the night before. This one is probably only to be called into action when all else fails - looks just a tad fat & lazy to me....

Friday, August 21, 2009

Living with nature

Another fine day we are having. Deer everywhere; which is good for Mark's invisible chart. He has seen deer every single day we've been here(over two months now) and hopes it will continue. Of course, we're seeing cattle too, although I'm trying to ignore them, and further, they don't count. I walked alone this morning in the woods (took spray everyone) with no bear in sight, but bear scat was evident. No, I didn't take a picture - I thought everyone could live without that...

Tiffany, this bit of news is for you - the paper reported yesterday that the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store had been broken into - by a bear. Minimal damage with the bear concentrating on caramel apples and caramel popcorn. How crazy is that!!

Mark had a fishing adventure yesterday. He went to a more isolated area on the Gunnison that he hadn't explored before. Half a mile hike in, lots of water, and some good fish there. However, when leaving he ran into a bee nest. Running away, bees stinging face and hand, he lost half his rod. He had to retrace his steps not knowing exactly where the nest was - found the rod and missed the nest. Important here - he had no swelling or allergic reaction. I clearly win the award for overreaction to bites...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Easy living

Hurray, our fence is going up! It will take multi days but at least it's started. The cattle have been around quite a bit and there is not one, but two bulls added to the group. The bulls have no horns and seem to have only one activity on their minds. Since I'm keeping this a PG rated blog, I won't go into any detail on the "activity", but suffice to say, it's happening in full view of our living room windows, the road we drive out on, in our woods, etc. Ahhh nature...

We went into town to do errands, one of which was to visit the Gunnison airport. We have guests coming to visit who were having issues trying to get a flight in from Denver. Here it's hard to get accurate info without going to the source, so off we went. The airport is teeny and only a few planes fly in & out. I went to the counter, of course there was no one there, but someone did come out to set me straight on what's what. It seems we are going into off season starting Sept so flights are halved (two a day instead of 4). That's for Oct too - then ski season will kick in. Now before you have decided we are a two horse town, let me tell you, there are things, important things that go on. I haven't seen it yet, but for a few weeks a military Osprey assault aircraft is here with 3 dozen government contracters doing high altitude testing. High altitude - that's us! And another biggie - President Bush, Laura, & their daughters were here for a friend's wedding. Of course, no one knew about it until it was over - can't imagine why we weren't invited.

The other picture is a view from the top of the hill where we walk in the morning. Really breathtaking.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mysteries and no respect

We watched a very strange phenomenon on the deck early last night. The hummingbirds were feeding, although in much smaller numbers, and suddenly two collapsed on the deck, and in looking down at the other end - two other hummingbirds had collapsed under the other feeder. No change in our boiled sugar water formula, and it was chilly, but not cold. They all laid there looking quite pitiful, actually looking dead really, but after a minute all got up and flew away. What in the world happened? I tried to search for an answer online, but didn't get anywhere.

So now I have a new name - neighborhood watchdog. We had a little drama which we witnessed from our living room window: a construction truck from the building site on the next ridge, decide to do some "off-roading" on the property next to ours. Damage of course to the land, and things grow so slowly here that it will be next summer before the tracks are covered up. He did this not once, but twice. The second time I emailed our homeowner's assn president. Boy, the fingers were flying with all the emails that went back and forth. In the end, the culprit owned up, the builder apologized, and the homeowner who is building was thrilled that someone was paying attention. There are only a few of us out here, so I'm on alert, binoculars at the ready!

The flower photo is from my camera, but was taken by Lisa in town. Must give credit where it's due. Had to put it up - so pretty...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Artistic license

Lisa and I went down the road to do some painting of the old cabins on the townsite. We had fun, packed everything but the kitchen sink to do this - even though it's a mile away from the house. You would think great masterpieces were produced - alas, just fun & laughter this time.

The cattle are back around the house - goody. We haven't had to turn on the shock fence for two weeks. And, interesting new development - there is now a bull amongst the girls. Hmmm - cowboy Bill must have let him in the gates when noone was looking... I will think a little harder before racing out to "herd" them all away.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Flies and Fun

Let's just get this out of the way now. No blog post from me yesterday since I was injured. Did that catch your attention? We went out for a picnic/fishing/sketching/painting trip up Cement Creek road. That's Mark fishing, Lisa and I were being artists, and everything was happy until I was bitten by a fly. Yes, a really nothing looking black fly landed on my left middle finger. Not a bee or a wasp: just a stupid fly. (Lisa was a witness) Within minutes my fingers and then entire hand swelled up and turned red. Hurray, evidently I'm allergic to some kind of fly - who knew... Anyway, after antihistamine, cortizone cream, and a soaking in a bowl of ice water. (That was Lisa's idea - very mean) I am much better today, although my hand is not all the way back to normal. Lesson to me: use bug spray!

On a happier note, we went to the farmer's market in town this morning. If you have a local farmer's market in your area you absolutely should go. They're all a lot of fun with local produce, crafts,food, and good people watching. I bought heirloom tomatoes and spring mix of lettuce with edible flowers. Yes, I have developed a fondness for pansies. That's the lettuce mix in the plastic bag...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Special things

Isn't this fawn cute! We are still seeing babies around even though nights are getting shorter, fields are slowly changing to gold (not the aspen yet however - I can't wait for that!), and temps are dropping slowly but surely. I have a problem wanting to "help" animals in nature; I need to let everything take its course.
We heard there was a spectacular meteor shower coming. So Lisa, my sister-in-law and best friend, (she's visiting from Texas) and I took blankets, wine, and expectant eyes out to our deck at dark. It's the perfect place to watch - no lights anywhere within sight. Any given night the sky looks like a black cloth with millions of pinpricks shining through. We saw a lot and oohed and ahhed as the meteors streaked across the sky. Stayed up until eleven (which is really late for me!) and heard the coyote chorus too. Unfortunately I don't have a picture to share - really hard to take night sky stuff.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On small towns

There is much to be admired in a small town. Everyone is friendly, knows everyone, and your business. Technically we're not in the nearest town, being 15 miles outside, but still I feel a connection after two months. People knew us even when we were in the middle of construction and here rarely.

Crime is only the petty variety; stealing bikes, and disorderly conduct, and the latest concern in town is how to finance an extensive addition to the jail. They are over capacity - it's built for 18 and sometimes has a rowdy 36. Yes, you read this correctly...

My hair needed coloring and cutting, an annoyance that I always wait as long as possible to schedule. Oooh, small town - where do I go? To sum it up: if you saw Steel Magnolias, you'll remember Dolly Parton's house made into a beauty salon. That was it - minus Dolly Parton. One of the two owners did my hair and everything turned out just fine. The cost was surprisingly low (I'm used to big city costs clearly).

I went into a bookstore to buy yet another local book on birds or mammals or something. We have acquired probably a dozen books now on everything about the area. Even - scat & tracks. That's animal poop for those that don't know...Yes, possibly I am becoming just a little bit strange. Anyway, again an owner/operator, saw that I also had a book to purchase from his used book section that was in pretty bad shape - he said since we had an author in common he was giving it to me for nothing. Nice small town stuff.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The change of seasons (almost)

The exodus of the hummingbirds has started. We have three kinds here and the orange rufus, the most aggressive, have left. Their trek to South America has started. We are still making sugar water and filling the bird feeders a number of times a day, but it's only a matter of time before the others go. Seasons change faster here it seems.

Our temps are getting lower already at night. High 30's and two nights ago a crazy 29! The daytime is still nice (78 average) and a different set of wildflowers have started blooming. We found mariposa lilies, which are not that common, on a drive/hike to an area called Almont Triangle, which is closed to the public in the winter. Elk and deer winter over there. I'm still tryiing to collect flower seeds as I find them to add to our dirt areas around the house. They're so expensive to buy.
Still watching deer everywhere around the house - two young bucks this morning were play butting antlers in our woods. Hmmm, I don't think they're old enough to participate in the fall mating ritual. A doe that we see often with twin fawns was also out this morning. The fawn rate of survival is very poor over the winter. Hope these will be okay...

Monday, August 10, 2009

New words

I've learned a lot of new words since we've been here. Thought I'd share -

First, if you own cattle and you have land for them, it's called "running cattle". Personally I don't wish to have any, seeing the cattle close up and personal on our land was enough for me. By the way, they haven't been our way in many days. They are all up on the far side hills where the other houses are... Their turn...

Heeler dogs - this cowboy has red heelers which are australian cattle dogs - he was on his way to find a lost calf.

Bouldering - this is rock climbing without ropes. Okay, I'm not doing this with or without ropes as far as I can tell.

Haying - This should be obvious, but I didn't know that was a real word. Haying is going on like crazy everywhere right now. It's a big deal here, both selling and storing for the cattle and horses that are left out in the winter. I was amazed to see cattle out in Feb here (minus 15).

Oh, since I was mentioning in a previous post we are on the site of an old mining town, I thought I would put up a picture of one of the old cabins. They are all slowly falling down, unfortunately.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Land

I spent a quiet hour this morning watching and trying to sketch a buck resting in our woods near the house. I didn't fill the hummingbird feeder on that side so as not to disturb and didn't march outside to move more rocks ( a constant project to help drainage around). I went back to working on a painting that I'd started the other day, at peace with the world, happy the buck was enjoying the woods, and... suddenly the electricity went out, things beeping everywhere, the buck running off. I heard a man tromping around the side of the house, raced out, and - it was the electric workman replacing our meter.

We are a mile from the nearest house, you can count the numbers of cars on one hand that go by in a day, and still, the modern world kicks in. Well, I wouldn't want the olden days of no electricity I assure you. Our community is on the old site of a mining town with some of the old miner's cabins standing on what is common area. There were 40 buildings at one point, with a saloon, dance hall, and one room schoolhouse. It was a very hard life from what I've read and no modern conveniences. So strange, the land remains the land, we just borrow it for awhile.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

High Altitude

We are at 8800 feet above sea level which causes all kinds of unexpected events. I'm thinking about this because we have lots of guests coming through Sept. and some have never been close to this high. It can cause high altitude sickness, which ranges from headaches to flu -like symptoms. I have been very, very lucky and never experienced any, but as a precaution I have ordered some natural compound tablets that claim to perform miracles for this very thing. Guests will be the guinea pigs I guess.

All of our appliances are currently working correctly, but they weren't, and I didn't know why until the handy appliance repair man came. We blew out the thermostat on one of our ovens because we turned on the self-cleaning function. The high altitude causes high heat to destroy things. We have to keep the frig at the warmest setting, the dishwasher on low heat, and the microwave on small amounts of time. Who knew?

We are so high that mountain thunderstorms feel as if they are right here in our living room. We just had a spectacular one with lightening galore. The sunset after was unbelievable!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mail, deliveries, and such

I have ordered once again online to have delivered here at Star Mt. There is of course drama involved. Regular mail goes to the mailbox which is two miles away outside the community gates. This is the closest it can come according to our nice post office delivery lady.
UPS and FEDX are another story. So far UPS flings packages outside the community gate without even calling us first. The FEDX guy has been nicer although he will not come through the gates either. He calls and arranges to meet us in town - a little weird I know, one time it was in the parking lot of the local hardware store. Maybe with a little persuasion, I can convince one or both to come through the gates. These are dirt roads but perfectly driveable. Brownies maybe?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Natural Landscaping

Today we had a garden expert from the local nursery show up at our house to give landscaping advice. We are trying to keep things natural and fit in with the landscape rather than fight it. That means no lawn (actually that's great - no mowing either!) and replicating the grasses, wildflower, trees, and shrubs that are already here. First, we already did the wrong thing by putting wild grass seed down a month ago. Whoops - wrong time. It came up but is very spotty - oh, well. Our "gardener on the go" as she is called, was great and gave good advice. Evidently we have to wait until Sept to do anything and with the first snow fling grass and wildflower seed right on it. Yup, there will likely a scattering of snow at some point during Sept. Also She thinks it's worth a try to transplant smaller aspen and pine trees from our existing woods. They're VERY expensive to buy...

She asked about our animals here and mentioned the bear word. Since the bears on Star Mt. (however many there are) are still "wild" she doesn't think they will disturb anything. In fact, she was a little envious - she lives in town (Crested Butte) and had a bear visit three times just last night knocking over the trash can, drinking all the water in her fountain, and generally being a big nuisance. Crested Butte has a terrible bear problem right now.

For those of you who care: fishing is very good here and we have a lot of trout in the freezer. Experimenting with different recipes which is fun. Looking at this report it sounds as if I am the fisherperson - let me correct - Mark does the fishing, I eat them... One note of caution - do not attempt to put fish heads down the garbage disposal - luckily we survived one round of that without damage...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Animals, machines, and other things

Well, the cows are back - only some of the herd and easily scared away. Can't wait until the permanent fence goes up! When the cows are elsewhere, the deer come by. Three bucks this morning with huge antlers. They are in velvet right now, which sounds sweet, but after I read the description, wasn't so sure how cute this is. Technically it means soft tissue filled with blood vessels feeding the growth of the bone underneath. They'll start rubbing the velvet off early fall so the bone can harden. The only point of this evidently is to win the fight against other males to win the waiting female. That's nature for ya...
We went to our first homeowner's picnic and annual meeting this weekend. For Star Mt. it was the 17th annual. Met a lot of very nice people, learned about other bear sightings, and important here, met the man who maintains the roads and plows driveways in the winter. We plan on going back to Florida the end of Oct, but will be back for Christmas celebrating with the family, so we will need him for sure. They get a LOT of snow here. It's been recommended we buy snowshoes now. Hmmm.
Mark took the chainsaw in to be serviced today. Just like everything here, nothing moves fast. The guy said he was caught up on chainsaws and come back in a week. Pretty funny we even have it - it's not been used for close to 20 years. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of trees fallen in our woods. Should be a fun project - at least we won't run out of firewood.
Oh, done the "bear" walk for two days in a row - no sighting, but Mark wants me to take bear spray if I'm by myself. In the fall they have to gain 1.5 lb a day to be fat enough to last through the winter sleep - far more active. Sounds like a good idea to me!

Saturday, August 1, 2009