Monday, December 16, 2013

The Christmas Count

It's something I've never done before, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, and yesterday was a perfect day for walking through squeaky snow and looking for birds.

We started at ACES in Aspen. There were the expected visitors:

Canadian Geese


and some unexpected visitors

a Merganser

and, most impressive, a loon

We split up into teams of 4 and started driving down valley. Our group stopped at different wetlands along the way. We saw a lot of the usual suspects, Robins, Doves, Ravens, Crows, Magpies, Red-Tailed Hawks, Cedar Waxwings, Townsend's Solitaires, Chickadees ; and the unexpected including a Kingfisher and a Snipe, yes, a Snipe. 22 different species in all. 

One of my favorites is the the Water Ouzel aka "dipper". These little guys just sit by the water's edge and dive in for dinner. They communicate through eye blinking when the sound of the river is too loud for singing.

Here's a little video of the dipper dipping on the Roaring Fork river

We all got a Christmas present for our last sighting. There were two birds swooping over the river (one of them stooped like a falcon but we never got a close enough look for a clear ID) and as we were watching in come these two Golden Eagles. They weren't our first eagles of the day, but they were posing rather pretty on that rock outcropping.

I tried to get the video going on the camera but I wasn't fast enough this is all I got.

It was still a nice way to end the day.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Binge Edu?

The nature of Education has been challenged in the State of Colorado recently and I've only found my  answer recently and through a very circumlocutious route. (amendment 66 defeat)

I've been doing a little binge TV over the weekend (thank you Netflix) and while watching the entire Star Trek canon backwards has a certain appeal I find myself sinking into Inspector Morse.

I must admit my only acquaintance with Colin Dexter was through the Santa Fe Opera and The Duchess of Malfi and it's only a vague recollection at that. I think there was a motorcycle and some leather but that's about all I can recall. I was more concerned with working as an apprentice Scenic at the Opera. We were making "pancakes" of A/B foam and applying them to forming wire for the set which John Conklin had lovingly described as "bejeweled vomit".

I only come to the Morse series sideways. I'd never had the patience to sit through the entire program while it was on PBS. Something to do with flat editing and laconic music between long long long silences or maybe just wanting a bit less Academic posturing and a little more Eye Candy. More Poirot, please. I really only became interested with the "Inspector Lewis" series which took a lover's eye to Oxford. Give me an English Green and a little perpendicular Gothic then I'll hang on while someone hems and haws over a pint of bitter.

So, when Morse appeared on the Netflix lineup I said, why not?

The punching bag which Mr. Dexter likes to work with consistently is Class. The privilege of the Oxford Don, of the Intelligentsia, of the snob all making a nice counterpoint to CI Morse's own intellectual snobbery and his own self loathing.

So how does that get me to the recent vote in Colorado for new taxes for public Education?

"DENVER - Colorado voters on Tuesday soundly rejected a $950 million tax increase for education 
Read more at "

There is an irrefutable need for educated minds.  Education is a commodity. Whoever pays for the commodity gets to control that commodity. It's our choice, Public or Private funding we had a choice and we voted to let someone else do the heavy lifting. Next time someone complains about the "fat cats on Wall Street" or the 1% or those who let greed rule their lives remember this vote. "We the people" opted to let the people with the money educate the children of their choice. 

Now, how will those children grow up and who will be their role models do you think? 

(...and yes, I'm still angry about the Given Institute; but that's another post)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


As promised here's a simple soup using those very "earthy" potatoes
and the last of the carrots from Karen's garden
and some onions with a little local honey
and some tomatoes from the summer farmer's market which I "canned"

Start with a big cast iron pot and some olive oil and add potatoes.
Skins on or off- your decision- but since I grew these I know the skins are safe.
Add some herbs, sage, rosemary, oregano… 

(make a bouquet garni if you don't want to chew the herbs)

add the carrots (they take longer to cook than the onions but less than the potatoes)
add the garlic, onion and honey…
After the carrots have started to get soft add the tomatoes

 plus one jar of water
the honey from the onions sticks to the bottom of the bowl 
so I add a little red wine to get all the honey…
and add that to the pot…
The key is to balance sweet with heat- so I add a little apple cider…
and an old rind of parmigiano
the broth should taste pretty good at this stage- it should have a savory flavor with complexity from the earth tones in the honey and the potatoes and it should have some heat in the "finish"
Cover and bring to a boil.

If you want stew, uncover and let it slow boil for 20 minutes
If you want soup let it simmer with the lid cracked for 20 minutes
The soup should be clear since you're not cooking it for hours.
Serve in a bowl with grated parmesan (and maybe a crouton or two)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The harvest is in.

Honestly it was in a couple of weeks ago. The potatoes are particularly fine this year.

That's a little over 2 bushels of Red McClure and much to my surprise some PurplePeruvian.

They're in the cellar in baskets with some burlap over them. 
They'll stay nice and cool through the winter and by Spring I'll have lots of sprouting starters.

I sort them by size. Not only is this a good thing for cooking but the smaller ones get soft first so you want to eat those first.

The big ones are great in soup… I'll post that recipe later. I just substitute the potatoes for beans in a minestrone. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Groasis update

Well, it wasn't quite as bad as I thought...

Out of the 20 chokecherry trees I planted last spring 9 didn't make it. In the case of three of them I think it might have been the health of the seedlings.
Since one out of the two planted in the same box one survived

and the other did not.

The culprit for the other 6 was roots from native grasses

sucking up all the water from the box before it got to the seedlings.

I got another 10 native chokecherries and planted them.

We'll see what spring has to bring.

The rest of the ones I planted in the Spring are hanging on, they're small but still have green leaves. Maybe the funnel spiders will keep all the ants and leaf eating bugs away.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Trial with a view

Bridget Strang is doing a great job of hosting sheep dog trials up on Missouri Heights. You couldn't ask for a prettier place or a prettier time of year...

Dawn at Strang Ranch.

That's Mount Sopris in the background.

Early morning still had frost on the grass.

and one of the first runs of the day with a little dawn light. It was pretty cold- around 20 F.

but that didn't stop the dogs....

Here's Bridget with Treat on her first run in the Open on Saturday.

Afternoon and things started to warm up.

Put the Nationals on your calendar for next year. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Boots on the Ground.

I'm sorry I missed the ceremony at the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department this morning. There is a piece from "the pile" outside our Volunteer Fire Department and this morning a wreath was added along with a helmet and boots.

Most people don't notice this piece of iron next to the flagpole but it stands by the doors to the Station and every Firefighter passes by it to enter.

Some of our guys just got in the truck and started driving that day.

But this day isn't just about remembering... it's about learning.... "Homeland Confusion" in the OpEd of the Times today.

Those days of standing shoulder to shoulder outside the US Congress seem like a fantasy; but it did happen. How quickly we forget our Solidarity, our sense of Community. 

Of all the Opportunities which where squandered in those crisp Fall days of 2001 this, in my opinion, is the most heart breaking. The World stood united in sympathy and outrage. We could have done better things with that Good Will than start 2 Wars.

Yet there is hope. I don't know if John Kerry's non-military solution was just a toss off or a brilliantly crafted ploy to maneuver stalled weapons talks to the forefront.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's Remarks on Syria:

Perhaps after 12 years of war we are finally ready to acknowledge what the Nobel Peace Prize Committee said in the wake of the Towers falling. "If" President Bush was able to answer 9/11 without going to War they said they'd give him the Prize. The sentiment was echoed in analysis by The Aspen Institute right after the attack. Combating poverty would do more to undermine radical Islam than Military action. 

Has our anger cooled? Am I seeing cracks of sanity breaking through the murk of Congress? More likely this is just another quirk of fate, that the predictable reverse psychology of US Politics now means there is a chance for Peace, a chance for restraint, a chance for reason over vengeance. 

I'll take it anywhere I can get it because when I think of "Boots on the Ground" this is what I see.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Time for Meeker

.... and  we're off!

Meeker Sheep Dog Trials 2013... semi-finals tomorrow and finals on Sunday

Monday, August 26, 2013

Jim Whittaker rocks the house.

"We had been in the Death Zone for 2 months. Nothing grows there. There's no life. We were walking back down to Katmandu. We were carrying Willi and Barry. We'd been in the Death Zone for 2 months. I looked ahead and  everybody had stopped. I came up behind them and asked why and they all said 'Look!' I stopped and I tears started ... 'Look!' We all had tears in our eyes 'Look! A blade of grass!' ...and it was so green... a bright emerald green...'Look! There's a flower!' ... life.... again... we live on a beautiful planet... we're so lucky... leave no child inside... leave no child inside"

Jim Whittaker closed Mountainfilm in Aspen with that story.

Saving  the most spectacular visuals for last, not to mention some serious hometown talent, Mr. Whittaker was there for a screening of "High and Hallowed" the story of his 1963 Everest expedition and the trek back for the 50 year anniversary.

The 1963 American expedition to Everest, was the first summit by an American, Jim Whittaker

Nawang Gombu was with him on the summit they kept their friendship going.

They ascended the Sol Col route, the same one that Sir Edmund Hillary used in the first ascent.

That alone is a remarkable accomplishment but the thing which makes the 1963 expedition stand out is the West ridge ascent and traverse by Willi Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein. Luke Jerstad and Barry Bishop made an ascent via the South Col on the same day. Both teams summited, both teams bivouaked on the Sol Col descent at 27,450 feet. It's a hell of a story.

The visuals from 1963 are stunning because it was sponsored by National Geographic and Barry Bishop was a NatGeo photographer and scientist.

For the 50th anniversary of the 1963 ascent a team went back, including Jim Whittaker and his son. The visuals for that were by our very own Kent Harvey . It was great to be able to follow Kent's tweets from the mountain and dispatches on the Eddie Bauer site during his 2009 "First Ascent"expedition - nerve racking when the avalanche happened on the West Ridge- but great to hear he was okay.

The contrasts in equipment are dramatic.

The changes on the mountain- more sobering the glacier shrinks the rockfalls become more frequent and the ice gets glassy hard.

As usual Mountainfilm does not disappoint. There were highlights, "The Summit" was sobering as it was beautiful. Tom Shadyac was effervescent about his upcoming remake of "The Intouchables"

I got to see my name in the credits for "Keeper of the Mountains" (kickstarter rocks) what a sweet little short. Thank you for honoring Elizabeth Hawley.

my favorite film was still "Slomo"

His goal for the rest of his life is "not to be an asshole." 

Nice goal, not easy, but something to which we can aspire...