Black bear eating from my apple tree, August night, 2012

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday Book Babble: Handmade Journals

Now that it's summertime, many of us are taking vacations, and that means some of us will be shopping for travel diaries/journals to bring along. Although a simple, ruled steno pad will work just fine, why not investigate purchasing a handmade blank book crafted by an independent artist? Not only will your journal be one-of-a-kind, it can also serve as a souvenir of your trip if you choose a design that reflects your destination. Some bookmakers use maps or labels for covers, or you could select specific colors, such as turquoise tones for a beach vacation, or orange and red designs if you're headed to the desert southwest.

I love shopping on etsy for handmade journals. Here's a sample page when I searched the term "blank books" in the category "handmade." (You can make your search more advanced and specific by adding additional terms/keywords.)

Keep in mind that after vacation season has passed, these handmade blank books are great for use as daily journals, and they make unique gifts for the holidays. And when you buy a hand-crafted journal, you're supporting and encouraging independent artists. Order a blank book, buy a fancy pen, and "Bon voyage"!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday: Local Harvest

Today's post is a quickie but a goodie. If you haven't already done so, be sure to check out the website Local Harvest. It's the easiest way there is to find the nearest farmer's market or fresh produce resources in your community, nationwide. Summer's here and it's time to hit the outdoor stands for fruits and vegetables!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday: Preserving Food

I want to write more about this topic later, since I love preserving, mostly by necessity, due to our prolific garden and fruit trees, but I thought I'd pass on my suggestion for the best book to get if you are just starting out in this realm: The Ball Blue Book of Preserving. It's a slender, inexpensive, large-format paperback that I picked up at Laporte Hardware & Variety on the shelf next to the Mason jars. This book is the perfect reference, whether you want to make jellies and jams, can vegetables, dehydrate fruit, or freeze things. As it says on the inside front cover, it's the "classic American guide to keeping fresh-tasting food on hand. Its longevity is proof that good food is always good food, whether wholesome garden fare made in the home, or gourmet cuisine."

(With all the farmers market produce available this time of year, why not grab a crate of summer fruit and whip up a batch of jelly or jam, or try making your own fruit leather for snacks? Add this book to your cookbook shelf. It's ideal for beginner or expert alike.)

A typical day's canning when I get into a groove every summer! Seen here, mostly applesauce, raspberry preserves, and pickles made from both cukes and yellow squash.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday: The Pleasant Valley Report

Gosh I wish I could say this is a photo of me downhill racing on a bicycyle. It isn't--it's my friend and personal trainer Annemarie who I am happy to report, came in first place in her race this weekend at Crested Butte. This pic (taken by her friend--not me) is from a different race, but you get the idea. Congratulations to AM! She shared this photo with me today at our weekly session, where she not only had me exercise, but also took the kinks out of my neck.

All is good in Laporte, floodwise, although it was very hot and humid all weekend. Many mosquitoes, due to all the standing water. Today it is stunningly gorgeous--a perfect 80 degrees, with no humidity. Heading home to pick lettuce and spinach for distribution to friends tomorrow. We are overrun with greens and I have to share the love!

(Just a note, my blog entries will be a little short this week, as I am volunteering with kids from my church through Friday.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday: Can Pets Navigate Home?

We had a small scare on Tuesday night. My adopted (from a rescue organization) dog went "missing" for 3 hours. He's been known to dig under the fence and carouse in the neighborhood, but we'd thought we'd patched up all the exits from the yard with chicken wire.

Well, we couldn't find him, even after calling his name, offering dog "cookies," and shaking his jangly leash for a walk. I ended up driving a radius of 5 miles asking anyone out walking a dog to please, please, if you see him, pick up that stray Boston Terrier and call the number on his tag if he crossed their paths.

To my chagrin, we eventually found him underneath our backyard deck, in a very dark recess, afraid to emerge. We don't know why.

This personal story leads up to today's Offbeat piece. We've all heard about it. Dogs and cats that can find their way home after getting lost, being accidentally displaced, or even being swept up by a tornado. I'd like to think my dogs are that attuned, that they could somehow find their way back home, but I'm not sure.

Here's an interesting article on this subject from the Straight Dope. (This is an insightful website with a unique take on what is rumor and what is fact. Bookmark Straight Dope for the next time you have a question about an urban legend, a myth, or what I would call the "pets getting home" topic--where else do I get this information?) Does it really happen?

Happy first weekend of summer to everyone. Pray for those fighting fires in over ten US states, and be grateful if your vacation/picnic/potluck goes off without a hitch. I am picturing my many friends squishing melted marshmallows on top of Hershey bars, on top of graham crackers. S'mores!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday Book Babble: "The Best Advice I Ever Got" by Katie Couric

Who hasn't wanted to ask a famous, successful person for a little advice? Luckily for us, journalist Katie Couric has used her clout as an interviewer to compile that kind of advice in a new collection of essays: "The Best Advice I Ever Got." 

Basically, Katie wrote to many famous people and asked them to share their own "best advice"--advice they've received from others, or the best advice they could give for living life in general, advice gleaned from their own trials and tribulations. It's been so interesting to read the different paths that these people have taken to arrive at their success. Not only have I gained insights into what makes extraordinary people tick, Katie sprinkles her own experience with success and failure in between chapters, so I got to learn more about her than I'd ever known. She was definitely a student in the "school of hard knocks." I'm halfway through the book, and I think it's a great summer read.

From the dust jacket:
"Delightful, empowering, and moving, The Best Advice I Ever Got is the perfect book for anyone who is thinking about the future, contemplating taking a risk, or daring to take a leap into the great unknown. This book is for all of us, young and old, who want to see how today's best and brightest got it right, got it wrong, and came out on top."

My very favorite story/advice is from Suze Orman, by the way. Did you know thats this financial guru was a waitress until the age of 30? The advice-givers cover a wide spectrum of our culture, from famed writers like Joyce Carol Oates, to comedians like Bill Cosby, or athletes such as speed-skater Apolo Ohno. Over 100 advice-lending essays comprise this book. It's ideal for your bedside table, when you don't want to commit to more than a few pages before sleep. It would also be fitting poolside or at the beach, when you want to take time every few minutes to stop reading and soak in your surroundings (you'll definitely want to pause in between essays).

And it just dawned on me that this would be a superb gift for a graduate just starting out on her own, a friend who just lost a job, or a family member embarking on an enterprise. Definitely check it out of your library this vacation season if you want to grab a book before you head out on your latest adventure.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday: Pets for the Elderly

This Wednesday, I'd like to share information with you about a wonderful organization--"Pets for the Elderly." Even in lean years, I've supported this group because I believe in what they do. From their website:

"The most serious disease for older persons is not cancer or heart disease - it's loneliness. Pets offer affection, unconditional love, fight loneliness, and can help ease the loss of a loved one.

The Pets for the Elderly Foundation helps pay the fees to participating animal shelters throughout the United States for senior citizens (age 60 and over) who adopt a companion dog or cat from a participating shelter — including pre-adoption veterinary exams and spay/neuter, if part of the adoption fee.
In 2010, the Pets for the Elderly Foundation assisted with the adoption of 5,770 companion animals.
Currently, 52 shelters in 29 states are participating in the program. Many more would like to participate, if funds were available.
We urgently need your help! Your monetary donation can make a difference. Few causes can have the potential benefits that will result from your contribution. You not only save the life of an animal, you can make a dramatic difference in the life of an elderly person."

What I find most compelling about this charity is that none of our donations go to pay ANY administrative fees. These fees are minimal--only 3% of their budget--and are completely covered by the founder's trust. So the five bucks you donate goes straight to the cause.

Think about it. The animals need a home. The seniors need companions to improve their quality of life. Why not connect the two? It's a win-win situation, and these guys are a small, grass-roots group that I am proud to support.

At least 6 times a year, I offer artwork on ebay to support Pets for the Elderly, and 100% of the money raised (it's an auction site--values vary) goes to this worthy non-profit. If you know of a group (for example, your church Youth Group, or a Boy Scout Troop) that is looking for a worthy charity to donate to, where just a little bit can mean a lot, please consider Pets for the Elderly.

The next time you feel that times are too tough, that your dollars can't stretch another inch, and you can't possibly donate to anybody, think about what a very small contribution to this organization can do. No, you won't get a tote bag or a bumper sticker, but you might get what I did a year or so back--a photograph sent in the mail of a happy lady with her new dog, with a "thanks" scrawled on the back in ballpoint pen. Priceless.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday: How Do You Hard-Boil a Fresh Egg?

Many of us enjoy eating hard-boiled eggs, and during the summer, I bring Deviled-eggs to every potluck I'm invited to. So having eggs boil "nicely" and peel easily is really vital to my cause.

Because we get, on average, 2 eggs from our pet chickens every day, I'd love to boil these brown-shelled beauties to take and share with others (and eat myself). But I cannot figure out how to properly hard-boil a "fresh" egg.

I tried everything.

Then, I read in a recent issue of "Organic Gardening" that I am not alone. A woman raising chickens for decades hasn't figured out how to do it, so I don't feel so stupid.

The editors suggested a method of dredging the hot eggs in cold water and immediately cracking the shells, to allow the insides to contract from the membrane inside the shell, for easier peeling. Doesn't work for me.

Does anyone have any ideas? Added vingar to the boiling water. Nope. Added salt. Nope. Added baking soda. Nada. Added tea (that one was weird). Didn't help.

Any advice appreciated.

Don't want to turn you off from fresh eggs. They make the most heavenly baked goods, and omelets and simple poached eggs are to-die-for with their glorious orange yolks. Not to mention that these are happy, free-ranging gals with a diet of organic feed, added flax (for more Omega-3's), and the occassional freshly chopped tomato. So their eggs are better for your health. By all means, find a source of truly fresh, home-grown eggs and eat them. And when you figure out how to hard-boil them, drop me a line!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday: The Pleasant Valley Report--Flood Update

Have only a few moments to blog today. It looks like we may have dodged a bullet with regard to flooding. The Cache la Poudre River may have already crested and we are unscathed! Thanks for the good wishes and positive vibes. We're definitely very grateful.

In other news, we may have a hive of bees nesting in the north wall of our house! A few days ago, when it was very hot, I noticed a small swarm on the outside of the house. It looks like they found a small opening in a repaired flicker hole and may be in residence. More on this as things develop.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday: Offbeat: Marriages Suffer from Insomnia

A new report out this week links a wife's inability to fall asleep with marital discord:

Seems offbeat to me. Who would have connected the two? We're always learning from research!

And speaking of broken marriages, Father's Day (this Sunday, June 19) can be an especially painful time for men who are estranged from their kids, due to divorce or bitter ends to relationships. Keep these guys in your thoughts. If your Dad is no longer with you, consider going out of your way to be nice to another Dad you know who may feel lonely this Sunday, for whatever reason.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thursday Book Babble: Magazines & Shopping Rant

Has anyone else noticed how many pages in the typical printed magazine are now devoted to product suggestions? It used to be, there were articles and there were ads, and they were obviously separate. Not anymore. I am amazed at how many pages in magazines I used to enjoy are now devoted to products "suggested" by an editor, under the guise of "reporting." 

As a reader, I appreciate being informed of genuinely new and superior products, and where to buy them. But some magazines are going too far. "Outside" magazine devotes many pages to new outdoor equipment every month. "Shape" magazine spotlights exercise gear, sports drinks, and fashion/beauty items. This month's "Woman's Day" has an article touting "Made in the US" products in celebration of July 4. Most products are not tested in any way. If you read the captions, the copy sounds just like it came off the company's press release or the product package.

Why were these items selected? Are these actual endorsements from experts? Did someone really test the products or were they simply "placed" on the page because a company paid to put them there? Why not just buy an ad and be more up-front? These phony articles--"The Best Gear This Year," "Beauty Must-Haves for the Summer," etc. are not honest reporting--they're ads that are filling up space where actual journalism should be. Why not use the space for fiction, a photo essay, or reader contributions? Because magazines are losing traditional ad buyers, that's why. It's sad.

Some instances of product placement do not annoy me. Case in point, this recent article in the NYTimes regarding digital shopping in magazines such as "House Beautiful." Digital shopping will be available to those who read certain Hearst magazines in digital form. In essence, by scrolling over items in photos, a reader will be directed to a source where they can purchase the item. Here's the link:

A typical "House" article includes photographs of gorgeously decorated rooms, and many people go out and purchase this magazine simply for ideas on how to replicate that decor in their own homes, or for images of finished projects that inspire them. In these photos, the product being touted is actually used in a real setting, with real results, not simply spotlighted on a page with random other products. I actually like the ideas in this article.

I feel compelled to point out, not all magazines are so blatant with their product placements. When you compare "Backpacker" magazine to "Outside," it's clear that 80% of BP's content is useful. Trail information, recipes for food to take on a hike, and tips for finding the best places to be depending on time of the year, etc. When BP reviews products, they test them, and say as much.

Other mags I get, such as "Organic Gardening," and "Birds and Blooms" provide supplier information in genuine context. The products are suggested because they fill a specific need, often requested by a reader (for example, "I need a compact compost bin for a small garden. Any ideas?").

Anyhow, this is just a pet peeve of mine. Some publications take me a good week to digest, they're so full of great information. Others end up in the recycling bin after an hour.

The next time you are sitting in a doctor's or dentist's waiting room, take a look at the magazines in front of you. Count how many pages are simply there to get you to buy things, vs. actual content, such as recipes, honest product reviews, or truly helpful information.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday: Attracting Hummingbirds

Where are "my" hummingbirds? While I have not run across any hard data or studies relating to hummingbird declines, I can state that this spring/early summer has been a "poor" year for backyard hummers here in Laporte. We keep journals of bird activity and can easily go back 5 years to see what kind of action we normally get at this time of year. Birds of all kinds are flying through and enjoying the feeders and bird bath, but very few are hummers. We would normally see or hear a few a day. At this point, we've gone a week or more between sightings.

Here in our neighborhood, July is the best month to attract hummingbirds, so perhaps we'll be in for a happy surprise in a few weeks.

Not to be discouraged, as always we've put out many hummingbird feeders, in very obvious, open areas so it's easy for the birds to find them. You don't have to spend a lot of money on special red nectar for feeding, as a combination of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar (cooked on the stove to dissolve completely and make a syrup) works just fine. No need to add red food coloring--the bird is not looking at the color of glass feeder contents, but rather the red and yellow base on most commercial feeders.

Planting red flowers is also a great way to attract not only hummingbirds, but butterflies as well. Hysop and bee balm are favorites of mine. We plant these in large pots on the deck, and when hummers come in to feed from them, it makes for a nice wildlife photo (if you crop out the pot). Even simple red or dark pink petunias in hanging baskets draw birds to our "observation" deck. Yellow petunias have worked for me too. Hummers like to stick their long bills into tubular flowers, so consider the shape of the blooms as well as the color when you head to the local nursery.

If you choose to attract hummers to your yard this year,  be sure to research species in your part of the world. You'll want to know when the birds will be migrating through your neighborhood. For example, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have already finished their movements to their breeding grounds in many parts of the eastern US. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology web site that I often refer to on this blog is a good source for all kinds of bird information.  Find out as much about the potential birds in your area and be sure to provide a reliable, contstant source of food for the period that they are with you. Once a hummer discovers a feeder, he or she tends to stick around and take advantage of it for a few days, especially if it's early enough in the season that flowers are not yet blooming.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday: The Cornucopia: Old-Time Hints 2

Here are a few more food-related tips from the book "1,001 Old-Time Household Hints" published by Yankee magazine. This book is jam-packed with tried-and-true helpful information that's very entertaining to read. I checked it out of my library, but it's such a great reference its worth buying for your bookshelf.

Thanksgiving Tomatoes: Any unblemished green tomatoes from your garden in late September or early October can be wrapped in tissue paper and placed in a dry, cool place. Come Thanksgiving, you'll have tomatoes at the perfect ripeness for your holiday feast.

Garbage Pail Punch: Next time you have an outdoor gathering, invite each guest to bring a favorite beverage. As guests arrive, have them pour their offering into a large trash can lined with plastic. The result is a punch that's "never the same twice".

Making pasta salad? A splash of vinegar added to a bowl of pasta makes it easier to stir if you have arthritis (or even if you don't) and will not be detected once the salad is prepared.

Add a few leaves of mint to a steamer full of green peas.

Use a spoon, not a knife, to scrape corn kernels off a cob.

Can't tell if a whole watermelon is ripe? Buy a pre-cut half that shows you its inside.

And finally, if you run out of eggs while baking a cake or quick bread, you may use one egg fewer if you substitute 1 teaspoon baking POWDER in its place.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday: The Pleasant Valley Report

So far, so good with regard to flooding. While the river is rising, we don't have any immediate problems at our house. Although my neighbor across the street has a horse pasture behind him that is full of standing water. It's been like that for a while simply from all the rain we received. It's a true wetland back there, complete with many frogs.

Gorgeous day--we've had three in a row. Last week a thunder storm rolled in one night that featured some intense lightning. While we saw no hail, many in Fort Collins were not so lucky. The streets in historic Old Town are covered with leaves that were shredded from the trees, and I know several people who lost vegetable gardens. But today it's sunny and cool.

Thanks to everyone for all the good wishes and your thoughts.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday: Offbeat: The Perfect Toilet

Today's off-beat offering deals with something I just read in The Week Magazine. On page 38, there's a little blurb called, "And for those who have everything..."

I am swiping this verbatim from the magazine:

"So few toilets make a user feel like royalty. But Kohler's new Numi seems to answer your every need. It senses your presence as you approach it, raising its lid in salute and, if you like, welcoming you with the sound of soothing piano music.

A charcoal-filtered deodorizer guards your nostrils, and Kohler's most advanced toilet yet even calculates how much water is required for each flush based upon the amount of time it has been occupied.

But with a foot-warming heat vent, an iPod docking station, and an oscillating bidet with integrated air dryer, who would ever want to stand up?"

How much does this wonder of modern technology cost? A mere $6.400. If interested, check into it at

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thursday Book Babble: Messages From Beyond the Grave

Let me start out this week's Book Babble post by stating that I did NOT expect to like this book: Messages--Signs, Visits and Premonitions from Loved Ones Lost on 9/11, by Bonnie McEneaney. After reading a review of this book in an online UK newspaper, I was intrigued and asked for it from my local library. I'm glad I did. Not only is it a thought-provoking and compelling read, it takes us inside the lives of some very ordinary people who died tragically on that extraordinary day, September 11, 2001.

From the dust jacket:
"When Bonnie McEneany's husband, Eamon, died in the attacks on the World Trade Center, she thought she had lost him forever. And then something unexpected happened that would shake her to the core and reassure her that her husband was still with her. As Bonnie reveals in this groundbreaking book, she began to have experiences that convinced her that her husband, in spirit, was sending her signs, indeed messages, that he was still watching over his family."

Being a scientist, I was hugely skeptical when I began this book. I was also wary, wondering if this was not just another way for someone to take advantage of the public's emotional state regarding the terrorist attacks. But the author is a talented writer and her voice is genuine. A former business executive and no-nonsense thinker, Bonnie relates her personal experiences after the grim events of 9/11.

To sum it up in my own words, this is a story about a woman who experienced paranormal phenomena, both before and after her husband was killed in one of the World Trade Center towers. Some may say that her "messages" are not real, just the imaginings of a normally rational woman grappling with extreme grief. Perhaps. But, she isn't the only one who feels that a loved one who died that day returned in some form to give comfort to those they left behind. Many others connected to this event describe--in their own vivid, sincere words--the paranormal experiences they have had since the Towers fell. For example, some had premonitions of the tragedy, or tell of how a loved one who perished foresaw his or her own death. Others saw signs, had visitations, or other-worldly dreams. The author has spent four years compiling such stories into this unique anthology.

Several of the stories in Messages are told under the cloak of anonimity--lest someone be called a "crackpot" However, many spoke using their full names. In fact, the former First Lady of New York allows her name to be used. This fear of ridicule is understandable. In our society, by and large, these stories are scoffed at, as is anything that can't be explained with rational science. But the fact is, many "logical" and "sane" people experience paranormal events after a loved one passes. And they don't know why these things happen, who they can talk to about them, or what the events mean.

If you elect to read Messages, I would implore you to keep an open mind. You don't necessarily have to believe in a "hereafter" to receive some important messages yourself, about forgiveness, acceptance, and the power of love.

Note: Bonnie is making a donation from proceeds from this book to VOICES (Voices of September 11th Living Memorial Project). To find out more, visit

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wednesday: Common Kindness

Here's a neat idea whose time has come--you can save money on products using coupons and donate to your favorite non-profit organization at the same time through Common Kindness. It's easy--register at the website and then select charities you want to support, either by name or by searching on a keyword (such as "global warming"). Next, search for coupons that you want. I recently searched the category "organic" and came up with coupons for organic milk and quinoa. Print the coupons out, and when you redeem them, Common Kindness makes a donation to the charity you choose. (Each time you visit, you can change which charity to donate to before you "clip" new coupons.)

By the way, if you know someone who works for a non-profit that is NOT listed on the site, why not drop them an e-mail letting them know about this program so that they can contact someone in their organization to get signed up?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuesday: The Cornucopia: Grilling

It's that time of year--barbecue season. I happen to like charcoal better than gas for grilling, so that's what we use, but whatever your method, nothing beats a backyard cookout with your family and friends.
(Page from Better Homes & Gardens Barbecue Cookbook, circa 1960s. Click on the image to enlarge)
We grill just about everything--steaks, chicken, burgers, brats, tofu, and pork chops. I also love to eat grilled vegetables, so summer squash, mushrooms, red onions, and sweet peppers (green, yellow and red) all get skewered and grilled. So does sweet corn.

I found a great way to grill corn. Peel the husks off down to the very last thin layer. Steam the corn cobs for about 5 minutes before grilling. Put over the coals/heat and turn as needed until you have nice grill marks all around. Here's a recipe I came up with for a grilled corn salsa (it actually was a finalist in a "Taste of Home" corn recipe competition a few years back).

Marinating is essential to tasty dishes, grilled or not. As soon as I come home from the market with meat or tofu, I open the packages and put the food into marinades, each in a separate plastic bag or container. Chinese Five Spice powder, with some oil and rice vinegar, makes a fast marinade for chicken. I like Worchestshire sauce and garlic powder on London Broil steak. Pork chops and roasts I keep simple--olive oil, garlic, a splash of soy sauce, and some crushed fennel seeds, which I make sure to rub into the meat.

This is a very simple recipe for lime marinade that I found in an old New York Times cookbook. I cheat and use bottled lime juice when fresh limes aren't around, and it works just fine.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday: The Pleasant Valley Report

Despite a flood warning, and the sounds of heavy machinery and trucks at the end of my street, it was a very pleasant weekend in Pleasany Valley. So far, only the people in the homes closest to the river are sandbagging (we're not). Our next door neighbors are too, but they are in a depression on the landscape and closer to the river.

Our basement is now dry! The water in the irrigation ditch behind our house dropped a foot this weekend (someone did that through the irrigation company) so our sump pump, which was running every 4 minutes, hasn't pumped a thing in days. It proves what I argued to my councilman--the wet basement was caused by an overspill upstream in the irrigation ditch, not the swollen Cache la Poudre river. Was told "tough luck" as the irrigation company rights trumps those of us homeowners.

Today it is very hot, so we are going to see some serious snowmelt. Will keep updating if things develop, but so far, so good. All around town I've been stopping to check river levels and yes, the river is high, but I've seen it this high before.

In other news, the red-tailed hawk nest behind our home has seen some changes. I check it often and have only seen one large chick for the past week. As often happens with raptors, one of the two chicks probably ate the other. Yes, I know, it's a bit sad, but that's nature. Anyway, the remaining chick looks perky.

Made our last rhubarb pie of the season yesterday, as the rhubarb patch is about done producing. But we had a great crop and enjoyed sharing with friends. Speaking of sharing, stop by if you'd like fresh spinach. We have more than we can eat.

Finally, violet-green swallows continue to fly in and out of the nestbox attached to our house. Hopefully, we'll see evidence of chicks soon.
(Poor picture, but the light wasn't great!)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday: Laporte Flood Update

No offbeat offering this Friday. Instead, in response to many emails and voicemail messages (thanks everyone for checking in!) I thought I'd post a status report regarding the potential for flooding in the McConnell Drive neighborhood (ours) in Laporte.

The emergency preparedness meeting at the school Wednesday night yielded little practical information for us regarding protecting our house. While an irrigation ditch--an offshoot of the Cache la Poudre River--runs behind our house, another concern is flooding of the street in front of our place. But no one could accurately predict where water might come from, or when.

Because there was so much snow this winter and spring, the run-off from mountain snowmelt is supposed to be at record levels. Right now, the Cache la Poudre is running around 2200 cubic feet per second (cfs) at the mouth. This is high and up about 500 cfs in the past few days. If we get to anything near 6000, we'll see some topping of banks near our home. There's the potential for 8000 cfs, which would be really bad, but I don't think life-threatening.

So yesterday, a dump truck dropped off a big pile of sand in front of our house. Some neighbors are starting to sandbag (the sand is free; we need to buy and fill the bags), while others think it won't do much good or the flood won't hit their property. We're debating at least filling some bags to have on hand, but honestly, without some idea where water will actually come from (there are several scenarios) we're not sure where to even put the sandbags. And if your sandbagging causes water diversion onto a neighbor's property, you're responsible for any problems that may arise.

Right now, our crawl-space (basement) has some standing water in it, but we think that's from the irrigation ditch spilling its banks further upstream and filling the water table. People have been asking why the irrigation companies don't lower the flow in these ditches to help with some of the water problems in this neighborhood, but in Colorado, the irrigation companies have all the power. They decide how much water to run, depending on farmers' needs. This is causing a lot of ill-will between us residents and these powers-that-be. It turns out the situation is way more complicated than I ever knew.

Here are a few recent newspaper articles that can provide many more details about the flood situation:

Yesterday, we took photos of everything in the basement (furnace, for example) and first floor, for insurance purposes. We're also going to document our vegetable garden, which represents a huge investment in plants. All my really valuable stuff (I don't own much--artwork mostly) has been moved upstairs, and important documents are in a portable file in my car. If we need to leave quickly, I have two pet carriers at the ready for the chickens. Cross your fingers that we are spared the worst, and that no one gets hurt. I'm afraid that someone is going to be killed trying to tube or kayak on the river when it's dangerously high, so I urge anyone camping or recreating near the banks to be really careful, especially with children.

Also, the predictions for increased snowmelt are not taking into consideration a flash flood from a downpour. If we get a huge rainstorm, we could be in real trouble. Once again, anybody camping near the river in the next few weeks should keep an eye on the weather. A freak storm upstream in the mountains can cause a wall of water to come barrelling down the mountain in minutes. Always plan an escape (climb to safety) or avoid the river altogether for overnight stays.

On a brighter note, yesterday was a gorgeous summer day. Took a bike ride up to the Bingham Hill Cemetery in Bellvue and got some lovely shots of the heirloom irises there.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thursday: E-Magazines

Today's post is from my pal Betsy and contains some more basic information for people delving into the world of electronic book reading devices:
E-readers aren’t just for books. Many of your favorite newspapers and magazines are available in digital formats that can be read on your PC or you E-reader.
Check your E-reader manufacturer for the newspaper and magazines that are available for direct download to your device. Most can be purchased as a single edition or as a subscription; subcription terms vary. Some magazines are only available on color E-readers, and these publications are usually known for their photographs, so color is the best way to view them.
There are many magazines that are available as digital subscriptions that are not available as a direct download to your E-reader. The majority of these seem to be in PDF or EPUB formats that most E-readers utilize; again check with your manufacturer for more information.  You may get these delivered to your email inbox where you can download and save them. After they are on your PC you can then side load a copy on to your E-reader and take your magazines and newspapers with you wherever you go.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wednesday: Gorilla Gossip

"Move over People magazine," says Nancy Averett in the May/June issue of Audubon. "There's another source for celebrity gossip--one that's ripe with love triangles, sex, breakups, adorable babies, and aging stars. The Ugandan Wildlife Authority's Friend-A-Gorilla program affords the public the opportunity to follow the antics of dozens of mountain gorillas through Twitter feeds, Facebook updates, live video, and geo-tracking.Since the program began in 2009, 15,500 gorilla lovers have paid one dollar to friend a gorilla of their choosing (the donations fund conservation efforts, from thwarting poachers to tracking the gorillas on a daily basis). They receive exclusive updates on the gossipy minutiae of gorilla life. 'You get to hear about all the drama in the forest,' says Jossy Muhangi, spokesman for the program. 'Who's pregnant, who won the latest wrestling matches, who's grooming whom.' The gorillas' antics, he adds, aren't so different from ours. Indeed, Facebook updates feature the young male Faraha getting teased when he fails to make any noise while thumping his chest and the silverback Makara romancing the petite young Nyabukye."