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

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Pleasant Valley Report

What a week in Laporte! Nine inches of snow, then it all melted, while we in the neighborhood had to spend days gathering dead tree branches and (in my case) fix split rail fences that were crushed, due to fallen limbs.

And now, it's been balmy. Everything is melting.

Today is Halloween. For those of you who don't know, "Halloween" is a contraction of "All Hallow's Eve"--like Christmas Eve, except, Santa doesn't show up. It's the night before "All Saint's Day," when we remember the saints. And then, the next day, Nov. 2, is the "Day of the Dead"--"All Soul's Day." When we remember those who have passed on.

I think it interesting that in this day and age, many of us still observe these old holidays.

Anyway, my true idea of Halloween is to dress up in a costume and play-act for a night. We decorate our house with luminarias and pumpkins and answer the door in spooky outfits. Just to give the kids a thrill.

Enjoy your Halloween, whether you dole out chocolate, sit down with a bowl of popcorn with a scary movie, or just read an old Edgar Allen Poe novel.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Pleasant Valley Report

Could it get any nicer, weather-wise, than it's been the past few days here in Northern Colorado? The only thing I can complain about is a Northern Flicker who's been walking around the outside of my cedar shingled house every morning at 4 AM. I can hear its toenails scraping, which wakes up the dogs, and then mayhem ensues. I took a flashlight out this morning and caught it in the act.

Also, I think that the bear that's been eating/sleeping under our apple trees might be tipsy. On Sunday morning I went out at 0650 hrs to make sure it was safe to let the dogs out to pee. I saw a dark shape lumber off, only to hear it (I think) hit the ground with a thud and then scramble off. The groundfall apples are fermenting. Hmmm....

Halloween is fast approaching! Decorate your yard and buy top-notch chocolate for the trick-or-treaters. Remember how much fun it used to be to canvas the neighborhood, among scarecrows and ghosts? Now it's the adults' turn to pay back the favor. Be sure your house is fun and inviting--and make certain your doorbell works!

Friday, October 21, 2011

8 Things To Pack When You Travel

Yes, the traditional summer vacation season is ending, but many of us are making plans for holiday visits and winter get-aways to ski slopes and tropical islands, so I thought that passing along this "Budget Travel" article would be useful.,7820/?wpisrc=newsletter

The author shares eight items that we may not think about packing for a trip but should. I won't spoil it for you--hit the link above to read the piece, and be sure to scroll down to the comments for more tips from readers.

If you're like me, you always forget something, like a spare contact lens or earplugs. And it's when you forget the item that you actually need it! These items are not typical, so I thought people might be interested in adding them to their suitcases.

(On a personal note, I always pack extra Ziploc bags with me. They're great for wet bathing suits, seashells you've collected, dirty underwear and socks, etc. I secure them, rolled, with an elastic ponytail-holder, which is also nice to have on hand. They're better than a rubber band--quite useful!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Butternut Squash

It's the time of year when home gardens are yielding wonderful winter squashes. If you're wondering what to do with butternut squash, I have a few simple ideas.

Butternut squash make great pies. They tend to have a more delicate flavor and less stringy texture than pumpkin, and are delicious in pies sliced ice cold with fresh whipped cream. To get squash for a pie filling, I roast butternut halves, cut side down, on foil in the oven, at about 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Butter the foil and the squash flesh first, and put a little water in the baking dish, too. I save the seeds and toast them for use on top of soups.

Speaking of soups, instead of using roast butternut for pie filling for dessert, try a butternut soup for dinner. I puree roasted squash with milk, butter, spices, and a splash of orange juice for a great soup. You can make your soup sweeter by adding maple syrup, or more savory with the addition of onions and a touch of sage.

Finally, my very favorite way to eat butternut squash is in chili. Dice butternut into 1/2 inch cubes (raw, but peeled) and add it to your slow-cooking chili. I use a crockpot and always put the butternut cubes at the bottom. I find that the squash thickens the chili sauce, and it adds a nice burst of color (and vitamins, too). When you haven't got a butternut around, use a yam or sweet potato. My chili looks naked now without something orange in it. Try it next time you cook up some chili and see if you don't agree.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Red Mountain Open Space

I know I've said it here before, but it bears repeating. There's a wonderful hidden trasure in Larimer County--the Red Mountain Open Space (adjacent to Soapstone Prairie Natural Area). This morning I needed a rejuvenating hike, so I headed up that way. I took a pleasant drive on empty country roads, smiling at snow-capped peaks and pastures of bison as I approached the Open Space from the West via Hwy. 287. From Laporte to the trailhead took me exactly 1-3/4 hours, due mostly to the speed limit on the dirt roads. Great drive, stunning scenery!

Once you're there, be sure to hike the easy Bent Rock Trail (1.9 miles). You'll meander through red rock canyons full of cliff swallow nests, observe golden eagles and cottontail, and be treated to some of the most secluded, expansive space in Northern Colorado. We were the only car there all day. I'd packed a lunch, which we ate on site. Red Mountain Open Space has a handful of picnic tables and a restroom. I don't recall any potable water. There's no charge to access this space, or nearby Soapstone Prairie.

By the way, it's a good idea to check trail conditions for both Red Mountain and Soapstone (from their websites) before you leave home. Larimer County recently updated information on their website and has printed new, comprehensive maps. All information can be found here:
Dress in layers, bring plenty of water, wear a hat, and don't forget your camera and binoculars! These awe-inspiring FREE park lands are open to the public until December (closed Dec-Feb), so get out and enjoy. But plan to be isolated, with few others around, and a spotty (if any) cell phone signal. Let a friend or family member know where you're headed before you go visiting alone.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Winner of this quarter's prize

Congrats to Nancy H. of Colorado. You win this quarter's prize--notecards. They'll be coming your way soon, perfect for holiday "thank-yous" or birthday sentiments.

Want to be in for next quarter's art contest? Sign up, follow by email, etc. and you're in. Not sure what I'll be giving away--maybe your choice of any art print?

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Pleasant Valley Report

Well, it's sort of a let-down when you come home from a road trip. However, I have to remind myself, "This is why you moved 900 miles west--you're already at the start of another road trip,"

(Wish I had the cash to wander. Omigosh--I love to wander!)

Anyway, here in Laporte, all is golden. The aspen trees are changing colors, and we've been picking pumpkins.

Unfortunately, southern Colorado is now known for "Listeria", a bacteria that can show up in meat, which is now present in CANTALOUPE? Hello? How does this happen? (All that's going through my head right now is Def Leppard's "Hysteria" with, obviously, the words changed.)