Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Marmot Latrine

There are a gazillion things I don't know.  I know that.  I also love learning new things.  I've already raved about the importance of life-long learning.

So, one thing I learned in this past month is that marmots are no slouch about bathroom hygiene.  They go in one tidy, contained place.  Its called, aptly enough, a latrine.  A marmot latrine.  We found one at the top of Storm Point on Lake Yellowstone.  
I have to hand it to Matt.  He nailed it for what it was purely using context, knowledge of local wildlife, and deductive reasoning.  He estimated from the size of the droppings and the exposed rocky terrain that it might be a marmot.
Later on during the hike we actually saw a yellow-bellied marmot which added weight to Matt's theory.  We looked it up in a scat guidebook (in the park book store) and sure enough--marmot latrine.  We had name for it.  
I know its just poop, but I thought it was pretty darn interesting.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The First Frost

The first frost arrived yesterday, as it had been forecast.
We covered the squash, peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and basil in advance of the cold spell.  We built a few more low tunnels over a couple bed and used the old trusty bed sheet method on the rest.  Matt bought a roll of irrigation tubing to use for the hoops.  At $10 for 100 feet it was certainly more cost effective than the PVC pipe he used on the other covered bed.  The green beans and chard were already covered as part of the highly successful effort to beat the leaf-miners to the greens--though the chard would probably have been fine either way.
The sunflowers, cucumbers, and corn (along with more hearty veg like rutabagas, carrots, potatoes, etc.) were left to the their own devices.  I did cut a few sunflowers to bring inside though...just in case the rest were black and sad by morning.  I also snipped some thyme, cucumbers, and the last of the next year's carrot seed which was still drying on the stalk.
We're looking at our best pepper crop yet and we were not about to lose it.  The eggplants aren't too shabby either, but peppers are my favorite vegetable.
 At least it didn't snow.  I'm ready for the calm and quiet of the cooler season, but not that ready.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Lone Star Geyser Trail (at last!)

On our third attempt Matt and I were finally able to witness the power and wonder of Lone Star Geyser over the Labor Day weekend.  The previous two attempts had been thwarted by snow as we'd made a go of it too early in the season.  Spring is not the time for Lone Star--unless you've got snowshoes.  Autumn was keen.
We departed from the trailhead near the Keppler Cascades and hiked in the light rain along the wide, partially paved trail (which also doubles as a bicycle route most of the way to the geyser).  The trail follows the meandering Firehole River--so named because it has so much inflow from geothermally heated waters that is is warm in places.  It was a lovely day for a hike, rain or no rain.
We followed the trail across the river over a little cement bridge and wandered through the forest stopping with great frequency to admire the pretty much insane proliferation of mushrooms.  There were so many mushrooms in endless varieties.  The area had been experiencing a lot of rain and the mushrooms were making very good use of it.  It was insane--there is no other word for it--how many there were.  I mean, in a moist clime like western Washington where my sister lives maybe it wouldn't have been so remarkable, but in all my days in Montana and in Yellowstone I have never seen such explosions in mushroom populations.  Emerging from the forest we came to a lovely meadow, just starting to hint at autumn colors.
Look at how big it is compared to Matt's finger touching it at the top, center of the photo.  It was huge.
And then we could see the cone of Lone Star Geyser in the distance.  It was magnificent even from a far.  Cinder cones grow so very slowly.  They are like coral in this regard-.  A cone of that size is ancient in a way that boggles my mind.  And it continues to grow with each eruption, of which there are about eight per day.  Lone Star Geyser's cone is more than ten feet tall and centuries and centuries of time brought into physical form.  What a miracle!
Lone Star erupts at approximately three hour intervals.  Each eruption can last for up to 30 minutes, with much fanfare leading up to and afterwards which means the whole spectacle is quite amazing in length, power, and beauty.
We crossed the open area leading to the geyser--using the little foot bridges over the geyser run-off channels--and took seat under a tree, in an attempt to stay as dry as possible while we waited.  We had peeled just a single satsuma to snack on while we waited when we noticed the geyser was consistently spouting small amounts of water from the vents at the top.  According to our guidebook this meant the real action would soon be upon us.  This spouting increased until the full eruption not fifteen minutes later.  Our timing was amazing.
There are no timed predictions, really, for this geyser.  When we visit the Old Faithful basin the Rangers will give you times that certain geysers should erupt, give or take a few minutes.  Lone Star erupts every three hours, on average, but since it is all off on it own--miles away from the nearest geyser--the reports for Lone Star are much less official.  There is a log book at the geyser itself where hikers can report the eruptions they witness.  But, since the book is at the geyser there is an element of chance in hiking to see it.  We were fully prepared to wait three hours if it was required.
But, as fortune would have it, we didn't have to wait hardly at all.
Once the eruption really got going it was truly breath taking.  The water shot out with such force that I could only make the mental comparison to that of a rocket.  The water and steam makes a column that shot right up into the air what I estimate to be 40 feet or so.  Blast off!
And we were the only ones there to see it, aside from the birds and squirrels, that is.  Though it is a very flat, easy, hike--and only five miles round trip--that is apparently enough to keep the crowds to a minimum.  This fact makes it a nearly converse experience to that of watching Old Faithful.  Both are very much worth beholding, but I must admit there was something tremendously special about our solitude while watching the glory of this backcountry geyser.
I ran about--literally ran about--trying to admire it from every direction that I could.  There was time with such a long eruption, after all, and I wanted to know that geyser.  A mist of geothermal water fell upon us, mixed with the cool, mountain rain.  Even after the spray of water diminished the geyser continued a steady roar for another 15-20 minutes.  Oh what a joyful noise.  That roar, that raw power of nature.  I couldn't stop remarking about it.  "That roar!"  We were positively gleeful.  It was just as grand and magnificent as I had dreamed.
You can see Matt sitting at the right side of the frame.  It was such a close vantage point to such a powerful eruption.
We retraced our steps back to the trailhead, passing a couple other hiking parties who each asked us if we'd seen the eruption.  We were all to happy to tell them about it.  We didn't even care about the continuing rain.  We were on top of the world.
And the old adage is correct.  "If at first you don't succeed.  Try, try again."

A Simple Woman's Day Book for September 12, 2014

A Simple Woman's Day Book for September 12, 2014

Outside my window...autumn is trying to pretend that is winter.  But, its all a ruse.  Autumn will be back next week I am sure.  I saw many gardens covered in sheets this morning.

I am thinking....its amazing how many people don't read books.  Smart people, too.  They may read online or read magazines, so its not like they don't read, but still.  Gosh, I love books.  And there are so many great ones to read!  So, it surprises me when I hear someone say they don't remember the last time they read a book.  I am always reading three books at once.

I am thankful for...my wedding day.  I am a bridesmaid in an upcoming wedding for one of my dear old friends and its been making me think back on my own wedding day, almost three months ago now.  It was such an almost perfect day for us both.  What a blessing.  What a joy.  I am so thankful.

From the kitchen...Matt's on another sourdough kick.  I am happy.  Also, we've made this peanut-potato curry dish three times lately (including once for breakfast!) which reminded me that it is most definitely one of the best things I've ever eaten.  Better yet, its easy to make, too.

I am wearing...a vintage patchwork skirt and black sweater with a bright colored scarf I got from my sister, Lisa, a decade ago or more, I bet.   Also, I wore pants a couple weeks ago!  A handful of times!  It'd been so chill and damp from the peculiar late August rains and we were camping and cycling and things so I thought I'd try it.  It was okay, but, after three and half years in the comforts of skirts I felt awfully penned in by the trouser legs.  I had to wear long underwear under the pants anyways so I am not sure they were any better, really.  Plus when it got warmer it was harder to slip off the long-johns which is easy to do in a skirt.  So, I don't know...maybe they'd be useful sometimes, but I think I've found I can do everything I want in skirts, including stay warm.  It was an interesting experiment though.

I am creating... a quilt, in theory.  I have a sewing retreat with my mom and some other awesome women next month and I am going to give it a go, I think.  I've pretty much only made clothes though so we shall see.

I am going...to the Grand Canyon later this year (and some other pretty places) and I am so excited.  I cannot really wrap my mind around the Grand Canyon at this point.  Its scale seems to elude my comprehension.  Maybe that will still be the case when I see its grandeur in person, but I am really, really looking forward to finding out.

I am reading...On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Vow by Kim and Krickett Carpenter, and What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World by Jon Young.

On my mind...trying to not succumb to this cold.  I am trying to drown it with tea.  I already had a cold this year, so I am good, but apparently my body didn't get the memo...yet.

Around the house...we made a couple more Ginger milestones.  She's starting sleeping on the soda, even curled up next to me on her own one day.  I am thrilled to be able to sit somewhere comfy and read a book and pet my kitty-cat.  She also has hung out on the bed while we were both in it.  She only sits on the corner closest to the door so she can make a quick getaway if need be, but its progress.  Some people think I am crazy to be encouraging our cat to get up on the furniture if she isn't predisposed to do so.  I don't care.  I took her on knowing my house would get occasionally covered in hair.  A little extra vacuuming isn't that bad (though Ginger begs to differ).  I just love cuddling her--and while I will do it on the floor I'd really rather move it up to, say,  the sofa.   We've also successfully transitioned her off wet food.  It was more expensive, more smelly and gross, and made it harder for us to go away on trips.  She's taken it pretty well and we've promised her a can at every holiday, including her birthday--which we made up since we don't really know her birthday.

One of my favorite things...peppers and eggplants.  Okay, so that is two of my favorite things.   We made that peanut dish mentioned above with eggplants in addition to potatoes.  Oh, it was heavenly...

A few plans for the rest of the week...staying home for the first weekend in a month, visiting Matt's parents, making soap, making pesto, and a little sewing, baking, and reading.  Matt is getting his first ever massage on Saturday.  It was a wedding present for each of us.  I still need to schedule my own.

A small window into my life...

 This format come from the Simple Woman blog.

A Cache of Nuts

A couple years ago I found a nut which looked heart shaped when split open and, well, like a bear's nose once the nut had been consumed.  I didn't know anything about it except that I thought it looked neat.  I've since learned that they are black walnuts which grow in our neighborhood.  They are edible, but not as tasty as your standard walnut, I am told.  Still, maybe someday we'll try to save some.  As is, I sure enjoy watching the squirrels gorge themselves on them each year.
We had a wooden planter of strawberries along our porch which finally collapsed in on itself earlier this year.  It was never quite the same after we moved it from the old house so the fact it survived a couple more growing seasons is really fine by me.  Nothing lasts forever.  We ripped the planter apart--salvaging the planks of wood and the metal band that had once held it together for use in some later project.
When Matt emptied out the soil he found that the squirrels had been making good use of the planter as well.  I guess they'll have to find someplace else to make their cache now.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

An Itty-Bitty, Baby Squirell

We always get a few batches of baby bunnies near the library entrance each year.  A new litter began showing their tiny, adorable, fluffy selves a couple weeks ago, much to everyone's delight (my office is near the front so I hear lots of people talking about the bunnies).  Every day as I come and go from the library I watch them for a little bit.  It does my heart good to see their sweet, soft, little faces.  Its so interesting to watch them grow in size and bravery.
It was hard to imagine there could be a more adorable critter to delight and warm my heart.  But, apparently, I was wrong.  Imagine my surprise when, as I was watching the bunnies nibble the grass I noticed another small movement in the grass.  Lo and behold it was an itty-bitty baby squirrel.  A baby squirrel!
Oh.  My.  Heavens.  What a precious, helpless-looking baby!  It was all legs and very wobbly on them--it reminded me of new calves or baby deer taking their first steps on those long, lanky legs.   I bet the whole thing from head to tail was six, or maybe eight, inches long.  It was SO tiny.  I perhaps would have missed it, but the orange tail caught my attention.  The rest of the little thing was hardly visible over the grass--and its not like we keep the grass long on campus!
It made my day.  I ran back inside the library and snagged one of my favorite student workers to share the sight with.  Neither of us had ever seen a baby squirrel in person before.  I left the library on time, but was very late getting home from work.  The wonders of the world are such a blessed distraction to me.
Huzzah for sweet babies of every shape and size.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Over The Pass in a (September) Snowstorm

We went to Yellowstone National Park for the Labor Day weekend.  We sell tie-dye in Red Lodge every year on the actual Monday of Labor Day.  We camped in the park and then took the national scenic highway route over the Beartooth Pass over the mountains to Red Lodge.  I adore the pass and always take any opportunity to travel over it.  So, I guess I should have seen it coming, but I didn't expect to make the drive in a snow storm on September 1st.  Those wacky mountains!  They make their own weather.

It was raining in the park when we left and grew steadily colder as we drove up and over the pass.  It was 25 degrees F at the top and very foggy, snowy, and slick.  At points the only thing we could see was the road--thank heavens it was just a couple inches of snow or I fear the lane markings might have been lost to us as well as the panorama of mountains all around us.  It is not nearly so scenic a highway in such fog.  It was all white all around.

I must confess I got nervous.  I don't care for driving in the snow and ice, especially on such a windy road with sheer drops.  But, Matt is a calm and collected driver and we made our way without incident back down the mountains to Red Lodge for the show. It was really something though.  It was like driving through a unearthly, surreal landscape of clouds.

Later that day (and at the lower elevation in the city of Red Lodge) it was so sunny and warm that I had to get out my sunhat and ditch the long-underwear while Matt had to switch to shorts.  Ah, Montana.  Land of extremes.  Land that I love.