A 2020 Retrospective

Don’t let the title of this post freak you out…this is NOT a post about the unspeakably sad losses experienced during the past 365 days. Instead consider this my feeble attempt to get a 12+ hour head start on tomorrow’s Nature Friday with an affectionate look back at some of the wonders Mother Nature so graciously shared despite our planet’s collective poor stewardship of her. We hope you will take a moment to follow Blogville around by clicking on our friends’ and hosts link [Rosy, sister Sunny and her two brothers at LLB in Our Backyard] and hope they don’t mind our pulling the trigger early).

While it’s true we received a spot of the white stuff this week, as fast as it frosted the landscape, it quickly melted under beautiful, bright blue, sunny skies.

Mother Nature may have some prickly moments, but boy does she possess an amazing canvas when she shows it off.

Snow

While some of you may shiver at images of snow, I can’t help but wonder about all those unique and sparkly facets of crystalized ice that highlight a winter landscape.

Snow

Sure Norman, Elsa and I are fortunate to enjoy 300+ days of annual sunshine in the Mile High but we’re also gifted with some spectacular sunsets (and sunrises) on occasion. This one showed up shortly before this month’s full moon.

And now for a look back at a few of the most popular images from nature this year. This past summer provided some much needed visual comfort then as well as now.

Flowers

A 2020 retrospective on nature would be incomplete without some sunshine-y sunflowers from our garden as well as a a view of the plethora of lupine which provided a nice backdrop for the Ranch hands.

Flowers

Ranch hands As we reflect over the past year, all the while keeping a keen eye looking forward to the new one, we’ll toast to a New Year with a recent batch of aged, handmade Sazerac cleverly crafted by my son. Just look at that gorgeous amber color. If you like rye, Sazerac can be quite the tasty cognac/whiskey kind of beverage. Add a slice of lemon or orange peel and voila…a moment perfect for contemplative reflection.

Sazerac

With loads of cheers for love, laughter, with a few tasty treats for 2021, we can’t help but be optimistic after seeing these babies who I spied on yesterday morning’s walk. I’ don’t recall seeing bulbs appear quite this early but I’ll take it. Knowing, or at least hoping there is more white stuff down the road, we’ll keep ‘pawsitive’ that 2021 will be a big improvement over 2020, though it may take some patience to see it blossom.

Bulbs

The Ranch will be taking some extended time off to attend to computer maintenance issues and I’m uncertain as to how long it might take to dust off any cobwebs on the laptop. As I do not wish to yank out all my recently cut hair trying to compose posts on a tiny cell-phone screen, those of you who do have my undying admiration, we’ll be back as soon as our battery pack is refreshed, our files cleaned and scrubbed. No doubt the Ranch hands will think of loads of ways to exasperate me entertain us with new adventures…but until then…stay safe, sane and keep smiling, my friends. Have a Happy New Year!

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ December 11, 2020

Welcome to Friday where we share bits and bobs of nature scenes around our neighborhood. So let’s get started and join our weekly hosts, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard. Don’t forget to click on their link to check out what Blogville dished out for everyone’s enjoyment at their blog hop.

This week has been a dream for December weather. On Wednesday our temps were just shy of 70F and like a welcome mat to go for a mid-afternoon walk before the sun dips and cooler temps arrive. As I was walking the dogs along our usual route, we happened past a spot of bright yellow that caught my eye. At first glance I thought it might be a discarded wrapper but when I stopped to look closer, this is what I found.

Flowers

I think this is a primrose that may have reseeded itself with the warm temps. The name comes from the Latin word “primus” meaning “first” or “early” and primrose do tend to be one of the first blooming plants in spring. Its leaves and flowers are edible and can be served in salad form. Young flowers of primrose have also been used in the manufacture of wine.

I’ve never grown primrose myself but decided to do a bit of research on this charming December surprise. Primrose are a herbaceous plant that belong to the family Primulaceae (primrose family). Originating from Europe, primrose prefer moist but well-drained soil in partial shade. Primrose typically blooms from March to May. In mild winters, it could begin blooming in December though I suspect this one was protected enough to rebloom. You typically wouldn’t see this little gem blooming in December in Denver’s Zone 5.

Primrose was historically used in treatment of paralysis, gout and rheumatism. These days, a tincture of primrose can be used in the treatment of insomnia, restlessness, headache and cough. More historical info about the tiny primrose is that it was used in the preparation of magic potions during the Middle Ages. As a perennial plant, Primrose Day is celebrated on 19th April in the United Kingdom. I’m either early or late depending on your perspective.

We hope you enjoyed seeing a spot of color from our otherwise drab landscape and hope you can enjoy some outside time this weekend. We plan on staying busy in the kitchen making Christmas goodies because this just began a little bit ago.

Snow

Yup, snow. Welcome to the wild and wacky world of weather in Colorado. Have a great weekend and stay safe.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ November 20, 2020

Welcome to Friday where we join our furry friends, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard for another Blogville edition of Nature Friday. So how was your week? It’s been breezy in the 303 which means the leaves have fallen and now lay strewn over lawns and flower beds basically mocking residents to rake them up. Mostly I’ve resisted any urge to rake most of them up, instead hoping the wind will carry them down toward the next street over. Yeah, I’m ‘that‘ kind of person.

I did however take some collected garden waste to the city’s recycling program at Sloan’s Lake (which is where all these images were taken).

The local Canadian geese population have pretty much stopped migrating south for the winter preferring instead the hospitality of Denver’s 250+ city parks. There’s something about these large birds that always makes me stop and watch them for long stretches of time whether they are on the water or chasing uprights and their pets waddling around the park. They aren’t one bit afraid of humans or dogs and will chase you if you invade their comfort zone. One might even accuse them of being aggressive.

Nature

Hanging out in Sloan’s Lake shallow waters, these guys were bathing and sunning themselves. Notice the Mallard herding them into a circle. Kidding…my guess is the Mallards avoid the geese as much as the rest of us, but what a striking fella motoring around the fringes of the gaggle.

Nature

One might speculate the increasing COVID conditions have encouraged these guys to congregate much like upright visitors (and unfortunately far too many maskless ones at that-come on people-stop being a mask-hole!) walking and bicycling around the park yesterday in the gorgeous November weather. While we repeatedly hear of storms in the forecast, nothing has materialized yet. Still it’s hard to knock 70 degree days, despite the area being desperate for moisture-just check out the parched looking grasses around the park.

Nature

Nature

Then there’s always that one guy who has to show off to the chicks by spreading his wings. Show-off. Who knew there were obnoxious jocks in the geese world?Nature

We hope you’ve enjoyed checking out the Canadian geese of Sloan’s Lake and hope you will get out this weekend to enjoy some beautiful weather as well as some of beautiful sights Mother Nature offers in autumn.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Wordless Wednesday ~ November 18, 2020

Autumn Splendor

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ November 6, 2020

It’s Friday and if you made it still in tact, kudos for you. This week has been filled with major chaos and churn. If you’ve been under a rock or without WiFi, you may not have heard there was a major election in the US. We’re still waiting for the final results but the Ranch Hands and I are celebrating some local and statewide proposals. First, Denver voters repealed the city’s 30-year long pit bull ban. This past February, the Denver City Council voted to repeal the ban but the mayor vetoed the ban. His office released this statement at the time saying, “while Mayor Hancock has always been forthright in sharing he could not, in good conscious, sign the bill to overturn Denver’s pit bull ban, he has also been very clear he supported putting this decision in the hands of Denver voters.” While I’m not 100% thrilled with the legislation which doesn’t go into effect until January 1, 2021, it is a step in the right direction. Rather than calling it a repeal of the ban, it’s more accurately a bit of a “time-out” as owners will be granted a special permit to own up to 2 dogs and must comply with other requirements including microchipping and vaccination. If there are no incidents (i.e. dog bite charges filed within three years), the special restrictions can be dropped. Our family has had first hand experience with so-called ‘pit bulls’ and they’ve all been absolute sweethearts. For the record, there is no actual ‘pit bull’ breed that exists but rather a category of various dogs with similar characteristics. A certain type of dog descending from bulldogs and terriers, have been lumped into a category known as the American Pit Bull Terrier breed. First used 1927, the term pit bull is usually considered a heterogeneous grouping including the breeds of American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bully, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and occasionally the American Bulldog, along with any crossbred dog that shares certain physical characteristics with these breeds. It’s canine profiling in our books and we have been outspoken about it for years. City voters approved the repeal with 65% in favor.

Though not yet certified, it appears that Proposition 114 narrowly passed statewide allowing wolves to be reintroduced on Colorado’s Western Slope. There has been a 40-year effort to return wolf populations to Colorado after they were hunted into extinction in the 1920s.

So enough election results, let’s move on and take a gander at what Mother Nature dished out this week for another episode of Nature Friday where we joined our friends, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard. Our area has officially moved into the brown season where everything is drab, dry and brown. That said, there are some spots of color…but we’ll need to look indoors.

Cactus

A couple of days ago, one of two cacti at the Ranch started blooming (the other one is coral colored and doesn’t bloom as reliably as this one). It’s still a bit early but it’s vibrant color is very welcomed and hopefully will last until Christmas. Various common names include ‘Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, crab cactus or holiday cactus.’  This one is likely the genus Schlumbergera, and one of the two groups within the cultivar known as Truncata which displays stem segments with pointed teeth; the flowers are held more or less horizontally, and whose upper side is differently shaped from the lower side (zygomorphic) and been a part of my indoor garden for probably over 20 years. Flowering earlier than members of the second group, Buckley,i it is actually considered a tropical plant hailing from Brazil and requires higher water and humidity requirements than its Southwest cactus buddies. Maintaining these beauties is pretty simple. Water deeply whenever the top inch or so of soil is dry, repot if the soil gets hard or compacted, and allow the water to slowly penetrate the tight soil. Fertilize  only when actively growing or when blooming. The soil should be a well-draining potting soil mix. It likes bright, indirect light for best blooming conditions while avoiding cold, drafty spots or locations close to a heat source. Pinch back stem ends following blooming helps make for a bushier plant.

So anything blooming in your indoor garden? Do you have a ‘Christmas cactus? How’s it doing?

We hope you have a lovely weekend where we hope the week’s chaos is finally resolved. Be sure to get out there and enjoy some nature-trust me, it helps. After setting record temperatures the past couple of days conditions may become more typical with a slight chance of moisture. Keep your fingers crossed-we’re in desperate need of wet stuff.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ October 23, 2020

Pat yourself on the back-you’ve made it to another Friday. We are joining our furry friends, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard. It’s the time of year where the Ranch hands call it “Hallowinter” as autumn and winter collide around Halloween to spoil little goblins’ annual candy begging trick-or-treating. Even when there’s snow, I see kids run like their lives depending on hitting every possible house in the neighborhood. It’s incomprehensible to me but probably because I’m no longer a kid who now has far more pressing matters to pursue. Since nature usually makes the young ones hardy and primed for adventure, it should be interesting to see how many actually go door to door in a state where the COVID rate has significantly increased. Let’s just hope people use extreme common sense and mask up (or better yet, forego the whole thing). I personally can’t fathom any kind of candy being worth the risk and I’m a chocoholic, but hey…what do I know?

Nature is still very upset with its human tenants with more fires springing to life around here with warm temps and high winds contributing to more fires popping up. Eleven fires continue to burn in Colorado, including the Cameron Peak fire near Glenwood Springs which I posted about 7 weeks ago. This week a new fire blew up in Grand County near the town of Granby. Known as the East Troublesome fire, it grew over 150,000 acres in a 24 hour period and now has consumed over 170,000 acres, making it the second largest fire in Colorado history. High winds and dry conditions allowed this fire to literally explode across the area. Even with a foot of snow predicted to fall over the weekend, firefighters say while it will help, it will not put the fire out. As of today, it is only 5% contained. The Cameron Peak fire outside of Fort Collins required officials to close Rocky Mountain National Park to visitors; with Trail Ridge Road (highest paved road in Colorado that crosses the continental divide) being the only road allowing evacuees to leave the park though it is not passable on west side because of downed trees. The air quality is hazardous.

This screenshot of some of the nearby active fires is a grim reminder that Nature is not a happy camper these days.

Wildfires

Here is a photo from Saturday of the East Troublesome fire just west of my neighborhood showing apocalyptic clouds billowing across the northwestern suburbs. High winds and dry conditions allowed it to explode out of control during the week.

Wildfires

A  bit closer to home, the trees are changing colors (and dropping their leaves after last night’s hard freeze) and our daily walks involve loads of crunching sounds along city sidewalks. Plumbago has changed into its annual bright mahogany shade and looks glorious in golden autumnal light even with a freezing mist falling this morning. It’s definitely time to pick all the tomatoes and bring them indoors to ripen up. As nearby fires continue to burn out of control, these colors remind me why autumn is my favorite time of year.

Plumbago

Whatever your weekend plans are, we hope you stay safe and cozy. Keep an eye out on Mother Nature, she’s likely to provide some beautiful (and/or scary images) this “Hallowinter.”

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ August 28, 2020

With the concept of time being totally upended during this panDAMNic, how in the world did we get to the last Friday of August…otherwise known as Hades for those of us in the midst of wildfires with scorching temps and little moisture. With 24 days until the official arrival of our favorite season, we’re hoping the weatherman is correct with his forecast for cooler temperatures beginning today. I’m not sure I’ll know how to act in temperatures that aren’t in the 90’s but you can bet your sweet bippy I’ll be sure to give it a go. Well enough about the weather. Let’s join our ‘fur-iends’ Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard. We hope you’ll click on the link to see what the Gang and others around Blogville have showcased this week.

This week saw me being confined to the house. After a dog on human accident last Sunday where Elsa zigged and I zagged, I haven’t been able to give them their usual walkabouts where we explore our urban nature. Luckily I did manage a quick early morning visit to the Denver Botanical Gardens over the weekend, the first since it reopened with timed reservations and reduced visitors. And despite cutting my visit short, it was definitely worth going.

Waterlilies

The waterlilies at the botanic gardens are in fully glory and are a frequent favorite of visitors. August and September are prime viewing times for waterlilies with the most awe-inspiring “Water Platters” (Victoria ‘Longwood Hybrid’ and Victoriacruziana) taking center stage. They are measured in feet sometimes as much as 6-feet across), unlike the smaller waterlilies that are merely inches in size across. Both are beautiful and make the pools a garden favorite. An interesting footnote regarding the “Monet Pool” as shown below is the addition of a non-toxic, food-grade black dye to the ponds weekly when needed in order to maintain the dark coloration seen throughout the displays. This dye performs multiple tasks. The first being it blocks out sunlight deterring growth of algae, all the while hiding the planting containers and creating a beautiful reflective surface that makes the aquatic plants stand out even more.

Flowers

Wildlife lives in harmony at the gardens as numerous ducks frequently skim the pond surfaces for food. This female Mallard was hard at work but then decided to turn stalker after her shift follow me to a nearby bench where I was able to take in the whole pond in all its fabulous glory. She was within touching distance but I kept a watchful eye to exit quickly should ‘things’ get real. She maintained a jovial demeanor, smiling for the camera though I missed capturing any winks. I called her Estelle and she didn’t seem to object.

Duck

Flowers

These strawflower flowers bring vivid colors to any garden or craft project alike, making lovely dried-flower bouquets. Strawflowers resemble daisies in form, but unlike daisies, their petals are stiff and papery. In fact, they aren’t true petals at all, but a modified leaf known as a bract. Native to Australia, they are easy to grow and thrive in bright, sunny spots.

Flowers

‘Tiger Flower’ (Tigridia pavonia) is one of the best-known species from the genus Tigridia, of the Iridaceae family. Sometimes referred to as jockey’s cap lily, Mexican shellflower, peacock flower, Tiger Flower is widespread across Central America. Their blooms open early in the morning and close up near dusk. A fresh bloom opens daily.

Update to the wildfires ~ Glenwood Springs:

The fire (known at the Grizzly Creek fire) has consumed over 32,000 acres, is now 68% contained, I-70 reopened earlier this week and firefighters are hopeful in making progress with lower temps and the potential of rain with higher humidity to make their job just a bit easier. The largest wildfire in Colorado’s history, the Pine Gulch fire near Grand Junction, is now 77% contained and has consumed over 139,000 acres. We continue to pray for firefighters and those folks living near these fires (as well as all other wires in the state).

We hope you have a great weekend. My family will be convening to celebrate my dad’s 90th birthday and we’re looking forward to the clan celebrating our Patriarch with a mirthful gathering in the mountains filled with loads of good food, spirits, and raucous fun. It ain’t everyday you toast 90 years along with his good health.

Enjoy whatever you plan to do, and make sure you are able to enjoy some of the beauty Mother Nature dishes up. Posts will likely be sparse but don’t worry. We’ll be around enjoying each other and the cooler temps, but probably not particularly active online.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Wordless Wednesday ~ August 26, 2020

Bicycle flowers

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ August 21, 2020

Welcome to Friday where we join our friends, Rosy, sister Sunny as well as her brothers from LLB in our Backyard to take a gander from around Blogville to see what Mother Nature served up this week. We’re still in the grips of the Dog Days of summer yet and continue to look forward to autumn’s arrival in 31 days.

The garden is looking more than a bit parched, supplemental watering hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference with the crunch, crunch look of dry straw and not much is actually blooming right now beyond the Plumbago. The sunflowers are the only plants that seem to be thriving in the dry heat though a quick walk around early this morning showed some of their leaves are showing signs of heat stress. Hearty Plumbago  (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is my all time favorite ground cover, and is now sporting its signature blue flowers and its leaves will soon begin to morph into a lovely shade of mahogany red. This plant naturalizes well, is deer resistant, and will survive well with minimal supplemental watering, and is one of the most versatile groundcovers for cold climates growing in both sun or shade and most soil types, making it a perfect perennial to add to any garden.

Plumbago

With the heat and lack of rain, it’s been more important than ever to keep the fountain filled for the occasional thirsty visitor. For every wasp that takes a drink, one invariably will fall in.Wasp

As I watched this bee for several moments, it seemed as if he was using his front legs to beckon the solar fountain to provide a bit of a shower. I can’t help but wonder how he manages to hang on without falling off the side of the fountain. One fell in recently but I managed to fish him out; he flew off to dry out and then continued with his pollinating work in the garden.Bees

While I’d even be willing to put out a water bowl for guys like this, I think the Ranch hands would scare it away whenever it was seen. I came across him on a walk about the neighborhood a couple of days ago before the heat kicked in. He looks like he’s holding up okay and is probably finding water that has pooled on sidewalks or gutters.

Bunny

The fires here in Colorado and throughout the West continue to burn with little abatement. I read yesterday that California received nearly 11,000 lightning strikes in a 72 hour period this week and no doubt, more fires will result from that kind of meteorological activity. We hope everyone who is affected by them remains safe and especially pray for the safety of firefighters who are working hard in brutally challenging conditions. Stay safe, sane and keep smiling.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ August 7, 2020

Welcome to this week’s edition of Nature Friday. Ranch hands Elsa and Norman are here to share some of the urban nature we encountered this week. First though, we begin with our usual “broken record” lament: it’s been hot, hot, hot. Again/still. The good news for anyone else totally over it only forty-five days until the official arrival of autumn. You can bet we’re keeping our eye on the calendar. But enough of our whining, let’s join our weekly hosts, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard. Don’t forget to click on their link, to see what they and others around Blogville shared. So let’s get started, alrighty?

Norman & Elsa

In addition to several bunny sightings, we’ve been seeing one especially pretty  plant on our morning walks; Evening Primrose (Oenothera fruticosa). This one looks beautiful mixed in with some orange penstemon. As the day warms up, the blooms close so it’s  best to check them out in the early mornings when the sun isn’t too intense. There must be something extra fascinating about this one because that barmy brother of mine sure likes to check it out. Mom won’t let him sniff too closely or for too long since there’s a rule of no peeing on flowers while on our walks.

Flowers

Another favorite mom likes to walk past is this Angelonia angustifolia. Often called Narrowleaf Angelon or Summer Snapdragon, it’s a colorful plant she can see as soon as we turn down this street. Native to Mexico and the West Indies, it comes in colors of deep mauve to violet, white, blue, light pink or bicolored. It’s typically known as a perennial in Zones 9-11. Since the Ranch is in Zone 5, it must be similar to its cousin, the common snapdragon since it reseeds itself every year. It’s quite drought tolerant, a good thing for our area which hasn’t seen rain in oh, let’s see…forever. Mom thinks we’ll may see snow before we see any rain.

Flowers

You may recall when Norman showed off the volunteer tomato plant in our garden a few weeks back (click here for that story). Mom noticed a red spot this morning and took a quick pic (she was trying to avoid getting sprayed by the sprinkler). It’s pretty exciting to see lots of little flowers and tiny tomatoes all over it but to see the first one turning red just blows mom’s mind. Hate to break it to her that it’s going to be the world’s tiniest salad since these are cherry tomatoes but she’s still pretty excited.

Tomato

Every day we walk past a cute little cottage garden and notice this piece of garden art out front. Doesn’t it seem rather appropo with the way things are trending these days? Comedy and drama.

Masks

We hope you have a wonderful weekend and are able to experience some of the beauty nature provides. We’re enjoying the return of our favorite sport. While it’s weird to be watching hockey in August, we couldn’t be more thrilled with its arrival. The league and its players have been über diligent playing in their bubble with no positive cases of coronavirus (with much thanks to our Canadian hosts for providing two safe venues in Toronto and Edmonton). Let’s hope mom hasn’t jinxed her team now.

Hockey

Hockey

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday