Nature Friday ~ January 15, 2021

Since every day of the week in the age of COVID are referred to as “Blursday,” I had to check the calendar to make sure that today is in fact Friday. Welcome back old friend! As we typically do today we join our friends, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard for another Nature Friday blog hop. Don’t forget to swing by their backyard and check out all the great nature scenes.

Well it may be the middle of January already, but around the Mile High that just means we’re steadfastly stuck in a season of brown drab despite a small storm that dumped some white stuff at the beginning of the week. That just means we are bit shy on anything particularly scenic to share…unless you’re really into dried leaves and grasses.

It’s been a busy week but I kept my eyes open whenever I was out to see if anything worth sharing would catch my eye. While running a couple of errands around the neighborhood, I drove by this little shopfront. This little skin care shop is very close to the intersection and because Murphy’s Law insists that I must stop for the streetlight every time I pass by here. It would seem as if the owners are kind of trying to create some of their own kind brand of spring to offset the dusty drab that has a chokehold on the local landscape. The color caught my eye from nearly a block away but I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was until I got closer to the intersection. That welcome pop of color on the ‘wisteria chains’ give the scene a bit of tongue in check whimsiness.

Nature Friday

It may not be the real deal but considering the alternative, I’ll take it. It just goes to show if you keep your eyes open, you’ll find something that’s either lovely, makes you smile or both.

Wishing there’s plenty of nature for you to take in this weekend. Got any special plans?

Live, love,  bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ December 18, 2020

Welcome to Friday where we join our friends, Rosy, her little sister Sunny, as well as her brothers Arty and Jakey from over at LLB in our Backyard to take a gander from around Blogville to see what Mother Nature served up this week. And what a busy week it’s been. We’re busy trying to get ready for the big day next week, baking up a storm and trying to get a couple of photo shoots in between. Not much success and Elsa and I are singing in two-part harmony on both fronts. Hrmph!

Elsa

In true 2020 form, the baking hasn’t gone quite as planned. I threw out a tray of gingerbread cookies this morning that more than slightly resembled holly leaf bricks-ugh. I’m new to baking gingerbread despite having gobs of Christmas cookie cutters and misjudged the timing they needed to bake. Plus (as seems typical of gingerbread and probably why I haven’t made them in the past, too crunchy for my tastes.

We had another small snow storm blow through earlier this week but nothing like the Nor’Easter that dumped on the east coast a couple of days ago. We hope everyone is safe and staying warm. Ole Man Winter may swing by later today but I suspect the forecast has been oversold as the next storm scheduled to arrive later today. Still, we managed to see a little bit of the local landscape around the neighborhood to see how nature is faring.

We pass by this house every day on our walks. It’s a haven for birds but alas, they are the little tiny ones who flit in and out long before a cell phone can even begin to focus on them. But it’s a charming spot which the owners nurture nature with plenty of bird seed, suet and water for a variety of birds who must compete with rascally squirrels looking for their next free lunch. Norman and Elsa find the squirrel action more than a bit enticing and I’ve had to pull them down from the retaining wall (not in view here) around this large Ponderosa pine which has been turned into quite a festive site. I nearly ran into the low hanging ornaments the first day.

Christmas

On the morning of our most recent storm, the ornaments were frosted with accumulating snow.

Snow

We hope you have a fantastic Friday and hope any holiday baking you do goes better than mine has. And if you’re not baking or decorating, I hope you can get out and see what nature has to offer when you ‘run into it.’ Happy weekend!

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 ~ December 4, 2020

Welcome to the first Friday of the last month of one helluva year. We’re joining our Nature Friday 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 have discovered in nature this week.

It’s been another busy week with loads going on around the Ranch. It also was a bit on the chilly side. Yesterday was so ‘crisp’ with the wind chill that when I walked the dogs in the morning, one side of my glasses not only fogged up, it frosted for the majority of our 2 mile walk-about. It’s hard to see spots of nature through permafrost, although the ice crystals were pretty cool. Literally.

I’ve been busy working on Christmas gifts, a bit of organizing (out of necessity-where DOES all that junk come from??) and finding some holiday spirit…as in looking for holiday lights. Junk I can find, but Christmas lights and decor seem to be MIA. All of which has conspired to keep me from finding much in the way of nature in the ‘Hood.

Although I did happen to notice some ‘wildlife’ a couple of days ago on our walk and did a double take when I saw a deer from a block away, so naturally we had to investigate it up close.

WildlifeI’m in awe of how some people go all out for holidays. These neighbors had quite the front yard scene at Halloween (pirate skeletons having a garden party) and now they are working on Christmas. This is the largest outdoor blow up decoration I’ve ever seen and I’ve never found any there weren’t all vinyl or plastic. This guy had fuzzy fur!  Of course, deviating from our usual route tends to cause all sorts of canine consternation for Elsa who wasn’t all the keen on getting too close to Rudolph, though she eventually did give it a perfunctory mini sniff and then promptly looked away as soon as I pulled out my phone. Elsa, Elsa, Elsa {head shaking}. Why do you always have to look away as soon as the shutter is released?

Norman on the other hand seems perfectly content to stop, sniff, and cast his best pose. This guy needs to find a modeling agent.

We hope you are able to get out and enjoy some of the nature’s beauty or at least, check out some amazing holiday decorations this weekend.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ November 27, 2020

Welcome to this week’s edition of Nature Friday where we’re once again joining our friends and co-hosts Rosy, Sunny and her two brothers from LLB in Our Backyard. Hope all our U.S. friends had a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day celebration. Today is often called Black Friday which officially kicks off the Christmas shopping season with insane offers for many items most of us don’t need but just can’t seem to ever resist buying. I never have understood Black Friday or for that matter, participated in it, figuring the few extra shekels spent would be worth not having to deal with rabid shoppers willing to go to the mat for an opportunity to score an inexpensive sweater or limited amount of electronic items I could live without. And that was all before this year’s panDAMNic.

Even though my family opted to shelter in place this year, I still wanted to prepare a nice holiday feast for me and the Ranch hands, which still took some time to gather last minute groceries which kept me from getting out to enjoy much nature this week. ‘Course the nearly 8″ snowfall on Monday also contributed in putting the kibosh on anything beyond mandatory dog walks so this week is more than a tad lean on images.

There’s nothing prettier than seeing fresh snow on trees following a storm with a bright blue Colorado sky as a backdrop and so it was on Wednesday after a bit of a thaw that I was out picking up various provisions for yesterday’s holiday meal. I was in a perfect spot at the stoplight to have the sun highlighting the top of the tree and that gorgeous sky. I’d have lingered longer had the jerk dude behind me not honked for me to hurry up. But it was lovely enough for me to be a bit passive aggressive linger for a brief enough moment and take in the surrounding open space area.

Nature

We hope however you spent Thanksgiving, you had a good day and practiced safe distancing. Our raucous gang put a Zoom call together in the afternoon and while the audio quality was less than perfect, the smile on the faces of my 90 year parents at seeing their kids and many grandkids on screen was well worth it. It wasn’t our usual Thanksgiving gathering but it will be one where those smiles will linger in our hearts with the joyfulness of a noisy bunch celebrating in style in each of our own homes with a profession of our love for each other and good food which is what this holiday is really all about. Not shopping in crowded stores for stuff we don’t need or all too often, can’t afford.

Stay well, sane, and keep smiling as you savor simple moments as we enter the Christmas shopping season. Enjoy your weekend and I hope you’ll get the opportunity to see what beauty you can find in nature. Extra points if you can peeve the clown behind you.

Nature Friday

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! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ Friday the 13th Edition

Nature FridayAs is our usual practice on Friday’s, we are joining our furry Pacific Northwest friends, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard for another edition of Nature Friday. Colorful foliage near the Ranch has gone bueno bye after a couple of minor snows storms and windy conditions so I had to dig into our photo archives for some nature scenes for this week’s post.

Because we live near the heart downtown Denver, I generally don’t think of wildlife being a staple around the ‘hood. But every once in a while, nature surprises me and ‘drops by to say “hello.”

Anyone who knows the Denver metro area is familiar with Cherry Creek. A tributary of the South Platte River, it has been an integral part of the area since the city’s founding during the Gold Rush back in the late 1850’s.

Rising in a high plateau east of the Front Range, Cherry Creek flows north through Castlewood Canyon State Park while running through portions of the metro suburbs (Centennial and Aurora), into southeast Denver. It becomes an urban stream joining the South Platte River at Confluence Park just west of downtown and runs for approximately 5 miles (8 km) east of the foothills.

The 140-foot-high (43 m) Cherry Creek Dam, completed in 1950, forms a water source for the metro area providing flood control and irrigation and lies immediately southeast and southwest of the Denver and Aurora city limits, about 8 miles (13 km) from the confluence with the South Platte River.

A long scenic bike path follows the creek from Confluence Park west of downtown all the way through Cherry Creek State Park and south towards Parker and Castlewood Canyon. Wildlife along Cherry Creek includes a number of snakes (garter, western hognose, bullsnakes and occasionally rattlesnake, along with a few Amphibians native to Colorado can be found at as well including, the plains leopard frog, woodhouse’s frog, and the striped chorus frog. American bullfrogs are a non-native species and have contributed to the decimation of native amphibian species populations at the creek.

Other wildlife include raccoons, beaver, foxes, coyotes, and even deer are not uncommon sights along the creek. Petrified wood is quite common in the creek and fossil mammal bones have also been found.

The image below was taken near the Cherry Creek mall with apologies for the poor quality taken from the cell phone at a distance. The water in some areas rushes past during spring runoff and nearly missed seeing this guy.

Heron

So have you seen any wildlife around your neighborhood beyond mooching hoodlum squirrels?

Happy Friday the 13th. We hope today and your weekend are safe with no incidents and that you’re able to enjoy a spot of nature.

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 30, 2020

Snow
Pueblo West

Despite a nice dump of white stuff and very cold temps early this week along the Front Ranch, we’ve rebounded with more autumn like temps (60’s for the most part). This can only mean one thing-it’s Nature Friday where we join our friends and weekly co-hosts Rosy, Sunny and her two brothers from LLB in Our Backyard. Because Halloween is this weekend, Norman and Elsa want to share info about pumpkins since nature wasn’t all that generous with scenic images from around our hood (that pretty snow image above is from my mom’s patio in Pueblo West since I neglected to take a photo; as you can see, she received much more snow than we did).

Norman: Thanks, mum. Blimey, it sure was a wild week weather-wise and started out way too cold for this Sheep-Boy after that snow storm. This is the place I go to when it’s that nasty and cold.

Norman

Elsa: You do tend to like that spot, don’t you? But I thought we were supposed to bark about pumpkins?

Norman: Erm…egad, you’re spot on dear sister. I was just recalling how comfy that spot was and…

Elsa: {interrupting} Can it sheep-boy. You’re losing the plot here so let’s get to it, ‘kay?

Norman: . Right-o. So…let’s have a chin-wag about the ubiquitous pumpkin. This orange fleshy gourd (not to be confused with any political candidate) is an iconic symbol this time of year. The word pumpkin was originally from the Greek word pepon, meaning “large melon,” or something round and large. The French adapted the word to “pompon,” and while us Brits referred to it as “pumpion.” Guess you can see how American colonists came to just call it “pumpkin.”

Elsa: Oh jeez….will you stop your yammering and get on with it? Why not let peeps know that the term pumpkin itself has no agreed upon botanical or scientific meaning, but instead it’s frequently interchangeably known as “squash” or “winter squash.” In North America and the UK, the pumpkin commonly refers to only certain round orange varieties of winter squash, predominantly derived from Cucurbita pepo. As a warm-weather crop, the seeds are generally planted in July and are generally quite hardy. The plants produce both male and female flowers and are fertilized usually by bees.

Norman: Ahem…no need to be cheeky now, Elsa. Pumpkins are one of the oldest domesticated plants, having been cultivated as early as 7,500 to 5,000 BC. Pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving staple for both Canadian and US feasts though pumpkins used in pie fillings are different from varieties used to carve Jack-o-Lanterns for Halloween. The top pumpkin-producing state in the US is Illinois (where 95% of the US. crop intended for processing is grown) with Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California rounding out the top-five producers.

Pumpkin

Elsa: Alas, canned pumpkin is in short supply these days. And no, it’s not the new toilet paper of the panDAMNic. Seems that the planting season was rain delayed so harvesting will occur later than normal—which means it’s taking longer for this year’s canned pumpkin to make it onto store shelves. You can roast your own but mom says it’s a pain to roast and deseed.

Norman: Nutritionally speaking, pumpkins are very versatile with most parts being edible. Canned pumpkin (not the pie filling which should never be fed to pets due to the included spices) is often recommended by vets as a dietary supplement for dogs and cats with digestive ailments (i.e. constipation, diarrhea, or hairballs) because its high fiber content aids digestion. Did you know raw pumpkin is fed to poultry, as a supplement to their regular feed during the winter to help maintain egg production, which tends to drop off during cold months? Pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, magnesium, copper and zinc for peeps and are a delicious and low calorie snack.

Elsa: We’ve been noticing lots of pumpkin decorations around the neighborhood. I’m guessing this one isn’t quite the digestive aid that you’re talking about but maybe it’ll keep the neighborhood hoodlum squirrels from trying to eat this one.

Halloween

Both Ranch Hands in unison: Whatever you do, we hope you stay safe, have fun and enjoy being in Nature. We are hoping for a nice quiet evening with no door bell ringing from little goblins. With the recent spike in COVID cases here, we think it’s probably not very safe for trick-or-treating even with proper masks even if they’re covered in pumpkins.

Masks

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! 🐾