Nature Friday ~ October 18, 2019

Looks like our BFF has arrived (can I get a collective ‘Amen’ here) which means it’s time to welcome the weekend celebrate the beauty Mother Nature. As always, we’re joining our friends, Rosy and her brothers over at LLB in our Backyard. Since Halloween is just around the corner, let’s feature one of the iconic symbols for this time of year, the beautiful orange pumpkin. Did you know the word pumpkin originally was derived from the word pepon, the Greek word for “large melon,” or something round and large. The French adapted the word to “pompon,” and the British referred to it as “pumpion.” It’s not a stretch to see how American colonists came to simply call it “pumpkin.”

PumpkinThe term pumpkin itself has no agreed upon botanical or scientific meaning, used and is often interchangeably referred to as “squash” or “winter squash.” In North America and the UK, pumpkin generally refers to only certain round orange varieties of winter squash, predominantly derived from Cucurbita pepo (Australian English notes it as winter squash of any appearance). As a warm-weather crop, seeds are generally planted in July and are generally quite hardy. The plants produce both a male and female flower and must be fertilized, usually by bees.

Pumpkins are one of the oldest domesticated plants, having been cultivated as early as 7,500 to 5,000 BC. Pumpkin pie is often a staple in both Canadian and US Thanksgiving Day feasts though pumpkins used in pie fillings are different from varieties used to carve Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. In 2017, over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins were produced in the US with the top pumpkin-producing states being Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.

PumpkinsSeveral of our neighbors plant pumpkins on that little strip of ground between the sidewalk and the street (affectionately known as the ‘hell strip’ in these parts) and are frequently noshed on by squirrel thugs who seem to treat them as a fast food drive-through. Those gigantic pumpkins (Cucurbita maxima) you sometimes see were developed from South American large squash varieties through efforts of botanical societies and pumpkin enthusiasts.

PumpkinsNutritionally speaking, pumpkins are versatile and most parts of the plant are edible. Canned pumpkin (not filling) is often recommended by vets as a dietary supplement for dogs and cats for digestive ailments such as constipation, diarrhea, or hairballs. It’s a mainstay around the Ranch for keeping canine tummies content. Elsa in particular, is a connoisseur of the orange fleshy pureé. The high fiber content aids with good digestion. Did you know raw pumpkin is often fed to poultry, as a supplement to their regular feed, during the winter to help maintain egg production, which usually drops 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.

I don’t know about you, but with pumpkin pie season getting started, maybe it’s time to start thinking about stocking up on whipped cream.

Pumpkins

Here’s hoping the weekend weather allows you to get out and enjoy some classic aspects of autumn nature. Me personally…I think I’m going to follow this truck.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ October 4, 2019

It’s time to celebrate the beauty Mother Nature provides us and because it’s Friday, that means we’re joining our fur-iends, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in our Backyard. Autumn has definitely arrived and judging by your kind comments this week, a favorite of many peeps.

This week nature has had a lot to offer. Sadly, not all of it was good either. Several wildfires continue to burn in our fair state and there have been a number of officially ordered evacuations. Winds, warm weather and tinder-dry conditions have fueled these fires and we pray for the  safety of residents and firefighters.

Fires
Photo courtesy of Jerry McBride/Durango Herald via AP)/The Durango Herald via AP

Human activity can impact the look of nature in any number of ways. Last week while visiting the Vail area, I saw what extraction mining can do to a remarkable landscape. The ghost town of Gilman, Colorado, located near Battle Mountain was once a thriving mining operation with a number of mines being opened beginning in the 1870’s during Colorado’s silver boom. Gold and silver were mined until the 1920’s.

As is often the case, mining operations went deeper and deeper and the extracted ore contained heavy sulfide content which local smelters refused to process. Separators were installed in 1905, and a problem was turned into an asset. Zinc, often a by-product in silver mining, became the economic mainstay until the early 1930’s. When the zinc market dropped, the mines switched to copper and silver ores which then became the main focus until the zinc price returned. Zinc became the principal ore until the mine was forcibly closed due to extreme pollution by the EPA who designated the town a Superfund site; it being listed on the National Priorities List in 1986. Gilman’s residents were forced to abandon the 235-acre site, many leaving much behind. By 1984, rock-bottom zinc prices coerced the company to leave Gilman for other profitable enterprises. A couple of attempts have been contemplated for redevelopment of the site but much like the town, they have also been abandoned.

The thriving town of Gilman (population of around 350) once included an infirmary, a grocery store, and even a bowling alley in its heyday. By 1970, total production was 10 million tons of ore ( 393,000 troy ounces (12,200 kg) of gold; 66,000,000 troy ounces (2,100,000 kg) of silver; 105,000 tons of copper; 148,000 tons of lead; and 858,000 tons of zinc) while an astonishing 8-million tons of mine waste was excavated and deposited into the ecosystem.

The townsite has long been notoriously vandalized over the years with worker’s homes being heavily tagged in graffiti by trespassers and nearly every window broken. The main shaft elevators still sit ready for ore cars, permanently locked at the top level. Various vehicles still sit in their garages, left behind by their owners. The town has been the subject of interest for many historians, explorers, and photographers.

Gilman, COThe once colorful homes of Gilman sit close to the mining facilities with the waste tailings flowing down the hill. Though posted as a no-trespassing area, the town continues to draw vandals who have posted hundreds of images on social media sites. Looking through many eerie and creepy images on Instagram, it seemed the residents left in a hurry. One particular image, a box of Cheer soap, spilled on the floor along with children’s toys, magazines, among scads of debris haunted my thoughts. I did not trespass the fence area, instead taking in some of the natural beauty of the mountain. I couldn’t help but wonder about those who lived and worked there and how many of them fell ill after they left.

Notice the mine tailings flowing down the hill on the right.Gilman, CO

Still, all is not all bad and I certainly don’t want to end on a sour note. All the changing leaves reminded me that Nature can still be a very beautiful place.

Vail, CO
Betty Ford Alpine Garden, Vail, CO

We hope you have a beautiful weekend.Vail, CO

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ September 13, 2019

Today is Friday the 13th and I’m handling today’s post for mom. Sam here. Despite the superstition surrounding Friday the 13th, I think it’s lucky for mom that I’m taking over for her today as we join our Blogville fur-iends, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in our Backyard. Did you know Friday the 13th occurs any month that begins on a Sunday? According to a local NPR station, “the last time a full moon happened on Friday the 13th was on June 13, 2014, said Paul Hayne, assistant professor in the Department of Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. “You might say it only happens once in a blue moon,” he said. “This particular full moon is unique in the sense that it both falls on Friday the 13th and it’s also the Harvest Moon.” A Harvest Moon is the closest full moon to the fall equinox, when our days start to get shorter than our nights. The fall equinox is on Sept. 23. The last time a Harvest Moon happened on Friday the 13th was on October 13, 2000. The next time a full moon will happen on the superstitious day will be in August 2049.” Pretty cool stuff, huh?

The mornings have been wonderfully cool (today it was just 48F and the Ninja and I showed our super sled dog skills dragging pulling mom on our the walk) but it warms up during the day (into the 90’s this weekend). Who knows nature better than me, Ace Snooper-Sniffer about snuffing out nature’s coolest stuff? After all, I know all the best places to check out where I leave loads of coded messages for other doggos who walk in my paw prints. As mom’s whined told you multiple times, it’s been hot and dry this summer. After a nice little shower a couple of days ago (the first in forever in our ‘hood), something strange happened. These guys started popping up in the weirdest spots. This first one is located in one of my all time favorite spots to read pee mail. The nerve that now there’s a house there now. Ugh…naturally that means mom won’t let me sniff there now. Boy she can be such a killjoy!

Mushrooms

Look how the guy managed to push itself up through that mulch. Makes you wonder how much force nature used to that.

While we were walking this morning, we found this straight line of mushroom caps.  I think they’re making a stand against some garden mouse.Mushrooms

I think this little fella is a tad sleepy-see how he’s leaning sideways.

Mushrooms

We noticed something else kind of weird in our own garden. Mom planted a couple of vegetables (a cherry tomato and a pepper plant) in pots this year to see how’d they fare. In a word, the cherry tomatoes have been going “nuts.” Mom is thrilled but I don’t like them, they’re veggies and as a Standard, well…I have my standards concerning anything remotely sounding veggie-like. As in…nope, nada, ain’t happening. Elsa of course thinks otherwise, but then she eats wool socks so she obviously has no standards. There’s never any rhyme or reason as to what shows up in our garden.

Veggies

Mom saw new  ‘neighbor’ this week. Although a pair of falcons have been seen a few times in the past couple of years several blocks away, she’s never seen one this close to the Ranch. He was pretty skittish and she couldn’t get very close so this isn’t the best photo with a cell phone, but it’s still pretty cool. Elsa and I would have made him fly away flushed him out for a close up but mom won’t let us. That woman is too heavy handed with killjoy stuff.

Falcon

Mom was hoping he’s looking for squirrels who are eating acorns. Gawd knows there is a gigantic bouquet of those buggers. But he was still pretty cool to check out.

We hope you’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful Indian Summer weekend but don’t forget to enjoy some nature at the same time.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ September 6, 2019

Let’s hear it for the arrival of our close personal friend, Friday. This is also when (after a hearty welcome) we join our friends, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in our Backyard and stroll around Blogville checking out the beauty of Mother Nature.

It’s been a busy, if not shortened week and I’ve been somewhat derelict in finding a lot of new blooms to share so let’s take a look at some of of the our insect friends, pollinators and predators around the Ranch.

Insects

Honey and bumble bees are our best friends in the garden; they pollinate flowers and create that scrumptious nectar, honey. I’m not sure what that little stick-like bug is just to the left of this bee but he watched that bee working for a long time. I think he’s some sort of ‘voyeur’ bug.

Insects

Moths and butterflies are also big pollinators in the garden. This colorful guy was filling up like a thirsty SUV. Check out the schnoz on that dude. You’d think he was drilling for oil.

Insects

The Plumbago is in full bloom right now and the bees and butterflies are grateful for the tasty smorgasbord being offered.

Insects

Known for their triangular heads, bulging eyes with flexible necks, long bodies that may or may not have wings, all Mantodea have forelegs that are enlarged and perfectly adapted for catching and griping unsuspecting prey. Their upright posture, while remaining stationary with forearms folded, has led to the common name “Praying Mantis.” I couldn’t get as close as I wanted without scaring this bad boy off (thus the lousy image) but was so excited so see him in the garden that I named him Harvey. I’d never seen one before in person. Mantis generally wait for prey to venture close by and only eat live prey. Because they lack any chemical protection, they often stand tall spreading their forelegs and fan their wings out to make them appear larger and more threatening. Mantises lack chemical protection, so this display is mostly a bluff. If pursued, they may slash their captors with raptorial legs. They are a fascinating garden predator.

Spider web

Some garden residents build remarkably beautiful homes. Around the Ranch, those intricate structures often don’t last long. Whenever I happen to absently walk into one encounter one, too often I start simultaneously screeching while wind-milling my arms like a maniac trying to remove the web from my face. The neighbors no doubt think of me as that crazy dog lady who flips out with spider webs. I’m really not an arachnophobe and find spiders quite fascinating, but that close-to-invisible, Velcro-like fiber turns me into an arm flapping weirdo. It’s a wonder I don’t lift off the ground trying to get that stuff off my face.

Whatever you do this weekend, I hope you are able to get outside. Mother Nature is still offering a whole lot of wonderful and should be enjoyed. If you live on the east coast, we hope you stay safe and dry. But before you go outside and savor Indian Summer, don’t forget to check out the e-shop for items including the recently published BarkBook chock full of easy to make tasty recipes, stylin’ bandanas, hand-painted note cards, and “Scrubbies” (which work great as exfoliators on uprights or work hard cleaning your veggies or around the house in general).

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ August 30, 2019

Welcome to Friday where we join our friends, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in the Our Backyard. Today let’s stroll around the Denver Botanical Gardens where ‘gardening with altitude’ is how we roll in the Mile High City.DBG

Officially created in 1951, the Denver Botanic Gardens has come a long way from its humble roots. Beginning as a small rose garden in Denver City Park near the Museum of Natural History, it became clear the garden was a bit too public as the roses were constantly being dug up by visitors. Thus a number of influential city leaders began looking for a more secure space. They found a large flat spot a couple of miles to the south in the Cheesman Park neighborhood. Originally Denver’s first cemetery, the graves were relocated (although an occasional grave still turns up every once in a while) and the garden oasis began to evolve into what it is now. Featuring the largest collection of plants from cold temperate climates around the world, it includes seven diverse gardens that primarily include plants from Colorado and neighboring states.

DBG

Located just behind the Ruth Porter Waring House (originally used as the administration building and gift shop), the Romance Garden has a spectacular Chihuly sculpture (from the 2014 exhibit). It’s beautiful during the day but near dusk, it is even more spectacular.

DBG

At the opposite end of the gardens is the Shofu-en, or the Garden of Pine and Wind, a traditional Japanese strolling garden, another visitor favorite. Drawing its inspiration from the area’s climate and plants from Colorado’s Rocky Mountain region, there are 130 character pines transplanted from the foothills. The garden was designed by Koichi Kawana and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

DBG

No visit is complete without a stroll around the Monet Pool. The spectacular collection of water lilies in bloom this time of year are always well visited.

DBG
Courtesy of denvermodern.mariah.com

Last on this tour is the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory. This structure is unlike any in the world, built from concrete (Charles Boettcher made much of his fortune in concrete), it contains faceted and curved plexiglass panels specifically designed to have the condensation flow down the structure into the watering system. When built, it was the only tropical conservatory between Missouri and San Francisco. Some 2000 species are cultivated in the conservatory.

DBG

Hope you enjoyed this week’s tour of nature in the city. The DBG is my favorite 24 acres in town and a wonderful place to spend a few hours enjoying elements of nature in a hectic world which proves you can find amazing views of nature even in an urban setting.

We wish you a terrific Labor Day ‘howliday’ weekend and hope you are able to get out and enjoy some of the many fine offerings nature provides on this last weekend of summer.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ August 16, 2019

Is it just me or is August flying by? Seems like only yesterday that it was the 4th of July. At any rate, we’ve breezed through to another Friday. And if it’s Friday, that means we’re joining our fur-iends, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in our Backyard.

WaterlilyThis week is all about waterlilies. A recent trip to the Denver Botanical Gardens proved this is prime time for viewing these plants. Frenchman Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac (1830-1911) often considered the father of hardy waterlily hybridizing, creating over 100 hybrids in a rainbow of colors using species from around the world, including North America, as parent plants. Until the introduction of these hybrids, most people in Europe were only familiar with their native white-flowering hardy waterlily, Nymphaea alba.

WaterlilyIn 1889, Latour-Marliac displayed many of his new waterlilies at the World Fair in Paris, where they won first prize and caught the attention of one Claude Monet. Monet placed an order with Latour-Marliac’s nursery (which still operates to this day in Le Temple-sur-Lot, France) and soon thereafter, planted them in his new garden in Giverny. The rest is history.

WaterlilyThe Botanic Gardens’ collection includes twenty of Latour-Marliac’s historically significant hybrids in its own “Monet Pool” that were originally introduced in the gardens in the early 1900’s.

Waterlily

The day was sunny and bright (not the best for picture taking) but the reflections were stunning on the still water. The ducks were actively skimming the sides of the pool for whatever it is that ducks eat and dragonflies flitted about enjoying the sunshine and warm temperatures.

Waterlily

Hope you enjoyed strolling through one of my favorite areas at the Denver Botanical Gardens. Enjoy a fabulous weekend and don’t forget to enjoy some nature yourself.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ August 2, 2019

Hello troopers. I see you’ve made it to another Friday. Elsa here. HuMom told me she’s up to her eyeballs in alligators working on a couple of big projects and said I could be responsible for today’s post. Well actually she wanted my brother to do it but he passed. Not sure how that works, but I’m going to give it a go nonetheless. Like always we’re joining our ‘fur-iends’ Rosy and her brothers from LLB in Our Backyard. Be sure you visit them and all the other excellent contributors.

While I was pawing through her 87 jillion images (whew, that lady has got some serious organizing to do when she’s done with her projects), I came across a photo from before my time. Boy do I wish I could have been there with her and my brother that morning. Sloans Lake is an urban, man-made lake in the park with the same name that’s just a hop, skip and jump from the Ranch. There are lots of water sports activities on the lake, some ‘furbulous’ walking paths around it and a spectacular view of downtown Denver. And the geese…oh my! What strange and unfriendly creatures they can be. Can you imagine they want nothing to do with a gorgeous girl like me? I know…hard to believe. I just want to say hello for crying out loud but they don’t want to be sniffed by Ninja’s I guess and will let you know in no uncertain terms.

Sloans Lake

Sadly we don’t get over there as much as we’d like, it can be jammed with visitors which makes me go into full-on Ninja mode anxious but when we do make special trips, boy are we rewarded. A walk around the lake when it’s not crowded is well worth it.

Sloans Lake

This time of year, Rose of Sharon bushes are blooming and the ones here have gigantic flowers. Mom won’t let me go near them. Those blooms while very attractive to dogs in ‘pawticular,’ are extremely toxic and bad for us fur-babies. Be sure to click on the link to learn about the dangers of this shrub with pets.

Rose of Sharon

Well that’s it for me. I need to go harass play with my brother and then take my morning nap. Have a great weekend. We hope there are some beautiful sunrises in store for you this weekend. Mom hopes to have a big announcement soon so stay tuned.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

 

Nature Friday ~ July 26, 2019

Welcome to the last Friday of July. Today we join our good fur-iends and Nature Friday hosts, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in Our Backyard with a ‘flashback Friday’ about the nature we encountered this week.

You may recall me mentioning my plans to visit the Lavender Festival at Denver Botanical Garden’s Chatfield Farms location but what I didn’t mention was a different reason for visiting-to see the recently opened Stickworks exhibit and what a great two-fer it turned out to be.

Nature provides us not only with gorgeous flowers like lavender, but also many of the building materials we use to build homes. Enter internationally recognized artist Patrick Dougherty who builds open-air, site-specific stick sculptures who recently completed his 300th installation of his career. This was not his first in Colorado. Dougherty has completed a handful of sculptures in the state, including the one still standing in Vail. This spring, he returned to Colorado to construct a distinctly different exhibit at Denver Botanical Gardens Chatfield Farms location.

Stickworks
“In One Fell Swoop”

Each exhibit is specific to the site upon which it is installed and all of  Dougherty’s creations are created using locally-sourced materials to minimize the environmental impact. Because Colorado is relatively arid, this exhibit is expected to last longer than average installations. I know I’ll be visiting the Chatfield site often over the next  couple of years.

Stickworks
Artist standing in front of  exhibit, “In One Fell Swoop” [courtesy of 303 Magazine]

As he frequently does, Dougherty utilized a dedicated team of volunteers when he created his stick installation at the Chatfield location. Denver Botanical Garden volunteers helped shape the structure, weaving small branches to ensure the sculpture’s integrity as well as in the finishing touches. The Botanical Garden staff used sticks from within the grounds, as well as materials from neighboring homeowners spring cleaning efforts and material from BLM land. Two truckloads of long yellow sticks from the Fort Collins area helped create the sweeping sense of motion of the snakelike shaped structure.

Stickworks

The scale of this maze-like installation is impressive at 60 feet by about 30 feet and towers at 13 feet high.Stickworks

Drone footage shows the exhibit during construction.

Stickworks
Photo by Scott Dressel-Martin, courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens.

Shall we go inside and take a closer look?Stickworks

Stickworks

Stickworks

The intense sun of Colorado has already weathered the structure in just three months.

Incredible, isn’t it? Because nature provides more than just sticks and stones, here are a couple of other beautiful images from Chatfield’s Lavender Festival. Included with more than 2000 lavender plants was the joint venture with the Butterfly Pavillion in a seasonal habitat containing Swallow Tails, Monarchs, Mourning Cloaks and Painted Ladies butterflies.

Lavender Butterfly Butterfly Butterflies

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to get out there and enjoy all that nature provides. And now for a couple of images from our garden that began blooming in the last couple of days. Isn’t nature grand?

Flowers Flowers

Nature FridayLive, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ July 19, 2019

We made it to Friday-woohoo, no thanks to the blistering heat Mother Nature has been doling out. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this weekend, we’re also celebrating the 72nd birthday of astrophysicist and epic guitarist from Queen, Brian May, PhD. Commissioned by NASA, this anthem, his first solo song in 20 years, celebrates the latest mission by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which just set the record for the most distant spacecraft flyby ever. So let’s hear it for May and the universe. And because it’s Friday, we’re joining our good friends and Nature Friday hosts, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in Our Backyard.

Mother Nature and I are not on speaking terms this week. Like most of the country, we’ve been baking in triple digit temperatures. Luckily the humidity in these parts barely registers in the low teens so at least we don’t have that with the heat. We are looking forward to 65 days from now…the official arrival of Autumn. I know, I know, I heard your digital groaning at that thought but neither the Knuckleheads or I are hot-temperature fans. Sure we enjoy the longer daylight hours , but the heat, um…no thanks.

So this weekend we’ll be lifting our eyes toward the skies enjoying the universe’s wonder, and then take a look down here on Mother Earth to take in summer’s bountiful lavender harvest at the annual festival tomorrow at the Denver Botanical Gardens, Chatfield Farms location. Here’s an image from last year’s festival. What are your weekend plans? Stay cool and enjoy nature this weekend.

Lavender
Lavender Festival, Chatfield Farms, Denver Botanic Gardens

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ July 12, 2019

Our favorite day is here so that means, we’re joining our good friends and hosts, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in Our Backyard. Other than the arrival of the weekend, we love Fridays because wine arrives too. After a stressful week, a lovely glass of wine at the end of the day sure hits the spot, don’t you think?

We know wine comes from grapes which are vines so we thought we’d highlight another vine plant nature has been showing off this month in spite of pizza-oven heat. Our favorite vine in the garden (other than the grape) is Clematis.

Clematis

With nearly 300 species within the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, one of the most popular of the hybrids in the Clematis family is C. Jackmanii. It has been a garden standby since 1862. This cultivar was named after 19th century British nurseyman, George Jackman. As a hybrid, “Jackman” comes from the marriage of C. Lanuginosa and C. Viticella. Clematis can be woody and deciduous; there are also herbaceous and evergreen varieties as well.

Jackman blooms in our Zone 5 garden in July and like many Clematis needs support. It likes well drained soil and shallow rooted plants around the base provide the necessary shade to cool the roots. It does not like ‘wet feet’ and seems to do well in a xeriscape garden. Jackman has large (5 inches across) blooms, which come in a dark purple-violet color.

Here’s one last look at Jackman with best wishes for a terrific weekend. We hope you are able to enjoy a bit of the magic that Mother Nature provides.

Clematis

Nature FridayLive, love, bark! 🐾