Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lost and Found

My wife had a yard sale to dispose of some things before a move to another town. I had jars and cans filled with nuts, bolts, washers, parts from engines, specialized fasteners and small items salvaged over the years from myriad jobs. I had moved the "junk" across several states and through at least five houses. I had parts that I would probably never use so I decided to put a small price on most of the jars and cans. Women bought them, bought every one of them, and took them home to some lucky husband. It was a mistake that haunted me for years.

Living miles from town requires planning and forethought. Its frustrating to be in the middle of a small job on Saturday and need a part that requires a trip to town. For the next ten years I'd be working on a project and need an item unexpectedly. A quick search through my memory and I'd think of a part that could be used in a pinch. I'd remember when I salvaged the part and the equipment that I took it from. I'd remember which can or jar contained the part. As I'd start for the shed to get it a sudden thought would hit me. They're gone! I put that container in the yard sale. Time to head to town or wait until Monday.

I learned my lesson. Never get rid of a salvaged part if there's a remote chance that it may be needed sometime in the next sixty years or so.

Crowded utility shed.
One corner of my crowded utility shed. Parts, tools and items hang on all four walls and from every rafter. (Larger version)

Periodically I have to clean and organize my utility shed and a smaller storage shed. Today was the day and it was interesting but unsettling. Years ago I remembered things I no longer owned. Today I found things I own but didn't remember. It seems I've developed the habit of needing something for a task and purchasing it. A few weeks later I need the same item and buy another roll or can or box. I have tools that I don't remember buying. I found enough motor oil to sustain a small fleet of vehicles. Scary!

My utility shed is packed. Next year I plan on building a large workshop. If I do, there's no telling what I may loose other than my memory.

Friday, January 30, 2009


The sun was a short distance above the horizon when I walked a few hundred yards south of the house while Julie prepared breakfast. The temperature was below freezing and there were no clouds, no breeze and no sounds other than my footsteps. I watched for animals, tracks, pottery shards and color on the landscape.

Peaceful view.
Peace. (Larger version)

I took the above photo and, when I showed it to Julie, I asked "What feelings do this photo evoke in you?"

"Peace, peaceful."

That was my experience. Peace.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Let's Go Organic!

I received an email from Organic Consumers Association with a link that led to the following video. I found it interesting, entertaining and support it's intent.

I like some of the changes that the new administration is making. An organic garden on the grounds of the white house would put the frosting on my cake.

Friday, January 23, 2009

From Friday's Walk

Barbed wire hanging in fork of post.
Barbed wire hanging in fork of post. (Larger version)

Gray Sky Morning

my day off with bright plans but gray skies
skies that hint at a fire in the stove
and tease the solar panels and call for the generator

greyness with a slight breeze but not enough for he windmill
clouds crawling across the horizon

Gray sky morning.
Gray sky morning. (Larger version)

a dull day that darkens the land
and suggests a walk, a time of thinking, planning, dreaming

a beautiful day

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thank You

I have a personal commitment to maintain a positive attitude. Negativity and ranting serve only to increase my frustration, harm my health and stress my marriage. Not all of life is positive and bad things must be dealt with in a constructive way. Anger can be a positive force to motivate to action.

Over two years ago my frustration and anger about the political and legal actions chosen by the previous administration reached a pinnacle. At that time I joined the ACLU and began to take a few steps beyond financial support. I made my decision about last fall's election, gave financial support to the campaign, affixed a bumper sticker to my car and irritated a few people with my opinions.

Today I received an email from the ACLU. Here's a portion of that email:

Dear ACLU Supporter,

Within hours of taking office, President Obama took the important first step to close Guantánamo: halting the unconstitutional military commissions by ordering the prosecution to seek a 120-day suspension.

It’s the first step in what we hope will be a series of bold measures to free America from the civil liberties outrages and human rights abuses of the Bush era.

The pundits and political experts told the ACLU we should “hold our horses” -- that it wouldn’t be right to expect swift action from Obama. You and half a million ACLU supporters didn’t listen to them -- and neither did our new President!

Let’s match President Obama’s first step forward with a powerful show of support and encouragement.

Sign the ACLU’s “Thanks for acting on Day One” message to President Obama.

I signed to express my approval and my gratitude.

Feelings of frustration, anger and shame have been replaced by feelings of hope and optimism. I like these new feelings.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Last Morning

The morning air was cold but still. I made my way down the dark walk to the big pool looking forward to stepping from air in the mid teens into water over 100 degrees. Everything was covered with a thick layer of hoar frost. A mist rose from the pool and moved above the water as I slipped out of sandals and walked barefooted across the thin layer of ice to the stone steps.

I moved to the far side of the pool and waited for the sun to paint a glow on the eastern sky. The mist floated in varying directions and sometimes hid the halo around the waning moon but never quite succeeded in obscuring its light. As the sky turned blue the frost covered tree branches stood in radiant contrast against the cloudless sky.

The air seemed colder than it had on the previous morning. Sitting neck deep in the water I stretched, rolled my lips together and felt the frozen condensation on my beard crack. I relish this experience. It's like eating rich ice cream while drinking hot coffee.

Julie joined me and after a while we climbed out of the water being cautious to avoid touching the railing and freezing our hands to the metal that ascended the steps. Julie wore flip flops in the pool. On the previous morning we had laughed as her flip flops made a crackling noise followed by a sudden slapping sound. The flip flops froze to the ice on the deck, cracked loose and slapped the bottom of her feet. On this morning I led the way walking quickly to get off the ice and on the tops of my sandals before my wet feet froze to the icy deck. As I held her hand she suddenly lurched to a halt. One flip flop was frozen tight. After a couple seconds of laughter and on the third tug she pulled it loose and we wrapped cold robes around ourselves.

Good memories! Only one thing would have made the morning more perfect -- a brief snow shower while sitting in the pool. We made reservations for the same weekend next year.

Orvis postcard.
Postcard. (Larger version)

Fireplace and trees with frost.
A fireplace in front of frost covered trees south of Ridgway, Colorado. (Larger version)

The main street in Silverton.
Looking down a portion of the main street in Silverton, Colorado where we stopped for breakfast. (Larger version)

On the Navajo Reservation.
As we neared home, we stopped on the Navajo Reservation between Many Farms and Chinle to take a break and stretch. (Larger version)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Winter Weekend in Colorado

We are in Colorado for a winter holiday. Last summer we made reservations for two nights during the week after Christmas but an unanticipated visit by Julie's daughter and son-in-law caused us to change the reservations to this weekend.

We are staying between Ouray and Ridgway. This morning we drove to Ouray, stopped at a coffee shop, browsed a few shops and then went to the Ice Park Where I took these photos.

Ouray Ice Park.
This is a portion of Ouray Ice Park. The large version shows people who add a sense of size and perspective. (Larger version)

Ice Park Climber.
Notice the climber in the center of the photo. (Larger version)

Air Force Climbers.
A member of a group from the Air Force Academy extended a camera to me and asked that I take a group photo before they began their day of climbing. As they made their way up the slope I took a group photo for myself.. (Larger version)

Watching a climber rappel to the bottom.
Julie, on the right in blue, and some strangers watch as a woman begins her rappel to the bottom of the gorge. (Larger version)

Julie and I struck up a conversation with the woman in the red jacket in the photo above. I moved to the far side of the gorge to get a photo of her descent. Julie asked why she was climbing alone and didn't have a partner. She replied that without a partner she could climb and leave without waiting on someone. As I was about to take the photo above another climber, a man about 40 years old, came up to me and said "That young lady is braver than I am to climb there." I was amused because she wasn't a "young" lady from his perspective. She was about 40 also. But,perhaps he considered himself young also. To me they are both young -- as are I and Julie.

A long climber.
Nearing the bottom of a rappel. The ice bridged the stream out of side below the climber so she did not land in the water. (Larger version)

We had lunch in Ridgway. During the meal Julie suggested that we make this an annual tradition for this weekend and that we make reservations before we leave tomorrow. I'm agreeable. I first rappelled many years ago. I think I'll suggest that she learn to rappel and that we try climbing next year.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Getting Excited!

Good thing are happening.

I'm rooting four new tomato plants. My current plants are about a year old and are still producing but spring is coming and I want to make sure I have healthy, vigorous plants. I'll keep the old plants as long as they continue producing. I'm curious to see how long they will live and produce.

I picked the last red bell pepper yesterday. I have two pepper plants that I bought last spring. A few weeks ago I picked the last pepper on the first plant. I fertilized it and continued to care for it. Yesterday I counted one open blossom and over a dozen buds about to open. I hope to get a second crop.

I'll miss my goal of having raised garden beds constructed by the end of the month. I have them started and about half finished. Last summer I bought enough used retaining wall blocks to build 96 linear feet of beds that will be 12 inches deep. I'm putting the stone on the south side and will build the other three sides from timbers. The materials I have on hand will give me about 400 square feet of beds.

Here's the really good news. I have a co-worker who is Hopi. Yesterday I asked her what varieties of corn she raised last year. She told me she raised white, blue and sweet corn. I asked if she knew where I might get some seed and she volunteered to give me some of each as well as some red corn.

Can you believe it? I'll have seed that isn't genetically modified, seed that hasn't been engineered for industrial agriculture, seed that hasn't been produced and shipped across the country to a foreign environment. I'll have seed that has been protected, treasured and passed from generation to generation by Hopi who have lived here for hundreds of years. I'll have seed that is a gift from a friend.

I'm getting excited. Blue Hopi corn! Wow! The older I get the more I feel like I live a charmed life.

Monday, January 12, 2009

On the Grandview Trail

I took this Grand Canyon photo on a rainy day in October, 2008. Julie and I were hiking down the Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa. The clouds and flog were moving through the canyon, climbing over high features and sliding down into the lower parts. Rain was falling, water dripped from branches and everything looked clean and rich and mysterious.

Grand Canyon in rain.
Looking into the Grand Canyon on a rainy day. (Larger version)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Temporary Solution: Addendum

About 10:30 last night I closed the window in front of the pet door to minimize heat loss during the night. At 5 AM I got up and walked into the room and looked out the window at the moon light coming through the translucent pet door. I noticed a triangular shadow on top of a round base. A cat ear?

I raised the window, pushed the door open and saw Priscilla. Sorry! She spent her first night outside ever and the temperatures dropped into the teens.

It never occurred to me to check the cage before closing the window. I had seen both cats in the sun room just a couple minutes earlier.

Priscilla leading Julie.
Priscilla leading Julie.

This afternoon Julie put harnesses on both cats and took them for a walk around the yard. It's a fairly easy process. Pick up Sammy, follow Priscilla wherever she wants to go and set Sammy down when you get there. Julie has more patience than me. Eventually she'll train both of them to lead.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Temporary Solution

Living with Sammy and Priscilla is like living with two young children. They are 24 hours of responsibility and fun.

We'll be gone three nights next weekend. A neighbor will check on the house and cats daily but Julie wants more stimulation for them than they will get in a few minutes each day. Idle paws are the devil's playground and a danger to flowers and furniture. As a temporary solution she found a cage and asked that I create some way for Priscilla and Sammy to get outside in the safety of the cage. My temporary solution used scap materials, an old pet door and put only four screws in the house which will be easy to remove before filling and painting the holes.

Priscilla stretching.
Priscillia stretching.

The cats were in the cage before I finished and spent a good portion of the afternoon going in and out. Julie had an excellent idea.

Sammy and Priscilla.
Sammy and Priscilla.

In the spring we'll build some type of large ground-level enclosure that enables the cats to get outside without being in danger from coyotes and without their driving off the birds, squirrels and rabbits that come for feed and water. It will be interesting to see what we design as a permanent solution.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Wanting to Trade Places

I wanted out. It wanted in.

I wanted to begin building the raised garden beds but outside it was cold, snowing and the wind was blowing. I read, thought, planned and looked out the windows. Three times I went out, tromped down the snow below the feeders and dumped seed for the Juncos and other ground feeders. About 4 PM we put on a few layers of clothing and walked the mile to the mail box to get Saturday's mail.

Bird on netting.
Bird looking into the warm, windless, snow-free sun room.

Throughout the day birds repeatedly flew back and forth in front of the netting that protects them from flying into the windows. The wind was coming from the north and the area behind the net was protected from the weather. It seemed as if one bird in particular was determined to find a way to escape the chilling wind.

Last weekend's snow has melted. Today is sunny with a slight breeze and a high in the low 50s is expected. I'll work on the garden today. I'm getting out!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Twelve More

Today, January 7
the counter shows 4222
US Deaths in Iraq

on December 22 it was 4210
twelve more in sixteen days

how many civilians
and how many from other countries

how many blinded, lost arms, legs, paralyzed
how many emotionally injured for life
destined to be homeless, alone, invisible

and Afghanistan
what of it

twelve more gone and forgotten by all
except fathers, wives, mothers, children, brothers, sisters

twelve more without an end

who will it be tomorrow

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Top of the Hill

Julie's daughter and son-in-law, Abby and Shawn, came for a visit between Christmas and New Years. As as become customary for first-time visitors, Shawn in this case, I drove them to the top of South Sheba cinder hill for views of the desert to the east and the cinder hills and mountain to the west.

Looking south of west.
Looking south of west. Our property is circled in red. (Larger version)

Regardless of the number of times I've go to the top of the hill I'm always thrilled by the views, the terrain and wonder at the fiery origin of the hills and mountain.

Looking west.
Looking west. Flagstaff has almost two feet of snow and is at the left end of the long snow covered hill. (Larger version)

The clear south slopes and snowy north slopes illustrate the power of the sun to heat in winter. Our annual migration is from the south side of the house in winter and the north in summer.

Looking north of west.
Looking north of west. Abby and Shawn, Julie's daughter and son-in-law. (Larger version)

On the last full day of their visit Abby walked to the top of the hill behind our house. She asked how long it would take and I told her about 45 minutes. She replied that she would do it in 30 minutes -- and she did!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Affordable Green

The sun room is almost finished. We've been using it for months but I had some trim to install and almost completed it today. I ran out of nails.

Facing east.
Facing East. (Larger version)

We did all of the work ourselves, shopped for used and recyled materials, frequented the Habitat for Humanity store and watched Craigslist. The ten south-facing windows are double paned and cost $30 each. The small odd-shaped west window - $15; the shelf above the dining table - $10 at Habitat; the recycled soy sauce barrels behind the fence - $14 each; the concrete floor beneath the tile and the footers are crushed glass concrete. These and other savings enabled us to add 480 square feet for about $8000. That's $16.67 per square foot. We exceeded our original budget because we initally planned for heat and a functioning greenhouse room. Once we began work Julie requested additional living space with a tile floor and pleasant surroundings. As it turns out, it was an excellent request.

Facing west.
Facing West. (Larger version)

Our goal was additional living space, solar heat and an environment for house plants. Well over 50% of our heat comes from the sun. We no longer need the propane furnace and it has been turned off. Following sunny days a fire in the wood stove isn't absolutely necessary when night time temperatures drop to single digits. We installed a wood burning stove for cloudy days, extreme cold periods and atmosphere. I anticipate we'll burn about one-half cord of Ponderosa this winter. We purchased a permit for $20 that entitled us to cut four cords.

Facing south.
Facing South. (Larger version)

One of my disappointments with the green movement is the high cost that makes green products unaffordable for many people. For example, I checked on the cost of recycled cotton insulation rather than fiberglass. I was quoted a cost a little more than fiberglass, about $100 for the job. When I phoned a second time to order the materials I discovered I had been quoted a price on the wrong thickness. The cost was more than double that of fiberglass. From what I've read, most of the cotton used in the insulation is waste material from sewing factories. Why should it cost over twice as much? One of my personal goals was to add an affordable addition that most home owners could afford. I settled for fiberglass.

Facing north.
A portion of the north wall. (Larger version)

The project had several intangible benefits. I dug and moved several yards of earth by hand which benefited my health. I purchased a concrete mixer and Julie and I mixed and poured concrete for about three days. She helped plan the addition, raise the walls, lay the tile, paint and do anything that was needed. It's our room, our memories and our marriage that is stronger. I'm planning a large passive solar greenhouse to raise vegetables throughout the winter months. It will be on the south side of a woodworking shop. Based on our experience constructing this room, the construction of the greenhouse will be better, easier, faster and less expensive.

I've talked with some people who say something like "I could never do what you've done" to which I reply "Nonsense! Anyone who is reasonably healthy and can read can do what we've done."

To finish the room I need to get a box of finishing nails and install tile on the counter top. We have new tile already -- half price thanks to Craigslist. But, the counter top will wait for a while. We have the materials, soil and composted manure to build raised garden beds. That's our next major project that I want to complete by the end of January.

Feeling Alive

January one's alarm was set for 4 AM and clothes were laid out as insurance to start early. I wanted to be near the head of the line; partially to get done early but mostly to increase my odds of success.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon's Back Country Office about 6:45. The temperature was in the teens and the sky was dark but I saw about ten people in line waiting for the doors to open at 8. We joined the group. The young lady in front of us had driven from Tucson, a distance of about 345 miles. The two young men in front of her had come farther. At 4 PM on the previous day they left Amarillo, Texas after work and got to the Canyon about 3 AM -- 695 miles. For two years they had been trying without success to get a permit by faxing a request knowing a mailed request was hopeless.

What causes so many people to lose sleep, drive so far, wait in the cold and stand for hours?

In part I think it's a reaction to the artificial world in which we live. Insulated from heat and cold, fed with industrial products, entertained by broadcast fantasy, bathed daily with scented soaps, living but not feeling alive. Knowing something is wrong, that something is missing, we've been taught to look for the next purchase to touch our senses and remove some inner need. In the end in seems and feels vain and useless.

We stood with a group that milled about, shifted from foot to foot, pulled zippers tighter and adjusted collars with a sense of excitement. Talking, joking, laughing. No impatience, no short tempers. The wait, the anticipation, the stories exchanged are part of the adventure. It was interesting to hear stores of previous treks where hardships were remembered with joy. The heat, blisters and muscle pains had been transformed into minor things that are part of living and feeling alive.

Julie and I got a permit for a five day backpacking trip in May. We going to hike about 50 miles to see the highest waterfall in the canyon that may be only a trickle at that time. There's enough snow on the North Rim that our chances are good for a large falls but it doesn't matter. We'll see wild flowers in bloom, encounter animals, gaze at beautiful panoramas, feel the breeze on perspiration soaked clothes and look for shady spots to rest aging muscles. I'll feel alive and thankful. That's enough for me.