Category Archives: Events

Hiking Kilauea Just Before the Eruption

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Hiking Kilauea Just Before the Eruption

In light of the recent eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano, I wanted to tell the story of our hike down to the lava flows on the East Rift at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.   It was a strenuous long hike – 2.5 hours out and 3 hours back – with the reward of seeing the lava glowing brightly as night descended upon the island.   During the hour we spent near the constantly shifting lava flows, I remember being nervous and feeling in the pit of my stomach that the earth was alive beneath my feet.   Could the volcano blow at any moment?  As it turns out, it did not that night in late March but just 5 weeks later, it did.

This year, it was my youngest son’s turn to go on a big trip so he accompanied me to the Big Island of Hawaii.   My plan was to take him on some great adventures while also competing in the Lavaman Triathlon a second time.   When a high school friend posted some cool photos of a lava hike they’d taken on the Big Island, I wanted to check it out.   How cool would it be to hike across dried lava fields to witness real live lava flows?

Amy highly recommended the guide they’d used so I checked out the website – Active Hawaiian Lava Tours, liked what I saw and booked my son and I on the expedition.   Active Lava Hawaiian Tours, https://www.activelavahawaiiantours.com  It was a somewhat pricey tour at $135 per person but well worth the opportunity to see this awesome natural wonder.  Later, my two daughters decided to meet us for the trip and joined us on the lava hike.

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The map above shows the two main area where the Kilauea Volcano can be viewed.   The caldera at the visitor’s center to the north and about an hour’s drive south, the east rift.     Our tour at the east rift started just south of the small town of Pahoa, near the south entrance to Hawaii’i Volcanoes National Park.    We were headed to Kalapana on the southern coast – a drive that is surprisingly rural with beautiful dense palm forests lining the narrow roads.   IMG_3898As we approached the rendezvous site,  barren black lava fields stretched out several miles toward the ocean beyond.   Getting to the tour site was a bit confusing with directions like “turn just past the bike rentals” and “look for the yellow house down a block or two” and we thus, made a few wrong turns.   Turns out that the modest yellow house/cabin we were looking for was located down a bumpy dirt road in a black lava field surrounded by a few dozen squatter shacks, piles of seemingly abandoned vehicles, water tanks, construction materials and just an occasional tree or plant rising from the uneven black rock.   Talk about at the end of the road.

At the Kilauea Visitor’s Center in front of the caldera.   Photo 1:  Tristan and me.   Photo 2:  Tristan and Madelaine.  March 23, 2018

 

Surprisingly, we arrived early and waited on the lanai with several other people while our guide Matthew introduced the plan and let us use the bathroom.   He was very bubbly, informative and friendly.   Unlike other tours groups, he informed us that we would not be biking to the entrance of the park tonight but rather, driving and then walking about a mile to the gate.   That’s cool, I thought.   I was happy to walk a little more since my triathlon was just days away.

After making sure that our water bottles were full, snacks were packed and our day packs secured, we were ready.  By 4 pm, eight of us boarded a van for the short drive drive out of the black lava neighborhood and down the stark uninhabited road toward the entrance to the national park.   Along the way, there were several tents set up to rent bikes but little else.   I surmised that one could do this expedition without a guide but since parking was several miles away, renting a bike to ride into the entrance was more expedient.   At the park gate, several dozen bikes were locked to metal posts nearby.   We stopped to take photos and continued our walk down the road; perhaps a mile or so.

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About a half mile into the park, we entered the lava fields.   The surface of the dried lava was black, gravely, uneven, hilly and full of cracks.  There was no established path or direct route.  Each step was a challenge to avoid tripping or twisting an ankle.   I was especially careful and unfortunately slow, since I didn’t want to injure myself before my triathlon that weekend.   I worried that my young son Tristan might have difficulty but at 13, he’d recently grown 6 inches, slimmed up and magically transformed into an energetic and strong young man.   He was a billy goat on this trek — no problem!   My daughters Megan (21) and Madelaine (30) were similarly light on their feet.

The hike was long and rocky.   The kids taking a break for me, the slow one.

 

Our guide used GPS to set the trail but as dusk fell, we could see lava glowing in the distance — a worthy destination to aspire too.  We were joined by other small groups of people – couples, tour groups, families with small children and grandparents, college kids – hiking in the same direction.   In truth, the going was tough and the hike took hours.  By 6:30, we finally reached the fresh lava flows.   Arriving at sunset was the prime time so we could really relish the glow of the lava in the dark.

The lava flows weren’t like the rivers you might see in films, however.   They were little flows of maybe 2-6 feet extruding from crevices in the black rock.   At places, you could look over at the ridges of rock rising next to you and see the lava glowing deep inside the cracks.   There were many such extrusions and you could walk around and take photos.  Nothing was moving too fast that you couldn’t get out of the way.

At one point, my kids headed over to a larger flow about 30 feet away which required that I climb over a few mounds of loose rocks.   I hesitated since I was nervous about all the lava around me.   I took a few deep breaths and finally heeded their calls to join them.   As we posed for photos, the heat of the lava was so intense we tried to hurry.   When I turned around a few minutes later, I saw that a new small river of lava had emerged right over the path I had just crossed.   My heart palpitations had been justified!

In the distance, lava was visible on the slopes of the volcano as it rose up miles toward the caldera.   Other, more adventurous hikers made their way up there but we were content to wander around closer flows take our photos.   Our guide advised us on the most dramatic poses to maximize the affect of the lava.  As night fell, it dawned on me that the hike back might be even more difficult in the dark and rallied for an earlier departure.   Unfortunately, being the laggard in the group, my entreaties fell on deaf ears.  I  had to wait for everyone eager to see the glow of the lava in the dark.   After an hour, we set off with headlamps on and flashlights.   Although the hike back took more than three hours, everyone arrived back uninjured and full of tales of a once in a lifetime expedition.

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My three travel companions, Madelaine, Tristan and Megan.

 

After nearly seven hours on the trail, we were starving and hoping to treat ourselves to a hearty dinner.   Unfortunately, the nearest town of Pahoa literally closes down by 10 pm so we resourcefully found dinner at the local gas station — yogurt, milk, sandwich wraps, cheese sticks did the trick.   It is sobering to see the news of the continuing eruptions of Kilauea and the destruction occurring in the area that we visited.   The roads we drove to reach the tour no longer exist and quite likely, the little yellow house and its neighbors are also gone.  Perhaps, even the gas station where we found our dinner is also gone.  Our thoughts are with the residents of Pahoa, Kalapana and the area near the volcano.

A little video of the lava flow:

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Spring in My Gardens, 2018

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Spring in My Gardens, 2018

Photos from March 30:  Lillian planting peas with her grandma, Terry.   Turning the soil in the raised beds.

Although its early May, I’ve already been working in my gardens for nearly two months.  Often the first trip to the community garden occurs on a warm day in late February or early March and snow may still be on the ground.  Many times, we’ve had to brush aside snow and chisel away at the soil to get our St. Patrick’s Day peas planted.  But not this year.   We had a rather mild winter in Colorado so the soil was uncharacteristically workable in early March.   My garden pals and I were thus at Rosedale digging early in the season and the peas went in like butter.

Photos:  Toasting St. Patrick’s Day with my mom’s Waterford goblets, picking up free compost and burlap bags at Allegro’s Coffee’s Earth Day Celebration, me posing in front of our robust garlic patch with Marilynn’s garden behind me.   She was my neighbor for 17 years and sadly died of lung cancer the day before this visit to our garden on March 16.

By March 16, we’d planted our first round of peas and spinach.   A few weeks later, we planted more peas with the help of Terry’s grand daughter Lillian as well as other cold crops including lettuce, carrots, beets, broccoli and more.   I was also surprised to find that many crops that typically don’t make it through the winter, survived — cilantro, rosemary, kale, chard, parsley.

Photos from March 16:  Ana,Terry and Susan getting ready to plant peas on a very windy March afternoon, our tomato cages all lined up where we plan to plant tomatoes in late May, the garlic patch growing between planks of wood for walking.

We’re off to a good start and busily prepping all the beds for the big warm season planting in just a few short weeks.  Although the weather can be deceptively nice in May, we still must restraint ourselves from planting our precious tomatoes, peppers and warm season crops until we’re safely past May 22.   Last year, we had about 6 inches of snow around May 20!

Photos from March 31:   Free tomato seeds earned as a volunteer at DUG free seed distribution, tomato seedlings planted on March 31, two trays of 12 6 packs of tomatoes and peppers growing under lights and on heat mats.

Timeline of Chores

  • March 9:  Map the garden
  • Order or shop for seeds
  • March 12: Volunteer at Denver Urban Garden Seeds Distribution — earn free seeds
  • Visit the plots and make plans for prepping the soil
  • March 16: Plant peas and spring crops
  • Fill milk jugs with water and pack in back of car
  • March 30:  Start seedlings — tomatoes and peppers in early April
  • April 7:  Attend Rosedale Community Garden Spring Meeting, pay fees and network with fellow gardeners
  • Turn soil, pull weeds, lay down burlap on paths
  • April 20:  Visit Allegro Coffee for Earth Day Celebration — pick up burlap bags and free compost
  • April 23:  Flower garden consultation at home with Shirley at http://www.mindful-gardener.com (More later!)
  • April 25:  Transplant seedlings to larger pots
  • April 26:  Scored 6-packs of broccoli and cabbage seedlings at King Soopers for $3.49/pack
  • May 1:  Plant spring bulbs, broccoli and cabbage; plant cover crop in the pumpkin patch
  • May 2: Plant broccoli and cabbage at St. Philip Donation Garden with Jennifer

Photos from April 25:  Susan working on repotting the tomato seedlings, tomato seedlings ready to transplant, individual seedlings in peat pots.

Photos on May 2:  Newly planted broccoli and cabbage with Jen Drews at St. Philip Donation Garden.

 

My Hawaiian Adventure at the Lavaman Triathlon – 2016

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For years, I’d heard about the Lavaman Triathlon in Kona, HI and had secretly wanted to participate.   When my friend Sally’s husband Todd organized a team to do the Lavaman and raise $100,000 for a leukemia and lymphoma research in his wife’s honor, I decided to join the cause.  In addition to training to successfully complete this Olympic distance event, I would also be faced with the challenge of raising a big chunk of money and convincing my husband to support this BIG, expensive adventure.  I reasoned with Dave that this trip would occur in the month of our 20th anniversary so might be a great way to celebrate this milestone.

Fast forward six months and I’ve accomplished all three!!

While preparing to get to the start line, I faced some BIG challenges.   After nearly, 19 years as a SAHM, I started a full-time job in early January.   Balancing my new schedule with a busy training schedule -as well as a family and home to care for — was daunting.   I adjusted my goals from getting faster (a real stretch for me) to just being able to do the event and feel good at the end.   In the midst of all the training sessions and fundraising, my seven year old Honda Odyssey with nearly 220,000 miles broke down and needed a $1500 repair.   With plane tickets to buy, a bike to ship and trip expenses, we decided to garage the ailing vehicle and divert the repair money to the Hawaii trip.   Fortunately, my 19 year old daughter had left behind a car when she moved last fall and we were able to put it to use.   I booked my mother to watch the boys, arranged time off from my new job and talked my husband into joining me.

The Trip – April 7, 2016

Hoping to arrive before nightfall, I had booked an very early flight through LA with several connections.   Realizing only later that this early flight meant leaving the house at 3 am to catch my 5:30 am flight, I understood the wisdom of paying more money for a direct flight.  Note to self  – saving money is not worth the extra travel time or early departure.   Arriving early enabled me to participate in two days of bike and swim workouts, rest up, acclimate to the hot weather and connect with team mates.   On Friday morning, I joined the team in the lobby of the Palace Tower to hike down to the beach for the swim.   It was quite a hike – about 1 1/2 miles – along the beach and a rocky lava rock path; a trek which provided an excellent preview of the final run section of the race.   After a brief talk by our coach, we jumped in the ocean and swam a lovely half mile around a buoy in the distance.  With the exception of the taste of salt in my mouth, the swim was very pleasant.

Despite warnings about avoiding the coral near the shore, I managed to cut my toe on my way out of the water.   At the time, I noticed that my toe hurt but didn’t realize I needed medical attention until after a three mile walk and finding a pool of blood in the shower.   Having packed only carry-on bags, I had not brought a first aid kit.   Note to self — don’t forget band aids and Neosporin!   Fortunately, our team coach, Mary Carey, rescued me with the needed supplies and advised me to sit out the Saturday swim.   The cut looked pretty nasty and was very bothersome considering the extensive walking required to navigate around the huge Hilton property.   I worried about getting it infected and the possibility that I might have to quit the race.   With such an investment in time and resources, I focused on letting  the cut heal and tried to be positive about participating on Sunday.

Race Day – April 10, 2016

The 4 hour time difference between Denver and Kona made it relatively easy to get up before dawn to meet the team in the lobby at 5 am — a full 1/2  mile and an elevator ride from my hotel room.   We had been instructed to bring head lamps for the mile ride to transition in the dark but afraid that I might crash before the start line, I decided to bypass this challenge and walk the mile to transition.   Confident that the weather would be Hawaii warm in the predawn hour, I didn’t wear a long sleeve shirt and later regretted this decision since it was a windy, chilly 68 degrees.  But no matter, I got everything set up, networked with my rack mates, applied sunscreen, drank water, stood in line for body marking, got my timing chip,  took photos with team mates, and enjoyed the view of the Mauna Kea volcano silhouetted in the distance.

Choppy Swim – .9 miles

By 6:45 am, we marched down to the shore to start lining up for our waves and do practice swims.    Initially, I thought about skipping  a warm up swim to avoid a chill but later, changed my mind since my wave  was slated to start 30 minutes after the start.   Jumping in the water helped stave off some of my nervous energy and provided a good distraction since the water was warm and calm.  Of the many triathlons I’ve participated in through the years, this was one of the nicest and more picturesque starts.   I knew I could do it and only hoped I wouldn’t come face to face with a shark in the water.   For this reason, I kept my eyes closed when my head was in the water

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At 7:45, our wave was called to get in the water for the deep water start.   After a few minutes of treading, the signal sounded and we were off.   As usual, the start was a tangle of arms and legs and churning water for a few minutes until I found my space.   I had no trouble rounding the first buoy but later had difficulty seeing the course so resorted to following someone ahead of me.   Unfortunately, I passed them and had to take a few moments to breast stroke and look around.   Several times, I think I was actually sighting the swim patrol’s paddle boards and not the buoys.   Why do they use SUPs that are the same color as the buoys?   Halfway through the course, I noticed that the water was getting choppy much like the drill we’d practice in the pool with a lane of swimmers churning the water with kick boards while we swam through.   Simple — I can do this!

Windy Bike – 24 miles

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As I exited the water, I knew I’d completed the easiest part of the race for me.   I’d forgotten my watch in Denver so I had no idea what my time was but figured I’d done well enough when I saw that most of the bikes were still in transition.   Once I reached my spot, I shoveled down a pb&j, guzzled some water, took some salt, slathered on sunscreen and put on my socks and bike shoes – all somewhat difficult being wet.  After buckling my helmet, I ran down the lane to the bike start and started to face my bike fears.   These fears had prevented me from adequately training on the bike and now that I was actually facing a 24 mile bike ride, they were pushing forward in my thoughts.   During the mile ride out to the main road, I kept telling myself, “you can do this, you can do this, you can do this!”   These magic words must have helped because once I reached the highway, I was OK and happily able to focus on pedaling, enjoying the view, feeling grateful to have gotten this far and knocking out this portion of the race.   As expected, I was slow and nearly every woman I knew on the team passed me on the bike course; each one of them saying “hi” as they hurtled past me.   I tried to congratulate myself for doing well on the swim and to just be OK with the fact that I am weaker on biking and running.

The bike ride was a very straight forward out and back course with relatively easy hills compared to my hilly home state.  The only negatives were the few goats that ran out into the road and the strong head wind on the ride back.    The views were spectacular and I especially enjoyed seeing the Anaeho’omalu Bay on the ride back to Waikoloa.   At the turn around, I decided to get off my bike for a few minutes to drink water — a move I might not have had to make if I’d actually done enough bike training ahead of time.    Upon passing the 20 mile mark, I cannot tell you the sense of euphoria I felt as I approached the entrance to the road back to transition.  With one mile to go,  I had made it without a flat tire, without dying of exhaustion, without falling — I was almost to the final leg of the race!!!!!

As I approached the transition area, I hit a speed bump a little too fast and all the stuff in my stem bag exploded out onto the road.   This  mishap took a few minutes to recoup from but did not compare to the inevitable deflation I felt as I got back on my bike and faced the stream of competitors packed up and heading back to their rooms and cars after completing the race.    Uggh!!!   “It’s OK”, I had to tell myself, “they started earlier than me and besides, I am here to have a good time, not win!”.

Whew!!   I got off my bike and ran to my spot, peeled off my helmet and bike shoes and quickly, changed my shirt, ate the other half of my sandwich, tied my running shoes and dashed off to the run start.    By this time, the teen volunteers staffing the run zone were busy texting, socializing and unaware of us stragglers heading out.   I had to stop and shout for directions.   “Which way?   Hey, which way is the run course?”   Hmmm….being near the back of the pack does have it disadvantages!   I was finally pointed to a path across the lava field adjacent to the transition area.

Hot Run – 10k

I could tell right away that the day was heating up and this run was going to be a hot one.   After so many training runs during winter conditions, I wasn’t going to complain a second about finally being able to wear shorts and a sleeveless top.   Thankfully, the route was well staffed with water stations and abundant bags of ice which I positioned at the back of my neck or down the front.   About two miles in, I ran past the aid station where my husband Dave was working and briefly said “hi” as I slogged past.   As I proceeded, I saw many of the teammates who had passed me on the bike, heading back on the run course toward the final leg of the race along the shore.   Such is life!

Finish Line on the Beach (!)

Our coach had warned us to try to pick up our pace earlier on the run since the final section along a narrow dirt path just above the rocky shore followed by a trail of chunky lava rocks would necessitate a much slower speed — walking for me!  It was a hot slow journey but lovely, nonetheless.  Halfway through the run, I was so happy to have made it this far and still feeling pretty good.   As I ran past our wonderful coach at about mile 5, all I could say was “I’m getting hungry!”   The last mile seemed to take forever — especially the final 100 yard dash (?!) in deep sand.   I crossed the finish line, stumbled toward cold water and the shiny medal.   After that, I searched for sustenance, grabbing some cookies and fruit and then, headed to the shore for a quick dunk to cool off.

The water was miraculously cool.   After hoisting myself onto the beach, I sat in a stupor on the sand for about 10 minutes.  I noticed someone like me (in a sweaty tri suit) with a plate of food and realized that there was some real food for us; not just cookies and fruit!   I mustered the energy to get up, search out the buffet and gratefully, loaded up with a burger, chips, fruits, coleslaw and more.   I found another team mate and together, we parked our weary bodies in a shady spot to eat and recap the race.   Later on, my husband appeared to finish off what I couldn’t eat and wait in the line for beer.   Sitting about 20 feet away was a group of other Team Sally members, including Sally, Todd and their daughter, Hannah, I wanted to go over to congratulate them and take photos but once seated, I was immobile for almost an hour.  The toughest part of such a big athletic endeavor often comes after crossing the finish line. The getting up, the trudging back to transition to collect one’s bike and gear and then, getting back to home base all seemed improbable after over four hours on the race course.

The Icing on the Cake

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While Dave waited in the long food line at the Kona Brewing Co beer tent, I decided to take one last dip.   As I waded in, I heard a voice over my shoulder say “Hey, you passed me on the bike course!”   I turned putting my hands up and shook my head, “not me!”   The real truth is that everyone had passed me on the bike course.    But as I looked up, my eyes fell upon the most handsome shirtless man in the race – God’s gift – looking straight me.   “No, you passed me!” he said, “Some of you gals are so fast!”.   No way, I thought.  I took a deep breath and just decided to go with it and enjoy the moment.   We chatted about his hopes to do an Ironman in Sydney, his 18 year old daughter going to USC and my plans to do a half marathon with my sister.   As we turned to say goodbye, we shook hands and exchanged names.   His name was Murray.  Thanks Murray for that undeserved compliment — it was almost as good as earning the Lavaman medal.  A nice ending to a long, fun day.

 

Stay tuned for a recap of my second Lavaman in March 2018!

https://runsistersrundotorg.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/my-hawaiian-adventure-at-the-lavaman-triathlon/

April 2016

2017 Harvest Sale at Rosedale Community Garden, Denver, CO — September 23, 2017

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2017 Harvest Sale at Rosedale Community Garden, Denver, CO — September 23, 2017

The Rosedale Community Garden Harvest Sale is on Saturday, September 23, 2017 from 9 am to 1 pm.   Featured at the sale will be organic vegetables, heirloom garlic and herbs grown in the community garden.   Fresh cut flowers, homemade jams and jellies, bakery, roasted kale chips and gently used garden books and supplies will also be for sale.

Rosedale Community Garden is one of the largest and oldest community gardens in Denver with over 100 plots.   It is located on Logan Street just south of Iliff Street and across from Harvard Gulch Recreation Center.

Tom Watson Trail and Maruca Sale — Running and Fun Shopping!

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After so many years of trying to stay in shape while juggling a family and many other demands, I finally figured out what really motivates me to get out the door.   Its not an inviting sunny day, a directive on my workout plan or the threat of a race.   Its most definitely getting together with friends and doing something fun after the workout — coffee, breakfast, beer or in today’s case, shopping at a popular biannual factory sale of fabulous, incredibly discounted handbags.   Dangle something fun in front of my nose and I’ll hit the trail for an hour in anticipation of my reward!!!

https://bouldercolorado.gov/parks-rec/tom-watson-park

Today’s carrot was shopping at Maruca’s biannual factory sale following our workout.   Our eager group of runners assembled at a home in Littleton to carpool up to Boulder for an hour run on the Tom Watson Trail.   The views of the Flatirons and Boulder reservoir were spectacular and we enjoyed lovely cool weather.   After a little bagel picnic in the park, we headed over to the Maruca headquarters to take our place in line.   Twice a year, this manufacturer of really cute handbags, totes and zipper cases holds a factory sale.   The rock bottom prices attract a long line of customers.   This was the first time I was able to go and was so excited to see all the goodies!

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Being a resourceful shopper, I dipped into the box of remnants and came home with a bag full of scraps and cording   So far, I’ve sown together some coordinating pieces and drafted some patterns to make my own pocketed zipper bags.   Tune in later for some photos of my creations!

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http://marucadesign.com/

 

Running on the East West Trail

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Sweeping Views of the Snow-capped Front Range and Pike’s Peak

I am always amazed when I have the opportunity to try a new running trail  and today was such a day.    Shari Zimmerman, a member of my running club, knew about the East West Trail in Highlands Ranch from her son who lives nearby.   And several weeks ago, when she described the beautiful mountain views and the lovely hilly trail, our group was eager to check it out.   And today was the day!

The East West Trail is tucked in the stunning Back Country neighborhood just past Mountain Vista High School on Wild Cat Reserve Parkway.   It is a soft surface trail approximately 19.5 miles long stretching from Red Stone Park to Ridgegate Parkway with future connections to Lone Tree and Parker.   We carpooled the 20-30 minutes from our homes in Littleton and Lakewood and parked at Red Tail Park just off  2674 Pemberly Avenue.   When we arrived, the park full of school children and the sun was shining.   A another warm blue-sky Spring Colorado day!    By 8:05 am, the 10 of us had hit the trail.

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http://www.douglas.co.us/documents/east-west-regional-trail-info-and-map.pdf

We knew from Shari’s description that the trail was an uphill climb for almost a mile.   And she’s wasn’t kidding!   With a pounding heart, I jogged and walked up the steep grade in about 12 minutes and at the top, was greeted with a sweeping view of the snow capped Front Range and clear views of both Pike’s Peak to the south and Mount Evans to the West.   Wow!   Vistas like this just make me love Colorado and appreciate my good fortune to live here.   After catching my breath and reading some of the trail signs, my companions and I continued on the public trail for another 20 minutes and turned around.

Along the way, there were narrow dirt paths shooting off the main trail with signs warning nonresidents to stay off  the private property.   I wondered if my sister Pam’s ls.jpg residence in Highlands Ranch would qualify her (and her guests) to use these trails?   For today, we enjoyed the wide, well maintained public trail.    On the way back, most of us were able to run a bit faster. – a real treat!   After an hour on the trail, we met back at the parking lot and all headed to Pierre Michel French Bakery  for breakfast.   What a delight to enjoy French pastries, omelets, quiches and coffee at this lovely local restaurant!

http://www.pierremichelbakery.com/

After I got home and did a little more research, I was happy to find that there is a East-West Trail Half Marathon and 10k on June 10.   I will  have spend some more time training on that big hill before I register!

https://raceroster.com/events/2017/10512/east-west-trail-half-marathon-and-10k

 

 

Falling Head First Into The Garden — The Usual Early Season Psychosis

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April is a heady time of year for me.   Passionate discussions about all aspects of gardening (in-person, on the phone, via text message), frequent visits to local nurseries, intersecting projects and conversations, early morning inspirations and a parade of dirty shoes, gloves and digging clothes littering my floors are all signs that my brain and energy are focused on one subject – THE GARDEN.   Fortunately, the days are getting longer, I have time to work on a myriad of projects and garden geeks eager to talk and share surround me at every turn.

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  • Contacted John Swain, the horticulturalist for the Denver Golf Courses and designer/planter/co-manager of the donation garden at Harvard Gulch Golf Course and passionate home gardener.   A winter has come between our last fact filled gardener conversation so we had a lot to talk about.   As always, he is a fountain of enthusiasm and information and turned me on to two important sources as well as the benefit of using lacto bacillus serum in the garden (labs for short):
  • The Unconventional Farmer:   http://theunconventionalfarmer.com/
  • Build a Soil:  https://buildasoil.com/blogs/news/8634877-gil-carandang-lactobacillus-serum-recipe
  • Labs are a workhorse of beneficial bacteria (which is edible) and has multiple applications including — speeding decomposition in the compost pile, unclogging drains, treating powdery mildew on squash plants, eliminating odor in animal bedding and most importantly,  “Improves growth of plants when applied as foliar spray and soil drench. Improves their efficiency in uptaking nutrients so naturally, growth is enhanced. With the use of these microorganisms, the nutrients you spray or drench to feed your plants become more bio-available and easily absorbable by the plants. Technically, you can say that plants do not use organic nutrients directly. Microorganisms convert organic nutrients to their inorganic constituents which the plants utilize. Utilizing microbes, you will notice better plant growth and health.”   -The Unconvential Farmer.
  • Labs recipe:  I mixed myself up a batch and its still incubating.   Its easy to make and the recipe can be viewed on the link about from the Build a Soil website.   Basically, you wash rice and take the water and fill a Ball jar about 75% full and cover with a paper towel — make sure air can get in.   Store it on top of the refrigerator and after a few days, the liquid will separate.   Siphon off the center layer adding 1 part serum to 10 parts milk and put in another container, cover tightly and let sit for another few days.   Once curds appear, you can strain the liquid with a cheesecloth (the curds can be fried up and eaten).    You add 1 part serum to 20 parts water to spray in the garden.   Store in the frig or add molasses to store at room temperature.  Stable for about a year.

Garden Hacks

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  • Strawberries and asparagus grow happily together; plan to add strawberries to my new planted asparagus patch
  • Used my mole cages to sift compost into my cold frames
  • Sprinkle carrot and beet seeds together every few weeks to have a continuous crop
  • Marijuana growers have to dispose of growing mix are harvesting the plants; the vermiculate and soil less mix is great mixed into raised beds and helps lighten the soil
  • Dryer lint can be put in the compost pile
  • I used paint stirrers for marking seeds and plants.   Pick them up for free every time I stop at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Progress at Rosedale Garden – my 19th year in this community garden!IMG_9438

  • Planted purple and green asparagus in two 8 inch deep trenches this week; once sprouted will cover with 3 inches of dirt
  • Peas planted on March 15 finally sprouted, planted a third row on April 7
  • Prepped more beds and mapped out where everything is going
  • Seeded pumpkin bed with winter wheat; won’t be planting there for two months
  • Garlic planted in frozen soil in late December is up and growing; looks like its going to make it!
  • Susan has been making videos of me at the garden and I am learning how to edit them!

Opening up the St. Philip Donation Garden

  • Scheduled a work day for this Sunday to get started prepping the beds at St. Philip.
  • One volunteer came and we cleaned up two beds, added fresh compost and planted peas, onions and a variety of cold crops.   Watered and talked about plans.
  • Three plots are spoken for with another two gals potentially interested in volunteering in the donation beds.
  • This is our third year and I’m sorry that I’ve lost my partner of the first two years, Lerae Schnickel to another church ministry.   She was great to work with and its hard to move forward without her support.

Helping at a Jovial Gardens Neighborhood ProjectIMG_9480

  • Jovial Gardens is a really cool Denver-based organization that helps build gardens in neighborhoods.   One of their goals is to decrease food scarcity in the urban environment and  grow food for local food banks.  The group originally started in Edgewater, a suburb on Denver, and organized gardens in more than 40 yards in the neighborhood.   https://jovialconcepts.org/about-us/
  • My friend and master gardener, Teri Connelly is working with Jovial to install gardens in the yards of a number of her neighbors in Arvada.   Today, I had the chance to visit on a work day and saw work in progress in at least 6 yards.   The enthusiasm and excitement of the neighbors and volunteers was awesome.   Teri shared that in one front yard garden they harvested almost a 1000 pounds of organic produce last year.   I would love to start such a program in my neighborhood (Trailmark)  in Littleton.

Seedling Update on the Home Front

  • My experiment of seeding tomatoes and peppers for the first time has had mixed results.   All but one of the 12 varieties of tomatoes I planted has sprouted.   It took less than a week.   I learned that they need a heat mat and lights!IMG_9484.JPG
  • 8 of 11 peppers sprouted this week.   More time needed?
  • The tomatoes are very leggy but John Swain told me that they need grow lights and that its not too late for them to stabilize.
  • I only have one grow light so I’ve set it up for 14 hours alternatively above the trays of peppers, then the tomatoes.   Ordered a 4 foot rack with light from Amazon yesterday so hope it arrives this week.
  • Nothing has sprouted in the milk jugs I planted last week.  Time will tell

 

 

 

 

 

DUG Talk: Starting a Produce Donation Garden

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DUG Talk:  Starting a Produce Donation Garden

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Today, Teri Connelly and I had the honor of presenting at the 2016 Denver Urban Garden Leader Symposium.   We discussed the initiatives in our communities to grow extra produce for donation to local charities including Project Angel Heart, Jovial Gardens, the Edgewater Elementary School and the Secret Community Donation Garden for Arvada Food Bank.   You can read more about my work starting the St. Philip Community Donation last year in an article I wrote last summer.   Attached is the Power Point Presentation from our talk today.

Donation Talk to DUG Leadership 2 27 2016

It was especially exciting to have the opportunity to connect with other garden leaders about their projects and discuss how we might work together.   As always, it was wonderful to see our friends at Denver Urban Gardens and enjoy the news about their new logo, the addition of more gardens, more programming and plans for the future.   I feel incredibly fortunate to be a member of one of the oldest community gardens in Denver (Rosedale) and to have benefited from the wonderful opportunities offered by Denver Urban Gardens — most notably, the Master Community Gardener Program.

After nearly 20 years as a community gardener, I have learned much about gardening in our arid state of Colorado and can finally count on an ample harvest each summer.  I am committed to growing healthy organic food for my family and to sharing this wealth with others less fortunate.   I hope that you will consider sharing the extra produce in your garden with local food pantries and others who need access to good food.

 

 

Crafting with Birdhouse Gourds

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Last year’s dried gourd next to the newly harvested one.

Inspired by our garden neighbor Marilynn who grows birdhouse gourds for Earthlinks, my garden partners and I started growing them several years ago.   We found that these gourds are easy to grow with prolific vines that produce close to a dozen study green fruits every September.   After harvesting the crop each autumn, we divide the haul and suspend them with twine to dry from a kitchen pot rack or the ends of curtain rods.   This drying process takes at least six months, sometimes more.   Fast forward several years and we’ve amassed quite a collection of hollow brown gourds.   So this year, we finally got a date on the calendar to turn these garden treasures into art.   We were especially fortunate that our newest partner on the garden team, Suzanne Buntrock, took the time to do some research about paint, design and construction before our long anticipated get together.

Susan, Suzanne and her daughter Clare and I gathered at the kitchen table with the pile of dried gourds and various paints, tempera and acrylic.   After my husband Dave graciously agreed to drill out the holes – a 1 inch round one in the side and a small one for drainage on the bottom, we proceeded to remove the seeds and dried membrane from the gourds and saved most of the seeds.    We wondered if these seeds would produce the same gourd next season or had they cross pollinated with another species — something to research this winter.

After laying down newspaper, setting up paints and brushes and checking design ideas on Pinterest, we embarked on our artistic adventure.   Suzanne and my son Dylan tried various tempera paints but found after it dried a bit that the paint starting flaking off.   Susan and I worked with acrylic paints and found that the paint seemed to stay on better.   We had read that the final step should be a layer of polyurethane to protect the gourd from the elements.   Unfortunately, even the addition of this layer did not prevent the tempera paint from flaking off.   In the end, we got the project rolling and although some of us still need to add detail to the solid first coat on our gourds, we made some pretty cool birdhouses.   Here are some highlights of our creative afternoon.

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Images of the 2015 Annual Rosedale Community Garden Sale

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Images of the 2015 Annual Rosedale Community Garden Sale
Susan MacNicholas is the Sale Coordinator

Susan MacNicholas is the Sale Coordinator

Each summer, Rosedale Community Garden hosts a big harvest and yard sale in late August which is often followed by another harvest sale in late September.   This summer, the two sales were consolidated into one big event on September 19.   The event brings together Rosedale’s large community of gardeners and showcases what we do best — organic vegetables, fresh cut flowers, heirloom garlic, children’s activities, yard sale treasures, bakery, jams and booths featuring jewelry, Earthlinks and local crafts.   Kudos go to this year’s organizer, Susan MacNicholas, for successfully bringing together many diverse elements and people.    What a great day!   The photos I share capture the essence of this beloved community event.

Friday Night Tagging Party

This event enables gardeners to drop off their yard sale items the afternoon/evening before the sale and brings together a team to sort and tag in preparation for the next day.  Having the opportunity to sort through the merchandise, enjoy good company and pizza and beer on a pleasant night in the garden is incentive for many to turn up to help.

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Sale Day

On this brisk sunny autumn morning, the crews started to assemble at 7 and by 9 am, the tables, tents, merchandise and volunteers were all set up and ready for business.   The day was perfect with sunshine and steadily warming temps and a steady stream of neighborhood customers.   By 2 pm, the ARC truck arrived to pick up the spare yard sale items and the the break down crew was busy putting everything away.

Dave Conant, Emeritus leader of Rosedale Garden and founder of our Project Angel Heart donation program.

Dave Conant, Emeritus leader of Rosedale Garden and founder of our Project Angel Heart donation program.

Dave posing next to a hoop house for sale.

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