Tag Archives: Colorado

The Ice Saints of May

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IMG_9717I was not surprised when a Spring snowstorm blew through Colorado on May 18 and 19th.  This happens almost every Spring despite weeks of lovely sunny warm weather.   Because of this, I never ever plant any warm season crops until Memorial Day weekend.   On Wednesday night May 17, temperatures dropped below freezing and the next day snow fell heavily in the city and more in the mountains.   In the preceding weeks, the sun had been shining and we’d all been wearing shorts and digging in our gardens.   Many eager gardeners who’d  been seduced into filling their pots with Mother’s Day flowers and seeding their plots with warm season crops, had to scramble to protect everything from the impeding storm.

In the days before weather forecasts on radio and TV, gardeners of northern Europe would look to the feast days of the “ice saints” as a guide to planting their gardens.   I was alerted to this weather folklore by my German friend who is familiar with this historical planting guideline.   I did some research and from “Marlies Creative Universe”,

http://mcuniverse.com/2010/what-are-the-ice-saints/    I found this reference:

The “Ice Saints” Pankratius, Servatius and Bonifatius as well as the “Cold Sophie” are known for a cooling trend in the weather between 12th and 15th of May. For centuries this well-known rule had many gardeners align their plantings after it. Observations of weather patterns over many years have shown, however, that a drop in temperature occurs frequently only around May 20. Are the “Ice Saints” not in tune anymore? The mystery solution is found in the history of our calendar system: Pope Gregory VIII arranged a calendar reform in 1582, whereby the differences of the Julian calendar could be corrected to the sun year to a large extent. The day of the “Cold Sophie” (May 15) was the date in the old calendar and corresponds to today’s May 22. Therefore the effects of the “Ice Saints” is felt in the timespan of May 19-22. Sensitive transplants should only be put in the garden beds after this date.

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Being of Irish descent, I was not aware of this folklore but from personal experience, I know that planting warm season crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, pumpkins, corn, cucumber and many flowers is not safe until late May.   When the storm arrived this year, I knew the feast of the ice saints were here.   No matter what the weatherman says, no planting until after the feasts of the ice saints!

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Can I Show You My Jugs and My Rack?

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Can I Show You My Jugs and My Rack?

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Honestly, it’s not as bad as it sounds.   I am referring to the milk jugs and the new light rack I am using to grow seedlings for my garden.  When I found myself asking my garden pals this weekend if they wanted to see my jugs and my rack, I got a few laughs but I didn’t realize how totally funny it sounded until a male garden pal laughed and said, “Yes, I want to see your jugs and your rack!”   Oh, geez, this is a  slightly dirty spin on my garden projects — which are dirty to begin with!

The exciting news is that my experiment of using milk jugs as little greenhouses has sprouted success.   Thank you to hometown Wisconsin friend Maggie Strunk Leyes for inspiring me.   Here are two jugs with little sprouts inside:

I am also stoked about my new grow lights which arrived via Amazon last week and have been shining on my happy crop of tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.   The green glow of the lights has prompted some to ask if I’m growing marijuana plants.   But, although it is legal to grow 6 pot plants per adult in Colorado, I am not growing weed.

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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

 

 

Heat Mats, Seeding Trays and Milk Jugs: Sowing Spring Crops

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Heat Mats, Seeding Trays and Milk Jugs: Sowing Spring Crops

IMG_9147In between the last of the winter snows and the increasingly balmy days of Spring, I am a frenzy of activity – enjoying the season’s last ski days, March break with my kids and preparing to garden.  By early March, I am staging my seed packets of cold crops for planting, cleaning up the winter debris blowing around my yard and making the season’s first trips up to my community garden in downtown Denver.   St. Patrick’s Day approaches as the optimal plant date for peas and I often find myself shoveling aside snow and chiseling away at frozen earth to bury the precious seeds on or near that date.   This year, Colorado had an unexpectedly warm and dry March so my garden partner and I were able to turn our beds and slide the pea seeds in with ease – a welcome surprise!

Seed Trays and Heat Mats

IMG_9376On the home front, I planned to start seeds after taking a few years off.   In the past, I grew a ton of seedlings but found that transplanting them brought mixed results.   Was it really worth it?, I asked myself.  Generally, I find that direct sowing works best for most of my crops – greens, broccoli, cucumbers, pumpkins, basil, flowers, squashes, gourds, beans, etc.   But since I still have to purchase hot weather plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, I thought about seeding them at home.   The only sticking points for me is the fact that these hot weather plants need special conditions to germinate; namely warm soil and more light.   Armed with a heat pad, a sunny window and packets of a dozen varieties of tomatoes and peppers, I decided to go for it.

So on March 24, I planted two trays of peppers and tomatoes; one with a heat mat and the17309369_10210917844015519_6103681504834658385_n other without.  Most of the varieties I planted need to be started 6-10 weeks before transplanting into the garden when the soil temperatures rise above 60 degrees at night. No matter that the average last frost date is generally considered to be May 15 in Denver, I don’t ever put in my tender crops before May 22 or Memorial Day weekend.    And even then, I’ll use Walls of Water just to make sure.  I can tell you stories about getting the plants all in on May 20 and an ice storm arriving that night.   Better safe than sorry.   By March 29, the tomatoes on the heat mat had sprouted but none of the peppers in the cold tray.    Was the soil not warm enough to germinate or do the peppers take longer?   Just to be safe, I found an inexpensive heat mat at Walmart ($24.99) and set it up.   As of today, March 31, no peppers have sprouted.   We’ll see what happens this week.

Milk Jugs Make Green Houses

After posting a photo of my seed trays on Facebook, my friend Maggie Leyes shared that she starts all her seeds in milk jugs and sets them outside.    She shared a link to a website with instructions which I promptly checked out:

http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2012/01/what-to-winter-sow-and-when/

I was surprised to find that even tender crops stay warm and toasty in the milk jugs (even when covered in snow) so I thought I’d give it a try.   Following directions, I cut the milk jugs almost in half leaving a 2 inch “hinge”, punched some drainage holes in the bottom, and added soil less potting mix.   I put two varieties of seeds in each “greenhouse”, taped the pieces back together, labeled the jugs, nestled them in a recycled lid and placed them outside in the rain and impending snow.  We’ll see what happens!IMG_9375

 

 

End of Season Report: Brothers’ Garden Competition, 2016

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End of Season Report:   Brothers’ Garden Competition, 2016
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Getting the raised bed ready for planting                                                              .

Its been ten months since Dylan (15) and Tristan (12) started their garden competition at the end of May 2016.   The original goal was a competition to grow the most produce.   As the summer progressed, the goal changed to a more simple one — take care of the garden and see what happens.  The gardens grew all summer (with a little watering help from me) and produced a bounty of produce.   Quite unexpectedly, the one who had not gardened much before shined and worked hard to plant a variety of items and tended carefully to his crops.   The other more experienced gardener who had planted his own plot for six years in my community garden was less than attentive and eventually lost interest in his garden.   Personally, I chalk up his disinterest to adolescence.   He going through some changes and one day, will be back to himself again.

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Tristan planted beet seeds in August.

When I left Colorado in late October for a month in Alaska, the gardens were still producing.   We were still harvesting beets, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers and more.  When I returned in December, the frost had frozen the plants in their tracks.   Each bed remained buried beneath snow and ice for months.   With the recent thaw and sunny spring days of March, I took the time to clean up Dylan’s abandoned 4 X 4 plot and was surprised to find several pounds of carrots growing beneath the soil.  Woohoo!!

 

Here are come pictures of the gardens throughout the summer:

June 4 2016   Just Planted

July 4, 2016   Seeds Sprouting

August 13  The Harvest is Coming In

September 4   More Harvest

As the new garden season begins, I plan to rally my boys to try again and maybe this time, get in some Spring cold crops.   We’re off to Spring Break in MOAB in a few days with many hours to talk and and plan. My fingers are crossed that when we return, they’ll turn some dirt and get started again!

Spring Flowers, Bear Tracks and Running (Fast!) at Hildebrand Ranch Park.

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Spring Flowers, Bear Tracks and Running (Fast!)  at Hildebrand Ranch Park.

This morning I met my running group for a lovely sunny Spring run on the Two Brands Trail in Hildebrand Ranch Park.   This newer trail in Littleton is accessible from my neighborhood of  Trailmark and from a parking lot on Deer Creek Canyon Road.    This time of year,  the grasses are low and the rattlesnakes  have not yet appeared in the relatively cool weather.   A perfect time to hike, run or bike this five mile loop!  Today’s idyllic four mile jog brought to mind another similar expedition in June 2015 which followed a Seattle-like rainy May in Colorado.   That morning, we reveled in the sea of colorful wildflowers and ambled much of the way taking photos and posing  — until we saw the bear tracks on the trail.

Fortunately, we didn’t see the bear tracks until after we turned around.   We’d run about 30 minutes out and had turned around to head back down the hill to our cars. I was the first to see the bear paw prints in the dirt and alerted the others.   Geez — there was bear somewhere nearby and it had trotted along the same path we had run on for about a quarter of a mile!   We knew the bear probably wouldn’t bother us as long as we were noisy.   So we talked and concentrated on finishing our run — fast!   We all laughed how normally we might slowing down on the last leg of a run but not today.    Being one of the slower runners in the bunch, I focused on keeping a brisk pace and not being the last one.  Nothing like a bear to motivate a slow jogger!

Whew!   We all made it to our cars safely with a load of beautiful photos and a lot to talk about at our post-run coffee klatch!

Kayak Swim Patrol at the Boulder Ironman 2015

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Kayak Swim Patrol at the Boulder Ironman 2015
Getting ready to push off for the race start.

Ready to push off for the race start.

At this point in my life, the closest I will ever get to doing an Ironman is by volunteering at one. Having done triathlons on a smaller scale for almost 20 years and even participating on several triathlons teams, I can relate to the euphoria of crossing the finish line after months of hard training.   That feeling of accomplishment is something I love and at times, tempts me into actually considering putting the Ironman on my bucket list.   But, after a few minutes of dreaming about it, I come to my senses and realize that its a crazy thought.   When I think about the necessary year of intense training, the potentail injuries, the family support and missed obligations, the expense and the actual task of covering 140.1 miles in the water, on the bike and on foot, it all seems like too much.   On the other hand, watching my friends and others  complete this goal  gives me that  euphoric feeling — especially when I watch athletes cross the finish line close to the 17 hour deadline.

Megan and I suiting up with life jackets for the kayak swim patrol.

Megan and I suiting up for the kayak swim patrol.

Eager to experience  the adrenaline rush of seeing thousands of determined athletes attempt to reach the extraordinary goal of finshing an Ironman, I decided to add my name to the list of volunteers.   Inspired by my daughter who told me about the openings on the kayak swim patrol (a role I filled twice at the Ironman Wisconsin), I signed on too.    As a member of the swim patrol, our job is to patrol the swim course as the athletes embark on the first portion of the race — a 2.4 mile swim.

The Boulder Reservoir at 5:30 am. We are waiting for our orientation before we head out for the 6:25 am race start.

The Boulder Reservoir at 5:30 am. We are waiting for our orientation before we head out for the 6:25 am race start.

In preparation for the race, those of us with boats were asked to bring them up to Boulder Reservoir two days early for inspection and drop off.    On Friday afternoon, I made the 45 minute drive up with two kayaks — one for me and one for Megan — and to pick up the coveted parking pass which would give us early morning access to the Rez parking lot.    Even the athletes would have to bus to the start line of the swim so I was happy to be able to drive right up to water’s edge and leave once my job was completed.    With our shifts starting at 5 am, Megan and I headed up to Boulder the night before the race to stay with my friend Patty.    Up by 4:15 am, our lack of sleep was rewarded with fewer miles to drive, little traffic and an early arrival to our pre-sunrise shift.

Megan paddling to her station on the swim course.

Megan paddling to her station on the swim course.

We assembled with dozens of other volunteers near the lifeguard headquarters on the beach and scrambled in the dark for our volunteer t-shirts, snacks and water bottles.    Rows of kayaks, paddle boards, jet skiis,  piles of paddles, life jackets and more lined the quiet beach.   As the glimmer of the new day began to appear on the horizon, an official Ironman captain greeted the group for a brief orientaiton.   He underscored the importance of our role in helping athletes in trouble and identifying any potential problems.    We lined up for whisltes, extra flotation devices, warning flags and jerseys with the number of our locations on the swim course.    Megan and I dragged our boats from the secure storage area and prepared to embark on our mission.

Working the "hot zone" at buoy #2, I had a perfect view of the Boulder Flatirons.

Working the “hot zone” at buoy #2, I had a perfect view of the Boulder Flatirons.

Having experienced the thrill of working in the “hot zone” at the Ironman Wisconsin — the beginning and the end of the race — I picked the yellow jersey for Zone 2; an area just 500 yards from race start.   Once in the water, I realized that the race start was clear across the reservoir and started the mile long paddle to my position.    When I could hear the inspirational tunes blaring at race start, I knew I was close.   After positioning myself with a view of majestic Flatirons in the distance, I paused to take a few photos and waited for the race to start. Once the horn sounded and the splash of hundreds competitors hitting the water commenced,  I knew the water would soon vibrate with the movement of thousands of athletes.

Within minutes the fastest swimmers reached my zone and the calm waters turned into a frenzy. Fortunately, the weather conditions were close to perfect with few clouds in the sky, warm water and air and almost no wind.   But even with perfect conditions, there are inevitably problems with so many swimmers getting in the water at once —   shoving, kicking, gasping for air, panic as tight wetsuits choke precious breaths and also, the glare of the sun rising in the East — the direction of the first leg of the swim. Within 10 minutes, the first swimmers started to pass buoy #2.   As the cluster of swimmers thickened, panicked ahtletes started to signal to me for help and some even grabbed onto the boat.   For the most part, I was able to communicate to the swimmers that I wanted them to grab the bow of the kayak.  Several times, however, desperate swimmers tried to climb on top of my boat and nearly tipped me and my kayak into the churning waters.   I was less worried about getting dunked  than how I’d get myself back into  the kayak.   Fortunately, I was never had to face with this dilemna. In an effort to  reassure stranded swimmers I said things like ” How are you?  You’re doing to be fine.   Relax, hold on, catch your breath.  You’ve got this!”  Sometimes, they stopped because of a tight wetsuit restricting their breath, other times because they’d gotten the wind knocked out them from a kick or a shove.   Of the 20 or so swimmers who grabbed ahold of my kayak, all of them were men and all were able to get their wits about them to continue.

After the majority of swimmers had passed the 500 meter mark, I was directed to head to a new position on the race course.   IMG_9455Paddling a mile across the reservoir to another leg of the swim course, I enjoyed the sweeping views of the front range and the perfectly calm waters.    Once I reached my destination, I found  myself lined up with a fleet of extra kayaks and paddleboarders.   The frenzy of the “hot zone” was over and I was able to sit back and cheer the swimmers on.    I saw several friends swim by and started to calculate how much time was left, the distance to the finish line and whether the stragglers would  make it.   I also spotted a strong swimmer pulling a little boat carrying a young handicapped man.   I wondered if this was the father son duo made famous in the news.    If it so, I was honored to witness this endearing testiment of fatherly devotion in person.    With 20 minutes left in the race, a boat captain signaled that I could head to shore if I wished.   But, as I made my move, I was lured by he roar of the music at the swim finish and by the joyous congratulations broadcast to swimmers as they completed this leg of the race.   I couldn’t help but linger on the sidelines to vicariously experience one  euphoric moment after another.   And as so many of we Ironman addicts can attest, the most exciting moments happen in the last few minutes  of each stage of the race.    When the last few competitors  are collectively cheered, conjoled and willed by a fleet of enthusiastic volunteers, often with seconds to spare, to victoriously cross the finish line and keep their spot in the race.   Woohoo!!  Woohoo!! Woohoo!!

IMG_9471 By 9 am, Megan and I had pulled our boats ashore and were ready to pack up.  Playing a key role in the pivotal journey of so many was as awesome as was having the opportunity to be on the water at sunrise.   Can’t wait to do it again!!

Alpine Flowers at their Peak — Hiking Upper Piney Lake Trail, Colorado

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Alpine Flowers at their Peak — Hiking Upper Piney Lake Trail, Colorado

1610975_1611224589116975_4121019414959504395_nJuly 14, 2015.   My husband and I recently had a rare opportunity to enjoy a week in the mountains sans bambini.   Our last interval of more than two days without children  happened more than three years ago!!    With almost a week to ourselves, we decided to head up to the Beaver Creek/Avon area of Colorado to relax, hike, read, explore the surrounding mountain towns and sample local microbrews.    One day, Dave suggested we try a hike at Piney River Ranch, a resort situated in the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness and only accessed by driving up an 11 mile long bumpy unpaved road.   With perfect sunny warm temps on our side, we headed to Vail Exit 176, turned up Red Sandstonre Road and followed it up to Lost Lake Road.   After nearly an hour of winding and bouncing, we arrived at the parking lot of Piney River Ranch — a seemingly remote location buzzing with tourists just like us.

IMG_9065We parked just steps away from the entrance to the Ranch, jumped out and walked toward the quaint resort dotted by cabins, yurts, a gift shop/resturant and a few other small buildings.   We were immediately impressed by the beautiful little lake rimmed by majestic mountains, blue skies, aspen covered foothills and clusters of colorful wildflowers dotting the grassy fields and meadows beyond   After passing a little playground and a horse picturesquely lassoed to a ponderosa pine, we were drawn to the canoes tied to a little dock jutting out into the quiet waters.   The $30/hr canoe rental made us think twice and we wondered whether we could bring up our own boats someday.IMG_9073

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We then hiked up to the lodge headquarters to pick up a brochure and check out the accomodations.  After popping our heads into the adjoining dining hall with ribs posted as the dinner special, we reviewed the map and set out on the seemingly flat dirt path known as the Upper Piney River Trail.    The narrow path quickly left the resort property and headed out toward the tops of the Gore Mountain Range in the distance.   We heard that there is a waterfall about two miles out and headed in that direction.   Along the way, the plethora of blooming wildflowers was amazing and pause for much photo taking.   I cannot imagine a more beautiful mountain hike or a more perfect day to do it.IMG_9091 IMG_9089 IMG_9083 IMG_9108 IMG_9095

After returning from an hour and a half on the trail, we decided to have lunch  at the rustic pine resort lodge.   For such a remote location, the place was filled with other hikers, travelers and large family groups — quite fun to observe while waiting for the delicious burger we split.   The summer breezes blowing through the open windows and double deck doors punctuated by the laughter of children and their families enhanced our dining experience.   We both thought about how awesome it would be to vacation up here with our children one day    What fun we would have boating on the lake, fishing, hiking and looking at the stars.    After lunch, we relaxed in a set of Adirondeck chairs overlooking the peaceful lake shores and the mountain vistas.   What a great day!!!IMG_9116

The picture taking was breathtaking and voluminous.   Here, I share many photos —  as much for you as for me.   Enjoy!!!IMG_9078 IMG_9080IMG_9113 IMG_9115 IMG_9108 IMG_9107 IMG_9106 IMG_9103 IMG_9102

 

 

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New Butterfly Pavilion at Denver Botanic Gardens

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New Butterfly Pavilion at Denver Botanic Gardens

IMG_4956[1]During my first trip down to the Chatfield CSA  in late May to pick up my vegetable share,  I was surprised and excited to see a new structure housing a butterfly garden at the Littleton location of the Denver Botanic Gardens.   Curious to visit this new attraction, I rounded up my boys, a friend and headed down to check it out   As a member, of the Denver Botanic Gardens, we paid the member admission price — $2 per child and $4 for adults.   Because the new exhibit was currently low on butterflies, we were given wristbands for another visit.

As we entered the double doors of the pavilion, we were greeted by two young but knowledgeable butterfly keepers.    The interior of the plastic covered dome revealed a beautiful flower garden, a nice path encircling the perimeter, informative exhibit signs and several monarch butterflies flying around.   It was very interesting to be able to look through the opaque walls at the mountains, trees and clouds outside.

The boys were particularly interested to compare two specimens of a male and female monarch and learn to discern the difference.   They also spent some time examining the shed housing the chrysalis — at 100 — due to hatch in the next week.   The butterfly keeper, a recent Biology graduate of CSU, shared many interesting details about the development of the Butterfly Pavilion and the life cycle of the butterfly.

This wonderful exhibit is a must-do for families.    The new exhibit opened in May and will be open through September.   Although touring the Butterfly Pavilion is short, the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield offers a multitude of opportunities for a fun outing —  hiking, a historic farm, a wooded play ground and vast array of naturalized gardens, a riparian area and much much more.IMG_4957[1] IMG_4961[1] IMG_4963[1] IMG_4960[1]