Monday, January 09, 2012

KLT - MacDonald Conservation Area

Toby promised himself to take more pictures this year, so yesterday I suggested we go hiking and photographing the MacDonald Conservation Area, one of the Kennebec Land Trust properties that is just a mile from our house. Today, as usual, I got caught up in chores and forgot about hiking/taking pictures until Toby reminded me (gently, of course). I'm so glad he did!
I've been wanting to walk these trails for a while now. Today was perfect: crisp clear January air with scattered clouds and plenty of sunshine, little to no snow on the ground which made for an easy walk over the easy-to-moderate trails, good company, and no need to watch the clock or rush our way through. It took us a couple of unhurried hours to work our way through a variety of woodland settings and take a few minutes to snap photographs.
We saw a hairy woodpecker on a paper birch, turkey and rabbit tracks crossing over a thin layer of snow, and dry leaf litter that looked tousled by turkeys. We saw steep rugged terrain covered in moderately mature forest, regenerating woodlands on flattened ground suggesting old hay fields, lone wolf pines surrounded by pole-sized stands in what may have once been pasture land, and a monoculture of tall white pines near an old homestead.

We found an abandoned cellar hole of a house and a barn foundation that mark the location of a second homestead, and at the top of a nearby hill we walked through a cemetery scattered with markers of various sizes, shapes, and stone. We heard creaking branches, tapping woodpecker, gurgling brook, whispery breezes, and the sound of our feet crunching over crusty snow and dry twigs. Toby took a lot of pictures (and I took a few myself), and we had a great day.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Crusty Finish to 2011

"Periods of rain and freezing rain... winds light and variable" - that's the forecast for us this last day of 2011. I can see crusty slush covering the roof outside my window even as water drips from the slush melting off the roof above. The stone walkway and hard surfaces in the perennial garden are coated with a thin and uninviting film of slipperiness.
The hemlocks, firs, and pines droop their boughs toward the russet and brown stalks of fern and dried leaf litter poking up through patches of snow and slush below. The ice on the vernal pool - just visible through the barren oak, ash, and red maple trunks - is degrading to slush itself, taking on a smoky gray hue with a sheen of olive green.
Along the trails through the property are ice droplets hanging delicately from the tips of paper thin beech leaves. When the sun breaks through the overcast layer of clouds, the ice drops will shine in brilliance for a few moments before the warmth melts them into a steady stream of drip drip drip to mark the end of this crusty, slushy, sometimes slippery but gloriously wonderful old year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

My worst nightmare...

It's no fun seeing someone you love sustain an injury. It's even less fun when it's your own child, no matter how old they are. The worst nightmare, however, is being responsible for your grandchild getting hurt while you're in charge of their welfare. We got through it with little more than a short bout of profuse bleeding, a nasty gash, and hurt feelings - and I couldn't help but be thankful it hadn't turned out any worse. Still, I wasn't prepared for the sleepless night that followed during which I kept waking up from nightmares of falls, toxic foods, and uncontrolled events involving people I love. I was happy (and tired) when the next morning brought smiles and sunshine to replace the tears and ice packs of the previous evening. Outside in the fresh air we walked through the wooded paths, climbed on stone walls, and crunched through thin ice to create happier memories of a visit to grammah's house.

It's easy to forget how quickly accidents can happen, and hard to accept that no matter how many precautions you take, they can still occur. It's also difficult to "let go" and not be over-protective, and to balance safety with having fun. I was wrong when I thought life would be easier when I got older, or that being a grandparent would be easier than parenting.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Ladies

I'm so thankful for the ladies in my life who inspire me, encourage me, and allow me to be part of their support system. Those pictured here are at the top of my list - my daughter, my sisters, 'adopted' sister, and my mom along with my niece and her daughter. Equally important, but not pictured are my mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Other special women include my step daughter, sisters-in-law, nieces, and granddaughters as well as former in-laws who I still consider to be my family. It's a cold and lonely road traveling through life without someone to talk with and bounce ideas off, and I appreciate them all - they help me be a better person.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Winter Bouquets

In keeping with the festive mood of the season, this afternoon I went walking through the woods and roadsides in search of all things green and red. Luckily, I'd scoped out a good supply of bright red winterberries because there's not much else with color this time of year. We're fortunate to have a variety of conifers on the property so it was easy to get lots of greens in the form of hemlock, balsam fir, and spruce boughs. Clubmoss and firmoss are also plentiful and pretty. While walking around, I collected dried seed pods of blue flags, green horsetails, red twigs, brown once-fertile-blades of sensitive fern, and golden stalks of grass to add color and texture to our holiday arrangements.

Friday, December 16, 2011

O' Christmas Tree...

'Tis the season to rock the house for the holidays! My holiday season got kicked off last week with a Colorado visit with Bryan, Erin, and the pups - watching Bryan run the train beneath the lit tree, walking through the garden of lights, shopping in downtown Fort Collins, and listening to holiday music really put me in the mood - leaving them poked a little hole in my bubble of holiday spirit though. Luckily I bounce back quickly, especially when I have a purposeful agenda centered on family and friends!

The first order of business was to do some shopping (no, you can't see) and do some baking (is your mouth watering?). Here are a few examples of my efforts in the kitchen: two variations of date balls - one regular and one soaked in rum; sugar cookies dressed as trees; peanut butter cup cookies that have been a recent hit; and gingerbread houses in cookie-size portions rather than the large display that gets stale unless eaten immediately.
Next came the choosing of the Christmas tree. This beauty is probably the best tree ever cut off this property. It's full, healthy, and almost 15' tall - reaching to the ceiling in front of the two-story wall of south-facing windows. Stringing lights and placing ornaments necessitates an assemblage of ladders including an extension ladder and three stepladders - an 8', a 6', and a little two-stepper.
Here's our tree decorated with over 1000 lights and a box of ornaments collected over the years. The holiday season is off to a good start!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lory State Park

Sunday brought another day of clear skies and, though the morning started out quite cold the afternoon was warm enough to shed our jackets as we hiked the valley trail loop at Lory State Park. The brilliant blue overhead contrasted sharply with the russet uplifted bedrock formations that gave way to subtle gray and brown tones on hillsides and then the snow covered valley below.
Dried remnants of grasses and wildflowers poked up around patches of shrubs and occasional pines in the open area that extends all the way to Horsetooth Rock.
The warm sun and dry air worked their magic on cold snowpack to leave textured crystals that caught the light.

Fences and barbed wire are common sights along the trails.

In addition to the traditional fence posts and barbed wire, there are occasional sections of old-fashioned wooden fences - these seem to be randomly placed.
The trails we used were easy to navigate, covering gently rolling slopes with well marked paths. Sturdy footbridges have been constructed, one by a Boy Scout troop, to cross over drainages. The trickiest part of the trails was the slick mud where snow has melted and the cold ground hasn't allowed water to drain very deep. One of the many nice things about this natural area is that it's so close to Fort Collins.