Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tale of the Disappearing Tree

One of John's assignments this summer is to remove Russian olive trees. Why? you ask. The tree is native to western Asia and was introduced into the central and western area of the United States. Today it is defined as an invasive species:

The Russian olive, with its tendency to spread quickly, is a menace to riparian woodlands, threatening strong, native species like cottonwood and willow trees. They are responsible for out competing a lot of native vegetation, interfering with natural plant succession and nutrient cycling and choking irrigation canals and marshlands in the western United States. This displacement of native plant species and critical wildlife habitats has undoubtedly affected native birds and other species. The heavy, dense shade of the Russian olive is also responsible for blocking out sunlight needed for other trees and plants in fields, open woodlands and forest edges. Overall, areas dominated by the Russian olive do not represent a high concentration of wildlife. (http://www.columbia.edu/itc/cerc/danoff-burg/invasion_bio/inv_spp_summ/Elaeagnus_angustifolia.htm)

What does it take to remove a tree? This is what it looked like as John began working Monday.

The nearby wildlife pond is surrounded by these trees.

John used a chain saw to removed branches and hauled them away from the tree.

If the branches were fairly large, he had to cut them up.

Slowly, the olive tree is cut up and pulled out, revealing a small willow tree and a cedar tree.

All the branches are loaded into a dump truck.

Five truck-loads of branches were hauled to the dump from the one tree and one more load of branches must be picked up Saturday.

Almost done! The original large tree has been removed. Another tree behind there is still standing. The small Russian olive on the left was removed before the end of the day.

And then there is the stump to remove.

It takes an awful lot of work to make just one tree disappear.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hot HOT!

Did I say hot? We wonder why we bothered to come to Colorado from Arizona. Today it only reached 96 here at Lathrop. The last 3 days or so it has hit 100 or 101. Is that much different from 110 in Phoenix?

We have two air conditioners, so it is pretty cool in the RV. And if you can stay out of the sun, with the breeze (or is it wind?) that we have had for days, it isn't unbearable. But it sure is hot to work outside in the sun. Yesterday John was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, jeans and chaps to cut down Russian Olive trees with a chain saw. That was hot!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Darn and Double Darn

A month ago I was climbing up into our pickup truck when I felt a “pop” in my right knee. I hobbled around that day. The next day I bought an elastic knee brace and that seemed to help. Two weeks later, I felt almost well, so I went running with John that morning. Not a good idea.

For the next few days, it seemed to get a little better. A week ago I walked a lot, helping with the work here at Lathrop. But by Wednesday, I could hardly put any weight on it. That meant a trip to the doctor’s office was in order. The Spanish Peaks Family Clinic and Regional Health Center are right across the highway from Lathrop. I was able to get an appointment with a nurse practitioner the same morning.

Now, a week and a half later, I have had an X-ray and an MRI. I have a torn meniscus. I am being referred to a sports orthopedic clinic in Colorado Springs and surgery is most likely on the agenda.

This sure puts a crimp in my running. No, it has brought it to a screeching halt. How long it will be before I can resume my exercise routine?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pet Peeves

As volunteers in a number of state parks, we often find ourselves picking up litter left by others. What do we find that drives us nuts? To start with, there are the clear plastic straw covers from juice boxes and bags. I don't think anyone properly disposes them...they just drop them on the ground.

The next item is the foil seal from the top to fish powerbait. Anglers must pull that off the bottle, drop in on the ground and bait their hooks. Do you think the fish will get away if they take the time to put it in their pocket to place in the trash can later? Honestly, we think many anglers are just lazy and slobs. They leave empty fish hook packages, empty foam worm boxes, tangled fishing line, and empty snack bags wherever they happen to be fishing.

Beer bottles and cans are another pet peeve--specifically the ones crushed and left on the ground, those deposited upside down in the yucca plant right next to the trash can, broken on the rocks next to the lake, left for the next person to step on.

Two years we were in Texas state parks at Easter. There, the weather is warm enough to plan picnics. We really hated confetti-filled plastic Easter eggs! It is almost impossible to pick up the confetti with your hands or a trash grabber. And often the plastic eggs, not matter what they are filled with, are broken and we had to gather the pieces.

Many picnickers try to clean up their site, starting with tying a plastic bag to the grill or table to put their trash in. We appreciate that they then throw the bag in the trash can. But they often leave the bag ties on the grill or table and we have to untie them.

Why do people seem to think glass, aluminum, plastic and nails will burn in a campsite fire pit? Or do they just use it as the closest place to deposit trash? We (mainly John) clean those fire pits and let me tell you, they don't burn.

"Pack it in, pack it out" is the mantra for back-country camping. I wish everyone who enjoys the outdoors would follow that advice.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day

Over the Father's Day weekend, our younger son, Eric, and his family camped at Lathrop State Park so they could celebrate with us. We had a fun time. Kylie, 11, showed me the new colored wires on her braces. I think she liked the wires but wasn't very wild about the rubber bands she has to use except while eating.

Saturday evening Eric brought barbequed ribs for dinner. We enjoyed them in the yard at our trailer. We had a fun evening together while sharing good food. Since we hadn't been with them for Mother's Day or my birthday, the weekend was a combined celebration of several events. That's is why Eric and Liz fed us both dinners and one breakfast.

Sunday morning we went to their camp site in the regular campground. It was good to be able to have Holy Communion with them there. When Eric and Liz were dating and in the early years of their marriage, John was priest at the church all of us attended. We miss worshiping together, so times like this are special.

Grandson John's birthday is at the end of this week, so we gave him a gift while he was visiting.

We spent a windy afternoon on the shore of Horseshoe Lake here at Lathrop. The three guys in the family did most of the fishing.

Kylie, John and their dog Ziggy spent some time wading in the lake.

We ended the day back at their campsite, where Eric and Liz prepared a steak dinner. Yum!

What fun to have family close, at least part of the year.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

View from Above

On Friday, during our flights from Manchester, NH, to Atlanta, GA, to Denver, CO, I was impressed with the images I could see out the window. First is the city of Atlanta as we made our approach.

The patterns in the farm fields near this large river (the Mighty Mississippi?) were very interesting.

These clouds would be barely visible from the ground. And notice how different these fields look.

And what a great view of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

High School Reunion

Last weekend we attended my 50th high school reunion. I graduated in a class of 908 students in 1961 from South High School in Denver. For many reasons, I didn’t know very many of my classmates well. Outside of class time, my friendships and time revolved around my Methodist Youth Fellowship and my 4H club activities. Since graduation, I have remained in contact with only one classmate.

This is the front entrance of the school. It hasn't changed since I was there.

Thank heavens our reunion name tags had our senior high school annual photos. That helped me see if I had known someone in the past or not. Attending the reunion was more about the event and my memories of the school than about the people. I believe marking special events, whether they are graduations, funerals or reunions, is an important aspect of life. That is why we arranged our schedule this summer so we could attend.

Most of the 200 or so graduates that attended spent the time looking at name tags to see if we recognized someone, then trying to establish how we had known each other. Unfortunately, the first evening several people looked at my picture and said, “I remember you!” And all I could reply was, “Your picture looks familiar,” or “I remember your name.” Oh well. It has been 50 years.

Saturday evening at the banquet we sat with five others—three graduates and two wives. We spent most of the evening talking about our lives since high school, which made it much easier to connect.

John took this photo of me with Don, Jan and Bob.

And this one of Carole, Dick, Don and Jan. All five didn't fit in one photo, so Dan and Jan are there twice.

It was a fun evening. We also heard a talk by the current principal of South and it was amazing to learn how much the school and the student body have changed. I’ll just mention two facts—we didn’t even know what computers were in 1961 and this year they have 275 graduates, compared to our 908.

It was daunting to look around the room and realize how old we had all become in 50 years. I may look that old, but I don’t feel it. We did clean up pretty well for the event, I think.

All in all, I am glad we made the effort to attend. It was worth it. Later this summer, we will attend John’s 50th reunion. But I think I may skip the 50th college reunion in four years.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Back Home

Home--we are so glad to be back here after two weeks away. We travel more than most people we know, but we are always at home. Everything we need and almost everything we own is right here in our small home on wheels. Our clothes, our books, all our electronic gadgets, our chairs, our bed, our food.

But two weeks ago we left our home and drove to Littleton, where we spent the night with our son Eric and his family. The next day we got on an airplane (what a hassle that is) and flew to New Hampshire to spend 11 nights with our son Doug and his family when he had surgery. Friday we flew back to Colorado (did I tell you what a hassle airline travel is?) where we spent two nights enjoying family and attending my 50th high school reunion. More about all of that later.

Now we are back home. It is so much easier to pull our RV home from place to place than to pack what we need and live out of a suitcase. What do we need? What will we forget? How many items do I need to purchase in 3 oz quantities?

Did I tell you how glad we are to be home?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Doug's Home

Doug was able to come home from the hospital today, the 8th day since his surgery. His is healing well. Now the challenge is to learn how to eat and how to drink to keep his system in balance. He also needs to get his strength back.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Making Memories

In addition to visiting Doug in the hospital (he is recovering right on schedule but still has a long way to go), we have been making memories with our granddaughters, Rachal and Sami. We rarely get to spend time with them, so this is a real treat.

We watched them feed the goats next door.

And climb on the rock in their front yard.

We attended a Girl Scout Bridging Ceremony, where Sami bridged from Daisy Scout to Brownie Scout.

After receiving a flower, she walked across the bridge to this new level of scouting.

Saturday we drove to the Atlantic Ocean, first testing the water at Hampton Beach (brrrr).

Then on to Odiorne Point State Park, where one beach was very rocky--not good for getting to the water.

But another was much better, with gravel and sand that were easy to walk on.

The girls waded out, inching a little further each time.

They loved sitting in the water and letting the waves hit them. (Double click to see the movie.)

Of course, there was a stop on the playground.

John has been getting his kitty fix with their cat, Lady.

Sunday we went for a walk around a nearby pond. For a while, John, Rachal and Sami ran. Perhaps soon they can join us on our 3-mile jogs.

This is a the result of John taking a picture of Nana taking a picture of Rachal taking a picture.

The pond was mirror smooth, making for great reflections.

We ended the outing with lunch at Burger King. The desserts the girls were eating looked absolutely lucious!

Can you ask for better memories?

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Surgery Update

We came to New Hampshire to be with our older son Doug during his colon cancer surgery. That 7-hour procedure took place on Wednesday. It has been a long week, but things seem to be going well. The doctor believes she removed all of the cancer. All his internal organs were functioning as they should yesterday. He is in a lot of pain, but the doctors are working to control that. He is learning to cope with the idea of a permanent colostomy.

Today, we are taking our two granddaughters to the ocean while their mom goes to the hospital to be with Dad. We will be here to help out through Thursday.

Being a parent is a duty, responsibility and honor for the rest of our lives. I guess. We are so glad we can be here to help, but wish he didn't need this kind of help.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Flight East

Monday morning---early Monday morning--we were up (at 3 am) to leave at 4 am for Denver International Airport. We spent Sunday night at our son Eric's home, enjoying some time with him, Liz, Kylie and John. Eric drove us to DIA for the 7:05 flight, providing a parking space for our truck while we are gone and saving us a shuttle ride to catch our plane. The view out of the concourse was a foggy one.

The US Airways flight was heading town the tarmac for take-off at exactly 7:05 am. How prompt was that?

We had a layover in Philadelphia, where we had a quick lunch then hurried to the gate for the 1:50 pm flight to Manchester, NH. We shouldn't have hurried. This was the waiting area when we arrived a little before 1:20, the supposed boarding time. One flight was delayed while waiting for a crew member to arrive and the flight leaving from our gate was delayed for maintenance.

Finally, both of those flights pulled out and the waiting area improved.

Our gate was number 36, which you can see in the above picture. At 2:29 (remember the 1:50 flight time?), they posted this sign.

Thirteen minutes later (who was keeping track, do you suppose?) we started boarding and we took off about 3 pm, just over 1 hour late. This was one view out the window as we flew north. Several boats were out, enjoying the Memorial Day Holiday.

A few minutes later, we flew over New York City.

As we descended for landing in Manchester, we saw the beautiful forests and lakes of New Hampshire.

After renting a car, we spent a fun evening with our granddaughters, Sami and Rachal.