Sunday, July 31, 2011

Surprise!! Littlest One is Four!

Cora's favorite thing in the whole world is surprising people. When Daddy gets home from work, she insists that he close his eyes so she can lead him through the house to a "surprise" - anything from cookies she helped bake, or a picture she drew, or an art project she made. She just loves surprises.

So it only made sense that her fourth birthday party ought to be a surprise party. Oh, and was she surprised! It was absolutely killing me to not tell either girl as I made plans and bought decorations. A nice big group turned out, nearly thirty people in our back yard. Andrew took Cora for a hike while Chloe and I got everything ready and got the guests situated in the back yard. I made a big deal out of it - "I've got a really big surprise for you, are you ready? Okay, close your eyes..." and I led her through the house to the back door.

I'm happy to say that she didn't cry. I was afraid she would. She was certainly surprised though, and it took a few minutes to really register what was going on. The nice thing about a surprise party for a little girl turning four is that she has very little concept of time, and no idea how soon her birthday is coming if you don't tell her. It worked out so great!

We were lucky to have all of the cousins in town, plus a small handful of other friends. The kids had a blast on the slip 'n' slide, and played some fun games. I didn't do much of a "theme", but I did try for some fun old fashioned games like the clothespin drop, potato sack races, and three legged races.

And the spoon game was fun, too - passing an M&M from one end of a line to another, using spoons in their mouths and no hands. Even the grown ups got in on this one, and it was great fun to watch!

The menu was all of Cora's favorite foods: watermelon, corn on the cob, sweet potato fries, and mac 'n' cheese. We added hot dogs in to round it out, and everyone seemed pretty satisfied ,despite the rather odd conglomeration of menu items.

The cake topped it all off. My mom is amazing. Once upon a time ago she made cakes as a little home business, when all us kids were at home. Every cake was always a work of art. It's not something she does often anymore, and I'm not sure she was all that thrilled about making this one, but it was incredible, and everyone really loved it. Especially my sweet Littlest One.

And Cora had no doubts about who all those presents were for (unlike last year). She received some really great, really creative gifts.

Huge thanks to all the friends and family that made this the best birthday party ever. My sweet girl sure did enjoy herself, and I think most everyone else did, too.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Garden to Table Challenge - Spicy Veggies & Noodles

Again with the raving about The Food Matters Cookbook - I don't think we've yet tried a recipe from it that wasn't great. And I love that I own a cookbook that includes recipes for everything I have coming out of the garden at any given time - currently spring onions, garlic, carrots, squash, green beans, and hot peppers. The veggies are stir fried, then tossed with brown rice noodles and a sauce made of coconut milk, peanut butter, honey and soy sauce. Seriously good, and I don't even like squash.

The best part of this book is the options he gives for substituting. If you don't have peanut butter, try almond butter, cashew butter or tahini. If you don't have zucchini and eggplant (as the original recipe called for) try any summer squash, green beans, etc. You never end up hunting for some strange ingredient at the store - most recipes can be created by the things any healthy eater already has in her pantry and fridge. Creative recipes using 'normal' foods. I like that.


For dessert: remember the strawberry lemonade from last summer? It also makes really good popsicles.

Meet: The Toads

Living in the city is not conducive to activities like finding toads in one's garden. Between all the dogs, cats, weeds, dry lawns, and concrete, cities just don't make good toad habitat.

So we decided to import some.

Meet Hopsy and Giant Joe, two toads the girls caught at their grandma's house last night. We brought them home in quart-sized yogurt containers and set them free in the cold frame.

Of course, they weren't in the cold frame when we woke up this morning. But as I was harvesting garlic this evening (a long-overdue task) Hopsy leaped out from under my hand and scared the bejeezus out of me, as toads are wont to do. Giant Joe was nearby - finding both toads still in the garden made the girls quite happy.

We wanted them to know they are welcome and encourage them to stay and live here (as opposed to going next door and being eaten by the neighbor's chickens*) so we made them little toad houses.

Small flower pots, decorated with flat glass marbles (because we decorate just about everything around here,) and buried a bit. It gives the toad a dirt floor, shelter from the heat of the day, and the terra cotta stays damp and cool, which toads like. Of course, black widows also like dark and damp areas, so maybe we're just encouraging poisonous spiders to come live in our garden. We'll see.
*My neighbor clearly does not value her tomato plants as much as I do. Either that, or her chickens haven't found them yet... or she hasn't caught them. Regardless, her ten chickens still roam her yard freely. I'm a control freak, and I love ripe tomatoes that haven't been pecked to death by chickens. My chickens have a lovely little fenced yard now, and are allowed to run free only when I'm there to watch them and chase them from the garden.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Chicken Troubles

I'm about to get all kinds of TMI on you. I'm talking seriously gory. If you have a weak stomach, or very little interest in the care of terribly sick chickens, you should skip this post. I am happy to tell you though, that I didn't take any photographs of the experience I'm about to detail, so you won't be forced to look at them. You can use your imagination. It will be plenty.

Our sweet Goldilocks is our handicapped chicken. For a reason I never did determine, back around the time the girls were feathering out, Goldi developed a strange limp/wobble sort of problem. She walks a few steps, then wobbles and falls back. She carries her wings loosely at her sides instead of tucked up neatly like the other hens, and her tail is always down. It's like she has such weak muscle structure that she can't support herself. I know this is a common problem with meat chickens, but she's a laying breed, and isn't exceptionally large. She's never seemed unhappy though - she eats and drinks as well as the rest, and seems to manage alright despite her handicap. She's particularly well loved for being one of the more calm and gentle chickens... probably because she's too slow to run away when a Little Girl wants to hold her.

Anyway. So that's Goldi's back story. We've always known she wasn't well. I haven't expected her to live very long. But we've loved her just the same.

Well, Goldi laid her first egg yesterday, and I could tell by looking at the egg that it was a struggle for her. It was covered in blood, mucous, and feces. Most eggs come out quite clean, but this one was really gross. And I noticed she was starting to get poo matted to her back side, never a good sign. I went out today with a tub of water and a rag to try cleaning her up a bit, and what I found when I lifted her tail almost made me gag. Egg binding mixed with a prolapse. It was an egg, hanging from her vent, still completely surrounded by the vent tissue. Her insides were hanging out of her body, with an egg stuck in them. Cora said, "Mom! Goldi's laying a red egg!" I promptly sent both girls inside.

Then I geared up for playing chicken-doula. With rubber gloves on, I oiled my fingers and massaged the tissue surrounding the egg, trying to lubricate it enough that the egg could come out. I soaked her in a warm bath with lavender and olive oil, massaging the whole lower half of her abdomen. The awful part was that she didn't mind. No healthy chicken likes being put in a tub of water, but she just relaxed and let me rub her. When I let her up, she stumbled a bit and walked sideways, but then righted herself and walked away... egg still hanging from the vent, with bits of intestine squeezing out alongside it.

It was at the point that I called my husband and let him know he'd need to plan on putting a chicken down when he got home from work.

And then I went back out... and the egg was out! Another nasty, bloody, slimy mess laying on the ground, but it was out! I looked at her back side... and it was awful. Not as awful as the egg just hanging there wrapped in bloody vent tissue, but clearly a good bit of her insides were still hanging out of her body. Some research on the internet, and some advice from the ladies at the BackYardChickens forum led me to the next move: using a gloved finger, lubricated with Preparation H, to push the prolapse back into her body cavity.

I decided my husband's finger was the one we should use.

He was able to temporarily incapacitate the bird by tucking her head under her wing and swinging her slowly around in circles in front of him, a trick taught to him years ago by a family friend. (Thanks, Mr. Bonnell!) It didn't hurt her at all, only made her too dizzy and disoriented to fight for a minute. And any sane chicken - even a hurting one - would fight if you were shoving her organs back inside her rear end.

She laid amazingly still. Her vent was so swollen it was a trick to get the intestines back inside her body and to actually stay there. Poop was running out as we did it, which I tried to wipe away with a rag, but it was impossible to get it all off. I'm worried about it causing an infection. Oh my god, I wiped chicken poop off of chicken intestines hanging out of a chicken vent. There are a lot of things I never thought I'd do in my life. But I never even considered this one.

It was an awful, horrific process. It was bloody and poopy and gory. Amazingly, when it was all over and it appeared that the vent sphincter would actually hold the intestines inside her body, she got up and walked away. Ten minutes later she was happily pecking at some spinach and cucumber, and drinking a healthy amount of water.

So we didn't put her down. Yet. I'm worried that with whatever condition it is that she has, that makes her so weak and wobbly, this will be an ongoing problem. And I have to say, as much as I love our sweet, handicapped Goldi, I have no intention of pushing her intestines back inside her body every time she lays an egg. That is no life for a chicken to have to live, and no life for me to have to live either. If it happens again, we're going to have to put her out of her misery.

And so for now, Goldi is locked in a separate area in the coop, where the other hens can't peck at her rear end until it's had time to heal. And so the stupid rooster can't force her to mate, which is seriously the very last thing the poor girl needs right now, and the first thing he tried. She's miserable, locked away from the rest of the flock like that, and it's going to be a rough couple of nights until she gets used to it. But it's what is best for her.

So say a little prayer tonight for our sweet Goldi-girl. Two Little Girls are going to be broken hearted if she doesn't survive, though I've done my best to prepare them for it.

This chicken-raising is some seriously stressful stuff! Probably more trouble than it's worth. But we love all of our girls (and our rotten rooster) dearly, whether we ever intended to get attached or not.

Garden to Table Challenge - Tomatoes

Tomatoes are finally here! Well, not mine... my darn heirlooms are so slow this year it's almost painful. Lots of green ones, but none ripe yet except for a small handful of cherry tomatoes that never even made it into the house. So I bought a couple at farmer's market, and they were delicious.

Sometimes the most simple food is the best tasting. After a long, busy day, there wasn't time for a big, complicated dinner, but that was just fine: fresh summer tomatoes really don't need big and complicated. They just need a little basil.

The Summer Sandwich:

1 loaf of asiago and sundried tomato sourdough bread
garlic cloves
fresh basil leaves
slicing tomatoes
grated mozzarella

Split open the garlic cloves, crush them slightly to release their juice, and rub them on one side of each slice of bread, then spread butter on one side of the bread.

Put the bread butter-side down in a large skillet and top with mozzarella cheese. Cover the skillet, then cook on medium until the cheese is melted and the bread is starting to toast.

Layer a couple of basil leaves (I used one green leaf and one purple leaf for each small sandwich) and a tomato slice on each piece of bread, top with more buttered bread, flip, and cook just until the bread is toasted on that side too. This method gets the cheese melted and the bread toasted, but keeps the tomato and basil from cooking too much.

And there you have it. The easiest summer sandwich in the world. So simple, so satisfying.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Two Little Girls, Two Little Dresses

I have hardly sewed a thing this summer. Honestly, we've just been too busy, between camping and school and gardening and other summer activities. I haven't had enough free time to sit down at the sewing machine, or to pick up knitting needles.

And then I got really sad, because my kids are growing up so fast that I'm missing out on opportunities to make them cute things, and I put aside other less important things (like laundry, and mopping floors, and pulling weeds) and I sat down at the sewing machine with a stack of fabric and a few ideas bouncing around in my head.

This is what we ended up with.

Patchwork apron-style dresses with appliques on the bodices depicting the meaning of each girl's name.

Cora, derived from Kore, is sometimes used as a name for Persephone, a Greek goddess. You can Google the whole story if you want it (it's a good one), but Persephone is known for bringing spring to the earth each year - which I depicted in the form of a sunshine. It's also fitting since I always tell Cora she's my sunshine. And Cora also means "maiden" or "feminine", making pink the most obvious choice to accompany the yellow sunshine.

And Chloe, while also another name for the Greek goddess Demeter (who was Persephone's mother, and believe it or not, my choice in these names was completely unintentional), but Chloe also means "small green shoot." So fitting for all that this sweet little girl is.

The backs lace up corset style, with elastic in the back panels of the skirt. These dresses will fit for years.

The details: I used 1/4yd each of 6 fabrics for Cora's (size 4), and 1/3 yd each of 6 fabrics for Chloe's (Size 7.) I didn't follow a pattern, but didn't need one. A simple bodice shape is cut, plus the same shape for a lining. The two are sewn together and turned and topstitched. The skirt part is just 6 panels of fabric gathered a bit around the bodice with an elastic panel inserted in the back. I added ruffles and appliques and pockets because details are fun.

I love the result. Little girls in long dresses make me happy.

The County Fair 2011

The county fair is running all this week, and we made our visit yesterday afternoon with a couple of friends. The up side to going to the fair in the middle of the week, earlier in the day is that there aren't as many people. The down side is that you're walking around in 98 degree weather with very little shade.

We didn't enter anything into the fair this year. Summer's just kind of gotten away from us, and to be honest, I haven't had that much time for knitting and sewing. I'm too busy teaching math lessons and driving little girls around and everything else that comes with being a homeschool mom to two kids. Anyway, it was sort of nice to just show up and see the exhibits and not have any stress involved. Breaks are good sometimes.

We did manage to get involved in the watermelon eating contest. Have you ever watched little kids eat watermelon as fast as they can? It's hilarious. Good ol' fashioned entertainment.

Cora did her best, but only managed to get down two slices in the 5 minutes allotted. She was very concerned about picking out the seeds before she took a bite.

Cora's friend Liam - also three - wasn't so much into the madness of it all. Or maybe he was overwhelmed. Anyway, he was cute as he slowly munched on his bit of watermelon.

Chloe impressed me with her 6 slices in 3 minutes. She had great fun, I was glad we did it. Homeschoolers don't get the opportunity to 'compete' very often. I think it was healthy for her to try something, not win, and learn how to walk away with a great attitude about it all.

And of course, there were rides, as per our summer tradition. I stood sweltering in the heat for three hours with the kids while they rode everything, sometimes going two or three times. Totally worth it though - love watching my little girls have a great time.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

In Which I Demonstrate My Sentimentality

Cora and I inspected the peach tree last night, looking for baby peaches that survived the late frost we had this spring.

I found one and pointed it out to her.

The sheer excitement on her face at seeing that little baby peach, and then another, and another, was just priceless. Here eyes got big, her mouth turned into a little pink "O" that was quickly replaced by the biggest, happiest smile. She raced around in circles, barefoot on the grass, singing a song about how much she loves peaches. Then she raced back up to me and asked if we could share a peach with Mr. Tweets, because she thought he would really like just one, and that we could eat the rest. I told her no way! But that we would eat the peaches over vanilla ice cream, one of our favorite summer treats. This set her off racing in circles again, singing and giggling and laughing excitedly at the prospect of peaches and ice cream in her future. Then she came barreling straight at me, threw herself into my legs, wrapped her arms around me, looked up at me, and said, "I love you. You're the best mommy in my whole world."

It was a little thing, a little moment, but one to savor. Little girl excitement over something so simple, but a pure and thorough sort of excitement, sprinkled with love and gratitude for good measure. Is there anything more beautiful?

Life is full of what I think of as "moments to keep." Little, insignificant moments in life that really aren't insignificant at all. They're what make it (almost) bearable to watch our children grow up before our eyes at a rate much faster than we're comfortable with. Life - parenting, especially - is full of stress and worry and frustration. But these little Moments to Keep bring us back from the negative, give us a little piece of happiness to hold on to, remind us that life really is beautiful and lovely and happy... at least, sometimes.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Homeschool Field Trip: Leadville

We did a "quick" day trip to Leadville, CO yesterday, opting to stay home and act like responsible homeowners this weekend instead of going camping again.

Leadville might be the most historic mining town in Colorado, with fascinating stories of the many famous people that lived and visited there. It was a great lesson in some of the more "colorful" mining history (we had lunch in a building that used to be a brothel), though of course we kept that toned down when explaining it to the young ones.

Our main reason for going was to ride the train. The Leadville C&S railroad goes along a stretch of track through some of the old mining community, though it was hard to see much of it. The girls enjoyed the train ride though - it was a neat experience for them, especially the three year old, who is very much in the "Transportation Stage", fascinated with all things that move.

We also took some time to drive around town and see a few historic sites. There are tours for many of the historic buildings in Leadville and we would have loved to go on them, but time was limited (it's a three and a half hour drive to get there in the first place.) So we appreciated them from the outside.

We did stop at the cemetery for a quick geocache, and enjoyed the story behind this grave:

Note the name below Texas Jack's - Wm. F. Cody Buffalo Bill. He erected this grave stone for his friend. Neat to see.

When I was in the fourth grade, I remember having to do a whole report on California history. It was a huge project, learning the state flower and bird, the history of California, some of the geography. My hope is that my own girls will never have need of such a report - that they'll have seen and touched and felt it enough in real life that they'll never question the heritage of the State of Colorado.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Forts and Hide-outs

The difference between a three year old and an eight year old:

When a three year old builds a fort, she posts a sign that she insists says, "Welcome In!" She walks around the house inviting (begging) anyone and everyone to come into her fort.

When an eight year old builds a fort, she posts a sign on it that says, "Secret Hide Out. No one allowed. Espeshily Sisters."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A chicken update

Just in case you're dying to know how the chicken situation is coming along...

See those? Those are cute little itty-bitty chicken eggs! Our girls are laying. I'm so proud of them.

Two Little Girls absolutely love checking for chicken eggs. Actually, they love anything to do with the chickens. They run out several times a day to see if anyone has laid an egg, and hearing, "Mom! There's another egg!" is music to my ears. A little girl rushing to the back door with a still-warm egg in her hands and a big smile on her face makes this whole project completely worthwhile.

And because I had eggs, and because I've recently figured out this whole pie crust thing, I made a quiche:

Fresh eggs, homegrown spinach, homegrown onions. Store-bought cheese because I was lazy, and bacon. It's really a shame I don't eat eggs. That's a lot of work for a dinner I won't even touch. But it did showcase the first fresh eggs nicely.

I thought the chickens would lose their novelty. Most of my friends have chickens, and all of their children are basically over them. But not mine. Still, every single day when school and chores are done, the question is, "Can we go out and play with the chickens?" They haven't figured out yet that chickens don't actually play. They truly love these chickens. Whoever said chickens aren't cuddly just never forced them to be. Most of them are tame enough that they don't run away, especially from my oldest. A few come running up to her, waiting for the love and affection she will inevitably shower them with.

However. Chickens are a pain! So much of this project I'm irritated and frustrated with.

For instance, you know that sweet picture painted by the stories in magazines like Organic Gardening, where they talk about how your chickens will eat the bugs from your garden and scratch the soil up and walk around fertilizing it for you? All of this is true... and for a few days, I was thrilled to see my chickens doing such useful work in my garden.

Until they ate my Swiss Chard. Glorious, huge rainbow chard stalks reduced to... well, rainbow colored stalks. They've eaten every bit of leaf on every single stalk. They ate the kale down to stumps, and have started in on the beets. They tore the lettuce apart completely while looking for earwigs to munch, leaving limp, rotting lettuce leaves in their wake. They've torn down the climbing beans, they take naps on the fluffy beds of carrot tops, and there are holes pecked in some of my green tomatoes. Chickens have voracious appetites, and they're not going to limit themselves to pesky bugs. They want those greens! The up side: my chickens must be the healthiest chickens in town for all the fresh, dark green leafies they're eating.

So last night, we built them a pen in the corner of the yard. More space to run around than in their coop, plenty of green grass, sunflowers, and weeds to eat. (It's truly a shame we can't teach chickens to identify weeds and eat only those, isn't it?) And now the girls get the job of chasing the chickens across the yard to their pen from the coop every morning. And when I'm out working in the garden in the evenings, the chickens are welcome to join me... but only for a short time, not long enough to decimate any other crops.

And the rooster. Oh, my sweet, pretty rooster. I love him. He's gorgeous, and he has such a personality. Except that he attacked my mother when she was trying to care for them while we were away. And now he's been chasing my three year old across the yard, sending her screaming up on top of the picnic table. He loves me. He loves Chloe. He realizes Andrew is a very large man and could do significant damage. But Cora isn't all that intimidating to him. I gave her a big sunflower stalk to use as a weapon, and gave her permission to smack him every time he runs at her. He's not very far from the stew pot, that one. It'll make me sad to eat our little friend, and not to hear his crows every morning... and afternoon, and night... but I won't have my kids afraid to play outside for fear of being chased by a rooster.

So anyway, that's the chicken situation here on our little urban farmstead.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Adventures 2011 - 4x4 driving

Once upon a time, I used to be adventurous. Or maybe I was just stupid.

I used to love riding along on the four-wheel-drive roads my husband loves so much to explore. Steep drop-offs inspired awe, not terror. Jostling and bouncing over the bumpy, rocky roads induced laughter, not nausea. Sadly, all of that seems to have changed.

Ouray is known for the Million Dollar Highway, twenty three miles of narrow, winding road with sheer cliffs just inches from the edge of the roadway, and no guard rails. I've ridden and driven over it enough times that I ought to be comfortable with it. I've always been fine with it before. Maybe it's just my increasing age giving me the sudden ability to imagine every single thing that could possibly go wrong. For whatever reason driving the pass this time really creeped me out.

And Red Mountain Pass wasn't even the half of it this time. Check out this road:

You have the pleasure of driving under the rock overhang, still dripping with water from an earlier rainstorm. The road is narrow and one lane. Mostly, you just have to hope no one is coming down, or someone's going to have to back up. And backing up on these roads isn't fun. I know this from experience, as we had to back all the way down one of them when we discovered a snow slide was blocking the road, and there was no spot to turn around without falling off the side of the mountain.

Anyway, back to the road with the crazy rock overhang (it's the Yankee Boy Basin road, for those here locally.) It's a popular road, busy even, on the Fourth of July weekend in Ouray. It was somewhat comforting to realize that thousands of people drive the same road and have survived it. And then we got to the top, and we found this:

The kind of scenery that can only be found at the end of steep, sometimes scary mountain roads.

More wildflower species than I could have counted, with thousands more buds because we were just a couple of weeks too early for the height of the wildflower season. Two waterfalls rushing together into a creek cascading down into the deep valley below. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, a perfect mix of lush green and jagged rock cliffs. Nature at it's finest.

Was it worth the trip up that awful road? Probably. I felt increasingly better seeing tour trucks going up and down the mountain all afternoon.

I wish I could stop my brain from playing out all the awful scenarios that could come from the 4x4 excursions (mostly the scenario that involves the truck falling over the edge. It's an awful scenario to think about.) I trust my husband, and I trust his driving... but I don't trust other people much. I'd much rather be hiking, on my own two reliable feet, but there are some places we just couldn't hike to in a day, places like this. I'm glad we've got the truck for stuff like this. I think.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Adventures 2011 - Geocaching

I keep trying to explain geocaching to friends, and I keep getting the same response - mostly a bunch of smiles and nods and "uh-huhs." You know, the raised eyebrows that resonate with "Yeah, that sounds like fun. Not."

So let me try it again, this time with pictures of my personal favorite caches from the past couple of weeks.

Geocaching is a sort of "treasure hunt". There are caches placed all over the world. A cache can be anything from a film canister with a log in it to a big rubbermaid container. The larger ones are generally filled with "treasure", items not usually of much value, toys, keychains, other trinkets. You're welcome to take any item you find in a cache, so long as you replace it with something of your own that is of similar value. If you look at and map your area, you'll see what I mean. They're everywhere.

Our favorite caches are the ones that take us on incredible hikes and drives to places we never would have gone otherwise, places we didn't know existed. Like this:

A 130-year old narrow gauge railroad bed through the Red Mountain mining district in the San Juan mountains.

It's such an interesting way of exploring your world, and in cases like this, of exploring history. We could look at pictures, like this one of a train on this exact same railroad:
And we will look at those pictures, but what better way to really understand the magnitude of this accomplishment than to walk along it, see it for ourselves?

We hiked a little over a mile on the way to the cache, which was placed near this turntable:
The only one of it's kind in the Rocky Mountains, tucked away amidst the ghost towns of the Red Mountain mining district.

The "treasure" of this hike wasn't the cache. It was the experience of walking the path of miners over a century before us, imagining the life they lived, the work they did, admiring their determination to send a train through country that was hardly accessible by horseback, all for the desperate desire to strike it rich on gold or silver. It was seeing firsthand how much the earth can change in 130 years, how she can "bounce back" after being exploited, trees and undergrowth once again taking over their rightful ground.

I realize not everyone can come to Colorado and follow this particular trail, learn these particular lessons. But everywhere, there are little "secrets" like these, secrets that can be known to anyone who cares to find out. I encourage everyone to give it a shot. Not every cache is as interesting and as exciting as this, and you don't even always find them, but each is fun in it's own right.


Here are some other photos from interesting places where we've found caches recently.

A faucet piped into a hot springs near Chattanooga, an abandoned mining town outside of Silverton, right off the Red Mountain Pass. Who would've thought you'd ever find bathtubs on the side of the Million Dollar Highway with naturally warm water pumped in? We figure it was put there in the 60's... and the faucet still turns on and off! Too cool. Unfortunately, the "hot" springs are only lukewarm now. But still neat to see.

This cache was near the top of Cottonwood Pass, outside of Taylor Canyon near Almont, CO. The view up here was amazing. I mean, we see some pretty incredible views doing the kinds of things we do, but this one was just awesome. There aren't words to describe it. 12,000 feet at the top of a mountain, and then further up for the cache, looking out over the Collegiate Peaks with Taylor reservoir in the distance, mountains and valleys on all sides. Breathtaking.
This picture was taken after we drove through a lake to find a cache.
I'm all about gorgeous, pristine lakes at 11,000 foot altitudes. Can't say I'm crazy about driving through them, but you know... there was a cache on the other side. Happily, it was shallow and all went well.
In this one we're hiking up over an avalanche, north out of Crested Butte. You read about avalaches, how dangerous they are. But you don't quite understand the reality of that until you walk along and look at the hills above you, trees snapped off at ground level or uprooted entirely, a solid bank of snow who-knows-how-many feet deep when it settles. The whole side of the mountain was basically cleared of vegetation. We never did find this cache - after traversing the avalanche we discovered we'd have to cross a raging, icy river. Not a good plan at the height of spring run-off, so we gave up.

These are just a few of the caches we've found in the past couple of weeks, along with all kinds of other adventures in the Colorado mountains. I think we found something like 40 caches altogether between both recent camping trips. Each one took us to somewhere worth seeing - a creek inlet, a beaver pond, lots of very old cemeteries, the tops of mountains and down along creek beds, ghost towns and thriving mountain towns.

You'll find your own treasure in it - some folks love to dig through the caches and see what others have left. Others love the hunt once they get to the point where they should be looking. Some crazy ones love the whole concept of 'micros', searching for minuscule capsules hidden in very public places, often impossible to find (I hate micros.) Our treasure is the discovery that happens while we're getting to the cache. All it takes is a GPS (or a downloadable app on your SmartPhone) and you'll be off and running. Do give it a shot. And let me know how it goes!

Summer Adventures 2011

Please forgive the neglected state of my blog - we've been too busy having blog-worthy adventures to write about them.

We just got home from the second of two back-to-back camping trips, first to Taylor Canyon and the Crested Butte area, and then to Ouray for the Independence Day celebration. We had so many 4x4/hiking/geocaching adventures I don't think I could ever tell you about all of them. But I'll post photos of some of the highlights of our trip over the next few days for the family and friends that are interested in seeing them. It'll take some time to go through all the pictures though, so bear with me.

In the meantime, I've got to share this one little success:

Dutch Oven cooking. Hooray, we figured it out! And its not actually that hard, though I was nervous to give it a try. We successfully made the enchiladas above, and the peach cobbler below, using a dutch oven and some hot charcoal. So. Cool. I'm in love with cast iron now, and want more.

That's it for now. I need to make a dent in the massive laundry pile on my bedroom floor before I sit for too long in front of the computer. It's good to be home, but it'll be better when all the chores and housework are caught up!