Sunday, July 25, 2010

Babs and Lightning

Sunday night brought the dreaded thunder/lightning storm to Wichita. Although we have had worse, this particular storm had many strikes of lightning and wonderfully loud, growling thunder. Wonderfully, I say, if you are a rational adult who loves the many sounds and sights that nature brings to us. But terrifying if your name is Babs and you are a 13-year-old cock-a-poo.

Lightning does not seem to phase Sepia, Babs' brother. But Babs makes up for it. She pants and paces, scratches and licks, pants more, walks in circles, and shakes. She shakes and shivers, and then she pants some more. She is traumatized by the lightning more than the thunder, and it is impossible to calm her down.

Sometimes she can sleep between our pillows. But that doesn't always work - such as right now. When we aren't home she goes to the basement. So I brought her downstairs. After 5 minutes of scratching, panting, and nesting, she finally found a place on the floor where she is settling in. I am hoping she will calm down for the night. Unfortunately, I was too late with her medicine - which happens to be Xanax. Apparently animal behaviorists have determined that the former treatment - valium - didn't really take the terror away; it just masked it. Xanax takes the anxiety away, or at least that's the theory. But . . . you have to catch it early for it to be effective at the dosage level I want to give to her. So I am now paying for not getting her medicine to her on time.

Oh well, we desperately need the rain (though it is flooding west of here), so I will put up with Babs and her anxiety. I am just hoping that the lightning ends soon!

Wonderful Wildflowers

There are so many wonderful wildflowers in northern New Mexico, especially at this time of year. Not only are the orange gilias, penstemons and paintbrushes in full bloom, but also the purple asters, the fleabanes, and the Rocky Mountain penstemon appear.

I love the beautiful gentians that bloom in the wilderness. They are not very common, but they can be found if one looks carefully. My hope is that everyone who hikes learns to appreciate the wonders of nature, including the gorgeous flowers that grace our woodlands. Enjoy a few of them pictured - Rocky Mountain Penstemon (above) and Fringed Gentian (below).

Full Moons

Don't you love full moons? Such a beautiful bright orb in the sky, sending enough light onto the Earth to function, but not enough to read by. I especially love the full moon when I am in the mountains.

One year we were in the wilderness during a full moon. We weren't having much luck fishing during the day, and we finally figured out that it was because the fish were feeding all night under the light of the full moon.

Last year, Don took the attached picture of the cabin in a full moon . . . it is one of our favorite pictures. This year, I am hoping to get a similar picture, but with the light on upstairs, too! It has been raining so much, however, I may not be able to get it. Here's hoping!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cooler yet!

I hate to continue to talk about the heat, but it was SO HOT here today! Could be that I was tired after my 5 mile walk with Don and Lynn Ramsey, but I don't think so. I think the heat is just beginning to wear on me.

We did have a little respite tonight when we got a spit of rain, and tomorrow is supposed to be nice. But tonight when I was reviewing some pictures I came across this one we took in the Pecos in May. And when I saw it, I was able to think cool. So maybe you can think cool, too!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another kind of COOL!

It is so hot here. The last few summers have been fairly mild, so this heat is quite a shock. I am not liking it very much. So I have tried to think cool. Thinking cool takes me to the Holy Ghost Canyon . . . which is where this picture was taken a few weeks ago. In that particular canyon, after a rain storm, clouds sneak down the canyon, looking eerily like a ghost. Most people say that the Canyon was named by the Spaniards when they came into the area and saw the clouds appear after a rainstorm. They called it, "Espiritu Santo", or Holy Ghost. You can bank on the air feeling very cool when the Holy Ghost is in the canyon.

In my book, A Stroll Up the Canyon, I tell several theories about how the canyon got its name. Most people accept the one mentioned above, but I heard a new one when I was there a few weeks ago. Someone mentioned that they had heard that during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, several Catholic priests escaped from the Pecos Pueblo and headed up the Canyon. They supposedly hid in the Indian Ceremonial Cave (across from the Tererro General Store and Riding Stables), and after they survived, they attributed their successful escape to the "Espiritu Santo." We will never know the real origin of the name, but it is fun to hear different hypotheses.

Stay Cool!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


One of my favorite fruits in the middle of the summer is a nice plump Bing Cherry. When I was a little girl, the one fruit I could count on Mom purchasing was bing cherries. She would bring home a large bag of them, and all of us kids would descend upon it, devouring the cherries inside. That was when fruit was only available at certain times of the year - unlike now - so we made sure to cherish every bite we took!

Now, once at year, I get cherries delivered to my door. Several years ago a friend gave me the "Fruit of the Month" Club for a Christmas present. I love all of the offerings, but the cherries are outstanding - plump, ripe, unblemished! And delivered! They are the best - yum!!!

Monday, July 19, 2010


It is definitely wildflower season in the mountains! The gilias, penstemons, and rudbeckias are in full bloom as are the bergamots, paintbrushes, and mountain woollywhites! All of these can be found in my pamphlet Common Wildflowers of Northern New Mexico.

But as I learned while compiling my pamphlet, there are a lot of flowers in the mountains that are not wild but instead have found their way by being planted by people. For example, in the spring, lilacs abound . . . but they are common lilacs. Numerous Shasta Daisies are found up the Holy Ghost, a result of a can of "wildflower seeds" spread by a well-meaning visitor. Daylilies also bloom in profusion, especially in certain areas, as do poppies.

The prettiest poppies I have seen are at the Wilderness Gateway Bed and Breakfast. It is just below Cowles, New Mexico, and once you have been there, you will return. Their gardens are exquisite, and their poppies equally so! Enjoy the picture!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Gelato de Joey, II

Sunday after church, we decided to try Mango Gelato. Man oh man! Good thing that Gelato machine is going back to Manhattan today. The fruit gelatos don't take very long to make - less than an hour if the cook uses frozen fruit (which we did) - so we started the gelato, ate our lunch, and it was ready to be eaten for dessert right on time!

Joey has perfected chopping, so the pieces of mango in the gelato weren't big lumps but instead were tasty little pieces that just added texture to the delicious frozen liquid. Joey's house is going to be the hit of Manhattan . . . I can see the line of college students waiting for a taste of Joey's Gelato!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bluegrass Evening

Every third Saturday, one of our favorite groups plays at Watermark Books. From 5 to 7, they play folk, bluegrass, and whatever else might be requested. Richard Crowson, political cartoonist by day and musician any other time, plays a wicked banjo, but he also plays guitar, flat steel guitar, and percussion. Karen, his wife, plays the guitar, and Phil plays the bass. Sometimes a few other join them for the evening - tonight Dean, who plays the ukelele, and Jim Brasher, who now only sings because of his arthritis.

I love hearing the Crowsons. Sometimes I actually know the songs they sing, but their mix of fun, corny, and serious songs, along with an off-beat sense of humor provide for a great evening of listening. Watching Richard play the banjo mesmorizes me, as I love the banjo. People don't understand how hard it is to play and play well . . . and he plays it well.

Richard calls Jim Brasher the "Hank Williams of Kansas." He has written a number of songs, but my favorite is the one he wrote to his wife, Jan. It brings tears to my eyes every time. I suspect that many wouldn't appreciate this kind of music, but we love it . . . and although I wasn't sure what my nephew would think, we dragged him to it, too. I believe he was pleasantly surprised!

Gelato de Joey

My nephew is torturing me! Big time!

He has returned from Italy, where he took a four-week cooking class. I can tell he learned a lot about cooking and about foods - just looking at his cookbook makes me drool.

When Williams-Sonoma put their Gelato machines on sale, Joey decided he needed one. And tonight we are testing it out! He mixed up a batch, teaching me a thing or two . . . such as how to temper eggs. It is now cooling in the refrigerator, and I can hardly stand it. In a few minutes, he will be putting it into the Gelato machine . . . can't wait!

It was definitely worth waiting for. Although he thought it was too rich, I disagree. It reminds me of my grandmother's Chocolate Nut Ice Box cake, without the pound of butter, 8 eggs, and loads of sugar! Cold chocolate mousse maybe . . . but yummier! I loved it. So tomorrow we are going for mango - surely am glad that Gelato machine will be leaving with Joey tomorrow, as I would surely be putting on the pounds otherwise!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Johnny Jones Mine

The last two times I have been in the Pecos, we have gone searching for a "lost" mine. No, it isn't lost, as we have seen it on several maps. But our guide couldn't quite remember where it was, and the first time we went, we couldn't find it, even with Bart's GPS. Turns out we were less than 200 yards away from it, but one wrong turn took us the other direction!

On July 4 we found it, and I thought it was thrilling. One of the shafts was collapsed, but the ore car tracks were still there, and one shaft was open. Of course we didn't go in, but we thoroughly enjoyed looking around! Imagining how the mine operated, with ore cars, tracks, dumping areas, and the like fascinated me. I find it unfathomable that the miners used hand tools to create the shaft pictured below!

The road up to the mine was extremely bumpy - the Jeep scraped bottom several times. How Johnny Jones took his ore out with a wagon and a team of horses is beyond me. There is no doubt that people were tougher back then!!!

Another Favorite Bookstore

Today I had the chance to visit both of my favorite independent bookstores! It was a banner day. I had a class at Watermark books - it was part of the Bronte sisters summer challenge, but the speaker was from Penguin Classics. What a dynamo she was! Loved listening to her!

My other favorite independent bookstore, which is owned by Warren Farha, is Eighth Day Books. His store is only a few miles away from Watermark, but it is distinctly different since it is housed in an old Victorian home. Its door is painted blue, and after walking up several stairs and through the blue door, one enters a room that is wall-to-ceiling lined with books. If what you need isn't on that floor, there's always the second floor! And if you want to talk to Warren, there's the third floor! The stairs up are not always even, and sometimes they creak . . . coffee is available in one room, and when I was there today, several people were seated in chairs, reading their selections. The friendly staff always greets me and they are quite knowledgeable about what is available in the store. You can't help but feel at home at Eighth Day Books!

Today's mission was to take some of my Common Wildflowers of Northern New Mexico guides to him. He is holding a book fair at St. John's College in Santa Fe, and we both thought perhaps some of the people at the College would be interested in it! I am hoping he has a very successful book sale!

Eighth Day Books specializes in religious literature, and he has quite an array of offerings. But that isn't all he carries! He used to do book fairs for The Independent School and he has helped for four years with the Kansas Author Dinner. I have always felt privileged to have the opportunity to work with both Warren at Eighth Day Books and Sarah at Watermark! Their contribution to literacy in our community has helped create and satisfy readers throughout Wichita.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Spirited Day

On July 5, 2010, I think I experienced the most spectacular day I have ever had - at least from a weather standpoint . . . but it was awesome all the way around. That's the day my brother, his friends, Don and I hiked to Spirit Lake and back.

Now the fact that it was 13.5 miles round trip wasn't that big of a deal . . . we had hiked that much before, though we were younger then. But we had to change elevations both up and down several times to do it. We were a little concerned, but since we had told Bart we would try it, we did.

We arrived at the Santa Fe Ski Area (elevation about 10,200) about 8:00 a.m. and started up the hill. The sky was the most beautiful blue . . . something very common in New Mexico, but not so common in Kansas . . . the day was cool (almost cold), no wind . . . it was absolutely perfect. And it stayed that way all day. At times it got a little warm, but compared to what we are used to, it was nothing!

When we reached the Wilderness sign (elevation about 10,800), we stopped for a few minutes to breathe . . . and then started again. At Puerto Nambe, (elevation 11,100) we stopped again for a breather. Several hours later, we arrived at Spirit Lake, (elevation 10,800) which is the beginning of the stream that runs by our cabin. It was so beautiful . . . no trash, no camp marks, just a gorgeous lake, a gorgeous day, and nice friends. Then we had to hike back up to Puerto Nambe, then down and back up to the Wilderness sign, and then down to Santa Fe Ski Area. Although we didn't get back to the car until 6:30 p.m., and although we were tired, it was an awesome day!

A True Fish Tale

They say a bad day on the stream is better than a good day at the office. I couldn't agree more. Although I loved my job, being on the stream fly-fishing is the best!

Don and I had decided to fish in the "quality water" just south of Cowles, up from our cabin. Initially I thought we shouldn't go - too much to do. But once we got our gear ready, I felt like a little kid - I was pretty excited! We hiked about 1/2 mile downstream and started fishing up. The first hole was a dud, but my first cast into the second hole got me a little German Brown. Since I release all of my fish (and I got some new pliers that crimp my barb very well!), it was easy to get going again. Next cast - BAM! Another fish. Caught three out of that hole.

I knew it was going to be a fun day. Nearly every hole I hit, I either caught one or had several strikes. I even caught fish in the most overfished hole on the river . . . and the second most overfished one! Most of the fish were just little German Browns, though one was a nice sized Rainbow Trout.

I always told my dad, when he came home with a new putter because he thought it would help him improve his putting, that it isn't the putter - it is the puttee! I feel the same way about fishing. Here I was on the river with my old fiberglass rod that my dad made for me, and my heavy automatic reel, pulling fish in like crazy. And Don, with his new graphite rod and reel, just got one strike!

Despite the fact that he only got one hit, however. we both agree that there's not much better than a day in the river, casting flies for fish!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stay Cool

There's cool . . . and then there's cool. Let me share with you two pictures of really cool!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


It isn't often that a person has access to an endangered species, but we in the Holy Ghost Canyon do. Unfortunately, not many people know about it, and I fear that someday, it will become an extinct species. That's part of the reason I published my Common Wildflowers of Northern New Mexico hiker's guide. I wanted people to be able to identify and enjoy the flower, all while allowing it to grow, bloom, produce seeds, and reseed itself.

This little flower is a bubble-gum pink gem that blooms on road-cuts and ditches. For some reason, it has chosen our little canyon for its home. I love the Ipomopsis and each year pray that it will continue to bloom and repopulate!

If you get to the Canyon in July and August, look for the bubble-gum pink flower on the side of the road and enjoy! It may be the only time you get to see an endangered species in the wild!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Living on Beaver Cleaver Street

We always thought that we lived on Beaver Cleaver's street. Our cul-de-sac was this little idyllic world of families that got along, children that played well together, and happy people who lived here.

We used to do some of the most fun things. For years we held Christmas Pageants - more about those in December. And on July 4, we used to have a July 4 parade. All of the kids would decorate their bikes, we would dress up or decorate our bike helmets, and we would ride around the block with flags and firecrackers in tow. It was so much fun!

One year our neighbor Rick became Rambo the lawn man as he wheeled his lawn mower around the block. Another year Dan Nowlin drove his riding lawn mower, pulling his kids in a wagon. In the picture below, we turned our wagon into some replicas of fireworks. Don pulled the wagon, Kenneth rode his tricycle (I believe) and I rode my bike with Diana in the baby seat. We also sang the requisite "Yankee Doodle Went to Town" as we walked/rode/paraded. Every year was different, but the memories of those crazy little parades, followed by ice cream or watermelon and terminating in the evening with some of the craziest fireworks displays, thanks to Coni, will remain with us and our children forever . . .

These kinds of events also helped give our children an understanding of what freedom is and means. We didn't talk about it much, but it didn't take them long to understand that they were pretty lucky to live in our wonderful country. And they knew that living on Beaver Cleaver Street was the best!