23 April, 2011

Holy Saturday

"It is Finished!"

Those are the last three words Christ spoke on the Cross, according to St. John. And, with one exception, that would sound the end of another life by the horrific, tortuous means known as crucifixion.

Here it is, Holy Saturday. The Passion is over and for all we know, Christ still lies dead in a borrowed tomb.

The clouds have moved back in. Daisy dog just finished licking her breakfast bowl and is staring at it as if in an attempt to will more food to appear. Sprocket Cat is snuggled down on the corner of the couch, under that old comforter from a dear friend. The reading light is heating him. The Doctor Who marathon leading up to the new American season premiere is murmuring in the background. Otherwise, the world is muted. Outside, the fresh blossoms on the cherry and the other flowering trees are not so dazzling. There is a Children's song written by one of the FisherFolk called "The Tip-Toe Song." The refrain goes like this:

"And all creation's straining, on tip-toe just to see, the Son of Man come into His own."

So it is now. Its as if all creation is holding its communal breath, straining to hear the Word made Flesh returning in that triumphal moment when the stone is rolled away and the sepulcher found empty. Shimmering Seraphim stand guard, flaming swords at the ready, speaking to the three Marys:

"He is gone. He is not here. Why do you seek the living among the dead?"

After tonight's Easter Vigil, the morning brings the Festival Celebration of Christ's triumphal return from overturning death and conquering Satan's realm.

That beloved, is the one exception. Christ died, yes. And he rose from the dead after defeating Death itself and all the sin that ever was, is now, and ever will be. He came to reconcile us all to God. He did it through his own death.

Truly we can say, with joy unbounded in our hearts....that yes!

It is Finished!

16 April, 2011

Gardening, 2011

Square Foot Gardening

Built a raised bed to replace the old one which was rotting away, and not very well planned. The new one is 1" X 6" X 72" cedar fence planks cut into five foot and four foot lengths and screwed to 1" X 2" X 16" cedar posts with two end caps of the same material. Basically its rises eleven inches off grade runs for 9 feet north to south and has eighteen square feet inside I turned and sifted about a 2/3 yard of compost into the wheel barrow and spread it into the box on top of turned soil and raked it smooth.

Then I laid out 18 square foot sections and planted the following by squares moving left to right, north to south:

one block of four sugar snap peas
one block of four snow peas

one block of sixteen mixed globe radish
one block of sixteen French breakfast radish

one block of sixteen cherry belle radish
one block of sixteen white icicle radish

one block of sixteen leek
one block of sixteen white scallion

two blocks of nine Tyee spinach

one block of nine Chiooga beet
one block of nine early wonder beet

one block of nine parsnip
one block of nine turnip

two blocks of four Tom Thumb lettuce

one block of four Early Grey peas
one block of four dark red kale

I watered heavily and covered the box with half round cylinders of 6" X 6" remesh and plastic held down with bricks.

Once the fast growing plants are harvested, I will revive the soil with new compost and replant with heat tolerant veges.

It all comes from the old PBS show and book "Square Foot Gardening" , a wonderful way to do easy, intensive gardening.

I'll let the morning heat crank up the germination process tomorrow. Cooler weather along with some rain is supposed to blow in come Tuesday....We shall see.
My back is sore...but I feel great otherwise.

01 February, 2011


The pic above is from NASA satellite imagery. Thirty states are effected. This is a true killer, brutal, unstoppable and ruthless. "Colder than a _________." (insert your own NSFW old saw here. )

Woke this morning to minus 8 degrees. The old Toyota truck started right up, BUT, it overheated by the time I reached the shop. It seems that the thermostat froze up, or possibly slushed up. The old blue beast was fine later. Topped off the fluids and tested it down to minus 25.

What the static temp doesn't address is the wind chill factor. The ski areas on the Continental Divide were experiencing minus 38 degrees wind chill... and that is the reading at the base at Keystone! Frostbite is the primary concern, followed by hypothermia, and the silent killer; dehydration. At alpine elevations, relative humidity drops to low single digits in this brutal cold.

Dark on dark last night as the cold winds blew from Canada. At a mile high, once the clouds blow east, their blanket over the high plains is removed and any ambient heat dissipates into the stratosphere. Brutal cold ensues. Pheasants, pregnant heifers, horses, pronghorn and plains deer will be stressed to the point of death. Critters with dens, fox, wolves, coyotes, badgers and prairie dogs (cough!) will probably make it thru the night.

Once again, February creeps in grave cold.
Mother Nature is a brutal bitch.
Killer yellow eyes, ruthless and clear,
Wait for death.
Howl away, ol' Wulf!

31 January, 2011

Cruel February

Summer Recollections
Summer's heat captured in vinegar and spices, hot Hungarian Wax Peppers glow in yesterday's sun. It was warm for January, low 50's. Yet steel gray clouds rode the northern horizon, foreboding, foretelling of a Canadian clipper, arctic cold. Today's high temp. marked somewhere close to the lee side of midnight. Now, the arm on the thermometer is creeping down towards the zero mark.

The talking head weather prognosticators are all a'twitter pointing manicured fingers at digital maps where predicted lows are below zero for tonight, predicted highs for January's exit tomorrow might reach zero. Tomorrow night, the old homestead in Wheat Ridge will most likely feel bone cracking 18 below zero.

That old farmhouse now stands empty, abandoned and forlorn.

I drive by it on the way to and from the shop. The "For Sale" sign went up about two weeks ago. I've snapped a few pics with the Droid's camera. Its unkempt appearance made more so by the bleak winter skies.


The year was 1956. A not so young couple with three children, a dog and cat and a bushel full of dreams, signed a contract to purchase the house, 2/3 acre lot with 18 apple trees, one cherry tree and a 40 ft. well for $16.5K. That price seemed outrageous at the time. Yet, Dad and Mum wanted that property on the corner as a place for their kids to grow up with a bit of space to stretch young legs. They bought it, knowing that they would struggle to make the payments on Dad's salary as a hospital engineer for the City and County of Denver. There were times when Mom took in laundry and ironing jobs to help keep food on the table. At one point, Dad worked as a night clerk in the local liquor store. Mom and Grandma scoured second hand stores for furniture. Painted Victorian walnut and oak treasures were stripped and refinished in the garage. Their glowing oil finishes fit right in to that old farm house.

In less than 5 years, the plain spoken interior was transformed into a delightful home. We kids had the two bedrooms upstairs. John and I shared the east facing room. Martha had her own room on the north side. On the south, a family room, sewing room caught the southern light.
Mum and Dad had the bedroom downstairs off the kitchen...and, their own bath!

Dad, John and I, spent summer weekends caring for the yard, mowing, weeding, clearing brush and tending the apple trees. Dad had a rose garden out front. Those old roses were his pride and joy. AND, of course, John and I began building a tree house in the huge old elm tree next to the well house.

It was a solid house and a good home.

The original farmhouse was built in 1934, a promise to some family in the depths of the depression. All along what was known as the South Golden road and later, the 32nd Avenue ridge, there were fruit orchards and small farms. Wheat Ridge was an unincorporated township.
Edgewater, to the east, was the closest post office. The fire protection was, and still is, a volunteer enterprise. Jefferson County sheriffs rode mounted patrols along the quiet dirt roads.
Real banks were for the rich folks in Denver. "Banks" out here were the local farm markets and grain elevators, mostly Italian or Dutch men, steel eyed, taciturn and strong willed, with hearts of gold.

So it was when Dad and his little family first landed in Wheat Ridge in 1955. Rudy Gagliano owned "Rudy's Ranch Market," a one story building on the N. W. corner of 44th Avenue and Wadsworth. He sold local produce and canned goods, general foodstuffs and maintained a full butcher shop. Rudy was also the local banker. The closest bank was in Lakewood, a full five miles away. The short little Sicilian took care of the locals.

Dad was one. He had grown up as the son of a merchant, the owner of a General Store in Pickens, South Carolina. He knew the business. He and Rudy struck up a friendship immediately.

This is the story I will always recall:

Dad went to Rudy to cash his first Christmas bonus check from the City and County of Denver. Rudy smiled and beckoned Dad to come back to his office. There, Rudy had laid out a full bar for his loyal customers. He and Dad shared some Canadian rye whiskey and soda, cementing their friendship. That friendship remained until Rudy's health forced him to sell the business.

Rudy sold the business to a second generation Japanese family who immediately renamed it "Wheat Ridge Ranch Market" Tom and Rose Sakata were children of the Japanese internment camps in Colorado.

Step back in time with me. Pearl Harbor and War rose bloody red on a December morn.

This is a good time to recall how World War II restructured Denver and her western rural neighbors, Golden, Lakewood, Wheat Ridge and Morrison; to the south, Englewood and Littleton; to the north Arvada and the long reach to Boulder.

When WWII hit home, Remington Arms purchased a huge parcel of land south of of 6th Avenue in Lakewood. They built a massive small arms munitions factory and set up the foundation of the USGS (United States Geological Survey). It was then that struggling farmers and merchants turned their homes and farmsteads into what we now call duplexes. They turned empty chicken coops and loafing and storage shed into housing for workers. The war effort needed them. The farmers and merchants housed and helped to feed these workers, for a price.

The owners of our old homestead raised the roof on the south-west corner, closed off the upper floor and created an apartment, complete with kitchen and an outside stairway. A single family, self-sufficient farm turned into newly suburban style duplex.

America would never be the same!

Now the changes come again. What once was a our homestead molders derelict and lifeless. Its strong foundation, clean well and remnants of a small orchard wait. I can only hope and pray that another family with the hope and vision, the basic tools and desire, the capable hands and yearning hearts, will live the history and create another shining light on the hill. This crest on the 32nd Avenue ridge, about half way between Golden and Denver.

Now, the temperature is creeping down. The bitter, thin wind out of Canada tears at walls and skin, exposed skin and breath. Last I checked, it was barely 7 degrees and still snowing.

Cruel February arrives tomorrow. His hoarfrost head set ablaze with frigid fire and ice.

I await March as best I can. I await layered in wool and fleece, wine and canned summer on the shelves.

Lordy, how February humbles this fiery old spirit.

23 January, 2011

Another Memory

St. Vrain Autumn Morning

Soft, the infant alpenglow, morning in the mist,

Wrapped tight against night’s cold hands.

Listen, she hears the subtle splash of tailwalking trout.

Hungry for the slow rise of autumn mayflies.

Her desire to stretch, loosen sleep chilled muscles,

Pump fresh blood and heat from yesterday’s sun.

Her desire for coffee heat and caffeine’s sultry buzz

As sunrise rises flush with Autumn’s promised whisper.

Drowsy, her fertile green eyes open, peer slow

Into a hazy soft sunrise slipping through the window.

Dark tresses undone, she brushes the tangle away.

Time to rise and time to call the fire and iron hot.

Medicine for cold mountain mornings, campfire coffee.

She knows it and slips from the sleeping bag warmth

Into morning light, sub-alpine cold, flint crisp, sharp.

Into sheepskin slippers and a flannel shirt, aged and worn.

Practiced hands build a quick kindling knot and strike fire

Hot on a cast iron grate where aspen and pine flames crackle

Boiling bright metallic water, fresh from St. Vrain Creek

She pours water in blackened pot, more wood on the fire.

The cold bites. She shivers and pulls the old flannel close

Her heat releases his scent: honest sweat and wood smoke,

Old Spice and rye whiskey linger in threads…and laughter.

Remembrance, a slow smile settles on her sleepy face.

The measure of coffee poured, the measure of her own depths

Where once, heat met heat and wet welded two souls as one.

Sad the smile, long in history, long in the cold since he died.

Dark coffee, measured and set to brew, dark memories sigh.

Silence broken by the crack and pop of pitch exploding in fire.

Fragrance, the lingering specters in the morning soft light.

Strong pulses wash through her veins, blood and memories,

Green eyes glow, deep in her belly, long held fire grows.

Low in the dark depths, her woman’s well burns slow

Her slumbering serpent self waits and grumbles hungry

While the sunrise and heat rise and coffee comes to boil

Steaming dark on a St. Vrain Autumn morning.