Category Archives: Winter


Climate Change

Climate Change

2013 Flood

There is currently a lot of controversy about climate change and whether humankind has a role in the warming trend.  While I think it is true that pouring huge amounts of sequestered carbon is the culprit, I don’t think it matters much for us here in Colorado and much of the west. 

We live in a land of extremes except for the rainy Pacific Northwest, but, they have their earthquakes and volcanos.  Here in Colorado, we dwell in a land of extremes.  The west is dry, it snows in the mountains, the Front Range is kind of a mix, and it is pretty dry in the east.  That varies from year to year.  It varies a lot.   

In the late nineteenth century it was a wet cycle in the eastern prairie, and the railroads made millions enticing settlers to buy their land and get rich farming.  The population in eastern Colorado peaked then and has been declining ever since.  The mountain ski areas have lots of snow some years and almost no snow other years.  The western desert country looks dry and desolate most of the time, but I have seen it bloom in a stunning variety of color.   

Then there are the floods, blizzards, and tornados, often followed by drought.  The one thing we can count on is change.  There are long term trends.  Most archeologists think one reason the ancestral Pueblo Indians left southwestern Colorado was a prolonged drought cycle.  Anyone who tries to raise dry land beans in that country can tell you not much has changed. 

2013 Flood

2013 Flood

Here along the base of the mountains we have the extremes as well. There was the drought of 2002, and the floods of 2013.  The mountains create an unusual weather pattern that stalls along the mountain front, bringing more moisture than the land can handle.  That is when lots of the mountains wash out into the flat country.  It has been going on for more than sixty million years.  The gravel in the Platte River in Nebraska is Rocky Mountain gravel.  Some of the Louisiana mud is Long’s peak mud.   

Some climate models say climate change is going to dry Colorado out, other models say it will be wetter.  My money is on more extreme weather.  Longer, more violent wet periods and long droughts.  Look for more frequent floods, not the thirty or forty year cycle we have had since the first European-American settlers and miners arrived.  Think about the tornados and hailstorms recently.   

I like the extremes.  We have our regular four seasons here but the winters are milder than in Iowa.  It can get hot but there are few days over one hundred degrees, but not like southeastern Utah.  I think that may change, hotter in the summer.  I don’t think the winters will be colder.  I can remember forty below in Boulder when I was flunking out of CU.  Twenty below seems to be more the cold winter norm now.  What I do not like is the hailstorms.  I don’t think the insurance companies like them much either.  Homeowners insurance costs keep rising.  That hail is hard on the garden as well. We had only one tomato plant survive last year. 

One of the big impacts of climate change will be on water supplies.  The amount of precipitation may not change, but if it is warmer, the snowpacks will not last as long in the spring.  That means more spring floods and a shorter runoff period, which will impact water storage.  That could be bad news for the populated Front Range.  People keep coming, but there will not be more water, and a lot of the big spring runoff will go out of the state.  That will be good for the Sandhill Cranes in Nebraska, but bad for Parker and Highlands ranch. 

I spent a long time in the water business, and it always disturbed me watching all that high quality drinking water being used to attempt to replicate Surrey or Connecticut foliage in the Great American Desert.   All that bluegrass will have to go. The urban forest will have more drought-hardy trees.  Denver Water’s customers have done a good job of conserving since the big drought of 2002, but the bluegrass model of landscaping continues.  In Denver, daily water consumption is about 110 million gallons per day in winter.  I the hot part of summer, it’s over 400 million gallons per day, most of it run out onto the ground. 

At our house, we have significantly reduced the size of our lawn, but we still have a lot of crabgrass.  It should be buffalo grass and blue grama, both native drought-resistant grasses.  They don’t stay green all summer, so we are stalling and paying the water bill.  Marijuana legalization is bringing lots of people to Colorado, and the economy is booming.  Those people use water, and lots of water is used growing the stuff.  One of the unintended consequences of legalizing pot is increased water consumption. 

Myself, I am not too concerned about climate change for myself.  After all I am 73 years old and don’t live on the coast.  Long term change is a reality, but as John Maynard Keynes said, “In the long range we are all dead”.


Little Free Library

Little Free Library

Little Free Library

Have you seen them?  These cute and brightly painted little houses are to be found in front yards all over town.  Bigger than a birdhouse, but much too small for a child’s playhouse, Little Free Libraries are popping up everywhere.  In fact, pretty soon Bill and I are going to have one in our front yard too!

Can you tell that I am excited?  I first ran across the Little Free Library concept on line sometime last fall.  As soon as I read about them, I knew I had to have one.  A career as a librarian always came up on the Strong Vocational Interest test when I was in school, and now I am finally going to be one.

LFL1 Right now our Little Free Library is sitting on a table in our new garage waiting for the final coats of bright red paint and protective glaze.  While the snow flies, it is too cold to paint.  Instead, I turn to my advance review copy of The Little Free Library Book by Margaret Aldrich (Coffee House Press, 2015).

If I can’t paint, I can read about other LFL librarians around the world who are finding so many pleasures in establishing small colorful libraries and sharing a love of books and reading with friends, neighbors and passing strangers.  I’ve learned that I wouldn’t have a chance to join this global community if not for Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin who built the first library in 2009 as a memorial to his book loving mother.  His library is No. 1.  Ours, received in January, 2015, is No. 21,265.

My favorite thing about this book is the many photographs of LFLs set up along city streets, suburban lawns and country roads from Bellingham to Bogota and other unexpected places around the world.  Many are elaborately decorated and embellished, but others are created out of found objects like discarded kitchen cabinets and even old microwaves.

Another exciting thing about the libraries is their power to build community.  Some librarians (they are called “stewards”) comment that they meet more people in a week since their library went up than they have met since they moved in to their neighborhood.   A big part of the fun is seeing who stops to poke through the books, which of the books are taken and what new books appear.

The Little Free Library Book contains suggestions for inviting others participation in library activities from a grand opening ceremony to organizing bike trips to visit other libraries nearby.  One steward met a family who had organized their vacation to visit LFL’s in distant communities.  What about making room for the distribution of original writing or setting up a small seed sharing project?

LFL2The Little Free Library Book offers many practical suggestions from how to install a counter to track visits to your library to how to deal with books that no one takes out or how to respond to problems that might come up with neighbors or city authorities.  While problems have arisen in some places, mostly the reception is very positive.  The Los Angeles Police Department has gone so far as to install LFL’s at their stations to encourage better community relations.

You might want to buy your LFL from the website   or, if you want to build your own, there are detailed plans to be found in The Little Free Library Book.  You can even find information on knitting your library a custom designed sweater!

By now you can tell that the LFL community is a zany and wildly creative bunch.  The Little Free Library Book is an exciting report filled with beautiful photos, great stories and inspiring ideas.  It’s worth a read even if you don’t want your own library.  But beware.  If you don’t want one now, you will after reading this book.  Look for it in April, 2015.  You can look for my library then too.

This is a guest post.  My wife Carol wrote it.  I am very much involved in the project, but Carol won’t let me paint.


Winter Blues


Winter Blues

Winter Blues

Here it is January.  It was cloudy and snowy for days.  The sun is shining today,  but bleakly.  Christmas and the rest of the holidays are over.  They served as a temporary lift from the dark, depressing days of winter that every year remind us of the inevitable destiny we all share.

But, no, it isn’t all bad, just mostly.  I don’t know why, but my regular seasonal depression is worse this year.  I started feeling flat and unhappy sometime around Halloween, a holiday that was started to point out the return of darkness, the time when the spirits of the underworld again manifest here in our vale of tears.  Recent news events have not helped.

For weeks I could not write, and painful memories and feelings arose.  I read worthless trash, and was even drawn to watching mainstream television programs (I mostly resisted).  I was crabby, restless, and had trouble sleeping.  In times past when the melancholy struck, I would turn to drink, but I know it is only a temporary bit of oblivion that makes the everyday reality even more painful.

I got my meds changed, and the depression has lifted enough to allow me to write and get out of the house for a movie (Into the Woods).  I feel a bit better, and the return of the sun is helping.

Abraham Lincoln said that the secret of happiness is happiness.  That is true but he remained a melancholy.  Maybe we have these times to remind us of the good times we so often take for granted.  Maybe depressions force us to go inward, to leave daily life out there and look into those corners of our being we try to ignore.

Carl Jung wrote about the need to integrate the shadow,  that part of the psyche that lurks behind the face we try to present to the world.  If that part of the personality is ignored, it will surface as beliefs and acts that seem to be the opposite of who we want to be.  The tragedies of  twentieth century point out how the shadow operates in society as well as in the individual.

Depression brings the shadow out, especially at 3:00 AM.  When it happens to me, I get to look at the events in my life I regret.  I have to acknowledge that I have hurt people, been a bully, lied, shirked responsibility, had rage episodes, cheated, stolen, and overslept.  If one tries to bury the dark side, it will surface in a more virulent form.

Learning to accept my shadow allows me to see when it wants to come out, and I am better able to deal with it.  Carol, my wife, calls it the other Bill.  Now my shadow mostly surfaces as irritability.  I usually am able to recognize it and deal with it before I make a big ass out of myself.  Depression makes me more irritable.

Today I am sitting in the doctors office while Carol has a procedure.  With a few days of the medication change and some sunshine, the depression has eased somewhat, even with less sleep than normal.  I think things are improving, even with the bad coffee here.