Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z: Zucchini...and zebras

In my humble opinion, Z words—from zabaglione to zyzzyva—are some of the most fun words in the dictionary. Considering our spring weather, I thought of paying homage to Zephyrus, god of the west wind. And I was interested to learn that zymology is the chemistry of fermentation. (With all the breweries in the area, I probably should have known that.) But with gardening season gaining momentum, I have zucchini on the brain.

According to eHow, “Even the most inexperienced gardener can grow zucchini in Colorado. In fact, gardeners are often tired of zucchini long before it is done producing. Plant…from seed after the last expected frost and give them plenty of room to grow.”

Oh, it sounds so easy, just put those magic seeds in the ground a la Jack in the Beanstalk and stand back. For the past two summers, this had not been the case for me. Two years ago, my zucchini plants produced squash that were squatty and pale, nothing like the long, dark green ones pictured on the seed package. Last year was marred by the invasion of the squash beetles. Despite my efforts in picking them off and squashing them under my flip-flops (sweet poetic justice), my plants never rebounded.

Maybe I’d be better off not planting zucchini this year. But I love it. I love it raw, grilled, stewed, stuffed, and baked into bread. And it irks me to have to buy it from the farmers’ market. So, I’m giving it another try this year. I’m planting in a different spot, and I’m going to include marigolds in my garden as an additional deterrent. If I see so much as one sneaky beetle…well, the term ‘garden ninja’ springs to mind. With any luck, I’ll have a bumper crop.

I’ll leave you with a bit of local Z trivia: We used to have zebras in Fort Collins, at the Town and Country Stables on West Drake Road. But apparently, zebras have an attitude, and the owners eventually had to find new homes for them

Whew! That’s it for the A to Z Blog Challenge. I truly appreciate everyone who visited, commented on, and followed my blog this month. I had lots of fun discovering new blogs, and I will continue to check out as many as I can. There are so many wise, funny, quirky, poignant, and honest voices out there in the blogosphere. Thanks for sharing!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y: Yesterdays

Today’s Friday Five features excerpts from some of my favorite resource books for Fort Collins history. All of the books are available through the Poudre River Library District.

Fort Collins Yesterdays, by Evadene Burris Swanson: “In 1903 a Harvest Festival was prepared at Douglas Grove, a tract of boxelder and cottonwoods… Oxen, sheep, and hogs were roasted by experts. Business houses closed. There was room for a thousand wagons… Excitement in the crowds and pride in the town were all part of the affair.” Yes, but did they have L’il Sebastian?

The Avery House Collection, compiled by the Fort Collins Junior Woman’s Club: “For Cleaning Glass Bottles: Crush egg-shells into small bits, or a few carpet tacks, or a small quantity of gunshot, put into the bottle; then fill one-half full of strong soap-suds; shake thoroughly; then rinse in clear water. Will look like new.”

Talking About Fort Collins, Oral Histories and Photographs from the Local History Department of the Fort Collins Library: “That 1904 flood took all the bridges out of the Poudre River except one down by Hottel’s Mill. It was the worst flood we ever had. I remember, as a little kid, I saw a chicken house going down the river with chickens on top. –Dewey Koeper.”

101 Memorable Men of Northern Colorado, by Arlene Alhbrandt: “The first Larimer County man killed in action in WWII was Allen ‘Bert’ Christman, for whom Christman Field now owned by CSU was named. Bert…was an artist cartoonist who was known for his drawing of the syndicated comic strip Scorchie Smith.”

Fort Collins: A Pictorial History, by Barbara Fleming: “’Ladies’ furnishings,’ novelties, and combs were among the items to be found at the Nimble Nickel, a shop run by Mrs. M.C. Coleman. Following Elizabeth Stone’s lead, several enterprising women like Mrs. Coleman tried their hands at business ventures. Luella Rhodes and Grace Patton had newspapers, and Alice Tedmon had a millinery shop.”

(Historical pictures from Fort Collins History Connection.)

Wilma Turk in her wedding dress, circa 1890

Mystery Photo:
Last week's photo was of Spotlight Music, at the corner of College and Harmony.

Where in Fort Collins was this week's picture taken?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X: Xeriscape

It can be hard to have a green thumb in Fort Collins. Our semi-arid climate receives an average of just-under-sixteen inches of precipitation a year, we have lots of intense sunshine, and I’ve seen many a seedling shrivel up after a day in our dry wind.

Xeriscape is the term for using low-water plants to create a more sustainable landscape in a thirsty climate such as ours. Many decorative native plants require much less water than their food-producing cousins. Once established, a xeriscape garden is drought-tolerant and will need supplemental watering only during the hottest, driest days of summer.

I know what you’re thinking: to be eco-conscious, we must plant only spiny, shapeless blobs of heat-defying hardiness. Not true! Many xeric plants are green, they flower all summer, and they have no needles to pierce your skin as you feel around the garden searching for a lost superball. And they have cool names, such as: Carpathian Harebell, Goblin Gaillardia, Whiplash Daisy, and Creeping Veronica.

The City of Fort Collins has a Xeriscape Demonstration Garden in front of City Hall at 300 LaPorte Avenue. (There wasn’t much blooming a couple of weeks ago; I’m sure there’s more to see now.) The city’s xeriscape website includes lots of tips and a lengthy list of low-water plants.

The Gardens on Spring Creek, also part of the city’s parks department, has beautiful examples of landscaping appropriate to this region, including the Plant Select Demonstration Garden, the Xeric Parkway Strip designed by nationally-recognized landscaper and author Lauren Springer-Ogden, and the Rock Garden (currently under construction).

Keep an eye out for classes in plant selection and garden design offered through the city and local nurseries. Then start planting!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W (Week 37): Watts Up

Spring is here, and everything is greening up. But going green means more these days, especially during Earth Week. On Friday, Earth Day, the Give-a-Watt: Pedal it Forward project gave anyone who was interested the chance to burn off some calories and generate a little wattage at the same time.

The project was organized by CSU's Professor Ray Browning and the Department of Health and Exercise Science Physical Activity Laboratory, and the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources. The goal (taken from their project page) was to “test the feasibility of using stationary, energy harvesting bicycles in public, high-traffic areas as a means of:

Promoting physical activity
Increasing awareness of physical activity and energy conservation
Contributing to local non-profit organizations using electrical power as currency.”

What (I’m resisting the urge to change that to “watt”) a great idea. Three stationary Human Dynamo bicycles on the Student Center plaza provided the means for generating electricity, which was then converted from direct to alternating current. (As far as I know, this may require the flux capacitor from Back to the Future). As for the “pedal it forward” part, all energy generated, plus a matching contribution, was to be donated to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Education Coalition (BPEC) and Fort Collins Bike Co-op, two local organizations promoting safe and fun biking for all.

After a group of elementary school students burned off a small portion of their boundless energy, I got to hop on and pedal. A flat panel screen showed how many watts were being generated and gave general fitness and energy facts. (The display can be tailored for any ages or interests.) Because all three bikes were in use at once, I couldn’t tell how much wattage I was generating, but I hope it was more than the average hamster might generate on an average night of wheel-running. (I don’t know, though. Those little guys go pretty fast.)

I don’t have the final numbers, but when I left the bikes at about 11:30, 535 watts had been generated. I then ventured inside to listen to a panel discussion about energy, sustainability, and bicycle safety. There I learned that 8 hours on the energy bike would generate 3 kilowatts of energy. In comparison, the average family uses 23 kilowatts per day.

At $2000 for a Human Dynamo bike, I may not be able to pedal down my household energy consumption right now, but I can sign up to use wind energy to reduce my family’s footprint. And making sure I turn off the lights helps, too.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V: Veterans

At the west end of Horsetooth Road, next to the Spring Canyon Dog Park, ground is being prepared for the construction of a one-of-a-kind Veteran’s Plaza. What makes this Plaza unique is that it is not only a memorial; it is a tribute to anyone who has served or is currently serving our country. Set among native stone and shade trees, the Plaza will include an amphitheater, a bronze statue of an American WWII soldier, and interactive displays, including video monitors that continuously scroll names of veterans.

The Plaza is intended as a place of honor, reflection, and education. Part of the educational component is the inclusion of a time capsule which will be opened in 100 years. My husband’s late father served in World War II, in the office of General Douglas MacArthur. After reading that The Veteran’s Plaza Committee was collecting memorabilia for the capsule, my husband and I, and our two sons, took copies of his father’s Order to Report for Induction and pictures of the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay to be included. While we were there, we had a chance to talk to some of the members of the Veteran’s Plaza Committee and learn more about this amazing and inspirational community project.

Unless science advances in leaps and bounds over the next few decades, we won’t be around when the capsule is unearthed. But maybe our grandchildren will be. And for now, we will follow the progress of plaza and know that a small piece of our family history will be preserved for posterity.

The City of Fort Collins donated the land for the plaza, with the rest of the cost to be funded by private donations. The plaza would not be possible without the tremendous efforts of the Veteran’s Plaza Committee of the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado. For more information and to make a contribution, please visit their website.

Monday, April 25, 2011

U: University

U is for University, and Colorado State has been at the heart of Fort Collins since 1870, when Territorial Governor Edward McCook signed the bill establishing the Agricultural College of Colorado. Elijah Edwards was college President when the first classes were held in 1879. The Alumni Association was formed in 1884.

Other interesting facts:

1891 – First issue of the Rocky Mountain Collegian newspaper
1899 – First Border War football game vs. Wyoming
1909 – The Oval is designed as a way to connect campus buildings
1910 – College Days begins as spring festival
1912-1918 – Peanuts the English bulldog roams the campus as the first mascot
1914 – First Homecoming celebration
1923 – Students build the ‘A’ in six hours
1936 – Alumnus Glenn Morris wins a gold medal for decathlon in Berlin Olympic games
1948 – Thurman “Fum” McGraw becomes CSU’s first consensus All American in football
1957 – School officially becomes Colorado State University
1964 – KCSU radio launched
1968 – The Bronzed Boot—worn in Vietnam by alumnus Dan Romero—becomes Border War trophy
1969 – Women join ROTC
1970 – Old Main destroyed by arson
1985 – Professor Tom Sutherland kidnapped in Lebanon
1987 – Cans Around the Oval gets its start
1991 – Tom Sutherland released
1995 – Marching band first performs "Trombone Suicide"
1996 – Amy Van Dyken wins four Olympic gold medals
2001 – First ‘I Love CSU’ day
2008 – Erin Popovich wins four gold and two silver medals at Beijing Paralympics
2009 – 15-acre solar array installed on Foothills Campus

And one last little bit of history:

The Lost Cheer (circa 1893)
Hayseed! Turnip!
Pumpkin! Squash!
CAC We Are by Gosh!

(All this great stuff comes from the For-Ever-Green book.)

Flat Cam in my daffodils

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T: Tea

Chinese legend has it that Emperor Shen Nong was the first to drink tea. The emperor was in the habit of boiling his water—not a bad idea in the days before water treatment—and a fortuitous breeze deposited some tea leaves into the pot. Intrigued, he gave it a sip, and the rest is history.

Asians drank tea for centuries before Queen Elizabeth founded the East India Company in 1600 to bring exotic goods back to jolly old England. Colonists brought tea to America, and, in 1773, threw hundreds of pounds of it into Boston Harbor.

Today, tea is the second most popular beverage in the world, after water. The U.S. is tied for 23rd in tea consumption, but, for what it’s worth, we’ve made our mark. American contributions to tea culture are iced tea (1904 St. Louis World’s Fair), teabags (Thomas Sullivan in 1908), and instant tea (Nestea, 1946). Oh, and sweet tea, a.k.a “the table wine of the south.”

True teas—black, green, oolong—come from the camellia sinesis plant (pictured above). Tea consumption is credited with improving cardiovascular and dental health, increasing immunity, reducing some cancers, and keeping me awake at night. Herbal “teas” such as chamomile and peppermint are tisanes, or infusions, of non-tea flowers, roots, spices, etc. Red tea, or rooibos, is made from a bush that grows in southern Africa.

Cold, wet teabags will soothe beestings, insect bites, and sunburns. According to superstition, stirring a teapot counterclockwise will stir up trouble, but spilling a bit of tea while making it is good luck. If the tag falls off the teabag while it’s in your cup, you will lose something within the week. To learn the finer points of reading tea leaves, click here. "Tempest in a teapot" (American) and "storm in a teacup" (British) are idioms meaning a small event blown out of proportion. (I kind of like the original Latin Excitabat enim fluctus in simpulo--“he was stirring up waves in a ladle.”)

The wonderful Happy Lucky’s Teahouse in Old Town has over one hundred loose leaf teas, baked goods, fairly-traded silk fashion accessories, and classes. (The next event is The Perfect Cup of Chai Blending Class.) The Fort Collins Hilton offers Tea at the Hilton, featuring Colorado teas and treats, from 1-4 on the last Thursday of every month.

Now, go make a cuppa.

Friday, April 22, 2011

S: Showmen

Arthur H. “Billy” Patterson was an early Fort Collins resident who donated land for the Agricultural College (now CSU—ever wonder why the ditch is called Arthur’s Ditch?) and was actively involved in city and county government. As a child in Leavenworth, Kansas, he became friends with William F. Cody, later known as Buffalo Bill. The two remained close even through the height of Cody’s popularity in the 1880s, when he was off in London rubbing elbows with Queen Victoria and giving the Prince of Wales rides in his stagecoach.

Cody came to Fort Collins in 1915 to visit Patterson. After Cody toured the historical sites, he admonished local leaders for not recognizing the efforts of founding fathers such as Patterson. In 1916, a stone commemorating the men who donated land for the college was erected on the campus.

Frank C. Miller was born in Fort Collins in 1886 and grew up emulating Cody’s flamboyant wild west style. With lots of practice at the shootin’ gallery below his daddy’s saloon, Miller grew up to be an accomplished marksman. He could throw a can into the air and hit it twelve times before it landed, and shoot chalk and cigarettes out of his wife’s mouth. (I always wonder how one goes about practicing a trick like that.)

Miller owned the Trail’s End dude ranch along the north fork of the Poudre River, but his business skills weren’t as sharp as his shooting. He lost the ranch, his wife divorced him, and, in 1946, his son was killed in a fire in Berlin. Miller then donated his stagecoach, formerly owned by Cody, to the city as a memorial to his son. Miller was also an artist who had taken classes at the Chicago Art Institute. In his later years, he exchanged his paintings for room and board at the Linden Hotel, where he died in 1953.

(Much of this information comes from Fort Collins Yesterdays by Evadene Burris Swanson. Pictures from the Fort Collins History Connection.)

Mystery Photo:
Last week's photo was of the big fish in Old Town Square.

Where in Fort Collins was this week's picture taken?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R: Raw Food

I’m fascinated by the raw-foodies, the same way I’m fascinated by people who can run 100 miles or thrive on 2 hours of sleep a night. I understand the basic principle behind rawism—that raising the temperature of food above 120 degrees or so destroys beneficial enzymes. But in practice…I don’t think I could do it full-time.

I like raw veggies—and a big salad—as much as the next girl. I like to grow my own sprouts, and I love fruit. I’m pretty sure, though, that a bowl of zucchini shavings wouldn’t satisfy a pasta craving. And, as I tend to be cold-blooded, I really enjoy hot food. Especially soup. That first cavewoman who threw some wild mushrooms into bubbling mammoth broth was my kind of cook. When I want soup, a bowl of pureed, room-temperature, raw-enzymatic-goodness isn’t going to cut it.

To prepare for today’s post, I had a raw lunch yesterday. I bought some garden herb sea crackers made by Two Moms in the Raw in Lafayette CO, Organic Valley raw cheddar cheese, and a chocolate hazelnut bar from Raw Revolution. I made my own salad of sprouted black-eyed peas, grapefruit, avocado, and red onion.

It was all good. The crackers are super-flaxy but had a nice herb flavor. I couldn’t tell the difference between the raw cheese and a regular mild white cheddar. The bar was chocolatey enough, I suppose. After lunch, I felt as though I’d eaten very healthfully. But more so than if I’d had roasted salmon and sweet potato? I’m not sure.

Prepared raw food products are pricey--my three items cost thirteen dollars--but high-quality food tends to cost more than junk, in general. Homemade raw food can be labor intensive. Many of the recipes I found online require hardware I don’t have—namely a juicer and a dehydrator--and often use lots of nuts, flax, avocado, and coconut. I like all those things. But I also like steak.

As a committed omnivore, it certainly won’t hurt me to make room in my diet for raw foods. And I guarantee that some of them will come in the form of my very favorite desserts from Tasty Harmony in downtown Fort Collins. I’ve had their pies and carrot cake, and they are absolutely raw-licious. Tasty Harmony also has non-dessert raw menu items, including a pesto pizza that looks intriguing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q (Week 36): Quilting

This April A-to-Z Blog Challenge has added another dimension to my “one-new-activity-per-week” plan. “E” had me waving an election sign. “K” took me to King Weenie. But “Q”? Queen, Dairy wouldn’t cut it. Ditto for Quiznos and Q-Doba. I’ve even done qigong before. I have friends who used to live in Qatar, but that’s way outside my jurisdiction. I was in a quandary. Oh, Q…what’s a girl to do?

Quilting, that’s what. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that I’ve never done any quilting. I’m not super-adept at the domestic art forms, especially anything that requires needle and thread. I can sew on a button or a patch, but for the rest…well, if it can’t be done with a glue gun, then it can’t be done by me. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me from making good on my “Q” post. Happily, Sharon from Old Town Quilting welcomed my visit.

At the studio in back of her house on Akin Street, Sharon makes quilt tops into finished quilts. I half expected to find her hunched over a little Bernina, but the quilts are stitched using two long arm machines that take up most of Sharon’s studio. One of the sewing machines is automated and follows downloaded patterns. It’s a great partnership of technology and crafting, which, from what Sharon told me, also describes her marriage. The other machine allows Sharon to design the stitching freehand. I saw examples of both, and they’re amazing.

As we talked about her work, Sharon told me that she often feels like a bartender (no, she didn’t offer me a martini at ten in the morning) because everyone who brings in a quilt also has a story to tell. Sometimes they’re happy stories, such as the mothers who have heirloom-worthy quilts made from their children’s favorite clothing. Sometimes, they’re not, and the quilts commemorate friends, family members, and pets who are sick, who are dying, who have passed on.

When I was young, my grandmother would always remind me not to sit on—or, heaven forbid, put my feet on—the quilts on her beds. Back then, I’m sure I felt that she was being overly strict. But now I think that she wanted me to have respect for the quilts—respect for the work and craftsmanship that went into them, and respect for what they represented.

I really enjoyed chatting with Sharon, who is a very friendly Minnesota transplant. After I returned home, I learned more about quilting at Womenfolk: The Art of Quilting. (Quilting in the covered wagon? Forget it. Most women had to walk.) So, thank you, letter Q, for giving me a reason to get my non-crafty self down to Old Town Quilting. I wonder if my family will mind if I start cutting their clothes into pieces...?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P: Parks

If Leslie Knope knew about our parks, she would be so jealous. She’d get that crazy gleam in her eye and complain about us to Ann, who would be bemusedly supportive. Then Tom would say something snide like, “Well, Leslie, I bet Fort Collins doesn't have a pit.” Jerry would add that we’re probably very nice people, and everyone would tell him to shut up. April would roll her eyes, and Rob Lowe’s weird character would run in and announce that he replaced the doughnuts in the breakroom with agave-sweetened sprouted-grain bagels.

This Knope-worthy description of our fabulous parks system comes from the Fort Collins Parks Department website:

“The citizens of Fort Collins have been enjoying the city park system for over 100 years. Fort Collins currently has 820 acres of developed park land including 6 community parks and 44 neighborhood/pocket parks. We also have 29 miles of recreational trails that flow through our City.

The Park/Cemeteries Division of the Culture, Parks, Recreation and Environment (CPRE) Service Unit provides maintenance and stewardship of parks, cemeteries, trails, medians and other public grounds for the Fort Collins community; and works to keep them clean, safe and in usable condition for everyone to enjoy.”

We have playgrounds aplenty, splash parks, baseball, racquetball, volleyball, disc golf, basketball, tennis, hockey, BMX, horseshoes, swimming, fitness courses, and trails for jogging, walking, and rollerblading. We have skateboard parks and dog parks, but if you have one of these guys, I'm not sure where you're supposed to go:

The website includes a park finder tool and histories of the parks, including this interesting stuff about City Park:

1874 - John Sheldon purchased a large tract of land, west of the year-old town of Fort Collins, for a sheep ranch. Laborers excavate a large artificial lake (the pile of dug-out material is now Fire Cracker Hill, f.k.a Knobb Hill).

January 3, 1912 - Professor L.D. Crain submits name for new park, at a park commission meeting, unanimously called "City Park". Summer---Woven wire fencing put up around the park and trees set out according to Longyear's plan.

April 1913 - Park commission purchased team of horses, wagon, harness, and other implements for upkeep as needed by the caretaker of City Park. Other parks that were "competitors" and are no longer in existence: Vecelius's Grove and Lindenmeier Lake Resort Park.

Other parks that were "competitors" and are no longer in existence: Vecelius's Grove and Lindenmeier Lake Resort Park.

A "Pawnee Pit" on Taft Hill Road? No, just a drainage project.