Tag Archives: 2012

I’m moving! (in cyber space)

I’ve had a wonderful time here on WordPress. I did not know about all the things that go into blogging. There is so much information out there and I’ve learned a lot in these past six months. This is my first experience with personal blogging, and overall it’s been a good one. But alas, it’s time for me to move on.

Many of you will wonder, “Why leave the green pastures of WordPress in favor of that dusty old Blogger?” I won’t get into every little detail. The main point is that after playing with Blogger (and the new integration with Google+) I believe it is a much better fit for me personal as I push deeper into the blogosphere. Goodbye to you, WordPress. I will always look back on my time with you fondly and appreciate the stepping stone you provide me with.

If you subscribe to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.

Tour de Fat does bad things to good people

This title is a quote thanks to Jessica and her Facebook status. Tour de Fat is a magical bicycle parade, which occurs but once every year. It is an event created by New Belgium Brewing Company in order to celebrate bike culture in cities across the U.S. There is music and other forms of entertainment, food from local restaurants and, of course, beer. It is one of those affairs in which pictures speak much louder than words.

The parade started at 10am on September 1, here in Fort Collins, CO.

This is me with a store-brand Otter Pop (and yes that is a small child’s Disney’s Cinderella dress)

We biked and I took pictures (sorry for the blurriness/hair/angles, like I said I was taking pictures and biking at the same time)

We then encountered THE MOB! (Run! Don’t walk! From the mob…)

And this puppy in a backpack…

And this really awesome bike…

And Spongebob Squarepants, Patrick Star and Sheldon Plankton blowing bubbles…

And The Addams Family

And this sign: “$3-$5 to pee in the trees on Hitler/Stalin“…

Really it was a pretty awesome collection of people.

*Begin Part 2* The cast of characters switches at this point as I changed friends, (except that guy on the end with the pink boa… he is a photo bomber and definitely not my friend).

This is Jenna, she wins best costume of the century…

We went to Ben & Jerry’s

Then we sat in the shade and people watched

We met Tinky Winky

Listened to the port-a-potty karaoke

And my man thong quota for my whole life was filled (I am deeply sorry for having to expose you to this)…

And that my friends, is what Tour de Fat is all about (well not the directly above ^^^ but the collection of ALL of the above).

And after all this fun guess what I got to do?! If you said, “You went to Old Chicago, ate awesome pizza, and watched CSU beat CU in football,” then you are correct. The prize is I will remove the man thong image from your view. You’re welcome.

(***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

Have you ever participated in Tour de Fat?

President Obama Addresses Colorado Students About 2012 Election

President Obama came to visit Colorado State University on August 28th. He was here in 2008 and I just barely missed him. He was a senator running for president back then. I was a scared freshman, and the Oval was outside of the comfortable bubble I had created for myself (dorm room, classes, Lory Student Center, and Corbett dining hall).

This time around I was determined to see him. My President Obama adventures began around 10:30 am on August 27th. That’s when I just happened to walk by a girl handing out tickets on my way to carry out a completely different mission (Print flyers for the first meeting for the CSU Range Club). She was just setting up so I didn’t even have to wait in line to get this shiny blue ticket.

Behind the scenes photos:

Obama’s Helicopter
Via @EllyCollins

Security
Via @SarahJaneKyle

Secret Service
Via @SarahJaneKyle

Behind these curtains you can find metal detectors and a weaving maze on metal barricades to organize the line of people.

The next stages of this adventure to see President Obama’s speech did not quite go according to plan. First off, I should have realized that the people I passed at 10:00am (some people camped out all night) were clever, instead of scoffing at their time-wasting ways.

Secondly, I should have brought my ticket to school with me this morning instead of leaving it in my lunch box (yes, I am such a logical thinker). My poor boyfriend, Reid, was napping (he works nights now), and I woke him up to bring my ticket between classes.

Third, I should have brought sunscreen and a hat and a parasol and a sunshade and a fan and about 8 gallons of water! It was approximately 5,000 degrees and standing in line in direct sunlight in that kind of heat is probably what death feels like (if you died in the desert of heat stroke and dehydration), especially if your not even sure if it will all pay off.

Fourth, I should have left my backpack with Reid when he brought the ticket instead of lugging it with me to the back of the loooooooong line (My estimates say it was at least a mile long).

Map courtesy of Google Maps

  • Blue box indicates location of speakers
  • Red box indicates security
  • Black line indicates direction of line (Where it ends on East dr. is not necessarily the end, this is just where I lost track of it.)
  • Yellow star indicates where I got into the line
  • Orange star indicates where I left it

*Please Note: Colors have no correlation to party.

After 30 minutes of waiting in line (I moved probably 20 feet in that time, at least I made it to some shade), I was told that IF I made it to the front they would probably send me to a separate line to check my bag before sending me BACK to the back of the line.

I had nowhere to take my backpack AND my phone was dead. The extremely nice woman in front of me in line told me she would save my place in line if I wanted to run home to drop it off. She gave me her phone number and told me to call when I returned in order to find her. She joked that she would be hard to find, about 10 feet away from our current position in the 45 minutes it would take for me to return.

There was a squirrel in this tree. I thought I got it in the picture but it must be a vampire. (squiracula)

So I left my place…

…chugged a bottle of the free H2Obama (witty)…

… snapped this photo of the Elvis selling Obama buttons. I also saw a man selling Baronco shirts (Barack + Broncos = Baronco?)… and rode my bike home.

I was so hot when I got home that I felt defeated and like I never wanted to return to that horrible line. I resigned my self to homework for the night.

My sister, Erica then told me that she had green priority tickets, which gave me a second wind (with priority tickets you don’t have to wait as long in line). I called my friend that was saving my spot in line to tell her that I wouldn’t be returning and thanked her for her kindness. We decided to meet up at Wild Boar Coffee, a coffee shop across the street from campus.

Images inside the Quad:

Via Nick Lyon of the Rocky Mountain Collegian

A few highlights from the opening speeches:

John Hickenlooper, Governor for Colorado, states, “Barack Obama has your back. Do we have his back?” He then goes on to say “President Obama has more emotional depth than anyone I have ever known, and we are lucky to have him as our president.”

Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, asks, “ Who will be the champion for the middle class? Obama, or the other guy who stands for the top 2%.” He also informs us, “It’s Barack Obama that helped you get into higher education.”

CSU Sophomore Haley Damm-Hamblin introduces the president. Her speech represented her background as a young woman going to university and why this election is important to her.

Finally, Obama takes the stage, and he got me just a jazzed as he always does when I hear him speak. One of his major points throughout the speech was the importance of voting. He encourages us to vote saying, “Your vote will decide where we go from here,” and “You choose the path to get to the future.”

When he says that in the next few weeks his opponent will share his agenda, the crowd boos, to which he says, “Don’t boo. Vote. That’s the best response. Vote, and get some of your friends to vote.” He mentions an online voter registry, GottaVote.com, which he emphasizes the spelling and apologizes to English professors 😉 . He then says, “Young people came out in record numbers four years ago.” and “Understand your power. If you’re going to get cynical, wait till you’re older.” (hahahaha)

A great moment was when Obama listed all the things WE accomplished in the last four years and a guy yells, “You helped!” to which Obama replies, “I helped a little bit” Hahaha Classic.

He puts the power in our hands, “If we win Colorado, we will win this election. If we win Fort Collins, we will win Colorado.” and “America is counting on you and I’m counting on you.”  Pressure’s on! President Obama is counting on ME!

Via Nick Lyon of the Rocky Mountain Collegian

Another key point in President Obama’s speech was the power of education. He tells us that Mitt Romeny calls us the lost generation but we are not because Obama believes in us: “I believe in you. I believe in the American people. I’ve seen the passion of this generation.”

He goes on to say that he and First Lady, Michelle paid off their student loans about 8 years ago. He says, “We know what its like.” He emphasizes his commitment to higher education saying that we shouldn’t be making it harder for students to pay off loans than it already is. My question for you: Should we keep college affordable or borrow money from our parents (as Romney suggests)?

Via Nick Lyon of the Rocky Mountain Collegian

A third point emphasized in his speech was ObamaCare, Obama explains that “We passed this law because I care.” ObamaCare has provided 7,000,000 young people with healthcare, given woman access to health care such as birth control, mammograms and pap smears, and has made medicine more accessible to the elderly. “Some of us can’t afford the healthcare we need sometimes, no matter how well we plan.”

A particularly funny moment in my opinion was the reference to the “Romney-Doesn’t-Care plan,” the health care system we will be left with should Romney be elected.

Via Nick Lyon of the Rocky Mountain Collegian

President Obama also discusses the economy and jobs. Obama says that tax cuts should not be given to those who have already succeeded (if success is measured monetarily) saying, “Tax cuts should be given to the middle-class, small business and students not to those who have already made it.” He wants to “build the economy from the inside out.” “It’s about the middle class and students.” (Hey that’s me!)

Obama tells us that his opponent believes, “Renewable sources of energy are imaginary,” Obama asks, “Do we want to be forever dependent on foreign oil or do we want to pursue renewable, clean energy sources?” and that “Renewable energy is the future.”

Obama explains, “Here’s the bottom line, Colorado. If the other side has their way … it wont create jobs.” and “I want to make sure taxes are not raised a single dime on first $250k of income.”

A few other great points from Obama include, “Help every American have a chance to better themselves.” “We don’t need to refight the battles of the past, we are moving forward, we don’t go backward!” Obama is not going to leave any Americans out in the cold, that’s what we’re fighting for.

He questions why people who love each other can’t get married. His response, “The history of our country is not about how many people we can exclude.” and “Ignoring inequality doesn’t make it go away.”

Obama on veterans: “We’re going to have to serve them just as well as they’ve served us.”

He includes some inspirational ideas such as: “You gotta get on board. Its time for change!” (which was responded to by the crowd with a resounding, “Yes we can!”) One of his themes was that he hasn’t finished what’s he’s started, “We’ve got more work to do!” (To which the crowd began chanting, “Four more years!”). And he tells us, “We are greater together than we are on our own.”

He exited to a little Bruce Springsteen, “We take care of our own.”

(My dumb ole video of the motorcade from Wild Boar Coffee after the speech. Sorry I didn’t follow the limo. I was looking at it but my hands didn’t cooperate.)

“Will this be an America where no matter where no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter who you love, no matter what your last name is, you can pursue happiness?”

As a young person, I feel that Obama understands me. As a student, I believe that Obama appreciate me. As a Natural Resources student specifically, I recognize that Obama values me. As a woman, I know that Obama supports me. I am grateful that I can look back on today as a piece of history that I participated in, and I hope one day this piece of history will be considered the day everything changed.

*UPDATE: Today is a new day and the Rocky Mountain Collegian (CSU’s student newspaper) has some interesting articles and things to say about Obama’s visit, that I would like to address.

This article compares Obama’s 2012 campaign with FDR’s campaign in which he has re-elected for four terms due to the creation of the New Deal. These government programs forced Americans to rely on the government for their basic needs. I disagree with this comparison. While Obama did mention that he wants to finish the work he’s started, the programs he has introduced are not forced on every American, they give chances to every American. The choice to take these opportunities is left up to the individual.

An article by Caleb Hendrich with the title, “Don’t Boo Get Out and Vote,” discusses why Obama is focused on getting more votes. Apparently, historically the greater the turn-out of voters the more likely the Democratic party has been to have a victory in both the executive and legislative branches. An interesting point.

While the editorial rejoices in the 13,000 people showing up to support the democratic process, their view is that the fate of the nation does not ride on one day in history or the results of the election in November. They want to encourage people to monitor the government in order to ensure that what is promised also is put into effect.

At the time of Obama’s speech there was a smallish (comparatively) gathering of Mitt Romney supporters who met at the corner of University and Meridian Avenues. A report in the collegian quotes one of their number in response to the idea of repealing ObamaCare, ” The idea that the government can force you to buy something scares me.” My response to you sir: “Where do you think roads and highways, public schools, wildlife protection, national monuments, public transportation, public libraries, open space protection, wetland protection, etc. etc. come from? Your tax dollars, that’s where. You’ve been forced to “buy” things your whole life. Even if you don’t use these things every day or they will not benefit you directly, you have to pay for them. ObamaCare simply creates an opportunity for some people in the same way all the other public service we know and love do.

(***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

Did you catch President Obama’s speech? What do you like, or dislike, about Obama’s campaign? Romney’s? Are you registered to vote? (Register here)

Small Space Gardening on a Budget

My Grandpa bought me a book called In a Japanese Garden by Charmaine Aserappa with original woodcuts by Akiko Maomura for my birthday. It is full of short phrases about each component of a Japanese garden and a corresponding image (woodcut).  At the end there is a description of Japanese gardens and what they mean, “not merely decorative, but meticulously designed and maintained as meditative spaces for contemplation, refreshment and reflection.” I hope I can find both refreshment and order in my garden space.

If you’ve read my other posts you may know that this summer my biggest project has been my balcony garden. It all began with the Hanging Gutter Garden Part 1 and Part 2. While the gutter garden was certainly the most intensive of my projects this summer, it was not the only one.  You may remember this flower tower mentioned in this post; let me tell you how I made my version.

My Version

Materials:

  • Decreasing sizes of pots – you can use any number of pots I used four (they should have holes in the bottom).  I got the three terra cotta pots from Michael’s for fairly cheap (sale + coupons) and the big plastic pot from WalMart for about $7 bucks and I didn’t need to buy a water collection dish because it has it’s own draining mechanism built it.
  • Long metal rod – I used one of those threaded rods they have at Home Depot. I will be the first to admit that I have no idea what it’s actually for but it was cheaper than buying rebar (and I didn’t have to cut it).
  • Plants – I lucked out because the King Soopers had a big sale on flowers (10 4-packs for $10) I also bought the potato vines for about $2.50 because I love the way they look. Any annuals will do, you could even plant edible plants or herbs.
  • Soil – I used some with water beads since it’s been so dry, but any kind will do.

You start by filling the base pot half-full with soil. Stick the rod in the center, slide the next pot down the rod.  Fill that pot halfway with soil and repeat the process with the remaining pots. If the rod sticks out the top, simply add more soil between pots. Then plant your flowers or what have you as you normally would. Simple right?

“Be the bud. Prepare to blossom.”

The remaining flowers are planted in flowerpots around the railings.

“Be the gardener. Create order.”

I also mentioned that I wanted to plant tomatoes and peppers in pots. I used water walls to increase their growing season. Here are my results.

I used fallen branches as support (free vs. not free… I choose free)

This is the third ripe tomato so far

My First Pepper

My strawberry plant is in a hanging basket. It’s been doing well, only the birds keep getting the fruit before I do. I would mind more if they weren’t so dang cute and didn’t sing such pretty songs to me while I drink my tea in the morning.

I also ended up planting peas from seed using this tutorial. They started out growing like mad; I harvested two bowls of peas in their peak. However, it turns out container gardening is quite difficult.  I think I over-watered them causing their roots to run out of oxygen and rot, finally they started dying off. I’m too embarrassed to share the picture. On the bright side there is some re-growth now that the soil has dried out a bit.

The final addition to my farm was sort of last minute. I had an extra pot and some carrot seeds so I planted them in the pot. I’ve never heard of this being done and this is crazy (but here’s my number, so call me maybe). Anyway we’ll see how it turns out; all I have at the moment is greens. I did a thinning last week so hopefully the carrots start being carrots.

My watering can is in the front (isn’t it cute?). The carrots are in the terra cotta pot just behind the watering can.

As for this project, I couldn’t figure out a way to stabilize it. I think the best way would be to drive the rebar deep into the ground.  Well I don’t have ground, I have concrete and a wooden railing.  I scratched that project but my grandmother found these cute colorful pots at the dollar store.  She bought a bunch and I am using them for herbs (I realize now this is better because I can bring them inside this winter). P.S. Notice the tomato on the window sill through the window. 🙂

“Be the seasons. Welcome change.”
From left to right: dill, cilantro (used to be cilantro), spearmint, lemon balm, oregano, basil, spring onions
They sit on my air conditioner

Rosemary Bush

I wanted a way to enjoy my space so I have been keeping my eyes open for a small-ish patio set.  This bistro set caught my eye at Home Depot. At that point I told my parents about it and guess what I got for my birthday? Well see for yourself.

It didn’t come with the cushions, those were a separate gift from my grandparents

You can see the grill in the background; Reid has wanted a grill since, as long as I’ve known him (and we just celebrated our 3 year anniversary last week). We found this charcoal grill at a flea market in south (SOUTH) Fort Collins for $12.  One night he was grilling as the sun was setting and it started getting too dark for him to see. He used his camping headlamp that night but the next day he went out and got a strand of lights to hang from the ceiling. Now it feels like an outdoor café.

“Be the moth. Seek the light.
Be the lantern. Guide the lost.”

We also found two wind chimes (and I made a third)

“Be the wind chime. Let the breeze blow through you. Turn the storms into song.”

Now that all the hard work is done I have had the chance to relax in and enjoy the space. We eat dinner at our café, I read books in the morning with my breakfast and tea, and I tend and water the plants (the best part of container gardening is that there are no weeds, only insect pests). Though it took most of my savings to set it up I have no regrets about the rewarding outcome. My first real experience with gardening has overall been successful, maybe not bountiful, but successful none-the-less.

(***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

Leave a comment; I need all the advice I can get. What are your best gardening tips?

Hanging Gutter Garden Part 2: Putting it Together

I know it has been over 3 months since Hanging Gutter Garden Part 1: Adventures in Home Depot. But I do have excuses. One excuse is that I lost my camera battery charger and I could not take pictures of my progress, another is that I’m lazy. But, just before the backpacking extravaganza (and after losing Reid’s camera in the Canyonlands) I broke down and purchased a new (expensive) charger (with LED charging screen and European outlet adapter).

Now that I have the means to take picture I figured it was about time to share my patio garden with you lovely people.

As I said in this post, I wanted to create the hanging gutter garden like this one.

For mine I didn’t have the fancy pants hardware (or the fancy pants bank account). I used the gutter given to me by the gutter guys (A story told here). I also purchased a plastic gutter for $5 at Resource 2000, where they sell salvaged construction materials.

The finished product – metal gutter

Bottom Level = Lettuce

Middle Level = Radishes (recently harvested and replanted)

Top Level = Spinach (recently replanted due to struggling first crop)

The finished product – plastic gutter

All Levels = salad mix (sprouting)

The materials:

  • 1 gutter cut into three equal parts (process is almost identical no matter the material, I tried with both plastic and metal gutters)
  • 6 gutter caps – the plastic ones are quite nice and can be purchased at Home Depot, Metal are also nice but mine had to be bent to fit the gutter, which was quite a process.
  • 2 hooks – I chose some that screw into a drilled hole
  • 16’ of 1/8” steel cable cut into 6 equal lengths (or as much as you’ll need to fill your space, gutters should be at least 18” apart to allow adequate sun exposure and plant growth) – I bought this kit at walmart because I was there buying pots and it was the only cable they had. The kit actually came in handy as the clips (though not exactly what I was looking for) worked perfectly. As I worked I realized I needed 32” of cable for both my gutter gardens so I ended up having to go to Home Depot for a yard of steel cable.
  • 12 clips – 6 came in the kit mentioned above and there was another pack nearby without 3 clips (no cable) so I bought two of these packs
  • 2 thimbles – these came in the kit mentioned above but they are also sold alone

Above = clips, Below = thimble,
Source

  • Wire Cutters – sharpened
  • Electric drill – with attachments for drilling holes large enough for the steel wire to go through and for tightening nuts on the clips

Step 1. Cut the gutters
The gutter man who gave it to me cut the metal gutter in uneven thirds; my dad then cut into equal length pieces. I sawed the plastic gutter into (almost) equal thirds (I did it all by myself thank you).

Step 2. Drill holes
My dad helped me drill two holes, large enough for the steel cable to fit through, across from each other on each end, and one hole at the center of the base on each end (6 holes per gutter section).

Step 3. Fit the end caps
This part was quite complicated for the metal gutter. The plastic gutter was simple, the caps fit perfectly. My Metal Gutter was not the exact shape of the cap. My dad used pliers to shape the end of the gutter to fit into the cap and a rubber mallet to force it in where it wasn’t exactly perfect. He did this for each of the 6 end caps and I am so grateful for that. If you buy your gutter where you buy your end cap this shouldn’t be a problem for you, mine came from different sources.

Step 4. Cut steel cable into 6 36” sections
We definitely over estimated the amount of steel cable to use. My dad and I were not at my apartment during the building process so we wanted to give ourselves some extra. You might not need so much extra slack when building your gutter garden. Be careful when cutting the wire, it tend to fray; very sharp wire cutters can help prevent fraying.

Step 5. Thread the steel cable
With one end shorter than the other thread the cable through the two holes at the top of the gutter. This can be quite difficult if the cable has frayed. Also be prepared to be poked with sharp metal; gloves are probably a good idea at this point.

Step 6. Secure the cable
Loosen the nuts on the clip and thread both ends of the cable through the clip. Pull the clip down on the cable where its not pulling to much but is tight. Finagle the cable so the short end only pokes out of the clip about an inch and tighten the nuts on the clip, a little on each nut so it tightens evenly. Repeat this process (step 5 and 6) for each gutter on each end (a total of 6 times)

The Metal Gutter

The Plastic Gutter

Step 7. Connect the pieces
Starting with the gutter section you want at the base of your garden thread the long end of the cable through the hole in the base of the middle gutter section. Attach a clip around this single end of cable and tighten. Make sure the clip is at the length you want. Do this on both ends, keeping the gutter level. Do the same thing with the middle gutter and the top gutter. Leave the top gutter for now.

The Metal Gutter

The Plastic Gutter

Step 8. Hanging the dang thing
This was another complicated step. The whole contraption is very heavy, awkward and dynamic. This stage was obviously done at my apartment with my boyfriends help to replace my dad. There is most definitely a better way than how we did this but I am the queen of doing things in the most complicated way. We measured the distance between cables, drilled holes for the screw hook and screwed them in. Then we hauled the apparatus up a step stool and one of our kitchen chairs between the two of us. I stabilized my end as he threaded a clip onto the cable then a thimble around the hook and tightened it. We kept the thing slightly above the railing so that when we screwed it down it would be tight. Mind you this took many, many, many, many, MANY tries because there were so many pieces to hold steady at a precise place, but we finally got it and 3 months later it looks fantastic.

Side note: The method above details how we hung the metal gutters. For the plastic gutters we screwed the bottom gutter onto the railing first, but we couldn’t get it tight enough at the top and it looks like it’s leaning forward since the hooks at the top and the screws at the base are not directly vertical. Therefore we developed the method above, which was also difficult but returned better results.

The Hook in the Ceiling

These gutters dry out VERY fast, especially in an arid climate like Colorado. I have struggled with wilting, browning, and flat out dying plants in these gutters since planting. I have discovered that on hot days I must water them twice: once in the morning and once in the evening, in order to keep them healthy. Someone in a more humid environment might not experience these problems.

(***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

How did you like this post? Are you interested in making a gutter garden? Do you have questions about my process? Leave a comment.

Backpacking for Dummies: A Dummy’s Guide to Backpacking

This past weekend my family and I went on a backpacking trip.  The members of our travel party would include, myself, my father Charles, my boyfriend Reid, my sister Erica, my brother-in-law Dustin, Dustin’s brother AJ, and my Australian cousin Steven, all of us at varying levels of expertise.

My dad has been backpacking passionately for as long as I can remember and plays a bit of a game with his buddy Tim: they try to pack the lightest pack with only the necessities. Erica, Dustin and AJ had never been backpacking before, but were interested in trying it out, Steven has gone a number of times both in the U.S. and in Australia, Reid, whose dad is also a passionate backpacker, has gone backpacking since he was very young, and I have gone a few of times, always with my dad, inheriting the gear he replaced with a lighter option. This is our story.

From left to right: Dustin, Erica, AJ, Reid, Maggie, Steven
Missing: Charles the photographer

Backpacking for Dummies: A Dummy’s Guide to Backpacking

Preparation:

As any backpacker would know, a backpacking trip doesn’t start at the trailhead. It begins at home with the preparation.

Choosing a date for a backpacking trip can be a very complicated process. Factors to consider:

  • Is there a wedding?
  • When will your cousin be visiting from Australia?
  • Will your uncle be celebrating his 70th birthday?
  • Do you have work or school?
  • Are you also planning a trip along the Continental Divide?
  • What will you have to reschedule?

In addition to scheduling conflicts, especially when travelling in a large group, backpacking is a sport best enjoyed in warm, dry conditions. It is important to follow the weather reports and choose dates that will ensure a happy company.

The weather in Colorado has been consistently dry and hot for the entire summer thus far, hence the wildfires up and down the state and the creation of this photo. Source: Facebook friend’s wall

However, sometimes you will find that the warm and dry dates fall during conflicting events and you are left with the single cold and wet weekend for probably the entire summer.

After deciding on a date you must gather all of your gear.

  • Tent
  • Backpack
  • Stove and fuel
  • Lighter
  • Cooking pot and skillet (depending on what you plan to cook)
  • Utensils (don’t use your hands, we aren’t barbarians)
  • Bowl and/or plate (again… barbarians)
  • Mug (hot things are hot)
  • Water filter (unless you enjoy the effects of giardia)
  • Water holding device (bottle or bladder)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Camp chair (much nicer than the ground)
  • Sleeping pad (cuz the ground is hard and rocks are lumpy)
  • Hiking socks (prevent blisters)
  • Underwear (I really shouldn’t have to explaint this one)
  • Lightweight hiking shorts (move easily)
  • Non-cotton lightweight shirts (cotton tends to stay wet once it gets wet from sweat or rain)
  • Long underwear pants and shirt (cozy pajamas)
  • Fleece (for warmth, dries quickly)
  • Rain coat and pants (keeps you dry)
  • Hiking boots (broken in)
  • Lightweight camp shoes (to relax your feet in after hiking all day)
  • Hat (1 to protect against sun, another against cold)
  • Headlamp (it gets DARK at night and when nature calls you don’t want to stumble into the lake)
  • Trekking poles (nice for steep slopes)
  • Toothbrush and paste (for fresh minty breath)
  • Hair bands (to tie back your wild tresses)
  • Chapstick (cuz chapped lips sucks)
  • Sanitation wipes (such as Wet Ones)
  • Toilet paper (again with the explaining)
  • Sunscreen (sun burns and sleeping outside don’t mix)
  • Deep woods bugspray (bugs are annoying)
  • First-aid kit (in case of the worst happening)
  • Fishing pole and license (cuz it’s fun to catch your own dinner, but don’t count on it)
  • Camera with a charged battery (it sucks to get to 11,000 feet carrying your camera the whole way just to find that you can’t take any pictures of the beautiful wildflowers)
  • Rope and caribiner (for hanging food in the trees away from camp: bears)

Some things you might already have, you might have to borrow things from friends and family. The important thing is to make sure you have your basic needs covered, shelter and warmth. Sustenance, of course, is another basic need. You have everything you need to store water and to filter it for safe drinking. You also have food preparation and consuming equipment. Now you must decide what food items to bring.

This depends on how many days you will be backpacking, weight and comfort. It is best to go for light items that are filling for their weight. Some good options that I like to bring include:

  • Instant oatmeal packets
  • Applesauce
  • Granola bars
  • Ramen, macaroni and cheese, cous cous (anything with a dry grain that you just add water and flavoring)
  • Cashews, almonds, pistachios, etc.
  • Dried fruit such as raisins, or craisins
  • Dehydrated veggies
  • Candy bars especially chocolate
  • Trail mix
  • Instant coffee
  • Tea bags
  • Chicken or tuna in a foil pouch
  • Tortillas can be used to make PB&J roll-ups or quesadillas
  • Alcohol

There are many things you can bring and it takes practice to decide what you like best. These are just my personal favorites.

Communication:

It is very important to stay in contact with those who will be travelling with you. They are your support system and prior to the trip everyone should be on the same page as to where you are going, for how long, the hike distance, elevation etc. This can easily be done through email so long as you send emails to the correct address.

Finally all your preparation will be rewarded; the day of the trek has arrived. Have a big breakfast at IHOP and drive to your trailhead, because things are about to get real.

“Up up up up the stairs we go, until we come to the tunnel. And when they go in, there’s no coming out… all she gets is filthy orcses and they doesn’t taste very nice does they precious? No, not very nice at all my love.”
(Not really sure what’s with all the LOTR references, just go with it)
Source: http://www.councilofelrond.com/imagegallery/stairs-of-cirith-ungol/

The Climb:

It’s been said that your brain will quit a hundred times before your body will have to. The thing to remember with backpacking is that you must trick your brain. Encouraging it with phrases like, “We’re almost to the top,” or “You can carry yourself and 40 extra pounds up this steep section,” will help. Another thing to remember is that you can’t stop too often or for too long, your muscles will have to warm up every time you stop and it’s best to just keep going.

Finding Nemo reference, instead of LOTR, 🙂
Source: http://howimetyourfatherblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/keep-calm-and.html

I find that after about 20 minutes I get into the zone: the weight and constant pounding of my feet keeps me centered. Other may experience different findings. Whatever works for you, channel it. (Also make sure to eat snacks and drink LOTS of water)

A quick rest

Camping:

When you find an area that looks nice to camp (with a water source nearby), it’s best to set-up camp before doing anything else (except maybe following nature’s call, which I will not be getting into in this post. If you would like information on using the world as your toilet and leaving no trace please read the 5th subheading in this article.

Our campsite, set up just before the rain fell, lucky we brought that big heavy tarpaulin

To set up camp first, set up your tent (and a rain tarp, since the clouds will be rolling in at this point). After setting up the tent, pull out your sleeping pad and bag inside the tent to get fluffy and cozy before bed. Then as the first drops begin to fall on your head, put on your raincoat and pants and set up your camp chair. Duck under your rain tarp, hunker down, and try to laugh away the misfortune: play games, drink alcohol, DON’T check the time, and hope for some sun.

When the rain calms a bit and it’s safe to walk around in the tall wet grass snap a few pictures of the beauty that surrounds you.

It’s good to have some activities prepared between meals, to pass the time: day hikes, reading, drawing, photography, fishing, writing, talking, laughing, card playing, and sledding are all good ideas.

As the sun sets, find a good place to hike up to (careful of the slippery wet rocks) and enjoy the view.

When the tarp begins to collect water, engineering must come into play.

The Moose Destroyer

When all else fails and you are feeling lost in the wetness, make new friends.

Hemingway the Caterpillar (if he can survive the cold and wet, so can you)

After cooking and eating dinner, playing a few silly games about what you can take to the moon, and passing around a few communal beers it’s time for bed. Brush your teeth (with a bottle of Jack), strip off your wet clothing and snuggle into your sleeping bag as you listen to the creeks flowing all around you (don’t forget to use the natural toilet before getting in bed, it is the absolute worst thing to have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night on a camping trip, especially when there are streams flowing in every directions and marshes just beyond the streams and tall wet grass everywhere you step).

In the morning you will wake up to the babbling brooks and songs of the birds (and your urgent need to urinate). You will hope that the sun is shining and poke your head out of the tent warily. You see that it is and your heart will flood with joy. You get dressed and let yourself fully out of the tent, joining your party under the big blue tarp. You start preparing your breakfast just as the sun shyly hides its face again behind the clouds.

You resign yourself to another chilly and cloudy day and the company decides to finish breakfast, pack up and head back down the mountain.

Hiking down:

Hopefully you remembered to clip your toenails before the trip because the constant jamming of your toenails into the front of your boots can be quite painful. Just ask those who have decided to have their toenails removed completely. Lacing your boots tightly around your ankles can help with the downhill hike.

Some people say hiking down is the hardest part, yes hiking up is more strenuous and breathing is much harder, but hiking down takes finesse and concentration. Constantly trying to stop your body’s potential energy from turning into kinetic energy is tough work, but still usually takes less time.

Then the whole trip is over. You can load your gear into the car, get in yourself and drive home (or to get some bagels and Taco Bell).

That is, of course, unless your boyfriend is chased down the mountain by a mountain line, which he fights off by punching it in the face, which is seen by pirates who think he is bad ass and want him in their troop, but first they have to initiate him by locking him in a mine in Idaho Springs, which he only escapes because Gandalf (LOTR reference again) shows up blinding them with his staff, and he crawls to safety through a tunnel which leads to the basement of Beaujo’s where he is picked up by his girlfriend and her dad, or so the story has been told.

Further (more practical) information on backpacking:

(***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

What do you think of our experience? Do you like to backpack? Tell me about your past trips.

What in the world are bike lanes for?

With the nice weather and the onset of spring I have been enjoying riding my bike around town rather than driving. It has been lovely to fill my lungs with the sweet smell of blooming flowers and listen to the bird songs, while exercising my body on my way to and from class and running errands.

Unfortunately, today a woman in an SUV yelled at me.

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For some reason I really hate these stickers, and SUV lady had one.
Image credit: http://www.mr-miata.net/2010/12/family-car-stickers/

The following is my artistic rendition of the encounter:

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Stopped at a stoplight next to SUV lady on Howes St. heading north.
(don’t worry mom; I was actually wearing a helmet, It just looked funny in the drawing)

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Lady leaning over to the passenger seat and totally not looking at the road to yell at me.

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I see your point.

I have compiled a list of possible uses for that bit of road bordered by two white lines found between the car lane and the sidewalk.

  1. Extra space for driving while texting. (Saw that happen once: young girl was texting and nearly hit a biker. But that’s a story for another day.)
  2. Parked vehicle door opening space.
  3. Alien spaceship landing zones.
  4. Area for delivery trucks to stop in order to not block car traffic.
  5. Saved road in case of future lane expansion.

But enough of that. I know SUV lady probably doesn’t read my blog. For other readers I have including the list of basic rules for bicycles according to the Fort Collins Government website:

  • In the state of Colorado a bicycle is a vehicle, you have the same rules and responsibilities as a motor vehicle
  • Ride in a designated bike lane if one is present, otherwise ride as far to the right hand side of the road as practicable
  • Don’t weave in and out of parked vehicles – hold a straight line of travel
  • Ride with traffic
  • Ride single file
  • Don’t cling to other vehicles
  • Obey all traffic signs and signals
  • Use a light at night
  • Yield to Pedestrians and give an audible signal when passing
Further information and reading:
  • You can find a complete list of laws for Fort Collins bicyclists here.
  • For bicycle laws in the state of Colorado, click here.
  • And a link to the Complete Colorado Cycling Manual.

For your state these laws may be different. I believe everyone should read up on their biking laws before they go around yelling at bicyclists who are indeed following the rules.

(***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

Thanks for reading, leave a comment about your encounters with people not following traffic laws.

The continual battle between my time traveling selves

pro·cras·ti·na·tion [proh-kras-tuhney-shuhn, pruh‐] 

 noun

the act or habit of procrastination, or putting something off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention: She was smart, but her constant procrastination led her to be late with almost every assignment.

The definition according to Dictionary.com

I am a procrastinator.   Fortunately, for me (and for my grades) I am not like the girl in the use-it-in-a-sentence portion of this definition and I work well under pressure. A typical weekend in my humble abode looks something like the following.

Image

That's my boyfriend Reid looking in the empty fridge.

Image

Our couch is actually tan.

Image

Fortunately he puts up with my crazy.

Image

The continual conflict between my past, present and future selves is how the world will end this year. True story: ask the Mayans.

And now, presenting the 10 reasons I procrastinate:

  1.  I will get back to this tomorrow.

The continual battle between my time traveling selves

pro·cras·ti·na·tion [proh-kras-tuhney-shuhn, pruh‐]

 noun

the act or habit of procrastination, or putting something off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention: She was smart, but her constant procrastination led her to be late with almost every assignment.

The definition according to Dictionary.com

I am a procrastinator.   Fortunately, for me (and for my grades) I am not like the girl in the use-it-in-a-sentence portion of this definition and I work well under pressure. A typical weekend in my humble abode looks something like the following.

Image

That’s my boyfriend Reid looking in the empty fridge.

Image

Our couch is actually tan.

Image

Fortunately he puts up with my crazy.

Image

The continual conflict between my past, present and future selves is how the world will end this year. True story: ask the Mayans.

And now, presenting the 10 reasons I procrastinate:

  1.  I will get back to this tomorrow.

 

 

(***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

Hanging Gutter Garden Part 1: Adventures in Home Depot

So, I live in a second floor apartment and really want to grow my own food this summer (and also have pretty flowers).  That said, I have many projects planned to make our outside space more livable (we have a beautiful corner balcony with lots of room)

I plan to:

  • Make this container structure for pretty flowers
  • Plant tomatoes and peppers in pots
  • Make this pot tower for herbs
  • and make a hanging gutter garden like this

I have all the supplies for the first three; I just need to wait until it is time to start planting.  The gutter garden is going to be the biggest project and I was planning to use my free time between class and work today to get a good solid start on it.  This is the story of why that didn’t happen.

Planning ahead, which is completely out of character in the first place, meant that this morning I loaded up the website with the instructions for my hanging garden onto my kindle fire.  My thought process was was if there is no Internet in Home Depot I can still see what materials I need.  I did not however think about measuring my banister to ceiling distance or anything practical like that.

After class I drove down to Home Depot.  I went straight to the garden center because I knew I needed potting soil.  Then I headed over to the building supplies section.

Either everyone in home depot (including the people who don’t work there) are really friendly or I looked really lost and out of place because on the way to the opposite end of the store I was stopped multiple times, “Do you need help finding something miss?”

Image

Me, scooting along through Home Depot amongst a sea of helpful employees and customers

To most I replied, “No thank you, I’m fine.”  But when I couldn’t find the gutters I finally said, “Yes where do you keep rain gutters?”

“Excuse me?”

“Rain gutters, like the kind you put on your house to divert the flow of rain.”

Strange look… “Well, they’re right down this aisle here about halfway.”

“Thank you!” Big smile.

I began comparing prices and picked the cheapest one: 10’ of plastic gutter for $4.89.  And the ends came in two packs with rubber around the edges for extra sealing power.  Now, 10’ is a lot of feet and when I started driving my cart around the store with that hugeness sticking off both ends of the cart I got even more stares than before.  Then it started sliding off the front end and I just barely catch it.

“Careful there miss!”  One employee called to me, “Are you finding what you need?”

“I’m looking for 1/8” steel cable.”

“Just down here, how much do you need.  I can cut it for you.”

My mind goes blank.  Thought process: How much do I need?  I didn’t measure.  You’re an idiot!  To the employee: “I don’t know how much I need.”

“Well that will be tricky for measuring, won’t it?”  Gives me a smile.  “Let me know if you figure it out.”  Leaves.

I pull out my Kindle, thinking maybe I can estimate based on what they used.  Internet doesn’t work, “We cannot load your page please check that you have access to internet connection.”  Eff you kindle fire.  So much for planning ahead.

I stand there staring at the roll of steel cable (like that’ll help me figure out the distance between my banister and balcony ceiling).  I decide to just make a return trip after measuring and I move down the aisle to where they keep hooks and things.  There are too many choices!  What do I even need?  I start running through options of how to hang this thing, when a man walks over.

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“What are you doing with that gutter?”  He asks.

“I’m making a gutter garden, I live in an apartment with a patio so I don’t have anyplace to grow things.”

“Oh how nice.  My friend is doing that with her old gutters, she had plastic ones like this that got ravaged in a hailstorm.  You might want to look at the metal ones; they’re much more durable.”

“Oh thank you so much,” I say, “I didn’t even think about that.”

“Oh yeah and the plastic ones get cracked and dried.  Just be careful with the metal, so you don’t cut yourself.  I built a shed, and last weekend I installed metal gutters on it, my hands are still recovering.”

“Thanks again, I’m going to go check them out.”  Heads back to gutter aisle.  Metal gutters, metal gutters.  There are silver and white… white are twice as expensive?!  Why because they are white?  Oh they are bigger.  I think I want bigger, holds more soil and roots.  No, no, I don’t think I can do this today.  Puts all gutters back.

I went home empty-handed (at least without supplies for this project because I totes bought potting soil and a cute blue pot)

Anyway, on the way home, on the street I live on, I saw one man cutting some gutters, another spray painting some, and another man with his dog on a leash standing and talking to them.  I look in the rearview mirror.  Could it be?  Do I really have this luck?  Truck says Express Gutter Installation.  I screeched my car to a halt and walked over to the man with his dog.

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A sign from the garden gods

“Excuse me is this your house?”

“Yes.”  Strange look.

“Are you replacing the gutters?”

“Yes.” Stranger look.

“What are you doing with the old gutters?”

The man who was spray painting says, “You don’t want those, they’re broken and cracked.”

“Well I might, I’m just making a planter. They don’t need to function as gutters.”  I say.

The homeowner says, “Well you are welcome to take a look.”

They are quite broken but they’d probably work and they’re free.  I’m prepared to tell them I’ll take them when the spray painter tells me I can have one of their new ones.

“Really?”  Eyes light up like stars.

Gutter cutter says, “Would you like me to cut it for you?”

“Yes in thirds would be great.”  I say, not believing my luck.

So, he cuts the gutters (not in perfect thirds; but I’m willing to overlook that for the low, low cost of free).

I say, “Thank you so much!  I think this is fate, I just came from Home Depot.”

Spray painter says, “Yeah, gutters can get pretty expensive.”

The homeowner says, “That’ll be $20.”  My heart sinks for a split second before he laughs off his joke.

“Thanks again!”  I say, awkwardly carrying my new gutters to my car.

The garden gods are smiling at me today!

Unfortunately, I don’t have any of the other supplies to make the hanging gutter garden so I will just have to wait for the weekend to continue with this project.  Stay tuned for more building adventures, until next time!

***Update*** The project is complete and there is a blog post to prove it.

 

(***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

What garden projects are you working on for this summer?

My Take on the Kony 2012 Campaign

We live in the age of the internet and, for better or for worse, Social Media is King.  Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Myspace, Tumblr, YouTube.  There are hundreds of sites that are designed to keep us connected, allow us to share ideas,  and make the world feel smaller.  With the invention of smart phones, the drunken bar argument about when an event occurred in history, or who wrote a certain song, or how to pronounce a word is a thing of the past.  My generation have grown up with the equipment and the know-how to look up anything we want to know at any time, without much effort.  Some organizations are using this to their benefit.

This video, according to the caption on YouTube, ”aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.”  (I believe they really want to make him infamous but that’s just my opinion about word choice)

To summarize the video, Joseph Kony is an evil Ugandan warlord who kidnaps children and uses them as soldiers and sex slaves for his militia the LRA.  Jason Russell has been working through the organization, in which he is an original founder, Invisible Children, for a decade to bring an end to Kony’s reign.  They want to catch him this year and they need everyone to know about him.  What they don’t tell you is that according to this article, both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army, that Invisible Children is working with to find Kony, are just as corrupt.

Invisible Children Inc. has good intentions and I can respect that.  They have their heart in the right place but I’m not so sure about their head.  This article explains why the author doesn’t support the Kony 2012 campaign.

When I began writing this blog, on Tuesday after I first saw the YouTube video. I was inspired.  I was sucked in by good marketing and the need to feel involved.  As I started doing more research on the topic to find the facts behind the video, I realized that I am very confused.

My optimistic, do-gooder side says, “We can do it!  Let’s bring justice!” and my logical questioning side says, “Who are they kidding?  They’re backing the lesser of two evils.”  I want to believe in this campaign but I’m not so sure I want to support Invisible Children.  I want to live in a world where the people have the power to band together and precipitate change but I know it’s more complicated and there are many hoops to jump through.

It’s taken me three days of editing and thinking and discussing and writing to finally come to the conclusion that nothing is ever black and white.  I think the biggest lessons I’ve learn through my research are that just because something is trending doesn’t mean it’s factual, that knowledge is power and to never take something at face value.

Further Reading:

(***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

Help me make up my mind: What do you think about the Kony 2012 Campaign?  What is an issue you believe in?

International Women’s Day

Short post today… I’m making hummus and granola bars (more on that later)

Google Logo for the day

If you’ve opened Google today you’ve seen this image and possibly wondered what it was all about.  Well, it’s International Women’s Day!  What does that even mean?  Visit this website.

Now for an article: “Subject for Debate: Are Women People?

(***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

How are you celebrating women (even the not people ones) today?