So, back in the fall, when we planted all of our garlic, we also planted a bunch of Jerusalem Artichokes, a low-maintenance perennial that grows many feet tall and the roots are edible. Our good friend in Utah grows them and recommended we try them for many reasons: privacy, flowers, food, etc. So we purchased some tubers (they aren’t grown from seeds), and planted them in a long garden bed we had put together right next to our driveway.


Then winter happened. We knew that was going to happen. So we didn’t really expect the garlic or the artichokes to sprout until spring anyway. Well, springtime came, and the garlic went crazy. Now some of our garlic is nearly 2 feet tall! But the artichokes… never sprouted. The garden bed we had planted them in started to get overrun with weeds and we were pretty disappointed. So yesterday I decided I was going to till up the bed really good, pull all the weeds, and plant some flowers instead.


Enjoying the sunny, artichoke-y day!

I started pulling out weeds by hand. Some come out easy, some need a little extra muscle. I pulled out one and it was attached to this big root thing. I tossed it to the side. I pulled out the one next to it. Another big root bulb thing. Then I looked down the garden bed. These “weeds” were growing in very weird, straight, evenly spaced rows. At that point I called out to R, who was working on building a dresser at the time, and he came over. “Look!” I said, “these are NOT weeds.” These were the artichokes.


These plants managed to survive with literally ZERO care. We stopped watering it months ago because we thought they just never took. You look at this plant and it seriously looks just like a weed. So now that we know that we actually meant for these little guys to live, we’ve been spoiling them a bit. Lots of water; lots of love. A handful didn’t make it, so I planted sunflowers and lavender in the vacant spots. It was very much a pleasant surprise for us.


The obligatory, Arches is really making himself right at home, sort of picture.

First Planting.

We’ve been extremely anxious to start planting some seeds and growing our own food. Here in Colorado, the chance of frost can extend even into June, but waiting that long is really difficult. So we went by an old saying of waiting until after Mother’s Day, and did our first set of planting on May 10th and 11th.



Kale and Mint. This one little kale plant somehow survived the entire winter then sprung back up a few weeks ago. Amazing.

In the greenhouse we planted: 4 varieties of tomatoes (roma, manalucie, rutgers, and big cherry), jalapeno peppers, cayenne peppers, okra, basil, lavender, oregano, marjoram, and rosemary. But we’ve discovered that the greenhouse has a hard time holding heat throughout the night, and the first few nights reached below freezing. So we feared that a lot of the seeds would not survive. We watered regularly and kept a close eye on everything, and we have one okra sprout and one basil sprout that has survived so far!



Check out our green onion!

In our outdoor garden beds, we planted: turnips, radishes, swiss chard, spinach, endive, lavender, cilantro, parsley, thyme, tarragon, fennel, and sunflowers. A few days later, we added beets and collard greens. As of yesterday, all of our turnips and radishes have sprouted, and we have a couple of swiss chard, endive, and one little spinach sprout. It has been beautiful, sunny, warm weather the last several days, and we’re hoping even when we get back home today there will be more little babies waiting for us.


Turnip babies!

And this is the newest wildlife sighting at our place! Colorado’s state amphibian:


Western tiger salamander!

Spring Wildlife.

I just love watching the wildlife “spring to life” (so to speak) during this season. We watch so much amazing bird activity outside our cabin every day, from the Steller’s Jays, to the chickadees, to the blackbirds, to the vultures, to the newly-returned hummingbirds! I hung up my hummingbird feeder about two weeks ago, and the next day the hummies were there. So far I’ve only been able to for sure identify the broad-tailed hummingbirds, but I have a feeling there’s at least one other species buzzing around. They only sit at my feeder for a few moments at a time, so it’s difficult to identify them. But the male broad-tails have a very distinct high-pitched trill-y sound their wings make when they fly by, so I can at least pinpoint them.



I also took upon myself the project of cleaning up our porch, which had essentially become a storage space for crap during the winter. As I was moving everything off the porch, which included some piles of firewood, I found a nest of mouse babies! I actually thought they were rats at first because the babies were pretty big, with their eyes still closed. After some further research, I think they’re Canyon Mice.


I covered up the nest and moved on to another area of the porch. I picked up another piece of wood and there was mama mouse, with a baby in her mouth. She dropped the baby and scurried off. So I snapped a couple of pictures of the little one and left the whole family alone for awhile. When I went back to check, the lone kid had been moved, and I haven’t messed with the nest anymore. Hopefully mama moved the family to a better location.


I also have a cute picture of the resident ground squirrel, not where we live, but where I work in town. She is obviously well-fed and runs the place.


Then just the other day we had an incident with Loki and an Abert’s squirrel. We often encourage Loki to chase the squirrels, because we were operating under the (apparently incorrect) assumption that he can’t possibly catch them. Well, he managed to corner one and he must’ve pounced on it then not known what to do. When R went to go investigate, the squirrel was in shock, and he was able to pick up the squirrel and put him in a bucket, then bring him to me. I used to work in wildlife rehab, and happened to have some arnica in the house, which is a homeopathic we used to give traumatized wildlife. It was pretty crazy to just be able to hold this big, wild, adult squirrel in my hands. I couldn’t find any puncture wounds or blood on him, which makes me think that Loki just pounced on him.


Not him, but gives you an idea what an Abert’s squirrel is.


So I put some arnica in his little mouth, and we drove the squirrel down the road; we found a nice dead log to hide him under and hope for the best. I’m sure the poor thing, being in shock, was also scared to death that these humans were now handling him and he couldn’t do anything about it. Unfortunately, we checked on him the next day and he did not make it… it was a solid reminder why I don’t do that kind of work anymore. And we might not encourage Loki to chase the squirrels anymore.

And last but not least, this little dude was hanging out in the greenhouse. Beneficial insects to have around your garden, and we were happy to see him.



I was never much of a cat person. Then Zeppelin came into my life and he grew on me over the year I had him. It is nice to have a small furry animal to snuggle with who’s not needy, like Loki, who is self-sufficient, unlike Loki, who can entertain himself, unlike Loki, and isn’t big and rambunctious, like Loki. So after Zeppy went missing, I found myself missing having a cat more than I thought I would.


About a month ago, R and I were driving into town and found a lost, old, little dachshund wandering around on a dirt road near our house. He was obviously very sweet and very old, and we decided to take him to the Humane Society in town instead of leaving him there to fend off the hawks and foxes by himself. We got to the Humane Society and they knew who he was, the little dog had been adopted from there. He was microchipped and they called the owner. While we were there, I persuaded R to glance at the cats with me. I told the shelter manager that we needed a cat who a) has all his claws, b) isn’t afraid to use those claws against the dog, c) can be an indoor/outdoor cat, and d) no litterbox issues. I can deal with a lot of things, but a cat who doesn’t go in his box is not one of those things. The manager looked at another staff member and simultaneously they said, “Archie.”


Archie is the reason they have a sign on the cat room door that says, “Guard cat on duty.” Archie is the cat they have to put away when there are kids in the room. Archie is the cat that on his bio says, “no dogs.” He has a bobtail, and the story is he took on a coyote. The coyote got his tail. The person who found him after the coyote incident brought him to the shelter, where he was adopted from a few months later. The lady who adopted him had a little dog and small children around. Apparently Archie attacks small children and terrorizes small dogs, so back to the shelter he came. And by the time we met him, he had been back for 8 months.


Loki is a big, rambunctious, but playful, dog, and the shelter staff felt that maybe Archie could learn to play with a bigger dog like that. So about a week later we brought Loki to the shelter to meet Archie. The meeting went well – Loki just wants to play – and Archie only swiped at his nose a couple times. A couple more weeks went by as we attempted to get prepared for a cat in the house, and then, Archie came home!


We built two kitty perches so he’s able to get from one loft to the other, mostly to get away from the dog if he needs to. Within the first day of bringing him home, he already had the perches figured out. He also discovered that the woodstove is a perfect jumping point to the windowsill. Later that night, when we actually started a fire in the woodstove, he got spooked by the dog and jumped on top of it. He didn’t make any noise, but very quickly jumped off and ran off to lick his paws. He obviously hasn’t experienced fire very much, and he’s very intrigued watching the fire in the woodstove at night. And he’s now learned that sometimes that thing is hot… so… don’t jump on it.

He also is not very interested in Amelia, which is perfect. She walks right by him like he’s not even there, and he gets out of the way. Only once did he get into a stalking stance like he wanted to pounce on her, at which point I knocked him out of that trance. I told the shelter staff I would be strict with him and the duck, and they were cool with that. Kitty needs boundaries too. Amelia is clearly at the top of this pack. Already Arches and Loki have made pretty great strides in their relationship; they even sleep in the same bed as us with no bloodshed. And Arches purrs. A LOT. I love it. I’m convinced that rescued animals know they’re rescued. And they’re grateful.

He is definitely a little shit. But he’s cool. We like him.



We have been very busy little bees here around the Stellar Hawk Ranch. The greenhouse was our next big project. And it was a project.

This is the one we got: Palram Essence 8×12 Greenhouse


The instructions say it should take 2 people half a day to put it together. And that’s about all the instructions say, because the rest of the 80-page instruction manual is nothing but pictures. No words. At all. Do you ever start to assemble something and think to yourself, “man, even I could design something better”? Why are there so many pieces? Why is it so complicated?


Loki the helper.

Since there were no words actually describing anything, all of the pieces and parts were numbered in the instructions. Which would have been great, had all the pieces been numbered in the boxes. One full box of parts was not numbered at all, some of the pieces had multiple numbers on them, or the numbers and the pictures of the pieces didn’t match, or we just didn’t have the part at all. In the end, we were only missing two parts (which, considering there were about a million different parts, probably isn’t too bad).



Some of the parts went together nicely, others not so much. Part of that was our fault, since we didn’t have a completely level space to build it on. Assembling the thing definitely caused various levels of frustration and alcohol consumption. Where we built it was not where it was going to sit permanently, so after it was together we worked on its permanent level home. That took maybe a day to get together; it required a lot of digging and raking. Then just the two of us took on the task of moving it. We managed to pick it up and move it without it falling apart! Trust me, we are just as amazed as you are.



Strawberry margaritas to get us through.

Once it was sitting in a level spot, some of the corners sat together a lot more securely. But there are still some gaps in the panels and the vents in the roof certainly are not airtight when closed. We actually had to tape up some of the gaps. We built some raised beds inside the greenhouse and have been keeping an eye on the temperatures inside. It heats up very quickly in the sun, but cools off just as fast at night… which is pretty disappointing that it doesn’t hold heat as well as we’d hoped. The panels are not as thick as we had anticipated, and don’t seem very strong, even though it says they’re “indestructible.” We spent $1000 on this thing. We want to get a second greenhouse, but it won’t be the same one. We’ll be looking at some higher quality, hopefully easier to assemble, greenhouses instead.



We’re still happy to have it, and hopefully we’ll still be able to grow some hot-weather crops that we wouldn’t normally be able to grow outside up here: hot peppers, tomatoes, okra, some herbs, etc. This first growing season is pretty experimental for us anyway; we’re going to see what we can and can’t grow, what grows well, what might require more water or fertilizer or compost, things like that. We’re not concerned with selling at the farmer’s market this season, so it gives us some time to just enjoy being in the garden.




One of my dearest friends came to visit me! Jess and I fought fire together in Oregon a few years back for the Forest Service, we backpacked around New Zealand two years ago for 2 months, and we even ran a half-marathon together about a year and a half ago. This was the first time she’s been able to see where we live, and she loved it! Her and I even looked at land for sale close to us. The little wheels were turning very fast in her head… She even convinced me it’s infinitely better to build my own chicken/duck coop rather than buy one. She can be very convincing.


For several weeks now, R has been informing me that we have horny toads living in the meadow. Usually while I’m at work, he’s finding little dragons in the meadow, taking pictures, and telling me how awesome they are. I’ve never seen a horny toad in the wild, and I was stoked. So in the late mornings, if I’m at home, I’ve been going down to where he’s found them to look. I could never find them.


While Jess was here, I took her down into the meadow to look. We never found them. Then one day while I was at work and Jess and R were at the cabin, they found a bunch! I was convinced they were lying or that horny toads just didn’t like me. A couple more days went by after that and STILL I couldn’t find one. I’ll admit I got real sad. Then my day with the horny toads finally came.




How freaking cute are they?! Little brown dragons. And they are so hard to spot. I was so tickled. In other wildlife news, the reptiles in general are out. Lizards, mostly. Loki loves to chase them. I spotted a bobcat late one night running across the road. We’ve been seeing lots of bird activity and even a couple of foxes nearby.  There is a plethora of neat wildflowers starting to bloom around the property as well. Colorado has had a hard time deciding if it wants to be Winter or Spring over the past couple of months, and after (hopefully) our last snowstorm of the season a few days ago, today it is 60s and sunny.  Come on, Summer!