Christmas 2018

The view from the porch of one of our cleaning clients, back in January…

The view from the porch of one of our cleaning clients, back in January…

Greetings! I thought I would post some of the more memorable moments from this past year in a blog post here. Hope you enjoy!

The year started with Margaret and I at the end of our first successful year of our Ridgway Cleaning and Caretaking business. Things got pretty hectic towards the end of the previous summer, but but January things had slowed down very substantially. Turns out most folks with Air bnbs don’t really bother to rent in the “off-season”, perhaps not worth it to keep the heat turned up and the driveway plowed? I can see that. At any rate, I was busy taking data science courses and applying for all sorts of remote jobs. Not too many good jobs in Montrose, you see.

But one job did show up in January, right before the government shutdown - to work for the NRCS, or Natural Resource Conservation Service field office in Montrose, or more specifically the Shavano Conservation District, as an irrigation engineer. I interviewed for that job in February and we set a start date around mid-March. This pretty much put a nail in the coffin of Ridgway Cleaning, though Margaret bravely soldiered on as a mostly lone wolf operator, though we did cull our client list down to something a lot more manageable.

Before I started at the NRCS in March, we snuck away between Ridgway Cleaning jobs for a weekend in Moab with our friends Rob and Betsy in late February, which turns out to be an AMAZING time to visit there without crowds! (And being only 2 1/2 hours away makes it an easy weekend trip, I must say) Here is Margaret somewhere off the beaten path in Arches:

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My office at the NRCS! Not much to look at. Once in a while, Skillet comes and hangs out too. Because why the heck not.

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And how fantastic was it to travel to Denver in April to see all my siblings under one roof! I agree with my brother, this needs to become a yearly tradition!

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In May, we drive up to Grand Junction and put down some $ for something I never once dreamed I would own: a travel trailer. I was pretty apprehensive at first of this new addition (and let’s face it, complication) to our lives, and of towing around something that weighs over 3000 pounds, but having taken it on a few trips now, I gotta say - this thing is pretty dang sweet! It has a small bathroom, a tiny kitchen, a queen bed, and a dinette. NO MORE SLEEPING ON THE COLD GROUND IN A TENT! And it really is a good fit for living in Montrose area, because there are so many cool places for weekend trips. Here is Margaret as we start to make camp one weekend up on Grand Mesa:

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It was wonderful to have Skye home with us for most of the summer. Who knows, it may be the last full summer she spends with us, heck she turns 21 in January! Anyway, all sorts of amazing crafts-y artsy things were happening in the house on a more or less constant basis. One never knew what one would find when coming home from work. Like a couple redheads for instance:

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The garden produced decently well, despite crickets munching on our seedlings and the severe drought we suffered. But I installed a new water-thrifty drip system that gave the plants just what they needed to thrive and nothing more.

Now THAT’s a cabbage!

Now THAT’s a cabbage!

The hoop house held up just fine in it’s second year of operation. And the perennials that got planted last year have really taken hold and gave us incredible colors from June to October. Sometimes the sky did too.

The hoop house held up just fine in it’s second year of operation. And the perennials that got planted last year have really taken hold and gave us incredible colors from June to October. Sometimes the sky did too.

Check out these cool garden rocks! One of the many crafts-y projects courtesy of Skye this summer.

Check out these cool garden rocks! One of the many crafts-y projects courtesy of Skye this summer.

With the much-reduced snowpack, the streams that were normally raging torrents were much better behaved, clear and gentle, making them excellent for rock hounding. Here is Skye exploring a little rivulet along the Engineer Pass Road above Ouray:

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A fearless adventurer mentally prepares for another alpine hike.

A fearless adventurer mentally prepares for another alpine hike.

Exploring one of the many alpine basins above Ouray.  Another benefit of low snowpack (hey, you gotta look for silver linings.): More weeks of access to the alpine country! In the heavy snowpack year of 2017, the time to hike up there felt ridiculously short.

Exploring one of the many alpine basins above Ouray.

Another benefit of low snowpack (hey, you gotta look for silver linings.): More weeks of access to the alpine country! In the heavy snowpack year of 2017, the time to hike up there felt ridiculously short.

Earlier in the year, when Skye came home for spring break week, we decided to head up to Vernal in northeast Utah for a weekend and explore Dinosaur National Park and surroundings. Here is Skye exploring some of the cool rock formations in the area:

In summer, we camped near the town of Marble. Here, Skye is walking through the “ruins” of the old Marble factory, where blocks were shaped and readied for transport to all sorts of places, like the state capitol:

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Our camping spot next to the Crystal River, outside of Marble.

Our camping spot next to the Crystal River, outside of Marble.

On our way to Marble, it was a blisteringly hot day and we stopped in Hotchkiss for a drink. Skye found an outdoor misting machine at a nearby establishment and holds Skillet up to the cool mist. Aahhh….

On our way to Marble, it was a blisteringly hot day and we stopped in Hotchkiss for a drink. Skye found an outdoor misting machine at a nearby establishment and holds Skillet up to the cool mist. Aahhh….

Skillet’s motto.

Skillet’s motto.

In September, the Montrose airport closes so it can host a big airshow, which this year we finally made it to. The airport is actually big enough to land a big B-52, which was very impressive up close!

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So, my NRCS job prevented me from taking any real vacation for the bulk of the year, until I had worked there for 6 months. When that date rolled around, in late September, Margaret and I decided to hit the road with the new trailer for a solid week, and wander up into Idaho and Montana with it. Here Margaret is posing with Idaho Falls’ namesake along the Snake River:

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One of our stops in Idaho on our way up to the Yellowstone area was an out-of-the-way park called Craters Of The Moon, the remnants of a volcanic episode in the northern Snake River plain some 2000 years ago. Some truly crazy lava flow landscapes there, like one imagines seeing in Hawaii:

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The volcanoes there erupted something that I imagine as almost a “magma mist”, where the material got flung into tiny bits hundreds of feet into the air, and cooled on the way down. This is a recipe for big piles of volcanic “gravel”, and they call these features cinder cones. Pretty wild looking!

A cinder cone hundreds of feet tall. Whatever finally decides to grow there will have to contend with ferocious winds!

A cinder cone hundreds of feet tall. Whatever finally decides to grow there will have to contend with ferocious winds!

Leaving Idaho, we stopped through Yellowstone. It was unfortunately still pretty smoky from all those wildfires in the Pacific northwest that time of year. Also, the wildlife was curiously absent. In other words, not many good pics. Still, I kinda like this one from one of the geyser features:

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We were out a total of a week, and used primarily KOA type campgrounds with full hookups. Here was our spot outside of Livingston, Montana, where I was able to go fishing in the mighty Yellowstone river, literally right behind where I stood taking this pic. A very nice camping experience!

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And on our way back home from Montana we stopped in Grand Teton for a nice hike (you can see, still a little smoky):

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A morning pano taken not far from our campsite, was not expecting to see so much color at the end of September so far north, but pleasantly surprised.

A morning pano taken not far from our campsite, was not expecting to see so much color at the end of September so far north, but pleasantly surprised.



It was a nice trip. Back home, things are progressing nicely with Modelo - he is no longer a skittish hissy kitty. Although when we took him to the vet this past fall she scolded us for letting him get overweight - as if we didn’t pick him up from the shelter already weighing 18 pounds! Well, he really is an astonishingly well behaved cat. Very few behavior vices, except for the occasional playful swat at Skillet (who never seems amused).

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We have enjoyed years of reliable service and great driving from our Subaru Outback, but when Margaret learned that VW finally had a high clearance AWD wagon, she could not get rid of the outback fast enough! A die-hard VW fan, she is. Here she is with her new pride and joy:

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For her birthday in September, I promised Margaret I would replace the cheap looking steel entry oor with a proper one. Well, it took me longer than I thought to decide on a design and get it in. I eventually picked an unfinished mahogany door from a Houston distributor, and here is the result. I thought it looked pretty good!

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Not long after, we had a party around early December and played Vertellis with some dear friends from Ridgway. It coincided with Hanukkah, hence the candles. We had about a dozen folks over, this is about half of them. And I thank my lucky stars for the amazing community around us here.

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So tonight, on Christmas Eve, I reflect on how blessed I am to call this place home, to have breath and strength in my body, and to have the family and friends that I do.

Merry Christmas!

David