Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Monday, October 22, 2018

Webcam Photos

Posted by: Rick

Here is a webcam photo, updated every 5 minutes or so, that shows the current weather conditions the cabin:

Looking west toward Bull Mountain: 

Looking SE

This photo is looking east toward the solar panels.

Looking East

Friday, August 07, 2020

Gone Fishin’

Posted by: Rick

I recently volunteered, through Trout Unlimited, to help with some research being done by a CSU Masters Student and funded by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The task was to electrofish for brook trout in two streams close to the cabin--Sheep Creek and George Creek, collect data on their size, and then take a small clipping from a fin to use for genetic analysis. There were four of us on this expedition including Dr. Kurt Fausch a retired professor at CSU from whom I learned a lot about fishes, fisheries, native versus non-native species, reclamation, and more. He is the author of a book For the Love of Rivers, which you can learn more about at the website: fortheloveofrivers.com. He is passionate about what streams and rivers bring to the human experience beyond the obvious--water. The others were masters student, Audrey as well as an undergraduate, Matt.

Brook trout are not native to Colorado, yet they are the most populous species in our streams. They were likely imported from the east in the late 19th century. Because of their spawning cycle (fall, not spring) and aggressive feeding, they have replaced native species such as a variety of cutthroat trout in most Colorado waters. There are a variety of research and reclamation projects going on to bring the cutthroat back. Around here, the native species is the greenback cutthroat.

I can't say I fully understand Audrey's research. But, I know she is heavily involved in a project to reintroduce native cutthroat trout into some headwaters in the Long Draw area. In order to understand how the introduced trout will move throughout the area, breed and migrate, she is doing genetic diversity studies on the existing brook trout. To have something to compare with, she needs genetic information from brook trout in other areas and George Creek and Sheep Creek were two of the chosen sites.

We drove into George Creek by taking S County Road 169 where after a few miles, we took a 4WD road to ACME Creek road. It was a pretty rough road and I was proud of our Ford Expedition's performance in 4WD over the rocks and washout. We even drove through the burned out area from a wildfire a few weeks ago. We did not take the obvious ACME Creek Road because of a need to do a river crossing at Sheep Creek which has a lot of water right now. We eventually arrived at George Creek and prepared for the electrofishing.

The sign here is an old sign from a previous attempt to introduce greenback cutthroat. The road continues on to Cornelius Creek.

Over the past several years, brook trout have been removed from George Creek in preparation for stocking with the native and threatened greenback cutthroat. This attempt has been unsuccessful based on our electrofishing experience. We managed to catch well over 100 brook trout along a few hundred meter span of the river. Don't get too excited if you are a fisherperson. None of them were "keepers". In fact, the majority were less than a year old (about 50 mm in lengh), the rest were one year old and perhaps a few that were 2 years old or older. The fish hatch in spring and then grow in the summer, and they will grow at a roughly uniform rate. As a cold-blooded animal, they halt growth in the winter. So, we could tell age from the length of the fish. The biggest one was perhaps 6" long, probably 3 years old. In fact, I learned that there are bones in a fish that get a new layer each day, so sectioning those bones and counting the "rings" can tell the age in days! We did not do that. Instead, Matt carefully measured the length of each fish while I recorded the length on paper. He also took a genetic sample from any fish one year old or older and Audrey carefully collected and tagged each sample in a separate envelope.

Matt and Audrey processing the fish we caught.

One of the bigger trout from George Creek.

Electrofishing sounds a bit scary. (And, it was when there was some lightning later in the day.) But, it is largely harmless to the fish. You wear a backpack that has a battery in it along with controls to set up the electic shock parameters (wave shape, frequency and voltage). There is an anode probe and a cathode "tail" that come from the backpack. You walk along the stream with the tail dragging in the water, and press a trigger on the anode probe to create an electrical path through the water. This shocks any nearby fish for a few seconds. The goal is to catch the stunned fish in a net and move it to a bucket of water quickly. The fish recover within a few seconds. After catching a bucket of fish, we'd stop for a while to process them.

George Creek is quite small so it was mostly a 2-person project with someone to carry the bucket (me).

We wore waders, which insulated us from the shock. But, I'm told it can be quite an experience to accidently touch or fall into the water while using the electrofishing machine. So, we had a protocol to yell out "OFF" if I fell while trailing behind with the bucket. 

I had a net too. And, I snagged a few of the fish. But, the more experienced people did the bulk of the "catching" work.

After we were done at George Creek we had lunch and then moved on to Sheep Creek. And, we decided to take the ACME Creek road back to County Road 80C and brave the water crossing. The road was actually in pretty good shape since they likely graded it and cut trees on the way to help with gaining access during the fire. The water in Sheep Creek was pretty fast and pretty deep since they are letting a lot of water out of Eaton Reservoir (for the city of Greeley). But, the Expedition plowed right through without any problems. 

At Sheep Creek, we used two electrofishing machines, Kurt took one and Matt the other. They each had nets and Audrey was netting also. I, again, was the bucket boy. I did not want to wade in the fast water and risk dumping the bucket of caught fish. That would not have been good at all. So, I walked along the bank. When they'd net a fish they would hand the net to me and I'd hand them an empty net. I'd then carefully dump the fish into my bucket and we'd move on. It was hard work, at least for those in the water. It rained some, along with lightning. Not a good idea to be standing in water electrofishing with lightning around, so we'd take advantage of those times to process the fish we'd caught so far.

Kurt, Matt and Audrey working a nice deep hole.

Kurt and Audrey in some fast water.

Matt was quite persistent in making sure we got every fish, even if it meant getting into a tangle of downed trees.

Audrey's goal was 40 brook trout from Sheep Creek. We got 41, along with a couple of nice brown trout (8" long or so), a sucker of some kind, and a fourth species that I don't recall. There is a lot of fish diversity in Sheep Creek. I've even caught a rainbow trout a few times.

In all, a long and tiring day, but very interesting and rewarding. I'm glad to say that as far as I know, we only lost one fish out of the roughly 200 caught. And, the results of the survey and genetic testing will help in the eventual restoration of native species to Colorado waters.

One final note. We observed COVID-19 safety protocols throughout the day by wearing masks. Yes, we were outdoors, but also in close proximity to each other. So, my only regret of the day is that I don't really know what any of those folks look like!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

I’ve Been Lazy

Posted by: Rick

I've been lazy the past few weeks and have not kept up with our off-the-grid adventures much. We are still spending most of our time at the cabin. We stay for 7-10 days, then go back "down the mountain" to check on our house, mow, and shop. We haul our trash down, too, and time our visits home around trash pick-up days. We have a small veggie garden with tomatoes, herbs and squash that we tend. It does not appear to be doing well this year for some reason. We also have a dead tree in our yard that needs to be replaced. We bought the replacement and are just waiting on a planting schedule.

While there is a lot to catch up on, the biggest story of the past few weeks was the June 8-9 snow storm. It is not unusual to get June snows at the cabin. Last year it snowed on June 11th. In prior years we've had snow as late as the 24th. But, those are always light snows, just enough to cover the ground and motivate us to build a fire in the wood stove.

This year's June snow was a different thing. We got about 12 inches of heavy, wet snow starting late on June 8th and into the day on the 9th. Since the aspen trees are fully leafed-out, this snow was devastating to them. The hummingbirds didn't care for it much either. The dogs loved it. Here are a few photos from the 9th.

Poor hummingbirds. Their feeder is covered with ice and snow.

The view to the NE on the morning of the 9th.

The dogs don't care. In fact, they love the snow!

This is our driveway. It took a while with a chain saw to cut our way out on the 10th. There is a dog in there somewhere.

This is HIdden Meadows Lane and the road to the properties to the east of us. And, this is just a small example of what the road was like.

Of course, this time of year, the sun came out in the afternoon and the big melt started. We spent quite a bit of time cleaning up around the cabin and still have many trees that are alive, but bent over so bad that we may have to cut them down.

So, finally, here is the news from early this month. I'll try not to be so lazy and post more soon. We have some pretty good game camera photos to share.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Who Doesn’t Give a Hoot

Posted by: Rick

A few posts ago I mentioned that one of our evening pleasures was sitting on our front porch with a whiskey in our hand (which occasionally makes its way to our mouth), while watching for moose and listening for the Great Horned Owl that has occupied the land for many years. This year, our efforts were disappointing. Even depressing as the owl's silence led us to think that perhaps he was gone--for one reason or another.

However, as this rare game camera shot shows, the owl is still around. And, hunting in our meadow. 

I walked out on the porch for some reason and spooked the owl who was sitting in the meadow near the salt lick. I suspect he had a mouse, vole, or chipmunk cornered. He took off and flew north toward the woods, and luckily triggered the game camera pointing at the meadow. I know it is not much of a photo, and I've enlarged it some, but it does prove that he is still around. And, we hope, will soon grace us with his hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo.....hoo-hoo message.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Food Post

Posted by: Rick

I promised a food-oriented post. This will probably be pretty boring because it is just a list of our evening meals during this trip. And, there are no photos. I will provide links to our online recipe book, where possible. Still, it will serve to remind us what we ate when we look back in future years. We are often baffled about that. Do you ever think "what the heck did I used to cook back in the old days?" I'm actually struggling to remember last week, so some of these may be out of order, but why would you care?

Lynne made a great tuna noodle casserole on our first evening here. It is pretty easy, so makes a good "first night" meal.

We had grilled chicken with neighbors on Monday (or was it Tuesday? Wednesday?)

Flaky Mushroom and Gruyere Tarts with salad on Tuesday.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas, for which we do not have an electronic copy of the recipe. Too bad, because they were delicious. Basically a stacked enchilada with a flour tortilla covered with a filling of ground beef, chunks of sweet potato and black beans with appropriate herbs and spice. Top that with some cheese and repeat 3 layers. Bake. Yum.

Slow Roasted Baby Back Ribs with Potato Salad. This is one of my favorite rubs for ribs.

We had Grilled Chicken "Cordon Bleu" one night, and we are now discussing which night it was. So, already, we have things out of order. You should make this, it is delicious.

At this point, I give up trying to match meals to days. So, next on the list is Salt and Pepper Shrimp.

I do remember Saturday night, though. Grilled Hamburgers and true Twice-Fried Belgian Frites.

Sunday was store-bougth tortellini with Tomato and Butter Sauce, some salad too.

Monday will be (since I'm writing this before then) Egg Rolls made from Egg Roll Bowl leftovers, along with a Cucumber Salad. We freeze these then thaw and fry them for a quick and delicious meal.

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  • YIKES! That’s a lotta snow for June. I wonder if the bent trees will right…

    Posted to: ‘I've Been Lazy’ by Steve on 06/29/2020

  • Steve! Nice to hear from you! I still read you, but I just can’t comment.…

    Posted to: ‘Webcam Photos’ by Lynne on 05/28/2020

  • Coincidentally, I just came across a post on another blog that mentions hawkweed—and in this…

    Posted to: ‘Wildflowers Galore’ by Steve on 05/26/2020

  • Your cat’s ear (or whatever it is) looks almost exactly like our hawkweed, AKA fox-and-cubs,…

    Posted to: ‘Wildflowers Galore’ by Steve on 05/26/2020

  • I’m glad your owl is still around! We hear one every once in a while,…

    Posted to: ‘Who Doesn't Give a Hoot’ by Steve on 05/26/2020

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