November 30, 2009

Very Berry

Utah has many berries growing along the creeks in late August and September, and I thought you might be interested in seeing some of them.
Redosier dogwood.  Native Americans smoke the inner bark of redosier dogwood in tobacco mixtures used in the sacred pipe ceremony. Dreamcatchers, originating with the Potawotami, are made with the stems of the sacred redosier dogwood. Some tribes ate the white, sour berries, while others used the branches for arrow-making, stakes, or other tools. In California, peeled twigs were used as toothbrushes for their whitening effect on teeth. Bows and arrows were made from Cornus shoots. The inner bark is used for tanning or drying animal hides. (

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana).
The fruit has a sweetish, astringent taste and is fit for human consumption. The fruit makes excellent jellies and jams and is occasionally used for wine. Chokecherry leaves are poisonous, even fatal, to cattle, sheep, and horses, although they usually will not consume the plant unless no other forage is present. The poisoning agent is hydrocyanic (prussic) acid.
Western chokecherry is excellent to good forage for deer and elk. The fruit is relished by bear, many species of songbirds, pheasants, and grouse.
Native Americans would grind up the fruit, stone included, and store for future use, sometimes mixed with dried meat to make pemmican.

Black Twinberry Honeysuckle  (Caprifoliaceae Lonicera involucrata). The paired black berries are about one-third inch in diameter and are unpleasantly bitter tasting. The berries were used by Native Americans as a dye for hair and other materials. The fruits, stems and leaves were also used for a variety of medicinal purposes.
Blue Elderberry (Sambucus glauca). The berries are used as food for birds and human delicacies. The berries are somewhat distasteful when green. Ripe berries produce an abundance of sweet juice that is used for jelly, jam, syrup, etc. The whole berries, even though somewhat seedy, make excellent pies.
The native Americans had a use for almost all parts of this plant; berries for food
(fresh or dried); stems for tubes, pipes and musical instruments. Some Indians called this plant “the tree of music,” since the smaller twigs and limbs made excellent flutes.
Strips from larger limbs made arrow shafts. Flowers were used for external antiseptic washes.
Most of the berries which are gathered are used to make wine. Suggestions for home use are fresh or with cream as desserts such as pies, cobblers and fruit dumplings. Elderberries are often preserved whole, as juice, syrup and jelly. The flavor might be enhanced by combining with other fruits or fruit juices such as apples.
Red Baneberry (Actaea rubra).
All parts of the plant are poisonous. However, Accidental poisoning is not likely since the berries are extremely bitter. The berries are the most toxic part of the plant. A healthy adult will experience poisoning from as few as 6 berries. Ingestion of the berries causes nausea dizziness, increased pulse and severe gastrointestinal discomfort.[6][7]The toxins can also have an immediate sedative affect on the cardiac muscle tissue possibly leading to cardiac arrest if introduced into the bloodstream. As few as 2 berries may be fatal to a child.[7]
Native Americans used the juice from the fruits of various baneberry species to poison arrows.
-Wikipedia.  Admire these pretty berries from afar!
Serviceberry (Amelanchier utahensis).  Utah serviceberry is widely scattered throughout the state. It is common in the more arid areas in canyons, rocky areas, and foothills, usually between 3,000 and 9,000 feet in elevation. Once it is established, it tolerates drought well. The fruit of Utah serviceberry is an excellent source of bird food while the foliage is good browse for both wildlife and domestic livestock. It is a very important species for mule deer in the Great Basin. It provides good forage in late winter and early spring because it leafs out and blooms earlier than associated species. Utah serviceberry also provides good ground cover for watershed protection. The fruit, both fresh and dried, was extensively used as food by Indians. The branches were used for making bows.
Mountain Snowberry (Symphoricarpos oreophilus). Snowberry occurs on the edges of riparian zones, in woodlands, and in moist areas of the mountain brush zone, at elevations between 4,800 and 10,500 feet.
Although not highly nutritious or palatable, mountain snowberry is frequently one of the first species to leaf out, making it a highly sought after food in the early spring.  Small mammals and birds utilize the fruits. Native Americans used the fruits as an ematic and laxative, and steeped the roots to treat colds and stomachaches.
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), also known as kinnikinnick. The fruits of kinnikinnick are eaten by songbirds, gamebirds, including five species of grouse and wild turkey, deer, elk, and small mammals.
Black bear and grizzly bear eat kinnikinnick fruits in the autumn, but fruits are especially important to bears in the early spring.
Smoking the leaves as a tobacco substitute is the most widely mentioned human use of kinnikinnick. The leaves have been used for treating urinary tract disease. They can also be used to make a highly astringent wash and as a vasoconstrictor for the endometrium of the uterus. Some Native American tribes powdered the leaves and applied them to sores. For medical use the leaves are best collected in the fall.
The berrylike fruit have dry, insipid, and tasteless flesh when raw but are useful emergency food. Native Americans fried them or dried them and used them in pemmican. The fruit is also used in jelly, jam, and sauces.
Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium).
The small purplish-black fruits, which are quite tart and contain large seeds, are included in smaller quantities in the traditional diets of Pacific Northwest aboriginal peoples, mixed with Salal or another sweeter fruit. Today they are sometimes used to make jelly, alone or mixed with salal.[1] Oregon grape juice can be fermented to make wine, similar to European barberry wine folk traditions, although it requires an unusually high amount of sugar.[2] The inner bark of the larger stems and roots of Oregon-grape yield a yellow dye, the berries give purple dye.

To our great disappointment, we found only a few thimbleberries (above)

or wild raspberries this year.  (But we did make good use of those we located!)

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November 28, 2009

Eagle Eye Daisy

"How come you guys want me to be still?" says Daisy.  "I see something down there.  So what if it's 5 miles and 1000 feet down the mountain?  It's my job to check it out."
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November 26, 2009

Black Gold

The area around the town of Roosevelt is dotted with oil and gas wells.  If you enlarge the above photo, you'll see a couple of them in the distance.  The petroleum industry provides many jobs in our area when petroleum prices are high.  Not so much, though, when prices sink.  That makes for a roller-coaster economy. 
One of our routes through "the Cedars", an arid juniper forest near our home, takes us right up to an active pumping unit.  Boss used to be leary of it, but now that it's familiar, he pays little attention to the movement and noise.
Mischief doesn't even give it a second look.
He's more interested in looking for treats under the layers I've donned to keep warm on a day that's barely above freezing.  (Layers, top = turtleneck shirt, zip up hooded sweatshirt, down vest, topped by windbreaker.  I also wear riding tights under my jeans, and an earwarmer under my hat. With all that on, I'm quite toasty.)
Depending on our exact route, our "Cedars" rides can be from 6 to 12 miles round trip.  As we head home, we can see our small town of Roosevelt in the distance.   
I hope all of you who celebrate Thanksgiving had a wonderful day and much to be thankful for. 
Here, we are well fed, clothed, and housed, and grateful for our many blessings.

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November 23, 2009


Pinyon pines grow abundantly in Utah.  Spanish explorers in the 1500's called them  "pino pinonero", meaning "nut-bearing pine."  In our area we have Colorado pinyon, also called two-needle pinyon.
In the late fall, the cones open wide, revealing their small seeds. 
Native Americans gathered these seeds and stored them for winter, and many Utahns enjoy the tradition of collecting and eating them.  If the humans aren't quick, though, squirrels, nuthatches and scrub or stellar jays will be happy to munch on them or store them for winter.
We gathered some pinyon nuts on a ride in Indian Canyon and took them home. 
After cracking the shells, only a small nutmeat remains. 
Raw, they taste like turpentine, but lightly roasted, they have a pleasant, nutty flavor.  If you happen to have a pinyon forest near you, I recommend you give them a try.

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November 21, 2009

Rider's Shadow

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November 20, 2009

Hide and Seek

This buck was looking right at us, but he seemed to think he was hidden.  He did have pretty good camouflage in the shade.
The deer trio knew they'd been spotted and they weren't hanging around for photo ops.  It's amazing how effortlessly the doe jumped the fence. 
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November 19, 2009

Baum to the Spirits

The skies were mostly blue on a recent ride to Baum Lake (just off of the Tworoose Pass Trail, the scene of our recent Wrong Way Janie disorientation debacle).  The lake was frozen.  Breaking the thick ice to give Daisy and the horses a chance to drink was a challenge.
We managed to ride 19 miles and almost 4000 feet elevation gain and loss without misplacing anyone! 
This was November 10th at 10,500 feet.  As you can see, no snow.  Everyone seems to be looking a different direction, taking in a different view. 
Not too shabby, any way you look.
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November 17, 2009

Redneck Repairs

R is for range-ready response.
On one of our off -trail rides through rugged riparian zones, a ragged branch ripped my riding regalia.  Steve, my ever-ready rough rider in charge, rapidly pulled out the raw material every red-blooded American rowdy refers to in times of emergency:  Duct Tape.
See (above) how well a few (w)raps resolved the issue?Of course, later, the refined member of our family (me!) released the duct tape with relish, restored the real fabric and reintegrated it into its original symmetry. 
Sometimes duct tape is required to reinforce boot gaiters:

Or when a rivet gives way, a redneck relies upon duct tape and cable ties to assure reactivation until the
(w)recked entity can be re-welded:
When a camper screen door has a rift in it, duct tape is the on-the-road recourse:
I'm not even going to go into all the uses for Velcro here, but I will report that they are many and renowned (although perhaps not in a good way). 
Ready for anything, that's my redneck repairman. He will recycle and reconstruct, rebuild and reclaim, repeatedly reconoiter and research revitalization, whether reasonable or not.
Note: Steve is a southern boy with a reputation for never relinquishing anything that might be re-used.  I have reluctant but real respect for his ability to rectify and recondition.

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November 16, 2009

Jones' Cabin Creek

We enjoyed sunny days and relatively mild temperatures between a snowfall the 3rd week of October and another snow in the mountains last weekend.  We took full advantage of it.
Even in the high country, snow was melted in open areas.
Red Creek Reservoir (at the bottom of the hill in above photo) was our trailhead for one of those Indian summer rides. 
We traveled up Jones Cabin Creek.  At 11AM, the water was still frozen around the edges.  All along the little creek, there are numerous signs of past beaver activity. 
I've marked a couple of old beaver dam outlines in the photo.  It's fascinating to see how a valley was sculpted as the dams silted in.  We didn't see any intact beaver dams or sign of recent activity. 
We did see a small herd of deer, though.
As we rode past this old cabin, presumably Jones' humble abode, Daisy was ready to move in.
The terrain was steep, but the horses are in good shape and had no problem.
On Red Creek Mountain's rocky ridge, we let the horses chew on some grass and take a break while the rest of us climbed to the summit. 
On top of Red Creek Mountain (10,500 ft/3200 m), Steve and Daisy admired the scenery.
 Mt. Timpanogas lies about 35 miles to the east:
And the heart of the Uinta Range is about 40 miles to the north:
We know our fall Goldilocks days are numbered, but we'll be out riding a few times a week until the snow covers the landscape for the winter.
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