Winter Treasures

I thought I needed a new look for the blog now that winter is here. Winter in Wyoming has a beauty all its own. We’ve had some bitter cold temps over the last week, but the cold creates a kind of light unmatched on warmer days. Every morning and every evening there is a rosy glow on the snow set against a greyish blue sky. It’s the color scheme particular to arctic-cold winter days.

Tracks in the snow are another unique feature of our winters. Wildlife unseen in the daylight hours leave their mark.  As I look across the snow, I can see the evidence of their existence and I am thankful this landscape is healthy with birds, mammals, and predators large and small.

I’m always struck by how some animals seem unphased by the cold. Life goes on much the way it does in any other season. An example of this was the Sharp Shinned hawk right outside our living room window, lucky enough to have caught a small bird. The meal would go a long way to surviving the cold. The hawk was perched on a limb facing away from us, and thus confounding my already meager bird indentification skills. I know there is a Cooper’s Hawk in the area, but something about this hawk didn’t look the same. After checking a bird ID book, I settled on a juvenile Sharp Shinned hawk. As you can see in the photos below,  the Sharp Shinned and Coopers can look very similar. I wish I had a photo of my own I could share, but I knew if I tried to go out and get a photo, the hawk would be gone. I had to settle for watching him/her through the windowpane with the field glasses. What a beauty!

Sharp Shinned Hawk

Juvenile Sharp Shinned Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk











These photos are from the Cornell site “All About Birds.” I couldn’t find their photo sharing policy, but I think I have it right that these photos are attributed to John Rowe (Sharp Shinned) and William Jobes (Coopers).

Arctic Blast

A temperature drop of 80 degrees in less than 48 hours: That’s what most of Wyoming experienced early this week. It was a balmy 60 degrees late Sunday night, and a klondike-like 16 degrees below zero Tuesday morning. I can’t help but wonder how the local flora and fauna survive these extremes. The range plants that have a fall green up were literally flash-frozen. Perfectly green plants could be seen  encased in ice beneath the snow like you might freeze herbs in an ice cube tray for later use.

It looked like this last week.


And  like this today…..

winter wyoming cattle

Western Blue Flag

Iris missouriensis forms a rhizomatous clump and can exist in large colonies. Its range extends from BC to Baja California and east to Minnesota.

The beautiful purple flower is actually composed of three sepals, three petals and three petal-like styles. Also called Wild Iris and Missouri Iris, the leaves, stems and roots are poisonous if ingested. However, some native Americans used the mashed root as a pain reliever when applied to toothaches.

Easy to Miss

It’s easy to miss the subtle beauty around me. On any given day I can get wrapped up in my to-do list and forget to take the time to simply look around me. On photo hikes I can get wrapped up in looking for that “once in a lifetime” shot and not see the brush strokes of wind, rain, drought, freezing, thawing, living and dying painting a story right there, waiting to be read.


Real Food

I didn’t actually know there’s such a thing as a “real food” movement. It’s just a term I use for homegrown food or food I know is free of processing. You know, food where the ingredient label isn’t 100 items long.

I don’t consider myself a homesteader, but living on a ranch, it just seems natural to grow as much of our own food as possible. There’s a certain satisfaction I feel when I bypass the meat, dairy, and egg sections of the grocery store.

We are growing lamb and beef for our own freezer and supplement that with wild game (elk, deer). We get eggs from a neighbor, and hope to have a garden in 2014 (I’m partial to growing small fruit: berries and such).

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Hostile to Large Carnivores

I won’t go into a long (boring) post about my lack of blogging. A move, new job, new home, kids in a new school are the reasons.

I thought I’d jump back into blogging with something controversial. There’s always plenty of fodder when it comes to wildlife management in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem (GYE). The controversy of the day is that the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), issued a report de-emphasizing the Yellowstone grizzly population’s dependence on whitebark pine nuts as a food source.

A little back ground might be helpful to understand why this is making headlines.

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Turn Off the Lights, Save Water

Living in Wyoming we are always aware of the scarcity of water. The majority of Wyoming receives less than 15″ of precipitation annually.  Water, even more so, potable water, is becoming a global problem. We hear a lot about reducing water usage by using low flow shower heads and commodes, turning the tap off when possible, watering the yard in the cool hours of the day, and planting low water use plants for landscaping. These are all good ideas and I try to do them all, and teach my kids to do the same.

We also talk about reducing energy usage by getting fuel efficient cars, turning off the lights, and getting energy efficient appliances, but I don’t think I realized that by doing these things I am also reducing water usage.

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Wyoming Sage Grouse Conservation and Land Use

In 2010,  the U.S. Fish and Wildlife decided the greater sage grouse would be kept in consideration for placing on the endangered species list. They say the listing is “warranted,” but there are too many other endangered species needing attention at this time.

“Based on a  12-month status review pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish  & Wildlife Service determined that the listing of the species was warranted  but precluded by higher priorities.”1

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