My Drive Home Up the Mountain after Borrowing Bundt Pan

After living in Minneapolis and other metropolitan towns, I’m not used to having to drive 15 to 20 miles down a mountain to borrow something for a cooking project. I texted my closest neighbor friend and boss Cyndi, who lives in Divide and owns the stores in town in which I work part time.  She said she would leave it with the manager at the Divide Mercantile on her way to post office and work down the mountain. That’s the way you borrow things up here.


Buck Whisperer and Fig Bars

Twice through the night I got up and turned on my balcony light to see if it had started snowing yet. We have had very little snow up here in Florissant and when the weather jabberers started spreading the rumor of the possibility, it’s been the talk of the town. When I was in the tiny village grocery store last night buying beef and tortillas for fajitas, I told the check-out lady that my sore thumb was predicting snow. The lady behind me shouted, “I’ll believe it when I see it!” in almost a hateful tone. So hateful I didn’t look back and just said as I was walking towards the door, “My joints usually don’t lie.” Wow, she sounded like she had been waiting for precipitation on this range for a lifetime….

This morning when the light of day finally showed it’s face, the tall massive pines were frosted with cake icing like snow.  The snow is so fine coming out of the foggy sky that I have to squint to see the tiny flakes. Come big giant flakes! I got up early again. I can’t sleep late anymore. I started the woodburning stove, made my first fig bars.  They are delicious and rich! I  fed a backyard visiting buck cranberries, fed the birds, made oatmeal, coffee and bacon and said hi to my Facebook friends, not necessarily in that order. I also called my boss and volunteered to work in the Manitou Springs shop, turned down a para-professional job at the school( I prefer the certified teaching jobs because they don’t have to do playground duty and my ear hurts), and talked to Dr. on the phone after she called to prescribe something for my ear and swollen glands and I talked with my sis from Little Rock who will be visiting in a few days.  Swollen glands and earaches are not to be messed with up here on the moon, 9,300 ft. because when I drive down the pass to lower elevations, my ear feels like it’s about to burst. Anyway, thanks for calling doc. My other one I saw on Friday just told me to come back in 3 weeks if I still have a knot on my neck. Geez….

When my niece got up, I told her about the buck and how I whispered to him while I threw down some cranberries from the balcony and he just looked up to me like he was listening or like I was crazy. So I made myself a self proclaimed deer whisperer. I think he would like my fig bars but shall save them to hand out to friends for Christmas. Wow, a busy morning for this girl and it’s only 10:44….Come, big giant snowflakes!

This morning's visiting deer.

This morning's lightly snow frosted tree outside my computer room window.

Feeding the forest songbirds.

Snow frosted pine. I wouldn't know it was snowing if not for the trees.

Whispering to the deer with cranberries.

High Altitude Flour, an important staple on the moon.

Oatmeal and pecan fig bars. My first!

Snoring Little Birds

Tonight I soaked in the tub outside in the middle of the Forest. My legs kept me awake in the early hours of the morning today so I thought I’d loosen them up a bit with hot water before I turned in for the night. I didn’t want to turn on the loud gurgling water jets because it was so peaceful in the darkness. The moon hadn’t wound  around to my viewpoint yet, but the stars were bright points and patterns, peeking through the tall pines that encased me on this beautiful mountain night. Thank you.  When I looked up to the stars I said thank you, thinking of my family and friends. One of those friends sent me something special in the mail today. Thank you. Came from an old fishing buddy of mine, Bill Tikwinski  from  St. Paul, MN. It was a card with a beautiful orange Autumn leaf on the front that announced that a tree had been planted in my honor in a National Forest. I love trees. Thank you. Gosh, and I’m not even dead yet…But it’s an awesome gesture just out of the blue. Tikwinski had a stroke a few years ago right before I left Minnesota and has had some recent surgery. Anyway, I think I’ll have a tree planted for him too, since I live on the edge of a National Forest and a National Fossil Bed Monument. Thank you. Going back to the tub in the Forest; I heard little birds under the eaves of the house and it sounded like they were snoring lightly.  Long little song- like peeps from above my head. It was a neat little sound and in the darkness of the forest the little bird sounds were comforting. Then a dog or something less domestic, started to howl and I pushed myself through the steam and out to the steps and to the ground to head inside. Thank you, night. Thank you, stars. Thank you, little snoring birds.

Little Feet

Even here on the mountain in Florissant, summer is being stubborn. The weather has been glorious and warm and aspens have held on to their golden leaves longer than usual.  Mike is on top of preparing for the winter as he cuts down the beetle diseased trees at his friend’s in Woodland Park and we have a couple of tidy stacks of split wood in the front and side of the house. Even though the winter snows are gorgeous in the massive pines that surround the house and neighborhood, I feel a sense of dread. The roads in to town become more treacherous and of course the cold is biting.  It’s a different kind of winter though compared to winters in other regions in which I lived. The sun comes out! It doesn’t always melt the snow here, however, it is warming and I love the feel of it on my face and it brings the animals out to bask.

The Woodland Park School district has been calling me almost daily to guest teach at all of their schools and I work just a couple days a week at the shop in Manitou Springs now that tourist season has winded down.  This afternoon I get to drive down the pass and work in the shop. I so look forward to it. It’s not just the meeting of customers from the town and from all over the world, but I love the short walk from my car to the shop. I love to greet the dog walkers on Lovers Lane and if I am lucky, Rocky the town’s most beloved artist, and I will engage in a short conversation.  Rocky lives and has his studio two studios down from the shop and also uses a room below us. One time he said he missed the “little feet” running in our store above him. I thought for a minute about that and came to the conclusion that he was talking about Mandy the gray, black and white spotted,  dachshund that Nancy the manager brings to the store with her. Mandy stays in a little cubby, resting on a stack of blankets beneath our counter.  Mandy had been on vacation while Nancy was visiting her parents in upstate New York.  Rocky has good ears to notice these little dog feet on our wooden floor.

I took this picture from the shop while Rocky was actually posing for a picture for a photographer across from him at the town clock. Rocky is in the process of writing a fictional book and everyone in town is looking forward to when it is completed.

My First Wood Stack

Good morning. Won’t be going in to guest teach today. Getting ready for my childhood friend, Gayle Huff, who will be flying in tomorrow a.m., stack the rest of the firewood, go to post office to send a special Autumn request to Taft and from what I’m hearing, enjoy much-needed precipitation this afternoon. “A complete… revaluation takes place in your physical and mental being when you’ve laughed and had some fun.”

While stacking wood, a beautiful American family of deer came to check it out.

Full Day on the Mountain

I really, really, wanted to fish today, however, that wasn’t in the cards. My fishing buddy down the road has been hard to reach and I’ve been unbelievably busy unpacking, cleaning, entertaining out of town guests and working. Actually, I’ve been a little pissed at my fishing buddy, Bill (Not Long for this World post). A couple weeks ago he went fishing and caught a 21 inch wild brown trout along with about 75 others that he released. He says. Anyway, he cleaned it and put it in the freezer for me and told me to come by after work and get it. I was sick and extremely dead tired after work that night, and with every turning winding curve on lower Twin Rock Road, I thought I was going to lose my cookies so I did not stop to pick up my fish and went straight home. Bill got pissed at me and fed my fish to his dogs the next day. Now why did he have to go and do that? Well things have been winding down. Mikes family is gone, wedding is over, I’m gradually getting unpacked and I’m feeling a little more rested. So this morning I stopped by Bill’s. “Where the heck have you been!” he exclaimed. I gave him a hug and told him good to see him and I heard he fed my fish to Shortstack. He said, he was a MAN OF HIS WORD, something he repeats often. I said I was puking all the way up the mountain that night. Anyway, that was the end of the fuming and we talked about when the hell we were going to fish together again.

After I parted from Bill, I headed down the hwy to the little eye blink of Florissant. I heard they had a Coffeehouse called Costello’s and I wanted to check it out. It’s in a very old Victorian house…just about the only house in the little “downtown.” Here is the website so you can check out a picture, etc. It’s across from the Thunderbird Inn which is the other only open business besides the library and a couple gas stations, oh and some feed stores and I’m sure I’ve missed something and will offend another business owner if they read this but seriously, just about all the business there that are still standing in this little blink of an eye town are closed down and boarded up. There were lots of rules to this coffee/tea house (they boast of having high tea parties at times) and they make paninis and other breakfast/lunch items and sometimes special dinners. Back to the rules. On the gate was a sign that said, No outside drinks allowed. Then I got to the screen door and there is another sign that says the same thing. There was also another sign on the screen door that said to SHUT IT. I made my way through the pretty antique dining room to the counter with beautiful pasties and pies and stuck on the cash register was another sign that said that they prefer cash bc credit cards are expensive and if we want to keep the costs down, pay cash. Before I could order my Breve and shortbread cookie to go, I was feeling sort of negative. I looked down at myself searching for a to go cup I might have accidentally dragged in with me and had on my person, feeling like I might get locked up or yelled at. But I was clear of such contraband and wiping my forehead, placed my order. While waiting on my Breve, I read another sign on the wall. It was softer though, done in needlepoint with a frame. It said, “Friends don’t let friends go to Starbucks.” I thought, well the owner doesn’t have anything to worry about here about Starbucks. And then I remembered, just 12 miles down the mountain in a little town of 5,500 population, there IS a Starbucks!. My Breve was good and my cookie melted in my mouth. The soft spoken girl that prepared it said she was new and she was sweet, however, when I left, I thought, it’s just not very inviting to have so many rules involved in buying a cup of coffee and a cookie.

So I went on down the mountain to clean my friend Jack’s house. He had called me a total of 8 times last week. I have been cleaning his solar mountain house down the mountain in Woodland Park every month until I moved up here and I’ve been just too overwhelmed with moving, etc. I haven’t been there for a while, and he sounded desperate. Jack is a semi-hoarder so I clean around his stacks. It’s not as bad as you see on tv, but he likes to keep stuff like bills that are from 1950 and movie stubs from 1970’s and ski lift tickets from every year he has ever skied. He’s 72 and still skiing. And empty Wendy’s cups and birthday presents and Christmas presents in little stacks. He just can’t let go of stuff, but like I say, it’s not nearly as bad as what you see on tv.

After that I ran a few errands, one to the quilt fabric shop and to Walmart. The Walmart here is a little bit like a country club on the outside with a big bronze statue of a deer in the landscaped entrance. Pikes Peak is jutting out in back of it. Many people rebelled against it being built. But capitalism won and took over what was once a haven for woods animals and birds. They can still wander around but might bump in to this massive piece of “have to have it” store. My favorite part of this Walmart is the frozen food section that is dark until you walk by it and the lights turn on by a sensor. I guess one might call this a “green” Walmart. I bought my fishnet (I’m emptying a fish aquarium as I write) and 15 other items I didn’t plan on and checked out.

On the way home I took some pictures and below you will see them. I stopped at Bills again and told him I bought a one day fishing license for Thursday morning. (One of the 15 items I bought at Walmart) We haggled over what time we should meet and agreed to 5:30. He said if I am late he will leave without me because “I am a man of my word.” I told him bullshit and that he needs to be a little more flexible and he said he can’t change. And I said neither could I. So we parted with a laugh and I’ll set my alarm for 4:30 on Thursday and do what I love to do best and hopefully Bill won’t leave without me if I’m a few minutes late.