OLT - Items filtered by date: July 2022
Thursday, 18 August 2022 10:05

Bear Country

Valley View Hot Springs has been visited by a bear. This year there has been quite a bit of bear activity along the Sangre de Cristo range. Shortages of the wild food supply for bears has made it hard for them to find enough food to pack on hibernation reserves. Bears that repeatedly visit human campgrounds, towns, and dwellings are euthanized, which none of us want. We have not had a bear sighting for several years. However, in early August, a bear repeatedly visited the trash dumpster on the edge of the campground. There was a significant amount of food scraps that were put in the bear proof trash containers instead of placed in the buckets provided at all cooking areas. Some people were throwing partially eaten meals into the trash containers instead of scraping the food scraps into one of the buckets. The trash containers are bear proof but the smell still attracts hungry animals. The bear proof trash cans are emptied into the dumpster which concentrates the food smells which attracts bears. A dumpster with significant food waste is a strong temptation for bears and they will expand their search for food to nearby areas. In our case, that means our campground.

The food scraps that considerate guests diligently separate from other trash is collected in buckets and the contents are fed to the chickens. This quickly processes the food waste into chicken manure and there is little food smell remaining to attract wild animals. There are buckets for food scraps in all of the kitchens (Oak House, Sunset, Spruce House) as well as in the Pavilion and at the outdoor sinks at Main Bath. We will soon also have buckets in all five cabins. Or, you can pack your food scraps out as is recommended at National Park campgrounds. Please do not put food scraps or food waste in the trash cans. Rinse off paper plates, plastic bags, or containers that were used for food before putting those items in the trash cans. For your safety and for a bear-free trip, help us keep a clean camp. Store your food in the food storage cabin near the Pavilion or in your car. Separate any food waste and put it in the buckets provided instead of in the trash. With your help, we can return to a bear free campground and the bears can live peacefully in the wild.

Thursday, 18 August 2022 10:04

Pools and Toys

It is a testament to just how relaxed one gets here at Valley View that we regularly gather discarded or forgotten garments, possessions and (especially) Pool Toys.

We are asking that, if you bring these things here, you also take them with you when you leave. We throw a lot of pool toys away each week. This is a profound waste and a sad record of conservation. We cannot curate this (seemingly) perpetual and ever larger "collection" of abandoned happinesses. Please remember them and take what's yours with you when you return to "The World".

We had a few incidents earlier this summer where unsupervised offspring were able to effectively block some of our plumbing drain systems. This took a good bit of time and effort to discover, analyze and then rectify or repair. These incidents most likely would not have occurred if their parents had been present. Valley View uses the water sources in many and varied ways. Fascinated and exploring children can impact our water systems when they dam up our creeks as well. If parents or guardians are around, they can guide the children to learn rather than adversely affect our systems.

This year was a crazy windy Spring and Summer and our Smoke Hut was "recruited" into becoming a "tumbleweed" on more than one occasion. We have righted it in place yet again and we encourage you to use it, or your personal vehicle, once more for all of your (legal) smoking enjoyments. All smoking on property is requested only in these locations.

Though cell phones and devices are amazing innovations, we are reminding our guests that Valley View Hot Springs is (hopefully to be viewed as) a "land that time forgot". The ambiance of a natural environment becomes more elusive when these devices are held in prominence.

With Respect and Gratitude,
Mark Jacobi
OLT Facilities Manager

Thursday, 18 August 2022 10:02

Two Weeks with the Chickens

According to our 2021 summer Everson Ranch volunteer, Miriam, "I went a little OCD on the chickens..." 

I thought that a two-week stint volunteering at the Everson Ranch would be a bucolic holiday filled with, yes, lots of great gardening and chicken care -- but with plenty of time left over for me to work on my writing projects. Well, I was right about the first part of it. 

It ended up that this 760-acres ranch at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains was a turning point in my life. 

I have loved the San Luis Valley ever since I first went there in the 1990s, coming down from Boulder to Valley View Hot Springs. An ancient Pleistocene lake bed, ringed with 14,000-foot peaks, the San Luis evokes something so vast, so serene, and so mysterious in its landscape and history, that it resonates with my very soul. Thus, I was extremely excited when I thought I would be able to take a 2-week "working holiday" at the Everson Ranch. It sits at the foot of the mountains, on the shoulder of the valley, in a wonderful land trust organized by the Orient Land Trust folks. 

Sabine, the wonderful Ranch Caretaker/Garden Manager, informed me that my main duties would include the gardens and the chickens. I am an avid gardener, and also quite like chickens, though I have never kept them myself. (I have helped friends with their chickens – only 3 to 6 at a time, however.) Gardening is a passion of mine, so I thought I would be perfect for the job. I was slightly shocked when I saw the two chicken houses, both filled with chickens – 66 chickens to be precise. I was not, however, at all prepared for the chicken drama.

The Leghorns were the predominant breed. Pure white, tall and stately, with bright red combs, they arrogantly strutted around the field. "They tend to go in the chicken coop first, at night," Sabine guessed that this might be because they were more visible to predators at night. The other, darker-feathered chickens -- Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks – were generally more complacent, but would stay out pecking and scratching until late in the day – until almost dark, when dusk had pushed itself past a comfortable boundary. One evening a big storm was coming and I wanted to hustle all the chickens back into their coop. But no! The last two would not cooperate until it was almost completely dark, and kept obstinately running around scratching for one last bug. Finally, grudgingly and somewhat peevishly, they hopped into their coop. I shut the door.

My other job was gathering weeds out of the garden. There were lots of weeds – wheelbarrows full of weeds. It was gratifying to haul wheelbarrows overflowing with weeds over to the chicken coop where the chickens would greedily run up to the gate, crowding around and clucking, waiting for me to empty the wheelbarrow so they could see if there were any delicious goodies in it. I would strew the weeds around their pen and watch with fascination as the chickens raced around, gluttonously gobbling ragweed and lamb's quarters and excess dill and pigweed from the garden. "Even the ragweed!" I marveled. "How convenient that ragweed can be converted into eggs!"

But this ragweed-to-egg conversion was not so simple and straightforward. A few of the Leghorns, in particular, had developed a penchant for eating eggs – delicious, farm-fresh eggs, right out of the nest. My concern was that they would teach all the other chickens how to do this, and it would create total chaos in the henhouse. The problem was I had to collect eggs twice a day, anyway, but if I waited too late in the morning to pick up the nice, warm eggs out of the nest, the Leghorns would have cracked several and be hungrily guzzling up egg innards that were now running in a yellow spew all over the insides of the nesting boxes. All the other eggs in the nest would be coated with a near-impermeable, yellow egg-yolk slime. It was a mess to clean up, and not a good habit for the chickens to get into.

Now, I had another problem. I had to now gather -- or at least check on -- the eggs three times a day, or even four, to try and constantly spy on who was eating what eggs, and which hens were the instigators, and try to forestall the chicken pecking. In the case of the cracked eggs, however, it was always the chickens first, in terms of "who came first, the chicken or the egg." So we know the answer to that question!

Still, in spite of the chicken chaos, getting to go out every morning to the chicken coop and let the birds out of their quarters, listening to their soft clucking, and watching the sun rise magnificently over the Sangre de Cristos, was a delight in and of itself. The refreshing mountain air swooped down from the high peaks and there were no sounds (other than the chickens) to disturb my morning reverie. I bonded with those chickens, even though I had to spy on them; I learned how to pick them up and pet their funny little combs, and stroke their feathers, and I even tried to tie a string around the leg of the egg-eating boss hen so we could sequester her. (It didn't really help.) The Mountain shadows stretched elegantly and timelessly over the Valley. It was breathtaking.

It was a great gift to get to be in the silence of the majestic Sangre de Cristo mountains, the vastness, the wide-open spaces. I felt honored to have the opportunity to stay on the Everson Ranch, amazed at the beauty of the land and the amount of work that needed to be done there, yet with lots of educational opportunities and community outreach; I ended up, in fact, giving a small experiential seminar on Edible Weeds. And even more amazing, I learned to love chickens – lots of chickens. But I don't believe I will ever keep them myself – and I really don't care to eat eggs that much anymore.

By Miriam C.

In May a group of volunteers celebrated the international World Naked Gardening Day at the Everson Ranch. Finding the information through the OLT newsletter, volunteers that had joined the event before, had never been to the ranch and/ or to the hot springs before were eager to help in any attire. We had a window of about 2 hours to plant and weed before the relentless wind, typical for this time of the year, started. Mary, our 2 week ranch volunteer who loves to feed people, prepared a wonderful lunch with produce from the garden, which we shared on our shady and wind protected porch. Thank you for joining and making this again a fun event. Please come back next in 2023 and bring a friend or two! (see 2 pictures)

In June and July we had three workshops as part of the evolving educational program at the Everson Ranch to support OLT's mission of lifelong learning. Local "Chef Chu" showed all the different ways of preparing meals with tumbleweed (also known as Russian Thistle). The participants enjoyed Tumbleweed Cream Soup, Fu Yung and Frittata all made with Russian Thistle. We will never look at Tumbleweed in the same way again! (see picture)

In the second workshop, the participants in a fun group effort, harvested the dandelions in the garden. Miriam, a former 2 week Everson Ranch volunteer and returning guest speaker, showed us how to use the different parts of the plant to make tea out of the flower, roast the roots or saute the leaves. At the end we shared a meal made with dandelions that only a dandelion wine could have topped the fabulous meal. (see picture). Bonita, also a former volunteer at the ranch, shared again her knowledge about bees, how they were being challenged and how we could be helpful human allies to these important pollinators. Guests from the hot springs, neighbors and volunteers brought many of their questions while we were sampling honey.

June has also been the month that inviable Cottonwood trees are being trimmed or pruned to ensure their continued growth and make a safe zone for guests to visit in the future.(see picture)

As every year, the tent was set up in June for events. (see picture)

Another highlight was the 3 days Permaculture workshop, taught by two experts in the field. The participants camped at the ranch and were introduced to permaculture concepts while engaging them in the actual design process of the Everson Ranch. (see two pictures)

World Naked Gardening Day - Sabine Borchers World Naked Gardening Day - Sabine Borchers Chef Chu cooking with tumbleweeds and dandelions - Sabine Borchers Cooking with dandelions - Sabine Borchers Chef Chu cooking with tumbleweeds and dandelions - Sabine Borchers Bees on Sunflower - Sabine Borchers Cottonwood trees - Sabine Borchers Event tent at Everson Ranch - Sabine Borchers  - Sabine Borchers Permaculture Workshop 2022 - Sabine Borchers

For the education, enjoyment, and well-being of current and future generations, Orient Land Trust: 
promotes a positive clothing-optional experience at all properties including Valley View Hot Springs, Orient Mine and Everson Ranch;
preserves the viewshed, including land acquisition; 
protects natural, wild, agricultural, and historic resources, in the northern San Luis Valley.