Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"If you know wilderness in the way that you know love . . . ": Two Retreats to the North Unit


It has been my great fortune to have made two retreats to the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park these past few weeks, a place in the Bad Lands that is very dear to my heart.  The North Unit is the heart of wildness in North Dakota and is, right now, awash in autumn glory.

My father considers the view at River Bend Overlook to be equal to the Grand Canyon. Every time I walk out to this overlook, I can hear him say these words. 

My first outing was to attempt to fulfill one of my daughter's wishes (for her birthday), to find her first bighorn sheep. Bighorns are more active in the autumn and I've frequently seen them in the North Unit and surrounding environs over the years. Chelsea and I tented in the Juniper Campground at the North Unit, a place where one is completely off-the-grid. It was a salve for our souls and we sat by the Little Missouri River sharing lifetime memories of happy times spent in these wild places.

This blue racer had been run over by another vehicle. Chelsea moved it off the road for a more peaceful death. 

Just when we'd given up hope of seeing the bighorn sheep, she spotted one, and then another. I've raised Chelsea to love wild places and animals and we thoroughly enjoy when we get a chance to go on explorations.

Bighorn sheep. Photo by Chelsea Sorenson, Wild Dakota Photos
Many of the birds have migrated, but we saw several different species of hawks, wild turkeys, and a belted kingfisher, along with this Northern flicker probing for ants.

Turns out, this campout was the final hurrah for my trusty green Eureka tent, the zipper broken beyond repair. Identical to the tent I used for backpacking in my twenties, I bought it about 18 years ago for $1 at an auction, I could erect it in a flash and have made countless good memories with it. Fortunately, although it will be missed, we have several tents in our stock of camping gear.







Rubber Rabbitbrush






The crescent moon, accompanied by Mars and Venus, were all lovely

Renew your wild spirit with a trip to the Bad Lands before the snow flies. You'll go back again and again.

Little Bluestem & Little Missouri River


"If you know wilderness in the way that you know love, you would be unwilling to let it go. We are talking about the body of the beloved, not real estate."
Terry Tempest Williams 

Friday, August 31, 2018

Red Oak House Garden Notes no. 48: wrapping up the summer season

Although the growing season began with such promise, Jim is bemoaning that it has been a disappointing year in the vegetable gardens, as he harvests the meager take of vegetables. Last year at the same time he was bringing in 30 or so tomatoes a day, and now he only finds about three or four ripe among the hundreds of green ones. He spent the past two days severely pruning the twenty-five plants in the hope of goosing 'em.


In spite of our best efforts at fencing, the rabbits did a real number on the beans and cowpeas. Our dry edible bean harvest amounted to a one-quart jar and we only froze about a dozen or so bags of green beans. Only a handful of cowpeas survived, enough for one small pot when I next cook soul food. Some carrots survived and are yet to be harvested. Most of the potatoes are dug after Mr. Greenjeans made a valiant effort to protect those from the voles. The garlic has been hung and dried and stored away. Twenty-seven quarts of tomato juice and twenty-eight quarts of pickles have been processed.




We've had a little rain, but it has been mostly dry and I can hardly remember the last gully washer as they have been few and far between this year.


A gift of tomatillos from my sister




Jim with his birthday gift of a new mini-tiller

Orange-banded bees on Small Globe Thistle





A few weeks ago we "put up" sweet corn, in the manner taught to me by my Aunt Frances, of Mississippi (now Alabama). I had hopes that this newfangled gadget (shown below) that I bought at a gift store in Medora might save me some time and strain to my wrist and elbow, but no -- the old-fashioned way with my sharp knife is the only way to go. I work from my aunt's handwritten instructions and fondly think of the hours she and my Mama Crook have spent doing this very task over the years.






The garden tour was a success and we christened our new sign in the front yard in the nick of time. Not much was blooming that evening, including the six dozen impatiens I planted last spring (all of which are blooming this week -- figures!). But the hostas in the front have been glorious this year and the weather was pleasant as was the company of many local gardening friends, all of whom were interested to hear the story of our champion red oak tree.






Indoors our lives are a muddle this week as we had someone in to refinish most of the hardwood floors. The wizard who did this is a true craftsman and a fine gentleman, who arrived exactly when he said he would and worked hard all day long (sadly a rarity these days). We are thrilled with the results. Next week, the roof gets fixed. Our springer spaniel, Lizzie, will be just as happy as we will be when this chaos is behind us.





The highlight of my week came on Sunday when I glanced out a window at just the right moment and spotted a female Ruby-throated hummingbird feeding at one of my patio flowerpots. Note to self: plant more of this variety they favor next year.


I thoroughly enjoy this time of year, when the Washington peaches are in, the heat has abated, and the weather is mostly still and clear (that is when the haze of the western fires is not so oppressive). I'm working in the flower beds dividing and moving peonies and irises and I thoroughly enjoy giving away surplus perennials to friends. While I labor, I listen to the red-breasted nuthatches yonking about me and watch for migrating hawks. The Red Oak House yard is our refuge from the clamor of city life. May you all find such refuge. Namaste.


Profusion Orange Zinnia

Profusion Yellow Zinnia

Hydrangea

The autumn blooms of sedum and yarrow

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Our comment letter on the proposed Little Missouri River bridge


Jim has written on The Prairie Blog about the proposed new bridge over the Little Missouri State Scenic River north of Medora that is being shoved down our throats by a megalomaniac county commissioner who wants to spend up to $20 million of our gas tax dollars on a “Bridge to Nowhere.”

At the insistence of the Federal Highway Administration, the county is deep into an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process—in fact nearing the end stages of that process—and will soon be asking for federal funds to build its bridge. One of the final steps in the process is a public comment period, which is open now and runs through September 4. If you go to this website, you will find the details and a link to another website which contains the actual Draft EIS, for your reading pleasure.
If you have any feelings about running a lot of traffic through the valley of the Little Missouri State Scenic River, or wasting millions of taxpayer dollars, you should send in comments on the project. Below is the letter Jim and I have sent, expressing our feelings. This letter and Jim's earlier blog should give you plenty of information about the project, so you don’t have to read the entire 178-page document. (Although if you really want to spend a summer afternoon reading, here’s the link to the Draft EIS.)
Even easier, if you agree with what we have written, feel free to just copy and paste a link to this blog into an e-mail addressed to LMRC@kljeng.com and tell Ms. Turnbow you agree with the letter in the blog, and your comments will be duly noted.



Jen Turnbow, Project Manager
KLJ
P.O. Box 1157
Bismarck, ND 58502-1157

August 17, 2018
Dear Ms. Turnbow:

Please accept these comments on the Draft EIS for the Little Missouri River Crossing in Billings County, North Dakota. We are writing to recommend Alternative L, the no-build option.
If built, this bridge would be the most colossal waste of taxpayer dollars in memory. If it is built with federal or state matching funds, approved by the North Dakota Department of Transportation, it will be a huge embarrassment for both the North Dakota DOT and the Federal Highway Administration, because it is truly a “bridge to nowhere.”
North Dakota has substantial infrastructure needs, as witnessed by several state legislators recently, and the proposed $11.2 million, and likely as much as $20 million, could be much better spent correcting existing problems rather than building a new bridge unlikely to be used by many except possibly the oil industry.
In spite of all being said by the county and KLJ, it appears the only real beneficiary of this bridge would be the oil industry. Federal and state tax dollars should not be spent to accommodate a single industry, especially at the expense of real and substantial damage to the historic, recreational and scenic properties of the states only designated State Scenic River. 
If the bridge is built with Billings County taxpayer dollars, as the Commission has indicated it might do if federal or state dollars are not available, it should be subject to a referendum by Billings County voters before it is approved. 
Almost no one wants this bridge. It has simply become a cause celebre for Billings County Commission Chairman  Jim Arthaud, who has already spent several million dollars in Billings County tax dollars pursuing it, and, despite the fact it is not in his preferred location, has gone too far down the road for him to consider abandoning it without losing face. It is simply now a monument to his persistence, a monument on which he would like his name inscribed. 
Almost no one will use this bridge, according to testimony at the public hearings, unless KLJ, the project’s engineers, are misleading us with this statement:
“Traffic volume increase of 3.5 per cent for roads associated with the alternative and adjacent roadways. Not expected to generate new traffic; however the redistribution of local trips attracted to the new bridge is anticipated to increase the typical 2.5 per cent traffic growth rates by 1 per cent for roads associated with the alternative and adjacent roadways.”
If that statement is true, there is no need for the bridge. If that statement is misleading (which is not only possible, but likely), and the volume of heavy truck traffic increases dramatically, it will destroy the sanctity and peacefulness of the state’s only designated State Scenic River, likely in violation of Chapter 61-29 of the North Dakota Century Code, the Little Missouri State Scenic River Act, enacted by the North Dakota Legislature “to preserve the Little Missouri River as nearly as possible in its present state . . . (and) maintain the scenic, historic, and recreational qualities of the Little Missouri River and its tributary streams.” The North Dakota DOT, as a lead agency for this project, should not approve a project which would violate the law.
Today there are ZERO trucks driving through the river valley and across the Little Missouri State Scenic River between Medora and the Long-X Bridge. That is what the residents of the river valley, although there are few, want the case to be. According to testimony at the public hearings, there are fewer than ten families living alongside the river who could possibly benefit from this bridge. But they live in fear of the noise, danger, and massive dust clouds which could be generated by heavy truck traffic through the river valley and on their farm-to-market roads.
The County Commission has leaned heavily on the need for the bridge to accommodate emergency vehicles. That argument doesn’t wash. Almost all of the county’s emergency vehicles are located in Medora, less than a mile from the bridge across the Little Missouri River there, and can go either way—east or west—to respond to an emergency.
For all of these reasons and others, the county should quit wasting taxpayer dollars and select Alternative L, the no-build alternative, and the North Dakota DOT and the Federal Highway Administration should reject the use of state and/or federal funds for this project.

Respectfully, 


Lillian Crook & Jim Fuglie

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Red Oak House Garden Notes no. 47: The Daylilies are Waning

Peak daylily bloom here at Red Oak House has passed and I can't help but feel a bit wistful about this.

Dakota Sunshine daylily


The focus of this past July has been daylilies of all kinds, and not just in my garden. Late in the month, I took in an exhibit of daylily art at Bismarck Art Gallery Associates, where it was delightful to see the creative talents of friends on display.




Later that week, the Region One Daylily Association had its annual gathering in Bismarck/Mandan, an event that the Central Dakota Daylily Association (I'm a member) has been planning for years. I was truly in the presence of some hard-core daylily enthusiasts and it was great fun (I confess that I bought three new varieties). I even got to meet Melanie Mason, one of the nation's premier daylily hybridizers. I own a few of her creations.



Melanie Mason and Lillian


Here is a wrap-up of some of my daylily photos since my last blog. Now it is time to focus on canning and freezing vegetables and preparing for autumn garden chores.

Webster's Pink Wonder daylily

Lemon Meringue Twist daylily

Bama Music daylily

Ruffled Rainbow daylily

Gavin Petit daylily

Canyonlands daylily

Chicago Scintillation daylily

Prairie Moonlight daylily


Little Light of Mine daylily

Strawberry Cream Cupcake daylily

Raspberry Griffin daylily



Just Plum Happy daylily




Best For Last daylily

Huckleberry Candy daylily

Notify Ground Crew daylily


Prairie Home Companion daylily

Northwind Dancer daylily with Orange Rocket barberry in background

Swiss Mint daylily

Rock Around the Clock daylily

Gavin Petit daylily

Carnival in Mexico daylily

Burgess Blackmoor daylily

Rocket City daylily

Orchid Elegance daylily
Cherokee Pass daylily

I've had a few people ask for panoramic shots of my garden so I shot some video one evening. Here are two links: Starting in the front yard and the backyard

Later this month (Aug. 21), Red Oak House is on the Bis/Man garden tours. Sadly, these folks won't get to see the daylilies, but there is the promise of asters and mums, and the zinnias that have survived the slug slaughter look very nice. Oh well, they can always read this blog. 

Webster's Pink Wonder daylily with my hand for reference
Chili Spice daylily

Colorado Moonfire daylily

Wide Wide World daylily, one of my favorites
Lindy Twirl daylily