A Farmer Far Afield – One Word: Plastics

By John Mattingly
So much of our world in the U.S. is packaged in plastic.

Much of our food comes wrapped in it. Even the bulk items in a supermarket are put in a plastic bag and in another plastic bag for carryout. As a farmer, I’ve always thought food stamps should be redeemable only for bulk foods, at special distribution centers near the production of actual food.

Movies and music are packaged in a thin skin of plastic with sticky plastic binders for good measure. I think I recall a story about a famous country-western musician who nearly killed himself trying to unwrap a CD of his own music.

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Earnest Irony

Salida’s newest rock band, Ironically Charged, proves it’s never too early to rock ‘n roll

By Jennifer Dempsey – photos by Mike Rosso

Ironically Charged

Lily Pinto, 10, lead and rhythm guitar

Musical inspirations: Michael Jackson, Chris Nasca, Bones and Sunga Jung.

Musical goals: to play lead guitar more efficiently and share my music with the world.

Alexandra Maes, 12, lead singer/songwriter, piano

Musical inspiration: Christina Aguilar, Gwyneth Paltrow, Beatles, Madonna, Bones.

Musical goals: to get more successful with the instruments that I play, to constantly learn more; keep writing songs that people love.

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Quillen’s Corner

By Ed Quillen

Names on our Land

Place names have long fascinated me, and perhaps for that reason, I try to use the right ones, and it grates on me when I hear the wrong name.

For instance, the eminence at the end of F Street across the river from Salida is Tenderfoot Hill, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which is pretty much the authority on these matters, although for reasons I will explain later, I don’t go by the U.S.G.S. in all matters. The hill with the big letter and the gazebo on top is not “Mt. Tenderfoot,” and I fight the urge to start shouting about ignorance when someone calls it “S Mountain.”

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Book Review

Forgotten Cuchareños of the Lower Valley By Virginia Sanchez

The History Press, Paperback, 191 pp $19.99
ISBN #1609491343

Reviewed by Annie Dawid

As a fiction writer, reading Virginia Sanchez’s book about the history of Hispano Southern Colorado made me wish I were writing a long-planned, much-delayed novel which takes place in the Huérfano Valley during the 20th century. Forgotten Cuchareños of the Lower Valley is a researcher’s dream of a book: appendices, maps, bibliographies, indices, timelines, excellent photographs of now-disappeared buildings, monuments, cultural artifacts.

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Colorado’s Mysterious Singing Sands

by Mary Syrett

In April of 2011, while hiking among the sand dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park, I heard something unusual. If you listen carefully, you may discover that sand at various locations among the dunes “sings,” making audible sound vibrations.

Sand dunes in the park do seem to have a built-in “sound track” – a phenomenon that has been reported from other widely separated dune areas. While “music” emanating from the dunes at times can be compared to the strains of a chorus in the distance, the effect at other times more closely resembles the playing of violins.

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Trekking up Hagerman Pass

By Jan MacKell

Just one of the many great things about living in Colorado are the striking views. Indeed, the state offers amazing mountain vistas quite unlike anywhere else on earth. And, where best to take in awe inspiring views than from a pleasing array of historic mountain passes? The pioneers of yesterday blazed their trails over rough and unforgiving terrain in search of gold, prosperity and new lives. Their efforts have resulted in numerous passes today that range from smooth and easy to challenging and dangerous. Hagerman Pass falls into the category of the former, offering a delightful mountain journey steeped in history.

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News from the San Luis Valley

by Patty LaTaille & Mike Rosso

How Dry Is It – Really?

A Fire Hazard Emergency has been declared within Saguache County as of June 15.

It’s a rarity – but here it is: Due to the serious drought in the SLV, the Board of County Commissioners of Saguache County decided that – based upon “competent evidence” – the danger of wildfires within Saguache County is high and declared the county under Level 1 Fire Restrictions. The restrictions apply to all unincorporated areas in Saguache County East of the Continental Divide.

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Grandin lecture enlightening on many levels

By Hal Walter

There was a “Wide Load” approaching, and the truck traveling ahead in our lane hit the brakes. I in turn hit my brakes, and that’s when Harrison lost his lunch.

I pulled over to the first pullout along the Arkansas River on U.S. 50 to assess the vomit damage. We had no change of clothes, no wipes, and precious little time before Temple Grandin was to begin her lecture, “Autism, Animals and Visual Thinking,” at the Buena Vista High School gym.

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Down on the Ground with the Media Punks

By George Sibley

There’s a certain kind of a high school punk you probably all remember – the guys (or girls) who were always picking fights – between other people. They would exploit misunderstandings, momentary irritations, whatever, egging a couple people into making a big deal out of nothing; then – “Let’s you and him fight it out,” was the line. They took as a kind of profane obligation the spreading of chaos and violence in the world around them.

As one who spends quite a bit of time in the often futile pursuit of actual information from the mainstream media (MSM), I begin to realize that some of those punks never grew out of that; they just went into the “communications” field.

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Breathing Space

Essay and artwork by Patricia Nolan

“Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Alone, a mile beyond the Mt. Shavano trailhead, my old woman legs need to rest. I sit on a downed log and absorb my surroundings. Cool air, warm sun at 9,500 feet. I look through an old split rail fence that frames an impressionist painting of wildflowers. This June morning, a few crows circle above an aspen grove dotted with Engelmann Spruce, Douglas Fir, and a few Ponderosa Pine. I lower my pack, set up my easel, paints, and brushes, and begin to savor the beauty, knowing my art can never improve this scene. Nor can any art cause us to see the landscape in a new way. Only time spent on location with open eyes and an open heart can do that. I begin to sketch the soul of this place that draws me like a lover.

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Micro Hydropower

By Michael Brown

Most hydropower plants are conventional in design, meaning they use one-way water flow to generate electricity. There are two categories of conventional plants, run-of-river and storage plants. Run-of-river plants use little, if any, stored water to provide water flow through the turbines.

Micro hydro power is probably the least common of the three readily used renewable energy sources, but it has the potential to produce the most power, more reliably than solar or wind power if you have the right site. This means having access to a river or creek that has a high enough flow to produce usable power for a good part of the year.

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SWIFT Crews – Offenders Fighting Colorado Fires

SWIFT team

By Mike Rosso

A unique team of firefighters are being trained in Chaffee and Fremont County through a program with the Colorado Correctional Facility.

Dubbed the State Wildland Inmate Fire Team (SWIFT), the program is designed to prepare offenders for placement on Type 2 hand crews to be utilized on wildfires statewide.

Begun in the summer of 2002, the program is operated by Colorado Correction Industries ( CCI), a division of the Colorado Department of Corrections.

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Learning (Again) to Dance with the Wind

By Susan Tweit

One recent morning we sat in the VA Medical Center in Denver waiting for Richard’s oncology consult, followed, if all looked well with his blood work, by his third infusion of Avastin, a chemotherapy drug that aims to slow the growth of the aggressive glioblastoma colonizing his right brain.

After his oncologist beckoned us into her examination room, she asked how he is doing, and then looked at each of us in turn, waiting for our responses.

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Water into Watts

salida hydroelectric

A Local Hydroelectric Plant Passes the Century Mark

By Ron Sering

There are many remarkable things about Salida Hydroelectric station two. The location itself is dense with history. The distinctive red brick powerhouse is situated a short distance from the train track that once linked Salida with its historic mining operations. The Victorian structure and the generator it houses have an elegance that modern designs can’t match.

The facility’s other distinguishing feature is its longevity. Apart from changes in instrumentation and upgrades to the turbines, the generator looks and functions much as it did when it was first installed in 1906. Pipes feed water past two turbines, which turn the generator at a relatively sedate 200 rpm. Currently owned and operated by Xcel Energy, the generator churns out a maximum of 400 kilowatts of emission-free power, as it has for the better part of a century.

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Regional News Roundup

Duckett Fire Scorches 4,440 Acres

WESTCLIFFE – A large fire in Custer County that began on June 12 was mostly contained by June 22 but not until burning nearly 4,440 acres and spreading into nearby Fremont County.

Nearly 650 firefighters fought the blaze, dubbed the Duckett Fire, on pubic and private lands at the base of the Sangre De Cristo mountains and was estimated to have cost $5.2 million to contain.

The fire forced the evacuation of area residents including residents of the Eagle Peak Subdivision and Maytag Ranch as well as the Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp. At its peak, crews fighting the blaze included four helicopters, one airplane, 36 engines and six bulldozers. The fire, which began on U.S. Forest Service land southwest of the Rainbow Camp, is suspected to have been caused by human activity, possibly an unattended campfire, according to The Wet Mountain Tribune.

No structures were damaged or destroyed by the fire and only one injury was reported, that of a firefighter who was treated and released.

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Dispatch from the Edge

By Peter Anderson

I live on the outskirts of Edgetown (aka Crestone), barely into the old Baca Land grant (now Baca subdivision), at the end of suburban and the beginning of wild, just east of a creekside riparian zone, on the high end of the piñon juniper and the low end of ponderosa, on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley and the western flanks of the Sangre de Cristo. In between our place (8,300 feet) and town (8,000 feet), rain turns into snow. This place is a threshold where roads end and trails begin and where the horizontal meets the vertical. Edges like ecotones, those zones where ecosystems meet, are diverse, full of life, and worthy of exploration. I look forward to checking out the edges, both cultural and ecological, and dropping you a line from time to time. – Peter Anderson

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Colorado Firecamp: Field Training for a Demanding and Dangerous Occupation

by Mike Rosso With wildfires currently raging in Arizona, New Mexico and here in Colorado, it is shaping up to be dangerous year for western firefighters. One of the leaders in wildfire training is right here in Central Colorado, providing needed skills to combat potentially devastating conflagrations. Colorado Firecamp, based in Chaffee County, was conceived …

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