Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde

The ancestral Pueblo arrived in the Mancos Valley area about 500 A.D. They hunted and farmed the canyons and mesa tops and grew in siz to great numbers. Evidence of their homes can be seen nestled under cliff faces and ledges at Mesa Verde. The Native American were farmers and gatherers, but eventually had to leave their "hillside palces because of drought and famine.

The oldest native residents of Colorado are the Ute Band of Indian. The seven Ute Bands were the Weeminuche, Mouache, Capote, Uncomahgres, Grand River, Yampa River, and Unitah. Historically, the Ute Nation roamed throughout Colorado, Utah and New Mexico as a hunter gatherer society, moving with the seasons searching for the best hunting and harvest. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Thameside Mummers

Photo courtesy: Thameside Mummers
Richard Peacock and Derek Oliver both members of the “Fabulous” Thameside Mummers describe how the group collects stories and maintains the tradition of Mumming plays.

“Plays have been discovered from villages all over England, mostly collected by local gentry or churchmen and written in their diaries or books of ‘local customs’ the tradition even reached Wales where the Mari Llwyd (Grey Mare) and her entourage would visit homes and perform a ritual song/play in return for food.

The villagers would perform their play but once each year, the parts being handed down from father to son; the costumes would be a suit of rags, with each character being introduced by the wording of the play ‘In come I…., or by a ‘calling-on’ song. These rags would be simple and cheap to produce but would also hide the ‘real’ identity of the performer, important if the play included some line, or ad-lib, critical of the church or the local gentry. For this reason, the Mummers would frequently blacken their faces with soot to hide their identity…. The Mummers would of course perform for the Lord of the Manor and his guests, expecting (and probably receiving) a considerable amount of reciprocal entertainment from the kitchen and wine cellar. Nowadays, the remuneration tends to be in the form of cash, though a free pint or two and the occasional meals are gratefully received and faithfully consumed.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lichen of Ketchikan, Alaska

Our guide in Ketchikan, Alaska, mentioned that lichen is used for medicinal purposes, and is a favorite food of the many animals in the area including squirrels, black-tailed deer, and mountain goats...but what is a lichen? The stringy, almost web-like lichen on the trees in Ketchikan hung in great swaths over the branches.

The following from the U.S. Department of Agricultural --  

You can think of lichens as fungi that have discovered farming. Instead of parasitizing or scavenging other organisms for a living (such as molds, mildews, mushrooms), lichen fungi cultivate tiny algae and/or blue-green bacteria (called cyanobacteria) within the fabric of interwoven fungal threads that form the lichen body (or thallus.) The algae and cyanobacteria produce food for the fungus by converting the sun’s energy into sugars through photosynthesis. Perhaps the most important contribution of the fungus is to provide a protective habitat for the algae or cyanobacteria. Thus, lichens are a combination of two or three organisms that live together intimately.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Estes Park, Colorado

We’ve done a lot of camping over the years in tents and campers, and find that a toasted bagel with cream cheese and a cup of good coffee never tastes as good as it does first thing in the morning watching the sun come up.
The Elk Meadow Lodge Campground close to Estes Park is just such a place to experience the beauty of the mountains…and wait for it…there are elk roaming around the area. On one of our bikes rides, I spied two elk in a yard just across the road to the campsite. By the way, the campground is well run with excellent showers and clean bathrooms. There’s a bar within easy walking distance – that opens at 4:00 PM, offering Happy Hour between 4:00 and 7:00 PM. There is also a free shuttle to town that stops at the entrance to the campsite.
Following from the Elk Meadow Lodge web site:
Welcome to the ideal Rocky Mountain experience – an essential part of your visit to Colorado. Enjoy the peaceful setting. Indulge in vast amenities. Elk Meadow Lodge & RV Resort is situated on 30 acres, right outside the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, and is open from April 15 – October 15. Plus, only one mile away, you'll find the charming village of Estes Park with an abundance of shops, restaurants, galleries, museums, and recreational opportunities. Take advantage of the free shuttle to Estes Park – Elk Meadow Lodge & RV is on the regularly scheduled route.
Phone: 800.582.5342
Address: 1665 Colorado Highway 66, Estes Park, CO 80517

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Low Man on the Totem Pole and Shame Poles

Over the years, I've often used the term "low man on the totem pole" to describe an individual or organization that appears less important than others, but while in Alaska recently, I realized that expression is not necessarily true. The vertical order of images does not represent any significance at all. In fact there is a counterargument that the figures are arranged in a "reverse hierarchy" style, with the most important representations being on the bottom, and the least important being on top.

Sometimes, a town may erect a “Shame Pole” to publicly embarrass, humiliate and shame an individual or organization. On March 24, 2007 a Shame Pole was erected in Cordova, Alaska. On the pole was an effigy of Lee Raymond, Exxon ex-CEO who stood down after the oil spill in Valdez, Alaska.

Improved Order of Redmen

Photo taken in Juneau, Alaska.

The Improved Order of Red Men traces its origin to certain secret patriotic societies founded before the American Revolution. They were established to promote Liberty and to defy the tyranny of the English Crown. Among the early groups were: The Sons of Liberty, the Sons of St. Tammany, and later the Society of Red Men.

On December 16, 1773 a group of men, all members of the Sons of Liberty, met in Boston to protest the tax on tea imposed by England. When their protest went unheeded, they disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians, proceeded to Boston harbor, and dumped overboard 342 chests of English tea.

During the 1920s, Denver and the surrounding areas had six tribes of the Improved Order of Red Men (IORM) with at least three tribes meeting at Evans Hall. There were also 4 Degree of Pocahontas councils (women's auxiliary).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How Cherry Creek (Denver) Got Its Name

I've often wondered how and why a specific area got its name. Usually, it's for a person who was instrumental in the building of a town, building, etc. but how did Cherry Creek get its name? As part of the research for my next book Hidden History of Denver, I scoured the history books and found the name was given because of the choke cherries that still can be found along the Cherry Creek and the South Platte rivers.

Last week, as I cycled towards Denver from Mineral/Santa Fe (a 30 mile round trip) I saw with my own eyes the choke cherry trees (prunus virginiana) that grow along the banks of the rivers. It was a fruit the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes harvested each year to sustain them through the winter.

Following is a short excerpt from Hidden History of Denver.

For centuries, Native Americans had camped along Cherry Creek—given the name because of the small, choke cherry trees that grew along its banks. When the cherries were ripe, they were harvested, pounded and then dried in the sun to be used over the winter months.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

West Ham Quilts

Two quilts in one year! The log cabin design is one of the most versatile in any quilter's pattern book. All the blocks are the same...the difference is how the blocks are assembled. Here are two versions, but there are many more. For these quilts, I made twenty blocks, using four across and five deep. Then I added a border to get the desired width and length. 

One of the main reasons for choosing the log cabin design was because two of my grandsons wanted quilts to take away to college. Each wanted their favorite (U.K.) soccer team's colors. West Ham is a very old London Club whose colors are claret, light blue and black/white depending on their home/away strip. I used a rotary cutter, cutting through 8 layers of fabric at a time. The strips are 2.5 inches that were joined with a 1/4" foot. The main thing is to keep the strips "square" and one should calibrate the blocks every so often. It's easy to get slightly off on one block...then another, and in the end you'll discover your seam lines do not match.

I have made scores of hand pieced and hand quilted projects, but since time was of the essence (and I was under contract for Hidden History of Denver) I decided to keep the designs simple. Also, I invested in a quilting foot ($85.00) for my Husqvarna machine, it has been one of the best investments I have ever made. The foot enables the "quilting in the ditch" technique, but also works beautifully for geometric designs. The foot carries all three fabrics (the top, the bottom and the batting) through the dog feeds all at one time. I recommend using a quilting machine needle. The end result is little or no puckering at all.