Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving biking

The day after Thanksgiving, to burn some calories and see friends I haven't seen since the weather was actually nice enough to bike a lot, I joined (L to R in photo above) Heather G, Julie, Gigi, Jennie, Heather HH, [me], Jenelle, and Nancy on a girls'-only mountain bike ride on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. 

Antelope Island has great exposures of Lake Bonneville shorelines, as I talked about here, but this time we were up close and personal to the Precambrian strata.
 Here are Gigi and Jenny on the climb up to the Provo Bench, on which most of the trail is positioned. 

And here we are riding the switchbacks from the Provo Bench down almost to the Gilbert shoreline, I think.

Here I am on my mean-looking bike.

So it was great to ride with the girlfriends, but almost as great to eat PIE afterward.  Jenny brought a strawberry rhubarb (my favorite) that was leftover from Thanksgiving.

 Thanks to Heather (pictured in blue) for organizing us and taking all the pictures, and to Jennie (in green) for bringing the pie.

By the look of it, Julie likes Jennie's pie, but also notice that I have a fork in each hand.  Not only do I like pie, I know how to properly eat pie.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thankful we have a home to renovate

Most of this week we worked on two home improvement projects:  1) The fabulous outdoor room, and 2) the 100% restored fireplace.  I will post pictures of each of them as they come along, but for now I will report that in order to prepare for the two different contractors we have hired for these projects, and to save us some money, I spent some quality time (like to the tune of 6 hours) with an electric demolition hammer, i.e. a jack hammer.

Using one of these and a shop vac in the house is not recommended unless absolutely necessary.

After I had thoroughly contaminated our house with mortar dust, I used the jack hammer to remove some of the excess* concrete from around the vinyl fence posts and the neighbor's garage footing before a snow storm hit.
 * At least I hope it wasn't structurally necessary.

Then Drew and I did some more manual labor digging holes for the trellis wall beams, until we finally rented a post hole auger.  The rest of the time has been spent lovingly removing 8 layers of paint from the fireplace and salvaging matching old wood from this crazy place called George's Architectural Salvage.

So boy did we deserve the pie.  For Thanksgiving we went to friend John's house in Park City. I made a pecan*, two pumpkin, and a brown-sugar rhubarb.  I used a 75% butter crust recipe I had not tried before.  It was very tasty, but it hardly made enough to complete the pies.  Next time I will make 1.5x the recipe.  The rhubarb I had frozen after harvesting in ~June from our puny garden.  This pie had a meringue topping, which turned out OK, but not great.  I didn't really care for the pie on Thanksgiving night, probably because it was up against pecan and pumpkin after tons of delicious food, but the leftovers were pretty tasty.

*It was the best I have ever made because I accidentally doubled the amount of butter in the filling.

You can see the pies here.  Drew really loves my pie, it just doesn't look like it.  

John is a great cook.  There were two kinds of potatoes, two kinds of stuffing, a Waldorf salad, and New Orleans dirty rice.  Drew was physically ill after all that, but he still had room for pie.

Here are John and some of the other guests preparing the meal.

Friday I went for a girls-only ride and Saturday Drew competed in his first cyclocross race.  We'll post about them next.

It was a good Thanksgiving week.  We are thankful for friends that cook, that we have this 100-year old house to renovate, and that we have the physical ability to do it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


My old college roommate just arrived in Antarctica as a glaciologist.  Her blog has some great pictures.  Check it out to get yourself ready for winter, or to make yourself happy you live somewhere that isn't -40.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Are these two related?

Warning: non-entertaining post. I was going to warn readers that this is a political viewpoint of mine, but it's not.  It is just plain sad.

I get a science news briefing e-mail every couple of weeks.  I think #21 is the result of #22.  Math and science need to be emphasized more in our schools!

21. Survey finds public more skeptical of global warming
Fewer Americans believe there is good evidence for human induced temperature increases, or that it is a serious problem, according to a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey.  Of the 1,500 people surveyed from September 30-October 4, only 57 percent agreed that there is solid evidence the Earth is warming.  That is down across party lines from the 71 percent who answered the question affirmatively in April 2008.  Of those who agreed, a similar decrease is seen in those who thought it was due to human activity.  In 2008, 47 percent believed it was caused by humans while the latest survey shows 36 percent.  When asked how serious they believed the problem to be, 35 percent answered very serious, down from 44 percent in 2008.

Despite the decreases, the survey shows increased support for a cap-and-trade program with 50 percent of the respondents favoring setting limits on carbon emissions.  This comes after a separate Pew Research Center poll on current events during early October found only 23 percent of the 1,002 people called could correctly identify that a "cap-and-trade" program dealt with energy and the environment, as opposed to health care, banking reform, or unemployment.

22. Math proficiency levels stagnant for American students
The latest results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the U.S.'s most significant standardized test, demonstrate a plateau in math achievement for American students.  Released after a bi-annual assessment, the scores show a slight increase in proficiency for eighth grade students, while student in fourth grade showed no improvement.

These results indicate a six year trend of slowed achievement growth since the passage of No Child Left Behind, a law that requires U.S. schools to bring 100 percent of students into reading and math proficiency by 2014.  Now five years away, these scores indicate that only 39 percent of fourth graders and 34 percent of eighth graders are making the mark.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Snake Valley fall flume installation

This post is about another routine day in the life of a hydrogeologist (me).  For the past three years I have been doing a lot of field work in Snake Valley on the Nevada-Utah state line to set up a network of ground-water monitoring wells and spring discharge gauges.  The purpose is to quantify the amount of water in the valley and document any changes to the hydrologic system.  These pictures are from five days of work during an unseasonably cold snap (high of 45 and windy) in October and a couple of pictures from this past week. This is the fun part of my job!

This (above) is Miller Spring. There is a spring in the middle of this pond, which used to flow through the dam that had been located in the foreground. The dam had eroded so I needed to repair it and insert a new culvert so that I could attach my flume to the pipe to measure the flow of the water through the pipe/flume.

Here is the new pipe going in. I had tons of help from the folks at Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge and the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR). Fish Springs people are worried the proposed pumping by Southern Nevada Water Authority in eastern Nevada and Snake Valley will impact the flow of water to Fish Springs. The DWR people are worried the spring's flow will decrease, which will reduce the habitat for threatened species. The pond here is great habitat for Columbia Spotted Frog.

The photo above shows the new dam. The flow here is only about 1/3 cubic feet per second (cfs) or around 130 gpm. It was challenging to get the pipe positioned at the correct level so that habitat was preserved. The very cold weather and rising pond didn't help either. It took 60 cubic yards of fill material to reconstruct the dam - about twice what I had estimated because the last time I saw this site in March, the dam was still mostly intact.

Next up was Foote Reservoir. I needed to install a ramp flume here to measure the flow from some significant springs upwelling in the reservoir (not pictured).  The marshland here is great habitat for Columbia Spotted Frog and Utah Least Chub, a small native fish, swim in the water.

Aaron from Division of Water Rights and two biologists from DWR helped me install a 7 cfs ramp flume in a location adjacent to the existing channel. First step was to excavate a pad location. Then we laid down railroad ties as a base. The flume is the silver thing to the left in the picture to the left.

It took almost all day, but we successfully installed the flume. Here is 30-second video of the water first flowing through the flume. The flow here is about 3 cfs.

Man, is this blog getting great or what?  Hydrogeology is action packed.

Above is the mostly finished site. Our logging equipment will go in the upright steel culvert to the right of the flume.

Next stop was Twin Springs. There are two spring pools, each having a small stream flowing from them at about 1 cfs. I wanted to install 3.5 cfs flumes in both channels.

Above are before and after pictures of one of the channels at Twin Springs. This site was particularly hard because the channel was too narrow to divert the flow around the installation site so we had to do everything underwater.

The other channel at Twin Springs had a wider channel, so we diverted the flow around the flume installation site with a coffer dam while we installed the flume. Kevin from DWR is pictured above bailing out the muck from the installation site.

We installed the flume and backfilled (above left) with a mixture of gravel and finer material. There is a fair amount of hand shovel work (above right) involved.

Last week Aaron and I went back to install a water-level monitoring device inside the upright culvert to the right of the flume (pic right), the radio equipment and battery in the metal box on the pole, and a solar panel and antenna on the top of the pole.

By knowing the level of water in the flume, we can calculate the flow using a standard formula for this shape of flume. The level data are radioed to a repeater station about 15 miles away, which in turn relays the data to Garrison, Utah, where we have it tied into the State computer network. The data are live on our website (screen shot below) and the Division of Water Rights website.

Yes, having live data means that you can check it whenever you have insomnia. You can make all kinds of exciting graphs like this one (right).

So this fall I have had two hugely successful field work sessions. One more big trip and I think we will have the Snake Valley surface flow remote monitoring network complete!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Green Tomato Pie

We had a great time at Theresa's house warming party last night. Saw lots of bike friends we don't normally see in the off season. Great food too. I brought green tomato pie. I used about 5 or 6 of the multitude of green tomatoes I picked a couple of weeks ago. I never have known what to do with green tomatoes, but don't have the heart to just compost them. It seems all that water and nutrients the tomato plant used to make the fruits shouldn't go to waste. Now I have something to do with them! The pie was a big hit at the party. It tastes sorta like an apple pie and has the same texture, but there is a little sour/spicy bite to it. Very tasty and super easy - easy as pie.


Pastry for double crust pie
1 1/3 cups sugar
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons ground nutmeg or ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups green tomato slices, cut into fourths
1 ¼ teaspoons grated lemon peel
¼ cup lemon juice
1tablespoon butter or margarine
1. Heat oven to 425°F.
2. In large bowl, mix sugar, flour, nutmeg and 1 teaspoon salt. Add tomatoes, lemon peel and lemon juice; toss to coat. Turn into pastry-lined pie plate. Cut butter into small pieces; sprinkle over tomatoes.
3. Roll other round of pastry. Cut slits so steam can escape. Place top pastry over filling; trim overhanging edge 1 inch from rim of plate. Fold and roll top edge under lower edge, pressing on rim to seal; flute as desired. Cover edge with 2- to 3-inch strip of foil to prevent excessive browning.
4. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust, removing foil for last 10 minutes of baking. Serve warm.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bobke gets uppity

This is a progress report on Bobke, the 1980 Volkswagen Westfalia camper van we bought as a "fun project we can do together" (Drew's description).

Last week on our way to Moab, we stopped by ACE, the shop where Bobke is being brought back to life. As you can see from the pictures, nothing much was happening.

He was sitting in the fenced holding yard, lonely and incomplete.

The inside especially has a long way to go.

But yesterday we stopped by again to deliver the 15-inch wheels we bought to replace the standard 14-inch wheels that were on there but about ready to disintegrate. To our extreme delight, Bobke had gotten uppity. That is to say, he was up on the lift,

with his engine out,
Here is a shot looking up from through the engine compartment to the ceiling.

He is about as torn apart as he can get. He is getting his engine rebuilt, new brake lines, new fuel lines, CV joints (axle?) rebuilt/replaced, and new wheel bearings. Shop guy says it could be as little as three weeks before Bobke is mobile under his own power.

Any suggestions for where his maiden voyage should be?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Summer... er, I mean, Fall trip to Moab

The weather did more than just cooperate for our 5-day Moab trip - it made up for all that nasty weather we had last week when I was working outside, all that nasty weather we had last spring, and pretty much all the nasty weather we have had for 5 years. Temps in the first weekend of November in Moab were in the mid 70's, sunny, and f-f-fabulous. We came to attend the annual HOA meeting and do maintenance on the condo, but we also rode and hiked.

Friday, after a long morning of trying to get a tire on Magma, we finally hit Sovereign Singletrack trail at 1 PM.

We had a great ride north from Willow Springs road on Salt Wash, then Contributors trail and a couple of the Links. We had time to go up to the newish trails in the Garden area. Pretty fun, although not as stellar as the Salt Wash and Sovereign trails. We finally completed the loop back to the car on the sandy 4WD track from Dalton Wells to Willow Springs - the one the guidebooks say to skip because it is so sandy. It is, but I wanted to do it at least once. We need to do trail research for our renters.
Saturday, HOA board officer Drew had to partake in the HOA meeting, but the weather was really just too phenomenal to sit in a meeting with a bunch of other owners debating the merits of planning ahead to have money for new roofs in 20 years vs. paying for it in a special assessment later on. I chose to ride Amasa Back out to Pothole Arch instead. Magma enjoyed the ride. Here he is sunbathing.

The view from Amasa Back.

It was fun, but I did feel a little guilty sending these photos back to Drew in the meeting via my cell phone.

When I returned to the condo, our friends Jon and Kathy from Grand Junction were there. They came over to play/ride with us, but unfortunately on their ride on Klondike Bluffs earlier in the day, Jon broke his Gary Fisher frame. No injuries to Jon, but the frame is toast. Drew broke two Gary Fisher frames a few years ago. Do you think GF has a problem making frames for the big boys? We drank imported beer with Jon and Kathy and Drew made a new friend in their dog Adi.

Sunday, after tasty breakfast in the garden (yes, outdoor seating at 11 AM in November, and Jon had shorts on to boot) at Eklecticafe, we took a short hike to Fisher Towers. The hike was pleasant and the scenery was amazing.

Then back to town for buffalo burgers at Eddie McStiff's before Jon and Kathy drove off in their Vanagon back to Junction.

Monday we spent some more time deep cleaning our place before heading out of town for a quick ride on Bartlett Wash.

The picture above is Drew on the Entrada Sandstone in the Bartlett Wash area. I don't know what I like better about Barlett Wash, the endless traction on the slickrock which allows bike surfing on the swoops and knobs of sandstone, or marveling at the intricate and beautiful cross beds and weathering patterns on the outcrop.

Even after that gift of gorgeous weather, I'm still not ready for winter.