Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I am testing Live Writer on the new computer with a bonus funny cat picture

xmas max 1

Is this thing on?

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Inn is open: our new guest room

I redecorated the guest room.  Or maybe I should say decorated the guest room, since when I moved in in 2005 the room was a cross between "1960s-old-lady" and "bachelor".

Nice border. Made me feel like I was staying at Grandma's.

white on white - not my choice of cheerful. The Navy memorabilia was not making the room "pop".

As this was the larger of the two bedrooms in this house, it was our master bedroom, so we wanted to make it nice.  The first step was to rip out the teal green carpet.

Then we remodeled the adjacent bathroom, so we moved the closet from one wall to another and closed in the second doorway into this tiny bedroom.

And painted a lovely shade of blue. At least it looked lovely in the magazine ad for Benjamin Moore paint.  When we got it on the walls, though, it was like sleeping inside a bottle of Febreeze.

Then there was the interim weird ugly furniture phase.

Before simply getting rid of the headboard all together and buying some bedding I liked.

But the room was pretty bad.

TV trays made very functional bedside tables for 4 years.

And that was our newlywed bedroom for the first 4 years of marriage.  We just turned off the lights.

Then a couple of years ago we put the giant addition on the house and moved out of this room to our new master suite.  Since then, it has been an unwelcoming guest room.  I must say I am sorry to those of you who stayed with us and had to sleep in this room.  You must have felt like you were in a construction zone.

So this summer I got some gumption to fix it.
The trim was in very bad shape.  There was talk of stripping it all down to wood and refinishing it, but I needed to see an end to this project.  I decided to paint the trim white., but it took a ton of scraping, Bondo, and caulking to get it paint ready.

 First step in the makeover was a headboard I made out of an old door.

raw materials

I cut it to queen-sized width and made a cleat for the top and braces for the side.

There was some piecing to do.
But it looked better once I added re-purposed trim as a top ledge, Bondo-ed the knob holes, and primed it.

I found some miss matched furniture that I liked at a second hand store and gave them all a fresh coat of white.

 Time for some hard core painting.

But what color?

Upon closer inspection of the floor, I could see that long ago it had been painted faux oak.  That was common in the early days here in Utah.

Now I was doing my own artistic painting.

We settled on a beautiful shade of blue that makes the room calming and cool.

After paint, some lush carpet.

Cream Berber with a faint yellow tint.

We had the heater vent stripped of paint and Drew shined it up.
And the doors would be refinished by Drew.

 So the only thing left was to decorate!
Fresh bedding.

Re-purposed windows for wall art.  The center one is the screen from our front windows I found in the attic.

Heavy purple velvet drapes to shut out the sun for mid-day napping.

And the headboard turned out great.
 So the guest room is open for visitors.  In fact, our first house guest, my cousin Ruth the Artist from Oregon, has come and gone and she reportedly slept comfortably and well.  She loved our guest room so much she gave me an original painting of hers.

So if you ever find yourself in Salt Lake City, you have a place to lay your head.

Update January 2014: Finishing art

One winter day I finally filled in the re-purposed wall art, i.e. the old screen and window pictured above.  When I was helping mom pack to move out of the farmhouse years ago, I found a box of postcards.  Most of them were not written on, but a few were, and all were vintage. I strung them up and hung them in the vintage frames. How vintage of me.

Vintage family postcards in window and window screen "frames".

Most of the postcards were circa 1930-40, purchased when my grandparents when on a trip to California to send back home to my great grandparents.  One that went through the mail is dated 1932.

Some of the pictures on the fronts are cool.

The caption on this one says Arrow Rock Dam, Boise, Idaho. Highest in the world, Height 351 ft., length 1,060 ft.  The postmark on the back is dated July 1932 and was sent for a penny.  The Bureau of Reclamation website says this dam was built in 1915 and it is still operating today.

The caption for this one says "Lowering loaded box car, Boulder Dam", which shows the date of the postcard as between 1933 and 1935 when it was being built and before it was renamed Hoover Dam, as we know it today. This dam is 726 feet tall, much taller than its earlier cousin.

 As cool as the fronts are, the back is where the good nuggets are. Sadly, only a few are written on.

I smudged the addressee, but I will tell you that they were addressed to my great grandmother with my hometown and state only; no PO Box or street address and no zip. Fantastic.
Two were sent from my grandma and grandpa to my great grandma and grandpa in February 1944 while they were on vacation to California.
See below for translation 
The one in the photo above reads
Dear Folks - Everything is beautiful out here. We are at Lea's ????? swing the town. Were at the ?Txocoder? - that's where you were - but we only saw one movie star & he needed a haircut. Love #####
How precious is that!  Another is great because it was sent in 1944 when they passed through Salt Lake City.  It reads:
Dear Folks, We are in Salt Lake tonight - winter here. First waves struck - no trouble - lots of traffic. Hard to get rooms. Love a ?tor???? cabin tonight. Having FUN
Apparently, neither the traffic nor the weather has changed in Salt Lake City in 70 years!

What I really wonder is why were my grandparents on a vacation in the winter of 1944 while WWII was going on? 

Anyway, if you come to visit, you will get to sleep with some pieces of history here.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Work or play? Field work on the Wasatch Plateau.

I am a lucky geologist this week because my coworker, Paul, is really a go-getter.  For the second year, he secured funding to do a project for Manti-La Sal National Forest managers that involves some of the most enjoyable field work imaginable.

The project involves taking inventory of "groundwater dependent ecosystems" (GDEs), a.k.a spring-fed wetlands, in an area of the Wasatch Plateau in central Utah.  We focus on coal mine lease tracts that have or likely will soon have new coal mining underneath them. The idea is to assess the status of the GDEs now so that future changes, possibly due to piracy of groundwater into the coal mines, can be assessed.

What that boils down to for me and my co-worker Janae for two weeks is hiking around the forest looking for and documenting springs. Paul and our other coworker, Rich, were doing the same thing a few miles south of us.

The Terrain

Yeah, so this part of the job is really hard.  Ha ha.  Fall colors on the Wasatch Plateau were lovely.

Me with a pack of gear, the large weir plate, and the soil core auger above a wetland.  Normally Janae and I split up carrying the gear, but for some reason I had more of the heavy stuff in this photo.

Janae above a lovely little wetland.

Sometimes the GDEs are near roads.  This one has been developed for stock watering.
Other times the GDEs are harder to get to.  The area has been hit hard by pine bark beetle, which makes for tough hiking through dead fall. The spring flow we were mapping goes right down the hill through the center of this photo under the downed trees.

There is some pretty steep terrain in places.

But other times the GDEs are just spread out there before you!

The Housing

Our lodging is a 14-foot travel trailer.  We were one of two campers at a remote Forest Service campground.
Living in style.

With the propane heater, little fridge, and gas stove, were were comfy and cozy at night.  Our coworkers working a few miles south of us were camping in tents.  Lucky us.
Field work is tough on clothes.  I ripped two pair of pants this week!

The Work

The FS has this really long, detailed inventory assessment they want us to do on each GDE.  There are 10 field sheets worth of notes.  We draw a map, describe a soil core, measure flow and water quality, identify plants (as best us geologists can), collect plant samples (since we are horrible at identifying plants), identify fauna if we can, and answer a bunch of questions about the health and status of the GDE.

One of our site sketch maps.  The GDE looks like a skewered amoeba in this map.

Soil Cores

Soils are a very important indicator of the health of a wetland.  Ground that is trampled by cattle gets churned up and doesn't develop the soil structure needed to support plants.

Janae collecting a core in a fen, which is an area of spongy organic soil.  This soils in this area were relatively intact.

Me collecting a core in a sedge-dominated wetland.
Me extracting soil from the auger. Janae actually did a lot more of the soil coring and describing than I did because she was way better at the soils part.

A soil core.


My favorite part is measuring the flow.  For this we have two weir plates that we temporarily install in the spring brook, if present.  We inventoried 8 GDEs this week.  Only one had flow large enough to need the larger weir plate.

Large weir plate installed 15 feet downgradient from the spring head.  The height of water flowing through the notch is proportional to the flow.  This was about 22 gallons per minute. 

Down the hill from the previous photo, we measured flow again to see if more flow was gaining on this large landslide-complex GDE.  It wasn't.

The size of my smile is proportional to the enjoyment factor for this work. :-)

All the other springs had only diffuse, unmeasurable flow, or flow that would fit though this smaller (and lighter!) weir.  The plate is supposed to be installed facing upgradient so you can read the level of the pool, but because of the geometry of this channel, I had to flip it around.

It's a dirty job!

Weir installed and quantifying flow.
Another way to measure the flow is volumetrically.  That is a fancy word using a stopwatch to time the duration it takes to fill a container of known volume.  
Measuring flow volumetrically: Directing the flow from a culvert into a 500 milliliter bottle.

The Geologic Setting

Of course, Janae and I both loved figuring out the geologic setting of each GDE.  Part of the area we were covering is underlain by the Cretaceous-Tertiary North Horn Formation, a unit of mudstone, claystone, sandstone, and conglomerate that is infamous for landslides. The largest GDE we inventoried (4 acres in size) was at the head of a very large landslide.  The water is instrumental in lubricating the sediments and facilitating movement on the slide.  We saw several fresh headscarps and this area:
Can the geologist in you figure out what is going on here?  Flow comes off the elevation we are standing on in a little stream channel to our right.

The area outlined in green is a back-rotated slide block; it has rotated so that the upslope area is lower than the higher ground with trees, and therefore is creating a wet area - not quite a sag pond, but if rotation continues, a pond might form.  Because there are two out flow areas and because the vegetation in the wet area, outlined in red, looked unhealthy, I suspect there has been recent movement.  If this area had been stable for a long time, the drainage would most likely evolve to one outflow and the vegetation would adjust to the amount of water available, but it looks like perhaps the veg is being drowned.  There were huge storms in late September which added water to the already unstable ground. Landslide!

Water Quality

Another assessment tool is to measure the temperature, pH, and electrical conductance of the water.

Sometimes the best pool of water is hard to get to.

Other times we captured the water in a basin.


Cattle grazing is allowed in most of the Manti-La Sal NF, and it takes a pretty severe toll on the wetlands.

This GDE was on a steep hill slope and completely trashed by trampling.

While we were there, Bessy came to drink. 

A nearby wetland was in slightly better shape, but cattle use this one heavily too.

Only in very limited places that are off limits to cattle, did we find healthy GDE.  This 20x30-foot area was "fenced" by large dead fall, which protected it from grazing.
Besides cattle, we didn't experience much animal life except we heard elk bugling, saw a few deer and squirrels, and lots of these guys...
Spiders are our friends.

Not sure what critter made this track, but we really were not surprised, since wetlands are important for the wild ones too.

We had mostly good weather this week, despite being at between 8,000 and 10,200 feet elevation.  We got a little rain and snow on the last day, but we were on our way out and managed find two springs close to the road so we had the truck to use to warm up when needed. Let's hope for similar weather next week!