Mountain Passages: Weather, Gardening and an Anniversary

I’m predicting a massive snowstorm here in the Front Range on Friday, October 18th.

The day before will be pleasant with blue skies, temperatures in the low seventies and a breeze out of the northwest. After dark the breeze will freshen up, cool down, and swing to the south. By midnight a huge front will blast down from Canada. The counterclockwise circulation will suck up moisture from the Gulf ofphoto-4 Mexico and we’ll have a foot of wet, sloppy snow in my garden the next morning.

How can I be so sure of all this? Simple, I just planted fall lettuce. Today is September 1 and the seed package said that the lettuce will mature in 48 days.

Yesterday Blue Eyes and I celebrated a double-digit wedding anniversary, not in the 30s but close. I know. I know. We were young then—not so much now.

I’ve always thought the average Mountain Gazette reader was a 32 year-old ski instructor/boatman who lived out of the back of her Toyota truck in the summer and had a huge black lab named Euripides—Rippy for short.

But some of us are getting a tad bit older. And with the longer teeth comes a real appreciation of my best friend who has managed to put up with all my nonsense for this many years.

I can’t imagine what it took to farm these flatlands a century or so ago. Those farmers had steely nerves. Gardening here at the base of the Rockies still requires vast over-confidence, irrational optimism, substantial soil amendments, and a disproportionate amount of luck.

So Blue Eyes looked sideways at me when I told her that I was planting an Asian Pear in my garden five years ago. You’ve seen the look? Right? There is no mention of the word, “crackpot” rather the response is couched in terms like, “plant the region and weather.” Or questions like, “So how many Asian Pears have you seen growing in Boulder?” All very civilized—but she’s thinking, “I married a crackpot.”

We’d put a couple hundred miles on the motorcycles before lunch. We were sitting on the deck of the Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur with our boots up on the railing and margaritas in our hands enjoying the view of the ocean. Blue Eyes is sort of straightforward. She looked at me and said, “So where do you think you’ll live when we get back to Boulder?”

“Your place.”

“You think?” she asked

“Yeah, it’s a little better decorated than my place.”

“You mean I don’t leave my clothes where I take them off?”

“Something like that.” I said and took another sip of my ‘rita, grinning.

This gardening season started with flights of pure fancy that lead me to plant lettuce seeds in early March. Hell, the weather was warming up somewhat, I’d spent the last two months in the house on injured reserve and needed to do SOMETHING. So I hobbled out to my garden, turned several raised beds, and planted spring lettuce. The weather was moderate and in a week or so little green buds appeared. I’d just gained three weeks on the season.


Late March and Early April along the Front Range presented us with wave after wave of miserable, cold, stormy weather. The lettuce never knew what hit it. And for that matter, neither did the Asian Pear.

We bought a house together up in Boulder Heights we called The Cabin, eight miles northwest of town in the foothills. We got a mountain dog who was half Irish Wolfhound and half Old English Sheepdog with all the bad traits of both nationalities. We traveled a good deal for work and Sam the mountain dog became bi-weekly fixture at Cottonwood Kennels down in the flatlands. There was nothing better than to come in from the airport on Friday afternoon, pickup Sam, a pizza, and meet Blue Eyes up at The Cabin.

I know it’s a cliché but the years just flew by, wild weather and work through fall, winter and spring and most of the summer off just sitting there together looking down on Boulder. And then we moved downhill to north Boulder in 2005.

After five years I had interwoven the branches of the Asian Pear into the Southwest corner of my garden where it would be protected from the worst wind and weather by our house. Since the second summer we’ve harvested sweet, round, yellow Asian Pears.

This spring the leaves and buds came early, followed by the storms of late March and April. The Asian Pear didn’t even bother to bloom this year.

So after recovering from the spring lettuce debacle I did the usual and planted most everything in late May, three varieties of tomatoes, basil, and a mozzarella plant, ONE zucchini and as many anaheim peppers as I could fit in. Yes, I garden for two reasons: caprese and chile rellenos.

photo-5It has been a fine summer for gardening. I’ve eaten enough caprese to start speaking Italian, learned to make a tasty chile relleno casserole with chorizo and given away tomatoes to all my neighbors. My ex-running partner, Captain Love gets the two-foot long zucchinis. His wife, St. Jane has promised zucchini bread.

We both quit paid work a year or so ago. Blue Eyes runs a website call that sells indigenous textiles and products from third-world artisans. I sit on the board of the Buffalo Bicycle Classic and am working on a partnership with the Forest Service and Bryan Mountain Nordic Ski Patrol to work the major trails in the Roosevelt National Forest next year. It seems like we are both still working. When we look around us…we are simply amazed to be where we are in life.

It’s September 1, I’ve planted sets of lettuce, Swiss chard, kale and Brussel sprouts. I’ve shaded the lettuce with a tarp to protect it from the heat and now I’m taking bets on that October 18th snowstorm.

Alan Stark is a free-lance writer and member of the Bryan Mountain Nordic Ski Patrol.