I’m Still here –

I see from the date of my last post, it’s been six months since I last wrote to you.  I couldn’t believe it had been that long.  Where did the time go and what have I been doing?

Moab, Utah Arts Show Booth

By the time we went to Moab for the Memorial Day Arts and Crafts show it had been only 90 days since I had the second knee replaced.  In some ways that knee was easier to rehab than the first.  But they were very different.  One would straighten out flat immediately, but it took 5 weeks to get it bend to 130 degrees.  The second knee bent to 120 degrees right after surgery, but it still is reluctant to straighten out to 0. 

That made Moab a real challenge.   Had to wait an extra two weeks before I could be certain I would be able to do the show the end of May.  That delay meant there wasn’t an RV space available in Moab. 500 spaces and they were all sold out.  That meant we had to stay in Green River and drive back and forth the 60 miles one way each day of the show.  Our youngest daughter took her vacation and joined us at the KOA in Green River the second and third days.  And she was there the evening of take down and loaded half of all the equipment into her truck and took it to Green River.  

We loaded everything into the toy hauler the next morning and then went on an excursion down to Capitol Reef and some of our old stomping grounds in that area.  The next morning we came home.  Jennifer was to stay another couple of days and explore Mesa Verde and the ruins and Petroglyphs of that area.  She decided it was too hot and she’d done enough driving, she was ready to return home to Montana. We were so grateful she came down and helped take down the two pop-ups and helped Tracy stowe them in the trailer.  It was the beginning of the decision to stop doing outdoor shows.

June was spent putting together product for the local Folk Art Festival Show.  Another 2-day show in 80 degree weather with pop-ups and heavy equipment.  That time our good friend Glenn came to our rescue and helped take down the booth late Saturday evening.  Even then, as always, we were the last booth to finish loading out.  Too much for two old people, especially in the heat. 

July found us in Logan for another show, outdoors, with all the pop-ups, canopies, concrete anchors, tables, jewelry racks and basket displays.  This time Jennifer drove from Bozeman to Logan, Utah on Saturday. Got there in time to turn the drop-down couch into her bed and then come over to the show and help work the booth, visit the show, and load-out the booth from the Tabernacle grounds by midnight.  Good thing.  Although that show has, literally, hundreds of volunteers to get everyone off the grounds by midnight, it was a challenge.  We got into the RV park around 11 PM and went to bed.  The next morning we went to breakfast, emptied all our booth stuff from Jens truck and she drove back to Bozeman. 

By the time we got back from Logan we had made up our mind, no more outdoor shows that require all that equipment to set up.  In August Tracy had cataract surgery on both eyes, two weeks apart.  He did well and continues to only need dollar store readers. 

My knees continue to work well, the muscles could use some physical activity daily, but there’s still too much stuff in the garage – that’s another post.  In the meantime, Tracy continues to participate in the Rock Club.  I’ve become an active member of the Chamber of Commerce and enjoy just sitting around on Wednesdays knitting with the Fiber Arts Group (although I did lead a basket class in August). The adventure continues.

I love a ribbon cutting

One of my favorite things to do is help people with their projects.
Whether it’s a Fire Station, Health Clinic, or Historic District, ribbon
cutting is the most satisfying outcome I can imagine. While I’ve lived in
Escalante I’ve gotten grant monies for the Fire House, the original
clinic, the airport runway, and the Escalante Show house. All except the
show house were public projects. The show house is privately owned and
operated.

When the Steed’s purchased the abandoned show house in 2013 they
envisioned they would have it open “some day” but not July, 2015. The 1938
facility had been vacated and partly torn up inside as it sat with dirt
floors for almost ten years. Tracy and I had been providing them print
services since 2010 and gotten to be good friends. When Jenifer asked me
to help her with a Grant Proposal for Rural Economic Funds, there was no
way I could say no.

With $50,000 grant award in hand, their own personal funds and a
line-of-credit they went to work to get it open by July 4th, 2015.
Husband Shannon didn’t believe it could or would happen. Jenifer and I
pressed forward . They already have several special events booked for the
venue and will continue to develop their plan of work as they get into the
winter months.

Between their Wild West Retreat, operating the Cowboy Blues Restaurant in
Escalante, serving triple the amount of bus tours and special events at
their outdoor facility, Wild West Retreat and Cowboy Cookouts will
continue to be a success. They have a plan and continue to work it. It’s
been an honor and privilege to work with them over the years. I’m looking
forward to that ribbon cutting.

Escalante Show House Close to Being Revnovated

Escalante Show House Close to Being Revnovated

Escalante Show House Before Renovation

Escalante Show House Before Renovation

Escalante, Utah – The Donut Hole

For the first time in many, many, many weeks, Father Sky has rewarded Mother Earth with moisture in the Escalante valley.  Other places have received more than their share as floods reduce neighborhoods to rubble.  But today is our turn.

The plants are singing Father Sky’s praise as all our landscaping is native plants and I don’t water at all.  So this drink is a gift to very thirsty vegetation.  Purple Sage, Mormon Tea, Rabbit Brush, Russian Sage, Oregon Grape, and Siberian Pea Shrubs provide some shade to join the rocks and provide habitat for the many lizards that have taken up residence.  I was gifted a Native Bear Grass plant –in the Spring – and that’s not the ideal time to plant natives.  They do better when planted in the fall.  So the Bear Grass got a drink off and on all summer and looks like it’s going to make it.

Like many in Escalante, there’s an overabundance of Chipmunks this year.  One friend has captured over 80 and at least 3 squirrels.  We’re at one squirrel and 6 Chipmunks.  Trap and relocate to the great wilds of the Grand Staircase and Dixie National Forest are one solution.  The other is trap and recycle.  I overheard someone in the Grocery Store this past week talking about the Chipmunks eating up their entire garden (and gardens in Escalante are meant to provide for the winter).

Since the Hen and Chicks is neighbor to the Bear Grass they reaped the rewards of getting some extra moisture and is in the process of blooming.  Fun!  The Hollyhocks were doing poorly until there was a small squall about 8 weeks ago.  That provided enough moisture to bloom and go to seed, but the seed pods are small and scattered along the stems.  I’ll share what bounty I have with Friend and “Seed Lady” Harriet Priska. I’ll happily share because her seeds benefit the Native Plant Society Chapter here and they helped me decide what plants to acquire and when to plant.

It’s supposed to rain hard today – we’ll see.  Most times our little basin gets blue skies in the center of the storm.  We call it the donut hole – where the waters from the surroundings hills nourish our little basin and direct rainfall equals 7” a year.  We’ll see.

Escalante, Utah – No Change is Change!

In the 11 years I worked for a member of Congress a majority of my tasks was to assist constituents with problems related to public agencies – city, county, state, federal and special districts.  I traveled the district meeting with folks and listening to their problems with these agencies and we tried to forge some type of resolution.  Mostly, it was educating folks on what agencies did, how they worked and what could they expect from them.  Since we don’t teach civics anymore most people have no idea how it works and the rest would just as soon not know.
But sticking your head in the sand doesn’t make a problem go away nor does it educate the populace on how things are done in one or another community (and yes, they are all different).  Take where I live today, Escalante, Utah.  About 65% of the city is LDS and descendants of the pioneer families that first moved here in the 1880’s.  They have a sense of pride in their town that dates back to those humble beginnings and highly resent new move-ins trying to change things.
On the other side of that debate are the newer move-ins that don’t have a sense of ownership (other than their land deed) and have very different life experiences and attitudes.  Neither of these two groups are right or wrong, but they do have different outlooks and expectations.  What’s missing, usually, are two things that need development in every small town on an ongoing basis.
First, is Respect for those that are heritage families and respect for those moving here to be part of that heritage over time.  The town has a fabulous heritage and the preservation of that in the view of historic buildings is one of the reasons Escalante was just named a National Historic District.  A high percentage of the homes have been preserved in their original state or only minor modifications have been made.  Truly, brick and mortar are one of its many attributes and is one of the aspects of the towns new move-ins adore.  All you have to do is look at the two most recent business move-ins to see the adoration for brick in their buildings.
Second, a little over half the town are active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints (LDS) and are busy with their families, church and various callings.  They communicate with each other on all issues on a regular basis and if there’s a water crisis they know about it.  If they have a project they want they’ve talked about it and come up with what they want to do.  Unfortunately, the rest of us are not there and not in on those conversations.  Thus we hear about it at City Council meetings,  Planning and zoning meetings, or from the newspaper if it’s included in the local column.  And now you see postings from folks on Facebook about these issues.  The bottom line is the lack of communication only increases the frustration between groups and makes for hard feelings.
How to fix this?  One town uses their local newspaper to get answers through an anonymous “I Want To Know?” column.  They answer one question a week and provide “just the facts” so that folks can form their own opinions.  Another town has a Mayor that holds “office hours” once a week where citizens can walk in and chat about issues – limit 15 minutes per constituent (strictly enforced).  Another town has formed a citizens advisory committee and constituents are encouraged to meet with them monthly to bring forward their issues.  Education is a key component of every approach and has to be done on an ongoing basis as every town tends to get new folks about every two years.  So you repeat yourself constantly – but it keeps things from escalating to name calling and hurt feelings.
And the key – heritage families stop taking offense at every question from newer move-ins and new move-ins ask better questions.  It’s a partnership that grows cities, friends, and families.

People Watching

The traffic in our Gallery has been huge this week.  I’m grateful for the traffic and the sales.  But it’s always a wonderful time to people watch, probably one of my favorite things to do.  Lots of foreign citizens traveling through and a large number this week were French.  They tend to have limited English language skills so communicating with them is difficult.  There were also several Englanders, and they are full of life and curiosity.  Always ask lots of good questions and are planning to hike.

The families that are here for Turn About Ranch students are always interesting to watch.  It’s usually mid-term when we see them and most revisit upon graduation.  Parents anxious they made the right decision about spending this huge sum of money to save their teenager from some very bad choices and learning to cope with society as it is.  Almost all come from big cities where there are limited choices and big expenses that require two parents to work in order to provide what is “expected” – at least from the advertisers viewpoint.

Turn About Ranch provides these almost adult children with the skills to evaluate what is really important and how to change the pathway they have been on.  Parents get extended counseling as well.  No one is to blame and both take responsiblity for a different outcome.  Dr. Phil does a segment on our ranch every year and everyone in Escalante, UT is very proud of the work done there.

The families come in, the students are usually quiet, respectful and glad to have a few hours away from the ranch.  Almost all wear a red ball cap.  Those of us watching from the sidelines never know their names or hometowns, but know them from their red ballcap.  We try and reinforce the great work being done and let them know how proud the parents should be for asking for help and the student should be for getting a second chance early on and not having to wait until they are 50+ to “figure it out”.

For midterm we usually just see the parents of the students, but Graduation can bring out entire families that fly into Las Vegas, drive the 5 hours to Escalante and stay in town several days.  Parents, siblings, married siblings and spouses, cousins, aunts and uncles – you name it – they find their way here to celebrate the rebirth of this student and their family.  It’s wonderful to see all the love and caring that comes from it.  They usually buy some little treasure to remember their time in our funny little Mormon Village of 650 people.  And they are fascinated by our red rock environment and the fact that you can hear yourself think.  No background noise, dark nights with stars, and everyone knows everyone – something the city folks mostly never know.