Thursday, May 20, 2010

Summer is just around the corner

It's still "mud season" at the High Mountain Lodge. Winter Park and Fraser are close to being deserted. We left town, too, and spent a week visiting relatives in the south east, but now we're back at the Lodge getting ready for summer guests.

After a very successful ski season, it has been nice to catch our breath and take care of chores we put off when we were busy. We're painting and deep cleaning rooms as well as weeding areas in the gardens that are finally free of snow.

Julie took a class in high-altitude gardening and is full of plans and ideas to grow herbs and more hardy vegetables. Expect spinach on the menu quite a bit this summer at the High Mountain Lodge.

She was sort of shocked when she found out that you can't grow summer squash at our elevation. Zucchini and yellow squash need more heat than we're liable to get any given summer. It feels sort of unnatural to be living in a place where you can't grow squash. I'm reminded of the old joke about why, in small towns, August and September are the only months when people lock their cars while going to church: it's to prevent their neighbors from leaving bags of zucchini in the back seat. That being said, here is a very easy squash recipe for those lucky enough to be able to grow them:
Finely slice roughly equal amounts of zucchini and onion. A mandolin works best, but in a pinch you can use a knife. Each slice should be between 1/8 and 1/4 an inch.
Cover the bottom of a sauté pan with olive oil; add a pat of butter. Sauté until vegetables are tender. Correct seasoning. Plate over pasta or as a side dish and top with generous amounts of grated parmigiano reggiano or Peccorino Romano cheese. The parmesan is more elegant, but the peccorino is more authentic. 
This is a traditional paisano recipe from Rome and the Lazio region of Italy. It's simplicity itself, but is a surprisingly savory dish. Serve it al fresco over pasta as a stand-alone light dish in the evening with a glass of well-chilled prosecco. It doesn't get much better than this.
 The meadows below the lodge are finally starting to green up, but Sheep Mountain to the west still has some snow on its higher slopes. That will be gone soon, and before long, the fields will be eye-poppingly beautiful. There are buds on the aspen trees; when they leaf out, light sifting down through them will be filtered green-gold. That's when we'll know summer is really here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Jarndyce v. Jarndyce

Charles Dickens's novel, Bleak House, contains a delightful satire on the legal profession regarding a lawsuit in the Court of Chancery in London. Jarndyce v. Jarndyce had been under litigation for over a hundred years and showed no signs of being settled. That suit in Chancery had provided generations of solicitors with a very good living, and seemed destined to provide their issue unto the seventh generation with equally comfortable incomes. I'm fuzzy on the details, being more interested in the novel's description of an alcoholic woman who spontaneously combusted due to too much GIN in her system (I read it in graduate school and was pretty starved for entertainment), but I'm pretty sure the suit was a metaphor for the complexities of life in Victorian England and the disconnect between human community and the institutions we create to facilitate that community.

Lordy, lordy, if Dickens were only alive today and living in Colorado, the novel that man could write about Colorado water law!

A few months ago, out of the blue, we were contacted by an attorney regarding the need for a "due diligence" filing in Water Court to make our "conditional" water rights "absolute." OK. Seems the former owner's petition got lost in the Water Court and never was acted on. Initially, I dismissed her as an ambulance chaser (or, in this case, a "drip" chaser), but the longer we talked, the more alarmed I became. We retained our own attorney and got the filing done with one day to spare!

"Whew," I thought. "Now guests at the High Mountain Lodge won't have to worry about their showers running dry before they rinse the soap off.

Then, just yesterday, this young, beaded guy with a pony tail (far too cool-looking to be a bureaucrat) shows up at the lodge and introduces himself as the Water Commissioner who has been working his way through a 3-year backlog of cases, and our Water Court filing brought us to his attention. Lucky us. He tried to explain that the water rights on our well were "junior" to water rights of people down the valley from us. It seems that, 9 months out of the year, demand for water in our drainage exceeds the capacity of the existing water rights, so those holding "junior" water rights are expected to sequester water in case of demand from senior holders.

And it seems that the ponds down below the lodge are there to sequester water for just such occasions.

"We don't own them," sez I, going into my best "I don't know nothin' about birthin' no babies" mode.

No matter. The fact that water necessary to guarantee my water rights is on another person's property makes no nevermind to the State of Colorado. That person is obligated to release water when the state tells him to to preserve my water rights.

And they wonder why that GIN-soaked person exploded.