Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Weekend Hikes - Hall Ranch and Rabbit Mountain

Hall Ranch west of Lyons

Along with eating too much on Thanksgiving comes doing exercise. During the summer I am doing a farmer's market most weekends so I haven’t gotten out for hikes as much as I’d like to. Thankfully this weekend provided us with warm and sunny fall weather which allowed for some hiking. A lot of people had the same idea about getting out after Thanksgiving to enjoy the nice weather and get some exercise.

Since the September floods the roads west of us that go into the mountains have been closed and just recently opened with temporary fixes. Friday we drove through Lyons to Hall Ranch Park. Lyons is still cleaning up debris from the flood and doing repairs, so the roads are full of dump trucks and cones.  Hall Ranch is a great hike that goes through hilly grasslands and up into pine and juniper forest. The views are wide open and include the cliffs that rise above the St. Vrain River. It's a mixed use trail so there were hikers, bikers and horses. The cool fall weather doesn't tend to carry aromas as much as the warm breezes of summer, but the aromatic grasses and pines were detectable.

View of Longs and Meeker Peaks from Rabbit Mountain

Sunlight on the grasses at Rabbit Mountain
On Saturday, I did a limited amount of work and of course went out shopping for small business Saturday. But that still left time for another hike.  This time it was to Rabbit Mountain, east of Lyons so very close to us. We are lucky to have this open space so close and often go there. I like having a hike I can do regularly and observe the changes during the seasons. I typically hike Overlook Trail, but this time we took Eagle Wind Trail. This again goes mostly through hilly grasslands and then Ponderosa pines which give the area a pleasant aroma. The trail is mostly rocky so I have to pay close attention to where I place my feet, but several places were nice and sandy. Most of the trail allows very panoramic views of the Mountains on one side and the great plains on the other side.

For me getting out for a hike is a great way to relax and focus on something other than work. I hope to enjoy a few more hikes over the winter, but if it snows I'll be sure to enjoy cross country skiing.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Belladonna - part of a cosmetics history

The term belladonna means "beautiful woman" in Italian. It is also the name of a plant, Atropa belladonna also known as deadly nightshade. It produces several toxic alkaloids such as scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine. Atropine, isolated from this plant, is used as a drug to increase heart rate during resusitation, to inhibit salivary gland secretions and to treat organophosphate poisoning (insecticides and nerve gas).

Atropine is an alkaloid compound that is naturally occurring in the nightshade family of plants such as jimson weed. Its physiological action is to inhibit the acetylcholine receptor.  Its antidote is another natural plant compound known as physostigmine or the organophosphorus insecticides known as parathion. Both of these are acetylcholinesterase inhibitors which increase concentration of acetylcholine in the synapse causing muscle contraction.

Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter the body uses in the parasympathetic nervous system as well as at the neuromuscular junction. Inhibiting it means that muscle contraction does not occur, or muscle relaxation will be promoted. When muscle relaxation happens in the eye, it results in dilation of the pupils. At one time it was popular for drops to be prepared from the belladonna to use in the eyes to cause pupil dilation. This was thought to be attractive. Because it can cause flushing, extracts were applied topically to the cheeks as blush to give a rosey color.

Although in the right hands it can be considered medicinal, it is generally considered a toxin to both humans and animals causing death by disrupting both breathing and heart rate. There is suspicion that the wife of Emperor Augustus of the Roman Empire used it to kill him in 14 AD. Belladonna and related extracts have also been used as poison-tipped arrows! Beauty has an interesting history (as well as presence).

Monday, November 4, 2013

Curried Pumpkin Soup

We were lucky this year with a nice harvest of various types of winter squash and pumpkins. Although I did make two big batches of pumpkin soap, we are also trying some new pumpkin recipes for FOOD! This is one we really liked that was adapted from "Vegetarian Soup Cuisine" by Jay Solomon.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion diced
1 cup diced celery
4 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 jalapeno or other hot chile seeded and minced
2 large tomatoes diced
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 cups peeled and diced winter squash or pumpkin
5 cups water

Heat the oil in a large soup pan and add onion, celery, garlic, ginger and hot pepper. Saute for 5 minutes or so. Add tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the seasoning and cook over low heat briefly while stirring. Add pumpkin and water and bring to a slow boil. Cook for 35-40 minutes until pumpkin begins to fall apart into the soup. Mash some to help pumpkin fall apart or put into a blender if you want it very pureed. Check seasonings. Serve.

This is also good with some chopped up kale or other greens in the soup.
For more on pumpkin soap read here:

The other way I really like to eat squash (butternut squash) is to cut it like french fries and roast it in the oven; serve with salt and ketchup.
Do you have a favorite squash recipe?


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