"Mountain Living" Featured Articles





Thistles: What they are & What you can do

Are you looking out your windows at fields of thistles in the summer? Are you unsure what to do about them or why they might be worth getting rid of? Let's look more closely at the thistle to find answers. Musk Thistle, Bull Thistle and Canada Thistle are abundant in this area. Despite their pretty purple heads, these tall, sturdy creatures are noxious weeds. What makes them noxious is that they are non-natives which can grow in a variety of ecosystems, forcing out native plants. There are few natural controls on noxious weeds, such as insects and disease. Some weeds can produce over a million seeds per plant, enabling the plant to spread quickly throughout an area, choking out weaker native plants.

Boulder County is aware of the seriousness of this weed problem and has recently developed a weed management program to deal with these problems. The Integrated Weed Management Program recommends many different control techniques including: grazing, mowing, hand-pulling, flooding, insect introduction, reclamation, and prevention. In addition, a number of herbicides have been developed recently that can be used in very small amounts, are non-carcinogenic, are very specific to the weed to be killed, and become inert quickly. The effectiveness of any method depends on the stage of development of the weed.

In the Magnolia area, thistles begin to flower at the beginning of July and will go to seed shortly after that. Seeds are easily transported by wind and can travel great distances; therefore, it is ideal to eliminate the plant before it seeds.

Winning the Thistle War

The process of hand-pulling thistles is labor intensive, but generally very successful for Musk Thistle and Bull Thistle. Canada Thistle should not be pulled. Pulling this variety will only make them more vigorous, causing them to spread even faster. So Canada Thistle must be controlled using herbicides. Tedd Beegle, editor of the local publication "Thistle Epistle", and other Twin Sisters residents have been diligent in their thistle control and have greatly reduced the thistle problem in that area. PUMA organized its first official thistle pull last summer on the Bauer property at the top of County Road 68. As a result, there has been a dramatic reduction of thistles on that land.

Management Options (Courtesy of Service-in-Action, CSU Cooperative Extension)

Mechanical Control: Hand-pulling, flower snipping, and shoveling are useful methods of weed control. For musk thistle, before seeds appear inside the purple heads, gently dig around the root to collapse the plant. while trying not to disturb the ground too much. This technique will kill the weed before seeds can form. When seeds do appear, it's best to pull and bag the heads. Be sure not to use this method on Canada Thistle, as it will only make the thistles spread more.

Chemical Control: There are several good herbicides registered for use on Canada and Musk thistle that can be used in pasture, rangeland, and non-crop areas. Herbicide application is most effective when used in the spring or fall.

Biological Control: Ceutorhyncus litura and Rhinocyllus conicus are both weevils that are currently used as a bio-control agent in Colorado. The females lay eggs on the thistles, then the larvae bore into the main leaf vein, then down into the plant's crown area, killing the weed. Success with biological control occurs when combined with other control methods. Boulder County Weed Management has begun a program for distributing these weevils each spring.

For more specific information on noxious weeds, their description, and proper methods of control, please contact:
Boulder County Weed Management, 678-6110
CSU Cooperative Extension, Service-In-Action Program (970)491-6198.







Tree Farming: How it Works

The American Tree Farm System is the nation's largest volunteer forest conservation effort. It is sponsored by the non-profit American Forest Foundation and implemented by State Committees such as the Colorado Tree Farm Committee. The American Tree Farm System encourages the use of proven practices for managing private land in order to achieve a sustainable forest.

Membership is open to anyone who meets these requirements:

For over 50 years, the American Tree Farm System has been inconspicuously managing one of our most valuable resources. Forest management is as old and honored as the woods themselves.

The Kellogg family, longtime residents of the Magnolia area, have been tree farming for some time, thus benefiting both the forest and the community at large. They are featured in PUMA's Magnolia Chronicles Section of this web site in the article: Community Members Help the Forest to Thrive.

If you would like more information on tree farming, you can find the Colorado Tree Farm Committee on the WWW or at (970) 221-1857






Burning Slash: Safely and Effectively

It's never the wrong season to work on defensible space around your home. The fire on Sugarloaf was a wakeup call for all of us. As responsible mountain residents we can't ever ignore the issue of fire danger nor our responsibility to help reduce it.

Felled limbs and branches (slash) that accumulate on your property provide fuel to future fires. Getting rid of slash is a good idea whenever possible. You can do this by crushing the slash into small pieces and spreading it around your property, or chipping the slash and using it as mulch. These options allow the slash material to decay and let the nutrients return to the soil, though in Colorado this is a slow process. You can also burn your slash to get rid of it.

As temperatures drop from summer highs and fire danger slowly begins to wane, the winter season offers the best time to safely burn slash. Burning slash, while a good way to remove fire fuels from your property, must be done in a cautious and conscientious manner. The following guidelines will give you an overview of the DOs and DON'Ts for collecting, placing, and burning your slash piles in a save and effective manner. After you have collected the slash you will need to follow the procedures outlined by the Boulder County Health Department, the High Country Fire Department, and the Sheriff's Departments of both Boulder and Gilpin Counties.

What Not To Do

DON'T put slash piles alongside the road. Our roads serve as firebreaks and putting tinder along them compromises their effectiveness. Piles of slash along a road could also keep a fire truck from being able to come into an area or out again.

DON'T make huge piles; start with smaller piles that you will consolidate as you burn. If something ignites a pile by accident, you don't want that pile to b as big as a house.

Ready to Burn?

If you do decide to burn your slash, you must get permission and follow these steps in this order:

1. Get a free permit, good for 30 days above 8000 ft., from the Boulder County Health Department (located at Broadway and Iris). The permit rules are spelled out clearly and completely on the application.

2. Then, get permission from the High Country Fire Department (HCFD). This can only be issued on the day of the burn and is good for that day only. HCFD will grant you permission only under the following conditions.

Numbers for permission from HCFD are:

3. After you have permission from HCFD, you must call the Sheriff's Departments of both Boulder and Gilpin Counties when you are starting your burn, and again when you are done, so that the HCFD doesn't get called on a fire alarm.

Get an Early Start!

The bottom line is this: if you are going to undertake this project, make sure that you have a whole day for doing nothing else (pack your lunch, coffee, etc. to have with you unless you have help and can take turns tending the fire). You must plan ahead and allow time for the pile to burn completely down so that it is out before dark. Covering slash piles before they get soaked by rain or snow will make your project easier by ensuring that your slash is dry when you are ready to burn. Although this is a fairly big project, careful planning and thoughtfulness on your part can make it a worthwhile and satisfying one.

For details from folks who have had safe and successful slash burns, contact PUMA's Wildfire Committee or HCFD. Taking care of slash will reduce the fire danger around your home and help the Fire Department in its efforts should a fire occur. For more information on fire prevention please see our article: Fire Danger and Fire Safety.







Domestic Animals in a Wild Environment

In our ongoing effort to educate ourselves and to learn about the unique Magnolia- area environment, PUMA invited Pat Dorsey, Colorado Division of Wildlife; Dr. Cathy Eppinger, DVM, Paws on Wheels; and Dede Hager, Boulder County Animal Control to speak at our April meeting about interactions between wildlife, domestic animals, and people. Our primary goal was to learn how our lives can affect the lives of our wild-animal neighbors.

While a variety of domestic animals were discussed, attendees had many questions about dogs and their interactions with wildlife. According to Dorsey, it is a common misnomer that this rugged, open terrain around Magnolia is a haven for our canine companions.While we may think our move up the mountain is a dream-come-true for fido too, that is not always true. Over centuries of being domesticated, dogs have come to rely on and find happiness in human contact and companionship. While there are certainly great areas for dogs to entertain themselves while we are away from home, Dorsey and Eppinger both agree it is time spent with owners on walks or even an occasional car ride that keeps most dogs the happiest. Not only do they both encourage owners to take responsibility for getting their pets exercise, they are concerned about the animals’ safety if they are left outside all the time.

As dogs have grown more and more accustomed to human contacts and surroundings, they have become less and less accustomed to the wild. As a result, the wilder environment that the Magnolia area presents to our dogs, is not always safe for them or other animals they may encounter.

Hungry mountain lions can easily make a dog into lunch - big dogs look a lot like a deer to a lion and are not necessarily safer than smaller dogs. Likewise, in the spring, if a dog gets near a mother bear and her cubs, she will certainly be less than friendly to your dog. A livestock owner has the right to shoot a dog if it is threatening or harassing his or her animals and animals that are always on their own may develop pack-like behavior with other dogs in the area: either case may present a situation in which the DOW could be forced to put down a dog .

Keeping dogs inside when possible also minimizes their risks of getting diseases from wild animals—raccoons and coyotes are primary carriers of rabies and decreases their opportunities for disruptive barking or harassing wildlife. Some residents have used invisible fencing to keep their dogs within a safe range of their homes; this does not bother the wildlife at all. Fencing a portion of your property, using elk-friendly fencing can be another alternative for your pet’s safety.

Eppinger also noted the importance of keeping cats inside at all times, even if you are out and about in your yard. Cats are easy prey for a variety of wild animals living in this area. She recommends that if you are thinking of getting a cat, be sure that it is a breed that is well suited for indoors. Not all cats will be happy being inside their whole life, but letting your cat out in this area is one way to guarantee a short relationship between you and your cat!

This is a great area to take your dog on a variety of tremendous hikes or simple strolls on dirt roads. Taking your dogs for regular walks is also a great way for us to get and remind ourselves what a special place Magnolia really is.

If you would like more information on domestic and wild animals, please contact the Division of Wildlife at 291-7225.