no. 12: Where You At?

As we work to understand our local Wheat Ridge culture in Wheaties Academy, I have been heartened that our affinity with nature is a thread that binds us from so many perspectives. Personally, I love knowing the origins and phenology of natural phenomena around me. This helps with my connection to an environment I am interdependent with and that is so much bigger than me. I figured I would challenge all of us nature folks to a bioregional quiz, Where You At?, to see how familiar you are with these resources we revere. If you do not get a 20/20 just yet, then have fun searching for the answer. I am going to do a few of the prompts to kick off the topic.

1. Trace the water you drink from precipitation to tap.

Rocky mountains to tributaries of one of four main watersheds then distributed by Denver Water to 1.4 million customers including those in SE Wheat Ridge. Denver Water collects from over 4,000 sq. miles, see the map to get a better scope of the eight counties our wet stuff flows through. I mention SE Wheat Ridge because residents in our city acquire water from at least four agencies. While my water comes from Wheat Ridge Water District that buys it from Denver Water you may be getting yours from North Table Mountain Water, Consolidated Mutual Water, or Valley Water.

10. How long is the growing season where you live?

We are at about 150 days from May 1 to September 30. However we are in “hail alley” for a reason and that makes all of us with green thumbs cringe trying to protect our smaller plants at the start of the season. Follow JeffCO Gardener for CSU Extension Master Gardener information.

12. When do the deer rut in your region and when are the young born?

Our males work to attract females in early to mid-November, gestation is about 200 days, and young are born just after Mother’s Day (which is coincidentally when many say to plant our gardens because of hail concern).

13 and 14. Name five grasses and birds in your area.

Head to Crown Hill Park to learn this! We have a wildlife sanctuary and great Jefferson County interpretation there. However do not be sad when you learn it is technically not in Wheat Ridge, it is sandwiched between Wheat Ridge and Lakewood and is under the stewardship of Jefferson County Open Space.

15. What is the land use history of where you live?

The earlier documented inhabitants of the area are the Nunt’zi (Ute) who had a hunter and gatherer land use background. When they acquired horses they were able to venture further between the plains and mountains. The Nunt’zi eventually overlapped with the Tsitsistas (Cheyenne) who ventured west and utilized the land as nomadic hunters here after they were farmers back east. The Hinonoeino (Arapaho) bordered a bit to the north and are also a nomadic Great Basin tribe that had an agricultural background before coming here. When territory disputes began with Europeans who wanted to settle the area for residential and agricultural reasons driven by the westward expansion and dreams of gold rush riches the indigenous people did not stand a chance with being overpowered as well as culturally not having an understanding of why people thought they could own land and call it private property.

16. What primary ecological event/process influenced the landform where you live? (Bonus points: what’s the evidence)

Uplift and erosion. Look at Red Rocks and the mountains then the rivers that flow from them to the Gulf of Mexico. Watch this Brief History of Colorado to learn why our state and city are so beautiful.

20. What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom where you live?

Crocus, have you all been seeing the crocus start to come up since mid-January? This has been another interesting year when looking at the timing of natural phenomena. I mean I still have pansies flowering in my garden which is crazy for February.

Author: Kia Ruiz, 2018 Wheatie

Kia is excited to join Wheaties Academy where she hopes to grow local connections and leverage her resources. Her interests include the environment, local food, wellness, culture and economic development. Kia has experience as a biologist, a campaign organizer, a yoga teacher and consulting with brands and movements to better present scientific concepts for a non-science public. Her happy places: the outdoors on the trails, with her family, volunteering at the zoo, or online at @kiamruiz.

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