Celestial Seasonings Tea Company Prairie Dog Preserve

Last week I showed you photos from my Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory tour, like these:

This week is kind of a supplement to the last post. But first, I want you to remember the cutest Colorado animal, the prairie dog, which I’ve also blogged about. The reason I bring up P-dogs is because there is a huge prairie dog preserve surrounding Celestial Seasonings!

Here’s a shot of the field next to the tea factory. You can see the prairie dog mounds and a couple of the little fatties if you look closely:

One might wonder why Celestial Seasoning has such a preserve just outside their door. Well, you must first understand that, in Colorado, builders, farmers and ranchers don’t like them very much. They create huge networks of burrows that annoy builders and undermine crops, and their mounds are dangerous for cows’ and horses’ ankles.

All the same, it’s illegal to kill them just because you want to build, farm or ranch where they live. I believe the regs state that you must make every effort to move the entire colony if you plan anything for the land they live on. Imagine the logistics of that!

Anyway, way back in 1999, Celestial Seasonings was caught red-handed poisoning prairie dogs as a matter of course in their landscape management program. When the word got out, a massive boycott was planned. CS subsequently admitted their wrongdoing, and, as part of their restitution, they set aside all their unoccupied land for a prairie dog preserve. I believe there was a sign about it on site for many years, but I didn’t see any such sign when I visited.

I have to hand it to the tea people – they stepped up, admitted their mistake, apologized, and tried to make things right. Even now, the descendants of those last-century rodents surround the tea factory. Here’s a picture I took around back next to the loading docks:

So if you want a close look at fat little p-dogs, visit Celestial Seasonings in Boulder!

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory Tour, Boulder, CO

I hope you’re enjoying the new Throwback Tuesday Posts (TBTP) every week! This week I revisited a Bavarian town named Kronach for their annual “Light Up” celebration (Kronach Leuchtet) in 2012!

Once upon a time in the late ’70s, I entered college. Among the millions of things my college buddies taught me about, knowingly or unknowingly (thanks, ladies!), was herbal tea. Namely, Celestial Seasonings. Now, at the time I was diligently building up my coffee-and-cigarettes-for-breakfast habit, so I didn’t partake of the herbals much. However, I was impressed by my friends’ worldliness in knowing about herbal teas and their otherworldliness in consuming something with ‘celestial’ in the name.

Although I never developed the tea habit the way some of my friends did, I was delighted to learn that the Celestial Seasonings factory is in Boulder, just a short drive from where I now live. AND they give FREE factory tours! So, of course, I headed there as part of my mission to bring you interesting places on this blog. And, for those of you who are wondering, I did eventually drop the cigarette part of my coffee habit.

The Celestial Seasonings factory is outside Boulder city on several acres in the Gunbarrel area. If you’ll recall, it’s the same neighborhood as Avery Brewing Co., which I wrote about in a previous post.

I parked in a lot that was much more crowded than I expected. In fact, the place was pretty busy for an early Friday afternoon. But I easily found my way to the Tea Shop (read, gift shop) where the tours begin.

I checked in at a podium and was given my ticket: a package of Sleepytime tea, their flagship. It’s the biggest-selling herbal tea of all time – and if you learn nothing else from this tour, you will learn that fact!

When I turned around from the podium, I was confronted by the Sleepytime bear himself! I said hello, but he seemed to be dozing.

This bear was sitting inside a giant teapot. On the other side of the teapot was a doorway to a small room inside, a replica of the one on the Sleepytime package. The best photo I never got that day was a young man standing in that doorway yawning!

This area was a cafe, and you could try as many of the teas as you wanted from these urns while you waited for the tour to start:

I was also interested in the teapot and teacup collection on display:

They had the company history on display boards – here’s the first one:

No one could tell me exactly what herbs the founders initially picked in the mountains, though. Bet I know which ones they’d pick today…

Presently, a friendly tour guide showed up and led us into a small room with a video screen and this dress made of tea wrappers:

We watched a video that reiterated what the history boards in the lobby had told us. Then, we had to put on hair nets (some of the men had to wear beard nets) and we trooped down the side of the building to the factory tour entrance.

We were not allowed to take pictures in there, so there won’t be any here. But I will tell you that the walking tour lasted about 30 minutes and it was very loud in there! I couldn’t hear what the tour guide was saying most of the time, but I loved seeing the conveyor belts and robots dutifully churning out boxes and boxes of tea. The factory signage was ornate, too, and I SO wanted a picture of the scrollwork sign that read, ‘Tea Bagging’. But they were watching me so I didn’t even try.

The factory was mostly open, but there was a separate room for actual tea – black, green, white, red – that must be kept separate from the herbs or it absorbs flavors from them. And most remarkable on the tour was the Mint Room. The mint must be kept in a separate room because everything in the factory would taste and smell like mint. We stood in there for about five minutes, and my eyes were burning by the end. We were cautioned not to rub our eyes while in there, too. Wow!

After filing through the factory, we exited through the gift shop (apologies to Banksy). There I bought a tea saucer – notice many of these have the images from Celestial Seasonings boxes:

You could buy magnets and cards about your survival of the Mint Room:

They even had lip balm with tea flavors!
Need a Sleepytime Bear teapot?
Of course I bought some tea on my way out, too. And I asked about what kind of cinnamon is in their tea: it’s from Vietnam. FYI, Ceylon cinnamon is what you really want – it’s healthy and has immune-boosting properties. The other stuff is just tree bark and may even be harmful. So read your labels!

Anyway, it was a very nice, comfy tour, kind of like the teas you can get there. I would recommend this for a nice way to spend an afternoon. It’s free and family-friendly. They conduct tours every day: Mon-Sat 10-4 and Sun 11-3. Cafe and giftshop are open longer hours. Take a selfie with the Sleepytime Bear and take in some very cool teapots while you wait. And brace yourself for the Mint Room!

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

Biking at McIntosh Lake in Longmont, Colorado

To my subscribers: Did you see the new blog feature earlier this week? It’s called the Throwback Tuesday Post (TBTP). Every Tuesday, I’ll be re-posting a past blog which is, I hope, relevant and that I think you might like. For example, this week, for the first TBTP, I re-posted a blog from 2011 that brings you along on my first trip to Oktoberfest in Munich. 

Subscribers receive an email notification about it each Tuesday, as well as the regular Thursday new post announcement.

Please subscribe to the blog if you haven’t already so you won’t miss a single (new or retro) post!

For this brand new post, I’ll take you along on a wonderful, peaceful, end-of-summer bike ride at a special place near where I live. It’s called McIntosh Lake in Longmont, Colorado, in Boulder County.

Recently, my husband and I acquired a new Subaru Outback – I think it’s a requirement for living in Colorado, along with a Broncos jersey. Last week we had a hitch installed on the car to accommodate our new Thule bike rack. We needed all this hardware on which to hang our German city bikes so we could take them farther afield on weekends.

Our German bikes are quite a bit different from the mountain and sport bikes most people have around here. Ours are city bikes – you could call them grocery-getters. Sportier models come later, I think.

A co-worker of my husband suggested we go to McIntosh Lake, which supposedly had a nice path and beautiful scenery. Boy, was that an understatement!

After a half-hour drive, we arrived very early, about 7am. Since the high temp that day was forecast in the upper 80s, we wanted to get there before the needling Colorado sun burned through our hats into our brains. It’s a good thing we did, too. We got to enjoy the beautiful golden light from the rising sun and also got to leave just as it was becoming uncomfortable to be out there.

We started out with the sun at our backs and rode through a couple of blocks of really beautiful housing. Once we left the built-up area, it was all magnificent scenery. How can I even stand a view like this???

Beyond the paved path next to the houses, it was all gravel, though well maintained. The tallest mountain in these photos is Long’s Peak.

There is a spur path off the lake path leading to Boulder County Agricultural Heritage Center. That’s on my list for a visit.

Some stats about McIntosh Lake:

  • It’s a reservoir with 265 surface acres
  • You’re allowed to fish; the lake is stocked with walleye, bass and (my fave) crappie.

  • Kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing, canoeing and multi-chamber inflatable rafting are allowed; motorized watercraft are not. Neither are one-chamber inflatables like pool floats or inner tubes.

  • At the west end is a lake preserve area with a couple of picnic tables but no water access. Prairie dogs live there and we saw waterbirds on the lake, too.

  • The surrounding plain is mostly stunning ranch land.

Here’s a map that gives you an idea of the lake’s layout:

It was an absolutely fantastic excursion, even taking into account the fact I left my phone on a bench at the far end of the lake. My husband gallantly retrieved it from a man who’d found it and called my husband to let him know. If he hadn’t been able to find it, you wouldn’t have seen these pictures, for they were all taken on my phone. For that rescue effort, my husband scored a new pair of Nikes later in the day – and well deserved!

Since our cycling outing, the weather has turned decidedly chillier, with highs in the 60s this week and lows in the 40s, and the accompanying leaf color changes. So I’m glad we got to experience that lovely, lovely day. And now I’m very excited for fall!

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

My First Ghost Town! Dearfield, Colorado

First, a few PSAs:

  • This blog site now uses SSL, an encryption technology that furnishes web security. You can tell because, if you are using the Google Chrome browser (and Mozilla’s Firefox, too, I believe), there is now a green padlock icon and the word ‘Secure‘ at the left of the address bar. I’m not sure what Internet Explorer displays, but, regardless of the browser, the web address now begins with https instead of http. I spent the better part of the last two weeks tending to this task, along with updating some other things behind the scenes. Now that Google is happy with me, I hope it will provide some sense of security for you, too!
  • Not only did I implement SSL on this site, but also on my English-learners’ podcast site, www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. Give it a look!
  • Lastly, I totally reworked my photography website, www.KomnataChista.com, something I’ve had on my to-do list for quite some time. Check it out and let me know what you think. It’s one of those things I’ll add to from time to time, but I consider it complete as it stands for now. At the bottom of that webpage, you’ll see a link to my stock photos on Alamy.com. Oh, and BTW, it’s also SSL!
  • And don’t forget to BUY MY BOOKS!

So I have begun what I hope is a series of excursions to, and, therefore, blog posts about, Old West ghost towns. First stop: Dearfield. I know that “ghost town” probably conjures up images in your heads of abandoned mining towns or shootouts at the OK Corral. But that isn’t/wasn’t what Dearfield is/was about.

Dearfield lies about 30 miles east of Greeley, Colorado. Both are northeast of where I live and about an hour plus into the high plains. Greeley, incidentally, was named after Horace Greeley, the 19th-century author, statesman and founder/editor of the New-York Tribune. He is generally credited with coining or at least popularizing the phrase, “Go West, young man”. Interestingly, the town of Greeley was founded as an experimental utopian society in 1869 called Union Colony. When that didn’t pan out, they changed the name to Greeley around 1886.

But back to Dearfield. It was established by one Oliver Toussaint Jackson (1862-1948), or “OT” as they used to call him. He was an African-American entrepreneur with successful restaurants and catering businesses in Denver and Boulder. His aim was to establish a black agricultural colony, and so he did in 1910.

On first approach on Colorado Highway 34, there is a sign:

In this photo you can get the idea of how extremely FLAT eastern Colorado and the Great Plains are. And it was very hot, dry and dusty that day, a condition that’s typical. Of course, in winter there is blowing snow and wind. And this is also where the thunderstorms land after conveniently passing over Denver (and my town) from the Rockies. It’s the beginning of Tornado Alley, which stretches into Nebraska and Kansas and parts beyond. I’m awed that anyone lives out there.

But Jackson’s group did. Here’s an excerpt from the website BlackPast.org which sums up Dearfield’s history in a nutshell:

On May 5, 1910 after four years of searching for a location that would accommodate two hundred families, Oliver Toussaint Jackson established Dearfield, a black agricultural colony on the arid high plains of Colorado.  Jackson managed to gain the support of the Colorado chapter of the National Negro Business League, but the group withdrew their support after Booker T. Washington, the national president, refused to endorse the project.  Unable to acquire another backer for the project Jackson and a few brave families began the settlement on their own.

According to Jackson, during the first winter in Dearfield only two of the seven families “had wooden houses and the suffering was intense.”  He said “buffalo chips and sagebrush was our chief fuel. Three of our horses died from starvation and the other three were too weak to pull the empty wagon.”

By 1915 Dearfield had gone from seven families living in tents, dugouts and caves in the hillside to twenty-seven families living in wooden cabins.  The next five years would see the settlement grow to a population of seventy with their own school, restaurant, grocery store, boarding house, and two churches.

Unfortunately the end of World War I in 1918 also brought an end to the settlement’s sturdy growth. As the demand for their crops dropped the families began to default on their mortgages and equipment loans. One by one the families sold their farms until there were only twelve people living in Dearfield in 1940. The last resident was Jackson’s niece Jenny Jackson, who lived there until her death in 1973.

Today the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center is working on the preservation of the town.

So here is what you can see of Dearfield if you stand close to the highway sign:

There are maybe three or four buildings remaining and they are in very bad shape. They are purportedly the shells of a diner, a gas station and Jackson’s home, but I couldn’t tell one from the other because of their condition. The one with the fence around it is literally falling down.

Here it is from the other side:

On the corner is a commemorative marker, installed in the 100-year anniversary year of Dearfield’s founding:

Behind the fenced-in building is another ruined building:

And across the side road is what I think must have been the diner (total guess):

It was open so I stepped inside, startling some swallows. I sort of expected tons of graffiti and maybe some homeless person’s belongings, but it was relatively bare.

At least the lock held:

And I kind of like this photo of its window:

Behind it is another shed or garage or both:

It was very interesting to poke through this place, knowing its history. I’ve seen reference to a restoration project, but nothing seems to have been done except the fence and marker. I’ve written to the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center in Denver, who is named as the restoration project sponsor. I asked what, if anything, is being done for Dearfield and if they have a timeline. I’ll let you know what they tell me.

Eventually I got very thirsty and ended my photo session. To be honest, it didn’t take long to photograph this little corner. And there is always a concern about rattlesnakes around here, so I didn’t venture too far inside the buildings. I did manage to find this among the dry prairie grass, which made me happy to see the cactus fruit:

Life just always finds a way, doesn’t it?

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

Niwot, Colorado

One day last April I cruised to a little wide-spot-in-the-road nearby called Niwot. Size notwithstanding, this little berg has it going on. It’s unincorporated but definitely has its own identity. It lies halfway between Boulder and Longmont, which is just north of where I live. It’s a historic little place, with the Old Town district occupying two or three blocks along a very wide street. You can see the western style of architecture:

Much like the small town of Lutz where I lived in Florida, Niwot started as a railway stop. Sugar-beet farmers would line their loaded wagons up and down this main street, waiting to unload their harvest onto the train. That doesn’t happen today, of course, but Niwot thrives as a cool, artsy place, with galleries, restaurants, an antique store, a pub and lots of places to spend leisure hours.

I was there fairly early on a weekday, but I got the impression that it’s an evening and weekend place. This is borne out by numerous articles I’ve read about the many events in Niwot, including frequent parades, concerts and community haps.

Niwot took its name from a Native American Arapaho Chief. His name translates as “left hand”. Chief Niwot welcomed white settlers into the area in 1859. Unfortunately, he was slain in 1864 during the infamous Sand Creek Massacre, which was pretty grisly. Look it up; I won’t go into the injustice and violence here. It was just awful.

Anyway, Chief Niwot’s legacy is that the town of Niwot lies in Left Hand Valley and isn’t too far from Left Hand Canyon and Left Hand Creek. He also accounts for the name of the Left Hand Brewing Company and several other establishments with left hand in the name.

Another of those establishments is the Left Hand Grange No. 9, smack in the middle of town:

Grange halls were built as meeting places for the grange organization chapters, official name: National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. Established in 1867, this non-profit was focused on fostering community cohesiveness in rural areas and helping farmers and others in agriculture to be successful. These days it’s a community organization centered on volunteerism. Even my little town has a Grange Hall (No. 136, if anybody’s interested, built in 1916). Niwot’s Grange chapter dates from 1874, and they bought this building in 1945. Today it’s a center of community activity; clubs use it for meetings and many social and fundraising events take place here.

Next to the Grange Hall is the Old Firehouse Museum:

Across the street is the original Niwot Tribune building, though these days it houses a store. I love that they still have the Tribune sign.

Now that you know “Niwot” translates as “Left Hand”, you can understand why almost every business has a uniquely-painted hand chair out front:

And they’re all lefties. They fit in with the artsy atmosphere around here!

By far the most comfortable spot in town looked to be the Niwot Inn and Spa:

On my list: book a stay here and see what the weekend night life is like. I’ll keep you posted!

In keeping with the quirky flavor of the town, and in addition to the shops and galleries, you can find a tack shop, a feed store, an import car dealer, a fresh market, hand-painted murals and more than a couple of upscale restaurants.

At the end of the main street of the Old Town (which is actually Second Avenue), there are some sculptures of Native Americans hewn out of tree trunks:

They are quite impressive. I’ve seen them referred to as chainsaw sculptures, but I question that a little bit. They seemed far too intricate and detailed. But maybe I just misunderstand chainsaw sculpting.

In any case, I hope you enjoyed the trip to little Niwot. I’m sure it’s worth more than one visit, though!

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