Sunday, May 31, 2009

Without amenities you say?

Well, take it back! We might be isolated and remote but we still have all the benefits of High Civilization. Five (five, count 'em!) lovely rooms with right-in-front parking, plus a café just across the street. Bored, stranger? You can always mosey down to the fire-house and watch 'em wash the fire engine.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


In the spring I love to go wanderobo on the prairie. Actually, you can't do all that much on foot in these parts, and usually I fire up the Rhino and use it for transport.

But today I took a camera and walked for a bit outside the compound fence where the oldest cottonwoods, mostly deadfalls now, are. As I moved through the weeds I saw a bright red object ahead. Then it was gone. Then it was back. Then gone again.

It was a turkey, of course, crouching down in the weeds. I only had a relatively short lens with me, so when it got up to move away I only had one crack at it. Wish I'd had a longer lens as the result was not all that good.

I backtracked as quickly as I could so as to put it at ease. It never got really excited. I'm sure it was back in its bed before it had a chance to get cold.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Another Killdeer Pic

This is Mom taking a rest, as described below. One chick has already burrowed under her and the other two are going hell-for-leather to join him.

Another Spring Beauty

Our spring wildflower season is about to shift into high gear and this lovely thing appeared on the edge of my mown area yesterday. It's an unnamed tradition of very long standing for me that every spring I go into a phase of wandering around with camera and tripod looking for "the richness of the season." That used to mean a 4x5, but now more likely involves a digital camera— the pleasant ruination of a traditional photographer turned lazy slug by technology.

I think this is some sort of primrose. Unfortunately, I have never been very good at plant identification. That may be because knowing the genus and species has never seemed to improve my appreciation for the plant itself. A failing in me, I know, but I just don't seem to have any talent for plant taxonomy. Please feel free to correct my attribution if so moved.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wait up, Mom!

So much rain here. The place was getting downright shaggy. But y'day we had an absotively perfect day and I mowed the whole shebang. Looks great when it's shorn and trimmed.

Today I noticed a killdeer mom with her brood of four enjoying the newly mown grass. They wouldn't cooperate and let me get them all in one frame, so I had to be satisfied with mom + 2.

She stopped after a while and squatted down and the babes ran up and burrowed under her for security and warmth, although it was a warm day anyway. Three of them got under her but when the fourth bold explorer arrived there was no room in the inn and he butted and poked but could find no place to rest. Finally settled with lying next to her. They only stayed for a while.

Emma wanted to go out and check their papers but I wouldn't let her bother them. She's still pouting. She'll just have to deal with it cuz I really like those killdeer.


These guys mean business. I carry a pair of Kelly forceps in the UTV to pull them out of Miss Emma who is always getting into them. The seed pods are the worst offenders, and all of them have barbed thorns that do not want to be removed.

They are not yet in full bloom, and when they are they are really quite beautiful. I'll post some blossom pics later maybe.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Wet Prairie Spring

We're having the wettest spring in recent memory. Today, for example, is the third straight day of intermittent rain. If this keeps up I will have to borrow some of the neighbor's buffalo to mow my front area!

And yet no one dares to risk the jinx by asking: "Could the drought be over?"

Antelope Valley School

This country is full of abandoned school buildings. Some have only recently closed, and others have been closed for decades. They plot the slow, steady de-population of vast areas of the Great Plains.

The laughter of children may be only distant echoes, but some folks apparently think the schools make good canvasses. It's a strange, and very un-urban form of graffiti.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a good time to "renew the vows," so to speak. For years now I have carved out some precious private time on each Memorial Day to just sit and think about all those young men (and women, too) who have given everything so that I can sit in freedom and relative plenty and enjoy what my country has provided for me.

I think that's why I react so strongly to what is happening in our Republic today. They didn't die for this, I think. They didn't stand up in the face of that Nazi tank, or stay behind to cover their friends' retreat when they knew they only had one clip left, or... Hell, the list could go on and on. But not for THIS. Not for what we face today, and tomorrow. And I wonder sometimes if we are worthy of them.

Memorial Day is a good day to renew those Lines in the Sand. Here, and no further. To say, Here I stand, and you cannot have this ground without a fight.

And remembrance is not just for "our" boys either, but for all Americans. Those young Lakota and Cheyenne who splashed across the Greasy Grass on their ponies and charged up that grassy slope were protecting their homes, their families, and their way of life, too, and they deserve to be remembered and respected as well.

Memorial Day is a good day to hoist the flag, sit for a while, and think about what it all means.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Grass Farmers

That's really what ranchers are: grass farmers. They just happen to use cows as combines.

Ranching is just about the most primitive form of agriculture, but today it is way complicated and a successful rancher has to know a lot about everything that touches on his operation.

But it remains something of a miracle that a cow eats the grass and the end product can be milk, or a steak. Around these parts it's all steaks.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Growth

Every day there is more and still more. I love the pale green of new tree-raiment. That color reminds me of fresh, clean, new starts and the infinite promise of tomorrow.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Moron Class

Quite a large group unfortunately. Over on (sidebar) there is an article, and a video, about one of them. A New York State Assemblywoman, speaking out for a ban on .50 caliber rifles said that the bullets from this rifle have incendiary tips, which she explains as meaning that they are heat-seeking and therefore hone in on their doomed targets. Oh, the horror! The horror!

Why is it that complete idiots like this woman feel free to speak such nonsense in public about something they clearly know nothing about? If it were any other subject but guns they would be totally discredited in the public eye for such ill-informed stupidity. Will the press call her on it, as they certainly would on almost any other subject? Probably not.

So I have a modest proposal. Just as gun owners who wish to carry a concealed handgun must "qualify" themselves, journalists and politicians who wish to spout off about firearms should be required to take a class or two and pass a test showing that they are likely, at the very least, to know what they are talking about. I don't think that's too much to ask. After all, a clown like this "servnt of the people" is speaking up to ban a whole class of objects she is obviously totally ignorant about. She should know something about what she's trying to deny to American citizens. Unfortunately, she is likely to stay smug and stupid. Sad, but true.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Another Branding

These are the social events of the year out here. Folks who haven't seen each other since last year get together, catch up on family news, and swap lies. This one today was well attended by good hands and nigh five hundred calves got treated in half a day.

Following the round-up and branding a good feed is put on by the host rancher and by then everybody is pretty hungry. The food is plentiful and the company is good, and it's an event that will be sorely missed when it passes from the scene, as it is likely to do.

The cowboy shown above is a good hand with a rope, a fine horseman, and what anybody in the know would call a "top hand." Real cowboys are special people.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Can't leave Emma out

Just like doggy-cookies: Mags gets one, Emma has to get one...

This is Emma's rocker. She lets me use it if I want to watch a movie. Otherwise, it's hers.

Shorthairs are funny about things that move under them. Unlike most other dogs I've known they do not seem to fear stuff that pitches about under their feet. In addition to appropriating this same rocker, the Shorthair before Emma wouldn't let me go anywhere with a wheelbarrow unless she got to ride in it. The bumpier and jumpier the ride, the better she liked it. Surf's up!

Emma will climb into the rocker, and with it gyrating under her like a small boat in a storm, turn around the obligatory thrice and then plop herself down for a snooze. I swear it makes the Boston nauseous just watching her. Me, too.

But she does love her rocker.

Happy, happy Mags!

My little Boston is a happy little thing. She always takes an up-beat view of what's happening around her. If I sit down on the front porch, she brings me a ball or a toy in the full conviction that there is nothing I would rather do than play a nice long game of toss-and-fetch with her. If there is someone else on the place she smothers them with her attention, certain that no one could want to not be her friend and playmate.

She has a few little foibles, and some strange fears of particular inanimate objects, but for the most part she is an expansively happy soul who will not be deflected from an optimistic and loving philosophy of life.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Real Heroes of the Plains

The water-bringers. These old Aermotors have been pulling more than their own weight for many years. Some of them are pushing one-hundred-years old and they still put in a full day, and then some.

This area has a very high water table, sometimes just a few feet below the surface. But without a pump to bring it up it's useless. The modern trend seems to be toward pumps run with solar panels, but these old Aermotors still cover the plains. Their clank-clank-clank and the splashing of the water into the big round tanks is a welcome sound to any plainsman.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Backed by a Boston!

You don't see this very often! A GSP on a rock-solid point being "backed" by a Boston Terrier. I had to laugh out loud.

There's a brush-filled pit not far from the house and on our walk yesterday Emma locked up on a nice point. Mags stopped suddenly and it certainly looked like she was backing her. At least she held her "back" 'til I broke Em off the point. (I don't like her going into the pit and it was probably just a rabbit anyway.)

It's interested (to me at least) about Emma and her points. When she is out by herself she seldom points. She just stalks and busts things out of cover and then chooses whether to chase or not, according to her immediate whim. I've watched her from the house and know this to be true. Once or twice I have seen her lock on a point and when that happens I always go out to her. In those cases it's either a grouse or a pheasant.

But when we are out together she points everything. She's like a little kid "Look at that! Look at that!"

So, if anybody says "You ever see a Boston Terrier backing a bird-dog?" you can answer "Yes, indeed I have!"

Monday, May 11, 2009

Prairie Loot

One of our favorite things to do, the dogs and I, is to get in our UTV (Mags in the right seat, Emma in back) and take a nice long ramble across the plains. During our expedition I keep my eyes open for interesting "stuff." I'm partial to bones and sheds, and hardly a trip that we don't find some good ones. At the right time of year a shed can be seen at half a mile or more with a pair of binocs.

I find five or six nice sheds a year, and these I put elsewhere. But most of what I find I salt away in various spots around the place. The pic shows the behind-the-shop repository. I tell myself that someday I will make a sculpture of some type out of them, but the truth is I just like them. They have shapes, textures, and substance that I find compelling.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Twenty acres per cow

More or less. Some ranges look better than this one. A whole lot better. But this one accounts for a good bit of the rangeland here. Overgrazing and wind-erosion are the main culprits. Once the cover layer of grass, stabilizing the sand, is worn away the wind takes over. That makes a blow-out and the blow-outs spread unless mended, which is mighty hard to do. Some of the problem is the proclivity of cattle and buffalo to go everywhere single file. Not much can be done about that.

This country looks tough as nails, but it's really quite fragile. A little like the tundra. Once badly overgrazed it will take twenty years or more to repair.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Softly, softly...

...Catchee monkey. So it is said. Unfortunately it didn't work for Emma the other day with a pocket gopher. Earlier in the day I had seen the spurts of dirt rising above the grass blades and went out with a rifle and sat against the house for about thirty minutes waiting for the little holester to poke his head over the trench top. No luck. Later, Emma must have seen him again. I took this shot from my office window.

She had good hunting doing this a couple of weeks ago and never forgets a method when it works. She stood like a statue for many long minutes before giving up and going off to look for rabbits— a much more cooperative quarry.

Next time, I hope. They really are pests.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Who says we don't have trees? Why I know of one not more than ten miles from my place! Documentary proof attached above even. So there!

Besides, we don' gotta show you no steenkin' trees!

(With apologies to Alfonso Bedoya.)

The bunch

Rambling around on the UTV the other day the dogs and I ran into this bunch. This is the outfit that has been hanging around the place lately, enjoying the fresh, new grass. There are 14 in that bunch, but I could only count 13 here. One's out on a walk-about I guess. (The shot was made with a 200mm lens. I would estimate their range at about 400-yards.)

Monday, May 4, 2009

An aerial ballet

This is one for the ornithologists aboard, if any. These three put on quite a display the other day, directly over my place. I had a camera, but only a 200mm lens. After I took a few frames my curiosity got the better of me and I went inside for a pair of field glasses. By the time I got back they were gone.

They were diving and swooping at each other and seemed to be making contact at times. At first I thought it was a mating competition, but when I looked at the enlarged image it looked more like two Swainson's hawks attacking a young golden eagle. I'm not a bird authority by any means, so if anyone can correct me, feel free. (Click on pic to enlarge it.)

Edit: Correction. That's a Redtail they're beating up on. I just took another look at the pic enlarged. No doubt in my mind. Two Swainsons ganging up on a Redtail.

Making their marks

Setting the brand; dragging to the crew; el bossmán

Attended an early branding yesterday. Pretty small one actually, but good folks there. The neighbors all turn out for brandings, both to help and to enjoy the big social event of the year. Some ranchers use calf-tables where the critters are run through a chute and then turned on their sides for the branding and cutting operation. But the brandings I like to go to are the old style rope-and-drag outfits that still depend on horses and the old ways, of which there are a-plenty around here.

(Bad focus on the boss. That's what comes of depending on auto-focus cameras. Too bad cuz it's not a half bad shot. That's all right. I'll have another crack at him.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Yes, I am an addict!

I went to the first branding of the season here. We're still pretty heavy into calving, but some ranchers brand early and then do pick-ups on their own as the calving continues. I'll post a coupla pics of the session later, but this post is not about that. This post is about my personal affliction.

Chili is one of the very few foods I get a positive, gut-deep hankering for. When I came home from the branding this afternoon I needed chili. Unfortunately there was none already made up as there usually is, so I dug out the large, deep-sided cast-iron skillet and fired 'er up.

Here's the "recipe" (hearty laughter in the background!) for my quick chili. (About 30-minutes from start to slurping.) Please note that the highly precise measurements for this recipe must be strictly adhered to or I will not be responsible for the result and you will not get your money back. You've been warned...

In the skillet, coupla dollops of olive oil and a double fling of granulated garlic. Let toast. Add 1-pound of extra lean grass-fed ground beef. (My usual meat is cubed steak but no time, no time!) To meat add double squinch of ancho chili powder, half-handful of Mexican oregano, squinch of ground chipotle (hot!), mega-dollop of cumin, and triple squinch of cocoa powder. Brown meat well.

Add 2 cans Kuner's of Colorado Black Beans with Jalopeños and Lime juice and one can of Kuner's unsalted black beans. Stir, stir, stir. Add mega-drizzle of red wine. Add very carefully measured demi-dollop of balsamic vinegar. Let simmer. Observe bubbles on the surface. Taste and add ingredients as needed. (Follow this direction exactly.) Add water to desired consistency. If it ain't right, add more ancho. Still lacking? Add chipotle.

Toast some corn tortillas. Pour some wine. Ladle chili into bowl. Sit. Eat. Ignore sad faces on dogs.

Chili should really be allowed to season a bit. Several heating-cooling cycles. Several days is best. (It will be much better tomorrow; to die for the next day; and gone the next.) But sometimes the addiction just won't wait. You either know of that which I speak or you do not.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dog Butt!

Frequently all you see of my Emma is her butt as she checks out her brush piles. She has two of them. Each is about fifty-feet long by ten or twelve feet wide by three to six feet high. They are remnants of what is left over from the clearance job I did to the place when we moved here.

She has worn paths all around, and into, each pile for her familiar routes as she does her inspection tours. Now that the weather is improving she needs to check them eight or ten times a day. Recently she has started insisting that I go with her. Like a little kid she is in "Watch me!" mode. Why not? It makes her happy, so I do it.

She doesn't miss much around here. If it flies, flaps, hops, or trundles she knows about it. There are risks with the piles, of course. Porkies and skunks mainly. But except for one altercation with a porkie we have been lucky so far.

And those piles do make her life complete.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Appropriate for May Day

But it's still just a thought from an old, dead, Greek guy. Take it or leave it.

Wouldn't you know it?

After that gorgeous day yesterday, the prairie is again covered with snow this morning.

I don't think it will last long. Just another reminder that the Weather Godz are still firmly in control.