Tuesday, March 23, 2010


This is the first one I have found this shed-season. Very small, but in excellent condition. It wasn't hard to find as it was right behind the house. No sign of the other one, which is not unusual since they almost never fall close to each other. This one has all the signs of being a fresh shed, including the little pink dot in the center of the crown. Late drops seem very common out here.

I find a lot of sheds on the prairie. About this time of year I start looking for them. The Rhino is a good platform for that. Driving around with a good pair of field glasses is a great way to spot them before the grass gets a growth spurt as they can often be seen from half a mile or more.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Naps for me go in cycles. I'll go a few weeks with nary a one, and then one week I will sack out for a while in the afternoon almost every day.

For the dogs it is a treat they relish.

My bedroom opens onto the living room, where they are often sprawled on the couch by the front windows. They don't have free-run of the bedroom or they'd be on the bed all day when they're inside, which I don't want. But if I head toward the bedroom door they are off the couch, or wherever else they are, in a flash and right behind me— in anticipation of a possible "nap time" coming up.

I'm not sure why it's such a special event for them, but it is. Nap-time consists of me lying in the middle of the king-sized bed and Emma on the window side, tight against me, and Mags on the other side, also tight against me. I keep a blanket on top of the bed and usually toss it over the three of us. Emma is quite a "talker" and at that point she usually starts in on her muted Song of Bliss. Mags just snuggles and goes to sleep.

Naps are a great blessing for those who make their own schedule and have the time for them. The dogs agree whole-heartedly.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Pat's on the Plains

I fly my tricolor several times a year. On St. Pat's, of course. And 18 April when the present day, independent Republic of Ireland officially came into being. From 24 April to 30 April to commemorate the Easter Rising in 1916. On 22 August to mark the anniversary of the death of Michael Collins in 1922.

But of course St. Pat's has special significance, far beyond the repulsive sight of green beer that Americans seem to think has something to do with Ireland.

Nobody sees my tricolor. But that's not the point. It's for me, and is my own way of acknowledging a history that is worth keeping in mind. Worth remembering and honoring.

Besides, the cows like it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bad Rio! Bad!

I don't know what came over me. I suspect it was a bad angel, or maybe a full-fledged devil, whispering disgusting thoughts into my weak and receptive ear.

However it came about, I have committed an abomination.

Somehow or other a terrible longing reared its head. A longing for… dare I say it? Fried food!

I have one of these small fryer-thingies, originally purchased to be able to occasionally prepare one of the essential food groups -- french fries. Or chips as they are called in Ireland. This treat is enjoyed about once a month, at most. And before the ravening mobs are sent against my flimsy battlements, let me say that I keep the thingie filled with politically-correct canola oil. Surely that is some sort of extenuating circumstance that could possibly reduce the sentence I risk through this confession. I can hope at least.

Anyway. As the need for supper loomed I decided that nothing would do but freshly prepared tortilla chips and chicken-breast medallions, avec vin ordinaire.

You should know that I prepare tortillas, my staple bread-form, from hand-ground, garden-grown masa harina, grilled to perfection on a smooth soapstone griddle dating from Aztec times. (That's a lie -- I get them from WalMart, Mission yellow corn tortillas in the 30-packs, which I usually do up in the toaster oven.)

To continue with my tale of degradation and perversion…

I cut a few tortillas into quarters and dropped them into the pre-heated fry-thingie. When they were dark and crisp I fished them out and dropped them onto a bed of paper towels to drain. Meanwhile, I had pre-microwaved a frozen boneless chicken breast, which I cut into medallions about 1/4" in thickness. Five or six of these I plopped into the seething oil and did 'em up brown.

Finally, I lugged the accumulated crimes to the table and dined on them accompanied by a glass or two of red table wine (I don't believe in white wine).

Scrumptious, it was.

Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Waiting for...

Peanut butter!

Sometimes I'll sit down for a snack of peanut butter and crackers. They love peanut butter, and they know the sound of the jar being opened as well as the sound of the top of the cracker container coming off.

I've always made it a rule to never feed dogs from the table, but I also contend that they are capable of making distinctions and I therefore make an exception for peanut butter and crackers. They're very good about remembering that the exception is for that one treat only.

They come and sit and wait for their share. Just as when divvying left-overs like steak trimmings, I say their name and then extend the treat. That way the other one doesn't grab for it -- Emma would be the culprit there! -- but patiently waits her turn. I guess the trick is always to be fair: "Mags!" is always followed by "Emma!" and thus order is established and maintained. Just as with other divvied treats, they count. It would be unthinkable to give Emma three and Mags only two. Indignant complaints would be registered.

When we're through with our snack, I extend both hands, fingers spread and palms toward them, while waggling my fingers I say "All-ee, all-ee!" and they go back to what they were doing before the siren-call of peanut butter drew them into the kitchen. Snack over.

There's always the next time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


The sharptails are at it again, sneaking in for my cedar berries. They act like they're world-class jewel thieves the way they ghost in and out. If they could read I would post a sign: WELCOME, GROUSE! ALL YOU CAN EAT! But that might take some of the fun out of it for them.

That one on the left should be pretty easy to keep track of.

As predicted...

Our weather boffins came through with a true bill, for once. They had called for ten inches, but it's stopped now at about five. They're now saying we might get another couple of days of on and off snow.

The High Plains are both "precipitate" and "deliberative." Precipitate on a daily and hourly basis, and deliberative when it comes to the seasonal shifts. Storms can blow up in the middle of summer in a couple of hours notice, with temps going through the floor faster than you can keep up with. But as the seasons turn you can have one day at 70 and the next at 10. Tee-shirt weather one day and 10" of white stuff the next. It's part of the charm, as they say.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What did I say?

In yesterday's paean to "the first day of spring," I mean. I believe I may have mentioned the possibility that Father Winter was still lurking about.

We are now under a Winter Weather Advisory. It's snowing heavily and ten inches is predicted by tomorrow evening.

And the beat goes on.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The First Day of Spring

It seldom works out that the "real" first day of spring is also the day of the official vernal equinox.

As I took some mail out to the box this morning I noticed something entirely different: a mildness, an almost balmy lightness to the air. My grass in the big area in front of the house now has a definite tinge of green. And the cottonwoods are showing a hint of fuzziness along the slender branch-tips.

I know we stand to have a dose or two of Ol' Man Winter yet to come, but I'm marking this foggy, subtly aromatic morning as the real first day of spring here at Rancho Arriba.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Power of Ice

I have always been fascinated by and admired the "design" of ice when it forms on the ground. My driveway had ruts filled with water from the melt and every night it freezes solid and then melts again during the day. Thus, I have an ever-changing gallery of abstract ice art at my disposal. No human artist can compare to the handiwork of nature.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Sharptails Visit

The grouse visited me yesterday. About twenty of them. I saw them out of the corner of my eye from the office and then went to the window and watched them.

Pheasants tend to strut along, pausing only when they sense trouble. Grouse are well-trained little infantrymen. They move a yard or two and squat. Then two or three will get up and run a jig-jag pattern for five or so yards while the others watch. Then the advance party squats and watches while the former coverers advance through them to the next squat-and-watch. I get a kick out of them. They really have no need for advanced infantry school.

Didn't get any pictures this time. They are very skittish this time of year it seems. If I opened the front door they would fly off and miss their quota of cedar-berries from the big tree right out front.

Emma saw them from the living room and came into the office to tell me she had to go potty really, really bad. Instead of the front door, which she went to, I said she had to go out the back into the enclosed area between the house and the shop building and she lost interest in potty right away.