Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A cloudy day

Yesterday I had to run an errand down-country. These fellers (and gals) were close in along the road and seemed pretty active. Mid-afternoon the clouds cleared and gave us brilliant sunshine. I was back on the place by then and took the dogs for a couple of rambles that they really enjoyed.

True spring cannot come too soon for us.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Lifeline

Maybe lifeline is bit melodramatic, but it seems pretty accurate to me. This is my electric line. One of those wires is for me, the other for a ranch further down on our dead-end "buffalo track."

My rural electric co-op is top flight. If my service goes down they are out there day or night, no matter the weather, to get it up and running again. And I am happy to say that (so far!) this season I haven't had an interruption of more than two hours.

Nevertheless, when those wires get hung with thick ice and start hanging low, and then the wind comes up, you can't help but get a mite nervous. My genny will run the whole place, and I keep plenty of fuel on hand. Still, I never take for granted the wonderful juice that comes in to me from far away on those thin little overhead lines. Or the great folks that keep it coming.

Doggie gastronomes

Well, I'm not too sure about the gastronome part, but I have sure known some canines with strange culinary tastes.

A couple of times last week I heard strange noises coming from the living room and went in to find Jack happily munching on the filched remains of jalopeños I had chopped for cooking. I've never had a dog do that, and he was clearing enjoying the heck out of them.

This morning I found some peppers in the fridge that were getting a little long in the tooth so I chopped them up for a breakfast omelet and Jack came running in to watch, drooling all over the floor. Over the years I have learned how to cut peppers to get just the right amount of heat while maximizing the flavor. Most of the really hot stuff I leave on the hull and that's apparently what Jack wanted so badly. Weird!

My last Rottie was crazy for onions and I had a Basset once who loved the cobs from corn-on-the-cob. An earlier Rottie liked to pick ripe blueberries straight from the bush. All of the dogs have enjoyed snow peas right off the vine. But this is the first dog I have had who craved hot peppers!

That omelet: Slice some peppers and let them "shrivel" for a day or two in a bowl. Cut the peppers into fine chunks and do the same with some water chestnuts. Mix the two and drizzle some soy sauce over them, along with a dash or two of ancho powder. Slightly warm the mix in the microwave. When the omelet has mostly solidified on top, spoon the mixture onto it and spread it around. Well worth the trouble.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Grus canadensis

On Saturday Jack and I went to a local outdoor show where he could meet the trainer he will be going to next month. Along the way we saw the cranes coming back from their winter in Mexico. They're heading to Canada now. These birds are the oldest known living avian species, dating back about ten million years. Jack thought they absolutely wonderful and their raucous cries were music to his ears. Unlike many dogs he looks up a lot. Sees birds on overhead wires, and watches them fly over when he is in his pen. He watched these from the truck with great interest.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

And the race is on!

All three dogs were in a "mood" today. The mood to run! And a fine day for it it was.

Mags and Jack will exchange a look and then they will be off. If a straight run is long enough Jack can usually pass Mags up, but in a sprint she is more than likely to win. She has a funny gait: two strides and then a long, high leap. I always figure it is her "joy pace."

When they play their chase games she has the advantage of maneuverability. She can turn inside him on a dime and she'll let him close in and then do her turn, with him shooting off ahead and trying to brake and turn. It's like a dogfight between a B17 and an ME109. Almost as fun to watch as it is for them to do it.

Thus did they celebrate St Pat's.

Beannachtaí na Féile Phádraig

May the blessings of the day do us all some good.

I always fly my tricolor on certain days, 22 August, a few others, and 17 March, of course.

My friend Mícheál, RIP, use to say, with a wink and a nod, "Patrick never came to Kerry. Some say he didn't need to, and others say he didn't dare."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ides of March

We surely have been having a crazy pre-spring hereabouts. We'll get a snowstorm, get all covered up, and then the very next day it will all melt and we'll have a glorious, warm, sunny day. Over and over again that's happened. This weekend we got pounded again. Nine inches this time, and cold. The next day it was in the 40s, and then the next day (today) it's 65°. Needless to say the only snow extant is on north-faces slopes and in shadowed places— and not much of that.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Prepping for Ireland

I'm prepping for my April/May trip to Ireland. As a photographer I have always had to allot a significant portion of my luggage space to image-making tools. Several times I have taken a 4x5 view camera, big tripod, and all the extensive support gear such a camera requires. But on this trip I am facing the prospect of taking full advantage of the digital age and going well and truly light, in spades.

The working kit I am considering consists of a Panasonic Lumix LX5 with a Leica-designed 24-135mm stabilized f. 2.0 lens, plus a Sony TX5 that is water-, dust- and shock-proof (to mil-spec standards!). The Sony has a Zeiss-Tessar 25-100mm lens. Both cameras, and spare batteries for each, easily fit in my pockets. (I might consider taking the Lumix's little brother, a similarly Leica-adorned ZX1 as a just-in-case back-up.) The beauty of that tiny little Sony is that it can be always with you. It's smaller than a pack of cigarettes and weighs just five ounces, and it's almost impervious to most of the dangers that threaten cameras. The Lumix is larger (not by much) and weighs ten ounces with the detachable electronic viewfinder, and nine without it.

Pixel-counters will scoff, as both of these little guys are 10-and-a-bit megapixel cameras. But pixels tell only a small part of the digital image quality story. The Lumix, with its fast, super-sharp Leica lens and extremely well-designed sensor architecture is able to run rings around cameras with far higher numbers in the pixel department. I have no problem making excellent 13x19" prints with either camera, although the Lumix is superior.

I've never even come close to traveling this camera-light before and I may chicken out at the last minute and take one of the big Canon DSLRs and a couple of lenses. But I am doing my best to resist that idea. It would defeat the purpose of devising a compact solution for the traveling photographer and would substantially compromise my luggage situation.

Until I find an early passport I can't tell for sure, but I'm getting pretty close to my 50th trip to the Ould Sod and as you might imagine I have become something of a nit-picker when it comes to luggage and packing. Photo gear is always at the top of the list when the packing list gets made up.

I travel with three pieces. (1) A vertical, over the shoulderable, briefcase (made by Victorinox) that holds my laptop, charger, the Lumix, travel documents, any files I may be taking, snacks, and reading material. (2) A small, 20", rolling hard-shell carry-on. It carries the essentials I might need if the airline misplaces or outright loses my single checked bag. Actually, if I didn't always take over a bunch of stuff for friends, I could get along with just this bag for an indefinite period— especially if I don't have to load it down with photo gear. Unfortunately, on this trip it will be carrying a compact digital projector and auxiliary speaker, so things will be pretty crowded in there. (3) My checked bag, also a hard-shell roller, 24x17x10." Between these three pieces I feel I could go anywhere and stay for any length of time.

On this trip, for the first time, I will be wearing a new piece of "luggage": one of the Scottevest traveler's vests. I have always found the so-called photographer's vest useful but bulky, ugly, and pretentious. This new vest is quite trim and doesn't look anything like a piece of safari gear or something that Rambo might like to wear, despite its very cleverly designed twenty-two pockets. It will carry my travel papers, notebook(s), pens and pencils, extra specs, the Sony and spare battery, the iPod, some snacks, a magazine or two, and whatever else I need to have at hand. It even has a pocket for an iPad, which I do not yet own. Meanwhile, that pocket will nicely hold a couple of magazines or other reading material. All without the appearance of bulk or clunkiness. Just take it off, put it in the little bin, and send it through the x-ray at the security check. Neat.

Peace in our time!

My living room couch is small. It's a two-dogger, and Jack was developing a bad habit: When Mags and Em were on the couch he would stand in front of it and bark at Mags. And she would reply. WOOF. Yap. WOOF-WOOF. Yap-yap. Etc. Sometimes to the fourth or fifth power. Usually she would give up and get off the couch and he would climb up and be off to dreamland. When I would catch him at this bullying I would scold him and tell him to leave her alone, but of course as soon as I would go off somewhere the argument would resume.

But the other day I came into the room to see the picture above. They figured it out, for the time being at least. Peace in our time!

I can only hope it lasts, knowing all the while that's not very likely.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Morning visitor

Saw this fellow noodling around the bales early this morning. Just cracked the back door enough to slip a lens out and get these shots. I normally don't tolerate them "inside the wire" under any circumstances, but I guess I wanted to get these pics more than I wanted him dead.

He'll be back and then we'll need to have a little chat.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A bit of the white stuff

Yesterday I was sighting in a rifle/'scope combination on this bench. Good thing I didn't put it off 'til today.

About six inches last night, and it's supposed to go on through Wednesday. But then by Thursday the weather boffins are calling for temps in the 40s, so this shouldn't last long. The result, of course, will be...


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Getting the itch

I'll soon be back in the Ould Sod. Going back for the Bealtaine celebration and other business and will be spending goodly parts of April and May out on the west coast, where I love to be. I've been engaged by a small group to be their "guide, cultural interpreter, historical lecturer, and general fixer." It's a great excuse to get over to where I like to be and it looks like I will also be going back in September as well, like last year.

I'm very much looking forward to it. May is such a nice time to be there.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Making the most of it

This time of year the weather out here can be totally schizoid. The last three days have been a good example: one day is in the high sixties; the next starts at 12° and never gets above freezing; the next (yesterday) gets into the low 70s with nice sun and very little wind. Every day is a meteorological lottery. But we make the most of it.

Yesterday we got to do some more prairie-rambling. Poor Em will probably be stiff this morning, but if the day turns out as nice as yesterday she will insist on going in. I know her well.

Jack is now bigger, stronger, faster than she. But he is still following her lead and watching everything she does. It's a great joy for me to watch them running and working together.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I have to laugh!

My dogs have always had different ways of letting me know they needed something. That's been true when it comes to the water bowl, too. My last Rottie would stand in the hall outside the office and stare at me until I got the idea. Emma gives a couple of her shrill little yips. Mags just sits and looks at me 'til I get on her wavelength.

Jack has his own newly-developed method.