Wednesday, April 30

Got three minutes and twenty seconds?

A really nicely put together video.

Wisdom of frogs

The voice in this video is none other than that of Bill Gates.

If you need proof, look at this one:

I have been a fan of Apple’s Macintosh computers for many years, after having experienced the computers from the Dark Side. I don’t know how Kermit the Frog was recruited for this bit, but he fits the bill. I mean after all, we can learn a lot from our amphibian friends.

Hey bloke, the oak broke

This morning we headed for the two big cities in our lives, Oakhurst and Fresno. We took two vehicles, the Dodge truck and the Toyota SUV. One was for getting two cubic yards (1.5 cubic meters) of garden mulch and the other for a week’s worth of food. Guess which for what. On the way out our road, I didn’t notice anything unusual, but on the way back at 6PM (1800 hours metric) I saw that a tree located on the place where we would like to build a new house has “parted out” seriously. The tree, which we named the Monarch Tree on our new-house site plans, must have succumbed to some pretty fierce winds we are experiencing today. In the photo Karla is assessing the quality of wood for its firewood potential. Good grief! We’re going to have to build a whole ’nother wood shed for all the trees that are self-destructing. Or maybe go in to the firewood-selling business.

Tuesday, April 29

A favorite tree

There must be a hundred (100 metric) persimmon trees on this place. They produce the tiniest fruit in the late autumn months, golf ball-sized and so sweet it’s almost sinful. But you have to wait till the fruit falls to the ground; if you pick it off the tree, it’s very puckery astringent and quite bitter. During the off-season, while the trees are starting to produce their new crop of leaves, they make the best whole-body back scratchers as shown here.

When the fruit is on the ground, the horses gather and try to find it. I think they must be color blind, because they have to sniff around, and can go right past a persimmon without finding it. The round shape of the bright orange fruit must look like the rounded leaves they’re lying on. If I’m caught in the act of picking up persimmons, the horses mob me. Gotta be careful around giants that can bite!

Monday, April 28

Testing, testing, one two three…

This evening nine horses came by to see if they like the new Great Wall. Three at a time, they sniffed all of our flowering plants, took a teensy bite of some of them to confirm that their noses had told them the truth—inedible stuff. Good. Now I can go back to sleep when I hear them stomping too close at night.

Today I started with the string trimmer to rid the place of weeds. We have to clear 100 feet or 30 meters around any buildings so it will be quite a task to get ready for wildfire season. A lot of the grass is still green, so I welcome the horses in to munch it down as much as they want since it clogs the trimmer if it’s still too green. Dry weeds are no problem.

Karla made a trip to the local dump (transfer station, actually—dumps are history) to get rid of a bad old refrigerator and some plastic buckets we hauled out of the high country. As backhaul, she brought home a truckful of chipped redwood bark to use for mulch around the trees. We will probably need another three loads to do what’s needed to cut down on the use of water this summer. It’s that old problem: Plant ten cute little trees, and pretty soon you have ten cute big trees and your well didn’t get any deeper to compensate for the additional water needed to keep them going. Mulching is mandatory.

Mop marauders

It seems a string mop lasts just fine until springtime, then strings fall out all over the place. Today I found out why—they become bird nests! Here, caught in the act, are a couple of finches. This also helps solve another mystery that occurs every spring, when I hear finches saying, “Look! It’s cotton/rayon blend—my favorite!” They should be called filches.

Sunday, April 27

Modern Miracles

The twentieth century brought on some pretty remarkable technology. One outstanding example was this communications miracle—

Now you could make a telephone call to any local number without having to involve a human “operator.” Long distance calls still had to be made by a telephone company employee, and got pretty involved and very expensive. The only equipment allowed on the Bell System was made by and installed by that company. Recently on eBay I saw a 1950s red desk telephone made by Western Electric sell for almost $200. It had a dial, too. Nostalgia doesn’t come cheap.

Until the late 1980s, we had a single-wire telephone line connecting our high ranch to our store at the lake. All the old-fashioned phones on the line had hand cranks for sending a ring signal. The line was about ten miles long, and maintaining it was up to us. Every spring someone had to walk the entire line to find and repair the inevitable breaks caused by heavy snow or fallen trees. I did not like that job, especially if the line broke below the dam where it crossed the river. And especially if a lot of water was pouring over the spillway, because you couldn’t get across the river unless you went all the way back to the boathouse and took a boat to the far end of the dam, then hiked back down to the river. Someone on the opposite side had to tie a metal washer to a string and throw it across with the wire attached to the other end. If you didn’t have a helper on your side, you would have to somehow hold onto the wire while using awkward tools to reattach it to the broken end of the line, which might be up in a tree. Another bad place was around the side of the lake in the hip-deep manzanita bushes—nearly impossible to wade through—and the fallen wire always got snagged in a gajillion places. After lots of repairs, the line shortened and weakened. Every splice degraded the signal a little more which meant that every few years you would have to replace very long stretches of multiple breaks with new wire. Ugh.

If anyone spun the phone crank while you were holding the two ends of the wire, that would really sparkle your buns. During lightning storms we would keep our distance from the phones because the lightning arrestors weren’t all that reliable and powerful bolts of electricity could fly across the room toward the nearest large metal object. The ferry landing phone at the far end of the lake was the only one accessible to the public; they used it to call for the boat. I put up professionally-made signs that warned people to stay away from the phone during lightning storms. They were nice metal signs, and all of them ended up stolen and are probably displayed in people’s dens.

To make a call you vigorously spun the crank on the side of the wooden phone box: one long ring for the ranch, two rings for the boathouse, and three for the ferry boat landing. We finally had to give up the phones and replace them with two-way radios. Why? We got tired of getting nothing but crank calls.

Saturday, April 26

Let the season begin

It was warmer outside the house than inside, so I decided to open some windows and doors to let the fresh air in. When I opened the front door, I thought it might be wise to see if anything potentially unwelcome was around, and spotted this little guy. He/she is probably two pencils long, and has only a single button on the tail, rather than a real rattle. It takes a few sheddings of skin to get an audible rattle. The picture shows the snake in a white bucket; our standard procedure is to capture and release, though I’m sure many of the the neighbors would kill first, then put it in a bucket. We take the snakes to anywhere that there aren’t any cattle or horses and release them. As far as we can tell, they don’t return, although I did have quite a time catching one a few years ago who seemed to recognize me and ran off and hid in some shrubbery. Never did find that one. Normally a rattlesnake is about the easiest wild animal to catch, kind of like snails. They just lie there and maybe rattle furiously, but that’s all. Pretty tame stuff, boring in fact. Yawn.

Friday, April 25

Got 30 seconds to waste?

Twenty-eight seconds, actually. Plus download time. Don’t argue with this box—it will win. At least till its batteries poop out.

Thursday, April 24

Gary Larson lives in the Wall

Staring right back at me as I looked out the kitchen window this morning was a face that could only have been created by Gary Larson. It had been there in the Great Wall, unnoticed, for weeks. We humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize (the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object, metric) just about everything we see, but I don’t know how often we do it in the style of a particular artist. Now I will have to find more. An excellent article on Larson’s career is found here. I just ordered his There’s a hair in my dirt! A worm’s story. Shows you where I come from.

Postscript: I got the book. It’s a hoot! Highly recommended for those who love wildlife and would like to understand how to deal with it. One of Larson’s best!

Thursday, April 17

I know you’re out there…

I use a feature called Google Analytics to see how many people look at this blog, and where they are, how long they stay on the site, what their bank account numbers and social security numbers and all their passwords are, and everything they do, moment by moment, day by day. Other than that, not much is revealed besides mother’s maiden name, favorite movie, city of birth and that kind of stuff. Today I looked to see how much activity occurred in the last week or so, and discovered a viewer in Beijing, who looked at four pages and spent a total of 3.36 minutes (17.86 decihours metric) on the site. He stands 5'4" (163cm), has a skin temperature of 93°F (34°C), prefers wheat over rice, and has a drinking problem, which probably explains his long time on the site. There’s almost no money in his bank account, and he has three people besides himself to feed, clothe, and house on a pittance. His dog’s name was Din-Din, which it probably became.

I have a reader in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, whose location is shown as Honolulu which is on a whole ’nother island. Also, I know of readers in Death Valley who don’t show up at all (probably because they connect via satellite), and a couple of longtime readers in Fullerton, California, who are represented as being in North Hollywood. Weird. My loyal Australian reader is shown as being in Brisbane, which is where she plans to move. Hm-m-m. Maybe Google is even more all-knowing than we think. Fullerton readers, get ready to move to North Hollywood!

Wednesday, April 16

Future firewood

For the past month or so, I’ve had a bad feeling about one of our trees. It’s a bull or digger pine, over 100 feet (30m) tall, that is very slowly falling down. A couple of weeks ago, Karla reached up to touch one of its branches; she was about a foot (30cm) short. Today she easily grasped the branch which had also moved to the right a considerable distance, indicating that the tree was on its way down. When it falls, it will probably take its companion with it since they’re practically touching at ground level. We will have a huge mess to clean up if we want to use the only road out of here. One good thing is that they will fall perpendicular to the road so it will require minimum cutting to clear out. A few years ago I drove home and found a similar tree on the road, but it fell parallel and I had to cut out 50 feet (15m) of wood to get it out of the way, and that was after walking about a mile (1.6km) uphill to get home for the chain saw. And that was during the hottest (41°C) time of summer. And I was hungry (70°C). And thirsty (80°C). And tired (90°C). And grumpy (100°C).

When these two trees fall, they will take out a fence and a major portion of a beautiful white oak on the other side of the road. And that’s right near an enormous live oak that got blasted to the ground this winter when it was hit by lightning (1,000,000°C). We have four or five woodshedfuls (36.25 cubic meters) of firewood coming up, if we can get through all the cutting and hauling and splitting and stacking and storing and—oh man, I hope they don’t fall when the weather is really hot. And the snow is hip-deep (100cm).

Tuesday, April 15

Serpents emerge—It’s April 15!

Wouldn’t you know it? April 15, file your income tax returns, and see the first serpent of the season. On this morning’s mile-or-so walk, I actually stepped on a two-foot or 60cm gopher snake (aka bull snake). It was odd; somehow I knew I was stepping on a snake even though I wasn’t looking down at the time. We were, after all, walking under an oak tree and were looking up for the most dangerous snake in the area, the Oak Branch Constrictor. My shoe just barely touched the snake in its middle. The temperature was probably 48°F, 9°C, so the snake was pretty sluggish and didn’t even twitch. Wish I had my camera, but I can always find a gopher snake picture on the Internet and steal it.

I wonder if snakes and like creatures are actually controlled by the government. Most people loathe April 15 for its tax connotation, so many of them toss their calendars in early April to hide the thought of the approaching date, then hide under the covers and call in sick for the last few days. Early in the morning of April 15 the government releases snakes, bats, cockroaches, slime mold, hydrogen sulfide and incontinent skunks to remind people of the date. Glad all we got was a snake! At least they’re cute.

Photo by Mark Bratton, as shown on Wickipedia.

Monday, April 14

Berkeley dimbulbs

Another day of sitting through a meeting with the stock packers and the Sierra National Forest at their headquarters. We listened as a Forest Service representative listed all the issues covered at the last court session regarding the use of horses and mules by commercial pack stations serving the wilderness areas of the forest. A ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal is coming in a couple of weeks, but that won’t be the end of it. There are so many minuscule details that have to be ironed out to make sense of this whole mess that it may never be totally resolved. What we’re awaiting is a ruling that will set the agenda for the upcoming operating season.

Stock has to be excluded from Yosemite toad habitat, which was described as almost anything from flowing water, still ponds, wet meadow areas, damp spots on the ground, and I finally asked if that included the fresh wet spot just made by a horse. Laughs. Much study has to be done, and in the meantime, it is simpler to exclude horses from just about anywhere the toad was ever spotted. I guess a toad was never harmed by a hiker’s boot.

After a couple of hours of reviewing what could happen, the discussion was opened to various other issues of running the wilderness, such as trail maintenance. I asked the group of Forest people if the bridge over Boulder Creek was ever going to be replaced. It was torn out years ago because it was collapsing. There was no budget for that; other bridges were to be replaced first. The last time I saw figures on their budget, 40 to 50 percent was spent on lawyers. As an aside, the Forest Supervisor, who was sitting next to me, leaned over and in a low voice said, “If we weren’t paying millions for lawsuits, you could have that bridge right now.” He’s in a very tough position, having to manage the demands of all the users of the forest and balance that with the demands from Congress and courts. And he seems to be in competition with the adjoining Inyo National Forest for funds to carry out the demands of the Regional Forester in San Francisco. The Sierra National Forest is immense. Until a couple of decades ago, it was the only forest in the United States that actually turned a profit, from its timber sales. Now it is overgrown and has become a huge torch ready to be lit by any careless camper or lightning strike, the result is destruction brought on by lawsuits by environmentalists who are trying to “save” the forest from man’s depredation. Too bad they don’t know that thinning a forest does save it.

When the forest finally goes up in smoke, the dimbulbs in Berkeley (High Sierra Hikers Association headquarters) will sue the Forest Service for that, too.

Sunday, April 13

Oh me, oh my!

In the Sunday edition of the Fresno Bee newspaper, a sobering article. Turns out the reason the San Joaquin Valley has so much smog is because — there are too many plants!

Agriculture is apparently producing four times as much hydrocarbon as vehicles. Oh me, oh my.

Nothing happened here around the lower ranch today except four guests left to be replaced by two new ones, but they left too. Plants got watered, fish fed, the dog medicated, the cat hated even more — the usual. Horses were heard neighing in the distance, coyotes howled, and the new neighbor who flies his own plane up from Rolling Hills Estates in southern California shot his new rifle a few times, making it sound like we were living back in Hollywood in the old days.

Saturday, April 12

As luck would have it…

How serendipitous—Hilary emailed me asking if I knew where to get a picture of a kid hugging a dog. She’s in the middle of designing another label for her client, Blind Dog Coffee Roasters in Reno. She had already had me take a picture of what we call Solar Hill for the label. It’s one of those idealized country scenes with the perfect oak tree on the perfect rounded hill.

I suggested the infinite Internet for her picture of a kid hugging a dog. I knew she could fake the dog, being the owner of Blind Dog’s actual mascot, her dog Sioux. The label will be for a new blend called Tanner’s Roast. It features a kid who has had to have major surgery on his eyes due to a cancer that would make him blind. The Blind Dog people contribute part of their profits from the sale of coffee to help fight childhood cancers, and are dedicating this edition of their coffee to a youngster named Tanner.

Turns out the Internet was slim pickings. So since we had visitors with two kids here, I grabbed Karla’s wombat toy I had brought back from Australia in 2000 and told the kids to act like it’s a dog, sit on a rock, and look off into their futures. I emailed the photos to Hilary and she decided on the one to use and got back to work, thankful that serendipity still works, even in the remote reaches of the foothills. The immediacy of the Internet is just magic. In the “old days” of fifteen or twenty years ago, this would have been a major undertaking. I can still smell the pungency of rubber cement in the pasteup room, later replaced by hot wax. Pasteup actually had meaning then, what with the cutting and sticking down of pieces of photos and drawings and expensive typography. And the smell of photographic fixer in the darkroom. To get the effects so easily accomplished in Photoshop, I used some pretty vile chemistry, like ferrocyanide! I’m surprised I’m still alive. To clean film, we used carbon tetrachloride like it was water. Well, you can drown in water, but carbon tet was slower in getting the same result. I’m surprised I’m still alive. Oh, I already said that. Luckily, nothing of that stuff has had any effect on me, but still, I’m surprised I’m still alive. Oh, I already said that.

But still, I’m surprised I’m still sane and normal. Really surprised, actually. To be perfectly normal, that is. Surprised.

Friday, April 11

Time for a little brush-up

A heap of horses came by the house today, and I encouraged one of them to re-introduce himself to our agave that lives near the lemon tree. He sniffed around at it and didn’t even try to lick or bite any part of it. These are not native plants, so encountering one doesn’t engender the immediate shock and awe that horses would normally exhibit. It’s re-education, something that I encourage all of our domesticated beasties to participate in, since we are using these plants to control their behavior around the Great Wall.

After a couple of minutes of sniffing, horsie-pie* walked off to tell his buddies to avoid these things at all costs. I overheard him using the term, “organic concertina wire.” Glad I comprehend Equus. I don’t speak it, just understand its dozen or so words, like “feed me,” “scratch my butt,” “don’t use such a big needle when you give me a shot of penicillin,” and (when you want to ride) “not now; I have a backache.”

*I know all the names of all our 36 horses, but I can only connect the name to the horse in about half of them. I am sure daughter Hilary will correct me, but I kinda like “horsie-pie.”

Thursday, April 10

7,382 things

Seven thousand three-hundred and eighty-two disposable things went into making this canoe. Hint: Think Japan, where this man worked in a cafeteria. Once again, the blog that brings really dumb stuff to you (7,200 bananas, for example), presents another wonderful Internet oddity. Click here to connect with the full story. If you can guess beforehand what the 7,382 things are, wow—you are truly green and deserve another helping of sushi!

I am still looking for something meaningful to do with my collection of wine corks. I have hundreds, maybe thousands; they would fill a large garbage (rubbish, metric) can. Many people have saved them for me, including my largest source, a recycling center. Wineries pay big bucks for corks. Fifteen years ago a friend who ran a corking machine and now has his own winery told me that natural corks cost 70¢ each. That explains why there are so many plastic corks now. But plastics come from petroleum, so what’s next? Corn (maize) corks? Switchgrass corks? Maybe someone will figure out how to make them from smog, or carbon dioxide. Oh! I know! Cats!


Wednesday, April 9

A day off for all

Today Karla took our guests on a hike to see the lower part of the ranch. They learned that some of the local plants are not only edible, but tasty. Miner’s lettuce, of course, but also pepper grass and popcorn flowers. They got to see and pet six horses, then returned this afternoon for a lunch of hot dogs. Altogether a perfect day. The two kids played with the wagon, charging full blast down the last part of the driveway at breakneck (hope not) speed, rode the bike back and forth in front of the house, and ran the radio-controlled toy car till the battery died several times. They helped me plant a few flowers in pots for the Great Wall till I finally decided that many of the flowers we bought really need full sun. The apricot tree is getting way huge, so I had better get more shade-tolerant varieties or otherwise end up with some pretty scraggly plants. So instead of continuing the gardening, I decided to go in the house and listen to stories of what it’s like to escape Communist Poland in the late seventies. Good stories.

Which leads me to today’s point to ponder: Why do they put a leather patch across the palms of gloves? That part never wears out!

Tuesday, April 8

More wall stuff

Yesterday was a marathon of spending on plants, and we didn’t get home till dark. We had gotten gift cards for The Home Depot as a result of cashing in bonus points from American Express, and thought we had to spend the entire amount in one purchase. Turns out that isn’t the case, but we managed to come within three or four dollars. Several large planter pots, six large bags of potting soil, and almost fifty plants absolutely filled the bed of the truck. I had worried that the blast of wind on the freeway and highways would blow all the leaves and flowers off, but they survived very well with only a couple of broken stems and a bunch of flower petals littering the truck bed. The idea for all this extravagance is to stick some plants in pots on the wall itself, plant some behind those pots, and scatter some more up the hill. Most of them are capable of growing really big unless they turn into gopher and rabbit food.

I got started on the project this morning, but early this afternoon some guests arrived who will be here for a few days, so I’m sure we’ll be doing “tour the ranch” duty for awhile. I just hope nobody wants to hike to the corners of the property; the last time I took that hike I decided not to do it again without a helicopter. Our southeast corner is so steep, the fenceposts, which are vertical, have their tops only a couple of feet (60cm) off the ground, instead of five feet (1.5m). You can easily step over the top barbed wire. That is, if you can walk there at all! I guess whoever built that part of the fence planned on having only very short cows.

Sunday, April 6

Horse barrier

On the right is a row of little agave plants, the start of probably 15 or so I will end up planting. They were scavenged from a variety of sources around here, mostly in neglected pots. In spite of getting minimal to non-existent attention for the past several years, they’ve managed to hang on to life, and now will finally get some care—as a horse barrier behind the Great Wall.

On the left is what these little plants may someday become, not blue agaves, since that’s another variety, but BIG agaves. The blue is at least as tall as a horse and is probably 20 years old, or 2,000 centidecades metric.

The part of the hill where I’m doing the planting is composed mainly of decomposed granite, a coarse crumbly ground that is sometimes loose and gravely and sometimes as hard as a brick. I’m digging the holes nice and big so their roots can get a good start. It is so surprising when I’m hacking a hole in the really hard stuff to run across a root from the nearby apricot tree. Those roots must dissolve the granite or something because I can’t see how they push their way through what is nearly impenetrable rock. Plants are amazing, kind of like house frogs. We miss you, Clarence.

Saturday, April 5

Re-found: Buggy kit

While hunting for rocks for the Great Wall, we rediscovered the metallic remains of an old buggy. It had apparently been parked among the rocks and abandoned long ago. In the meantime, a wildfire took all of the wooden parts away, or maybe termites did. Not a scrap of wood remains, and only three of the tires (tyres). Years ago I had taken one of the tires for use as a firewood holding ring. It’s around here somewhere.

Did you know that not just rubber is used for tires? A tire is simply a band that strengthens and protects the wheel from wear. The term, tire, comes from the fact that it “ties” the wheel together. When iron is used for a tire, it’s heated right before being placed onto the wooden rim, then quenched. It shrinks and presses the rim and spokes against the hub, strengthening the whole assembly. Rubber tires don’t have the same effect of holding a wheel together, especially when used on a metal wheel without individual spokes. But they’re still called tires.

The two wagon axles we unearthed a few weeks ago (see Archaeology can make you sad) could belong to this wagon. Reconstructing the wagon would be a real challenge, since we have no idea what it used to look like.

It would be really neat if we were to find the remains of an old Brinks money wagon. I could imagine the bandits hijacking the wagon, driving it onto our place, then hearing the sheriff’s posse closing in, grabbing only the paper money because it’s light and leaving all the gold behind. Then a sudden meteor shower mows down all the bandits and the posse, starts a wildfire and the loot is lost forever till we discover it. Hm-m. I think I’ll go back over and nose around those old wagon parts.

Friday, April 4


Wall done, get it? Heh heh. It happened today. After seven days (700 centidays metric) we piled tons (tonnes, metric) of rock and dirt and sweat and tears and blood (mostly type O+) and finished our 45-foot (13.7m) wall (walle?).

Glasses of good draft beer all around. Happiness all around. The dog, who had been so patient as we ignored her wishes while we worked finally demanded to go back in the house because she really had to pee.

Tomorrow we have to figure out where to plant menacing things to keep the horses from using this wall for rock climbing practice. Maybe really nasty spiky things like agaves, with their put-your-eye-out spines at the ends of their thorn-laced thick fleshy leaves. We are figuring that if there is a barrier row of plants, nothing will use the wall as a sidewalk for at least a couple of years. After that, the little critters like insects and worms and rodents will have packed all the interstices with soil and the whole wall will solidify into a single indestructible mass and last for at least a thousand years (1 kiloyear metric).

After discovering the local market for the brass we’ve been finding in our big quartz chunks, and the possibility of putting the rock shaped exactly like Wyoming (or Colorado, depending on your perspective) on eBay and making a killing, we’re really jazzed about the future.

An amazing rock

It had to happen—after gathering and examining probably a thousand rocks for our wall, we found one that is shaped exactly like Wyoming! (Karla thinks it looks more like Colorado, but it depends on the angle.) That is so inspiring! As long as we’re on a roll, I’m going to go through our new bag of spuds to see if I can find one that looks like Richard Nixon or Mother Theresa.

Brass sales are brisk

I got a nice offer from loyal reader Pete S to buy the brass we’re finding in the big quartz chunks around here (see my April 2 post), but the neighbors, who also read the blog, beat him to it. This saves my having to haul it all down to a scrap metal dealer. Oh, wait—there's another neighbor at the door. He bought a chunk of brass a few days ago. Wow! He just drove up in a brand new Bentley convertible! How can he afford a new car and still keep buying all this brass? The cattle business must be good this year.

Thursday, April 3

We hit the 67¢ mark today

Forty-four feet is the final measure of the Great Wall of Bailey Flats (13.5 meters for those readers outside of Borneo). Tomorrow is finish and detail work, like adding cute little touches that surprise the viewer when noticed: “Oh, how spiffy! You guys are great!”

When the wall is finished, that frees up the truck to go get some gravel for the driveway. We can probably haul a cubic yard at a time, three-quarters of a cubic meter. (If you’re wondering why I go to the extraordinary trouble to give measures in both Regular [American and Bornean] and Other-World, it’s because I have loyal readers Down Under. Even though most of them originally came from the US, by now they’ve probably been totally brainwashed into Metric, which, by the way, was invented by the French, of all people! Oh well, I still like their fries. And toast. Their kisses aren’t bad either.) Besides I feel kind of cosmopolitan speaking both languages of measure, but not French.

The Dodge 4-wheel-drive diesel can haul a yard of gravel without breaking a sweat. It’s a remarkable vehicle; even though it weighs almost 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilos), it still averages about 25MPG (10km/l) on the highway, and that’s fully loaded.

More later. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 2

Last load? (I hope I hope I hope!)

More rock hunting this morning, and a trailer that’s squealing from the heavy load. It takes a while to gather just the right rocks. We go maybe only a quarter mile total to find them, since our whole place is made of rock to start with. Good variety: Metamorphic, igneous and sedimentary. A couple of the rocks are pure white quartz. Not the best to put in a wall since the two we used were almost round which makes them hard to work in with mostly straight-edged rocks. One of them we couldn’t even use—when we picked it up it was so heavy it slipped out of our grasp and fell onto another rock and shattered! Inside was a cantaloupe-sized chunk of yellow metal. That must be what made it so heavy. It looks like brass, so it might be worth something. If we find the time, maybe we can take it in to a scrap metal dealer since copper is over $4 a pound and brass must be worth something, too.

Tuesday, April 1

32¢ and counting…

At the rate the Chinese were paid for rock walls around here 130 years ago, we’d have just approached the 32¢ level. Sixteen cents each, for four days’ work. That’s 4¢ a day each, enough to buy about half a cup of rice. If we gathered some sticks and rubbed two of them together, we could cook the rice in our sweat. Or we could ferment the rice in some spring water, which is abundant around here, and in a few weeks drink the elixir and get looped. Fortunately, we’re not slaves (at least in the classical sense) and can drive to town and buy beer which we did last week. Oh, and some rice, too. Funny how we’re developing a craving for that stuff…