Tuesday, March 31

Sheep as…

…the Mona Lisa. As fireworks. As a re-creation of the original video game, Pong.

Sometimes I wonder if I could ever be as crazy as those who produce the most outrageously idiotic videos. Probably not. But I’m hoping nonetheless.

Thanks again, neighbor Bill. Click here, not the Play arrow in the picture.

Sunday, March 29

Cannibalistic stone

Conglomerate, in a geological sense, is rock made of cemented-together pieces of rock. It’s metamorphic. It’s also cannibalistic as shown here in Mosaic Canyon, Death Valley. The conglomerate is slowly devouring the other metamorphic rock, marble. Marble is the crystalline metamorphic form of limestone, and must be very tasty. Only I could hear the infrasonic slurping; the ears of the other people with me are still good at hearing high frequencies, but not yet ossified to the low-rumble-detecting extent I possess.

Earth is still undergoing changes. In a few million years, nothing we now know will be the same. After all the rocks eat all the other rocks and finally digest them, I wonder what will remain. I wonder if earth will pass gas, or simply belch. It would be neat to see and hear the final outcome.

Saturday, March 28

Giant thumbprint!

When taking pictures, the time of day is critical. When we explored Death Valley’s various canyons, it became obvious that we were there when picture taking was crummy. When the sun is high in the sky, so many textures vanish due to straight-on lighting. Most photographers won’t take a picture after 10 in the morning or before 4 in the afternoon because the light is so flat and uninteresting.

So that’s my excuse for the picture above, taken in Titus Canyon. The area shown is about 3 feet or one meter wide. You see the ripples? They are the fossilized ridges of a giant’s thumbprint in mud! That guy’s thumb must have been the size of a Volkswagen! Nobody believed me, and Luke even referred to a guidebook that said the ripples were caused by a gentle breeze blowing over a shallow sea in Precambrian times. Buncha hooey, sez me. We could probably pick up a DNA sample to prove my case.

More cross-eyed 3D

From www.spaceweather.com comes this picture of the International Space Station in 3D. For a much bigger picture, click here. I recommend the big picture, especially if you’re seeing this on your iPhone. To get the 3D effect, look straight and level at the picture and cross your eyes to merge the two into one.

In the article that accompanies the picture, they say: “The ISS can now outshine Venus (the brightest planet) by a factor of four and Sirius (the brightest star) by a factor of nearly 70!” To see the ISS for yourself, go here for the times it will be visible at your US or Canadian location.

Photo: spaceweather.com

Friday, March 27

Take it slow

We have some friends who are scuba divers. They have told us that every diver is taught that if you go deep and stay for a while, you shouldn’t come to the surface quickly or you will regret it. The pressure you are subjected to down deep will cause nitrogen to dissolve into your bloodstream. Coming up quickly will not allow that nitrogen to be released gradually through your breath. Instead it causes bubbles in your blood, a condition called the bends which is painful, possibly lethal.

With this in mind, we took the most gradual route out of Death Valley, after being as deep as 282 feet, and staying for days, not hours. As a result we suffered no adverse effects. During all the time we were there, we never spotted even one sign along the roads warning of this possible hazard. The government needs to put more attention on protecting the public.

Thursday, March 26

“Natural bridge”?

Here is what is called a natural bridge. Even if you were totally ignorant of what a bridge is for, just looking at this formation shouldn’t suggest the idea that it’s a bridge. First off, to the left it is way too steep. If you were strolling along and encountered this rocky heap you wouldn’t think of it as a good place to walk across. Bridges are for crossing difficult-to-cross places. It would be so simple to drop down to the flat place where Karla and Hilary are walking and cross there. This formation should be called “A mess of crumbly rock with a really big hole through it down at the level where walking would make infinitely more sense.”

Yeah, call it “Natural Hole.”

Tuesday, March 24

Fordson Snow Machine - 1929 Concept

This is from neighbor Bill, who used to own a Weasel, a military snowcat thing. The way the driver handles this machine makes me think he must have a cast iron sphincter. I wonder if it floats?

Sunday, March 22

Scotty’s Castle

According to one of the guides on the tours we took through the castle, Scotty was a fraud. He didn’t have a gold mine, he didn’t design the castle, he didn’t own the castle, and he didn’t even live there. But he was a very entertaining man with all of his tall tales. The whole place was inspirational to Karla and me since the materials are essentially what we want to use in our own house.

Looking down into the courtyard inspires a ton of ideas. Notice the stairway leading downward. The heavy wooden doors are gorgeous, as is all the quarry tile work and glazed ceramics used everywhere in the design. Ironwork is everywhere; the railings, the hardware on the doors and decorative screens were all made of iron.

The seeming randomness of the roof tile spacing is achieved by using different lengths at the top line. Laying roof tiles starts with the bottom course, so in order to keep the exposure (amount of tile showing) constant, you have to do some fiddling at the bottom to begin.

We also noticed that the builders used similar tiles for both cap (top tile) and pan (the tile used underneath). That made us happy because we have 8,000 caps, no pans. We will simply drill holes at the opposite ends of the tiles to make them pans.

Cupholder warning

In a parking lot in Death Valley was a Volkswagen with an add-on cupholder on the door. I never saw the occupants, and wondered if they were obese and/or diabetic. I read recently that high fructose corn syrup is now being blamed for obesity and its attendant diabetes. As part of a truly comprehensive health care program, the US Government should mandate that all new cars come without cupholders, and that all older cars have their holders filled with concrete. It would make me feel much better to have the proper authorities take the bull by the horns and save us from ourselves.

Saturday, March 21

Blown out of a volcano!

Boy, here’s a tale for the grandkids! Hilary and Karla are being blown out of the crater of Ubehebe (sounds like you be, he be), in Death Valley. When we parked beside the crater, it was very difficult to open the doors on the truck since the wind must have been blowing 50 MPH (80 km/h)! The two had ventured close to the edge of the crater when the flying sand and rocks finally overcame their bravery. As we drove down the road to get away from the crater, we noticed some motorhomes coming up. It’s a good thing the wind was blowing away from the crater, rather than toward it.

I mentioned to Hilary as we left that north of the crater there must be thousands of hats on the ground.

Another confusing sign

This one has me going. Are people supposed to:
  1. take their dog off the leash?
  2. not pull the dog’s intestines out between its shoulder blades?
  3. not use a curved sword on the dog?
  4. not use pull-string mechanical dogs?
  5. not have dogs with enormous parentheses attached?
We report; you decide. Let me know.

Danger: Vomiting Chihuahuas

This sign warns people to avoid catching vomit from the feral chihuahuas that populate the desert. As the graphic shows, the chihuahuas levitate to the height of your outstretched palm then suddenly vomit. You never know what they’ve just eaten, so you are cautioned against catching it. I am always surprised to find signs that warn against things I wouldn’t do anyway.

It gives you a nice safe feeling that our government cares so much for our welfare.

Friday, March 20

Encountering a geezer

Luke and Hilary were innocently hiking up Mosaic Canyon when they encountered one of those old 49er types, the guy on the right. Old 49er types are people who cling to the impossible hope of finding gold. They usually only have some hardtack, dried pork, salt, a burro and maybe a whole lot of whisky; they have the impossible dream of finding the next eldorado. Since the old geezer looked kind of like Hilary’s dad, they agreed to pose for a photo with him. Then he asked for some money to fund his search for gold. Since they had left their wallets in the pickup far below, he asked for their credit card numbers, social security numbers, mother's maiden names and other silly stuff, which they willingly invented on the spot and gave to him, seeing that he was simply stupid and only did that to look sophisticated.

Good cats

One of the most unexpected things about coming to Death Valley is finding what could be called “good” cats. Hilary and Luke provide space and food and love to two of them, Florence and Boots, both girls. I have never in the last 35 years encountered a good cat. When I was in high school, my parents had a menagerie that could these days have them committed to a loony bin; 16 cats! It came from feral cats that decided to adopt them, then reproduce shamefully. Once you reach a critical number, spaying and neutering becomes an expense you don’t want, so thankfully we had a wildfire that either consumed the excess or caused them to scatter to new patrons. When it was all over, there were three cats which were made non-reproductive. Mama Cat, Bluey, and Tiger. Only Tiger became my cat. He was interesting in that if I thought of getting in the car and driving off somewhere, he got my thought and made his way to the car. He jumped in, got onto the package shelf back by the rear window, and enjoyed the ride.

Our current cat, Raven, was feral. He still is. At least partially. And he jumps at the chance to pee on you. He even got Karla last week. She says she made him angry, and that’s his payback. Hey, if I got peed on by whomever I make angry, I would never dry out! That cat has some hard learning to do.

Thursday, March 19

Feelin’ low

Sometime Tuesday morning Karla and I piled into the Dodge pickup and drove. And drove. And drove some more. About quarter past nine in the evening, we arrived in Furnace Creek and were greeted by Hilary and Luke at their winter home. The dogs, the famous Sioux, the not as famous Sallie, the so far unknown Bella, and the two cats, Boots and Florence, were beside themselves with joy at the sight of us. We were beside ourselves with joy at the sight of a nice king size bed!

Wednesday was spent recovering from the trip and being shown around the facilities. It consists of an entire square mile of private land smack in the middle of a National Park. (Sounds familiar, huh?) We toured the stables, of course, and got reacquainted with many of our horses. Hilary drove us around the nearby hotel and the facilities such as the Borax Museum with its wonderful mineral exhibits and the huge collection of old machinery, wagons, a steam locomotive and much more (more on that later), the million-watt solar power installation that’s just a year old, and the nearby airport. The Park Service’s visitor center was well-designed and had a three-dimensional model of Death Valley that was simply amazing in its realism.

That evening, Luke treated us to front-row seats on the hay wagon, with about 25 young girls from a Waldorf school filling the benches and bales behind. It was a terrific ride, part of it through a tunnel formed by tamarisk trees alongside the 18-hole golf course, out to the airport, and back through a grove of date palms. Two very good mules, Bill and Rocky, provided the power.

Today, Thursday, Karla and I piled into the truck with Hilary and she drove us south to Badwater, the lowest spot in the United States. The sign with the cigarette and dog probably means either that dogs aren’t allowed to smoke, or that you shouldn’t smoke your dog. I’m sure there’s a park ranger who can explain which it is. I saw a human smoking, so he probably wasn’t breaking the rules.

We headed back north and up a nasty dirt road to a parking spot, then hoofed it a mile up canyon to a natural bridge. It was made of conglomerate rock, the crumbliest kind of formation on earth. We didn’t stand under the bridge too long. It’s huge and thick, which is probably why it hasn’t collapsed yet. We went further up the canyon to where it met bedrock, which felt like steatite (soapstone) but probably wasn’t. Most likely marble. Then we drove to Artist Palette, which is a collection of every kind of mineralized soil and rock in a huge variety of colors. The time of day wasn’t the best, what with the sun coming in right behind our backs, so my pictures show mostly color, not texture.

When I get all this stuff together, I will definitely have more to show. For now, it’s time to rest and recover (I walked a mile with a rock in one shoe, and need to get it out before it ruins my sock).

Tuesday, March 17

Today is the REAL Saint Patrick’s Day

On last weekend’s post, I called March 14 Saint Patrick’s day (since corrected). My fact checker, Karla, let it slip. I think she was so intrigued by the superbly written content of the rest of the post that she overlooked the error. So I’m going to recruit our cat, Raven, for fact checking. At least he never misses the time he should be fed (which is always). Well, maybe he’s not up to the job either. He doesn’t know much of the English language except for the words “meow” and “rr-r-r.” There are some pretty consistent and wise wild creatures around here, for example the ravens who show up every morning for their daily ration of dry dog food. But they’re shy about computers. Montgomery, the squirrel, doesn’t do vowels, preferring to say things like Chk! and Grr-rr-k! Not much help there. It’ll be a while before the rattlesnakes come out of their dens, so they’re not a year-round source of help. The raccoons ate all the goldfish before I could determine the fishes’ abilities to do fact checking. As for the raccoons, they’re out because of their innate nastiness; they would approve an erroneous post just to spite me. I’m not sure what to do—except maybe simply submit the unchecked posts and let the readers provide feedback. But then the errors are out there in the blogosphere and subject to ridicule and derision. Oh well, I’ve got a tough exterior and the brickbats will bounce off. Inside though, I’m just a little puppy made of soft creamy vanilla custard, subject to irreversible damage to my psyche. Open, vulnerable—the most desired target of meanies, who will dump on me mercilessly. Wow. Makes me want to quit and hide, or maybe do more rigorous fact checking on my own.

Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Thanks for your feedback! You are such good readers!

Monday, March 16

A spotless sun

For the first time in about a hundred years, the sun is really really quiet. Coronal Mass Ejections, commonly occurring several times a DAY, are now occurring maybe once a MONTH. Without those ejections, there isn’t much energy blasted toward earth, and we could get a little colder as a result, despite the warnings of warble gloaming.

Every eleven years there’s a change in the activity of the sun, going from lots of sunspots (magnetic eruptions) to few sunspots. We are now experiencing a time when the number of sunspots should be increasing, but there are few to none. Today’s picture shows a very smooth, undisturbed solar surface.

I think it’s time to start hoarding dried beans. And canned tuna. Who knows what’s in store for we humans? Oh yeah: stock up on flashlight batteries and toothpaste. And wrapping paper in case you’re planning on gifting your dear friends. New shoes would be nice. And a haircut. Fresh orange juice is unbeatable, made from real oranges you just picked from a tree in your own yard. They look just like little suns.

The loner

So many acres—so few horses

Many years ago we had a horse named Chet. Her (yes, her) full name, as registered with the American Quarter Horse Association, was Good Night Chet. Only the ancient among us knows what that means—it was always followed by “Good night, David,” and was the signoff of the team of TV news broadcasters, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. Although we never found out exactly how Chet got her name, it was probably inspired by her being born right after one of those weekday evening newscasts. One of Chet’s offspring, known to most of us as Snip, is registered with AQHA as Good Night David so that completes the cycle. Chet was a loner, mostly because she was afraid of horses.

The lone horse shown here taking a late morning siesta is Geronimo, also known as The World’s Greatest Horse. Horses are so gregarious it’s rare to find a loner. Herd animals find safety in large groups, so if Ger is by himself he’s obviously not afraid of becoming a meal to some predator. He’s also a loner mainly because he doesn’t think he’s a horse, so why mingle with them?

Every once in a while we ask Ger to act as a welcoming ambassador to new horses joining our herd. He plays the role of Uncle Ger and helps them get used to new surroundings, new companions, and the rules of the road. Once the lessons end, the new horse joins one of the five or so groups and leaves with them. We thank Geronimo, and he reverts to being a loner.

Counting the neighbors’ Dryad Ranch, our horses have well over 700 acres to roam and find food. They rarely come up to our corral area, which is in the middle of the property. And that suits Ger just fine! He has grass, water, a salt lick, and Karla, who feeds him lots of easy-to-chew healthful goodies every day to mitigate the problem of his diminishing supply of good teeth. Such a deal.

Sunday, March 15

Ready to eat

On today’s venture into the wilds we came upon a place that is simply bursting with popcorn flowers. Above is a close-up showing the buttery center that gives this particular species, Cornus poppus redenbacheri, its yummy flavor. And if the hill of flowers below seems familiar to you discriminating coffee aficionados, it’s the hill shown on bags of Blind Dog Coffee Roasters’ Tanner’s Roast.

Saturday, March 14

Have some pi today

Today is 3.14, in American-style notation. Are we the only country where we do Month/Day/ Year? Wouldn’t it make more sense to go smallest to largest with the middle in the middle? Or backward; Year/Month/Day? The rest of the world does. The rest of the world also uses the metric system, except Borneo, I think.

Wait till 2015! Then it will be 3.14.15! And at 9:26:53 in the morning there will be mathematicians wetting their pants with excitement! Imagine—3.141592653…who could ask for more? Except maybe a cold green beer, seeing as how it’s also St Patrick’s Day.

Addendum: I just found out St Patrick’s day is on March 17. Sorry, but go ahead and have a beer anyway.

Friday, March 13

“Our” flower

In 1974 Karla and I got married at Wedding Rock in Blayney Meadow. The flower girls scoured the surroundings and gathered probably a ton of wildflowers (all picked on private land, I might add). When the ceremony ended, both of us were totally swamped with the flowers, looking like a moving heap of garden waste till we shook them off. Our favorites, and the majority of the flowers, were shooting stars. Fortunately, we spend our winters on land that also produces shooting stars, and every almost-spring, they come up on the north-facing slopes for us to enjoy.

On the way to the Big City yesterday, we spotted a fresh outburst of the flowers. I jumped out of the car and grabbed a shot of some. Not the best picture I ever took, but good enough for a blog.

Thursday, March 12

Garbage on high

Bringing you the best of the Web, today’s installment is from Spaceweather.com. It shows a 3-D view of the particles left over from the collision of two satellites last month. Cross your eyes till the two globes merge and you can see what I mean. Too small? Click here for a large version, a screen-filler. The yellow dots are pieces of the Russian satellite that will be entering the atmosphere this month.

Graphic: Tom Wagner of Waterloo, Iowa via Spaceweather.com

Tuesday, March 10

Take care of your teeth

Good ol’ buddy, Pal, has a problem. The facial swelling shows that one of his teeth, part of which was removed (by drilling through the horse’s cheek with a power drill!) in July of 1992 and replaced with a fiberglass plug has a problem again. At the time of the surgery, Mike the vet said that he was buying the horse a little time. Seventeen years is more than a little time! (I hope he’s still under warranty.)

We brought Pal home Sunday to the corral for observation and feeding while we contacted Mike. Today Pal got a ride down to Clovis for a diagnosis. It turns out he has three bad teeth. Tomorrow he will be operated on to see what can be done.

Horses depend on teeth and legs for life; the rest of their parts seem incidental. But without teeth, they die. Broken legs bring on a death sentence too. We’ll see what Pal, who is now 26 years old, has in store for him.

Neighbors visit

Our second-closest neighbors (3.5 miles down the road) paid a visit Sunday. Bruce and Candy rode up on their Honda quads to visit with Nessie, the new giant. Here Candy keeps granddaughter Indie from jumping onto Zeus’s back and galloping off. The bay looking on from behind, Cola, is trying to get some more of those yummy baby carrots.

Monday, March 9

Nothing happening

Nothing is going on. Usual daily routines. Still alive and relatively healthy considering the ravages of time on meat bodies. If something interesting comes along, I’ll write about it. But for now…yawn.

Oh, I did remember to set the clocks ahead for DST. That was pretty good, I guess. Running out of bird seed though. Have to go buy some. It’s getting a little chillier outside what with the slight breeze that doesn’t stop.

Bright sunlight makes the solar panels produce more power. It got up near 3,000 watts a couple of times when there were lots of bright white clouds around the sun. That’s kind of nice.

Tossed the ravens a couple of very stale danish pastries since we’re running out of dry dog food. One of the birds grabbed both of them and flew off. Pig.

Oh yeah—the bald eagle mentioned in the March 6 entry died on the way to the vet. He was very underweight, they said. Sure makes them easy to catch. We’ll be told the cause of death. Probably West Nile virus. The eagle was two pounds light. Our cat is two pounds heavy. Seems we could make an exchange, don’t ya think? I’m willing.

Saturday, March 7

Toaster swimmer

Antonio Pasin, the creator of the Radio Flyer wagon, named it so because of his fascination with radio and flight. What if he’d liked toast and swimming? Or concrete and bombers? Or burgers and fries? The mind reels.

The old #18 Classic Red Wagon shown here hauls firewood to the house. Its minimal, primitive bearing surfaces are showing their age. The steering is getting stiff and the wheels howl in a discordant shriek as it is tugged around, objecting to its load. Every once in a while I think of retiring its old bones, then I reach for the WD-40 and it’s good to go for another season. Besides the new ones aren’t made in Chicago anymore, but probably in some squalid sweatshop in China. I’ve seen the new ones in the stores and they don’t seem to be as dangerous as ours—the steering can’t go completely to 90° causing the wagon to tip, and there’s no way to get a child’s fingers smashed in the joint between the handle and undercarriage. I mean, what fun is that? Take the danger out of little kids’ lives and they grow up to be wusses whose first instinct is to reach for a lawyer instead of a Band-Aid.

Friday, March 6

Awfully quiet day…

It’s been a hard day for blogging since just about nothing of interest to anybody happened. We stuffed the yowling, hissing, scratching cat into his carrying cage and he got hauled over to the vet for her to chew him out for being too fat. He could get diabetes if this keeps up, she said. (She acted as if this were a problem.) He really hates his plastic cage he has to be in for transport, though by the time he got home he seemed normal.

The big black ravens got breakfast twice. I fed them some dry dog food, then Karla did the same seeing that they were standing on the feeding rock with no food. They are a gluttonous bunch and had sucked down the first batch pronto. What they don’t eat will be carted off by the new ground squirrel that’s moved close to the house.

Hundreds of wild birds stormed their feeder and actually emptied the morning load of seed by just a bit after noon. I need a movie camera to catch that frantic action. It’s really amusing, but is starting to dent the wallet for food money.

The neighbor who does birdwatching spotted a bald eagle in a bull pine tree and got a decent though grainy picture. Graininess comes from either too little light for a good exposure or too great an enlargement because the bird was five miles away. I think that must make 81 species of birds they’ve counted in this valley.

Yesterday I received a preview of a new coffee label being designed by daughter Hilary. It’s a hoot and should make the coffee fly off the shelves into people’s shopping carts. Look for it soon wherever Blind Dog Coffee Roasters product is sold.

That’s all for today…you may go back to doing something productive now.

Wednesday, March 4

What the—!

part of roof in treeImagine my surprise this morning to see part of our roof in a tree! Last night was dark and stormy. At about 4 in the morning a very loud clap of thunder got my attention. There had been plenty of lightning, but this particular thunderclap had a very long duration. Karla said it sounded like sheet metal. It was.

So today was wasted in putting the roof back on. Fortunately we had a leftover piece of metal to use for repair where one of the pieces of the roof was very badly bent.

Also fortunately there was a real shingle roof under the metal. I had added the metal a few years ago to facilitate quick drainage of rain because the roof on that part of the house was nearly level and rain tended to pile up and blow against one of the house walls and leak into one of the rooms.

We used lots more roofing screws this time!

sheet metal roof folded back

Tuesday, March 3

PHA alert!

As a public service, here is the story behind the Monday March 2 asteroid approach to our fair planet. It’s been difficult to find much information about it, but I have been able to put together this much: It was the size of a 10-story building. What kind of building?—A skinny hotel with a view from every room, or a mighty distribution center that covers four city blocks? If we had been hit, it would have had the power of a nuclear weapon. Which nuclear weapon? They range in size from the artillery shells that can ruin your day all the way up to the population-clearing neutron bombs that don’t damage buildings and infrastructure, just kill people and all other living things for miles (kilometers) around (except cockroaches, of course). Supposedly this PHA (potentially hazardous asteroid) came within 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) or so, well within the distance from here to the moon (your mileage/kilometerage may vary).

Then, oddly, the story was dropped. Internet searching produced a little more data, but not much. Are we getting tired of asteroid impact news? With the economy in the toilet, maybe asteroid damage would be barely noticeable.

Graphic: Musings of a Slowly Rotting Mind

Unforgivable! Shame! Go sit in the corner!

The ad shown here was on a page I was reading this morning. One thing about it caught my eye—the odd line between people and ready. The phrase people-ready would be correct. On most computer keyboards, the hyphen (-) and the underline (_) are on the same key. The difference is the hyphen doesn’t require the use of the Shift key, but the underline does. It makes me think the keyboardist in this case must have thought the longer line above the hyphen on the key is a super-sized hyphen, which would be a cool thing to use. Not noticing that he/she got an underline instead of a super hyphen, the ad went through its usual series of checks and approvals before being sent out the door.

Some little guy putting together a daily blog might make such a silly goof. Most bloggers don’t have a fact-checking division populated by archivists, historians, and nit pickers, nor do they have high-paid high-educated high-self-esteemed proofreaders. Microsoft has all those people on staff to catch mis-spoken-nesses, unless they’re among the first to be laid off when times get tough.

The object of the ad is to get the reader to check out the article, Navigating a Turbulent Economy. The tag line at the bottom, “Because it’s everybody’s business,” seems odd, since it wasn’t everybody’s business at Microsoft to catch the underline-posing-as-a-hyphen.

Sunday, March 1

Marmalade time

Once again, that dratted Seville orange tree to the south of the house has produced an astonishing number of the sourest oranges imaginable. One branch had so many oranges on it that it collapsed and broke (yay!). We’ll cut it off to reduce the tree’s suffering. Shown here are some of the rinds that have had their juice removed and were boiled to soften them.

Karla is removing the remaining pulp from the rinds. Then using scissors, a knife, and finally a Cuisinart the rinds were chopped into tiny pieces. A chef we know says she makes marmalade by tossing whole oranges into her Cuisinart! Blasphemy! Seeds! We are so pure by taking the time to do all of our hand labor.
Here are orange juice, cut up rinds, a ghastly amount of cane sugar, and a bunch of sterilized jars ready to receive the final concoction boiling in the big pot. Whether the final product will jell and become real jam is iffy. Supposedly oranges contain enough pectin to self-jell. But our main problem with this whole venture is that we try to make too large a batch at once. When you try to balance the amount of juice with the amount of rinds and sugar, mistakes can be made. We picked maybe one-eighth of the oranges on the tree which comes to about ten gallons (38 liters) of oranges. Nobody has a stove big enough to cook up ten gallons of marmalade! Even with the burner turned to its highest setting, our commercial stove took over a half hour to bring only half a batch up to boiling, and that’s with the whole pot pre-heated for another half hour on our wood stove!

Every time we do this marathon of marmalade, we swear that we’ll never do it again. Then we do it again. Must be the definition of insanity, or weak resolve.

Pine eggs

While photographing horses on our neighbors’ place, I noticed that one of the bull pine trees was surrounded by unopened cones. That’s odd, because unless the cones are cut off the tree while they’re green, they usually are open and seedless, having let go of their seeds while still on the tree. With so many unopened cones on the ground, the squirrel(s) that did the cutting must have been removed from the scene before he/she/it/they could get to work to shred the cones and gather the nuts. A gray squirrel would be dopey enough to get caught by a coyote or other predator, so that’s probably what cut the cones.

Once, when we had three dogs, we were walking along the road. The dogs spotted a gray squirrel and gave chase. The squirrel darted up an oak tree where it was safe, but since the dogs were looking up at it and barking their fool heads off, the squirrel felt it was still threatened. It ran out along a branch to its end, and jumped to the ground ready to be re-chased up another tree! We stared, mouths agape, stunned by its dim-wittedness. I am surprised there are any grays left.