Thursday, May 28

Firewood on the hoof

About halfway up in the picture, a longitudinal split is forming.

This is one of five dead pine trees that are threatening about 50 feet (15 m) of fence between us and neighbors Bill and Megann. At some future date we will get together and drop the trees then cut them into firewood. They are all very large mature trees, so we will have more fuel than we can burn in a whole lifetime. Especially since we much prefer to burn oak, not pine. Any ideas?

No, we will not be mailing firewood to you!

Wednesday, May 27

New term proposed for horse manure

There is a mis-perception about the number of words Eskimos have for snow. Supposedly they differentiate the many states of being of snow, from falling, on-the-ground, fluffy, icy—giving each form its own name. Well, it turns out that they have about as many terms describing snow forms as are found in standard English. Also, the word Eskimo applies to many different cultures, which could account for the large number of terms used.

How many different English-language terms describe the variety of forms taken by horse manure? I haven’t run across any that differentiate hot and steamy still warm to the touch from old, bleached, dried out, crumbly. Smothered with flies describes a very brief state. And of course there's shredded by squirrels looking for undigested oats. Naturally scattered could be differentiated from kicked by a bored cowboy.

The only slang term I'm familiar with is meadow muffins, which refers to both the intact original pile and the scattered pieces. That and the term, which I will politely call H.S., pretty much sums up the entire lexicon in use around here.

I propose adding one more term. Horses are not choosy about where they relieve themselves. When the urge comes, the horse goes. On our strolls along our road, Karla and I run across many places where the horses have "gone." Over time, our vehicles flatten the pile they left, and it usually sticks together, increasing in diameter while losing height. I think those piles should be called road tortillas. This description is in line with meadow muffins; both are food items. Makes sense to me.

Some folks may argue that they should be called road frisbees, but I've found that they rarely make even a single flight without spinning apart.

Sunday, May 24

Kinda Chinese-like

As I passed our dining table this morning, the early-morning sunlight lit up a yam that Karla had cut and placed in a bowl because it was starting to sprout. The scene reminded me of far-off exotic mountains in China. Looking out the window behind the plant, I didn’t see soaring jagged peaks, but the gentle mounds provided enough similarity to my Chinese model that it deserved becoming a blog subject. Hey, it’s Sunday morning; I’m relaxed.

I hope you enjoy what I experienced.

Friday, May 22

Chary, not cheery about cherries

How ‘bout that? Three sort-of-rhyming words describe my task of today and yesterday. The word chary means “cautiously or suspiciously reluctant to do something.”

Luke brought us a whole bunch of cherries he picked the day before yesterday. Like gallons of cherries! They are ripe and needed to be handled now. After suffering a thumbnail pain that resulted from doing it all wrong in yesterday’s pitting session, I got back into the job reluctantly today.

This is a wet, messy job that leaves my hands bathed in bright red, bloody looking juice.

Correctly pitting would be fitting. Use a tool, silly fool. Now I'm using a paring knife to circum-cut the cherry, twisting the two halves apart, using the knife to pop out the pit, then dumping the fruit into a cup. When the cup fills, I dump it into a small vacuum-sealable bag, pump the air out, then toss the bags into the freezer to give us time to figure out what to do from there. One possibility is to use the blender and juice them. Another is to dry the fruit in our electric fruit dryer. Right now, Hilary is using the dryer on her stash of cherries.

Bags and bags of ripe cherries!
Luke was buying grass hay from one of our ranch guests, a man who raises sheep, hay, and cherries at his ranch near Clovis. He was given access to at least two acres (0.8 hectare) of trees that were producing double fruit, not acceptable to the commercial market.

Karla took a bunch of them in to her physical therapy session in Oakhurst and got enough smiles to last a whole month from staff and classmates.

I have another several hours of pitting to look forward to. I would much rather keep writing my blog but hey, the reward (delicious ripe cherries!) is calling me away.

Sunday, May 17

Rain Beetle

This morning Karla spotted a bug we call a Rain Beetle. They usually show up around three days before it rains, trotting about with their tail ends raised for all to admire. I know it sounds like an old wives’ tale, but they’re a pretty good predictor of impending rain.

So far this 2014-15 season (July through June) we are a hair shy of a whole foot (30 cm) of rain! The first year that Karla and I lived here in the boonies after moving up from Hollywood, we were surprised by the five feet (1.5 m) we got. The following year, 1981, we got almost that much, and decided to put up a water wheel in one of the nearby creeks to make electricity. (The place was [and still is] off-grid; later we put in solar power instead.) The wheel is big enough for kids to stand inside and run, making it spin and posing the risk of  having an arm torn off if it gets between the spokes and the support posts.

Reminder: Take the water wheel down. Or chain it to its supports. Or fence kids out. Or burn it in place. Or… put it off for another time.

Saturday, May 16

Follow-up on Wealth Distribution blog entry

As time marches on, and the horses no longer occupy our 40 acres, we aren’t getting any new material that needs distribution. Shown here is the distribution tool, now in its time-out mode; it’s no longer in daily use, but merely acting as a shoe.
Once the distributed material is dry,
 it is referred to as Meadow Muffins.

This morning I tossed the tools in the washer, dried them outside in the bright sunlight, and put them on to use as nice clean footwear. A bonus is that now I’ll be allowed to relax after a meal at our favorite restaurant. My way of expressing satisfaction after a particularly good meal is to push my chair back away from the table and put my feet, crossed, on the tabletop, using my fork to pick my teeth. The wait staff often gets upset if I’m wearing my distribution tool, so now that it’s been transformed into a nice clean shoe, their concern is reduced to mere annoyance. They’re always nice to me because I’m a generous tipper.

Friday, May 15

They're outta here!

The horses have been moved back to their proper pasture, the 575-or-so acres to the north of us. They did a bang-up job of mowing the grass on our 40; it is near-gone, and we were getting very close to having to feed costly bales of hay.

They had actually removed the yellow plug. Where'd they get the pliers to do the job?
While here, they did plenty of damage to their water trough, and Luke had to modify the plumbing to thwart the horses’ desire to keep us busy fixing things. On one of our morning walks, I noticed that the pipe holding our address sign was missing its little plug in the end that keeps bugs out. I found it in the dirt below and plugged it back in, wondering at the same time what it is that makes horses so insistent on messing things up. They must be amazingly bored to want to pluck a plug. Prior to that, we rediscovered* that they like the taste of car hoods (or bonnets), and don’t stop at using just their tongues, but put some teeth into it. Hard enough to dent the metal, scrape off the paint clear down to metal, and generally make a mess of things.

Maybe this is their way of saying, “Hey, the grass is almost gone. What does it take to get your attention?” We’ll sorely miss the 30+ munchers now that they’re gone.


*Decades ago, they tasted the paint on Karla's old pickup's hood.

Wednesday, May 13

Wealth distribution

You can regard horse potty as an asset or as a mess to be cleaned up. Our attitude is the former since this stuff is very good for feeding horses. Not directly, but after it has helped grasses to grow on our pastureland.

Prior to distribution

Unfortunately, horses have a tendency to deposit this wealth in a small heap. And all over the place. It’s up to us and dung beetles to do the distributing. (By the way, I saw one dung beetle on this whole 600+ acres (243+ hectares) about 35 years ago. ONE beetle, and it was small.)

After application of distribution procedure

Handy tool shown on right foot


Here is the tool I use for spreading the wealth. It’s always with me, and handily enough it can be worn both indoors and out. It’s self-cleaning, too, especially if I’m lounging on carpet.

Does anyone notice? Or care?

I was reading the San Francisco Chronicle this morning. An article about the city’s cutback on median strip watering claimed, “The city stopped watering the grassy strip to cutback on water consumption.…” Do you see a problem in that sentence? I do. The word cutback should be two words, cut back.

This kind of writing is becoming all too common. Is it a result of ignorance on the part of editors? It certainly shows a lack of education on the part of writers. Should I care? Does any one care? Alright all ready. 

Tuesday, May 12

Close enough for blogging

I took some pictures today with my iPhone camera, and they're okay; at least they're good enough for blogging. I didn't want to repair the little Nikon that died because then I'd be tempted to keep it and maybe even use it to take pictures. The main thing I didn't like about that camera is that it was almost impossible to handle without triggering something. Even picking it up can be annoying because there are some buttons on the back right side that I almost always triggered with the heel of my hand. Additionally the camera peeped too much, scaring off the subjects of my pictures-to-be, which explains why I never showed you whales, dinosaurs, troglodytes or the many other beasts we live with here in the boondocks. Even Martians can hear that blasted peep and poof! Back to the saucer and whoosh! Outta here!

Oh, well….

To explain the headline, what I mean is that the iPhone pictures get the idea across. First, Karla digs some holes and puts in the wire mesh cages that will keep the gophers from attacking the agaves that we grabbed from our old house up the road. Unfortunately two of them had been whacked by the weed eater when reducing the fire hazard near the house. We trimmed off some lower leaves and hope the plants grow fast enough that we can trim off the damage later on.

The western edge of this planted area is about 35 feet (10.6 m) long, and slopes downward for drainage. We will buy some decorative concrete blocks to face the front edge and hold things in place. So the real work is only beginning!

We'll use the road grader to shape the place where the blocks will go. Then find a place for the dug-up dirt, which will probably be the impetus for another project, which will then mean that something else will be needed.…

Monday, May 11

Still around

I haven’t posted in awhile and the reason is that my little Nikon camera died. First, it wouldn’t focus properly when zoomed in, then its exposure system died, overexposing all the shots. I finally tossed it since a two-hundred-dollar camera probably costs three hundred dollars to fix.

I can use my iPhone camera, but not with anywhere near the control I have with a “real” camera. So until I get my ability to post articles with pictures, I shall remain silent.

Friday, May 1

New eye

Yesterday Karla got her left eye’s lens replaced so now she can see with both eyes better than she’s ever seen before. Her vision is now so clear and sharp it surprises me. Today for instance, as we left the doctor's office after her post-op checkup, she was reading way distant street signs that I, whose eyes are still pretty darned good, couldn’t make out.

Later in the day, as she further adjusted to her newfound ability to see so sharp and clear, she kept reading signs in the distance. “Next Exit, Broadway Blvd, Convention Center,” she muttered softly.

“What’s that?” I asked. “Where do you see that?”

"Interstate 670, Kansas City I think,” she answered.


Later that night, we were looking at the near-full moon, musing about its distant mysteries. “When they walked on the … how many Apollo landers did they leave on the moon?” she asked.

“Five, no—six, I think.”

“Hm-m-m,” she said. “I can only see four.”