Sunday, June 28

Thanks, guys

Karla is brushing Little Bear’s tail. She already did Mick’s, and will finish off by giving both horses a complete brush-down. This happens every morning, usually around sunrise before it starts getting hot.

These two horses are staying on our 40 acres, while another six or so are up the hill on the 525 acres foraging for themselves on this year’s abundant wild grasses and forbs. (Ooh—forbs. betcha didn’t know that term, eh? Stick around and you just may learn a thing or two.)

All the rest of the horses are in the high country where the grasses are still green on the meadows. These two horses are being given their time off for good behavior. They hauled lots of gear and guests at the Muir Trail Ranch during their careers, and deserve the very best care and loving attention to their needs till they pass away. We treat all our horses and mules that way—it’s only fair.

Oh Me Oh My

Way back in the early 1960s I was driving my Austin Healy Sprite, with the top down, in downtown Fresno. The radio was on, and at the top of the hour they announced that the temperature was a record—110° in downtown! That’s 43,3° Celsius for those Down Under and Across the Pond. And, by the way, just about everywhere else!

So the accompanying picture here isn’t too spectacular in the light of history, but I thought since it brought back a flood of memories I would share with you. Wait till July and August when it really starts to get hot around here. More to come, I’m sure.

Tuesday, June 23

Who needs these tags?

Yesterday we bought four new washcloths and face towels. Nice price at Costco, and very good quality. One thing I don’t like about the towels though—the stupid tags.

Tags are stiff no matter how many times you wash them. They’re too big also, about the size of a matchbook, and thick because they’re folded over. Everything you don’t want to know about a washcloth is outlined on the back of the tag, like—

Wash before use. Duh. I always wash before use.
Machine wash warm, normal cycle. Good grief, who doesn’t know that?
Tumble dry low. Of course!
Use detergent without optical brightening agents. So what’s my recourse? Use aural brightening agents?
Avoid fabric softeners. I like the rough feeling of a towel and a washcloth anyway.
Wash dark colors separately. Hey, people, these things are white!
Do not bleach. What?—and leave them dingy-looking?
And finally, Do not dry clean. Oh sure—like I’m going to take these in with my tuxedoes and gowns? And all those instructions are in three languages!

I’m sure they could have included more caveats, like Do not eat, Do not toss out of the car if on fire, Do not try to bring to life using magic incantations unless you are really really lonely.

Oh well, I carefully clipped the tags off as close as I could without cutting the fabric. I halfways hope I can find a use for them.

Friday, June 19

It’s that time again….

Once more it’s time to get nervous when we go to bed. We may awaken to this scene, only a little more intense.
Low smoke starts to fill our valley.

This smoke is from a fire in nearby Oakhurst. The fire is moving away from us, into the National Forest. Currently at 300 acres (120 hectares), it is expected to grow much more due to its location, an area where firefighting is not very easy. Around here there is not even a breeze, so that helps.

If you’re curious, you can check The Fresno Bee for updates. They are often a day late in reporting out-of-town news, but you’ll get some idea of what’s going on. They’re at

Thursday, June 18

Good grief! Wotta leaf!

"Normal" leaf
We bought a bunch of citrus trees a few months ago and put them in plant containers on our south-facing deck. They are doing well and will probably have to be planted in the ground before too long. One of them, the Star Ruby Grapefruit, is behaving oddly. Its latest burst of growth has produced some leaves that we would expect to find in a tropical jungle, not the hot dry Central Valley of California. Some of the new leaves are at least five times larger than the plant’s original leaves, so I was pondering the possible cause.  Could it be—

• Higher elevation—we’re about 1,000 feet (300 m) higher than Fresno where we bought the tree
• Higher latitude—we’re at a position that’s directly east of San Jose where growth is rampant
• Gentle loving care—not some slave’s dull boring job
• Deep-well water—pumped by nice clean solar power, too
• Alien super-growth vitamins shot from a passing saucer craft on a moonless night

I like the last one. Besides, it sounds more plausible than any of the rest.

Tuesday, June 16

Lose it and you die?

Yesterday Karla and I dropped by our doctor’s office to buy some more nutritional stuff, mostly vitamins, and decided to get a vitamin B-12 shot. We would like to get one every week since they make us feel like we've shed maybe two decades off our age, but we don’t always have the time (or the money — $50 for the two of us). But when we do it, we are amply rewarded by renewed vigor, stamina, overall well-being, youthfulness, brilliance and holiness. I guess that’s worth fifty bucks after all.

While we sat in the little room waiting for the nurse to come in with the needles, Karla read the poster shown here and said, “You know, you could take that headline two ways, no?”

Yes you could. Does your life depend on weight? Lose it and you die? Probably not. We are always twisting meanings around for amusement. I nearly always comment on the little signs along highways that appear after we’ve driven through a construction zone. They say “END ROAD WORK” to which I say “Dang right. I’m tired of road work!”

Saturday, June 13

While you’re cleaning it, you own it

I was giving a nice hard steel-wool-pad scrubbing to the stainless sink in the kitchen. Karla was messing around with the stuff that would soon become breakfast when she spilled something on the countertop. She used a rag to wipe up the spill, then came over to the sink to rinse it, saying, “I don’t mean to mess up your sink.”

I thought for a few seconds and replied, “When you’re cleaning it, you own it….” It was my sink while I was cleaning it. When I’m finished, it’s our sink or simply the sink. I wonder how that turn of phrase came about.

Tuesday, June 9

Just thought you'd like to know

Yesterday I went to my dentist in Mariposa to get the permanent cap on my newly-repaired upper left lateral incisor (look it up; I don’t have a picture). It was a fittingly simple procedure compared to the whole root-canal thing (just shy of $1,000) and the sculpting of a tooth and the temporary cap (another grand!). Holy cow. Teeth get really expensive.

Anyhow, the whole reason for this blog entry is to report on the fuel mileage I’m getting from the Plug-In Prius. I can go quite a distance on stored-up battery power before the engine kicks on, and I nursed it to reach a point I’ve tried to get to on previous trips. Remember, this is an almost-hour-long trip, and only a bit of it is on level ground; it’s all mountains. When I parked the car at the dentist’s office, I checked the mileage.

98 MPG! (42 km/l) I should get a medal.

Sunday, June 7


Perhaps the writer should be commmitted instead.

Horse feed or wildfire fuel?

It can feed two things: 1. Horses, or 2. Wildfire
What a contrast! On our side of the fence the grass is munched down to almost nothing. On our neighbor’s side it gets up to four feet (1.2 m) high. Something must have gone wrong because our neighbor has probably 60 horses on his place versus barely more than 30 on our side. Trouble is, his place is divided into many sections by fencing and some of the gates must be closed, keeping the horses away from this lush feed.

Last fall a friend of ours, John, was lamenting the fact that drought had left him with almost no feed on his eight hundred or so acres. Our neighbor Bob owns probably near a thousand acres (400 hectares) and wanted to clear off the grass for protection from wildfire. We got the two men together and they worked out the current plan for grazing. But nobody told either of them that we want protection too! A fire right next door is way too close for comfort.

Oh well. Maybe next year.

Monday, June 1

Dyson, Dump. Made for each other

Three holes at the picture's top used to have rollers in them.
It was the last straw—Karla couldn’t release the latch that holds the waste cup on our Dyson vacuum cleaner. Over time, lots of parts of this beast were getting less effective and more difficult to deal with. From the first time we used it, I noticed that the entire power cord got warm. That means it was either too long or was made with too-small wire. As time went on, we constantly had to tweak things. Mostly parts were getting loose or not fitting well. One part that held a filter kept working loose, and the machine would lose suction. As we were vacuuming the floor, it would stop picking up dirt so we would stop and slam some other loose part back in place. Early on the machine lost some tiny rollers near the brush; where there were five, now there is one. As a result, the entire base of the machine scraped along the floor instead of rolling. A hinge pin broke so when we popped open the door at the bottom of the waste bin, the entire door fell off. Its hinge was made of the tiniest plastic bumplets; any engineer would tell you that it was designed for a very limited lifetime, even with the gentlest use.

I felt a great rush of satisfaction when finally I took the entire machine out the back door, raised it over my head and threw it forcefully onto the ground from the landing. It took almost five minutes to find and pick up all the brittle blue pieces of plastic that had flown up to 10 feet (3 m) in all directions, but that was a small price to pay. It’s off to the dump with this way-overpriced piece of junk, and I get to toss it one more time into the giant maw of the crusher.