Monthly Archives: March 2010

Greening of Flying Hat and The Grand Inquisitor

Spring Afternoon, Poprock Hill Looking South, March 31, 2010 (click to enlarge)

Flying Hat Ranchito bursts with grass and flowers this late afternoon in March.  With snowfall this winter, greater amounts of nutrients lobbed onto tiny snowflakes already formed around dust particles, so that natural fertilizer fell from the sky — snow and sleet, not Monsanto.  The grass appears greener, more vibrant.  Certainly, an abundance of flowers bloom that we’ve not seen since homesteading in 2003.

The springing to life, lately dormant, continues in The Grove, and I want to go down there and take photographs — mine are more documentary than artful, but so? — for you and my record. There are willow trees and wild Mustang grapes in The Grove.  A large oak tree that we have dubbed The Council Tree will surely have shade so that we can spread a red-checkered tablecloth on the tailgate of the pickup and have a sandwich and wine or beer.  Definitely, spring in Texas.

Desdemona Windfarm in Distance, March 31, 2010 (click to enlarge)

Desdemona Windfarm in Distance, March 31, 2010 (click to enlarge)

In this second photograph, you see the greening of the trees to the southwest.  If you enlarge the photograph, you can see the Desdemona windfarm of British Petroleum beyond the ridgeline in the distance.  Those windmills are approximately twenty (20) miles or more from us.  I have yet to look upon the windmills and be calmed.  Not that technology should be calming, but the monumental size of these windmills evokes a slight fear, a fever, as it were.   I am glad, however, that the wind is collected and that diminishes our dependence on finite resources.  In a sense, there is a greening in our region along with the greening Flying Hat.

Then comes “The Grand Inquisitor,” chapter five of Book Five: Pro and Contra, The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky.  Shortly before turning out the light to go to sleep two nights ago, I mentioned to Brenda that I was going to read one more chapter of The Brothers Karamazov.  The book is not light reading, I knew that.  But, I wasn’t prepared for “The Grand Inquisitor,” for god’s sake, and I’m not trying to be punny.  The sheer length of paragraphs in that chapter overwhelmed me, not to mention the nuances of religion so stretched out that I thought, You can’t wring anymore out of “bread” than what you have already done, Fyodor!  But he did.   My bed lamp did not go out as quickly as I had hoped.  I finished the chapter and have reread it.  Why, you may ask, am I reading The Brothers Karamazov?  First, I want to read the 100 best pieces of literature ever written.  That’s why.  (There are several lists of the “best and greatest.”  I’ll post the lists eventually.)  The Brothers Karamazov is considered one of the greatest compositions.  The second reason is that I am curious about what makes great literature, the writing of a person that brings you into their inner world of comprehension.

There is a lot of idiocy and mindless rant on television, the internet and in the newspapers.  So, in order to bring a sensibility of order and art to my world out here in west Texas, along with my horses and land, I read good things and I think about those things — even the Grand Inquisitor — as I work with horses, unload hay and plant native grass seed in the soil.  I intend to wear out, not rust out, in this great land of ours, the idiocies of the day notwithstanding.  We all need to continue to green in some way, even if it means reading “The Grand Inquisitor” before turning out the lamp.  Do choose another chapter, however.


Filed under Recollections 1990-

Field Log 3/28/2010

North Erath County, Texas, 32.43 lat., -98.36 long. Elev. 1,086 ft.  Turkey Creek Quad.

The wind continues to blow today, approx. 15-25 m.p.h.   Yesterday, the wind was so strong it blew the mistletoe off the trees.  That’s gotta be high wind.

Yesterday, looked at Cooper’s in Stephenville for hackamore.  No good choices.  Too much metal.  Duncan Steele-Park used soft rope, no metal for the hackamore.

Fanny adjusting back to the ranch, but the colt down in the arena is having a hissy-fit to get close to her.  Shiney the colt is all-boy.  He’s eleven-months old, doesn’t know what his body is all about right now, but he will.  We mature males and females went through this period, I think — puberty.

Today, let Fanny, Hija and Lilly into pasture.  Shiney runs around the arena trying to attract Fanny’s attention.  Shiney is a full-brother to Fanny (same sire, same dam).  He calms down, then I put the mares into the Broke Tree Corral and stall area.  They seem relieved to get away from the peppy little guy that just wants to play.

Evening feed, two-hours ago, they all settled in.  Calm, for awhile.

Buttercup (Oenothera triloba Nutt), Poprock Ranch House, March 2010 (click to enlarge)

I searched for genus and species typing for the wildflower above.  Found it in Irwin and Wills, Roadside Flowers of Texas, that I have cited before.  These blossoms open in the morning and in the later afternoon shade.  The plant falls under the Evening-Primrose Family (Onagraceae).  Brenda first called it an evening-shade plant and she was correct.

This next blossom is from the same vicinity of the Buttercup.  This is the Wild Onion (Allium mobilense) that I found this morning.  I go out for the third time to the Poprock Ranch House grounds, to the southwest, prior to the barn, and I find this Wild Onion.  It is next to the fence line and the morning sun is rising fast.  Don’t want to lose the shadow for this framing.

Prickly Pear Cactus and Wild Onion (Allium mobilense), March 2010 (click to enlarge)

Then, upon scanning the ground, I find these other wildflowers.  I will identify them later, but I thought to end the weekend, I’ll go ahead and post them.

Unknown No. 1, Poprock Hill Ranch House Grounds, March 2010 (click to enlarge)

Unknown No. 2, Poprock Hill Ranch House Grounds, March 2010 (click to enlarge)

Unknown No. 2, Close-up, Poprock Hill Ranch House Grounds, March 2010 (click to enlarge)

This is a close-up view of the previous wildflower, having a distinctive scent.

Wind has died down.

Neighbors across on the country road that live in the trailer house have moved.  I liked the family.  Young woman with child.  She wrote letters and lifted up the red flag on the rural mailbox so that Jeannie Chisolm, our mail carrier and caretaker, could take the letters to friends far and wide.  Sometimes both our red flags for Jeannie would be up and I felt close to the family across the country road.


Filed under Field Log, Plants and Shrubs

Taos Sunflower: When The Simple Life Isn’t

A really great post on being on and off and on the electrical grid in Taos, New Mexico.  Personal comments on solar panels, batteries, washing, refrigeration and a husband who happens to be an electrical engineer.

Martie (Taos Sunflower) evokes the contradictions we all live with in trying to be frugal, green and sustainable.

Taos Sunflower: When the simple life isn’t.


Filed under Taos

Fanny Returns

Shiners Fannin Peppy and Jack Matthews, GCH Land & Cattle Co., March 2010 (click to enlarge)

Shiners Fannin Peppy, “Fanny,” came back to Flying Hat yesterday.  At the hands of Duncan Steele-Park, her teacher, she has had three months of the best training I could afford.  Fanny will be a excellent pleasure horse, a fair cutter and all-around riding horse.  Duncan assessed Fanny:  She’s a good horse, but in this high-dollar business of cutting horses, she could not compete at the super-athlete level that is required to succeed.  I’m not a swimmer, either, he said, and I and you, Jack, have to play to her talents, to her disposition and behavior.  It’s unfair to force her into being the athlete she is not.

I could not have asked for a better teacher for my horse.  Let her be herself, play to her strengths.  Fanny came back home and was welcomed by the remuda: they kicked and ran and whinnied, communicating excitement.  I’ll have more photographs about Fanny, but for now, you’ll have to settle for the photograph above: myself, my companion.


Filed under Duncan Steele-Park, Horses, Shiners Fannin Peppy (Fanny)

It’s Recess! Coggin Ward 1955

Dale Smith Hitting Home Run, Coggin Ward, Brownwood, Texas, 1955 (click to enlarge)

In the 1950s, when I went to elementary school at Coggin Ward in Brownwood, Texas, we had two recesses, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  The op-ed article from the New York Times today (see link below) decries the lack of playtime in childhood and the problems encountered at recess — bullying, arguing, intimidation — so much so, that recess coaches have been appointed for troubled schools and playgrounds.  “For children in past eras, participating in the culture of childhood was a socializing process. They learned to settle their own quarrels, to make and break their own rules, and to respect the rights of others. They learned that friends could be mean as well as kind, and that life was not always fair”, so writes David Elkind.

I loved recess at Coggin!  Not so much to escape academics because I loved most of my classes, but I engaged recess like a high form of testing my strength against my weaknesses — running, jumping, kicking soccer balls, escaping from tag, hitting the baseball, even playing mumblepeg on school grounds (pocketknife game, we all carried them).

I used a 620 Kodak camera to take these pictures of us playing baseball in ca. March 1955, at Coggin Ward school.   (Mother used the Kodak to capture pictures of Camp Bowie and my father in the 1940s.)  Dale Smith was a good friend of mine and quite talented in athletics.

These photographs show no recess coaches.  I think there were a couple of teachers observing from the building, but they were never interventionists in our play and gaming unless a major squabble broke out (I don’t remember any).  We chose sides to play baseball.  There was some organization every now and then — calesthentics were occasionally forced upon us.  In the choosing of sides, athletic ability carried the most importance, then popularity.  Even the poorest-talented boy would be chosen to play for there was no sulking allowed we ordered.  I learned that life was not always fair and good, but most of the time the shame and failure could be overcome by coming up to bat again, having another chance for a hit to drive in Henley from second base.   There was always another chance at the plate, and, even then, there was tomorrow’s recess to score a point to win the game.

Television, computer games and other devices have robbed children and adolescents of time outside in the sun and wind and rain.  Look at the trees in the photographs.  It’s late winter, early spring and the leaves are not even out on the trees.  I can tell you that we would play at recess as long as the dust did not obscure second base from homeplate.  We learned to play and adapt to each other.  Oh, these were “social skill sets” that we carried into life beyond Coggin, beyond Brownwood High School.  It may be strange for us of the 1940s and 1950s to visualize a recess coach on the playground, but if that is needed to get boys and girls, young men and women, out of boxes called classrooms and houses, then so be it.  I think I’ll apply to be a recess coach in my retirement.  I’d rather be on the playground than behind a lectern on any sunny day of the year.

Choose sides, boys!  I want Dale, Joe and Jimmy on my side.  Carol will lead the cheers.  It won’t turn out that way, but that’s life, a lesson I learned at recess.

Dale Smith Sliding Into Homeplate, Coggin Ward, Brownwood, Texas, 1955 (click to enlarge)

Baseball Card Photo, Dale Smith, Coggin Ward, Brownwood, Texas, 1955 (click to enlarge)

Op-Ed Contributor – At Schools, Playtime Is Over –  This is the link to the New York Times article explaining the socialization problems of modern youth.


Filed under Recollections 1942-1966

Gunnison Sage-grouse: Newly Designated Species

Gunnison Sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus), Western State College of Colorado Website

Click on the link below for breed characteristics, description of habitat and directions to the Waunita Lek Watchable Wildlife Site near Gunnison, Colorado.  The viewing is only April 2-May 10.

Gunnison Sage-grouse — Western State College of Colorado — for breed characteristics and habitat.

Waunita Lek Viewing site for Gunnison Sage-grouse courting rituals — you must arrive before sundown and have a Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp.

I never knew what a lek was until I read up on the grouse.  A lek is a breeding area, a place that males display their feathers, wing beats and air sac thumping — quite similar to teenage rituals at a high school dance.


Filed under Birds

Field Log 3/25/2010

North Erath County, Texas, 32.43 lat., -98.36 long. Elev. 1,086 ft.  Turkey Creek Quad.

Rain yesterday, 0.90 inches.  Cannot work field, too wet to plow (literally, folks).

Bow hunter died this morning.  My colleague at college, David Kanady, passed away.  Forty-ish.

He taught British literature at a juco place — oh, the bowels of  pedagogy.  David would walk the hall to  invigorate himself to teach.  He saw teaching as an opportunity, not a preparation.  But, a bow hunter died this morning.  That’s what I want to write about, that’s his legacy.  A bow hunter: giving the animal a chance.   He missed his shot.  He ate what he killed.  Traveled to Wyoming, followed the herd, and took his shot.  I know it was part vain, but  he shot with honor, giving life a chance.  He was appointed on a contract to teach at a juco place, $24,000.00 a year.  Hey, but you get benefits!   He gave the antelope a chance, then he dressed it, and brought the meat to the table of his parents, an only child he was.  He missed shots.  Bow and arrow.   David hunted parttime, respected nature always.  RIP, David.

Lilly settle in to her stall.  Hija adjusts to corral again.  Oh, she is a peppy girl — see her pedigree.

Called Duncan Steele-Park.  Will pick up Fanny tomorrow.

The Origin of Urantia by Dipti Bhakti


Filed under Duncan Steele-Park, Field Log, Shiners Fannin Peppy (Fanny)

Logo of Grrl Scientist

I have discovered in the last few days, two striking logos, artful and intriguing.  I posted The Conelo Project logo yesterday.  Here is another artful logo from Grrl Scientist, Living the Scientific Life, and her other blog, Maniraptora: Tastes Like Chicken Blog.

GrrlScientist Image on About Page (artist unknown)

Grrl Scientist’s logo picture of herself is a parrot, inserted on her blog site.  I am always intrigued as to self-portrait selections, logo appointments and gravatars.  My gravatar is Evangeline Chavez’s photograph of buffalo stampeding through the snow at Sandia Pueblo.  If I parse out the personal-emotive rationale for using award-winning Chavez’s photograph (with permission), it is this:

Motion, winter, symbol of the West (bison), vigor, nature, white and brown, buffalo hair, undomesticated, untamed, consequence of over cropping, revitalization, reestablishment of wilderness virtues, ghost and present animation, return of the repressed.

Buffalo and Snow, Sandia, Evangeline Chavez


Filed under Life in Balance

Canelo, Arizona, Natural Color Palette

Color Palette of Bill and Athena Steen, Canelo, Arizona (courtesy Caralee Woods)

This is a color palette on the door of a storage shed of clay samples owned by Bill and Athena Steen, Canelo, Arizona.   The Steens are teachers of building straw bale homes.  In addition, they work with clay and lime native to the Southwest in their building projects.  Their goal is to connect culture, people and nature.

“The Canelo Project is a small non-profit organization founded in 1989. We are dedicated to the exploration and development of living systems, including growing food and building that creates friendship, beauty and simplicity.

We are known primarily for our work in Strawbale and other Natural Building techniques.” — Bill and Athena Steen, Canelo Project.

Conelo Project Logo

This is the beautiful logo of the Canelo Project, illustrative, I think, of their mission and purpose.

For more information, please click on the website, The Conelo Project, and Bill Steen’s blog,  The Canelo Chronicles.

Thanks to Caralee Woods for this information.

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Filed under Natural Colors

The Natural Colors of Caralee Woods

Caralee Woods and Jimmy Henley live near Kanab, Utah.  They are building a straw bale compound on their place and have committed themselves to a minimum footprint on the land.  With solar panel, water well and environmentally-green construction, Caralee and Jimmy portray the best application of technology, science and ethics to minimize humanity’s impact on the planet.  They are truly off the grid — literally.  You can see their efforts over the past few years by clicking on their website Building a Straw Bale House. When I posted the piece from Bioephemera Blog this morning concerning the ca. 1686, natural colors, Caralee commented with the email below and provided a photograph of how she and Jimmy artfully and craftily shaped balls of colors from the Utah countryside as a result of finding natural clays for their plastering.  I think what she and Jimmy have created is not only an application for their home, but pieces of art that I wish to possess and place as a centerpiece upon my table.

“This is so interesting to me. One of the first things we did here is start looking for natural clay. We had plenty of the terra-cotta colored stuff here on the land for the earthen plaster, but what about the clay paint and finishing plaster for the interior? We drove around for a long time with a bucket and small shovel in the trunk so we could stop and take samples of the wonderful variety of Mother Earth’s colors when we saw something we liked. I would go home, sieve the clay, mix it with some water, and make clay balls that I then polished (I won’t bother you with this process here) to see what we had. The picture below is just a small sampling of the results; I’ve added many since.  There are no more beautiful, soothing colors anywhere in the world than what is produced naturally.”  –Caralee Woods to Jack Matthews, March 24, 2010.

Art of Caralee Woods, Natural Clay Balls, Utah


Filed under Life in Balance, Natural Colors