Category Archives: Christmas

Merry Christmas 

Snow on the west side of the Ranchos de Taos St. Francis Church is in the photograph above–although I am sure everyone recognizes the church. It snowed about five inches this morning. Junipers and piñon hold snow.  The sun will come out and warm us.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Late, Damp Fall Day at the Field

Light rain has fallen in the field. Late fall temperature is 53 degrees, the grass remains green, but most of the pasture has gone into dormancy.  The pecan tree has shed leaves and pecans.

I like the lane shown in the photograph above. Going east on the lane I leave the field, but coming towards me with the camera, I leave behind the traffic on the state highway and enter a different world of green lanes and a tractor that needs its engine turned over.

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High Country Merry Christmas 

img_0723I send you Merry Christmas greetings from Taos, New Mexico, where I am visiting my family.

Snow falls today and Taos Mountain is obscured, yet clouds dash past and the peak emerges in sunlight.

I drove about this morning and Mass was being said at Ranchos de Taos and Old Martina’s Hall beckoned me to come in and warm myself, in time, at the bar again.  I will go again.

Aspens grow high next door.

I split wood and keep the fire burning.  This period of time, December 10 through January 20, is The Time for Staying Still, according to Taos Indian ceremonialism.  Letting the earth renew itself is The Purpose, the reason for staying still.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Renew yourself.

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Merry Christmas from Sage to Meadow!

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I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Rain fell and our reservoir will last (current analysis) until February 15. Enough water fills the cow tank so ducks feed and socialize.

The longhorn painting hangs above my daughter’s fireplace in Lubbock, Texas.

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Filed under Birds, Canvasback, Christmas, Ducks, Redhead Duck

Notes face-down: bipedalism and scanning the savannah

(Contrary to the suggestion proposed by my daughter, Wendy, I will not be making the accompanying photograph in this post my latest profile picture.)

Bipedalism came first, then the large brain among the history of primates.  The upright stance allowed man to scan the savannah, edges of forest and plains, or wherever he had wandered for food and predators.

I haven’t posted since December 27, 2011, mainly because I have had eye problems (really, only the left eye) since December 25th, Christmas morning, and a “Ho, ho, ho,” Christmas gift I desire to return, but can’t!  I woke up that morning with blurred vision caused by a macular hole in my left eye.  This last Tuesday, January 10th, I received a vitrectomy at Arlington Day Surgery Center, under the skilled hands of Dr. David Callanan (Dr. Wu administered the pharmacological agents — much appreciated).

I may still be bipedal, but I have assumed the position of a face-down recovery period lasting five days or more so that I neither can scan the savannah nor see the quacking ducks on my pond.  I cannot have any hard spirits during my ten-day recovery, but that is not as painful as it may seem to some.  I have this nature blog and like to go out into the field, but the only nature I see are house plants, two dogs and trees outside my living room window.  I take a new interest in bugs that infrequently cross the floor.

I took a picture with my iPhone immediately after surgery and this is what I look like.  I spend most of my days face-down in a specially-designed “chair” and a bedside rest for my face that is like those contraptions in massage parlors for your head as you get your massage.  Dr. Callanan predicts a 90-95% recovery of vision in my left eye with another operation for cataracts in about a year (cataracts — Nile River, Egypt). 

So, I will not be hiking the grove or taking photos of juniper any time soon.  Medical technology and habitat adaptations, however, have come a long way since primates first scanned the savannah.  I’m in a safe wikiup, been worked on by medicine men and women, have taken drugs and have nature outside my window.  My hearing and tactile senses are sharpened.  I listen for the Sandhill Crane that may fly overhead.  I brush my canine that barks at strange sounds at the edges of camp.  Although I question that human society has progressed, today with the skills brought to bear in my life I think in some areas we have progressed.

(Note:  please do not show this photo to your children as it may cause nightmares or sleep unrest.  Oh, go ahead, give the little primates a scare and make up a good narrative while you are at it.)

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Merry Christmas!

Electric lantern in central Texas with characteristic star, December 24, 2011.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  In the words of Abraham Lincoln, A fellow is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.  So, in the spirit of a great president who faced reality head-on, let us make up our minds a few times during the day to be merry and happy.  I would be a lot happier if I didn’t have to hear Alvin and the Chipmunks sing Christmas songs, but it is hard to avoid if one goes into the city malls.  Yet, to stay out of the malls means I might not run into my favorite seasonal character, Clark Griswold.  Play ball! 

Merry Christmas!

(I will publishing a post later today about my favorite fauna flora coincident with Christmas and other events in my life: the juniper.) 

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Central Texas Christmas Eve 2011

Circulating around Christmas Eve and coming into Christmas Day, I have taken some photographs that illustrate rural and town life in central Texas.  These photographs were taken near Mingus, Llano and Fredericksburg.  Mingus is the town that is designated on my mailing address, although Hannibal (no longer having a post office) and Gordon are closer to my ranchito.  (The Mingus post office is slated to be closed because of cost-cutting measures.)

My Uncle Floyd and Aunt Lennie had a ranch at Cherokee, near Fredericksburg.  I spent summers and holidays with Floyd and Lennie as a boy and teenager.  My Aunt Lennie prepared chicken-fried steak that was actually a recipe for wienerschnitzel (lightly breaded veal steaks) and serve beets that were purple and sweet and icebox cold.  My cousin, Allan, and I literally begged her to prepare chicken-fried steak.  Little did I know then that she obtained her country cuisine largely from the Fredericksberg German culture.

Christmas variety cookies at Fredericksburg Bakery, December 24, 2011.

The Fredericksburg Bakery has been producing cookies and breads since 1917.

Here is Dooley's Red Angus bull, my neighbor to the west (December 22, 2011).

There is nothing wrong with the drooling Red Angus. He has been feasting on shortgrasses and hay, perhaps a few Christmas cookies.  He’s a very gentle fellow and will amble away when you approach him. The Red Angus breed is noted for its weight-gaining ability. I have considered purchasing some.

Red berries beside Highway 16 near Llano, Texas (December 23, 2011).

These berries look good enough to eat, but don’t! If you see berries or fruits that are red and you don’t know the variety, don’t eat the red!  These berries are not to be mixed into any Christmas recipe for cookies or breads.  Please refer to your favorite cookbook for ingredients in your cookies.

Texas boots on the last shopping day before Christmas (Fredericksburg, Texas, December 24, 2011).

Cottontail rabbit eating spilled grain, December 22, 2011.

I like this pre-Christmas Eve image. I had fed Star before dark and left the light on in the barn and stalls. When I went back down to turn off the lights, I saw this cottontail beneath Star’s feed and hay bin, delicately picking up stray nuggets of Horseman’s Choice 12% feed. I watched the rabbit for five minutes and snapped several shots with my iPhone, the one I include here being the best in low light.  The rabbit probably favors a sweeter fare, like the Purina sweet feed for performance horses.

Heron and squirrel along Baron's Creek in Fredericksburg, Texas, December 24, 2011.

Baron’s Creek runs through Fredericksburg, Texas. I walked along the creek yesterday and today. This afternoon I spotted a heron in the water and framed the heron with the pecan tree on the left of the shot. When I looked at the results, I saw a squirrel in the tree. Do you see the squirrel?  The squirrel had been gathering pecans, the heron waiting for the stray frog or fish.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day.  I hope to have another post about rural and town life in central Texas as well as the flora and fauna.  Be sure to note my attention to juniper on Christmas Day.

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Filed under Birds, Christmas, Fredericksburg Texas, Great Blue Heron

Christmas Eve music in Old California (2011)

This post was published Christmas 2009, 2010.  I have added some photographs to the original for this 2011 Christmas.

Christmas in California before the Americans came [1840s] was a season when all the grown people had as much fun as the children do now.  And the children had so much fun that they never got over it and ever after loved play and presents more than work and hard bargaining….

One Christmas Eve, I remember best, there was a full moon.  Over all the ground there was a glittering frost, just enough to whiten everything, yet not enough to even nip the orange trees which at this season of the year hang full of fruit and blossom both….

We had much music–guitars of the Mexican and Spanish type, made with twelve strings of wire, and mandolins.  After supper there was dancing in the patio, coffee and cigaritos on the veranda, and singing everywhere.  Someone said it was a beautiful night for a horseback ride over the valley to the Mission Santa Clara.  The horses in the corral were soon saddled.  There were twenty-five or thirty of us young men and women.  Our horses were the best of the big herds that were attached to every rancho….The saddles, bridles and spurs were heavily covered with silver bullion ornaments, as in those times we put silver on our horses instead of on our dining tables; for Spaniards…live on horseback, and they eat but to live, instead of living to eat.

Riding out of the patio gate it was like a scene from the time of the Moors in Spain.  As our horses snorted in the cold air they spun the rollers in their bits, making music that only the Spanish horse knows [1].

José Ramon Pico, “Before the Gringo Came,” San Francisco Call, December 1899.

Here are some selections of Spanish music with mandolin and guitar.

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Notes:

[1]  José Ramon Pico, “Before the Gringo Came,” San Francisco Call, December 1899.  From Sam Travers, Christmas in the Old West:  A Historical Scrapbook, pp. 171-174.

Mission Santa Clara Asís established in 1777, was located a few miles south of San Francisco.  This mission and adjacent Indian pueblo eventually grew into Santa Clara and San Jose.  The mission is now located on the campus of  Santa Clara University.

Frank Principe, silversmith from Lindell Beach, British Columbia, writes that many of the old California-type bits, such as the Santa Barbara, were designed with Islamic religious symbols.  The symbols included seven buttons, half moons, and starts.  This is traceable to Moorish occupation of Spain until the 1490s, the Cortez expedition to Mexico, and other adventures.  He writes, “For the last one hundred years or so most North American bit makers have been using these designs without realizing their historical significance.”

Sweet Hija (Spanish for “daughter”), my black mare, has King Ranch breeding.  Even today, King Ranch provides ranch horses for Mexican ranches.  Of all my horses, Sweet Hija is the fastest and most energetic.  After saddling Hija, I must run her about the round pen to work off her energy before she is ridden.  She is the most alert and sensitive to her surroundings, spotting deer a half a mile away.  I have to use binoculars to see what she sees.

Spanish Mustang Research Facility.

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Luminaria Christmas

 

Farolitos

Lights wrapped around tree with mobile art piece.

 

Rios Woodyard luminaria.

Christmas in Santa Fe includes the traditional farolito stroll after dark along Canyon Road, the artistic thoroughfare that delights the eye.  The luminaria is the wood fire.  Farolitos are candles within paper sacks that light up the edges of sidewalks and walls along Canyon Road.  For up-to-date information, consult the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper’s Christmas Day edition.

New Mexican Christmas celebrations rival Italy and Germany.  Alessio Franceschetti, a very good friend of mine, sent me a montage of Christmas scenes in Italy.  Do look at it:  Natale in Italia 2010.  This montage is moving and beautiful.  Thank you, Alessio.

 

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Holiday wishes from Sage to Meadow and field notes

Shiney galloping to the corral during winter. No fear of the sun disappearing here.

A holiday greeting…

The sun in the northern hemisphere is at its lowest points this time of the year.  I do not think ancient and prehistoric people feared the sun would continue to sink towards the south and disappear forever — at least in southern latitudes of the northern hemisphere.  There was and is sufficient overlap of folk knowledge and tribal elder history to instruct the young and anxious that nature’s cycle continues her circle of cold to warm to hot, hot to warm to cold.

Christmas Eve and Day are here.  I wish each of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Update on Lilly and Star…

Lilly, our oldest mare, is holding her own at 25 years of age.  She moves between the Well House Corral and the pasture, indicating a good level of energy and health.  Her feed consists of all the alfalfa she wants, Equine Senior Purina grain and 1 – 2 grams of bute (painkiller for horses) a day.  To husband animals rewards the steward: nickers and whinnies of recognition and impatience, warmth of animal in cold weather, riding for fun (both rider and horse can enjoy if accomplished properly) and work, and the sheer companionship and friendship of the horse.  One of my pleasures of having horses is hiking in the woods and having Star follow me like a hiking friend.  Star will go up and down creek bank, push aside brush to continue the hike and rest with me beside a fallen log.  If I wish to walk alone, I have to close the gate to the woods.  Most of the time, I want him with me.

Star is confined to the first corral.  He is overweight and feed intake must be limited.  He has all the coastal bermuda hay he can eat and some painkiller for his front legs.  His confinement lasts one week.  I have had to separate him from Lilly since she has alfalfa, he must have coastal.  Star is not pleased, but he adjusts.

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A field post about bird songs on winter mornings…

December 16, 2010, 7:05 a.m.

Within the last two weeks I have noted birds about the barn and stables sing profusely only in the morning during the winter and are relatively quiet for the rest of the day.  I have not spent the day about the barn and stables to confirm unequivocally this observation (I’ll probably regret having brought this up in the first place), but it seems a sound observation.  During the day when I do chores and in the evening when I feed the horses and spend a hour or so in the barn area, I hear no birds or few birds.  In the morning, birds chatter and tweet, but do not break into long melodious fugues.

Our small ranch is located in North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.  Mesquite trees, live oak trees, elm and underbrush comprise the habitat for birds.

Among singing birds I see in the morning are redbird (just tweets), titmouse, chickadee, wrentit, wren, red-headed woodpecker, white-crowned sparrow, house sparrow, dove and a couple of other species I have yet to identify.  They browse in trees, on the ground and in the underbrush.  If I remain motionless in the corral after disturbing them, they resume their chattering and calls in a few minutes.  When the sun reaches a point in the sky at approximately 10:00 a.m. or so, songs and calls diminish.  I see birds for the remainder of the day, though not quite as frequent as the first two or three hours in the morning.  I hear during the day the quacks of ducks on stock ponds and crows on the fly.

7:35 a.m.

I have returned from the barn and stable area and this post is taking a curious turn.

A cold front moved in last night and the temperature is 40 deg. F.  The sun is not shining and clouds completely obscure the sky.  On point, birds are quiet, not even a peep, casting a different observation and bringing to light variables I had not considered: temperature, sunshine, clouds.

With the temperature in the 40s and no sunshine, I hear no birds.

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Filed under Christmas, Flying Hat Ranch, Horses