Tag Archives: Outdoors

Xeriscaping

Your Guide to Planning Drought Friendly Landscaping

By Mary Sauer

[I now have a house in the city and may apply these techniques to the landscape.  I still have 29 acres of farmland and pasture near Mingus, Texas.  Check out the links to this company.  Full disclosure:  I am not getting any monetary compensation from re-publishing Mary Sauer’s article.  I find it helpful in saving water and, as Frank Waters wrote, “living with the land” respectfully.]

When you live in an area prone to droughts, the decisions you make regarding your landscaping can either promote water conservation and sustainable living or they can promote water waste. Specific areas of the country experience months of dry weather, with very little rain providing natural hydration for lawns and landscaping elements. The good news is, there are plenty of attractive and ecologically responsible landscaping options that are perfect for areas prone to droughts.

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Alternatives to Lawns of Green

One of the biggest challenges faced in areas that experience droughts is finding an alternative to lawns comprised largely of grass. Green lawns require a large amount of water on a daily basis. In some areas of the country, city governments are placing strict regulations on the amount of space that can be occupied by grass in hopes of lessening water waste and promoting more sustainable landscaping.

Xeriscaping is a popular landscaping practice that completely eliminates landscaping elements that require water beyond what their environment naturally provides. These options include the use of stones, ornamental grass, native flowers, succulents, and plants with a reputation for surviving with very little maintenance.

When it comes to landscaping, stones are as drought friendly as it gets. Obviously, stones require no water. With the countless shape, color, and size options occurring in nature, it is easy to create a beautiful and visually interesting space. Additionally, with a little research, you should be able to find stones that have been harvested with minimal negative impact on their environment.

Certain flowers and plants need very little water to thrive in areas prone to drought. The simplest place to start is with flowers that occur naturally in your region. Native flowers will thrive, even during a drought, and won’t require you to indulge in wasteful water use habits to keep them alive. One of our favorites is the Lewisia Cotyledon, or Sunset Strain, a dainty, pink flower with evergreen foliage that is native to California and Oregon. Certain ornamental grasses also do very well during droughts, and many are larger enough to take the place of thirsty shrubs. Lastly, succulents actually do best with just a small amount of water, and are ideal for use in areas that regularly deal with droughts.

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Use Grey Water to Hydrate Your Landscaping

If you do have certain elements in your landscaping that require regular hydrating, there are alternative methods for watering that are less wasteful. Grey water is any water that you are already using during your day-to-day life that you are reusing a second time. Consider catching the water used while showering, washing dishes, or doing laundry and reusing it to water your lawn.

 At Modernize, we are passionate about empowering homeowners like you to find beautiful yet sustainable ways to create a home that truly captures your personality and meets your needs. Just because you live in a region that receives very little rain doesn’t mean you have to give up on having a beautiful lawn—by using these tips, your new landscaping will be more unique and exotic than ever before!

 

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Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Life in Balance, Plants and Shrubs

Winter lingers

In the late fall, my whole front field appeared as snow with these flowers.

In the late fall, my whole front field appeared as snow with these flowers.

Winter lingers in north Erath County, Texas.  Grasses remain brown, although buffalo grass emerges through dead grass of the late fall freeze.  My paint gelding, Star, has lost weight and his laminitis has remitted completely.

New neighbors, the Stroebels, have moved onto the land to the southeast.  The husband is an English teacher.  The wife is an engineer, originally from eastern Europe.  At the first instance, I like them.  They purchased the five acres mainly for the new stone house.

By my stated goal a few months ago, I have only a month or so before my photographing all flowers on my place comes to an end.  I know I have missed some flowers over the last eleven months, but I think I have captured many.  Some flowers, like the wine cup, did not unfold last spring so they fell outside my range, but not my thoughts.

 

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Well, I declare!

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Well, I declare!

I open the valve on the far-field water trough and I nonchalantly look around the ground, thinking, There are no new wildflowers about.

I am wrong.  I see three new wild flowers.

Well, I declare, my Aunt Lennie used to say.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

Mandala56 posted this comment: ‘What’s that blue one called? When I was a kid we called it “elephant’s ears”.’  I replied that I did not know — yet.  I was in the field when I published the post.

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Filed under Flowers of Flying Hat, Wild Flowers of Texas

Cloud portal to the coast

Thundershowers on either side of Interstate 20 west of Cisco, Texas, May 2012

Last Friday, May 11, 2012, I drove to Abilene for commencement at Cisco College where I instruct.  West of Cisco, on Interstate 20, I saw this cloud portal — at least that is what I call it.  I sped between the two thundershowers.  A few drops fell on my car.  The first couple of weeks in May is a time of showers and cool temperatures in west Texas.  That is not always true, for this time last year, I was busy writing about wildfires in my area.

I have a friend at Cisco College that teaches English and he traveled to the Oregon coast last year, staying near Seal Rock and Newport, soaking in cool temperatures and consuming seafood and local white wines.  He talks about moving to Oregon, selling his ranch and settling in the cooler climes.  I think about the higher altitudes of northern New Mexico around Truchas and Taos that have sharp winters and cool nights during the summer.

We both will probably stay put: he in Santa Anna, me in Mingus, for there are mild winters and days in May where thundershowers bring out the Cut-leaf Daisy, Fire Whorls, Queen Anne’s Lace, Purple Dandelions in brilliant colors while horses and cattle graze in lush Spring fields of gramma and bluestem.  I should like, however, to go to the Newport and Depoe Bay area of Oregon where my friend says, ‘There is a resident pod of whales for ten months out of the year about the coast.  You can see them surface and dive, surface and dive.’

I want to see that scene some day.  The cloud portal in the photograph above opens to the west, towards the Pacific, towards the whale.  And away from home.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

Depoe Bay was added as an additional site my friend visited.  It is a central location for beautiful scenery and whales.  The boating outing in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ was filmed in the area.

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Filed under Adventure, Rain, Taos, Weather, Wildfire

The 2011 Prairie Sagebrush Awards for blogging

The Prairie Sagebrush Award 2011 is given for fine writing, photography and art in the blogosphere.  From my blogroll, I select a post, photograph or art piece from 2010-2011, early 2012.   For each comment that is entered on this ‘The 2011 Prairie Sagebrush Awards for blogging’ post, I will donate a buck ($1.00) to a wildlife corridor in Texas or New Mexico.  I set a limit of $100.00 — not that I am going to have more than fifty comments, but who knows?

I have excerpted portions of these fine writings and art into my post in respect for their blogs and copyright.  Please click on the links to obtain the full text of these really fine bloggers.

Please feel free to copy the Prairie Sagebrush Award 2011 design-image and put it on your blog to link back to this post or to one of the blogs below.  (No, I’m not trying to pump up my numbers, just trying to illustrate the high quality of work performed on blogosphere.)

[Wild Bill, Wild Ramblings blog, ‘Conifer Encounter.’…On the way back I asked him, and this was one of the few times I had spoken, how he knew so much about the woods. He answered that he was a biology professor at Springfield College, but had grown up in the pine barrens in New Jersey. He surmised that most of his knowledge he had learned as a boy wandering those Mid-Atlantic swamps, coupled with reading a lot of books about nature. And then he laughed out loud, almost in a boisterous way. “And once I met an old man in the woods,” he declared, and he laughed again, this time even more loudly….

[Grethe, Thyra blog, ‘Goodbye to King Winter.…The next week-end was foggy and raw and the sun seemed so far, far away. It was nice to see that the people at the restaurant of  Skovmøllen (the old Water Mill-restaurant) saw to that the little birds were fed with Danish bread and fat-bowls. There was also morning bread with cinnamon and the birds seemed to like it!  Notice the little blue tit. It is so ruffled. I hope it will cope….

[Photograph: Montucky, Montana Outdoors blog, ‘A visit to an old painting.]

Montucky, 'A visit to an old painting,' January 24, 2011.

[Cirrelda, Color of Sand blog, ‘Ides of January — yard observations.’…I stood for a while looking at my pobrecito pinon tree tilting away from the drooping elm limbs above it. Then those elm limbs were golden – the light was coming at them directly from that western mesa edge (miles away) and the whole damn wild elm tree was shining in its massive shagginess. (I so curse that tree at times since its roots tangle into every vegetable bed.) Smoke on my hands and clothes, I stand and gaze at the afternoon in my yard….

[Martie, Taos Sunflower blog, ‘Photos from my hood.’ …This morning I was down in Arroyo Seco (the nearest village to my home, where my yarn shop used to be) and had a few moments alone with my camera.  I thought I’d go look for beautiful flowers, but alas, in this drought, they were not to be found.  Then I looked up at the beautiful clouds in the sky over the old church behind our building, and thought it has probably been years since I’ve shared photos of it with you.  It was a ready reminder of why so many people come here to study art and paint the local scenery.  I’m sorry there aren’t any flowers for you, but hope you enjoy the rest…

[Shoreacres, The Task at Hand blog, ‘Promises Made, Promises Kept.’…My extraordinary good fortune was to be born into a family more than willing to make and keep promises.  My father took promises especially seriously. The eldest of six children, he was one of those increasingly rare creatures – a man of his word. Whether it was a work colleague, a neighbor, a family member or his tiny daughter coming to him with a request, if he said he would do it, he did….

[Wrensong, Writings from Wild Soul blog, ‘Waiting for the Sun.’  See also the female cardinal photograph associated with this winning post.]  Everything so still/ in this windless dawn/ Ice hangs from every twig/ air cold as stone/ Sun arrives like hope/ and hunger. ~wrensong

[Marie, The Rambling Wren blog, ‘The Red Fox.’…The fox stood stock still in the middle of the lane. We watched each other silently for 10 or 15 seconds, then the fox turned to go. But she paused, then sat down and looked back at me. She seemed unsure how to proceed, and kept looking up the secondary driveway we use for moving trailers and the RV. There’s a large woodpile there, an old barn the previous owners had dismantled elsewhere and brought here, planning to reconstruct. But the project was never finished, and we now have habitat for all sorts of critters–rabbits and woodchucks, chipmunks, feral cats, and now, perhaps, red fox. Had she moved her kits there, I wondered?…

[Kittie Howard, Kittie’s Stories, ‘Shopping at Best Buy.’…Best Buy, that big box store, re-entered my life.  I didn’t want to buy a new computer just yet.  The plan was to limp along with what I had until the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays. Last Saturday night, the motherboard died….

[Rebecca, Rebecca in the Woods, ‘On Not Hearing a Boreal Owl.’…Then yesterday GrrlScientist had to go and write a blog post about about Wilson’s Snipe and mention that the “winnowing” sound created by its tail feathers during its courtship display sounds very similar to the call of a Boreal Owl. And that courting males “fly in circles.” And that they do this “long into the evening.” And sometimes even at night, I suppose? Sigh. No one likes deleting a species from their life list…. [Bold added.]

[Photograph and recipe: Karen Rivera, New Mexico Photography, ‘Green Pumpkin and Green Chili Pueblo Stew.’]

Karen Rivera, 'Road between Cimarron and Taos, New Mexico,' March 8, 2011.

[Debra, Find an Outlet blog, ‘Death’s Mementos.’…Every day I am moved by roadside memorials to people who weren’t ready to die. People who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They’re a constant reminder of how fragile we are—bits of bone wrapped in a flimsy shroud of a ridiculously unsuitable hide. We’re anything but fierce when up against poison, bullet, disease, or 3,000 pounds of steel, glass and chrome….

[Wildstorm, Backroads Photo blog, ‘North Texas Desert.’…There is no such thing–the North Texas desert. Yet it seems like it when you glance across the dry roasted pastures where nothing grows. What is green? The cedar trees. Even the oak trees have burned up leaves….

[Bunnyterry, I Love New Mexico blog, ‘Gardening in New Mexico.’…As I stand here with the garden hose in my hand, I’m reminded of a paper I wrote on personal landscapes for that particular history class.  The instructor’s goal throughout the class was to get us to tie our own personal histories to history in the broader sense, which, if I were teaching history today, would be my goal as well…

[Teresa, Teresa Evangeline blog, ‘At Home in My One Room Schoolhouse.’ …I almost forgot to tell you: when I crossed over into New Mexico from Utah on Sunday, in less than a quarter of a mile there were two crows and a coyote. The crows were standing over their dinner in the ditch, whoever the poor critter had been, and the coyote was trotting away from them, down in a hollow, across a snow-covered field….

[Annie, Anniepickens’s blog, ‘Spring Garlic.’…Sunday I got to the Farmers’ Market later than usual, it was already packed with people but choices were still good. The first thing I wanted to do was find the egg guy and trade in my used cartons. It seems like the only time I remember that I’m going to take them back is when I am at the market buying more eggs. Very happy with myself for finally remembering….

[Photograph: Jeff Lynch, Serious Amateur Photography, ‘Those Spanish Skirts.’]

Jeff Lynch, Palo Duro Canyon, 'Spanish Skirts,' January 2011.

[Photograph: Evangeline Chavez, Evangeline Art Photography blog, ‘Dia de Los Muertos.’]

Evangeline Chavez, 'Dia de Los Muertos,' posted November 6, 2011.

[Poster image and environmental work: Chris Clarke, Coyote Crossing blog, ‘Desert Biodiversity.’]

Desert Biodiversity poster, Chris Clarke, December 2011.

[Bonnie Bardos, Bohemian Artist: Painting and Thought blog, ‘New Sculpture.’]

Bonnie Bardos, 'New Sculpture,' May 2011.

[Photograph: Steven Schwartzman, Portraits of Wildflowers blog, ‘Welcome to the Texas Hill Country.’]

Steven Schwartzman, 'Clammyweed flowering,' June 2011.

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Poaching or just curious? Deer on Flying Hat Ranchito

Southeast gate of Pecan Tree Pasture, deer season opening day, November 5, 2011, 7:35 a.m.

(The following datum comes from Field Notebook No. 1, October 29, 2011 –.  These are the original notes I took this morning on the first day of the regular deer season in north Erath County, Texas, November 5, 2011.)

7:50 a.m. In the far field at Pecan Tree Pasture.  One rifle shot to the south, a loud report.  41 deg. F.  One photo taken at southeast far gate.  No deer yet sighted.  Traffic light on State Highway 108.  Owl call, hooting, in the grove.  [I am parked between the grove and pecan tree, having entered from the far southeast gate to contain deer? within the field.]

No deer stands sighted on Old Bryant place, the Dooley place, that I can see.  This is different from past three years.  Two years ago, I sighted nine deer stands from my place.

Crows cawing — very few.

7:59 a.m., flock of crows flying east to west.

8:00 a.m.  Solitary deer sighted between me and water trough on my pasture road.  I am at the grove-pasture gate.

8:01 a.m.  Rifle report to the far south.

Deer may have come out of the grove gate by the water trough.  Deer leisurely walking up the pasture road.

(Bring binoculars next time.)

(Clear brush around fence in places so the F-250 is not scratched.)

A gray, short-bed pickup cruises by my open southeast gate, turns off road by gate, pauses, then goes north on SH 108.  No identification of the gray pickup.  Not a neighbor.

8:10 a.m.  Chickadees or wrens fussing in the mesquite brush, grove.  Will the solitary deer I saw cross SH 108?

8:14 a.m.  Rifle report to the east at some distance, estimated three miles distant.

8:21 a.m.  Rifle report to my southwest, very loud, very loud either on Dooley or Woods place.  I can almost smell the gunpowder.  [I carefully listen for bullet coming through air, but hear no sound.]

Far away to the south, another rifle shot.

A white-flatbed pickup passes on SH 108, slows down by field, turns around and comes back by deer at water trough, slows down, goes up road, turns around and then heads south on SH 108.  He probably saw the deer on my place.  Not a neighbor.

Big bluestem grass abounds in this field.

8:50 a.m.  Leave field.

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Notes, corrections, additions:

This year the rifle sounds are greatly reduced in number for the opening day of the general season.  The pickups that turn around and gaze into the far field where I have deer may be curious or may be looking for an opportunity to poach.  I can’t monitor and don’t want to monitor my field constantly.  I am glad that the deer stands have been significantly reduced in number from several years ago.  I have Tony Navarro to thank for that.  Game Warden Tony Navarro’s great-grandfather signed the Texas Declaration of Independence.  I rode with him in his outfitted pickup a couple of years ago when we scanned Flying Hat Ranchito for game. 

Game Warden Tony Navarro's card

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Bucks and bourbon: Texas deer season

 

This post is supported by Texas Hunter Safety Course online for Texas.  The Texas Hunter Safety Course online is endorsed and recommended by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

By all means hunters, speed to your lease with these essential items before sunrise!  Please don’t, you shouldn’t speed.  Remember that in Erath County, Texas, the general hunting seasons is November 5, 2011 — January 1, 2012: bag limit 4 deer, not more than 2 bucks, and no more than 2 antlerless, all seasons combined (citations from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department).

The Flying Hat Ranchito is closed to hunting because of the deer population decline.  In 2003, the White-tailed deer count was daily at 15-16, but this year the count has declined to three (3) deer, two doe and one fawn.

In truth, I recommend that you eliminate all of the following items below except a non-scope deer rifle and the deer from your hunt.  (And, yes, I have and still hunt without scope.)  Dress appropriately, maybe even a bit of camouflage, but considering the number of unschooled hunters out in the veld, you probably should wear red or orange.  Those of you that need to hunt for food or as an essential supply to your winter larder, I have no quarrel — in fact, I don’t like to quarrel or wrangle, in most cases — but the accumulation of the following “essential” items should be pared down whether venison is imperative or not.  I don’t like all the gadgetry and waste of resources.  To wit, I recommend these changes:

Build a natural blind of brush, hide behind a tree, sit on a log, get lost in the shinnery in order to scan and conceal. (Wear red or orange somewhere on your body, preferably above your waist.)

Do you really need an all-terrain vehicle to run up and down pasture roads or across fields?  Of course not.  Walk, glide through the forest, the grove, the bush.  Forget the telescope, use a less powerful rifle and stalk quietly the deer you seek to slay.  I think I would keep the flask and contents purely for exorcising the chill — two sip limit after the hunt, of course.

These changes, if adopted, will exercise your body, get you close to your kill and the extra money saved can pay part of your kid’s college tuition.

Of the following, what items can you eliminate and still achieve your goal?

Essential item no. 1: camouflage clothing

Essential item no. 2: all-terrain vehicle (ATV)

Essential item no. 3: the deer stand

Essential item no. 4: 30.06 rifles, some with scope

Essential item no. 5: bourbon whiskey flask

Essential item no. 6: White-tailed deer (bag limit is four).

Have a good hunt and feel liberated from the technologies of the present day!

(Please catch the field report of November 5, 2011, later on this morning in a separate post!)

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Notes, corrections and additions:

This post was originally entitled, “White-tailed deer season opens in Erath County: essential recommendations.”

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The quail, the deer and setting the lesson

Scaled quail on cholla bush (photograph by Marcus G. Martin, Photo Gallery).

Quail are sociable, staying together from birth to death as a covey, and when one lone quail, separated from the group, calls out plaintively, the covey circles back and joins the solitary being, bedding down all together in the evening so that they appear to be one animal, not fifteen or twenty, when observed closely.  (I have reared quail and know their habits.)  The quail also make for a fine gumbo, or with a brown sauce on top of white rice, a delicious entree.  They are beautiful and interesting to watch, but they are also food.

Deer, buck or doe, appear majestic in the field as they scan for predators and graceful when they arc over fallen timber or fence.   Fawns scamper and play about their mothers like children at the playground.  The backstrap or tenderloin of the deer is one of the finest cuts of meat on earth.  The liver of venison when soaked in milk overnight becomes delicate to the taste when fried and offers potency to the sick.  Deer are beautiful and interesting to watch, but they are also food.

Two years ago, in 2009, I chose the name of my blog, “Sage to Meadow,” based upon a post by Coffeeonthemesa, a blog published out of Taos, New Mexico. Coffeeonthemesa uses a phrase in her post that describes a covey of scaled quail moving from “sage across the meadow” near her home.  I like that.  It describes plant and terrain, sage and meadow: expansive geographic images and symbols of the American West.

Here is the post of Coffeeonthemesa — the italics are mine — that gave my blog its name and a setting of a lesson about food.

The covey of scaled quail (Callipepla squamata) that pass through our yard on their mesa rounds is smaller this year. It seems there are only a dozen or so, but they are quite plump. They move north to south from the sage across the meadow, stop to graze under the sunflower seed feeder, move through the little shed (have they ever found anything to eat in there?) and out again, in a little row. They search around the wood pile and cross the barren summer garden, before heading down the road towards the mesa edge. Last week I found the feathers and scant remains of one on the north side of the house where our woodstove ash pit lies.

They’re short-tailed, chunky birds with a cotton top crest, and the lookout quail sits atop a sagebrush or low fence post and barks out warnings to the others. Generally they run when something nears, zigzagging through the underbrush. Although the covey can explosively flush when startled.

I cannot help, when watching them under the feeder, but imagine how their plump little breasts would make a fine gumbo.

Coffeeonthemesa blog, Taos, New Mexico, November 13, 2009.

The eloquence of Coffeeonthemesa’s prose brings the eternal cycle into her final sentence:  “I cannot help, when watching them under the feeder, but imagine how their plump little breasts would make a fine gumbo.”

I have never been a consistent hunter in the food chain.  I shop the food chain.  I go to the supermarket for food, but I know it is not the supermarket that gives me food.

I have hunted in the food chain.  In the 1970s, I went deer hunting with two friends, shot my deer and dressed it in the field.  Oh, I had known the one-life-for-another axiom for a long time, but the buck I shot set the lesson inside me, inside my body so that all the literature and thinking I had ever done about one-life-for-another seemed faraway, alien even, to the beautiful, majestic animal I knelt before.

Beneath me, still breathing, eyes open, the grey coat shimmering, lay the deer, my first deer, its antlers hard and white.  No longer would he browse the field, sniff the wind, eat acorns beneath live oaks.  His animation was near end.  As I put my pistol to his heart, I promised myself that I would prepare all of him for me and my wife and my friends to eat.  I would honor this being, this deer, this day under the sun near Van Horn, Texas.

As I dressed the deer, I retched and threw up.

Must all lessons be assimilated like this?  Or, expelled like this?  Can’t very well drop the class can I?  Can we?  How do I get out of this university (universe)?

The regret and sadness I had that day recedes when I ponder the lesson the deer set in me.   In my anthropology classes, the lesson is taught every semester, every class, to every student.  I don’t grade them on it except for the economics of reciprocity in a society.  I set them on a path to learn the lesson — they will have to go into the field to have the lesson truly set, but here are the words:

We all take life to sustain ourselves.  To obscure that fact is profane.  To recognize that we take a life to sustain ourselves is sacred.  The sharing of food with another, next to laying down our life, is the greatest gift we can give others.  Who feeds you?  And, what do you do for them in return?

Jack Matthews, author of Sage to Meadow, Introductory Lecture in Physical and Cultural Anthropology.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

The New Mexico State University Scaled Quail Management Operation.

Marcus G. Martin Bird Photo Gallery.   The quail on cholla bush is from Martin’s gallery — permission pending.  Click his link for other photographs and website.

This post started out only as a post describing how my blog got its name.  From quail gumbo, however, the post grew into what it is now.

Along with the more somber lesson herein written, there are other lessons  from an anthropological perspective that relate to to food:  (1) by giving food, parties, spreading your resources, you enlarge your social network and friends; (2) gifts make slaves; (3) by giving of gifts, including food, you create obligations.  I think that we could go deeper into the psychology of harvesting animals, but for the moment, this is it.  One aspect that bears mentioning is that if you take life with respect, you probably won’t harvest unnecessarily, and you will get beaucoup angry with those that do.  You may even go to war with agencies that take the fat of the land and hold it in reserve, extracting a price for its distribution.  Read most any history on the opening of the American West, the partial closing of the American West. 

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