May 2006

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

9:30 AM - I was browsing internet journals last night and it occurred to me that the vast majority are written by women. I looked up some journal directories and yeah, that seemed to be the case. Not sure how it evolved but over the years the few journals I still read are all written by a men. Maybe it's because I�ve noticed that many journals written by women will inevitably have entries that put men down. Ya might have to go back a month or two but there it will be. Of the journals I read that are written by men, I�ve never once seen them put down women. As an equal opportunity cynic, my opinion has always been that the whole human race sucks with neither sex (or any race) outdoing the other in stupidity.

Anyway, I found a journal that I started to enjoy until I got in a few lines and found the obligatory "men are doofuses" entry.  This person then went on to set down all sorts of rules about who she would allow to contact her and who's journals she would honor by reading. And posting that your material is copyrighted, jeez. Common folks, by definition, people who write journals are self centered but sometimes ya just gotta get over yourself. Trust me, nobody wants to steal your stuff.

12 PM - Speaking of doofuses, lately I've been reading some of the gun forums.  I'm interested in target practice but man, those forums are really over-populated by stereotypical gun nuts.  They're obsessed with "home invasion" and they never stop braying about how they'll blow away the BG's. (A BG. is a Bad Guy) I'm not sure what sort of neighborhoods these people live in but they make it sound like it's Fallujah. With all their macho, blowhard swaggering, I can't help but think that these are the type of guys who slept with nightlights till they were 18.  Dang, they're afraid of everything.

And yes, many are the racists who believe that foreigners are streaming over the border to rape our women and then sing the national anthem in Spanish.  They want to form militias, wear camouflage and patrol the border with their guns because by gosh, "somebody's gotta do it".  They're the ones that are always warning about the coming apocalypse though secretly, that's just what they're wishing for. It would mean they could sit in their bunkers and eat all those K-rations that are left over from the millennium disaster.

In today's photo I've strapped on my 500 cc SF-250 R Stihl Weed Whacker and it's ready to take on all the BG's. We don't take crap from nobody.

OK, I'm done for the day. Time to take my medication.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

7:30 AM - Not much of a photograph but it shows yesterday's half hearted attempt at digging a hole for our flagpole.  Back in 1960 my father found a longboat oar on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.  It's about 20' long and he made it into a nice flagpole that he placed in our front yard.  When my father passed away I ended up with the flagpole and I've been toying with the idea of setting it up on our property.  With our high winds, it's a bigger project than it sounds and I'll have to pour cement and plan carefully.

Spent some time yesterday mowing weeds on the upper pasture and watering trees.  The "upper pasture" is actually a leveled off section of ground that was probably intended to be a spot for a house.  It was never used but since flat spots are hard to come by in our area, we really appreciate having it.  Putting it to use is another matter.

5 PM - Not a lot going on around here. I'm holding off on serious brush clearing for a few more days till the weeds dry up a little more.  I'll be brushing off and servicing the fire pump this week and placing it next to the fire hydrant. The surrounding hills are already drying up to a point where I wouldn't rule out the possibility of brush fires.

I suppose I could get into political commentary like many bloggers but frankly, they do it so much better than I ever could.  If anyone really needs to know my political sentiments I suppose I could just sum them up by saying that I'm a registered independent with leanings toward being  libertarian. I respect Jimmy Carter and Ralph Nader and I don't think I've ever heard Bill Maher say anything that I really disagreed with.  Oh, Blah blah, yada yada .....  Just disregard this last paragraph and I'll stick to writing about things I really know about.  Uhm... that would be... complaining about my migraine headaches and describing how a gopher ate the rutabagas.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

4 PM - I've been getting pretty frustrated with the computer so today I did an upgrade and some servicing.  With all the multitasking I do, the thing has been running slow and noisy.  Besides needing more memory, it was getting pretty dusty inside which heated up the processor and caused the fan to run annoyingly loud.  I used one of those cans of  air  to blow out the dust and added another 512k of memory to give the processor a break.  The upgrade seems to have paid off and I've gotten a noticeable kick in speed along with a quieter machine.  Barring any setbacks I should be able to run comfortably for quite a while.

It's weed whipping/brush clearing season in our valley and the hills are echoing with the sound of small engines.  George Bush has really misrepresented the activity; it's not something you want to do on your vacation. Actually, many people in our neck of the woods hire Mexicans to do the work and I wouldn't be surprised if George W does the same when they turn off the cameras.

I'll sidestep the politics (for now) and just say that around our place we do our own work.  I also try really hard not to hack down the wildflowers and give them a chance to go to seed.  Some years are better than others but because of the light winter rains, this year we don't have a lot of color.

The pictures show some of the Scarlet Bugler and Foothill Penstamon that came up near our propane tank.

Friday, May 26, 2006

8 AM - I'm paying the price for walking around the property in sandals.  Got bit on the foot by a red ant yesterday and it swelled up and hurt like hell for several hours.  It's still throbbing this morning though at least I can walk on it now.  When I was a kid and my dad was stationed in the Mojave Desert, I used to get stung all the time but I don't remember it ever hurting as much as this.  Guess I've gotten wimpy in my old age.

11:30 PM - I started some chili in my slow cooker though I'm having trouble coming up with a good recipe.  My problem is that I get the urge on the spur of the moment and always come up short with the ingredients I'll need.  I never seem to have green peppers on hand and if the recipe calls for tomato sauce, all I'll have is tomato paste.  Today's recipe called for canned diced tomatoes which I have never bought in my life.  As usual, I ended up just mixing  a bunch of leftover ingredients with chili sauce, hamburger and pinto beans.  Guess I'll find out how successful I was in 8 hours or so.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

9:30 AM -  Yesterday was a great day.  We had a winter-like rainstorm that is almost unheard of for this time of year.  A half an inch of heavy rain that sunk into the ground and washed the oak pollen out of the air.  Of course this means the weed & bug season will be extended a few days but I'm not complaining.

Today's photo is of the hose-bib that I ran over with the mower the other day.  A really stupid accident because I could see the thing; I just tried to get too close and it's not the first time I've hit that faucet.

And I just got back from my 25 minute walk.  I managed to work up a sweat though I'm going to have to extend my time a little.  I haven't dropped a pound since I started my diet.  OK, OK - I gained a pound!

12 PM - I've been held hostage today waiting for a package to be delivered.  Getting packages delivered to rural areas can be a task and not all carriers are the same.  After 16 years, this is what I've learned.  UPS has had the best record.  They're in our area every day and their drivers complain the least when they have to come to the boondocks.  US mail is the worst and my packages have been pilfered and stolen.  The postal clerks lie and blame the sender even when confronted with irrefutable evidence that proves otherwise.  Fed Express is inconsistent and lazy.  If they don't have other deliveries in your area they'll let packages sit on their trucks for days and when they do come, they just dump it off at our mailbox which is a mile from our house.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

4 PM - I slept through it but apparently the neighbor's dogs were down at the barn at 3 AM barking up a storm.  Catherine told me about it while we were on our morning walk and it put me in a cranky mood.  A feral cat has been hanging out in the barn and I'm sure that is what they were barking at.  This is one of those "no win" situations with several people involved and different philosophies in play.

Because Cath is a bird lover she is never happy to see a feral cat in the neighborhood.  I'm ready to accept the cat because of the mouse problem and I'm willing to overlook the occasional bird fatality.   The neighbors let their dogs run at night because this is the country and not some sleepy suburb where people get upset over dog poop on the lawn. But I'm trying to encourage native wildlife that will never return when dogs are running loose all night chasing cats.

Unfortunately, in our neck of the woods, Cath and I are "out of step".  We've noticed that many people who move to the country do everything they can to turn their area into a bedroom community complete with lawns and trophy McMansions. They never saw a native plant that they didn't think was a weed and thanks to pesticides, many houses are surrounded by bare dirt deserts. Dead trees and bushes are considered unsightly and are cut and mulched without delay. The other day, one of our neighbors asked if I thought he could clear Chamise off his property by using an ATV to pull it out by the roots.  It never entered his mind that he should leave it alone. Fire prevention is the excuse most often used though I suspect that anal-retentive tidiness is the real mechanism at work.  Oh well, there are always two sides to a story.  Our neighbors say that our house looks like a Taco Bell.

The photo above shows a dead oak that is near the entrance to our Valley.  It's a prime example of why dead trees should be left to rot in place.  You can't tell from the photo but at the top is a large nest complete with a Red-tailed Hawk chick whose mother is standing guard. I'm afraid that most people only see  an unsightly dead tree. "Hey, it lowers property values and what if it caught on fire!!!"

Saturday, May 20, 2006

6:30 AM - I haven't been too ambitious recently though I did get out with the weed whip yesterday afternoon and do some trail maintenance.  Most of my time has been spent dragging a hose around to the new trees to make sure they get a head start before the blistering summer heat arrives.  We have been getting into the 80's but at least it cools off at night.  Soon, even the night will stay uncomfortably warm.

The turkeys still come by every morning for sunflower seeds though now we're getting more males than females.  The females are out in the brush sitting on eggs and soon they'll be bringing their chicks by for breakfast.

Actually, some of the turkeys have begun to hang out in the back yard almost all day long.  At times I'll see rabbits, squirrels, turkeys and birds all grazing at the same time, usually within a foot or two of each other.

I'm still struggling to keep the weeds and grass green in the area though that is a losing battle.  Won't be long till the heat turns everything golden brown.

12 PM - Besides clearing trails so we can see the snakes, I also do it so we can avoid getting foxtails in our socks.  It sounds trivial but the second you venture into the weeds, you gather so many needle like seed pods in your socks that walking becomes unbearable.  For quick trips to move the hose I don't wear any socks at all.  For more ambitious jaunts into the brush, I wear gaiters; the type you would normally use on winter snow hikes.  Cleaning the stickers out of your socks can be a daunting task and you're bound to miss the smaller seed heads that are impossible to find but drive you mad with every step. Just another one of those little details you learn when living in the backcountry.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

8:30 AM - 83 degrees already. We hustled out early to get our half hour walk in but it was already uncomfortably hot and buggy.  It's a little early for summer schedule.  Summer schedule is when you have to get out first thing in the morning and do as many chores as you can then, get back inside and stay till late afternoon.  The bugs and gnats are probably the most annoying part of being outside at this time of year.  When the weeds die back from the heat, things will ease up a bit.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

5:30 AM - I fixed the air-conditioning myself, yay!  I talked to the installer and he gave me some tips over the phone though as usual with these things, it was just trial & error that led to the solution.  As I suspected, the electrocuted mouse was just a fluke that distracted me from the real problem.  The relay switch had junk under the contacts (probably a squished bug) and I wasn't getting the full 220 volts to the compressor.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

12:30 PM - Took a quick run into town to get some oil for the mower and some gas for the weed whip.  $3.70 a gallon for the gas at one of the cheaper stations.  $75 to fill my truck tank and the 7 gallon canister.  I think I'm going to have to cut back on my casual trips into the city.  For me a trip to the Wal-Mart is 60 miles round trip and hard to justify when I'm mostly going because I just want to take a ride. Shopping over the internet is making a lot of sense these days though I don't suppose I can get UPS to deliver my groceries.

The weeds are waist high in some places so I'm dusting off the Dr Mower and the Weed Eater to cut paths to the barn and essential hose bibs.

7:30 PM - Spent about two hours weed whipping snake trails around the property.  It's too early to do any serious weed control because they're still growing with gusto and if you cut them too early, you'll just have to do it again a month later.  On the other hand, we still have to walk to various locations so I do cut paths to the most visited spots.  We call them snake trails because its easier to see the rattlers when you don't have to walk through waist high weeds.

And speaking of that, my last chore of the day was killing a 3' rattler that was coiled up under some junk in the barn.  I'm not big on killing rattlers and when we come across them in other areas of the property we either let them alone or trap them in a 5 gallon bucket. We then take them somewhere safe out in the county.  Finding them in the barn is a different story.  Knowing you have a rattler somewhere in the barn but not knowing where it is makes you twitchy.  If you fuss about trying to trap it, chances are it will slither under some immovable object and then you have to wait and hope you're prepared when it decides to come out. For that reason I always keep 22 caliber "snake shot" on hand and dispatch barn rattlers as soon as I see them. Snake shot is like a teeny little shotgun shell and it kills the snake instantly without tearing things up or ricocheting around the room.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

6:30 AM - One step forward, two back.  Late yesterday afternoon I was headed out to do some quick weed mowing when I noticed that the air conditioning unit wasn't working.  I did a quick test with my multi-tester and found voltage to the unit but when I took off the panel cover I found an electrocuted mouse across the capacitor terminals.  Poor mouse but I guess it was quick.  I removed the mouse and fired up the unit but still no luck.  Unfortunately I've exhausted my knowledge of electrical trouble-shooting so I'll have to call someone on Monday.  I'm getting voltage to all the motors but that may be part of the problem.  I should only be getting voltage when a relay switch is activated, which it isn't. 

In the photo you can see the mouse corpse laying on the top of the unit.  Actually, I can't even be sure that the mouse is the actual culprit.  Considering all the mice we have running around this place, it could be just a coincidence. Boy I'm tired of mice.  This website is turning into one big mouse extermination headquarters.  Most of the hits I get are from people looking for tips on how to eliminate rodents.  In the past two weeks I've had to remove mice nests from my truck engine, the Yamaha Rhino engine, my tool box in the barn and the mower carburetor.  They're taking over my world!!!!  It's Koyaanisqatsi and we're all doomed !!!

 Friday, May 12, 2006

11 AM - The health appraisal results are in and overall I'm in better shape than I was two years ago.  Funny, though my cholesterol is down from 247 to 213, this time they want to put me on medication for it.  Yeah, it gets complicated with the different forms of cholesterol but the bottom line is that I'm now taking 40 mgs of Lovastatin daily.  And I gotta lose weight, and I gotta exercise more and I gotta take 1 aspirin a day...

I was out at 9:30 doing some target practice and one of the neighbors called up to make sure everything was OK.  Even though it seems like everyone up here has a gun, they weren't used to hearing shots coming from my end of the valley.  Since I'm the long haired, peacenik, tree hugging hippie of the area, I guess they assume that I wouldn't own a gun.  As long as they don't start thinking I'm another Ted Kaczynski.

Speaking of long haired hippies, I was looking into downloading the new Neil Young album but ran into problems with my virus protection software. No, I wasn't trying to steal the album, in fact I'm happy to pay for any music I get from the net but once again, Norton's security jumped in and complicated the transaction.  Even when I disable Norton's and enable pop-ups, it still works in the background blocking screens that I need to start the download.  Of course I'll eventually figure it out but man, Norton's sure annoys the hell out of me. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

8:30 AM - I've really been suffering from allergies lately and this morning I took a couple of pills to help alleviate the symptoms. Unfortunately the side effects will have me dragging around in a stupor for the rest of the day.

I did manage to start early and get some chores out of the way.  I found a barrel of bird seed at the old house so I can postpone my trip into town till tomorrow when I go in for the second half of my  health appraisal.  Alex Bennett is a liberal talk show host on the Sirius left wing channel and he's been talking for weeks about his recent proctology exam.  Pretty funny stuff and I have to admit that the humor has relaxed me a bit about my upcoming exam.

10:30 AM - The first rattler of the year photographed by Catherine on Boulder Creek Rd. She took the picture with her cell phone on the road along the way home from work. It was cool and didn't even rattle but it ran away after she took its picture.  Well, slithered away.

Monday, May 8, 2006

8:30 AM - Saturday was a headache day for both Catherine & myself but Sunday was Cuyamaca Mountain excursion day. It had been postponed for a month but we finally got together with Walt, Cindy & Nathan for a walk up the southwest side of Mount Cuyamaca.  Walt is 83 and in exceptional shape from a lifetime of hiking.  He has a degree as a linguist and worked for the Foreign Service of the State Department. Walt spent 20 years in countries all over the northern hemisphere and hiked extensively in all of them.

I made it through the hike with a sunburned face and aching joints but I felt pretty humble by the end of the day. I'm not exaggerating when I say that Walt is truly inspirational. Today I'm hanging out at the house but I expect he's out for a walk around his neighborhood.

4 PM - I�m reading Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel which was published in Germany in 1953. The author was a German philosophy professor and while teaching in Japan, he spent 6 years studying Zen Buddhism. In the Far East there are many ways to practice Zen and working with the arts is an accepted way to help develop the concentration used in Zen meditation. Total immersion into rituals like The Tea Ceremony, flower arrangement, Yoga, painting, and archery are meant to help train the mind and develop mindfulness. Getting noticed and ego gratification by becoming �the best� is not the purpose.

Unfortunately I�ve noticed that �Mindfulness� is becoming a faddish �buzz word� though when you consider its 2,500 year roots, it�s really not so new on the scene. On the other hand, from the western perspective it�s new and authors like Echart Tolle are propounding its benefits.

And so�

Today I continued my archery practice though I�m having trouble increasing my distance from the target. Thirty meters is normally the beginning distance for outdoor target archery though finding a hundred feet of unobstructed flat space on our property is almost impossible.

Friday, May 5, 2006

10 AM - Today a House Wren has taken up residence in our one and only bird house. Important details:

bulletLength: 4.25 inches
bulletShort, thin bill
bulletIndistinct supercilium
bulletEye ring
bulletGray-brown upperparts (browner in eastern United States birds)
bulletPale gray underparts with dark barring on belly and undertail coverts
bulletWings and tail barred with black
bulletTail frequently held upright
bulletPink legs
bulletSexes similar

Cool fact: House Wrens are known for their aggressive defense of territories and nest sites. Especially when crowded, they destroy the eggs of competing species in the vicinity of their territories.

It's been overcast for the last two days and I spent them inside reading and exchanging e-mails with a friend at my old work.  We've been discussing the strong views he has about the immigration issues that have been in the news recently.  My views are Pollyannaish and kind of Hippy Dippy which is to say, unrealistic.  I'm taking the big picture view by looking at it over the past few centuries from the perspective that California was originally inhabited by Indians, then the Spanish, Mexico and now the United States.  I'm just not too concerned which can be pretty annoying to people who are dealing with the real world problems caused by illegal immigration.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

9:30 AM - I wouldn't be a real tree hugger if I wasn't into recycling but I admit that Catherine is the real driving force behind our efforts. Frankly I'm skeptical about the recycle centers in our neighborhood. I have suspicions that after they get their money from the government, they just mix all those  dumpsters of separated recyclables together and bury it in the nearest landfill. Not only that, in San Diego county if we use the Descanso dump center, they charge us  a hefty fee to drop off our sorted recyclables. OK, I don't have any evidence, it's just my cynical belief that all government programs are corrupt.

Honestly, for us in the backcountry there are so many hurdles and "gotchas" to recycling that if it wasn't for Catherine's insistence, I wouldn't do it at all. Out of respect for her informed insights, I'm taking a shot at doing it right.  This photo shows how I've provided separate cans for the different types of trash we generate.  Glass, paper, metals, California redemption plastics #1, California redemption plastics #2 ... etc. etc. ad nauseam. I need more cans!

Monday, May 1, 2006

8 PM - Left early this morning to take my Handgun Certificate test and do some shopping.  The test is quite easy with only 30 questions and I managed not to miss any.  The paperwork however is rather lengthily and the clerk at the gun store complained the whole time.  I had to prove that I actually live where I do and provide a model and serial number for my home safe.  You are now required to own an approved safe for storing your handguns.  It all seems pretty reasonable to me when I consider what handguns are made for.  I have friends on both sides of the issue and none of them will ever be happy with how the state handles registration of firearms.

Spent another hour this afternoon with the bow practicing my target archery.  Ironically I improved quite a bit after looking at a photo of Geena Davis taking a shot at the Olympic trials.  I was holding the bow way too high yesterday.  I wouldn't mind taking a lesson or two just to learn the fundamentals though its unlikely I'll find anyone close by who can walk me through the basics.  I may browse the internet for a DVD.

And that's my day.  Summer is here and I even had the air conditioning on for a while.  Wearing shorts is a given though they're so long these days that I sometimes wonder what's the point.