October 2006

Ranch Weather Station
Ranch Webcams
Ranch Operations
Ranch Wildlife
The Indians
Stealth Cam
Ranch Photography
Cedar Fire 2003


RV Trips

Idaho to Home

Salton Sea

Arizona 08'


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

2 PM - The guy who bought the local Hay & Feed store doesn't take the business quite as seriously as the previous owners and you can't always count on him being there during normal working hours.  People who run backcountry businesses take things casually but in this case, I think the store is more of a hobby than a money making enterprise.  Not a big deal I guess though it is a 45 minute round trip and it's a little frustrating to find that he didn't feel like working today.

So I came back home and decided to do some work on one of my overgrown hiking trails.  It's the perfect job for my Stihl weed trimmer which started right up but was running a little rough. A routine cleaning of the air filter and spark plug would get me on my way till the wire to the plug snapped in such a way that makes it useless and un-repairable. Yay...it's one of those jobs where you have to take the engine housing apart and then you find that the wire is permanently attached and sealed inside a rather pricey looking inductor. And to get that out you have to remove the engine from the trimmer axle. And that's the point where you get your digital camera because without photos, you know you'll never get the thing put back together.

Rather than post  pictures of boring weed trimmer parts, I'd much rather show off my guns.  This is an 1894 Marlin lever action 357 carbine. It was such a success when it first came out that the company has been making them ever since.  It's the original design but with modern state of the art metals.

I've been practicing the drills that are required for the Single Action Shooters Society (SASS) competitions and this gun meets the requirements for the rifle stage. All guns must be original or authentic replicas of 19th century weapons.

The competition is an event where you use old century pistols, rifles and shotguns and try to knock down various targets in the shortest possible time.  The contest is pretty easy and basically it's just an excuse for a bunch of paunchy old guys like myself to play cowboy. SASS Home Page

Monday, October 30, 2006

5 AM - Years of having to start work at 6 AM turned me into an morning person. Still, I have a sentimental attachment to my old college days when I'd stay up for Johnny Carson and sleep till the sun came through the window.  These days, owning a TIVO makes late night TV un-necessary and the cat sees to it that I'm up at least by 5.

With the time change, I dislike the early sunset but sunrise at 6 is welcome.  And today I'll be putting the winter tarp over the well pressure tanks.  It got down to 35 last night and I don't want the pipes freezing during the months ahead.  The original well house burned and building a new one is one of those chores on the to-do list. Frankly, it's unlikely that I'll ever get to that chore and throwing a tarp over the thing is so much easier.

A pack of coyotes came through the property last night and had a howling party about 50 yards from the house.  Blackie is an indoor cat so they were probably celebrating a rabbit kill. Rabbits we can spare.

I had a head ache for most of the weekend and by last night I was in a pretty sour mood.  The weather change and my crappy diet probably had a lot to do with it.  The diet I can control so I'll be laying off the ice-cream for a while and maybe I'll up my walking time in the morning.  Pretty ambitious plans for 5 in the morning.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

6 AM - Bob Woolcock is a photographer who maintains a website of his photographs at: http://bobwoolcock.com/index.html . He was in our neighborhood yesterday and took some photos of the local flora.  I've posted those photos here though the quality will not be as high as his originals.  As most people know, in order to post photographs on the web and have them display in a timely manner, you have to reduce their size which reduces quality. My apologies to Bob.

The identification was done by Catherine. Click on the thumbnail for the full view. All Images Copyright 2006 Robert Woolcock

Rhus ovata - Sugar Bush
Rhus integrifolia - Lemonaide Berry

Datura wrightii - Western Jimson Weed

Grass? Need sample

Need Leaves & close up of flower

Need flower to ID

Aphelocoma coerulescens - Scrub Jay

Oak - Need whole tree to ID

Rhamnus ilicifolia - Holly-leaf Red Berry

Erigonum fasciculatum - Buckwheat

Maybe Chamise - Adenotoma fasciculatum

Garrya flavescens - Ashy Silktassel

Maybe Valley Cholla -Cylindropuntia californica

Friday, October 27, 2006

10 AM - We paid extra to have roll down cyclone shutters put on the north side of the house.  The photo shows the one over the sliding glass doors in the down position.  The highest gust so far today has been 47 mph but we can get them well over that. Some residents in our valley have clocked the winds at over 100 and have had windows blow in and walls damaged. Besides the shutters, we purposely chose a house with a low profile just for these occasions.

Of course fires are popping up all over Southern California and I just saw a fire retardant bomber fly over headed to the north.  The sunset last night was hazy from smoke blowing all the way down from Palm Springs. Only one fire in our county so far which was put out this morning.  The arsonists like to work under the cover of night and the fire in Palm Springs was set at 1 AM.

So for today, I'll be watching all the leaves blow off my Alders.  Eh, time for them to go dormant anyway I guess.

Thursday,  October 26, 2006

10 AM - Wind gusts up to 37 mph and the humidity is down to 9%.  My eyes are itchy, my skin is dry and we're in another red flag warning for the next couple of days.  Saturday will be the 3rd anniversary of our place burning. We're scanning the horizon for smoke.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

7 AM - I took a tumble yesterday while walking on a sandy spot and my feet slid out from under me. Scrapped my elbow and bruised my hip and today I�m feeling the aftereffects. A pretty mild fall though it sure seemed to hurt more than when I would fall down as a kid. I suppose all the extra weight I�m carrying around  might have something to do with it. Ya think??

The news this morning was pissing me off so much that I had to turn it off. Something about Bush saying he never used the term �Stay the course� and then they played a recording of the 60 or so times in his speeches where he used the term �Stay the course�. The maddening thing about all this is that I don�t think the republicans will do as badly this election as everyone is predicting.

And today�s photo is the most recent visitor to the stealth cam. We've seen her before.

I need to buy some groceries but I'm stalling till later in the week.  This means I'll be eating peanut butter sandwiches for the day and I'll have to get creative for dinner. All I can say is that it will have something to do with rice. (and bacon)

12 PM - I got ambitious about dinner and decided to try and scrounge up the ingredients for chili. I made a run into Pine Valley and picked up some chili peppers and tomatoes and I've been boiling the pinto beans.

On Saturday we went to a health fair in Pine Valley and today I learned that I won the door prize.  Twenty gallons of propane. Not exactly a trip to Vegas but I'll take it.  Considering Vegas, I guess I prefer it.

My project for the rest of the day is cleaning up my old 1994 Toyota pick up.  It's been recalled for a steering rod problem and I'll be taking it in tomorrow.  I used it extensively for hauling stuff while rebuilding the place and it's really been pounded the last couple of years. It's still reliable and that's the reasons Toyota is now the most successful auto company in the world.

Monday, October 23, 2006

8 AM - Lately the local wildlife has been congregating at our watering holes. The backcountry is dry and we've been having warm days with Santa Ana winds.  The other night we heard raccoons on the south side of the property squabbling over something.  They were probably having turf wars though in the photo they seem to be happy while sharing the waterhole down by the well.

Today I'll be doing  housework and using the cutoff saw to cut up some steel beams that are in our metal re-cycling pile. The trick to that is to do it without setting your pants on fire. See 2004 entry here.

Saturday, October 21,2006

9 AM - I'm always looking for ways to enhance my target shooting hobby and I've had good results by crafting steel targets out of the beams of a burned trailer.  I'm into the old western form of shooting which uses replicas of "cowboy" six-guns and lead bullets.  Lead bullets are perfect for steel targets and they give out a satisfying clang when hit.

I've always had the philosophy that if it's worth doing, it's worth over-doing so I've been on the lookout for ways to improve my home built target range. In the cowboy action competitions they place steel targets at various distances depending on the gun you're shooting. Pistol targets close and the rifle targets farther away etc.. The other day I came up with the bright idea of using old steel frying pans for targets so I browsed the Goodwill stores and purchased a couple that would be perfect.  They were big, solid, heavy and... made out of caste iron which as I discovered, doesn't stand up to a hit from a bullet.

I'm becoming a better shot these days so I was suspicious when I was sure I hit the things but didn't hear the expected clang. Back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

5 AM - We're supposed to be getting a mild Santa Ana today and the forest service has declared a "Red Flag Alert".  That means there is an extreme fire danger.  Luckily I didn't put the fire pump and hoses away.

12 PM - Dealing with the death of parents is something that every surviving child will eventually face and I don�t claim exclusive rights to the experience. If I were asked for advice I would simply say, don�t drag it out. When my father died three years ago, my brother, sister and I sorted his possessions and put the house up for sale. An unexpected �cleaning of the slate�  came a year later when the new owners bulldozed the thing and started from scratch. Kind of a jolting experience but I�ve come to appreciate that inexorable severing of the past.

My problem now is that I didn�t make a clean cut. I have a room in the barn where I stored paraphernalia from my dad�s house while I waited for a good time to do the sorting. Notes, photos, clothes and furniture fill the room and I've finally begun the culling process.

Today's emotional impact came after finding notes written by my mother. Nothing profound, just shopping lists and knitting notes that somehow found their way into the pile. Little pieces of her self that she set aside for future times that never came.

Advice to my younger readers. Don�t drag it out.

The photo of the day is of the contents of my parent�s liquor cabinet. Bottles of Kentucky Whiskey alongside 1988 wine with labels that read, �Bottled Especially for the Wine Cellar of Cmdr. Edward V. Horne�. I haven't tried it but my sister tells me that the wine didn�t survive the years and tastes a little like vinegar.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

7 AM - I've been up since 5 and it's just now getting light enough where I might be able to go outside.  But it's also drizzling so I'm stuck inside till the sun gets higher and burns off some of the moisture.  We've had four days of overcast skies but only.3 inches of moisture. Gets kind of depressing and I'm ready for the predicted Santa Ana that is supposed to start this afternoon.

Blackie is sitting in his sky tower next to my desk and nagging me to play with him.  He's been up all night and now he's ready for company and fun and games.  I'm supposed to stick my hand in that box and try to tickle him while he attacks my fingers. He pulls his punches but many days still manages to draw blood. My hands are rarely scab free.

I could make predictions about what I hope to accomplish today but I'd rather write about what I've done than what I hope to do.  For now its nothing.

1 PM - Spent about 4 hours chain sawing burned trees and brush that border our property along the west side. It's one of those deals where I really did a lot but you don't notice much when you look at it. I've mentioned on this website about the importance of letting dead trees stand but the stuff I'm cutting now is the burned brush that has been overtaken by live undergrowth. This month it will be exactly three years since the fire and I'm told it takes about five till you can't tell that a fire came through.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

8 AM - We finally got .27 inches of rain overnight. That's nothing by most standards, but for us, it's notable. In this part of the country, we consider it a rainstorm when we only get a few tenths of an inch. We're hungry for anything we can call a "weather event".

My problem this morning is that my weather station registered some spurious data caused by a spider in the rain gage. Seems like it should be easy to just subtract the non-rain readings but I'm dealing with electronic gages and with those, nothing is simple.

Friday, October 13, 2006

8:30 AM - We're getting predictions that the first rain of the season should occur later today and tonight.  I'm always skeptical about such predictions especially after I look at the satellite photos and see that the storm seems to be drifting to the north. I'm still hopeful though cause for us, rain is a pretty big deal.  The webcam this morning  took this photo of some of the approaching clouds.

Today I'm off to buy groceries and pick up a prescription.  Cath will be working on the roof. (Don't look at me that way)


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

7:30 AM - Trash day in the valley.  As you might expect, people who live in the backcountry don't have the option of putting garbage cans out by the curb. We either haul them to the county refuse dumpsters and pay $12 per can or we pay $145 per month to rent a dumpster on our property.

We're currently looking into renting a dumpster and sharing the expense with other residents in our valley though, the logistics of such a cooperative gets complicated.  Where do you put the dumpster, how do we collect the payments and who manages the transaction and what if someone doesn't have as much trash as someone else?  Keeping things fair can get complicated and you almost have to form some sort of a dumpster committee to run the operation.  I hate committees. I'm an anarchist.

So far we've agreed on a spot for the trash bin and today, I'll be making enquiries about who might want to participate.

9 AM - I caught a huge raccoon in the Havahart trap this morning. Felt sorry for the thing and about the panic it must have been feeling.  They try so hard to get out that they injure their paws from pulling on the wires.  Anyway, he's free again and I've decided to shut down my trapping program for the winter.  The squirrel population is way down and lately the only wildlife to wander into the traps have been rabbits, birds and now raccoons.

3 PM - Success with getting people to join our dumpster co-op. We'll be dividing up the cost of a dumpster with 5 people thus bringing the cost down to $29 per household. So, any bets on what will go wrong with this business venture? I'm such a pessimistic cynic.

I spent the rest of the day with a low grade headache.  Did a little target practice with my 1851 Navy and I've been reading The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen. He really hits the mark when describing the emotions you feel when dealing with the death of a loved one. And he hits it again when describing the angst many people feel when trying to survive puberty and high school.  Frankly, the book covers topics that are so close to home that it's making me a little uncomfortable.  I've spent way too much time mulling over my past and now I'd like to just drop the old baggage and enjoy the present. I once had a teacher tell me that I thought too much. She had a point.

Monday, October 9, 2006

6:30 AM - I probably shouldn't have started my day off at 5 AM by eating handfuls of trail mix and M&M's.  Add coffee to the mix and I'm ready to rumble with no where to go.

Got an e-mail from a friend who is trying to resolve issues dealing with guns and hunting. She provided an e-mail from a guy who defends hunting in philosophic evolutionary terms and refers to those who don�t agree as having a Walt Disney view of wilderness.

Guns, target practice, hunting, killing, environmentalism, conservationism� Too many topics for me to get my brain around this morning.

I enjoy shooting my guns for the mental focus that is required to hit a target and because they go bang when I do it. Though I don�t hunt, I appreciate the skill required and the food it supplies.

But I become uncomfortable when people talk about trophy hunting and using dogs to tree a cougar so it can be shot off a branch. Killing just for the sake of killing, no matter how you wrap it, seems wrong. I worked in a veterinary hospital for three years and observed the spectrum of emotions that animals experience. When Catherine was a student worker for NASA, she helped care for the monkeys that were used in the early missile tests. We both learned that an animal can experience terror.

Why would any sane human being want to cause a creature to experience that sensation?

9 AM - The photo of the day was sent to me by Elizabeth Robinson of Mason County, Washington who, while out walking, treed this yearling cougar. No sophisticated tracking skills where required and she didn�t spend days hounding it with a pack of dogs.

It was an accident and no testosterone induced "hunting techniques" were necessary.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

6 AM - It's been one week since my last confession, I mean entry. Every time I thought about writing something all I could come up with was cynical, snide, sarcastic rants about current events. And when I find myself yelling at traffic and cussing at commercials on the radio, it's  time to step back and remind myself of what's important. Seemed like a good week to take a break and with Catherine coming home tomorrow, my mood should improve.