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Planting trees, trapping go
phers, clearing brush, repairing chainsaws and fixing the well. That's retired life in the backcountry and this is my Journal.





I'm no longer posting journal entries though on rare occasions I may post updates on Twitter.
Mostly weather updates or local fire situations.
You can follow me here:

January 5, 2009 - Monday

I feel like today is the first official day of the new year. Back to business after the holidays.  This morning I purchased an arrowhead collection from an acquaintance who is one of the administrators of the AACA (Authentic Artifact Collectors Association). No doubt that in this case, the collection is authentic.

But when buying artifacts from unknown sellers, the inexperienced collector is at a disadvantage. Knapping flint and selling new points as old is big business these days. The market is flooded with fakes and being able to tell the difference takes practice and skill. The artifact collecting community, a huge group that I didn't know existed till a couple of months ago, has been trying to keep pace with the frauds. Groups like the AACA are dedicated to developing standards while policing the hobby and watching for blatant fakes. Experts at diagnosing newly chipped arrowheads are using techniques that are becoming the standard in the authentification specialty part of the hobby. EBay, where I've purchased quite a few artifacts, is tightening its standards on what it allows to be sold and they now require guarantees before sellers are allowed to post an item.

Still, in many ways, purchasing arrowheads on EBay is a "wild west" transaction. Cheats and frauds abound with some conscious-less sellers trying to sell hunks of rock that they just picked up in the parking lot. Arrowheads are offered with vague descriptions, blurry photos and stories attached that can only be described as "whoppers".  Atlatl darts and knives are described as spear points because that sells better. A mundane tool like an axe is called a "War Club" because that adds drama. Nothing is sacred and no story too bizarre if it adds phony provenance.

December 27,2008 - Saturday

We just returned from a few days in the L.A. area visiting relatives and staying in our R.V.. Not a bad way to visit people and it gave me a place to rest while Catherine caught up on news from her brother and nephews. It rained most of the time with temperatures in the 30's at night.

The photo today is of the Hedge Hog fungus Catherine pulled off an oak in O'Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon, east of San Juan Capistrano. It's about 3.25" from the stem to the tip. Click for the full view

I'm spending most of my time these days trying to perfect my skills at photographing small objects like arrowheads and fungus. As with most projects, it gets kind of complicated when trying to present an accurate representation of such small things. Shadows and background dust cause lots of problems as well as bright white objects being photographed next to objects with subtle mid tones.  Compromise is required though a skilled photographer could surely do it without much effort.

Eh, trial & error has always been my course of action and I have a book coming next week that might help.

December 23, 2008 - Tuesday

They don't call them vanity sites for nothing.  Blogs, journals and personal websites are usually about one thing; showing off. Look at me, look at me, I'm special.

I'm not a Buddhist but I do find the Buddhist philosophy interesting. The repression of the ego or more appropriately, understanding  how the ego can negatively effect our observable personality is an idea that I embrace. If I were to cherry pick the parts of a philosophy that I find most relevant to my personal circumstances, that idea is at the top of the list.  Although the existence of ones ego can't be denied, the key seems to be about Keeping a perspective with an emphasis on what's really important.

Learning and retaining what I learn (harder these days) is a prime reason for my websites.  They're a way for me to keep notes and hash out ideas that I come across while plodding through my days of retirement. A way to mull things over and ruminate as well as a tactic for solidifying half baked ideas and beliefs.

This summer and fall my area of focus has been on arrowheads. See my research here.

July 17, 2008 - Thursday

OK, done with the re-thinking thing.  The profound revelation from my 2 month sesshin is... Anything I write these days falls short of what I'm really feeling.  I'm going to stop but I'll be around.

Cheers everyone!

May 17, 2008 - Saturday

Rob's Current Reading list and Book Reviews

1491 - New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles Mann

North American Indians barely rate a passing glance as this book focuses on the Maya, Aztec and Inca civilizations. And don't expect to come away with concrete bits of memorable information. Much like the Indian tribes they study, archeologists are mostly distracted with trying to discredited and eliminate their academic competitors.

The Tipping Point - How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell

Way too much time spent discussing how Sesame Street became a hit in the late 60's and it reminds me why I didn't seek to further my Social Science education.  Over done, vague and ambiguous discussions on what it takes to create successful product sales in a shallow, trend seeking America.  Business majors will like it because it makes them think they have some control in the pseudoscience of product promotion.

The Beast in the Garden - The True Story of A Predator's Deadly Return To Suburban America, David Baron

Goes to great lengths to mock the smug tree huggers of Boulder Colorado who failed to recognize the obvious "Jaws" type catastrophe headed their way. As is usually the case in these "nature fights back" tragedies, he glorifies a couple of alarmists who try to warn but instead, get no respect. He dramatizes an obvious problem that ultimately had a simple solution.

The Post American World - America's Changing Place In A Global Age, Fareed Zakaria

The author tries hard not to insult patriotic Americans but tactfully points out that "the rise and fall of the American empire" is currently taking place.

Telegraph Days - Larry McMurtry

An escapist novel. Thank goodness!

The Journal - B&H Ranch, Rob Horne

Egotistic narcissist says "look at me!" while he tries to be glib in this run-of-the-mill vanity blog.

May 15, 2008 - Thursday




We're having a heat wave and the wildflowers on our property are beginning to fade. Soon they'll go to seed and they can begin spreading seed for next years crop.  Unlike many of the neighbors, I like to wait for the regenerating process to complete before I get too serious about cutting back what they think of as weeds. At least I have the forest service on my side; they don't require brush cutting until June 1.







I'm enjoying the deck I built last summer. Nestled in the grass down by the creek, it's the perfect place to relax.






May 5, 2008 - Monday

The nicest days on our property are also the busiest.  The weather is perfect, the soil is still moist and the undergrowth is bolting while it has a chance. I planted 11 pine trees that were donated by the forest service but they're only inches high and they require frequent watering.  We had a heat wave last week and I lost 4 of them in the wink of an eye.

I'm also busy breaking out the equipment that I'll be using throughout the summer.  Highest priority is the fire pump and it needs to be serviced and moved up to the water tank where it will sit, hopefully un-needed, till fall.

As for this journal, I've been suffering a crisis of enthusiasm. Writing doesn't come easy for me and without passion, it becomes a chore and starts feeling like an obligation.  But that will pass. Stay tuned.

April 22, 2008 - Tuesday

It's Earth Day, do you know where your gun is? I do and I carried it on my walk today. Yes, I felt kind of silly but cougar tracks were seen a few miles away and one of our neighbors' dogs disappeared under suspicious circumstances. So I stuck a small revolver in my back pocket and figured if a cougar knocked me to the ground I might be able to pull it out and get off a shot. Unlikely and I have a better chance of being hit by lightening on a clear day. But it has happened to other people and I described that in a past entry here.

I spent the rest of the day cutting back some burned pine trees that border our property on the west. It's that time of year when a couple of the neighbors become obsessed about fire and get insistent about cutting back dead brush along the road. I suspect a tidiness obsession camouflaged as fire prevention but I try to keep my mouth shut. No doubt they think I'm a wild eyed tree hugger who wouldn't cut a branch if his life depended on it. At least they're not asking for street lights and sidewalks. Yet.



April 11, 2008 - Friday

Admittedly I was influenced by sentimental memories of long summer days spent running in the dust when new sneakers felt like a fresh start on life. Keds black high-top sneakers are no longer made so I bought these PF Flyers off the internet. They're nothing like the ones I remember or maybe I've been spoiled by high tech computer designed modern day running shoes. These have no padding or arch support and walking on hard floors feels like, well, walking on hard floors. Spring is here with summer just weeks away and getting these felt right. Till I put them on.

Just the same, I'll hold on to my maudlin memories of Norman Oklahoma and the summer of 1958. Blistering days on the edge of rural America when it was understood that leaving the house after breakfast meant not returning till dinner. I wonder if kids still do that.

April 7, 2008 - Monday

A quiet weekend.  In celebration of "Get Back" Days, we had the TV and computers turned off and we spent two evenings in candle light. With temps in the upper 30's, we spent one night sleeping outside and during the day we were planting trees and installing irrigation.

For us that's a fairly typical weekend. Between wildfires and dust storms, we're accustomed to being off the grid and with 1.6 billion 3rd world people living without electricity, we have lots of company. But I doubt they'd see it our way because for us, this weekend was a peaceful retreat.

Along with 'Get Back Days', I also placed Tibetan prayer flags at the upper boundary of our property. What the heck, every community needs a local eccentric and I'm working hard to secure that reputation.  It's a big valley though and without binoculars, these teeny flags are hardly visible. But even if they could see them I don't think the neighbors would have a clue to what they are. I should probably stick to the more traditional methods of oddball rural behavior. Something like building a shrine to Dolly Parton out of old hubcaps.

All kidding aside and taking into account world events, Buddhist prayer flags are a relatively rational endorsement of optimism.  Not easy for a cynic like me.

Prayer Flags

March 28, 2008 - Thursday

Today's photo was a quick shot taken of Sweetwater Creek that runs through the town of Descanso. We're having perfect weather and wildflowers are beginning to bloom in the local hills. Also, tomorrow is the first day of turkey hunting season which is something I try to keep in mind when wandering the backcountry.

I spent most of the week fooling with irrigation and reading Eckhart Tolle's book, A New Earth.  Basically it's a Westernized description of the Buddhist tenet for living in the present without being hindered by negative experiences from the past or worries about the future. Tolle seems to purposely play down the Buddhist derivative for this way of life. I don't think he's trying to be deceptive but rather, he knows that anything associated with Buddhism will scare off the majority of his targeted western audience.

As someone who has spent a good part of his life relentlessly mulling things over, I'm attracted to an idea that slows the tempo and quiets the mind. Like the Eagles song says, "Don't let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy".

Speaking of slowing down, next weekend we go off the grid and return to the simple times of yesteryear. No TV, phone or computer.  "Get Back" Days

March 18, 2008 - Tuesday

6 AM - Our property was once a seasonal campground for the Kumeyaay Indians who migrated here from the desert during the hot summer months. We have mortaros where they ground acorns and occasionally we find pot shards (potsherds) left over from broken earthenware. We also find chipping waste but it's rare to find a complete arrow head.

Yesterday I found this nickel sized head down by the well and at that size it was probably used for hunting rabbit and birds. Of course it's impossible to put a date on it but by 1890 most of the local tribes had moved out of the area and onto reservations. (See http://www.kumeyaay.com/ )

10 AM - In the mornings, after a 30 min walk, I like to spend 20 minutes sitting on my deck listening to the creek while practicing 'not thinking'. Not thinking is harder than it sounds especially when you have a mind that churns out useless data at an alarming rate.

I'm reminded of Karen Armstrong, the former nun who in 1982 wrote Through the Narrow Gate about the restricted life of the convent. In an interview on PBS, she talked about how hard it was for her to concentrate when saying the rosary.  Her mind was constantly wandering at a time when it was supposed to be totally and unwaveringly focused on prayer. She went on to talk about how some people have the ability to focus their attention on a single concept and sustain that focus for hours at a time. She couldn't do it.

But I've digressed. What I meant to write about is that this morning, while sitting in silence, several kids wandered out of the brush and passed within 20 feet of me. Not an earth shattering occurrence except for the fact that in the past 18 years, we've only had 3 or 4 people stray onto the property uninvited. Not something that happens every day.  These kids were obviously on a hike and when one noticed me sitting there, I could tell exactly what was going through his mind. He was expecting a heated "Get off my property" rant from one of the local gray haired old coots. Instead I just sat there surprised while he and his friends pretended they didn't see me and hustled off.

I'm only sorry I didn't think fast enough to say hello.

March 15, 2008 - Saturday

I've photographed this old cottonwood more than any other tree in the valley. I often pass it on my morning walk and I can't resist the way the morning light highlights it against the blue horizon.  As you can see, a hawk has built a nest in the top.

We've entered my favorite time of year on the ranch. The grass is sprouting and the fruit trees are in bloom. I've planted tomatoes, lettuce and spinach but with outside temperatures still getting down to freezing, I have them started inside in small peat pots. I even went so far as to buy a special heating pad that goes under the seedlings to keep the temperature within the perfect germinating range. But because Blackie the cat likes vegetables, I've had to take extra precautions by keeping them in boxes with chicken wire covering the tops.


I just finished another Krakauer book, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster about the ill-fated attempt on Mount Everest on May 10, 1996. Nine climbers died that day and Krakauer was there, observing the tragedy.

I've always had contempt for the climbers of Everest. I sometimes refer to them as "rich boys on vacation"; narcissist's embarked on a selfish endeavor looking for cocktail party bragging rights.

But on a minuscule level, I can understand the pain they endure. Hiking at high elevations is hard. My brother and I often recall our climb up Mount Whitney where on the last day of our climb, we did 4 hours of the "survival shuffle". That's when you take one step, take a breath, then another step.  Our time in life when the saying, "one step at a time" was more than just a metaphor.

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