Planting trees, trapping gophers,
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
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
Eh, trial & error has always been my course
of action and I have a book coming next week that might help.
December 23, 2008 -
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
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.
May 17, 2008 - Saturday
Rob's Current Reading list and
1491 - New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
March 28, 2008 -
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
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.
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
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
I'm reminded of
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 -
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
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.