Friday, April 28, 2017

Slow moving water

Once again I have to say how great it is that you readers have chipped in with both moral and financial support for my little cousin Elisa and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Your thoughts and prayers and encouragement and dollars mean more to me than you'll ever know.

Over at the Chant this morning Sarge had a great post about nature and bunnies. Who doesn't love bunnies?

I suspect that the little bunnies featured in his post were New England cottontails, (Sylvilagus transitionalis). I base that guess more on location than anything; cottontail rabbits are ubiquitous and the ones Sarge adopted (heh) could be another species entirely.

As I was out and about this morning I came across a Black Tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus). He (she?) looked even more forlorn than Sarge's abandoned bunnies.

Jackrabbits are hares, rather than rabbits, but that's rather splitting a hare.

What? The white stuff?

Yeah. Snow.

Over the last week we've had roughly an inch of rain from a couple of fairly slowly moving weather fronts. This morning the second of those fronts is moving out, but it's being rear-ended by the follow-on front, which features colder air and more moisture. If the weather guessers are reading their chicken guts correctly, we'll have more snow today and tomorrow, followed by a slight sunshiny warming trend, followed by more rain.

All this is to the good, even the snow, for it puts moisture into the ground where the plants can use it.

In many ways, spring snow is even better than spring rain. For one thing, it's very nearly liquid to begin with. You can think of it as very slowly moving water that sticks in place and doesn't run downhill. As it slowly melts the soil can absorb all of the liquid rather than shed what it can't immediately swallow.

As you might imagine, it's the quantity of water that soaks into the soil that's really important. Much more important than the quantity that falls from the sky. You can think of it like this. We average about 16 inches of liquid precipitation (rain+melted snow) annually here, and that's just about the right quantity to make all the plants grow properly. But if we get 16 inches of rain in one storm, and none for the rest of the year, we're hosed. Most of that 16 inches would run downhill, and only a little would actually soak in to be used by the plants.

I'm like everybody else around here, obsessed with the quantity of rain that falls. It's what we can most easily measure. So I feel great when we get an inch of rain, and better when we get two inches, and I'm ecstatic when we get six inches. Even though it's better to get a bunch of little rain storms rather than a few big ones. I never claimed to be the sharpest crayon in the cracker box.

Of course my explanation of what is "best" when it comes to rainfall is based entirely on my own personal desire to have abundant soil moisture so the prairie will grow abundant grass. Then my cows eat the grass and turn it into baby calves that I can trade for cash to support my various addictions. Especially the shooting addiction.

But nature doesn't give a hoot about what I want. And gully-washers are important to her scheme too. Gully-washers fill the playas and allow the great plains toads to come out, breed, and have lives.

So anyway, I'm happy with today's snow. Except for one thing. Last night a cow had a calf, and today this has been as close as I could get to the pair.

She's a cagey one, that cow!

The rest of the cows and calves are completely unimpressed with the rain and snow. It's just another day in cow world.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Informed and uninformed opinions

Before I get started, let me just say thanks for all the support shown for my little cousin Elisa. The readers of this blog matched my sponsorship goal in just a couple of hours. I'll never be able to explain adequately how much your fiscal and moral support mean to me. You'll all be in my thoughts on June 3.

And now, on with the show!

As a human being, are you part of nature or not?

I was talking to a university scientist last spring and the fellow had a lot of astonishing things to say.

Now he was a plant scientist with a solid education and years of experience in his field. A very conscientious fellow, and very interested in nature.

Or rather, interested in a particular ideological conception of nature.

For he was convinced that humans are destroying the planet with global warming and acid rain. That modern farming and ranching is one of the biggest threats to the survival of the planet. That he and his like-minded colleagues were pretty much the only ones who were keeping the planet alive, that they were vastly underappreciated (and underpaid) and represented the thin green line fighting a losing battle against the ravages of evil humans.

It was a magnificent speech, and clearly one that he practiced on a daily basis.

Most astonishingly, he was convinced that neither he, nor any other human, was a part of nature. That humans have evolved beyond nature to the point that we have the ability to dictate terms and control every aspect of the ecology of the planet.

The solution to fixing the planet, he avowed, was dead simple. Stop farming and ranching, put everyone to work in community gardens, and go to electric cars.

That’s your tax dollars at work, my friends.

As it turns out, his concept of nature exists only in the minds of people who believe with all their heart that they stand apart from nature. They have a Disneyesque conception of nature as an eden-like sylvan glade, a place where it’s always warm and green and sunny and nice. When they leave their offices and travel away from the campus and the city and they behold the reality of nature, it appears to be flawed, and all the non-green, non-warm, non-sunny and non-nice things are assessed to be the ravages of mankind.

This fellow I’m describing is admittedly an extreme example. I don’t think he really believes everything he says. I think he’s far more interested in dictating what people do and how they live than in studying and understanding nature, which is his actual job description.

Nevertheless, he and his like-minded fellows are influential experts, and their message resonates with a lot of people -- mostly those urban and suburban types who don’t get outside very often. In other words, with most modern first-world people.

This man-apart-from-nature notion is pretty commonly held, at least at a subconscious level. Most of us live in houses or apartments and get around in automobiles. We get our warmth and light and ability to move about by operating clever switches. We forage for food and clothing and other supplies in brightly lit buildings, bustling with other humans. Nature seems far away. The sylvan glade can only be visited at great expense, or viewed by turning on the television or visiting a social media site on the internet.

Most people are smart enough to know better, and can see how false the apart-from-nature notion is. But the narrative is pervasive, and in an ironic way feeds into the natural anxiety people have about the precariousness of their existence. I don’t think modern, first-world humans think about it often, but most of us do realize that if the clever switches ever stop working we will be in for a world of woes.

I think that most modern, first-world humans realize that they depend on a massive infrastructure which, in turn, depends on nature. Most folks have little understanding and less experience of either. So there’s a lot of anxiety there, just beneath the surface of conscious and objective thought.

“What if the doomsayers are right? Someone should do something. I can’t because I’m not an expert. Please, somebody fix it so I can live my life without anxiety!”

Well, something to think about.

New baby calf this morning.

Rainy morning, too. Which is nice.

And now Mom and I are off to the ophthalmologist for her final-final pre-pre-op visit. Knife drops Monday.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

My cousin Elisa

This is my little cousin Elisa. She's three years old and lives with her Mom and Dad and big brother Mateo in the northwest of America.

Elisa's Mom is my cousin too. She's the daughter of my Mom's brother, my uncle Pat. So if I understand the conventions correctly, Elisa's Mom is my first cousin, and Elisa and her brother are my second cousins. Do I have that right?

Elisa was born on February 10, so we share a birthday. Her brother Mateo, who is six years old, was born on February 11, and he shares his birthday with his great-grandma (my grandma or "Nana") Judy.

Because of the way life works, I've never met Elisa or Mateo or their Dad (would he also be my first cousin? First cousin-in-law?). And I've only rarely met Elisa's Mom, and that was many years ago.

Anyway, I'm hoping to change that never-met status and improve the frequency of the rarely-met status.

If my plans come together, my Mom and I will travel to the Pacific Northwest in June. Specifically, we would like to be in Oregon on June 3 for a very specific purpose.

We want to walk in the 2017 Salem Great Strides Cystic Fibrosis Foundation 5K walk to help raise awareness of and research money for CF.

Because Elisa has Cystic Fibrosis.
After a CF clinic visit.

I'm a registered walker in the event. Now just in case you might be interested in throwing a little bit of money into the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation pot, you can sponsor me for the walk. Just go to this link, scroll down to the roster and find Shaun Evertson, then click on the donate button and chip in. Another option would be to join us on June 3 (you can be a virtual walker) and and find people to sponsor you! You can figure out how to do that at the same web site. And of course you can also just donate to the foundation. It all goes to the same great cause.

It wasn't many years ago when those afflicted with cystic fibrosis could expect to live only a few short years. Thanks to the Great Strides made in treating the disease, life expectancy has increased greatly, and a cure for the disease might be just over the horizon. This is due in large part to the efforts of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and to the donations of people from all across the nation and around the globe.

After Mom and I make acquaintances and re-acquaintances, we'll drive down the coast and visit family north of LA and in San Diego. I'm eagerly looking forward to visiting family, stomping my old navy stomping grounds, running wild on USS Midway, and bothering the hell out of restaurants and museums.

But most of all I'm looking forward to meeting my little cousins and doing just a little bit to help to help out.
Birthday Girl!

Check out this cool video.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A little bit of old stuff

Busy again today so I thought I'd post up some old videos. I wasn't very good at the videography bitd. Not that I'm an expert now, but I seem to have learned a few things. Maybe.

Kittens from back in 2009.

A rattlesnake of the same vintage.

The end of the old barn.

Bottle calves check out the action.

Somethin' wrong wif dat boy.

Visit to the USS Midway.

Hoping to get back to San Diego in June.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The road to hell is paved by good people

If you believe in the First Principle (uh-oh, there he goes again mabel), that it is self-evidently true that all men are created equal and endowed with unalienable natural rights, then you understand that there are no good people and there are no bad people. There are just people. People who take actions which are both good and bad.

Now everybody knows that the taliban and isis are bad people, right? I mean they chop off peoples heads and machine-gun children mutilate the genitals of little girls. Bad people, right? Only bad people do bad things, right?

And you're a good person, right? You would never do those kind of bad things, right?

Oh really?

Down throughout history, from the time when Cain slew Abel to the genocide happening right this minute in Syria and Venezuela and North Korea and Bolivia and Somalia, in every case, the killers were normal people who thought of themselves as good people. When confronted with the choice of doing good or doing evil, their choice came down to whether or not they actually believed in the First Principle, whether they believed in treating others as they themselves would be treated, whether they believed in holding themselves to the same standard they held others to.

We never know when we're going to face a crisis in which we have to choose to do good or to do evil. History tells us that those who don't already know the right path when the crisis arrives will pick one that appears to be easiest or least immediately painful.

So yeah. Those guys at Babi Yar? They weren't bad people. They were just people. People who made a conscious decision to do bad stuff, to perpetuate evil.

Far better to know that you are simply a person, nothing special, and just as capable of doing good and bad as the next person. Otherwise you might not have worked out what you will not allow yourself to do, and why.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Quite a bit of busy

In my line of work it's best not to count a Sunday egg as a day of rest unless and until it hatches into an actual day of rest. Nothing out in the country pays attention to the calendar, you see. And that includes me.

So no day of rest but solid progress made on the spring chores list. I might even get caught up to April by June this year!

I did squeeze in room for four miles of hiking and and a very little bit of cap busting. It's a perishable skill.

And now I really need to get my newspaper stories formatted for this week. I'll leave you with this clever bit of British cow-gineering.


Saturday, April 22, 2017


After checking cows and calves this morning it was time to check the bulls, which are housed in a pasture several miles south of where the cows and calves are presently domiciled.

I decided to check the bulls on foot. Couple of reasons for that. I wanted to scout grass in the pasture, and I always do a better job of it on foot. And of course a nice little prairie stroll would fit neatly into my exercise routine.

It was just a beautiful morning. Yesterday's rainy weather system was passing and the dreary gray overcast was breaking into blue skies and cottony-white puffball clouds. There was a bit of a south-southwest breeze, and while it wasn't much of a breeze it combined with the 40 degree air temperature to make it just a bit chilly. I wore a sweatshirt.

As usual on these hikes I carried a 25-pound pack along with my trusty rifle. Mostly for the weight and complexity, but also because reasons.

After yesterday's rain the milk vetch decided to boom into bloom.

The winter wheat was lush and emerald green. In only a few weeks it will head out and flower, then begin making grain. In about 75 days it'll be harvested.

As I caught a good hiking rhythm I began to appreciate how beautiful the morning was.

The bulls were in fine shape.

Birds and ants were busy as well.

After I checked the bulls I continued my hike. At about the four-mile mark I noticed some activity up ahead. Something was slinking up out of a gully and moving into the tree line about 300 yards to the south of me.

It was a pair of coyotes.

There's been quite a bit more coyote activity this spring than there's been for several years. I understand why. The last several years of above-average rainfall have produced a lot of green stuff, which prompted an increase in hares, rabbits, ground squirrels, mice, voles, and other prey animals. Which prompted an increase in predator numbers. It's nature. That's how she rolls.

The coyotes have been pressing the cows and calves a bit more than I like this spring. They haven't predated any calves, and I don't expect them to. That doesn't mean they don't go through the stalking/hunting process, nor does it mean that they won't take a calf if they get an opportunity.

My response is to help the coyotes decide to look for better/less dangerous hunting grounds. I do this by shooting coyotes when the appropriate opportunity arises. Which it did this morning.

Now I'm not a spray and pray guy. I don't shoot to frighten, and every round I send downrange I own. When I decide to kill a coyote I have a responsibility to kill it as cleanly as possible.

This morning I had the breeze in my favor, blowing from the coyotes to me. I also had the sun in my favor, casting a lot of tree shadows about and making it hard for the coyotes to see me clearly. They knew I was there, but they didn't know what I was. They cautiously approached to about 225 yards and paused. One turned her profile to me and squatted down on her haunches, nose up and testing the breeze.

I eased over to a fence post, switched the optic on, and flipped up the magnifier. I peered through the optic, and keeping in mind where 55 grain pointed soft point bullets shoot compared to M-855, placed the point of the chevron about two inches above and just behind the coyote's shoulder. I took my time and squeezed off a well-placed shot.

At the moment I fired, however, the coyote bolted. My shot took her through the hips, and she dropped immediately. I hoped that the shock of the hit would be enough to kill her outright, but it wasn't. She flopped about a bit and then dragged herself off into a plowed field.

I followed her into the field and finished the job with a close range heart shot from my .40 S&W. I was disappointed that I didn't get an instant kill. Even though I'd done everything to the best of my ability and made a perfect shot, I'd failed in my responsibility to cleanly kill. That's the way it goes sometimes. You do the best you can.

I feel neither good nor bad about killing the coyote. Those kind of feelings really don't come into play. I'm part of nature, the coyote is part of nature, and today was just another of nature's give-and-take episodes.