Thursday, July 27, 2017

Working hands

I mashed a finger today. Quite painful but no injury beyond a subungual hematoma.

A long time ago when I was a junior corpsman on my first deployment I saw a cool trick. A guy had mashed his finger somehow and was in quite a lot of pain from the injury.

When there is bleeding under the nail, the pain comes when blood (which is mostly water and like water, cannot be compressed) flows into the space between the nail and the tissue underneath. It's trapped between the hard and nerveless nail and the soft, enervated tissue beneath. The nail won't move and the blood (which continues to flow into the damaged area until the pressure in the subungual space equalizes with peripheral blood pressure) can't be compressed, so it's the soft, tender nail bed tissue which gives way. This pressure squeezes down on the nerves, and that hurts. It's like having your fingertip squeezed in a vise.

Anyway, the guy's in a lot of pain, hopping around and moaning and cradling his hand. The senior corpsman in the treatment room -- I've forgotten his name but he was an E-5 from the helo squadron and a very good corpsman -- takes charge and sits the guy down. He takes a paper clip and straightens out one end, then sparks his Zippo to life and heats up the end of the paper clip until it's red hot. He applies the red hot tip of the wire to the guy's fingernail. It smokes and sizzles and almost instantly melts through the nail. The hurt guy jerks his hand away, dislodging the paper clip, and all the trapped blood comes dribbling out. Instant relief.

"Thanks, Doc!"

A few weeks later it was my turn, and the Zippo/paper clip trick worked like a charm.

"Thanks, Doc!"

Well, my finger wasn't mashed bad enough to need decompressing today. Just an irritating event, and not enough to get in the way of fence fixin'. Par for the course when you've got them working hands.

This stuff is actually for use in the winter to protect against and/or heal dry, cracked skin. But it fits the title of this post, so what the heck.


Other than the finger mashing I was pretty pleased with myself today. I actually turned in what I consider a good nine-tenths of a day's labor. I started in on the fence work a bit before 7 a.m. and downed tools just before 4 p.m. That's progress on the physical/endurance front.

The fencing chores were reasonably simple, mending a half-mile stretch of four-wire and tearing out and replacing a sagging corner post.
Blankety-blank thistle!

I didn't look forward to replacing the corner post. It needed to be dug out, then a new, larger, and much deeper hole needed to be dug so that the post could be emplaced securely and properly.

Since it was just the one post, and since the post was located on the south unit and miles away from where the skid steer and post hole auger were parked, it would be an "Armstrong" chore, using hand tools and muscle.

The upside was that this would be a good physical challenge. Yay! The downside was that it would be a good physical challenge. Nothing harder than south unit dirt in July.

The problem with the old corner post was the idjit who stuck it in there (that would be me) didn't set it deep enough. IIRC, it was hot and the ground was hard.

Well, nothing for it but to do it.

Well, shit! I didn't expect that. Guess I don't know how to eyeball a proper depth.

No sense in wasting such a magnificent hole, lets get a REAL post!

I did spend a few minutes watching a turkey vulture dining on Fluffy.

He didn't eat much, maybe it was too fresh.

Yeah, I know. Gross. But Nature doesn't care about our sensibilities.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Profondément derrière les lignes continentales

A delightfully coolish day here. Mostly overcast and promising rain that never materialized, the temperature climbed only as high as 81. Most of the day was solidly in the 70's with a refreshing north breeze.

Early this morning I hauled the last trailer load of thistle to the landfill. It makes such a pitifully small pile when unloaded, and there's nothing at all about the pile that would make you think it represented so much toil and sweat.

When I loaded the trailer yesterday the mercury was closing in on 100 degrees and there was not even a breath of air. The humidity was quite high as well, up in the 75 percent range. Now that may be "dry" in many parts of the world, but it's wringing wet here.

Combine sunshine, heat and humidity and evaporative cooling doesn't work for spit. Therefore I spent a couple of hours in sweltering misery.

But I got the job done and it was a good physical workout!


Some of my agriculturalist friends from England ventured across the Channel earlier in the month and shared some images and video with me. It all looks vewy Fwench.

Midnight Market (small town farmers' market). Ostrich sammies and live music!

They canoed down the River Dronne from Bonnes to Parcoul. I had no idea the french canoed!

They stayed in a converted barn, just like so many downed aviators did during the war. Only different.

And look what the French came up with for mole control!

It's good to have field agents "working" for the blog!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A twenty-first century fairy tale

Old grumpy people like me do a lot of complaining about the twenty-first century. Too fast, too globalized, too connected, too distracted, too selfish, too dangerous, too stupid, too fake news.

And on and on and on...

But it's not all bad. What a shock!

Grumpy old people have been bitching about the new hotness since humans began to live long enough to get "old" somewhere between 200,000 and a million years ago. They've always been right about some things, and wrong about others. My generation isn't any different.

I'd have never been able to experience this lovely fairy tale if it weren't for the verdammt twenty-first century.

Most of you know the difference between a fairy tale and a sea story. Well, this is no $#!+. Seriously!


Monday, July 24, 2017

Badgers and Longhorns and Pronghorns and Jacks

Mom had a great story to share about her walk last evening.

She set out about 7:30 p.m. with her usual menagerie; Jeter (the Alpha), Red, and Lily.  Lily is a ranch guest, hanging out until her humans are able to move into their new home.

Mom and the dogs walked out in the pasture along a fenceline. About a mile from the house Lily began to bark at something along the fence. Mom was curious, so she and her group moved closer, to within 15-20 feet of whatever Lily was barking at. Then several interesting things happened.

Jeter, the  big, tough Alpha Male of the dog pack, tucked his tail and headed for home at full tilt, scampering for all he was worth and making like a scalded cat.

Mom moved closer to see what the fuss was all about. Lily stayed in place, staring intently at the spot. Red moved in with mom, and they both started as soil began to fly up from the soft blow dirt alongside the fence. Red began to growl.

From the spot in question, right in the middle of the fenceline, a badger popped its head up, hissed and snorted, and glared at Red.

Red tried to attack, but mom held her back. Jeter's departure makes it seem that he's tangled with a badger before. Lily's caution proves that she's the brightest of the lot.

Mom was disappointed that she didn't get pictures. She had her phone, but also had her hands full keeping Red from being badgerized.

I'm envious, for I've only seen a live badger once before, and that was 50 years ago. I see their digging every day, but badgers are nocturnal (mostly, I guess), solitary, shy, and grumpy as hell.


Overnight the temperature fell into the mid-60's, which was nice, but then a Longhorn wind out of Texas began to flood in from the south, bringing warmth. I try not to complain too much -- it is summer after all -- but I like my nights cool. It was already nearing 80 degrees when I got up at 5 a.m. Did someone say grumpy?

I got out and dug thistle all morning, finishing the bulk of that chore for the year (I hope!). The thistle I dug was on the neighbor's place, and upslope from our south unit.

I can't really expect the neighbor to take care of it as she's got a lot of challenges which just have to come before thistle. So digging it myself is a chore, but it's also in our best interest.
Dead Bug!
Getting those plants out now will prevent their seeds from sprouting on our side of the fence in the spring and starting the whole blasted cycle over again. It's also the neighborly thing to do, given the situation, so there's no call at all for me to complain.

And it's a good workout!


On the way home this evening I got some good shots of Pronghorn.

Also a jackrabbit.

Some people say the two beasts are closely related -- enough so that they occasionally cross-breed.

Tomorrow I'll haul all the thistle I've chopped to the landfill, and that will be that. It'll be good to get back to working on fence.

Thanks all for the thoughts and prayers for Dad. That means a lot, more than I have words for.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Trying times

I pottered around with fencing work and thistle digging yesterday but I couldn't keep myself engaged in the work.

I wasn't feeling all that great, kind of worn out and dopey from the heat.

On top of that my Dad is going through a pretty rough patch. He's got a medical condition that isn't the best or the worst thing to have but has been very hard on him. Hopefully on Tuesday they'll be able to do something for him.

Dad's malady is weighing heavily on us all.

With my mind stuck in an idiot loop yesterday working with sharp and pointy things wasn't the best option, so I opted to put on the sneakers and do some road work. I "power" walked 6.5 miles with respectable (for my age cohort) splits of about 14 minutes per mile. Felt good to blow the cobs out.

Part of my route was along Highway 30, the "Fabulous Lincoln Highway." Several people stopped to offer me a ride. It's always a bit amusing to see the look on some faces when they realize I'm walking on purpose!
Lodgepole Creek choked with bullrushers.

Looking west.

Looking east.

Why am I walking? Got something to do with where choo-choo go!


Sparky the shop kitty seems to love his life.

Six-tenths of rain last night; swarmed by gnats this morning. There are worse things.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Start 'em up and other wonders

Remember this airplane? Last July 31 I posted about it.

It's a North American T-28B Trojan, still dressed in the livery she wore in naval service with VT-27 at Corpus Christi.

The engine is (was last year anyway) a Lycoming-built R-1820-86 of 1,425 hp. Although a B model, the airplane is equipped with the shorter, C-model prop.

The Trojan is owned by Lee Griffin of North Pole, Alaska. A former USAF maintenance officer, Lee has quite a story.

Last year when Lee, his pilot, and his Trojan stopped by they were on their way home from Oshkosh. I didn't visit with them yesterday, but the timing indicates that they are on their way to the big air show, which starts Monday up in one of those mosquito-ridden northern states.

Anyway, yesterday as I drove out to check cattle and begin the day I espied the Trojan on the ramp and got there just in time for the engine start. What's better than that sound?

I visited with Dad and his little girl (with the taidragger in the video) for a few moments; they were out of Scottsbluff for nothing more than a morning VFR flyabout. How cool is that?

And now for the other wonder. In a month's time a monster will gobble up the sun. This is my only opportunity to witness a total here in God's Country. Unfortunately, we're south of the path of totality. We're scheduled for 95+ percent of total. Eighty miles up the road I can be right in the gut of darkness. Which is where I want to be. However, I'd also love to be on the ranch to experience and capture the experience at the home place. What to do?

Thursday, July 20, 2017


I've mentioned before that I was a NASA kid growing up. I devoured everything I could get my hands on that was space-related. Whenever there was a launch or recovery on television (and I was not locked in durance vile at school) I was anchored in front of the screen, breathing in living history with the fascinated fervor only a youngster may possess.

I subscribed to the NASA newsletters for kids, such as they were. I spent hours in the library, reading and re-reading books and articles on space and space flight. I glued together countless spacecraft models, playing with chemicals that youngsters are not even allowed to know the existence of today. I got in a bit of trouble in second grade for making the teacher look like an idiot when I patiently but firmly explained that Mars and Venus are, in fact, smaller than Earth.

Hell, I've no doubt that I knew more about the Soviet space program than 99 percent of the people in my state, perhaps in the nation.

I was shocked when Grissom, White and Chaffee died on January 27, 1967, on the launch pad at launch complex 34 in Apollo 1. I exulted when Apollo 7 returned Americans to space where we belonged. I was giddy with delight when Wally Schirra, Don Eisele and Walt Cunningham broadcast actual live television from orbit.

I was nailed to the floor in front of the television when Apollo 8 actually flew to the moon. I remember how moved I was when Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders read from Genisis.

In my dotage listening to that message has the power to make water run from my eyes and down my face. Whoda thunkit?

In the late winter of 1969 Jim McDivitt, Dave Scott and Rusty Schweickart in Apollo 9 did 10 days in Earth orbit and put the Lunar Excursion Module (Grumman Iron Works, Baby!) through its paces.

Two months later Apollo 10 returned to the moon. Anchored in lunar orbit, John Young remained aboard the command module Charlie Brown, while Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan took the LEM Snoopy down to within 8 miles of the surface in a final dress rehearsal for the actual landing. Eight miles! That's only 42,000 feet! Until they'd actually returned to the command module and discarded the LEM I was on tenterhooks wondering if they'd "break the rules" and sneak in a lunar landing after all.

Then in the High Summer of July, I watched Mike Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong roar into the heavens from Pad 39A on July 16. Four days later I watched in awe as Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon in Eagle, while Collins remained in orbit aboard Columbia. As the warm summer day turned to evening I watched as the first men clambered down out of the LEM and walked about on the actual surface of the moon!

When the broadcast ended I stepped out into the summer night and looked at the moon. It was almost due south and was a waxing crescent, nearly at first quarter phase. I could see the Sea of Tranquility. I looked and looked and strained as hard as I could but I could not see any sign of Eagle on the surface or Columbia in orbit.

Has it been 48 years already?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It's not all problems

I don't know about anyone else, but when I look away from stuff that is defined screechingly as "a terrible problem!" I can't help but notice that there are cool, wonderful things everywhere.

I see the bad stuff, Ireally do, but I don't see as much as many of my fellows seem to, perhaps because, a) I throwed away the tee-vee, and, b) because I look at the cool, wonderful stuff too.

Here's words to the hymn that the little girl sings in the video.

Whenever I hear the song of a bird
Or look at the blue, blue sky,
Whenever I feel the rain on my face
Or the wind as it rushes by,
Whenever I touch a velvet rose
Or walk by our lilac tree,
I’m glad that I live in this beautiful world
Heav’nly Father created for me.

He gave me my eyes that I might see
The color of butterfly wings.
He gave me my ears that I might hear
The magical sound of things.
He gave me my life, my mind, my heart:
I thank him rev’rently
For all his creations, of which I’m a part.
Yes, I know Heav’nly Father loves me.

It's a Mormon hymn, published in 1961 by Clara W. McMaster (1904-1997).

Yes, there are problems in the world, but it's not all problems.

There is beauty and wonder and delight just about everywhere you care to look.

You have to look though.

Question. Is it better to try to force others to behave in a certain way, or to concentrate on developing, understanding, and behaving according to certain principles?

"Nother question. So you've "done your part." Are you done?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Iron Eagle

A twofer today.

Yesterday's thunderstorm and rain was very welcome. The 0.39 inches of rain was sorely needed. Before the storm we were roughly 4.75 inches behind in June and July, now we're only 4.36 inches in arrears.
Neighbor's dryland corn for your viewing pleasure.

Just over knee-high. A bit (lot) more rain and it might make a crop.

One thing the rain did which is rather unpleasant is it generated swarms and swarms of gnats in and around the corrals where I planned to work today. I struggled with them for a couple of hours -- long enough to get a good bit of lifting and carrying done (excellent physical exercise) -- before giving it up in disgust. In the ears and eyes and up the nose and down the throat.

It's a bit cooler today and with an non-predicted overcast, which makes the day a pleasant one for both man and gnat.

I had some other work to do (surprise!) but decided to do some roadwork instead. I put on the sneakers and shorts and did a delightful four-mile jog-walk. Heaven!

Then I called the Rocky Mountain Raptor Project to get an update on the Golden Eagle we rescued last week.

Turns out our bird had a healing fracture in the left wing "wrist area" and also a left eye injury which makes him "mostly" blind on that side. He lost flight feathers in the left wing due to compromised blood flow during the healing of the fracture, but they are starting to grow back in. They moved him to the flight enclosure today to let him regain muscle strength. He's eating well and otherwise healthy.

He's a male and probably just turning four years old. Pretty remarkable that he was able to survive with the fracture but I guess they are good scavengers when injured and often have help from other sub-adults in the area.

Nature is pretty cool, even when she doesn't do everything exactly the way koobecaf says she should.


Yesterday promised to be a scorcher, and in my opinion, yesterday delivered.
Warm season grass; mostly blue grama.

Superb cow food.

This cow is stripping leaves and flowers from sweetclover stalks.

When you have no hands, the tongue is an important tool.

Indian wheat and buffalo grass.

Prickly poppy and sweat bee.

Pretty as a picture.

Oh, it didn't get all that hot, the high was only 96 degrees.

But it was very still and the sun shone down from a nearly-cloudless sky. The very weight of the photons crashing down was palpable. I marvel at the heat generated by sol, and by the way my perception of that heat varies according to the axial tilt of our planet and the wide variation of atmospheric phenomena which mitigate the impact of the solar flux. Sol is 93 million miles away, and it's the same sun in relatively the same place whether it's January 17 or July 17. Freaky. As the now balding kids say.

Anyway, yesterday's task was to emplace a short section of fence posts across a corner of a pasture. The grass in this pasture, which we call the northwest quarter, is almost entirely warm season grass -- buffalo grass and blue grama. When you dig post holes in this stuff an interesting thing happens (especially when it's dry). A great deal of the soil you dig seems to disappear!

Of course it doesn't disappear, but when you've stuck your post in the hole, and backfilled and tamped it into place, You're left with a half-empty (or half-filled?) hole. Why?

Driving the skid steer across it reveals the character of the soil.

Basically, the soil is very fine and powdery and consists of decomposed siltstone and decomposing grass. All of this is held in the matrix of the grass root system, and the geometry of all the soil particulates is in equilibrium. When you grind that all up with a posthole digger, you destroy the root matrix. Put it back in the hole and tamp it down and it now takes up half the space it did previously.
No wind at all.

Crop ground is no different.

Half-filled post holes will never do. They need to be flush with the soil surface and packed tight, else nature's wind and water and temperature variations will lay the posts down for you.

The solution is to add soil to the partly full (empty?) holes. There are various ways to do this, none of which are not a huge pain in the @$$.

The method I chose yesterday was to bring in new soil in five-gallon buckets. There were only seven (I think) postholes, so this was a viable solution. There was also a handy pile of loose dirt located relatively close by. So I shoveled and bucketed and I got the job done.

By the time I finished the temperature had hit 95, there wasn't a breath of breeze, and the sun was pounding down from a cloudless sky.

And I was done for the day. It was early yet, only a bit past noon. There was plenty more work to be done, and I wanted to do the work. I wanted to complete tasks and continue to strengthen my ageing carcass. But my carcass said, "Firetruck that, sit the firetruck down!"

And wonder of wonders, I listened! I was actually a bit scorched.

In the evening there was a lovely thunderstorm which cooled things down and delivered 0.39 inches of rain.

And now, back to work.