Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Thistle ops

It was a pretty and interesting morning in Kimball. Pardon the sailor talk. Bad habit. Well, a habit anyway...


And here's part of what yesterday looked and sounded like...

Too much babble in this one, not enough good info. I wouldn't watch it...


So the war on thistle. There are three kinds of thistle needing control. Canada thistle, scotch thistle, and musk thistle. All three are invasive and prolific. They are foreign, non-native plants and therefore don't run afoul of the control mechanisms nature has in place here to keep native plants in balanced homeostasis. Because they aren't bothered by nature's control techniques they tend to run rampant and can spread wildly, completely disrupting the ecosystem and throwing everything out of balance, including our efforts to work with nature to harvest grass with cattle and thereby generate income.

Fortunately for us, there are certain things we blighted ape-lizards can do to keep the invaders in check. It takes time, effort, and money, but that's just part of the deal, something you have to do if you choose to walk this ranching path in this part of the world.

What it comes down to is mechanical control to prevent seed development -- mowing and/or digging.

It also requires chemical control through proper and timely herbicide application.
Bachelors always mix herbicide in the kitchen.

In 2019 when my Dad was dying I didn't get any mechanical control done, and I did no spraying. This was following a year in which I did mechanical and some spraying. So the thistle won in 2019, and I had a hell of a lot of digging to do in 2020.

And I did a lot of digging and mowing, but not as much as was required. I missed a lot in the south googie pasture. In my defense I was falling in love and my mind wasn't right. Then things went terribly wrong and my mind went even further south.

So now the thistle seed bank has been enriched in the south googie pasture and it'll take some additional digging and spraying next year. But that's okay, it's nowhere near out of control.

Today, or at least in the very near future, I need to finish treating invasive thistle infestations with herbicide. Specifically with Milestone.


Daily dose of kid cuteness. Playdough with Uncle Drew!


From the batshit crazy file -- At the funeral home I was offered the opportunity to have a lock of Allie's hair. I wanted nothing to do with such a thing. I can't say why, it just felt wrong somehow.

She had such beautiful hair.

One evening she wanted me to trim her locks by a few inches. She insisted, really, but also made it clear that I couldn't mess it up. I had to be precise. So after she showered she handed me a pair of high-dollar scissors and told me to get it done and done correctly. I was shakin' like a dog shittin' peach pits. She made me take before and after pictures so she'd know whether to kill me or not. I survived, and got thoroughly, smilingly, and lovingly hugged. What a great memory.

Over the last several weeks, however, as I've been washing her clothes, I continue to come across strands of her hair. These I've collected and I plan to keep them. Crazy? No, batshit crazy.
Sweater lint included
Sweaters capture a lot of hair

What's the difference? I don't know for sure, but it feels like this -- the hairs I've been finding in her clothes were from a living Allie. The offered lock of hair was not. Does that make any sense?

Well, try this on for size. I also have and plan to keep some of her ashes. Those came from a dead Allie. What's the difference? I don't know. I also don't know if I'll actually keep them for long. I think they belong in a place she loved and understood far better than anyone except possibly me. We'll see.

It seems as if enduring this loss isn't a very rational process.

Batshit crazy.


Something happened in the night. I got the best sleep I've had since August 10. Real sleep. I awoke feeling refreshed. I also awoke being somehow more okay. I can't describe the feeling very well, just a sense that I'm going to be alright. My first conscious thought on waking was of my Alexzandra and the cold fact of her death. But for the first time that thought was wrapped in the feeling of love and okayness. That's as close as I can come. Yesterday morning, and all the mornings since she died, there was really only a sense of profound loss when I woke. Also a profound lack of interest in going on without her physical presence in my world. Meh. This morning the bedroom was filled with Allie's presence; the very air was thick with her presence. With her soothing presence. With the palpable touch of her presence. She was truly making it okay. Perhaps I'm finally listening to her rather than to myself. Whatever, I feel enough better to be grateful for the betterness and to look at the day ahead with hope and even a tiny quantity of zest.

Thank you Sweetheart. I love you. I love all of you, always and forever.


On to thistle destruction!

But it was too windy to spray. So I went on a hike. Maybe tomorrow the spray gods will smile on me. That's what the forecast looks like.

These canyons are endlessly fascinating.

A touch of regret.

Pretty autumn flower. Subtribe Machaerantherinae I believe. One of the fall-blooming asters.

And with no spraying to be done I received a surprisingly timely email from a reader, pointing me toward a possible treatment for canada thistle. Can a Nebraska Rancher sign up? Sorry, no. Coloradans only, which makes sense. Also, we have to legalize weed first (sorry, I thought that was funny). So, does Nebraska have a similar program? Doesn't look like it, but I haven't checked everything and everywhere. We'll see.

And now it's time to get sweaters off the clothesline.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Preparing to spray dem thistle

"In our fort!"
But first, a little bit of fun.

Ah, that decompresses me. Did I get the video window size right?

From back in May, when we took a break from moving.

Yesterday the little ones sat on the couch with me and we watched Gummy Bear videos. They were enthralled. So was I, this being my first exposure. Please don't feel like you have to watch...

The 11 year old, who had received an overlarge dose of Gummy Bear videos over the last several years, was not impressed. He wrapped a pillow around his head and suffered like a man. After 30 minutes my ears began to bleed.

Just kidding of course, but I see his point.

Nevertheless, it was a lovely time.

Before that it was checking cattle and exercise on a cool and breezy morning.

Autumn shadows 
They're the bomb

Autumn sunshine and rippling water

Green for this time of year

Click to embignify and look at the bug

Skunkbush sumac smells awesome this time of year, even though it looks pretty ratty

From the batshit crazy file -- she loved this rock.
From atop Vader

Skunkbush and sagewort and autumn sun
Sometimes the littlest, simplest things are astonishingly pretty.

I ran Vader Hill hard in jeans and work boots. Later I paid a price in pain but it wasn't that bad, and the pain was offset by having had a bloody good HIIT cardio workout. It takes what it takes.

And from the "it takes what it takes" (ITWIT) file, I'm looking hard at lap swimming. There's an expense to the thing, 80 mile round trip and a hefty membership fee. But what price fitness? And I can in theory combine swimming trips with other activities. Oh yeah, gotta buy a swimsuit. I don't think I can squeeze into one of hers. Not without an incident.

And now it's time to go spray thistle. Or make the attempt anyway.

I'll try to get some video and images and 'splain the process tomorrow (or so).


I'm going to throw these in I guess. One of Allie's good friends put it up. Messages from her and her kids. She loved feathers and sunflowers and people and life. She touched so very many people and cast sunshine wherever she went. I don't want to make this blog into a dirge, but Good Lord I miss my sweetheart, my soulmate.

Serenity is the friend's new little girl 

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Enhanced hearing and other stuff

She loves to mess with my glasses. She can slime them from across the room. What a happy thing.
First of all, huge thanks to Sarge and Skip and some Dutch blogger for sending legacy blooger my way.


Friday morning when I popped (heh) out of bed I faced the daunting task of travelling to Cheyenne, Wyoming, for to get my new hearing aids.

Not actually a daunting task. Simply a matter of driving 130-ish miles and going through the training/fitting process.

Small price to pay for improved hearing, yet a big part of me didn't really want to go. There was a lot of emotional inertia acting on me.

I gave serious consideration to calling and cancelling/rescheduling. The thing that actually swung the balance and got me down the road had nothing to do with hearing at all. It was the simple fact that the Milestone herbicide I needed for spraying thistle was waiting for me in the Metropolis of Pine Bluffs, just over the Wyoming state line. I'd go have my hearing aids installed, then peck up the herbicide on my way home. Yes.

When I fired up the Ranger it bled coolant all over the place from a cracked thermostat housing. I was already running later than I liked, so if I wanted to make my overhead time at the ear clinic I needed to switch to a different vehicle and do so quickly. The quickest alternative was Allie's Yukon. Which I hadn't driven since her death.

I fired it up and headed west. Lots of great memories wrapped up in that vehicle. On the passenger side dash lay the dried husk of a sunflower she had picked back in July. The trip was rife with emotional turmoil, but this provided (necessitated, really) an opportunity to talk things over with The Big Aircrew Chief. I prayed hard all the way to Cheyenne. I felt a lot better when I arrived.

Then I went through wuhandromeda strain screening. The screeners were all sporting bright badges which read, "I'm a Covid-19 Hero!" In my estimation the ones I talked to were also carrying a big attitude of moral superiority. That last was possibly only my imagination.

Nevertheless, the whole hero thing pissed me off. What a load of worthless bullshit!

So in the waiting area of the ear clinic I found myself earnestly asking The Big Aircrew Chief to chase the new yuck from my heart. And he did.

The training/fitting went well and I was off to the races. The new hearing aids will take some getting used to. I'm hearing a lot of stuff I haven't heard in years, and some of it is distracting. My voice sounds very odd to me, and that's quite distracting also.

On the upside the hearing aids are pretty easy to "run" via a phone app.


On the return trip I stopped by the FVC herbicide place in Pine Bluffs. Which people of a certain age from Kimball always call Pines Bluff. I don't know why. I like to call it Pines Bluff from time to time myself. It's kind of like being in on a secret. I don't know what the secret is, but I'm in on it.

Yeah, I'm firetrucking kicked in the head, ain't I?

Anyway, I stopped by the herbicide place. Now out here in the rural lands you don't always go to a big wally world-esque store to buy stuff. There's not always a place with aisles and aisles of products for you to peruse and select from. The FVC herbicide place is a 10 acre chain link fenced compound with a scale house and scale, a dozen or so big Quonset huts, and a bunch of big (I mean BIG) liquid holding tanks. As I pulled up there was a guy standing by an FVC pickup talking on a cell phone. He was The Guy. I told him what I needed, he scampered over to a Quonset hut, disappeared inside for about 10 minutes, then emerged with a quart of Milestone herbicide.

I wanted to put the $85 herbicide on my debit card rather than bill it out to the ranch. They couldn't do that there in Pines Bluff, but I could just stop by the Kimball office when I got home and do the dope deal there. So that's what I did.

There are some cool experiences available in the rural, agricultural, lands. One of them is trust.

By the time I got home it was too windy to spray thistle. Milestone is a potent broadleaf herbicide and it'll kill good plants as well as bad plants. You don't want herbicide to drift on the wind and murder stuff that doesn't need to be killed. That will firetruck up a carefully husbanded ecosystem.

As it turns out, we've got a slow moving weather front passing through and the forecast predicts much wind for some days. So no spraying. But we'll get a proper day soon and the job will get done.

Spraying, by the way, means "spot spraying" and that takes a lot of time and a lot of walking. Which is all good!


From the batshit crazy file...

I dream of my Alexzandra all night, every night. The dreams are sweet; a replay of things we actually did together, not a crazy dream mishmash. It's the waking and realization that sucks. It's very hard to bear. It would be too hard to bear without God's grace and strength. I've also got loving friends and family who give me so much love and understanding. I think Allie would be proud of them and grateful for what they are doing and how they are doing it. I know I am.

I am so blessed.


This was Farmers' Day weekend in Kimball. I had plans to take in some of the events but that didn't work out. The whole thing was wuhandromeda-crazy this year anyway, so maybe things will be back to normal next year. Saturday was oppressive feeling with smoke and ash from Wyoming fires.

I also spent five hours in meetings Saturday. Some of it felt like wasted time, but some of it was good.

The wind picked up late in the day and eventually cleared most of the junk from the air. That was nice.


Sunday morning it was cool -- 45 degrees -- and breezy. Long pants and a sweatshirt. The long pants are new 36 inch waist jeans. Haven't had that waistline since before graduating high School. Crazy. Don't look so much like a ragpicker now. Maybe.

The cattle seem to enjoy the cool air temperatures. They're still finding plenty of fall greenup to eat and are looking fat and sassy. The calves are getting big and many of them have to kneel down to get a drink of milk from mama's udder. Not all of them though.

I'd forgotten this stock tank has a leak. First time we've used it this year.

Been neglecting Red.


Now that I'm back on legacy blooger, I can see that I need to fix the u2b windows that I post up. Not a huge problem, surely, the videos still play, and they play in the correct aspect ratio. But the windows aren't sized correctly, and that bugs me now that I've actually noticed it. Ideally The window should be sized in height and width so there is no excess black background above and below (or to the sides of course) when the video is displayed in the window. Does that make sense? Me neither! Fixing it is a simple exercise. I can either research and do my sums to figure out the correct h/w numbers. Or, I can trial and error it. Which is what I shall do.


Yesterday was a hard day on the grief front. I was carrying far too much self pity around. Today I will try to work on that. This is hard enough without digging the hole deeper.

Skip kindly shared some very good words with me on koobecaf.

I had my own notion of grief.
I thought it was the sad time that followed the death of someone you love.
And you had to push through it to get to the other side.
But I'm learning there is no other side.
There is no pushing through.
But rather, there is absorption.
And grief is not something you complete, but rather, you endure.
Grief is not a task to finish and move on, but an element of yourself.
An alteration of your being.
A new way of seeing.
A new definition of self.
-Gwen Flowers

Skip knows. His kindness and friendship mean so very much. That goes for all of you kind readers too, whether you comment or not. You take valuable time from your day to check in and read my often psychotic ramblings. It's a very big thing, a very big demonstration of friendship.

Today I'm starting late after starting late. It was a restless night with not so much quality sleep. Nevertheless, I've got lots of irons in the fire and I need to forge ahead with the day.

Therefore, this is getting posted whether it's ready or not.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Ants marching and other stuff

Today promises to be hot for early autumn. High air temp of 88 in the forecast, with not much breeze. Shifting air patterns seem to have drawn a lot of the smoke away from our immediate area.

I've got a lot of little piddly but important tasks to accomplish this morning, so I'll have to get stuck in before long.

Tomorrow I get hearing aids fitted, and doesn't that sound like fun?

The ironic thing is that I only ever agreed to the hearing aid thing because Allie insisted. She was right -- it was very frustrating for her to try to communicate with a deaf old codger. Until that problem cropped up I simply didn't give a firetruck if I could easily hear and understand others. If it was important they could bloody well speak loudly and clearly or firetruck off.

So now I'm getting the things and I'm not entirely sure there's a good reason to hear people. The one person I desperately want to hear is dead. But that's not correct either. Because I do want to hear the kids and my family and my friends as well.

It's a mixed up time for this mixed up dude. But that's as it should be.


I almost stuck this bit in Wednesday. But that post was more properly about video and images of the first day of autumn, 2020, on the EJE Ranch south of Kimball, Nebraska.

I didn't do that post justice anyway. For various reasons I just wasn't in writing/posting/blogging mode. It's a bit hard to explain, because the various reasons are manifold and consist of conceptual thoughts and feelings rather than words. When I try to describe them they writhe around like quicksilver and refuse to let me shove them into the usual communication stream. It's a bitch of a problem to surmount. Or is it? Maybe (probably) I'm just whining.

In addition to being hard to describe, the conceptual thoughts and feelings often run rampant through my mind and body, wreaking havoc everywhere. That part really is a bitch. The effect is both familiar and unwanted. I do not desire to be swayed by powerful inner forces which refuse to follow my commands.

So I found myself feeling the pressure to produce and post a beautiful blog homage to nature's majesty on the first day of autumn, while at the same time feeling a powerful urge to run away and hide from inner turmoil. This combination does not for happy blogging make.

What a pain in the ass. Ah well.


I spent Wednesday morning working on stock tanks, fence, and shooting videos. Mostly the latter. I came to town for lunch and the littlest wanted a song, which means she wanted to sit on my lap and watch a music video or 10 on my phone. I am a sucker for that.

She picked DMB "Ants Marching," the live version from 2007 in Atlanta*. She was completely absorbed by the song; just watched and watched and didn't squirm or wiggle a bit. Moments stretch into minutes. Each instant is more precious than the wealth of the world. I wish there was a way to share what that experience feels like, but there just aren't any clever ape-lizard words big enough or grand enough or full enough. Close your eyes and imagine.

Yesterday morning the little ones and I sat on the couch and watched Nanny McPhee. It's a fascinating and fun movie. They did a lot of squirming, trading places sitting in my lap and at times crawling all over me. At two and four they've got far too much energy bursting forth to sit quietly for more than a few minutes at a time. But they stayed very close to me, keeping in physical contact.

There's something vitally important going on when we spend time together. We're all growing and learning and living. It's something I'd never have experienced or even had a hint such a thing could exist.



From the batshit crazy file.

I mentioned in passing some time ago that an old injury had flared up. Many years ago I had a chest injury that required surgery. The combination of injury and surgery left plastic and metal junk and suture material (itself a form of plastic) under the skin. The flare up in question took the form of a skin infection, a spot of redness and tenderness. A couple of days later it pointed and began leaking pus. I pulled an old piece of suture out, perhaps half an inch long. I cleaned it up and expected it to quickly heal.

It stayed sore and tender though and refused to heal. Allie decided it needed a proper cleaning and went after it with soap, water, and peroxide. Big peroxide fan. Gave it a proper scrubbing, and that was just what it needed.

"Oh shit," she said, "what's this?"

It was more suture material. I gave it an experimental tug. It didn't hurt, but I could tell by the way it felt both inside and through gentle tension that more of the old nylon monofilament was ready to (and needed to) come out.

I had her grab the ready blowout kit and dig out a kelly clamp. This one in fact.

"Just grab the end and pull," I said.


"You started it," I said, "you get to finish it."

I'd told her the story behind the scar previously, and now I explained that my body had tired of the old suture material and wanted to get it out, thus the redness/soreness and non-healing of an immune response.

"I'll tell you if it hurts or if you should stop. Go ahead."

So she pulled about 15 centimeters of old suture material out. It was gross and fascinating at the same time. It felt good to get it out.

I ran the numbers in my head. Without checking my log book I was pretty sure I had the dates right. "You were eight days old when those sutures went in."

This is exactly the brand of temporal reality which proved beyond doubt that I am a dirty old man.

We looked at each other for an endless moment of love and connection. It was a very cool experience though the thing probably makes zero sense to anyone else.

She finished cleaning the site. Within 24 hours the thing had healed completely. Human body is pretty cool.

The heart is completely unfathomable.



A bit of breeze this morning.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

*He wakes up in the morning
Does his teeth bite to eat and he's rolling
Never changes a thing
The week ends the week begins
She thinks, we look at each other
Wondering what the other is thinking
But we never say a thing
These crimes between us grow deeper

Take these chances
Place them in a box until a quieter time
Lights down, you up and die

Goes to visit his mommy
She feeds him well his concerns
He forgets them
And remembers being small
Playing under the table and dreaming

Take these chances
Place them in a box until a quieter time
Lights down, you up and die
Driving in on this highway
All these cars and upon the sidewalk
People in every direction
No words exchanged
No time to exchange

When all the little ants are marching
Red and black antennas waving
They all do it the same
They all do it the same way

Candyman teasing the thoughts of a
Sweet tooth tortured by the weight loss
Programs cutting the corners
Loose end, loose end, cut, cut
On the fence, could not to offend
Cut, cut, cut, cut

Take these chances
Place them in a box until a quieter time
Lights down, you up and die

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Autumn arrives, right on schedule

Yeah, I was out there This morning.

Just barely.

I didn't leave the house until 0710. Would 21 minutes suffice to relocate myself to the seasonal change video site?

Just barely.

But just barely was good enough.

Slow pan. Autofocus not happy with the lighting. But horsies!

More glorious morning from the first day of autumn south of Kimball, Nebraska. Former seabed!

Four minutes of pure, well, something...

And another four minutes! A little bit of sage anyway...

And anyway, on with the day. A problem to solve!

"Wots all this winterizing mean, then?"

Last video stop on the south unit today.

On to the home place! Autumn cows.


Fuzzy pronghorn!

And that's a lot of video. I guess it's a decent tour of the first morning of autumn in this part of the world. Hope my blabbing wasn't too bad.


At lunchtime the little ones sat with me for a few lovely minutes watching "songs" on my phone. What a blessing.


Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Summer fades

Funny story. I remember shooting the following videos and was quite certain I'd built a blog post around them. I did not build such a post. I was pretty busy with fence work and in the process of getting engaged, so I may have only dreamed that I had done it. Who knows?

On June 20 I marked the moment of the Summer Solstice, the first moment of summer. Kind of a goofy thing to do, perhaps. It was a hot and gorgeous day and I was doing good work and enjoying it.

I celebrated with a pair of Swainson's Hawks. This pair hunted over my shoulder this summer whenever I was working on fence or hiking. I think they were following me around in anticipation that I might kick up some tasty small animals which they could predate. It was a very fine moment in the midst of a very fine day.

Beautiful birds.

Tomorrow morning at 0731 local the Autumnal Equinox will arrive, and with it the end of calendar summer and the arrival of calendar autumn.

Will I be outside and filming to mark the event? I don't know. It would be kinda cool though. We'll see.


Again from the batshit crazy file.

The beard is gone.

For what it's worth, I struggled with that. I kept thinking, "she liked it and she touched it, I can't let it go." Nothing wrong with that except it's batshit crazy. It began as something to surprise my Love with. It became my mourning beard. Possibly a predictable thing, and even okay, up to a point. Having passed that point, the beard became an unhealthy badge of self pity. Enough.

I got a big assist from the littlest one, who said "take it off!"

Later she said, "put back on!" That helped too, kind of put the whole thing in proper context.

When I say batshit crazy, I mean just that. Losing Allie affected my thinking to a huge extent. Many of my thoughts and ideas were by definition insane. Many will continue to be insane, probably for the rest of my life.

Today marks six weeks. That's no time at all. Time enough, however, to begin to emerge from the initial crushing shock. Time enough to begin edging forward.

Her presence is strong and palpable this morning, but it's more a joyful presence than a sad and longing one. Is she really here with me or is the feeling a neural construct? I don't know, I can't know. She's here, she's smiling and shaking her head and giving me the "hemorrhagic eye roll" we used to joke about. It's enough.


It was an unexpectedly tough weekend. I think my emotional nadir of self pity collided with the 24-hour stomach flu and I allowed those things to run wild. It was a bit of a train wreck. Somehow I stumbled through to the place where I was willing to beg mercy from God. As always, I received mercy. And peace. And joy. And wonder. And love.

Beauty began to pop out at me again.

Cattle on prairie.

Curlycup gumweed. Autumnal.

Crested wheatgrass. The top part has been dry and unpalatable for bovine consumption since the first day of summer.

But this is late-season autumnal green-up. Tasty!

Gumweed, sky, and cattle.


This morning I checked cows.

Then it was time to combine a hike with thistle monitoring, stock tank winterizing, and good work on my suntan.

Thistles coming back.

Last day of summer. Pretty day.

Draining a tank, wondering if the future includes me continuing to do this job. You never know.

Standpipe in place. The standpipe is basically the drain plug.

Standpipe gone and draining!

It was a good hike, 4.94 miles with lots of up and down stuff. Legs felt good, tan got better, bug spray kept the biting flies at bay.

So will I get out in the morning in time to mark the arrival of autumn? I don't know. I'm going to try. Have to see what the morning brings.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.