December 30, 2008

Are Shopping Malls Finished?

Chadwick Matlin at Slate suggests that the shopping mall as a retail environment is finished. Rod Dreher agrees and has interesting reader comments.

At the Pueblo Mall, Steve & Barry's barely opened before it was closed again, another story of bankruptcy from a chain store that tried to be everywhere at once.

Writes Matlin, "At the risk of getting Gladwellian, every store that closes has an impact on the shops left behind. Walking through a half-empty mall is an unsettling experience; it feels as dreadful as Dawn of the Dead, just without the zombies."

I never heard the term "pimple-collar job" before, but it's obvious.

December 28, 2008

Field-Expedient Vehicle Recovery

Begin with a driverless Jeep Liberty with an iffy parking brake left in neutral (my fault). Add gravity, snow, oak brush, and a gully.

Then stir in
two sterling neighbors
a 4wd pickup
more snow and ice
tow chains (2)
nylon tow cables (2)
a high-capacity come-along
bow saw
chainsaw
hydraulic "bottle jack"
scissors jack
piece of 2x4


Let simmer for two hours.

I'll be providing their champagne for New Year's Eve, to be sure.

NYT: Home Coal-Burning on the Increase

Sign in Florence, Colorado.Here in southern Colorado, we don't need the New York Times to tell us that people burn coal at home -- it's always been that way.

This is historically a coal-mining area. When M. and first moved to South Cañon (the "wrong side of the tracks" in Cañon City) back in the 1980s, the acrid smell of coal smoke hung in the air on winter evenings. We ourselves burned a lot of cottonwood, which smells like cow shit--but it was free.

In nearby Florence, you can buy coal from Wensday through Sunday, and maybe Tuseday too by special appointment.

(If you burn wood, you can call it "biomass," which sounds better.)

State Parks Wants to Make Mountain Bikers Pay

Buried in a Colorado State Parks plan for more trails at Lake Pueblo State Park lies--surprise!--a plan to collect more fees from park visitors.

That's right, all you mountain bikers parking at the "red gate" and other access points on Colorado 96, the parks bureaucrats want some money out of you.

One official trailhead with parking, trail information signage, and a self-service pay station may be considered along Highway 96 at the area know as the “red gate”.

The parkies want to tag you too.

Day use and seasonal passes should become available to the trail user. A receipt and wire tag system similar to systems used by the Forest Service or ski areas could be used and displayed on the bicycle or horse while riding in the park. By accepting and paying the fees, the user is expected to follow trail etiquette and release the State of Colorado from liability.

Because there is nothing more important in being outdoors than liability issues.

December 25, 2008

Christmas Walk in the Mason Gulch Burn


Looking SE into the Mason Gulch Burn (July 2005).M. and I went for a walk in the Mason Gulch Burn today. It was a sort of "edge day" for weather -- a storm to the west, clear skies to the east, and us right on the boundary. Part of the time it was sunny, while at other times fingers of snow squalls reached for us, and the skies clouded over, as in this photo.
Mule deer in Babcock HoleThese mule deer does were feeding back in the shadows ... ... and so were some little dinosaurs, a/k/a wild turkeys. Me, I wonder if Santa might have a better telephoto lens left over in his bag.

Colorado fishing, small-game licenses good through March

Just a reminder: Your 2008 Colorado small-game or fishing license is good through March 31, 2009.

I like that change because it forestalls setting out the first week of the year and then remembering, "Uh-oh."

The new licensing year will be April through March.

December 23, 2008

Blog Stew with Graupel

• We drove home from Florence today in graupel. M., who grew up in the Hudson Valley, says she never saw it before she arrived in Colorado on a November day. It's falling right now on a sun crust, with actual snow forecast for this afternoon and tonight.

• Bill Schneider rips into TV hunting shows. I don't have cable (not available here) nor satellite TV, so I don't see these, but from my outdoor-writer days I am aware of the pressure to "get the story" or to impose a narrative on what is an unpredictable hunting or fishing experience -- and the abuses and falsification that can result.

Mungo assembles a list of bushcraft and nature blogs, including 18th-century trekking and Dynamite Skills, which is not about explosives.

• Sawtooth goes hunting and muses on being more "crunchy" than "bubba."

December 22, 2008

It's Still a Bear, Right?

Taxidermist's bear form on an antiques shop in Florence, ColoradoYou open a Western antiques shop in an old house on East Main Street in Florence, which is zoned commercial.

You think, "A bear on the roof would really draw 'em in," but you don't have a large bear sculpture, and, face it, the chainsaw bears are so last-century.

But you come across a taxidermist's form for a gigantic bear, and so you bolt it to the roof.

It's still a bear, although it lacks ears and teeth and makes the passer-by think of a prehistoric bear that has spent centuries in a glacier, losing its fur in the process.

December 18, 2008

A Tribute to George Herter

Yes, I already knew that the Virgin Mary was fond of spinach.

I learned to cook partly from George Herter, as my tattered copy of Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices will attest. I think about Herter now and then.

Herter never acknowledges — not once — that his facts are any less sturdy and real than his Herter’s Famous No. 153 Saskatchewan Goose Call. No, sir: Herter facts are the finest, the most famous, specially selected and custom-made by only the oldest and most experienced craftsmen — even more factual than is necessary. No sooner do you digest his account of drinking with Hemingway in Key West (where Papa recommends a mixture of three parts light rum to one ounce of port wine as “great for dandruff”) than you come across a chapter called “Milking Scorpions Brings You $150 or More a Week.”

Thanks to Steve Bodio for the catch on this Herter review essay. Read the whole thing.

Daydreaming of the UAZ 469

Sometimes when I am bouncing over the snowy ruts of our road in my rattletrap Jeep CJ-5, wind tearing at its soft top, I think, "I need a really butch 4x4. This one's too comfortable!"

You can still get parts for an M-37. That might fit the bill.

Or what about a UAZ 469? Yeah, Russki iron!



Note the passenger's hold on his door. Does the UAZ 469 lack a Jesus bar, and is that because the USSR was an officially atheistic nation?

December 17, 2008

The Lost Realm of Night

Back in the 1970s, Newsweek ran an article about night-shift work and life as the "frontier" -- less authority, more marginal characters, fewer rules. I looked up the article once as part of a projected project on "night."

But this is the book that I would have written if I had the talent and focus: At Day's Close: Night in Times Past.

As the New York Times reviewer writes,

'At Day's Close,'' however, is less a history of night than a bizarre sort of elegy for it. In an epilogue, the author expresses deep reservations about modernity's profligate illumination. ''With darkness diminished,'' he warns, ''opportunities for privacy, intimacy and self-reflection will grow more scarce.'' While others blame television or video games for our cultural decay, Ekirch thinks we're on an apocalyptic slide into fluorescence.

The book's publication has another scholar thinking about writing. I am looking for a new long project myself, but it won't be the book about night that I saved clippings for.

December 16, 2008

Profile of a Division of Wildlife Officer

The Cañon City Daily Record profiles district wildlife manager Bob Carochi.

On poachers:

“At least 95 percent of the folks I deal with are good people to be around,” Carochi said. “But there definitely is a fair share of poaching active in the county. That’s the biggest law enforcement part of the job. There are folks who make an honest mistake, then there are guys who do stuff deliberately, see if they can get away with it.”

On the job's requirements:

Instead of falling into spring, summer, autumn and winter, his seasons divide into antelope, elk, deer and bear. Never one to punch the clock, Carochi works long hours and even longer days — sometimes, chalking up more than 300 hours in a single month. He also works many holidays.

Ken Salazar as Interior Secretary

According to the Denver Post, Senator Ken Salazar will accept the post of Secretary of the Interior.

As one-time employees (in a small way) of the DOI, M. and I are moderately happy to see him in the job. (I wonder if he will make any progress with the Indian oil-royalties quagmire.)

At least we hope that under Sec. Salazar there will be less political meddling in scientific research.

December 14, 2008

Southern Rockies Wolf Politics Heat Up

Via Cat Urbigkit, a report on the usual conflicts over proposed wolf reintroduction in the Southern Rockies.

WildEarth Guardians recently petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a wolf recovery plan for the region. Re-establishing a population of the carnivores is crucial to bringing ecosystems back into balance, according to the group.

Not surprisingly, the Colorado Cattlemen's Association feels otherwise.

Coincidentally, M. and I were watching "Wolves in Paradise," a PBS program about livestock producers and (or versus) reintroduced wolves in an area north of Yellowstone National Park.

One rancher who spoke hopefully of "detente" and coexistence with the wolves still ended up having his employees shoot a couple -- and later calling in the federal "wildlife services" people to take out some more. The program offered no happy ending for everyone.

December 11, 2008

Ruins and Ghosts of Antarctica

A little off-topic for this blog, but I wanted to share this link about abandoned sites in Antarctica and nearby islands.

For obvious reasons, Antarctica is a very popular place to abandon.

For once, read the comments.

December 09, 2008

Haiku for Break Time


Haiku for Break Time

Bird wings whir at the feeder--
I shovel snow--
Ah! The electric coffee grinder.


December 08, 2008

Recycling Market Stalls with the Economy

The Associated Press reports that prices for recycled materials are plummeting.

Aluminum should do the best, since it is so energy-intensive to produce, but even that market has dropped:

Cardboard that sold for about $135 a ton in September is now going for $35 a ton. Plastic bottles have fallen from 25 cents to 2 cents a pound. Aluminum cans dropped nearly half to about 40 cents a pound, and scrap metal tumbled from $525 a gross ton to about $100.

Meanwhile, after thirty years of being told that "Recycling is Good," people and municipalities are still doing it. Sometimes they wind up "upside-down":

In Washington state, what was once a multimillion-dollar revenue source for the city of Seattle may become a liability next year as the city may have to start paying companies to take their materials.

Another recycler had a similar complaint for the New York Times:

“We’re warehousing it and warehousing it and warehousing it,” said Johnny Gold, senior vice president at the Newark Group, a company that has 13 recycling plants across the country. Mr. Gold said the industry had seen downturns before but not like this. “We never saw this coming.”

And when that happens, the cynics who just want to beat up on environmentalists go, "See, we told you! Nyah nyah nyah."

Municipal programs can't be switched off and on with the market, so I doubt that they will stop. As one commercial recycler said,

"It's going to be bleak for a while," he said. "We can just make our piles taller, and hopefully by spring, things will be a little better."

December 06, 2008

New Self-Defense Rules for National Parks

Under new regulations, persons with valid concealed-carry permits may now possess weapons for self-defense in national parks, under the laws of the state in which the park is located.

In other words, if I enter Mesa Verde National Park, I am still under Colorado law, not suddenly under a different, federal law.

To quote the Interior Department's announcement:

Existing regulations regarding the carrying of firearms remain otherwise unchanged, particularly limitations on poaching and target practice and prohibitions on carrying firearms in federal buildings.

Why did this issue come up? Law-blogger Eugene Volokh quotes Interior's FAQ page:

[W]e also recognize that current statistics show an alarming increase in criminal activity on federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior, especially in areas close to the border and in lands that are not readily accessible by law enforcement authorities.

In other words, the feds cannot guarantee your safety in parks along the Mexican border where drug smugglers, etc., run freely, as well as in some other parks with crime problems, e.g. Yosemite.

If national parks were crime-free, park ranger Nevada Barr's career as a mystery writer would never have taken off.

Yet the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), a nonprofit supporting the National Park Service, is treating this news like a disaster.

Simply put, concealed-carry permit holders are not the people that they have to worry about in regard to crime and poaching.

These permit holders have gone through training classes, fingerprinting, and criminal background checks in order to get their permits. They are as close to Grade A law-abiding as you can get -- yet the NCPA wants to treat them all as potential criminals.

I can see two reasons for NPCA's agitation. One is simply fear of change. The other is ignorance. Neither reflects well on the organization.

December 05, 2008

Let's Celebrate Repeal Day.

With all the talk comparing today's economy to the Great Depression, I have noticed that one other event of the early 1930s is being celebrated as well -- Repeal Day!

There is a connection between Repeal, the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, and the Democratic Party's adoption of "Happy Days Are Here Again" as its official song.

The Southern Colorado Beer Examiner has the history, but let me add that Pueblo, Avondale, and St. Charles Mesa saw a lot of illegal distilling and bootlegging too back then, a legacy that lingers in some people's minds.

You can read all about that in Betty Alt and Sandra Wells' Mountain Mafia - Organized Crime in the Rockies.

December 04, 2008

On the Map in Colored Land

Last month I went to Stink Onion.

That's just one Midwestern place name that looks startling fresh in the Atlas of True Names, which you can preview at the Telegraph's web site.

Middle Earth’s evocative “Midgewater”, “Dead Marshes” and “Mount Doom” are strikingly similar in nature to Europe’s “Swirlwater”, “Darkford” or “Smoky Bay”, as revealed by the Atlas of True Names.

Names are fun to think about. My September trip to North Dakota brought me back through places I knew from childhood with their flint-hard native animist names--Spearfish, Sundance, Bear Lodge--mixed with the names of military commanders who subdued those same animists--Sturgis, Sheridan, Fort Collins.

They made a change from the baroque Catholic religiosity of New Mexico and southern Colorado place names.

I belong to what is, in effect, the Blood of Christ Shooting Sports Club. Translated, it sounds like something from Franco's Spain!

The Huerfano River at Doyle

This what a High Plains river looks like: the Huerfano River in southern Pueblo County, flowing northeast towards the Arkansas River.
Huerfano River at Doyle bridge, looking upstreamLooking upstream to the southwest.

Huerfano River at Doyle Bridge, looking NE.Looking downstream towards the northeast.

Huerfano River at Doyle bridge, looking downstream. An historical marker near the bridge where the photos above were taken. Click the photo for a more readable image.

Yes, in Colorado this stream counts as a "river." It only goes dry occasionally. In May it might be rambunctious, during the snow melt.

Some tamarisk and Russian olive removal needs to be done here, as in so many places.

December 03, 2008

Canned Soup and Other Stand-bys

If all this talk about cooking potatoes, oatmeal, and split peas is getting you down, here is an unvarnished review of many canned and prepared foods.

(Via Snowflakes in Hell.)

What East Coast Pundits Miss about Oil Shale

Have you noticed how most of the pundits touting Colorado oil shale as our energy salvation live east of the Mississippi River?

I'm talking about you, Glenn Reynolds, there in soggy Tennessee.

They just do not understand the water issues wrapped up with the shale issues. You can't just snap your fingers and create more than 300,000 acre-feet of water in the over-appropriated upper Colorado River basin, as the Colorado Independent explains.

“A dominant finding is oil shale development, along with its associated power production, could require tremendous amounts of water, up to 378,300 acre-feet annually,” concludes the Energy Development Water Needs Assessment, which was funded by grants from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

So if you take the water for shale development, which ox gets gored? Denver? Las Vegas? Los Angeles? Phoenix?

UPDATE: Welcome, View from the Porch readers. For more education on Western water issues, visit Coyote Gulch. To see what we mean by "river" in the Southwest, go here.

I am a Field Jacket

At least according to the designers at Alpha Industries.

Not cheap, either.

December 01, 2008

Cheap Gear: Swiss Fleece Sleeping Bag

I recently bought one of these ex-Swiss Army fleece sleeping bags to use as a liner in my car-camping sleeping bag, which itself is ex-Forest Service and cost under $20.

For $5.97, how can you go wrong?

It would be good for napping in a cool house or for keeping in the vehicle in case of an unexpected sleep event.

I don't think you could buy the fabric this cheap at a store, as long as you like a sort of purplish-blue.

(This post hereby begins a new blog category, cheap gear.)

November 30, 2008

Blog Stew with Oatmeal

¶ Was a Tasmanian eco-activist murdered in 1972? Book, documentary reveal an official reluctance to investigate the death of Brenda Hean.

¶ National Park brochures -- written by literature majors?
Immutable yet ever changing, the cliffs of Zion stand resolute, a glowing presence in late day, a wild calm.

¶ Stop the presses! The New York Times discovers beans and oatmeal.

¶ Fancy gated resorts around the West are going bust.

November 28, 2008

The Lost City of Detroit

Some years ago, I worked part-time for a small Colorado Springs public-relations agency whose head had bailed out of p.r. work in Detroit in the late 1970s. That was prescient of him, given the state of the auto industry today.

On the other hand, perhaps Detroit could become a national park for urban explorers. Its four-footed and feathered wildlife is already increasing.

Whole neighborhood blocks cleared of houses by arson and bulldozers have reverted to urban prairies, visible in satellite photos as unusually large green patches in the middle of the inner city. Sidewalks vanish beneath creeping grasses, while aluminum fences between homes become entwined with the branches of dozens of saplings growing as high as the droopy utility wires. . . .

I encountered [a peregrine falcon] on an upper-floor fire escape of the Book Building a while back. It startled me by squawking loudly at me while perched a few feet away, staring intently at me, long enough to snap a photo of it before it flew off with slow, heavy flaps of its large wings, flying towards the abandoned Fort Shelby Hotel, itself the site of a turkey vulture’s nest this year, sharing roof space with several large trees.


(Via Mike-istan.)

UPDATE: I had not realized that a whole blogging genre is evolving around the "lost city" motif. Here is another.

November 27, 2008

November 26, 2008

Keep the Shiny Side Up

Ten tips for driving in steep terrain, which I am sure that many of this blog's readers do.

The photos show the show-off stuff on slickrock near Moab somewhere, but the tips apply on any steep, rocky mountain road. Sample:

Stay Off the Brakes -- When descending a steep slope, the natural reaction is to hit the brakes. Often times this causes the tires to lose traction and the vehicle to slide wherever gravity and fate take it. With a manual transmission, it is easy to use compression braking to hold the vehicle back and keep it from going too fast. With an automatic this is more difficult, but you can still shift the transmission manually into a lower gear. If you do start sliding, point the front tires downhill and accelerate to straighten the vehicle out. It might seem counter-intuitive to hit the gas when you are headed downhill out of control, but this is the best way to regain traction and control.

Via Jeep News Now.

November 25, 2008

Nomadics

Nomadic site along the Arkansas River?
This spot along the Arkansas River near Avondale, Colorado, suggests a North American exhibit in the Museum of Nomadics.

It includes, from left, a tipi and a pop-up camping trailer. In the background is a tractor truck (facing away from camera) for the long-haul trucker nomad.

Obscured by the fallen tree, center, is a flat-fender Jeep, possibly a Willys MB. (See smaller photo.) And on the right you see a classic aluminum travel trailer.

In Chapter Ten of Magpie Rising: Sketches from the Great Plains, Merrill Gilfillan writes of the western edge of the Southern Plains:

This is the upper Arkansas zone of giant cinnamon rolls and magnificent geological poise. It is mountain-related country, a cusp of things southwestern, Rocky Mountain, and planar. . . . There is something chilling about the piñons and their landscape. They hint of wandering pedestrians, of seed eaters, of Cabeza de Vaca, and perpetual hunger.

(Nomadics is also the name of a blog and, no surprise, a tipi maker.)

November 24, 2008

The Airship that Swims like a Fish

Early builders of heavier-than-air craft tried to imitate birds, but no human has the chest and back muscles to flap a set of wings.

But an airship that flies like a fish, now that can work: Bayou Renaissance Man has more details and the stunning video. (And a cooler headline than mine.)

Interior Secretary Speculations

John Orr at Coyote Gulch summarizes speculation about who will be the next Secretary of the Interior, a big item for us Westerners.

I have seen some blogosphere gossip that the job was offered to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, but I cannot find a link offhand.

At least Richardson would know what the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Land Management do. But apparently he wanted a foreign-policy job -- Secretary of State -- and not getting that, will take Commerce instead.

November 21, 2008

The Dogs Had a Good Time Anyway

My friend Ron and I hit a couple of scaled-quail spots on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. We did not see a one, which makes me wonder if populations were knocked down by the Blizzard of 2006 and are still recovering.

We covered a fair amount of ground, and of course the dogs covered more. Jack gave the marching orders and then lapsed into Old Dog Mosey Mode.

Ron's Zeke worked hard, though. Here he has checked a stock pond for quail. No quail.

No quail underground either!

Quail hunting on the Southern Plains is thirsty work.


And then there is the cactus. Ow!

November 20, 2008

"Hurry up!" says Jack

Jack the Chesapeake in haranguing

Settle down, Jack! I will blog about your and Zeke's hunting trip as soon as I have worked on the freelance job that pays money.

November 17, 2008

Off to El Cuartelejo

The weather is unseasonably warm. The price of gasoline is falling. Scaled quail are in season.

It's time to go messing around in El Cuartelejo for a couple of days -- although not as far as the settlement of that name. We will postpone any armed incursions into Kansas for a while.

I just need a couple of days of big sky, prairie, cactus, canyons, and enigmatic ruins. So does Jack.

November 13, 2008

Branch Inn Destroyed in Blast

A shocker: the Branch Inn on Pueblo's Union Avenue exploded this afternoon. (It even had a MySpace page -- what would JoJo have thought?). There were injuries and possibly fatalities.

M. was watching Judge Judy when it was interrupted for the news. Her immediate thought was, "What had JoJo been storing in the cellar, left over from the bad old days?" But it will probably turn out to have been a natural-gas explosion.

A little piece of "old Pueblo" is gone. M. remembers hanging out in the kitchen with Jo Jo, sampling red sauce on a cold winter afternoon.

November 12, 2008

GAO: Boarding Wild Horses is a Money-Loser

Costs of the Bureau of Land Management's wild-horse management program are spiraling out of control, reports the Denver Post.

Far more horses are just being kept in holding pens than anyone wants to adopt, says the federal General Accounting Office.

"The program is at a critical crossroads," the GAO report said. "Within the program's existing budget, BLM cannot afford to care for all the animals off the range, while at the same time manage wild horse and burro populations on the range."

There is a program by which state prison inmates care for and break horses, which are later adopted. Everyone loves it -- it's a feel-good news story. When I worked for the Cañon City Daily Record, I wrote a feature about it too.

The horses find homes, the inmates have a purpose in their lives, everyone wins.

But it places only a fraction of the horses that are rounded up.

The simple fact is that the horse-adoption market is finite, and not everyone who wants a horse wants a mustang.

The BLM has relied on adoption programs that require people who adopt the animals—protected under the wild horse act—don't sell them for slaughter. The agency also keeps older animals or those deemed unadoptable in long-term facilities. Some live for 15 to 20 years in the pens.

"Since 2001, over 74,000 animals have been removed from the range, while only about 46,600 have been adopted or sold," the report said.


This is the unanticipated dollar cost of the sentimentality that keeps the mustangs out of dog food cans and butcher shops. (Via Colorado Independent.)

UPDATE: BLM tries shuffling money and horses while talks continue.

November 11, 2008

Did It Seem Chilly to You?


More confusing climate data. The University of Illinois has a site that lets you compare satellite photos of the Arctic ice cap from one year to the next, going back to 1980.

You can see here that there was somewhat more ice cover this year than last, a week ago. On the other hand, in the 1980s the Bering Sea had more ice than this year.

The next graphic is about temperatures this year so far, which seems to fit with the above.


NOAA says that 2008 has a been a cool year so far. Stay tuned ...

November 10, 2008

Blog Stew, Recycled

• Walking in the cities.

Walking can do that to you: take you to places you don't expect to go, people you don't expect to meet, entanglements you hadn't planned on.

• A Grand Junction paper reports that Sen. Ken Salazar does not wish to be Secretary of the Interior but predicts some changes in BLM's approach to oil and gas drilling. My pre-election thoughts about Obama and the West are here. (Via Coyote Gulch.)

Five myths about recycling, debunked by Popular Mechanics. Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds.)

• Michael Pollan (writing before the election) warns the president that food is a big, if somewhat occluded, issue for him to deal with.

November 08, 2008

Smart Pills

I have a childhood memory of going on a "nature walk" with someone (in Boy Scouts? at the old Jefferson County, Colo., camp for 6th-graders?) who told us about "smart pills."

He held up a nearly spherical little mule-deer turd and told us that if we ate one, we would be smart -- smart enough to never do that again!

Har har.

That memory came back when I read this item in today's Denver Post: "Elk Droppings May Have Sickened Kids."

In Jefferson County, too.

The Little Birds Appear in Time to be Counted

Beverly in La Veta blogged on Thursday that "the juncos are back." Here along the southern Colorado foothills, October is the "month of big birds," in other words, jays and such, in terms of traffic at the bird feeders.

And then suddenly juncos, pine siskins, and other little guys start appearing -- just in time for Project Feederwatch, which starts today.

M. just informed me that two American goldfinches were on the thistle-seed feeder. Ah, something to count!

November 07, 2008

"Alternative" Gun Owners

So I was sitting in the bar at the Chicago Hilton Towers last Monday, amid the building "buzz" for the Obama victory rally, when the talk turned to his stand on the Second Amendment.

My friend who heads the Women's Studies program at a California university surprised me by telling me that she owned a handgun for protection -- which only goes to show, the typical gun owner is not always who you think s/he is.

She said that she hoped President Obama will be "educable" on the issue.

November 06, 2008

Enviro Ballot Issues Do Poorly Nationwide

Wall Street Journal blogger Keith Johnson notes the poor showing for environmental initiatives in Tuesday's election.

I was surprised to come home Wednesday and discover that Colorado's ballot measure to raise severance taxes on oil and gas to something approaching Wyoming's rates (#58) was defeated. The industry-funded campaign falsely cast it as a direct tax at the gas pump, which is so wrong. But their ad guys realized that "it's a tax" was a scary line for a recession election.

Only in Missouri did a green-energy ballot initiative have any success. Proposition C set out to gradually increase the use of renewable energy to 15% by 2021, mandating slow-but-steady yearly increases. That’s the kind of measure that power companies and electricity grid operators like, because it gives them time to absorb the new power into the system without disruptions. Alone among the five environmental ballot initiatives, Proposition C had almost no opposition.

November 05, 2008

Not Knowing How to Cook, revisited

Not long after writing my "No One Knows How to Cook Anymore" post, I encountered a piece by New York Times writer Tara Parker-Pope on the lure of junk food for poor people.

She zig-zags in the lede a little bit, for she writes that " a billion people around the world live on a dollar a day" or less, but then says people in America spend more, only to zig again to an anecdote about a couple of American schoolteachers who indeed tried to live on a dollar a day.

This fall a couple in Encinitas, Calif., conducted their own experiment to find out what it was like to live for a month on just a dollar a day for food. Overnight, their diets changed significantly. The budget forced them to give up many store-bought foods and dinners out. Even bread and canned refried beans were too expensive.

As I wrote earlier, grain-and-legume based diets will keep you going, although they are boring:

Instead, the couple — Christopher Greenslate, 28, and Kerri Leonard, 29, both high school social studies teachers — bought raw beans, rice, cornmeal and oatmeal in bulk, and made their own bread and tortillas.

And they learned that making these foods takes more time than microwaving something. The slow cooker (Crock-Pot, etc.), available in many second-hand stores, is the tool you want!

Researchers say the experiment reflects many of the challenges that poor people actually face. When food stamps and income checks run low toward the end of the month, they often do scrape by on a dollar a day or less. But many people don’t know how to prepare foods from scratch, or lack the time.

I got food stamps twice in my life for short intervals, both times when I was in my twenties and unemployed or part-time employed. I don't think I ever ran out of food, but I ate a lot of split-pea soup and such.

“You have to know how to cook beans and rice, how to make tortillas, how to soak lentils,” said Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington. “Many people don’t have the knowledge or the time if they’re working two jobs.

Exactly. You have to know. Whose fault is it that you don't? The government's? Mom's?

Last year, Dr. Drewnowski led a study, published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, comparing the prices of 370 foods sold at supermarkets in the Seattle area. The study showed that “energy dense” junk foods, which pack the most calories and fewest nutrients per gram, were far less expensive than nutrient-rich, lower-calorie foods like fruits and vegetables. The prices of the most healthful foods surged 19.5 percent over the two-year study period, while the junk food prices dropped 1.8 percent.

I am not sure what Parker-Pope means here by "energy-dense junk foods." Examples would help. I think of something like french fries, but a raw potato would be cheaper, so what is she talking about?

Meanwhile, after a week of restaurant and hotel and Amtrak food, M. and I are back from our Chicago trip. Tonight's supper: soup of red beans, noodles, broccoli, and herbs; home-baked bread, garlic, and olive oil; jug wine. Delicious.

October 29, 2008

A Trip, an Award, and a List of Good Bloggers

M. and I are packing. Later today, the dogs go to the kennel, and we go to La Junta to catch the train for an academic conference that I attend every year. I will have two copies of my conference paper, plus one on a flash drive!

Meanwhile, Steve Bodio has awarded me the Super Scribbler award. (I was a high school journalist too, of the very "underground" sort.) I am to nominate five other bloggers.

So, quickly, here goes:

¶ Women are becoming hunters (or huntresses, as Holly Heyser calls them) in larger numbers, and she is blogging her own experiences afield at NorCal Cazadora. Like me, she is an ex-newsie.

¶ Galen Geer has been blogging at The Thinking Hunter for a little over a month. But I have known him for 30 years, and in that time he has written hundreds of columns and articles, plus a few pithy books, most recently a collection of stories set in southern Africa, Last Supper in Paradise. So blogging will come easily to him.

¶ I have been messing around with a scout camera, but I go to Chris Wemmer's Camera Trap Codger to see how it's really done.

¶ Tamara K. at View from the Porch is the sultana of snark, the prom queen of the gunnie blogosphere, well-read, knowledgeable, and a daily read. She needs this award like a moose needs a hat rack.

¶ Mike at Sometimes Far Afield gets into similar country to mine, and he brings along the best sort of dog. Go, Chessie bloggers!

Our destination today is Chicago. You would not think that "Southern Rockies Nature Blog" would touch on Chicago much, but actually, I have done so a few times.

October 28, 2008

Bighorn Sheep Festival Coming Up


These bighorn sheep, part of the Hardscrabble herd, were grazing along Colorado 96 last Saturday.

The Division of Wildlife promises a whole day with Colorado's state critter on Saturday, November 8, near Georgetown: the Bighorn Sheep Festival.

Hot cider, guided hikes, little kids dressed up like bighorns -- how can you go wrong?

Topographic Maps the Way You Want Them

You can now order customized topographic maps (so that your favorite mountain, etc., is dead center) and benefit the excellent conservation group Backcountry Hunter and Anglers.

Just go here and click the graphic link at the bottom of the page for My Topo.

Then poke around the rest of the BHA website and if the description fits you, join up!

Interview with a Gamekeeper

The Guardian, which occupies a somewhat similar (perhaps even more leftward) place in the British media spectrum to that of NPR's All Things Considered in the United States, interviews a British gamekeeper.

"A lot of people don't really understand what we do," he says. "The bottom line is, I'm not going to deny it, we're rearing game birds to shoot. People think we're murdering bastards, just killing things. But they don't see the benefits of it ... you're more likely to see songbirds out on a shoot than you are on non-managed land, where the predators at the top of the tree are the ones surviving."

Via British blogger James Marchington, who called the piece "surprisingly balanced."

If your word association with "gamekeeper" is "Lady Chatterley," then you are probably an NPR listener--as am I. But the arguments that Geoff Garrod makes are what an American would expect to hear from the local district wildlife manager, game warden, etc.

October 23, 2008

Conquer Climate with Language!

Problem: Parts of Australia have been suffering from a long-term drought.

Proposed government solution: Don't use the word "drought."

Not to poke too much fun at the Australians. I could imagine some people in SE Colorado taking the same approach.

The Anasazi leaders probably did the same thing in 1100. "It's just a temporary dryness. As soon as we get some new macaws from Down South, everything will be OK. Perform the ceremonies correctly!"

October 22, 2008

"No one knows how to cook anymore"

Two things converged in my mind today. One was this comment thread at Querencia, where various people link a perceived decline in hunting culture with Americans' increasing inability to deal with unprocessed foods (meats or vegetables) in the kitchen.

My title quote comes from Holly Heyser's comment, spot-on, as usual.

The second was a Denver Post piece about school menus changing in response to child obesity. Parents complain (!) that they cannot feed their children as high quality food at home as they get at school. Consider this:

Bridget Sandoval, a 30-year-old mother of four in the small farming town of Wiggins, sometimes struggles to throw together healthy meals for a family that's getting by on one income now that she's a full-time nursing student.

"If we have to make something quick, I turn to Hamburger Helper," she said. "It's not that good. The kids don't like it. I don't like it. But sometimes it's nice and quick. If you want a meal to be healthy, it takes time and money."


When I was teaching, I used to hear the same lament from some students: "We can't afford good-quality food."

Yes, you can. But you have to know how to cook. The problem is more one of cultural poverty than financial poverty.

Every traditional culture had its poor people's foods--boring, but nutritious enough to keep you going.

Think of beans and tortillas, rice and stir-fried veggies, oatmeal, cabbage, pea soup -- and a little fish or chicken when you can get it.

It's all still cheaper for the nutrients than Hamburger Helper, which is just an expensive way to buy pasta.

You can fix some of these foods in quantity and eat them for days --

"Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold / Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old" -- you think that's just a nursery rhyme? It's a memoir of 17th-century English life!

In the same comment thread, Steve Bodio writes,

last week we were in the two local markets doing our shopping. In one, the cashier asked what a squash was-- then asked how you cook it, having never had one. This is in rural New Mexico. In the second, another asked what CABBAGE was.

Hello!? New Mexico? Three sisters?

Cultural poverty. And neither Barack Obama nor John McCain can fix it.

(Of course, some people have restaurant-grade kitchen appliances and a quarter-mile of granite counter tops -- and they still eat take-out food. Same problem.)

October 21, 2008

Regeneration in Yellowstone's 'Green Desert'

Above: lodgepole pine forests filling in after the 1988 Yellowstone fires.

My recent trip to Yellowstone came at the 20th anniversary of the big forest fires of 1988, which burned about a third of the park. The last time I had been there, recovery was just beginning. Fishing on the Lamar River, I had stepped from one winter-kill elk skeleton to the next.

It's all different now. There are lots of elk -- and the lodgepole pine forests are all 8-20 feet high.

In the current issue of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's magazine, Bugle, writer Lee Lamb reviews the factors that produced this complex of huge fires (sorry, no link yet), their effects on wildlife, and what happened since.

Immediately after the fires, the nutritional value of annual plants exploded, but then influx of new nutrients slowed. The park's northern elk herd — really too many animals for the habitat — numbered at least 19,000 before the fire. At least half died in 1988-89. The population rebounded, although the introduction of wolves in the mid-1990s, plus hunting when the elk are outside the park, keep the northern herd's population to 8,000-10,000 animals now.

The lodgepole pine forests are coming back, of course. Lamb speaks of more aspen groves in the park—frankly, I did not see them. In fact, I was surprised at how little aspen there was. Unlike here in the southern Rockies, where aspen springs up after a fire, lodgepole is mostly replaced by more lodgepole.

Even-aged stands of lodgepole pine are sometimes called "the green desert," because they permit few other plants and shrubs to grow and provide little food for wildlife other than squirrels.

Right: a tiny aspen crowded out by lodgepole.

M. says she prefers the northern parts of the park--Hayden Valley, Lamar Valley, Mammoth Hot Springs--best, and I tend to agree. Lodgepole pine forests are fairly boring, unless they have geysers and mud pots bubbling up in them.

October 20, 2008

A Bulletin from Camera Trap Spring

I planned to start deer hunting close to home this afternoon, but the weather was not cooperating.

Before the season started, M. and I had hiked over the East Ridge and replaced the batteries in the camera that I had placed a few days earlier at a tiny seep that I call Camera Trap Spring (original, eh?). The first two-day placement had produced no images at all, but there is not much water in that little valley -- something had to show up at the spring.

Today was cool and misty. Just when I was ready to head out for an evening sit at the spring, rain and thunder started. I decided to just hunt/hike over, fetch the camera, and come back.

When I reached the spring, I saw that the camera's (rechargeable) batteries were dead. That could be good, I thought.

Back home, I downloaded the pictures...


An Abert's squirrel. Multiply this image times eight or so. It was one active squirrel.

A pine squirrel had also been visiting the spring. There were multiple shots of it as well.

A gray fox showed up about 9 p.m. Thursday night.

But whoa! Look who stopped by for a drink in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Was this thirsty bull elk the reason that the water level in the seep had dropped? Sneaky guy -- he is hanging around in this patch of deep forest all the time, I bet, and coming out to feed by moonlight.

October 19, 2008

Photographic Blog Stew

¶ The short list for best wildlife photographer of the year, at New Scientist

¶ Tracking a peregrine falcon's migration online. (Via Doctor Hypercube.)

¶ Longmont, Colorado, photographer Bill Schmoker
has a blog and a license plate: BRDPICS.

October 18, 2008

A Blue Line on the Map Does Not Mean Water

Yesterday was a perfect fall day, and M. and I plus two friends were out in the Wet Mountains with shotguns, three dogs, and picnic ingredients. Only one grouse was seen, but the picnic part went well.

We are easing along a narrow, dusty Forest Service road in two dog-packed Jeeps when we encounter a 4x4 coming the other way. A man and a woman are in it.

They want directions to "Spruce Creek." They are both wearing chest waders.

For starters, they are up on a ridge at least 1,000 feet above the stream. And at first I muddle the directions for the hair-raising road that will get them down to it, but eventually we work out that part.

I do not have the heart to tell them that even if they find the creek, there is no way that they will need the chest waders. Just because it has "Creek" in the name does not mean that there is much water there.

October 15, 2008

Tamarisk-Eating Beetles Expand Territory

A little progress in the war on tamarisk -- imported tamarisk-eating beetles are spreading in Fremont County.

Tamarisk-eating beetles found in Fremont County likely are the descendants of bugs that were released in a nearby area two years ago, providing some hope that beetles released elsewhere in Southeastern Colorado could turn up later.

You go, beetles.

CSU to Study Herbal Remedies for Arthritis in Dogs

The Denver Post reports on a Colorado State University study planned on herbal remedies for arthritis in dogs -- such as Zyflamend, I suppose, although no brands are named.

CSU's vet school is seeking volunteer dogs.

Jack, our 13-year-old Chessie, is showing some arthritis in his hips. He also may have a bladder tumor. We went through a whole series of vet visits, urinalyses, etc., last spring because he was occasionally passing blood and showing a high bacteria count in his urine..

Two courses of antibiotics and about $400 later, that was the diagnosis: maybe a tumor. His urine showed some "transitional cells" and a possible "mass" was seen in the ultrasound examination of his bladder, which I witnessed.

The vet wanted to try Previcox, a non-steroidal anti-inflmmatory drug, because it apparently has slowed tumor growth also.

M. quickly Googled it and saw all the "Previcox killed my dog" stuff. So she put him on Zyflamend, which might maybe possibly has some anti-tumor properties.

As with all herbal remedies, you hear some exaggerated claims about it. On the other hand, you don't hear about liver and kidney damage.

The bottom line for me is that Jack is a 13-year-old big dog. He still gets around pretty well if he is allowed to have extra rest between trips afield. And he is still enjoying life, although I am assuming that this may well be his last hunting season.

October 14, 2008

MTV Trashes an Island

Here is how it looks when MTV films a reality show and then leaves.

Things I have learned in my life: You don't loan anything to a theatrical company. And you don't want movie-makers anywhere near where you live.

A Taste of Winter

Photo by Chas S. CliftonWe woke this morning to big, fat snowflakes. The temperature is a smidgen above freezing, so there will not be much accumulation, but still, it's a warning.

Sometimes I wonder if I would trade our six months of potential winter (since snow can fall any time from September into May) with a climate that offered a short, intense, definable winter season.

But I have also come to expect the breaks in the winter, when it's warmish and sunny, and you can catch up on outdoor jobs. One year I painted most of the house in November.

Today, though, looks like a day for a damp walk in the woods with the dogs and then desk work!

October 13, 2008

"Why Men Shouldn't Own Action Figures"

I do not know where this came from, but I have received it now from two friends, and it made me laugh.

A Little Hypocrisy from the World Wildlife Federation?

I can see why this juxtaposition of World Wildlife Fund advocacy and high-priced recreation causes sarcastic reactions. James Rummel is astonished too.

If you had $65,000 lying around, would you go on the trip?

October 12, 2008

Blog Stew with Predators

Sign in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, posted May 2008. Photo by Chas S. Clifton

¶ I saw this sign in the Lamar Valley at Yellowstone. I know that when when wolves arrived, they killed coyotes. So what is happening now? I did see one set of what looked like coyote tracks along the Lamar River, but saw only one individual coyote elsewhere in the park.

¶ Now this is what I call optimistic: a large carnivore initiative for Europe. Check the link for various news items.

¶ A video on the wolf controversies in North America.

The Mammoth Hot Springs Elk & People Rodeo

Photo by Chas S. CliftonElk wandering on the lawn of Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in Yellowstone National Park. Note the bull on the left. Click to embiggen.

I don't know how long that semi-tame elk have hung out around the hotel and old Fort Yellowstone grounds. I'm sure that decades ago, it was the easiest way for visitors to see them. But encouraging bears with open garbage dumps made them easy to see too, yet the Park Service abolished that practice eventually.

When we visited on Oct. 3, the rut was in full swing, I could see at least five bulls from the steps of the visitor center (the old Army post's BOQ). Two had harems and were acting acutely aware of each other, with occasional bugling and aggressive body language--at a safe distance.

But the park rangers were in a bigger lather than the bulls.

At the visitor center we had Anna Pigeon with a bullhorn herding visitors around: "You're between two bulls!! Up on the porch!!!"

Someone in a patrol car dashed back and forth, light bar flashing, flicking his siren, and barking confusing orders at drivers over his PA system: "Stop! Go! Turn! Stop!"

Another ranger placed orange cones on sidewalks and driveways, constantly rearranging them as the elk moved around. It was almost an artistic performance.

M. made various dry comments about "testosterone poisoning," referring, I think, to the bull elk.

I thought of UN peacekeepers in Bosnia: Lots of activity, but no real effect on the conflict.

But then the Park Service is 20 percent about preservation and 80 percent about crowd control. (Or maybe that should be 10:90.)

M. and I waited until the rangers' attention was elsewhere, then strolled towards where the Jeep was parked. Someone shouted through a bullhorn--I gestured towards the parking lot and kept going. And we left.

I suppose that if they are going to have semi-tame elk, they could bring in some semi-tame wolves. Then no one would have to leave the hotel to see nature in the raw. Visitors could sit in the lovely Art Deco hotel dining room, listening to the big-band music on the sound system, and watch predation in the parking lot.

Or they could start discouraging elk from hanging around the hotel complex.

UPDATE: Yellowstone's web site has a page of videos of people getting too close to elk and buffalo. You can watch rutting elk attacking cars at Mammoth. But given the road layout, there is no other way for drivers to go, so why does the NPS allow the "tame" elk?

October 09, 2008

Grus on the Loose

Three southbound flights of sandhill cranes went over us today, as many as 40 in a group, at medium altitude -- loose V's and W's of birds, pale grey flickers as their wings moved.

I can't help but think that their call must preserve the sound of some dinosaur or other.

The local newspaper's "Peaks of the Past" (reprinted news items from earlier times) offered this item from its equivalent 1908 issue: "A flock of wild geese, about 30 in number, passed over Westcliffe Thursday evening."

If a flock of geese was notable a century ago, were there any cranes at all? Fewer than 1,000 in 1940, says Wikipedia.

Some things have gotten better. Bodio might be seeing these birds soon.

October 07, 2008

Built for Comfort, not for Speed

Buffalo in the road. Yellowstone Park. Oct. 2, 2008. Photo by Chas S. Clifton
In his novel Ægypt, John Crowley's protagonist sees someone driving a "Bison" station wagon. Evidently it looked like this.

Raven Pillagers

Ravens pillaging a Jeep parked at Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone. Photo by Chas S. Clifton.
Last Saturday, when M. and I parked at Norris Geyser Basin's lot, I saw a raven burying what looked like a piece of cracker under some gravel. Later we found the source: this pillaged Jeep Wrangler.

The owner and his pal came along while I was shooting pictures. They were astonished to discover that not only had the ravens ripped into some plastic bags, but they had also unzipped some luggage and gotten into it as well.

If ravens are smart enough to play dead, it is not surprising that they can open zippers.

October 05, 2008

Dining through Yellowstone (and Grand Teton)

View from Signal Mountain Lodge, Grand Teton National Park, 5 October 2008. Photo by Chas S. Clifton
Let's face it, national-park food is sort of like Amtrak dining-car food, but with even better views. (I think they serve the exact same "garden burger.") The wine list in the parks is better too.

By the end of our Yellowstone visit, M. and I had developed a routine. First, a leisurely campground breakfast. Then some walks around geological areas -- Norris Geyser Basin, for instance. Then, around 2:30 p.m., a large late lunch at one of the grand old lodges, e.g., Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel or the Old Faithful Inn.

Then fishing and buffalo-watching, or whatever. Back to the campground after dark for tea and whiskey.

Finally, if you are looking for a meal in the Grand Teton or Yellowstone areas, you should skip International Leisure Hosts, Ltd.'s Flagg Ranch lodge.

We tried to eat lunch there today, with emphasis on tried. On a slow day, with only about five tables filled, we ordered sandwiches, waited ... waited, only to be told that, surprise! some employees had eaten them! New sandwiches were promised, right away. (No offer to "comp" our meal though.) We waited ... waited -- and then we walked. You would think that by the end of the season they would have worked out their kitchen procedures.

So forget Flagg Ranch. Go a little farther south to Signal Mountain Lodge, which offers a much better menu, fast service, and the view in the photo above.

September 27, 2008

Packing for Cold and Beasts

As a post-equinoctal thunderstorm comes over the ridge, M. and I are packing for a little road trip to see some charismatic megafauna.

I have checked my camera gear, but I really should test the bear spray. (You can guess where we are headed.)

Blogging will be slow or sporadic for the next week.

September 25, 2008

Digital Camouflage Comes to the Hunting World

On my recent trip to North Dakota, I was in two Cabela's stores, both dominated by racks and racks of camouflage clothing. (Ninety percent of it is the wrong colors for the Rockies, but that is a separate rant.)

The Optifade digital camo described by John Tierney has not made it into the stores yet, but I am sure it will soon enough. Tierney's longer article is here.

(Tierney's blog comments turn into the predictable pro- and anti-hunting positions. Skip 'em.)

Whatever hunting clothes you wear, you might consider washing them with something that does not contain optical brighteners. (Read the detergent label.) Birds and animals can see farther into the ultraviolet than we do, and the brighteners make the clothing reflect more UV light. Some specialized detergents such as Atsko's Sportwash deliberately leave them out of their formulas.

(Via David Hardy.)

September 22, 2008

The Invention of the Countryside

I have long heard how the North American Wildlife Conservation Model (game animals as public property, not landowners' property; no market in wild game, etc.) is superior to the European models that permit such things.

Now I am ninety pages into Donna Landry's excellent The Invention of the Countryside: Hunting, Walking, and Ecology in English Literature, 1671-1831 and could easily generate twenty blog posts from it. But then I would get nothing else done, so here is just a quick summary of some of the ideas jostled together in those ninety pages.

Let me just say that Landry fulfills the historian's task of reminding you that the past was not simple.

Linked to the New Labour government's attempts to ban fox hunting with dogs, the book begins chiefly with the Game Act of 1671 and moves toward the Act's repeal in 1831. Passed after the Restoration of Charles II, the Act limited the taking of certain game to individuals with incomes about 100 pounds a year--meaning, for that era, only the well-to-do. (One could qualify to vote with less income than it took to shoot partridges legally.)

You can see how poaching might be viewed as "democratic."

I have heard, too, that the English landscape was shaped partly by the needs of fox hunters, who kept woods and hedges that otherwise might have been torn out for large-scale mechanized farming.

But Landry connects both fox-hunting and pheasant-shooting with the early 19th-century landscaping trends at the great estates, symbolized by the work of the landscape designer Capability Brown and his disciples, which not only created views that appealed to the new aesthetics of Romanticism but also facilitated the gamekeeper's job.

In the 1820s, the (pro-hunting) political reformer William Cobbett notes,

Invariably have I observed that the richer the soil, and the more destitute of woods; that is to say, the more purely a corn [i.e., wheat] country, the more miserable the laborers ... No hedges, no ditches, no commons, no grassy lanes: a country divided into great farms; a few trees surround the great farm house.

He might be talking about large parts of the American Great Plains as well.

Or when he sees an estate with signs reading, "Spring guns and steel traps are set here [to keep out trespassers]," Cobbett knows that he has encountered "new money:"

Whenever any of them go to the country, they look upon it that they are to begin a sort of warfare against everything around them.

Think of Hollywood stars buying Montana ranches and blocking public access to trout streams, or the way that People of Money try to impose new values everywhere.

More of the book will deal, I can tell, with how "counter-cultural" and anti-aristocratic types promoted long-distance walking and landscape-viewing in ideological competition with hunting and shooting, whereas (mounted) hunting, once somewhat democratic and crossing social classes, became more and more the recreation of those who could paid hunt-subscription fees, demonstrate the correct social tone, and speak the correct hunting jargon (hounds having "sterns," not tails, etc.).

The naturalist, once a hunter himself, is now viewed as a trespasser and probably a clandestine poacher...

Yes, the North American Model looks better all the time. But we are not exempt from some of the same cultural memes as the Brits.

Spring Birdsong in Fall

I woke this morning to the single-note call of a Townsend's solitaire, but yesterday morning one was doing his whole spring song routine. Someone once told me that autumnal singing is related to a minor hormone surge at this time of year -- something that I need to research.

But that single note is one of our key seasonal indicators. M. says that it is actually her favorite bird call. I always think of it as the "All Clear" following a snow squall -- that or the calling of chickadees.

September 21, 2008

Don't Know Much about Neanderthals

But if you think you do know much, take the quiz before reading the National Geographic article about a group of skeletons found in a Spanish cave in 1994.

More on DNA research and, yes, cannibalism.

September 20, 2008

Old-Growth Forests Do Keep Storing Carbon

I have heard it preached as gospel that old-growth forests do not accumulate carbon as rapidly as new forests (or at all).

A new article in Nature, however, says that they do.

From the abstract:

Thus, our findings suggest that 15 per cent of the global forest area, which is currently not considered when offsetting increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, provides at least 10 per cent of the global net ecosystem productivity.

Via Climate Feedback, which also links to this news story.

September 19, 2008

Blog Stew with Wild Pork

¶ Chris Wemmer posts scout-camera photos of feral California pigs and links to an article suggesting that they fill a similar ecological niche to grizzly bears.

We don't have the big feral-pig population here. I swear that I saw one on Colorado 96 near Pueblo Reservoir in 1999 or 2000, though. Anyone have any other sightings?

¶ The physics of fly-casting, via Fishing Jones.

¶ An old friend of mine, the writer Galen Geer, has started blogging at The Thinking Hunter. Go visit.

¶ Holly Heyser links to several positive hunting-related articles in the national media, including an interview of herself for the Sierra Club's hunting-and-angling interest group, Sierra Sportsmen.

The Church of Bang

Bang Church sign, N.D. 200, Steele County

Apparently I have been spending too much time in the blogosphere, because when I saw this sign on North Dakota state highway 200, I immediately thought, "What a cutting-edge name for a shooting range."

Of course, Bang is a Scandinavian surname, as in Bang & Olufsen.

And my local guide said that North Dakotans don't do irony.

September 14, 2008

A Commonplace

Galen Geer and Cookie, North Dakota, September 2008Ther is a saying emong hunters that he cannot be a gentleman whyche loveth not hawkyng and hunting, which I have hard old woodmen wel allow as an approved sentence among them. The like sayinge is that hee cannot be a gentleman whych loveth not a dogge.

Anonymous, The Institucion of a Gentleman, 1555.


Galen Geer with Cookie, a German wirehaired pointer, Griggs Co., North Dakota.

September 13, 2008

Where Did the Axes Go?

When my father died five years ago, I inherited all of his tools, many of which I kept.

They included a double-bitted ax (ex-Forest Service, from the red paint on the handle) and a True Temper hatchet, perhaps 1960s vintage -- I remember the camping trip when both of them last were used.

The hatchet's leather sheath was falling apart, so I went looking for a new one. I tried in four states and, briefly, Vancouver, B.C. I found nothing good.

I tried some of the mail-order logging and forestry-supply outfits, and came away with new sheaths for the double-bitted ax and for the pulaski that came with it, but nothing for the hatchet.

Finally I found a sheath in the Campmor catalog that worked.

Somehow, in the years since I had to pass a basic axmanship test at Boy Scout camp, axes of all sizes seem to have become obsolete.

Half the ax-stuff in the forestry catalogs is aimed at the competitors in various logging derbies -- they are the only people nowadays who can stand on a spring board up off the ground and whack away with the ol' double-bit.

Before those tools arrived, I owned a chainsaw and two bucksaws, but the only ax I had was a single-bit model, and I used it only for splitting kindling.

Recreationally, I suppose axes and hatchets are relics of the "wood and canvas" era of camping.

Recently I have been studying the history of the Allied interventions in the Russian Civil War, 1918-1919, particularly the experiences of the "Polar Bears," American soldiers involved near Archangel.

These men of the 339th Infantry were mostly from Michigan. One historian describes their building of log blockhouses, etc., and casually mentioned that many were country boys and "handy with an axe."

That was then, apparently. Do we not need them anymore?

September 11, 2008

On the Road

Blogging will be sketchy for the next week, as I am on the road, my destination being first, a small town and an old friend in eastern North Dakota -- and then possibly the Turtle Mountain area of that state.

Tonight I fetched up in Valentine, Nebraska (more than halfway there!), which in some respects is a typical Plains town that smells like cows and diesel fuel, but which is surrounded by some fascinating country, including the Sand Hills.

September 04, 2008

Blog Duck Soup

¶ Apparently the telephone number on the new federal waterfowl stamp goes to a phone-sex service. (Via Querencia.)

¶ A black bear shuts down some cannabis growers in Garfield County, Utah. Sounds like a Carl Hiaasen novel.

¶: The Outdoor Newshound warns about working hunting dogs in hot weather. (Upland bird seasons are starting to open.)

Jack and I are off to Baja Manitoba* in a few days--it doesn't seem to be too hot up there.

UPDATE: Yep, I bought my duck stamp on the 6th and if you dial the digits printed, it's the phone-sex number. If you dial 1-800-STAMP24, it is not.

*Otherwise known as North Dakota.