Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014


December 31 2014

The snow wasn’t great for riding (it balled up in Dudley’s feet), but it was SNOW in Owyhee! The low was 0*F, and it warmed up to a toasty 20* when the sun crested the hills. Dudley took me out for the last ride of 2014. He’s looking forward to a thinner, fitter 2015!

Headed out

Dashing through the snow

Another horse who appreciates the views, just like Jose!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Staggering Murder of Crows

Monday December 29 2014

It’s the best kept spectacle secret around Seattle.

Thousands of crows (a group of crows is known as a “murder”) fly in to this spot near Bothell, Washington, to roost each night, particularly in the winter. One estimate was about 10,000 crows, but it sure looks and sounds like more. They start streaming in from all directions about an hour or so before sunset, and they spend another hour or so changing roosts and picking up last-minute snacks and generally shrieking as much and as loudly as possible. It sounds like round waves of cheers at a Seahawks game, just as deafening, only much more piercing.

The roost is in and around an office park and a creek and wetlands. At dark, you wouldn't know there's a single crow around because they've finally all gone to sleep. Come morning, they disperse in all directions for the day, then come back to roost again at night. It’s a spectacular, unbelievable sight, and a gloriously raucous ruckus to behold!

The video will give you a taste:

or link:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday December 24 2014

Have a Merry Christmas and/or a Contented Feast of the Immaculate Conception!
Happy Hanukkah!
Joyous Kwanzaa!
Kickn' "Tet!"
Blissful Bodhi Day!
Cheerful Maunajiyaras!
Wonderful Festival of Lights!
Blessed Ramadan!
Good Winter Solstice and/or a Joyful Canadian Boxing Day!
Festive Festivus!
and a Happy New Year!

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Darn Those Russians!

Friday December 19 2014

Salsola tragus, aka “Russian Thistle,” or Tumbleweed, is as ubiquitous in the West as barbed wire, and coincidentally the two go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

A native in the Ural Mountains in Russia, the plant seeds snuck over on ships in the late 1800’s from Russia apparently hiding amongst flax seeds, showing up first in South Dakota, and tumbling all over the West thereafter. While “Tumbleweed” aptly describes the entire plant’s existence and planetary purpose, I am also fond of the honorific “Wind witch”.

The tumbleweed is an annual plant that, once it matures, dries out and dies, breaks off at the base of the stem and tumbles away in the wind, efficiently flinging and dispersing its seeds along the way to take root in your soils, and then to ultimately shore up your barbed wire fences. (See Steph’s accurate cartoon depiction of tumbleweeds here)
and my short video of me running the gauntlet of them on an Idaho highway on a windy day!:

(or link)

Once the desert soil out here is disturbed - that is, as soon as you plow it up thinking you’ll have a fantastic self-sufficient green pasture, or, after a flash flood that scours the sand, or almost immediately after a burnishing wildfire, Russian thistle will be the first plant to move in and take hold. On the plus side, they are pretty - turning maroon in the fall; and if you didn’t have the tumbleweeds, you’d soon have sand dunes developing. But on the downside, they spread, and spread, and are virtually indestructible. One winter I uprooted a whole plot of them and tried to set fire to them - they wouldn’t burn! (Oh, but they will burn quickly when they are dried.) And they are sticker-y as hell.

Before I became more than casually acquainted with tumbleweeds, I thought I’d gather one to send to my artistic sister, who I was sure could make some spectacular work of art out of it. After I collected a handful of painful stickers trying to stuff one in a box, she also found a handful of stickers when she opened the box and tried to remove it; and she decided not to use it. “They are not the cute tumbly little things bouncing across the road. They are very pokey.” Now I know to wear gloves when I have to wrangle with tumbleweeds.

Out of all the tumbleweeds everywhere, this particular one caught my eye. It was a large one, hanging out with a barbed wire fence. It was so impressive, I thought I’d drag it home. The horses were impressed in different ways - not at the tumbleweed, but me, a human, dragging it behind me!

Sunny and Jose are alarmed

Stormy is not bothered.

Batman is bored

Dudley is (no surprise) hungry! He’s actually picking it up to pull off a prickly stem!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Stagecoach Etiquette #6: Firearms Allowed

Sunday December 14 2014

It's time we review rule number 6 of Stagecoach Etiquette, for the day and time this method of travel returns.

"Firearms may be kept on your person for use in emergencies. Do not fire them for pleasure or shoot at wild animals as the sound riles the horses."

I can see where, in the old days, everybody walked and rode around with a revolver in their hip holster. It was the old days, and the Wild West, after all. Heck, a local Owyhee guy rides every day with his revolver in his hip holster (Is his horse used to shooting? I haven't asked.) Some of the local ranchers wear their revolvers in the local diner for lunch. In fact, I expect there are more guns per capita in Owyhee than there are people in Owyhee. 

But: "Do not fire them for pleasure…" - really? This needs to be a written rule? I can’t think of any passenger within the small confines of the stagecoach that would derive any pleasure from some nimrod firing pleasurably from inside of it, nor would the horses pulling the stage appreciate it, whether or not they are broke to shooting, which I sure want them to be, if I’m riding in the coach!

Besides, there’s the obvious fact that the shooter won’t be able to hit any wild game from inside the stagecoach. Have you ever ridden in a stagecoach or wagon? It’s bumpy. It whips around behind the horses a bit. And it’s often crowded.

So, ride with your firearms in the stagecoach but, use your common sense, and don’t fire them while aboard!

Review the others:
Stagecoach Etiquette #5.

Stagecoach Etiquette #4.

Stagecoach Etiquette #3.

Stagecoach Etiquette #2.

Stagecoach Etiquette #1.

Monday, December 8, 2014


Monday December 8 2014

Dudley left the herd and headed up the pasture to gaze at the Owyhee winter sunset. Of course, the handsome horse may have had an ulterior motive, as he had no trouble posing and enhancing the scenery.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Just Ride - No Matter What

Monday December 1 2014

I guess I’m lucky in a way that Dudley is in a constant battle with corpulence. It means that no matter what, he’s still got to have diet and exercise - in the summer, in the winter, and every day in between.

But when you’re riding a big beautiful horse in Owyhee in the winter (the best season of the year), that’s all for the better.