Thursday, March 24, 2011

Handsome Roo's

This is the most handsome roo, Junior. He is the magnificent son of the late Mrs. Peckins, a partridge cochin, and the late Evil Roo, a porcelain d'uccle. His tail is iridescent green but it does not show in this photo. He is a very handsome guy who has never attacked me. Mrs. Peckins surely looks down from chicken heaven and admires her successful, handsome son.

Junior with his favorite wife, one half of the Weird Sisters.

The handsome Japanese rooster, Cherokee. He is vice-rooster of the flock. His graceful tail and snowy feathers are very beautiful but he is vain and silly much of the time and the ladies only tolerate him because that is the way it is in chicken society.

This is Evil Roo's son, the only pure d'uccle left on the farm now. He is the lowest chicken in the pecking order, the same way the Evil Roo once was. He is about half grown. It remains to be seen if he will mature into a rooster as handsome as his father. I have not named him yet.

Winter 2011 Brrrrrrrrrrrrr

The snow was not as deep this year as last, but it was bitterly cold on the prairie.

The view through the windshield coming home from work.

The distant hills almost hidden in the snowfall.

This is the way "damned cold" looks!

The only happy spirit in all of Kansas during the winter.
The Good Dog Duke loves the snow and cold. He thrives in it.

If you look closely, there are many robins in this red bud tree. Each winter a larger flock of robins gather at my house for about a week or ten days. This season there were several hundred. They do not sing or chatter, but there are so many of them that I can hear the whoosh of their wings whenever something startles them. I never knew robins flocked together in such numbers. These in the tree were the front runners. I failed to get a good picture of the full flock. Maybe next January.

Along the creek. Beautiful....

but I hope it is the end of snow for 2011.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Crazy Thinkin'

I admire the determined people who successfully thread themselves through the obstacle course of higher education. It is not for sissies, not for the weak. My daughter tells of a particularly self-aggrandizing, misogynist professor who, on more than one occasion, had foreign women students in tears. Too bad there is no way to weed those old bastards out of the system. Now that women outnumber men in higher education, it will happen. My own daughter earned a Masters Degree, all old bastards not withstanding, and that is why I have in my possession the commencement program. I recently took the time the read the entire program. I think I know now why some people desire to become PhD's. They have crazy thinkin', pure and simple.

For your perusal, the esteemed titles of various doctoral dissertations:

Dr. Jacquelyn June Chini - Comparing the Scaffolding Provided by Physical and Virtual Manipulatives for Students' Understanding of Simple Machines

Dr. Sreeram Cingarapu - Synthesis of Metal and Semiconductor Nanoparticles: Progress Towards Understanding Digestive Ripening

Dr. Mausam Kalita - Synthesis and Labeling Strategy for Indirect Detection of Estrogen-Derived DNA Adducts Using Aqueous Quantum Dots

Dr. Tej Shresta - Algebraic Deformation of a Monoidal Catergory

Dr. David Andrew Olds - Food Defense Management Practices in Private Country Clubs

Private Country Clubs? What?

There are many dissertations dealing with the long term effects of drugs and steroid use in cattle and pigs, which immediately kill my appetite. There are explorations of the gas engine performance, and some dealing with theoretical numbers. Most titles are quite clear, though. The best dissertation title is by Dr. Terrie Ann Becerra - Muddying the Waters: The Failure of Water Restoration Bureaucracies in Kansas.

As Billy Barber would say: "Plain words, simple spoke."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Spring Thaw And Other Stuff

Every year there is a shining moment when the cold and dark of winter drops from my psyche and the promise of all things new infuses my outlook. This event can happen even when the weather remains cold or dismal. This year that moment coincides with great news at work. In fact, there is double good news at work, and that makes me very happy. Very happy.

I am not sure what negative and dark influence has been shadowing my life these many months, but yesterday the metaphorical sun was shining brightly. I am optimistic, happy, and actually looking forward to showing up at the cube farm this morning. Perhaps it is merely the upswing of bipolar disorder? Aaahhh, who cares?

*Last night as I was watching my favorite ghost hunting team on television, I realized every exhale was fogging my glasses. Drat! I had allowed the propane to run out. All night I dreaded taking a cold shower this morning, but there was enough warm water for a quick shower, so not even a cold house can dampen my spirits today. The co-op guys are pretty good about coming right out for attention deficit customers like myself, so by tonight I will likely be warm and toasty and have almost unlimited hot water.

* Monday morning as I was walking up to the barn, Ginger met me on the trail! An escaped horse is never a good sign for getting to work on time. I tried to persuade her to follow me to the barn, but she continued all the way down to the house. The gates were shut so I was wondering if someone had let her out when I found the escape route. The fence man had used a piece of wire hog panel to fashion a human gate, attached to a post with only baling twine. All of the twine had rotted away, apparently at the exact same instant in time. When Ginger leaned on the hog panel, it bent away allowing her to slip out.

She had spent a lot of time in the hay barn, tearing into the bales and scattering good hay all over the ground. One full bale she had managed to toss about eight feet from the barn. It had one big horse bite out of it. I called her to the barn in the usual manner "Coooooooooome horrrrrrrrrrses!" She came to me right away. I used a piece of baling twine as a makeshift halter to lead her into the pasture. What a wild mustang!

*Sophie is the wildest house cat - ever. She knows how to open cupboards and get inside, even the high cupboards, and she knocks things out. My good binoculars were laying on the floor yesterday when I got home. She also leaps onto the curtain rods, which will not hold her weight. She has knocked down almost all of the curtains in the whole house. This anarchy must stop! Sophie might have to be returned to my neighbor's house where she was born, and where all of her litter mates live in the huge riding arena/barn. Sophie's brothers and sisters climb all the way to the overhead beams in that barn and hunt birds thirty feet in the air. I can not allow her to live outdoors here because cats do not live long, even with the Duke's protection. Not to mention, before the coyotes killed and ate her, Sophie would kill my chickens and decimate the wild bird populations. It is a problematic relationship! Maybe she will eventually calm down.

Time to feed the critters and head for my professional cubicle in town. I still have a few good years left before I have to retire with the rest of the baby boomers. We are exiting the work force in droves, all of us old radicals, hippies, yuppies, intellects, artists, rockers, bikers, philosophers, scientists, authors, professors, and bra-burning women libbers. We will change things at the old folks home, too, before we make our final exit. My generation: we will go out with a bang, and not a whimper.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Energy of Guns

Yesterday was the spring Spirit Fair, sponsored by the Infinite Light Source Church. As I was writing a check to pay for our admission, my daughter asked if the check was written on the Infinite Source Bank. (Good one, eh?)

It is a guilty pleasure to attend the spirit fairs and spend my money on frivolous things - like more crystals. I guess I qualify as a collector of quartz crystals. It is like living with cats: there is nothing you can "do" with them, just enjoy your life together. The Fair is a wonderful, peaceful energy that feels good to me. Everyone in attendance is like-minded and it makes a tangible difference to be in a sea of similar energy.

At one of the earliest fairs in Topeka, as I was blissfully browsing through various tables of arts and herbs, peaceful and oblivious, I was suddenly aware of something powerfully obtrusive moving quickly behind me. When I turned, I was shocked to see a uniformed policeman striding through the crowd at the far side of the room. I instantly thought the "authorities" were shutting down the pagan fair. I later heard a vendor had been robbed of a cash box. (Not everyone at the fair is totally like-minded, I guess.)

I have often thought about that experience. I distinctly felt a powerful energy moving behind me, something definitely out of place. I even knew instantly which direction it was traveling. It was not the policeman, but the gun in his holster. Every gun that has ever been manufactured has been created with the intent of killing another living being, whether human or animal. Guns are created with a powerful intent, handled with a powerful intent, and known to all living creatures on the earth for that power, intent, and deadly danger. I am making no moral judgment on guns, or hunting, or gun-carrying policemen here. A gun, a rock, a heavy limb can all accomplish the same thing, so the gun itself is not the power. Rather, a gun is imbued with the weight and energy of a supremely powerful human intention, and it is mighty. Our intention possesses energetic substance in addition to physical consequence.

Some time after that incident, I was taking an extensive Sunday afternoon drive through the rural areas north and west of Topeka. I love to slowly explore the back roads, looking for wildlife, new scenery, and simply enjoying the Kansas country. The less traveled a road appears, the more I want to follow it. I was in a state of mind similar to the Spirit fair bliss: happily browsing through the green and quiet countryside, at peace with the entire universe, when a terrible feeling hit me head on. I instantly felt bad, as if I had just been hit with bad news. As I was wondering what the heck it was all about, I popped over the brow of a hill to see a long haired man standing on the right side of the road, aiming a very large chrome hand gun directly across my path. I am not sure who was more startled. He was apparently target shooting.

I nodded at him, with what I am sure was a totally shocked expression on my face, and drove by as if it was normal for us to meet in such a manner. He did not look exactly friendly, not at all happy to see me. Maybe it was his land I was driving on. I am sure it was also in his mind that if I had been traveling faster, I could have conceivably driven right into the line of fire. I do not know how he did not hear me coming, not hear the engine. It was a soft dirt road, so he would not have heard the crunch of tires on gravel and I had not heard gun shots. As soon as I was past him, the bad feeling was gone as suddenly as it appeared.

So, twice I have sensed a gun before I saw it. I wish I could sense buried treasure as easily.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Worrisome Questions

After selling out their farm and before moving to town, my parents moved the family to a place a few miles down the road. The house was located on the north side of a hill, surrounded by many trees. In all of my memories there it seems as if the sun was far away, filtered through an invisible substance that reduced the strength and warmth of sunlight. It was not scary but strange.

Sometimes at night, when my father was working the third shift at Boeing in Wichita, we would hear heavy measured footfalls coming down the stairs. My mother blamed it on a pack rat dragging something heavy down the stairs in the walls. The trouble with her explanation is stair steps do not extend into the walls of any house I have ever been in. Even as a child, I wondered how that rat found the same item to drag down the stairs again.

Usually the cool shade beneath trees is welcoming and beckoning, but not there. The shadow was unpleasant. We were not there long, maybe six months, and no one in the family was sad to leave. It all fell into ruin decades ago. There is no trace of the house or the barn but many of the trees that once lined the drive remain. Even now that spot retains its unwelcome, dark aura. I wonder if measured steps down the vanished stairs can still be heard?

Maybe the more worrisome question is why am I remembering that now... in the middle of the night... when it is so quiet that not even Duke is making his rounds?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cockle Burrs

The restored prairie continues to fill in and establish itself more vibrantly each season. Disappointingly, the cockle burr plants are rejoicing in the absence of the murderous herbicides with the same enthusiasm as the tall grasses. Ginger the horse is a walking burr dispenser. Her forelock is usually terribly matted, forming a tower of red hair and cockle burrs. She resembles a unicorn. (If she were a kinder horse, that image would not be so funny.) Her tail becomes a matted nest of twisted horse hair and burrs. It is heavy and stiff and ugly.

Last night while waiting for the farrier, who never arrived because she was scheduled to come today, I had time to once again comb all the burrs from Ginger's mane and tail. I have lost count of the times she and I have endured this irritating ordeal. The burrs pierce my fingertips, sometimes drawing blood. After a few sticks, it begins to really hurt. Ginger does not consider standing still as an equine responsibility so the grooming is all mostly on the move.

I think the forelock is sensitive the way the human scalp is and Ginger refuses to cooperate for more than a few seconds at a time. I understand the supreme irritation of having someone combing your hair and yanking at tangles. I fidgeted, complained, suffered and moaned from the first to the last time my poor mother ever put bobby pins in my freshly washed hair, or rolled it in permanent wave papers and clips, or yanked the comb through my already naturally curly hair! So, I do have considerable empathy for Ginger when I am pulling burrs from her mane and tail. I also send the energy of amends to my mother, wherever in the universe or beyond she may be.

Last night I succeeded in removing every single burr from Ginger's mane, tail, and those stuck tightly in her long winter coat, which are probably the only ones that bother her. The recent rains had washed the dust away and she looked like a gorgeous redhead just stepping from the salon. I stood back to admire my handiwork, which lasted all of ten seconds. She nosed into some tiny shoots of green along the fence and when she raised her head, she had every burr from the plant stuck in her forelock, mane, ears - even some on her face.

It will only take a day before Ginger's mane and tail are as tangled and clumped as they were last night. The next time someone comes to visit Ginger, they will see a horse covered in cockle burrs and think she is neglected and unloved. But, it is not so. All who saw me as a tom boy with tangled hair, grass stained knees and ripped clothing had no idea how hard my mother worked to make me presentable, either.