Limb-Lopping and Knee-Kronking

The Fiskar limb loppers are the key to this whole operation.
The Fiskar limb loppers are the key to this whole operation.Richard R. Barron — richardbarron.net

With a weekend during which I am not teaching last Monday and a period of warmish weather, I decided to prune my fruit trees for the first time in a couple of years. This task became more significant due to last summer’s nearly perfect growing season, which made my trees grow wildly.

You might intuitively imagine that pruning back branches to stumps is harmful to trees, but a fair human analog might be trimming your fingernails.
You might intuitively imagine that pruning back branches to stumps is harmful to trees, but a fair human analog might be trimming your fingernails.

Fruit tree owners know that keeping your trees cut back is a good idea for several reasons.

  1. Shorter, stouter branches can hold fruit better during windy conditions and as fruit weighs branches down.
  2. Fewer fruit on shorter branches mean individual fruit will be bigger.
  3. Trees taller than about eight feet require a ladder or lift to harvest, whereas short trees can be harvested by anyone without any additional equipment.
  4. Pruned trees have space between each other for moving and harvesting.

So for the last few days I’ve been using a Fiskars® brand limb lopper to cut back as many runaway branches as I was able to reach. It’s been pretty effective, and most of the work is done.

However, during an attempt to remedy an extra-high, extra-thick branch tonight, I pushed a little too hard, and mistakenly relied on a branch that immediately collapsed, kronking the sh!t out of my left knee.

Yeah, that’s going to leave a mark.

Hawken says he saw the whole thing, but he's not willing to implicate anyone.
Hawken says he saw the whole thing, but he’s not willing to implicate anyone.

I Feel Like a Lumberjack

(Please, nurds, don’t sing that Monty Python song. Thanks.)

This is my Rio Grande omelette, complete with fried okra and Texas toast given to me by Abby.
This is my Rio Grande omelette, complete with fried okra and Texas toast given to me by Abby.
Summer the Chihuahua wears a new sweater Abby made for her this week.
Summer the Chihuahua wears a new sweater Abby made for her this week.

Abby and I had a few items to tick off in town Monday, including getting her truck serviced. As we often do, we had lunch at what has become our favorite place to eat in Ada, Prairie Kitchen, also known around town as Prairie Chicken. I have one favorite go-to item, their Rio Grande omelette, since it is vegetarian, and they make it well. The last time we were at the Chicken, Abby had liver and onions, but Monday she got a Monterey mushroom steak.

Like a lot of married couples, we have each other comfortably figured out, and that includes dinner. We both know, for example, that when a waitress asks Abby what bread she wants with her meal, I answer, since she doesn’t eat bread. (If you want to know why, ask her.)

Yesterday she ordered fried okra “because I knew you’d like some.”

Abby digs into her Monterrey steak. I look at this picture and think what pretty hands she has.
Abby digs into her Monterrey steak. I look at this picture and think what pretty hands she has.
Abby smiles as we look at a Harley Davidson motorcycle at the Nissan place today while we waited for her truck to be serviced.
Abby smiles as we look at a Harley Davidson motorcycle at the Nissan place today while we waited for her truck to be serviced.
The long-promised cell tower antennas are getting installed this week.
The long-promised cell tower antennas are getting installed this week.

In other news, the antenna crew finally arrived to install the antennas and 5G LTE transceiver equipment that will allow customers like us to use the service. It appears they are installing three pairs of 65º 12-foot panel antennas. The installer told me they are also putting in some kind of repeater for first responders. I walked Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, and they met him and liked him.

Speaking of Hawken, last night he cornered another armadillo, which I shooed away and shot. I don’t like killing them, but I can’t have these animals harassing our dogs.

I capped this big ugly beast at about four this morning, using my Smith and Wesson M&P 15/22 loaded with CCI Mini-Mags. I had a cheap laser on the right rail that worked like a charm, but died during the hunt, so I need to replace it.
I capped this big ugly beast at about four this morning, using my Smith and Wesson M&P 15/22 loaded with CCI Mini-Mags. I had a cheap laser on the right rail that worked like a charm, but died during the hunt, so I need to replace it.

Freezes, Thaws, and Sweaters

I put two camping tent rain flies over my tomatoes Thursday night, and though there was still some frost damage, most of the leaves and fruit are still healthy.
I put two camping tent rain flies over my tomatoes Thursday night, and though there was still some frost damage, most of the leaves and fruit are still healthy.

We had a freeze Friday morning. I tried to cover my tomato plants with two rain flies from two of my camping tents, and it was partially successful.

The changes in the weather make Abby’s bones ache, but she remains in great spirits as we begin our 16th year of marriage together.

Our community now seems to have more medical marijuana dispensaries than Baptist Churches, and a friend of mine with several health problems just received her “card,” permitting legal purchase of medical cannabis. I’d like everyone to feel free to weigh in on this in the comments: is this good, bad, ugly, a trend, a mistake, an answer?

Among other tasks, Abby is crocheting new sweaters for Summer the Chihuahua, including one that is the exact same color as the afghan she just finished…

Between the afghan and the sweater, it's a little hard to make out the dog in this picture.
Between the afghan and the sweater, it’s a little hard to make out the dog in this picture.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound won’t wear sweaters, and didn’t seem to want to wear the bandana I put on him this morning, or maybe he thought it was a funny game of keep-away, but I finally got him to wear it. It was a gift from my sister, and is supposed to be infused with a substance that repels insect and arachnids.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound wears his green bandana today after a comical chase around the yard to get it on him.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound wears his green bandana today after a comical chase around the yard to get it on him.

Washing in Dirt

John Martin photographed me at my office last week when he visited from Colorado.
John Martin photographed me at my office last week when he visited from Colorado.
Your humble host photographed himself at PEC Day Saturday.
Your humble host photographed himself at PEC Day Saturday.

Our 16-year-old water softener recently died. By the time the entire system was depleted of soft water, I remembered why I like soft water: showering in the City of Ada’s treated Byrd’s Mill Spring water is like showering in dirt.

We got a new softener late last week, and it’s good to lather again.

Some other notes…

  • It appears there is a good chance Donald Trump will be impeached soon. That doesn’t mean his presidency will end. Bill Clinton was impeached. Of note: someone in office can be a complete bastard, and you can hate him or her to tiny pieces, but you can only impeach a president for illegal acts. But Trump supporters continue to assert that accusations against him are liberal efforts to … well, things are less clear in their minds about why liberals want to get rid of him. They hate freedom. Yeah, that’s it.
A couple of things about this bumper sticker I photographed downtown: 1. If she had won, they wouldn't be over it. 2. "Get over it" implies we should stop disagreeing, which is not only absurd, but unpatriotic. 3. If he is impeached, when will they "get over it?"
A couple of things about this bumper sticker I photographed downtown: 1. If she had won, they wouldn’t be over it. 2. “Get over it” implies we should stop disagreeing, which is not only absurd, but unpatriotic. 3. If he is impeached, when will they “get over it?”
  • A Boeing B-17 warbird I photographed in March here in Ada as it toured with the Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom tour crashed this week in Connecticut, destroying the aircraft and killing at least seven of the 13 on board.
  • Work continues on the cell tower: this week, a dude is over there with a tiny track hoe, digging something. Hopefully it will soon have antennas and equipment, and we will have a signal in Byng.
  • Abby’s iPhone 6S Plus died slowly over the past few months, so we finally replaced it with an iPhone XR. An Apple aficionado at my office is thoroughly offended when I refer to it as an iPhone SEX, so I do it as often as I can.
Your host photographed himself inside the Boeing B-17 "Nine-O-Nine" during the Wings of Freedom Tour March 20 at Ada Regional Airport. The aircraft was destroyed Wednesday when it crashed in Connecticut.
Your host photographed himself inside the Boeing B-17 “Nine-O-Nine” during the Wings of Freedom Tour March 20 at Ada Regional Airport. The aircraft was destroyed Wednesday when it crashed in Connecticut.

 

So Much Very Many

Last night I gave away some bell peppers, then found something to cook with some of them: this amazing black bean burrito.
Last night I gave away some bell peppers, then found something to cook with some of them: this amazing black bean burrito.

Today is Sunday, and I am bouncing around doing about a dozen things, not finishing any of them, starting another one, getting distracted, going down rabbit holes. This must have been what I was like when I was four. And like a four year old, I expect within an hour I will be sweetly napping.

I saw this note in the street and photographed it some years ago, but never really found a use for it. Here it is for your consideration.
I saw this note in the street and photographed it some years ago, but never really found a use for it. Here it is for your consideration.

So now I will go do a focus stack, learn about Adobe Premiere Pro CC, fold my towels, make the bed, feed my wife, feed myself, help a fellow photographer in the yard while he makes macro photos, cut the grass, help Abby throw out clothes that don’t fit, and … hm. I’ll think of some other stuff.

One thing I am deciding just today is to try a lot harder to post stuff here, then link to social media, rather than posting straight to social media. I think posting to social media sites is a little like doing drugs… we take the hit by posting, then feel the high when we got likes. It feels unhealthy to me somehow.

This isn’t about clicks or metrics. This is about identity. Zuckerberg vs Barron. “And I’ll do it myyyyyyyyy wayyyyyy!!!”

Jeepers, I need to switch to decaf.

This is me working a wildfire ten days ago, smelling very smoky. When I am working or when I am at home, I work hard at a dozen things at once.
This is me working a wildfire ten days ago, smelling very smoky. When I am working or when I am at home, I work hard at a dozen things at once.

How Washable is Your Dog?

Your humble host washes Hawken the Wolfhound last night.
Your humble host washes Hawken the Wolfhound last night.
Photo by Abby S. M. Barron
Photo by Abby S. M. Barron

Every dog falls somewhere on the washability index, from “Okay, this group of four-year-olds is soaping me while I calmly sit in a red wagon” to “I will kill you the next time you lift that garden hose.”

We don’t use groomers. Abby worked for a veterinarian for years and knows how to do all that stuff, so she and I take care of it, including washing our dogs. Chihuahuas Max and Sierra, who have both passed away, were tolerant of baths but not enthusiastic, while Summer the  Chihuahua is still figuring it out. One thing Summer does surprisingly well is get her nails trimmed.

Our front porch ended up resembling a rastafarian barber shop.
Our front porch ended up resembling a rastafarian barber shop.

Hawken doesn’t get along with water. To bath him, I have to leash him to a rung at the bottom of the stairs on the front porch.

If Hawken looks particularly filthy, it’s because he is: to keep cool in the summer, he wallows in holes he’s dug under the back porch. If it has rained recently, he gets even muddier, and after we wash him, it’s difficult to get him dry enough that he won’t get completely filthy as soon as he lies down for the night.

I knew better than to dry Hawken with a good towel, so instead I used this car wash towel, which he enjoyed shredding.
I knew better than to dry Hawken with a good towel, so instead I used this car wash towel, which he enjoyed shredding.

I made an effort to cut some of the mats out of his fur, which are just tangles of hair mashed together when he lays in the grass or dirt.

He’s such a happy dog, though, and while he seems super-annoyed to be getting bathed, he is then instantly glad to play with us. Last night as I was drying him, he decided it was a game, and before the game was done, the towel was torn in half.

Abby and I use a dog shampoo called Plum Silky. It is foamy, smells good, and leaves the dogs' hair soft.
Abby and I use a dog shampoo called Plum Silky. It is foamy, smells good, and leaves the dogs’ hair soft.

Red Hot Poker of Death

Hawken the mighty Wolfhound stands near the back door last night.
Hawken the mighty Wolfhound stands near the back door last night.

One evening earlier this summer, I had just finished walking Hawken the Irish Wolfhound when I came across a nest of red wasps in the gap between the back door and the siding, and I guess I got too close, because they broke the treaty and stung me twice in the left arm.

Within 90 seconds they had been sprayed into oblivion in what could only be described as a mission of destruction. The stings were painful initially, and lasted for more than a week.

I know they're not aggressive and don't attack unless provoked, and only defend their nests, but they build those nests too close to areas I transit every day, and since they did break the cease-fire, I have no other recourse but annihilation.
I know they’re not aggressive and don’t attack unless provoked, and only defend their nests, but they build those nests too close to areas I transit every day, and since they did break the cease-fire, I have no other recourse but annihilation.

This morning I opened that same door to bring Hawken breakfast when I heard the papery whisper of dozens of red wasp wings coming from that same spot. I backed off quickly and avoided getting stung this time, but come on: They reoccupied the position! Again I sprayed them into oblivion, and tonight after walking both dogs I looked around to see dozens of dead wasps on the back porch.

Wasp stings are a nuisance for me, but if Summer the Chihuahua got stung, it could be fatal. She has recently discovered that she loves for me to walk her, so I have doubled my daily dog walking.

Summer the Chihuahua pokes around the driveway on a walk recently.
Summer the Chihuahua pokes around the driveway on a walk recently.
The disk shape on my hand is the projection of the morning sun through the peephole.
The disk shape on my hand is the projection of the morning sun through the peephole.

Finally, a unique feature of our exactly-east-facing house is that as the autumnal equinox approaches, the sun shines through the peephole (mistyped at one point “poophole”), in the front door in the morning, which is  neat.

The lensing of the peephole causes the light to split into spectra. Moving the camera to different colored parts of the light changes the result.
The lensing of the peephole causes the light to split into spectra. Moving the camera to different colored parts of the light changes the result.

My Summer of the Peach is Over

If we are what we eat, at the moment I am about 30% peach.

The last of my peaches hang on tree #1 last night. I picked them, and will eat them today. It has been a great peach season.
The last of my peaches hang on tree #1 last night. I picked them, and will eat them today. It has been a great peach season.
I like to slice peaches to eat eat them. It's a little less messy, and it allows me to cut out any brown spots.
I like to slice peaches to eat eat them. It’s a little less messy, and it allows me to cut out any brown spots.

It’s been the spring and summer of the peach for me. I’ve had peaches on my trees before, but this summer was the bumper crop. I believe this is due to a normal, cold, wet winter, and a wet spring, so my trees had abundant deep moisture, and healthy pollinating insects.

I have picked peaches almost every day since May, and I have been able to eat most of them. Except for some losses to brown rot, my peaches have been big, beautiful and nutritious, and I couldn’t be happier with them.

Harsh, but True...
It aggravates me to no end when people immediately suggest that I make something out of my fruits and vegetables. “Are you going to make peach cobbler?” “Are you going to make peach ice cream?” No, fatty. Peaches are food. I’m going to eat them.

Mike, our next door neighbor, rolled his tractor while brush hogging, his business now that he is retired. He was injured and spent some time in the emergency room, but he’ll be okay. It’s a good reminder that something as simple as mowing merits extra care to be safe.

I hold in my hand the last peach I picked this season. Isn't it beautiful?
I hold in my hand the last peach I picked this season. Isn’t it beautiful?
My old DR All-Terrain Mower sits in the yard today. I fire it up when I need to mow in "beast mode."
My old DR All-Terrain Mower sits in the yard today. I fire it up when I need to mow in “beast mode.”

My DR all-terrain mower started with no effort last night, which is nothing short of Twilight Zone weird because I hadn’t started it in three years, and when I did, it took half a bottle of starter fluid to get it going. “Maybe it just needed the rest,” Abby jokingly suggested.

So, with the pasture partially mowed last night and the last of the peaches picked, I hope to get some more of that done today, and concentrate on my next crop, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, and cantaloupe.

Large slicing tomatoes ripen on my vines last night. I also have cherry tomatoes.
Large slicing tomatoes ripen on my vines last night. I also have cherry tomatoes.

 

The First Day of Summer

Abby and I look at each other like we hung the moon as Robert photographs us Wednesday evening.
Abby and I look at each other like we hung the moon as Robert photographs us Wednesday evening.
Hawken, our Irish Wolfhound, and I pose for Robert near the pond last night.
Hawken, our Irish Wolfhound, and I pose for Robert near the pond last night.

Today is the first day of summer 2019. Spring brought tremendous rain, gorgeous pastures, peach and plum trees sagging from the weight of fruit, and early yesterday morning, widespread thunderstorm damage in our neck of the southeastern Oklahoma woods.

A fortunate collision of timing allowed our good friend Robert to join me in our coverage of the storm damage from a fast-moving line of severe thunderstorms that rolled through about 3 a.m. Damage was widespread and caused damage to numerous trees, and downed power lines across the region.

We were fortunate at our home in Byng that we only had a few branches blown down, and none of the garden or the peach trees were affected. Some areas had more dramatic damage, and power was out throughout the region for more than 15,000 customers at one point.
We were fortunate at our home in Byng that we only had a few branches blown down, and none of the garden or the peach trees were affected. Some areas had more dramatic damage, and power was out throughout the region for more than 15,000 customers at one point.
Our summer intern, Ashlynd, looks on as I edit storm damage photos Wednesday. It was a huge news day, and Ashlynd, Robert and I all had a blast covering it.
Our summer intern, Ashlynd, looks on as I edit storm damage photos Wednesday. It was a huge news day, and Ashlynd, Robert and I all had a blast covering it.

More than 15,000 residents were without power, including us in Byng. As luck would have it, we did have power at the office, so we got the paper out, but the Pauls Valley paper wasn’t as fortunate, and I don’t know how they eventually got their product together.

Hawken steals peaches from a low-hanging branch while Robert makes images.
Hawken steals peaches from a low-hanging branch while Robert makes images.
Your host holds our spritely indoor dog, Summer the Chihuahua.
Your host holds our spritely indoor dog, Summer the Chihuahua.

Robert lives in the D.C. area, but came to Tulsa to photography his niece Rowan’s wedding, and had some time to come down yesterday, just in time to round up some nice storm cleanup images, which are in today’s Ada News.

After a long day of that, and Abby texting us “Power!!! Power!!!” at 2:04 p.m. (for an outage time of about 12 hours), we went home to shift to phase two of our day of photography, photographing our pets, our patch, and each other.

Readers might recall that Robert photographed Abby and me in November, and those image ended up being some of my all-time favorites of the two of us, and I hoped to recreate the magic, and the session was everything I wanted it to be.

Robert moved us to an even sunnier spot as our portrait session progressed. I feel happy when I look at pictures of us together like this. This is now the lead image on our home page.
Robert moved us to an even sunnier spot as our portrait session progressed. I feel happy when I look at pictures of us together like this. This is now the lead image on our home page.

A Beautiful Little Life

I think this is one of the most beautiful images I've made this year: my wife Abby carrying her Chihuahua Summer as the neighbor dog Elly walks alongside as the sun goes down on our patch of green here in Oklahoma.
I think this is one of the most beautiful images I’ve made this year: my wife Abby carrying her Chihuahua Summer as the neighbor dog Elly walks alongside as the sun goes down on our patch of green here in Oklahoma.

In recent weeks my wife Abby and I have gotten in the habit of me picking up dinner from San Remos Pizzeria hera in Ada, a baked ziti for her and a big veggie pizza for me, and eating on those items for several days, since it’s a lot of food. I always feel happy when I can bring it home to her, and she feels happy when I do.

San Remos Pizzeria in Ada is currently one of our favorite places for take out. This is their veggie pizza.
San Remos Pizzeria in Ada is currently one of our favorite places for take out. This is their veggie pizza.
Abby and Hawken have a cordial chat on our front deck last week.
Abby and Hawken have a cordial chat on our front deck last week.

Abby’s been walking our Chihuahua, Summer, when I walk our Irish Wolfhound Hawken. It’s been unbelievably warm, green and beautiful out the last few weeks.

Keen shoes aren't for everybody, but they are among my favorites. They are waterproof, so they are great for everything from hiking with wet crossings to washing the cars and the Wolfhounds.
Keen shoes aren’t for everybody, but they are among my favorites. They are waterproof, so they are great for everything from hiking with wet crossings to washing the cars and the Wolfhounds.

It’s Father’s Day, and though I am not a father (except maybe to our dogs), I am a step father, and I also have a birthday coming up shortly, so I decided I wanted new shoes. On Amazon, I found a nice pair of casual black shoes to go with dressier clothes, and I got another pair of Keens.

I got my first pair of Keens from my sister as a Christmas gift, and I like them so much I tend to wear them so much I wear them out. I learned years ago that different styles of Keen shoes fit very differently, and if I find a style, I should stick with it. Mine is the H2 Newport. They are rugged, waterproof, and super cool-looking.

Our trees and the pasture and garden are all happy and healthy. “It’s sure pretty out,” Abby commented as I wrote this. Tonight I’ll be out there again, walking dogs and tending tomato plants on our little patch of green in the country.

Epic clouds roll across the eastern sky last weekend as I drove home from a meeting.
Epic clouds roll across the eastern sky last weekend as I drove home from a meeting.

I’ve Never Had Peaches Like This

My picking basket sits on the ground full of cherries and peaches this week. I have probably picked a hundred, and if I can, I'll pick a hundred more.
My picking basket sits on the ground full of cherries and peaches this week. I have probably picked a hundred, and if I can, I’ll pick a hundred more.
The mimosa trees on our property seemed to blossom overnight, and I was very happy to see them.
The mimosa trees on our property seemed to blossom overnight, and I was very happy to see them.

I planted my small orchard in a semicircle around the garden in 2007. It has been an amazing adventure to watch them all grow and thrive, but for the most part, weather and circumstance have limited the amount of fruit I’ve gotten from them. In fact, previously my plum trees have only ever produced one plum. One.

A ripe peach hangs on my early Elberta peach tree two nights ago. Unlike years ago, it was among very many peaches on this tree this spring.
A ripe peach hangs on my early Elberta peach tree two nights ago. Unlike years ago, it was among very many peaches on this tree this spring.

This year, however, has been different. All my trees have numerous fruit on them. My early Elberta peach tree is delivering huge, juicy, flavorful peaches this week like I have never seen. My cherry trees are both loaded with fruit, though they are smaller and not as sweet as grocery store cherries, possibly because the trees are immature. I also have dozens of small, sweet plums that are hard to eat because they are so juicy.

I expect this bounty is a combination of abundant rain and “just right” temperatures.

I have a zillion cherries this year as well. They are sour, but fun to eat, and Hawken the Irish Wolfhound loves them.
I have a zillion cherries this year as well. They are sour, but fun to eat, and Hawken the Irish Wolfhound loves them.

My good friend and fellow photographer Courtney Morehead came out last night to pick a dozen or so peaches and sample a couple of plums and cherries, as well as meet Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. Courtney and I have been working on sidelines and courts for years now; me for newspaper and her as a senior/portrait photographer. It was great to share the fruition with her.

I grabbed my 50mm f/1.4 this week to shoot these wildflowers in the pasture. Forgive me if the selective focus is a little too millennial-y.
I grabbed my 50mm f/1.4 this week to shoot these wildflowers in the pasture. Forgive me if the selective focus is a little too millennial-y.
Wes Edens shows me his pollinator garden during a visit to his home this week. He gave me some flowers to take home and plant in my garden.
Wes Edens shows me his pollinator garden during a visit to his home this week. He gave me some flowers to take home and plant in my garden.

All the fruit on the early Elberta is ripening at once, so it will be gone soon, in me or on the ground. I have six more peach trees what should make fruit on July.

I am also cultivating an excellent selection in the garden that includes regular tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, Cherokee purple tomatoes, two kinds of bell peppers, cucumbers, squash, and cantaloupes. Between them are marigolds and some pollinator flowers my other photographer friend Wes Edens gave me Tuesday when I went out to his place to shoot some of his guns, which is always fun.

I feel happy when I think of being a part of nature.

Eating your home grown fruits and vegetables can be a goal for some, but to me, it's the icing on the cake of being a part of nurturing the land.
Eating your home grown fruits and vegetables can be a goal for some, but to me, it’s the icing on the cake of being a part of nurturing the land.

Some Seasons…

I started the morning by weighing myself, 145 pounds. My wife Abby and I are both thinner now than the day we met, maybe even a couple of pounds too thin.

After I picked some peaches, cherries, and plums, I dumped the basket out in a clover patch to make this image. Even if I were to never eat a single bite of this fruit, growing it is worth it because it is so beautiful.
After I picked some peaches, cherries, and plums, I dumped the basket out in a clover patch to make this image. Even if I were to never eat a single bite of this fruit, growing it is worth it because it is so beautiful.

Yesterday I covered the Artesian Arts Festival, a growing, super-popular Native American street festival in Sulphur, Oklahoma. I usually go early so I can beat the heat, and even though I was there right at the start time, it was packed.

I saw my friend Margaret, who was showing her art in one of the booths.

I got these four giveaway garden plants in the ground last night, two bell pepper plants and two Cherokee purple tomatoes.
I got these four giveaway garden plants in the ground last night, two bell pepper plants and two Cherokee purple tomatoes.

I shot well, and as I was leaving, I got two green bell pepper plants and two Cherokee purple tomato plants from a giveaway program. I got them planted in the garden last night.

On the way home, I brought lunch for us from San Remos, a bake ziti for Abby, and a veggie pizza for me, then ate as I worked my images from the festival and delivered them to my editor.

Later in the evening, I decided to pick some of my huge crop of early Elberta peaches, from the tree I felt certain had doomed itself by blooming too early, just before a hard freeze.

I am also astonished by how well all my other trees are doing. I have plums for the first time ever, and a huge number of cherries. Some seasons I am just happy to see my trees be trees, and some seasons shower me with produce. It’s almost impossible to guess how it will go, since there are so many variables, but in many ways, that’s one of the fun things about it.

Hawken, our 160-pound Irish Wolfhound, slobbers over a peach I gave him a few nights ago. The next time I looked up, he had eaten it.
Hawken, our 160-pound Irish Wolfhound, slobbers over a peach I gave him a few nights ago. The next time I looked up, he had eaten it.

FInally, I had the urge to shoot a few mags of 9mm through my Ruger P95, the same one I dreamed about recently.

In the dream...
I catch some thugs trashing the house, but am too late to confront them. I am able to shoot one round from my 9mm into the back of their car from more than a mile away. Abby and I are then in the first class section of a 747 headed for Houston. For some reason I still have my 9mm. I wear it in an open holster or put it on the table in front of me. No one seems to notice or care, which I find very odd, and am unable to find anywhere to put it out of sight. People complain that my laptop is too loud, but say nothing about the fact that I am armed.

I hadn’t put any combat calibers downrange since January, and felt rusty. It was good to get back in the swing, and I shot competently.

There has been a lot of Oklahoma weather news this month, including tornadoes and flooding, but our little patch of green in the country is doing just fine.

My Ruger P95 leans against my tan range bag on the gun bench down by the pond last night. I put 70 rounds through it, with satisfying results.
My Ruger P95 leans against my tan range bag on the gun bench down by the pond last night. I put 70 rounds through it, with satisfying results.

 

A Sick Day, and the Long-Awaited Eyesore

In this entry…

  • I am home sick, which is very rare.
  • Workers are installing a long-awaited cell tower next door.
  • Why and when I prefer tablets over phones.
This is the view looking southwest toward our house from the site of a new cell tower in our next door neighbor's pasture,
This is the view looking southwest toward our house from the site of a new cell tower in our next door neighbor’s pasture,

Everyone who knows me is aware that I seldom get sick, and even seldomer stay home from work sick, but the past two days have taken me down, with dizziness, vertigo, and malaise. I thought it might be a bad reaction to a medication, but Abby seems to be having it too, so now we think it might be a virus of some type.

Being down for even a day or two is very frustrating for me, as I am very healthy, very active, stay as busy as a bee, and remain super motivated to get things done. I’m feeling better enough today to be up and about, and will probably return to work tomorrow. If nothing else, being sick helps to remind me that many people deal with chronic debilitating illness, and I should always remain grateful for my health.

Although I mostly laid in bed yesterday, I did get up-ish for a while in the evening. Abby and I watched some game show bloopers on YouTube, then went back to bed, but not before I stepped out to photograph a major change to our patch of green: a cell tower is being installed next door.

Workers set blocks in the foundation of a cell tower they are installing in the pasture to our north.
Workers set blocks in the foundation of a cell tower they are installing in the pasture to our north.

My feelings about this event are mixed and complex…

  • It will be an eyesore. I have never liked the look of cell towers.
  • It is damaging to the land, as the crew dug a fairly deep hole for the foundation, and built a short gravel road to it.
  • It isn’t as damaging to the land as it potentially could have been. For example, they only tore down a couple of walnut saplings and a couple of elm saplings, which I had just kind of let grow.
  • All the work is on the other side of the property line, on the land that once belonged to the Milligans (Abby’s first in-laws), but which now belongs to the Nipps, our favorite neighbors.
  • The builders told me the first client will be ATT. We rely on cellular phone and data service, and Byng was a notorious ATT dark zone. We are glad the service will be better, although in the house now we use VoIP, not tower service.
  • The builders, who said they were from Saint Louis, also told me it will be a free-standing 300-foot tower. They said, “it’s not going anywhere. Cell towers like this in the Joplin tornado stayed up.”
  • I’m kind of an antenna guy, so it would hippocritcal for me to come down on antennas just because they are in my back yard.

The equipment has been roaring away for two days now, digging and moving earth. I expect it will be another week before the tower is up, and maybe months before ATT gets the service equipment in place, but it will be nice to have a cell signal on our phones for a change.

The tower installation crew built this short gravel road from the Nipps' driveway to the site.
The tower installation crew built this short gravel road from the Nipps’ driveway to the site.

Finally, a friend of mine recently bought an iPad, nearly identical to the ones Abby and I have, and after using it for a day or two decided it wasn’t the game-changer he thought it would be. I guess he was looking for it to revolutionize his photography in some way, possibly making it easier to shoot and edit with the bigger-screened tablet.

One of the myths of tablets is that they are better than phones, but the truth is they are almost the same as phones, with the only real difference being the size of the screen. To me as a professional photographer, I would almost always carry and use the phone because of its compact size. The times I love a tablet is personal time, when I want to stream a movie or watch YouTube from the couch or the bed.

My iPhone rests on the screen of my iPad, which sits cradled in its Zagg case and keyboard.
My iPhone rests on the screen of my iPad, which sits cradled in its Zagg case and keyboard.

Who Line Is It Anyway?

When Abby and I were first dating in 2003, Friday nights were often occupied watching a show that aired on ABC and ABC Family at the time, Whose Line Is It Anyway? We balled up together on the couch and laughed out loud all night.

In the Netflix era, we watch almost no “aired” television any more, but we own a couple of seasons of Whose Line on DVD, and last night Abby suggested we ball up on the big blue couch and watch. We laughed like hyenas.

It might be fun to pick out a couple of Whose Line games, like “90-second alphabet,” and do them at Open Mic Nyte.

If we look a little crazy here, it's because we are laughing so hard at the amazing Whose Line Is It Anyway?
If we look a little crazy here, it’s because we are laughing so hard at the amazing Whose Line Is It Anyway?

What to Do, What to Do…

In the middle of Lethal Weapon, which my wife never turns down when I offer to watch it, I photographed this amazing sky from the back deck.
In the middle of Lethal Weapon, which my wife never turns down when I offer to watch it, I photographed this amazing sky from the back deck.

Sometimes it feels like I want to do too many things. I want to write, I want to load the dishwasher, I want to mow, I want to play with lights in my studio, I want to take an extra walk with Hawken, I want to clean in the garage, I want to experiment with lenses, I want to shoot my guns, I want to tend my garden, I want, I want, I want…

Summer the Chihuahua lays on Abby's lap this morning. We adopted her last year, and she has become a great member of our family.
Summer the Chihuahua lays on Abby’s lap this morning. We adopted her last year, and she has become a great member of our family.

We all get like this, and sometimes the tendency is to not do anything at all.

I, on the other hand, make myself stop for a second, and remember than I can’t do all these things at once, and I should do just one thing. That’s me today, and my first activity is writing what you are reading.

On another front, two good friends who are my age are having health problems. One of them might be having a heart attack (or may have had one), and is being stubborn about seeking medical care, and the other has a nerve issue combined with hypertension, which you can read about in his blog here (link.)

Yes, it’s disconcerting when my young friends are now old friends with old people problems, but the up side is that Abby and I are both fine at the moment, as are Summer the Chihuahua and Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. To complicate the roller coaster ride is the fact that Max the Chihuahua, who is 15, is still sliding toward the inevitable: he can’t see or hear, and he is unable to move like he once could. He remains a loyal and wonderful dog, even though these are probably his last days or weeks.

Max the Chihuahua is about 15 years old. We adopted him in January 2006 one day before he was slated to be euthanized. He is a terrific dog.
Max the Chihuahua is about 15 years old. We adopted him in January 2006 one day before he was slated to be euthanized. He is a terrific dog.

A Strange Labor of Love

The refrigerator guy is coming Tuesday to repair our 2009 model Whirlpool Gold series fridge. It is a beautiful, spacious machine with great features, and I was sad to find it was making less and less cold as the last couple of weeks progressed, so I expect it needs refrigerant or a part, but it’s such a great machine, it is worth fixing.

Our broken-ish Whirlpool Gold Series fridge sparkles after I cleaned it tonight.
Our broken-ish Whirlpool Gold Series fridge sparkles after I cleaned it tonight.
Our perishables have been exiled to the fridge in the garage.
Our perishables have been exiled to the fridge in the garage.

I moved all the perishables into the much older garage fridge, which we had repaired when we got the new one, for occasions like Thanksgiving, or when I need a cold water while mowing, or like this one now.

In advance of the repair, I decided to unplug it, remove all the removables, and clean it. The design is remarkably friendly to this task, and before I knew it, I had all the shelves and compartments in my bathtub for a hot soap shower, and the inside of the “icebox” (as Abby calls it) and freezer sparkling like the day we bought it. It was a surprisingly fun activity. My sister will tell you that cleaning, when it goes well, is ingrained in us by our mother Sarah Jo.

I will take a moment to carefully editorialize about the state of sales and service in our world (careful since my own profession relies on direct sales): as I was attempting to set up Tuesday’s repair, the specialist on the other end of the phone aggressively, almost insistently, tried to sell me a blanket warranty for all the other appliances in our house. I let her talk, but I didn’t buy anything else but the one repair, and here’s why: if someone is selling you something this aggressively, they are making a fortune off of you, and not doing you any favors. Extended warranties are another example. Stay away.

I bought six button batteries, probably weighing less than an unladen European swallow, and Amazon Prime sent them in a box big enough for a pair of hiking boots. Is this in any way good for the environment? Couldn't they have just as easily put them in an envelope?
I bought six button batteries, probably weighing less than an unladen European swallow, and Amazon Prime sent them in a box big enough for a pair of hiking boots. Is this in any way good for the environment? Couldn’t they have just as easily put them in an envelope?

Digging in the Dirt

This is where it starts. It ends with the first frost of November. My live plants this year included bell peppers, tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes.
This is where it starts. It ends with the first frost of November. My live plants this year included bell peppers, tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes.

Readers might recall that last year I got my garden in the ground a little early, on April 8, and that decision was not without consequence, as just a week later I had to cover all my plants to protect them from freezing.

A wet year has yielded a full pond. I hope it stays full, but it is shallow, so any hot or dry period will reduce it significantly.
A wet year has yielded a full pond. I hope it stays full, but it is shallow, so any hot or dry period will reduce it significantly.
I've had this small tiller for a few years, and it's never been a great machine. A neighbor and I tried all our tricks to fix it, but it either wouldn't start or wouldn't throttle up to till. I might sell it, or I might have a mechanic look at it.
I’ve had this small tiller for a few years, and it’s never been a great machine. A neighbor and I tried all our tricks to fix it, but it either wouldn’t start or wouldn’t throttle up to till. I might sell it, or I might have a mechanic look at it.

Tilly the Tiller won’t run, at least not usefully, so all my planting this year is at the end of my shovel. Yesterday I got all my tomato, cherry tomato, and bell peppers in the ground, and today I hope to get seeds in the ground; squash, cantelope, cucumber, and marigolds.

Last year I also put in radishes, turnips, and lettuce, but we didn’t eat any of them.

The garden overall will be smaller than last year. In 2018, I bought a huge number, 24 as I recall, of tomato and bell pepper plants, from a local high school horticulture program. That number determined the size of my garden in concert with the smooth operation of Tilly the Tiller. This year, I decided that so many plants demanded a lot of time and attention, so I got eight tomato plants (2 cherry), and eight peppers. I am also certain based on last year’s excessive (but fun) yield that this number of plants will provide all the produce I can pick.

Hot is the new Sweet?
When shopping for plants yesterday, I only found a few bell pepper plants, but hundreds of hot pepper plants. It’s possible that most people have gotten their regular peppers in the ground already and the only peppers left are hot, but based on the layout of the garden center, I think it more likely that more people are buying and growing hot pepper plants. Neither Abby nore I care for hot peppers, but I know a lot of people who do.
It looks like I may get peaches and cherries this year. These are cherry blossoms last week. There are no freezing temperatures in the forecast.
It looks like I may get peaches and cherries this year. These are cherry blossoms last week. There are no freezing temperatures in the forecast.

Also I took our toddler bed to Abby’s hair stylist for her child, then went to Walmart for supplies. On the way home I bought lunch, mixed vegetables for both of us from Famous Wok, and felt like a real husband bringing it home to her, and a real husband sharing it with her.

My tomato and bell pepper plants are in the ground.
My tomato and bell pepper plants are in the ground.

“You Got a Haircut!”

The sky decided to put on a show tonight as I was washing our Nissan Frontier.
The sky decided to put on a show tonight as I was washing our Nissan Frontier.
I feel much more like myself now that my hair no longer has its own zip code.
I feel much more like myself now that my hair no longer has its own zip code.

I’d been letting my hair grow since last summer at the behest of my lovely wife, who says she loves my hair, and if there is more hair, there is more hair to love. I liked that idea and and attempted to let my hair grow through the various stages: shaggy, pre-mullet, mullet, pre-pony tail, pony tail…

By the time I was just about to be pony tail guy, spring arrived, meaning I would be working outdoors in warm climates, and at a baseball game last week I was constantly fighting hair blowing into my face.

Anyway, it is springtime on the patch, and that means firing up our many internal combustion engines as we prepare to use them to manage our patch of green.

  • The riding mower, “Wildfire,” gave only a slight argument when the nozzle on my air compressor was the wrong type, letting me only air up the right front tire slightly. The mower started and mowed as requested, but the tire was too low, so I parked it to wait for the right nozzle to air up that tire.
  • The push mower started on one pull Wednesday, but wouldn’t start at all tonight until I gave it a shot of starter fluid.
  • Tilly the tiller tilled a very tiny patch in the garden before cronking out. My neighbor Stevie and I both had a crack at it, to no avail. Small engine repair?
  • Abby and I went to renew her driver license today to find that it’s free for a senior citizen. Huh. Afterwards, we shared a nice breakfast. It was nice to be out with her.

Finally, not feeling worked enough, I decided to wash the truck, which hasn’t been clean since before the first of the year. I lovingly hand washed it with a brush on a stick, plus a wash cloth soaked in soap for the bugs stuck on the chrome. Bling!

Abby's Nissan Frontier: just washed by Richard, or prepped to be in a car commercial?
Abby’s Nissan Frontier: just washed by Richard, or prepped to be in a car commercial?

Ghostly in the Smoke

The largest of my four peach trees produced blossoms this week, but we expect a hard freeze tomorrow night, so it won't be making peaches.
The largest of my four peach trees produced blossoms this week, but we expect a hard freeze tomorrow night, so it won’t be making peaches.

One of my peach trees has responded to a recent warm-up, producing blossoms. Blooming this early means I won’t get any peaches from this tree, since a hard freeze is forecast for tomorrow night. But the blossoms are beautiful, and are my favorite thing about having these trees.

Walking Hawken yesterday afternoon was a different experience. The second I opened the back door, I smelled the strong odor of grass fire smoke. The wind had shifted and was coming from the north, and someone, or probably many people, were burning the pastures in preparation for the spring growing season.

Hawken, our Irish Wolfhound, got to visit his girlfriend Elly on yesterday's walk.
Hawken, our Irish Wolfhound, got to visit his girlfriend Elly on yesterday’s walk.

After Christmas

We started this tradition when our grandson, Paul, was just five months old; posing on Chele's back with a boost from Tom. We expect this will get funnier as Paul grows.
We started this tradition when our grandson, Paul, was just five months old; posing on Chele’s back with a boost from Tom. We expect this will get funnier as Paul grows.
Chele and Abby look over Christmas gifts.
Chele and Abby look over Christmas gifts.

I have been off of social media radar for a few days to entertain the family visiting from Baltimore, Abby’s daughter, Chele, her husband Tom, and their son, our grandson, Paul.

I also did my usual work at the annual Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic basketball tournament, for which, for the first time ever, we hosted their web site. One night the crowd was so large we ran out of tickets.

Christmas is always stressful, but by the time it rolled around, I was very glad we were able to have it with the family. This year they arrived on December 26 and departed on New Year’s Day.

Paul and Tom follow me as I walk Hawken through to woods north of our house.
Paul and Tom follow me as I walk Hawken through to woods north of our house.
Paul shares a moment with our older Chihuahua, Max.
Paul shares a moment with our older Chihuahua, Max.
Paul drives his tractor on New Year's Eve.
Paul drives his tractor on New Year’s Eve.

We had a gift exchange as soon as they arrived. We watched movies and played outside. We walked Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, which Paul, who is seven, regarded as an accomplishment, trekking deep into the woods. Paul rode his tractor, which he is likely to have outgrown by the next time they visit.

Chele, Paul, Tom and I built a fire in the orchard. The only casualty was one of Tom's pants legs.
Chele, Paul, Tom and I built a fire in the orchard. The only casualty was one of Tom’s pants legs.
Chele smiles for my camera in beautiful evening sun on New Year's Eve.
Chele smiles for my camera in beautiful evening sun on New Year’s Eve.

We toasted in the new year with the cheapest possible sparkling wine (technically not champagne,) hours before it actually turned midnight, and we all got a good night’s sleep before the kids flew back to Baltimore.

I thought a county new year deserved a country toast, so we had cheap sparkling wine (not technically champagne) and miniature red plastic cups.
I thought a county new year deserved a country toast, so we had cheap sparkling wine (not technically champagne) and miniature red plastic cups.

Finally, mindful of the weather forecast for snow and ice, and that my days off are limited, I de-decorated the entire house yesterday. Tonight I’ll let the wolfhound in the garage and the two of us will put all that stuff in the rafters. Another year ends, and begins.

Christmas lights cling to the fence in our front yard at sunset a few days before Christmas. The lights are now packed away in their plastic bins.
Christmas lights cling to the fence in our front yard at sunset a few days before Christmas. The lights are now packed away in their plastic bins.

This Is Christmas Eve

The fat Santa ornament hangs on our Christmas tree this week. The star effect is from a filter I've owned since about 1977, a cross-screen.
The fat Santa ornament hangs on our Christmas tree this week. The star effect is from a filter I’ve owned since about 1977, a cross-screen.
Christmas lights shine in a box as I test them before I decorated with them.
Christmas lights shine in a box as I test them before I decorated with them.

Abby and I are preparing to host Christmas this week. The kids (Abby’s daughter Chele, husband Tom, and our grandson Paul) are coming on the 26th and staying through New Year’s Day.

I have decorated and shopped and cleaned and prepped. Now, more. No, really. This kind of thing seems perpetual, and is never finished. And you can’t do it a month before: the dogs will chew up a poo where you shampooed the carpet. The bathroom mirrors get splashed. The sink gets full of dishes. You know what it’s like.

Readers familiar with my cadre of work will recall that I don’t love Christmas. Not only is it a bone of religious contention (the pretend “War on Christmas”), it’s also a bitter reminder of how much we trivialize ourselves with commercialism. I talked about this in my column this week.

Summer Time Lane chews her tiny rawhide candy cane.
Summer Time Lane chews her tiny rawhide candy cane.
Hawken Rifle Trail eyes his giant rawhide candy stick.
Hawken Rifle Trail eyes his giant rawhide candy stick.

What do I like about Christmas? I love the photography most of all. I love that my wife loves it so tenderly. I love that we usually get to see the kids.

I will let you know how this Christmas stacks up. In the mean time, have a peaceful one.

My Amazon.com lensball knockoff was a huge hit in class last week, so I photographed our tree with it.
My Amazon.com lensball knockoff was a huge hit in class last week, so I photographed our tree with it.

Litter from Social Media

I don't remember what was so funny, but I love that Abby and I are laughing together in autumn sunshine.
I don’t remember what was so funny, but I love that Abby and I are laughing together in autumn sunshine.

Today is the shortest day of the year, and the longest night. Cull what you will from the meaning of that.

I fired up my All Trails app for a recent walk with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, with only one surprise: 95 feet of elevation change. It's a great route, one I hope to take him on it many times this winter.
I fired up my All Trails app for a recent walk with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, with only one surprise: 95 feet of elevation change. It’s a great route, one I hope to take him on it many times this winter.

“All I want is what I… I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” ~Sally Brown

“Look, Charlie, let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big eastern syndicate, you know.” ~Lucy Van Pelt

One thing I happily glossed over about A Charlie Brown Christmas when I was a kid: it consists almost entirely of recycled Peanuts comic strip dailies.

Your humble host poses with Christmas toys made out of metal, unheard of in the 21st century, both because it's much cheaper to make them from plastic, but also because metal toys are potentially razor sharp in spots. This image was made by my grandfather, Richard Batten, in 1965, the very year that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" debuted.
Your humble host poses with Christmas toys made out of metal, unheard of in the 21st century, both because it’s much cheaper to make them from plastic, but also because metal toys are potentially razor sharp in spots. This image was made by my grandfather, Richard Batten, in 1965, the very year that “A Charlie Brown Christmas” debuted.
When my wife looks at me this way, all my troubles seem to melt away.
When my wife looks at me this way, all my troubles seem to melt away.

Recently I’ve been thinking about consumption. I thought of this as I reminisced about lenses I once owned and now miss; all that beautiful 1970s and 80s era Nikkor glass.  What if I magically had a storage unit with all my old gear in it? But then I thought about the police scanners and Sony Trinitrons and flannel shirts and cars. Then, I thought, what if I magically had a warehouse full of everything I ever owned? Every bunch of broccoli. Every quart of motor oil. Every beer. Every loaf of bread. Every magazine and newspaper and paperback and hardback book. Every computer and floppy disk. All the DVDs and CDs and Blu-Ray discs and VHS video cassettes and vinyl records and compact cassettes and all the appliances to play and record them. All the wine and water. Everything. How big would that warehouse be?

Props to Walmart for carrying Gardein Chick'n Strips again. I have missed them, and was dismayed when they stopped stocking this product last year.
Props to Walmart for carrying Gardein Chick’n Strips again. I have missed them, and was dismayed when they stopped stocking this product last year.
Another cooking success happened when Abby wanted baked potatoes recently. I paired them with veggie burgers and sauteed chives, and it was amazing.
Another cooking success happened when Abby wanted baked potatoes recently. I paired them with veggie burgers and sauteed chives, and it was amazing.
"Fiend," a coworker's bulldog, has become the defacto mascot of The Ada News.
“Fiend,” a coworker’s bulldog, has become the defacto mascot of The Ada News.

Abby and I saw some of a M*A*S*H marathon. We’ve both been watching this show all our lives, so I looked it up: of the 11 main actors throughout the series, only five are still alive: Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, Gary Burghoff, Mike Farrell, and Jamie Farr.

Abby and I watched The Innocent Man, a Netflix original series, this week. Though I was not interviewed on camera, the show, about two mishandled murders in Ada, is full of my images. I wrote my column this week, which ended up being our lead story Wednesday, about the day two of them were exonerated.

This is an overview of the courtroom April 15, 1999, when Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson were released from prison after DNA evidence exonerate of the 1982 murder of Debra Sue Carter. As Abby and I watched "The Innocent Man," I recognized many people I know very well to this day.
This is an overview of the courtroom April 15, 1999, when Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson were released from prison after DNA evidence exonerate of the 1982 murder of Debra Sue Carter. As Abby and I watched “The Innocent Man,” I recognized many people I know very well to this day.
Despite producers' efforts to make Ada look bleak, secretive and undereducated, I remain enamoured of this place, my home for all these years. Pictured is the December 6, 2018 Parade of Lights, which is beautiful, well-attended, and fun.
Despite producers’ efforts to make Ada look bleak, secretive and undereducated, I remain enamoured of this place, my home for all these years. Pictured is the December 6, 2018 Parade of Lights, which is beautiful, well-attended, and fun.
My close friend, photographer Courtney Morehead, brought this camera-shaped cookie for me yesterday. She got it at Amber's Sweet Shoppe, where Amber has somehow perfected a physics-defying 104% sugar recipe.
My close friend, photographer Courtney Morehead, brought this camera-shaped cookie for me yesterday. She got it at Amber’s Sweet Shoppe, where Amber has somehow perfected a physics-defying 104% sugar recipe.

An unassailable truth: when Abby is up and about, I can sneak through the house like a ninja. But when she’s asleep, I might as well be on roller skates carrying a box of chandeliers.

My intermediate/advanced photography class ended on a high note, with good epiphanies from all my students. We all had fun, and they all seemed to learn a lot.

My column for Saturday will be about the true meaning of Christmas, about which I will likely catch flak because I didn’t mention Christ. But it was a good-natured column, so only the true nut jobs will call. Yay.

I brought this cheap Amazon.com knockoff of a Lensball to class Monday, and it really seemed to open a lot of eyes and stoke a lot of imaginations.
I brought this cheap Amazon.com knockoff of a Lensball to class Monday, and it really seemed to open a lot of eyes and stoke a lot of imaginations.
Of the dozens of cutouts available in my "bokeh kit," my students like the frowny-faced ones the best. Symbolic?
Of the dozens of cutouts available in my “bokeh kit,” my students like the frowny-faced ones the best. Symbolic?

Another Proud Dog Moment

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound has slain another gopher.

Hawken apparently dug up and killed this pocket gopher, his second kill. I am so proud.
Hawken apparently dug up and killed this pocket gopher, his second kill. I am so proud.

Meanwhile, I’ve been baking pies for Abby. You can tell when I make pies because I make a happy face with the extra crust.

Usually, Abby bakes the pies, but I felt inspired this week. I know the happy face isn't exactly art.
Usually, Abby bakes the pies, but I felt inspired this week. I know the happy face isn’t exactly art.

Finally, Tuesday is Halloween. I have been making related pictures, but none better than at the recent Mummy and Son dance, where I photographed a mom dressed as a hot dog and her son a mustard, a mom as a burglar and her son as a State Trooper, and this image of an astronaut son and his moon mom…

Sam Holcomb and his mother Mia Holcomb dress as the "son and moon" for the City of Ada's Annual Mummy and Son Dance Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 at Wintersmith Lodge.
Sam Holcomb and his mother Mia Holcomb dress as the “son and moon” for the City of Ada’s Annual Mummy and Son Dance Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 at Wintersmith Lodge.

The Tin Goose

The EAA's historic Ford Tri-Motor lumbers overhead this morning. My media friends and I got to fly in her Thursday.
The EAA’s historic Ford Tri-Motor lumbers overhead this morning. My media friends and I got to fly in her Thursday.

Readers might recall that three years ago my media cohorts and I were treated to a “media ride” on the Experimental Aircraft Association’s 1929 Ford Tri-Motor. The “Tin Goose” was in town again this week, and we took the usual media ride.

After flying in the Ford Tri-Motor, my next assignment was ECU soccer. The match started about the time of our flight, and you can see them playing in the lower left hand corner of this image.
After flying in the Ford Tri-Motor, my next assignment was ECU soccer. The match started about the time of our flight, and you can see them playing in the lower left hand corner of this image.
This view of Ada shows Arlington Street below. If you know Ada, it will be immediately familiar.
This view of Ada shows Arlington Street below. If you know Ada, it will be immediately familiar.
Photographer Wes Edens made this image of me peering out one of the huge picture windows of the Ford Tri-Motor.
Photographer Wes Edens made this image of me peering out one of the huge picture windows of the Ford Tri-Motor.

It was fun, but in all honesty, as a pilot, I’ve flown a lot of airplanes, and done a lot of crazy fun stuff in the sky, so puttering along in the world’s slowest airliner wasn’t exactly a thrill ride. Still, it’s always nice to be in the sky, and fun to meet up and do something unusual with my fellow media friends.

Sydney Gray from KXII poses with our reporter Carl Lewis and me before our ride in the Ford Tri-Motor Thursday. Among other things, images like this remind me that I am really tall.
Sydney Gray from KXII poses with our reporter Carl Lewis and me before our ride in the Ford Tri-Motor Thursday. Among other things, images like this remind me that I am really tall.

Harmony and Hope in the Country

I love the Oklahoma sky, as in this image from earlier this month.
I love the Oklahoma sky, as in this image from earlier this month.
Abby's truck got caked with mud on the short but wild road on Aunt Judy's farm in Duncan.
Abby’s truck got caked with mud on the short but wild road on Aunt Judy’s farm in Duncan.

It’s fall on the Patch, and the weather goes between stormy and sunny, cooling off day by day.

I plastered Abby’s truck with mud at the family reunion two weeks ago, on the improvised road between Aunt Judy’s and her son Donald’s place. I personally think four-wheel-drive trucks are happiest covered in mud, but Abby wanted it clean again, so I fired up the power washer Tuesday and got both our cars clean.

I washed our vehicles Tuesday. Readers know that I love to do this, and it makes our rides look and feel like new.
I washed our vehicles Tuesday. Readers know that I love to do this, and it makes our rides look and feel like new.

The last few evenings have included amazing skies I photographed while walking Hawken the Irish Wolfhound.

Tonight while walking Hawken, I came across the Nipps, Mike and Joyce, the next door neighbors who bought Abby’s first mother-in-law Dorothy’s house, and their granddaughters Hope and Harmoni. I confuse their names because the next next-door-neighbors dogs’ are named are Hope and Harley. The girls were super-excited to play with Hawken, who is getting more comfortable with people.

Hope and Harmoni roast a stick by the fire.
Hope and Harmoni roast a stick by the fire.
Goodbye LL Bean hiking shoes. I had great times wearing you.
Goodbye LL Bean hiking shoes. I had great times wearing you.

As darkness arrived, the Nipps built a fire and girls roasted sticks. It was a nice time.

Finally, the LL Bean hiking shoes I’ve had since 2005, which I’ve been holding together with glue all summer, were finally completely used up, and I sadly threw them away.

Wheat grass in our pasture is silhouetted against the sky tonight.
Wheat grass in our pasture is silhouetted against the sky tonight.

Sizing Up the All-American Dog

Hawken and I spend some quality time in front of Abby's camera this afternoon. He is a beautiful dog.
Hawken and I spend some quality time in front of Abby’s camera this afternoon. He is a beautiful dog.
Abby tugs on Hawken's ears this afternoon. "There's nothing he won't let me do to him," she said as she played with him. "There's not a mean bone in that dog's body."
Abby tugs on Hawken’s ears this afternoon. “There’s nothing he won’t let me do to him,” she said as she played with him. “There’s not a mean bone in that dog’s body.”

I told my wife Abby I wanted a picture of me playing tug-of-war with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, since it’s his favorite thing to do with me, and since he has grown some since our last photo session.

Sierra tries to look pitiful in her teal sweater, but don't let her fool you: she is spoiled rotten.
Sierra tries to look pitiful in her teal sweater, but don’t let her fool you: she is spoiled rotten.

Before we could photograph us, Abby asked me to put a bandana on him, and we chose one of his U.S. flag bandanas. Putting one on him is an epic battle for me, since he thinks it’s a chew toy, but Abby is apparently a dog whisperer, and had no trouble at all.

It was a fun photo session that included Abby trying to “ride” Hawken for a photo but finding him too tall to mount, and Hawken stealing Abby’s water bottle to keep as a toy.

Tug-of-war is a puppy thing, and Hawken, thought huge, is still just 10 months old.
Tug-of-war is a puppy thing, and Hawken, thought huge, is still just 10 months old.
Hawken plays with his stolen water bottle.
Hawken plays with his stolen water bottle.
Shoffner reunioners are noted for their antics.
Shoffner reunioners are noted for their antics.

Afterwards I took him for his second walk of the day.

In other news, it was cold enough to put sweaters on the Chihuahuas last night. They love their sweaters, and come running when I bring them and offer to put them on.

Also, as readers hopefully saw on my teaching blog, Abby and I attended her family reunion last weekend, and shot a bunch of senior pictures for Abby’s great niece Teddy, with great success. I will post reunion photos on the travel blog shortly.

Donald Lee takes Teddy for a ride after giving one to my wife. Behind them are Abby and her nieces Amber and Rachel.
Donald Lee takes Teddy for a ride after giving one to my wife. Behind them are Abby and her nieces Amber and Rachel.
The Shoffner family photo session is a tradition. In this photo are Abby, Heather, Ryan, and Mechelle. Heather and Ryan were recently married in Las Vegas, which involved a helicopter.
The Shoffner family photo session is a tradition. In this photo are Abby, Heather, Ryan, and Mechelle. Heather and Ryan were recently married in Las Vegas, which involved a helicopter.
Abby and her niece Rachel try to look thin and fabulous for my camera at the Shoffner Family Reunion Saturday.
Abby and her niece Rachel try to look thin and fabulous for my camera at the Shoffner Family Reunion Saturday.

Battle of the Blades

Casual readers might not know that my riding mower is named "Wildfire."
Casual readers might not know that my riding mower is named “Wildfire.”

Our riding mower has been overworked this season. It was a wet spring and a wet summer, and I mowed a lot. Even at the start of spring, the blades in the John Deere lawn tractor needed to be sharpened or changed, but the actual mowing always took precedence.

I chopped about 10 pounds of caked-on grass from the underside of the mower deck. There's no easy way to accomplish this without removing the deck from the mower.
I chopped about 10 pounds of caked-on grass from the underside of the mower deck. There’s no easy way to accomplish this without removing the deck from the mower.
The first two blade's bolts came off fairly easily. To remove the third blade, however, require welding a huge nut to it and using it to turn the bolt, which we discovered was quite rusted.
The first two blade’s bolts came off fairly easily. To remove the third blade, however, require welding a huge nut to it and using it to turn the bolt, which we discovered was quite rusted.

Finally, a dry late summer is upon us, so I managed – after about a week and four tries – the remove the deck from the mower to clean it, repair it, and replace the blades. It turned into an ironic and physically stressful event that involved three of us pulling back a spring to reattach a tension bar, and three others of us trying to remove a stubborn blade bolt, then finally welding a bigger bolt onto it so the three of us could put our strength into removing it. Lastly, we cut off the nut with a grinding tool.

The underside of the deck was somewhat rusted in general, so I painted it with some enamel left over from last summer's painting escapades, then attached the new blades.
The underside of the deck was somewhat rusted in general, so I painted it with some enamel left over from last summer’s painting escapades, then attached the new blades.

My right hamstring is sore. Apparently I am right-legged, at least when I do repair work.

The fruits of my labor may come about tonight if my repairs were successful and I am able to mow. Or, if I did it all wrong, I may check myself into the yard work insane asylum.

Update late in the day:
After a considerable amount of self-induced frustration, including including looping the engine-to-deck belt around an extra wheel (hard to see in the tangle of belts and gears under the mower), I fired her up and she mowed well. My right hamstring, on the other hand, is quite sore from the work.

Why is my mower named “Wildfire”? Find out here (link)!

In the midst of this stressful work, I took note the the porch and front yard looked amazing at sunset.
In the midst of this stressful work, I took note the the porch and front yard looked amazing at sunset.

Last Days of Summer

Early evening sun shines on morning glory vines on the fence in our front yard last night.
Early evening sun shines on morning glory vines on the fence in our front yard last night.
Hawken puts his paws on the fence as I work outside last night.
Hawken puts his paws on the fence as I work outside last night.

With just a few days of summer remaining, the patch is starting to change. After a very rainy June and July, it’s been a dry late summer, and the grass is turning brown. The trees, though, are healthy and huge, and the pasture is high.

I walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound every evening. He weighed 135 pounds at the vet 10 days ago, and while he is a handful to walk, it’s good for both of us. Abby comes outside some and helps train him.

“I knew you would love an Irish Wolfhound,” Abby told me last night, “but I didn’t know you’d love him this much.”

Abby puts her arms around Hawken the Irish Wolfhound a couple of night ago. He is now nine months old and weighs 135 pounds.
Abby puts her arms around Hawken the Irish Wolfhound a couple of night ago. He is now nine months old and weighs 135 pounds.
There are several items to repair on our riding mower's deck.
There are several items to repair on our riding mower’s deck.

Last night I finally muscled the deck off the riding mower, and I now need to repair it and replace the blades. Fortunately, it is dry out and the grass isn’t growing much.

At work, my seasons are in full swing. It’s week 4 for high school football, and district matchups are about to start of baseball and softball. All the kids know me and are glad to see me, and I am shooting well.

The Sulphur High School student section yells for their Bulldogs football team Friday night as they take on the Davis Wolves in Davis.
The Sulphur High School student section yells for their Bulldogs football team Friday night as they take on the Davis Wolves in Davis.

Lastly, our life is the country is good.

Our front yard crepe myrtle bushes are high and healthy, as shown in this image yesterday evening.
Our front yard crepe myrtle bushes are high and healthy, as shown in this image yesterday evening.

A Big Dog and a Bigger Hurricane

Hawken hangs around with me in the pinkish evening light.
Hawken hangs around with me in the pinkish evening light.
Hawken follows me all over the yard, and never seems to get bored.
Hawken follows me all over the yard, and never seems to get bored.

News-followers might recall that the last couple of days have been dominated by news of Hurricane Harvey, an originally uninteresting tropical depression that ended up making landfall at Category 4 near Corpus Christi, Texas. As a possible consequence, our skies the last couple of nights have been a little more turbulent and a little more beautiful.

After work last night, I took Hawken, our eight-month-old Irish Wolfhound, for his evening walk. It was cooler than August evenings usually are around here, and between the green pasture turning gold and a particularly synergistic confluence of music on my iPod, I decided to take him around the perimeter a second time.

Abby and I think, probably correctly, that Hawken is a beautiful and majestic dog.
Abby and I think, probably correctly, that Hawken is a beautiful and majestic dog.

After washing out his water bowl and giving him a big drink, I decided he needed to be photographed.  Though he is 130 pounds of puppy, he believes himself to be a lapdog and wants to be constantly in contact with us, so it is difficult to photograph him without assistance. Still, I found a way, though it involved at least one giant swath of dog saliva on my camera.

The light takes on a decidedly pinkish hue as evening progresses last night. I made this with my 35mm f/1.8, a lens I recommend over and over for its ability to make this kind of subtle, elegant image.
The light takes on a decidedly pinkish hue as evening progresses last night. I made this with my 35mm f/1.8, a lens I recommend over and over for its ability to make this kind of subtle, elegant image.
This was the stormy evening sky produced by Hurricane Gustav eight years ago.
This was the stormy evening sky produced by Hurricane Gustav eight years ago.

As the evening matured, I paused to watch the sky. It reminded me of the sky we saw here in Oklahoma in 2008 as Hurricane Gustav made landfall and skirted past us to the east.

I’m not saying there is a hurricane over us, and it is not forecast to come this way, but the atmosphere is all connected, and the sky often tells me about wildness in the sky far away.

This was the sky as it crescendoed last night. Though we often have good sunset here, this particular sky has a very tropical look to it.
This was the sky as it crescendoed last night. Though we often have good sunset here, this particular sky has a very tropical look to it.