Green Day

Wake me up when September ends

An unexpected rain yesterday dropped about three quarters of an inch on us. This is a morning image of the crepe myrtle in the front yard.
An unexpected rain yesterday dropped about three quarters of an inch on us. This is a morning image of the crepe myrtle in the front yard.
  • After a summer that got browner and hotter from the end of June through most of August, our patch of green got some unexpected – and sometimes unforecast – rain.
  • The Shoffner family reunion was this weekend, and I went Saturday.
The Shoffner family trades stories and secrets Saturday afternoon in Sterling, Oklahoma.
The Shoffner family trades stories and secrets Saturday afternoon in Sterling, Oklahoma.
On the way home from the reunion Saturday, I stopped to photograph this gorgeous Catholic Church in Sterling, Oklahoma.
On the way home from the reunion Saturday, I stopped to photograph this gorgeous Catholic Church in Sterling, Oklahoma.
  • Our hosts Troy and Rachel had portobello mushrooms on hand to make as veggie patties, but I had a longish drive home so I didn’t stay for dinner, so they sent them with me, which I made for my last two meals, and which were delicious.
Portobello mushroom caps sizzle as I sauté them for lunch today.
Portobello mushroom caps sizzle as I sauté them for lunch today.
  • I washed my wallet. It was probably time to replace it, but I was super annoyed with myself for throwing those jeans in the washer without checking the pockets first.
After washing my wallet, I decided to replace it, the first time in maybe 15 years.
After washing my wallet, I decided to replace it, the first time in maybe 15 years.
  • I traded a pistol I didn’t like for one I think I will like, the Ruger LCP-II in .22lr. It didn’t do well the first time out; I think I have a bad magazine, since rounds kind of pop up and strike above the feed ramp and won’t feed. I ordered two more magazines, so we’ll see.
I heard good things about the Ruger LCP II in .22lr. Except for a flawed magazine creating a couple of issues, it seems like it will be a very fun pistol to shoot.
I heard good things about the Ruger LCP II in .22lr. Except for a flawed magazine creating a couple of issues, it seems like it will be a very fun pistol to shoot.
  • I just finished teaching a really fun photography class. We made lots of great photos and had tons of “aha” moments.
Classmates Stephanie and Cara share images as we shoot at the Pontotoc Technology Center two Mondays ago. I think I gave them the tools they need to be better photographers, and we all had a great time.
Classmates Stephanie and Cara share images as we shoot at the Pontotoc Technology Center two Mondays ago. I think I gave them the tools they need to be better photographers, and we all had a great time.
  • The fall sports season has started, and it’s kept me busy, including a super-fun evening covering the Ada Cougars at Ardmore Friday. The drive down there was brimming with rainbows, which I chased a bit.
I took several stabs at photographing this rainbow Friday night on my way to Ardmore to cover a football game. This is nice, but I feel like I should finesse it more. I'll work on it.
I took several stabs at photographing this rainbow Friday night on my way to Ardmore to cover a football game. This is nice, but I feel like I should finesse it more. I’ll work on it.
It has become a bit of a tradition to have my picture made with my good friend and partner in crime Courtney Morehead.
It has become a bit of a tradition to have my picture made with my good friend and partner in crime Courtney Morehead.

Today is also the 44th anniversary of my journal.

My students and I had beautiful light for classes in August.
My students and I had beautiful light for classes in August.

Self-Picking Plums

A bright red plum hangs on a branch of one of my two plum trees this evening.
A bright red plum hangs on a branch of one of my two plum trees this evening.

My plums have started to ripen. Hawken the Irish wolfhound started eating them off the ground last night, so this morning I told myself that I would pick plums this evening.

Minutes later, I heard a morning thunderstorm rolling in, and before it was finished, the ground around the trees was scattered with a couple of dozen ripe plums.

I cut them up and had them as my evening appetizer, and they were great.

Small, ripe plums sit on my cutting board tonight.
Small, ripe plums sit on my cutting board tonight.

A Piece of Good News

In a season that seems covered in complexity, uncertainty, and sadness, I got a small piece of good news this week: the last freeze of the year apparently did not reach as far south as Byng, and my peach and plum trees appear to have abundant fruit on them.

This very young, small peach clings to a branch on one of my trees this afternoon. It is about the size of an English pea. The plum trees have similarly-sized fruit.
This very young, small peach clings to a branch on one of my trees this afternoon. It is about the size of an English pea. The plum trees have similarly-sized fruit.

The Gunsmith’s Daughter

The Gunsmith’s Daughter, a poem in memory of Abby Shoffner Milligan Barron by Robert Stinson.

The gunsmith’s daughter is gone. How and what we know of him by her love remains witness.

By her we see the skilled days. By her we know a fixed bolt, a straight fence, a neighbor done right.

We see endless repair, genius innovation, a heart set right.

What can we do to save this metal, but to carry the stock and save from the day’s rust?

Our sights are well set. Because of their training, because of Her training in love, we can now also shoot straight.

Abby takes aim with her Winchester .22 magnum rifle; the scope is a 3x-9x zoom; note the Walther P22 on her side.
Abby takes aim with her Winchester .22 magnum rifle; the scope is a 3x-9x zoom; note the Walther P22 on her side.

Christmas Eve Range Time

Our Ruger 22/45 Target, Walther P22, and Ruger 22/45 Lite sit on the bench at our range in the back pasture this afternoon.
Our Ruger 22/45 Target, Walther P22, and Ruger 22/45 Lite sit on the bench at our range in the back pasture this afternoon.

I made time today to shoot a few of our firearms, including the NRA Special Edition Ruger Mark III 22/45 Lite I bought Abby for our 12th anniversary, my Ruger Mark III 22/45 Target pistol, and the Walther P22 I bought Abby for Christmas in 2009. I put about 140 rounds downrange, all .22LR, both to stay current and because it was an amazingly warm Christmas Eve day to be outside shooting. I had a lot of fun.

Afterwards I cleaned all three pistols. The Walther is easy to disassemble and reassemble, but the Rugers are notoriously difficult to reassemble, so much so that the Ruger Mark IV’s have been completely redesigned for one-button takedown and reassembly.

That said, getting the Mark III’s put back into working order isn’t undoable, as long as your learn and practice the tricks. You can find the full set of instructions elsewhere on the web (here, for example), though webizens have half a dozen or more slightly different versions of this. But I am here to encourage you that it’s not that hard to do. I got my pistols reassembled in just a few minutes.

This is how the Ruger Mark III's look once you have them field stripped.
This is how the Ruger Mark III’s look once you have them field stripped.

Also on my Christmas radar is the early morning launch tomorrow of the James Webb Space Telescope, the next generation deep-sky space telescope that will in some ways replace the Hubble Space Telescope. I have an alarm set to get up and watch the launch at 6:20 a.m. central time.

This is the Ruger 22/45 Target pistol, ready to shoot.
This is the Ruger 22/45 Target pistol, ready to shoot.

 

National Pickle Day

Robert wears a pickle suit and holds "The Pickle" in downtown Ada, Oklahoma today.
Robert wears a pickle suit and holds “The Pickle” in downtown Ada, Oklahoma today.

Our long-time photographer friend Robert visited today, both to see Abby, and because today is National Pickle Day, and he brought The Pickle.

Wait, “The Pickle”?

Robert balances The Pickle on a rail of our front deck this afternoon.
Robert balances The Pickle on a rail of our front deck this afternoon.

Well, it’s a long story, and I haven’t talked about it much because really, it’s not my story. The Pickle has been on television and in newspapers, and, as pickles go, it is famous.

The Pickle wears the fifth iteration of a case. When it was first "pickled" in 1984, it wore a Seal-a-Meal bag, but as it became famous, it got a series of new enclosures.
The Pickle wears the fifth iteration of a case. When it was first “pickled” in 1984, it wore a Seal-a-Meal bag, but as it became famous, it got a series of new enclosures.

Abby enjoyed her visit, for which Robert dressed in a pickle costume. He brought her flowers, and said she looked good.

Robert photographed me visiting Abby at Ballard Nursing Center, where coronavirus restrictions have forced us to visit through a window. Abby looked and sounded good.
Robert photographed me visiting Abby at Ballard Nursing Center, where coronavirus restrictions have forced us to visit through a window. Abby looked and sounded good.

As always, Robert and I did photography together.

Robert holds the pickle while we visit Abby today.
Robert holds the pickle while we visit Abby today.

Abby and I were glad to see him.

Your humble host photographs Summer the Chihuahua this afternoon.
Your humble host photographs Summer the Chihuahua this afternoon.

More Green, More Grey

Early May was sunny and perfect for the baseball, softball and tennis playoffs I covered, but by the middle of the month, a consistent rainy pattern had set in.

I made several photo walks around the patch after walking the dogs.

I mostly planted these cherry trees for the fun of watching them grow.
I mostly planted these cherry trees for the fun of watching them grow.
Little green tomatoes on the vine are such welcome visitors.
Little green tomatoes on the vine are such welcome visitors.
Deep, contrasty late-afternoon light shines on my garden hose.
Deep, contrasty late-afternoon light shines on my garden hose.
Abby got this coffee mug from her daughter this week.
Abby got this coffee mug from her daughter this week.
Is a pasture selfie a thing?
Is a pasture selfie a thing?
My marigold seeds got scattered by a heavy rain right after I planted them, so they are coming up all over the garden.
My marigold seeds got scattered by a heavy rain right after I planted them, so they are coming up all over the garden.
A Virginia creeper vine reaches for the light earlier this week.
A Virginia creeper vine reaches for the light earlier this week.

At work, I’m shooting and writing well, and feel like I am succeeding in mentoring our intern, Mackenzee Crosby, well. I have a pretty versatile skill set, but I don’t do everything. I couldn’t tell you, for example, the first thing about covering a court case as a reporter.

At my suggestion, she called her column “Ellen in Grey.”

She came with me to document me donating blood this week, and wrote her column about it.

By Mackenzee E. Crosby - You host prepares to squeeze out a pint.
By Mackenzee E. Crosby – You host prepares to squeeze out a pint.
By Mackenzee E. Crosby - Mac got a Nutter Butter as a reward for blasting through her fear of blood and needles, and I got salted peanuts for donating my blood.
By Mackenzee E. Crosby – Mac got a Nutter Butter as a reward for blasting through her fear of blood and needles, and I got salted peanuts for donating my blood.

The Patch in May

Here are a few images from our home in the bucolic splendor of southern Oklahoma.

A wine cup wildflower sits tangled in other wildflowers in the west pasture.
A wine cup wildflower sits tangled in other wildflowers in the west pasture.
I spotted this tire track full of rainwater yesterday.
I spotted this tire track full of rainwater yesterday.
I had just hooked Hawken up to his retractable leash when he spotted a rabbit across the yard and tore out after it, breaking the leash.
I had just hooked Hawken up to his retractable leash when he spotted a rabbit across the yard and tore out after it, breaking the leash.
With the pond about as full as it's ever been, this grass peeks above the waterline. Normally, I would mow it.
With the pond about as full as it’s ever been, this grass peeks above the waterline. Normally, I would mow it.
Wires hang on a tree branch in the neighbor's yard.
Wires hang on a tree branch in the neighbor’s yard.
This is one of my shirts waiting to be ironed.
This is one of my shirts waiting to be ironed.
I had good cherry blossoms in April, and I now have lots of cherries about to ripen.
I had good cherry blossoms in April, and I now have lots of cherries about to ripen.
Irises only bloom for a short time in the spring.
Irises only bloom for a short time in the spring.
Hawken looks at me from under the back deck, which gives him plenty of shade.
Hawken looks at me from under the back deck, which gives him plenty of shade.
These bearded irises are my very favorite flower.
These bearded irises are my very favorite flower.
I bought Abby one of these recently, and it is now her new favorite drink.
I bought Abby one of these recently, and it is now her new favorite drink.
Lilacs take on evening light.
Lilacs take on evening light.
I made this image of a gate in our front yard right after a thunderstorm rolled through.
I made this image of a gate in our front yard right after a thunderstorm rolled through.
A small redbud blossom gathers vanishing evening light.
A small redbud blossom gathers vanishing evening light.
Reinventing the selfie? I made this after a thunderstorm. The water was cold.
Reinventing the selfie? I made this after a thunderstorm. The water was cold.
It has been cloudy and gloomy for over a week.
It has been cloudy and gloomy for over a week.
My first marigold of the year appeared recently.
My first marigold of the year appeared recently.

Picking Up Some Slack

I apologize for not posting more often. May is always like that – playoffs, proms, graduations – there’s lots of stuff to cover for my newspaper in a very short time.

But I am not dead or in a mental institution. I’m right here, and here are some images from what’s been going on.

A late frost hit the garden, but I was able to cover most of it with borrowed tarps. I was not able to cover my radishes, but apparently radishes don't care, because they are fine.
A late frost hit the garden, but I was able to cover most of it with borrowed tarps. I was not able to cover my radishes, but apparently radishes don’t care, because they are fine.
I grow radishes mostly because they are so fun to grow and so neat-looking.
I grow radishes mostly because they are so fun to grow and so neat-looking.
I addition to two large tarps and a couple of towels, I put a red heat lamp in the middle of the garden. It was a late-April frost, and a hard one.
I addition to two large tarps and a couple of towels, I put a red heat lamp in the middle of the garden. It was a late-April frost, and a hard one.
Mackenzee Crosby, who goes by Mac socially and Mackenzee E. Crosby in her bylines, starts her internship this week. She came in last week to find out where to put her stuff and how to log in to the server, and made this image of me while we talked.
Mackenzee Crosby, who goes by Mac socially and Mackenzee E. Crosby in her bylines, starts her internship this week. She came in last week to find out where to put her stuff and how to log in to the server, and made this image of me while we talked.
A long-time friend of mine, Kaitlyn Redman, spotted me as I covered ECU graduation Saturday, and waved me over, so I made this image of her. I have known her since she was just a kid, and am friends with her whole family.
A long-time friend of mine, Kaitlyn Redman, spotted me as I covered ECU graduation Saturday, and waved me over, so I made this image of her. I have known her since she was just a kid, and am friends with her whole family.
That's me in the middle, making a team photo of the Roff Tigers after they claimed another state baseball championship trophy Saturday.
That’s me in the middle, making a team photo of the Roff Tigers after they claimed another state baseball championship trophy Saturday.
As the Roff baseball game progressed, the mood became very jovial, so I snuck in with some of my young fan friends for a selfie.
As the Roff baseball game progressed, the mood became very jovial, so I snuck in with some of my young fan friends for a selfie.

Yes, She’s Better

Abby and our Chihuahua Summer pose for a photo this week.
Abby and our Chihuahua Summer pose for a photo this week.

Thank you everyone who asked with concern about my wife Abby. She had a rough winter and spring, but seems to be very much back to her usual self lately. This morning, for example, she asked for grits and runny fried eggs, which is a long-time favorite or hers.

Hawken the wolfhound pants after taking a big drink from his water bucket recently.
Hawken the wolfhound pants after taking a big drink from his water bucket recently.

I am fine as well.

I ate the last of my pinto beans a couple of days ago, so today I made anasazi beans.
I ate the last of my pinto beans a couple of days ago, so today I made anasazi beans.

Miracle on Main Street, or The Mystery of Lake Milligan

One of our plumbers holds a PVC-pipe joint that had been leaking. You can see the hole above his index finger.
One of our plumbers holds a PVC-pipe joint that had been leaking. You can see the hole above his index finger.

For the past few years I have observed a mysterious puddle come and go near my orchard south of the house. I suspected it was a leak in the main water line leading from the water meter to our house, but as the years went by, it didn’t seem to be getting worse, and would sometimes disappear entirely.

Then in February, we had the worst winter storm in recent memory. A foot of snow covered the ground, and temperatures dipped below zero on two nights. We were careful to open the cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around our water pipes, and, unlike hundreds of area residents, we avoided a messy and expensive plumbing problem.

The extreme weather was not without consequence, however. The mysterious puddle at first shrank to insignificance, but in the last few days, it got much large, and I dubbed it “Lake Milligan,” after George Milligan, Abby’s first father-in-law, who installed the water line when Abby moved back to Byng in 1993.

It grew so quickly this week that it was apparent that the water line would have to be repaired, and Abby and I were certain it would take forever, and cost a fortune.

Enter Nickerson Plumbing. They were able to send out a friendly pair of young plumbers, one of whom remembered me from when I covered his Ada Cougar basketball games, and the other recalled being bitten by our neighbor’s dog last year.

The two determined that we did have a growing leak, and set out to find it. At this point, Abby and I were sure we would be leasing a backhoe for days, and this repair would completely consume our income tax refund.

Then, the Miracle on Main Street.

“We found your leak,” one of the plumbers announced after a 20-minute search. It was right where the puddle had come and gone over the years, and at this point, the leak had gotten large enough to see and hear. One of them showed me the joint that had cracked and leaked very slowly, but had, in the last few days, turned into a pinhole, then a larger hole.

They patched it up and buried it, and turned on the water. One of them had a billing app, and added it up: $204. Wow.

This image shows the two ends of the water line with the leaking joint removed.
This image shows the two ends of the water line with the leaking joint removed.

Early Girls and Big Boys

Our windblown Irish wolfhound Hawken keeps an eye on me last night as I plant my garden.
Our windblown Irish wolfhound Hawken keeps an eye on me last night as I plant my garden.

I know it seems a little early to be getting the garden in the ground, as in years past I have frequently dealt with mid-April frosts and freezes, but if you can get plants in the ground early, then have a little luck with the weather, you get a longer growing season, and a better yield.

I might have to replant some if we do get a freeze, but it’s only about $20 worth of plants.

My soil has gotten depleted over the years, so prior to planting, I tilled in a large bag of organic tomato/vegetable garden fertilizer.

Yesterday I planted…

  • Ten Early Girl tomato plants
  • Three Big Boy tomato plants
  • Five red bell pepper plants
  • One green bell pepper plant
  • One orange bell pepper plant
  • Three Sun Sugar cherry tomato plants

My variety selection was based entirely on what was available at the garden center Sunday.

That leaves cucumber, radish, and marigold seeds to plant, hopefully tonight.

One of my tomato plants sits in the garden last night.
One of my tomato plants sits in the garden last night.

Nature Fighting Back

I got my second coronavirus vaccination this week. My arm is very sore and I have some muscle aches, but that tells me it’s working.

My second dose of Moderna-made coronavirus vaccine goes in my arm yesterday morning.
My second dose of Moderna-made coronavirus vaccine goes in my arm yesterday morning.

I posted on social media this week that my peach trees had gone straight to leaves this year, and did not appear to be making blossoms, which, according to my photos from previous years, almost always happened before the first day of spring. I was convinced that I wouldn’t have peaches, though I was encouraged to see that I did have plum blossoms.

A peach blossom clings to a branch on the largest of my peach trees this evening.
A peach blossom clings to a branch on the largest of my peach trees this evening.

Then today, as I walked Hawken, I caught sight of a few peach blossoms on a couple of my trees, and I felt encouraged, both because I might actually get peaches, but also that it seemed to me that nature, after years of cruelty to it by humans, seemed, in the last 15 months or so, to be fighting back.

I have more than one variety of peach trees in my orchard, and they make slightly different blossoms.
I have more than one variety of peach trees in my orchard, and they make slightly different blossoms.

First Day of Spring

Redbud blossoms sway in the spring breeze at last light.
Redbud blossoms sway in the spring breeze at last light.

I have been on vacation all week, and Abby and I have really enjoyed being together all the time.

The weather turned warm, and for the first day of spring, I chased down a few images of our redbud tree.

Also of note, my plum trees are putting on blossoms, but my peaches are going straight to leaves, which might mean I won’t get peaches this year.

Snow-white plum blossoms take on warm tones at sunset tonight.
Snow-white plum blossoms take on warm tones at sunset tonight.

Tyler the Tiller

Tyler the Tiller gets its tines in the game for the first time yesterday.
Tyler the Tiller gets its tines in the game for the first time yesterday.

My readers might be aware that I previously owned two small gasoline-powered tillers, also known as cultivators. The second one, Tilly, was purchased exactly eight years ago, worked properly most recently three years ago, meaning its useful life was five years. I consider that a complete rip-off, since that boils down to about ten hours of actual garden tilling, since I only need it once a year.

I thought about last year, when I dug the garden by hand. Not only was it slow, back-breaking work, it didn’t get the soil really chopped up like a tiller could. I am all about working hard, but I was not looking forward to another five-hour hands-and-knees session.

Local retailers had that exact model for an insulting $300, so I poked around on the interwebs and found an electric tiller for just $133, minus a small discount from rewards points. “Buy Now.”

My Sun Joe TJ604E 16-Inch 13.5 AMP Electric Garden Tiller/Cultivator arrived in just two days. It was easy to assemble and ready in minutes. The question would be one of electric vs gasoline, which is why I opted for the more robust 13.5 AMP plug-in model.

At the first turn of dirt, Tyler dug like a champ, including some very rough areas that had gone to grass several years ago. We’ll see how long it will live, but so far, the newest tiller in the family is working well.

I asked Abby what I should name it, and she said, “Tyler.”

One month ago today there was 12 inches of snow on the ground, and the high temperatures hovered around zero.
One month ago today there was 12 inches of snow on the ground, and the high temperatures hovered around zero.

Autumn 2020

Red and yellow leaves cling to the fence in our front yard.
Red and yellow leaves cling to the fence in our front yard.

2020 has been a difficult year, for reasons I don’t need to rehash because we’ve all been through it.

Abby and I have been lucky; we haven’t been exposed as far as we know, and we haven’t been sick.

The leaves along the driveway are ankle-deep in spots.
The leaves along the driveway are ankle-deep in spots.

Mother nature is somehow responding to 2020. It might be a coincidence, or it may be in response to a reduction in atmospheric, noise, and light pollution because of the pandemic, but this summer was pretty and green, and this fall ranks as among the most beautiful I can remember on our patch of green in southeastern Oklahoma.

This image only partly captures the beauty of this morning scene last week.
This image only partly captures the beauty of this morning scene last week.
The last of a Virginia creeper vine clings to the fence in the back yard.
The last of a Virginia creeper vine clings to the fence in the back yard.
Morning glory vines mix with crepe myrtle branches at sunset.
Morning glory vines mix with crepe myrtle branches at sunset.
Maple leaves are set against a perfect blue sky last week.
Maple leaves are set against a perfect blue sky last week.
I photographed this sunset while I was walking the dogs last week.
I photographed this sunset while I was walking the dogs last week.

Know What? Chicken Butt?

This chicken wasn't at all shy about me being in the pen with her.
This chicken wasn’t at all shy about me being in the pen with her.

Our next door neighbor’s efforts to corner the chicken market seem to be coming along nicely. In addition to his 32 chickens, he recently added five guineas and a puppy that he says will grow up to guard the henhouse. They’re all fun and fun to photograph.

These guineas are sure to amuse us with their noisy chatter and tiny eggs.
These guineas are sure to amuse us with their noisy chatter and tiny eggs.
This chicken's feathers are fun to watch, and make an easy focus target for my cameras.
This chicken’s feathers are fun to watch, and make an easy focus target for my cameras.

Life and Death in the Night

Our next door neighbors recently got chickens, and immediately had losses of the animals to wildlife like coyotes, racoons, and opossums.
Our next door neighbors recently got chickens, and immediately had losses of the animals to wildlife like coyotes, racoons, and opossums.

Hawken, our Irish wolfhound, cornered another opossum tonight, or possibly cornered the same opossum he encountered two weeks ago.

Hawken’s bark is unique to the situation: it is forceful, loud and urgent, and is meant to get the attention of the animal he is addressing as well as us.

I have no desire to kill animals like this, but I can’t have them stubbornly staking out Hawken’s food, and I am quite sure this animal or others like it are responsible for killing our next door neighbor Mike’s chickens recently.

I tried and tried to shoo it away, but it was too determined to dine on Hi-Point “Highly Active” 28/15 dog food, and would not retreat. I shot it with my M&P 15/22. Once it was down, I gave it one point-blank to the head so it wouldn’t suffer.

Opportunistic animals of the night are part of living in the country.
Opportunistic animals of the night are part of living in the country.

Tomatoes to the Rescue

My garden hose, locked open, waters my new tomato plants last night.
My garden hose, locked open, waters my new tomato plants last night.

After a rather intense couple of days covering the news, I was able to pad my tension with a bit of good news: the garden center at Walmart had mature-ish tomato plants to I could replace some that I lost to cutworms or the weather. I was able to plant three Better Boy plants and two cherry tomato plants.

This is one of the tomato plants I got planted last night.
This is one of the tomato plants I got planted last night.
Flowers in the pasture take on late evening sun.
Flowers in the pasture take on late evening sun.
The sky takes on beautiful amber hues after sunset last night.
The sky takes on beautiful amber hues after sunset last night.

Considering the Facts

I photographed the next door neighbor's iris again last night. They don't stay in bloom very long, so I wanted to photograph them while I could.
I photographed the next door neighbor’s iris again last night. They don’t stay in bloom very long, so I wanted to photograph them while I could.

There was a time in my life, around my college years, when I imagined that total isolation, on a mesa in a home built into the cliffs at the end of the Boys Ranch Road northwest of Amarillo, would be the way I wanted to live.

*** As I wrote this, the phrase “no contact with the public at all” floated by through a television program. ***

But I am not that college kid any more.

Abby had a brief doctor visit last week. We pulled into the parking lot wearing our Rona masks, and the nurse came out and gave her an injection.
Abby had a brief doctor visit last week. We pulled into the parking lot wearing our Rona masks, and the nurse came out and gave her an injection.

There are news reports of people feeling isolated, and a lot of people are creating memes for social media that express isolation.

But for Abby and me, and the next door neighbors, the Nipps, life hasn’t changed all that much. They cook out and cut the grass. The next day, I cook out and cut my grass. I walk the wolfhound and the Chihuahua past them as they put ribs on the grill, and we chat or a few minutes. Mike is building a chicken pen, and plans to get some chickens, which I look forward to naming and photographing.

Summer Time Lane, our Chihuahua, rests on one of Abby's afghans.
Summer Time Lane, our Chihuahua, rests on one of Abby’s afghans.

What has changed dramatically for me is work. I still have a job, but everything about it is different, because of what my newspaper covers. Sports have stopped. There won’t be any graduations this month. There are a lot of parades and gatherings designed to get people together, yet keep them far apart enough to check the possible spread of the coronavirus.

At an evening event I covered Thursday, 15 people called me by name.

There don't seem to be any food shortages, especially if you are like us, and eat from the bottom of the food chain. Today I made red beans and rice.
There don’t seem to be any food shortages, especially if you are like us, and eat from the bottom of the food chain. Today I made red beans and rice.

At Walmart today, in the egg aisle, with both of us wearing Rona masks, “Hey, aren’t you here to take pictures?”

My community knows me, which I love. It’s also something that lets me do my job better.

So, here we are, May 2020. We are trying to “reopen” America bit by bit while the pandemic still rages, and while I hope for the best and prepare for the worst, I expect something in between.

Your humble host holds our young Chihuahua, Summer Time Lane, and Abby's cane "Raisin."
Your humble host holds our young Chihuahua, Summer Time Lane, and Abby’s cane “Raisin.”

In the Ground

I got half of my garden planted today. I went to town and got three kinds of tomato plants, pepper plants, and onion sets, all of which are now in the ground. I also bought seeds for cucumbers, cantaloups, rainbow carrots, and marigolds, which I hope to get in tonight or tomorrow.

The garden is one of the best things in life.

A tomato plant finds its new home in my garden this afternoon.
A tomato plant finds its new home in my garden this afternoon.

Coughing My Fool Head Off

This is the curio cabinet turned into the camera cabinet.
This is the curio cabinet turned into the camera cabinet.

I am presently coughing my fool head off, but don’t worry. I don’t have the covids or the amtrax. I do, however, have a face full of dust after completing a task I’ve been avoiding for a couple of years: moving Abby’s mom’s curio cabinet into my dressing room and making it into a camera cabinet.

I actually accomplished this while Abby was napping, a variant on the saying, “It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission,” though when she woke up, we were all happy with it.

This started with me seeing a dusty camera, dusting it off, then seeing I couldn’t set it down again without dusting the spot where it sat. There was a lot of dust, then a decision, then action.

I sometimes wish all our actions could come about so organically.

The only remaining task is to find a new piece of glass for the front door, which was broken while moving it here with a bunch of other stuff.

The cameras on display in it are items Abby bought for me at various thrift and antique stores over the years.

These cameras mostly work, though many of them require film that hasn't been made in 50 years.
These cameras mostly work, though many of them require film that hasn’t been made in 50 years.

Then, Springtime

I was feeling pretty grim for much of the day, weirdly motivated by caution and advice to keep my distance from my fellow humans, worried more about the social and economic consequences of our situation.

Hills of fresh-cut grass and weeds sit in the yard near the old walnut tree.
Hills of fresh-cut grass and weeds sit in the yard near the old walnut tree.

When I got home, Abby sneezed, reminding me that we both were aware that the weeds in the yard have grown pretty tall all the sudden.

I fired up my push mower, then my riding mower, then finally the power washer, and they all worked fine.

I mowed and mowed, and even had a chance to power wash a spot on the front of the house.

The smell of cut grass and weeds and dandelions and wild onions was the opposite from the rest of my day, opposite from the smell of disinfectant and surgical masks.

I felt happy.

The redbud tree in our front yard catches last light tonight. I made this image deliberately chaotic, soft, and dreamlike to reflect my feelings about the evening.
The redbud tree in our front yard catches last light tonight. I made this image deliberately chaotic, soft, and dreamlike to reflect my feelings about the evening.

Calm in the Storm

Mom and Dad had orange trees in their back yard in Florida. My sister Nicole and I bought them and planted them as Christmas presents. There were always lots of big, ripe fruit at Christmas, so I guess that’s when they naturally ripened. Mom and Dad did little to them other than picking the fruit.

I thought of this as I found two new-to-me orange varieties at Walmart this week, the Cara Cara with it’s pink meat, and blood oranges, which are dark reddish-purple inside.

Blood oranges are quite striking, and quite delicious. Part of my consumption of fresh fruit right now is that it's ripe, and part of it is that it is something real, and smart, to do in a health crisis.
Blood oranges are quite striking, and quite delicious. Part of my consumption of fresh fruit right now is that it’s ripe, and part of it is that it is something real, and smart, to do in a health crisis.
I got out these magnifiers at my office this week, and made a joke about looking for "covids" with them. I am whistling past the graveyard.
I got out these magnifiers at my office this week, and made a joke about looking for “covids” with them. I am whistling past the graveyard.

At Walmart, I was witness to part of a current panic in the world, people buying hoarding items as they fall prey to fears they will suffer or be deprived in the Coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. As a group, humans tend to gravitate toward their fears, believe absurdities, and follow unqualified leaders who often lead them off cliffs. It’s not new. It is the way humans are made: selfish, scared.

If I knew how to calm and comfort them I would, but maybe it’s enough for me to remain confident and rational. I know it’s easy to fear disease; I was seriously ill with influenza last month, and COVID-19 is a more serious illness.

It rained all night last night, and even stormed a little this morning. I wonder how spring, in general, will affect the current pandemic.

Many sports were canceled, including, much to my chagrin, the state basketball tournament. Covering those games is definitely hard work, but some of the funnest I do all year. Games leading up to it were definitely epic, and the teams, fans, coaches, and I were very excited about the games to come this week.

The Vanoss Lady Wolves won the Class 2A area championship last week, and had a great shot at a state championship. I feel for them that they probably won't get the chance to play for it.
The Vanoss Lady Wolves won the Class 2A area championship last week, and had a great shot at a state championship. I feel for them that they probably won’t get the chance to play for it.

The ultimate question, of course, is will we – you, me, the dogs, my wife, my coworkers, my waitress, my nurse, my friends, my town – get sick and die from this disease? The answer seems to be probably not. All we can do is wash our hands, sneeze into our elbows, and stay calm.

My peach, plum and cherry trees have all started to flower. It is comforting to see something real in our current world of fear.
My peach, plum and cherry trees have all started to flower. It is comforting to see something real in our current world of fear.

2020: The Year of Perfect Vision

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is certainly fond of wading into the pond and getting a big sloppy drink of water, winter and summer.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is certainly fond of wading into the pond and getting a big sloppy drink of water, winter and summer.

I don’ t know if any of you ponder New Year’s Day, but I don’t. The year 2020 is only significant because we sort of started counting 2020-ish years ago. The winter solstice was December 21, and the spring equinox isn’t until March, so those two clearly more significant celestial benchmarks have been largely ignored.

So, 2020. Meh. I’m not 2020, Abby’s not 2020, the dogs aren’t 2020.

[stextbox id=’grey’ caption=’From the “Special Projects” bin…’]I asked a friend, who I think should be writing, to start the new year by writing just one sentence. She texted, “She didn’t believe me, at least not at first.”[/stextbox]

When I was young, 2020 sounded like science fiction. “By 2020, we’ll have bases on the moon and Mars.” NASA says right now they expect to be on the moon in five years, and on the way to Mars after that. But who are we going to beat to the moon? Who thinks it’s a good idea to spend 5% of the GPD on NASA? Look up this entry in five years and see if we’re on the moon.

Abby and I watched the Tournament of Roses Parade on The Hallmark Channel this morning. It’s comforting to see how archaic and underproduced the coverage is, and how much this event is just like it was when I was a kid.

Abby and I toasted the new year with sparkling apple cider. "So raise your glass to sorrow, And drink to all the pain, Tie a silver ribbon around, The pieces that remain..." ~Butterflies by Natalie Imbruglia
Abby and I toasted the new year with sparkling apple cider. “So raise your glass to sorrow,
And drink to all the pain,
Tie a silver ribbon around,
The pieces that remain…” ~Butterflies by Natalie Imbruglia

 

Some Monday Fun

Hawken and I walked three miles over some fairly uneven terrain yesterday. He knows the way well now, and I follow him as much as he follows me.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is as smart and affectionate as any creature I've ever known. He relishes our long walks as much as I do.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is as smart and affectionate as any creature I’ve ever known. He relishes our long walks as much as I do.
During my shooting session, I was ambushed by corn, oysters, and beef stew. My tactics prevailed.
During my shooting session, I was ambushed by corn, oysters, and beef stew. My tactics prevailed.

Later I got out a pistol and a rifle and put about a hundred rounds of .22lr downrange. It was fun and relaxing. I feel like I shot well.

Winter sunshine. Dogs. Hobbies.

I shot my Smith and Wesson M&P/15-22 rifle and my Ruger SR-22 pistol. I also brought my Radio Shack HTX-202, an amateur radio handheld that ranks among the hobby's best.
I shot my Smith and Wesson M&P/15-22 rifle and my Ruger SR-22 pistol. I also brought my Radio Shack HTX-202, an amateur radio handheld that ranks among the hobby’s best.

Disappearing Act

I formulated this lunch in my head as I drove to the store, and it came together perfectly
I formulated this lunch in my head as I drove to the store, and it came together perfectly.
Abby smiles for my new/used 85mm f/1.4 last week. She looks like sunshine itself to me.
Abby smiles for my new/used 85mm f/1.4 last week. She looks like sunshine itself to me.

Readers know that with the arrival of late autumn, I am able to take Hawken the Irish Wolfhound on much longer walks, deep into the woods to the west.

Today I made a quick trip to town, heated up some leftover baked ziti for Abby, made baked sweet potatoes with sautéed green onions and mushrooms and a veggie burger patty for me, then took Hawken on our longest walk of the season.

These walks are so good for us. We never see anyone else back there. We seldom even see traces of anyone else. We disappear. It’s quiet and clean. We both get sun and leg time. We never get bored. Good times.

Hawken sniffs at a tuft as we walk on a two-track road far back behind our property. We walked for nearly an hour.
Hawken sniffs at a tuft as we walk on a two-track road far back behind our property. We walked for nearly an hour.

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.

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.

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.

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.

[stextbox id=’grey’ caption=’Today’s question…’]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?[/stextbox]

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.