Sunday, November 28, 2010

Back in the valley

This is the 3rd rewrite of my post! The first two were like an email that takes too much time to compose and is deleted because the thoughts are not clear.  I was trying too hard to string the language to a stray thought. In this case, the thought was that we were always "back in the valley" and a comparison of northern and southern colorado. Later.  For now, I will only say that we are back in Loveland. We will take a mid morning walk, probably at the nearby high school track, then perhaps run some errands before returning home. I would like to take care of some work related tasks, but a small plumbing repair and some work to prepare some of the windows for painting could be done before dinner. We are in the holiday stretch, all of us whose life centers around school of any sort.

I didn't get another post from the ranch, so here is a quick recap. Claire and Eve spent more time outside than Mary or I did, and Mary got in at least one more walk across the ranch than I did. I did manage to cut more firewood after the repair man discovered a gas line leak was causing the intermittent running. The first time I used it, the plugs had worked out of my ear canals leaving me with a tremendous ringing that lessened some over two days. I bought a pair of headphone type ear protection for the post TDay cutting! Claire helped later to load and unload. The Kelsos came by Friday evening for a visit with one of the granddaughters, the other stayed with the parents on a visit from the front range. I finally framed the simple square of treated 2x6 lumber for a new well cover, but that will need to be finished next visit.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Day 2010

Mary is finishing the kitchen cleanup with Claire's help. Mary and Claire went all out with the turkey and sides... two cranberry sauces, a beet salad, sweet potatoes, a green been casserole. We delayed the brussels sprouts until we can eat it tomorrow with turkey breast and mole I made today. Eve prepared a thick spicy chocolate drink and the garlic mashed potatoes. I contributed the gravy and carving. About an hour ago we strode back to the house from an after dinner walk.

The 17 pound turkey was cooked very well, and there are plenty of leftovers - all of the now carved turkey breast and most of the legs and thighs. I offered a wing to Mary and Eve, Claire and I enjoyed a serving of other dark meat. My serving was the "cheeks", the dark juicy meat in pockets on the skeleton and carcass. I froze the aspic and drippings for future use. Hannah has already sent us her TDay pictures. Here are some we took today.

A side note. While shopping at City Market,  I encountered the produce guy loading vegetable in the produce section and noticed the  Quintanilla box. He agreed to let me take it and we loaded our groceries in it to bring home!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My ears still ring

We enjoyed a sunny, calm day. However, I felt sore and dizzy, not ready to try out the chain saw. Instead, I drove to town to pick up fresh gas and kerosene for the saw and tractor and ordered snow wipers for Mary's car. We walked to Nat's house to check out the plumbing. The river is icing over, the area just upstream from the Off's head gate dam was becoming frozen from the colder temperatures we have experienced -- it was 0 this morning! Tomorrow I may be able to fish in two areas where the river runs swiftly enough to prevent freeze over though the forecast is for a windy day.

The soreness and dizziness moved me to the recliner by the wood stove with a heating pad up the left side of my back where I napped until Mary drove Eve to a friends house. After she left, I decided to cut up logs on the bluff between the cattle guard and the irrigation pivot, a place where the Offs bulldozed the fallen trees away from the road. The saw worked well, but the earplugs I wore worked themselves out of my ear a couple of times before I learned how to properly seat them in the canals. I will probably wait until Thursday or Friday to use the saw so that my ears recover from the noise.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chain Saw Update

"Bob", the chain saw service master at the Monte Vista Co-op, invited me to wait for him to conduct the short series of small engine diagnostics to determine the cause of the problem I described in the last post. "Could be in the carburetor" he mused while starting up and running the Husqvarna (Husky) 288 XP vintage 1997. (I picked it up while Mike Sr. was still alive.) The big Husky is partly responsible for the bad back and more immediately responsible for the bad left shoulder that required surgery last year. Living and working on the Pipe Dream Ranch took its toll, but it had many benefits as well. I left the Husky with Bob who promised to get back to me after a few other pending work jobs. However, he called me back while Mary and I were still shopping in Monte Vista to say that he noticed a gas seepage that led to his discovery that the gas line was mangled and cracked. This led to the poor engine performance that, despite the good, 120 pounds of piston compression, resulted in poor engine performance. I returned to pick up the trusty Husky. Taking his advice, I bought two small put-in-one-gallon-of-gas containers of two stroke engine oil and a gallon of chain oil to prepare for a round of chain sawing for the winter wood supply. Thanks, Bob!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Down Home Snow

A nearly full moon greeted Mary, Claire, Eve and I on our way to the northern edge of the valley. Before sunset yesterday, we stopped to eat at the cafe in Villa Grove before pulling into the driveway early in the evening. It had been windy through Hwy. 285 but the evening was mild as it goes, only in the 30s. The weather that blew through north of here arrived this afternoon with a steady snow in a bright afternoon. Mary walked down to the Pipe Dream East while I continued to work to get the old Husky chain saw working. Instead of my planned trip to the bluff on the way to the irrigation pivot, I drove the Mule to pick up Mary and gleaned firewood from the picnic area.

The river is running. Only the slowed pool of water going into the Off headgate is frozen. The sky should clear after mid week, so Thursday while the turkey cooks I will try to catch trout while enjoying the river. The girls brought home work to do. They have only three weeks of school once we return (probably Saturday morning). I have some work myself. I registered for a business centric training evaluation certification program to learn the commerce side's take on program evaluation which is my focus for professional goal setting with the district. Enough of that. Mary bought a SIXTEEN pound turkey. Mole is in order for leftovers. Maybe I will buy myself a new chainsaw to replace the extra-heavy-duty Husky and keep us in toasty comfort the rest of the winter visits.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Melatonin and Rakes

I started to post a few days ago to report my experience with melatonin as a a sleep aid. The gold standard for me is to recall or even only be aware that I have dreamt. Affirmation of REM is reassuring, though not always confirmed with physical comfort. "I don't feel old, I just hurt" has been something of a middle Agee battle cry. The dream is now too vague to recall, something self-effacing, even self deprecating -- in the company of other losers in a hilly, winding geography.

But I digress, the next experience to share is the lawn work I joined Mary in after returning home this afternoon. She had begun to rake the leaves that had strewn the lawn since our last work out there. I grabbed another rake, then the lawn mower to mulch the tree droppings for faster decomposition. The dust and debris that moved me to don a face mask clogged the air filter on the mower. Better the pleats on the air filter than my alveoli. Raking leaves is zen practice.Like a waking sleep, except there's no dream, only what passes by on your way to the next row of leaves.

Monday, October 25, 2010

After Texas

  I never considered myself about being particularly adaptable. That is the catchword these days in a career chasing society. However, I notice how easy it is to disrupt one's flow with a trip out of town. (Notice I didn't say "routine" since I still allow my work for the district to set my schedule rather than my own clock and interests!) Saturday 16 October, Mary and I drove to Austin via Wichita Kansas to see my dad, Josue V. Quintanilla, on his birthday. I have reported him as "frail", but that may not be fair to him though he has lost a lot of weight. I remember how his mom, Maria, used to lug around heavy for her flower pots up and down the steps and around the porch of the Austin, Texas house she lived in with her daughter, Connie, then her nephew, David Martinez, and his family.
  Mary and I joined the immediate family, Teri, Denise, Charles and Richard and Yvette, for a birthday dinner (the sisters' work) and cake (Yvette is the baker). David, the youngest in the family, was returning from a trip to Corpus Christi to try out his new kayak. He reported he was on his way, but the sisters dismissed his report, so I missed him by less than half an hour :\ We had joined Ruth and Joe for breakfast at the Magnolia Cafe that morning and later at Bailey Park where we met them again, as well as Mac and Mary Ragsdale and a few old-timers. One of them, Pat, brought up an old pizza place on Lamar called Ferrari's that I knew back in the early 70's. Most of the reminisce was about how long the volleyball game had gone on with the consensus of about 1977 when we would take baby Jessica out there.
  We drove to Dallas Monday morning to see Grandma Nat. She was eager to take us out to restaurants where we had lunched together. Mary likes the moo fei pork disk at Chow Thai and the lamb salad at Ziziki's. I didn't prepare any meals being busy to finish a short online class about the Verizon "Thinkfinity" website. No one stopped by except Nat's Wednesday morning coffee partner. I changed Nat's cordless phone batteries and tripped the oil change notice on her car. She had driven only 915 miles since February, the date of the last oil change, so there as no need to heed the reminder! We drove back to Loveland in one long day. The navigation system recommended heading north from Dalhart rather than turn west to intercept I-25, the way we would go the ranch! I don't know when there will be another time to try that way.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Just noticed

This post about is a minor observation made this morning picking up the Saturday Morning Post. The sun just rose above the horizon to illuminate the neighborhood trees at a nearly flat angle. Beams of light crossing the roofs across the street hit the interior of a tall, twisted pine tree whose condition I had never noticed before. Somewhat like a gnarled and stunted pine in our backyard by the porch, this one was much bigger and so much more torqued -- not like a windswept, mountain top tree, but in a mild spiral around some invisible shaft.

This reminds me somewhat of the view west driving Highway 160 home to the ranch. Between the stretch from the Movie Manor lies series of foothills leading to the last downward slope, the drive to the Plaza to the right, on the straightaway to Del Norte. At the top of that hill, on different days and different times of the day, the light would reveal different nuances of color and shadow that never quite looked the same even though I'd seen the foothills northwest of the ranch from that vantage point many times. Other views in the valley were more stable, and therefore, perhaps, comforting. This view was always something of a wonder.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Working Hard for a Living

Mary and I took a short walk around the Loveland "Indians" High School track this evening. We left the house after a quick dinner. She'd spent the afternoon with Hannah, and I spent extra time at the office. With the shortening (lardy?) days we managed four laps before the deepening dusk settled in and closed the cool day and opened the city light glare challenged stars. Going only to pick up pomegranate juice and half and half, we bought and spent more.

On the way to the dairy section, a lady worker called out "Q", my nom de travail. It was the secretary of one of the directors Mary and I had met when I first joined the district. We learned she worked the 7:30 - 4:30 or so admin hours, then left immediately to Safeway for a 5:00 - 9:00 shift, plus Saturday hours.The only classified staff folks I know, the outreach liaisons I supervise, are largely subsidized by a higher earning spouse. This gal was especially drained, "a headache tonight" she shared with us, from taking time off to help a friend handle a medical emergency.

It is hard to complain about work when one knows what straits and suffering others face. To add to the intake of misery was the passage of a clearly stressed mother and a whimpering child entering the store as we left. Let this just count as one of the brief passages through trouble that many of us only glimpse or whiff, but that others are deep in another miasma only inches away the same way the parallel universes are microns out of sight.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wither, Wester Fest?

Mary and I drove to Lafayette on Wesrerfest Eve to join Jessica at her pARTicular open house. We had both been concerned about Lucas' hospital stay. His condition was dire, we felt, so we wondered how we could support the two. Jarrod was down from Denver to be with Claire for his birthday, the "Golden" one, age 22 on the 22nd of September. Eve and Ian joined us all for a brief tour of Jessica's art co-op, then we left for dinner at the Italian restaurant on the main street corner, Pinocchio's. Mary bought a card we all registered and signed, and I sent a copy of Strengthfinders I had brought. The good news is that Lucas will be released from the hospital this weekend! :)

This morning I moved away from the egg only breakfasts back to pancakes made from hazelnut meal and coconut flour. The recipe I will share later, suffice to say that they were acceptable, but I will change the mix to include almond meal to take the edge off the heavy hazelnut taste, not bad, just not balanced. We followed breakfast with a truck rental activity to haul a pile of debris from our cleared side yard and branches cleared from Jeremy's tree trimming at their Crystal Court residence. We followed that errand with a lunch at a new Asian restaurant in Loveland, the Empire Hibachi. we met up with Jeremy's crew later this afternoon after their drive around with Pele after the truck rental errand.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bad Sleepy Seed

I am experiencing restless sleep again. Worry reigns as I scramble to get some things done this week and before the end of the month. I was up about an hour and a half early this morning intent on tending to some paperwork. Instead, I culled through district email, created a number of folders and earlier this evening finished the work I started early this morning setting up mail rules to route incoming mail to folders.

This evening I spent a couple of hours with a team of people on a subcommittee working on a section of the new district strategic plan. Our group began work over two months ago around "Digital Citizen", by our definition a person who seamlessly and responsibly uses digital media to create, communicate, collaborate, produce and evaluate. The two strategies we proposed for the work were "provide ubiquitous access to technology and training to all and recognize, respect and honor informal learning.

Anyway, I need to get some rest right now as I need to contribute some action steps for each strategy. Instead of waking up around 2:00 a.m. I hope to make it to 4:00 as I often do. Then I can get my 5 or 6 hours of sleep and draft the work for the lead dude to edit and turn in tomorrow. I have a meeting through the morning and a webinar at 2:00 p.m. leaving a couple of hours through lunch to take care of the most pressing paperwork. I will probably get home thereafter to nap, do a little more work and then check in to a targeted family assistance learning night at one of the title schools at 6:00 p.m.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wide Row Planting

In addition to the garlic Eve bought for me this year (and thanks to Claire for planting the batch Inbought to plant last year) I strew seeds in the parallel wide row in the garden to fall sprout and over winter-- kale and chard, a few seeds left over, and spinach and beets planted together in the same space over the remaining row. I decided to leave the rest of the garden space for the spring planting season. This evening I watered both to get the bulbs and seeds sprouting while the fall sun still shines bright. I have s smaller garden space just south and east of the larger space that I now thInk might be a perennial flower garden.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weekend Update

Eve purchased two sampler bags of garlic from the Boulder Farmers' Market a week or two ago. Over the week and days I have prepared the soil for their planting. Today I am happy to report that using wide row and closer spacing, I set all the garlic separated into cloves into a foot-wide, shallow trench. I ameliorated the hard, clay soil over a week ago with sand dug into the trench area, on the south-side of the garden space, and amended the soil with "green soil", a marine mineral potassium source, along with wood ashes for a more immediate source of K and bone meal for phosphorus, P. Both nutrients are essential for root growth and general vigor. I worried about wood ashes adding to the alkalinity of the soil, but I might add garden gypsum for P and S later, in the spring. A nearby trench is ready for wide row planting of spinach. That crop will withstand and thrive in the cooling temperatures and even overwinter under the snow!

Mary asked me to help her with some mandolin scale notations. I shared that the 5ths tuning allows easy open string scales on the open, 2nd, 4th and 5th string with the neighboring string fretted the same way providing the rest of the major scale. She practiced strumming those frets for half of the major scale on the open strings. I also looked at the major scale chords printed on another sheet she'd downloaded from the web. I was writing out the ascending and descending major seventh (M7) chords on paper when she thought to ask for help. I am glad to have been able to help at all. Her wrists being more supple and fingers more extended should let her explore the fret board and sound patters, major scale halves and chords, for some time. I will get back to the saxophone and the bass as well. Stay tuned (har - couldn't help that one...)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Out of Touch but thinking of how to touch base

It has been a while since my last post and last pledge to be more engaged with the family through the blog. So I will simply share two thoughts or reflections on one or other mental or physical activity. (the secret of life is Move.)

After hearing about a veteran baritone sax player on NPR, I spent some time yesterday evening in the rec room blowing through the tenor. I chose the plastic mouthpiece built on a more open thrOat design like a metal mouthpiece, not the selmer that really blows. I have spoken to Mary about "the sound", so I simply played a series of tone-one-tone-down notes. Sustaining a strong clean note in the midrange produced in my head distinct overtones of the tonic and sub dominate as I held them. It reminded me of the "crazy as an oboe player" chestnut, there being the case of self-induced oxygen deprivation rather than the metasonic action on the brain. I noticed the classic Patterns for Jazz on the music stand open to the exercise on ascending and descending major 7ths and read the notes of the first pair; CM7 up, DbM7 down. However, I couldn't continue the pattern without the notes written which I intend to do today.

The other thought that came to mind, and prompted by the waxing of the moon toward the fall equinox, was to propose an antithesis of the Easter holiday. Submitted for your approval, please consider the observation of a lunar holiday which I will simply call WESTER. It would fall after the first[Sun-]day after the first full moon after the fall equinox. I might not insist on any day of the week, Maybe Saturday would be a better day for a party! And there's no reason to get entirely contradictory about the lunar benchmarks - we are not talking about June 25 being Satan's Birthday because it is exactly opposite Christmas. Like Easter, Wester would wander around the calendar bringing some variety and probably not a little inconvenience as to when it fell. It might be superfluous as we head into the holiday season, but no more so tha Kwanza, or Festivus.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Labor Day Gathering and the Gallery

Mary heard from Martha that she and Brad plan to drive Nat Sr. to the ranch over the Labor Day weekend. I had set the date before we drove Shane down from his flight to Loveland from Ann Arbor. We enjoyed the time. Eve arrived before and left before we did. Take this link to my first set of photos on the MobileMe Gallery. Let me know if this works. I believe you can upload pictures to the space as well.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Late summer visit

Shane flew in from Ann Arbor a week ago. We are enjoying the visit. Shane got to meet Pele, Hannah and Jeremy Claire spent a few days in Loveland Last summer when he came down in June, I worked through the month, and we missed visiting the ranch with him! I took two days last week to drive down with him and Mary. Eve was already here with Ian. (She left yesterday with him back to Boulder). It was cloudier than usual, but still cooler than northern Colorado. We'll visit a bit more this afternoon when we return. Shane flies out early tomorrow morning to his fall semester assignment at the University of Michigan and another job or two at a community college and tutoring. I will set a time to blog regularly with little posts like this. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Northern Colorado

Mary and I moved to Boulder for a while in 1978. Back then, the town was already known for three left turns on a red light, it's high per capita ratio of lawyers to citizens and high dollar real estate. However, it was not so strewn with ticky-tacky development along every stretch of the Diagonal Highway. Once, driving a 1968 Wagoneer, I became moonstruck and strayed off the road into a farmer's ditch near Broomfield. An old farmer in overalls came out to see what the matter was and in not too long a time extricated us from the water with little more than a car jack. He lifted the rear axle enough to give us traction back on the road. He was old school enough to understand the distraction the moon caused me, Old West enough to offer the help in the first place.

Mary and I drove south from Loveland mid-morning to mattress shop at the Flatirons Crossing Mall. I took advantage of my credit rating to open an account with Macy's to save $100 on the purchase, which I promptly ceded to the cost of a bed frame! On the way, we stopped by Lafayette and Boulder to see Claire and Eve. We took them and Jarrod out to the Himalaya Nepalese restaurant where we grazed the buffet then wen on out way to mattress shop. Eve and Claire are still house and dog sitting. Eve shared her experience baby sitting with a pair of young boys for a couple in Boulder. She is doing a good job keeping her head about her while addressing some complex family and developmental dynamics and exhibiting some gumption, stick-with-it-ness and compassion to follow through another stay with the little gents.2

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Walking through the garden... a little ditty-like outcry the servers at Bob's B-B-Q in Loveland call when one orders all the veggie sides on the plate (onions, pickles, jalapenos). I will return to the garden after this post. Last night I worked into the twilight, a common practice as I don't get outside until after settling down from work, and these days, coming out of a nap. I was cranky about doing anything out there perhaps because I had a committee assignment response brewing that I wanted to develop.

Mary joined me after understanding my frustration; this did not require her usual insight and empathy because I was complaining about how hard the work was for me now &c, &c. Sometimes when one is tired or pained there is no good reason to complain. Mary helped me reset the little picket and wire fencing border (I'll post a picture later) that I had removed to dig out the grass roots under it. There is still some warm weather left, but I'll plant cool tolerant and root crop seeds.

Friday, August 6, 2010

a review and reflection

Apologies for not posting since the 27th. I will resume with a post I wanted to make a few days ago from the notes I entered on a garden and kitchen journal I have kept intermittently since 2002. Hannah gave it to me then and from the first entry of 14 April, I would say that it was an anniversary gift. I prepared the rows and Claire planted the garlic bulbs on Sat 17 Oct 09 that I harvested this Tuesday:

"Mary is in Lafayette leaving Claire at Lucas and Jessica's for Claire's dog and house sitting duties. I'm conditioning he east edge of the picket fenced garden area with two 2.2 sq. ft. bales of peat moss. The clay soil is like hard pan, chunks of pottery. I noticed the peas unharvested this summer fell to the ground and, where watered, sprouted and poked through the clay. I collected a palmful still dry and unsprouted which I will replant. From the garlic planting map drawn Sat 17 Oct 09, I notice I have harvested a half dozen "german" variety garlic hard neck bulbs. "Inchelium" just north of them are not evident though I do have two bulbs from thereabouts w/o salks that could be. Some smaller "Bogatyr" lie to the south in the same row."

The German stalks are tall with large bulbs. I may only plant them this fall as they seem to be the most robust. I have not yet harvested the row with the Dukanski, Shatilli, Shaunti and Chesnook garlic. They are mid sized between the large German and smaller Bogatyr. I still need to turn the soil on the east edge of the garden (nearest the house) and upright the picket fence edging.

It is early again. I am semi-habituated to engaging in some stretches for my back, exercises for my core and strengthening my shoulders and arms. It is about the only time I would take now to do that; working the elliptical, or better, walking with Mary is better after work. That is something I have not joined in while Claire and Eve visit us, but it would be a good way to unwind and to connect. We have to find another circuit now that the high school track is busy with football practice. Now in the morning, I think I will start off with posts here and or in one or another of the blogs I have started at work, then exercise.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A story with several points

I returned a car jack for my Forester to the Subaru dealer earlier this week, with a penalty "restocking" fee applied. I had ordered and paid for it while still on the ranch. Earlier in the spring, a visit to one of the title schools ended with my walk back to the car to notice that the rear right tire was too low to drive on. The front right side was also a little low, but not a problem. Opening the back hatch and lifting the rear space compartment cover I did not see the jack where I thought it should be. A corner in the hard foam molding suggested to me that a jack belonged there. The handle and other one or two tools in the took bag were there, but I assumed that the jack was not there. I wondered whether I had taken it out at the ranch, perhaps to raise the Kawasaki Mule to service somehow, but a search not too much later turned up nothing. So I ordered the jack. Picking up the replacement this week led to my finding that I could not fit the jack where I thought it went. The parts salesman was puzzled at first as well. However, he checked the parts diagrams and looked at other Foresters, some of which had a different storage architecture. In the end, he came back and looked a bit further back in the foam molding on the other side I thought would be the place and uncovered the original in its cozy storage slot. Lot's to think about here, but all in all, death of dollars and time lost by" assume-icide". This incident has a failure of systems thinking flavor with undertones of stupidity followed by a hint of slight humor.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tardy Tales

Mary, Claire, Eve and I returned from the Pipe Dream West on Sunday 18 July. We'd been there since Sunday 13 June, the weekend after my last day at the Thompson Schools admin. I wound up working through the rest of June, just as I did last year, but did so on the ranch. It was unpaid work, but at least we got out of town. I still need to negotiate my contract for more paid time and to work with my boss to press the principals I work with to finish their planning the 1st of May.

Coming back to Loveland, going and coming, is a bit easier after two years from the diaspora, but no less problematic. For instance, one thing hard to do is to care for a lawn and garden in either place in the summer. Another is the minor tendency to forget an item at either place and then have to wait for the next visit to retrieve it. I need to attend a meeting the Friday before Labor Day, but may take the Tuesday following to make a long weekend of that visit.

I have seen Pele, Hannah and Jeremy twice since we returned. Last night Pele painted a picture of me in red stick figures that I will scan and post later. She has been drawing more figures, and letters, recently showing some fine motor, eye-hand coordination. It is fun to see her work and her narrative of her work is as delightful as the work. Yesterday she noticed the vegetative debris in the backyard and took two large broccoli leaves which became "wings" for her flying bird impression.

Claire and Eve placed a deposit on an apartment. It won't be vacant until Sunday 1 August, but they both like the facility. They will stay with us until then. Mary heard from Shane that he landed a part time, temporary position with the University of Michigan teaching freshman composition (?). He will teach 9 hours, or, I think 3 - 3 hour classes. At the old how-much-time-to-study rate of 1 hour in class to 3 or more hours studying, he has been hired on for 27 something hours. I wonder what the FTE (full time equivalency; 1.0 = full time) but at least he does have benefits. Good luck, Shane.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Last Weekend This Summer

The Kelso family will arrive at the Pipe Dream West within the hour. Laura Kelso called this morning to ask about getting together after Craig gets off his potato inspector work. We returned to the San Luis Valley Wednesday afternoon, previously posted, so now are in the last days of the 2010 summer stay. I took care of a few chores yesterday and today closed up the holes the yellow bellied marmots, "whistle pigs" dug to get under Nat's house. Cory Off and company cut several fields of grass while we were gone and are bailing it today. They also replaced the culvert running under the bend of the road before Nat's house. Another Off project is in the works from the looks of a culvert and head gate combo sitting on a tractor trailer. There has been more activity on the Pipe Dream by the Offs since they redoubled their presence on the Pipe Dream. In the meantime, Mary received a return call from a sister reporting that the family land trust contract would be changed to make all siblings co-managers with equal voice in the running of the ranch. This is no guarantee that anything will change, improve or more forward in a productive way, but the previous contract placed decision making power effectively in the hands of the calling sibling. We will return for the Labor Day weekend and other 3 day or more getaways through the fall and winter.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On the Road Again

It is early Wednesday morning in Amarillo. We left Austin yesterday evening by way of a route similar to one we used to take in the 1980s, not back up to Dallas as we have usually done since. Rather than stay two evenings at Nat's house after Clint and Shannon's wedding, we decided Sunday evening to leave the next morning for Austin. On the way we called and texted the Lowe's and arranged a visit to their Lake Travis home. Joe showed off his new recording studio "The Dog House" and Ruth prepared a hamburger dinner for her boys and us. I surprised Joe by bringing out my Yamaha WX5 wind controller and we jammed a little together. One of his musician buddies, Michael, stopped by to pick up his bass and amp and stayed for a beer and burger.

I will need to practice more to regain any technical skills and creative ability I thought I might have had before. Study and practice I have begun haltingly since the late spring. The evening I blew through my old Buescher Aristocrat I knew that I had to put away the WX5 and devote more if not most of the time playing analog. Recording digitally is superior, but playing analog is sublime. So much more nuance and expression from the reed and brass and the clap-trap, if you will, of the key mechanisms. I will continue exploring digital compositions and notation, but I need to expand the wonders of air bending on the tenor sax.

Some sad news. Two of the squids great-aunts died while we were in Texas. My mom's oldest sister, Petra "Pat" Lopez, died perhaps the same day that my dad's next older and last surviving sibling, Sara Q. Reyes died. Sara was an old teacher married to an urban planner. Together they had accumulated some property and raised a daughter in Austin. I did not see her much after Mary and I were married in 1974. We saw more of Pat, and while he was still alive, Monroe Lopez, when we still lived in Austin, mostly at the restaurant they ran on the old East Avenue, now I 35 South, "El Matamoros". Mom still has a sister and brother. Dad is the last Quintanilla of his generation.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cow Town

I delayed our trip to Amarillo and Ft. Worth due to weather reports for severe thunderstorms and flood watches on the travel route across north Texas. We witnessed soaked and flooded fields and experienced occasional heavy rain on the way. More important was that the trip was was made less arduous by breaking it into two two days with a stay in Amarillo. Our recent pattern is to drive between Texas and Colorado in one stretch, but I this led to driving while fatigued. The late decision to attend Clint Lowe's wedding left us needing to shop for a few things, so the Amarillo stay afforded the opportunity to walk the mall. The weather turned from rainy to hot and steamy with the passage of the storm front. It would be sunny and high 90s the rest of the way.

The wedding was at a Presbyterian church. The Lowe and Harmon families, both large, attended in force. The ceremony was traditional and brief, shorter than the time spent afterword taking wedding pictures. The reception was at a converted train depot in downtown Ft. Worth. The downtown scene I remember in Dallas paled in comparison to the more open and interesting scene in Ft. Worth. I spoke briefly with the father of the bride, Dr. Harmon, to thank him for his largesse. He seemed genuinely pleased with the event and recounted a previous wedding he had held in the same place for another daughter. Mango marinated beef, grilled chicken and grilled vegetables fueled the guests. Wine, beer, sodas and tea lubricated them. I will try to post from Texas again.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Dreary Day but a Cheery Weekend

Jessica and Lucas left yesterday. We shared a breakfast Jessica and Mary fixed, they left to pack and returned mid-day to leave. Mary and the girls left for errands in Alamosa. However, I had been listening to a series of webinars hosted by "Human Capital Media", a business site specializing in enterprise learning, and stayed to hear the last of three. After that, I drove the Mule over to Nat's to investigate why her grill delivers such low heat. In the course of attempting to blow out crud in the pipes with the air compressor, I noticed air and dirt coming from the place where the copper line goes under ground and back up the grill pedestal. There I found that years of hooking and unhooking the tank resulted in a crimp then tear in the tubing. No wonder.

The sunny day then and this morning soon gave way to dark clouds coming from the south that resulted in a cool wind, cloudy skies and some rain. The temperature fell to 53 degrees earlier this afternoon, down from 63 when we remarked after lunch how cool it was. We hope the weather is better tomorrow mid-morning when we leave for Amarillo where we will spend the night on the way to Dallas. I have complained about early starts, achy driving and late, dangerously sleepy arrivals that we will take two days to get to Dallas more refreshed and earlier in the day to enjoy one night with Nat.

Only a few people will be there a most of the wedding goers will arrive in Fort Worth for the wedding and reception on Saturday and spend the night there in Ft. Worth for the Sunday noon barbecue. It sounds like quite the production. Mary phoned the M.O.B., Ruth, to check on the number of family staying at Nat's and to check with the bride about our late appearance. With both OK, we are on our way and may wind up in Austin for a night or two as well.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Holiday Weekend

Here is a short update since Jessica and Lucas arrived Friday evening. Mary and I invited them over for breakfast. I cooked up the Gosar chorizo Mary bought and fried eggs while she stirred up and cooked the Pam's mix pancakes [Mary's favorite]. We never did get over to see them at the other side of the ranch on Saturday. Instead, we followed up on an invitation from the newly arrived neighbors, a retired company from New Mexico by way of Washington state, to attend a 4th of July get together cookout. I had misunderstood the date and had to call last Saturday about whether the event would still be held on the then rainy afternoon.

After a phone call from the neighbor reminding us to come, we pulled out a Jack's Store T-Bone and a bottle of cab and walked across the yard to their house. I'd never been in the house before. The yard was impressive for the old cottonwood trees that still lined the ditch. It created a cool corridor of comfort on such sunny days as we have recently experienced. It turns out the get together was a Mormon party. I knew we were in trouble when I saw the flags and patriotic bunting everywhere. Taking the tour through the house with Mary and the hostess, I noticed religious texts and finally an LDS periodical the neighbor had highlighted.Before that confirmation, I had set the bottle of wine on the corner of the porch behind the lawn chairs when I realized there was a lemonade and hot dogs menu.

We met some of the folks there, two standouts were the white shirt, black pants and ties "elders". The participants greeted the men as "Brother ___". The host started the meal with a prayer for the good of the country and the safety of the troops serving abroad. I can appreciate all this, but we were clearly out of place. On a one to one basis, we were OK. It was no different engaging in any other friendly, non-controversial conversation. I was even OK with the patriotic songs the host put on urging everyone to sing along. As an old public school teacher, this music stood with the rest of the "civic religion" we sought to instill common, though dominant view values.We left after desert and after the hosts announced the beginning of a scavenger hunt. I picked up the wine and the hostess retrieved our steak and we left.

I tried to read and mark up an article I'd started earlier, but I was so sore and couldn't get comfortable so I just went to bed. My "back" has been sore caused by the L5 disk bulging and pressing against the nerves that cause sciatica. I am pushing 60, so the aches just keep on giving. Anyway after I woke up Lucas and Jessica came over and joined us on the porch for a short visit. I had done some work on the lawn mower for Mary and got it going again. Jessica and Lucas left to prepare for a camping trip across the river. Eve and Ian decided to join them. We saw Eve driving his Subaru down there!. She has been reluctant to practice and without promise of a car not motivated to follow up.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

back in the saddle

Dear Ones,

I submitted the federal grant for which I am responsible only yesterday after having worked on it since leaving Loveland the 2nd weekend of June. Better to have left town and done it afar, even out of contract, to get back to the ranch a.s.a.p. Mary immediately went to work cleaning up and preparing for guests as I have already reported in a previous blog. In this post I will try to recount the last few days since my last post.

Sunday 27 June

I noticed a poster for an event at the Ruth Marie Center that i had planned to attend. However, after hours of working on the grant, I rushed off with Mary to Alamosa about the time the oral history presentation was going to begin. Mary and I had recently attended a 'self-benefit", I'll call it by the Wildwood Sounds owners in an attempt to recoup the costs of their hosting live music in Del Norte. I was sad to have missed the Adams State sponsored cultural event as it is just this kind of activity that makes living in rural areas worthwhile. Traveling to nearby towns for groceries and the like only reveals the on-going decline in the region.

Monday 28 - Tuesday 29 June

I wound up spending all day on the grant, especially trying to deconstruct the budget the grant account sent that I had to use to tag planned activities with costs. Mary had gone out with Laura Kelso to Salida early in the morning and found me still at home poring over budgets and trying to reconcile them with what descriptions we got from principals. I was discouraged about the work, but it was close to done.

Wednesday 30 June

The grant was submitted at 1:00 pm, then Mary and I drove to Alamosa to drop off recycles and eat Thai for lunch. She had the yum neua and I had a prad krapow with fried catfish. We ran a few errands and drove back. The lunch was good, but I must say that the Pipe Dream Ranch is more appealing and inviting than any event or venue elsewhere.

Thursday 1 July (TODAY!)

I got up way to early. My brain goes off about 5 hours after I retire. And I am not particularly rested. I tend to get up and read and then go back to sleep. Before today, I'd do this then arise again at about 7:30 a.m. I am thinking of asking for accommodations from the district as I have not had success with supplements or sleep aids. Anyway, Mary got up as well and we were pretty both pretty beat after other errands, this time in Monte.

Upon returning to the ranch, Mary picked up the mail to find the addendum to the contract that was sent by the lawyers working with her mom. Nothing much was changed, the general manager still has absolute authority over decisions about the ranch. It is surprising that Mary's siblings do not understand that despite their love and confidence for the general manager, that the contract obligates the GM to no one.

She called Nat Sr. to find out why. None of the siblings was there with her, so none of the concerns Mary shared and none of the assurances Nat Sr. offered would go outside their conversation. Mary had walked back to the ranch to complete this conversation. I stayed home to nurse my back, then wound up finishing and loading the lilac bush trimmings into the trailer. I grilled burgers and veggies and now we're vegging out on a video.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Short Post

It's late and I don't have any noteworthy observations, reflections or questions. I have been getting fishing hardware together in anticipation of 4 July guests. One of the old reels, a Shakespeare spin cast, dates from 1959 and sold then for 24.95. What's that in today's dollars? When Mary and I were in college days in the early seventies, you could buy a Taco Bell burrito for a quarter. When I was a kid in the late 60s, we'd buy a basket of fried shrimp and fries at a place called "59". Guess how much the basket cost. And the last blast from the past; Mary and I rented our first apartment in Austin, Texas for $100 a month.

More meaningful blogs to come!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Return of the Monsoons?

I don't know where the day went. It started at 1:00 a.m. followed by some tossing and turning before getting up to do some incidental reading (Seven Disciplines of Strengthening Instruction by Tony Wagner). I also perused the on-line software training site. I got a 30 day trial from (re)registering my Adobe CS3 software bundle. I started watching Filemaker Pro training video to learn about using he client software as a limited DB server. I got back to bed around 3:00 a.m.

When I awoke I went straight to work on a dragging assignment for my day job as federal grants application coordinator. My goal was to get the damn thing done Friday 11 June, but only today did the grant account send the spreadsheet I need to code the grant narrative with the right grants fiscal spreadsheet line items. Tedious stuff.

I started to clear out the potato cellar shelves of junk hardware, never getting to the work to nail down loose tin panels that flap in the wind and annoy the neighbor. It got cloudy and rained like it hasn't done in a while with clouds rolling in and gathering mid-day then roiling to a thunderstorm and some showers. It is raining again at 9:30 p.m.!

I started trimming the dead wood off a lilac bush in front of my study. The top is overgrown and full of dead branches which do not let the new growth underneath catch any sun. A bush should be trimmed more narrowly at the top to let sun hit the lower sections, This one looks like a cheap haircut. I need a truck!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The lure of the river

I have managed to fish a time or two during the last few days. During that time I snagged two lures on the river bottom. Rather than lose the lures, I reeled in the line to some tension and tied the line to a nearby tree branch. I thought I could go back and wade in to retrieve them. When I heard that Eve and Ian were going to the river, I asked her to find the tied lines and retrieve the lures for me. She found the lines, but reported that she could only find slack line with no lures.

The river is dropping quickly. When Mary and I came to the Pipe Dream West over the Memorial Day weekend, the river ran very hard and very muddy. Now it is low and clear, but the current is still swift. This kinetic energy unraveled the simple knot tied into the thin, 6 pound line or perhaps it snapped the line -- I don't know since it I couldn't say how much line was on each lure to compare against how much line Eve returned to me.

I can attest to the force of the river since for the first time ever I waded past the banks to cast upstream in hopes of catching one more fish. Mary joined me on the mule after I came by the Pipe Dream Rancwith some lunch for her and I to share.h (That is what I call Nat's place, we are the Pipe Dream West.) While she took a call from Claire, I stepped out and very soon snagged a 14" brown trout. On a side note, I must mentioned that I dispatched the trout in what has been described as the most humane way by striking it behind the head with a short iron rod.

Unfortunately, I overcooked the fish due to leaving it on the grill much too long on a much too high heat. The propane tank has lit and flamed too low before. After two re-lights that resulted in less than 200 degree cooking temperature, I re-lit a 3rd time and decided to leave the fish on the grill for what I thought would remain low heat. Instead the flame returned and the bottom side was rendered mealy and tasteless. Fortunately, the top side was OK! Eve joined me in the repast which accompanied the pasta and cheese sauce I prepared for Mary.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Speaking of the water table...

A septic tank contractor came to Grandma Nat's house with a backhoe to determine how close to the surface is the water table. Hanging on the outcome was whether the septic tank replacement (not repair -- $5,000 something bucks) could proceed as the usual and customary tank and leach field system or an "engineered system" requiring an additional tank by which the filth would be pumped up to the above ground leach field. [Three rules of plumbing - water runs down hill, don't chew your fingernails and payday is Friday.]

What would normally be underground and only visible by the taller grass and blooming daisies now stands to stand some 4 feet or higher and of some substantial dimensions to raise the aerobic activity (a nice way to put it) well above the water table -- think, the mausoleum of shit standing tall and proud across the yard and through the years, probably suitable for king of the hill type push off games by the younger cousins, but always a silent reminder of shared bacterial activity between the house and one's bowels.

More about watering -- reminds me of the work Mary has put into picking up sticks, watering and mowing the grand yard of the grand one who may not make it to the ranch this summer. We expect some immediate family visitations, but the more distant tribes stay away in droves due to more attractive pastimes in their region and the sentinel mosquitos and whistle pigs who stand (3rd use this post) guard over the wide skies and fields of the Pipe Dream Ranch and Pipe Dream West. We are talking about 10% humidity, 40 degrees difference between day and night with persistent daytime winds that mummify sentient life.

Finally, about water, I spent time replacing a pressure tank (almost 400 honking dollars) on the PDWest to attempt to increase the flow to the shower. The results were disappointing, but the work was needed as the old tank held zero pounds of pressure compared to the 28 lbs. to match the 30 lbs. pressure switch cut-on threshold. After replacing galvanized pipe nipples (don't snicker or giggle), union joints, street elbows and the like. I got only the satisfaction of a necessary job finished. Last think to mention is the replacement of a cracked toilet tank in the PDR loft.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mowing the Lawn

Today Mary mowed the south lawn, down the bluff by the now decrepit chicken coop and stable. The lawn mower was cranky, ran out of gas just before she finished the last spot by the old swing set. The oil was low when we pulled it out of the potato cellar, but after re-filling it ran fine and held level on the dipstick. I had to clean the air filter AND spray some starter fluid into the carburetor to get it going again, but it held out longer than Mary as she was too tired to finish the dusty area across the chicken coop.

Water makes a tremendous difference. We had left the sprinkler on leaving after Memorial Day back to Loveland. The neighbor lady next door called me to ask about the water Eve apparently left on after she left - we didn't ask her to shut it. When we returned, the circle of grass clearly stood out within the larger space of brown and lifeless ground. It has been windy and sunny following high temperatures several weeks ago that resulted in snow pack melt that rushed rivers and streams across the region. Water is life. We are lucky to be close to the water table.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's the longest day of the year, so I figured I had time to start a blog. We're back on the Pipe Dream West in the San Luis Valley, USA from our new home in Loveland, CO. This year marks the 20th anniversary of our arrival to Colorado from hot, old Texas. We arrived in 1990 on Father's Day with three school age children and one toddler, Jessica, Hannah, Shane and Claire. Mary was pregnant with our only native, Eve, born on a cold night during a winter marked by many weeks of 20 below zero nights. Like that year in 1990, the summer days are still windy.

Today Mary and I drove the [Kawasaki] Mule down to the river. I told her I'd only go to wade into the river to retrieve two fishing lures I'd lost. Yesterday, I followed Mary and Eve (the native) on the Mule while they walked to Nat Sr.s home on the riverbank. I caught one fish which wound up to become fish tostadas. Catching a larger trout today led me to investigate how to humanely kill a caught fist The most humane way may be to whack them behind the neck!