American kestrels

Since I did some time on the couch this week, I had the pleasure of picking up our Matthew Mullenix’s American Kestrels in Modern Falconry. I didn’t put it down until I had read it from cover to cover – it’s simply that great a read for kestrel fans like me. The fact that it’s a guide for the training and care of kestrels only provided additional insight into kestrel particulars for me, a falconry observer rather than participant. Highly recommended.

Catching Fire

A review in the NY Times of this new book, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, made it zoom right to the top of my “to buy” list. The author, Richard Wrangham, is an anthropologist at Harvard, and takes an evolutionary approach to the advantages of cooked food. Some enticing quotes:

Apes began to morph into humans, and the species Homo erectus emerged some two million years ago, Mr. Wrangham argues, for one fundamental reason: We learned to tame fire and heat our food.

“Cooked food does many familiar things,” he observes. “It makes our food safer, creates rich and delicious tastes and reduces spoilage. Heating can allow us to open, cut or mash tough foods. But none of these advantages is as important as a little-appreciated aspect: cooking increases the amount of energy our bodies obtain from food.”

He continues: “The extra energy gave the first cooks biological advantages. They survived and reproduced better than before. Their genes spread. Their bodies responded by biologically adapting to cooked food, shaped by natural selection to take maximum advantage of the new diet. There were changes in anatomy, physiology, ecology, life history, psychology and society.”

Take that, you raw food fadists!

Writers & Debt

An excellent Read- The- Whole- Thing piece by Megan McArdle in the Atlantic:


“…writers are, as a class, extraordinarily at risk. They spend their twenties, and often their thirties, living paycheck to paycheck. They are extremely well educated, and all that education is not only expensive, but builds expensive habits. You end up with a lot of friends who make much more money than you–who don’t even realize that a dinner with $10 entrees and a bottle of wine is an expensive treat, not a cheap outing to catch up on old times. Our business is in crisis, and we lose jobs often. When we do, it’s catastrophic.


“Until we’re comfortable with talking publicly about the fact that we don’t make much money and likely never will, that our lives are risky, and that this has obvious impacts on our ability to consume on the level of our educational peers, writers will keep getting into trouble. “

Sage advice. But would I have listened in my twenties or even my thirties?

Hybrid review

A scathing but side- splitting car review from Jeremy Clarkson, the guy who brought us car shoots earlier:

“It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more…

“The Honda’s petrol engine is a much-shaved, built-for-economy, low-friction 1.3 that, at full chat, makes a noise worse than someone else’s crying baby on an airliner. It’s worse than the sound of your parachute failing to open. Really, to get an idea of how awful it is, you’d have to sit a dog on a ham slicer…

“The nickel for the battery has to come from somewhere. Canada, usually. It has to be shipped to Japan, not on a sailing boat, I presume. And then it must be converted, not in a tree house, into a battery, and then that battery must be transported, not on an ox cart, to the Insight production plant in Suzuka. And then the finished car has to be shipped, not by Thor Heyerdahl, to Britain, where it can be transported, not by wind, to the home of a man with a beard who thinks he’s doing the world a favour…

“But let me be clear that hybrid cars are designed solely to milk the guilt genes of the smug and the foolish. And that pure electric cars, such as the G-Wiz and the Tesla, don’t work at all because they are just too inconvenient…

“The only hope I have is that there are enough fools and madmen out there who will buy an Insight to look sanctimonious outside the school gates. And that the cash this generates can be used to develop something a bit more constructive.”

There is a LOT more– RTWT.

HT Iain Murray at NRO .

Joys of Home Ownership

While we were in California for our daughter’s wedding – actually during the reception – the young lady who was house-sitting for us called to tell us that sewage was flowing out of the shower drain in our basement bathroom. She called a plumber us and we found there was a blockage in the line between this bathroom and the septic tank.

This picture shows some of the extent of the flow of the “black water” in the stain on the concrete, but doesn’t show all the wallboard or the installed cabinets that were affected. All of the carpet has had to come out.

I’ve been owning houses since 1984 and this is the first homeowner’s insurance claim I’ve ever made. Based on that record, I went with a high deductible on the policy for this house – something I’m regretting now.

There’s always something.

Spring Shift at the Feeder

Though much delayed by our cool wet spring, in the last week or so we’ve had a number of our seasonal visitors finally making their appearance. The winter residents like the chickadees and juncos have moved back to the mountains, while this male black-headed grosbeak showed up on Sunday.

He was accompanied by this female. I also saw a male blue grosbeak over the weekend, a new bird for me, and of course the camera was far out of reach.

This American goldfinch, in full breeding color, made his first appearance of the season yesterday.

Brown-headed cowbirds are common around here, but they had never come to our feeder before last week. I am familiar with their famous parasitical nesting practices, but had never really seen the strange head-bobbing behavior they are displaying here. Maybe some of you know more about it.

A Fisherman

I suppose the Memorial Day holiday made me think of it, but I wanted to put up one of my favorite pictures of my grandfather, Travis Reid. Quite a while ago, I posted a picture of him as a young man, and what I said about him in that post still stands.

As near as I can tell, this picture was taken a few years before I was born, probably somewhere during 1948 – 1950. He was still using the minnow bucket, water cooler, and tackle box in the picture when I started going out with him. Fishing was his favorite thing.

I also did another post about a time we actually caught some fish.


I went down this morning with a flu bug, so was negligent in getting all my chores done. I swear this happened because I drove to town and went to the grocery store, which was packed full of people on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.

So husband Jim did the early check of the lambing ground and found a lamb that wasn’t doing well, bringing her to the house. As soon as the lamb and I met, we both started feeling better, and you can see from this photo that we were pretty content with our nap on the couch.

I spent most of the day taking it easy and taking care of the 11 orphan lambs that share the dog kennel with the big dogs. It’s been raining today, which is fabulous, and our horses really enjoyed the cool weather.

I don’t know that I’ve ever mentioned it, but the horses we use on this ranch are all wild horses we’ve adopted off the range here in Wyoming. They are very energetic and intelligent, and only partially “broke.” I’m sure one of these years Jim and I are going to figure out that we are too old to be riding broncs, but we aren’t there just yet. Soon, though. Doesn’t matter what I ride (dirt bike or horse), I always wreck a time or two every year. Our horses aren’t nearly as well behaved as those we rode in Mongolia …

Blue angel?

Jim and I sat down in our living room late this afternoon for a break from the lambing ground and chores, leaving the front door standing wide open so the dogs could wander in and out at will. As we relaxed and talked, a male bluebird came in and sat atop the door, looking around the room, and behind the door. The bird flitted in and out over the next few minutes, then the female appeared in the open doorway, hovering. She was shaped like an angel and inspected us through the doorway. The male attempted to woo her into the house, but once he went into the bathroom to continue his inspection, Jim shooed him out the door and closed it.

It’s always nice to know you have potential, isn’t it? I guess we have potential as bluebird hosts.