The Revolution circa 2010

Whether you’re a neighborhood secessionist masquerading as a home gardener—or the reverse—it’s likely you’ve started this year’s troop review.  Three cheers to the Revolution!
This year we have a new recruit, an eight-foot bed made this weekend that is slowly transforming the kids’ playground to dual use.  This fall some pole beans will be growing up the trellis, but on advice for summer I’ve planted patio tomatoes and a few eggplant. 
On the other side of swing set, the pole beans planted in spring are up and producing well.
Across the yard: tomatoes, oregano, hot and sweet peppers and some basil.
And in the back with the compost bins and shade cloth, French sorrel, cilantro and parsley.
Revolutionary Manifesto: Try the new Wendell Berry essay collection, “Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food,” with introduction by Micheal Pollan.

Random Doggage– Our Pups and Lineage, in Part

I need a new pic of Irbis who has two more weeks to go as a house dog but is driving me nuts as he is in full active mode. Here, to scale, is the plate that saved his leg, now one of my myriad desk chotchkes. Hard to believe it was inside his leg, bolted to his broken bone, for most of last year. Also a fairly recent photo of him sitting up like a human, as he does.
Sergiy Kopylets, Lashyn’s breeder in Ukraine, has been in touch with Vladimir Beregovoy. He has been getting new tazis out of the dangerous uplands of Tajikistan, and I’m sure has tales to tell. I thought I would put in a recent photo of Lash, plus a couple of her two pups we bred who live with John Burchard, for V to send to him (his Internet access is intermittent at best), and one of her others. Brindle Tigger’s sire is Kazakh Kyran; pale Jingiz is by Daniela’s old Arab boy Lahav (who is also a descendant in part of some of John’s dogs). Jingiz is also Irbis’ litter brother. Pix of pups at John’s in Alpaugh California; Lashyn at home on our couch. Finally,Irbis and Jingiz’s brother Shunkar, who lives with Daniela in Magdalena.

For Janet: Ataika with her mother at the Plakhov’s in Almaty — she is (still) the little black- faced one– at a bit less than four months. Photo by us.

Dave Dixon’s male pup from Ataika by Kyran, who his little daughters insisted on naming “Tazi”. I think he looks amazingly like Dor, except that, living up north in a snowy part of Utah, he grows heavy “pantaloons” every winter, which he sheds in spring. Here he is visiting us in NM last spring and has almost shed out.

Ataika and her son, Tazi’s brother Cisco, who belongs to Greg Rabourn, after a successful hare chase with Greg’s Gyr- Saker hybrid falcon, and me. Photo by Daniela Imre. (And the hawk, same).

Just a few of our successful kids. We are proud, and grateful to Sergei, Andrey Kovalenko, and the Plakhovs, as well as to Daniela and John.

Sheep camp, week 4

It’s been another week of frequent rain and snow, but lambing is going gangbusters, and most lambs are doing really well. The vast majority of lambs do not need my assistance, but it is easier to warm up a cold lamb than it is to cool down a hot lamb, so I prefer this cool weather. Besides, my longjohns and Carhartt coveralls are so stylish that divas like me hate to put them away for the season.

The lambs run around in gangs, racing back and forth on hills, digging in loose dirt, bucking and leaping, and picking up more lambs as they run back and forth in waves, making the gangs bigger and bigger. Their mothers cry for them to come back and behave, but are ignored. If a ewe comes over to try and retrieve her lamb, she could end up with a gang of 20 hoodlums aimed at her udder, so the ewes pretty much stand back to do their complaining.

This week, I thought I’d share a few shots of my neighbors. The burrowing owl pair has picked their favorite burrow, and it’s the one in the two-track road to my camp. The size difference between the sexes is dramatic. Now that the female has a mate (last Sunday she suddenly wasn’t alone anymore) she is much more tolerant of my photography, but I’ll limit my visits.

The pronghorn buck has remained with the herd. Don’t know why, don’t care – he’s just part of our bunch now. It will be interesting to see if he follows when we move the herd in a few days.

I left a pen of five ewes at the house for some TLC when I left for sheep camp, afraid that for one reason or the other, these ewes would have a hard time out on the range. I’m pleased to report my favorite old ewe, which I raised on a bottle, had a beautiful single ewe lamb this year (she had triplets last year). Friendly is 14 years old, and has been my lead sheep for more than a decade. She’s a good old girl, and I’m pleased to continue her lineage. These ewes lay around eating alfalfa Jim feeds them twice a day. I suggested he start providing them some Vanilla Wafer treats (sheep love cookies), but he claimed he would feed them oats instead.

RIP Les Line

Les Line, the writer and editor who made the (old) Audubon into what might have been the best nature magazine in the world, has died.

Audubon has been very and appropriately kind in its obit. It doesn’t mention that they fired him in ’91 to change the magazine’s direction.

My friend Matt Miller of The Nature Conservancy informed me of his death. I wrote back what I will let stand as my own memorial:

“I knew Les and thought he was some kind of editorial genius, maybe the most brilliant natural history editor ever, publishing everybody from Peter Matthiessen and Robert F. Jones on Africa to John Mitchell (a five- part and fiercely controversial series) on hunting. He, if I remember correctly, broke the Texas eagle shooting scandal with Don Scheuler’s reporting (Scheuler may also be the first nature writer who wrote a gay memoir, though not for Audubon (;-)). Though it obviously still exists, Audubon magazine died as far as I was concerned when PC types pushed and business heads fired him, moving away from great nature writing to pure “enviro” (and both boring and routinely alarmist) stuff.

“He was also a delightfully strange man. He was ENORMOUSLY fat, had at that time– mid- Eighties?– hippie hair and a handlebar mustache, and wore things like turquoise bolo ties in his Manhattan office, where he also had a Weatherby cartridge board and a poster of a Smith & Wesson .44 mag! At Audubon!

“He took me to lunch and recommended a one- pound burger with CAVIAR and some kind of draft German beer. I ate one– he might have had two.

“It’s a cliché but they don’t make them like him anymore. I could have seen my (and my genre’s) own near-doom as popular coming when I invited him to speak about his experiences at Wildbranch Writing workshop post- Audubon and several young “writers” (none to my knowledge ever published before or since) stood up and dismissed– denounced– natural history as “irrelevant”. This at a nature writing workshop!

“I missed him even before he was gone.”

UPDATE: Miller on naturalists.

Revolvers 2

I had some interesting responses to my post on a two- revolver “set” of mine last month but it took me some time to get back blogging– obviously.
Jonathan Hanson, editor of Overland journal and possibly the last Edwardian, proposed a perfect pair of antique English Webleys.
The big one is “a MKV (“star” or “double star”). It’s was altered for WWI; the standard barrel for WWI was 6 inches. It was originally .455, but the back of the cylinder has been cut for .45ACP/AR — .455 will still fit, but the rim is so thin the cartridge will slide back and forth.

“The little one is the famous British Bulldog [ think Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson–SB], chambered in the short little .450 Adams. It has a famous scene in the beginning of The Wind and the Lion.

“I think they used that cartridge (like 600 fps) because you could not only see where your bullet was going; reportedly if it was off-target you could actually run up beside it and tap it back in line with a finger.”

Our mutual friend and J’s fellow Arizonan Bruce Douglas took a more American angle.

“Around 1983, I drove up to Oregon with my college girlfriend to meet her parents. They had her very late in life; she was in her late 20s, her father was in his early 80s. His name was George Engleheart (related to, and named after, the English miniature portrait painter). His family had moved from England to Mexico at the turn of the century. He was a fascinating guy: English, but only saw England when he was sent to University in his late teens. He spent his time learning Latin, Ancient Greek, drinking, and pursuing English girls… when the final exam came, he decided it was a good time to go home to Mexico. He landed a job as a geologist in Chihuahua – spending months alone in the countryside. 50 to 60 years of life passed, and we were sitting in the cold, damp basement in a rundown neighborhood in Portland. Smoking and sipping cheap wine, keeping company with his aging, incontinent, Black Lab (smoking wasn’t allowed upstairs). And here’s where the story of the Pistola Carcajada came in:

“George had been out working in the mountains by himself; after a month or so he wandered into a village after dark. Seeing a cantina, he made his way straight for it. When he stepped through the door of the lamp-lit room he noticed everyone was lining the walls, and there were only two men at the bar – standing at either end. The bartender was trying to make himself part of the bar back. Young George walked up to the middle of the bar and asked for a drink… at which point the men at the ends of the bar pulled out their guns, a Luger and a Pistola Carcajada (better known as the Colt Single Action). Caught in between, George hit the floor as the men covered their heads with their left arms and emptied their guns, then rushed for the door – fighting to get out. The ceiling ended up the only casualty of this gunfight.

“George asked if I was familiar with the Colt Single Action… oh yes, nothing feels as right as drawing back the hammer of an old or well tuned (3rd Generation), Colt SA. It truly chuckles, or laughs, with its sharp, light clicks.

“Every time I shoot one of mine I can’t help but smile and think of George.”

Urfa Guverchin

Which means “Urfa Pigeon”. The ancient city of Urfa in Turkey may be the oldest- looking town I saw in that country, and the most pigeon- obsessed town in the most pigeon obsessed nation in the world– see the “links” post below. What other country has town councils soliciting funds to preserve rare breeds? And what other town but Urfa would feature a larger than life photo of one of its “feathered warriors” in the lobby of its fanciest hotel?
This black dewlap– photo taken across the border in Syria by Sir Terence Clark– is one of the breeds used in “pigeon wars”. (Turks and Kurds– Urfa is primarily Kurdish with a large Arab minority– use jewelry too).
The old court in Urfa, near the pool of the “sacred” carp. Urfa is a palimpsest of buildings and architecture from as long ago as Biblical times.
A cupboard loft in my favorite restaurant, with Ankut trumpeters (top and right) and Shirazi tumblers.
Evening from my hotel window, with the “war” flight still in progress over those hills, unfortunately not visible to my point and shoot’s resolution.
I’d go back in a second if I could do it on my own terms.

A Car

Mary Anne Rose, who is responsible for my dictation software (and who is a doc and who has and loves deerhounds) also likes old cars. She sent me a photo of herself in a Morris Minor station wagon she is trying to get California legal– bet that is no fun at all!
I was amazed because my first car was a Morris wagon or more properly “shooting brake”. It looked like a ’48 Ford woodie the size of a Volkswagen bug. (In Cambridge once, I returned to my car to find such a Ford parked by it. Its owner looked at me and said “I didn’t know it was pregnant.”)

So I had to find this and scan it for her. Me in the yellow and old friend Mike Conca (who now has a huge white beard) at a filling station in Connecticut, 1966 or 7, on our way to the Lime Rock sports car races. Another world.

Bek Nazar Dor

Ataika’s father Dor, a great dog belonging to our friend Andrey Kovalenko, died in his native Almaty, Kazakhstan, last week. He was sixteen.

He had a good long life, and his genes live on in New Mexico, Kazakhstan, and even Scotland. But condolences to Andrey for his loss of such an old friend.

Rifles and Recipes

My old Montana friends John Barsness and Eileen Clarke, who run the site Rifles and Recipes, have two new projects worth your attention. John, who may be one of the best gun writers in the world– what other former poet is also a world- class gunsmith?– has started an online mag called “Rifle Loony.” It comes out four times a year for $8, and stands to become the best gun mag out there, not to mention the cheapest.

And Eileen has a new and unique cookbook, Slice of the Wild, which may have more on practical meat processing than any book written, complete with useful pix. I have always bartered for butchery ( a quarter to the butcher for his work) but if my condition allows this book could change things. As Eileen says, “Buy this book and never pay a processor again.” Even someone who already eats game as about 60- 70% of their meat, as we do, can learn a lot.

Slice also contains unique analyses of individual game animals to show how various factors influence taste, tenderness, and other meat characteristics, and a wealth of recipes for both game and side dishes that have me digging through our diminishing freezer stock. I should add that John and Eileen eat NO domestic meat and never have for the more than twenty years I have known them. She estimates they eat game 350 days a year– a friend actually said “you treat it like real meat!”

Slice is $29.95– details about it and Rifle Loony, and many more good books by both writers, at the site.

MANY Links

Two evocative essays, here and here, about the “pigeon warriors” of the ancient town of Urfa in southern Turkey near Syria. I have seen this, but too little, and would love to go back– will post some of my photos taken there separately later. The writer gets the atmosphere perfectly, and is a Turkish American pigeon man who knows his subject. I want the black ones with the white wing bars and jewelry!

Sane takes on impossible issues: LabRat on immigration and Holly on lead shot and bans. Holly’s commenters are unusually sane and civil too. LabRat also lays down the science on closed breed registries.They diminish genetic diversity, which is NEVER a good thing– period.

Meanwhile Denmark may not just kill all dogs of “vicious” breeds– it may kill off all mongrels as well. Way to go. Has western civilization lost its collective mind?

Natalie Solent– who I have neglected– on the hunt ban, and Helen– back!– on bird keepers. Healthy evidence that a real England still exists, as some of my sighthound friends assure me.

Matt on this NYT article on coyote coursing:

“Even if the writer wasn’t ridiculously biased, the Times’ readers would have no way of understanding a man like Hardzog. A few quotes about God and what people ought to be doing—-and a few well placed references to chewing tobacco —and the game is over. The game is substantially over, anyway. There is nothing good and real that can’t be made scary.”

Quantum navigation and corpse- search vultures.

Mick Jagger claims that one of the things that kept him sane midst the chaos of making Exile on Main Street was falconry!

Tom Russell, who may be my favorite singer- songwriter (and who is almost a local, based in El Paso) writes about Hemingway and Chandler. Russell is also a real blogger, worth checking often.