Sunday, 16 January 2022

Downy Woodpeckers

    I have mentioned before about my “peanut butter log” and how much birds (and squirrels, and deer) love to eat the peanut butter, well here is a photo I took of two Downy Woodpeckers busy stuffing their faces with the stuff.  Downy Woodpeckers range across most of North America and Canada and they are the smallest woodpeckers around.  The are 6-7 inches (15-18 cm) long.  I have a couple of pairs of Downy Woodpeckers around our place.

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Saturday, 15 January 2022

Please Take Me Outside, I Am So Bored

    Kona, with her head resting on the arms of a chair, looks up with her pleading eyes, and we get the message, she is tired of laying around in the house, she wants to be outside.  We’ve thrown her ball inside, we’ve given her time consuming snacks, but that’s just not enough, she wants to be outside to smell the animal scents and act like a wild dog.

    Unfortunately, taking her outside these days isn’t that easy.  The deep snow is rotten and can’t support her weight.  The snowshoed paths I have made are no longer as firm as they were, so my boots constantly break through the snow, or slide sideways.  The driveway is again so treacherous with ice, I feel like I am risking my life to walk on it.  (I will throw some more sand on it after I am done with this blog).  In short, things are just not very conducive to taking Kona for a walk outside, so we have to deal with an unhappy, very bored dog.

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Friday, 14 January 2022

Color in the East (and the West)

    As I was painting my daily square, I happened to glance out of the window to see the flaming clouds of a spectacular sunrise.  My scramble to get my camera made Kona explode in a barking fit, but out the door I went.  I got to the top of the driveway and took the photo above.  

    While everyone’s eyes are always drawn to the color of dramatic sunrise or sunset, they don’t always turn around to see what is going on behind them and that is often quite amazing too.  The photo below shows what was going on at the same time in the west. 

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Thursday, 13 January 2022

The Glacier on the Roof

    Our above freezing temperatures have cause all of the snow-buildup on the roof to start to slowly move down-slope.  I am always fascinated when this happens, to see the snow curl, yet not break off, when it extends over the end of the roof.  Ice that has formed at the bottom of the snow-load is amazingly strong and keeps the snow in one piece until eventually its weight does cause it to break, or until I get a shovel and break it.  (I am always in fear that it might break and fall on one of our pets.)

    Our house has two roof levels, and eventually, we will hear and feel the “Boom” when snow from the upper level finally breaks off and falls to the lower level.  

    The photo below shows the overburden of snow hanging outside the upstairs window.

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Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Sanding the Driveway

    While it is nice to no longer shiver under the Arctic Vortex, above freezing temperatures present their own problems.   All the snow on my driveway that wasn’t thrown off by my snowblower, was turned into “hardpack” by driving over it.  That makes an okay driving surface until melting temperatures come, then the surface metamorphose into smooth ice, making driving and walking on the driveway treacherous.

    My drive has just enough slope on it, that when starting out after turning around, vehicles without four wheel drive, have a lot of trouble starting up the slope when it is slippery, so every winter when the temperature rises above freezing, I have to spread sand or ashes from the wood stove to give traction.  The grit in the sand gives traction and the grains of sand and ash absorb heat that create an irregular surface on the smooth ice that also gives traction.

    I always fill two 5-gallon buckets with sand during the summer to use for this winter melt.  Of course I have to be a bit stingy putting it on, because I don’t want to run out before winter is over.

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Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Warming Up

    It felt like a touch of Spring outside yesterday.  The temperature climbed above the freezing point for the first time in weeks with a +2°C (35°F).  While that might not seem like a blast of warm air for most people, after our bout with the frigid temperatures of the Polar Vortex, it does seem quite mild.  It is amazing how we acclimatize to temperatures, and when things return to more seasonal temperatures after a period of extreme cold,  it does seem positively balmy.

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Monday, 10 January 2022

"STOP, Kona"

    Because Kona always lets her instincts over-ride common sense, we pretty much always have to keep her on a leash.  One scent of a wild animal, the sight of a person or a vehicle that is unexpected, and Kona goes berserk, erupting into loud barking, and sprinting like a crazed cheetah toward the offending object.  When that happens, her sense of hearing shuts off and she becomes totally oblivious to our yelling for her to stop.

    We do realize that as a young dog, she does need to run and she loves doing it, but she is so fast that there is no way she can “open up” with me trying to run beside her while on a leash, so we try to take her somewhere that we can let her off of the leash and be free, but safe at the same time.  The airport is such a place, but we can’t use it now that there is so much deep snow on the ground.  The other place we can let her go is Horseshoe Lake Road, which is plowed and a confined space with deep snow on each side.

    Lately it seems that every time we go there and take her off the leash, someone else, or a vehicle shows up.  Kona’s keen eyesight spots the intruder almost immediately, and because we have let her off the leash, she rockets toward the foreign object barking like crazy.

    Yesterday when we went to Horseshoe Lake we discovered that although the road was plowed, the parking area was not, and so we just parked along the road.  We got out, freed Kona, and walked down the road.  When we had walked the half of a kilometer (1/3rd of a mile) to the end of the road and turned around, Kona spotted OUR car, sitting on the side of the road, way off in the distance,.  She thought it was an approaching vehicle and immediately she jolted and began racing toward it, barking her objections like a maniac.

    Fortunately, she was in no danger from a moving vehicle, and eventually she slowed to a walk as we ran to catch up to her.  I took the photo using my zoom lens when we got closer to our car.

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Sunday, 9 January 2022

Beaver Mt Through A Veil of Snow

     I took this photo Friday afternoon as I was driving out of McBride.  I liked the effect of seeing the mountain through the light snow that was falling.

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Saturday, 8 January 2022

Shadows Across the Snow

    This is what our front yard looked like yesterday after we got another dump of snow.  I took the photo because I liked the shadows from the birch tree stretching toward me over the blanket of snow.  The indentation you see running across the shot is our sidewalk.  I wasn’t able to deal with the snow (shovel the sidewalk, clear the driveway) yesterday, but as soon as I am done writing this, I will get to it. 

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Friday, 7 January 2022

Lonesome Dove: A Favorite Book

The theme for December’s Book Club at the McBride Library was “Reread your favorite book”  When I was faced with choosing an old favorite book to re-read, I was stymied, unable to think of anything.  I have read so many good books and trying to pick out a favorite seemed impossible, then looking through my library on my iPad, I came upon Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, and I instantly knew my problem was solved.

I had never been keen about reading a Western, but once when visiting my mother, an  avid reader, I had finished the book I had brought with me, and my mom suggested and praised Lonesome Dove suggesting I read it, and she still had the paperback.  

       I was very unenthusiastic about doing so, because of the stereotype I had of cowboys and shoot-em-ups, however, I was without a book to read and was desperate, so I began in on Lonesome Dove.  The story had been turned into a miniseries on TV, something I was unaware of, and so I started with a blank slate; without any preconceived perceptions of the story or its characters.  

      I quickly discovered that the book’s title (which I hate) came from the name of a small, dust-blown,Texas town situated in the desert, located beside a near-empty shallow river that marked the Texas-Mexican border. 

The settlement was a ramshackle, well-past-it’s-prime, western town consisting of about ten buildings.  The first part of the story takes place in Lonesome Dove, in the stifling desert heat on the porch of the Hat Creek Cattle Company house, or in the old saloon.  The novel’s characters center around Call and Augustus, the owners of the Hat Creek Cattle Company, the handful of cowhands they employ, the saloon owner, piano player, and Lorena, the town prostitute (whom all the males in town are in love with), and later Clara, the woman Augustus can’t forget.  

Both Call and Augustus, who in their prime had been heroic Texas Rangers famous for fighting the Indians, are now older men, living very stayed lives, running the non-impressive cattle company.  Jake Spoon, a previous employed cowhand, who is fleeing after accidentally killing a dentist in Arkansas, returns to Lonesome Dove and mentions to Call, the money that can be made by being the first to herd a big head of cattle to the wilderness of Montana.  

       This suggestion intrigues Call, who is the serious, no-nonsense partner of the company, and he begins to set his mind on doing just that, much to the chagrin of his lazy partner, Augustus, and the other cowhands including Jake Spoon, who was the one who suggested the scheme, who would all rather just stay in Lonesome Dove and stare at, dream about, or have a visit with Lorena.

Call has his company sneak over to Mexico one night to steal a big herd of cattle and horses, most of which the Mexicans had previously stolen in Texas, and then Call begins to organize a big cattle drive to Montana.  It is on the this cattle drive where all sorts of unexpected incidents occur, some which are  very shocking, and others touching.  The cattle drive occupies most of the middle part of the novel.

Larry McMurtry, who died in 2021, was a talented writer, famous for creating stories that became the films: “The Last Picture Show” and “Terms of Endearment”  I really like the way he has written Lonesome Dove.  His style is easily read and is both descriptive and humorous, but mostly it is the characters he has created that I enjoy so much.  The characters in the novel have become real, memorable, and endearing to me.  I think Augustus and Clara are two of the most memorable characters I have ever run into in a novel.

      The cowhands are just a group of flawed and lonely individuals, all secretly lost and struggling.  Call is insular and quiet, Augustus, drives everyone crazy because he just can’t stop talking and commenting on everything.  Lorena, who has had to live a tough life, just wants to escape her present situation in the one horse town, and dreams about going to San Francisco.  Clara, the woman Augustus never got over, chose a life with another man.  One of the things I like so much about the novel is how of all of these tough looking cowboy-types are actually more like kids, shy and scared of women. 

    If you are prejudice against reading a Western like I was,  maybe you should give Lonesome Dove a read.  You might, like me, discover some unforgettable characters and be entertained with a novel where unexpected things, keep you reading.

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Thursday, 6 January 2022

Snow Deep Enough, Kona

    Yesterday afternoon when I took Kona, our fearless hunting dog, out for a walk, there was a deer at the bird feeder.  Luckily, the deer sensed the fearsome canine that had suddenly made an appearance in the yard, and it bounded off down the snowshoed path, then left the path, bounced through the deep snow, and leaped over the fence.

    Kona, who had by this time, erupted into a fit of loud barking, began a pursuit, although the deer was long gone.  When Kona got to the place where the deer had left the path, she too headed into the deep snow.  It did take her long to figure out that being in the deep snow didn’t work for her as well as it had worked for the deer, so Kona came a stop, struggled to turn around, then looked over at me with her eyes asking for help.

    So then it was my turn to wade into the deep snow, which came over my winter boots.  I picked Kona up and carried her back to the packed snow of the path, where she could again walk.  The exciting hunt being over, we headed back to the house.

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Wednesday, 5 January 2022

"Birch," My Latest Painting

    After 79 hours of painting, I finished “Birch” today, and while it looks like a winter image, it was based on a photo I took last year in April.  I saw the tree at Koeneman Park as I walked across the frosty grass.  I loved the way the sunlit tree was illuminated against the blue tree-covered slope of McBride Peak.

    As you can see it is an unusual shape for a painting.  I had been given the blank canvas that had been purchased by the late Trevor Jones, the McBride artist, and I wasn’t quite sure how I would use it.  I decided to do a vertical image rather than a horizontal one, and decided on the Koeneman birch.  As I painted it, I was confronted with all of the lacy small branches of the tree which were a pain to paint, but after a little more than four months of painting one square a day, it is finished.  

    It was done with acrylics on a 12” X 36” (30cm x 90cm) canvas.

    I am not sure what I will paint next.

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Tuesday, 4 January 2022


    This morning it was -24°C (-11°F) when I had to crank up the snowblower to clear my driveway.  When I got to the top of the drive where it joins the road, this is the view that greeted me.  The sun was just rising as I looked down the road.  It was a beautiful golden sunrise.  Before I took this photo all of the backlit blowing snow that was thrown up by the snowblower looked like a cloud of gold dust, shimmering as it fell.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t take a photo of the effect, because I couldn’t run the snowblower and the camera at the same time.

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Monday, 3 January 2022

Snow-Capped Birdhouse

    Technically, it is inaccurate to call this a birdhouse, because I have never seen a bird anywhere close to it.  I guess more realistically it is a lawn ornament that a friend made and gave to us, but it sort of looks like it might be a birdhouse, so that is what I am going to call it. 

    I noticed the birdhouse the other day and was fascinated by the way way the snow had piled high on top of it, and especially liked the “Wings” that the snow formed sticking out of its sides.  I haven’t really measured the snow but I figure that there is about 18 inches (45 cm) of the white stuff blanketing the ground.  More snow is falling as I write.

    We just got over a very windy period that caused a lot of drifting and rearranged the snow, filling up the snowshoe trails that I had made that allow us to more easily get around outside.  I re-snowshoed a path around the pond yesterday, but walking the snowshoe path I made is pretty awkward.

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Sunday, 2 January 2022

A Flicker At The Peanut Butter

    Northern Flickers aren’t rare birds, but I generally don’t see them around the house in the winter, and generally when I see them, they fly off, so it has always been difficult for me to get a good photo of them.  Yesterday, I looked out of the kitchen window and noticed this one on the peanut butter log.  It was close enough for me to get a shot at it with the zoom on my camcorder through the window.  I was impressed at just how colorful they are close up.

    It seems all the critters around here love peanut butter.  My peanut butter log (just a piece of wood with some holes drilled into it, that I fill with peanut butter) is a big hit with Downy, and Hairy woodpeckers, Red breasted Nuthatches, and Chickadees.  Deer and Squirrels (both regular and Flying) also love peanut butter.  Obviously, I go through a lot of peanut butter every winter.

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Saturday, 1 January 2022

2022: Well, The Page Has Turned



    As we enter this new year, I can’t help but remember the hope I had a year ago for a better year in 2021, when things would get back to normal.  Of course they didn’t, so here I am again clinging to that same hope, but not very optimistic that it will happen.  I guess whatever comes, we’ll have to live with it and keep thinking that eventually things will get better.

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