Tuesday, April 30, 2013

PK spring flowers #1 -- Lavender!

We spent the weekend out camping at Possum Kingdom Lake with the cub scouts.  It was a lot of fun, and is a gorgeous location.  The first night was a bit loud, as you have 40-some screaming young boys running around, doing what boys do... and adding to it were the few folks who arrived around 11pm to set up camp.  But things seemed to settle down after the last car drove off to park.

When we camped at PKL last year on Mother's Day weekend (YAY! seriously, I loved it), there were a lot of Texas ditchweeds in full flower.  Since this trip was a couple weeks earlier I was hoping to see some different flowers this time.  Nature did not disappoint either.

 A wild Verbena (Glandularia canadensis)

There was a hike Saturday, where my 2nd surgery knee let me know it is not fond of uneven ground to walk on, so I took it slow (read Tail-end Charlie), and paused for pictures every time I saw an interesting flower or two.  I think I will invest in a pair of trekking poles for stability.

I've selected a couple pics to share, and a color theme for Tuesday.  Lavender!  I wish I was better at plant ID, but I haven't a clue what these flowers are.  If anyone knows for sure, please feel free to chime in.

I am pretty sure now this is Blue Curl (Phacelia congesta).

PKL is truly photogenic, especially in spring.  Come high summer the view is likely to be obscured by smoke, as the scars from the fires of a year or two ago attest.


  This little ditchweed was so pretty and delicate.
It's Silver Leaf Nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium).

This flower I did not see very often.  It was so slender, that it was difficult to get into focus.
I believe it is a Slender Verbena/Texas Vervain (Verbena halei). 
The view from camp out across the lake was lovely.  You got a good view of the surrounding cliffs, through which the Brazos River runs.  Sadly this was the only decent picture I got of the view, as the camera on my phone did not want to focus to infinity I guess.  So it is a little blurry.

I think I will do another post next week on the PKL flora. I have a couple more categories I can do of types, and color groups.  At the very least, it should be visually interesting, even if my prose leaves something to be desired.  So everyone, I hope you have a good week, and stay safe out there!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Charlie: A Life Well-lived.

Charlie.  Beloved.

He was probably born in November, 1999, somewhere in North Texas.  A little Rhodesian Ridgeback/Chow mix.  He was the only pup in his litter in the shelter, that following January, who had enough energy to get up, and go bark at the man who came to rescue him.  He was rescued by TIRR in January 2000, as a terribly sick little furball, full of worms, and covered in sores from ringworm.  He promptly got even sicker, contracting Parvo, and surviving both the illness and the cure.  For back then, Tamiflu for dogs was unheard of...and the treatment for Parvo was supportive care.

These were the photos we first saw of Charlie.  He was irresistible though we were told that he would not be healthy enough to adopt until he was 5-6mo old.  The Parvo treatment left him with a leg infected and damaged from a blown vein, and the subdermal saline one vet injected was the wrong salinity, and it ate a hole in his side.  Both injuries healed with time (and the hated Bonnet!), and the only real visible sign was scarring and a bald spot on his leg.

Charlie was an interesting mix of two breeds.  Flying Nun ears, a red double coat, but the most gorgeous of ridges you could imagine, stocky of build and the gait of a Chow, but all the drive of a Ridgeback.  He was never aloof, nor was he particularly quiet (I think the ACK lied when they said Chows were quiet!)--a favorite activity was to chase the airplanes out of our yard in full voice!  He loved people, but please God, don't ring my doorbell!  He used to launch himself in a doggy holy war against the front door.  It wasn't until he got too deaf to hear the bell, and his hips too painful to charge the door, that he gave it up.  My front door still bears the scars of 80# of Ridgeback and claws...

He could be a goofball.
 Sitting Frog-dog style...later in his prime.

He was easy to train, being supremely food-driven.  He was a master thief of food held about nose-height in a child's hand. He was gentle too, as evidenced by his delicate cleansing of a peanut-butter covered child. (Aren't big sisters silly?  Peanut butter isn't paint!  Note the guilty sibling in the background!)

He loved visiting the kennel where we adopted him.  We have always boarded him there since we moved to Texas.  He loved to rat the fences, barking with the other rescue dogs, or just sack out in the warm Texas sunshine.  He always smelled of sunshine when he would lay out and bask.

He used to do tricks, for treats.  He knew about half a dozen, and would run through them all at once, sometimes, just to make sure he got a treat!  Sit, paw, other paw, down, and roll over!

He was a comfortable dog--his fur was soft, and fluffy from that undercoat, and being a stockier dog, he wasn't bony or lumpy like our other old dog.  You could lay down on him, curl up beside him on a cold winter morning on the couch he wasn't supposed to get on but sometimes did, and snooze away with a self-heating couch warmer of your very own!  The kids, when they were little considered Charlie their own personal Bark-O-Lounger, and he loved it.

He was a talkative dog, especially in the kitchen, his favorite place.  He would talk--not bark, but sort of a yowly, chuffing, talking sound.  He'd tell you if he was out of water, or if the morning/evening feeding time had been too slow in coming.  He was all about being fed on time!  If Charlie wasn't sick, he always ate all his food--all of it, always!  After all, you never know if some other dog might want to muscle in on a good thing.

This was one of his favorite locations...
 Under the kitchen table, especially on Saturdays, when our friend comes over to dine with us.  Charlie always knew who was the best source of doggy treats!

Charlie was the second dog I'd ever had.  My first dog, a dachshund, died when I was a young teenager.  Charlie was a velcro-dog.  He loved his people.  He was always around me, as if attached by an invisible umbilical.  If I left the room, he'd follow.  He always slept in our room, on my side of the room.  When younger, he slept within arms reach, ready for ear-scritches, and later as he got old, he moved to the area by the bathroom door, so he could watch the hallway, and generally try to trip Dave if he got up in the middle of the night!  But Charlie was always here, sometimes underfoot in the kitchen perhaps in hopes of tripping me and causing food to fall... but my house seems empty and quiet now, even though it is neither empty nor quiet.  The children and the other dogs see to that.

Eventually, his ashes will be ready to pick up, as will his peri-mortem paw print I had requested.  Silly me, I couldn't bear the thought of them doing it after he was dead...but it just didn't seem right.  Charlie was a dog who shouldn't have survived his puppy days, shouldn't have been a good dog (if you listen to the mixed breed haters) and shouldn't have lived to 13.  But he was always one to defy the odds, defy human expectations.  I am so glad to have shared 13 years of my life with him.

Charlie was a Good Dog!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Random 5 FACT Friday 04/26/13

1.  Possum Kingdom Lake in Texas is a beautiful location.  This time last year, we camped there at Constantine, and saw a ton of beautiful wildflowers (aka ditchweeds).

2.  We ran a hotline (electric) fence around the perimeter of the area in back, where we are trying to get grass to grow.  So far, it seems fairly successful in keeping the dogs out of the dirt.

3.  I haven't been riding the 'bent as much as I should.  I'm not sure why exactly--partly the weather hasn't been as nice as I would like.  Partly I have been busy, and doing some other things.  I hope to get back at it in May.

4.  Patience favors the prepared.  It means we can afford to wait until orders placed in January finally shipped in late April.

5.  One of these days we will have to set the GAP Challenger antenna back up.  Last year a guy line failed, and we dismounted the antenna lest it break in the typical Texas winds.  Last time that happened it was an expensive repair.  Now that we have the guy line, we will need to reset the antenna on its base.  Who knows, maybe we will hear YOU being radio-active sometime down the log...  73's!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

S. 792 The Senate is at it again.

Yes, our Dearly Electeds are at it again, with Sen. Reid introducing irrelevant legislation on behalf of Sen. Lautenberg (out sick) in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. 

S.792 would require a background check any time an individual wished to purchase reloading powder.  A background check?  Are you kidding me?  The bombs in Boston did not even USE reloading powder according to this article!  They bought large scale fireworks back in February and were scavenging powder from those, not using smokeless powder.

This is just more idiocy from the LibProgs, like that in Kali, where they are attempting to ban lead in bullets and tax ammunition.  They claim the lead will leach into the ground and poison the water...well, my question to them is this:  Where do they think the lead came from in the first place?!  The ground!  Idiots...

So be sure to call your Dearly Electeds in the Sellout I mean Senate, and tell them to oppose S.792.  Be sure to also hammer the Usual Suspects.  You can find a fairly comprehensive list of them here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How I spent my weekend...

How did you spend last weekend?  I spent mine in class.  Not your typical school though, but rather a Basic Pistol Class.  Yes....I spent all weekend with other like minded folks on a range with shooty-things!

A little background first--DH grew up shooting in the wilds of the Midwest, and spent 4yrs with the University of Science, Music and Culture where they spent a lot of time beating certain concepts into his head.  Myself, on the other hand did not grow up shooting though I really wanted to.  It just wasn't in the family dynamic.  That didn't change really, until college.  So all my knowledge, such as it is or isn't, is self taught.  No formal instruction.  So I do have certain bad habits, ones I planted, nurtured, and perfected all on my own--often without a "reason" behind them.

With the current craziness going on concerning firearms and ammo, we decided to create some liquidity with the specific condition of it being dedicated to attending a couple training classes (1 each--good training is not cheap).  We talked about the type of training we wanted or felt we needed.  Though I was wanting a carbine class, I have to agree with DH that it was not a wise choice.  Reason?  I don't carry a carbine daily.  I do a pistol.  A pistol is the most likely shooty-thing I will have available to me at the moment I most need one.  It is also probably the hardest platform to learn well.  Pistol shooting is full of minutia to learn and manage--all of it important or critical to performing well, especially under stress.

We chose to use a local company, Hardwired Tactical Shooting, for their well regarded Basic Pistol class.  Instructors Darryl and Wayne are superbly professional--whether teaching high speed low drag folks (real operators, not keyboard commandos), or a handful of housewives.  Their biggest focus is shooter safety.  They don't give a 30-second safety brief.  I think our initial brief was over an hour on day one.  They saw all our faults and made sure we knew what they were, and what to do to correct them.  Sometimes they would ask you "why" you did something the way you did--both to make you think about it, and to learn if there was a legitimate reason for your actions (perhaps a physical disability?).  They encourage questions from their students.

The class stressed fundamentals--proper grip and trigger press being the most vital to getting accurate hits on your target.  At one point, Wayne even did a demo for us where he was shooting the X-ring from about 5yds, with his eyes closed, to demonstrate how effective proper grip and trigger control can be.  It proved to us that sights are helpful, but not nearly as essential as most folk think.  The drills were built around a strong foundation, and a new action or item was added in each iteration, building on that base.

There was not a lot of jargon in class either.  SEE was simple effective acronym used, one I personally prefer to OODA Loop.  I can never remember what OODA stands for, but SEE made sense to me.  See it, Evaluate it, Eliminate it.  See it, is simply being aware of your surroundings and who is in it.  Evaluate it, means to decide if it represents a threat to you or not.  Eliminate it does NOT mean you have to shoot something--it only means you need to make the problem go away.  If that means you can turn around and walk away, then you eliminated it.  And no lawyers were involved!  YAY!  But situational awareness is key.  You have to give yourself every advantage to spot trouble before it spots you.

I was pleased with how I performed in class.  I shot pretty well. 

But more importantly, I learned a LOT, especially about the areas I need the most work on.  (No bowling, keep the workspace up, don't catch the unfired cartridge when you clear the pistol, watch your weak hand when racking the slide...)  I learned some good drills and dry practice I can use at the range or at home safely.  I learned it IS easier to learn, and learn well from professional instructors.  I worked on fundamentals, and when budget permits, will take their next level class, 1st Responder Pistol. 

I highly encourage all of you who are interested, or who carry a pistol, to seek out high quality training in your area.  It will open your eyes, and can make you a better, safer, more effective shooter.  And that, like rain, is a good thing!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Random 5 Fact Friday 04/19/13

This week's installment of random facts.

1. April seems to be a month full of tragedy and historical content.  From Lexington & Concord, to Oklahoma City and the siege at Waco, Texas City to Boylston St, Boston, Columbine, CO and now West, Texas...

2.  The grass seed we planted out back to cover the large bare area is finally sprouting.  Now if we could just keep the Couch Snurgler out of the mud there, it might actually survive.

3.  It was 80deg Wednesday.  Thursday's high was 48deg with rain.  I guess I won't put up all the warm clothes quite yet!

4.  Our youngest is becoming quite the cook.  She already loves to make ginger snap cookies all on her own.  They even taste good!

5.  This week's light reading is Citadel, by John Ringo, part II of the Troy Rising series.  It's fun, and a little reading before bed, helps me to fall asleep easily.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In Light of Yesterday's Events...

In light of the horror and evil that was done in Boston yesterday, I prefer to share a little bit of this world's beauty instead.  May it instead, honor the memory of those lost, the heroism of those who rendered aid, and those whose lives were forever altered by those events.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Funshow AAR

So I went to the big Fun-and-Knife-show in Dallas this weekend. Wow...been a while since I went to a decent show, let alone with cash in hand!  No, fear not my friends, I was not part of the buying panic.  I was paying a gentleman for some work he'd done for us, as well as looking for some small stuff.  An added bonus was there was a significant knife maker presence this time!

It is rare to be in a huge crowd, in a confined area, and yet have everyone be polite.  But you trend to experience that at a Funshow.

A fair bit of time was spent wandering the floor, half laughing, half appalled, over ammunition prices.   I mean, seriously, $209.95 for a single bulk pack of Federal .22lr, 550CT, or Remington Golden 525CT?  Needless to say I think that dealer will be hauling all that ammo home Sunday night!   Least you think I'm joking, here's the pic I took.
The knife show side of things was great! My favorite production knife maker, Spyderco, sent 2 reps to man a booth and show off the knives.  They had some swag, and were really pleasant folks to chat with. 

Doug Ritter, yes, THAT Doug Ritter, was there too. We spoke with him briefly too.  He is working hard here in Texas to remove some of the arcane knife laws we are burdened with in this great state.

There were a number of custom knife makers there.  Several had some very interesting blades available, all at very reasonable prices.  I might have to pick one up in the future.  Check out CenTex Blades amd Dawson Knives.

Overall, I had a great time, though I really wish the panic over ammo etc. would resolve itself.  I am really glad the knife folks turned out in force too.  That really made my day!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Off to the Fun Show!

Today I get a treat, a chance to go to the local Fun Show!  Some folks on the forums have already reported that the prices are sky-high on many items.  Still some deals may be had, and there are always the custom cutlery vendors, who are supposed to be out in force today.  I do have a soft spot for custom cutlery...

Such as this...

Sadly even if I do see such lovely piece of work as this (yes, it's mine, the maker is Jim Drouillard of Texas), I won't have that kind of coin available to purchase one!  I would have to stick to the more mundane sub-$100 knives.  Still, a girl can drool, right?

More later, and maybe some funshow pics!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Random 5 Fact Friday 04/12/13

Another installment of Random Five Fact Friday!  Today's offerings are sure to be varied.

1.  I'd forgotten how much it can hurt to crash on concrete on your mountain bike.  But I remember now...OUCH!  My knee should be ok...

2.  I'm getting mighty tired of the young dog (aka Shiloh) wanting to go outside at 0:dark:30 most nights, to chase rats and rabbits in the yard.

3.  It is my humble opinion that the US Senate sold us down the river today.

4.  Paul Revere, on his famous ride, did not yell "The British are coming!  The British are coming!"  Think about it--they were all British citizens anyway--they were not Americans, yet.  He would have been warning that "The Regulars (the regular army) are out!"  or "The Redcoats are coming!"

5.  I'm enjoying reading John Ringo's Troy Rising series.  Check it out if you enjoy sci-fi with a strong military flair and a serious tongue-in-cheek attitude.  It's much funnier that the Aldenata series (aka the Posleen Wars).

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Do you have a plan?

Do you have a plan?  Spring has sprung, despite the Midwest impending snowstorm this week, and that means it is time for "interesting, sporty weather"...aka tornadoes, hail, high winds and heavy rains. 
 (Recent hailstorm at a friend's house)
So, do you have a plan?

There are many reasons to prepare for uncertainty in life.  Can you manage to get by, if your wage earner loses their job?  Can you recover financially, if your A/C dies in the midst of summer?  Or if you total your car?  What about unexpected medical emergencies?

Most of us have some form of insurance policy for the house & contents, the car, and health care.  But collecting on those policies can take time and effort.  Perhaps having an emergency fund would be wise.  Perhaps being debt-free would be wise too.  Dave Ramsey has a lot of good advice and a method to help you get debt-free.  It is worth investigating.

You want to have some fun with it?  Try walking into a used car dealership, finding the used car you want, and then paying cash!  The poor sales guys won't know what to do with you!  They don't even have a PLAN on how to handle a cash transaction.  Their entire system is built around financing the car (debt).  Cash just plain messes with their heads!  It's fun...hehehe.

But what about those natural disasters?  What if that F5 decides to bull-stomp your neighborhood into oblivion, like Greensburg, or Joplin?  Do you know where to shelter?  Do you have some supplies in that shelter?  After all, you could be buried in a debris pile for some time.  While I am no big fan of big government, for those folks seeking to begin planning, the government already has a website set up, Ready.gov that can help the uninitiated get started.

Everyone should evaluate their own risks based on their location, job, and past history.  Once you prioritize your risks, you have a basis for your plans.  Do you have a way to communicate with family, in the event that the phones are not available?  Do you have a known meeting place, so you can make sure everyone is safe?  Food?  Temporary shelter?  Tools to clear debris or effect repairs to a damaged structure?  How about helping your neighbors?  We are commanded to "Love thy neighbor as thyself."  Are you prepared and willing to help your neighbors?

Preparedness takes many forms.  The media machine would like you all to believe that prepared people are crazy nutjobs, aka Doomsday Preppers.  To me, preparedness means being responsible for my own welfare and that of my family as much as possible.  It means being willing to help others in their times of need if I can.  It means not incurring or carrying financial debt.  It means not living beyond our means, or keeping up with the Joneses...but rather being content with what we have, and counting our blessings.

Stay safe out there folks, and keep an eye on the spring skies. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

People of the South Wind

Growing up in Kansas, there was always wind.  (Anyone remember Kansas?  Not the state, the band!)  It's no different here in Texas.  Winds are inevitably out of the south.  Living where I do, southerly rides are not very common--who after all, really wants to play Bumper Cars in heavy traffic, sucking in car exhaust the whole time?  So most of our rides go north, which means usually we fight a headwind all the way home, when I'd really prefer a tailwind!

Yesterday, DH decided to get a couple hours ride in, and asked for a pick-up when he was done.  We refer to this as a tailwind ride.  You ride with the wind at your back until you are tired, and then someone comes out in the van and picks you and the bike up.  It's sort of like cheating, but it is fun!

Today's winds were scheduled to be 15-20mph, rising to 20-25mph later in the afternoon.  I hopped on the bike before lunch, and took off.  Traffic was light, as I ran up a series of northerly county roads.  Many dogs were out and about, one a large black lab apparently named Shelby.  Shelby came charging out across his acreage, in full voice, tail wagging and ears flapping.  His young owner hollered at him to stop, and he did.  I wasn't concerned really, as his body language wasn't real aggressive.

As I moved on up the road, I saw a beautiful patch of deep purple iris, under a tree on my left.  I slowed, thinking I might stop and take a picture.  They were really pretty...and then I realized I was being watched, very intently.  I looked about, and as I moved my head, I caught a hint of movement, from within the iris patch!  There he was....a large black and white border collie-looking dog.  He didn't bark, just stared at me.  I knew then, if I stopped one of two things would've happened--either he would have moved away and spoiled my photo, OR...he would've decided that I looked tasty, and tried to sample my backside!  Discretion won out, and I rode on, sorry to have missed the shot.

In Gunter, on the main road, I got charged by another loose dog.  This one looked more like a Bernese Mtn. Dog than anything.  Idiot owner let their idiot dog run out after me, in traffic and he nearly got smacked by a pickup truck!  Boy am I glad he didn't get hit--that would've been too upsetting to see.  But his body language screamed "Biter".  I was glad to pass him by.

The ride itself was great--the bike ran well, and I was feeling good.  I had some small snacks, and a couple water bottles with me, so I just kept going.  In Gunter I did call DH, letting him know I would meet him up the road, whenever he caught up to me.  I knew I'd have about an hour or more, depending on how long it took to round up the Monkeys and settle the dogs.

Eventually they did catch up to me, sadly a few miles before I hit Texoma and would've run out of road...but it was a good ride.  I felt good, the bike ran well, and nothing was hurting.  We detoured to Sherman on the way home, hitting Gander Mtn there.  No joy there, and the general opinion was that Gander Mtn is sort of like Cabelas, IF it were done by Kmart Corp!  Yeah...think I will stick with the REAL Cabelas!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Random 5 Fact Friday 04/05/13

This week's installment of Random Facts...

1.  The rains this week were both needed here and cathartic, like tears, though I suspect the rain has washed my grass seed down the mound and into useless piles.

2.  Today we will celebrate DH's birthday with a dinner out and a sitter for the Monkeys.  I wonder where I'm taking him?

3.  I promise to have a gear review coming up later this month.  I just acquired a set of CT Laser Grips.  Whee!

4.  Homemade dutch oven cherry cobbler is even better if you mix a can or two of pineapple tidbits into it.

5.  I've always been partial to Kipling, and this one has helped me this week.


Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
But when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years that nature permits
Are closing in asthma or tumors or fits
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers, or loaded guns.
Then you will find--its your own affair
But--you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will
When the whimper of welcome is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You still discover how much you care
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em the more do we grieve;
For when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short time loan is as bad as a long--
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

My Charlie, in his prime.