Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Waiting is Over!

My last blog was "Waiting on Winter".  Well, winter is here!  We got our first major storm the evening of Dec 2 and woke up to 4-6" of snow and 30 mph winds.  It wasn't quite as bad as the big storm of '06, but it was definitely A Storm.  In '06, I had to do Operation Falcon Rescue and rip the window out of the hawk house to rescue my prairie falcon who was sitting on top of the snow in the last 16" of air space.  This time, I got smart and moved the falcons from their mews, putting the prairie in a shed and the peregrine on the perch in the camper shell.  I was glad I did because over the next 2 days, the hawk house filled up with snow.  My next step is to make some windows for the hawk house that'll block the wind and snow.

Sunrise over the propane tank

Lookin' East.  Note drifts.

A bit nippy.
Except for a brief episode of furnace cycling that I fixed by climbing up on the roof and knocking ice off the vent tube, we weathered the storm with electricity, water, and heat intact.  Thank God!  First warm day, though, I need to take the furnace apart and clean out the exhaust pipes.  I used to do this once a year or so and then slowed down but I think it's due now.

On the Davidic Front, he and Georgia went to ABQ for a transfusion and ended up staying for 10 days.  David's hemoglobin got down to 2.8 g/dL which is WAY too low.  His resting heart rate was 150 bpm.  It was time to get something done and so the doctors decided to keep him in the hospital for a week, give him steroids, and monitor him.  It took awhile for the steroids to kick in, but eventually they did and seemed to work.  Prior to steroids, his hemoglobin was dropping about 2-2.5 g/dL per day.  Afterward, the hemolysis slowed to about 0.5 a day.  David and Mom are on their way home today and it's likely that they'll be back in ABQ at the end of this week, but we'll just see.

Getting a Wii transfusion
Steroids and transfusions are not a long-term cure at all, although the steroids can sometimes- rarely- send hemolysis into remission.  That would be incredibly wonderful but at this point, we're starting to talk bone marrow transplant for David.  I suspect that process is going to start pretty soon.

After release from the hospital, D and M needed to stay nearby for monitoring before they were allowed to go home.  ABQ, though, was getting the storm we were getting, making travel nearly impossible.  Ronald McDonald House to the rescue!  In all our hospital stays, we've never had to use this, but it was a Godsend this time.  D and M were able to stay right there close to the hospital for a very reasonable fee and in comfort.  Thank you McDonald's!

David and McFriend
Back at home, I've mostly just been working on guitars.  This is really my peak work-time and I try to make the most of it.  I've also done a few recordings of customer's guitars that I throw out on YouTube.  Here's one:


That's about it for now... we're thankful for the snow, for staying safe and warm thru the storm, for Ronald McDonald house, our friends, family, and everything else!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Waiting On Winter

We're in that stretch of the season where cattle have shipped and I'm mostly tying up loose ends and getting ready for winter. So far, the weather's been really nice- we've had a few cold days but for the most part it's been 40-60 deg F days and nights just around freezing. The wind hasn't been too bad, generally running about 5-20 mph. We got 2-4" of snow a few weeks ago and then that melted off.

I've been taking advantage of the weather and flying my falcons and I've discovered that they both fly really well between 9 and 3 pm. Any earlier and I'm not awake. Any later and they know that the coming evening means they won't eat and, as a result, they both stick too tight to me and don't fly. At mid-day there are thermals and both birds are steady enough that I can let them soar on the thermals to gain some height. The birds have different styles that are interesting to watch. The prairie falcon is more business and seems smarter as she'll herd pigeons around in the sky until she gets them where she wants them and then she'll dive. When she gets a foot on a pigeon, it's all over. The peregrine flies faster and will chase pigeons more but he doesn't have the control over a pigeon that the prairie falcon does. And he screams almost constantly. The prairie is fun, the peregrine is kind of obnoxious.



Wating for lift-off. Prairie falcon


The peregrine nearly got eaten for lunch himself last week, I was flying on pigeons and after a couple of strong fliers, he went up nicely again, so I tossed one I thought he could catch. They had a good chase around on the flat and then the pigeon decided to out-run the falcon but he was just slow enough that the falcon though he could catch him. I watched the chase thru binoculars and finally saw a pitch-up about a mile away.

First thing I did was get out the telemetry and get a signal. As I turned toward the truck to drive over, I saw an immature golden eagle winging across the prairie about 60-75' off the deck heading straight toward the peregrine’s location. That didn't look good so I jumped in the truck and headed off as fast as I could go. I managed to get ahead of the eagle (by driving 40 mph across the prairie...) but wasn't sure where the falcon was and didn't want to run over him. So, I stopped and jumped out with the telemetry and that's when the eagle passed me, rolled over in the air, and stooped, just over the rise from where I was.

The falcon was up almost immediately, but ignored me and flew off. Another telemetry chase ensued and I found him sitting on the ground about 3/4 mi away. He flew 100 yrds to the lure and I everything looked fine until I noticed him favoring a leg (although he did manage to wrap it around some food first). I didn't find any blood and the leg doesn't look twisted or anything, so I decided to wait and see. Back home, he devoured a quail but definitely favored his right leg.

I checked on him several times during the night and each time he looked a little better. The next morning he was on his rock near the window, on both feet. When I went in, he flap-jumped over to me and was a little gimpy on the right leg but was able to use it, move it, and stand on it. He also flew across the mews, no problem. A week later, he looks pretty normal. He was one fortunate falcon.

On the Davidic front, we finally have a preliminary diagnosis. David seems to have an extremely rare disease called Congenital Erythropoietic Porphyria (CEP). You can read about it here:
http://www.porphyriafoundation.com/about-porphyria/types-of-porphyria/CEP and here:
http://es.wikidoc.org/index.php/Congenital_erythropoietic_porphyria.
David isn’t showing the extreme blistering that you’ll see in these links, but he does have some blistering on his face and, ironically enough, we encouraged him to get sunlight to boost Vitamin D because that’s supposed to help other anemia conditions. He has tested positive for most of the conditions and we’re waiting on some definitive test results now. In the meantime, he continues to have blood transfusions, but they seem to be less and less effective. In the beginning, he was getting 1 unit of blood every 3-5 weeks and we were able to drive to ABQ and home on the same day. Then he developed antibodies which must be matched. In addition, the doctors upped his blood from 1 unit to 2 and then 3. All this means that it might be 4-8 hours before the transfusion is even started and we’re typically there for 2-3 days at a stretch now. And he’s requiring transfusions every week now in spite of, or maybe because of, increased units. His hemoglobin dropped all the way to 3.5 g/dL once and has been below 4.0 a couple of times. Normal is 14-18 g/dL. I had David’s blood tested yesterday and it was 5.0 (less than 1 week after 3 units of blood) but because today is Thanksgiving and because a weekend visit requires an ER visit, we (us and doctors) are trying to hold until Monday. But, I assure you, we’ll back in ABQ on Monday morning, bright and early- maybe even checking into the ER Sunday night and getting started. I don’t know.

Out on the ranch, I’ve mostly been doing some prairie dog control. We have a LOT of prairie dogs. I’m in the process of GPS’ing the towns, but I think we’re going to have close to 3,000 acres of prairie dogs. In a normal wet year, they’re not too bad as the dog towns actually green up before anything else and the cattle really like that fresh short grass. But in a dry year like this past one, they can do some serious damage to the gramma grass. Plus, they are not self-regulating populations and can increase very rapidly. So, I’m doing prairie dog control.



David with Prairie Dog #1 with his new Ruger 10/22



Right now, we’re just spinning our wheels. Mom, Brianna, and Derek went down south to Pinon NM for the holiday and David and I are going to some neighbor’s for Thanksgiving dinner. I am battling a weight loss plateau and so I’m not going to eat much, if anything, but David likes to visit people, so I guess we’ll go visit.

And that, folks, it what’s going on. This is (Wild Kingdom voice on) Life on The High Plains. (off).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The End!!!


I’m sitting here in a nice warm house writing this while the wind’s blowing 40 mph outside, creating sub-zero wind chill factor.  We finished shipping cattle yesterday and it’s the end of the longest, hardest ranch season I’ve yet had.   The drought was absolutely killer and the only thing that saved us were the rains at the end of July and into August.  Others were not so fortunate.    Adding to this were some business disputes, the battle with my son David’s blood disease, and the passing of my grandmother.  It’s been quite the year.  But here we are, still alive and kicking. 

The actual process of cattle shipping went extremely well, thanks in part to the feeding that I was able to do about a month prior, and also to an exceptionally good group of cowboys that worked with and for us.  The cattle love high protein cattle cake and when I fed them this year, I used my FoxPro predator call as an additional call.  I programmed a siren and a recording of me honking the horn into the FoxPro.  Once the cattle were trained to this, they really came well.  I was able to call them across the pasture and then thru the gates.


Cattle following the feed truck

Cowboys following up, pushing the stragglers

Cowboys at work.  Waiting to load the alley with more cattle.

Phillip working the alley.

Like father....

...like son!

So, what’s next, you ask?   Well, plenty… we’ve got some maintenance to do before winter fully hits, shutting water off, winterizing things, and stuff like that.  Then there’s the battle for David’s health- that will surely take priority as we try to figure out what’s wrong with him.  I’ll be flying my falcons when it’s not too windy, and I mostly hope to get to work on some guitars!  And I think I’ll start praying for rain NOW.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Calm Before The Storm


It's getting longer and longer between blog updates and that's because we're just kind of cruising right now. If this blog were a cross-country airline flight, we'd be about Nevada. There's some turbulence coming up as we cross the Sierras and then we'll be landing in L.A to finish the journey. Well, something like that, anyway.  In the meantime, we're getting ready to ship cattle on Saturday and the cattle season will be drawing to a close. Yessir... the cruise part is over, we're about to hit some turbulence, but hopefully we'll get this thing landed and get back on terra firma.

To get ready for cattle shipping, I've been spending a lot of time feeding and counting cattle. “Feeding” involves driving around towing a cake feeder. I honk my horn to signal the cattle and they come running for the sweet, high-protein cake. This serves several purposes; it puts weight on the cattle and it also trains them to the feeder which makes gathering easier. Cottonseed cake is expensive stuff and a lot of cattle owners don't like to feed it, but it really is good stuff from my perspective. Feeding takes a lot of time, a lot of wear on the ranch truck, and gasoline costs money. But it's also a great way to count cattle and it gets me out in the pasture. 

Trusty Ranch truck and cake feeder
The wheel turns the gear which turns the chain which turns the belt...

...and the belt pulls cake out into the hopper, which an arm opens and dumps.

Cattle at sunrise

Deer season opened on Saturday and we've been out looking for a buck. This is the first season in a long time that I've had trouble finding deer and I attribute it to the dry conditions. The cattle are foraging in areas where they don't usually go and I think this pushes the deer out. But, we found 14 deer yesterday and I'll be heading back to that canyon this afternoon to see if I can waylay a buck when they come out again. [Edit: the wind came up and I never made it.  Oh, well....]

On the falconry front, both birds are flying fairly well and reliably. They're both going up decently. Neither has taken a duck although the peregrine knocked a teal down a few weeks ago. I'm taking a short break from flying right now while I get ready for shipping and while I deer hunt. Will probably start flying again on Wednesday, though. Just a short break.

On the Davidic front, 2 weeks ago the doctors decided to give him 2 units of blood instead of the usual 1 unit. For some undetermined reason (there are a lot of those in this game) he didn't do well and inside 2 weeks had actually dropped to nearly his worst level. The hospital wanted us to come to ABQ that evening, but the reality of a 4.5 hr drive, arriving at 10 pm, and then etc, resulted in Mom and David going to Santa Fe and doing another transfusion on Saturday. Then they stayed over on Sunday to meet with the doctors on Monday. Come Monday, the docs decided not to meet after all, and so they came home. If it weren't for my mother's house in Santa Fe, this would a LOT more stressful, but, thank God, she has a very comfortable little place there that's a great home away from home.

I'm finally getting some solid guitar work done and getting my savings account built up again. That's nice and I really enjoy working on guitars. It's relaxing and satisfying work.

That's the update from here.


Sunday lunch in the local cafe.  Mom and David were in ABQ.
First snow.  You might be able to see the sandhill cranes on the right.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Peregrine progress

Today is a new day and I made some progress with the peregrine.  First, for the uninitiated among you, here's what I'm dealing with  (I suggest you turn your computer speakers down, or at least have the "MUTE" button handy):

video
For the past week, I've been let the peregrine eat and I've been going inside with no food, just saying hello, and then leaving.  I'm trying to break the food association link.   This didn't really make any difference in behavior, although he did gain a little weight. Tues ,the wind was blowing from the south, pushing it up the butte where I flew the prairie Sunday. She was scheduled to fly, but unfortunately was still a little heavy so I decided to take a chance with the peregrine and see how he'd do.

I set him on the ground right at the truck so I wouldn't have to walk with him screaming thru the hood in my ear. After several sit-on-the-ground sessions where he'd sit until I got too far away and then he'd get up, make a circle around me, and land again, we got closer to the butte. He felt the wind and went right up the side to the top where a tiercel prairie immediately joined him. The two chased each other around a bit and I was really surprised at how well the peregrine handled himself and how aggressive he was- HE made most of the moves on the prairie. They flew around for awhile and then I tossed two pigeons just as the falcons drifted out of sight over rise. Nothing.  The pigeons circled aimlessly, looking for home. Nothing.  The pigeons gained height. Then, suddenly, WHOOSH!!!! the peregrine went ripping by overhead, followed by... the tiercel prairie. We were treated to stoop after stoop as both falcons chased a specific pigeon and each other.

The birds drifted off to the east where they were joined by a female prairie. The pigeon went out of sight over a rise and I saw the female put in a more serious stoop. We started running, watching for rattlesnakes!, and about 0.8 mi later (I Google Earthed it)  found the peregrine out on the flat, happily munching away on his catch. He was glad to see us.  The prairies were nowhere to be seen.

I let the peregrine eat, then tore a wing off, got him on that, and picked him up. He didn't like being picked up too much, but I got him eating again, then hooded him. We had a long walk back in the now 25 mph headwind and back home, I gave him a wing to tear on.

Good flight. Just like the prairie did, he got some height. I think that butte's going to be useful, but I'm getting telemetry I can carry with me!





Sunset on the prairie with the peregrine

 Mom and David are off to ABQ for another blood transfusion for David.  This is Number... I've lost count...6?   They're also getting the camper window that I busted in Winfield replaced.  $350...whoooshh.... gone!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The End of an Era

The past couple of weeks of have been pretty stressful.  There's an ugly ranch situation going on that I can't talk about until it's settled.  It has me talking to our lawyer, getting papers together, calculating, re-calculating, and just doing a lot of wondering.  We're looking down the road at shipping cattle, with all the preparation and busy-ness stuff that brings.  I always hold my breath until the final count is done as you can count pasture every day and come up with great counts, but all that matters is how many head cross that scale and go into the truck.

Over at church, attendance has been dropping steadily and rapidly and I was beginning to wonder if I might be the problem.  I held meetings with church members and had some discussions that I feel good about.  I'm sticking tight for now, but that, too, was a stressful time.

The biggest news. though, is that my grandmother, the matriarch of the family, died on Sunday evening.  She'd been in the nursing home for a year and half with rapidly declining health, mostly unable to recognize any of us for maybe a year.  This probably gave us all time to say our goodbyes but it's sad to see someone decline like that.  It was my grandmother who kept 2 ranches and a bank running for close to 30 years after my grandfather died and she kept that control until just about 3 years ago.  At that time she passed the reins on to my mother and aunt, splitting the main corporation into 2 separate ones.  That's when I got "promoted" from "cowhand" to "ranch manager".  Not more than 2 months later, she fell and broke her hip and that was the beginning of the end.   Here's a link to her obituary

In other news, my falcons are flying.  The prairie falcon is doing great.   The peregrine, not so great.  Here's what I said on the falconry forum:

------------------
Today, I had a south wind which means that it blows up the face of this butte in my backyard:



The prairie killed a pigeon two days ago, ate all she wanted, and was fasting yesterday. Today, her weight was right back to 630, so I loaded her, some pigeons and went out to the base of the butte. She has started going up on her own, but I figured this would help. There were a bunch of ravens and a wild prairie flying around the butte- the wild prairie went into a stoop on the opposite side and didn't come back up so I went ahead and let my bird go. She flew in 1 circle- I could see her catch the wind on the down turn- and then immediately headed for the butte where she circled and went up just like an elevator until she was up there mixing it up with the ravens. I didn't want things to get out of control, so I tossed the pigeons- one strong bird and one young bird. The young bird flapped a hundred yards and landed on the ground and by then the falcon was in full-tilt stoop at it. This was cool- 1) her first real altitude, 2) first real stoop, and 3) coming right at us.

She whapped the pigeon hard enough to roll him over and then kicked up and looked back. This was really cool to see as she was RIGHT THERE. She flipped back but overshot the pigeon. Pigeon then got up and headed upwind- he could see the pigeon house and he was going for it! The prairie got off the side and worked up above him and drove him back down wind where she was able to tag him again, but he let the wind lift him and she went underneath. After that, he _really_ pumped for home and she was right after him. They disappeared over a rise and seemed to have gone down into a creek bed between us and the house- about 1 mi away.

We got a fix with the telemetry and then I sent my wife in the truck down the road and across the creek while I walked toward the fix. When I came over the bank of the creek I paused to look and the first thing I saw was the prairie dragging the pigeon down the opposite bank toward me. When I actually approached her, she flared away a bit, so I tossed the lure down. She ignored it, but seemed to settle down at the sight of the familiar object, as she stayed toward me and started plucking feathers. She'd already eaten the head, so I pulled the pigeon crop and helped her break into the breast. After eating a bit, I ripped a wing off and moved her to that while I pocketed the rest. Then I picked her up, hooded her, gave a couple of more bites thru the hood, and we walked back to the truck with her sitting very nicely. Back at the mews, I set a wing/breast on the perch and unhooded her. She'll be stuffed tomorrow, but that's okay. Good effort = good reward.

I was happy. Sure, she tail-chased the pigeon, but hey, she hit it twice and as far as she was concerned it was HERS. I am happy at her persistence and I'm also glad I put the Power Max on her instead of the Scout. I got some exercise and it was a beautiful evening on the prairie.

Update on the peregrine: he's acting like a spoiled little brat. Screaming, baby-fluttering, sitting on the ground, etc. I'm tempted to wring his noisy little neck, but I've been here before and patience rules. I've put him up for a couple of weeks while I focus on the prairie falcon as duck season opens on Weds and I always intended for her to be my duck hawk and him to be my late season pigeon hawk, anyway.

What I'm going to do for the next 2 weeks is work on his screaming by going into the mews a lot and feeding him thru a food chute at night (so that the food is there in the morning). When I fly him again, I'll look for that south wind and fly him up against the butte. He just needs a little maturity, some flying experience, and we'll be fine. 
----------------

I've otherwise just been working on guitars and chatting on Facebook.  Am very much looking forward to getting cattle shipped and out of here and moving on into winter. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Under Construction

Well, this is the longest I've gone in updating my blog.  It's not that nothing has been happening- to contrary, a lot of things have been happening, but it's just been the same thing over and over and over and over, in a seemingly never-ending repeat.  You ever see "Groundhog Day" with Bill Murray?  Something like that.   It seems like I've been building stuff all summer long.  And it seems that way because that's exactly what I've been doing!  First the hawk house, then the shop, then working on the buildings that got emptied when I moved into the shop, then re-arranging the house where stuff got moved out, and on and on and on and on.  In the middle of all this, there's a ranch to run, antelope hunters to take care of, taxes to pay, deaths, births, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and on and on and on and on.  Whew, I'm already tired.  But wait!  There's more! I've been flying both falcons, too.  Teal season opened this week and we've trying to catch one.  So far, no luck, but the falcons are flying better, sticking around, coming to the lure, and just getting better and better trained.

Enough chit-chat, let's get to the pictures...

Nearly Finished!
The hawk house is nearly finished.  All the metal is up, the exposed wood is painted to match the roof, and all that's really left to do is put flashing on the corners.  But I'm tired of spending money, so that'll just have to wait until next year.  For now, the building is solid and comfortable.  There's the prairie falcon sitting up against the window to the left.

Birds, Boxes, and Band saws.
Benches upon benches!

Working on skirting
Inside the shop, I am pretty well full.  I have tables, benches, saws, box racks, and falcon perches.  The shop makes a pretty place to park the prairie before going flying.  Outside, I'm in the process of putting in Z-flashing to protect the top of the skirting, and digging the skirting about 2" into the (hard) ground to help keep rodents out.  It's slow work, but I should be finished with it tomorrow.  I'm backing the north skirting with some insulation and this should help a lot this winter.

Guitar work has been coming along well.  I find that it's nice having all my stuff in one room, but since I have 3 benches, I tend to get tools scattered around the place and I walk around a lot more to get this or that tool.

New bridge and saddle

Neck reset and setup
In the process of doing guitars, I've also recorded a few videos for the customers.  Here's the top guitar in action:

And here's the other one:



And finally, on the Davidic Front, mom and David are off to ABQ this afternoon.  David's hemoglobin was 5.1 gm/dl today, almost what it was back in May when we started looking for a solution to his anemia.  I don't know what we'll find when they get to the doctor's tomorrow, but if you want to keep up, follow me on Facebook.  Speaking of Facebook after years and years of resisting, I've signed up.  Probably part of the reason I haven't updated my blog is 'cause I've been busy kicking around FB to see what it'll do.

OH YEAH, let's not forget the RAIN!!!



Last week we got 2" on the west side of the ranch and 3" on the rest.  It will let the grass grow just a bit longer, but it also filled up the creeks and ponds so that the cattle can spread out a lot more and get to grass they haven't grazed all summer.  It also means that I'll have some ducks to fly with the falcons!

Heading to the field
 I think that's enough for now!  Upcoming this week, I need to ride the pastures and get a complete count of cattle on the grounds in preparation for shipping sometime next month.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Past Lives, Half Lives

I've been working out of my new shop for a full week now.  It's pretty nice and I'm happy with the move.  I have everything out there in one place- power tools, shipping stuff, workbenches- and it's nice to leave the house and "go to work".  It's a lot quieter in the shop and I can listen to music w/out having to hear it over the washing machine, people talking, people walking, doors slamming, phones ringing, and so forth.  It's a more comfortable work environment.

After moving my shop out of the house, I moved my office from the bedroom corner to the central room and I like that better.  When I'm doing office work, I don't mind household noises so much and I actually like being in the flow of traffic as I can keep up with what's going on. 

I told you all that to tell you this- in the process of moving my office, I went thru my file folders, as part of the purpose of moving the office was to give me better access to my file cabinet.  In the process of going thru my folders, I found a folder where I'd block outlined my "career".  I must've done this pretty immediately after moving to the ranch and I just found it interesting to look back over my earlier jobs and life.

The Folder (click for bigger version)

We were in Anahuac TX when I was a "househusband" and it seems like we were there forever, but it really was only 8 months.  After that, I went into a cycle of working for the NM Legislature (as a bill analyst) and working for BLM in the summer (doing raptor surveys and other field work).   Then I went to grad school at Eastern NM University and did spotted owl work for the USFWS/NMSU during the summer.  I worked for a month at the ranch one summer, before the second owl job came up.  There's the finish of grad school, a summer with The Peregrine Fund (which was probably my first "real" wildlife job and definitely the first non-government job), and then back to the Legislature.   I was surprised that there was so much time between the legislation jobs and I sure didn't remember doing them after I was done with my M.S.  I had a period where I was "self-employed" which means that I lived on savings, Top Ramen noodles, and worked on the falconry equipment book.

The book was published in '92 and then I headed up to Boise ID to start work with "Greenfalk Consultants", doing radio telemetry studies in the Snake River Birds of Prey Area.  After we got to Boise, paid 2 months rent on a house, and everything else, we had $120 left to our name!  Greenfalk was pretty much a dream job for me as it required me to do field work, computer stuff, and data analysis.  Again, it seems like I did this for a long time, but it really was only 2.5 years, only 2 of which were as a full-time employee.  During that time, I gave several presentations at scientific meetings, we bought a house, and we had our daughter (who is now 17 and has her own blog!).  A busy and exciting time!  A few photos from then:

Watching falcon nests
Coordinating radio-tracking- my main job
Rappelling into a falcon aerie


When this project finished, the company more or less dissolved and we all went job-seeking.  I decided to move into the computer field and make a bunch of money.  Ha!  Big surprise there.  I ended up working at tech support for a records keeping company.  I swear, I was there for years and years, but it was 6 months.  During that time, I developed tendinitis and couldn't play guitar for most of those months.  About that time, I decided to move back to New Mexico, so I called my grandmother up to see if she could use a ranch hand on the north ranch.  She said "I've been waiting for you to call".  However, there wasn't a house or anything and all that had to be laid in place which was going to take some time.  I heard thru the grapevine that the folks at the Snake River needed a desktop publisher for a 6 month position.  I'd be back working with the biology crew, doing computer work- right up my alley- plus I knew the study and could help with fact checking and all that.  I applied, got the job, and turned in my notice to the database company.  I quit there on Friday and started the new job on Monday.  The desktop publishing job was a real pleasure and I got to work with some of my heroes in the raptor field.  It was a great ending to that career.

When the house was on the ground, we moved the family down via U-Haul and then I flew back to Idaho to finish up my last month at the desktop publishing job.  During that last month, my former employers at Greenfalk let me live in the old office (bathroom and shower there) and even gave me use of a Toyota pickup to drive.  Bill and Joan- THANKS!!!  I finished up the job, flew back to NM (with a newly acquired Cole F5 mandolin!) and started a new life.

Looking back, what strikes me is this- up to finding that folder, I've thought of myself as a former wildlife biologist now working on the ranch.  But the reality of it is that I only worked as a full-time biologist for 2.5 years.  The rest of those were summer and temporary jobs- 6 summers and 6-month positions worth of those.  By contrast, I've been at the ranch for 15 years, working professionally on guitars for 12 years, and pastoring my church for 6 years.  I have more formal training in biology, it's true, but far more real-life experience in the other 3 jobs.  Maybe it's time to re-calibrate my life and start wearing the hat?

Enough about me.  David and I went back to ABQ last week for his 5th transfusion.  They always test his blood prior to the actual transfusion and this time discovered that he'd developed antibodies.  This complicated the transfusion as a match had to be found for the antibodies.  Our appointment was at 10 am and the actual transfusion didn't start until 3:30 pm.  Fortunately, we'd already made plans to stay in Santa Fe for the night so that we could attend both the NM Falconer's meeting and the Santa Fe BG festival on Saturday.  The transfusion went without hitch once it got started and we made it to SF for a good night's sleep at my mother's very convenient casita.

Next day, we went to the falconer's meeting and that was extremely productive for me.  David won a new hawking vest for me in the raffle, and I came home with some badly needed falcon training supplies.  We got to visit with new friends and friends I've known for 30 years but haven't seen in a long time.  I got to see the other peregrine falcon taken this year in NM and just had a great time.  I need to get out more.

Well, that's all I know for this week.  Time to get to work.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm Movin' On

Live from New Digs Guitar Shoppe, High Lonesome, NM... this just in. I have electricity, I have humidity, I have music, I have 3 major work benches and 2 smaller ones and I'm IN!  It's been a week since we put the building on the ground, so I guess that's not bad.  It's comfortable out here.  I've got a great view, music, and with windows cracked and my portable swamp cooler running, it's cool. 

Here's the main shop area. That's my neck reset station center-left.  I'll be adding shelves to it ASAP.
Two parallel benches.  I'll probably use the right one for electrics
The T-bench will be my main fretting station
Power tools. 

The shipping station.  Gotta get some blinds on this window.

The Boy's Corner.  That's my portable swamp cooler.
It's holding humidity well and I'm happy about that.  All that's left to do now is skirt the building.  I have some T1-11 I've been saving for years that I'll use for that purpose.  It needs to be painted and then I'll use Z-flashing on top and bury it a couple of inches to keep mice out.  But, no big rush on that...Alright!!!  Time to get to work!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Snakes Alive!

Well, we had an exciting day here on the ranch.  First thing we got was a report that our cattle had busted down a fence into the neighbors, taking down 10 steel posts.  He got most of them out easily because our new cattle are still a little wild while his are feeder trained and so all he had to do was honk his horn and our cattle went running while his came to the truck.  But why?  It takes a lot of force to bust down 10 steel T-posts.  One reason might be the 6 elk hanging out on the mountain.  Another might be lion or bear or even just lightning.  It wasn't very long after that, that Excitement #2 occurred.

We have 4  horses and 1 one them came up missing around lunch when they normally come in for water.  Given the report of stampeded cattle and the possibility of a lion, we were concerned.  B2 jumped on an ATV and went to look in the creek while me and D2 took another ATV and checked the east end of the pasture.  I didn't see anything except a coyote but heading back I saw B2 heading for the house.  I figured it was either snake-bite or some major calamity like stepping into a rock hole or something.  We headed back and sure 'nuff- horse was snake bit and down by the creek.  We went down there and the horse- last week's Reserve Grand Champion in the county fair- was staggering along the fence heading to the house.  She had a badly swollen head and nearly shut eyes, but we slowly got her up to the house and before long our neighbor and horseman Philip showed up.  Not long after that, Mark, the vet arrived.

Head's badly swollen with bloody pus from nose

From the side

Giving her shots and medicine
Mark gave her some penicillin to fight secondary infections, something for swelling, and then DMSO cream for additional swelling.  Philip suggested spraying cool water over her nose and she seemed to like that.  By evening, she was able to drink a little, so that's good.  We're not nearly out of the woods yet, but she should recover.  I've seen snake-bite before, but this was the first the kids have seen it.  I hope they watch their step a bit more now.

In other news, I moved my guitar benches out of the house and into the new building.  I won't get power until tomorrow, but there are a few things I can do that don't require power and it's going to take a few days to get organized in the new shop anyway, so I decided to just go ahead and get moved.

An empty work bench...
...becomes an empty corner and the end of an era in our household.
Out in the shop, I've got 3 benches set up with 2 auxiliary benches.  There are shelves on all of them.  I'm only taking 1/2 of the building for the actual benches.  Another wall has the power tools and the west wall has cases, boxes, and shipping stuff.  Still plenty of room, but I want to do my best to keep it from getting too cluttered.

On the falconry front, the prairie falcon is inside tonight.  She'll get her transmitter pack re-attached in the morning as she chewed it off 2 weeks ago.   She's also doing really well and has tamed down dramatically.  I've cut back on actual flying while I got my shop in shape and I also need to do some re-organizing of the pigeons.  I'm a little short on pigeons and there's no big hurry to get the falcon flying- plenty of time during the winter.  Instead, I'm using the time to train both falcons to tolerate handling better.  Right now, I can enter the prairie's mews and she'll jump up on my fist, take the hood, and is just 100% calmer than she was a month ago.   The peregrine's getting trained to the lure.  He's already tame and all I'm doing with him is making sure he knows what the lure is, and then just doing the same routine of picking up, hooding, and then feeding.  I hope to have my pigeon loft under control and both birds actively flying in the next 2-3 weeks.

That's about it for today!  I'm hoping to get electrified tomorrow and I also need to go check the rest of the north fence.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dirt Road Truckers

I don't know if ya'll'un's know or not, but I work on guitars a lot.  I've been working out of a room in my house- a central room, too- for the past 12 years.  Every year I wish I had a dedicated shop building out away from the house where I can expand and just get away from household traffic and noise.  Every year I do the economics of heating, cooling, securing, lighting, etc a separate building and every year I decide to stay in the house.  Over the past 3 years, though, my ranch duties have increased and I really need some office space and that central room that's full of guitar stuff would be just right.

Over in a nearby town, 40 mi away, there was a little leather good store running out of a Morgan building.  About 9 months ago, I noticed a "For Sale" sign on the door.  Two months ago, I finally stopped and got the number.  Long story short, I bought the building.  It's 14' x 24', full finished, insulated, wired, and lighted and should make a fine guitar repair building.

Getting this beast here was a challenge!  After numerous phones calls and questions- the vast majority of which were made by my secretary/financial adviser/cook/wife- I/we finally rounded up a 24' flatbed trailer and a guy who moves mobile homes for a living.  Today was The Big Move.  We met in town and the first thing we had to do was fix a loose ground on the borrowed trailer as I had a very weak left turn signal and- surprise- many of my turns, including the critical one off the highway to home were going to be left.  So, we fixed the light in the hardware store parking lot, bought some patio blocks to set the building on, and then headed over to the building, 11 mi away.

Trailer lights are good
Once there I got to watch a pro in action.  We used high-lift jacks to get the building started and then switched to some really nice jacks with a big wide foot.  There were two of these on each side and we just cranked 'em up 20 turns at a time, stopping once to move the jack arm to a different position.  This equipment made this move possible and I don't think I could've done it any other way.

I'm being cranky here

Couple of hours later, the building was 4' off the ground and we carefully backed the trailer up underneath it and set it down.   We put a Wide Load banner on the building and truck, a bunch of flags and then it was off down the highway.  Let me tell you, if you've never hauled a 14' wide load, it's something else.  My right side was whizzing by the road signs, seemingly just inches away.  In town, my professional had me drive right straight down the middle of Main Street while he held traffic back behind me.  Traffic was really light and we made it thru without incident.

Thankfully, traffic remained very light all the way home.  I have to give it up for my truck.  When we first got this '97 Ford F250 Super Duty, I hated it.  It was rough and stiff and just painful to drive.  But 3 years ago we put a flatbed on it and that just totally transformed it.  It's still rough, but the flatbed is SO nice as far as putting stuff in and it dramatically improved the feel of the truck.  And the truck itself has been very reliable with just a few minor issues- a water pump and a clutch.  At 97,000 miles, it pulled this huge load down the highway just fine, although I was keeping it slow at about 40-45 mph.

At home, my main gate is 13' 8" wide.  The building is 14' wide.  So, the solution was to take the fence down and drive out in the pasture and in thru the back gate which was 15' 3" wide.

You can get an idea of the size of this thing
Wide Load!
After some discussion, we finally got the thing backed up and started the process of cranking it off the trailer and onto leveling blocks.  We also had to repair some missing insulation.

Fixing insulation underneath
And, hours and hours after our early morning start, the building was sitting on cinder blocks off the ground,  level.  I'm impressed with the space inside and am looking forward to moving into it and freeing up a room in the house.

It won't be this way for long!

I'm getting excellent natural light.

And a pretty good view, too.
Filling up already!  Box/case rack, power tools

T-bench in place. 
This is the bench I take to Kaufman Kamp and Acoustic Music Camp. 
I'll have 3 benches in here when I get done- 2 are still in the house as I DO have work to do.

 Next step is to put flashing around the bottom and wire it up!  Stay tuned.

Update, 8/20:

2nd bench added.  This one's kind of my "electric" bench
Tubes and electric guitar  parts
Bridge blanks, bridgeplate material, copper shielding, pickups, etc

It's not ALL work, though!  This will be the boys corner.