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Showing posts with the label agriculture

A Tour of the Beginning of Civilization

It was an especially satisfying bicycle ride today, despite the scenery being only moderately interesting. The exercise was less than spectacular, perhaps because of the dog.

The morning started off well when I asked a camper about the land around him. Normally it is unprofitable to ask a camper about the land.  But this was no ordinary snowbird. He gave me some useful information about a road I probably would have missed.

Then we went looking for access to an interesting campsite visible on the other side of the river. And found it. Also I managed to find one of my first camping areas from a zillion years ago. It looked completely different now that motor vehicles were not allowed there anymore. That was quite a nostalgia trip. One thing followed after another. I was drifting or floating on the bike. 

There is so much infrastructure in this area for controlling and using water for agriculture: canals, dams, weirs, watering systems, big tanks, concrete walls, furrow irrigation, and miles…

Time Travel in Utah's High Country

On a recent mountain bike ride near Richfield UT, they caught me sleeping. I was focusing on choosing a path between the rocks, when my herding group dog, Coffee Girl, took after a herd of sheep that we had almost stumbled into. But she was eventually scolded into returning to me, and the sheep weren't too rattled.

Hey wait a minute, weren't we only a couple seconds from an ambush by giant white dogs, screaming out of the sagebrush to protect their herd?

But none came. As we sidled up the ridge, the size of the herd became more apparent.

Where were the dogs and the human shepherd? Eventually we spotted him. But he seemed to only have a couple border collies to help him.

I waved at him so he'd notice that my dog was now on a leash, but he didn't respond. Maybe he didn't speak English, or even Spanish. Maybe he was a Vasco, that is, a Euskal from the Basque country. I'm a bit skeptical about Great Pyrenees dogs being hostile to humans, but I wasn't so sure what t…

A "City Slickers" Style Cattle Drive?

Saguache, CO. What was that noise? Was somebody going through childbirth? Or calf-birth? My herding dog, Coffee Girl, was all excited by the commotion, and rightly so. A cattle drive makes an enormous amount of noise. Whoa baby, here they come now. About a hundred of them.

They missed my dispersed campsite by 50 yards. But that's closer than it's ever been before.

At first I thought it was a ranch family doing an old-fashioned Western cattle drive. But the "boy voices" that I thought I'd "herd", turned out to be adult cowgirls.

Recently I had overheard a conversation between a local and a metropolitan tourist, in a coffee shop. When the tourist left, the local rolled his eyes and said to the other local, "You can always tell a tourist from the shorts." Feeling self-conscious about my tourist status, and not wanting to ruin the authenticity of the experience to the cattlemen, I hid behind rocks and bushes when photographing them.

As it turned out, …

Livestock Security Services in New Mexico's "Basque" Country

Abiquiu, NM. On a day of ooze and muck, it is time that I came clean. Much as I love to debunk four-wheel-drive vehicles and brag about how well my rear-wheel-drive van pulls the trailer through the mountains, I sing a different tune when the dirt roads become wet. When I learn there is clay in the road, the tune stops altogether. Fortunately a Forest Service guy gave me fair warning.
He also explained why these high ridges north of Abiquiu are so attractive: they burned 100 years ago and the trees haven't been able to get reestablished, resulting in a balanced combination of pastures and forests. It never gets better than this.
I was experiencing a great success primarily due to telling the internet where to go. This allowed me to expand, almost euphorically, into new ground. Nothing makes western North America get BIGGER than kissing off the internet. So I'm exploring the northern counties of New Mexico contained in the highway loops formed by US-285 on the east, US-84 on the …

Firewood Cutting on Public Land

Uncompahgre Plateau, west of Montrose, CO. I am pleased to stumble upon my second "forest miracle" in one summer. Up here at 9000 feet the locals are busy as beavers harvesting firewood in various areas where it is allowed. It's nice to see them actually get some use out of their oversized, overpowered, and overpriced pickup trucks, the official car of Colorado. Maybe one of them will tell me how much a full load of firewood is worth, compared to buying heat from the power company.
Of course, I just love seeing downed timber get cleared away. It makes the forest a lot more attractive and removes "ladder fuel" from a potential forest fire. And Coffee Girl can chase squirrels up tree with fewer speed bumps on the forest floor. (Then again, she has amazing buoyancy in bounding over logs.)
Progress is being made in this forest, and I don't want to sound greedy, but do you think that commercial companies can get permits to cut firewood and then sell it to the gene…

Idle, Idyllic, and Idols in Patagonia

Every day the same three guys sit in chairs under the canopy of the old-fashioned gas station. And since this is Patagonia, it still is a gas station. I giggle at this sight because they are so reminiscent of the old boys hanging out at the gas station on the Andy Griffith show of olden times. In fact that is one way to think of this town: Mayberry for hippies.
The best way to tour Patagonia is to ignore the art galleries and walk through the alleys to gawk at backyards. The normal bland suburb would have codes and ordinances against half of this town. Patagonia is a lower Leadville.
It is ironic. Most of the towns in America more interesting than Gopher Prairie or Levittown are old mining towns. So is Patagonia; yet, the locals are raising hell about a copper strip mine being developed in the area. Actually there is a second layer of irony: an environmentalist's favorite utopian dream is a nation running on all-electric Obamamobiles. How many pounds of copper windings would there b…

The Calmness of My Inner Peasant

Can you imagine anything more boring to a young person than going to a so-called farmers' market on Saturday morning? It was even boring to me a couple years ago. But lately I have come away from them in a mood of satisfaction and appreciation. How strange. 

In the past I might have been turned off by the high prices and the hippie-dippieness of small organic "farmers." (Gardeners, actually.) I expect to pay grocery-like prices for groceries, not boutique prices or art-gallery prices. But when you live in a state that is an agricultural nobody, you do start to appreciate the growing of food.

This isn't the only example of how our tastes change as we get older. Maybe we come to the conclusion that the world, for the most part, is a lot of crap -- noise, useless busyness, and bother; and since we as individuals can't do much about it, we withdraw into a cocoon to enjoy a few quiet, honest pleasures that are available. Perhaps 'cocoon' isn't the right wo…

Hope for Historians

Just when I was ready to give up on reading history, an interlibrary loan came to my rescue: "Medieval Technology and Social Change," by Lynn Townsend White. It is probably considered by some to be a modern classic. Take a look at the Preface:
Voltaire to the contrary, history is a bag of tricks which the dead have played upon historians. The most remarkable of these illusions is the belief that the surviving written records provide us with a reasonably accurate facsimile of past human activity. 'Prehistory' is defined as the period for which such records are not available. But until very recently the vast majority of mankind was living in a subhistory which was a continuation of prehistory. Nor was this condition characteristic simply of the lower strata of society. In medieval Europe until the end of the eleventh century we learn of the feudal aristocracy largely from clerical sources which naturally reflect ecclesiastical attitudes: the knights do not speak for the…

Giving up on Historians

The North-South cultural split in Europe still intrigues me. Sure, it's fallen off of the front page of the news, but Europe's financial problems are not over with, and they could have quite an impact on the world. Besides, this blog is not enslaved to the Breaking News Syndrome.
I've found a shelf of books at the local college library that seemed like it would enlighten me on the North-South cultural split in Europe. But after reading a half dozen books on the origins of cultures and civilizations, I was disappointed and frustrated. Think of history as a machine that has an input and an output. What is the input other than other books? But there weren't a lot of books written when Germans were being Christianized and de-barbarianized. And what was written doesn't really explain the habits of thought and feeling that evolved in northern Europe and set it apart from the Mediterranean South. (I've already rejected Protestantism as an explanation or Cause; it is…

Back to Real Camping

Casa Grande AZ, a couple springs ago. The last day of my urban boondocking I rebuilt the trailer's battery box. It was enjoyable to learn more about how the travel trailer was built, and to think how it should have been built. During this work in town the dogs were a real nuisance to me. They only got one real run at sunset in an open field--on one of those deeply furrowed, irrigated fields that central Arizona is famous for. Or used to be.

Sometimes my youngish dog, Coffee Girl, would gambol across the field, jumping the furrows like it was a steeple chase. At other times she adjusted her angle across the furrows so that she ran horizontally--her stride's wavelength commensurate with the bottoms of the furrow. She had reinvented the principle of the interference filter, which a thin layer of oil on water can also do.

The little poodle looked completely different running across the furrows. He looked like a small skiff sinking into the trough of an ocean wave, and…