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home : columns November 22, 2017


Vegetable transparency - a lesson in good governance
It's time to come clean. Way back in March, or April, maybe it was May, I wrote in these pages predicting - it was really more of a populist pandering, almost a campaign promise - that we would grow 500 pounds of vegetables. That was worth a giggle then, and somewhere inside I knew it was bold, but it seems much funnier now.
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Understanding your dog's body language
What is your dog trying to tell you?
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
The tiger beetle
One of fastest and most aggressive beetles crawling, running, and chasing other invertebrates on the surface of our home planet can be found on the Oregon Coast: the tiger beetle. With apologies to my good pal, great artist and musician Dennis McGregor, I stuck a head-on photo of an adult tiger beetle on the head of the tiger, and another crawling up its body, like he likes to do.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Meet the new boss: Dawn of the Red Century
Next week will mark the centenary of the greatest evil to befall mankind in the dark, catastrophe-ridden annals of the 20th century.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Jailbirds
The first True Bill in the big collusion extravaganza has finally been handed down. Early Monday morning, in a showbiz fail, Paul Manafort, former chairman of Trump's presidential campaign, made a strangely unattended perp-walk with his lawyer into the FBI's Washington D.C. field office.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Bull by Bull
• Vernon - of whom I often write - was a gentleman, a scholar and an artist. Best of all he was a master farrier. When I look out to my barn I see his turn-of-the-century Hay Budden anvil sitting on the stump right where he last used it. Since his death in 2012, a number of shoers have asked if I ever plan to let his anvil go, to which I reply, "Lee Christensen has dibs on it when I croak." Until then, often times when I walk past it, I pick up the hammer and let it ring out again, as only a forged Hay Budden can.
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
The alligator lizard
In Al St. John's field guide, "Reptiles of the Northwest," the section on lizards ends with two very similar look-a-likes, the Oregon alligator lizard, (Elgaria scincicauda) and the California alligator lizard, (Elgaria multicarinata), and lists an additional five subspecies. Turn the page after that and the snakes begin, starting with the rubber boa.
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
A Bronx Cheer
A few days ago I happened to be in the grocery store, buying some stuff to nibble on during the American League Championship Series, when I noticed a young man - I'm in a post-season mood so I'm going to call him Billy Martin - re-stocking the older fruits and vegetables. He was doing a tidy, efficient job of it, and I was intrigued.
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Sisters Country birds
As the season begins to take on its winter cloak, tiny twitters can be heard high in our forests. Most likely these songs are the communal sounds of the golden-crowned kinglet (Regulas satrapa). A tiny warbler-sized bird weighing in at four to eight grams and three to four inches long, they are able to withstand temperatures down to -40º F.
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Of a certain age...
My sister-in-law lives in Santa Rosa. In the early hours of Monday morning, October 9, she lost her home of 35 years to the Tubbs Fire as it swept over the hill from Calistoga with no warning.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
We're all in this together
As natural disasters happen more frequently, it's impossible to remain insulated. Maybe that's the reason for all this? Hopefully, it's waking us up and we'll begin making the changes needed to save this amazing gift called Earth. When things will ever get back to "normal" seems impossible to predict.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Grunt
The graduation of a female from the Marine Corps' Infantry Officer Course has left many of my fellow veterans conflicted. To be clear, there is no short-shrifting her accomplishment thus far; IOC is the most difficult infantry school anywhere in the world. But we are conflicted because we are, most of us, raised with no small pride in the notion that the infantry is the last place left exclusively to men.

We like it that way, a lot, but we are conflicted because we hold the simultaneous notion that women are as capable, if not more capable, than men when it comes to life's challenges. We were raised that way, too.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Should you clone your pet?
Maybe you've had that extra-special pet, the one you just couldn't bear to say goodbye to. What if you didn't really have to?
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
The Petrified Man
In 1782 Ben Franklin published a fake edition of an otherwise real newspaper. It was meant to curry sympathy for American resistance to the British, by claiming that natives allied with the British were on the warpath, slaughtering settlers by the hundreds. Complete with phony ads and other articles, it was all fake news.

Fake news becomes fake news when it is published, or broadcast, by an otherwise reliable source. Conversely, when fake newspapers publish real news the whole centrifuge is thrown out of balance, so maybe they shouldn't do that, either. But even when real newspapers stick to real news, and fake newspapers stick to publishing fake stories, the results can be confusing.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Willow's tail
This summer, I took a class taught by John Calderazzo at the High Desert Museum. It was a part of the Waterston Desert Writing Award ceremony. Calderazzo, a writer and professor of English, emeritus at Colorado State University, asked us to bring a memento we had with us and put it on a table in front of the class. There were wedding rings, a note and photographs of loved ones kept tucked inside wallets.

After a class discussion, Calderazzo asked us to write about a memento that still matters to us now. I thought immediately of my horse Willow's tail lying on the table in our tack room and could barely wait for him to stop talking before I began to write.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Unsportsmanlike conduct
The biggest problem with the NFL isn't the mostly meaningless and entirely self-congratulatory fad of anthem protests. The biggest problem with the NFL is that the product is becoming unwatchable.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Coffee beans and birds
Not being a coffee-drinker (anymore), and not being in the bird-researcher loop as many of my friends are (including Doug Beall), the business of songbird conservation and coffee-growing methods went right over my head - until Doug grabbed my attention in Bi-Mart the other day. (Many Nugget readers will know Beall's name as it is attached to the splendid photos that appear in the column Sisters Country Birds.)
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
'Dogs are people, too'
Neuroscientists have finally taken a look inside the mind of man's best friend by training dogs to lie motionless in an MRI scanner.
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
The shoulder season
"Lord, let me die but not die out." - James Dickey, "For the Last Wolverine"

A few weeks ago, on our way to the End of Summer Concert and Barbecue at the Camp Sherman Store, my wife and I crossed paths with a bear. He wasn't a big bear, probably not much more than a yearling boar, and we surprised him at whatever he was doing. He lumbered a few yards into the brush, then stopped, sniffed the air, and sat by a rotten stump. We stopped too, and for a long time the three of us just sat there studying each other.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
When the smoke clears
It sure seems like things are falling apart. Hurricanes, fires and crushing snow have left so many feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Our brothers and sisters in arms have been fighting wars that never seem to end. Our first-responders have been stretched to breaking trying to deal with it all. Firefighters are getting pulled from disaster to disaster as the emergencies shift like the wind.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017













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