Wednesday, April 23, 2014


From Jonathan Hanson.

"Animals make us human" (Temple Grandin)

I have a new essay, "Old Friends", up in the "Hunting Makes Us Human" series put out by the Center for Humans and Nature. And there is a lot more to find there if you wander around a bit...


Jutta Rubesam lives in Germany and has been a constant presence here through her Nhubia and Taalai, the two talented canine dancers who often grace our Weekend Doggage. In times past she visited New Mexico and took some of my favorite photos of my own dogs.

Now she has been to Kyrgizstan and the shores of lake Issyk- Kul, where she shot this portfolio of the Kyrgiz herders and their hounds. I am delighted to see that they have not standardized and  still retain their physical diversity, from near- tazis to "aboriginal Afghans".

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Petrified Wood

I have been working with a local land conservancy, the Cherokee Ranch, to help them develop a research and education program for archaeology. They already have a geology program started, and the geologists invited me to go on a field visit to look at petrified wood on the ranch property a few days ago.

They have a lot of it on the ranch and you can see a couple of logs in these pictures. I asked to go along for two reasons: One, I think petrified wood is cool, and Two, petrified wood was a major source of tool stone for the prehistoric people in this area. I figure mapping the extent of this stuff is helping define prehistoric quarry sites for me.

I learned a couple of things on the hike. These deposits date to the Paleocene (56-66 million years ago) and apparently petrified wood from the period is rare in North America. Also, the oval cross-section of the logs is due to the fact they were deformed by pressure from the weight of deposits above them before they were mineralized. The geologists are bringing out an expect on petrified wood from North Carolina this summer to identify the tree species. They are currently guessing laurel for most of it, but want confirmation.

You need to look closely at this last log for important detail.

This log was one of the quarry sites I was looking for. The white egg-looking object is a quartz hammerstone that is surrounded by a scatter of flakes. Looks like someone sat on the end of the log and started making tools. Two hundred years ago, five hundred years ago, a thousand years ago?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Doggage/ Impending Litter?

Riss and Aymoon:
If you think Aymoon seems a little goofy, consider this photo of him in action.
We already know that Rissy is a good girl.

Wolf Miscellany

I think there is an unstated human obsession with wolves, perhaps because they contain in essence both the genes of our species' best animal friend, and the age -old simultaneous rep as humankind's most visible enemy. Here are a few recent instances.

I have always heard the some of the big Central Asian flock protection dogs are interbred with wolves. As wolves are among their chief adversaries, and the phenotype is so different, I never took the myth too seriously. I was wrong-- apparently there is a surprising amount of fraternizing. One of the scientists involved puts it just that way: ""The shepherd dogs are free-ranging, largely outside the tight control of their human masters. They guard the herds from wolves, which are common in the areas where they are used, but it appears that they are also consorting with the enemy."

The implications of this, in such areas as nature vs nurture, are enormous. Obviously genes aren't all, or the offspring would not be useful. Training and loyalty must come in somewhere.

John Wilson participated in a "round- up" of some of the breeding Mexican wolves held at the Sevilleta, where they needed to capture a pair to send to Mexico. I was happy to see they are really being kept in isolation these days, having seen evidence of the contrary a few years back-- letting in television news helicopter crews for a shoot is not isolation! Also interesting was how passive and shy the wolves are, offering no resistance. The workers formed a line and swept down the hill to where the den boxes are; the wolves retreated to the boxes; the volunteers then opened the den, pinned the wolves, trussed them, drugged them and carried them out. No one, human or wolf, was injured.

Some notes from John (odd format is from his notes):
Far up a canyon, many pens are separated by many gates and fences. This is where the captive Mexican Gray Wolves live and breed.  It is not an area that visitors get to see.  Only staff and volunteers who are working on specific projects enter this area.  The large deep canyon in which the facility rests is filled with large pens enclosed with high chain link fences.  There are half a dozen of these pens, each about a couple of acres.  The pens are reached by passing through anterooms and doors are closed to ensure no escapes...

--> We all created a line with various tools to make us appear larger. Then we slowly walked toward the wolves wooden box den.  The wolves are immediately panicked by human presence.  They are very afraid of us because their contacts with humans have been kept to an absolute minimum. ...  We caught glimpse of the wolves as they ran back and forth and away from us.  
--> The wolves fear humans and try to get away as they would in the wild. Their only option is to get in their den. With serious coaching from the staff the line advanced toward the plywood box den and very quickly the wolves went inside.  A staff member ran to the den and closed the only door.  In both enclosures the wolf pair quickly took shelter in the den.

--> From the first moment access is possible the wolves (a mated pair) are monitored to ensure their safety.   The dens have hinged roofs and side panels.  The staff check on the wolves constantly through the exercise and are alert to signs of stress and overheating.  Long forked control sticks keep the wolves immobile until they are ready to be moved onto the ground cloths where the work will be done

--> With surprising speed, blood sampling, stool sampling, palpation to determine pregnancy, inoculation, and other procedures take place. A radio tracking collar is put on. Cooling ice packs and alcohol for the feet keep the animal from overheating.   

--> In a few minutes the wolf is lifted gently into the travel kennel.  When lifted from the work area to be placed in the kennel the wolf’s tail was curled under its body and no struggle was made.  Hind end first, the wolf was placed in the kennel.  When the animal was safely inside, the muzzle was removed by pulling on a rope and the door was closed.

--> This pair of wolves with the female pregnant will be driven to Laredo and transferred to the Mexican staff who will release the animal in to reserves on that side of the border.  The other pair will cross the border at El Paso and be a part of the endangered species work there.
And then there is what we might call the decadent-- an L.A.  chef's new avant- garde signature dish, "Wolves in the Snow": venison in the image of a wolf kill .

"To pull of the dish, Thornton uses venison to replicate the sort of meat a wolf might eat; the blood is a beet and blackberry gastrique; and the snow is a creamy cauliflower purée. Something, perhaps, to be made for your next date night?"

Here is the recipe:
Wolves in the Snow
From: Craig Thornton of Wolvesden
Serves: 4-6
2 lbs. venison tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin and brought to room temperature
salt to taste
pepper (crack a good amount of pepper onto the venison after cooking)
grape seed or canola oil
basting kit: 2 tablespoons butter; thyme; and 2 garlic cloves crushed with the skin left on
1. Heat oven to 300°F
2. Add a decent amount of oil to a large, hot pan.
3. Season venison with salt and a small amount of black pepper. Add venison to the pan and brown on all sides. Then place the pan in the oven for 7-9 minutes, until rare to medium rare (any more and the meat will taste overly gamey and iron-y).
4. Remove pan from oven, and add basting kit into the pan. Once the butter is melted, spoon it over the meat. Baste for about two minutes.
5. Take venison out of the pan and let rest for 8-10 minutes. Season with black pepper.
Cauliflower purée
1 head cauliflower (with a few pieces reserved and left raw)
salt to taste
milk (to cover)
1 tablespoons lemon juice
small pinch of sugar
1. Cut the head into florets, about 2-inch pieces.
2. Place in a pan, cover with milk, and season with salt and sugar. Cook until soft enough to blend.
3. Remove cauliflower from pan, add to blender, and blend. Add cooking liquid as needed, until you have a slightly thick purée. Adjust seasoning to taste, then set aside along with lemon juice (which will be used for final plating).
Raw cauliflower
reserved raw cauliflower
salt to taste
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs lemon juice
small pinch of sugar
1. Chop the cauliflower roughly.
2. Combine remaining ingredients, then use them to dress the raw cauliflower. Set aside.
Blackberry beet "gastrique"
1 cup beet juice (preferably from freshly juiced beets)
1 pint blackberries
Banyuls vinegar to taste
salt to taste
sugar to taste
1 sheet gelatin, or ¼ packet powdered gelatin
1. Place beet juice in small pan and reduce over low heat (a higher heat will give you a bitter flavor).
2. Take your blackberries and put them through a food mill, or crush them and force them through a fine strainer. Do not blend the blackberries, as you do not want the flavor of crushed blackberry seeds.
3. Once the beet juice is reduced by half, add the blackberry purée. Season to taste, adjusting the vinegar and sugar for a sweet-and-sour flavor, adding a little salt to sharpen the flavors.
4. Once seasoned, bloom your gelatin sheet, or powdered gelatin, in water.
5. Lightly heat your sauce, keeping below 120°F (you want it just barely heated enough for the gelatin to dissolve, but also to not kill the raw blackberry flavor).
6. Mix in your gelatin. Once dispersed, adjust seasoning again, then store and set aside.
Douglas fir
2 packets of Douglas fir pine needle tea
1 cup water
sugar to taste
1 sheet gelatin or ¼ pkt powdered gelatin
1. Make Douglas fir tea.
2. Strain, then season with sugar.
3. Bloom your gelatin.
4. Mix in gelatin, let cool, then set mixture aside.
Hen of the woods mushroom
2 package hen of the woods mushroom
grape seed or canola oil
salt to taste
butter to taste
1 tablespoons chopped shallot
1. Heat large sauté pan with oil.
2. Add mushrooms, but do not move the pan or touch the mushrooms. Let them sit, and gain color on one side (by seasoning later, the mushrooms will retain more liquid).
3. Add a spoonful of butter and the shallots, then let cook for a few minutes. Season, and set aside until plating.
Final plating
1. Warm the cauliflower purée, add lemon juice, then adjust seasoning.
2. Take Douglas fir sauce, and put about ½ tbs on the plate.
3. Rip venison apart with two forks, which will act as sharp teeth.
4. Place cauliflower purée on the plate.
5. Lay mushrooms, scattered, on the plate.
6. Lay down the venison, then sprinkle the raw cauliflower, letting it fall wherever.
7. Attack the plate with your blackberry beet "blood." If you don't get "agro," then your plate will reflect that, and who will believe that you, or a wolf, killed this thing?

 Actually it sounds pretty good, but it looks more than a little grim. Cat suggests: "... it would be more authentic if the chef would have slid a rumen sac replica onto the plate." Chas adds "No marzipan intestines?" But Jack, who found and sent it, has the final snark: "Of course, if he weren't a complete pussy he'd be opening joints in Pinedale, Salmon and Reserve instead of L.A., where the local critics could offer meaningful feedback on wolf attack verisimilitude." Ouch!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday musing on lines from Yeats

You know it:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer...

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Fools dominate the news. Too many good people in the west support a thuggish blowhard who refuses to accept the law while apparently trying to start a war;, one who even brags he will put women on the front line. As I said to the writer below, this is not a horse you want to hitch your wagon to (he agreed, having just written the same thing to a friend!)

Meanwhile, too many decent urbanites with little sense of western matters seem to yearn for state power to strike him in a way they may come to regret. See here for a frightening look into the militarization of our police forces, a phenomenon that seems to have started with the "war'' on drugs-- do we really need internal wars, like Mexico's? -- and shows no sign of stopping, with supporters on our so- called right AND left. It seems strange to worry about Putin's psychological warfare in Ukraine  before we put our own house in order.

Nor can those with only a vague sense of what the west is understand how passionately those whose families have been living and working the land for generations feel about what is their only home. Complexities of legal ownership abound; but instead of who the land belongs to, think of it differently: who belongs to that land?

So here is a thoughtful guest post, a musing on the situation by a rancher and writer who also worries, and brings both a rancher's perspective and a spiritual dimension that I cannot easily write about. As JP says, it is an appropriate day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stupid Quote

You are going to have to search hard for worse. Tom McIntyre sends this masterpiece of po- mo ignorance from National Geographic's Explorer- in residence ("Isn't that an oxymoron?"), one Derek Joubert: "Hunting will one day be relegated to the category of awful things we did as humans, alongside apartheid and the Holocaust.”

If you believe as I do that this sets new standards for invincible ignorance please let Mr. Joubert (and the magazine) know.

He is not an intellectual...

...and neither am I. On About last Night, Terry Teachout, possibly the most wide- ranging American critic and cultural writer, explains:

"I incline as a rule to the mode of thought and feeling implied by T.S. Eliot's remark that Henry James had "a mind so fine that no idea could violate it." All history, especially the history of the twentieth century, argues against placing ideas in the saddle and allowing them to ride mankind. Too often they end up riding individual men and women into mass graves. As Irving Babbitt pointed out:

'Robespierre and Saint-Just were ready to eliminate violently whole social strata that seemed to them to be made up of parasites and conspirators, in order that they might adjust this actual France to the Sparta of their dreams; so that the Terror was far more than is commonly realized a bucolic episode. It lends color to the assertion that has been made that the last stage of sentimentalism is homicidal mania.'

That's one of many reasons why I choose not to call myself an intellectual."

Also see, perhaps, Michael Oakeshott.

Eagle Dreamers

I must assume that ALL my readers have seen some version of this:
 I have gotten over 100 emails, and they are still coming in. The one most saw was a BBC article (see David Zincavage's blog), but I like the photographer's, and his background info. It seems that the wild men of central Asia, as pragmatic as can be, have not opposed the few brave young women who have decided to take up this difficult but thrilling way of life (not exactly a"sport" by the way, as some call it, unless at the games at the annual fall "fiestas" there and in the 'Stans).

I was delighted by the photos, and the whole phenomenon. But I thought the real pioneer was being ignored-- Lauren McGough, who contacted us when she was 16, went out to hunt for a month with the late Aralbai, "The Coolest Man in the World" (Google it up), then returned on a Fulbright to spend a year there as an apprentice, then another year back and forth to the 'Stans and Mongolia. She is now in Scotland writing her doctoral thesis, and has continued flying eagles on the plains here and in Scotland.

Lauren is not worried, though she has a sensible distrust of the accuracy of the press: "The photos are just brilliant of course - I recognize in that smile the pure joy of flying an eagle! I always have mixed feelings about media articles of Mongolian eagle culture, though. Its hard not to be possessive of "my" subject!...  If I can find the funds, perhaps visiting the girl myself would be a compelling epilogue. It in a way, it is like coming full-circle, from my own 14-year old self that used to daydream her red-tail was an eagle. Or something!"

After I got her notes I wondered: Olgii Aimag is not too big; could the young Kazakh girl have heard about the strange American berkutchi? Could it have swayed her father?  Could she have seen this not- very tall American with the huge eagle named after the Milky Way?

There is going to be a book, and it will have insights I never dreamed of. Meanwhile, back in the USA, the government is considering shutting down the (at most) 6 eagle annual falconry take, while wind farms and eagle- killing natives are given a pass. Sometimes I think I should go off to live and die in Asia, where eagle dreamers get some respect.

Monday, April 14, 2014


I have tons of material-- John Wilson on sending some Mexican wolves to Mexico, with pics; all manner of current events; books to review (Paula Young Lee's delightful Deer Hunting in Paris is way overdue); more poets to quote-- Zarzyski!); foodbloggiing, imminent novels by friends,  gyr coming....

And all I seem to do is catchup work, repairs on me and objects, above all the horrible and apparently necessary struggle to sell myself and my "product", none of which so far has paid off-- no publisher interest in PP's or dog book at least if I have to be PAID for it...
Cue Peter Bowen, novelist, western wit, professional curmudgeon, and stoic: "WHINE, WHINE, WHINE-- all writers do is whine. Nobody asked you to be a writer!"

He's right. Thanks to Beth, old friend and new blog fan, I just got a new laptop which liberates me from the Parkinsonian pain of the desk. Decks are clear. I am going to write The Hounds of Heaven, about my dogs and their roots and our adventures here and there (Beth: splendid phrase re hounds "... flowing fierce animals..!") and walk, and train a new bird. And if things don't sell by fall, I'll sell some guns and go to Szechuan. Or Rome and points south, for Frederic. And publish my own damn books...

High- grade doggage

From Dan Gauss, granddog H1lda (not a typo) after jack.

Q Cover Redux

In the home stretch  on the new  edition of  Q.  For the cover, I still favor some variety of this photo (forgive quality of my amateur efforts; I am sure a designer could do wonders with my template). The publisher favors the old cover. Any last thoughts? Here are the mockups I attempted.

The old one is wonderful but I believe in new covers for new editions. And I should add it is a lot better than this image below-- I have been shifting files and couldn't find a version so got it off Amazon!)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Stupid Science Questions

These sorts of things can be really sappy, but I often find I get sucked in and can't help enjoying them.


How did the thesaurus survive the dinosaur extinction?

We've long known the speed of light, but what is the speed of heavy?

My neighbor said he's an "acidic Jew". Are there basic Jews? What happens if you combine one of each?


From Larry Gavin's new collection The Initiation of Praise:

My Reader

My reader is part of a small

club like those who fancy

terriers and the taking of game

to ground. My reader stumbled

on this book by accident because

of a mistransposed order

number or an absent minded

librarian that was thinking

about fishing instead of listening

at the time. My reader

holds a glass of something

that has some grief in it,

and folds the book

back on itself breaking the binding

like day breaks in the east

orange and then yellow. My reader

smells of dew and wild mint,

and can keep a secret, and knows

at least two good lawyers.

My reader is sensitive; believes

in Bigfoot and not the Loch Ness

monster. My reader's favorite

north Americabn ungulate

is the Musk Ox. My reader

dreams of flying, dreams of vessels of containment, dreams

of more poems like this one.

--Available from Red Dragonfly Press (

Farming Makes You Weak

I know I've mentioned a number of times here, that as prehistoric peoples moved from a hunting-gathering economy to agriculture, in general their health declined. This was apparently due to a number of factors, including eating a more limited diet, living for long periods in one place increases the spread of disease, etc.

I just came across a link for a new study of human remains from the Danube region of Europe that shows the population's bones became weaker as it transitioned from hunting-gathering to agriculture. The magazine's title was a little more dramatic than mine - From athletes to couch potatoes: Humans through 6,000 years of farming.

More Ivanpah

A few days ago I posted about seeing the Ivanpah solar plant from the air. A commenter mentioned that it was killing lots of birds. I just saw in the Palm Springs newspaper that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a report calling it a "mega-trap" killing birds. This picture is of a fried Northern Rough-winged Swallow found at Ivanpah.

Sunday, April 06, 2014


This one is the only one by Bertholdt Brecht I like, at least outside of his collaborations with Kurt Weill, and one of only two great quotes by diehard Marxists I can remember. Anyone know the other? Hint: it was by the most interesting old Commie ever...

Brecht, though:

"Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?"

Weekend Doggage

The imperturbable Almaty Ataika, Queen of the universe and still looking young, surveys her Brokedown Palace.

Cowboy Humor

Montana writer and third generation  rancher John Moore has a good new novel coming-- which somehow led to this photo by and of his friend, western cartoonist Wally Bagdgett (who is also a thinly disguised character in the book):
I am not sure who wrote the caption...

"Wally Badgett, creator of the “Earl” cartoon, announces his new Roman Riding Act which will debut in pro rodeo this summer featuring the highly-trained Clyde (left) and Pedro. Wally explains that his buddy, John L. Moore, has a new book coming out this Spring that is certain to make him famous, giving him the time and money to do what he has always wanted to do. “I’ve been attracted to Roman Riding because of the costumes,” he explains. “I can’t wait to wear fringe, Spandex, glitter, bling, and sequins. Hopefully in a hot pink and lavender combination.”