Escapee Takes Cover at the Ranch

It was a dark and stormy morning… No, Really! And my dogs howled and barked and carried on so loudly that at 5:15 it seemed like the end of the world would happen any second. Something prowled outside the fence, and it was frightening my dogs. I wandered to the dark kitchen, watching the rain beat against the window. It couldn’t be coyotes. Even they didn’t like hunting in the rain at 5 a.m.

Not a Bunny-In-The-Yard Bark

As I got a better idea what was happening, the dogs continued their constant barking. This was not their typical “bunny-in-the-yard” bark. They sounded scared and defensive. I peered through the kitchen window and a large, white body glistened in the half hazy dawn. I stared at it for a long moment until my eyes focused on two beady eyes.

I even backed away. Then a huge pink snout poked through the cat door in the wall next to me. That was a clincher — I realized an escapee had come to The Rusty Bucket Ranch. It wasn’t my hog, so I called my next door neighbor, apologized for calling so early, and asked if they knew anyone raising a hog. Yes! His son down the road was fattening up a white Duroc. Aha! Mystery solved.

How Do You Get a Hog to Follow You?

First, you get dressed warmly because the early morning rain was nearly sleet and driving hard from the north. I bundled up, grabbed a few handfuls of dog cereal and tossed them into a metal bowl. Any pig worth his weight would come running to a promise of food in a rattle-rattle bowl. I was right. On the first rattle, the 100 pound hog was at my front door snuffling and waiting for food.

He seemed nice enough. He followed me out across the yard and back to the empty horse corrals. I knew these old pens would come in handy again. “Piggy” followed me like dog. By the time I reached the corral gate, the owner and his daughter arrived with their own rattle-rattle bowl. I told them the hog would be safe until daylight. They promised to be back soon. They also promised a BBQ pork sandwich when the time came.

BBQ on the Hoof

Once the storm dissipated, they returned in their pickup truck to escort the escapee back to his own pen. “Miss Pinky” followed faithfully the promise of food, and I watched from my window as a little girl, bundled up and sitting on the tailgate, rattled her bowl all the way home. Not quite the nursery rhyme… but you get the idea.

I perked some coffee and sat in the recliner letting the steam warm up my still chilly nose. The storm continued as the sun rose higher but, it came to me that so many strays arrive at the ranch … and I’m warmly encouraged and greatly entertained to know I have “the beacon” flashing above my roof.

Science Lab: What’s In Your Ranch Refrigerator?

Early years on the ranch were full of open-eyed excitement for my young daughter. She wanted to know how everything worked: from cocoons to wasps, bat to lizards. Everything was a potential science lab experiment.

I must admit my own mom was never very good around icky things. Squeamish was the word for it. She avoided dead stuff and called on me to rescue her from a bug, a spider, or the very large Sphinx moth that often looked like a bat rather than a gentle moth. I loved investigating the insides of stuff, mostly bugs. Squeamish was not in my vocabulary.

So when my daughter showed my same interests in nature’s surprises, well, I couldn’t help but beam from ear-to-ear. Once that door was open, all sorts of icky stuff arrived in my refrigerator and freezer. Science Lab was open.

If the cat’s killed a scorpion, and it was huge and hairy, then it went into the freezer. If a bird miscalculated our front window for a portal through the house, she was lovingly placed in the freezer as a volunteer cadaver. Lizards, among field mice, were often brought in by the ranch cats. Their offering was our next lab experiment.

One time, the cat’s brought in a barely living pregnant lizard. She grabbed it up and showed me that it only had minutes to live. It was true. Poor Mrs. Lizard was on her deathbed. Her fat stomach was bulging. My daughter hoped little lizards might come out if we did surgery.

At age four, with the help of my “Exact-o“ knife and my able assistant at my elbow, we dissected it and found three large yellow egg sacs that would have grown into three sleek lizards. We were sad to find out that they were too immature to be recognizable as lizards. But it was interesting all the same. As long as she was wide open, the lizard that is, we found her heart, some purple and green organs, her spine and how the tail connected. In all, it was a great surgery.

My daughter, later on, had learned that skinning a snake is gruesomely cool. She asked if I could show her how it’s done. We have plenty of rattlers in the desert yet we shy away from them as most sane folks do. However, if you’re gonna skin one you need to find one. I must add that messing around with a rattler is something that takes skill and steady nerves. Don’t do this at home without someone to help you and who knows what he’s doing. I say “he” because most ladies don’t want to be in the same county with one. (In fact, I will not explain how to do this on the internet because of the safety factors involved. I don’t want you to get bitten.) Most desert dwellers won’t touch a snake. I don’t touch live ones, just the dead ones.

Sometimes we’ll kill a rattler that is in a dangerous place for our dogs. We don’t kill all rattlers, just the ones that are too stubborn to stay away from the ranch. Needless to say, we did have rattlers in the freezer with their skins, holding off until we had time to thaw and skin them. And, yes, they are edible but there are many other websites that can tell you how to whip up a Snake Fricassee much better than I can. Besides, it just tastes like tough chicken.

The bottom line here is that you can have a science lab in your freezer, too. You just need to capture different bugs, reptiles, and small critters that are easy to handle. Let nature take its course while providing you and your “students” a variety of dead stuff to prod and poke. Maybe your child will aspire to be a scientist, a lab technician, a doctor, or even a serial killer (It’s that how they all start? <grin>) … but we won’t go there.

Gaining Southwest Audiences

I’ve always suspected that for every person who shows interest in the High Desert of Southern California, there are at least 100+ more who are secretly wondering, maybe reading, or even visiting it. Those visitors, Southwest enthusiasts, are newcomers arriving daily as vacationers, relatives of local residents, and even transplants from the urban regions.

The last frames of a mine at Doble near Big BEar

The last frames of a mine at Doble near Big BEar

Whatever you call yourself, be content in the fact that you’ve found a place to learn more about what this desert holds for all of us. I won’t be a cheerleader for everything High Desert, but I will share the gems of what makes this particular region so inviting to so many.

Did you know that the area is a history magnet for German and Japanese vacationers? Their cultures were void of any “cowboy heritage”, stories of outlaw shootouts in the dusty streets never happened, and not one Stetson-styled hat was created for fending off the blazing sun. Their early cultures exist from European warlords, Kings and royal families, and castles surrounded by acres of poor subsistence farming. Actually, the only continent close to sharing our Old West history would be Australia with its large land tracts, penal colonies in a vast desert countryside, and the eventual growth of large ranches — known as stations — of cattle, sheep, and horses.

Closer to home, I find that the culture of film making, Wild West storytelling, and the abundance of rural landscapes were “the perfect storm” to romanticize the culture of the Southwest. It remains the staple of many late night movie watchers who can now enjoy old movies from the comfort of their bedrooms –whether in Berlin, Tokyo or Perth. Movies have brought us closer together.

Since this blog is covering my continuing journey to produce a digital magazine worthy of the readers who love the spirit of the Southwest, I can only do what comes naturally and share my knowledge and extensive background steeped in its rich history.

I plan to cover selected topics each issue that will encourage the Southwest enthusiast in all of us. Admit it, you wore a straw cowboy hat at least once when you were little.

I knew it.

 

Rusty LaGrange

Spring Cleaning Inside Your Blog Site

Things are changing for bloggers. Throughout the Internet forum topics are

Blog is a Four Letter Word

Blog is a Four Letter Word

bristling with anxious bloggers about Google Domains, Google rankings, and Blogger who originally hosted all BlogSpot.com web site blogs for free. Check out Google Domains and see how the dynamics of your blogs will determine if you wish to transfer over to Google Domains or manage the transition yourself.

It seems that free isn’t anymore.

Rather than pout about changes coming in the world of blog hosting and other Internet environments, I felt it was important to save all of my blog posts to an archive on my own computer. For those of you who thought of this in the early process of creating your blog, congrats, you are well ahead of us on archiving and cleaning house. I bet you never leave your Christmas lights up all year, either.

It would be prudent to begin copy and pasting all your individual blog posts to a personal folder on your computer. Although it is time consuming, the alternative is worse. I made a basic folder called Archived Blog and kept each title as the file name with its original published date plus the date I archived it. I began back in the 2008 with a simple journal and by 2011 I have several blogs to juggle.

I was either creating my blog posts directly into the Dashboard, like most of you do, or I was creating in MSWord then copy and pasting into the Dashboard. Sometimes my MSWord document fought me with its hidden document coding against the evil code shield that WordPress uses to protect itself. Other times, nothing was wrong, I created by post then I went to bed early.

In fact, WordPress’ updates and beta changes were good enough that I wasn’t panicking about loss of data. I was getting comfortable. Yet in the back of my mind was an itchy feeling that I should save and protect often. Was Archiving happening automatically? Well, I lost a few blog posts, thinking that all was well and good in the background. It wasn’t. I still save often.

What if you couldn’t access your blog page anymore? What if it happened overnight?

I highly suggest that you become the “motel maid” for your blog. Clean and search often for problems showing up in your view panes and the Dashboard, check you archive folders and see if you have any breaks in photos connections or active links that are important to you, and always make a backup file of each post. The housekeeping you do know will help eliminate any surprises later.

 Rusty LaGrange

Lovely Spring Gift Ideas from High Desert Gardeners

Gift Ideas We Love

 

"Valentine Pink" blossoms

Pretty pink blossoms

Do you really want to receive a dozen roses that will only last a week? Why not ask for a cactus that blooms for you each year? Just go to your nursery and pick out the prettiest. And as for color, you’ll find a good variety.

Many of the varieties offer different shapes and heights, while others bloom in hues of white to cream to yellow, pink to red to rose. All of them are easy to water and easy to grow in typical desert temperatures.

Another feature that I enjoy is their slow growing nature. You can plant them in a 10″ pot and it will be years before you’ll need to transplant them into a half whiskey barrel or directly into your yard. Many of them can grow for decades, often dropping “babies” or allowing their arms to be cut and replanted for the new generation of cacti. I have a night blooming cereus that is over 40-years-old and has been inside all of its life.

“Christmas cactus”, known for blooming in winter with bright red or fuchsia colored pointy blooms, can be more temperamental because they are a tropical cactus. They don’t like their roots too wet or too dry. A trick for forcing their blooms is to place them in a closet for a month prior to the holidays. Once out of the dark, they want to herald in the New Year. Healthy and happy plants will blossom all year.

Those combination cactus sampler dishes, that nurseries often place near their check out stands, are a really smart way to try some cactus plantings. Each dish holds a selection of tiny cuttings. if you’re not sure which ones to try, try all of them. They take little water and often produce a few flowers or even double in size during their first year.

Some cactus plants for sale at nurseries are not really cactus at all but are succulents with spiky skins. Their interiors are mushy pulp and don’t have the fortitude to make it through a dry, hot desert summer. You can try growing them in a portable pot or inside near a window. Be careful of direct sunlight scorching them through the double- and triple- panes of your windows. I tried that and more succulents and aloe vera plants succumbed to being bleached to death by the sun. It doesn’t take long to broil them in the intense heat.

My favorite tropical/ desert species is called the Carrion Plant. It grows large, slim, columnar arms  on thin stems that look more like sipping straws. It produces flowers only once a year. The bud is a large yellow pod with purple lines and polka dots but covered in hair. In a few days, the pod bursts open into a giant yellow and purple star with the most horrific odor you’ve ever smelled. This rancid perfume is designed to attract insects — especially the fly that helps propagate its pollen. It smells like dead, rotting meat — hence the name “Carrion” plant. It only takes one visit to a Carrion Plant to instill that smell into the sensory part of your brain. Whew!

So there are some of my favorite cacti and plants that make a good gift and have the longevity to last more than a few days or weeks. Once you have cacti in your garden, you’ll have a fragrant  friend for life.

Fresh Starts

Historically, this site has been running since early 2008. It’s had its ups and downs. I allowed myself to get side-tracked several times but knowing more was in store.

At this site you will find my continuing development of a non-fiction book close to publication and a new project, a creative vision that I’ve been working on for a year but, until now, was putting the infrastructure in place.

I’d like to think that even though we have great ideas, sometimes the timing is not right. I don’t call it procrastination … rather simmering in anticipation.  I’ve been treating myself to some self-discovery in digital magazines and marketing. I’m itching to get it uploaded.

My newest creation will be a digital magazine with a regional Southwest flavor, an appeal to the tastes of vintage and antique collectors, and crafters, as well as those who wish to read more about the Southwest deserts — in particular the Mojave Desert in poetry, short story, history, and family outings.

I know books that obsess on Route 66 and I know a few authors that will be introduced here as well. For me, I enjoy the balance of a readable experience with many topics with a common thread. You can find numerous titles on Mojave Desert trails, its colorful history and the legends that still survive. But VintageWest Magazine will bring you singular focus on sites and sounds that bring you directly into the desert that we call home.

For living out in the middle of nowhere are artists, authors, photographers, and poets who arrived here and never chose to leave. Some are entrepreneurs, some just downright creative sorts who love to do what they do without apology — those are the truly gifted desert dwellers, “desert rats”, non-conformists who will do what others never would allow themselves to do. We know you admire them for their freedom and spirit.

I plan to capture that.

This digital magazine is  — VintageWest Magazine. Don’t search for it yet. It’s coming. In the meantime, if your curiosity is overwhelmed, you can email me and I may tell you what’s in store.

And, to be sure, I plan to have the first 100 subscribers to the magazine named as Charter Subscribers. As Charter subscribers, a few bonuses will come your way. As we grow, you’ll become the Old Guard, the ones who took the daring step to support my dream of being an editor/publisher of a magazine full of the stuff we love to read.

Within the pages, you will find regional advertisers who offer the best of what the Mojave gives. More on that later. Advertising will allow me to venture past the basics and, in time, offer pay for authors’ insights and creativity. We work hard to express ourselves in the form of creativity we enjoy.

I’ve also been growing a cadre of creative writers and bloggers who love the Mojave Desert and wish to share even more of their aspects of what the desert can offer. You’ll see items on foods, recipes, and hospitality. Read about their passions, their history, and their dreams.

Welcome to my digital universe & live it through VintageWest Magazine.

 Rusty LaGrange