Sunday, June 29, 2014
Saturday, June 28, 2014
Flodman’s thistle is native to Montana and not generally considered a “weedy” or invasive species, as are the exotics Canada thistle and musk thistle. Flodman’s thistle plants appear in only sporadic onesies and twosies along the country road to my house.
Strangely enough, I appreciate Flodman’s thistle. I think they are pretty. Mind you, because they are thistles, their pretty is somewhat temperamental and spiny. Thistles are along the same line as Kate Gosselin (from the television reality show Jon and Kate Plus 8) or perhaps the famously unsympathetic Ann Coulter. They are rather pretty but you probably don’t want to touch them.
Since I have mentioned Ann Coulter…just this week she splashed around the news front trashing the World Cup soccer frenzy and the rise of soccer’s popularity in these United States. She fears the sport of soccer is an outward sign of the inward decline of Americanism and American prominence. She considers soccer a weed. She said, among other things, “I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer.”
I am not really certain what that means, but it sounds pretty bad. Just for the record, on my mother’s side of the family we can trace our family back to the Mayflower. On my father’s side we will be starting the line at the nearest edge of the European trash heap.
Anyhow, I am not certain why some plants and some people are so difficult when you get up close, but I think a certain beauty can be found in most everything. Today I am posting two photographs I captured from a Flodman thistle yesterday. If I see Ann Coulter prancing about anywhere, I promise to capture and share a photograph of her also.
Friday, June 27, 2014
I don’t like spiders. Not little spiders. Not black spiders. Not yellow spiders. Not any spiders.
The other day, when I went outside to climb into my hot tub, I found hundreds (maybe thousands) of spider hatchlings in several clusters on the side of the tub. I have no idea what kind of spiders they were. All I know is that they were alive, and rippling with motion, and I was naked.
I said a bad word.
Okay, I’ll be honest, I said several bad words.
In days past, I would have killed the spiders in what might have been described by witnesses as a “rabid frenzy.” I have since learned tolerance and respect. There is a place for all creatures and for all things (with the single exception of mayonnaise).
I scampered back inside my house, pulled on some shorts, and grabbed a broom. Before whisking up the spider masses and walking them out into my “weed” yard for live release, I captured the photograph posted today. The hatchlings in the photograph are only a fraction of the spiders I found. Each is about half the size of a grain of rice.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Anyone who has known me for more than fifteen minutes understands that I have a crush on Salma Hayek. I have certain “tells” that indicate my crush. One of the more notable tells is the regular use of her name in conversation. Recently, as example, a friend and I were staring at the wires of an electrical widget-thingy, trying to figure out why it needed so many red wires, and I suddenly blurted out: “Whenever I confront complicated stuff like this, I think about Salma Hayek.”
“How does that help?” he asked.
“I didn’t say it helped. That’s just what I do.”
Until the other day, I never gave consideration to actually meeting Salma. She is an intolerably gorgeous Hollywood actress, after all, and I am, well, me. I am not even a fully-developed regular guy. I am short, have a conspicuous gap in my front teeth, and have recently acquired an inexplicable appreciation for the color chartreuse.
But I have a plan now. My plan is to build a Salma Hayek landing pad on the level ground just off to the east side of my house.
I know what you are thinking: totally brilliant!
When Salma Hayek discovers that I have a landing pad constructed specifically for her, she will be compelled to use it. Surely, you recall the movie Field of Dreams. If a whole baseball team can appear in a baseball field carved from an Iowa cornfield, how far-fetched to draw one actress to a modest landing pad in the Montana foothills?
The real inspiration for my Salam Hayek landing pad came from an article my friend posted on Facebook. She lives in Hawaii on the Big Island. The people there are dedicating an 80-foot diameter landing pad for aliens. The landing pad was formed naturally by a lava flow in 1983 and is conveniently located near Uncle Robert’s Kawa Bar in Kalapana. The area will be called the Hawaii Star Visitor Sanctuary. According to legend, the Hawaiian People first came to Earth from the constellation of Pleiades (Seven Sisters). The landing pad is an invitation for the aliens to return.
Sounds as reasonable as anything else in this world.
I am not really sure how to go about fashioning my Salma Hayek landing pad. Additionally, I am a bit strapped for resources at the moment. I think I may simply mow a nice circle in the sagebrush and bunchgrass out there for starters.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Monday, June 23, 2014
Person who invents the pushbutton: Visionary
Person who names the pushbutton: Geek
Person who presses the pushbutton: Child, Machine Operator or Madman
Person who cleans the pushbutton: Project Manager or Custodian
Person who breaks the pushbutton: Supervisor
Person who repairs the pushbutton: Custodian, Mechanic, or Child
Person who renders the pushbutton obsolete: Geek or Foreign Investor--Mitchell Hegman
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Saturday, June 21, 2014
In 1805 William Clark (of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition) named the valley in which I presently live the Prickly Pear Valley. He named the valley such after removing over a dozen cactus spines from his feet following a brief exploration of the place. A very real possibility exists that Mr. Clark stepped in the prickly pear cactus while hiking across what is now the very property I own. He might still pick up a spine or two if he walked through my yard today.
I have allowed the prickly pear to repopulate all around my yard, which is very much a natural and native landscape. As I have written previously, my yard confuses people with more persnickety definitions of a yard. Sometimes, people visiting my house will say things like: “You have sagebrush in your yard.” To which I will answer: “Yes, I do.” Others will point and ask questions like: “Why is that cactus growing right there in your font yard? To which I will respond: “I guess it likes that spot. It has not moved from there since it first started growing several years ago.”
My particular cactus, brittle prickly pear, flourishes in open country along the Rocky Mountains ranging from lower Canada all the way to New Mexico. Both the flower heads and the flesh of the cactus are edible and were a food source for native populations.
An interesting experiment is to actually try and eat one of the cactus plants yourself.
By interesting, I mean incredibly stupid.
You will likely sustain injuries and hurt like a son-of-a-bitch both during and following any attempted cactus harvest. Make sure you have a first aid kit with you. Natives employed a sagebrush stick and fire to remove the incredibly sharp and tenacious spines. I would suggest a bulldozer and multiple flamethrowers if you want a meal for six.
The flesh of prickly pear cactus plants can be eaten raw, boiled, or may be cooked in other fashions. Prickly pear may vary in taste from bitter to sweet. I have eaten the cactus raw and found it bitter, at first, with a near-cucumber to bland finish. The spines you fail to remove from the plant during the early harvest and preparation process will stick in your lips and tongue.
Friday, June 20, 2014
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Tonight, I sat outside in my hot tub as June rain fell against the pine trees and into the tall grass all around me. I thought about my grandparents as raindrops also brought forth temporary sculptures on the surface of the water in my hot tub.
It occurred to me that we live and we die.
I know…we all have these thoughts.
My thoughts soon turned to how much I miss my grandparents. I imagined the sounds of their house around me again: footsteps ascending the stairs to my room on the upper floor and nightly freight trains rumbling by. I heard the voice of my grandfather and heard my grandmother laughing. I considered how they raised me from the age of twelve; and how they honestly saved me from a life cluttered by the anger and bad choices of my parents.
It mattered that my grandparents lived.
Tomorrow, at dawn, the first strokes of yellow light will spur nighthawks to veer against the mists lifting from tonight’s rain. They are yet quick, the birds, and ascending. In this life you are either on stairs that take up into the mists or stairs that lead down into shadows.
Up, then, in the morrow, with nighthawks.
Up with those soon-to-be grandparents all around me and up the July grass.
On into summer and up the stairs we shall go together.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
I think Thoreau said this, more or less: “If you lack the means to build a castle—by all means, build a chair!” And most certainly he said this: “The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them.”
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
—A common trait among many serial killers is the ability to play an acoustic guitar.
—If love had a taste, it would taste like a shooting star.
—For those who falsely believe that they will be forever young, we have been given sunsets that simply fade to black.
—The best mathematical expressions are those found in songs and explorations of space.--Mitchell Hegman
Monday, June 16, 2014
Yesterday, I diverted for a drive up into the Alice Creek drainage on the way to my cabin. The camas was fully in bloom there and often so dense in the meadows they looked like pools of blue water. On the mountainsides, paintbrush flourished in bright red patches below the scattered pine.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Probably, most of us living near Helena, Montana don’t wholly appreciate some of the unique geology surrounding us. Certainly the outcroppings of the Boulder Batholith south of Helena create some of the more extraordinary landscape features.
A batholith is a formation of igneous rock created by bodies of magma that have been pushed to the surface from deep inside the earth. Batholiths often express themselves as mountains or broad fields of stone outcroppings. The Elkhorn Mountains are a result of the Boulder Batholith. The Boulder Batholith is named for the massive collections of granite boulders that often dominate the countryside, extending all the way to Butte.
The boulders of the batholith have, at this late geological date, been split by ice and earthquakes, blunted and smoothed by wind and running water, and amassed into all manner of precarious stacks. Some of the boulder outcrops look like whimsical castles made from the balloon-like stones.
Over more recent decades, people have constructed homes in the batholith protrusions, often squaring homes amid giant boulder fields and natural rock gardens. Today I am posting a photograph of a friend’s home constructed in the boulder outcrops. The photo was captured with my twice-as-smarter-than-me phone.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Evening last, my yard once again came under vicious attack by a deer. Today, I am posting a photograph of the deer responsible for the attack. If you recognize this deer, please report the location of the deer to your dog or curse in the general direction of where you last saw this animal.
Friday, June 13, 2014
The area we now call Iraq is considered the Cradle of Civilization. From here, came the first system of writing, early cities, advanced mathematics, and men who studied the stars. Later, emerged men marching to war as vicious armies and what has now become thousands of years of conflict driven by tribal animosity, religious fervor, tyrants, and sometimes simple miscommunication.
Once again, Iraq is filled with fighting men. Blood on blood on blood. I think of this song.
If the video here fails to launch, please click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmGK7tD188Y
Thursday, June 12, 2014
—A field cricket’s ears are located just below the knees of its front legs.
—You can estimate the outside temperature using the frequency of the male cricket’s chirping. If you count the number of chirps in 15 seconds and then add 37 to your count, you will have a close measure of the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.
—Crickets may eat holes in fabric “soiled” with food or may eat through fabric just to “get to the other side.”
—If given a choice, crickets will live in cracks of earth, stone, or cement.
—Female crickets are mute.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
I spent the better part of an hour yesterday morning reading about “field crickets” on the internet. I think the reason I read about odd things such as crickets is that I have some kind of mental defect that has impaired the part of my brain that prompts normally functioning men to seek out and email relatively pornographic jokes and images of nude women to their friends.
I never do that.
I read about crickets instead.
At any rate, young crickets are called nymphs which sounds fairly sexy and might somewhat qualify what I do as pornographic. So, now I have that going for me.
The sexy little nymph crickets grow pretty fast and may molt their skin more than eight times before they mature. Field crickets eat seeds, some plants, small fruits, and may on occasion munch on one of their relatives. The males like to sing and dance. Naturally, all of this singing and dancing is fashioned to attract a female so the male can “do her up.” For those unfamiliar with slang, “do her up” means “to have sex with.”
The males produce their jittery love songs by rubbing their wings together. Honestly, I enjoy hearing crickets singing below my open window at night. I never feel lonely while hearing them. I am a little disturbed that they are naked (unlike Jiminy Cricket who may actually be a bit over-dressed), but I don’t wear underwear. So, I also have that going for me.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Monday, June 9, 2014
Sunday, June 8, 2014
Our region of the Rocky Mountains is shaped by fire. Wildfires are natural to our landscapes. Over the last decade, for example, an average of more than 5 million acres of Montana burned each year. We have around here what we call “fire season,” which pretty much sprawls across the entire summer with fingers extending into spring and toes often reaching late into fall.
Most of our forests—particularly lodgepole pine—have a definite shelf-life. Lodgepole forests tend to be strict monocultures that are intolerant to climate fluctuations. A lodgepole stand will generally die-out at somewhere near 200 years of life. Fire often marks the end. Fire is, in fact, required for fully renewing a lodgepole pine forest. The heat from fires opens up the compact seed cones and releases seeds for germination.
The forests near my cabin are at the end of their natural cycle. Many trees are dead standing due to recent attacks by pine beetles. Parts of the forest are dangerously over-fueled. Early this spring, as part of long term fire mitigation and forestry practices, a controlled burn was started near my property. A few weeks ago, when I drove to my cabin to prepare for the summer season, I found the entire understory flat black immediately following the burn.
Yesterday, on a return trip, I found green life threading up from the ash and the shadows cast by dead lodge pole pines.
I am posting a couple of photographs of the new life in early morning light.
Saturday, June 7, 2014
Friday, June 6, 2014
—I’d like to dust-off her knickknacks.
—She’s got a couple of icons on her desktop that I would love to click on.
—My buddy bagged her groceries back when he was a teenager.
—I’m thinking you’ll need every tool in the pouch for service call to her house.
—You can hire her to clean your house and polish your brass.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Out we go into the sunshine grass, to the cool carpets of shade. Out into the sweet blossoms of lilac. Out against the calm air and the upright mountain ranges. Out where fat rivers loll below turn-key clouds. Out to capture the first lark’s song, to sift warm wind though fingers and hair, to leap, to dance in wild circles.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Yesterday one of my business partners and I conducted a site survey for a proposed 6000 watt pole-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) array. I am posting two photographs from the site visit. The location is not more than ten minutes from downtown Helena, Montana.
The site is atop a shoulder of granite in the Rocky Mountains. I found the location particularly beautiful and I like the idea of quiet energy produced by the sun. The amount of energy produced in one and a half hours, in the form of sunlight striking the surface of the earth, is roughly enough to supply the yearly worldwide energy consumption from all sources combined. If you think harvesting energy from the sun is whacky, consider this: most of the energy we use today was in some fashion created by the sun. The trees you burn grew on sunlight. The coal and oil we use began as greenery spurred by the sun. Sunlight drives the climate that delivers water to our hydroelectric power generators and fans the winds that spin our wind turbines.
I am a practical person. The arguments over climate change and being “green” don’t always reach me. But the practical side of solar heating and solar photovoltaics (electricity) makes perfect sense to me. The energy conversion is direct and the power generating system is yours once you install it. I am presently designing my own solar PV system.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Yesterday morning, as I sat drinking my first cup of coffee, shrill screaming from outside brought me to my feet. As I rushed toward the back door, thinking I would need to break apart my 40 pounds of housecat in a typical spat near my deck, I bumped into Carmel (20 pounds of cat) still inside my house.
Only one cat, Splash, was outside.
A second scream of more dubious origin reached me just before I opened the door onto the sunrise morning. I caught site of Splash diving under the deck when I stepped outside.
I walked out to the center of my deck and stood there.
“Splash?” I huffed. “Splash, is something under there with you? Splash?
Not so much as shuffling came from below the deck. Songbirds chirped from a great distance. A raven overflew me, wings whistling softly.
Then I heard the screaming thing yowl from someplace deep in the timbered arroyo between me and the lake. The sharp sound echoed up through the juniper and pine—a forceful scream like that of a trumpet’s final note. Not a small thing. Chills stitched themselves up and down my exposed arms.
Relative quiet filled the space around me once more.
I heard the faraway drone of the first fishing boat cutting through water on the lake below.
I stepped back inside my house again after standing in the blush of sunrise and birdsong for a little longer. I am not sure what I heard. I have heard the screaming thing on two other occasions over the last twenty years. I suspect mountain lion, but I am just not certain. After about a half hour, Splash came back inside and slunk away to hide under the clothes washer in the laundry room.