December, 2010 browsing by month


How we spent Christmas

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

We got up early Christmas morning (actually set an alarm if you can believe that) and headed down to Whitewater Draw where we’d heard there were a fair number sandhill cranes.

It’s about a 75 minute drive, and we got there at about a little after 9. There are some very pretty ponds there, and we saw some cute ducks, a beautiful bright red bird ( possibly a flame-colored tanager), and a lot of raptors, but no cranes. By 10:30 or so, we started hearing the cranes. (You can often hear them long before you see them. They fly very high and have a loud, though oddly pleasing, call.)

Before long, we could see flocks of 100+ birds overhead, and in the distance, many thousand were visible (with the lovely new binoculars Brad got me for Christmas). After 45 minutes or so of flying, they finally started landing. And landing and landing and landing.

By my very rough estimate, there ended up being between 10,000 and 20,000 on the ground. (They say there are as many as 30,000 there at times.) It was so amazing. For the most part, the birds just sat close to one another making their noises, but every once in a while something made huge numbers of them lift off. Wow!

More pictures here.

(If anyone is interested in coming to see these cranes, the season is roughly Nov. through Feb. Not the nicest time of year here, but certainly more temperate than the snowy north.)

Walls, windows, and gas lines

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Over the past couple days, Brad has been chalking lines on the slab for the new house, and this morning he took me to “walk through” it and make some decisions.

In the course of doing so, we took out one set of double doors (three sets in a 1100 square foot building was seeming excessive, and one went nowhere at all), added a window or two, moved my book nook, decided where the stove and fireplace would go, got rid of one closet, added another, and made one a lot bigger.

While doing this, Brad had the idea of an business for people planning a house. It’s a big warehouse where you can chalk out your house and then roll in movable walls to see how the rooms could actually lay out. Sounds like a great idea to me. It’s very hard to visualize all this, even with a life-size floor plan.

The next step is to cut the grid into the floor. We’re going to cut it before we start construction, but will wait to stain and seal it until afterward this time.

Other than that, I’ve been planning a bigger, better garden for next year. I’ve ordered seeds, and we built this lovely propagation rack to do seed starts inside.


By the light of the moon

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Last night, we built a big fire outside and stayed up for the eclipse. It was cold, but the eclipse was spectacular.

One of the most amazing things was the light change, which sounds obvious but was surprising to me and probably not something you’d notice as much if you weren’t out here in the middle of nowhere.

When we first went outside at about 10:00 (about an hour before anything started — I apparently failed to factor in that we aren’t on Pacific time right now), the moon was very bright, and it was almost like it was daylight. You could easily see out 100 feet or more.

By the time, we came inside at about 1am, when the moon was fully eclipsed, it was very dark. You couldn’t see the house or the slab from our greenhouse. We needed a flashlight to walk back to the house. Also, the appearance of stars over this period, as it got darker, was remarkable.

Quite a fun experience with no “city lights” to contend with.

Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Happy holidays to all of you! It’s been an exciting week here, as you’ll see below. Also, we saw a lovely pair of golden eagles this week. What a treat.

If you already saw some of this on FB, skip to the last minute or so, which is new. Also, as usual, if the video is chunky, press pause and wait a couple minutes before resuming playing.

Road trip

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Last week, Brad and I took a long weekend trip into NM to see the birds at Bosque del Apache, and on the way home, we stopped at the Very Large Array, which is about 45 miles west of Socorro.

It was quite an impressive place, and I’d recommend a visit if you’re ever nearby. They have a very nice visitor center, which is completely unstaffed (a good use of public funds in my opinion). The whole facility apparently runs on a staff of seven, though we saw quite a bit of activity going on while they were there. They also have a self-guided walking tour which is very nice.

While there, I learned that these are radio telescopes, which means that they detect radio emissions from space (and while the film Contact was shot here, they do not actually do SETI work. They did, however, say that if any viable signals were detected, they’d be the first to look further.) There are 27 telescopes arranged in a large Y-shape, which makes up the array. By joining signals, they are able to function together as a much larger telescope. The telescopes move along railroad tracks to form different configurations. Each one also reorients itself fairly often.

Here are some pictures.

Driving home, we went a back way we hadn’t been, west out Socorro and then through Pie Town and Quemado before heading south through Gila Forest. The drive was fabulous, and we also stopped at the Catwalks (more about that another time). Here’s a time lapse movie Brad took on the drive. (If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, go to about 1:10 to see the Very Large Array telescopes moving.)

NaNo reflections

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

November and NaNoWriMo are over.

I accomplished my short term goals, which were to write at least 50,000 words in Nov. (I ended up at 88,127 yesterday) and to get a good start on a novel that will eventually be published. My long term goal of finishing the novel will be chipped away at over the next six months of so. (I think I am about halfway in the draft and then, of course, there is editing.)

This was the first time I’ve done this project, and the process was very interesting. Going into it, I had no idea how difficult it would be to get to 50,000 words. It turned out that it wasn’t as hard as it sounded. In fact, I would say that anyone who can commit a couple hours or so a day on average could do this.  It doesn’t require that you abandon your life.

The preparation I did in advance (outlining, character development, etc.) helped a lot, as did the commitment to write every single day in November. Some days I wrote a little (I tried to write at least 1000 words even on disaster days) and sometimes a lot, but I wrote every day. (Another key to NaNo success is realizing that first drafts are always crap and that you just have to get words on paper. The biggest surprise to me in the whole thing was that I actually like my novel so far.)


The “pressure” of being a part of a group doing this was more motivating than I expected. Being a part of something bigger is reinforcing. For me, posting my word count online every day was a big thing too.

I also really appreciated the support and camaraderie I  got from the communities of writers at the NaNo site itself, on (I participated in a structured prep program with them in Oct. that was extremely helpful), and on Twitter.

Other thanks go to the yWriter software (which I loved and would highly recommend) and of course, Brad, who did a lot of extra chores during this month in addition to be fabulously supportive.

Below is a very brief day-by-day journal of the experience. If you’re interested in what the novel is about (or someday reading it when the edited draft is done), drop me an email.

And stay tuned for more ranch-related posts now that this project is going to be a little less all-consuming.


Me in my new NaNo winner t-shirt

NaNo Journal

Day 1 – 5665 words; feeling great! fearing week 2
Day 2 – pipe broke this morning flooding half the house; still made it to 10,374 words; missing Twitter more than FB (and cheating a little on the former)
Day 3 – unplanned meeting for work meant less writing today; hit 13,790
Day 4 – 18,043
Day 5 – Friday farm day ended up being all day; forced myself to 19,823 but it wasn’t pretty
Day 6 – So why did I agree to do farm stand today? writing lacked enthusiasm…21,759
Day 7 – lots of ideas laying in bed this morning; wanted to get writing right way, but B convinced me to run; powered through the 25k goal with 25,532 and actually really liked what I wrote
Day 8 – start of week 2 and the second time I’ve totally missed my morning writing session because of work; good evening session got me up to 28,544…and good ideas for tomorrow
Day 9 – ok, this is too much fun. I thought week 2 was supposed to be awful. 30,504
Day 10 + 11 – lots of good writing; 36,315
Day 12 – ridulous day, Farm Friday with plenty of extra drama…38,231 (and only because I decided anything was better than nothing). Tomorrow will be better.
Day 13 – 42,025
Day 14 – babysitting is not conducive to writing
Day 15 – Half-way monthwise and the words flew out today. Hard to stop at 48,700. Tomorrow’s the day!
Day 16 – I did it – 50,600! Now just another 75k or so to finish the story! I’m on a roll now.
Day 19 – been plowing ahead, writing something every day; at about 56k now; worried about how long this is going to end up.
Day 20 – one plot line took an unexpected twist today; 62,363
Day 21 – light day today…football…but got a thousand or so words in anyway
Day 22 – my own book made me sad today…still got to 68,229
Day 24 – had to stop short of a depressing death scene today, 75,089
Day 25 – Thanksgiving and I officially verified my word count on the Nano site. It was surprisingly emotional.
Day 26 – writing about severe psychological trauma…ugh
Day 29 – over 85,000 now and thinking about post-Nano life. Also thinking about axing one of my characters…not sure.
Day 30 – 88, 127…that’s about 130 single-spaced types pages