Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy Goat (ii)

(He's a wether, for sale, if you want him)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy goat

Monday Musical Object

Today's Monday Musical Object is...

...the “Original Jacket Collection:  Vladimir Horowitz”.  It’s an impressive chunk of recorded sound, the ten LPs Horowitz recorded for Columbia in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, including the double album of his return to Carnegie Hall, all on CDs packaged in slips printed with the original LP labels.  I got it, on sale, for $25. 

This is a crazy object on many levels.  First, the music.  Wow.  Horowitz.  The colors he could call out of a piano, the drama, the beauty, the charm, just…wow.  Faults may occasionally be found, or violations of modern taste, but they’re rare and subjective.  There’s not much can be said but…wow.

Once the jaw gets picked up off the floor, attention can be paid to the packaging.  It’s quaint.  It does make me nostalgic for the LP format: sleeve pictures could be large enough to be art, and liner notes could be informative.  The art has been shrunk, and the liner notes are still informative but make me reach for my glasses. 

Another thought-provoking feature of this object is the price.  Twenty-five bucks for some of the most amazing performances on record.  This is something that, while great for a consumer, is problematic.  Let’s say I am (as I once was) a young student without much money but seeking to broaden my knowledge of music with a nice recording of some Scarlatti.  I could risk paying full price for a newly issued CD, featuring a pianist who is developing an interesting career—say, the recent recording by Alexandre Tharaud. I could go further out on a limb and buy, at full price, a recording by somebody I’ve never heard of, but who has been picked up by a known label.  Or, I could go and buy Horowitz, for cheap.  Duh.  The only thing the recent recordings have to offer, to the naive, is superior sound quality, which doesn’t count for much in the MP3 age.  A performer today is in competition not just with her cohort, but with a century's ancestors.

So, there’s a final thought this cube of culture knocked out of my head.  On listening to it, it becomes apparent that Horowitz was very much a “live” performer.  There are artists who are at their best in the studio (Glenn Gould is one of many examples).  Then, there are those that you just have to be there for.  These recordings of Horowitz, many from concerts, are great, but it’s clear that the concert experience would have been transcendent. I don't think the attendees would have traded their ticket stubs for a shiny disc.

For about as long as there have been humans, there has been music—and when a human stopped actively making music, the music stopped.  For a tiny smidge of human history, we’ve been able to bottle up this temporal art, and in 2013 I can listen to a concert from 1965 played by a guy who died in 1989.  I’m not a hundred percent sure that this miracle is a good thing.  I have the Carnegie Hall concert playing in the background, and sadly, I’m not really paying attention to it.  I dip in and out—there was a five-minute pause between the last two paragraphs, while Horowitz played the snot out of the Bach-Busoni fugue in c minor—but right now I’m sort of humming idly along with the Schumann Fantasy.  I type, and the combined genius of Schumann and the talent of Horowitz provide nothing more than high-class background noise.  Doesn’t this cheapen the experience of music—especially at $25 for 10 CD’s?

I haven’t resolved this for myself, and in most cases, I don't need to.  There are recordings that I treasure—Horowitz playing the Rachmaninoff 3rd with Reiner, a lot of Glenn Gould’s work, and so on—that I will happily play as background while I muck out a goat pen, but that I also return to again and again, and listen to as hard as I can.  But there’s a separate class of recordings: recordings that I’ve played once, and they knocked my socks off and curled my hair.  Richter and Leinsdorf playing the Brahms Second Piano Concerto, Arrau playing the Liszt 1st Concerto, Godowsky playing the Chopin Berceuse…for some reason, I won't to return to these, though they wait for me.  It seems somehow unmannerly to hear them again, and sacrilegious to contemplate doing anything while they play.  These recordings remind me, paradoxically, that for virtually all of humanity—and probably, those in the audience in 1965—music is played, then stops,

                                           and is never heard again.     

I am curious, if anybody is out there reading this: is there anything transcendent and wonderful you’ve experienced—music, art of any sort, a place, anything—that you have perfect freedom to revisit, but won’t?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 in Review--the animals

It's the end of December, time for all those "Year in Pictures" and "Ten Best" things that fill in what should be a quiet time in the news.  It's also a convenient time for looking backwards at the year that was, and forwards to what we want to do.  So, hailing the spirit of Janus, I'm going to look backwards and forwards for a bit...

This was the year that it really sunk in that I'm in the business of keeping livestock.  Leaving 2012, we had a handful of does and ewes, not a whole lot of housing, and no rams.  There were a handful of pregnant sheep, but they had to drive an hour to meet the daddy.  A year later, we've got a lot more does and ewes, not to mention bucks and rams, both by purchase and "natural increase."   We have had our first births, our first selection (followed by our first trip to the livestock auction), and our first death.  We've had our first experiences with disbudding and castration.   We've also seen a couple of our animals go to new homes, where they'll hopefully be productive, and sold some product from some of our goats.

Of course, some things are constant.  There's always the chooks.

It's always useful to consider the data, so here it is.  "Bucks" and "Rams" are animals born male; they may not have finished the year with all their original equipment.  Click on the graph to enlarge:

It's pretty easy to see the arrival of the rams in February.  The next big blip is lambing, in May and June; we did well, with each ewe having two lambs, for seven ewe lambs to five ram.  We've kept one ram lamb intact, but he's probably going to get wethered. The remaining rams (now wethers) are destined for various meat lockers.  The ewe lambs are all out in the field getting fat and fuzzy. 

We had two rounds of kidding--one in August, and another in October.  We didn't do as well there--all the does had two kids, but from five births we only got four doe kids. Two left for Wisconsin in November, where they are getting a ridiculous amount of attention from our niece and nephews.  We euthanized another in December, a sad story that bears telling at another time.  So, we have come out of the year with one new home-bred doeling; all the other increase has been through purchases. One of this year's bucklings is a keeper; that leaves five wethers that will hopefully go to market, somehow. 

The big dip in the ewes in late August was the trip to auction, after we decided that not all our ewes were worth breeding.  One wethered buck also made the trip.  I was sorry to see them go, as a couple had nice personalities, but such is life on the farm.  Their numbers were largely made up for by the arrival of a group of ewes from a farm in Colorado.  

The Colorado ewes were accompanied by Eleanor, an Akbash guardian dog.  She joined Sophia Bumblebutt, the miniature Australian Shepherd.  Wedge and Spot, the kittens, have already been introduced.

Janus compels me to look forward as well as back, and there are some pretty solid predictions that I can make.  Those five goat wethers have got to go.  The sheep wethers will find homes on various dinner plates, as may any lambs that don't make the cut for conformation or wool quality.  Sixteen of our ewes were bred on November 7th, so there should be a deluge of lambs in the first week of April.  We'll be hosting a goat artificial insemination clinic in February, so that implies a deluge of kids in late July.   We have a couple of reservations for goat kids, but those are kind of open at this date.  There are also all the known unknowns--predation, illness, stillbirths, fatal problems with kidding or lambing, just suddenly up and dying--that are part of the package with farm life.  And, there are always the chooks.

The Real Doctor reminds me that I missed some data on the graph; the number of humans has remained constant at two. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wednesday Wordage opening a second front in the War on Christmas

"Merry Christmas" gets pretty perfunctory when it is said, or heard, for the thousandth time.  So I was a not sure if the clerk's diction, or my hearing, was at fault at the store today, I thought I had been wished hircismus.  Whatever.  If you get tired of holiday cheer, wish someone hircismus.  See how it goes.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

in which I feel like Prometheus (stealing fire, not the bit with getting my liver eaten by eagles eternally)

That is a bowl of cheese curds.  While they are not exactly dime-a-dozen in Wisconsin (more like $5.00/lb), they are very common there.  I grew to love cheese curds during my time in America's Dairyland, and  I have been in withdrawal ever since.  You simply can't find decent cheese curds in California--I tried some at the Davis farmers' market, but they were not so good.  Likewise, they're unavailable in Roseburg.  I remember samples of them as part of the Tillamook factory tour, but Tillamook is about four or five hours from here.  One sees them in groceries, but they are generally vacuum-packed and tagged with a sell-by date that is months in the future, suggesting a basic ignorance of the fact that they should be eaten less than a day after they were milk. 

So now I have made my own.  From the milk of my own goats, which is made from the grasses and brambles and grain and hay that I've fed them, from milk that was inside a goat earlier this morning, I've made cheddar cheese curds.  I've stolen the secret of cheese curds from Wisconsin, and I feel like Prometheus stealing fire from the gods.  And I've gotta say, those were some damn fine curds.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday Wordage: misterioso

First postcard, received a few weeks ago:

Image--woman using a knife to cut the rope tying her hands, taken from a newspaper comic.


Second postcard, received a few days ago:

Image--title panel from "Prince Valiant," depicting a haughty princess walking away from a couple of pretty fearsome warriors who are about to set upon each other; captioned "CORMAC HAS COME TO RETRIEVE HIS RUNAWAY WIFE, VALETA, AND HIS DEMAND IS ABOUT TO REAP A BLOODY HARVEST WHEN VALETA ASKS HIM TO STEP AWAY AND RESOLVE THE MATTER BETWEEN THEM ALONE.  CORMAC NODS AGREEMENT AND THE TWO RETREAT."



Well, needless to say, I'm puzzled by this mail, puzzled and amused.  I asked the Miguel I know about it, and he had no clue.  I do like Prince Valiant.  I've never felt any urge to join the rebels, and I have no bones to pick with any medieval warrior princes.  The cards appear to be printed on a printer, but they are addressed in pencil--in a hand I don't recognize.   I couldn't read the postmark on the first card, but the second one was marked Columbus, Ohio.  So, a bit of a mystery; and thus far, kind of entertaining.  Will the reason why actually be next???

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday Tool Winter is Coming Edition

It's been cold here for the last week.  As soon as the sun goes down, a thick fog develops and the temperature goes down to about 28 F.  With the waning moon, it gets really dark and cold, the lights from our neighbors barely visible and the noise from the road deadened.  Walking across the field to feed the sheep, I can slip into imagining that the world outside my headlight beam has fallen away and I've gone adrift in space.  I had a hard time recognizing my own sheep last night; in the dim light of the dying LEDs, they all looked white to me.  I was wondering what happened to all the black and brown ones--where's Woglinde?  Yvette?  Gretchen?  Rita Hayworth?  There's the right number of sheep here, but they're not all mine, are they?  Looking closer, I realized that they really were my sheep, but their fleeces were all painted silver with frost.  It wasn't yet 7:00 PM.   

When the sun comes up, the sky rarely clears and we've been lucky to get out of the 40's F.  The frigid mornings are not without beauty; every spiderweb spun in the length of summer, every tuft of wool left behind by a wandering sheep, is frosted and rimed.  The heads of the grasses are made more beautiful by the white highlights, and even blackberry leaves become appealing when outlined in ice.

But, it is cold, and there's work to do.  Hauling in yet another load of wood to feed the constantly-burning fireplace can keep me warm for a little while, making the rounds of the animals and hucking hay bales out of the truck.  But that warmth dissipates before all the work is done, and it seems the chill fog can touch your skin through anything.  So, the tool of the week has to be: 

Carhartt Flannel-Lined Jeans. 

When we moved here, we became aware of the various local tribes, how they distinguished themselves from each other and which to ally ourselves with.  One such division was the Filson/Carhartt schism.  Both are authentic and very much of this area.  The Filsonian culture is somewhat wealthier, and biased towards timber, ranching, and fly-fishing.  The Tribe Carhartt, at least locally, drives an older pick-up truck than the Filsonians, won't be seen in town during hunting season, and is more likely to have traces of its trade--caulk, manure, and such--anointing its trademark tan jacket. 

I wouldn't mind clothing myself in Filson and doing as the Filsonians do; I'd probably have more time to go hiking and such.  However, this morning, as most mornings, I got on my Carhartt flannel-lined jeans (with permanent stains on the knees from kneeling in pens to deal with kids and lambs), my Carhartt jacket (with paint stains, s#!t stains, tattoo ink stains, blood stains, and miscellaneous small rips), and my Carhartt watch cap (similarly stained, and which the Real Doctor concluded was my tool for cleaning the underside of the house), and marched out into the freezing fog to feed the sheep.  Flannel-lined jeans make life better. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Musical Offering note of approval

I have commented before on my love of Bach's Goldberg Variations.  I don't think I've commented about the pianist Jeremy Denk, but he also rates highly with me.  I first saw him in concert as an accompanist to Joshua Bell, and I spent more of the concert paying attention to Denk than to Bell.  Since then I've seen him again as accompanist and also in a solo recital, and I've been consistently impressed. 

The solo recital featured book I of the Ligeti Etudes, some huge maelstrom of notes by Liszt, and the Goldbergs.  It was one of the more interesting reads of the variations that I'd heard.  Well, Mr. Denk has finally recorded the Goldbergs, and the recording reminds me of why I so thoroughly enjoyed the recital.  The variations are a rich enough text that like the Bible or Shakespeare, you can find an interpretation to suit your needs whatever they may be.  What Denk found, and presented, is something that I haven't heard much.  He gives us a sort of extremely intelligent, playful humor.  There are 2nd-grader jokes, and there are jokes that give you the impression that the world is pausing to gently laugh at its own intricate behavior, and the latter are the kind of jokes that Denk sees Bach serving up.  This is consistent with the performers (public) personality; if you want a slightly cerebral laugh, go visit his infrequently updated blog.

Anyway, I hereby recommend this album.  It's not the best recording out there, because such a thing no more exists than the correct interpretation of the Torah.  However, it's a really cogent, beautiful, witty performance and well worth your while. 

(Post script--I seem to have not written here in a while.  My apologies.  Life has been hectic in the extreme, but I hope to get back on this particular horse.)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Musical Offering...crank up the bass!

For truly brain-case-wasting bass, there is only one way to go:

So, just like last year, we had a feral momcat produce a litter of kittens in our field.  We captured the kittens and the mom; we had hopes that the mom would be domesticable, since she was a potent rodenticide and didn't run away like last year's momcat.  (Until we captured her, we only ever saw the hind end of last year's momcat; this year's, I almost stepped on several times during my daily walks.) However, it was not to be; domesticity did not suit her, or at least being trapped did not, and she almost killed herself trying to get away.  She has, most likely, met the same fate as last year's momcat at the local animal shelter.

However, her three sons were the purringest kittens we'd ever met. We've kept two, hopefully as combination rodenticide/ housecats.  Stereo Left is Wedge (Brother E. wanted to discourage us from keeping any of the kittens; this kitten was the first one we captured, and E. warned us that he was the thin end of the wedge.)  Stereo Right is Spot (Because...well, we'll let you figure it out).  If you put your head between these two, the low-frequency vibrations will loosen your fillings and blur your vision--in the most satisfied, contented way.  In the photo, I am listening to a loop of the opening pedal-point of Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


The last couple of days saw me drive to Portland, and back, and again to Portland, and back...about 800 miles, and several hours getting lost or stuck in traffic.  One of the few things that makes such days tolerable is our trusty Sirius satellite radio, mostly tuned to the Met Opera Radio station, but occasionally tuned to NPR.  The news programming was about the lunatics taking over the asylum, and about people actually obtaining health insurance.  The opera du jour was Verdi's La Traviata.  So I found my mind wandering as I drove through the pouring rain in the Willamette Valley, listening to Violetta delicately coughing her lungs out while moaning "E tardi!" ...
"...She's a courtesan so she's self-employed, and she's definitely got a pre-existing condition--and who knows, maybe syphilis--but now that the exchanges are open, she shouldn't have to sell all of her belongings to get Dr. Grenvil to come and visit her...a good course of antibiotics, she and Alfredo might have a future..."

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Flora It Might As Well Be Spring Edition

Might as well.  These popped up after that rainfall that came our way a couple of weeks ago.

It rained again today, pretty hard for a bit, and pounded them to shreds. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday words, equine genetics edition

Observations from riding our bike past a farm with a couple of medium-sized draft horses:

Q:  What do you get when you cross a Haflinger with a quarter-horse?
A:  Approximately 12.5 centimorgans

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Tool Tyin' 'em off edition

The tool today is the elastrator, and the associated rubber band.

I am a terrible blogger.  I should keep up to date, but I have not--witness the six goat kids bouncing around outside the window, heretofore unmentioned.  I should post cute photos--and there is precious little as cute as a precious little goat kid--and I have not.  As for the first failing, well, that cat is out of the bag.  As for the second, here, have this:

Those little kids are both bucklings.  The association between male goats and randy behavior is cliched, but until you actually see a two-day-old buckling making the moves on his brother, you don't really appreciate quite how strong the drive is in these guys.  These little lads are now about two months old, and it won't be too long before they are not just play-acting.  We don't really want that--we want to control who breeds with whom, not to mention avoiding incest.  So, out comes the elastrator. 

Pretty quick work, actually.  Slip the little orange cheerio(TM) over those four prongs, squeeze the handles, and it opens up about two inches--wide enough to fit over the necessary bits.  Roll the rubber band off of the prongs, and you're done.  The kids appeared to be slightly uncomfortable for about an hour, but it seems (based on some conversations I've had) far less painful than a vasectomy.  Another week or so, the whole package will fall off, and we will no longer have bucklings--we'll have wethers. 

Brother E. is in New Zealand at the moment, revisiting the city we lived in for a year when I was five.  I don't remember much of the place, but I do remember wonderful beaches.  A feature of all the beaches in New Zealand, as I recall it, was that the tideline was marked by those little orange cheerios.  New Zealand has a lot of sheep, which means a lot of lambs.  All of those lambs get their tails docked, and a lot of them get castrated, so a lot of those little orange cheerios get washed downstream.  Brother E. has visited the beaches, and says that he hasn't seen too many of them--I'm not sure if it's because of changes in practices, or because lambing season has just started there. 

Did I mention lambs?  We have lambs too.  See?  Bad blogger.  Baad!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Musical Instrument Plugged-in edition

The Real Doctor and I were on the road last week, visiting folks in the cheesy state of Wisconsin.  Travel was normal for this day and age.  We left at 3:00 AM, and after driving to Eugene, flying to Salt Lake City, Detroit, and Madison, and then driving some more, we hit the hay at about 11:00 PM.  For the longest leg of the trip, an unhappy combination of carry-on luggage and the bloke in front of me wanting to recline all the way gave me a real understanding of soft torture in the form of "stress positions."  Essentially, I was wedged into a position that was slightly uncomfortable, but forced to stay in that position, unmoving, for a few hours.  As we descended into Detroit, I was in pain.  Had the flight continued for another five hours, I probably would have spilled whatever beans I possess. 

The way back was slightly less tiresome; leaving at 2:00 in the afternoon, we arrived here at home at 1:00 in the morning.  While we were waiting in the airport in Salt Lake City, we noticed a fellow with a kind of unusual violin case--it seemed a little outsize, but not viola-sized.  So, we asked him about it, and he most generously agreed to show us the contents when we arrived in Eugene. 

If I'm not mistaken, his instrument is the very one shown on this page, as "A New Bradivarius Golden Tone Five-String":

It's neat to look at this instrument, after fixating on the classic Cremonese stuff for so long.  It's clearly a fiddle, but unhesitatingly taken in new directions.  The corners are deliberately--and pleasingly--rounded, making measured and planned what centuries of chance do to a Guarneri.  The f-holes, while not to my taste, are thought out.  Rosewood sides?  A purple tinge to the varnish?  White maple trim, and white volute trim?  Why not!  And throw a pick-up into the bridge, too.  It has a nice look, and is of its time.  The fifth string is a little odd--it changes the shape of the bridge, and sounds slightly different from the rest of the strings, but it definitely gives the instrument the versatility the player wants.  The player--a commercial pilot by trade--uses it primarily for Arabic and Irish music.  He played it a bit (with a Coda carbon bow, natch) and with the caveat that he was playing quietly in a baggage claim area, it sounded alright.  Certainly better than any violin I've ever made.

Skewing the Polls

We got a call on Sunday from the Gallup organization; they were conducting a poll and wanted our input.  I agreed to play along with them.  The only policy-related questions were about trust in government agencies, whether I had enough confidence in the privacy protections used by those agencies, and whether (for example) the Census Bureau should be allowed to use data from other agencies rather than direct surveys.

However, many of the questions were about what I consider atmospherics, of the order of "In the last week, have you read a local newspaper?" or "In the last week, have you visited a doctor?"  After a bunch of questions focusing on the last week, my interrogator then switched the context:  "OK, for the next questions, I want you to think about how you felt and what you did yesterday."

I explained that the previous day was Yom Kippur, and so my answers would by no means be representative.  The pollster said no matter, just answer.  So, we went through a bunch of questions.  On that day, was I well rested?  Would I describe my mood as happy, normal, or depressed?  Did I have any of the following:  Headache, backache, digestive woes, etc? (I always get a headache from being dehydrated).  Was I anxious?  If so, was it about money, family, etc?  Was I hungry, or did I have to skip any meals?  Again and again, I explained that the answers would be skewy, but we kept going.

Finally, the last few questions were demographic, age, race, etc--including religion: would I describe myself as Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, or other?

It was amusing, and if you find yourself being told that you're hungrier and more introspective and prone to headaches than you think you are, then you can blame me.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Friday Flora Late Summer edition

It's September, the end of a long summer.  Summer is the dry season here, and it started early this year.  It wasn't particularly hot, but it was particularly dry--the rain stopped early, and there wasn't much of the usual random sprinkles in the summer months.

I can't remember who said it, or whether they were describing the 200 meter or the 400 meter sprint, but they might as well have been describing grazing in the local climate:  "The first half you sprint as hard as you can, and the second half you hang on and hope you don't die."  We came out of the blocks early in the year with lush green fields from a nice soggy winter.  None of the animals really wanted any hay or anything, just lovely pasture.  They didn't even really drink much, getting most of their water from the grass and dew.  The ewes and does were gestating, but not nursing.  Everybody was getting fat and happy.

Around about July, this year--earlier than is normal--things started to dry out.  The hay began to look more appetizing.  The moms were busy nursing, trying to get calories and nutrients for themselves and two lambs.  And now, here we are in September.  The lambs are weaned, but still growing and very hungry.  The moms, who by the end of July were so depleted that they resembled woolly skeletons, are being stuffed with as much hay and grain as they can eat. Thankfully, they are starting to put on some weight, but they are still too skinny to breed.  The fields are dry, the grass mostly dead and mostly void of nutrition.  I've been hard pressed for time, so I haven't been able to move the animals to fresh pasture recently, though it wouldn't make too much difference.  We are going through hay at an alarming rate.

Everybody else has the same weather.  The hay growers also didn't get a lot of rain, so hay's expensive.  All the other folks with sheep and goats and cows didn't get much rain, so they need more hay than usual.  The co-op has put a limit of six bales per day per customer on hay purchases. Those six bales will run over a hundred dollars, and feed my beasties for about a week--along with grain mix, corn, fermented alfalfa, and alfalfa pellets.  Everybody's in that last leg of the sprint, looking for the finish line when the ground will start to feed the animals again.

So, it's a nice start to the year--l'Shana Tova, y'all--that we had a real rainstorm move through yesterday.  Along with a couple of other squalls, we've gotten maybe as much as a half inch of precipitation in the last few weeks.  It's not the end of summer, but it's been enough to wake up some of the seeds and perk up the mosses, and just make me feel a little bit better.  Much as I'm panicking about the stuff that's got to be done before the wet season, I'm glad that we can glimpse the end of the dry. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Musical Offering Violins Violence edition

I have written here before about how wonderful Stradivari violins are, and how they have a hold on the popular imagination.  One thing that’s not well-publicized about them, and that I had no clue about until I was more thoroughly introduced to the world of lutherie, is that the “Stradivarius” instruments performed on today are quite different from what left Antonio’s shop back in the early 1700’s. 

The difference between the Stradivarius that left the maker’s hands three hundred years ago and the instrument played today is akin to the difference between a Model A Ford, fresh from the Dearborn assembly line, and a tangerine-orange-sparkle chopped and modded Deuce Coupe hot rod.  Some of the modifications to the violins are simply a matter of maintenance—cleats to repair cracks, or patches to make up for distortion from the sound post.  

However, most of the modifications affect the performance of the instruments.  Bass bars have been replaced—part of normal maintenance, but the replacements are generally much beefier than the original slivers of spruce.  The tailgut attachments would be unfamiliar to Antonio.  Fingerboards have been replaced by something narrower, longer, and lighter.  All necks are modern replacements: Cremonese necks were actually (*gasp*) nailed to the body of the violin, while new necks are mortised into place.  Also, the neck angle is quite different from what Stradivari installed.  In addition to such structural issues, almost all surviving fiddles have been polished and revarnished an unknown number of times. 

All this modification leads to instruments perfect for a modern style of playing, but they are not what their author intended.  There is a movement towards playing baroque music—the music of Stradivarius’ time—on instruments that have either been left in their original state, or newly made to baroque spec.  However, it’s hard to find great original instruments.  If an instrument was good, then its owners generally paid to have it kept up-to-date.  Those instruments left untouched were, frankly, not touched a whole lot to begin with.  Nonetheless, the original instruments movement has its dedicated, sometimes fanatical adherents.

This leads to an intriguing story.  I have to be circumspect in relating this, since it is something that is being actively kept out of the news by the request of the concerned parties.  I found out about it through a person I am at liberty to describe only as a well-connected-friend-of-a-luthier in the Eastern Hemisphere.  However, as a story of musical intrigue and deceit, it ranks with the recorded legacy of Joyce Hatto, and I think it ought to be public.  Such is life in the internet age; keeping secrets is impossible and trying is futile. 

One of the 20th century’s greatest violinists was Erika Morini.  A child prodigy, she had a shining career performing around the world until her retirement in the 1970’s, after which her star rapidly faded.  Since her 20’s, she played on a 1727 Strad, known as the “Davidoff.”  She kept the fiddle after her retirement, almost until her death in 1995.  At some time during her terminal illness, when she was on her sickbed, the Davidoff, along with much of her musical and artistic memorabilia, was stolen.  The case has never been cracked, and the Davidoff-Morini Strad, worth over $3.5 million, vanished. 

Until, maybe, now.  About a year ago, a nondescript box from a nonexistent address in Madagascar arrived at the Chei Mi Museum in Taiwan.  It contained a violin.  The body and scroll and label appear, by every test, to be those of the Davidoff-Morini.  Comparisons of the mystery instrument with the best available photographs match, scar for scar, tree-ring for tree-ring.  However, the fiddle has been modified from when it was last seen almost twenty years ago.  A proper Baroque fingerboard has been fitted, underneath gut strings and a lower bridge.  The neck has (with extraordinary workmanship) been replaced by one fitted in the ancient method.  In perhaps the most shocking and visible bit of work, the instrument has been completely revarnished, with no regard to preserving the few scraps of original finish—it was varnished as if it were a new instrument.  It is clear that incredible effort and skill had been used in restoring the Davidoff-Morini to its 1727 condition. 

No individual has taken responsibility for this bizarre un-theft and anti-vandalism, although there was a note accompanying the violin.  The note was a manifesto, in French, signed by the executive committee of the “Stradivari Liberation Front.”  My contact sent me some camera-phone pictures, but between my poor French and poor lighting I can only approximate the manifesto's contents.  It avers that the instrument is the Davidoff-Morini.  It goes on to cite the “atrocities committed by Vuillaume and his legion of ...[unclear]… race for louder and higher and brighter noise,” and the history of insults to “the master of all of us luthiers.” Apparently the goal of the SLF is to “acquire, by legal means or otherwise,” great classic instruments and “rescue them from abasement and slavery and restore them to their rightful [unclear: ?condition?].”  The note apparently urges the Chei Mi, as “responsible guardians of the heritage of the world” to treasure the violin and present it before the public, playing the music it was meant to play, played in the style it was meant to be played.

Needless to say, this has caused a deal of consternation, though it has been kept very hush-hush.  The instrument has not been displayed, nor played in public (my contact insists that it sounds incredible).  The insurers—and it’s not clear how they found out about the instrument—dryly maintain that it is the Davidoff-Morini, and since they paid the claim when it was stolen, they are the owners.  The Chei Mi has not acknowledged the incident, officially or unofficially, although I’m told they intend to keep the instrument as "a violin of uncertain provenance, attributed to Stradivari, acquired by anonymous gift."

What brings this to a head—where the story gets so good that my contact couldn’t keep silent any more—is the arrival of another nondescript box from a nonexistent address (this time in Suriname) at the Chei Mi Museum.  It contained, by every test, the 1734 “Ames” Stradivari, perfectly restored to “authentic” condition.  The “Ames” was stolen in 1981, and its last known owner, Roman Totenberg, died last year.  The violin came with another note from the Stradivari Liberation Front, hinting at more to come and naming some names, but only if the instruments were played in public as the SLF intended.  This could get interesting. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wednesday Wordage Parasitic edition

I think my goal for the next couple of years will be to master the skills of robotics, electronics, programming, and engineering.  I will then use those skills to make small aerial drones, equipped with compact chromatographs and spectrometers that will be able to analyze the air they fly through.  They will be able to detect trace amounts of a staggeringly wide variety of airborne chemicals, ranging from gases to aerosols to particulates, identify them all and trace them to their point of origin.  These autonomous robots would act like a swarm of noses, and would be tremendously useful in a number of applications.  I would call them "nose bots."

And, all the effort would be worth it if I could obliterate from my mind what "nose bots" really are--we may have them in our flock of sheep, so I had to do some reading about them.  Eeeeew.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Breakfast with Boocoo and Sneggy

Breakfast with Boocoo and Sneggy: a caprine caper.

Dramatis Personae:

Human . . . . . . . A human

Boocoo . . . . . . . A goat kid

Sneggy . . . . . . . . A goat kid

Scene: barn, exterior.  After noises of struggle, enter two goat kids, on leads, pulling human.  The goat kids surge towards two bowls of grain mix, while the human ties their leads to a hitching post--making sure that there is no way that one goat can get to the other's grain.

Boocoo:  Food!  FoodfoodfoodfoodfoooooodFOOD! (very loud munching noises)

Sneggy:  Food!  FoodfoodfoodfoodfoooooodFOOD!  Hey!  This is food, mostly.  (Looks at human, then nibbles at food)

Boocoo:  (very loud munching noises)

Sneggy:  (nibbling noises)  Hey, was that a sheep I heard?  (looks around; stares, at length, into the distance)

Boocoo:  (very loud munching noises)

Sneggy:  (Still staring)  Pretty sure that was a sheep...

Human:  Sneggy!  Focus!  Eat!  (jiggles bowl of grain)

Sneggy:  Hey!  There's food here.  (Looks at human, then nibbles at food)

Boocoo:  (very loud munching noises)

Sneggy:  (nibbling noises) Wait--I think I heard a log truck...yes, yes...definitely a log truck.  You know that they have log trucks going by on the road there?  (stares, at length, at the road)

Boocoo:  (very loud munching noises)

Human:  Sneggy!  Focus!  Eat!  (jiggles bowl of grain)

Sneggy:  Hey!  There's food here.  Did you know there's food here?  (Looks at human, then nibbles at food)

Boocoo:  (very loud munching noises)

Sneggy:  (nibbling noises)  Hey!   Did you you know that there are dried peas in this grain mix?  And alfalfa pellets?  did you know that I don't really like them?  (stares at human, aggrieved; starts to wander around, tangling leash on hitching post.)

Boocoo:  (very loud munching noises; these stop, as there is no more grain.  loud whuffling noises, as goat tries to vacuum up bits of grain dust)

Human:  (jiggling Sneggy's grain bowl) Sneggy!  Focus!  Eat!  Look--lots of barley, corn, oilseed, calf manna--lots of good stuff!

Sneggy:  Wow!  There's food here!  Where did that come from?!  (Looks at human, then nibbles at food)

Boocoo:  (straining at lead, trying to reach Sneggy's bowl)

Sneggy:  (nibbling noises; pauses)  You know, there's a really nice view of those hills from here.  I could just stand here and stare, and stare, and stare, and stare, and...are those cows over there? Cows are kind of neat.  They're like giant goats, really.  Cows eat grass, you know.  There's grass here.  I wonder how grass looks to a cow.  I wonder how grass looks to a crow.  I heard a crow once.  I heard a raven, too.  Crows are different from ravens.  Ravens and crows and cows.  It's weird that crows and cows are so different, but only differ in spelling by one letter.  If things made sense, I think ravens should be called cows.  But then ravens would have to eat grass...(verbal wandering is paralleled by wandering around on lead; at this point, walks through food bowl, catches side, flinging contents over entire porch.)

Sneggy:  Ooooo!  That was food!  Where did that come from?!  Somebody should clean it up. 

Boocoo:  Ooooo!  Food!  FoodfoodfoodfoodfoooooodFOOD! (very loud munching noises) 

Human:  ******!!!!!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Musical Offhand Remark

We are finally getting our house painted.  I wanted to do this, in order to economise, but I have been kept too busy to spend the month it would take for me to do the job.  So, once again there are contractors on site, and once again I am learning what is going on this instant in pop music.  I don't enjoy the music, but I'm generally not in the house and I like for the folks working here to be happy.  So, one one of them took a break from filling in the cracks between boards to ask me if I minded his blasting some Led Zeppelin, I told him, "no, you look like a guy who wants to rock out with his caulk out."  He seemed amused.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday Flora Old Growth edition

I haven't posted much about the work on the house of late, largely because there hasn't been any work on the house of late.  However, we are getting the house painted, and as part of the preparation, I had to repair some of the siding.  The siding on the "old" part of the house is, we think, original, 1936.  The siding on the addition, which I installed, is standard stuff from one of the local mills, probably only a few years old and grown in a monoculture factory forest.  It's revealing to look at a slice of each.  Do click on the picture, the wood is quite beautiful:
One can state neutral facts about each: the old growth is fantastic wood.  The boards are ten feet long and completely clear, and there's over 20 rings going across that board.  They've lasted nigh on eighty years, and while the wood is somewhat brittle (see the chip on the lower left) and has been home to carpenter ants (the holes on the right), it continues to hold up wonderfully well.  It seems to have only had one coat of paint, ever.  The new wood, with its widely spaced rings, just looks cheap in comparison--it's cupped, and to get ten feet of board, the mill splices together a bunch of segments of two to six feet.  The soft part of the bands breaks out easily, and I had a difficult time getting a thin slice--see the jagged bottom edge, and the giant chunk on the right.

However, this is timber country, and around here, it's impossible to be neutral about these two pieces of wood.  The economy of this area pretty much grew on that old growth wood, and now that harvesting has been curtailed, the economy has been contracting for a couple of decades.  No really satisfactory replacement for the timber industry has been found.  There are lots of towns--counties even--with futures that look grim on this account.  Just up the road from us is Glide, a small town.  No stop lights, but it's got a P.O., an old elementary school, a newer high school, a bunch of churches, etc.  In the center of town, there's a mothballed lumber mill, still with weathered stacks of logs and lumber that haven't been bothered by human hands in years.  There were a handful of cafes and shops and the like, but most have closed; sometimes the town looks like its dying from the inside out.  I wouldn't bet that the town will have half of its current population in fifty years.* 

Almost every resident of Glide would see the story of their town in those two pieces of wood.  Certainly, every contractor who's worked here has seen a similar story when they see the wood this house is built with.  A couple have given me lengthy arguments about why it's environmentally irresponsible not to harvest old growth timber: Old-growth forests are stagnant, equilibrated.  There was this one watershed where clear-cutting actually increased the number of trout in the streams.  If we're concerned about global warming, then we should want clear-cutting since new forests capture much more carbon than old-growth.  (The next day the same guy went on a rant about how global warming is bunk, certainly not anthropogenic, and if does exist, it's most likely due to H-bomb tests and sunspots.) The timber industry has even put out a Bizarro-world version of the Lorax, called "Truax", which blurts out most of the same, along with the salient point that nobody really cares if a few species you've never seen go extinct. 

Before I lived here, it was much easier to say that there was no merit to the arguments supporting harvest of old-growth forest.  I'm still opposed to it, but the cost is in my face; I'm saying that the old growth has greater value than the town of Glide.  If I have my way, these towns will have a radically different (and worse) future, and previously open roads to prosperity are closed. 

I still see myself, at least in part, as a teacher, with a set of skills that I've worked hard to develop.  However, today, the power of money is pushing standardized testing and MOOCs, and pushing me to obsolescence.  So, I can definitely sympathise with Glide.  Me, the lumberjack, Glide, the northern spotted owl, Detroit--we are all trying to figure out how to cope with uncomfortably reduced livelihoods and futures where we may be obsolete. 

*Timber is most of the story, but not all; the venality of 19th-century robber barons and railroad swindlers actually plays some role--look into the history of the Oregon and California Railway for more info. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wednesday not-wordage

Just about every major intersection in Eugene is graced by a scruffy gentleman with a couple of backpacks or a shopping cart, standing and holding a cardboard sign saying something along the lines of "DISABLED UNEMPLOYED VET HOMELESS EVERY BIT HELPS JESUS LOVES."  Well, I drove through Eugene yesterday--only got lost once, personal best--and there at the intersection of Destitution and Performance Art was a scruffy gentleman with a couple of backpacks, holding his empty hands in front of him, miming holding a cardboard sign. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wednesday Wordage

What's the common thread?
a) Cryptobranchus alleganiensis
b) Eptatretus stoutii
c) Fuligo spp.
d) Okra

Highlight for answer:  C. alleganiensis is the hellbender salamander, aka "snot otter," E. stoutii is the Pacific slime hag, Fuligo is a slime mold, and Okra is, well, okra.  There was an article on the radio today that used the term snot otter, and I just love it. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ugh. (updated)

What better way to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Kursk than with an epic tank battle?

So, among the relics left on our property by the previous owners, there is this big tank.  In this old picture, it's there beneath the oak tree, eight or nine feet tall. 

Moving it, or dealing with it in any way, has not been a priority.  True, it hasn't been in the way, and it's big and heavy and awkward.  The real reason I haven't bothered with it, though, is that when you get near it, you start smelling something that is unidentifiable and unpleasant--not quite corpse, not quite spoilage, not quite bog, but definitely not good.  Tapping on the side seemed to indicate at least a few inches of...something...in there.  The top was open, so rain and leaves, and perhaps the occasional curious animal could easily get in, but not get out.  And so it had been, for at least two cycles of sodden winter and baking summer.

Unfortunately, this week, it became necessary to shift the monster.  It took a tractor to tip the darn thing over, and the tractor was working hard.  The sludge inside didn't pour out, but needed considerable help with a hoe to come out.

It is left to the reader's imagination to supply the sound effect that the substance made as it exited the tank and hit the growing pile.  What exactly was in there? As expected, a goodly amount of tree matter, and what may have been a rodent, but the bulk of it was...


The previous owners of the property, before they quit, ran cattle on the main field, and they liked to use molasses as a feed supplement.  So, what I was scooping out of the tank was a savage, feral sort of spiced rum--fermented molasses, barrel-aged, with vegetable additives.  As with the sound effect, describing the odor is likewise left to the reader's imagination. 

At the bottom of the tank, giving further evidence of the monster's contents, were many chunks of rock sugar.

I suppose I could take them to the farmers' market and hawk them as healing crystals, or maybe naturally flavored candy.  Anyway, the tank has left the field of battle, and now the goats can move in. 

Update--after spending most of an afternoon trying to clean molasses spluge out of a grassy field, I think it would have been more appropriate (if anniversaries were important) to have done this on January 15th.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Flora Littoral/litter edition

Some sand verbena (Abronia latifolia), Oregon Dunes. 

A lovely day at the dunes a week or so ago.  The dunes are a most interesting ecosystem--it seems you always find fascinating ecosystems in crappy environments, and a sand dune is a pretty crappy environment for a plant.  The beach is also of interest, at low tide it's flat and well over a hundred meters from dunes to water. 

This being a Pacific coast beach in 2013, there was plenty of garbage to be picked up.  I hiked out with thirty pounds of fishing float and styrofoam and nylon rope on a stick, carried like a yoke.  Brother M. & sweetie carried crammed-full knapsacks and bags of plastic bottles from Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and elsewhere.  The beach is lovely, but it is so hard to see all the debris we have put there and not think of this.  Warning--link will make you feel very, very bad. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tuesday Tool...

...as in, "tooling around on my bike."  Both the Real Doctor and I have had a hard time getting into really good riding shape over the last few years--work getting crazy, or moving, or starting a farm, or health, or my parents' health, it seems like we'll start riding regularly and then something will blow up just as we start getting into shape.  Then, after two months of dealing with the crisis du jour, we're back to wheezing through a flat, twenty mile ride and feeling awful.

Well, we're riding more regularly now and have been for the last couple of months.  We certainly can't use the excuse that there's no place to ride.  Here's some pictures from a ride out our door.  At twenty five miles with a bit of climbing, it's a bit long to be quotidian, but short enough to do a couple of times a week.

A couple of miles of riding on Hwy 138 takes us over a ridge, and puts us in the valley of the North Umpqua river.  There's a bit of flat land in the river valley at this point, with some nice farms; the hills in the background are on the other bank, rising to Mt. Scott and four thousand something feet.
 Our ride goes along the North Umpqua for a few miles; we don't need to cross, but the view from the bridge is nice.  This is looking east, up the river towards Crater Lake.
 And, looking west.  The river's kind of low, now, with the dry year.  In winter, it's a couple of meters higher.  The river flows across sedimentary mudstones, giving a very corrugated bed.
 We follow the river to the town of Glide, and the landmark "Colliding Rivers."  The mudstone is cut here by a sill of basalt.  The North Umpqua flows in from the background of this picture, running along the sill; the Little River, having run into the same sill, flows in from the lower right of this picture.  The two rivers collide head-on, and flow out through a narrow chasm at the center left of this picture.  In flood, it's a remarkable sight.  Our ride leaves the Umpqua, and goes up the Little River for a mile or two.  Not shown:  a couple of ospreys. 
 We've left the Little River, and are riding up a tributary creek.  The road climbs easily but steadily, through some beautiful farmland.  This is looking back towards the Little River...
 ...and this is looking ahead, to what we'll be climbing over. 
 The climb steepens considerably, requiring the next-to-lowest gear for a half mile or so; this is looking back, but you can't really see how steep it is. 
 Here's right near the summit.  There's a false summit, a short, fast descent, and then another climb to the real summit.  It's right about here, on the descent between peaks, that a yellow jacket flew up my shorts (I was riding a recumbent, wearing baggy shorts) and stung me on the butt.  Hazards of riding.
 Once over the top, there's a couple of miles of lovely downhill and views.  Not shown: the border collie rounding up a herd of sheep, its owner whistling commands. 
 An inescapable part of the view in Oregon is that the economy is still largely based on extractive industries.  A lot of the greenery one sees on the hills is stuff that has been clear-cut and then replanted with monoculture.  If you're just tooling along, it's hard to tell the difference--treetops look like treetops, no matter the age--unless you have some way of telling that they're only a couple of meters tall.  Or, you can see a clear cut. 
 The end of the descent drops into another beautiful valley with nice farms; here's looking back to where we rode from, the left background of the photo.  Not shown: drivers waving at you.  Just about every driver waves, which is disconcerting if you come from California where you typically get other hand gestures. 
 This is looking ahead.  If we kept going straight, this road would join a larger creek and go straight into downtown Roseburg in six or seven miles.  However, we're going to go right--to the north--at the base of that brown hill on the right. 
 Here's a view of where we'll be going--we're going to ride up and over that brown, grassy ridge. 
 This is the view from the base of that ridge, looking back.  The blackberries are starting to come into season!
 Riding up the ridge, one is treated to another nice view of another nice valley.  This is a gated road; it used to service a timber mill, which is now closed down--another drawback to extractive economies is that they collapse.  However, it's a nice (though not maintained) road and has no traffic.  Not shown are the lazuli buntings and goldfinches. 
 We've crested the ridge, and we're looking back at it in the center left of the picture.  Riding the gated road has spared us riding up Hwy 138, the large (and relatively busy) road in the center of the picture. 
 Here we're looking forward from the same spot.  We'll continue on Hwy 138.  Two miles of downhill will take us into that valley, right to our driveway.  A nice ride. 
  As the Real Doctor has pointed out, it's nice to live in a place you wouldn't mind vacationing.  I hope we can keep riding more.  We don't have a lot of riding options from our door, but they are all nice--I'll try to put up more pictures of other rides later.  Maybe in the spring, when things green up a bit more.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wednesday Wordage context is everything edition

I often find myself marveling at where I am and how different it is from my previous life.  Two years ago, had you told me "You will spend an afternoon assembling a creep panel, and then you'll spend a chunk of the next day rueing," I would be a bit confused.  I'd probably come to the conclusion that, for some reason, I'd decided to form a committee of the weirdest people I knew for some reason, and that I'd later experience some regret.

Now, I know better.  A creep panel does not invite perverts; rather, it's a panel in a fence that excludes adult animals, but allows lambs or kids to creep through to some high-calorie food.  My former self would refer to it as a 0.2 m filter, cellulose.  And "rueing" or "rooing" (spellings vary) is not at all unpleasant; rather, it's kind of relaxing and leaves both parties involved feeling better.  Under certain conditions--a hot spell combined with the nutritional demands of nursing, or simply the change of season, can cause a sheep's hair follicles to just let go of the hair, with the result that great chunks of wool can simply be pulled off, or rued.  Rooing is as therapeutic as peeling sunburn, and it leaves the sheep feeling much less itchy. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Oak Creek Campaign--Year One

The property we purchased a year and a half ago had been neglected for quite a while.  Fixing a few years of neglect on a house and 25 acres is a real battle--and sometimes I think about it in those terms.  I've gone on about the house previously; the war there is not won, but is stalemated while our resources and attention have been focused on the grounds.  Our first animals arrived almost exactly a year ago.  There has been lots of action since then, including some setbacks (or "learning," as it is more euphemistically called), and lots of sweat, and some progress.  Here's a map showing the advances and retreats over the last year. 
Aerial reconnaissance shows a property overgrown with Himalayan blackberry (light green mounds), and at least one decrepit building (marked with red star).  The available recon is out of date; it underestimates the amount of blackberry, and all fencing was completely degraded.

Operation HOT FENCE:  The initial attack was on blackberries in the main pasture by brush hog, followed by installation of a four foot, 2x4 inch no-climb fence with three strands of electric wire (black line).  Action was delayed by almost six months by weather.  The decrepit barn put up only token resistance before being knocked over and burned.  After the initial assault, blackberries are regrowing.
Operation CHICKEN DANCE:  The shock troops in our assault were chickens; the coop was placed in the main pasture. 
We initially placed a fence around the coop, fearing predation. 
The chickens, being zealous troops with airborne capability, ignored the fence, and have expanded their range considerably.  However, their strategic effect has been negligible.
Operation WHITE CASTLE:  The first real assault on the grounds was made by a rookie regiment of yearling Nigerian Dwarf goats.  These occupied a play castle that had been built by the previous owners and taken over by blackberry and poison oak, and established headquarters therein.  A perimeter was established using materials leftover from HOT FENCE, and virtually everything green within the perimeter was eliminated.

Operation SHOCKING GOAT:  Following the success of the goats in the castle, we attempted an assault on the dense blackberries surrounding the demolished structure and nearby walnut trees.  This was also a test of a new type of electric fence. 
The goats may have been intimidated by the overwhelming amount of blackberries, or perhaps homesick.  A mutiny, led by Ariella, resulted in the regiment's rout and retreat (running through electric fencing) to their secure territory in the castle. 
Operation CROWDED SHEEP:  A regiment of yearling ewes, who had been housed in a converted dog run, were moved into the Sheep Housing/Mobility Unit (SHMU; blue rectangle), a trailer converted into luxurious sheep cote.  Although the sheep were now nominally in the pasture, they were kept in the SHMU due to a lack of adequate fencing.  At the same time, operation HORNY GOAT established a presence of male goats in a fenced-off garden area (red checkers). 

Operation HAPPY HOOVES:  Given the standoff on the goat front, it was deemed necessary to open a second front.  The SHMU regiment was moved to a new part of the pasture, and a small enclosure of Premier 1 Electromesh fencing was erected.  The sheep rapidly occupied the area, obliterating all herbacious resistance, and the perimeter was secure. A regiment of second- and third-year ewes was introduced to the dog runs. 

The success of HAPPY HOOVES was capitalized on by expansion of the perimeter around the SHMU as more Electromesh became available.  The regiment of ewes rapidly and efficiently decimated all resistance within the perimeter, creating a situation in which their advances threatened to outrun the supply of fencing.  After a lengthy delay, operation BARN DANCE (grey rectangle) began the construction of a new, permanent barn.  Operation BARN DANCE is ongoing, with an anticipated completion by year's end. 

Operation BUCK WILD used a commando of buck goats to subjugate an area of heavy blackberry concentration adjacent to the HAPPY HOOVES front.  The bucks faced a painful learning experience operating the Electromesh fencing, but have since decimated resistance from blackberries and are currently operating against thistle and other undesirables.  Simultaneously, operation HAMMERHEAD moved a pair of rams into the quarters recently vacated by the bucks. 

Operation ANGRY RAM was an effort to utilize the weed-eating capabilities of the HAMMERHEAD rams, as well as redirecting their efforts from property damage to blackberry damage.  A cote of steel gates and a fence of three-foot mesh and two hot wires was erected to contain the two rams, who rapidly ate the enclosed area to nubbins. 

Operation HOOFED LOCUSTS capitalized on the experience of the SHMU regiment of sheep.  Having devastated all resistance in the HAPPY HOOVES theater, they were moved and enclosed with a combination of Electromesh and (much cheaper) three strands of hot nylon on pigtail posts.  The operation is ongoing, with a projected completion date in late July or August.  
Operation EXPANDING EWE employed an experienced regiment of second- and third-year ewes who had been bred to a local ram.  These were initially housed in the converted dog runs; initial action was contained within a perimeter of Electromesh.  Success of these initial operations has led to a staged advance, bounded primarily by a perimeter of hot nylon on pigtails.  Both ewes and their lambs are respecting the fence, and eating the pasture to a close-cropped lawn. 

Operation ANGRY RAM II capitalized on the impressive eating capabilities of the two rams; the perimeter was established using hot nylon on pigtails, and the theater of ANGRY RAM was closed off, except for the cote.  The operation is ongoing, with an expected completion in August. 
Operation EXPANDING DOE attempts to redeploy the rookie goats from WHITE CASTLE/SHOCKING GOAT, who have since been bred, using Electromesh fencing.  Initial gains are promising, with the goats respecting the fence and destroying the blackberries therein.  The operation is ongoing.  On completion in August, the goats, being pregnant, will be moved to the barn. 
Looking at it, that's a lot of action for one year, but there is an awful lot left to be done--"not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." It has to be noted that this campaign is being conducted with more tactical than strategic drive. Where assets and fencing have become available, they have been deployed.  Operations have been tethered to supply lines from the house, complicating delivery of water and food, and less than a third of the fenced pasture is under hoof.  Such strategy as has existed has been to keep rams and bucks in distal corners, and away from ewes and does. 

Near term strategy has HOOFED LOCUSTS expanding south and west, and commando units of goats from EXPANDING DOE and BUCK WILD being deployed (with electromesh fencing) on pockets of blackberry resistance. 

Completion of BARN DANCE will provide a strong advance base of operations, with water and food depots for pacification of the entire southern theater.   Increases in troop strength from EXPANDING DOE, EXPANDING EWE, and recruitment from external sources will assist in both occupation and invasion.  Heavy resistance from concentrations of poison oak and blackberry will complicate occupation of the south and southwest.  Complementary specialization (goats' preference for browse, sheep for grass) and expansion of fencing capabilities could result in complete occupation, if not pacification, of the pasture by 2014 or 2015. 

This campaign accounts for about half of our property.  We'll still need to fence and occupy the giant shed at the south end of the property--which is completely surrounded by poison oak and blackberry.  We need to rebuild one bridge across the creek, and build one more, and then fence the streams and surrounding forest.  Then, we need to fence and graze the area across the creek, which is completely wild with blackberry and poison oak, into submission.  There's gonna be a lot of blood, tears, toil, and sweat.