Archive - Jan 2015


January 25th

Help on its way?

This article warms my heart to no end. I don't care that it is merely a blog entry and probably won't see the light of day in the broader media.

My sole reason for running for the House of Representatives was so this very thing could happen: Nursing home staff and administrators talking directly to the legislature in a public hearing about the dire problem of staffing in eldercare. And who is bringing it up? The Republicans! The new House speaker formed a committee on eldercare, and this was one of their first hearings. 

It is a shame that only a few Democrats (Kent Eken, most notably, as well as Rep. Huntley) brought this issue up, and that they were greeted with resistance. "It doesn't poll well," they were told. Of course it didn't poll well. Nobody knew what was going on unless they worked at a nursing home or had a relative as a resident!

Sometimes you have to lead the polls, not follow them. 

On this issue (and this issue alone), I say more power to the Republicans. Their governor, more than anybody, caused this problem by cutting nursing home funding for many consecutive years. Now it seems they have the gumption to fix it.

For the nursing homes which are struggling on a daily basis, and for residents whose care inevitably suffers when qualified staff can't be hired, let's hope that help is on its way. 

January 23rd

Cold Spell in Portal


Yesterday, it snowed lightly all day and never got above 33 degrees. Today, the sun came out to illuminate the frosting of snow on the cliffs, yet it remained quite chilly. My week here ends tomorrow morning, and I will go back to Tucson. 

A couple of days ago, I attended a meeting of the Portal Sewing Club in the local firehall. The club was hosting a lecture, and I was informed that the "whole town" would be there. The place was packed...for a lecture on ants in Brunei. It was potluck. 

Many biologists retire to this area because of the surfiet of biological forms of all sort. This retired professor is an internationally recognized scientist who studies the relationship between ants and plants. Her research has taken her all over the world.

In Brunei, she has seen the tiny country go from a relatively open society to a nation governed by sharia law. The change came about because the source of Brunei's great wealth, with for so long made its sultan the richest man in the world, is drying up. No longer can the leadership buy off the people. So, it must repress them. Brutally. 

As a woman, this has made research there difficult. 

It was a fascinating lecture followed up with intelligent questions from the mixture of people present, from long-time Portal residents, probably some ranchers, to teachers and professors. 

Because I had no food to offer, I left before the potluck. 

The cabin I have stayed in isn't made for winter weather, so the little propane heater rumbled all night trying to keep up. I like to sleep cold, so that didn't bother me. But oh, was the floor cold this morning! 

Birder couples have come and gone throughout the week. I am convinced that birding is something couples do to create commonality between themselves once the kids leave. Birds fill the empty nest. 

Some are competitive, which is just silly. I saw this, and you did not! I win! Yippee!

Goodie for you. 

But most are at least interesting people, so I have not been without human contact. 



January 21st

Mexican Jay

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Curved-bill thrasher



January 20th

Mountain view

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Drove up a one-lane unmaintained gravel road today until I got to the 9,000 ft. pass. Beautiful. Here is one view, helped a great deal by a forest fire which ravaged the mountain four years ago. I drove the same road in my four-wheel-drive Ranger 10 years ago and was scared. Today, I was fine until I near the top and saw an abandoned back pack in the middle of the road with two two-way radios and the ground nearby. Oh, oh...the cartels are still on the move, I thought. I have no evidence. I drove past, pausing only to take photos of the stuff with my phone out the window. 

The above view is of the Hutch Valley. The state line between New Mexico and Arizona runs across the flat land nearer to the camera. The mountains in the distance are over 100 miles away. 

Ladderback woodpecker


The ladderback woodpecker is just one of many birds to enjoy the peanut butter. Insect-eating birds will accept peanut butter as a substitute, although the buzz of insects is common here in mid-afternoon.  

Coues whitetail

The deer in the photo below is not a mule deer, as I reported below. It is a Coues whitetail, a smaller version of the species than we have in Minnesota. There are twenty-some varieties of white-tail in this country, according to the proprietor Reed, who is a walking encyclopedia of animal information from birds down to ants.

The Coues coloring is also more gray than red. They are small. Saw the first buck this morning in the dawn's early light, but it was too dim to photograph. Last night after dark, I had a close encounter with a gray fox, one of two who haunt the yard here at Cave Creek Canyon Ranch.

Right now I am sitting on the porch of the main office, near the bulk of the bird feeders. All you can here are birdsongs, in great variety, and the constant whir and flutter of wings. Although the temperatures fall near freezing each night, when the sun comes over the cliffs at 9 a.m., it warms immediately. The other day, I could have sworn it was 80 degrees, but yet there was still frost in the shade. And my car thermometer sat stubbornly at 53 F. 

Cave Creek Canyon is a wildlife paradise. It draws biologists of every stripe to study its vast array of bats, birds, snakes (39 species), lizards, frogs, and, believe it or not, ants. Next week, an archaelogical dig starts for the remains of civilizations from thousands of years ago. Cave Creek Canyon ranch is one place many of the academics stay. 

According to locals, Portal and Cave Creek canyon have a lower population of humans at present than at any time over the past five thousand years!

Due to the high elevation and lack of light pollution, astronomers flock here as well. In fact, 25 professional astronomers live in the area. Yesterday, I drove a small country road north of Portal and saw a lane called Skyview. Along it I counted nine planetarium-type domes for telescopes. It has been a new moon this week, so the viewing has been spectacular. 

As the sun sets against the cliffs, the people staying in cabins gather quietly on the porch of the office to watch the birds gather in the trees for nightfall. Eventually conversation turns to the day's adventures, which for bird nerds are mostly tales of odd species sighted. I am not so much into that, but prefer to just listen to their expertise. 

Total darkness by five-thirty on this edge of Mountain Time. 


January 18th

Cave Creek Canyon


I include this picture because it captures the colors of the canyon walls better than any of the pictures I have taken so far. The combination of pink, gray and light green reminds me of salmon that has been in the fridge a while--but better!

This picture includes one of the many caves. Although they look man-made, they are natural occurences.



Male version above, female below. 

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Yellow-eyed junco

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