July 3, 2011

Monsoon season

Every summer here in the San Bernardino National Forest we have stretches where the humidity rises along with the heat and there are thunderstorms in the afternoon: monsoon season. This is the beginning of such a stretch. It was steaming hot yesterday with no breeze at all, then cooled down late, after midnight, the night so still I could hear the flying squirrels as they navigated the trees outside. Right now the sky is slate gray and getting darker and the sun is behind the clouds for good. We're making ourselves comfortable inside. [That's my boy Smoke in the photo above.]

There used to be a giant white fir about twenty feet from our cabin, and a few years ago lightning hit that tree and hit it hard, all the way to the ground. Big parts of the tree — branches and trunk — were scattered over two acres. One jagged, javelin-shaped piece of wood about six feet long came through the cabin roof from the east, which was crazy because the tree was west of the cabin. What with all the other big trees nearby — it's the forest! — I tend to await thunderstorms with a certain amount of suppressed feeling, as T.H. White wrote once. The collies are edgy. Cur-dog Smoke is indifferent.

Some linkage:

Many falconers and birders, and falconers who are birders, know of the legendary falconer and ornithologist Frances Hamerstrom. [She used poison ivy to hide her adventure stuff when she was a kid. I love her.] On the right is a photo of Fran with eagle celeb Ithaca and James Grier with Ithaca's parents.  [More on Ithaca, and more photos, at Fran's granddaughter's blog.]

This isn't news, exactly — Frances Hamerstrom died in 1998, and Ithaca lost his battle with West Nile in 2009 — but a line from Wiki caught my attention: "Frances Hamerstrom was also known as a cook, publishing a wild game cookbook near the end of her life. Her secret for pie crusts was the use of bear lard, and her readers occasionally sent her bear lard as a by-product of their own hunting experiences."

Which made me think of Hank Shaw's new book Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast. And this: "The core of each stop on my book tour is a special dinner that highlights the wild foods of that region in that season." Note to self: Hank will be in San Diego August 18. Here are Hank's thoughts on hunting, and cooking, Ursus americanus, from his excellent blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.

Check these out:
Grand Theft Toboggan.
Bird Fight Club.
Awful time sink, that site. This one is too late for Mother's Day, and I know it's supposed to be funny and all, but it made my eyes puddle up. [Watch that bad kid make himself scarce...]

Sad science: Mange Is Linked To Squirrel Decline. For the record, I have not seen any gray squirrels in the mountains so far this year. Not one. Squirrelpocalypse [weeps]. "It is really a huge loss over a large geographic area," says David Myers of The Wildlands Conservancy.  I haven't seen [or heard] any coyotes, either. Two summers ago there were coyotes everywhere. Last summer, hardly any. This year, so far: nada.

Report a Dead Bird or Squirrel. Just what it says.

Cool science: People Keep Making Einstein's Greatest Blunder. I love Starts With A Bang. [The physics of fireworks!]

Politics: my homeboy James Fallows was [is] spot on:
[T]he laziest and ultimately most destructive form of political coverage came when journalists seemed to imagine that they were theater critics or figure-skating judges. The what of public affairs didn't interest them. All they cared about was the how.
Finally, a post from Dipper Ranch with some sorrow in it, and much beauty. Read Scales on My Sleeve and enjoy a rare encounter with the loveliest snake in California.

West wind just whipped through, and I can smell the rain now.


  1. The eagles of course are magnificent. Stay safe in the storm season. No-one who has ever been through a big storm with close-by lightning would ever take storms lightly!

  2. Wonderful and informative post! Nice looking dog too!

  3. Thanks, MaineBirder, and congratulations on the blogiversary! Smoky is good-lookin', if I do say so myself ;~)

    Mick, you make me feel better about my storm-jitters -- thanks!


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