Missing the Ranch and Keeping My Spirits Up

It’s really weird to have not been at the ranch the entire month of November, especially since that’s usually a great month to be there (good weather, frisky pets, lots of time for walking). It didn’t help at all that I spent a good bit of time wandering around the area on Google Maps trying to figure out where those two people drowned. I think I got it located a bit further away from our property than I’d feared, but still adjacent. It makes me so sad.

In happier news, my one orchid that didn’t succumb to some evil scale has rewarded us with many blossoms.

I listened to a news report that said the victims had fallen out of their boat and got caught up in pond weeds. That’s exactly what I had feared. Even if you can swim, that stuff can get you. One guy had a young family and one was just 22, so young. They’re having a football game to raise money for their families. Traion Smith was just an amazing athlete in high school, and a nice young man. The news report showed the former Cameron coach breaking into tears at the thought of losing him. Life sure has its twists and turns.

Anyway, I ended up looking at what great quality the Google Maps images of our property are. I really liked how you could see each cow and all the cattle paths in the bottom pasture next to our house.

All the cows are at upper right, and you can see where they walk. The image can even get closer in! That’s Walker’s Creek and one of the streams that meets up with it.

I was disappointed that I could not see Apache or Fiona, nor the chickens. I guess the photo was taken just before we got the chicken house. So, you’re spared those images.

Sunset looking out by neighbor Ruth’s house. I love how the oak leaves are shining.

While I do miss the ranch (and its occupants, including my poor lonely quarantined husband!), I’m enjoying some time in Austin. We got to take a walk with our neighbor, Ruth, who regaled us with tales of trying to buy groceries at the H-E-B (we went a bit later ’cause I had to fill my prescription, and it wasn’t so bad). She went to the Randall’s store full of “old people” and it wasn’t crowded. That store is always full of old people! And, if you don’t live in Texas, we realize H-E-B is a weird name, but since it’s named after Mr. Butts, you can understand the choice.

Roses in my flower arrangement. They help me feel better.

And since I’m in Austin, we can have my son’s little family unit to eat out on the deck, to minimize germs and all, like we keep being told to do. It will be very small, but good.

Giant mum about to explode. This arrangement had such great autumn colors.

We will get through these challenging times. Sometimes it’s easier than other times, but I feel like all this practice of empathy, compassion, and forgiveness that’s come out of the pandemic, the election, and the personal issues of those around me will benefit me the rest of my life.

I don’t know what this flower is, but I love the way only part of it is in focus.

I hope you enjoy the photos of the flowers I got at the store and our sunset. I saw no sunsets in Utah, because the mountains were to the west. That’s okay, mountains are pretty, too. Share what’s keeping you happy and in the moment, if you want to!

Yesterday Was Rough

Whew, yesterday was not fun. In fact, I’m really sad today, because while I was having a hard travel day, two people drowned while fishing in a pond on the next property over from the Hermits’ Rest/Wild Type Ranch property. Here’s a better article. It hit really close to home, because while I didn’t know either of them personally, one was a friend of Mandi’s family and the other was one of the most amazing high school football players I ever saw. I have screamed the name “Traion” many, many times with my friend Cathy at games. He was only 22, and the other guy was only 30. I just feel so bad for their families. It’s hard enough right now.

So, that put my day in perspective.

A mourning dove, for mourning

It was just a series of the kinds of things that always happen when you travel.

Things were fine as long as I was at the resort. I packed up all the leftover food and took it to the staff, which made Q the concierge very happy. I was glad to not waste food, and even let Q hug me (I was so over-dressed that no germs could possibly have gotten through, I tell myself).

To start, there were no normal Ubers available, so I had to take a fancy one, which cost more than upgrading to first class did (that was only $80 and got my bags free, so it was a nice part of the day). The driver was nice, and his Suburban was so clean. He said he had over 250,000 miles on it! The secret was maintaining it, apparently. The only thing that had gone out on it was the air conditioning. Wow.

I’d had to check out at 11, which was fine, of course, but that meant I was at the airport REALLY early for my 3:45 flight.

The new Salt Lake City airport is really pretty, but not convenient if you have baggage. You have to go upstairs to check in, then back downstairs to go through security. My awkward collection of bags nearly threw me down an escalator, and by the time I checked in, I was covered in sweat, thanks to having to wear my heavy clothing and snow shoes (would not fit in luggage). I managed to break a nail under the gel polish, even. I know, first-world problems. I’ll live.

My favorite part of the airport is this sculpture, The Falls, by Gordon Huether.

The other thing about the airport is they do NOT have trams or any transportation, so you have to walk 20 minutes to get to the gates. That was a true joy carrying my heavy bag (computer and makeup weighed it down) and n the dang down coat. The good news is I got my steps in. I probably also lost a pound of sweat.

Once I finally got to a seat and took off many layers (including replacing my soaked face mask), I just worked on my knitting and watched football. I also watched many, many children. I was actually shocked so many people were flying with children. But, maybe they were like me and had no choice but to fly. I’ll assume the best. Still, some very charming children and some annoying ones were there.

The first flight to Dallas/Fort Worth was fine. They even gave us a sandwich. Considering it would have cost around $10 in the airport, I figure I just about broke even on the first-class upgrade. That made up for the fancy Uber.

In Dallas, the trams were my friends, and I easily made it to the gate, only to find the flight was delayed. Get this, a plane had blown a tire on the runway, and it took them FIVE HOURS to clear the plane and debris off. The people sitting near me had flown to Austin, circled for an hour or so, then gone back to Dallas. They’d all been traveling since the wee hours of the morning from LA. I sure felt bad for them! We all shared plane horror stories, and enjoyed hearing about the Amazon Prime series one of the guys we met is acting in (which I can’t find, but will look for later).

Poor Anita. I kept updating what time our flight was. She must have been so confused. In the end, we weren’t too late leaving, after all, but then the 30-minute flight took 20 extra minutes, because we had to go all the way around Austin to land on the only available runway. That flight was pretty annoying, because it was crowded, and the woman next to me ate and coughed. If I get sick, she’s to blame (perfectly nice woman, just germy). At least I got to meet lots of interesting people, but wow, I was sure tired by the time my luggage showed up.

Back to work today! I’ll be less than cheery while I isolate over in Austin, since I know Cameron is reeling today.

Book Report: A Perfect Shade of Red

Even with all this knitting, I am still reading a lot. This one will not be the last in my color series for a while, because I think there’s a yellow book in the queue at the ranch. But on to this one. A Perfect Shade of Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire, by Amy Butler Greenfield (2005), was recommended in the Master Naturalist session I took on cochineal. I’m glad I picked it up and read it, even though I’ve already read two other books on the color red. The history part was a lot of fun.

The book, along with the back of the stole I’m working on.

This book concentrates on the ups and downs of using that little Mexican insect, cochineal, to dye things red, starting from the very beginning and continuing to current times. One thing I learned is that, unlike the wild cochineal that grows out at the ranch, the kind that has been developed in Oaxaca to produce the most dye is a finicky thing. No wonder Spain held on to its secrets for so long and monopolized its import (when those pesky English pirates weren’t stealing it). They just couldn’t get it to grow well other than its native territory for hundreds of years.

I wonder if they used cochineal to dye the leather for my journal?

Without the exact right climate with not too much rain, not too much wind, and not too much cold, they keel over pretty fast. The other books I’ve read didn’t go into as much detail about how many places tried to grow cochineal. It failed spectacularly all over the world, and was particularly unsuited to being grown by slaves like sugar cane, corn, or cotton. Oh well.

Random red objects for you to enjoy.

I did learn that eventually, patient people finally got it to grow in the Canary Islands and Guatemala, of all places. They even surpassed Mexico toward the end of the popularity of cochineal dye.

Another thing the other books didn’t tell me was that thanks to Red Dye No. 2 being identified as so poisonous, cochineal began coloring foods in modern times again, but it’s not popular with vegans and there ARE people allergic to it, too. Huh.

The book kept insinuating that red clothing can be gaudy. I don’t know where they get that idea. This is my holiday shirt for this year.

Even if you’re less than fascinated by dyeing things red with little insects, this book is a fun read, because you get an interesting perspective on European history from it. Much of the book makes England seen like a pretty nasty place, but the descriptions of Hapsburgs and their jaws made me rather sad for European royalty. What an inbred mess. All the intrigue between kings, queens, pirates, merchants, chemists, and others is a lot of fun.

It appears I have another race book and a novel ahead of me, though there IS a memoir I may sneak in. Thanks for bearing with me on these book reports.

Why I’m Staying in My Room

It’s my last full day in Utah, and I don’t have to work. You’d think I’d be going around seeing the sights, shopping, eating, etc. The ski area finally opened, so all those nice shops I’ve only been able to look in the windows of are open (with their ski resort prices, no doubt). But nope, I’m not going out today.

It would have been smart of me to take a video, but here are moving ski lifts.

I did take a walk yesterday, fairly late in the day. I just wanted to see what the place looked like when things were running. I got to see the ski lifts in action, with people actually riding on them.

ski people
Well-spaced people with skis and snowboards preparing to board ski lifts. Only parties who are together can share a lift.

There were actual skiers in their ski clothing. They sure look well protected with the boots, pants, jackets, hoods, goggles, and masks. Yep, I didn’t see one skier who wasn’t also wearing a mask.

These folks do not appear to be as well spaced.

The ski lift lines have markers for keeping people distant, and I’ve read they are limiting access to the mountains. That’s all good, I think. All the restaurants are limiting seating, but I predict the same thing that was happening downtown will happen here: people will line up for the restaurants in normal lines. That sort of defeats the social distancing purpose, right?

Something cheerful. People sledding. Note the distinct lack of snow. It’s supposed to be clear for quite a while.

After thinking about it and talking to Lee, I agreed to stay at the condo today, since I have a feeling the first Saturday of ski season will be crowded. Good thing I have that knitting project (and a lot of packing to do).

Masked people were putting these decorations together on Thursday, so I was glad to see them finished. It’s all real greenery. Tasteful.

So, it’s good to have seen the decorations, the activity, and the finished fire pit I watched getting built. But, I’ll be in my room.

There are lots of these benches that look like lift chairs now. This is the finished seating area, where they carefully put the rocks 6 feet apart. A friend points out that this is a lot of wasted gas and heat.

The good news is that I’ve been reading more and more about how planes are pretty darned safe. My main worry is being in crowded airports. On my way here, they were pretty empty. But it’s Thanksgiving week. I hadn’t thought of that when booking my trip. Going home last week would have been a better idea from that perspective, but things in Cameron are a bit of a mess, so it’s perhaps better that I stayed here. Sorry, I’m thinking aloud in my blog. I guess it’s allowed.

I’m going to ask anyone who’s reading this to take care around your friends and family right now. You don’t know where people have been and who they’ve been around. I know for certain that not all COVID deaths have been reported as such, which makes me think things may well be worse than they really are. And with so many people convinced they have a right to NOT take precautions, it really seems like a good idea to be careful. Sorry to be preachy, but I care about MY family, and I assume you care about yours.

Tribute to Self Care

This morning, I woke up and didn’t feel awake. These days, whenever you feel the least bit off, you immediately think you have COVID. I ran through all my symptoms, tested my sense of smell (yep, the trash can still smells like a banana cemetery), and checked my temperature (97).

I realized I was mostly chilly. So I put on my extra cozy sweater, turned on the fireplace, and closed the blinds. That helped me get through all my meetings.

Warm and cozy and sorta dark.

After all the Zoom meetings were over, I dragged the laptop into the bedroom, where I could get under the covers. I worked some more, but felt so tired. So I slept for an hour! Oops!

Self care station.

So now I’m in my self care station, with knitting, a book, plenty of water and many pillows. I guess I won’t be checking out skiers today. The plan is to talk at least a short walk, then take a bath with the bath bomb Kathleen gave me.

My body said it was tired of all that work and crazed exercise. I listened. After all, I want to be in good shape to travel back to Texas on Sunday. I’m very glad Hilton has provided dozens of antiseptic wipes I can take and use at airports and planes.

Travel ready.

The Plan

When I get back, I’m going to hide out in Austin for a while, so we are not going to have a germy family Thanksgiving. That will be hard, but between quarantines in Cameron and me traveling in this pandemic, I’d rather postpone seeing Lee and the animals than bring in an illness. Anita and I can easily physically distance in Austin, so that’s the best thing I could come up with.

With love from me to you.

I must admit, though, that videos and pictures of the animals make me miss them so much. Let’s hope next time I leave town we can feel safer.

Calming Vibes

I’ve been working hard this week, and there’s some work challenges, but still getting out and exercising in the brisk Utah mountain air. Because the ski area is getting more busy, I’m being more careful where I go. I’m avoiding people as much as possible this week.

Claiming clouds.

Today I was able to head up to the pretty subdivision up from where I’m staying. The houses are huge, and many have beautiful statues and lighting. But I was busy walking, so I didn’t take photos.

I love those colors.

For most of my walk breaks, I was enjoying the clouds and trees, so once I’d hit my exercise goal I let myself stop and take pictures.

Nice fence!

I bet the people in these mini farms and vacation palaces are annoyed by all the construction and timeshares that have cropped up. At least they still have views!

Again. Clouds.

Now off for a meeting for the Cameron business, followed by knitting and football. You know, this break has been a real blessing. I’m glad I’m able to work while I’m here in the scenery. It feels a little less self indulgent!

There’s a barn back there.

How are YOU helping yourself unwind and recharge? What keeps you calm?

Let’s Knit a Rainbow

I get up really early here, since meetings start at 7 in this time zone. That leaves me plenty of time to get in a workout and then knit. So, as soon as I finished the table runner, I started something else.

Can you spot the finished runner?

You may recall that I bought more yarn on Sunday.

The yarn

I looked around for something to make, and found a scarf pattern that used a simple garter stitch and slip stitch pattern. The best thing about it is that both the front and back are attractive, thanks to the magic of garter stitch stripes.

Here’s the front. a November rainbow.

The colors really look like autumn, don’t they? And the slip stitches are a cute touch.

The back is a stripey rainbow.

You’ll be relieved to know it won’t be a rainbow when I am done. It’s going to be a wrap of some kind, depending on how long it ends up. I have 6 skeins of yarn, three of each color, so it will be substantial, I hope.

Since it’s inexpensive (not cheap!) Red Heart yarn with no dye kit on the brown, I could probably get more if I need to. We’ll see!

This yarn is easy on my hands, so I can go faster than the thick linen stitch of the runner let me. What’s best? I’m letting myself knit something easy so my mind can rest. I’ve lost my drive to make complicated things!

Want to Make One?

Grab a few skeins of a solid and a self-striping worsted weight yarn that contrast or blend (mine blend). Get your favorite needles. I use size 6. You may want 8.

Cast on 150 stitches. I used a knitted cast on. Knit 2 rows in the solid color. Then use this pattern:

1. K2, *P1, K4* until last 3 stitches, P1, K2.

2. K2, * slip 2 with yarn in back, K4* to last 3 stitches, slip 1 with yarn in back, K2.

Change yarns every other row, carrying the unused yarn up the side.

End on solid color, K 2 rows, bind off.

I found the stitch pattern on “Striped Delight” by Marni Farniere. Search for it on Ravelry for two scarf ideas.

Carry on.

Do You Have a Label You Just Don’t Like?

For the past few days, I’ve been noticing that I cringe when I hear certain words used to label people or things in conversation, on social media, or on television. Some of these are words I know bother other people (like “gypsy,” for personal and business names that the Romani/Romanichal folks would not be fond of because the people using the term aren’t referring to actual gypsies, or naming your pets “Dixie” or “Cracker” or other loaded Southern words in today’s climate).*

The Roma wagons are so cool, though. Image by @Loreke76 via Twenty20

Others are just me. I realize that, for some reason, I do not like the word “cheap” when applied to things you buy. I think my internal definition in my idiolect has more to do with poor quality than low cost. In my mind when people say they want a cheap thing, they are saying that they pay more attention to the price of a thing than to how well it will work or how long it will serve, a short-term viewpoint. So, I never refer to things I obtain as cheap. They are inexpensive, which doesn’t have the poor quality connotation that’s really a secondary definition of cheapness. To me.

Yeah, economical, not cheap!

Back to the first group of words I don’t like, most of them appear to be words that apply to cultural, racial, or national groups. I just recently began to cringe when I hear “Latinx,” after hearing someone say no actual Latino or Latina person would use that word, since it isn’t even Spanish. To them it sounds like white people went and made up a word to solve a problem that didn’t really exist. People who speak Spanish don’t take grammatical gender as literally as English speakers do. How about that? Should I use “Hispanic?” That one has its own issues. Maybe I’ll just call people by their names or refer to their country or origin if they aren’t from the US.

As for these Mexicans, in Mexico, let’s use that term. It was either these guys or some pan flute players. I like mariachi music better than those flutes, which aren’t Mexican anyway.

I guess I know how much people treasure their cultural identities, so I want to use the words members of a particular culture prefer to use, even if they change as time goes on. It would be a LOT easier if there was universal agreement, though. I actually knew someone who preferred “negro” to “Black” or “African American.” Plus, the AA term really doesn’t apply to actual Africans or people from the Caribbean who have moved here. ARGH.

One thing the current movement toward acknowledging the great variety of gender terminology and preferences has taught me is this: it never hurts to ASK someone how they want to be referred to. So, if you don’t know, ASK if a Cajun wants to be called that. ASK what your “indigenous” friend likes their cultural identity to be called.

Let’s call this woman “Quechua” and her alpaca beautiful.

Just don’t be cheap about it. Don’t gyp me. Don’t try to jew me down. When did you start to cringe in this extra cringeworthy paragraph? Do you see why I prefer to be careful with labels and their derivations? It’s not just me being a liberal snowflake (by the way, each snowflake is unique and beautiful, so thanks for calling me that, frenemies!).

Signed,

Suna, she/her, McLeod of the Clan McLeod**


*I have known many dogs named Dixie, and it didn’t use to be controversial. Times change.

**Way too fond of one branch of my Ancestry family tree, perhaps?

They’re Ready for Ski Season

It’s becoming more and more obvious that the area where I’m staying will be getting more crowded. They will open the mountain resort here on Friday or Saturday (though it has warmed up again and the snow is melting rapidly). I do believe I’ve timed my trip just about right, since my motivation has been staying away from people and their germs.

They’ve cleaned up all the statuary, as you can see.

I’ve been noticing a lot of interesting things as the staff gets busy, and it’s all pretty educational, since my last ski experience was almost 30 years ago.

Unfortunately, the construction around the resort where I am staying has not abated. But, there is a street cleaner (at right).

The easiest way to tell they are about to start skiing is all the convenient ski resting spots they’ve put up everywhere.

And of course, all the holiday decorations are a dead giveaway, too.

They are firing up the ski lifts, and I even saw them getting the ski patrol ready to patrol. They sure have a lot of fun ski vehicles! I would like to try some of those out.

One thing had been making me wonder as I walk around in the chilly air, and that’s why all the walkways at the main ski resort area are never covered with snow. I was imagining elves getting out at the crack of dawn and working on the sidewalks, but I also didn’t see any piles of snow.

All that fresh concrete behind the cones is heated!

Now I know. I forgot to take a photo yesterday, but workers were making a seating area of rocks around a fire pit, and sure enough, there are all sorts of warming wires on the ground. Today, they are covering it all up with concrete, and you’d never know the heating elements are there. I guess all the walkways are like that!

It looks as if this will be a fun place to hang out, once all the shops are open, but I still like the mountains and the trees the best.

Ski patrol getting ready to roll out, plus people sledding on the hill.

I hope these photos gave you a break from whatever’s troubling you today. Love to all, especially my family.

Happy Worker

This may be one of the few times I’ve ever come back from a vacation fully rested and relaxed. I haven’t had to drive or fly back in from anywhere or take care of all the things that I didn’t do while I was gone (because I’ll do that NEXT week). I just woke up, made some coffee, and headed over to the dining table that is my desk for another week.

Rock formation that reminded Kathleen of our spouses.

I actually looked forward to getting back to my job and finding out what got accomplished last week when I was (mostly) offline. And I’m glad to see all the coworkers! So, last week was quite a successful vacation, even if we were snowed in for part of the time!

Naturally, it’s going to warm up here in the mountains this week, while I need to be at my desk most of the day. But I’ll have a couple of hours before dark, thanks to work being an hour ahead of where I am.

Meanwhile, Kathleen has been sending me photos from their drive to Texas, including this great horned owl, which they saw near Roswell, New Mexico. Wow! I have no idea what it is doing on the side of the road, but she says it doesn’t look injured.

Roadside owl.

I’m so glad she’s getting to travel by car and see all the beauty of the desert. She is in love with the planet at this point. It’s gotten all of us excited to do more travel in the future, maybe when it’s safer and we can do more!