Mules…

Thank you, Mule.

I’ve mentioned already that this hike, sponsored by the Grand Canyon Association Field Institute, is titled “Take a Load Off: Mule Assisted Camping 0514”.  My brother was being thoughtful of me and his wife, thinking that we would be better off having assistance from some friendly mules. The mules have agreed to carry a duffel bag for each of us which will lighten our load considerably.

On our first day we will meet at about 10 am to have our equipment checked over by our guide, and then our tenting equipment, some of our food and clothing – basically anything we don’t need on the descent – will be packed in the bag allowed us. I think our mule train will start that afternoon. I’m guessing they will go down the Bright Angel Trail, cross the Colorado on the Black Bridge and stay the night at Phantom Ranch (see this pic of mules crossing scary bridge). Almost everything that goes to Phantom Ranch goes by mule, including supplies for the canteen meals and goods sold in the store. Duffel transport is a common expense for hikers, especially ones going up who don’t want all that stuff on their own backs.

A lot of people ride the mules to Phantom Ranch too but the park video says the people getting off the mules are just as tired and sore as the ones who hiked the trail. Excuse me for laughing, haha. When you don’t ride for hours at a time as a regular thing, that is exactly what happens.  

Our hike guidelines give specific instructions to hikers who might happen to meet a mule train on the trail. We are to back up against the uphill side of the trail and wait quietly until the last mule has passed and is at least 50 feet away. Although the mules are well trained and mostly stick to business, if they are harassed or startled it can result in an accident. It is a real shame when a mule is lost off the trail, as you can imagine. And worse yet if a hiker falls, which is why we are given the uphill side. Lucky us.

Book Cover for Brighty of the Grand Canyon

Mules have a real history in the Canyon. An old children’s book which I read to my children years ago was “Brighty of the Grand Canyon”. It was kind of a history lesson of the prospecting days, when miners traveled the canyon looking for gold, with a mule carrying their provisions. Brighty, the mule, is the star of the book – kind of the Black Beauty of the mule world.  A great book about the canyon, and not just for kids. I loved it. Earlier this month a reader reminded me of this story that she had also read and loved. I’m not sure but I think Brighty might have been a burro (small donkey), which is different from a mule, but close enough for these purposes.

The little corral at Phantom Ranch looks just the same as it did when first constructed in the 1920’s. I’m hoping to hang out there a little and talk to some of the handlers because I’m curious about where the mules come from and how they are trained. I know they are very reliable and sure footed, which makes them a good fit for terrain in the canyon.

Another Keto Breakfast

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Two slices of turkey bacon, half an avocado, two poached eggs and some wilted greens with garlic.

In addition to wanting to eat well and be healthy, I want to be frugal and not waste food. This morning I did both by trying a plate from this book, “Fat for Fuel Ketogenic Cookbook” and modifying it to use what was in my refrigerator.  The cookbook does not give calorie count and nutrients for each recipe but I actually found that refreshing. None of the recipes have empty calories and the serving sizes are moderate, so I can focus on enjoying good food instead of counting everything that can be counted.

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I’m a Sam’s Club shopper for many reasons – one being that they carry some good organic fruit, vegetable and salad ingredients.  The husband had shopped there too, right before I returned home from a five-week absence. He had bought their wonderful, but rather large box of spring mix and it was fairly screaming to be used before it died. I decided we would eat greens for breakfast.

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What we call greens is a mysterious bunch of leafy vegetables. They can be the leaves of lettuce, chard, or spinach, or the above ground part of root vegetables like beets or turnips. The mysterious part is that when you eat them fresh and uncooked as in a salad, a couple cups of them look like a lot of food. When you cook a couple cups of them, they wilt and look like a spoonful or two – big difference.  So, if you have a lot of greens to use up, get a recipe calling for wilted greens.

I also buy garlic at Sam’s club even though the bag is, again, rather large. It is a good price however, and having a lot of it makes me search for ways to use it. I know it is good for me. Today’s recipe had garlic and greens, which was perfect.

I wouldn’t ordinarily need instructions for poaching eggs but these instructions were interesting and made sense to me so I tried them. The recipe calls for boiling salted water in the pan, with the addition of 2 teaspoons of vinegar. Next came the interesting part which was to stir and get the water moving in a circular pattern before cracking the eggs into the center.  I’m not sure it made a lot of difference but it made me feel like a fancy cook.

I enjoyed the breakfast. The husband didn’t say anything. I think he is just glad I’m back cooking again.

I’m wondering, what does it take to make you feel like a “fancy cook”? 

On Having a Library

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Books by old, dead guys (no disrespect meant), some still wrapped in cellophane…

Many times, when not tending to the urgencies of my life, I turn back to the job of paring down, preparing for the coming stage when there will undoubtedly be less space. This week I came to an important conclusion which I hope will help me. I had to ask myself the question “do I want to have a library, or do I want to read?” Some clarity is needed here, because they are not the same.

Over the years, the husband and I have moved six times. Each time our library has grown with our changing interests, filling boxes and boxes of books, taking a lot of storage space. We have seldom done anything to diminish the load. We did sell our Encyclopedia Britannica set when it became apparent that there was better, more current information available on the internet – that’s about it.

I went through a period when my primary furniture interest was bookshelves. I bought them with visions of having a real library in our home, where shelves lined the walls and comfy chairs begged us to sit and read. That didn’t happen, but we did end up with bookshelves in every room but the kitchen (actually there were shelves for books in the kitchen too, sorry).

I have come to some useful observations, one being that I have not read a majority of the books I own. They are not interesting enough for me to want to read them NOW. They are “someday” books, waiting for whenever. The most embarrassing example of this is the set of classics we bought, again with the Encyclopedia Brittannica, in our second year of marriage. Quite a few of them still have the cellophane wrappers around them, having not even been opened in 40+ years. I know I’m probably missing out, but I seldom get the urge to read Socrates, or even Freud. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

Another useful observation that gives me some direction for the future, is that a lot of my pleasure in books is that I like to look at them. Even the ugly ones, old and tattered, please me when they are lined up on the shelf in just the right way. I could pretend that they speak of my eclectic, intellectual interests, but no, I like their color, their geometric forms, their two or three word messages printed with a variety of interesting fonts looking at me down the row. And for my visual pleasure I probably need only five boxes of books, not thirty-five.

You see, the important question came clear to me yesterday, as I took another load to the used book store. The question is, do I want my own personal library, or do I want to read? The answer is that I want to read. But with few exceptions, I don’t want to read what is in my own library. I want to read the book I heard about on the radio, or the book one of my daughters wants me to read with her, or the book that tells me how to cope with life here and now.  I want to read it slowly, note the parts I like, maybe write down some quotes, and then I want to give it back so I don’t have to cart it around and dust it for another 40 years. If it’s one I think would be valuable to read again (and if it looks pretty) it will go in one of the five “keeper” boxes.  Just sayin’, it’s time to lighten the load.

 

One of the things about retirement that I’ve noticed is that a lot of my retired friends have asked for recommendations of good books. I’ve had to think of my favorite reads and be able to name them. I’ve also been looking for good writing. As my interest in writing grows and I wonder how I might express things I want to write, I look for books that captivate me, stir my desire to be moved by words. When I read, I’m also thinking “Do I want to write like this?”, “yes or no?”.

 What have been your favorite, most valuable reads? Whose writing inspires you?

A to Z Challenge: V for Vet’nary

The equine veterinarian practices bedside manner
The equine veterinarian practices bedside manner

One of my all time favorite tv series is James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small”. How interesting and fun it is to now be watching my daughter live out her own version of that story. Real doctors treat more than one species, or so it says on the back of her t-shirt. Doctor J is a vet’nary specializing in large animals, mainly horses but also cows, pigs, sheep, goats and other farm creatures.

 

Although this is a long standing dream of hers, to be a vet, and she finds it meaningful and satisfying, it is not always pleasant, convenient or easy. In fact, it is often unpleasant, inconvenient and hard. She has a mobile practice and travels from farm to farm with her truck full of supplies and equipment. At present, the area she covers is wide and she spends much time on the road. Many nights she is not home until 9 or 10 and still has her own animals to care for, oh, and herself to feed and put to bed. …

 

Sometimes when I visit, I ride with her and pretend I’m part of her team (after all, I am a nurse – I know how to fetch a scalpel or a suture, or the lubricant…). From my daughter I learned how to hold a sheep and how to pull a horse’s tongue out of the way while his teeth are getting filed (floated). She has saved a choking horse and set a lamb’s broken leg. She does ultrasounds and x-rays on her patients lugging heavy equipment cases to the field or the barn. She endures the most awkward positions for hours while sewing up a bad laceration or bandaging a difficult area. And she is often called upon when owners decide that their animal needs that last compassionate act.

 

And who would have thought that someone with sensitivities to organization (sock drawer perfection) and cleanliness (professional house cleaner) would develop such a high tolerance for dirt, manure and horse spit? It’s all part of the job for Dr. J., Equine Vet’nary.

 

how to hold a sheep getting it's leg x-rayed
how to hold a sheep getting it’s leg x-rayed

the Doc and her x-ray equipment
the Doc and her x-ray equipment

A to Z Challenge: P for Poem (hello National Poetry Month)

I have a friend, J. Carroll Barnhill (J for Jesse and he’s always wondered how he ended up with two girl names…). A few years after I met him he had a bad fall from a very frisky race horse and shattered his hip.  He came to stay at my house for his rather lengthy recovery and it was suggested to him that since he couldn’t do much but lie in bed, he should read or maybe write poetry.  Many years later he is still writing poetry and reading his favorites at gatherings of all kinds.  He doesn’t type much, which is why I’ve gotten to type most of his creations and they are all stored on my computer. As “keeper of the anthologies” I wrote this poem for him and it was included in the preface of his first book.

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Another Silly Poem

 

“Another silly poem,” he said, “for you to type today.”

“You probably don’t have time for this, but I thought I’d ask anyway.”

The words are scrawled on whatever’s at hand, envelope, napkin or pad.

Sometimes hard to read, grammatically strange, but inspired by a vision he’d had.

 

His words, his thoughts, his moments of life, captured with pen and ink

Are presented to me with a hopeful smile and then “What do you think?”

Obviously bursting with pride at this “newborn thing” he’s made,

Yet giving his feelings a place to hide in case I don’t give a good grade.

 

All his years of living, places and times, simply written down

Passed on to those who identify, who marvel, who laugh or frown

Or cry or argue or shake their heads – amazement on their face.

How can so many words jump out from such an unlikely place?

 

For he’s been a man of action, a workman with his hands.

Setting poles, stringing wires, driving machines, caring for horses and land,

Loving and losing, rejecting and choosing – no busier person around.

Who would think he’d have dared to try this new thing, this talent freshly found.

 

It’s his courage that takes the time to share and cares to pass things on

It’s his joy that sees the fun and rhyme, and hope life’s built upon.

Word upon word, one page at a time, a life I’ve never known…

So with respect I sit to type “another silly poem”.

 

Shirley Dietz © 2006