Sunday, January 7, 2018

Dark of Winter


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2006. All rights reserved.

In the dark days that follow the winter solstice, the last of December through the middle of January, I anxiously track the growth of daylight for reassurance that the tide has indeed turned and that winter will eventually give way to the brightening of early spring.

At this latitude of approximately 45 degrees, daylight grows ever so slowly at first, just a minute more each day until the middle of January, when it starts to grow by twos and then by threes at the month's end.

What I always find curious, and faintly disturbing, is that the day does not grow evenly. The sun sets a minute later each day for the week following the solstice, but it rises the same time day after day.

How could this be?

Continued at... Dark of Winter.

Rural Delivery
Out There
Outrider Books and Travel
Artwork: Dark of Winter.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

If It's Thursday Night, It's Bullseyes.


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.

On Thursday nights in late winter the three taverns facing the railroad tracks in Shoshone, Idaho, are comfortably warm and inviting. Inside any of the establishments customers will be lined up at the bar and scattered among dimly lit tables. Reba will be wailing from the juke box and a crowd will have gathered around the electronic dart machine at one end of the room. 
"Pock!" goes a soft-tipped dart into the board and instantly the machine tallies its score. Then another player toes the foul line.

This sparsely populated niche of southern Idaho is a long way from England, where throwing darts at a circular, numbered board is a passionate pasttime. But out of every eighty-five residents in the all-rural Lincoln County at least one is a competitive dart-thrower.

Continued at... If It's Thursday Night, It's Bullseyes.

Rural Delivery
Games and Puzzles
Sports and Fitness
Artwork: James Cagney On Martha'S Vinyard Playing Darts.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Carol's Tale


Most songs don't keep. People sing them for a few years, then lose interest. New tunes replace the old in a continuous cycle and yesterday's lyrics are soon forgotten.
 
Even Christmas carols, the most traditional sounds in American music, have fairly shallow roots. The most popular Christmas song to date, "White Christmas," was composed by Irving Berlin in 1942. "Do You Hear What I Hear?" only dates back to 1962 and "Away in a Manger" is just over a century old.
 
Hardly anyone sings old Christmas classics like "La Bonna Novella" and "Nowell" any more. Both were big European hits in the 16th and 17th centuries. So was the German carol "Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen" ("Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming.")
 
Like a well-worn pair of boots left on the back porch, old songs lie forgotten until they lose their usefulness. Then they don't seem to fit any occasion.

Continued at... A Carol's Tale

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2007. All rights reserved.
Out of the Past
Holidays and Notable Events
Artwork: Church Choir Singing by Mary Evans

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Rare Breeds.


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved.

Farm animals are in decline worldwide. Out of approximately 4,000 breeds of domesticated animals, 1,000 breeds are seriously threatened with extinction. Every week another breed of workhorse, cattle, pig or variety of sheep or poultry follows the passenger pigeon, the blue pike and the wooly mammoth into oblivion.

In hard numbers, there's no shortage of livestock. More domesticated animals are being farmed in less space and with greater returns of meat, milk, eggs and wool than at any time in history. But the number of breeds of domesticated animals is much smaller than it was a century ago. The genetic diversity of farm animals is shrinking, and with it the ability to adapt to new climates, new diseases and new markets.

Continued at... Rare Breeds

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Animal Husbandry
Husbandry
Farm Supply
Artwork: Dexter Cow.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

December Exposure.


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved.

Fencelines once lost to syringa and gooseberry have reappeared and the rocky outcrop along the riverbank is visible once more.  Brown ribbons of road wind their way along the edges of the corn field, now reduced to stubble.

There comes a time late in the autumn when all is exposed. After the foliage has fallen from the trees and before the first layer of snow, there's usually a week or two of nakedness.

The spikes of goldenrod and stands of wild geraniums are grayed and flattened by black frosts and pelting rains. In the pasture, the tall fescues and perennial ryegrasses are matted and bending low.

Continued at... December Exposure

Rural Delivery
The Nature Pages
Out of the Past: Thoreau
Artwork: Barren Tree.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hitched to History


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2008. All rights reserved.

It hasn't been all that many years since horses were the primary mode of transportation all across the West. They not only pulled buggies and wagons, and sleighs in the winter, but they also powered the plows and cultivators that tamed an arid land.
 
Les Broadie remembered well those horse-drawn days. They were as near to him as his well-weathered hands, and as much a part of his life when I met him in 1995 as they were when he was youngster in the 1920s.

After his retirement from raising draft horses and cattle, Les operated Blizzard Mountain Carriages -- a one-man outfit specializing in buying and selling horse-drawn wagons, carriages, carts and sleighs. At the time, we was one of but a handful of American horse-drawn carriage dealers still in business.

Continued at... Hitched to History

Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Out of the Past blog
Artwork: Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride at Twilight in a Snowy Landscape by Ira Block


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Cold Hardening


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1995. All rights reserved.

The crisp night is giving way to a warm morning glow. It will be an "Indian Summer" sort of day, the kind we missed out on last year when winter dropped in early. Some of our coldest weather came in November rather than January, where it belongs.

Most of nature depends on a steady progression of seasons.

These cool nights encourage the growth of fat and fur on dogs, cats, horses and most other warm-blooded critters.

My beard and waistline, too, seem to grow more readily this time of year. By winter solstice, or late December, we'll be well acclimated to the cold.

Continued at... Cold Hardening

Rural Delivery
The Nature Pages
Second Nature
Artwork: Winter Tree Line I by Ilona Wellman