Fifty at Last

First day of spring for me means the arrival of another birthday, another year older and wiser. Robin and I took the day and drove over to Moab, Utah for the annual Jeep Safari. Jeep enthusiasts come from all over the country for what amounts to the Daytona 500 of four wheeling.

There you will find Jeeps of all different flavors, blends, and horse power. We went there primarily to visit the vendor showcase which is an after market parts heaven for Jeeps, rock crawlers, and dune buggies. Touring the various booths, one quickly realizes this motorized venue requires a certain amount of mechanical aptitude; these guys like to break their vehicles more than they like to fix them up and trick them out.

This is an insane motor sport where man and machine are pit against extreme terrain, vertical rock walls mostly, and boulder fields strewn with rocks the size of refrigerators. Personally, I can’t understand the attraction of jostling around in a roll cage, flipping over several times and catching fire, not exactly my idea of a good time. I have better things to do than turn wrenches all day, and I love my Rubicon too much to trash it for shits and giggles. Hum . . . perhaps I’m getting too sedentary in my old age.

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Power Lust

The days are getting longer; the sun is creeping back towards a summer solstice and at this juncture in its journey, it hits my solar array directly. This means on a clear day— of which we appreciate about 300 full sun days annually at this latitude — I am at a float charge by three o’clock every afternoon, that is, providing I’m not running major power tools. An average day of energy consumption at the ranch would include a 19 cu ft refrigerator, 21 cu ft freezer. ¾ horse power water pump, lights, television, computer, and a Viking range and oven, that is, when my wife gets a hankering to bake, which is most of the time.

I recall when my solar ambitions where in their infancy. I was trying to learn everything I could about this alternative energy source. A dealer presented me with a nifty schematic where I was encouraged to write down what my electrical demand might be. It showed examples of lights, refrigerators, televisions, blow dryers, microwave ovens, etcetera. After selecting some of these desirable have to haves, I could add up what it would take to power these gadgets collectively, and the formula would yield how much solar equipment: panels, inverter, charge controller, batteries it would take to store and run these needful things. This helped the dealer match me with a system that would satisfy my lust for electricity.

Screw that! I realized that by taking this route to energy independence, I would be key hold into a system that would not grow with my lust, thus forcing me to upgrade the inverter and charge controller sooner than later.

Instead, I simply envisioned a home with all the amenities, like a grid bound Mac Mansion in the city. Then I bought the biggest non-commercial inverter and charge controller I could, one that would satisfy my growing lust. Since then I have been expanding my array and battery bank exponentially, so now I can focus my attention on more meaningful things, like installing a hot tub and running it on solar power. Now I’m really having impure thoughts.

Solar Simple

“Solar power . . . that crap doesn’t work.” This used to be the general misconception when you told people you lived off grid, or were planning to go solar; many a doubting Thomas assume you spent your nights huddled around a light bulb in the dark and burn lots of candles.

Wrong! Our ranch has electricity in the horse barn, electricity in the Quonset, and the house is outfitted with every modern electrical convenience my cousins living the grid life in the cities have. The only visual difference between us and them is I have photovoltaic panels in my front yard, live near a vast wilderness area, and nobody drives by my house.

Granted my venture into solar power wasn’t a simple one. I was a neophyte at one time and spent many hours studying manuals, wiring diagrams, wiring schedules, learning Photovoltaic jargon, which I won’t spring on you here, for fear of being labeled pedantic.

Thing is, the more I studied it, the more I came to realize: “this shit isn’t rocket science.” You too, can take the easy route to energy independence, or you can struggle. The key here is that every application has different variables and certain rules apply. Which brings me to the point of this blog: don’t make the same mistakes I did. In the future you will find solar blogs here, so ask questions, make comments, get answers, now is your chance.

Do you know the best part about going solar? It works so well I take it for granted; it never goes down in a storm or any other unforeseeable act of nature. I am not married to the grid, and can build a solar home almost anywhere. I forgot what it was like to have immediate neighbors. Did I mention I never see an electric bill?

We The Nurses

Nurses are like cops; we get paid — not for the job we do — but for the job we may have to do. Having said that, my life of leisure, skiing, writing, reading, playing, came to an abrupt end today; I had to go back to work. I have to earn a living like everyone else, and let’s face it; someone has to pay for all this shit.

Nursing in the intensive care unit is often feast or famine. The difference between the two is walking down the hall, as opposed to running down the hall with your hair on fire. In times of famine we have the luxury of performing some higher nursing functions like cracking a medical text book, studying a disease processes, interpret lab values, or investigating the next generation of designer drugs. Sometimes we can even sit down with our patients; learn more about them and their families, so we can build better working rapports providing more holistic approaches to their care.

Feast on the other hand is when we resemble human cannon balls, running our asses off trying to stay one step ahead of a medical disaster that’s rapidly deteriorating. It’s times like these when you think it can’t get any more intense, it usually does, and we are required to ratchet it up another notch, pull out all the stops, use all the tools in our repertoire to save lives.

It’s this ability to rise to the occasion — every occasion —to enhance a favorable outcome, so at the end of the day we can turn over the reins to other professionals. These skills are not taught in schools, they come from years of experience cutting our teeth in level trauma centers in major cities. This capacity for anticipating and executing is what separates the exceptional nurses from the mediocre. In this business it’s about what you bring to the table every day. Just the thought of it makes me hungry and tired. Hey, anybody have any donuts?

I woke up this morning at the crack of nine; belted down an Earl Gray with honey and shot out the back door. There I was greeted by adoring dogs. When they saw me grab my cross country skis they knew they were in for more than an adventure, Zeus, my German Sheppard, unfortunately, couldn’t go; It’s far to long and difficult a journey for one with a torn A.C.L. He’s seems aware of his mortality and kennels without protest.

It is a skate skiers dream out here right now and today is the seasons best. The snow is 3 feet deep — 6 feet in some spots — covered with a thick crust, it supports our weight. Picture the surface of the earth as one large white snow cone, mile after mile of open farm country and habitat, most of it inaccessible throughout the year, but now, under these conditions, it’s all my playground.

With dogs in tow, I skirted the rim of the Dolores River Canyon; then lit out around a spectacular piece of property known as the knolls. When we turned west into a fallow field I spied two male coyotes breading a female way out in the field. My dogs instantly gave chase ruining a perfectly good romance. The female fled west and the two males ran north. Abby my Newfoundland mix ran flat out for a mile chasing the boys across the tundra until she appeared a black spot against a sea of snow. Max, my Golden Retriever tuckered out after half a mile and returned to my side. I skied north in pursuit of the hounds when a Flock of honking Canada geese rose up out of the river corridor and rapidly fell into formation ripping a V across the sky on their migration north. This harbinger of spring is a welcome site to those so weary of winter.

We veer west, across the county road and head towards a dormant irrigation canal in the distance. The snow is so deep here it fills the canal and resembles a dimple on the landscape. Turning south I skate another mile up to neighbor Jim’s house. No signs of life there, so we pressed on, further south, rejoining the canal by way of more fallow field. The pungent smell of elk hangs on the breeze, it’s an open invitation for any dog to chase, but I rein mine in, keeping them close, the elk are stressed enough trying to survive this winter.

By now the dogs are struggling to keep up the pace. I look over my shoulder to see Abby’s tongue touching the ground. I stop and let them catch up and when they do I shower them with affection for coming to my call. It’s imperative to have obedient dogs in this country, ones that will stop from a dead run five hundred yards out and return at my command.

We turn east finally and set our sites on home. The ranch looms in the distance like an oasis in the wilderness. We bushwhack down a grade, through some trees and I take header in the sage brush. I roll over and lay there while the dogs catch up, then we sprint for home.
I glide up behind the henhouse, startling Robin who’s collecting eggs.

“Wow . . . was that great or what,” I say catching my breath.

Being less adventurous than I, Robin skis laps around the property, practicing her skating technique, so next year she can keep up with the rest of us.

“What happened to the dogs?” she asks.

“They were here a minute ago. Oh . . . here they come.”

We both laugh; the dogs are walking slowly down the drive way, tongues dangling, a picture of contentment.

“I know two dogs that will sleep good tonight.”