Saturday, May 30, 2009


Something for readers unfamiliar with the desert Southwest.

The last few days have turned cool and cloudy and we've been getting some unusual (for the time of year) rain. Nonetheless, it has warmed up enough for me to engage in that uniquely Southwestern ritual- filling and servicing the swamp cooler. "Swamp coolers" or, more accurately, "evaporative coolers" are the most common way of cooling houses out here.

One friend jokes that you should get your cooler set up by the Fourth of July and drain it by Halloween, but more realistically we typically have a hot spell in early June and you don't want the cooler, or more accurately the tubing bringing water to the cooler, to freeze while full of water which is a definite risk by mid to late October.

These are really simple devices, basically a box with a pan of water, a pump to run that water through some screens of damp material, and a blower to pump air through the damp screens and into your house. With our low humidity, a swamp cooler will cool most houses pretty well. In addition, at night when it drops down into the 60s or 70s you can just run the fan to move air through your house. Maintenance is easy and operating costs fairly low.

Here it is:

Here's the inside:

A squirrel-cage fan:

Run by an electric motor:

A water pump:

That pumps water from the tray it rests in up through the blue tube and then through the black tubes at the top of previous photo. From the black tubes on top the water runs into these channels and flows through the pads and screens:

I prefer natural pads, which are made from aspen wood which is shaved into fine strips:

The smell of the fresh pads as they get wet always brings to mind coolness and gives a hint of the aspen groves they came from. Besides, they're biodegradable and easily renewable. You have to replace them every year, but they're inexpensive, which cannot really be said for the plastic alternatives.

So, hook up the water, sweep any old scale (left by our hard water evaporating) and dirt out of the cooler, replace the pads, fill the cooler, check for leaks, make sure the pump and fan are running ok (and grease the bearings on the squirrel cage) and you're ready for the heat.

Monday, May 18, 2009

talking rot

"But you have a feeling of happiness about action to come?"

"Yes," said Wilson, "There's that. Doesn't do to talk too much about all this. Talk the whole thing away. No pleasure in anything if you mouth it up too much."

"You're both talking rot," said Margot.

Ernest Hemingway "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber"

(Best short story, ever, in my opinion.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fish not for dinner

Apart from speckled trout and redfish, time spent on the Laguna Madre will usually yield encounters with some other species. This last trip was notable for hookups with some unpalatable but fun fish, such as a few crevalle jacks, which are occasional visitors to the bay:

One of the Spanish nicknames for Jack Crevalle is "toro", a tribute to their strength. These ran right at ten pounds, which is about as big a jackfish as you want to tangle with on light gear. Much bigger than that and they'll just tear you up.

One day we spent nearly the whole time throwing topwater plugs and getting into the occasional trout as well as large numbers of skipjacks, or, to use the less local name, ladyfish:

While lots of fun to catch, they take a toll in gear. Sharp gill plates and abrasive mouths lead to cut-offs, even with a bite tippet. Poor man's tarpon, they jump off the hook about half the time, which is perfect- exciting strike and jump and no lost plugs.

More unusually, A got a hit on a topwater plug that led to a strong, fast run and stubborn fight. It turned out to be about the largest needlefish I've ever seen in the bay:

It's rare to hook one of these fellows, given their bony jaws and impressive dentition:

Note, too, that huge eye- the better to see you with, my dear- to be followed shortly by employment of all those teeth. Most the times, the needlefish you see back in the bay are about half this size.

One of the great things about fishing salt water is that you never know exactly what might turn up on the end of your line.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

dinner post

First you catch a fish:

Spotted seatrout:

fresh fillets:

Can't hold a candle to fresh fillets fried medium.
Fishing, not blogging. Irregular connectivity for a while.

Friday, May 01, 2009

modern life

"Earlier that summer, I ran into an old poet friend I hadn't seen in over a year. I said, 'How are you, Jack?' and he said 'Busy. Busyness is endemic now, you know?'
I thought, if a seventy-year-old poet is too busy, what hope is there for me?"
"It's become an epidemic. People drive angrily, even through this pretty foothills country, because they're too busy to slow down and enjoy the ride. They eat the worst kind of food because they're too busy to even think about eating well, let alone take the time to do it. Even recreation has gotten loud, frantic, and competitive because no one has what you can honestly call free time anymore. Fun has become a desperate business where you have to enjoy yourself in a precious few hours or die trying."

John Gierach, "At the Grave of the Unknown Fisherman"