One of the things you have to love about New Mexico is that most places within the state's borders, you can see a pretty decent mountain. Of course, it might be a hundred miles away, but there is always high country on the horizon. The view above is from a mountain pretty near (that is to say, under a hundred miles) to our new digs. From this peak given a moderately clear day, you can see to where we are down on the plains. Under two hours from dusty heat and agriculture to aspens, fir, and cool breezes.
A few changes to the blog roll. I've removed a couple of blogs that look to be defunct or not quite started, though I try not to be hasty about such things given my own lapses in posting. I have hopes that Hubert Hubert will start after rabbits again and that McIntyre and Chappell will commit pixel to screen rather than mere word to page.
Also, I've added a few blogs with simpatico content- Greg McReynolds of Mouthful of Feathers has a solo project where he writes about shotguns, a subject of infinite fascination to some of us. It is "Shotgun Chronicle". Also, Mark Coleman's "Wingshot", a blog of upland hunting, has been needing to be added for a while now, as has Gary Thompson's "Silk Lines and Paper Hulls" about upland hunting and fly fishing.That lucky dog is off to fish the Green Drake Hatch. Meanwhile, we had our last precipitation in February and it was over 100 for 23 out of 30 days last month down here. I'm not bitter or anything, I just hope we get a little rain so I can assuage my frustration by hunting quail in my shirtsleeves in January. Also, neither last nor least A has a blog up, sort of a different perspective of some of the same things you see here and I've added the New Mexico Wildlife Federation to the list of conservation links.
Well, one good way might be to barbecue. Outdoors, fire (only in a grill, plenty of other fire in the SW), beer, food- something any of those who fought for the nation's independence and ideals would likely be in favor of.
Perhaps ribs- here are country style ribs and a couple of racks of spareribs, rubbed with Mexican oregano, black pepper, salt, sweet paprika, powdered chipotle, red pepper flakes, allspice, and a pinch each of cinnamon and cumin. After spending most of the day in the rub, they came out of the refrigerator to get up to room temperature and went onto a slow fire with some chunks of oak and pecan on top.
Indirect heat only.
After two hours and change, we started brushing the ribs with barbecue sauce that we stirred up while the ribs were seasoning:
This is a good one if you like a sauce that it more acidic and tart, rather than sweet. The black coffee and the lime juice account for the acidic note. Another hour on the heat with frequent brushings of sauce made for a nice glaze and gave the meat enough time to break down and get tender. Not bad, even if I'm saying so myself.
As for us, in full disclosure those ribs are from last week. We've spent this past weekend alternating between goofing off and working. Up to Santa Fe for a wine festival and dinner with friends at a nice restaurant, then down to Abq. to do some things with a house that is, with any luck at all, nearly completely sold.
From Santa Fe the view of the Jemez Range was spectacular. From the mesas way down toward Cochiti and nearly as far south as Santa Ana, plumes of smoke ranging from small to darned big stretched all the way up to Santa Clara lands. The whole east side of that country is burning, one place or another. Not the fireworks anyone is looking for.
Driving south, though, we passed through some pretty good storms. It looks like the summer thundershowers are coming in, at least up in the mid and northern parts of the state. With any luck they'll knock down those fires pretty soon. Would that they work their way south, too.
There is a little water down here. The river's blue line across the map is more thin than that drawn by the Rio Grande, but like almost anywhere else people settled in the Southwest, water flows. In addition, there are playa lakes in wet years and some more permanent ponds along the river valley. Consequently, there is some waterfowl hunting. On the last day of this last season, A, Booker and I headed out to some public access ponds to give the birds a try.
Unfortunately, the wind never did pick up, the weather was relatively warm and the birds, predictably, did not fly.
Those of us who hunt ducks learn that mirrored ponds, while photogenic, are of little help in attracting birds. Once it became clear that the wind wasn't going to kick up and the birds would not be trading around, we packed up to head out. Once I emerged from the reeds, a bird did flush from a bit further down the edge and flew, well, mostly flew, for cover. End of the season and all, I swung and fired, only to see him pitch into thick reeds where it took Booker a good fifteen minutes to nose him out.
Books did make the retrieve, though, the only one all season. I did it for the dog and, in the end, they all taste the same in gumbo, right?
"...I am become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, and under the shadow of my own Vine and my own Fig-tree, free from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life, I am solacing myself with those tranquil enjoyments...." George Washington, Letter to Marquis de LaFayette, February 1, 1784
Already a private citizen, I'm a long way from retirement so this quote is mostly an excuse to show off our burgeoning figs, for which we have high hopes in this warmer clime. I first read the portion of Washinton's letter where he expressed his desire to return to Mount Vernon years ago and, for some reason, the bit about "my own vine and my own fig tree" has always stuck. No grapes planted, though. Melons, eggplant, green beans, black eye peas, squash, okra, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, dill, basil, thyme oregano, tarragon, artichokes, currants, serviceberries, cherries, and peaches, yes, but grapes no, at least not yet.
So, this move has brought us down into quail territory, lower & hotter than Albuquerque with more grassland and more birds.The little bit of driving around we've done, I've seen a lot of country that looks to me like it ought to be really good for blue quail (provided it ever rains).
We did get out a bit during the last season, scouting some nearby BLM and Open Gate lands. Our first foray, we found tracks near a windmill and then bumped the covey, which outsmarted & outran us pretty quickly.
Life & work intervened and it wasn't until the very end of the season that we found ourselves out again. We hit the area around that windmill again, working through a fair amount of pretty big mesquite, when Booker the Chessie disappeared and didn't respond to calls. He turned up sixty yards away having cornered a big porcupine in a mesquite bush and unsure what to do with it.
Books managed to get too close, though:
This required getting back to the truck and breaking out a pair of pliers. The quills in his chest were barely into the skin, but a couple of those in his chin were deep enough to hurt quite a bit when I pulled them out. Books didn't offer to bite, he just tried to keep me from getting at the deep ones. After a careful check to make sure we got them all and that none of the quills had broken off, a big drink of water and we were off to see if we couldn't find some other birds.
Some miles of driving and a couple of big loops walking and all we'd found were more tracks, a sunning badger, and a few antelope. We were headed back toward pavement when a covey of fifteen or so birds flushed across the road and hit the ground running. As I pulled up, jumped out, and started jogging up on the birds it occurred to me that I was all alone. Booker and A are both neophytes to the ways of blue quail and didn't fully appreciate the need to get on the birds and get the covey broken up so we could hunt singles before they all ran into the next county. I might have been a bit short in my explanation and A wasn't really aware that it's ok to run with a loaded shotgun, at least when you're trying to get a bunch of scurrying blue quail to flush. We did get them up though, and, between that flush and catching up to a couple of singles, we managed to scratch down a couple of birds and get Booker a couple of retrieves. One of those retrieves involved a leap over a prickly pear followed by a running snatch on a bird that wasn't quite dead yet. Not stylish, but exciting. The rest of the covey just melted away and disappeared, as blues are so very good at.
You can see the reason for the name "scaled quail":
On the rest of the way out we came across another covey, this one classic late season- small and wise to the ways of the world. They flushed a hundred yards from the truck, hit the ground running, split up and then flushed wild again. Good seed stock.
Here's hoping for a little rain so we have some birds for Books to learn on.
Over 100 F today with a 30 mph wind- our part of the Southwest is a sunny blast furnace waiting for the next fire to start and looking for a little rain if we're to have any quail or a fawn crop. Work still has the best of me, but we did get out to chase pheasants last December on a bit of a whirlwind trip. Let's think of cooler times- Up to North Texas after work on Friday, back Sunday afternoon. Five hundred miles in the truck and a couple on foot. Fewer birds than last year, but good fun, family, dogs, and we found some.
I had to go to my old faithful Citori, up there on the left, as a bit of a contretemps that ensued when Booker the Chessie lept out of the truck (& over me in the process) and jumped another dog left me with a stiff hand and made the double trigger on the LC Smith hard to manage. The o/u probably shoots better for me, anyway. More impressive was my Dad's work with his old Ithaca 37- thousands of rounds at dove, quail, & etc. have made those two a pretty deadly combination.
Back in NM and a few days later, A and I decided to see if the current trend for buttermilk fried chicken would lend itself to the wilder taste and drier texture of pheasant. Pheasant plains style, as it were:
Ever vigilant quality control:
Since we're now Southern plains, we added black-eyed peas, rice, gravy, and greens to the fried pheasant.
It all worked pretty well. The buttermilk did help keep the meat moist and the tang from it went well with the pheasant. We'll have to do it again, though likely in different weather.
Three months is a longer hiatus than I intended or wanted. Duck season has come & gone, quail is nearly over, and we've only been out a couple of times for short days. More on those soon.
In the meantime, the new job is good, but challenging and very time consuming. It requires many twelve hour and longer days full of last minute developments and has led to the neglect of family, friends, the dog, guns, the blog, reading, finishing up the move and all sorts of other things. As I settle in a bit more, that time pressure will ease, I hope. In the meantime, sporadic blogging should commence.