Sunday, July 31, 2011

On the REAL Name for the Ranch

Welcome to Freedom Ridge Ranch: Where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the cows are above average.

Alert readers may have noticed that the name of our ranch
has finally been decided upon. I have been calling it "Ragamuffin Ranch" here on this blog and in general conversation because, well, I liked it. But there are other people involved in this enterprise besides me. The CIT thought the name was too cutesy, and threatened to pull out of the whole enterprise if it stayed that way. "Mom," he stated, "You don't rope cattle on a place called Ragamuffin Ranch." The EG was in total agreement, the name was too 'girly girl" and had to go. And he pointed out that even our ranching partner hated the name. "She hates that as much as you hate anything with the word 'Pointe' at the end of it!"
It is true. I refused to buy property once in a place with 'Pointe' as part of its name. I hate that pretentious 'e' at the end, and mocking call a place called Primrose Pointe, 'Primrose Pointy.'

We thought of a lot of possible and not so fussy names. We thought of a lot of humorous names, too, but we didn't intend to use them. "City Slickers Ranch" or "Broke Acres" just doesn't have the proper ring, the one that will make certain people want to be part of this adventure. So we looked at names based on local rock formations and local features. I really liked the idea of "Point Lookout Ranch, a name taken from the Point Lookout formation that makes up the caprock of our mesas and ridges . But the name with the most 'ring' to it was "Freedom Ridge Ranch", named after the ridge there behind the cabin the picture. This is the ridge that the old homesteader who took out a claim on this land a hundred years ago looked up at every day while proving up his claim, and the one that rainbows like to visit and mists (and smoke) like to curl around.

Freedom Ridge Ranch.
It brings up connotations of grass fed, grass finished beef raised in freedom right here on the ranch. It brings up the wholesome goodness of free-range chickens pecking in the grass, producing eggs with the yellowest yolks you have ever seen. And for Studley Dooright, our bull, it brings up the run up the ridge and through the fence to check out the pretty cows in season over at the McKinley place--but that's another story.

Most importantly, it reminds the EG of why he invested in the project in the first place. Freedom might have been 'just another word for nothin' left to lose' to Janice Joplin, but for the EG it means self-employment and entrepreneurship--and the time to craft really fine wood products-- after years of being just another engineer at a government lab. Our ranching partner likes all the connotations, but seems particularly taken with the idea of naming the ranch after a local geographical feature. And the CIT likes the freedom he has to swing a rope and to ride his horse daily.

And me? I like the whole concept of freedom. The freedom from the noise and traffic of the city. The freedom to set my own daily schedule, and the freedom of having my husband around all the time . . . (Hmmm. I wouldn't go that far, even out of sheer enthusiasm).
But I especially like the idea that we are free and clear, and can decide how to use this wealth made up of this place at this time using for our own best interest. That's the best part of having one's husband retire. Not to mention that the alarm does not go off at dark o'clock anymore. I never see a cow until after the sun comes up . . . Perhaps that's the greatest freedom. The Freedom from the tyranny of the alarm clock.

Pass that grass fed, grass finished beef, please.
And welcome to Freedom Ridge Ranch.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Geology Road Trip Yuma: Part I

Part I: The White Mountains and the Mogollon Rim

I have a young Facebook friend who has just completed her MS in Engineering and has been loo
king for the first job of her career. She got an interview in Yuma, AZ, and wanted to know if there was a way we could meet one another, since the Freedom Ridge Ranch is so close to Arizona. Although we are very close to Arizona, we are pretty far from Yuma, because it is in the far southwest corner of that state, where Arizona, California and the country of Mexico meet. Although it is a long drive, I was anxious to take a road trip, and since my friend offered to share her hotel room with me, I took her up on it.

I had a great time, and we had s
ome really good conversation because we share an interest in Objectivism, and I happen to be partial to engineers and scientists. And I got some really good Geology Road Tripping in, because the drive took me across two Geological provinces, and through several biological regions and ecotones. I drove from the Colorado Plateau where I now live and into the Basin and Range. In the process, I crossed through the short grass prairie of the east Mogollon slope, through the White Mountains of the Datil-Mogollon Volcanic field, and down through the copper and gold mining country of the Superstition mountains, and into the Sonoran Desert province, with its unique biology and weather. Over the trip I took more than 100 pictures. I geeked out so much on the landscapes and underlying geology that it will take several blogs to do the trip justice. That's what happens when I get to drive by myself!

On Sunday morning last, bags packed, I picked up my AAPG geological map, The Roadside Geology of Arizona, and I was off on an adventure. The first part of my journey took me from New Mexico into Arizona, and through the White Mountains from Springerville to Show Low, and on to Salt River Canyon. I crossed the state line on US 60, just before plunging down into Coyote Creek Canyon, the first of several canyons stepping the highway down into Round Valley and Springerville. Here a truck has just climbed up to the Arizona-New Mexico state line as I prepare to go the other way. The White Mountain volcanic field rises on the horizon ahead.

In Springerville, I turned south to stop at Safeway to get provisions, and then I continue on west on AZ 260, which will take me right through the White Mountains. West of Springerville, at South Fork, the burn scars from the wallow fire are still fresh, although the monsoons have turned the burned and blackened pastures of June into the emerald green of late July. Soon, I will leave behind the Little Colorado river valley and climb the mesa to the west, entering the high country around White Mountain Baldy.

After the climb from Round Valley and South Fork, and past the Greer turn-off ("Still Here, Still Green"), AZ 260 enters Fort Apache -White Mountain Apache Reservation, north of the Sunrise Ski area. Here, volcanic cones rise from mountain meadows. The snow fences are silent testimony to the areas of blowing snows that drift across the highway in winter.
The White Mountains consist of Tertiary and Quaternary volcanics that overlie the Colorado Plateau, forming Arizona's east-central highlands. The volcanic field has been eroded by Quaternary glaciers and their outflow, and is deeply dissected by canyons in the south, these cut by streams that are now some of finest for trout fishing in the United States.

Near McNary, 260 begins to drop just a bit, as it takes me towards the resort communities of Pinetop and Lakeside, south of Show Low. The mountain meadows and mixed conifers give way to Aspen and Ponderosa Pine. The ground here is covered in native grasses and ferns. This is a clean woods, kept so by the Fort Apache Indians, and is less susceptible to fire. The US forest service policy of no cutting and no burning, and now no grazing due to the protection of endangered species is not followed on the Res. As is true throughout the mountains, whenever one crosses a boundary between the National Forest and private and/or Indian land, the difference is immediately noticeable. Here on the White Mountain Reservation, as well as on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, we see some of the most beautiful areas in the White Mountains.

Following 260 through Pinetop-Lakeside, and then on into Show Low, where I stopped to gas up and take a short break, I rejoined US 60 and headed west. St
ill on the Colorado Plateau, here, the rocks in the shallow mountaintop road cuts are composed of the Permian Kaibab Limestone and Coconino Sandstone, which in other areas of the White Mountains are covered by the Tertiary and Quaternary volcanics. Here, on the west side of Carrizo Creek, I stopped to look back upon the White Mountains. In foreground is a layer of the older Supai Group, dating back to Pennsylvanian and early Permian time. Here, I have already descended from the Mogollon Rim, the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, although the exact location of the contact is obscured by the volcanoes I am about to leave behind me.

The descent from the Mogollon Rim is both a physical desce
nt and a descent through time as US 60 runs down and then up, but always more down than up, through small canyons whose drainage eventually ends up in the Salt River. Here, the road cuts are composed of the Pennsylvanian and Permian rocks of the Supai Group, composed of limestones, mudstones, sandstones and conglomerates, that tell the story of a coastal area on an epicratonic sea, that rose and fell over late Paleozoic time. The descent into the Paleozoic here takes place over a few miles, as the early Pennsylvanian Naco limestone appears in the road cuts, and still further south, the Mississipian Redwall Limestone, its top surface white with the evidence of Karst topography, further down section, the Devonian Martin Formation, banded blue mudrocks between layers of brown limestones. All of these limestones tell of the depths of the sea that once covered this area, a sea teaming with strange and wonderful life.

Although by this point, the Colorado Plateau has been left behind, the descent in elevation and in time has been steady. Soon though, a dramatic plunge in the pre-Cambrian rocks of Arizona's copper and gold country will occur. Stay tuned for Part II of Road Trip Yuma.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

No Justice: The Nanny State Becomes the Police State

I recently finished a book by a friend and business associate that discussed his time in jail. He was arrested based on a false accusation and investigation and before the smoke cleared even a little bit, he spent some time in jail. His book was very interesting and it was also revealing. It gives the reader a look into a world that most of us do not know anything about, and one that we all hope to never experience.

One of the most revealing parts of his experience was the attitude of the jailors toward those confined there, and the attitude of the general public toward those who have been arrested. The assumption is one of guilt, even though most of those confined have not yet been charged or gone to trial. The general public has forgotten that in the United States, a person is to be presumed innocent until he is actually convicted of a crime. He does not have to prove his innocence in court, rather the state must prove that the person is guilty using standards of evidence and judgment. But Americans have forgotten about the presumption of innocence and assume that if a person is hassled by the police--even if he is not arrested--that he must have done something to deserve it. In this way, presumably innocent people are deprived of their liberty and dehumanized even though they are often completely innocent of any crime.

This attitude is one of the core components of our rapidly developing police state: a state in which peace officers who have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Sovereign State in which they work have, in the time of a generation, morphed into quasi-militarized "law enforcement officers" who ignore the rights of the citizens whose rights they are purportedly hired to protect. And the rights of the accused are not much understood or honored by either the operatives of the police state itself, nor by citizens, who generally do not realize how much danger they are in of being dragged into its tyranny. Lately, even the Constitutional protections that the accused enjoy have been deliberately removed by the courts.

The sheer number of people who have had their liberty removed for weeks or months before ever going to trial is another sure indication that we are rapidly becoming a police state. In the United States now, most of those so confined are accused of "crimes" determined by fiat, "crimes" in which no one's rights were even remotely close to being violated. Many of these are drug law violations, and often a person's rights are removed for long periods of time due to an accusation of possession of a small amount of an "illegal" substance, which now carries sentences that are often greater than those handed out for severe child abuse. In some ways, the possession or use of an "illegal" substance has become a life sentence, creating a permanent underclass, because the penalties have become so severe, and other sanctions meted out by the federal government have become so limiting that the individual cannot overcome them over a lifetime, even if he is a minor child at the time of arrest. More often than not, an individual's probation is indeterminate and full liberty is only restored if and when a social worker determines that the person has been rehabilitated. In such cases, a court is only peripherally involved, and the case is not determined by any rational standards of evidence judged by a jury at all. This indeterminate "sentencing" is a complete violation of any just standard, and plays havoc with the rights of the accused.

All of this stems from the soft tyranny of the Nanny State, and can always be expected to become the hard tyranny of the Police State. It is injustice pure and simple.

Justice requires that each person is treated as equal under the law. Further, the law itself is unjust if the legislation is intended to limit the freedom of an individual for purposes other than the protection of the rights of all individuals.

The very assumptions of the Nanny State--that there are some people wiser and better than the individual, who therefore should be enabled to control the choices and actions of individuals for their own good--are antithetical to the very concepts of liberty that the United States was founded upon, and fly in the face of the Constitution written to create a government whose sole purpose is to protect those rights. It is up to each competent adult to determine what his or her own good is, and the bar to declaring incompetence should necessarily be very high. No matter how much a person who is different in some way might disturb us, and no matter what we think of his or her decisions, we ought to be very wary of removing liberty for light or transient reasons.

The very concept of a "justice system", which is a product of the Nanny State, is a contradiction in terms. There can be no "system", no collective method of determining innocence or guilt, no "system" of mandatory sentencing, or of required rehabilitation standards that is just. The purpose of justice is not to cure social ills or to rehabilitate individuals. It is to make a judgment about the responsibility of an individual for an action that violates the rights of another, and to exact a penalty upon that action in accordance with the severity of the violation.

Justice must be individual or it is not justice at all. Justice must always refer to the law, which must be applied equally to all, or it is not justice at all. Justice requires that the law be knowable and uncomplicated, and that a person must be able to know ahead of time whether a contemplated action is a violation of the law. Justice requires that the individual merits of the case be considered, and that the evidence be weighed by a jury of peers of the accused; that is those who live in the same community, know its standards, and its weaknesses.

We are seeing a great deal of evidence that the Nanny State that has been established in order to impose the ideas of some of us upon us all, applying a soft tyranny of rules and regulations, is rapidly becoming a police state. Those conservatives who were content to remove the rights of those who ingest socially unapproved substances are now dismayed to watch storm troopers from federal agencies raiding Amish dairy farms to stop us all from ingesting unpasteurized milk or locally produced chickens. Those liberals who have been content to remove the property rights of individuals who disagree with them about diversity, are now dismayed to watch police officers cum storm troopers wrestle individuals to the ground and arrest them for the crime of standing on their own property and observing the actions of the police themselves.

Most of us stand idly by now while our friends and neighbors are presumed guilty for fear of contradicting the monster that we have created,and thereby being subject to the meat grinder of the "justice system". Many of us implicitly favor mob rule over the rule of law, calling for the blood of the innocent when a jury rules that the state has not made its case, because the news media has already tried and convicted the defendant in the court of public opinion. We presume to make judgments based on little evidence, and to condemn people because of the emotional impact of the crime itself, rather than on evidence of guilt or innocence of the accused.

Thus we have come to the place where, as a friend posted to my Facebook Wall:
"When they took the 4th Amendment, I was quiet because I didn't deal drugs. When they took the 6th Amendment, I was quiet because I was innocent. When they took the 2nd Amendment, I was quiet because I didn't own a gun. Now they have taken the 1st Amendment, and I can only be quiet." - Lyle Myhr
If we treasure our freedom, we need to know our rights, and their basis in the principles of Liberty. We need to understand that the protection afforded to the accused protects us all, and to to remove the rights of accused imperils all of our rights. We need to remember that a little bit of liberty is like being a little bit pregnant--either we act on our rights or we don't have them. And most importantly, we need to understand that justice is a more exacting standard than is goodness, and being "good" in the face of injustice will always turn us to evil.

Friday, July 8, 2011

And After the Fire . . .

וְאַחַ֤ר הָרַ֙עַשׁ֙ אֵ֔שׁ לֹ֥א בָאֵ֖שׁ יְהוָ֑ה וְאַחַ֣ר הָאֵ֔שׁ קֹ֖ול דְּמָמָ֥ה דַקָּֽה׃
And after the earthquake, a fire--the Eternal
was not in the fire. And after the fire--kol
ramamah dakah--a soft murmuring voice.
-- I Kings 19:12

The past month has been a very fast ride. During the first week of June, the Wallow fire in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest took off, leaping quickly to the northeast, sending its smoke and ash up to our ranch on winds so strong that the fire was spotting up to three miles ahead of the line. That week was surreal here, as we went about with windows closed, peering through windows at a world gone smoky and eerily, translucently orange and red. Even up in Albuquerque and Tijeras, the smoke was seen and smelled, the funeral pyre of thousands upon thousands of trees covering six states.

We lost a lot of time down here on what has now been formally named Freedom Ridge Ranch, th
e chickens are late arriving, the garden only got half-in, and will have to be stocked with plants started at nurseries in Show Low and Albuquerque. We spent a day moving the horses down to the Middle Rio Grande Valley and another moving them back. But we did get the house in Tijeras on the market (listing here in case you know somebody . . .) and we are pretty close to being done moving in down here at the ranch. Work here is now proceeding apace, and though catching up to what we envisioned for this summer is highly unlikely, we find ourselves grateful for what could have happened but didn't as we greet a timely monsoon season with fresh appreciation.

Over the past week we have had the opportunity to drive roads that were closed a week or two ago, through the Apache-Sitgreaves and in the Rim Country, on Monday, down to Luna and today over to Pinetop-Lakeside. Each time, as we drove across the state line, we saw the shadow on Escudillo Mountain, the burned areas coming down near to Eager itself. We saw the blackened places along US 180 and SR 260, where backfires had been set. But we also saw the damp ground where the monsoon rains had brought out the green of new growth. And near the Fort Apache ski area, we saw the ferns under the jack pines, impossibly green where a month ago there was only brown. Deer crossed the highway, taking their own sweet time, and wild horses were grazing again near the lakes and rivers between the Greer turnoff and McNary.

The fire was terribly hard on some of our friends and neighbors, some losing their homes and everything but what they could take out, but many lost only their refrigerators full of food when the electricity went out while they were evacuated. We discovered this when we went into Lowe's at Show Low today to find a fitting for the ice maker/water line we were installing for our refrigerator. Lowe's was out of refrigerator water line fittings. They were low on refrigerators. They had been selling them off the floor to people who needed them. People from Nutrioso, from Alpine, from Greer and Sunrise. The insurance companies were paying Lowe's to lock and haul off the old refrigerators with spoiled food within, and install new ones. And Lowe's was throwing in the new fittings because although the old ones may have been good, when they install they are liable for any new leaks. The kindness of neighbors and the kindness of strangers, and even of large corporations, is a balm to the spirits of those who are now rebuilding homes and lives. We saw each other through, with a little help from friends and strangers.

The fire was terribly hard on some, and very difficult for most here, but the primary response is gratitude. Where ever we have seen burned ridges and valleys, we have also seen the signs. In Nutrioso, in Alpine, in South Fork, in Luna, in Greer: THANK YOU! God Bless Our Firefighters! Thank You, Our Heroes! GREER, ARIZONA: Still Here, Still Green. In case Obama is wondering, this is the fiercely independent, decidedly can-do spirit of Flyover Country, the real America. We do cling to our God and our guns. Proudly. Gratefully. We lift our small voices to the sky.

And now the monsoon rains have come, on schedule, and they are falling every afternoon over the White Mountains, from the Rim to Escudillo, just as they do most years across the southwest beginning on the 4th of July. Waters are moving over the burned scars, and in the unburned forest still here, still green. The waters trickle, drop upon drop, they beat a steady rhythm on the metal roof at Freedom Ridge Ranch. The winds blow cool air and soft clouds where once it was all fire and smoke and ashes. And we have seen rainbows, double and triple, arching across the mesas and canyons. Promises that life returns with the water.

And after the fire . . . kol rammamah dakah. A soft murmuring voice.

Picture Credits: Top--National Forest Service InciWeb. Middle--Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Web Page. Bottom: Rain over Escudillo, taken August 2010, Ragamuffin Studies.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Stand with Israel: A Speech Before the Independence Day Rally for the Constitution

Yesterday, July 4th, 2011, I gave a short speech at the Independence Day Rally for the Constitution in Luna, New Mexico. Here is what I said:

Good Morning. Shalom Aleichem.

I ask for a few minutes of your time to discuss something that goes beyond the important national and Constitutional problems we have been thinking about this morning. We are certainly facing those dangers from within, but we are facing dangers outside of our country as well. As you have heard, the International Left has now joined with the forces of Jihadist Islam in order to work together for one world government. the leftists believe that they are using the Jihadists to attain world domination. The Jihadists know that they will use the leftists to attain one world Caliphate and then destroy them.

For us, this means the loss of our liberty and the Western Culture that produced it, no matter who wins. I am not a betting woman, but I expect that in any struggle between the Left and the Jihadis, the Jihadis will win. They are the most consistent.

But this is not the first time Western Culture has been threatened. In fact, the first time it was at risk, Western Culture had not even been developed. The nascent ideas of the Rule of Law and Individual Responsibility would be given to the world by Judaism, which at the beginning resided within the future of the dynamic people of the Israel more than two thousand years ago.

Imagine with me, if you would, circumstances a long time ago in place very far away. It is the year 701 BCE. Sennacharib King of Ashur ( that is, Assyria) sent his general up from the sack of Lachish to threaten the City of Jerusalem with utter destruction. If you had been an Israelite upon the walls of the old city, you would have heard this general, Rab-Shakech, saying in your own tongue that your city is doomed, that should you fight, you will lose, and you will be flayed alive and beheaded, and that your wife and children will be taken into slavery in Ninevah, that great city, and forced to serve idols. But the general also said, O, he of the honeyed tongue: "Come now, and surrender, and you shall eat of your vine and fig tree until you are taken to serve in Ninevah, that great city, a place not unlike your own."

In these circumstances, what would be your hope? Would you hope that Hezekiah, King of Judah, would listen to the beguiling voice and take you into slavery, to bow down to the gods of death in order that you may live?, Or would you hope to stand and fight, no matter how desperate the situation—to fight to remain faithful to your covenant with the G-d of Israel, to die free rather than live as a slave?

Whatever your wish would have been while standing on that wall, knowing that the hour of trial was soon upon you, this is what happened. The G-d of Israel told his prophet, Isaiah son of Amoz to tell Hezekiah, King of Judah: “Be not afraid”. And the king listened to Isaiah and prepared his people for battle. For he knew that a choice between slavery in defeat and slavery in surrender was really not a choice at all. But by some unaccounted for miracle Sennacherib’s army became desperately ill, and no battle was fought. Rab Shakech and his armies left the field of battle before it began, and were gone by morning light.

And so it was that Western Civilization was saved before it ever began. Historians and scholars recognize this battle that never was as one of the decisive moments that set the future history of the world onto a path recognizable by us today. One of the pillars upon which Western Civilization is built is the Jewish understanding that the universe rests upon order and law, and that the law applies to all equally, that it favors neither the rich nor the poor, neither the kings and priests, nor the choppers of wood and drawers of water. But had Hezekiah King of Judah, chosen to surrender before the battle began, then there would have been no Judah, and no Jews to bring the idea of the Rule of Law forward, to see it in full bloom as a pillar of human freedom in the West.

There are many such moments in human history, times in which if a small group of seemingly unimportant individuals had wavered in the face of seemingly unbeatable foes, human freedom might have been stillborn, and the generations that have now lived free would have never seen liberty’s great light.

I believe we stand at such a moment today. Western values—individual rights, the rule of law, liberty its-own-self—is under attack from within and without, and as in 701 BCE, the tiny land of Israel, is standing in the crosshairs. The enemies of individual rights and human liberty will strike there first, seeking to destroy the West, the keeper of human dignity and freedom.
The Jewish State is the canary in the coal mine: if Israel falls to the bronze-age group-think that is the marriage between Jihadist Islam with the Left, then what is left of the West will not be too far behind.

And now it is we who are called upon to “Be not afraid.” Courage, it is said is found in the most unlikely of places, and its messengers are often the least important of people. We are those people, and what we do matters.

Last summer, the radio host Glenn Beck called for a rally in Washington DC, and he asked us, just ordinary people, to restore our honor by coming to the Lincoln Memorial on 8/28. The number of people who did so, peacefully and with purpose, speaks about how the smallest of persons can make a great difference in the world.

This year, Mr. Beck is holding a Restoring Courage conference in Jerusalem, on the south steps of the remnant of the Temple. He is asking all of us to stand with him, to stand for Israel, for he believes that Israel is once again the place where the battle will be met, and where the resolve of the West will first be tested. And to those of us who cannot travel to Israel, he is asking that we stand here, in our neighborhoods and in our churches and temples and synagogues. He is asking that we participate in the events through the wonder of the internet, and that American Christians find and invite their Jewish neighbors to join them for this event.

I stand before you today as a Jew. I believe that American Christians are the truest and surest friends that Israel has in the world. Despite what many have said, American Christianity shares important bonds with Israel, and Israel recognizes it. In Hebrew, the United States is called ARTZOT ha-BRIT—the Lands of the Covenant. That Covenant is the United States Constitution, born of the longing of those who left their birthplace to become a light to the nations, to advance the cause of Liberty in the world. Imperfect as we are, this is the Covenant that we strive to protect: Justice—characterized by the Rule of Law and not men; and Liberty—characterized by the recognition that individual rights are the divine gift endowed through our very nature and unalienable by any government.

To stand with Israel takes courage in these days. And that is why the rally in Jerusalem is called Restoring Courage. The time is coming, it is said, when we will all have to choose between what is easy and what is right. In the free choices we make, we come to learn who we are. As a Jew, my choice is between standing for who I am or risking certain annihilation, for the enemies of Israel have proclaimed the desire to kill every last Jew on the face of the earth. As Americans, your choices may not seem to be that stark. But they are still choices between being who you are and being enslaved. So I am asking you today to look into Restoring Courage: Stand with Israel. I am asking you to look into how this can be accomplished even here in New Mexico, here in Catron County.

It takes some Chutzpah to stand here and ask you this, but I am inviting myself to join with you to participate in this event on August 24.

I ask you: Will you stand with Israel?