Random thoughts on life in western North Dakota with specific emphasis on the Little Missouri River and Missouri River watersheds. Also features news from Red Oak House, book reviews, and photographs from the garden. I write when I feel like it. I recognize that the choice of the name of my blog could be characterized as naughty. My mistakes are my own. UnHeralded.fish picks up my blogs, edits beautifully, and you can subscribe to UnHeralded.fish feeds if you wish.
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Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Great Horned Owl Nest Building by Human Hands at Red Oak House
We get lots of bird activity here in the center of town on the Missouri River and we encourage this with feeders. Sharp-shinned hawks perch in the blue spruce and wreak havoc on the feeders -- a carnivorous accipiter species of hawk that feast on hapless songbirds. I also regularly hear eastern screech owls and we have a house wren home mounted on the fence bordering our back patio, a source of great joy in the summer months here in North Dakota.
Like so many, I find owls to be a particularly interesting species and thrill to see them perched in our trees. Our friend Dr. Alan Van Norman is perhaps the foremost expert in Bismarck on owls. The other day I mentioned to him that I had great horned owls regularly perched in my trees and he could come and photograph them and his retort was "you should place a basket in your tree to get them to nest in your yard." Well, that was a terrific idea in my mind so I brought it up with my friend Mike Jacobs, one of North Dakota's best birders and we brainstormed. Following that lunch conversation, I researched this, found some information, and hatched a plan to build my own.
Now it was time to place the nest in the tall green ash tree in the backyard where I regularly see the owls perch. Jeff got the ladder placed really tight against the tree and up I went, nest in hand, while Jim and Linda stood by as witnesses. Fortunately I do yoga, so I have good balance and I'm okay on a ladder so long as someone is holding it firm down below and I am careful about not looking down too much. I wedged that nest into the crook of some branches and then wired it to the branches in about six places to secure it from the howling Dakota winds we get on regular occasion. There were some jokes about the deep snow being something I would bounce on if I fell off the ladder, but all's well that end's well. Mission accomplished. Now I wait for the owls and hope I didn't get it up this year too late for their nesting which has already begun. I'm hoping to not only observe the owl family, but also benefit from the predation of rabbits in my garden. Certainly my neighbors wonder what the hell we were up to today, and they might be grateful that we're not out there cussing at the rabbits so damned much. I'll keep you posted.
Monday, February 27, 2017
Chelsea's new IT equipment and her gift to her Grandma
Her new laptop and printer are up and running. She also had enough money for new speakers, a charger for her new camera, a new Kindle and a few miscellaneous things like spare ink and a couple of shirts for her new parttime job at the Dollar Store. Finally, she paid it forward by gifting her 84-year-old Gram, Marian Crook, with her old laptop, Gram's very first computer. All in all, a heartwarming story. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart friends, for your generosity, and for renewing our belief that there are good hearts all around us in this life.
Marian Crook with her new gmail account in her Edgewood Vista Mandan apartment. Like a kid with a new toy or a teenager with a new tool. Baby steps. Eventually we'll get her on Facebook.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Missouri River at Bismarck
My Grandma Lillie's Quilt and My Mother's Bedroom Furniture
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Friday, February 24, 2017
Maragritas with walbys
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Next 25 years in North Dakota
Here is our list:
- · 60,000 more acres of wilderness
- · Healthy wetland environments large enough to sustain a full complement of wetlands and grasslands birds with nesting habitats
- · Spaces quiet enough that you can hear Sprague’s Pipits
- · A grasslands national park similar to the Canadian Grasslands National Park (Des Lacs and Lostwood knit together would be a great grasslands national park)
- · Enough funding so that every time an oil well goes out of production the state would buy the land and do nothing with it so that it eventually becomes wildlife habitat
- · Wetlands are key
- · Wrong to manage for a particular species but how ever habitat exists it would support multiple species
- · All oil wells gone
- · Unified North Dakota University System
- · One library card for all
- · Mike would like to know that if he wanted to see an antelope on any given afternoon he’d be able to see one
- · Would like to be able to find burrowing owls
- · J. Clark Sayler is as precious a place as it is now
- · A meaningful International Peace Garden as a place where there is real engagement about peace and justice, where peace is more important than flowers
- · VA healthcare and long term care in all cities of more than 15,000
- · Expanded Elkhorn Ranch with national monument status
- More Democrats in the legislature
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
I wasn't able to travel to Nashville for my graduation ceremony but one of my kind professors, Dr. Michael Rothacker, nabbed one of the program booklets for me and mailed it to me in North Dakota with a lovely handwritten note and I still have this in my keepsakes, along with memories of sitting on the lawn in front of the Peabody buildings sipping sherry with him and watching the renegade squirrels. We worked hard (I was a graduate assistant librarian at the Education Library), studied hard and played hard and always found time to read the Nashville Tennessean every single day before class or a shift at the reference desk. Thank you Vanderbilt University!
Find Your Park
All we needed for yesterday's excursion was a couple of water bottles and our binoculars and cameras. It was 55 degrees in February, the ice is out on the Little Missouri River, there were very few other visitors, and we saw plenty of wildlife including bison and prairie dogs and a magpie and golden eagle. Chelsea's favorite, wild horses, were here & there as well. She took some good photographs. If you are interested in her photography, you can find her Facebook page at Chelsea Sorenson Photos, including some of her photos from yesterday's excursion.
Meanwhile, here are a few of mine. We made the best of a midwinter thaw here in Dakotaland and even got to squeeze in lunch in Belfield with my nephew and brother-in-law, Michael and Craig McLaughlin. Life is good.
Monday, February 20, 2017
Little Missouri River
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Friday, February 17, 2017
What Trump Is Doing Is Not O.K.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Disability Awareness Day
Attending Disability Awareness Day at my state capitol. These folks do good and important work. Godspeed
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Stephen Colbert, again and again and again
Stephen Colbert’s anti-Trump experiment is starting to work
The ongoing chronicles of Lizzie our Springer Spaniel
Monday, February 13, 2017
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Daughter Dog Date
Trump and Consequences
So my husband had back surgery
Friday, February 10, 2017
My friend Jan Swenson, Executive Director, Badlands Conservation Alliance, wins a well-deserved award
Jan Swenson, Executive Director of Badlands Conservation Alliance, I am so proud to call you friend. The first non-wildlife professional to receive the award in the history of the organization.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Brushing up on Spanish
Starting with the basics
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
How is it that I always run out of time at the wrong moment? Gotta laugh. Oh well. At least I don't have to go to France to get a refill.
February morning art
Monday, February 6, 2017
Square Butte of which there are many
One of the many Square Buttes in the world. It's true. Look it up people! This particular one in North Dakota on the west bank of the "mighty and heretofore endless Missouri River".
My first copy of Sibley Guide to Birds
A warm welcome
Sunday, February 5, 2017
Latest High Plains Reader piece by my husband on The Bad Lands
Does the Office Make the Man
Does the man make the office
Saturday, February 4, 2017
Church key, February 4, 2017
Last Child in the Woods
Sometimes my old siblings and I wonder if we raised our children with too much Disney and Harry Potter and not enough hikes and camping.
Alice Roosevelt Longworth
A Great book and inspiring read
A new book Communicating Better with People on the Autism Spectrum
Communicating Better with People on the Autism Spectrum by Paddy-Joe Moran 2016 Jessica Kingsley Publishers (London and Philadelphia)
I've highlighted through it in a flash and will be routing it to the people in my close circle who care.
"As constant use of social media has become the new normal, however, people have started challenging the continued relevance of Dunbar’s number: Isn’t it easier to have more friends when we have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to help us to cultivate and maintain them? Some, like the University of California, Berkeley, professor Morten Hansen, have pointed out that social media has facilitated more effective collaborations. Our real-world friends tend to know the same people that we do, but, in the online world, we can expand our networks strategically, leading to better business outcomes. Yet, when researchers tried to determine whether virtual networks increase our strong ties as well as our weak ones (the ones that Hansen had focussed on), they found that, for now, the essential Dunbar number, a hundred and fifty, has remained constant."
THE LIMITS OF FRIENDSHIP
Friday, February 3, 2017
602 Goya Buru
Bullion Butte wins another one by Jim Fuglie
By Jim Fuglie
There was a big dust-up about 5 years ago over the North Dakota State Land Board’s decision to offer, for lease, the right to drill for oil on the west side of one of southwest North Dakota’s major landmarks, Bullion Butte. The butte and some of the acreage around it are mostly owned by the U.S. Forest Service, and the area has been off limits to development since about 1977, and closed to even access by vehicles since 2001, when the Forest Service set it aside as one of five “roadless areas” of the Bad Lands, areas suitable for designation as official Wilderness under the Federal Wilderness Act of 1964.
Bullion Butte is one of North Dakota’s true treasures. It is absolutely my single favorite place in North Dakota. I have hiked to the top of it a few dozen times. It’s harder work each year for these aging legs of mine (I haven’t missed many years since I first climbed it in 1976), and each time I do it now, I stand at the precipice on the northeast corner of the massive butte, looking down at the Little Missouri River, where I parked my car a couple of hours earlier, and shout at the top of my lungs, much to the amusement of my climbing mates, whoever they happen to be, “I am now the oldest person to ever climb Bullion Butte!” I’ve never climbed it with anyone older than me, so there’s no one to challenge me, and my most frequent climbing companion, Mike Jacobs, who’s two months younger than me, says he just can’t wat until I die so he can go up there one last time and stake the claim for himself. I hope it’s a long wait.
It’s not the highest butte in North Dakota—White Butte, about 20 miles south of Bullion, claims that honor, by about 150 feet—but it’s in the top 5, and the land area on top probably makes it the largest. It’s easily 500 acres of flat prairie grasslands, and when you’re standing in the middle of it, away from the edges, you get the illusion you’re just out walking on the North Dakota prairie. Which you are, except the rest of the prairie is about a thousand feet lower.)
Mike (or my wife Lillian, or whoever else is with me) and I usually circumnavigate it, which takes a couple of hours, overlooking southwest North Dakota in every direction—you can see Black Butte to the southeast, Pretty Butte southwest, Sentinel Butte northwest, and the Rainy Buttes to the east, all great in their own right, and all in that “top ten” category of highest buttes in the state. I’m pretty sure you can also see both South Dakota and Montana from various points, but claiming Canada would be a stretch.
We almost always stop on the northwest face for a short rest and a sandwich or an orange before making the trek back down to the river, which takes an hour or more, depending on how often we dawdle along the way. Usually a cold beer awaits in the cooler, and on some hot summer days, we’ve been known to just plop right down in the shallow Little Missouri River and savor that.
Anyway, back to matters at hand. Bullion Butte and about 9,000 acres surrounding it, are part of the Prairie Legacy Wilderness proposal, a plan to designate those last 60,000 acres of roadless areas in the Bad Lands as official Wilderness, preserving it as it is, forever. Not much has changed up there, or on the rest of the roadless acres—but the other 95 percent of the million acres of National Grasslands (we know them better as our Bad Lands) are open for oil and gas development, and that’s happening.
Those five small areas, thoe 60,000 acres, that I think were finally and officially set aside by President Bill Clinton in a plan written in the final days of his administration, remain roadless, and “suitable for wilderness” today. No oil development. One of the little problems with the way that roadless area plan was written, though, is that there are some “inholdings” inside some of these areas, land owned by someone else, surrounded by Forest Service land, and one of these inholdings is a section of land on Bullion Butte, owned by the state of North Dakota’s Trust Lands Department and managed by the State Land Board. North Dakota’s trust lands—about 3 million acres scattered across the state—were given to us at statehood to provide income to support our state’s public education system. Most of us know them as “school sections.” One of those school sections, all 640 acres, just happens to be part of Bullion Butte.
Probably in 1889, at statehood, nobody gave much thought to the idea there might be billions of dollars worth of oil under them, and that someday, somebody might figure out a way to get it out of the ground. And make a whole bunch of money for our state’s schools. But somewhere along the line, some foresighted state employee or legislator devised a way to make that happen. It happens by the state leasing the rights to the minerals under those school sections to somebody with an oil drilling rig, letting that somebody bring the oil up, sell it, and give the state a percentage of the money. I think the state gets the royalties from one of every six barrels, but I’m not sure—in any case it’s been a lot of money during the Bakken Boom.
The way it works is, somebody with an oil drilling rig goes through the records in county court houses and when they spot a section of land that might just have oil under it, they “nominate” it for lease at the Trust Land Department’s next quarterly lease sale. The Trust Lands Department puts out a list a few months before the sale so that other people with drilling rigs can take a look at it and decide if they want to bid on it at an auction.
That’s what happened in early 2012. A leasing company on hire by oil giant Chesapeake Energy Corporation nominated Section 24 in Township 137, Range 103, in Billings County, North Dakota, for lease at the next auction. That’s the school section on Bullion Butte, in the middle of the Forest Service’s roadless area, and if Chesapeake had leased it and decided to drill an oil well there, it would have pretty much eliminated the scenic, wildlife and cultural value of Bullion Butte, which has been protected from development since statehood.
Luckily, North Dakota has residents who care about things like this, and one of them, Mike McEnroe, who’s a member of a number of conservation organizations, including the Badlands Conservation Alliance (BCA), went looking through the list of sections nominated for lease one day back in 2012 and spotted the Bullion Butte section. McEnroe and Jan Swenson, Executive Director of BCA, went and talked to the Trust Lands people, and also to the news media, and the end result was, there was so much bad publicity about this happening that Chesapeake ended up withdrawing its nomination and went slinking off into the Bad Lands with its tail between its legs. A victory for BCA. And Bullion Butte. And the Bad Lands.
Well, fast forward five years. I was at a meeting with McEnroe and Swenson and a few other BCA members a couple weeks ago and Jan said “Guess what, guys. There’s a Trust Lands mineral lease auction at the end of the month, and Section 24 is back on the list—somebody nominated it.”
A short discussion ensued, and I said that since I had written a few stories about it for my blog 5 years ago, maybe I’d do another one now. So I went home and called my (by now through sheer continuous contact about stuff at his office) friend Drew Combs, who’s head of the Minerals Management Division of the Trust Lands Department and said “Drew, I was talking with some members of the Badlands Conservation Alliance yesterday and they mentioned that school section on the side of Bullion Butte is up for lease again.”
I could tell by the long pause on the other end of the line (do phones even have “lines” any more?) that this one had slipped by him. We had a brief conversation about what had happened five years ago and he said “I’ll get back to you.”
That was the morning of January 5. By the end of the day, the president of the company that had nominated the parcel for lease told Drew Combs he’d like to withdraw the nomination. I’m pretty sure Drew told him about the bad publicity Chesapeake had gotten five years ago, and this guy wanted none of that. Hats off to a great state employee, Drew Combs. And to a great conservation organization, the Badlands Conservation Alliance. Anyone who’s ever climbed Bullion Butte, or just admired it from a distance, or from a canoe as they floated by, knows how important these two victories are. Check out BCA’s website—www.badlandsconservationalliance.org—it has a place where you can become a member.
Thursday, February 2, 2017
Beauty and grace in public service in the United Kingdom
Happy photos of busy young parents in an Allies' country
Dawn Red Oak House
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Fools a proverb
Meaning "Fools Rush in Where Angels Fear to Tread"
This is what my Aunt Junette frequently says when we praise her for the hard work she did in co-writing The Slope Saga.
Screwed the pooch
A new phrase I shall be using fairly frequently in polite company I predict. February is welcome. Gives me time to catch up on indoor projects.