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Monday, 11 April 2011

Finding my way around






Sun, sky and wind. I don’t think I could imagine a nicer morning than we have today. There was a slight frost early, although my thermometer, which is close to the house, only showed 34 degrees as a minimum overnight. By seven-thirty, when I set off for my walk, it was in the forties, the sky was blue from horizon to horizon, and – fortified by my porridge and safe in the knowledge that nobody would hear me - I was tempted to sing. Then I resisted. The meadowlarks were doing a far better job.


The landscape still looks pretty wintry at a casual glance, but there are plenty of signs that spring is happening. Today’s pictures show buds bursting on one of the trees that shade the house, young grasses poking through the sandy soil, and a cluster of flowers on the cedar trees that form thickets down towards the river.


I’ve added a shot of two heifers and a youngster. The calving is almost done. According to Matt’s nephew, when I called in on him, there are no more than a couple of dozen still to give birth. The new-borns are kept in the pen for a few days then sent out to pasture. Young `Lightning` is a quiet sort of guy; to look at him you wouldn’t imagine him charging around a rodeo arena on the back of a half-ton bull, but that’s what he does for fun. Brave feller.


Talking of brave fellers, I have caught my first mouse. Not something for a former exterminator of vermin to crow about, but it was the first trap I’d set. I’d been hearing a lot of scampering and scuttling every night – punctuated from time to time by the maniacal yipping and cackling of the local coyotes – and there are a fair few droppings scattered about every morning. As my old rat-catching mate Walter used to say, striding towards his van with a bucket of poison, “We’ll educate the buggers!” Meanwhile I have put my flour, oats, nuts and raisins, etc. in stout plastic boxes.


I am feeling a little more settled each day. The fact that I can walk up onto the rise, maybe 5-600 yards from here, and get a good enough signal to talk with home is a huge comfort and a relief. I can receive, but not call out, so it’s by appointment only. I have also discovered that if I go up to the ranch house, a couple of miles away, or park beside it, I can piggy-back on M & K’s wireless internet signal. That’s going to save a me a heap of gas money, because the nearest library (where you can use the Internet for free) is 30 miles or so north, at Martin, South Dakota.


Today I have to gird my loins and start work on my day-job, as it were. Before I left home I spent the better part of a month preparing for this trip and neglected Book 5 of the Now Then, Lad series which I write with Mike Pannett. You can find him at our publisher, www.hodder.co.uk. The mass market version of Not On My Patch, Lad comes out this week (Thursday), and Book 4, Just the Job, Lad, on July 21. Book 5 (Game On, Lad) is due out next summer (2012). And that’s what I’ll be working on for a part of each day over the next three or four weeks, the aim being to pick it up when I get home and deliver the manuscript shortly after Christmas. I believe you can also catch up with Mike on Facebook. Me too, for that matter.


Okay - it’s almost noon: time I got back to work.