Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Part 1 of The Last Giant: Transgression is published!

After a long gestation and numerous interruptions, we have finally gotten our first book published!

Part 1 of The Last Giant: Transgression is 396 pages long and includes a two-page spread map. A hi-res version of a more detailed map is also available for download from our website. Check it out! Links to purchase the book are on the right.

The Kindle version will be available later at a lower price than we have been touting, but the MS first has to be re-formatted to yield optimum Kindle performance. E-books loose a lot of the typographic fireworks found in the printed version, but it should still look fine on a Kindle. We expect it to be available around December 24th, but it could be sooner. Cross your fingers!

This has been a heck of a ride and we have learned much. Having ridden over some major bumps in the road (delays, interruptions in the writing, publishing issues, etc.) future volumes should go much more smoothly. We still plan on having Part 2 available in January and the second volume of The Last Giant (Retribution) is still tentatively scheduled for July.

Don’t forget that you can download the first chapter for free as a PDF (see link on right) and get a preview of the book before you buy.

That’s all for now. I’m going to relax now and enjoy a fine cigar and a snort or two of a good Scotch.

‘Till next time!

– Richard
for J. R. Hardesty

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Watching the Beasts Within.

Within the fence, that is.

Our yard on a spring day. Photo by R. L. Hardesty.
We are fortunate to live in a small, unincorporated town where the boundary between “town” and “forest” is rather indefinite. There are many lots around town still sporting their original timber cover. Our own place has quite a few of the original trees still here, but many were cleared out for two reasons: (1) they were where the house was going to go and (2) they were severely damaged by a major bark beetle infestation. The latter were largely Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta latifolia). The felled trees were replaced with various deciduous, primarily various Maple (Acer) cultivars and several flowering crabapples, and a few conifers, notably two specimens of White fir (Abies concolor), which join the remaining spruce and Douglas-fir trees. The under-story consists largely of Snowberry (Symphoricarpus albus) and some things we planted.  We have little grass to cut, and what exists is largely native bunch grasses or the insidious quackgrass, so the lawn mower gets little use. There are two very large groups of Glacier lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) gracing the sunny spots in the yard and there a few other native flowers as well. All in all, we have an interesting biome in our yard and we enjoy watching the critters that come to visit. Just the other day, Jan had the privilege of watching a doe Mule deer calmly munching some of the remaining pomes on one of the flowering crabapple trees in the yard. She was not in the least worried about my wife’s presence as she passed by on her way to the front gate. We don’t get deer in the yard that often, but once in a while, one shows up. We have had bears wander through town from time to time, including a female Grizzly that wandered down the main drag one summer and we had a black bear wander down our alley one summer eve some years ago. Moose occasionally show up as well, but not very often.

Most of our visitors are of the avian variety, and we have had some grand ones stop by.
Evening Grosbeak, male. Photo by Simon Pierre Barrette.
Each spring sees the arrival of a flock of Evening Grosbeaks who hang around for a while before moving on. The males are just gorgeous. We never tire of seeing them or listening to them though they are a bit noisy. We've also had the pleasure of seeing Western Tanagers, also a very lovely bird, but they have not been seen for some years now. We always had several Steller's Jays in the yard, then one day, an Eastern Blue Jay showed up and a new dynamic began. The Steller's occupied the front yard and the Blue Jay the back. This lasted for a few years, but the Blue Jays got the upper hand and now we haven't seen a Steller's around for some time. The Blues, however, are quite common now. Then there was the time I heard a rather loud knocking sound rather high up in the trees. After looking around for some time, I spotted the source: a very large woodpecker up in a cottonwood tree. I stared at it for some time before accepting that what I was seeing was indeed a Pileated Woodpecker, a most uncommon sight!

There have been many, many more bird species appear in the yard: grouse, collared doves, finches, wrens, robins, an occasional meadowlark, and on one winter's day, we watched a Pygmy Owl hunt voles in the front yard. That was a rare treat! That reminds me, we also were visited by an owl on the other end of the size spectrum, a Great Horned Owl. He hung around the yard one summer for a month or so before moving elsewhere.

One resident we've had for many years is a Pine Squirrel, AKA American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). He keeps us entertained during the summer and sometimes in the winter as well. In autumn, one has to watch one's head, as the squirrel seems to delight in dropping pine cones on one's head! The sound of falling cones is a common sound around the yard then, as is the chittering of the culprit involved. There are several squirrels in the neighborhood and from the amount of chasing that goes on, it would seem that there are males and females. 

Overhead, we hear loons calling as they move from the Flathead Valley through Badrock Canyon in the morning on their way to Lion Lake and then back to the Valley in the evening. We often see hawks of one sort or another, eagles & ravens.

We mustn't forget the insects! Now, I do not pretend to scour the yard looking for these six-leggedy beasties, but I have taken note of some. At least two species of Dragonfly and two of Damselfly can be found regularly in the yard, and I have made a detailed list of butterflies that have been found to occur in the yard. That list tallies 44 species seen over the years since I first began keeping track in 1993. However, due to changes in the vegetation in the yard, we have not seen that diversity of late. The gardens have gone to pot and my rock garden, which had many native species in it, was finally given over to the blasted quackgrass. But the lilacs still attract the swallowtails.

-- Richard for
    J. R. Hardesty