The sun is three hours gone and the waning super moon has yet to make an appearance. The night sky is inky black and spangled with hard pinpoints of starlight.
As I drive along I sip from a cup of hot, black coffee. It really hits the spot, flavorful and aromatic. I think I have discovered the perfect brew.
Some time ago I got tired of drip coffee. I recalled the flavorful espresso I learned to love in Sicily and decided to try to reproduce the experience on the cheap.
Why on the cheap? Have you priced espresso makers lately? A real-deal machine will run to more than a grand, and consumers generally report that cheaper machines are a waste of money.
Someone, however, told me about the secret of cold brewing coffee, and claimed that you could reproduce espresso in this fashion. So I decided to give it a try. The only expense was coffee beans, a good grinder, large mason jars, and a bit of time and planning.
Surprisingly, I was able to find good Sumatran beans locally. After a bit of experimenting I found that one and two-thirds cups of coarse ground beans to a half-gallon of water, steeped for 12 hours, produces a perfect cup of espresso. We live in amazing times.
And so I drive south on a near-winter evening, contentedly sipping from a cup of hot joe.
Just a smidge south of due east Orion has lofted above the horizon. The Hunter is sideways from my perspective, seemingly aiming his bow and arrow (or is it a lance?) at something hidden out of view. He is sideways now, but in a few hours he will be standing upright and proud, high in the southerly night sky.
Far to the south a loose carpet of red pinpricks dot the place I know the horizon to be. They swarm for miles along the Colorado border and represent a wind energy swindle of monumental proportions. On an early December evening, with the howling gale of the last 48 hours finally abating, the pinpoints of light are a cheery splash of color and I’m not unglad to see them. Things are never just one
As I continue heading south the runway lights at the municipal airport flare to life. They are controlled by radio and a system called PCL, or Pilot Controlled Lighting. The pilot tunes his radio to a particular frequency -- noted in the airport chart -- and clicks his mic in a certain pattern. On the ground at the airport a radio receiver picks up the transmitted clicks and sends a signal to turn on the lights. Viola!
A few moments later I discern the throaty growl of turbofan engines. The sound tumbles down from above and to the east. In a minute a set of landing lights heave into view. A Gulfstream G-3 floats in over the fence and squeals down on the concrete, Michelin tires spinning up from zero to 120 knots in less than the blink of an eye. The big jet shudders and slows rapidly as he Rolls Royce Spey turbofans roar into reverse thrust.
Arriving at the ranch, Nona the wonder dog is happy to see me, happy to be hanging it up for the day and heading home for supper, a bit of ball tossing, and warm slumber in her palatial dog house.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, it is early morning in Herefordshire. In contrast to Kimball, where it has been warm and dry for early December, a winter storm is busy depositing six inches of new snow near Dilwyn.
According to my English farmer friend Elwyn, they see snow about once every third December, and get a winter storm in December less than once
Heavy snow brings down a few power lines and the lights go out. A rather common happening here in Nebraska, it is quite unusual in Herefordshire, and Elwyn and Julie break out the candles for “tea by candlelight” in a festive atmosphere.
Before teatime, though, there are livestock to feed. Before that, Elwyn must make a tour of his farm. He manages to get his quad bike (four wheeler) stuck at the corner of his farm farthest from the house. He has to trudge back, fire up the tractor, collect Julie, then go collect the stuck quad bike. Sound familiar?
They might talk funny over there in England, the farms are smaller and some of the practices are different, but the real nuts and bolts of farming and ranching are very much the same.
It’s late in the year, and many things which seemed so permanent just weeks ago are fading toward senescence. It is the way of things. In only a few more days the sun will cease its march south and reverse course. Winter will set in but a new year will have begun.