You’ve probably heard the truism that declares that an error, once in print, is almost impossible to correct. Future references will simply repeat and repeat, for seldom is a confirmation — or denial — sought. This phenomenon is most prevalent in technical or scientific papers but certainly holds elsewhere. I presume even on the Internet and in film and its successors.

If memory serves, an original misprint of the amount of iron present in spinach led to spinach popularization as in Popeye cartoons and perhaps to today in medical literature.

Another, a miniscule example when compared with Popeye’s genius, is the term “gray” when used in descriptions of animals. For instance, when I’ve written about ground squirrels, I’ve repeated that the Uinta ground squirrel, a common rodent here, is grayish on its back. A clay color below the tail suggests a close relative. The ground squirrel family is extensive.

Clay color: Just what is that?

Clay comes in a whole array of colors. To me, I think of a tan hue, darker when wet. (What does “darker” mean?) Clays are white, clays can be black, and clays can be every color in between. What to do if describing a clay-colored sparrow? One field mark for this sparrow is a brown rump, whereas a sparrow similar in many respects, the chipping sparrow, has a gray rump.

Any color advice would be welcome. Perhaps from someone in our vibrant art community.

As I wait, let’s go back to ground squirrels.

Ground squirrels, so named for their lives spent largely in burrows they dig in the earth, are common rodents in Jackson Hole, seen standing on their hindquarters and peering about. They’re looking for danger, for picket pins, “chislers” as they are more often known, are taken by a variety of terrestrial and avian predators.

Ground squirrels also are looking for vegetation they can eat — and for water. Prey animals have to be prolific reproducers and in a hurry. Ground squirrels hibernate for seven to eight months a year; some mature males go underground by the end of July. During August, moms and more chislers go underground, and by September usually all are in hibernation until perhaps April.

Uinta ground squirrels are about 9 inches long, tan to brown from nose to shoulders and grayish in the back and hindquarters.

“Grayish.” And the undertail is gray, not clay-colored. We all know what that means, don’t we?

Switching topics now, there’s seitan. A word and substance new to me but possibly not to you. Seitan has apparently been around for hundreds of years but has been under my radar for sure.

Seitan is a meat alternative made from wheat’s main protein component, gluten. A meat substitute, a vegetarian “meat.” It’s made from a dough of wheat flour, yeast and water. It can be found in stores (!) as vital wheat gluten and used as an additive in baking or become homemade seitan. Still never heard of it before.

Oh, I know you know all about seitan.

Then, you know, there’s the matter of making seitan into textures that mimic meat or poultry and are palatable. Also, it’s gluten, and gluten is suddenly something to be avoided even if one doesn’t suffer gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Around 95 percent of the U.S. population processes gluten just fine, and celiac disease affects perhaps 3 percent of our population. Moreover, there’s some evidence that a gluten-free diet may affect gut health in those without gluten sensitivity or celiac disease (, June 10).

Seitan is relatively nutritious and is high in protein and low in fat. Some commercially made seitan is high in sodium.

It’s pronounced say-tan.

Field Notes: People have started gettin’ in the hay. ’Tis said this activity causes showers and rain. Sounds good to me. We can use moisture, especially without lightning. Forests and grasslands are dry and flammable.

Ground squirrels are beginning to retreat to their burrows for their half-year-plus hibernation. Summer 2013 appears to be a banner year for nesting black-headed grosbeaks but not for mountain bluebirds. Magpies are doing well, but at least in my neighborhood swallows are hard to locate. MacGillivray’s warblers have been unexpectedly prominent this season.

A recently hailstorm seems to have killed some smaller birds. Folks who had many hummingbirds reported sharp reductions in their tiny friends. It is almost impossible to verify what the toll may be from storms.

A poorwill called briefly late Saturday evening (Susan Patla, Tony White) near Miller Butte on the National Elk Refuge. Summer soldiers on. Look for young hawks and eagles making their first flights.

© Bert Raynes 2013––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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