Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Horses, Ian and a Lunar Eclipse

The three short days between the migration count and four days of horse show at Devonwood were filled with compiling the Yamhill Count migration count data and sending it off, finishing and sending off the last of the Black Oystercatcher data, and tending to the garden. Then it was Thursday and I drove to Devonwood to watch Jessica's lovely mare Elfenlady compete under trainer Nicki Grandia.  Johnny stayed home to cut up the veal calf he had butchered for us on Tuesday. All the other animals on the farm are thrilled to have the overly friendly, overly big and playful calf safely gone. I am thrilled Johnny doesn't mind doing the butchering and cutting up meat all by himself.

The first day of the show was beautiful weather wise and show wise. I spent a lot of time laughing at... and taking photos of... the Killdeer that were determined to drive horses and people out of "their" sand arena.

At first, they screamed their indignation from the grass beyond. Two tiny killdeer are in this photo but they are hard to see.

 Here's one close up.

Soon they moved to the ring. This one stood on the rail...

Having horses messing around in their arena was too much for the irritated killdeer and they moved right into the ring with the performing horse.

For all four days of the show, the killdeer loudly voiced their disapproval of the events. Happily for Jessica's horse, Elfenlady, the upper, Sylvan, arena, where she performed the first day, was not claimed by birds. Elf, ridden by trainer Nicki Grandia, had a lovely ride and won her 2nd level open class with a 72.

The only down side was the sudden trip to the hospital by ambulance of one of the Traumhof riders during Elf's turn in the show ring on Thursday. It turned out the sudden severe pain was caused by a gall bladder problem, possibly a gallstone. She was released from the hospital on Saturday and rode to a 4th place finish in her 4th level championship class on Sunday! Young horsewomen are tough.

Jessica and Kevin had a Theraplate booth outside the show office, allowing everyone to try out a theraplate with their horse. Many horse folks already use Theraplates in their barns and are happy to give their horses a chance to stand on it and relax while getting a circulation boost from the rotating plates hidden beneath their feet. Here are two handsome guys: Kevin is standing with the stallion Unycus, who is enjoying his theraplate session.

Friday's show was wet... they got rain while our farm did not. It would have been better the other way around. I videotaped Elf's ride on Friday, one of the two championship show rides, but have not yet uploaded it. She placed 4th in a big class with a 69. Here she is leaving the Killdeer's sand arena after the awards ceremony.

 Ian was a volunteer in the show office all day Thursday and Friday, but as soon as the show on Friday ended, I kidnapped him and drove him to the farm. It was great fun having Ian here. He even brought the fixings for Saturday's supper! And a good movie... and more episodes of the Big Bang Theory. But we did play and work outdoors, too. He and Johnny made a trial batch of apple cider to see if they could get more juice by running the pulp through the grinder and then squeezing it again.

Ian ferried me around the farm in the EZ Go so I could reset trail cameras... and check our portion of Agency Creek for Dippers. And there was one!

The Dipper has something in its bill that it found under water but I'm not sure what.

The weather was still not wet, the sky was clear, and I worried about frost so I covered the citrus trees with frost blankets on Saturday. Sunday morning, we woke up to a light frost. Johnny left early for his turn at Devonwood while Ian and I did chores and snuck in a few episodes of the Big Bang Theory before tearing off for the show. Thanks to Sunday traffic heading back to Portland from the coast, we arrived at the horse show grounds just after Elf's ride was over. She scored the same as on Friday and placed the same, too: 69 and 4th in the second of the weekend's championship shows. The beautiful Elfenlady did very well for her first year in the show ring!

Alas, I had forgotten to put the horses in before I left so turned around and drove home while Johnny stayed to help the Traumhof people load up. We rendezvoused at a friends' home for dinner. I had thought we would be coming directly from the horse show. Well, Johnny did. I had to buck traffic again going north from home.

That night, Sunday, Sept. 27, was a total lunar eclipse. I took photos between milking goats once the moon came up over the hills east of us. It was just past totality when we could first see it.

8:08 p.m.

8:15 p.m.

8:22 p.m.

8:30 p.m.

I quit taking photos then, finished chores, and crashed into bed. A person can take only so much fun.

Now the garden has had a killing frost... but the tomatoes are under a frost blanket, the corn and broccoli are still untouched, and I have picked most everything else that is vulnerable and canned the ripe tomatoes. This week I'll freeze the endless broccoli and corn, hope the dry beans ripen before they freeze totally, and pick the rest of the melons and winter squash and bell peppers. Summer is over but the work... and fun... never end.

Dippers in Four Counties

The North American Migration Count is conducted in any county that wants to participate. Johnny and I count birds in four counties... mostly so I can find Dippers in four counties. I love American Dippers. They are not migratory but all birds are counted so who cares? On the third Saturday in September, we count birds in Yamhill County, which means on our farm and up Agency Creek above our farm.

Our first bit of excitement on Sept. 19 this year was not a bird: it was a bear cub that ran up the road in front of us and then darted into the brush. It disappeared too quickly for a photo and I did not care to follow it to try to get one. Mama bear was likely not far away.

Dippers were not in their usual places up Agency Creek and I began to despair of getting my Yamhill County Dipper. And although the Wrentit we found not far from the disappearing bear cub was a good bird for our county, it did not come out for a photo. So I took pictures of scenery instead.

Beavers have been busy building dams to create deep enough pools in this dry year.

While watching for Dippers, Johnny found an abandoned Canada Goose nest with one egg still there.

Eventually we found a pair of Dippers (who declined to stay for photos) and, just before arriving back at the farm, a Dipper hanging out below a bridge for a distant photo op, giving us a three Dipper count for Yamhill County.

From Agency Creek, we drove to friend Blythe's to count the numerous birds she has at her feeders. The cute Nuthatches did not hold still long enough for a photo, but, ironically, when we arrived home, a Nuthatch hung out in a dead tree by our creek for many photo ops, albeit at a much greater distance.

On Sunday, Sept. 20, we headed to the coast and went up the Little Nestucca River Road to search for Tillamook County Dippers. We found lots more than Dippers. A Bald Eagle posed in a distant dead tree.

Marsh Wrens sang, unseen as usual, from a marsh. We found some beautiful park-like areas we had not seen before.

Huge salmon chased each other in a big pool below an old fish ladder, their fins and tails tattered from their journey up the river from the ocean... their last hurrah before spawning and dying.

 And, at last, a Dipper for Tillamook County.

Then it was onward to Lincoln County to check on our Black Oystercatchers at Road's End, count other birds there... and take miscellaneous photos since the birds we found declined to pose close enough...

From there it was back to the Lincoln County Dipper search. We found the one that lives under the bridge at Rose Lodge, or close to it. The Dipper was swimming in the boulder-filled stream and was too busy feeding to come out of the water for a decent picture.

Onward we drove to Van Duzer Wayside and two more Dippers! One was singing. That made Lincoln County another three Dipper county.

The last county was Polk and we know of only one creek within our range that hosts an easily accessed Dipper... Mill Creek. It took a lot of looking before we found one, but the scenery there, as everywhere, was lovely.

Our last Dipper of the day was a long way from my camera... and blurry. But gave us our Dippers in four counties. A strange goal for a migration count, I know. But so much fun!


Monday, September 14, 2015

Late Summer on the Farm... and Beyond

Johnny took a week off from the farm to visit the California kids and help build a bookcase on either side of their fireplace. That is a project that has been pending ever since they moved into that house four years ago. But, of course, they played, too. That's Cedrus in a cool climbing tree.

 They went biking and became statues at one rest stop for the entertainment of passing cyclists.

Here comes a cyclist: time to look statuesque

Johnny gave a talk again in the kids' classrooms: this time on growth rings in trees and how they can tell you what the climate was like many years ago. He took lots of pieces of our old snag to show how some years the rings are very close together and sometimes, in good growing years, they are very far apart. I asked him how the talks went. He said not as good as last time when he did a talk on making apple cider and brought cider for the kids to taste. This time the most frequently asked question after the talks was: "Do we get cider now?"

Johnny and Steve finished the bookcases just before Johnny left to come home on the train. A cabinet maker will make doors for the bottom compartments. Pretty spiffy!

 Meanwhile, back on the farm... I had a crisis just before Johnny left by Amtrak for California. Mr. Smith, my beloved horse, came up very, very sore-footed. He had been in a dry lot so I could not imagine why he was hurting. I was scheduled for jury duty the very next day but I called and begged off. I was excused as a "hardship case". Probably because I was bawling when I talked to the jury coordinator.  Happily, Mr. Smith improved and is now walking normally again. And I believe what happened was that the wind storm the day before blew apples into his "safe" dry lot and he scarfed them down. He has a metabolic disease similar to Type 1 Diabetes in people: he cannot eat sweets without getting laminitis (sore feet). It kills lots of horses so I do everything in my power to keep him away from sugar.

With all that stress and excitement, I forgot about my monthly column for United Caprine News... until the day of the deadline. I managed to write it and send photos taken quickly that day. I almost never have photos of goats in this blog because all the photos I take are for The Kidding Pen column. So here's one I sent for this month's story on feeding windfall apples to the goats. Better goats than bears. The goats with their heads tilted back are chewing on apples with their back molars.

Between spreading barkdust that Johnny needed out of the trailer by the time he returned and taking care of Mr. Smith, I finished up my Black Oystercatcher monitoring for the season by going to the Road's End beach... and finding adults with no fledglings. However this pair is notorious for disregarding researchers' stongly held belief that fledglings stay with their parents until the next breeding season. This pair has been seen chasing the kids away when they've only recently fledged. Tough love, I guess.

It was nice to be back at the beautiful Oregon coast again, even with the disappointment of no fledglings.

The very next day I learned that friend Dawn's car had broken down and she had been unable to get back to her BLOY sites at Boiler Bay to see if her last pair had fledged their two chicks or not. So I drove to the coast again to pick her up and go to Boiler Bay. (Any excuse in a pinch.) And we found the two fledglings! Here is one with the parent and another photo of just the juvenile. (Parent has a full red bill. Juvenile still has dark tip to bill.)

Black Oystercatcher monitoring season is now over for the year and so I'll be making fewer trips to the beautiful Oregon coast. Back on the farm, we have our own pretty water feature: Agency Creek. It is so low I can walk across it in places because the little rain we had disappeared quickly as the thermometer went up into the 90s again.

 But today it has cooled off and drizzled a little, so maybe we'll have a pond again someday. Johnny is doing his best to give the water a place to be in our weed-choked pond site. He has been digging it out with the backhoe on the tractor... and dumping into the trailer I emptied of bark dust. He then hauls the mess off and dumps it in a field to dry out.

Now that BLOY monitoring is over, the garden has taken over much of my time... watering from the rain barrels and the well, picking and freezing broccoli, keeping all the other veggies picked and taken care of. 
In all my gardening chores, our once-feral kitty keeps me constant company. She seems to think life is for playing as that's what she does all day long. When I water, she attacks the hose. If I'm looking at birds in a tree... she climbs the tree. She doesn't seem to be interested in the birds, just in having me look at her instead of something else.

When I watch the quail that come out to eat, Kitty sometimes makes a wild dash into their midst scattering them every direction, then lies down and rolls and looks at me as though to say, "Aren't I cute?"

Today the quail were giving their frantic warning cry and I knew it must be the young Cooper's Hawk that has been haunting our place lately. Sure enough, when I looked out the window, there it sat on the corner of one of the potato bins. Then it flew at a big white bird... our white chicken! She is forever flying out of the chicken yard and going walkabout. The chicken, bigger than the hawk, dove for cover and started clucking angrily and constantly. The hawk went back to sitting on the bin.

I came out and took photos, then walked toward the hawk until it flew off. Immediately the loudly exclaiming hen came out from the bushes and stalked off toward the chicken yard. I put her back inside. She can easily get out but always asks me to open the gate to let her back in.

Hawks are not the only predators on the prowl around here. Our trail cameras this summer have caught bobcats and a handsome coyote.

And yesterday when I changed camera cards, I came across this very large pile of bear dung by a pear tree near the swamp at the far south end of our property.

I now carry a flashlight with me at night when I walk through the apple orchard on the way to feed the horses their low-carb hay cubes. Although I try to keep the apples picked up and fed to the goats so as not to attract bears, the apples keep falling... and I do not want to run into the bear that produced that enormous pile of poop.