Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hairy Teeth and Tree Swallows

I know it's spring when Mr. Smith's winter coat comes off in sheets as I brush him. Some of the hair always sticks to my teeth. (I can't close my mouth all the way because I can't breathe through my nose thanks to allergies. Buck teeth don't help either.) Soon after the horses begin shedding, the first swallows swoop and chatter over our pasture. Today three Tree Swallows arrived for the first time. And I had hairy teeth. It's spring!

The arrival of Tree Swallows set up a round of panic since I didn't yet have my gourd swallow nests up on their bamboo poles. I left off brushing Mr. Smith and hurried to erect three gourd nests. The swallows watched but did not swoop around checking them out as they will later, when they're ready to select a home.

With gourds in place, I could relax and ride. Johnny on Polly and I on Mr. Smith headed up the same logging road I rode on "Bad Horse Day". Mr. Smith was better with Polly for company. He didn't gallop up the mountain leaping logs. I guess he realized Polly, at 31, was not capable of such foolishness. I'm not sure we went up the same exact way I had walked down to find the trail (as chronicled in "Valentine's Day Hike"), but we ended up in the right place. The gravel road at the top was soft enough for Mr. Smith's tender feet so we stayed on the road to get home instead of crashing through the bushes. But during the week there is logging traffic on that road so we'll have to explore alternate woodland routes if we want to ride a circle instead of retracing our steps.

After the ride, I put up more bamboo poles with gourd nests attached so I'll be ready when the nesting swallows return. I interweave the ever-useful bamboo poles into the woven wire fence next to fence posts to hold the poles with their gourds up high. Some of the fence posts are broken off, thanks to leaning llamas, so Johnny replaced those this afternoon while I took photos of blooming flowers, gourd nests, and Johnny working in spring-like weather. No photos of swallows or hairy teeth, though.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Beautiful Horses and a Wildlife Refuge

It was a pleasure to watch daughter-in-law Jessica's two magnificent dressage horses the last couple days, preparing for the first show of the year at the end of March. Pictured is Elisienne (Lily) with rider/trainer Nicki on a walk after Lily's workout. Such an elegant horse. Her six-year-old son, Rudi, is just as spectacular.

I need to have a talk with my Nightingale, also six. Maybe it would help if I showed her a video of what another six year old is doing... collected canter and flying changes... while I'm still having steering problems with Nightingale. Although I suppose the difference could have something to do with the rider...

After the rides were over today, I stopped at the Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge on my way home, walking their trails for the first time. Quite a few families were also walking the trails on this lovely Saturday afternoon. A Pileated Woodpecker posed for me. But the most spectacular views were of the bare-branched trees and dramatic sky over the restored floodplain in this refuge. After so much rain, a day like today seemed particularly beautiful.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Twelve hours down and twelve hours back but worth every second. The weather was beautiful on the way south and Mt. Shasta was magnificent. I listened to my Teaching Company tape of the life and music of Beethoven, music as grand as the scenery I was driving through.

The best, of course, was seeing the California grandkids. I love hearing Kestrel's sweet voice saying "Grandma". Usually he was saying "Grandma, Grandpa is calling you." The new kids' kitchen Kestrel was given for his 3rd birthday has a play phone (and microwave and refrigerator and stove). After handing me the phone, Kestrel would proceed to tell me why Grandpa was calling... usually to say that he was on Amtrak or the Caltrain and almost to Kestrel's house. Eventually, I convinced Kestrel that Grandpa had better not be almost to Kestrel's house because he needed to stay home and milk goats until I returned.

Auntie Fudge made Kestrel a cake decorated with train shapes and strawberry smoke. Kestrel loves trains and loved blowing out his candles.

Cedrus, at one year, is adorable and cuddly and happy. And quite able to hold his own with his older brother. Cedrus, the little charmer, knows how to get what he wants.

Of course, it was fun to spend time with Kestrel and Cedrus's parents, too. Let's see now, what are their names? Just kidding. We love our kids and their spouses. It's just that grandkids are, well, special.

A short walk from Steve and Munazza's house (see, I know their names) is a canyon where I love to hike and bird watch. Thanks to all the rain California has been getting, the canyon is green right now and spring flowers are beginning to bloom. But I like the gnarled shapes of not-so-colorful trees along the path, too.

I took 160 photos on this trip, mostly of grandkids, but very few came out. I haven't learned how to take indoors pictures yet. The outdoor photos came out better.

I spotted some Sugar Pines in the Lake Shasta area and stopped to take a photo of a fallen cone next to my foot to give an idea of size. I hope the Sugar Pines in my arboretum set cones while I'm still alive to see them. While stalking giant sugar pine cones, I heard the sound of running water and walked toward it... finding this hidden waterfall.

Today, my first day home, I did chores and planted the wee Bear Grass, Buckbrush and Pacific Dogwoods I'd picked up the day before my trip... and discovered how out of shape I have become after just five days of limited physical activity. I'm tired tonight!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happiness is Planting Trees

Today I picked up the native plants from the Polk County native plant sale. Tomorrow I leave for California and grandson Kestrel's 3rd birthday, so I don't have time to plant trees. But I did. Couldn't resist. The miniature Western Dogwoods and Bear Grass in tubes and the wee Buckbrush in tiny pots will have to wait until I return, but the bare root Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock were begging to go into the ground.

I planted five hemlock in the redwood grove, thinking I had ordered ten. But there was only one left. Why would I have ordered six? I complained to Johnny, who said he'd seen my order form and was pretty sure I'd ordered six of something. Strange. I can't find the order form so will never know. I planted the one remaining hemlock in the Sitka Spruce grove, along with six of the new sitkas. The other four sitkas joined the Alaska Yellow Cedars.

For the last several days, I've been trying to key out the various cedars I've planted around here. I have a bad habit of planting things and forgetting what I planted. Alaska Yellow Cedars are planted in only one place so I know which ones they are; Western Red Cedar were planted here and there in the woods before I started the arboretum and now also in the Redwood Grove; Incense Cedar went with the Sequoias although there are some older ones in the woods; and Port Orford Cedars, which I forgot I'd planted, are in the Redwoods by the river (which is really Agency Creek).

With a magnifying glass and samples of each of the different looking cedars from our place, I have pored over A Field Guide to Western Trees (Peterson series) studying the patterns the tiny tree scales make. Johnny can look at a Western Red Cedar and say, "That's a Red Cedar". Or an Incense Cedar and say, "Looks like Incense Cedar to me." He goes by the form, the color and even the smell (Incense Cedar wood smells like pencils, he says.) I have a lousy sense of smell and they all look pretty darn similar to me. But I now, after hours of studying the underside of cedar needles, can tell them apart. Most of the time.

Alaska Yellow is pretty easy... the scales stick out to the side. Incense Cedar has a vase-shaped scale pattern. Port Orford has white x markings on the underside. Western Red supposedly has butterfly shaped markings but that's a real stretch if you ask me. I go by the fact that the tree scales don't point out like Alaska Yellow, aren't white x's like Port Orford, and are not vase-shaped like Incense.

I took photos of each type of cedar tree but then couldn't tell by looking at the photos which was which. I'll stick with the underside patterns. Together Johnny and I trooped through the woods yesterday and by a combination of his "Looks like a Red Cedar to me" and my examining the undersides, we found a mix of cedar types in places I didn't know they were. I need more plant markers.

It's fun to plant trees and even more fun when I know what they are. I don't have a clue what this yellow mushroom is but I passed it about a hundred times in the last few days on my way through the woods keying out cedar trees.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chopping Down the Cherry Tree

Johnny chopped down the cherry tree today, an appropriate thing to do on President's Day. Well, he didn't chop the whole thing down, just three of the nine trunks. It's more of a cherry grove than a tree. This tall cherry-of-the-many-trunks provides welcome shade to the southwest corner of our house during the summer, but it has grown out of control. It covered the nearby apple and the little Fragrant Dawn Viburnum that tries so hard to bloom all winter.

Since the cherry is very tall and very close to both chicken house and our house, plus on top of my flower beds and the aforementioned apple tree and viburnum, I was afraid many things would be destroyed when its trunks came down. But Johnny cleverly avoided catastrophe with the judicious use of chainsaw, motorized pruning-saw-on-a-pole, ladder, ropes, tractor(to fasten the ropes to), box (for a trunk to land on to keep it off the budded daffodils and blooming primroses)... along with, I suspect, a fair amount of luck.

Pictured is the third and last trunk to fall. You can see how Johnny managed to drop it so it was held up off my flowers by its limbs and by having the butt resting on the stump it had just been severed from. I think Johnny was as surprised as I was at how little damage he did.

In addition to shading the plants below it, the branches of Trunk #3 were blocking my view of our big snag from the stair landing, where I check each morning to see what raptor might be up there. Now I'll have a clear line of sight.

It took three tractor trailer loads of limbs to clear the area, and lots of chainsawing of the trunks and bigger limbs into firewood, but the flowers mostly are intact, as are the viburnum and apple tree. George Washington would be proud.

Valentine's Day Hike

Yesterday, Feb. 14, we headed for the hills again, this time to hike a segment of the old Tillamook trail. The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde are gradually restoring this foot trail that was used by coast Indians before white settlers arrived in the area. The Tillamook area tribe walked inland to spend the winter in a valley near what is now Willamina. Apparently, salmon had a resting spot in Willamina creek and provided food for the wintering tribe. At least, that's the story from a pioneer researcher in the area.

We are not yet sure where the Confederated Tribes will have their trail start and end, but we have hiked a few short segments thus far. The plan is to have the trail go all the way to the coast. The young adult work crew we met last year said the intention is to make it usable for hiking and horseback riding. I am eager to ride that trail when it is ready! Sure would beat charging through the underbrush like Mr. Smith and I do now.

Since the segment we hiked yesterday was quite short, we walked across the road and hiked down a trail to a couple of waterfalls, only one of which we could get to because of downed trees and landslides. Near the falls big Douglas Firs have survived logging, Johnny estimated, for one to two hundred years. We don't often see Doug firs this big anymore.

We explored roads on our way home, finding our way from the falls and Tillamook Trail segment on Yoncalla/Boulder Creek road via Wind River to Spirit Mountain (this is a polite way of saying we didn't know where we were going but somehow made it home). We passed Western Bluebirds flitting about in an old clearcut full of snags. We'll come back in the spring to see if they nest in those snags (presuming we can find that area again).

The forested vistas from the road around Spirit Mountain went on forever, with spectacular cloud formations adding to the beauty.

Near home, Johnny dropped me off at the head of the elusive trail through the woods that Mr. Smith and I had not found on Bad Horse Day. I hiked down through salal, ferns and firs and discovered where the "trail" (using the term loosely) comes out on the old/new logging road below. Next time I ride that road, I'll know where to direct my rambunctious, hill climbing horse. A Pygmy Owl tooted as I neared the logging road, but I could never see where it was calling from.

A nice way to spend Valentine's Day on the weekend of our 43rd wedding anniversary.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Case of the Missing Trees

Yesterday was tree planting day. I pre-ordered plants from the Yamhill County native plant sale and picked them up day before yesterday. But somehow, somewhere, I lost two of them.

The ten Pacific Rhododendrons, tiny little plants in pots, I planted in the Redwood section of my arboretum and marked with lime green marking ribbon tied on dead bamboo stakes. The bamboo is from our patch of Golden Bamboo behind the house. Thanks to being neglected for years, everything in the center of the clump has pretty much died. So I cut out the dead stuff and am recycling it into tree and garden stakes. Bamboo is, I'm sure, the most useful plant on earth. It is lovely to look at, good to eat as new shoots, and you can build anything out of it... houses, floors, whatever. And... you can use the dead stuff as garden stakes. But I digress...

Five of the ten tiny little Western Yew trees I planted in the Ponderosa Pine section. The other five I planted in the Sitka Spruce (Temperate Rain Forest) area. Those are all duly staked and accounted for. The yews and the rhodies came in little pots. I have twenty empty pots.

The twenty Western Red Cedar came bare rooted. They were in a big pot with wet sawdust around their roots. I took them out one by one and planted either eight or ten, I don't remember which, in the Redwood section. Then I planted ten or maybe twelve? in the Sitka Spruce zone. At first, I did not mark the cedars because they were pretty tall. But, after planting all of them, I decided I should flag them, because by summer, the weeds would be taller. So I trudged back and hung a ribbon on each tree that I could find. I found eighteen: eight in the Redwoods and ten in the Spruces. Uh oh. What happened to the other two?

Maybe I dropped them somewhere... or planted them and didn't find them to mark... or maybe I was only given eighteen trees? Today I took bamboo stakes and retraced my planting steps, marking each cedar tree that I found with ribbon tied on a bamboo pole nearby. I found eighteen of them. I did not find any lying about on the ground unplanted. Where oh where are the missing trees?

I suspect that I was only given eighteen. But then, I'm the sort of person who is sure we've been burglarized when I lose my check book. I always find it eventually, right where I left it. Maybe, like my checkbook, the trees will reappear someday, growing up and over the weeds I may have planted them in. But I really think I was shorted two trees.

Not that I needed twenty Western Red Cedar trees. And, at sixty cents each, it's not a huge loss. But it's puzzling. Next time, (and there will be a next time soon because I also pre-ordered trees from the Polk County native plant sale), I'll count the trees before I plant them.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Great Backyard Bird Count

Today was the first day of the Great Backyard Bird Count. This is my favorite count (although I think I say that about every bird count.) Rules are simple: count for 15 minutes or more, any or all of the four days of the count, anywhere you want. Report the most of each species you see at any one time. I do this while milking goats and mucking out the horse barn. Some people do it while looking out their window.

Since I feed the birds grain in front of the goat barn every morning, they are accustomed to showing up about 9 a.m. This morning they cooperated nicely.  Snacking away were California Quail, Spotted Towhees, Scrub Jays, Steller Jays, Golden-crowned Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos (Oregon variety plus one Slate-colored). I took a break from chores to snap photos. Pictured are a handsome Spotted Towhee, a male California Quail on the run, a Golden-crowned Sparrow with his mouth full, and that photogenic White-throated Sparrow that was also pictured in an earlier blog.

Anyone can participate in this fun count and there are prizes! Go to the website and check it out.:  This is a great count for kids. (Ingrid, are you listening?)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bad Horse Day

Every morning I have at least two hours of chores to do before doing whatever it is I'm going to do that day: go to the coast, prune trees (as I did yesterday), ride horses, or whatever. Chores include milking and feeding goats, feeding sheep/llamas/poultry/horses, mucking out the goat barn and ditto for the horse barn. I'm then good for only a few hours of physical exertion in the afternoon.

I had every intention of using my afternoon hours to prune trees, as I did yesterday. But it was beautifully sunny and the ground was finally dry enough to get the horses from pasture to arena so I decided to ride after an hour or two of pruning. But then I realized I would be too tired to ride if I pruned after all my morning manure hauling. So, after chores and lunch, I headed down to the far pasture where the horses were grazing. Mr. Smith is always eager to come out of the field and go somewhere in the horse trailer or just get out where he can snitch grass, since there's not much left in the horse fields.

But not today. Two months of doing nothing with the horses but feed and clean up after them has apparently ticked Mr. Smith off. When I walked up to him with the halter, he turned and trotted away. That made me angry so I put the halter on Nightingale instead. She is always happy for attention. Unfortunately, she doesn't lead terrifically well, especially away from the others. We proceeded by fits and starts on the long walk to the gate. The others tagged along behind, which helped. I opened the gate and took Nightingale out, letting the others come, too. They came, but did not follow us into the big field that leads to the little field by the arena. Instead, they put their heads down and ate grass.

After getting Night to the small field by the arena and turning her loose, I went back to retrieve the others. Polly and Jessie Anne trotted through the gate but Mr. Smith took off for greener pastures. I closed the gate and cornered first one and then the other reluctant horse and put them in with Night. Never have I had the horses behave this way before. Then I went back to get Mr. Smith. He bucked and ran into the field but would not let me near him. So I free lunged him as I do when training horses to come. Whenever he stopped to put his head down to graze, I swung my rope and hollered "Keep going!" He was having a wonderful time, bucking and galloping around and around the field. Finally, however, he grew tired of the game and gave up, letting me halter him and lead him through the little field into the arena. By now, I was pretty annoyed.

After an hour of brushing the mud off my filthy horse, untangling his mane which he seemed to have tied in knots, I saddled up and we headed out the driveway. I hoped it was dry enough on the trails across the road and it was. But Mr. Smith did not want to go. He walked as slowly as possible, stopping periodically to listen to the screaming mares left behind. We eventually made it through the woodland path to the new logging road. Still he dragged his feet and complained. Aggravated, I headed him up the steep forested hill hoping to cut through the woods and climb Spirit Mountain.

Apparently, this was much more fun from Mr. Smith's point of view. He took off up the hill at a canter and, instead of veering left where I thought our old, overgrown trail might be, he veered right to a nearly vertical slope that was covered in downed trees. Galloping now, he jumped, yes jumped, over the downed trees while I held on for dear life. I didn't dare pull on the reins or we would have gone over backwards. By some miracle, we both arrived at the top of the hill without breaking anything. Crazy horse. I am wondering if the jumping lessons we've been taking are a bad idea.

At the top of the hill, Mr. Smith kept right on going through the woods where there was no trail until we were stopped by thick underbrush. By now I was thoroughly disoriented and lost. So, I think, was he. My old mare Polly always knows where home is and I can give her her head and trust she'll get me there. Not Mr. Smith. He has as lousy a sense of direction as I have. Or else he just doesn't bother to go home. I turned him around and tried to retrace our steps. Soon I could see the logging road below. We made it down... at a walk with a tight rein.

Having had enough excitement for the day, I headed home. Mr. Smith walked very quickly and politely until we reached the ditch at the side of the gravel road we cross. He always walks carefully down and through this ditch. Except today. Today, without warning, he took a flying leap across it. Thankfully, I stayed on, though not gracefully. Back through the woods, he kept to a rapid walk and did not jump any more logs in our path, thank goodness. I am definitely thinking jump lessons are a bad idea.

Home at last, unsaddled and brushed, Mr. Smith was turned into the arena to clean up the grassy edges. I haltered Nightingale and brushed her. Too tired to ride, I led her around the arena, over the wooden bridge Johnny made for a trail course, and to the grass by the gate going into the arboretum. Nightingale stopped before we reached the gate and refused to go further. Why, I have no idea. After much backing and being led forward and backing and forward, etc., she finally tentatively nibbled grass by the gate. Then I led her in front of the carriage house where the horse trailers and carts are stored and where there is grass at the margin of concrete floor and sand arena. This time she really rebelled, backing clear across the arena. We returned to our one step forward, back, forward a step and praise, forward another step and praise, back, forward, etc. After an eternity when I began to wonder if Night would ever turn into a horse worth having, she made it to the edge of the carriage house and nibbled the grass. The cart I'm hoping to drive her to some day was right in front of her but she would not touch it.

After putting Night back I brought her mother, Jessie Anne, out and brushed her. She is a very large horse. And dirty. I was quite tired by now so she only got a few minutes of grazing before I put her back in and went toward Mr. Smith. He started away from me but when I said, "Do you want to run around in circles again??" he stopped and let me halter him.

Meanwhile, through all the brushings and leadings, etc., Polly ran up and down the fence line screaming for Mr. Smith whenever he wandered out of sight behind the carriage house. Occasionally she stopped and pawed at the gate until I hollered "No, Polly!" By the time I finished with the other three, Polly was covered with sweat and I was tired so she did not get groomed today.

Getting the horses back into their field was nearly as problematic as it had been getting them out. They did not follow Mr. Smith, as they always do. I had to tie him inside the field and then go retrieve them one by one. Polly was particularly obnoxious. This horse who was hysterical whenever Mr. Smith was out of sight in the arena, now grazed without paying any attention to him, tied out of her sight. I had to go get her, except she evaded me and headed through the gate out of the big field on her own, but did not go to the gate into the horse field. Instead she led me a merry chase around the new machine shed until I said, "Polly! Keep going!" Since this was how I trained her to be caught when we first bought her, she knows well what that means. She went to the gate and waited.

Apparently two months of neglect has turned my horses into wild things that remember almost nothing about cooperating with the hand that feeds them.

I cut out dead bamboo canes for the next hour. They did not run away from me, take me on wild rides up mountain sides, or otherwise test my patience.

Now supper and evening chores are over. At night I just feed and milk, no barn cleaning. The horses are almost always up at the horse barn, waiting to be fed. Sometimes, though, they are not and I have to go find them with my flashlight in a distant field and lead them back. Tonight, if they had not been waiting for me, they just might have had to go without supper.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Drive

Today we did a combined road exploration/horse trail evaluation/birdwatching/geocaching trek. We scored one out of two geocaches (took our GPS with us this time and actually figured out how to use it), discovered where several mountain roads near us go, decided *not* to take horses up to the very nice horse trails near Lake Hebo as the 5 1/2 miles to get there is steep and curvy but I noticed another possibility closer to home... The birdwatching was slow but we did see three lovely Ruffed Grouse hotfoot it across the road in front of us. And, best of all, a pair of Red Crossbills posed on top of a short tree right by our parked truck. I managed to get a photo of the male before he flew. What a handsome bird. His crazy crossed bill is actually quite useful: he extracts seeds from cones with it. (Click on photo to enlarge and see the bill.) The females are dull yellow instead of dull red, but quite pretty, too.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Short Beach

My mission to photograph juvenile Black Oystercatchers (BLOY) began yesterday at Short Beach. Short Beach is actually not very short. But a little stream called Short Creek runs into it, hence the name. Short Beach deserves a prettier name because it is a very pretty spot. The Oystercatchers like it a lot. They, along with lots of gulls, bathe and drink in the freshwater flowing out of a culvert and across the beach to the ocean. Or they do when the beach isn't full of people and dogs.

Yesterday, it was full of people and dogs. So the birds were on offshore rocks and rocky headlands. Determined to find a juvenile BLOY to photograph, I climbed down the makeshift stairs to the beach and clambered over slippery boulders to where I could see north (photo left) toward Cape Meares and south (photo right) past Lost Boy Cave to the rocks off Oceanside. From that vantage point, I could see BLOY in both directions, plus one juvenile on the same rocky outcropping I was on.

Eventually, I got an okay photo, although mostly the blessed bird kept the back of its head toward me so I couldn't see the bill, which is the defining difference between adults and juveniles. Juveniles take months (how many months I'm trying to find out by photographing them at various times) to go from a dark bill to an all orange bill. Their eyes start out dark, I'm told, and become adult yellow. Both adults and juveniles have red eye rings but the adults' are more obvious. Or something. You couldn't prove it by me or my photographs. At least, not yet. Pictured are the juvenile (left) and an adult (right) I photographed yesterday.

Naturally, I need many more trips to the beach to figure this out.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Otter on the Pond!

As I was finishing chores this morning, and dreading returning to the house to work on taxes, a river otter kindly appeared in our pond, hunting along the edge. I grabbed my camera but, boy, it's tough to get a still photo of an animal that is never still and continually goes underwater. Even the videos were difficult. and

Shirley Puppy eventually saw it and barked, but the otter was not impressed. It basically ignored her, just feeding on the opposite bank. At 10:30 a.m., it swam to a wet mound of matted down pond leaves and curled up for a nap. At 11 a.m., when I decided I really had to go back inside and work on taxes, it was still there, snoozing. I came back out at 3 p.m. and it was gone.

For many years, we've had one or two otters that visit our pond a couple times a year. They used to come more often, when we had Indian Runner ducks. I couldn't figure out what was getting my ducks: all I'd find were the feet on the bank. Then one day I happened to be out by the pond when a duck came charging up the bank with an otter in hot pursuit. The duck, being a duck, turned and ran back to the pond for safety. Of course, it wasn't safe. The otter drowned it. We gave up on raising ducks. Since then, the otters just visit occasionally. Nothing to eat but fish and frogs and other little things.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Birds, Bone, Beaver and Bear

My monthly Rhino Rendezvous, as I've come to think of my raptor route, was yesterday, Groundhog Day. Uhuru was waiting for me at the gate but his keeper came and backed him off so I could drive through without company. On the way out, Uhuru was nowhere to be seen.

We had a good run, Carol and I, with lots of variety in raptors: Rough-legged Hawks, a Merlin, a Bald Eagle, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, some Harriers, one White-tailed Kite, along with the usual Red-tails and Kestrels. And, in the wee hours of the morning, I heard a Saw-whet Owl and we saw our resident two Barn Owls.

I don't know if a groundhog would have seen its shadow yesterday. That would depend on when he woke up and looked out. We had some sun, some clouds, but thankfully no rain.

Poor Shirley Puppy had a bad day yesterday. I noticed in the morning she didn't seem to be feeling well, but I figured she had eaten something she shouldn't and would be better soon. When I came home from the raptor run, she was no better, with her mouth slightly open and drooling. Johnny noticed she had a bone hanging out of her mouth. Sure enough, a piece of lamb bone she'd been chewing on had become stuck on a tooth. She could not dislodge it and she could not close her mouth. With a pair of pliers, Johnny removed the offending bone. Shirley is a happy puppy today.

With my raptor run and BLOY survey week over, I had no excuses for delaying income taxes anymore. Johnny had been working on his for days. And so, naturally, before hitting the books, I escaped to the woods this morning to take photos of what our beavers have been up to lately. They have not been plugging our dam but they have been busy elsewhere. Pictured are two large trees they've been sculpting and a forest of small, harvested trees that are resprouting (sustainable browsing).

There are always interesting discoveries to be made on a walk through the woods. Today we (Johnny took a break from firewood hauling and income tax work to join me) were surprised to see bear sign at the edge of the horse field. Piles of partly digested apples are a common sight here in the fall, but the apple trees have long since lost their fruit... or so I thought. Apparently, some of the many wild apple seedlings in our woods still have lingering apples. Scratch marks on one of them showed either that the bear was marking this tree as his own or he'd been shaking the daylights out of it to get those last shriveled apples. One yet lingered on the tree.

All good things must end, be it apples or income tax preparation avoidance. I went in when it began to rain.