Monday, March 29, 2010

Horse Show! (and Slimy Baby Goats)

The last three days have been the Devonwood dressage show, where daughter-in-law Jessica's horses were showing. Lily and Rudi did very well with Rudi winning his first ever class in his first ever horse show with a super score. Lily was stunning and so relaxed under Nicki in their first Grand Prix outing together. I will be going to Sacramento where they will show in two weeks. Woohoo!

My plan was, of course, to spend all three days at the show watching classes and hanging out with grandson Ian. But, as my mother always said, the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry. Friday, I had showered, changed, loaded the car, and walked to the barn for one last check on the goat due to kid but who had not been doing anything. She was doing something. I had to stay home. (Johnny had already left in his own rig just in case I couldn't get there. Good thing.)

More berry bushes got cut down from in front of the barn while I waited. I did not have long to wait as D-Lovely needed help getting the first kid, a big buckling, out of the way of his two sisters. All three babies arrived fine and healthy. But I decided people should see the truth about baby goats... they are *not* adorable when they first arrive. They are covered in slime. I usually don't take photos until they're all licked off (by the doe, not me) and dry. This time, I took photos as soon as they were safely on the ground and breathing. So here they are, two of the three slimy baby goats.

It's pretty amazing how fast baby goats go from uncoordinated slimy little things to cute bouncing kids. I took a video of the uncoordinated slimy little things learning to stand The triplets are now cute bouncing baby goats but I haven't taken more photos yet.

Saturday, I made it to the show but forgot my camera!! So instead of photos of the amazing Elisienne (Lily) and incredible Rudeau (Rudi), you get photos of slimy baby goats. I won't forget my camera in Sacramento.

Sunday, Johnny again left early while I did chores, checked the next doe due to kid, showered, changed, loaded the car, and went to the barn for one last check. She was beginning to have contractions. So I stayed home. I finished cutting the blackberries out from the elderberry tree and flower beds near the barn. The aggravating young doe quit having contractions. Today, 24 hours later, she still has not produced those kids. So I missed Sunday's show. Sigh. Rudi won his class again. Lily scored 8 on her 2 tempis (dressage fans will understand... for the rest of you, trust me, that's terrific!)

I can't wait for Sacramento!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sunny Days

What beautiful weather we're having! The last two days have been sunny and warm and I've had a wonderful time. I feel a bit guilty about this since several of my friends seem to be having bad mood days. But it wouldn't help them if I were gloomy, too, would it? No, of course it wouldn't. So I'm not. Sorry, friends. I hope you, too, get to take a nap in the sun someday soon.

Yesterday we went to the coast for the first time in ages. A hike up The Thumb at Road's End revealed no Black Oystercatchers this day but it was lovely anyhow. Johnny scanned with our spotting scope, took a nap, and measured a huge Sitka Spruce along the trail.

Our next stop was Short Beach where we hit a bonanza of Black Oystercatchers (BLOY). Nine of them were in view at once. Who knows how many more were around the corner by the Lost Boy Cave. These flamboyant black shorebirds with the huge red bills love to bathe in the fresh water of Short Creek that flows down to the beach from a concrete flume. It's fun to watch them cavort in the water. I put a video on youtube of the action.

Next, we enjoyed the view from the lighthouse at Cape Meares, looking back toward Short Beach and 3 Arch Rocks. (And saw three more BLOY from the viewing platform by the parking lot.) We concluded the day with a dinner with friends in Tillamook. It doesn't get any better than that.

Well, today came close. It was so nice out that our little group of horse friends were able to ride in Karen's outdoor arena, trotting and cantering over poles. I was happy to see when we watched the video of our rides that Mr. Smith and I are making progress, albeit slow progress, on bending and using our back end. Well, his back end. Mine needs to stay put. My elbows need to give more, though, and my outside rein and leg need to be steadier.

After the poles, Nancy and I had a short pas de deux practice. She is creating a freestyle for us. Mr. Smith and I need to work on leg yielding (along with bending and relaxation and giving to the bit and a hundred other things). Next time we'll add canter to the mix and see what happens. Hey, why not?

Rain is supposed to return tomorrow so I'm glad I played outside the last two days. Life is good.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

First Baby Goats of Spring

My plan was to spend Friday at the Northwest Horse Expo, meet a friend from California there, learn about leg-yielding from clinician George Williams, Olympic equestrian, and generally spend a day soaking up horse information. It was not to be.

On Thursday evening, one of the two goats due that day began uddering up and losing her "cords", ligaments on either side of the tail that tell me when a goat is within 24 hours of kidding. So I put her (Ebony) in a kidding pen and went to bed, hopeful that she would kid before I needed to leave for the Expo after chores the next day. Alas, Ebony did not cooperate. Furthermore, the second doe that was imminent, Ginseng, was also uddered up and cordless in the morning, so I prepared another kidding pen and put her in. Then I resigned myself to a day cutting blackberries out of the comfrey patch and elderberry tree in front of the barn, while checking periodically on my aggravatingly slow to kid does.

It was a lovely, sunny day and I realized at some point that it was ridiculous to be irritated about spending time outdoors in beautiful weather, waiting for adorable baby goats to arrive. The Expo could wait until tomorrow.

At 3:45 p.m., Ginseng was pushing a bubble out the back with a large kid's head visible. Ginseng is a first freshener, so I helped her by gently pulling the big doe kid out... and the second kid (a buckling) not long after. Both were healthy kids soon up and nursing.

Ebony did not get around to kidding until after I'd gone in for supper. Friend Irv drove in and said, "My goats never kidded until I went in to eat." He walked out with me when I went to check and, sure enough, there was a big buckling being cleaned up by his mom. It was an hour later before she got around to having the second, a doeling.

Saturday, the first day of spring, with the first goat kids of the year all healthy and happy, I went to the Horse Expo and watched George Williams teach how to improve your horse's collection (that's not what is taken in church, but rather what a horse needs to do to transfer weight to his back end so he can move more gracefully and efficiently.) I even saw my California friend briefly and met other people I knew (naturally, since I know a lot of horse addicts.)

It is good and truly spring now, both by the calendar and by the birthing of baby goats. And I have a lot fewer berry bushes invading in front of the barn.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Friendly Animal Farm

This week has seen two groups of young children traipsing around our farm, much to the delight of Shirley Puppy, Lindoro and Milagro (the llamas), and Polly, Mr. Smith, Jessie Anne and Nightingale (the horses). Perhaps we should have named this the Fink Family Friendly Animal Farm. The kids are going to think all llamas give kisses and love to be petted. And they'll think all horses come up out of a field, unbidden, for pets and attention. Ah well, it's nice to have illusions when you're young.

I wish I'd taken a photo of Polly with the kindergarten kids who came today. All the horses were grazing when we hiked through their field toward Agency Creek to look at beaver chewed trees. Polly marched right over to the kids as we were preparing to help them across the little creek that flows out of our pond and into Agency. She put her head down and sniffed each one and accepted their pets on her face. I have never seen her so eager for attention from youngsters. Then I remembered that years ago, when we had school groups come regularly to the farm, I let kids pick grass to feed the horses. Polly must have been remembering that. Grass pulled and handed to her always appealed to her more than grass she had to pick herself.

Polly does love children, though, and happily allowed the horse-crazy youngster who came a few days ago to have a ride on her bare back as I walked around the field next to her. I had not taken halter or rope with me into the field but Polly doesn't care. Put a child on her back and she'll take care of him. Nightingale loves kids, too, mostly, I suspect, because they pay attention to her and Night wants constant attention. After most of the kids were across the creek today, Polly left and Nightingale replaced her, nuzzling the few youngsters not yet safely on the far side. Here she is lovin' up the kids who came earlier in the week with their parents.
The llamas were happy to take orange peels from that first pair of kids. Their parents were not so enamored of the llama kisses as their children were. I love the photo of their dad enduring attention from Milagro.

The llamas went absolutely nuts over the kindergarten class today, smothering them with llama kisses. I stood there stupidly enjoying the scene without taking photos. Perhaps the llamas were expecting more orange peels.

The class was here to see beaver environment. The Chinook Wawa immersion class from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde are studying beaver this week, "eena" in the trade language of the Northwest. The kids came to our farm with their teachers and Henry Zenk, on the right side of this photo of the class surrounding a dramatically beaver-chewed tree.

Henry has been studying this language for many years. I met him long ago when I took jargon (as we called the language then) from Eula Petite, and later, Ila, her sister. I am lousy at learning languages and never did learn to pronounce the sounds correctly, but Eula and Ila were very patient and kind and taught me much more than the language. Those wonderful tribal elders taught by example how to live joyfully, no matter what is happening in one's life.

When the kids left today, they sang us a thank you song in Chinook Wawa. I thought I was recording it on my camera but apparently did not do something right as it's not there. Oh well, maybe next time. And maybe next time I'll remember to take more photos of cute kids with friendly animals.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Orchid Show

Yesterday, tired of trimming horse hooves and shoveling manure... and just plain tired... I called friend Velta and said "Want to go to the Orchid Show and Sale in Salem, today?" Velta, also tired, said "Sure!" So Nightingale did not get her hooves trimmed. Unless I can come up with another excuse, she will today.

I needed more potting medium for my orchids. At least, I will someday because I'm out. This show comes only once a year. And I missed Velta's birthday and owed her a lunch. All lovely excuses for ditching work. We headed for the Sale room first. It was full of blooming and not blooming orchids. A feast for the eyes. I had thought about bringing my camera but did not, which I regretted when we finally made our way to the Show area. Wow! What amazing orchids were on display.

Of course, I bought more than planting medium. After all, how could I put photos in a blog about the show if I had no photos of orchids? For the first time ever, I bought a Cattleya. I love the color. Because I've never grown Cattleyas before, I also picked up the culture sheet for them. Well, one thing leads to another and I bought a thermometer with hygrometer to mount near the kitchen window, where my orchids live, to try to make sure the humidity is correct for my "corsage orchid".
The Portland Orchid Society had some "rescue orchids" they were selling very cheap. So I bought a Phalanopsis, which is what I usually get because they seem to survive my care, or lack of, the longest. And their flowers last for months.

Before adding the new orchids to the ones already on the kitchen window ledge, I cleaned off and examined the old orchids to make sure they had no bugs to transmit. One did and so it has been banished to the greenhouse and debugged. To my surprise, another of the resident orchids has a tiny flower stalk just beginning. It will be fun to watch it develop. Gardening, says my friend Yoko, teaches us patience. Alas, it does not teach me well enough as I was not willing to wait for my own orchids to rebloom and bought blooming ones instead.

It's not as though nothing is flowering around here. Something is always in bloom in the greenhouse, even in the dead of winter. Right now, the Clivia are in full flower and really quite gorgeous. But they don't fit on my kitchen window ledge. How's that for an excuse?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Friend Yoko

One of the best things to come out of this blogging I've begun is the reconnection it has given me to my good friend Yoko in Japan. Two of Yoko's children, Makiko and Michito, spent a little time with us when they were students and we grew very close to their family. A few years back, we flew to Japan for the wedding of Makiko. Yoko flew here a few years later. She and her husband had been to our farm right after Maki's graduation from college in the U.S. but Yoko's husband sadly passed away before Maki's wedding.

Yoko and I bonded the minute we met. Isn't it funny how that happens with some people? I felt the same connection with the moms of both my daughters-in-law, one of whom tragically died of cancer before either of her and our beautiful grandchildren were born. I miss her still.

But enough of the sadness. Back to Yoko, one of the most delightful, loving, upbeat people on the planet. Yoko decided after her first visit here that she wanted to be able to communicate in the same language with me because we had so much to talk about. She loves plants and flowers as I do, knows all the botanical names, loves to ride horses and milk goats when she comes to our farm, is interested in birds, loves to read. In short, Yoko shares all my interests. I started trying to learn Japanese but I am hopeless at languages and not nearly so dedicated as Yoko. She takes English lessons and now practices by translating my blogs and commenting to me in English by email.

I have learned so much about Yoko's life from her emails since I started this blog... and since she began writing to me in English. I love it! She writes about her garden, the heavy snow that Japan is getting this spring, her children and grandchildren, the books she is reading, and much more.

Today she shared a bit of sad news: nine Toki, Japanese Crested Ibis, that were scheduled for release into the wild in September were killed by a marten. Toki are being brought back from near extinction by dedicated bird lovers in Japan with the help of dedicated bird lovers in China. Here's a website telling about the birds and the efforts to save them. Losing nine is a heartbreaking setback.

Well, how's that for a cheerful post? Must be all the rain today putting a damper on my thoughts. But tomorrow is a new day. The Toki will rebound, with help from their human friends. And so will I. Like my daffodils that were bowed down earlier this week under a light snowfall but bravely popped up after the snow melted, we each have stormy weather that beats us down but can't keep us down. Tomorrow (or maybe the day after that or the day after that) the rain will stop and the sun will shine again. And my friend Yoko will write another newsy email, letting me know that even though many miles and a great ocean divide us, we are still connected.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pas de Deux

For years I've tried to get a quadrille group going (that's four people on four horses riding patterns). The first group collapsed after two practices. The second group, which I hosted here using two of my own horses, lasted several months but eventually also withered away. When I joined the Old People's Riding Club (yes, that's really the name) a few years ago, I had high hopes that this time I'd have a quadrille. No such luck. We had four people interested, but we all had different schedules and never could figure out practice times that fit everyone.

So I've lowered my sights. Now I'm willing to settle for two people on two horses riding patterns (a pas de deux). Since I'm one of those people, it seems that this is a workable solution, although there's still the difficulty of scheduling practices that work for both people. However, friend Nancy, my pas de deux partner, and I are now riding at friend Karen's barn (where I take jumping lessons) twice a month for "poles day". This is a day when we ride patterns over poles and then watch the videotapes of our rides. Non-horse people probably think horse people have a passion for patterns. (I couldn't resist that alliteration.) In fact, patterns help us teach our horses to bend properly, keep a steady cadence, ride corners properly, and more.

Today was our first pas de deux practice, after the poles session. Fun! Mr. Smith seemed to like trotting beside Nancy's tall, glamorous mare, Cat Lady, although his short legs had to work hard to keep up with her. Nancy and Cat are considerably more advanced than Mr. Smith and I but, because of that, they can adjust their strides more easily to fit ours and we had no trouble today at the walk and trot. Canter may be more of a challenge but that's in the future.

I'm already looking forward to our next session in two weeks. Half a quadrille is better than none. In fact, it's looking to be a whole lot of fun.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Curious Owl

I have long been partial to Barn Owls, probably because they nest in our barn every year and we have become quite familiar with their lovely colors and hissing offspring, which we call baby dragons. Baby Barn Owls are so ugly they're cute. (Well, maybe.)

But now I am becoming acquainted with a truly cute owl: the Saw-whet.

Today when I drove up to the goat barn with my load of feed and stopped to open the gate beyond, the little Northern Saw-whet Owl that has taken up residence in the Wood Duck box near the barn popped its head out to look at me. Delighted to see it appearing in daylight, I hurried to the house for my camera. When I came back, the owl had disappeared. I sighed, started the pickup, and immediately the little head appeared in the nest hole, apparently curious about the sound of my vehicle. I took a picture. What a cute little owl.

After unloading horse feed at the horse barn, I drove back and stopped by the goat barn again. The owl did not reappear. Since it was threatening rain, I retreated to the house and waited until the weather cleared to unload the goat feed. When I came back and began unloading, the little owl looked out. Most of the time I was unloading, the owl was watching me. But when I began noisily folding the empty sacks, the owl began a low chattering that sounded like a scold. Apparently, I was disturbing its rest a bit too much. The owl continued chattering until I quit making noise. Then it ducked back down and, presumably, went to sleep.

I couldn't resist talking to the owl as I worked. It seemed so intent on what I was doing that I thought it only polite to explain my actions. This is a little owl one could fall in love with. I studied up on Saw-whet Owls in my many bird books and found that the name was probably not, as has been oft stated, derived from the sound of a saw being whetted, as the bird makes no such sound. Rather, saw-whet is likely a corruption of the French word for small owl, "chouette".

Alas, I learned that the earliest egg laying reported is March 19. But this is an oddly early spring and I have hopes this bird is truly nesting and not just hanging out. They do prefer nesting, my books say, in swampy areas and they will use nest boxes. This nest box hovers high over our little creek and the swamp the beaver have created.

Then I looked at a photo of a baby Saw-whet Owl. Oh my. The cuteness factor is off the scale. Here's hoping we have some of those to coo over -- and get photos of -- in a month or two. I will still love my Barn Owls. But, I must admit, cuteness is not their strong point.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Three Owl Day

Wow! What an exciting day (from a birder's perspective). It started with a call from birding friends Carol and Paul accepting my invitation to come see our Barn Owl fly out of the loft in the morning, as it does each day when I go up to feed hay. As soon as she starts laying eggs, she'll stop flying out so... they decided to come this morning. The owl performed well for them but the Wrentits did not. For years, our farm has been the only known location of Wrentits in Yamhill County but they have not sounded off or appeared since early fall. Paul does a wonderful Wrentit imitation but he could not call them up here. He did find some juvenile Red Crossbills right outside the barn, closer than I normally see them here.

Shortly after Paul and Carol left, Carol called to say Paul had brought a Wrentit out of the bushes a short distance up the road from us. Not long after that, he enticed a Pygmy Owl to come into view. They offered to come pick me up and take me to the owl, not even a mile away from our farm, and I readily accepted! Paul, with his amazing Pygmy Owl voice, called it out for me to see and get some distant photos (small bird on tall tree). Then he called up the Wrentits again... two different pairs! A flock of Evening Grosbeaks landed on nearby trees to add their color to the show. Wow!

After Paul and Carol dropped me off at home again and left, I called friend Marilyn and told her of the Pygmy Owl and Wrentit and she drove right out to see them. With her IPod, she managed to entice the Pygmy Owl to answer, but it did not come into view for us. Her IPod talked to the Wrentits and one of those did appear, to Marilyn's delight.

Johnny and I talked Marilyn into staying until dark to see the Saw-whet Owl in the Wood Duck nest box but it did not appear while she was here. The Barn Owl was more cooperative, flying out of the loft when I turned the light on and went up the ladder. With Johnny outside shining the bright spotlight on the exit hole, Marilyn had a good view of the owl as it flew. I'll bet that bird wishes I didn't have to feed goats twice a day.

At 9:30 p.m., I heard the Saw-whet Owl calling from in front of the barn. I dashed outside and aimed my flashlight on the nest box hole. There it was with two eyes shining red. I guess it doesn't wake up until 9:30 at night.

There was non-bird excitement here today, too, in the form of a burned out hot water heater. Johnny had been smelling something weird for a couple of days and finally discovered a blackened area on the heater, plus only lukewarm water from the tap this evening. So tonight I'll have a lukewarm sponge bath instead of a shower, but even that can't dampen the thrill of a three owl day.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Trail Blazing

The last two afternoons I've spent re-opening trails in our woods. I didn't mean to. I was clipping scotch broom and himalaya blackberries out of the arboretum yesterday and found myself at the end of the arboretum, by the path going into the woods. My feet just kept going on that path. My excuse was to check on my newly planted trees down in what we call the lake pasture, which is now the Subalpine Forest and Meadow (Alaska Yellow Cedar and Bear Grass) plus the Northwest Rain Forest (Sitka spruce, Pacific Yew, and Western Hemlock). After checking the trees, I noticed what looked like a deer trail through the formerly impenetrable wall of blackberries. I wondered if the deer had opened a pathway to a trail we used to have that has become blocked by downfalls. The storms of the last couple of winters have been tough on our woodland paths.

The deer path led nowhere, but Shirley Puppy, who was ahead of me, kept going anyway. I followed her, crawling under and over brush and trees. She led me to the old trail, still hopelessly blocked at both ends. However, there seemed to be the possibility of cutting a new trail around the impediments. So I did. That took the rest of the afternoon. Here's part of my new trail: I may have to duck to ride under these vine maples. (That, you see, is what I primarily like these trails for: horseback riding.)

Today, to get out of work I should have been doing, I used the excuse that I needed to clear a little of the stickery stuff going down to Agency Creek for the kindergarten class that is coming next week. They are studying beavers and want to see beaver habitat. We definitely have beaver habitat here. But I don't want to make the path down to the dramatic beaver sculpted trees (photos in "Birds, Bone, Beaver and Bear") look like a path or the horses will use it and destroy things. So I did a minimum of clipping, then invited Johnny to come help me figure out how to get small children across the little creek. While he was contemplating that problem, an otter swam downstream past him. What a surprise!

While I had been trail blazing, Johnny had been sawing up a large tree that had fallen over the gate near the pump house. I wondered if the old abandoned trail beyond that gate could now be opened up to meet the one trail I've been able to ride on since the storm damage. They used to meet, although the pump house trail was never horse friendly. A few hours and many sore muscles later, I did, indeed, manage to connect those trails, although the one is still not horse friendly (too many low hanging limbs to get under and large logs to get over.)

Next, I bravely dove into another long-lost trail, one I rode regularly, before storm-damage. Here's what it looked like before clearing.

That one took the rest of the afternoon and has much work, including chainsaw work, left to do. Johnny was, by then, creating his own sore muscles by sawing up huge stumps out of the creek that goes under our driveway. One day soon I'll talk him into bringing his chain saw to my trails. I have hope that my bridal paths will be ready for riding by the time the ground is dry enough to put horses on them.

For now, they are walkable, sort of, and already beginning to have blooming wild flowers. Only one trillium was open today, but the ground was carpeted with these little pink flowers that I call spring beauties. It's worth clearing the paths just to see the flowers.

And it sure will be fun to ride those paths come summer.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Last Raptor Run

Today, Johnny and I completed the final Grand Ronde area raptor run of this winter season. It was a lovely day. Johnny was a bit disappointed, I think, that the rhinos did not make an appearance on the Oregon Wildlife portion of our survey. Instead, just wary Bontebok and a gentle giraffe kept their eyes on us.

I was glad to see again today the lone White-tailed Kite that we've been finding near the Oregon Wildlife property most months. Too bad it was too far away for a photograph. We started this route five or six years ago when there were fourteen or more kites in the neighborhood. They have moved on, to where I know not.

Since the purpose of these surveys is to find out what raptors are in the area during the winter months, we also report owls heard the night before and after. Last night, the Northern Saw-whet Owl that has been sounding off every evening somewhere in front of the goat barn, sounded off again... rather monotonously and curiously close. Johnny and I both thought the sound was coming from very near the Wood Duck nest box that is along the stream close to the front of the barn. Johnny shone his flashlight at the box and there was a little Saw-whet Owl face peeking out. The Wood Ducks are going to be rather unhappy to find an owl in the home where they raised their babies last year. However, we have lots of wood duck boxes scattered about the property so they'll find another if the owl is still claiming the box when the Wood Ducks are ready to nest.

We report our resident Barn Owls on each month's survey, too. Lately, one has been hanging out in the loft nest box, but not yet laying eggs. It will be interesting if the little Saw-whet Owl raises owlets in a box so close to the barn where a Barn Owl raises at least one brood each year. The more the merrier as far as I'm concerned: owls eat pesky rodents.

On count night, friend Barbara who lives along our survey route helps by listening for Great Horned Owls that are resident on her property. She has a comfortable way to listen for them: she soaks in her outdoor hot tub while the owls talk to each other in the distance. Last month, she logged three Great Horned Owls and one Saw-whet for us.

As much as I love the monthly raptor run, I'm rather glad it's over for the year. It's exhausting concentrating intently for seven hours watching for hawks as I drive. It was wonderful to come home today and let my eyes rest on colorful daffodils, primroses, and hellebores blooming in the sunshine.

Most colorful of all is the resident peacock. It is a pretty time of year on our farm.

The activities that warm weather brings are starting now: gardening, goats kidding, and, of course, horse-back riding and attending horse events. But by summer, I know I will once again be eagerly awaiting the first raptor run of the season in November.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Swallow House Construction

Today was supposed to be the last raptor run of the year, but the weather was drippy and so was I, so I postponed it. Instead, between chores and naps, I created seven new gourd nests to replace the ones that have fallen apart over the years. As I was almost finished, it occurred to me that I should have taken photos of the steps along the way to remember what tools to use next time, since I tend to forget. So I took pictures belatedly.

First step is acquire the gourds. Ebay is a good source, but I'm lucky in that friend Velta bought about a zillion gourds some years ago and shares them with me. Next, cut a 1 1/2" diameter hole for swallows, preferably in such a way that rain doesn't fall into the hole. For this I use a drill with a hole saw attachment. Alas, my drill's battery was dead and refused to charge. So Johnny let me use his. The moral of the story is always buy the same model drill as your tool-savvy partner has so you can use his batteries (or hers as the case may be) when yours won't work.

Clean out the seeds and other riff raff inside the gourd with a cheap barbecue fork that you've bent the tines on (Velta taught me this trick.) Then make drainage holes in the bottom (if you can figure out where the bottom will be when the gourd is hanging) with a dremel tool. At least, that's what I use. I bought it to use on my horses' feet after reading that grinding off their hoof wall with a dremel was easier than horse nippers. Did not work for me. But works great for drilling little holes in the bottom of gourds.

Also drill holes in the neck of the gourd to put wire through to fasten the gourd to a bamboo pole. The trickiest part for me is pushing the wire through one hole and out the other. Sometimes it goes easily; sometimes it just can't seem to find the hole on the other side. Wrap the wire around the bamboo pole above nodes with stiff branch stubs that you cleverly left on when you pruned the other branches off.

Now you get to put your gourd nest up. I weave the bamboo pole through the woven wire mesh next to a fence post. If you have a different type fence, obviously you'll have to improvise. The woven wire holds the bamboo in place, although I also shove the pole into the ground a little ways (as far as I can get it which isn't far.)

Voila! A swallow house! One of twenty I now have up. It's most fun to do this when the swallows are in the area as they swarm around your head waiting impatiently for you to finish. However, the nesting swallows are not back yet so I just have llamas watching my every move.