Friday, July 30, 2010

Coyotes, Birds, Garden and Whales

Day before yesterday did not start out well. Two coyotes killed a baby goat (fortunately, not one of our grandson's goats). Johnny shot at one coyote to scare them off... they were too far away by then to hit. I barricaded the gate so the goats have to stay close to the barn and can not get out in that field where the coyotes caught the kid.. until we can do something about the varmints. Shirley Puppy alerted us to the danger and went after the coyotes when we arrived to stay with the goats. We need a second dog so one can stay with their charges while the other one chases off the predator. Johnny has now mowed that field so we can more easily see what's going on. Living with wildlife can be challenging.

But the rest of that day was good... visiting Black Oystercatcher sites and meeting another BLOY volunteer who showed us more good BLOY watching spots south of us. We saw fourteen at one site. She will be taking over monitoring the Boiler Bay fledgling(s) (we only found one of the 3 that hatched), freeing us to spend more time on our closer, north coast sites.

Johnny was able to climb The Thumb with me at Road's End this time, after our Boiler Bay rendezvous with the volunteer. One of our Road's End nesting pairs is no longer nesting. I don't know what happened to their eggs/chicks. A second pair has hatchlings that must be very hungry because the parents brought them pieces of shellfish non-stop. The third pair may be nesting on the distant offshore island but we did not locate that nest. It was a lovely day on the coast, fogless and almost windless.

Yesterday was mowing/weeding/hoeing/watering and thistle-pulling day. My garden is springing to life. Amazing what a little water and weeding will do. However, that has created one problem. I replanted a row that had nothing in it... but does now. I don't remember what I originally planted... pumpkins/squash/melons? I replanted winter squash. Both the original seeds, whatever they are, and the new ones are up. They look different. I will have to transplant one of the types into a separate row as they are way too close together. But it's so fun to see the seeds that were just languishing suddenly pop to life! Even one little watermelon that was hiding underground until the peacock left has dared to poke up now that the garden is netted and watered.

Today we spent a few hours on the coast searching for Black Oystercatchers at yet another site: Cape Kiwanda. We found no BLOY but we did find whales. You'll have to trust me that the small dark spot in the water, right in the path of a boat, is a gray whale. Even zoomed in that's hard to tell. The portion showing is only a fraction of the length of the whale, as you will see if you watch the (very long) video that Johnny took when the whale was close to shore... Be patient, I don't know how to edit videos so you have to wait a bit at the beginning for the whale to appear. It's right next to the rocky shore, at the bottom of the video.

While Johnny whale watched, I scanned the distant Haystack Rock for Black Oystercatchers but found none. BLOY seem to be gathering in large, non-nesting groups this year. Perhaps our cold wet spring made their nesting season too late and many gave up trying. The view was lovely anyway. And whales were an extra treat.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dressage at Devonwood

I spent last Friday, Saturday and Sunday ogling beautiful horses at the lovely Devonwood Equestrian Center near Sherwood, Oregon, and watching them perform in ways my horses and I can only dream about. Well, I doubt my horses dream about much except eating grass.

It was very hot. But thanks to the Traumhof table under the VIP tent, I stayed comfortable most of the time since most of the rides I watched were in the Sand arena, in front of the VIP tents. Only when I was chasing around to catch rides in the other arenas (there are 4 of them) did I get a small taste of what those poor riders must have been going through, riding in the hot sun. And wearing black wool blend coats. Although the technical delegate waved that requirement, most wore them anyway. They do look stunning. But hot.

It was fun to see Jessica's horses, the other lovely horses from the Sonnenberg barn where hers are currently in training, and from her barn, Traumhof. And, of course, to see Kevin and Jessica and Ian and Jessica's sister Sarah. Horse shows are big parties for those of us who don't have to groom and tack up and clean out stalls and ride. Jessica kept very busy as groom, as well as owner, of Elisienne (Lily) and Rudeau (Rudi). Plus helping friend Danielle get ready to show her horse Nick and read the tests for her. It was pretty hectic when there were three horses from their barns in three different rings at nearly the same time.

I didn't take as many photos as I should have. I was too busy taking it all in. I do wish I'd taped Lily's Grand Prix musical freestyle. It was beautiful. She did very, very well at the show, winning her Grand Prix class and placing second in the musical freestyle. But I took not one photo of her. Sarah got this one of Lily and Kevin in a quiet moment in the barn.

I did get a few photos of Rudi. Here he is just entering the Terrace Arena with the control tower in the background where the announcer sits and somehow keeps track of who is going into which arena and what their scores are. In the second photo of Rudi you can see the vendor area under the white tents above the Terrace Arena. Everything a horse crazy person could yearn for is there.

The next Devonwood show is in September and Lily will be there again. That show, I'll do better with the photo taking. Hopefully.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Watch Out! Strange Stallion! Chase It Away!

At least, Mr. Smith thought the "strange horse" in his field needed to be chased off.

Gnats bite Polly's underside so I rub Tea Tree oil salve on her belly midline and around her teats, where the little pests make raw spots. She loves having me scratch those areas and put salve on them. The other horses don't seem so attractive to flying insects. We use fly predators regularly and don't have many biting flies. In fact, Polly is the only one who wants a fly mask on... and the only one that gets flies feeding in the corners of her eyes when she doesn't wear one.

Today Polly seemed particularly itchy so I put a fly sheet on her to help protect her belly... the first fly sheet she's ever worn. Nightingale and Jessie Anne were fascinated by this new, white garment and tasted it as I dressed Polly. But Mr. Smith was out in the field and did not see her until she walked out there.

Too bad I didn't have my camera with me. Mr. Smith grew about six inches as he arched his neck and came strutting over like a stallion, prancing around Polly. He seemed to think this apparition that had appeared in his field was another "stallion" and he needed to put the intruder in his place... preferably clear off the place. Cautiously leaning closer to the apparent invader, Mr. Smith reached out and sniffed Polly's nose... but still did not recognize her.

Snorting, my gelding-who-thinks-he's-a-stallion began hazing 31-year-old Polly... running her around the field. Jessie Anne (Polly's daughter) and Night (Polly's granddaughter) immediately put themselves between Mr. Smith and Polly, racing between them and kicking at Mr. Smith whenever he got too close. It was quite a spectacle with all four horses tearing around the pasture, wheeling and spinning and kicking.

Eventually, Mr. Smith grew tired of running everyone and stopped. J.A. and Night backed off a bit and let him come closer to Polly. Then they put their heads down to graze and so did Polly. It looked just as though they were telling him, "It's okay. It's just Polly. It's not a threat." Mr. Smith put his head down but kept looking up at the white-robed "stranger". One or two more times he trotted over and the two younger mares ran interference again. But by then, Polly was tired of the attention and laid her ears back at Mr. Smith, something she has never done before. He backed off. Hooray for Polly!

Mr. Smith is a terrible bully to his aged pasture mate. She just adores him but he wants none of her. Maybe he will have a little more respect for her from now on. Maybe. But unfortunately, I don't think he ever figured out that the white stranger was Polly. This evening, when I put Mr. Smith in for the night with his food, he kept staring out at the white-robed horse just outside. He watched as I took her fly sheet off. Then acted amazed that the white stranger was suddenly gone and Polly had magically returned. He kept looking all around, apparently trying to find the white menace.

Having always thought Mr. Smith was a very smart horse, I was a bit disappointed in his denseness today. But I thought it noble and amazing the way the two younger mares protected their mom/grandmom from "the stallion"... just as grandma Polly and mother Jessie Anne had protected Nightingale from Mr. Smith when Night was a baby. No matter how many generations removed from the wild they are, horses still retain instincts that helped keep their ancestors alive. Beware the stallion!

Especially, Mr. Smith would say, if it's dressed in white.

Turkey Trampoline and Quill-adorned Dog

I intended to write about the weekend's Devonwood Dressage Show where I spent the last 3 days...

But this morning my less-than-brilliant idea to move the turkeys backfired and that story takes precedence. Plus poor Shirley Puppy's ordeal.

First, the turkeys. I wanted their pen freed up for the banty and her baby peafowl, the only egg that hatched from the murdered peahen's nest. So I moved the four turkey hens and their three babies in with the chickens. The peacock had been so enamored of the baby turkeys that I thought all would get along. (The peacock flies in and out of the uncovered chicken yard.) As usual, I was wrong.

The peacock followed the turkey chicks all around the chicken pen. One mama turkey decided that was too close and attacked him. Bad idea. Peacock does not like being attacked. He counterattacked. She fled... upward and over the fence onto the netting covering the adjacent garden.

I must say that netting is stronger than I thought. As the turkey tried to fly up out of it, feet, naturally, entangled, the netting went with her. She went down, up, down, and netting did likewise. I rushed into the garden and got under her. She waded her way away from me... up, down, up, to the edge of the garden. With one mighty heave, she launched herself up and out of the netting, tearing it as she went, and landed in the linden tree in front of the chicken house.

The tear was close enough to the edge I could rehook the netting over the nails. The turkey hen eventually flew out of the tree and down into the llama field where we were able to herd her to the chicken house area. She entangled herself in the many stems of the date tree/bush and I was able to grab and disentangle her and return her to the original turkey pen.

All the turkeys are now back where they started. The banty hen and baby peafowl are in a quickly constructed sort-of pen in the corner of the garden where the mangled apple tree is.

But before Johnny could start on his quickly devised banty pen, he discovered another problem... Shirley Puppy had an unfortunate encounter with a porcupine during the night. So we spent half an hour pulling quills out of her nose. Well, he pulled, I held Shirley. Poor girl.

I am now two hours late starting chores. And no, I did not get photos of poor Shirley quilled or of the turkey trampoline act.

At least all this excitement did not happen on one of the mornings I needed to leave here early for the horse show.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Garden is Netted!

After many hours over many days, I finally finished sewing, with fishing line, all three 28 x 28 foot netting pieces to each other and to two 14 by 45 foot netting pieces to cover our ridiculously huge garden. Then I stretched it over the garden and fastened it up temporarily. Today Johnny replaced wire on one side that was rotted and helped me stretch the netting over that side. Voila! A peacock-proof garden. I hope.

It is difficult to get a photograph of black netting with 3/4 inch holes stretched over an enormous garden. I took one photo from inside the garden, looking skyward. The photo from outside the garden shows the peacock sitting on the board at the top of the garden fence, hopefully not contemplating diving through the netting. Perhaps you can see the netting where it droops a bit behind the peacock.

It is so lovely to have my garden back. It has been covered, at ground level, with bits of netting and hardware cloth pieces and whatever I could find to keep the peacock from eating the seedlings. He wiped out an entire row of watermelons before I had them properly protected. But I could not weed that way and the seedlings were becoming buried under weeds. Today I hoed and hand weeded and found vegetable plants! Unfortunately, I don't know what they all are because the tags were knocked off by the peacock's tail in his wanderings around the garden.

The corn is recognizable, although it wasn't knee high by the 4th of July. (I don't think it was even up by the 4th of July.) Alas, I don't know if the pictured hill has pumpkins or winter squash or some sort of melon. I guess I'll find out eventually. I can tell three rows have beans, but I don't know which beans are edamame, which are bush beans, and which are dry beans. All three rows need to be filled in with more beans but I don't know which type bean seeds to put where.

Our outer garden is producing well, since the peacock has ignored it, although in this odd weather year we harvested our first crop of peas, first new potatoes and first ripe tomato all in the same week. Pictured are the prolific peas in a box and plentiful potatoes in a manure spreader.

Tomorrow I will replant beans and cucumbers (only a few came up... or survived) in the inner, safely netted garden.

Happiness is a garden without a peacock in it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lost Boy Cave

With feed to unload, netting to sew together and put up over the garden to keep the peacock from devouring the few seedlings he hasn't yet devoured, goat feet to trim, and sheep and llamas to shear, I loaded Johnny, scope, binoculars, and camera into the car and left for Oceanside and the Lost Boy Cave. Well, I didn't know I'd get to Lost Boy Cave but the tide was out farther than I've ever seen it at Oceanside and I was able to walk all the way to the beach we've never been to before and explore all of Lost Boy Cave that I'd only heard about. Wow! What a cool place. And what a beautiful day. I took lots of pictures.

With the tide coming in, I hiked back to Johnny and the car. After lunch with birding friends in Netarts, we all drove on to Cape Meares. The bottom right photo is taken from Cape Meares, looking back toward Oceanside and the rocks I saw from the Lost Boy Cave beach. They look tiny from this distance.

My ostensible reason for the trip was to see if I could find nesting Black Oystercatchers at Oceanside. I did not. But I found them foraging on top of rocks that I have never seen uncovered before. Notice the barnacle covered rock, normally well under water, that this BLOY is standing on.

What a great day. Now to go unload feed...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shannon Peters Dressage Clinic!

The Shannon Peters dressage clinic at Traumhof was fantastic. Since it was mostly upper level horses and professionals, I didn't think there would be much that I, a rank amateur, could use with my own low level horses. Instead, I learned more than I ever have from any clinic, including those with riders of my ilk. Shannon is a remarkable person. Not only did she immediately spot where each horse and rider needed improvement, she explained clearly and simply how to make that improvement. I came home with a page full of notes and a head full of ideas to try with my own horses... should I ever have time to ride.

Above left is the flashy Grand Prix horse Pablo, ridden by Mike Osinski. On the right is Jessica's lovely Grand Prix mare, Elisienne, better known as Lily, ridden by Nicki Grandia.

It was also fun, of course, to see grandson Ian who is growing up quickly. He loves selling food and beverages at the concession stand they operate as a fund raiser during the clinic. Now, at almost nine, he can pretty much do it all himself, including make change. He stayed with his job all day both days. (I, on the other hand, watched the clinic all day both days.) When all was done Sunday afternoon, Ian and I played games. The kid never seems to get tired. Well, he looks tired here but he was faking it.

This was my first time to see Luna, Jessica's new foal. What a beautiful, friendly girl she is... and a big one for only three months old!

Kevin, Jessica and Ian, plus all the boarders at the barn, have been working for weeks to get the place looking terrific... flowers planted everywhere... lovely hanging baskets.. everything mowed and trimmed and weeded and pressure washed and tidy. Traumhof looked beautiful. A perfect showcase for the lovely horses.
Johnny managed to do chores while I was gone, but his back did not cooperate as well as it had for my Ashland trip. It's time for me to stay home and let him recuperate... before he heads out south to visit the Calif. kids and north to visit the Wash. kids. He can ride Amtrak both directions and enjoys that method of travel. But first, he seems determined to get the new goat barn project underway. We will hire the construction, but he is designing and planning. It looks like the long-awaited goat barn may actually become a reality.

I mowed the lawn on this, my first day home, while working on my riding skills (in my head). Shannon Peters' voice counseled me to sit my bum in the saddle, don't lean forward, tighten my abs, roll my wrists to soften my horse's jaw, keep my hands low, elbows at sides, think forward, and volte, volte, volte. The riding mower does not, I discovered, do voltes (small circles) well. It just can't bend properly from nose to tail.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

That's Twice

Trouble is, if it happens a third time, I don't know if I should shoot the goats or myself. Both times they've escaped have been my fault... a gate open the first time and a gate unlatched the second. The second time they finished off the roses and blueberries they only started on the first time, plus completely broke off my lovely Japanese maple.

The baby turkeys have squeezed out of their pen more than twice in spite of the chicken wire Johnny strung over the chain link. They are escape artists. The peacock has gone way past his three strikes and you're out but he's still in... the garden eating my veggies that are just poking up out of the ground. I have netting ordered to cover the entire garden. Until a few years ago, we had the garden covered with fish netting we picked up on the dock in Newport... old tangled stuff that was being discarded. It took me a month of unraveling to get it ready to hang over the 35 x 70 foot garden. It lasted for years and years but finally rotted and broke and sagged enough that we took it down.

The peacock hangs out in the garden to be near the baby turkeys, which he seems intrigued by. In fact, he guards them when they manage to ooze into the garden by him. The day the wild turkey visited, the babies were where they belonged, but the four turkey hens that are guarding the three little poults (it's been a lousy hatch year) thought she was a threat. Three of them sheltered the babies while one tried to chase off the wild hen, who was just curious, I think. The peacock paced along the garden side of the fence. Perhaps you can see him in the background of this photo. The wild hen is on the right.
In other farm news, two young does have kidded this week. Ian's doe Omelet kidded on the Fourth of July with a buckling and a doeling. I'll get better photos when they're older. I took these to send to Ian on the day they were born.

Today another young doe, Sweetheart, kidded with a buckling and a doeling. No photos yet.

Johnny and I took a break from the farm and heat and animals to go to the coast and look for Black Oystercatchers yesterday. We found a pair with two or three chicks (Johnny claims he saw three chicks. I only saw two.) You can see from the photo on the left how far away the rock they nested on was from the park where we were standing. It is the offshore rock in the center. The photo on the right shows it zoomed in closer. Even with our scope, the chicks were little gray rocks with legs. They don't have long red bills like their parents have so are impossible to see until you notice little gray rocks moving about with two light colored legs under them. Can you find the adults and chicks in the photo below? From left to right it is chick, adult, chick, adult. Look for the legs!

It was while we were off staring at a distant rock, arguing over whether there were two or three Black Oystercatcher chicks, that the gate I'd left unlatched back home swung open with a hot east wind and the goats raced out for the second time to devour my plants.

Here's hoping I'm more careful in the future. And here's hoping the netting I ordered to cover the vegetable garden arrives soon. My plants can't take any more marauding animals.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Summer Visitors

Summers on the farm always bring city friends to experience life in the country for a few short work-free hours. Although I often complain about this, in fact they provide a good break from my labors. Yesterday, friends came with teen-aged grandkids, one of whom wanted to ride a nice, safe horse. Polly, at 31, is about as safe as they come. Polly has resided on our farm since she was 18 and given dozens of people their first rides on a horse or their first fear-free rides on a horse. And she's still doing it, bless her heart.

Polly will follow Mr. Smith to the ends of the earth. So all I have to do is ride Mr. Smith and let Polly follow with her delighted passenger on board. This time, the passenger's grandma, a long-time horse-loving friend of mine, came too and rode Mr. Smith while I rode Jessie Anne. Getting three horses exercised at once is a rare occurrence and quite welcome. We let Nightingale race around on her side of the fence since only three of us wanted to ride. Micaela's older brother, Gosheven, got plenty of exercise running along after us, taking these great photos. Here we are in the wildflower-filled arboretum. I'm on the Palomino in the lead (Jessie Anne), my friend Lynn-Marie is on Mr. Smith and Micaela is on Polly.

Before heading out, we rode in the arena for a bit to make sure everyone was comfortable with their mount and vice versa. I love Micaela's happy face in this photo!

It doesn't get much better than this.