Friday, September 24, 2010

Three Foot, the Pear Bear

Three Foot is the name we have given the big black papa bear who visits the pear tree outside our bedroom window nightly. Last night, we gave up all attempts at being discreet and shown a flashlight on him as he clambered about in the pear tree, eating and knocking down pears and breaking branches. When he came down to feast on the pears he had knocked into the driveway, Johnny noticed that he was missing his right front paw, probably to a bear trap.

We now know he is a papa bear because Johnny saw him urinate. I was spared these details because my face was glued to the camera where I was snapping pictures as fast as I could. Above is Three Foot in the driveway, outside our bedroom window. He is one honkin big bear. Johnny's flashlight had dimmed by this time, unfortunately.

It was tough to get pictures of Three Foot in the tree. He just looks like a large black lump, even when Johnny managed to train the flashlight on him and not some other blackness in the tree. Here is one head shot, zoomed up.

I'm glad I could not see this face the night we met in the orchard in the dark (earlier post on Scary Creatures) . I think I might have found it a bit difficult to calmly ask him to leave so I could go past.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Elisienne, Triple Crown Winner

Okay, so it wasn't horse racing's triple crown, it was the triple crown of dressage championships in the Pacific Northwest for 2010. This past weekend, Jessica's mare, Lily, as we call Elisienne, won the Northwest Dressage Grand Prix championship, the Great American/USDF (U.S. Dressage Federation) Grand Prix championship, and the Great American/USDF Grand Prix Musical Freestyle championship. What a spectacular showing for Lily and her rider, Nicki Grandia! This came just one week after winning the Oregon Dressage Society Grand Prix championship, giving Lily and Nicki a clean sweep of northwest Grand Prix championships. Grand Prix is the highest level of dressage.

We are all excited about Lily's future in the world of dressage. She will be training with the number one U.S. dressage rider next year, Steffen Peters. Steffen is the best hope of the United States for a medal in the dressage portion of the World Equestrian Games (WEG), which are being held in the U.S. for the first time this year. I leave for WEG in Lexington, Kentucky, on Sunday to watch a whole week of the best dressage in the world. Naturally, I'm rooting for Steffen and his lovely stallion, Ravel.

I did not get to see Lily's wins in Washington last weekend as I was nursing a nasty virus at home, but Jessica, bless her heart, called me after every class with the good news. Now I'm just hoping to be all well in time for WEG. And I'm hoping Johnny stays well so he can do my chores for me the week I'm in Kentucky. Besides the dressage competitions, friend Ruth and I will be watching the cross-country portion of the Eventing competition, taking a tour of Kentucky Bluegrass horse farms, and watching all sorts of spectacular equine exhibitions in the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park. We reserved our tickets, hotel rooms and air travel a year ago. I am already packed... Jessica sent me new tops to wear at WEG for every day I'm there! I guess she knows clothes are not my area of expertise and I usually just wear tee shirts, mostly stained. Now I'll be in style for the most exciting horse competition our country has ever hosted.

I'm taking my camera and will be blogging upon my return. It's an exciting month for dressage from Lily's great wins to the World Equestrian Games! Woohoo!

The Goat Palace

Goat Palace is what friends and neighbors have dubbed the new barn. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are photos of the barn stages to date. It's really happening! Notice Johnny in the bottom right. He's working every day before the builders arrive, while they're here, and after they leave, trying to stay ahead of them with our odd specifications.

That crane thingie was a great help in lifting heavy beams into place as well as Johnny's massive trusses that he designed. That's going to be one sturdy roof!

Here the last beam for the barn wings is going up. These are beams that Johnny has had stored in his shop for many years, from some long ago job. At last they've found a home.

And here is the goat palace as of today. The holes for the milk room windows have not yet been cut, the metal roof and siding are not here yet, but notice that octagonal window in the loft... for a bit of pizazz, Johnny says.

Belling the Bear

Johnny has been determined to have me get a photo of the bear that visits the pear tree outside our window nightly. We know he visits because at night the driveway is full of pears near the tree and in the morning they are gone. Plus the bear leaves reminders of his visit, piles of upchucks (as photographed in the Bears Like Pears entry) or poop. Here is a formidable pile of bear poop deposited under the apple tree in our front yard a few nights ago.

Since I've been sick with a miserable cold and spend most of the night coughing, I'm awake enough to periodically look out the window and see if there's a bear eating pears. In the dark. But, of course, I never happen to look at the right time. So Johnny got the brilliant idea to bell the bear. That is, he hung a bell from the pear tree where he could see a path the bear has made below the tree. I was supposed to listen for the bell and take a photo of the bear. No luck.

Last night, however, after sleeping most of the day Sunday in an effort to finally lick this virus, I was awake most of the night and sat up each time I heard anything that could possibly be construed as a bear munching on pears. Bears, it turns out, are very quiet. But finally, just before 2 a.m., my diligence paid off. Fumbling around in the dark, I managed to turn on the camera, push the button to open the flash attachment, and snap photos of a very black bear in a very black and misty night in the driveway just outside our bedroom window. Mostly what I got was pictures of the water spots and other dirt on my lens. But if you look carefully, you'll see the bear. About all you can see in the second photo is his eye shine as he turns to look at me.

An hour later, I heard Johnny's
bell. The bear was back. But he did not come into view that time.

We need an infrared light out there. Or moonlight.

This morning, Johnny measured the distance from where the bear's nose was in the driveway to where my nose was in the window: 33 feet. Close enough, I'd say.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bears Like Pears

Johnny picked the name for this post after riding his bike up the driveway early this morning to get the newspaper, as he does every morning. He found two piles of bear leavings... whether they are poop or regurgitated pears, I don't know. (Bears have a habit of gorging, then throwing up so they can eat some more.) But they are by the pear tree which is just outside our bedroom window. He found no pears left on the ground this morning. By the time it was light enough for me to take a picture (in the rain), more pears had fallen. Should I pick up the pears this evening or leave them and try to get a picture of a bear from my bedroom window tonight?

In the second set of photos, the two dark spots on the left of the driveway are the bear piles. In the last photo, you can see how close the pear tree is to our bedroom window... the only portion of our house visible is our bedroom. I can't see the bear piles from there because of the quince bush, but I could certainly see (with a flashlight) a bear under the tree.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kevin is 40!!

Friday night we picked up Kevin and Ian from the train station in Portland and took this picture of Kevin reluctantly wearing a 40th birthday necklace and a party hat. After a quick swim at the hotel where Kevin and Jessica and Ian were staying, we were off to Kevin's birthday dinner with Nicki, who rides Jessica's two show horses, and Danielle, a good friend of Jessica's and a boarder at Traumhof.

You see, Kevin's 40th birthday weekend coincided with the end of the year championships for the Oregon Dressage Society at the Devonwood Equestrian Center, about an hour from us. Kevin and Johnny and Ian and I spent the days watching Jessica's horses do wonderfully well in the show. When not at the show, Johnny and I hung out at the hotel pool with Ian, swimming and hot tubbing, occasionally joined by Kevin and Jessica. It's a tough life.

Jessica's horses were stars. Lily (Elisienne) won the Grand Prix championship and her son Rudi (Rudeau) won the First Level championship, both with Nicki astride. Rudi's score improved each day. He is one remarkable guy (photo below right). Lily (photo below left) is simply elegant.

Kevin is one remarkable guy, too, but he was outshone by horses this past weekend. I like to think they honored him on his 40th birthday by each winning championships.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Scary Creatures!

It's not Halloween yet but there are some scary creatures on the farm. Friend Lynn-Marie discovered one in my blog photo of a load of manure from cleaning out a buck pen. Lynn-Marie says:

"Hey, did you know that you had a manure-monster in the little trailer that the tractor is hitched
to near the bottom of your blog? He looks very upset too...grumpy, frowny face up against the mound of yuck, shoulder and long arm fringed in a lighter color with his hand hanging over the edge of the trailer! He's probably upset from being dug up and dumped in there -- you should go out and talk to him before he gets really mad and crawls out some night! lol He's the first thing I saw when I looked at that photo."

I had a hard time making out the creature so her husband Luther drew a box around it with arrows. Here's the original photo. Can you see the manure monster? I couldn't until Luther sent the next photo, but now I can't see anything else!

Here is the monster corralled:

That load of manure was safely dumped in the chicken yard and the manure monster disappeared. We haven't lost any chickens so it must have gone peacefully.

But I ran into another frightening creature tonight, on my way back to the goat barn after feeding the horses. I almost literally ran into it. It was dark and I had no flashlight. While feeding the horses, Jessie Anne, who is always the first to spot anything strange in the area, startled away from her food and stared toward the pitch black orchard... the orchard I had to traverse from horse barn back to goat barn. Mister Smith stared in that direction, too. But he didn't act particularly frightened, so I figured it was deer. I've scared them out from under the apple trees several times this summer/fall. So I started walking slowly, talking loudly all the way, "WHATEVER IS OUT HERE NEEDS TO LEAVE NOW. I'M COMING THROUGH. DEER, IF THAT'S YOU, GO AWAY NOW. I'M WALKING TO THE GOAT BARN. GO AWAY."

I heard nothing moving so I just kept walking and talking. When I was nearly to the big apple tree right next to the path, a very large, very dark and solid object lumbered slowly across the path a few feet in front of me, headed toward the woods. I stopped but kept talking. "JUST KEEP GOING PLEASE. YOU NEED TO LEAVE NOW. I AM GOING TO THE GOAT BARN. I AM GOING TO KEEP WALKING. GO AWAY PLEASE." I heard the creature crunch, crunch crunching through the brush in no particular hurry. It was, of course, a bear. And a bear not in any rush to leave the fallen apples under the tree. I will never, never, never again go to the horse barn after dark without a flashlight.

I called Johnny on my cell phone and told him I'd just run into a bear. "Do you want me to bring the camera?" he asked.

"No, dear, it's dark out. I just want to keep talking to you until I reach the goat barn. I am never going to the horses again without a flashlight." Johnny was laughing. He has a very strange sense of humor.

I was very glad to reach the lights of the barn.

I think the bears are closer in this year because of the scarcity of berries for them. Also, the seedling apples on the far side of the horse pasture, where we usually find bear scats in the fall, have way fewer apples than usual and most have not started to drop yet. The same is true everywhere in our area. The bears are hungry.

I suspect the horses have been seeing a lot of the bears and so are becoming accustomed to them. I'm not. I'm not going anywhere after dark without a flashlight. Johnny can have the camera.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Bear in the Driveway!

One or more of our dogs has been barking at night lately. We've been too lazy to get up and see what's wrong. Yesterday morning we discovered that we had forgotten to close the small outside chicken door the night before. Johnny found all but two eggs smashed and eaten in the morning. No chickens were missing, thank goodness. So we are double checking at night to be sure the chicken's outside door is barricaded shut. It may have been an opossum. I've seen one visiting the chicken yard occasionally at night to drink the milk that I leave out for the chickens. Although the chicken yard is securely fenced, apparently opossums, like raccoons, can get in by climbing from trees to the chicken house roof and then down the shrubbery into the chicken yard.

Last night, or rather 1:30 this morning, Johnny got up to see why one of the dogs was barking. I think he hoped to catch the egg eater on its way to the chicken yard. I didn't hear Johnny leave and was sound asleep until a knock on the bedroom window woke me up... and a beam of light, Johnny's flashlight, shone in from outside. I opened the window and Johnny said, "There's a bear in the driveway! Maybe you could get a picture!"

At 1:30 in the morning.

I declined to try.

The bear, Johnny told me, disappeared quickly into the bushes, but the broken pear branch that had been lying in the driveway for the last several days... right outside our bedroom window... was now stripped of pears.

In the fall, bears routinely browse under our apple trees in the horse pasture, eating downfalls and leaving big piles of spit up apples. But only a few trees have apples this year and those have only just begun to fall. Blackberries are very late to ripen this odd weather year and there are not many of them. So I think the bears are branching out. One bear annoyed some of our neighbors a few weeks ago by getting into their garbage cans every night. Someone finally shot at it.

We've never minded having the bears around. They have never bothered our livestock. But they are apparently hungry this year, with fewer berries to eat. Today I picked up the apples that have fallen off the tree just outside our bedroom window, next to the pear tree. And I picked all the pears on the dwarf pear tree on the other side of our house. I don't mind bears in the driveway, but I would rather not have them quite so near my house.