Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Busy Spring

Spring is a busy time on the farm. I did take a break a few days back from digging out the rose bed, which has disappeared under grass and weeds, to check on the wildflowers in our woods. Above is the sessile trillium I photographed earlier before it had opened ( I think it is Trillium albidum.

And a lovely green moth came to visit me recently in the mud room off the kitchen. Alas, I could not find where it went so I could put it outdoors. The next morning it had expired. That's when I took the picture. What a lovely thing. I searched the web and learned it is a Deceptive Moth: Feralia deceptiva. I think it deserves a prettier name.

While I work in the garden, Johnny works on the outdoor pens of the new goat barn. (I'll get photos when he's done.) But yesterday we both took a day off to scout for Black Oystercatchers on the coast. It was the first non-rainy day we've had free. Here's Johnny hiking up The Thumb to our lookout post. It's a long, steep climb. (Our days off are not necessarily restful ones.)

Along our hike we spotted two sub-adult Bald Eagles keeping watch over the cove. The one on the right has nearly acquired its adult plumage of an all white head and tail. It takes eagles four years to reach adulthood.

After reaching the top, we found two pair of Black Oystercatchers down on the beach below us. They haggled over their territories when they were on the offshore rocks but seemed to get along fine when down in the foraging areas. We don't often see these birds on sand: they're usually on rocks picking at tidal creatures. There must have been something being exposed by waves at low tide in the sand to pique their interest.

There were plenty of other birds and wildflowers and insects on the way to and from The Thumb. I liked these big black ground beetles that I think are Scaphinotus angusticollis.

I was not so crazy about the black flies that swarmed around us at Cape Kiwanda, where we hiked next looking for Black Oystercatchers. We heard the birds we were looking for but never saw them. It was a Saturday and the dune and beach were covered with people and their dogs having a good time. Not such a great atmosphere for birdwatching. We won't go there on a weekend again.

It is not raining again today so I mowed the lawn and then took a break to write this blog post. But the rose bed is calling me again now... The strawberry and rhubarb and blueberry beds need weeding, too. It's spring.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Motor Mouth and Mister McCoy

Okay, the story of the stray cat and our big white dog is going to fade from my memory if I don't tell it soon, so here goes.

We don't usually have stray cats here. When Finegan was our livestock guardian dog, they didn't last long. He hated cats. Our neighbors across the arboretum fence have many stray cats dropped by their house. Some of them would wander onto our property. Finegan nailed them. I felt terrible about the murders and grew tired of burying cats. One day I confessed to the neighbor man what was happening and apologized. He looked at me and said, "The next time I see your dog on the other side of the fence I'm going to start throwing cats across. We have too damn many cats!"

Finegan grew old and his trainee, Shirley Puppy, was not and is not a cat killer. She just chases them off our property. A few years after Finegan died, we gave Shirley a trainee, Mister McCoy. Mister McCoy hates cats. And birds. And anything else he can chase. But to my knowledge he has yet to catch anything. Nonetheless, stray cats steer clear of our property and the big white, very fast and furious dog. All except Motor Mouth.

Motor Mouth is the name I gave the very small, scrawny gray cat who appeared, yowling, a month or so ago and discovered she could get into the milk room and the dogs could not. She came in when I milked the goats and yowled. She was so thin that I took pity on her and gave her the milk strippings (the first milk from the udder that I don't save for people use). However, her yowling set Mister McCoy into a frenzy. Unable to get to the cat, he attacked the walls of the barn, the goats, the birds, and anything and everything else. The goats grew terrified of his explosions.

The goats didn't like the cat either. Her loud yowling scared them and they would not come into the milk room. So every morning and night I had to put the cat in a kennel crate in an outer pen while I milked. When I finished milking and feeding, I turned the cat loose and gave her milk. She yowled the whole time she was in the crate. Mister McCoy went berserk the whole time she yowled, so I had to lock him away from the goats. (On the left I captured a rare moment when Motor Mouth was not yowling. On the right she was in her normal mode: loud.)

I hoped the cat would quiet down and the dog and goats would get used to her but neither happened. A neighbor said she would take her but I knew Motor Mouth would just come right back to the milk room. Happily a distant friend wanted another barn kitty. She likes to keep at least five barn cats to keep mice and rats away. So I gratefully took Motor Mouth to Carol's place. All seemed to go well at first. Miss Kitty, as Carol dubbed her, was happy to have real cat food instead of milk and a little dog food now and then. Carol's other cats didn't bother her.

McCoy, however, kept looking for the cat and terrifying the goats in the process. One day, a few days after Motor Mouth had gone, McCoy quit eating and became very lethargic. The big white dog was sick and I didn't know why. The thought of taking this 150 pound dog to the vet was enough to make me wait until the next morning and hope he cured himself. The last time I took him, the vet had to examine McCoy in the car because I couldn't get him back out of the car after I drove to the vet's office.

The following morning, I saw some strange floating objects in Mister McCoy's water. They looked like pieces of wood that McCoy had chewed off the barn to me but Johnny thought they were plastered together elk hairs. I don't know what they were but they came out of Mister McCoy and he started getting better right then.

That was two weeks ago. McCoy is behaving a bit more rationally these days. The goats are still leery of him but he's no longer charging after imaginary cats on an hourly basis.

Carol reported today on Motor Mouth: "Every thing was going smoothly until the calico in the barn had her kittens and now she chases Miss Kitty all over the barn, which riles the dogs and scatters the other cats. It is very wild and disruptive, but if I feed her on the other side of the barn from the kittens, things go smoother and that seems to be our new layout. I like a calm barn."

So do I, Carol, so do I.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Totem's Art Burn

Friend Totem Shriver teaches art (sculpture) at Linfield. I wrote about his show there this spring in my blog "Art in a Leap Year " I pictured a sculpture in that blog that Totem's students made for the express purpose of burning in April. Last night was the appointed day. This is the fourth year Totem's class has built a sculpture to burn but the first year Johnny and I attended. It was quite the scene.

The fun began at 7:30 with a gathering around the sculpture in a wheat field adjacent to (or maybe part of) the Linfield campus in McMinnville. Students and community members shared finger food and talked with old friends and new. Taiko drummers from the Japanese school arrived with their massive drums. One group of spectators brought bongo drums and played off and on; friend Ann gave out elaborate paper flowers she makes that proved very popular with the crowd.

Totem introduced the students who had built the sculpture. He invited all spectators to write down, on pieces of paper that were provided, something that they would like to have go up in flames with the sculpture. Many people did so and affixed them to the structure.

At last the lighting began. Totem shot three flaming arrows into the base of the sculpture. I was not within view of that happening, having stepped way back to get a view of the crowd, the Taiko drummers, and the massive sculpture. Johnny told me the first arrow flew swiftly and was blown out before landing. So Totem shot the next one less forcefully. It fell short of the mark. Totem moved closer. Ultimately two of the three arrows hit their target and the building erupted in flames to the great delight of the crowd. The dramatic booming of the Taiko drums added to the anticipation and excitement.

I put two videos on youtube. The sculpture took so long to burn that I quit taping for a time. The second video shows the final collapse of the sculpture. The Taiko drumming is quite audible in both videos. I love Taiko drums.

We left then to go home and milk goats. Others stayed to roast marshmallows over the coals.

I can't say I've ever spent an evening like that one before. Thanks, Totem! We enjoyed talking to people we seldom make time to visit and to participate in something that felt like a return to the 60s: crazy and exciting and fun.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Of Family and Friends and Fun

This past weekend I traveled north to watch grandson Ian perform his trampoline and mini-tramp routines at the Washington state meet. Videos are posted on youtube. and Although Ian had no competition in his age, sex and level division, his scores were comparable to the other division winners that did have competition. Here he is on the left with the other four (blurry) members of the Northshore team in their spiffy uniforms at the beginning of the competition. (I have not yet learned how to convince my camera to focus where I want it to.) Three of the five, including Ian, will go on to Regionals in Beaverton, Oregon. For once, Johnny and I will both be able to attend a meet without one of us having to stay home to do chores. Hooray!

However, it was fun to rendezvous in Renton, Washington, for the state meet with friends and family in that area: Kevin and Jessica, of course, plus Jessica's sister Sarah and our friends Hazel and Kinnera, recently relocated to the Seattle area. And it was fun to see Ian with two state champion medals around his neck at the end of the competition. I stole this image from Jessica's facebook page, since my own pictures did not turn out.

Back at Traumhof, I was able to meet all the new horses in for training (the barn has filled up!) and take a few candid photos of Jessica's amazingly fit and shiny Grand Prix mare, Lily, while Jessica hand grazed her.

Kevin weeded and planted his raised beds.

While the others worked, Ian and I played croquet, then created a crockett course out of stuff we found in Kevin's shop. Crockett is the corrupted version of croquet that our kids invented on our farm with stuff from Johnny's shop. We all find it much more fun and creative (and difficult) than ordinary croquet. Ian started the course at the top of the path from the patio. The ball must not fall into the garbage lid or pot just below, but must go through the wicket beyond.

Next came the hole-in-one obstacle, which only Ian ever managed to conquer... and he only once. (Some of our obstacles need refinement.)

Since we couldn't always figure out how to get through an obstacle, several of our bucket traps involved hitting the ball as hard as we could and hoping it would bounce back out on its own. Sometimes that worked, and sometimes not.

This box trap captured our ball every time. We had to resort to a pool cue technique to get it through to the other side.
Crockett is fun but I cannot resist the zipline. Unfortunately, there is no good way to get to the top of the line. The plan is to build a platform to stand on to reach the handles, but the plan has not yet been executed. Usually, Kevin lifts us up to the handles at the top of the line, but he was not around and neither Ian nor I could lift the other that high. So I climbed on Ian's play structure, to which the zipline is attached, and tried to reach the handles. Ian took my camera and documented my struggle. I succeeded, although nearly amputating my hands in the process and then going down backwards and running into a tree en route... and losing a shoe. But it was fun!

On Sunday I left for home while Kevin, Jessica and Ian packed for a trip to California. Ian's cat, Bangle, was not at all happy about their going and tried to hitch a ride in an empty suitcase.

Friend Suue rendezvoused with me on my drive down to our farm and spent the night before heading back east. She had never met a Perplexus before and quickly became addicted. Here is the way two old friends, Johnny and Suue, spent the evening.

Johnny gave Suue a quick tour of the new goat palace on Monday morning and took her through the mud on our EZ Go electric golf cart to say hi to the horses. Then she was off on her journey east all the way back to Maryland.

It was a fun few days but I'm glad to be home... and glad I don't have to drive across the country to get there. There's a limit to how much fun this old gal can handle.