Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Visit

This year, our California kids and grandkids were able to join us for the Thanksgiving holiday. As usual, Johnny put the grandkids to work bringing in firewood as soon as they arrived. Kestrel loved loading the wheelbarrows. Cedrus loved giving a running commentary of what was happening.

Kestrel stacked the wood inside the wood room in the house, while Cedrus supervised.


Kestrel liked friendly Sweetheart, the goat that grandson Ian taught to love children... because they stroke her ears, which she loves.

 Big white guardian dog McCoy loves everyone, but only Steve cared to get up close and personal with a dog about as tall as he is.

Kestrel and Cedrus always love playing on the farm tractors.

Johnny saves the colored funny papers to read to the boys when they come. I don't know how much they get out of the comics, but Johnny thoroughly enjoys it and the boys love their Grandpa, no matter what he's doing.

This year we took our Thanksgiving Day hike before dinner, instead of after, as it wasn't raining and we were afraid it would start. The kids had never seen the seasonal pond full before. They liked throwing leaves with oak galls on them (otherwise known as sailboats) into the pond.

 The oaks are covered in galls this year and high water earlier had floated masses of them close to the pond.

The galls are also fun to stomp on and make pop.

 Steve took a picture of Munazza posing with Shirley, or rather Shirley posing with Munazza.

Thoroughly hungry, we retired to the house to finish cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Our friends the Millikans joined us as usual and we all ate too much, then sat around and talked and sang. It was a relaxed and comfortable gathering. Later, at chore time, the kids came out to the barn and saw two young Barn Owls peeking out of their loft bedroom, begging for food.What a fun Thanksgiving Day!

On Friday, we played Twister. Here Steve and Munazza and Kestrel stretch their muscles trying to stay on the appropriate colored circles.

Grandma and Kestrel had a turn. Kestrel had a size disadvantage but managed to stretch farther than seemed possible.

Cedrus, Grandpa and Kestrel played a revised version that allowed Cedrus to participate.

There was more work to do, though. Steve helped us clean up the electronic clutter upstairs. After we ransacked the attic for old computers, monitors, printers, etc., to be taken to recycling, the boys posed with Grandpa on the pull-down stairs they have always been curious about but never before seen in action.

At evening chore time, Kestrel decided he wanted to learn to milk a goat. And he did. Some of the goat milk they put in their cooler to take home with them was milk that Kestrel had squeezed out of Flashpoint's udder. He wants to get so good at milking that he can milk one goat while I'm milking another. (We have a two stanchion milk stand.) Sounds like a great plan to me!

Saturday morning, their van loaded to the gills, Munazza sat in back with the boys to give them breakfast on the road while Steve took first stint at driving. They left early so they could drive all the way back to San Carlos in one day.

After they drove off, I finished chores and took a nap.  Johnny napped, too. It is wonderful to have family visit but we sure do get tired. We revived after lunch and drove up Agency Creek to get more big rocks for the arboretum trees and look for Dippers. The creek is very high and we only found one Dipper. But we saw two Bald Eagles flying along the creek.

What a lovely world we live in and what a great family and friends we have. It's a thanks giving time for sure.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Computer Vacation

My computer took a nine day vacation while it waited for a new power supply. Fortunately, my camera did not go on vacation and I have now uploaded the hundreds of photos that were waiting for my computer to revive.

So what did I do with no computer? The usual... milked goats, cleaned barns, trimmed horse hooves... and birded, naturally. Johnny and I and friend Dawn did my Grand Ronde Raptor Run on Nov. 6 wherein I took photos, not of birds, but of some of the Oregon Wildlife Center's antelope. (We also found raptors there but not as easily photographed as the hooved creatures.) The handsome striped fellow with the long curly horns is a Greater Kudu. The two-toned brown antelope is an Impala.

On the weekend, Kevin came down from Washington to help Johnny with projects. Ian was scheduled to come but stayed home sick instead. We were sad to miss him but are glad to hear he's okay now. Kevin is a master with the tractor and cleaned out the pond overflow, llama and sheep shed, and piled steaming barn cleanings into enormous stacks. Also, he and Johnny and friends made cider on Saturday. Sunday noon we sent Kevin home so we could take naps.

Having no computer meant no writing. I sorted the mess on my desk instead. Or some of it. It will take several more computer vacations before I find the desk beneath the clutter.

And, of course, I went birding...

Johnny and I ran my North Santiam raptor route on Wednesday of this week. That night we picked up the repaired computer. Thursday, I joined friend Dawn on her North Lincoln raptor route. Tamara Quays, part of the Salmon River estuary, in the first photo, is included in her route. Water had reached the huge log that floated in on a higher tide years ago. The second photo has Dawn surveying the high tide waters of the Salmon River from the old Pixieland site, which is a part of her route she gets to hike. It was a Peregrine week for our raptor routes: one on my North Santiam route and two on Dawn's North Lincoln route... all too far away for photographs.

I could not leave the coast without visiting a Black Oystercatcher site in hopes of seeing them. They turned out to be on rocks far away but I could see them with binocs and hear them when they flew. A lovely sunset over the rocks where those delightful birds were foraging made for a perfect ending to the day.

At home, I took lots of photos of birds that hang out closer, including a White-throated Sparrow. And, of course, dozens of California Quail. I'll put those photos on my Birds Blogs when I get another bit of time. I did post my photo of a Pileated Woodpecker and a link to the video I took of him working on a snag in the woods behind the arboretum:

I'm glad I have now been able to put all those photos into the computer and share some of them. Life without a computer was challenging but it made me pick up the phone and talk to friends to let them know why I wasn't answering their emails... and I even wrote letters! And read books. And started the tedious job of sorting my desk... But I hope my computer does not go on vacation again for a very long time.  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Nightingale Worries and Wildlife Distractions

The last two weeks have been dominated by worry about Nightingale, who has sore feet, no doubt from overindulging in apples and plums that I didn't get the horses fenced away from soon enough. She is improving slowly. Now that the weather has turned wet and relatively warm, grass is growing like mad so Mr. Smith is wearing a grazing muzzle again. Jessie Anne refuses to keep hers on... rips it off on a fence... so she is locked up during the dangerous daytime, next to her recovering daughter Nightingale, and out on pasture in the relatively safe nighttime. There is a price to pay for being (or owning) an easy keeping horse. I have three of them. Mr. Smith foundered on spring grass eight years ago but recovered with time, proper hoof trimming, and a change in diet. All the horses have been fed low carb hay since then and kept from spring and fall high-sugar grass. At least, I've tried to keep them from it. Last spring I was late with the grazing muzzles and had a short bout of sore feet on the horses. This fall the bountiful fruit crop defeated me, at least with Nightingale.

But life and work continue... Johnny is still putting finishing touches on the new goat barn... painting the feed room, adding interior windows for viewing goats, improving this and that. I am still emptying the old barn. And we are still eating out of the garden, amazingly enough. It's November and the tomatoes are still alive and producing. I picked a bucket full today. What a strange weather year.

Here are Johnny's interior windows. He found five of these in his shop that must have been patio table tops from somewhere. Now three let me see what my goats are doing behind closed doors.

For reasons unknown, a Red-legged Frog took refuge in the feed room of the new barn yesterday. We captured it and put it in a bucket for a photograph before taking it outside. They begin breeding in January, laying their eggs in our pond. Red-legged Frogs are a protected species, being on the decline throughout their limited range.

Two baby barn owls still beg nightly from the barn loft. Their older siblings seem to have finally left home. This morning, one was begging when it was growing light as I came to the barn to do chores. As soon as the baby saw me, it screamed a very adult-sounding scream and flew to the arboretum! Uh oh. Daylight is not a safe time for young Barn Owls to be out and about. I had taken my camera with me this morning and got this blurry photo of a fast disappearing owl. The dot in the sky is the owl.

It landed on the resident Kestrel's customary arboretum perch. I hoped the crows would not find it. I left to feed the horses. When I came back, the owl was gone, presumably into the neighbor's fir trees beyond. This afternoon, when I was behind the barns in the fields taking down the gourd nest boxes and cleaning them before storing for the winter, I saw an owl fly from the direction of the neighbor's fir trees across our property and into the window of the barn loft. It sat there for some time, maybe watching my activity, then disappeared within. I wish I'd had my camera then.

Tonight I had another chance. Two fledglings were in the loft window screaming their heads off, as usual, when Johnny and I went out, after dark, to feed. Johnny held the flashlight while I attempted to take a photo. It did not turn out well. I also took a movie to get their begging calls.

This morning, after chores, Johnny and I walked to the two trail cameras to change the cards and see what photos they might have taken. The one that is set up in the swamp under apple and pear trees had taken many photos: of deer, a coyote, and a big black bear.

It's a nice distraction from work and worries to see the bears on camera, but I'm glad there are plenty of apples and pears far away from our house to keep them happy. So far.