Monday, September 14, 2015

Late Summer on the Farm... and Beyond

Johnny took a week off from the farm to visit the California kids and help build a bookcase on either side of their fireplace. That is a project that has been pending ever since they moved into that house four years ago. But, of course, they played, too. That's Cedrus in a cool climbing tree.

 They went biking and became statues at one rest stop for the entertainment of passing cyclists.

Here comes a cyclist: time to look statuesque

Johnny gave a talk again in the kids' classrooms: this time on growth rings in trees and how they can tell you what the climate was like many years ago. He took lots of pieces of our old snag to show how some years the rings are very close together and sometimes, in good growing years, they are very far apart. I asked him how the talks went. He said not as good as last time when he did a talk on making apple cider and brought cider for the kids to taste. This time the most frequently asked question after the talks was: "Do we get cider now?"

Johnny and Steve finished the bookcases just before Johnny left to come home on the train. A cabinet maker will make doors for the bottom compartments. Pretty spiffy!

 Meanwhile, back on the farm... I had a crisis just before Johnny left by Amtrak for California. Mr. Smith, my beloved horse, came up very, very sore-footed. He had been in a dry lot so I could not imagine why he was hurting. I was scheduled for jury duty the very next day but I called and begged off. I was excused as a "hardship case". Probably because I was bawling when I talked to the jury coordinator.  Happily, Mr. Smith improved and is now walking normally again. And I believe what happened was that the wind storm the day before blew apples into his "safe" dry lot and he scarfed them down. He has a metabolic disease similar to Type 1 Diabetes in people: he cannot eat sweets without getting laminitis (sore feet). It kills lots of horses so I do everything in my power to keep him away from sugar.

With all that stress and excitement, I forgot about my monthly column for United Caprine News... until the day of the deadline. I managed to write it and send photos taken quickly that day. I almost never have photos of goats in this blog because all the photos I take are for The Kidding Pen column. So here's one I sent for this month's story on feeding windfall apples to the goats. Better goats than bears. The goats with their heads tilted back are chewing on apples with their back molars.

Between spreading barkdust that Johnny needed out of the trailer by the time he returned and taking care of Mr. Smith, I finished up my Black Oystercatcher monitoring for the season by going to the Road's End beach... and finding adults with no fledglings. However this pair is notorious for disregarding researchers' stongly held belief that fledglings stay with their parents until the next breeding season. This pair has been seen chasing the kids away when they've only recently fledged. Tough love, I guess.

It was nice to be back at the beautiful Oregon coast again, even with the disappointment of no fledglings.

The very next day I learned that friend Dawn's car had broken down and she had been unable to get back to her BLOY sites at Boiler Bay to see if her last pair had fledged their two chicks or not. So I drove to the coast again to pick her up and go to Boiler Bay. (Any excuse in a pinch.) And we found the two fledglings! Here is one with the parent and another photo of just the juvenile. (Parent has a full red bill. Juvenile still has dark tip to bill.)

Black Oystercatcher monitoring season is now over for the year and so I'll be making fewer trips to the beautiful Oregon coast. Back on the farm, we have our own pretty water feature: Agency Creek. It is so low I can walk across it in places because the little rain we had disappeared quickly as the thermometer went up into the 90s again.

 But today it has cooled off and drizzled a little, so maybe we'll have a pond again someday. Johnny is doing his best to give the water a place to be in our weed-choked pond site. He has been digging it out with the backhoe on the tractor... and dumping into the trailer I emptied of bark dust. He then hauls the mess off and dumps it in a field to dry out.

Now that BLOY monitoring is over, the garden has taken over much of my time... watering from the rain barrels and the well, picking and freezing broccoli, keeping all the other veggies picked and taken care of. 
In all my gardening chores, our once-feral kitty keeps me constant company. She seems to think life is for playing as that's what she does all day long. When I water, she attacks the hose. If I'm looking at birds in a tree... she climbs the tree. She doesn't seem to be interested in the birds, just in having me look at her instead of something else.

When I watch the quail that come out to eat, Kitty sometimes makes a wild dash into their midst scattering them every direction, then lies down and rolls and looks at me as though to say, "Aren't I cute?"

Today the quail were giving their frantic warning cry and I knew it must be the young Cooper's Hawk that has been haunting our place lately. Sure enough, when I looked out the window, there it sat on the corner of one of the potato bins. Then it flew at a big white bird... our white chicken! She is forever flying out of the chicken yard and going walkabout. The chicken, bigger than the hawk, dove for cover and started clucking angrily and constantly. The hawk went back to sitting on the bin.

I came out and took photos, then walked toward the hawk until it flew off. Immediately the loudly exclaiming hen came out from the bushes and stalked off toward the chicken yard. I put her back inside. She can easily get out but always asks me to open the gate to let her back in.

Hawks are not the only predators on the prowl around here. Our trail cameras this summer have caught bobcats and a handsome coyote.

And yesterday when I changed camera cards, I came across this very large pile of bear dung by a pear tree near the swamp at the far south end of our property.

I now carry a flashlight with me at night when I walk through the apple orchard on the way to feed the horses their low-carb hay cubes. Although I try to keep the apples picked up and fed to the goats so as not to attract bears, the apples keep falling... and I do not want to run into the bear that produced that enormous pile of poop.

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