Saturday, May 2, 2009

In which there is an odd gift, the pasture gets mowed, and eyes are open.

In this photo, Luna demonstrates the immediate need for pasture mowing. The grass is getting so long that soon Luna will completely lose her ability to find the house and her food bowl.

This is nearly an emergency!

Jim and the new mower to the rescue. He got about 3 acres mowed today before the rain started. Luna is so relieved.
I did a lot of work in the garden while Willy mowed the "lawn" (i.e. the grass around the house and orchard) and Jim mowed the pasture. Of course, I usually wield the camera, so there aren't any pictures of the work *I* did. Humph. However, the garden is completely fenced against shetland sheepdogs, and the cilantro and tomatos are planted.

Actually, I'm not allowed to plant tomatoes. Scientific research has proved that every time I plant tomatoes, the weather all summer is cold and rainy. Think back to some of the epic "summers that didn't happen" in the Pacific Northwest, and I guarantee that those are the years I planted tomatoes. So, I don't plant them anymore. I obtained the starts. I dug the holes. I readied the cages. And then Jim planted the tomatoes.
Of course, it did rain this afternoon... probably a coincidence.


You can't see the rabbit den in this picture unless you look a little bit to the right of the stump, and directly under the white grass stem. (click the photo to enlarge it) The den looks like a little smear of fluff and leaves. But it's the home of Momma Bunny's children...and look!

They are looking back now!

I found several helpful articles online about wild baby rabbits. This article triangulates the information very succinctly: the babies open their eyes at around 10 days. Momma Bunny visits infrequently to nurse--usually before dawn and after dark, so that predators aren't attracted to the nest (that's why we haven't seen her). When the white forehead blaze is gone, the baby bunnies are old enough to be out on their own (around 4-5 weeks of age) and are adult enough to start raiding the garden.

Hurry up, bunnies. Your lease on that stump expires on June 1st, which is planting day for pumpkins in that flower bed!

Here is an interesting thing, and it's a gift for Lytha: a home-made t-post pounder!

One of the (many) Craigslist treasures we've retrieved in the last week included a big stack of t-posts (which are now holding up the garden fence) AND one of these little dohickeys. Lytha, if you want it, come get it.

Or, if anybody else reading this will be traveling between the Swamplands and Germany and wants to completely bimswuzzle the Homeland Security people, here is the tool for the job....

Friday, May 1, 2009

In which some small things get bigger and some big things get mashed down a bit

There's no kind way to say this: our cute little Peeps are going through an ugly phase.

They're starting to fly a bit, too, so we have to keep the "lid" on the chick tank all the time, lest one of them accidently fly out and not be able to figure out how to fly back in again. They are getting bigger, but not much smarter. And they definitely aren't getting prettier yet.

Speaking of things that are not clever, at least three of the bunnies are still alive, despite Momma Rab building her den 5 feet from the back door of the house. We found one dead baby rab last night, but that one was gone this morning. (We didn't ask, but I assume Momma R took it someplace to appease the Owl and Coyote gods, both of whom are very active in our valley). We continue to monitor the dogs whenever they're outside, hoping to keep them both distracted for a few weeks until the little rabs have their hopper motors revved up.

What is this big green thing in the back of Jim's truck?

Oooooooh, a mower deck! It hooks to the tractor and gets towed around to mow the pasture and the blackberries.

We had to use the hammer to get it hooked up. Herb-next-door showed me how to do this. Even with three hands, he and I needed a hammer. Since our tractor (and mower deck) is much older than Herb's, we needed FOUR hands and the Bigger Hammer.

Finally: success!
Jim rides his 20 horses into the sunset, dragging the mower over the blackberry vines as he goes.

It really does cut. Willy and I weren't sure if it was cutting them, or just smushing the plants down a bit.

Actually, the mower does a combination of both--the grass looks like it's been masticated by a very dull-toothed animal.
The blackberry vines get ripped up and then mangled by the mower. Bwa ha ha ha ha! It serves them right.
I hope it hurts.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

In which Fiddle and I take to the hills, and Jim measures the new fence

I had a day off today, and the sun was shining: time to go riding!

Fiddle's pasture is still mostly mud right now, so on the walk to the trailer we stopped so she could eat some of the lawn. Yummmmm.

Then, over to the trailer to get cleaned up and dressed. Hmmm, a bay standardbred with purple tack: such a beautiful sight.

Off to the Tree Farm. I haven't ridden in nearly a month, and we were both pretty wonky. Fee kept spooking at non-existant stuff, and I was getting exasperated. Finally, I reminded myself that just because she doesn't spook Arabian-style, by leaping 300 feet into the bushes, doesn't mean that she might not be genuinely frightened by stuff, especially since it's been a long time since we were out alone. I hopped off and led her for a little while, and that helped.

When we came through this stretch of woods 4 weeks ago, there were trees here, plus a scary logging machine. Now the machine is gone...and so are the trees. Yeah, I can see why that might be a little intimidating for a prey animal like a horse!
Jim and I spent at least 40 minutes clearing fallen vine maple branches off the trail at this spot last winter. It probably took the loggers about 5 minutes to clear a much larger stretch of area with their bulldozers. Why didn't WE think of that?

Once we got away from the freshly-logged areas, I could concentrate on looking for spring flowers.

The salmonberry bushes are blooming!
The huckleberry bushes have little tiny berries on them! (They don't show up very well in the photo, sorry)

Dogwoods are blooming! The dogwoods here aren't nearly as spectacular as the trees along the trail at the Mt Adams Endurance Ride, but they always remind me of the fun I had doing the 100-miler at that ride 2 years ago. I also love that Madeline's picture is on the front page of the Mt Adams website.

There's a new trail to the water tank. Whoever built it did an excellent job!
Very pretty trail, nicely built.

The trails are drying out, finally. We saw some mud, but not too much.

The grass in the meadows is lovely. We stopped for a bite or two (I had a peanut butter sandwich instead of grass).

And look: somebody found my missing glove! I lost it back in December, at a trail work party up here. I figured it was gone forever, but here it is, at the lunch stop area. I'm really glad to see it again--I never got around to throwing away the left-handed friend.

Back into the woods.

You can't see the coyote in the picture because he declined to stick around for a photo. But he WAS right there, at the crest of the hill. The deer were photo-shy too, but we saw them several times on the trails.

After a few hours, we wandered back to the trailer. This stretch of road was terrifying to Fiddle on the way out...on the way back, all she wanted to do was eat the grass as she walked.

A quick bath at the trailer. Yuck--wet winter hair all over my sponges. Ah, well, at least it isn't on the horse anymore.

Back to the barn, and time for a few bites of lawn before the hay is served for dinner.

When I got home, Jim and I decided to take advantage of the evening light to measure the pasture fenceline. He measured the distances, and marked the 8-foot intervals with paint, so we'd know where to sink the fenceposts this weekend.

Willy rode his bike around the pasture, to the great amusement of the Shelties.

Paint is good for drawing other stuff, too.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In which Jim relates his adventures with the little lagamorph guys

So, this is a guest post from Jim "The Asparagus Stalker" Beidle concerning a close encounter of the Leporidinus kind.

When Willy and I made it home from work, we feasted on chicken (not THOSE chickens), corn and biscuits and hastened to our task: Clean out the bedding area behind the house. The Mistress of the Blog decided to extend and enclose the bed and plant squash and pumpkins as neighbors to the rhubarb. The dirt needed moving and the roots had to go.

Out came the pulaski and shovel, the tractor and a pull strap. I started scraping away at the earth. Now, I'm not yet proficient in the use of the front end loader; some times I don't even get a shovelful. Today, though, I once managed to fill the entire bucket! O frabjous day!

We had progressed to the point of wrapping the strap around a cluster of roots and suckers in a futile attempt to pull them free when Willy said, "what's that?" I looked to where he was pointing and there was Peter and Flopsy, poking their sightless noses out of a tiny hole at the base of the cherry stump. Sightless, indeed, as these bunnies weren't more than a few days old. In fact, we only determine the species by observing the lagomorphic tendency toward nose-twitching.

We endeavored not to disturb the wee creatures while trying to continue the mission as best as we could. Unsuccessfully. At one point, while sawing away at the recalcitrant suckers, Flopsy, Mopsy, Peter and two players to be named later came out to complain about the ruckus. From that point, the mission was a wash. We'll sit back and see whether Momma B returns, or they become owl food.

Now, before you all fuss and fume about how we should protect these bunnies, be assured I gave that some passing thought. The problem is, I have found, whenever you meddle with nature, nature meddles back. Humankind invariably makes a hash of well-intentioned "helping", usually to the detriment of the "helpee". So we'll watch the bunnies, keep the dogs away, and let you know what happens.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In which I set about making the place a FARM by planting some stuff

Herb-next-door tilled the garden soil THREE times in the past week to chop up the grass roots and rattle all the rocks to the surface. That done, now it's time to put some seeds in the ground at last.
The prepared bed, ready to receive little onion starts.

Seed packets, with their vegetable-porn labels . They aren't fooling anybody with those photos. Where are the slug-holes in the leaves? Where are the tattered parts of the flowers where the dogs decided to have a wrestling match in the middle of the bed? Humph.

My friend Ann says that seed potatos look like fewmets*. Dang, she's right.

Planting broccoli. To take the picture, I ask Luna to sit down in the garden near the broccoli bed. Then I run about 20 feet away, and set the camera on a bucket (aka "the gardener's tripod") and focus the lens on Luna. Push the "delayed shutter release" button and run back to the garden, next to Luna to pose for the picture. Notice that, in the photo, my knees appear furry-er than usual. Thanks, Luna.
Planting carrots. Again, Luna assists, and my elbows appear to need a shave.

Onions, ready to be planted.

Today I planted the onions, plus carrots, broccoli, spinach, and sunflowers.

Tomorrow: the potatoes and some herbs.

It's still too early (i.e. cold and wet) to plant tomatoes, beans, corn and squash, especially my favorite: Giant Pumpkins. I am a fool for Giant Pumpkins.
This is a 2007 Giant Pumpkin--isn't it beautiful?

Soon, soon, soon.

*fewmets = the spoor of a game animal being stalked, especially the droppings of dragons.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

In which the blue tractor arrives and we take it easy for a change

I got up early this morning to do the radio show, and then did barn chores at the place where the horses are boarded until our fences get built.

Jim and Willy, having served hardship duty at ridecamp, stayed home and slept in for a change! And then...

trumpets and drumroll please

...the tractor arrived!

One of the good things about the current economy is that you can hire Real People to do stuff like deliver a tractor to your house, rather than having to hire a company. The fellow who brought our tractor just lost his job, and is picking up work doing whatever needs to be done. I'm much happier to give him cash to feed his family than to hand the same amount to some national company.

I wasn't around when the tractor was delivered, so when I got home I found Jim happily tootling around the yard with it.

tootle tootle tootle. Hmmm. Is the name of the tractor "Tootles"? Hmmmmmmmmm. Tootles was the hard-working member of the band of Lost Boys in Peter Pan's Neverland...he did all the chores while the other kids went off to fight pirates. Hmmmmm.....

A man and his tractor. It's a beautiful thing.

Later in the afternoon, my friend Megan brought her son Henry over to meet the peeps and tour the new farm. She also brought a bike for Willy! That's a very welcome thing.

Willy and Henry played catch in the pasture for nearly an hour while the adults burned the brushpile down so we could roast hot dogs and marshmellows for dinner. Henry has his own method for using the loppers to procure a hot dog stick.

Sitting around the fire, oh yeah.

Life is good.