Sunday, July 31, 2011

Murphy is a Hero!

Yesterday, while talking on the phone to Mama, I looked out the living room window and saw two cows standing in the yard.  This situation is always an effective conversation stopper.

Our former neighbor still keeps a few cows in our lower pasture and they occasionally find ways to get out and have a bit of a stroll around the place.  Sometimes it's a broken fence, but today it was an open gate that somebody appears to have left open. 

Bruce (bless his heart) was off on a bike ride, so I was on my own getting them back into their pasture.  Sometimes, when cows are in a frisky mood, they enjoy playing a game called "Outmaneuver the Stupid Humans."  Herding them then, especially single-handedly, involves a lot of running around and cussing as they joyfully bolt, scatter and crash over and through everything and anything in their paths. 

Luckily for me, though, these girls are pregnant and were only interested in chowing down the horses' hay flakes that Bruce had stacked in the cart the night before. 

I was able to ease them off into the direction of the open gate, which was just down the hill.  Just as I was congratulating myself that this was going to be a piece of cake,  they got stupid and took off -- right past the gate and along the fence below the house.  I grabbed a stick and the running and cussing commenced as I tried to head them off.

And then...

From out of nowhere, enter my own fuzzy knight errant:

      Murphy the Wonder Pup!

Without any hope of him actually following directions (he's never worked a cow in his life), I yelled, "Hold them, Murph!"  And he stopped and did.  He never moved a paw as the cows calmed down and I worked myself to block the other side.  Then I softly called, "Ok, Murph, let's get 'em." I think that the Border Collie half of Murphy kicked in, because he glanced over at me to see what I was doing.  Then he began moving towards them, step-by-step, just like I was. 

Murphy is just behind the center post

And, just like that, both cows calmly walked through the gate and into the pasture with Murphy right behind them.

Most excellent little dog!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Out on a Limb

Yesterday,  we noticed something very strange happening up in the big pine tree off the side of the house. 

One of our ducks was standing in it. 

 Below, her brothers and sisters gazed up at her with longing and envy.  You could tell that all of them yearned to be up on that tree limb, scoping out the pond from on high.  But only one had made it.  And that little Muscovy hen was excessively pleased with herself.

Uber excessively pleased! 

The drakes

 Muscovies can fly for short distances, but the drakes are about twice the size as the hens so they don't become airborne easily (especially as they get older and fatter).  There was little hope that the boys could get their hefty bottoms up there, but I could tell by the way the way they were studying the situation that they were nervously considering giving it a try.  In the end, though, reason must have prevailed because they gave up and wandered off.

The hens

Then these two little hens moved into position.  They had definite intentions of  joining their sister. 

Note the claws digging into the bark

It took some psyching up, but the braver of the two finally got up the nerve to launch herself into the tree.  Unfortunately, her aim was a little off and she landed farther up, plastered against the trunk. 

She didn't give up, though, and kept flapping as she worked on getting a grip on the tree with her claws.

This is one determined duck.  She continued beating her wings and doing her best to stick to the side of the tree, no doubt wondering what the other duck did to make it look so easy.

Meanwhile, the duck on the limb looked up at her with interest and with what I hope was encouragement.  But maybe it was amusement.  You never know with a duck.

The white hen finally managed to brace herself up against the almost vertical surface by using her tail for leverage. She clung there motionless for about a minute before deciding that tree-roosting wasn't as much fun as she thought it would be.  Then she, too, gave it up and flapped back down to the others.

Then the whole group of siblings marched off down the path together in duckish solidarity.   At the edge of the embankment, one after the other, they took off for the short soar and splash down into the pond...

..leaving the tree duck all by her little lonesome.  She had decidedly less confidence without her admiring public. 

I went down to the pond side of the tree to see what she looked like from down there.  Quite noble, I think; but she was getting more and more worried as she watched the others swimming in the pond.  She stood on that limb for another ten minutes or so, from time to time calling everyone to come back. 

They didn't. 

So our own little Frogpond Icarus decided it was time to leave her place high in the air (relatively speaking)...


  ...and splash back down into the water below.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Trip to the Vet

 Today was vet day for Murphy - just normal stuff; shots and a check-up.  Our boy adores going for rides with Bruce, but usually it's in our old jeep for trips to the dump.  That jeep is our workhorse around here and there isn't anything that any animal could do to it that could get it dirtier or hairier than it already is.  It's great having something that doesn't need to be cleaned -- ever.  If I'm not along, Murphy even gets to sit in the passenger seat and be co-pilot, which he's rather good at.   
This morning's trip to the vet, though, was in our relatively brand-new Prius.  No way was that scruffy dog butt going to sit on those seats. 

So, out came the never-out-of-the-package doggy car seat cover and the entire back seat was quickly draped with  pet proof fabric.  Murphy was not impressed. 

Not one little bit

He jumped into the driver's seat and there he planted himself and wouldn't budge.                                                                      

                                                                       The video!

Finally, Bruce  put the leash on our stubborn pup and convinced him that he wasn't going to get to drive the new car to Stockton. 

They're off!

Well, at least not today.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

egret vs EGRET

Early yesterday morning I stood on the porch with my trusty little Canon Sure Shot camera with Optical Zoom and took this
picture of the trees across the pond.  If you look very closely, you can see a small white blob a little to the left of center.  That's a snowy egret perching up there.  Pretty cool!

Then Bruce had to get out his fancy-schmancy Eos Canon with 300 mm zoom lens and give it a try. 

I dunno.  I can't see much difference between the two pictures.

Just teasing! 
(Actually, all the really good pictures I've been posting here come from Bruce's camera.  This only whets his appetite for an even bigger, all-the-bells-and-whistles zoom lens...I don't think the guy will be truly content until he can count the individual feathers on that egret's head)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's been one of those afternoons...

1) Eggs

Aack!  There are three duck eggs in the barn:  Smudge is starting on her third brood of the year.  I'd hoped that she was calling it quits for the remainder of the year, but she's got nothing but motherhood on her little duck brain. 

I've been doing some internet research.  I learned that if I take all the eggs, she'll just lay more (and probably move her nest).  Instead, after she's done laying her entire clutch of eggs, but before she starts setting on them, I'll shake all but two of them very hard.  This will destroy the insides before they ever become viable.  If she has two that have life in them, she'll continue setting for 45 days and hatch those ones out.  So we'll have two more ducklings as opposed to twelve.

Certainly not a final solution, but it will have to do in the short term. 

2) Snake

I had the sprinkler on in the area behind the chicken run, softening up some dead thistles that I wanted to pull.  I turned off the water and was looking at a broken plastic pot that had some old pine needles in it.  There, coiled neatly in the middle, was a perfect little jewel of a snake.  A California racer to be exact -- glossy olive-brown scales, head raised and bright little eye fixed right on me. He'd been sitting in his pot, enjoying the shower and was glistening with water drops. And I didn't have the camera.  I DIDN'T HAVE THE CAMERA!  I dashed into the house to grab it but it was nowhere to be found.  Not by my computer.  Not in the kitchen.  Not in my office.  So out I went again, down to the orchard to see if I'd left it there.  On the way, I checked in on the snake to see if it was still there.  Yes, it was -- it seemed to be smiling in an understanding way and never moved.  So I ran down to the orchard garden and pitter-patted all up and down the paths, looking for that blasted camera.  Nothing.  I went back to check the pot for the snake, and there it was, still exquisitely posing with that Mona Lisa smile on its mouth.  I tried the house one last time.  And there it was, on the floor under the dining room table.  Right where, I'm certain, Arby the cat had knocked it.  Back outside, victorious, camera at last in hand and...the snake was gone.  Naturally. 

Well, here is a picture of the pot.  You will have to imagine the snake in it.

3) The Well

I did too much watering without giving the well sufficient time to recharge, so the pumps switched off.   I turned the kitchen tap to wash my hands and nothing came out.  I hadn't done anything with the well since last year and wasn't feeling confident about remembering what switches to flip or exactly what to do.  So I decided to wait for Bruce.

When Bruce got home, after only one audible sigh, he got everything down at the well squared away.

Cornelius sharing his expertise with Bruce

He had the various dogs, cats and a helpful horse right there to lend their assistance.  And the beer helped.

Ahh, the sound of the pump humming along and the wonderful splashing of water from inside the tank.  I climbed up on the ladder, unscrewed the cover of the tank and took a look inside. 

Now that's a pretty sight!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Island of the Frogs

Yesterday afternoon, as the sun began to set and the light was becoming softer, Bruce set off in our small rubber raft to try to get some photos of the island frogs.  He first saw them a few weeks ago while mooring the new duck raft off the little island on our pond.  These frogs, he said, were legion and they were huge.  He was eager to prove his claim. 

This turned into a rather soggy adventure, as the raft is stored in the barn and the mice had been hard at work gnawing tiny holes in it.  {I raise the question: Why would any but the most starving mouse wish to nibble on rubber?}  Bruce was undeterred, and he and Murphy bravely set off.  Rather than risk his expensive camera in the water, I let him take my own much cheaper one, which he sealed in a zip-lock bag, just in case.

Murphy loves the water and is very much into adventures, the soggier the better.


Most of the frogs plopped into the water and hid among the willow roots as Murphy and Bruce splashed over   But two of them held their ground and glared at the intruders without budging an inch.   


Wowzer!!!  Now, THAT'S a frog!

While Bruce and Murphy went in search of the mythical island frogs, I stayed back on land to pull the tarweed that was growing in the path down to the pond. 

Hah!  I just noticed that, crouching like this and dressed in green, I look a bit like a rather large frog myself!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Quiet Sunday

The news from the world "out there" has been so shockingly awful these past few days that it's hard not to dwell on all the grief.  I don't understand how a man in Norway could think that killing scores of children would somehow further his cause.  I just can't wrap my mind around it.  Here, so far away from that sorrow, life is tranquil.  I'm doing my best to stay mindful of what is all around me right now even as I try to come to terms with the nightly news. 

Today was a good working day at Frogpond.  Bruce and I spent the morning loading up the trailer with weeds and tree branches for a trip to the county landfill. 

"Landfill"  is a fancy name for the dump.  We go here a lot, as we have no garbage pickup where we live. If you look very closely, you  can see our jeep and Bruce in the picture.

This is a surreal place.  Set in among the rolling hills, it's strangely peaceful and serene - almost like a cemetery.  As I wander amongst the mountains of garbage, I'm fascinated by what is thrown away by the people of Calaveras County.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Oh, Deer!

This pretty little doe was cooling off in the pond this afternoon.  She looks pregnant, doesn't she?

Deer are so pretty, but they are also the reason we had to build a seven foot fence around the orchard garden.  Worse than gophers! 

In this pic the doe is standing in front of the giant Gray Pine that was felled this spring during a tremendous wind storm.  She certainly does a fine job of giving scale to the size of the tree.

Frogpond Updates

The ducks: I counted bills this morning, and all ducks are present and accounted for.  I'm still trying to come up with a solution of what to do with about 20 of them.  Let me know how many you'd like me to pack up and send to you.  Just kidding (sort of).

The tower: Still standing up there on Gopher Ridge without its head.  No doubt all sorts of nefarious things are going on with it just below the treeline. 

The gophers:  The wonder of it all -- Multipass, our little princess cat, has taken to gophering like, well, like a duck takes to water.  Most mornings there are two, and sometimes three gophers' mortal remains strewn about the place.  Granted, we still have multitudes of gophers, but the population is dwindling and my morning glories are hanging on to their stems.  Happy day!

The spiders:  Busily spinning new webs.

The wasps: Still in residence under the eaves.  Bruce will get to them...eventually.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Despidering Day

Today was a rough one for the Frogpond porch spiders.  The pond is blessed with legions of flying insects and every last one of them is attracted to the lights from the house windows at night.  The spiders (as well as the toads, frogs and bats, but we'll save talking about them for another day.  You're very welcome)  think this lure is wonderful, and eagerly take up residence at the Frogpond Smorgy.  Every surface and crevice of the porch is prime spider real estate -- rafters, siding, light fixtures -- no vacancies anywhere.  The spiders then get to work spinning great festoons of webs that cling to the rough cedar siding of the house like glue.  I should be hosing down the siding at least once a month to keep on top of things, but it's such a wet, filthy, time-consuming process that it only gets done about three times a year. 

I sort of let things go a bit too long this year (even by my lax standards).

The corners are the worst

The bats use this corner for devouring their scorpions and crickets.  Note the dangling insect body parts and highly decorative mud dauber nest.
The light by the front door

More webs



In addition to the webs,  there are mud daubers' nests, the occcasional abandoned bird nest and, to finish off the look, a gray coating of surface dust over everything.  From a distance, our house looks (to my eye, at any rate) charmingly rustic.  From close up, it more resembles a small outbuilding from The Addams Family.

{An aside: One autumn, many years ago when my daughters were young, I decided to have a children's Halloween party.  I had a lot of fun shopping at the party store for decorations. and fondly remember standing on the porch holding three bags of those fake spider webs and looking up with a stupid look on my face.  Absolutely no fake webs neccesary -- no room.} 

I hosed the place down from 9:00 in the morning until 2:00 in the afternoon, and still wasn't finished.

Arby and Mulligan supervising

Wasp nest

I'd planned to wash down the entire house (since I was already completely soaked and covered in grime and webs, why not?), but something made me stop when I got to around to the carport. 

They were remarkably laid back for wasps -- I gave their nest several solid bull's eye squirts with the hose before I realized my mistake.  They just sort of cruised around, a little confused, but not at all cranky.

Not wanting to push my luck, I called it quits for the day.  Anyway, five hours of this kind of fun was quite enough for me.  Thank you, wasps!

Bruce can be in charge of evicting the wasps this weekend.  He'll be overjoyed.

 Now it's late afternoon.  The porch is looking pretty good (if you don't look too closely)...

Wolf Spider

...and the spiders are starting their engines.