Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fun at the Farm

John, the dogs and I returned last Wednesday from nine days at the farm.  I’m happy to report that all the cattle, including Moon Pie, are doing well.

Much of John’s time has been spent on the skid steer clearing cedar.  I worked in our yard and applied herbicide to several species of invasive plants that threaten to overwhelm the native grasses and forbs in some of our pastures.  But that’s not the fun stuff.  In between we visited with family, including our niece, Erin, and her family.  Noah and Rachel showed us the rock village they have made, and Rachel demonstrated her tree-climbing ability.  

Both kids promise to be outstanding rock climbers as well.  They scaled the caliche cliff above the barn in a heartbeat.  

We took some lovely walks among the wildflowers.  The prairie verbena, more commonly known as sweet William, were more plentiful than I have ever seen.

We also have a good crop of Blackfoot daisies, which grow on the caliche hillsides where almost nothing else will.

There are antelope horn milkweed as well.  This is a host plant for the monarch butterfly, and we'll be looking for caterpillars and chrysalises later in the year.

And, of course there are the bluebonnets...not only the blue ones, but a few of these unusual white specimens.

As usual, the dogs had a great time.  Dog cousins Clover, Molly and Kaia joined our three for some great chases and swims in the pond.

The weather was wonderful...remarkably cool with nice breezes.  We also had some welcome showers during our stay, and on Saturday just before sunset we were treated to this spectacular double rainbow in the sky to the south.

The bird-watching was good as well.  Last week I saw flocks going over on their way north, but they didn’t look or sound like geese, ducks or cranes.  Finally they came close enough for me to get a good look…at flocks of (of all things) seagulls!  I’m not sure what they were doing so far from the Texas coast, but there were a lot of them and they seemed to know where they were going.

We were happy to see that our bluebird nest boxes are being well utilized.  First there were the lovely blue eggs, and now most of the boxes are filled with fledgling bluebirds.

Of course, other small birds use nest boxes as well.  At the corner of our yard is a box occupied by what we think is a titmouse.  On another fence post nearby, I counted eight eggs that I think belong to a wren.  I hope mama bird has good help when they hatch.  Eight is a lot of mouths to feed. 

Wednesday when the dogs and I were out for our walk, this lovely red-tailed hawk kept circling overhead.  he/she was quite high, but the light was right and I got several good shots.

And then, when I went to check on the nest below our barn that has for several years been used by a pair of hawks, I got a surprise.  There, high in the big elm tree was something decidedly un-hawklike.  

When I got closer, my suspicions were confirmed.  There, peering over the edge of the nest was Mrs. Great Horned Owl.  

She watched, seemingly unconcerned, while I spent a couple of hours nearby applying herbicide to the fast-growing crop of gum bulimia seedlings.  We look forward to seeing the owlets when they hatch in a few weeks.

There is never a dull moment when we're at the farm.  This year, the bluebonnets were lovely.  Several patches, like these, just begged for photos...and the Bagley dogs were happy to pose.

There were not as many flowers as some years, but in a way that's a good thing.  When range conditions are good and grass is plentiful, there are fewer places for wildflowers to grow.  This year, we have good grass, and therefore fewer flowers.  The ones we have, though, are spectacular.  There are also surprises.  I stopped to snap a picture of this tiny yellow flower beside the path.  It was hardly an inch wide, but when I looked closely I saw an even teenier insect perched on its petals.  

What a treat!

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