Monday, May 29, 2017

Adorables and Deplorables

This has been an eventful several days at the farm.  We arrived to find not one, but two new baby calves.  You won’t be surprised to hear we are calling them, along with their older sisters, The Adorables!  

Four Sisters
What are those?  They don't look like us.
Border Collies Keeping Watch
This is all really new and strange.

Do you have one of these?

Mmmm....Mmmm Good!
Mom Loves Me

Big Sis
Don't you wish you could do this!

We were pleased but surprised to find that both our remaining cows had calved.  B8 was due, but B4’s calf was not expected for at least another month because she calved late last year.  The gestation period for cattle is about nine months, and our cows usually don’t breed back for a couple of months after calving.  Over time, we have established an estimated due date for each cow eleven months after their previous calf was born.  B4 outdid herself this year, calving only ten months after her last calf was born.  This means that all four of our calves were born within a six-week period.  They are having a great time running and playing together.

So much for the Adorables, but what about the Deplorables, you ask?  I’m not talking about those proud supporters of Candidate Trump in last year’s election.  I’m talking about critters that really are deplorable.  

On Thursday the dogs were doing a lot of sniffing around a sheet of plywood behind the pump house.  When I lifted it, there were three fat rats underneath.  Unquestionably Deplorables!  Rue took off after Mama Rat, but she managed to escape into the bushes.  Colt grabbed one of the half-grown offspring, but wasn’t sure what to do so he dropped it.  Kota, however, is an experienced ratter and dispatched it quickly.  She was planning on having it as a mid-morning snack, but I managed to retrieve and dispose of it. 


In the meantime, Rue came back and made quick work of the other juvenile.  She was very proud!

Sometimes we spend an entire week and see no “critters” other than a few turkeys at the feeder.  Not so this week.  Rue spent most of Wednesday evening trying to dig our resident armadillo out of his den in the bushes outside the kitchen.  He continues to be safe, and comes out each evening late to aerate our yard.

Then, while I was working in the yard Thursday morning, Rue was sniffing about in the bushes a few yards away.  Suddenly, I heard the unmistakable sound of an angry rattlesnake.  I called just as Rue shot out of the bushes.  I think she was reacting due to her “rattlesnake avoidance” training rather than to my call since she came out so quickly.  I’m very glad we invested in that training for all our dogs.  I’m told that dogs can’t detect a rattlesnake by scent, but identify them by the sound of their rattles.  I’m glad this one issued a warning.  It definitely qualifies as a Deplorable!

I called John, and we cautiously parted the bushes and looked for the snake.  It had only rattled once, and then for only a second, but it hadn’t moved.  It was stretched out under the bushes, and John and the 12-gauge dispatched it with no trouble.  It was a beautiful 2-3 foot snake, but not something you want to share your front yard.

And if one snake wasn’t enough, Friday morning I took my coffee and Bible to the front porch to read.   Rue came out with me and trotted up the front walk toward the parking area.  As I sat down, I noticed a very straight “stick” lying across the walk…much too straight to be a tree branch…between me and Rue.  I told her to lie down and walked up the path to investigate.  Sure enough, the “stick” was a snake, but not a Deplorable.  This time, it was a handsome 3-foot rat snake.  He posed for a couple of pictures, then slithered away into the bushes.  We’re happy to have him as a resident, and hope that he will get busy and take care of the rat that got away from Rue on Thursday.  

But deplorables aren’t always living things.  Sometimes we encounter deplorable situations.  We arrived on Wednesday afternoon, and by evening discovered that we had no hot water in the kitchen or our bathroom.  Fortunately the guest room shower was working just fine, so we were able to go to bed squeaky clean.  

On Thursday morning, John began trouble-shooting that deplorable situation.  Trouble-shooting is something we do here on a regular basis, since a couple of weeks often pass between our visits.  You would be surprised at what can go wrong in the interim!  This time, John noticed some suspicious material around the breaker that controls the hot water heater.  After disassembling the breaker box, he discovered that a couple of mice had managed to get inside and commit suicide, shorting out the circuits.  This time, we were fortunate.  The breaker wasn’t “fried” and after a thorough cleaning all was well.

All wasn’t well back in Volente, though.  Just before we left for the farm, Becky our good friend and next-door neighbor, had called to say that she had gone to pick up her mail and found all the mailbox doors open and no mail inside any of the 8 or so boxes.  John then began to wonder if a parcel that should have arrived last week might have been taken as well.  We are working with postal authorities and the sheriff’s office to try to recover our missing parcel and help to find the thieves.  So far, that is the only thing we know is missing, but there could be more.  The culprits took at least one credit card from our neighbor’s mailbox and tried to use it a number of times.  They were successful more than once, but Becky doesn’t know how they managed to use the card since it had not been activated.  Stay tuned on this one.

It’s good when we can end our visit on a happy note instead of the recitation of another deplorable.  This trip, we are happy to have our coastal pasture cut and ready to be baled to provide winter hay for the cattle.

And there was another special treat as well.  We have plenty of painted buntings here at the farm; we hear them almost constantly.  We seldom get a good look at one, though, because they are very small, fast and cautious.  We were excited Simdau morning to see this handsome male in his breeding finery peck-pecking in the grass just outside our kitchen window.  

He is definitely in the Adorables category.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Birth and Renewal

Spring is a time for birth and renewal.  This spring at the farm has been no exception.  First the wrens, cardinals, bluebirds and eastern phoebes began courting and building nests near the house.  Then, we heard the bzzzy-bzzzy-bzzzy-tweet calls of the golden-cheek warblers as they claimed their territories on the cedar-covered mountain southeast of the house.  And just last week we heard the warbling songs of the painted buntings.  A couple of weeks ago there were baby birds in one of the bluebird houses down by the goat shed, and last week we saw a second clutch of eggs in the same house.  More baby bluebirds are on the way!

The bluebonnet flowers have turned into fat, green seed pods, ready to begin their life cycle again, but there are many other wildflowers blooming in the pastures.  Almost every one has one or more bees, spiders, ladybugs or other insects sipping nectar or lying in wait for someone who is. 

I was thrilled to see some beautiful cosmos blossoms emerging from the seed we scattered after the prescribed burn a couple of months ago.

The flowers and forbs we planted were specifically chosen to attract and support the monarch butterflies.  I think I saw a couple week before last, but they were moving too fast for a photo.  Other butterflies, however, were more cooperative.  A couple of hairstreak varieties sipped nectar from antelope horn milkweed in the pastures.

And this magnificent giant swallowtail posed for several minutes on a purple thistle.

But there was other new life besides the birds and the bees…or maybe because of it.  Our B6 cow, aka Red Cow, presented us with a lovely, red splash-face heifer calf to join her half-sister born a little over a month ago.

But we weren't through with the refresh and renewal.  The long-awaited and rescheduled installation of a new washing machine, microwave and refrigerator finally came to pass.  John supervised the two guys from Home Depot who came to set it all up, and we're so pleased.  No longer do we have to open the microwave door with a "church key" or apologize for the rusty refrigerator door! 

It has been a lovely spring, and life is good.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

We Miss You Already

This week ends Jimmy Joe and Nine’s all-too-short visit to the Texas Hill Country.  After a month in Johnson City with sons Michael and Marty and their families, in Bluffdale with son and daughter Jason and Jenny and their families, and in Austin visiting with Nine’s cousin, Voy, and her family, they return to Phnom Penh on Thursday.  

In addition to our time together in Austin and Hamilton a couple of weeks ago, we had a leisurely lunch with JJ and Nine on Saturday.  After their last visit when Lake Travis was hardly more than a puddle, it seems fitting that this trip they got to see this beautiful body of water at its best.  We enjoyed lunch overlooking the lake at Shack 512, a new restaurant off Lime Creek Road next door to Sandy Creek Yacht Club.

The burgers were scrumptious, and we all ate more than our fill.  And the conversation was even more satisfying.  It will have to hold us until our next get-together via Skype.

It’s been great to spend time with you guys.  We miss you already and look forward to your next trip to Texas…or our next visit to Cambodia!  God Bless You and safe travels.