I think this storm was our largest single event snow total since we've been here. It's hard to measure exactly, but we got close to two feet in a 24-hour period. It was hovering around 33F, so I knew the snow would be heavy. It started in middle of the night Monday. When I woke up on Tuesday, it was really coming down. I went out to do my first plow run and my poor half ton pick-up had to work pretty darn hard!
And, of course, I had to check on the critters. You can see the yak were taking it in stride in the video above. I love how you can see just how well their coat insulates them. The snow just builds up on them but doesn't really melt. They just shake it off occasionally. The elk, who are also made for this kind of weather, were doing just fine and looking rather regal in the snow.
We recently got solar panels installed. Overall, it was a great decision given just how freakishly high our electric rates are, but there is a downside. No one mentioned how that meant I would be doomed to spend the rest of my life shoveling off this little balcony to be sure if doesn't collapse from the weight. The fun thing about taking a before and after photo is that you know how long it takes you to do something. Nine minutes. I guess there's a reason I was huffing and puffing.
And I may have cried a bit when I looked out only fifteen minutes later to see this. Yup. I shoveled that balcony more than once yesterday!
Later in the day, I happened to look out a window I hadn't looked out previously and saw this. Ugh! I didn't realize that we had suddenly reached critical mass, so I ran out and rescued these rose-of-sharon, along with my lilacs, rhododendron, and a few others I don't know the names for. Lots of broken branches. Boo.
Last night around 7 o'clock, I went out for one last plow. All told, I plowed three separate times yesterday and used almost half a tank of gas in my truck. I'm going to guess those three sessions probably totaled four hours of time. So, between that and my shoveling, I really did do almost nothing but snow removal yesterday! No wonder I'm tired!
This morning though, the snow finally was done and the sun was trying to peek out. I had to hay the yak, which was a bit of a challenge. For the first time, I felt the need to clear the snow before bringing the bale in, lest I get stuck. And I struggled to get this gate open. After cussing it out a bit, wondering why it didn't open out, I suddenly realized it could open out, if I wanted it to. Right! Note to self: when expecting the next big snow, rearrange this gate to open out. Your back will thank you!
The nice thing about mid-March storms is that the days get warm enough to really help clear the driveways and roads. I love winter. I love snow, and I was pretty disappointed with this winter up until about a month ago. Ummm. I'm good now. I've had my fill. I'm ready for spring now!!
I knew it was inevitable, but it still took me a bit by surprise. Last night was quite balmy, and I think that the comfortableness of the weather finally let Big Guy feel like he could relax enough to let go.
The road that goes by that pasture leads to an aggregate materials pit and the drivers often stop to chat and tell me how much they enjoy watching the critters in the morning while waiting for the pit to officially open. They have watched his slow decline as much as I have, and they were the ones to initially find him this morning. Apparently, they all got out and "made peace with Big Guy together" this morning after finding him. For some reason, that gives me comfort, to know that others knew he was something special.
Big Guy was a gentle giant. I'm not going to say he couldn't be aggressive when the rut was on and instinct demanded action. I remember well the trouble I had the first fall I was on the farm. We still had another mature bull then, and the sparring matches they would get into when they managed to get along a fence line were epic. He was no slouch when it came to elk bull instinct. But he was also kind and seemed to know when folks were trying to help him. When the little ones would come up to him, he always shared his grain and was never unduly rough with them. When he managed to get wire wound all around his face and antlers during the rut, he let us bring him into the barn and he stood patiently as it was removed.
He was one of the more majestic creatures I've ever known. I have thousands of photos of him. Photos of him being a bull, in all his powerful glory, and being a sage, old man. When that guy looked me in the eye, it was like he knew things.
It's been painful to watch his decline. He's been a shadow of his former self for quite some time now. I noticed about two weeks before the cold snap that he was not as sure of his footing and did not go with the other bulls when they went up into the woods. I knew his time was coming.
But it still never quite prepares you for that moment. Farewell, Big Guy. It was an honor to be your steward. I hope I did right by you. I look forward to seeing you in the eyes of your offspring. That is, after all, what it's all about, right?
I've been loathe to write this... it's been a challenging week. Farming is not for the faint hearted! Besides the somewhat normal, if not to the max this year, challenges with insect and animal pests in the gardens, we had a very disappointing death this week.
I found this baby inexplicably dead on Monday. After much research, investigation, and consultation, I believe I know what the main cause of death was, but it doesn't really matter. The end result is the same. You wait for almost a year to see those new calves arrive and to have it taken so quickly when it was initially so healthy is disappointing - to put it mildly.
I believe the calf was stricken down by a condition called fly strike. When weather conditions are just right (hot and humid, which it was horribly so with a bit of rain on top of it), fly pressure can be heavy and if the hair is moist or the naval isn't dry they can lay their eggs so quickly on a new calf that it actually overwhelms them very quickly, in as little as 24 hours. This is something I had always heard about but never seen. Having spent most of my livestocking years in the arid West, I had never come across it first hand.
There may have been confounding factors, and I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice to say, I'm very disappointed about the loss. It's funny, when we first started having calves on the place, when I didn't see a calf at least once a day, I was beside myself, and then I started chastising myself for being silly. Well, I guess when I didn't see that calf at all Sunday, I wish I'd been a little silly and gone looking for it. Hind sight is 20/20, I suppose.
Thank goodness the elk calf seems healthy so far! I didn't get to see it today, despite my efforts - the elk calves hide really well - and the mamas are not quite so magnanimous with me in there looking for them (i.e. they'd run me down me if given the chance!), but I did have proof of life yesterday and it looked very healthy, running around and appearing quite strong.
Today, I gave the yak some grass around lunch time and I was a bit concerned that Goldie (the golden colored cow) wasn't around. She's kind of a loner, often hanging off just a bit from everyone else, but when I didn't see her this evening either, I figured I'd best go looking for her. She can be a bit aggressive, so I thought I'd get the four wheeler to check on her. On my way back to the house to get it, I saw her through the trees... and... what was that black thing trotting along beside her!?! Goldie had her calf! It's our first black calf - a "trim" as they call it because it has white on the face, leg(s), and tail. I haven't had a chance to get close, so I don't know the gender yet. It was moving around pretty good and nursing though, so that's a good sign.
As you might imagine, I'm a bit nervous. When you can lose a healthy calf in the blink of an eye, suddenly they seem very fragile. But, the weather is much nicer; it's supposed to be very mild tonight, so I think s/he will be all right until morning. I'll bring them in to the corrals tomorrow and get a better look at the baby and give it a once over... and maybe apply some fly prevention.
Despite the loss this week, a new calf always makes things seem a bit brighter. I think #7 is on deck next, but I'm not sure exactly how soon. Hopefully, she will bring us another wonderful surprise soon!
Last year, I happened to notice an oriole in my apple tree while it was blooming, so I ordered an oriole feeder to see if I could entice them to hang around. It worked! And then some!
Not only did they stick around all summer last year, but they came back this year and appear to have brought all their friends and family. I have so many orioles visiting my yard, it's amazing!
The original feeder I purchased was nothing special. I think it was twelve bucks or something, but they love the fruit and jelly I put out there... and as a jam/jelly producer, I always have partial jars in the fridge looking for a mouth!
Interestingly enough, the orioles aren't the only ones that enjoy the jam. It took me two years to identify the nondescript gray bird shown here with the oriole. I would hear him singing non-stop in the trees with the most elaborate songs! He was initially very shy, which is why it took me so long to identify him. For months, I could hear him but never see him. They're not shy at all anymore! He's called a cat bird because in addition to beautiful songs, he makes a call that sounds like a cat meowing!
I just love these visitors. I have feeders out most of my windows, and they use them all! I'm pretty sure I have at least four different pairs of orioles... maybe more. I think the cat birds are territorial, so I'm guessing I only have the one pair of them, but they love to sing! The orioles are no slouch either in the singing category. I love listening to them all serenading me while I work. I can't think of a better soundtrack to accompany a long day of weeding or pruning! Welcome, back, my friends!
I don't know. I think I might be starting to get the hang of this skunk thing. This summer, I caught one by accident. Needless to say, it was an education and I learned a lot... like dealing with skunks is an aerobic activity!!! This cracked me up. Last July, when I dealt with my first skunk, I had to laugh when I looked at my heart rate chart for the day. Can you tell when I was doing skunk removal!?!
This time, experience made it a little less stressful. I must have caught the granddaddy (grandmammy?) of them all... this skunk was HUGE! Obviously, I don't know if it was male or female as I was NOT interested in encouraging it to show me its private parts. Ha!
The skunks (please be the last one!!!) have been really rough on our yard every fall. They know those grubs are under there somewhere!
I went out first thing to check the trap this morning. That tuna fish is powerful stuff! First night with the trap out and I catch the rascal.
The initial covering of the trap is the heart wrenching part. I use a large piece of black acrylic fabric. Last time I tried a piece of black plastic tarping first, but it was so noisy, that skunk was ready to let me have it! The black fabric works great. And you know what always happens next? The darn skunk curls up and goes to sleep. I kid you not! I tie the blanket on to be sure I don't have any uncomfortable surprises when I get to the drop off location, and load it up in my truck.
And away we go! I drive as far out in the woods away from other houses as I can and let them go. Not that I have a huge sampling to go by, but this skunk behaved exactly like the last one. I get there, open the cage, and nothing happens. I have to pull the blanket off and start making some noise to wake them up. You make them think they're in a burrow and - by golly - they curl right up and go to sleep!
Come on, skunky! Time to wake up and go! When I saw him/her starting to come to, I took the following video. What a big, fat, waddling bunch of fur! I hope it's my last skunk relocation, but if it's not, I guess I've got the hang of it now. Easy peasy... what could ever go wrong?
This past summer, I enjoyed watching a pair of white tail fawns visiting our farm regularly and growing. They were a rambunctious pair and always fun to watch. Here is a picture from last August when they still had their spots. Though their family group had a regular loop going through our yard, sometimes I would go weeks or more without seeing them; then they would come around again and I'd get to see them frequently for a bit before they'd go farther afield for a while. A couple of weeks ago, they started coming through again regularly. On that warm day when the elk were feeling frisky, the twins were in my yard playing too. I got a little bit of a video of them playing in my orchard.
Sadly, when I went out to feed the elk this morning on the back side of the farm, I came across one of those twins dead near the side of the road. Except for some blood in the snow from his nose and mouth, he might have been sleeping. It was a little buck and he was just starting to sprout his first set of antlers! He was in the alleyway between two of the pastures, and I cannot tell you how damning it felt to be dragging this little body out to the road past Piggy and the girls, who were intently watching me. I went to ask the neighbor's hired men if they wanted to salvage the meat, and upon driving back to the body, I was greeted by the saddest sight.
It is probably hard to see here, but if you look in the middle of the road a little ways back, there is the twin to this poor dead buck. It was in the field watching and came running, following me, as I approached its fallen twin. As we lifted the little body into the back of the pickup to salvage the meat, the remaining twin ran off. Saddest thing I've seen in a while. I'm really going to miss watching them play.