Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome, add a great deal to a blog, but must be in English, with no profanity, hate-filled insults, or links (unless pre-approved).

Saturday, October 30, 2010


For me, one of the pleasures of the winter season has to be fires in the fireplace. The house is dark, sometimes we are watching a movie and the flames as they flicker. No warmth sinks in deeper as I sit on the hearth than that of a fire. This is also my season for lighting white candles, lots of white candles to somehow keep the darkness out perhaps or appreciate it in the only way I can.

The Celtic people broke their seasons with more a sense of nature. I guess that's not surprising as we are a people who often seem oblivious to nature as though it can be ruled or ignored. Their holidays and celebrations hence though are more tuned to the rhythms of the year and not a religion as such.

Samhain, the end of the year, is one of the major fire festivals from their tradition. It is celebrated, at the same time as Halloween and All Saints Day, the latter two significant days in western culture but often with no clue from where they originated. This season though is the beginning of dormancy and the end of the harvest. Celts and other religions today have chosen it as a time to remember the ancestors. All Souls Day October 31 and All Saints Day November 1.

If someone has a garden, they know that in the northern climates at least, the garden is being put to bed for the winter. The last food has been harvested. On a farm, especially when the people were dependent on what they could store to get through the winter, the weak animals will have been slaughtered, the meat dried or preserved. Living with nature and by its provision tends to make one very aware of seasons. City people get some taste of that when the farmer markets are closed down for the winter. Otherwise grocery stores keep produce coming due to shipping.

Spiritually if we think of Samhain as a time to assess our own weaknesses, putting them away, it can be used as a time to put behind us what is not working. Because the pagans believe this is a time when the veil between life and death thins, many make altars to their ancestors, not to worship but to recognize with gratitude. Some would say it's a time to connect with those on the other side and out of that we see where most of our Halloween traditions arose. It's surprising though how the knowledge of from what it has arisen can be so distorted as to be a time associated with the Devil where some fundamentalists see it as a very bad time-- not at all what it is for a Pagan who celebrates nature as the path to god.

I have read it relates to the death of the god Lugh who will be reborn with Beltane but whether it's come out of that or simply is a recognition of what this season truly feels like, the time of dormancy and dark is here and the time of growth and new sprouts is half a year away.

Besides possibly creating an altar to family members on the other side, another way to celebrate the night is with fire which can mean candles or a fire in the fireplace if a bonfire is not practical. A person with a garden could go outside that night to offer thanks for its bounty.

Now is a good time to plan new projects for the coming year even if the weather is not making implementation of them practical just yet. Planning time can be good as it lets us think about what we will be doing to get it right.

For more on ways to celebrate Samhain and what it means, I found this link:

It is by the way not pronounced like you'd think but rather sow-en. Or so I hear as some say other possible ways. It's from the Celtic.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bannack Montana

This post and photos are from our September vacation in Montana.

One of our fortunate, unexpected, pleasures in the September trip to Montana (thanks to some research ahead of time by Farm Boss) was taking a little side trip to the town or more accurately ghost town of Bannack, Montana.

The energy of Montana is about the wilderness, mountains, rivers, wildlife, and the Old West. The western aspects to it, which are very much alive today, are as much a part of that energy as the scenery, the fishing or the hiking in the mountains among tall trees.

Bannack was supposed to be spelled Bannock, like a Native American tribe of the region, but the government misspelled it and Bannack it remains today. It sits back in the mountains between Wisdom and Dillon as a state park with camping facilities and many of the original buildings open and allowing the tourist to walk through and take photos,

Bannack has an interesting history of which a small guidebook gives a taste as we walked around and in some of its sixty buildings. Sometimes it told who built them or lived there, what their purpose had been even how long they were occupied.

I asked if there are any ghost stories and the ranger on duty had a few including some photos that might make one wonder whether some of the residents never left. (I am in what was a rather fancy hotel for the times in the photo to the left.)

Bannack was a rough mining town and the evidence is still there with some bullet holes in walls.
"I don't know how many deaths have occurred this winter, but that there have not been twice as many is entirely owing to the fact that drunken men do not shoot well. There are times when it really is unsafe to go through the main street, the bullets whiz around so, and no one thinks of punishing a man for shooting another." letter by Mrs. Emily Meredith April 30, 1863
The most dramatic story of Bannack has to be the battle between the outlaws calling themselves Innocents and the vigilantes. One of the stories I had heard of for years was of Henry Plummer, who came west as a young man, lived life to the hilt in California, Idaho and finally this part of Montana before he met his end at only 32 just above town on a gallows they say he had ordered built for an earlier hanging. Irony is not uncommon in life.

Plummer qualifies as a romantic anti-hero who killed those who got in his way, who had a rather controversial romance, who became a sheriff supposedly to keep the law but did he keep it? See, that's what makes his story a good one as nobody will ever know that for sure.

What we know is that in 1863, 100 men were killed in these hills-- miners, ranchers, storekeepers, teamsters, basically anybody who had to travel the mountains between Bannack and Virginia City. A band of vigilantes decided someone had to pay for this and put a stop to it through hanging Henry Plummer and those they thought were his cohorts without a trial.

Of course, like any good story, there is controversy over whether they were the actual ones doing the killing and robbing as none of it stopped after Plummer was hanged. Plummer's widow, who was not living in Bannack at the time of his death, said he was innocent, but then what else would she be expected to say?

After the hangings, it appeared the vigilantes were as bad as the Innocents as for several years the killings continued. They would kill who they decided to kill and often leave a warning symbol-- 3-7-77 on a tent to let the miner know his time was up and it was leave or be hung.

The interesting part is those numbers are still is on the arm patch of Montana Highway Patrol today. What do they mean? From what I can tell nobody can say for sure except maybe those original vigilantes. One thing it does mean is -- clean up your act, get out of town, or you're a dead man.

Anyway visiting the town, with the trees turning yellow, a tepee in the campground, and the friendly people who operate the park, was fun, great chance for photos, and educational even if it left a mystery behind that will never be answered. Sounds about like life.
This last photo was taken from the inside of th
e jailhouse (one Plummer had had built) and the only view some, including probably Plummer himself, had until they either were released or hung.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Little black ewe

For those who are interested in the outcome for our little black ewe with the suicidal tendencies.

She was treated extensively during her sheep 'time-out' in the pen but is now back with the herd. She was both pleased with that and not so happy to find she no longer gets alfalfa exclusively for her. When she first got out, she was a little surprised when the other sheep pushed her away from the alfalfa flakes.

Now she comes down to the house, maas and runs back to her pen when Farm Boss puts out the alfalfa, hoping he'll close her back in-- by herself. Clearly she has found that with freedom comes the loss of some perks. Fresh grass, free to run around vs. hay being delivered and no competition.

So far so good on how she's doing-- although jumping on top the big round bales is not recommended behavior for a healthy life but it's what she did Monday night. We are hoping for the best, but she's quite a character. I am not sure who she thinks she is! We'll see how this goes and will get her back in the small pen if best doesn't turn out to be reality.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

ladybugs are gathering

The ladybugs are gathering. Every fall I see this happen and wonder how do they know? We haven't had a hard freeze yet, not even much rain. Wednesday it was an unseasonably warm 70°F as I sat out on the new patio off our bedroom, where the warmth of the sun was making it very inviting to just sit with no purpose. Since I had just redone my closet to make the clothes ready for fall and winter, I was ready to just be.

With BB (long-haired black cat) on the chaise lounge and me a chair next to the table, I began to realize how many ladybugs I was seeing. They were flying in from all around. I didn't count them but am guessing maybe one hundred crawling along the walls and looking for a crack to get inside.

When we bought this farm in 1977, we did not know its shake roof made it a very inviting place for ladybugs to winter over. The attic was easy to access and protected them from the worst of the winter. There would be thousands up there who must have come from all around. We sure never see that many during the summer. Every year they would do that and with spring fly out to disappear again.

Reading up a bit on ladybugs, I learned they can actually live a year or two-- [Coccinellidae]. Maybe that explains why they knew where to return. But communicating with each other, now that I have no idea as they don't cluster much together until fall with their eagerness to find shelter. Being predator insects, they have to hunt for their meals.

The problem for their tidy arrangement on the farm came when we had to replace our roof. Sadly with fire danger as it is in the country, we decided we could not use cedar shakes. That was a hard decision as a shake roof is a wonderful thing for cooling in the summer and keeping the house warm in the winter-- that is until the spark from a forest or grass fire lands on it; then it's the end of the home.

The new roof was by necessity much tighter and the ladybugs had to figure out something new. They now try to get into the house which I don't mind as I put them into the closed porch where I have a few houseplants and wish them well for the winter. Come spring I will see a few dead ones but also those who suddenly appear and start crawling around to find a way out. I used to think maybe they had hatched in the house but that's not how it happens. These lived over and will lay their eggs for the new ladybugs on plants near where they hope will be aphids.

Ladybugs can nip a person. I have had them do it. It's not like a sting nor does it leave a mark but it does hurt. I do my best to let them hibernate somewhere inside until winter is over, but our home can no longer accommodate the numbers of the attic.

I do wonder though how they know to come in and is this a hint for me that winter is soon to arrive? When we walked the other day, we saw a couple of woolly caterpillars on the gravel road, which we always toss to safety as they end up smashed otherwise by passing automobiles. Their black and brown bands were even. That's supposed to mean something but not sure what.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Religious knowledge

Probably most of you had heard of a religious test where atheists and agnostics scored higher than those in religions. I am not sure what that means about me; but I only missed one. If I had been guessing, which I could have as that question was multiple choice, my 'educated' guess would have had them all. But then religion has always been of interest to me-- all religions.

Here's the test which Christian Science Monitor created:

I don't know if it's really about being smarter but rather how interested are we in what inspires and spiritually moves human beings.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fraud for a higher good?

One of the things we deal with a lot in our lives is trying to figure out when we are hearing a fraud and when something is the real deal. This happens in politics, religion and our personal lives. Mostly when we hear an important statement, about pretty much anything, we should check it out. Remember the old Reagan creed-- trust and verify. The Internet makes such research simple in some ways but then there are frauds that you might come across while checking a fraud; so it still requires common sense as a part of the research.

The link at the bottom relates to something I found while surfing around cable television-- something I do when in the mood for watching something but with nothing in mind. The topic I came across was called historic mysteries. That sounded good; and when I saw it was about the Shroud of Turin, I was sold-- figuratively speaking.

The Shroud of Turin is something Catholics might know more about than other Christians or religions. I first read about it many years ago when I was a Catholic. It has been claimed to be the burial shroud of Christ and is revered by the Catholic Church as well as many others who are believers in Jesus Christ's divinity. For awhile I had believed in it myself, but then read more facts regarding it and put it aside, as we do many things that come to us but we decide are not true.

The program was interestingly presented but left me thinking again about the truth of the Shroud of Turin. It more or less brought up some aspects to the shroud that seemed to leave it a mystery. At first I thought I need to research this to see what is new about it; then, like so many things, promptly forgot it-- until in a night filled with dreams and images where I woke up thinking I do have to look into the facts (as they are known) of this.

Could the shroud be the real burial cloth of Jesus? Might the images on the shroud, very familiar to me even before the program, really be Christ's face and body? Might they be there by a miraculous process of resurrection? Or was this whole thing created a very human way? The show left it leaning toward the former.

It matters because if it turned out to be true, it would be important to know and would answer a lot of other questions for me.

The claims explored on the show was that there is no paint on the shroud, no way that the image could be there physically leaving the impression only by magic was it possible. It went into various fine points of the shroud but left it as unknowable.

With some researching online and a link that Farm Boss came across, it appears that the origin of the shroud is very knowable and logical. How often things are like that-- if we take the time to look into them.

What interested me also about the information that I learned, besides the need for some people to perpetuate a fraud supposedly for a higher purpose, was how advanced in some areas the world was way before we think of it as being so. A lot of us have the idea that nothing much happened in technology until 'modern' times. The link puts the lie to that and gives an interesting look at not only the technology of the past but also the motivations that some have to defraud us supposedly in the name of a higher good.

The photo at the top has absolutely nothing to do with the topic here, but it was one of a few really exceptional photos from our recent Montana trip, the kind you could mount and hang on a wall. Getting it was a combination of lighting and luck to be driving where we were when we saw the herd of antelope. It was taken in the Big Hole valley, not far from Big Hole National Battlefield. Click on it to enlarge.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wolves and Bears

There isn't much to say about the link below other than it's all of the wolf, grizzly and black bear photos that we took while in Yellowstone. Some are better photos than others due to distance or lighting. None are what I'd call award winning. They really are more about the story in photo form than something I could see blown up and printed.

The first are all from my camera though Farm Boss may have taken some. If you are interested in these animals enough to see them all, you will begin to see the stories repeating. Those were taken by him with his camera.

Although we had seen bears and wolves on other trips there, these are the most photos we ever had possibly for two reasons. One might be because we had the time in the area where it's most likely to see them, but maybe September is a better month for seeing them as they know they have to be preparing for the winter to come. They represent two wolf packs, four grizzlies and one black bear in separate (distant) meetings.

Seeing animals at Yellowstone is all about being being alert. It is also about noticing where others have already stopped and asking questions. Sometimes a ranger will be there to keep traffic moving and make sure viewers don't try to get too close for both the sake of the animals and the humans.

There was such a ranger at one stop as a black bear had been seen below the road; but he told us it was now sleeping in the tall brush and no longer visible. We stayed awhile but we had places to go and things to see; so we didn't wait for photos of that one.

When we were driving toward Slough Creek early one morning, still dark, we saw an antelope alongside the road, standing, looking toward us or something else. A bit later we saw two wolves running away from the buffalo herd. At the time we didn't know there was a kill of probably either an elk or antelope nearby. Did it relate to the antelope we saw? Was there a story that connected the three animals? To have any chance of understanding, it takes time.

Sometimes I have thought the career I most envy, what I'd most like to have studied if I was young, or if there is reincarnation, and we get another go at this, would be a wildlife biologist. I know there isn't a lot of money in such work, that it has to be a labor of love, that conditions can be difficult, sometimes even dangerous, but I really admire people who do it as I like watching the animals, trying to understand why they do what they do, observing their patterns. Wildlife biologists are the ones who help us understand them and often protect them from our excesses.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Yellowstone Experience

For those interested in Yellowstone National Park, I sorted through the nearly thousand digital images to find a little under 90 for a video or slide show illustrating some of the flavor of Yellowstone. That's not an easy task as it's a park with many aspects.

The video uses Mozart's Piano Sonata No.11: I. Andante grazioso. a lovely piano concerto. That link runs just under 15 minutes, so not something when you are in a hurry; but if you want a meditative time, I think it's the ticket.

Video with music: Yellowstone Experience

Because not everyone has the connection speed to look at a video, I also posted these same photos as a slide show: The Yellowstone Experience..

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bears in Yellowstone

Bears are always a factor for me when I am going to be in Yellowstone National Park or really anywhere in grizzly country. Most especially if I am sleeping somewhere that might require getting up in the middle of the night to find an outhouse or bathroom. We do carry bear spray, but I don't want any midnight encounters with or without it. I did though want to be able to sleep in the Lamar Valley which meant some thinking about how to work that out.

Farm Boss had built two narrow bunks into the back of the pickup in the canopy area. That might not be as safe as a trailer, but it'd be safe enough. I stopped drinking liquids in the afternoon and happily made it through the night without a nighttime venture into the dark where the most likely animal I might have run into would have been a buffalo who was hanging out near the campground.

That night as I lay there, I thought how hard it was on my body to sleep on a bunk that was only as wide as my shoulders, where I couldn't bring my knees up to my chest when I lay on my side as I love to do; but it was so incredibly wonderful for my spirit to be under that night sky and look out the window at a wilderness I love. People were camping in tents nearby and maybe it was safe. I slept sounder in the canopy.

We saw bears four different times. The first happened because someone had seen a grizzly crossing right by the parking spot above Slough Creek. It was supposedly sleeping in the bushes on the other side. Nobody was going to find out for sure. A little later we saw it heading out across the valley. The photos were very much at a distance as it swam the creek and then ran up the hill.

The next day after watching the wolves for awhile further down the valley, and getting those moon shots, we started to drive toward the campground and I saw the bear in a gully. I told Farm Boss to hurry. He said you don't want me driving fast on this gravel road. Because he had yet to see the bear, he was taken aback when I said yes, drive fast.

The bear crossed the gravel road not far in front of our truck and I got some very nice photos as it went up the hill on what Farm Boss said was clearly a bear trail as it had two paths cut side by side.

Later driving down through Yellowstone we saw a black bear way across the Yellowstone River where it forms a deep canyon at a place called Artisan Point. The bear was coming from lower in the canyon and trying to reach the top. It's hard to say how this story had begun or how it would end given the steepness of that canyon with a thousand feet to fall if it began to slide.

We and many many people watched, cheering it on, as that bear tried different routes, had to turn around and then try another. We left before it had totally gotten to the top but after Farm Boss said he could tell that it would make it. I suppose they don't always; and if it had fallen, it would have been fatal as it was a very deep canyon.

The next bear was a sow grizzly and her cubs in the Hayden Valley. We were alerted by seeing a lot of cars pulled off the road as well as people standing on a rise. That had to be something more than buffalo. They said mama grizzly and two cubs.

We walked to the top of a small hill and got a surprise to see her a lot closer than we had expected on the same side of the river as us. Still she had no interest in humans, and I figured if she got aggressive, we could run faster than some of the others there which is all we'd have to do. She and the cubs were digging for small mammals at least that is how it appeared to us.

Once again I was reminded how hard life is in the wilderness for the animals... predator and prey. That sow had to find enough food to store fat for the harsh Yellowstone winter. She had to teach her cubs to survive and be with them long enough to see that they could do that. Time was running out in late September.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

predator and prey

When I am in Yellowstone, it's all about watching for the animals. Some, like the buffalo as they cross the road, are easy to see.  The rest take being alert, paying attention, stopping when others are stopped along the road (getting off the side and not making that stop in the middle of the road). It takes being satisfied to see something very far away but you know it's there and that is thrill enough.
The first time we drove into the Lamar Valley I was in awe to see buffalo herds that seemingly stretched across the valley and spread out for miles along the river. You can't photograph it. It's just too big and they move together as they graze. It's the kind of thing you see in a movie but don't expect to see for real.

All these animals live as they would if it was two hundred years ago and the land was theirs. Well with some minor exceptions like mankind interferring in controlling numbers or collaring some to see where they go or what happens to them; but it's about as natural as it gets for people like me to be close to them and observe their behavior.

I've seen it more often than I can count where humans lose track of where they are and start to follow a bear for that perfect photo or go running down to a buffalo herd as though they would somehow not see that person as a danger. It has led to the death of more than one photographer. Most of us live so far removed from nature that when we are there, we forget this is the real deal.

For most of us though, we are content to stay back and get the best telephoto we can handle to take whatever photos we can without disturbing the habitat of these animals. Sometimes the park service has to interfere and remind people that humans are guests here and that the habitat first and foremost is to protect the animals as best it can.

When I was there in September, my dominant feeling rapidly became how very difficult their lives are-- predator or prey. What seems idyllic to us as humans from our safe distances ignores the reality of what a life in the wild is like. We admire the beautiful wolves but they have to kill the equally beautiful elk. It's not a choice for them. Kill or die.

Wolves don't have an easy time of it even within their own species.  Wolf packs are tough places where only the alpha male can live. I have read that only the alpha female is allowed to breed while the other females help to raise the young.

Packs can be attacked and their members killed by neighboring wolf packs. Packs have been virtually destroyed that way. Some get diseases which leads to what was a powerful pack being reduced to one or two animals like the Soda Butte pack which is east of what is today's biggest pack in that area, the Slough Creek pack.

When I first saw wolves in the Lamar Valley, the Soda Butte pack was strongest. They would often be clear across the valley, some of them playing with the pups while others were out hunting. Seeing them through binoculars was initially what made me want a better telephoto lens for the camera. We still don't have a lens that can really photograph them. That pack is now one female and one male who do not breed or have not anyway. I have a photo of one of them alone on a hillside (last blog). I wonder if it remembers the pack days as I do.

Slough Creek pack seemed very at ease with where they were even though sometimes what seemed to be a hundred people watched them from a rise across the valley. We did that several different days with different lighting yielding varying results. Sometimes I'd take a photo of where the pack had been wondering if they were there, but I just wasn't seeing movement. Most of those pictures yielded nothing when blown up.  When I would see them playing or looking for food or howling, I'd try to get the best sharpness I could and the photos, tiny, fuzzy or not are all treasured.

The morning of the full moon shots, we were upstream from the pack when suddenly one of them began to howl. Howl is a weak word for what that sounded like. It was more like singing and it was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Even more so when another wolf answered from somewhere up in the trees high on the hill. I don't know if we heard a mother calling to her grown pup or if they were mates. Whatever it was, it's beyond describing. I looked online to hear audio of wolves and nothing came close.

Wolves have various howls they use. What I think we heard that morning was a pack howl. I know this is my imagination but that howl seemed to be expressing love and need. It was as beautiful as any song written or performed by a human as was the answering howl from high on the hill.

Their life is not idyllic or easy as they have to kill other animals to live. Brutal as that seems, that killing is beneficial to Yellowstone as it keeps other species from overpopulating. Maybe the wolves own willingness to kill each other helps them not overpopulate; but when they do, they move elsewhere or they starve. From all I know, they cannot eat roots or berries like the bears. Killing is their only option.

You hardly see any elk in the Lamar anymore. These were along the Firehole. Locations where you do see them, there are less wolves. Only once have I seen an elk in Slough Creek a few years back where a cow came running down through the stream and up the other side as though hell itself was after her. To her, it probably was although I saw nothing.

The wolves kill buffalo also although more the calves than the adults for obvious reasons. Some of the buffalo leave the main herds, all of them bulls, and I am not sure how they fare if a wolf pack starts after them. Winter is probably their most dangerous time as in snow they couldn't run as fast (buffalo can run 30 mph) and they might be weakened by hunger.

We saw a kill along the stream but the animals eating at it were coyotes who keep a wary eye out for the wolves return as they kill coyotes also. 

My strongest impression from this trip, besides being so grateful I got to be there, was how difficult the life is for these animals even in a protected park whether they are predator or prey. They look so beautiful, most seem alert but mostly at ease, but their life is anything but one of ease. It's a constant battle for survival.

More next blog on the bears of Yellowstone this trip.

Click on the wolf images as it's about the only way you will see them. If you were actually there, you'd have to strain just as much.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A blogger gathering

Saturday Farm Boss and I drove to Portland to meet up with some fellow bloggers, their  spouses, relatives, and a few who have yet to start a blog but might soon. Before we went, we knew we would have one big thing in common. We all enjoy reading Ronni Bennett's excellent blog, Time Goes By on aging. We had also all been invited to her home.

Farm Boss and I (and I think everyone there) had such a good time, not the least of which was because Ronni was such a gracious hostess. She was warm, welcoming and presented a scrumptious lunch which not only tasted delicious but looked beautiful too.

We had driven around Lake Oswego a bit before the event as it's hard to manage exact timing when coming from a distance and that was fun as we have  history in that area.  He had spent his high school years not far from where she lives. During our courting years, we had a lot of dates in that area; and then when we bought our first home, it was in a nearby community. So all in all, it was a delightful time to meet new friends in a place that I have loved.

Boy, has Oswego changed though! It's grown up in ways that make it hard to remember the little community it used to be. It is a pretty town with lots of trees sitting between the banks of a lake and the Willamette River.

Our photos of the gathering are on the following slide show for anybody interested. I cannot tell you who all these people are because I honestly only got first names and am hoping I can figure out where some of their blogs are to read more about them. (If any of you are reading here, please let me know).

Interestingly to me, everyone there was articulate, diverse in interests, and creative in different ways. Some might find it surprising that a group of elders would also share a common denominator of change but we did. Some had made changes. Some yet to make, but it was a testimony to the fact that the ability to be flexible and do new things doesn't end with youth. We surprisingly found we had many things in common, like a thread ran through us that brought us together. It made for a most enjoyable experience with a lot of good conversation and laughter.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Yes, it's another of those dates. Is it significant? It sounds good and more important than next year's 11/11/11. I mean 10, isn't that a significant number? But not as important as say 12/12/12. At any rate, here it is and I guess like any other day, it's as important as we make it.

Or here's the weird way to look at it--  

Divine Time or Pagan Divination

Basically though... as a pragmatist... it's just a day and as precious as any other should be. Each one is one special day that we can make of what we will. Mine will likely be spent getting more work done on the farm and frankly that's one of my favorite ways to spend any day.

Friday, October 08, 2010

predators on the home front

I mentioned one of my concerns in coming home would be that the coyotes had gotten into where the sheep are and that there would be dead bodies strewn around the yard. This time it didn't happen but realistically it could.

When I was reading about the spread of wolves, neat as I found them to be in the wilderness, valuable as their presence is to keep wildlife in balance, I could not help but think that if they were where I live, I'd not be raising any livestock.

That kill was of a 500 lb. heifer which is pretty good sized and in an area of small ranches. I know there are many who would be thrilled to have wolves in the Cascades and Oregon Coast range. I'd rather drive to where I can see them and believe that ranchers on their own land should have the right to kill what attacks theirs. Wolves cannot differentiate that a cow is to be left alone. To them, it's just a slow moving elk.

Then before I could post this topic somewhere, I got an email asking me to sign a petition to save the wolves. It appears that someone is saying they will be killing wolves from airplanes in Idaho, destroying whole packs, because of the damage they are doing to the wildlife and the livestock in that region. It is one of those lose/lose topics as I see it.

Some think ranchers' losses are okay and should not be considered because the rancher is paid for the killed animals. There is no money that pays for that kind of loss. Nothing kills as cruelly as a wolf and the description of how that happens in the above story is accurate as I know it. They don't have to kill fast like a coyote. And you cannot scare off for long predators by shooting and missing. I can tell you that from my own experiences with the coyotes.

I guess if everybody either wants to be vegetarians or eat meat that is raised in feed lots, they won't care about this and will be signing these petitions. If they live in the city, they won't come across a wolf anyway. So much of what is being done is based on political considerations and right now an environmental, love the wolves viewpoint is part of the landscape of the left. I do understand that but this is idealizing what wolves are, City folk are most prone to do this for all the big predators like the grizzly bears which some also want reintroduced everywhere.

The photo at the top is a lone wolf in the Lamar Valley.  A ranger was at the place where people were  stopped on the road to watch. They are one of the thrills to see while there.

The photo at the bottom is a coyote at a probable elk kill in the upper end of the Lamar Valley. Traffic was stopped for people to watch, some of whom thought it was a wolf. It's not and you can tell by ears and nose. It is unlikely the coyote killed the animal but it's making the most of the wolves' absence. I have seen this view more times than I can count when it was a sheep being eaten but then it's not a camera I am reaching for. I am sympathetic to predators, understand they must eat. More on this topic next blog.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

that political blog

This is just a reminder that I am writing a political blog and will be writing more than usual this month due to the seriousness of the coming election. We liberals or progressives won't lose this based on the right wing voting in their 'I'm just like you' candidates, but by the left staying home in November after not being motivated to donate time and money in October. Be informed, help candidates you believe in and don't let anybody tell you there is no difference. There has been through history and the 'other' side hasn't changed what it values and where it would take any government that it controls.

So check out my other blog if you have not.  There is a lot to discuss between now and November 2, 2010. Time is running out. I am glad I am keeping politics separate but it's not because that isn't important. It matters to our environment, schools, economy, personal rights, even ability to use common sense, and the list goes on.

Some think these interim elections don't matter. They do. Just kicking out people who were in there is not a responsible way to vote. We need to know what they stood for and what will the new person do if they gain power? More on that in

Rainy Day Things which is updated regularly in my blog list. Often the comments have been as valuable for information as my original blog; so read those too if you get there.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Coming Home

When coming home from any trip, I always hate the last few miles. That's when I anticipate all the things that might have gone wrong on the farm or with the pets I had left behind.  Might the house have burned down? Are the cows out? Did the coyotes attack the sheep even when safely in their house pasture? Did one of the cats get sick? I put those worries out of my mind until those last few miles.

This time everything looked fine when we first arrived. Our cat kids were healthy and anxious to go outside. but wait, some of the sheep weren't in their safe pasture but in the main pasture and the cows had been in the house pasture... We quickly went out and got the sheep back in, got the one remaining calf back out and counted our lucky stars that no lambs had been killed by a coyote and the cows hadn't gone downstream.

That was until we couldn't account for the ewe lamb that had been needing treatment for skin abrasions before we left. I wasn't sure she wasn't there. Three of the sheep had been hiding under the fallen down barn timbers, but Farm Boss thought he got them back out. He wasn't sure she was not one of them, but he didn't recognize her in the ones he saw. Since he had business meetings, he left.

More or less I convinced myself that afternoon that she was there even though none of the sheep I could see had skin abrasions that looked recently healed. When Farm Boss returned home, he went back out and this time he found her-- still under that old fallen down barn with no intention of coming out. That meant she had been there all day and who knew how much longer. He said she will come out when she's hungry and thirsty. I said, with her personality, she will die there.

So we both went back out, him with a rope that he took with him when he crawled under those fallen timbers to get it around her neck while I hoped it wouldn't collapse further. Shouldn't we have put jacks under there first?  Then he had me pull her out while he pushed. Once we got her out, we saw that she had torn open those healing abrasions, acquired some new ones, had a fever and looked in pretty bad shape.

That means three times she has basically given herself up to die. Can sheep be suicidal? This one sure seemed that way. Anyway he has been treating her wounds again. She's eating and seems to be recovering, and this time she won't go back out of the pen until she is totally healed. I don't know how many other ways she can try to kill herself but three is my limit!

The flowers are still pretty here as for awhile it was wet, warm and humid, very unlike typical weather for the end of September. I didn't complain about the flowers but was glad to see the humidity go. When we were out trying to get the little ewe out from under the barn, I had burning sweat running into my eyes. That was not so much from the exertion as that humidity. My job now is blowing leaves off the flower beds, driveway and lawns near the house. I could do with some dryness for that job.
More Montana and Yellowstone photos are coming but they really do take time to put together in some logical sequence; so it might be sporadic for the next month.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Bitterroot Rainbows

Driving south from Missoula, Montana through the Bitterroot Valley, we saw the following rainbow or rainbows. When we would see one, Farm Boss would turn off the main road and try to find places that would show the rainbows up best.

There is supposed to be a pot of gold if you can get to the end of one. I would guess the people living on these small acreages, with so much wilderness beyond their doors, places to hike, fish and just savor the beauty, feel they have found it already.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Autumn full moon in Yellowstone Park

When it comes to the moon, I am very lunar. I feel the moons and I love them all. Is there anything prettier than a crescent moon with Venus as an accent? The right setting can make any of them exceptional, but for me I especially like it when a full moon falls at an equinox or Solstice.

When we knew we'd be in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone for the autumn equinox and a full moon, I knew where I'd want a photo. It would be above Slough Creek where I might also hear a wolf howl. How perfect would that be?

Just before first light, as we drove down through the Lamar Valley, from where we had camped the night before, we saw the buffalo in the dark. They were right alongside the road and it made a photo quite simple if not exactly state of the art. You have to be there to hear their grunting, the bulls butting heads, the calves calling to their mothers. Sound is so much a part of a buffalo herd that I should have brought the little video camera and might have if I had ever learned how to operate it properly. As it is, one camera is enough for me to figure out.

When we got down to where I had hoped for the best full moon shot, we walked out on a ridge overlooking the creek. There were wolves on the other side, a few hundred feet away. They were the main attractant for most of those on a higher ridge with their cameras at the ready. I was as thrilled by the wolf pack as they were; but at the moment, for me, it was all about that full moon and hopefully reflections in the water. I didn't have any control over the water being so still but I knew it would be what would make the shot.

I kept on with the moon shots, changing my angle, moving to where I could see the moon reflected best. How could any full moon photo in Yellowstone not be great! Add that it was also at the fall equinox, a time when the park would soon be closed to most tourists at least for awhile, where a seasonal change was coming for the animals, and it made it perfect.

Blogger's new system for putting photos on here is driving me nuts. Basically I can no longer use Mozilla to put up any photos even though I prefer writing the blogs using Mozilla. I hope they get it fixed as even using Explorer, it's not working right and makes blogs like these a lot more work than they used to be!