November 2009


Well, I guess I kind of gave it away with the title of this post!!! LOL

I went into the barn at about 5:30 pm tonite, to feed and close up the barn for the night. It gets dark early now, so if I don’t feed before 5pm, we are working in the dark!

I was almost done, having mucked the stalls, fed, put out the hay, and climbed up in the loft to toss down more bales.

When I went over to ‘the big guy’s” stall to lock the door, I happened to glance up, and saw something on the ledge next to the stall door.  At first I wasn’t sure what it was, since I didn’t have my glasses on. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be a chinchilla – which was highly unlikely!!! LOL

Then, I realized it was a tiny owl!!! Not moving, just calmly staring at me! I pointed him out to my husband and ran back to the house for my camera.

Fortunately, the little guy was still there when I came back. He was undisturbed by the past half hour’s  goings on, and by the interior light being turned on. He sat very still for his photo, barely blinking. He was about 8-9 inches tall, looking as soft as a chinchilla, mottled grey, with ear tufts. I am not too familiar with the different owls – and at first thought of a saw whet owl.

I said goodnight to the horses and the little owl, and closed the barn doors. The doors had been open all day – and I assume that’s how he got in. The stall doors stay open all night, so I am hoping he can find his way out thru them. Unless, of course, he is staying to feast on barn mice all night- which would be fine with me!!!

When back in the house, I got out the old Peterson Field guide to research the little guy.

Turns out he is a common screech owl – they have 2 color phases – grey and brown. My brief research did not indicate they would frequent the inside of barns, but there he was. The saw whet owl, does not have ear tufts, and is even tinier! This little screech owl was about 8 or 9 inches tall.

I know we do have a great horned owl or two, in the trees near the river – they are the ones I hear at night. Apparently these larger ones will prey on the smaller ones like this little guy.

Of course, now I will worry about him all night, and hope he is just hanging out and can find his way in and out of the barn!!!!

Here is a link about the diminutive screech owl, with descriptions and the different calls they make. I know now that I have heard them around – just never was sure whoooo or what was making that sound!!

 

It’s very cold and windy out tonite – so he’s welcome to hang out in the barn, hunt mice, and keep warm- if that’s what he chooses!!!

 

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All is well, with a hint of snow in the air, and a never ending source of new discoveries, at Mountain Meadows tonite…………………

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All found within one tree on the property.

 

These will be the death of him

Homesteader #1

Squatter #2 makes it a duplex!

Remnants of a past life

Endless discoveries still, at Mountain Meadows………………………….

Deer was here.......Deer was here………………………….

Dove was here......Dove was here…………………….

Hunter was here..................Hunter was here……………………..

Hunter is gone..............

Even the hardest "heart"..............Even the hardest “heart”……………………

 

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All is well at Mountain Meadows this Thanksgiving eve……………………

The other day I was hanging out with the horses. I take them out to graze every day. Their paddocks are brown, and the hay fields are still green. Mr. Green Jeans has finally agreed with me, that the paddocks need to be extended, til we can get the present ones to stay green into the winter!!

I enjoy hanging out with the horses and watching the world go by. Mr. Green Jeans lasts about a minute, maybe 20, and is already thinking of other things he could be doing!!

So, the plan is to fence in another large paddock, across the front of the barn, where orchard grass and timothy has been planted and grows seemingly forever. Then, the old paddocks will be seeded and reseeded, til they start to grow. It seems a shame to have to horses confined, even tho their paddocks are very large, when there are acres of green grass surrounding them!!! Altho, the acres are what feeds them in the winter months, and makes some money to afford these equines their cushy lifestyles!!!

While communing with the horses, and brushing the mud out of their winter coats, I gaze up at the sky from time to time. This unseasonably warm day, there was a small flock of 11 or 12 vultures, soaring on the thermals above. The whole time I watched them, they never flapped their wings, just gracefully floated in ever widening circles. For such an unattractive bird, they are grace on wings when in the sky.

There was a combination of turkey vultures and black vultures, with a slightly smaller outline in the crowd. Included in the group, was a hawk, about 1/3 smaller than the buzzards, joining in on the fun of soaring in the warm skies. They did not object to him being there, they were just enjoying floating. This went on for about 20 minutes, and as they went farther afield, the hawk looked over his shoulder at the crowd and with a dip of his body, redirected his “float” to the mountain. Still no wing flapping, he continued to soar to the mountains, til he was nothing more than a dot in the  sky.

The vulture flock dispersed, and within a few minutes, I was surprised to see several more flocks of vultures emerging from beyond the trees. There were groups of 20 and 30! I would guess between 75 and 90 vultures were floating in the sky! This aerial circus only lasted about 10 minutes, and they all disappeared over the tree line. Fortunately, no one pooped while I was standing below looking up at the show!!! LOL I did see a couple, a little while later, in the top of a dead tree, wings outstretched, in an eerie pose. They do that to absorb the warmth of the sun.

I can never get pictures of them – they don’t allow you to get too close-they usually fly away, or defecate and fly away-and believe me, you do NOT want to get hit by that!!!

A day or so ago, I happened to catch a couple of vultures standing by the river. They flew to the trees, when they saw me approach. I thought they were just getting a drink. As I walked along, I noticed a skeleton on the other bank of the river. They were feasting on a deer, and were leery of me, but were not going to get too far away from their meal.  The river was too deep, because of recent rain, for me to get on the other side to check out the deer. I’m guessing, a hunter shot and lost sight of his prey. This poor little guy died at the river’s edge. Vultures are nature’s clean up committee, always on the lookout for their next meal.

I went down 2 days later, to check on their progress, but the rain had caused the river to swell, and the carcass had apparently washed downstream.

Ugly as they are, the vulture serves a definite purpose in nature. I enjoy seeing them overhead.  Here are the few pix I could capture of the ones by the river.

Watching over his dinner........

The sadder side of hunting - the one that got away....sort of.

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All is well, and unseasonably warm, at Mountain Meadows this Sunday morning……………….

I first became enamoured of rural living when I was a child.

We lived on suburban Long Island, and grandma and poppy had a “country house”.  I longed for the summer, and the opportunities to go spend a week upstate, in the country!

It might only be for a week-  if I was lucky, I got to go for longer or several times over the course of the summer.

The most noise I ever heard there, was the deafening din of the crickets, and the cicadas’ hot summer song. The whippoorwill at night, and the occasional caterwauling of a bobcat were the evening sounds that lulled us to sleep.

So, when the opportunity arose, as an adult, to move to “the country” – we jumped at it and delved right in to our version of country living!!!

We are at the foot of the National Forest and couldn’t be happier!

Surrounded by farms, there are different types of night noises, and day time odors- something I never experienced in my childhood days upstate!

The sound of the river, after a rain, is one of the most peaceful sounds I know.

At night, we fall asleep to the hooting of an owl, and are awakened at dawn by the rapping of a woodpecker searching for breakfast.

On the down side, summers here bring the less than pleasant aroma of cow and chicken manure, and the flies that accompany that odor!

Autumn arrives with the sounds of gunfire- hunting season – one plus AND minus of living near the National Forest – or any wooded area out here!!!

Last night, the lowing, moaning, bellowing and constant mooing of the cows across the road, indicated that the calves had been separated from their mothers. I can look forward to that sad sound for a couple of days.

Two nights ago, the eerie yapping of a fox woke me from a sound slumber. He, or she, was pacing the treeline outside my bedroom window, vocalizing at the top of his/her lungs. I call it screyapping- it’s an unforgettable combination of screaming and yapping.

Deer speak also – usually only when scared- and as a warning to their herd. It’s also an unforgettable sound- a combination huffing screeching noise. Certainly worked on me, the first time I heard it at close range!!!

What I am hearing now, is the tapping of a chickadee or tufted titmouse as he opens sunflower seeds. The birds have discovered a wire planter on the deck is a handy implement for opening seeds. So, they perch, pound, and eat- all morning long! This sound is accompanied by the whistle of wings. The mourning doves have a distinctive sound when they flap their wings. That, along with their cooing, is a soothing sound I never tire of !

Although not as quiet as the sounds of the country of my youth, the sounds of this “country” have become music to my ears. Far from the cacophony of urban  living, the sounds that emanate from this Gap area, have become dear to my heart. I hope we never leave…………………………..

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Hoof & Feather Breakfast Bar!

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All is well at Mountain Meadows this brisk and sunny November morning….