I've had a doe with triplets on the place off and on for several months. I last saw her a few weeks back about ten miles south on the way to town, and not since.
We're under another winter storm warning right now and the mulies have been clustering around the place, ten or twelve of them. This morning I thought I recognized a couple of the young'uns and sure enough this afternoon Mom and the Trips were back around my target butts. I was mighty glad to see them all together and evidently healthy, although it's obvious that the kids have really taken it out of their mom. But I'd say she has done a damn good job and I'm proud of her.
Pretty silly, I guess, But I worry about "my" critters when I don't see them for a while and it always gives me a rush when they finally show up and all is well.
Heifers can be funny. They are very curious, and seem to be intensely interested in what goes on in our compound. When the dogs and I are outside they congregate along the fence by the mailbox and gawk like rude tourists.
The other day all one hundred of them were ranged along the fence like spectators at a sporting match while I played ball with Mags and Emma did the rounds of her brush piles. We could have sold tickets. Then we went inside and the whole bunch turned and headed south for the windmill (287 yards away) as if a big sale had been announced at the mall. They never seem to go anywhere but in a big rush.
I had forgotten something outside and went out to get it. One of the laggards saw me and stampeded back to the fence, followed by the whole bunch. Apparently they expected their amusement to be renewed. When I went back into the house they once again turned and dashed off toward the windmill.
We have lots of turkeys hereabouts, but they haven't been on my place in a while. This morning I caught a glimpse of a sneaker out of the office window and went out with a camera. There were two jakes, one quite a bit larger than the other.
I'm used to pretty tame turkeys here. They'll come up to the target butts, attracted by the noise, and pretty much put an end to the shooting as they inspect all the targets and the butts. I've even had a hen come up to me and crouch down and let me scratch her head.
I was happy to see that these guys were more normal: they took off like marathon champs as soon as they sensed me near my porch, at about a hundred yards. They doubled back from the fence and hid in among the big bales. I didn't bother them any more. I was a little surprised at their level of alertness, but actually really glad to see it as I've thought for some time that the bunches around here were just too trusting.
Yesterday and the day before we were under threat of a killer blizzard. And today? Well, it was only up into the 50s, but the sun was hard at work, the wind wasn't too bad, and it began to look like spring once more. (Pic above taken at 2PM this afternoon.) Typical schizophrenia for this time of year, but no complaints from this homesteader.
I even got to do some "gardening," though at this stage on the high plains that only means pulling out the remnants of last year's plants and getting the plot ready for tilling. But just the prospect of planting and enjoying this year's garden was a tonic.
We're not out of the weather-woods yet, by a long shot, but today sure was a welcome tonic.
Threats would be more like it. That blizzard we were expecting yesterday slid north and east and hammered the folks up there and left us pretty much alone. Then another big brute shaped up to the NW and slipped down almost on us before sliding off east again. A slightly closer call. I woke up this morning to ground that was barely covered with snow.
Now the radar shows a few stray elements in that NW "pounce position" but so far nobody's crying wolf. Temps are just below freezing but the wind is still mighty fierce. I'm just glad it doesn't have a lot of that white stuff to blow around and really clog things up.
But not everybody is happy. A big bunch of robins and a few bluebirds showed up here a couple of days ago and are now perched all over the garden fence, holding on for dear life and glaring at the house. I may have to explain that it ain't my fault!
It's official: spring is here. And the local weather is... well, doing its spring-time thing. The last three days have been brilliant: warm, sunny, and relatively calm. Today it's 75° and the sun is wonderful.
But the beeper just went off. There is now an official severe winter storm warning for Monday and Tuesday. Heavy snow and high winds are expected. We can really get pounded well into April, and even later, so it's not entirely unexpected.
I guess I better keep the snow shovel on the front deck and get some fire-wood handy.
Coming back from my socializing with my dentist I came across this bunch. The pic is probably pretty small, but there are a whole lot of mulies out there on that hillside. Including a buck who still has his rack, for some reason. See if you can make them out. I counted seventeen with my binocs.
One of the things I love about this "desolate, God-forsaken" country is that I can't go anywhere— not even onto the front deck— without seeing lots of wild neighbors.
And nary a hoomin bean in sight, alas.
(Maybe if you just click on the pic it will embiggen itself fer ya.)
Late last week I was making some chili and found in the pantry a pack of no-sugar caramel-pecan candy. I never eat candy. Well, until I tried the "caramel-pecan" stuff that some evil troll had left in my pantry. Right away it popped off a crown. Like magic! I called my fang-carpenter and he asked me if I had any pain. "Only in my wallet!" I told him. Tuesday, he said. Come see me Tuesday.
So today I made my way down the long road to town and ran into this citizen on the way. Nice little antelope buck, about 12". The thing to remember about antelope is that they do not jump fences, like deer,— they squeeze under them.
I still feel some guilt for what I did a few years ago when I first moved here and knew diddly-squat about prairie ghosts. One was ahead of me on the road and I was in a hurry. Thinking he would simply jump the fence I pushed him and he jammed himself under the fence at great speed. I'm sure he had to have hurt himself. I learned my lesson.
I gave this guy plenty of room and when he fell slightly behind and to my right I gunned it and left him standing. No harm.
No harm at the dentist either. He just re-glued the damned thing and sent me on my way.
So far it's a pretty typical early spring here on the High Plains.
One night it will get down to five below zero, then the next day it will go up to 50 or 60°. We've been on that see-saw for a couple of weeks now. Slowly the warmer temps will prevail, and by the end of May it will be reasonably safe to put plants in the garden. Sure doesn't make for a long growing season.
My Irish friends can't grasp the comparatively vast temperature range I live with. It can be 112° in the summer and -30° in the winter. That's a drift of 142°. They seldom get winter temps that stay under freezing for more than a day or so and they think they are going to melt if it gets up to 75° in the summer. About 40° is as much as their yearly temperatures fluctuate. The Gulfstream helps to keep things that regular I suppose.
The warmer days have encouraged my cottonwoods to put out some buds. It happens every year about this time and doesn't seem to do any harm.
It'll be good to be surrounded by green once more.
It's been seven weeks to the day that I have bought supplies. Today I head over to do my vittlin' at the fort. The town formed around an old army post and then the post died but the town survived. Sort of. I guess having a WalMart (surely the worst WalMart in the whole chain!) is a kind of survival anyway. I get a day off-ranch and a store-boughten lunch and the town gets some of my money. A fair trade I guess.
Geomys bursarius (deceased) and mementos of his presence
Last night right at dusk Emma was growling and whining at the front door. This is unusual for her as she usually just barks when there is an alleged intruder or she wants to get my attention. This was different. Not wanting for her to tie into three or four over-bold coyotes (though I think she's quite up to it), I stepped out on the deck for a a moment alone and looked around. Nothing, so I let her out and returned to cooking a bite to eat.
After a few minutes I went back to check on her and she was standing over something and worrying it. I went to see what it was and found she had caught and killed a pocket gopher. Great, since the little bastards have been making the WWI battlefield out of my so-called front yard. I told her how great she was and she got the idea. I have no idea how she caught it, as they very rarely leave their burrows, and only then to push up the mounds of dirt and sand they have excavated since their last surfacing. However she did it, she gets the Gopher Medal with Prickly Pear Clusters.
Pocket gophers are about a foot long, including the tail. This one weighed a pound, maybe a squinch more. They have prodigious teeth and digging claws. The mounds in the picture above are about 8" high and 24" in diameter and are a major PIA.
And that's all I have to say about today: 70°, sunny, and almost no wind. A day to revel in. The dogs and I were almost completely blissed out, to coin a phrase. My corner of the High Plains was amply blessed today!
A poet/author friend who had come along on one of my Irish "spiritual rambles" on the Ould Sod had sent me a wonderful 14-page account of his experiences on the trip. I sat on the front deck, on the steps, with the dogs around me, and enjoyed reading his essay. The trip had been in May of '01 and his essay was a bracing and vivid reconstruction of a truly memorable experience. I go back in September and am already restless for it to happen.
And what an amazing evening to sit outside and read my friend's gentle memoir. The High Plains and Ireland have much in common. Maybe that's part of what drew me here.
This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful family. It's not even my beautiful cow. It's a well-known historical image from my region. (With apologies to David Byrne.)
I get that a lot. Friends who knew me in my former life, many miles from here, will say, "How do you stay sane living way out there by yourself?" Other, newer acquaintances say such things as "I'd go 'round the bend if I lived up there in that god-foresaken country!" I'll leave aside the various detours into the issue of my personal sanity, in favor of a more general response.
Going stark raving mad out here has not been all that rare an occurence. Especially in the winter, when being confined to a tiny shack or soddy for days and weeks at a time could have a very powerful effect on a lonely soul. But there is one very important key-word here: resources. Some inner and some external. Then, as now, to come here without resources of both kinds was a ticket to the funny farm.
And I have plenty of resources, of both kinds I hope. I came out here willingly, eagerly, bringing with me a fine library, a backlog of projects, and a very large gallery of interests and "things to do." As a result, I am never bored or at loose ends. If one project stales or stalls, there is a selection of others to turn to and take up.
Winter is the traditional killer. I wasn't sure myself at first how I would manage the winters. I think local predictions were pretty much along the lines that the winters would drive me out pretty quick. Actually, I look forward to winter— although I say that without in any way wishing that the other seasons were any shorter than they already are. Winters give me a chance to play catch-up, to throw myself back into those projects that tend to get put on the back burner, or no burner at all, when the weather is good and the countryside calls out with its undeniable blandishments.
So, no, I am not going slowly mad out here. At least not so's you'd notice. Actually, I'm kind of sorry I didn't make this move a long time ago.
And by the way... The gods didn't foresake this country. They saved it for themselves.
Today, for reasons I know not, I had the irresistible urge to... clean my stove. I suppose it needed it. Took me long enough, anyway. And when I say "clean," I mean clean: burner grates in the dishwasher, knobs removed and scrubbed, every surface scrubbed, the dee-luxe treatment. It is now as clean and bright as new, and will stay that way for, oh, a day perhaps. Maybe less 'cuz I'm going to make some chili tonight.
I try to resist such OCD shenanigans. Today I failed.