Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Today's lesson

Today Bebe encountered her first snapping turtle. I spotted this one crossing the grass near the kitchen garden and hurried inside for the camera, hoping the dogs wouldn't notice it until I returned. No such luck. Blue and Ralphie, both older and turtle-wise, observed from a safe distance while Bebe investigated. She barked. She pounced. She sniffed, and barked some more. She moved in close for a really good look, nose-to-nose and SNAP! That turtle was fast. Bebe was faster. And I, a mere human, with aging reflexes, missed that photo opportunity. My trigger finger was just too slow. Posted by Picasa
Damp creek mud filled the rough crevices of its shell, and bits of algae and moss clung here and there. I wonder how many times I've passed this fellow and thought just another stone in the creek bed. Posted by Picasa
Interesting eyes on this rugged, gnarled face. Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 22, 2006

Twin lambs

This morning as I settled into position for the morning milking, I heard new voices complaining in the stall across the barn aisle. Hmm. Interesting. My sleep brain hadn't yet grasped the significance when a scuffle began. The disturbance upset the cow, and that's sufficient cause for me to set the milk bucket aside and deal most harshly with the culprits. Usually.

This morning there was good reason for the disruption. When multiple species live together, such as they do in our barn and pastures, the dynamics can become interesting. Relationships are formed, and there are cultural clashes as one group's instincts class with another's. Such was the case in the barn today. Tinkerbell, the ewe, stood in the corner with the firstborn twin, who was frustrated with his wobbly legs and complaining vigorously. Nearby, Katrinka, our goat herd queen, stood guard over the second twin lamb. Katrinka hasn't had kids in several years, but each new birth in our mixed herd revives her mothering instincts. She's become the herd midwife, so to speak. She's present for the birth, helps clean up the babies, and helps deal with the afterbirth. She might even murmur encouragement throughout the long labor for all I know. Or those soft baas might be something less complimentary. Who knows? She's also a formidable protector, much to the dismay of the three farmcollies, who'd really like to lick the babies and stand guard over them, too. And the rest of the small herd? They hovered close, creating a 'safe zone' that no dog shall pass.

Most mothers know, however, that there comes a point when the well-meaning assistance and hovering become too much. So I shooed the rest of the herd into the pasture and shut the barn door. The dogs were ordered away as well, and I returned to my morning chores. Later in the day, when the usual newborn tasks had been attended to and the twins' bellies were full, I weighed them. Much to my surprise, their combined weight was 10 pounds. I expected less because neither looks as big as a half-grown kitten. Babydoll Southdown lambs are tiny when born, with ears that look too big for their gangly, fuzzy bodies. Their soft wool is usually coated with lanolin, so they look messy for the first week or so. These two have a bit of dirt rubbed into the lanolin as well since their mother chose to give birth in the dust near the pasture door instead of the deep straw further inside.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Indian Paintbrush

Just down the road there's a patch of prairie, blooming with native flowers. It's owned by a friendly neighbor who doesn't mind me wandering about, snapping photos. About a week ago, the Indian Paintbrush hit it's prime, and its bright splashes of color dominated the field. This week, the yellows and blues are gradually taking over.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Out for a stroll

The goslings have outgrown their day pen, so today I let them run free in the yard. They particularly like the shady leaf litter behind the henhouse.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Not enough roses

The sweet, heavy fragrance of the early wild rose blossoms can't cover the nasty odor from Bebe's most recent skunk encounter. She tried rubbing it off in the grass, rolling in the straw, and rolling in the creek. Late yesterday afternoon she finally settled down to pout under this creekside patch of wild roses.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Spring peeper!

Technically it's a gray treefrog, Missouri's most common species of treefrog. I tracked it by sound to this perch on the rip of our above-ground pool. Since it sounded more like "a birdlike, musical trill" than "a buzzer", I concluded, with the help of the Missouri Department of Conservation's website that my visitor is an eastern gray treefrog (Hyla Versicolor) and not a Cope's gray treefrog (Hyla Chrysoscelis). Judging from the evening chorus, the swampy pond just downhill from the house is frequented by hundreds of eastern gray treefrogs.