Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Murmuration of Starlings

Nature is just so fascinatingly beautiful. What an awesome experience this must have been!

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

It's National Hug a Sheep Day! (and a heart-warming story)

In case you were not aware, today is National Hug a Sheep Day! Finley, however, prefers skritching since hugging is much too confining (as in uh-oh the wormer must be coming next). He suggested I tell his story.

Five years ago I rescued Finley's mother, Phoebe, off the highway where she stood motionless for four days. I had no idea what kind of animal she was, all black with beaten up horns and white for eyes. She was emaciated and blind from a case of pinkeye that had obviously gone long untreated. She was, at the very least, frightening looking.

There were no other similar animals around, nor could I locate an owner, so I convinced Farmer Rick to help me bring her home. She could only run in circles, so we were able to grab her, and after much struggling, got her into the back of the SUV. We put on a head harness and basically had to drag her to back to the pen.

My vet identified her as a Barbados Blackbelly (hair) sheep with possibly some Rambouillet (wool) sheep mixed in and said the animal had neurological damage. Perhaps she had been hit by a car. At first Phoebe was wary of us, but she really liked having a steady supply of water and nutritional sheep kibble. For a wild sheep, she was full of personality. We got rid of the pinkeye, but she was still blind. Her eyes looked like large blue Earths. She started putting on weight.

A lot of weight. In about three weeks she had become more friendly and almost doubled in size. Then one morning she swished her tail and I saw them. Milk bags! I called my knowledgeable shepherding friend over at Punkin's Patch and she said ewes usually lamb in February. So I ordered a book about ewe and lamb care.

Finley arrived before the book! We had a rooster named Avo living with Phoebe (he's featured in my masthead). He had been a little rough with the hens so we built him an apartment on the side of the sheep shed. Little did we know that he would fall in love with the blind sheep, who became his "fuzzy hen". He would mount her and ride her around, and would tidbit at her food dish so she could find her food. They grazed together. It was very sweet.

The day Finley arrived I knew something was up, because Avo was pacing frantically back and forth at the gate and Phoebe was nowhere in sight. Just as I looked behind the shed, there was Finley popping out! The vet did not think either of them would live. Phoebe lived another three years, and considering her former abused life, lived to be an old lady. Finley is a strapping lad. I hope someday to get a few more sheep and learn to spin.

Be sure to hug a sheep!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday Stills: The Letter B

Thanks to all of you who have expressed concern over my absence. First, I should say something about where I've been.

It's very difficult to find inspiration for photography when the natural world around me is dying. Most of the photos I've taken lately are documentary and pretty grim. If you've kept up with the news you'll know our area has been surrounded by wildfires, scorched by high temperatures, and dry as a bone. We've received something like 2 inches of rain in the last 12 months. The river is just a pile of rocks. Animals are dying and the vultures don't even bother them.

Barren and Broken

This was taken near our house. One little Parralena blooming by an unfortunate armadillo (not Patches, but he's not been seen in months).

Our well has been dry for five months and most of my time is taken up finding water and hauling it. The garden, our fruit trees, the lawn, and just about everything else we've planted in the last decade is dead. Fortunately, we've been able to keep most of our animals alive, although we lost some older chickens (Stefania, Kitty Hawk, and Sumo) to heat exhaustion. Since we live in a remote place and can no longer grow our own food we're having to make more frequent trips into the city. It's all very exhausting.

Trying to keep positive about the situation, I'm painting pictures of water. Here's a 24" x 48" canvas on which I've just started working in oils.


I also took a three week trip and followed the rain around wherever I could find it. That made me happy.

Beams of light in a rain storm over New Orleans

It's also been a time to focus on the inside of the house. We usually spend so much time outside we sort of neglect the interior. For instance, we've lived without flooring for five years now and sort of just noticed. Everyone thinks the black mastic that once held down the 50's linoleum IS our choice of flooring...

So, I'm getting ready to repaint all the walls and put in flooring. To make room for this work I'm putting things into storage. Some of the first things to go have been my books and shelving. I don't know why this has been so nostalgic, but it's like packing little pieces of myself away. I took this today as the last light illuminated them.


Know that I'm thinking of everyone even if time does not presently allow me to visit or post on your blogs. For more images of the Letter B, visit Sunday Stills.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday Stills: Doors and Doorknobs

Short on time, I photographed these doorknobs and handle all from one of our old farm sheds this afternoon. I tried to look for the abstract in line and composition.

For more images of doors and doorknobs, visit Sunday Stills.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Farm Friend Friday: Hummingbirds

Dozens of hummingbirds at a time visit our feeders

One of the animals we consider family on our farm is the humminbird. Black Chins and Ruby Throats begin showing up in early March. I put out a couple of quart sized syrup feeders for them. We use a 1 sugar : 4 water ratio and we don't heat it as it becomes too time consuming as the weeks advance.

 They don't seem to mind my presence

In April the males are flying their daredevil J dances, taking nosedives zzzzzzz zzzzzzz zzzzz to impress the right girl. I have seen a perched female with her head going up and down, back and forth as if she were watching a tennis match.

As mating season begins, the females start coming to my office window to remove spiderwebs which they use to bind the lichen together to form their nests. They will lay only two small eggs in these tiny nests no bigger than a golf ball. Once the ladies begin sitting on nests activity at the feeders will suddenly decrease by half; after the babies are born in the summer it will greatly increase again.

 One of the nests I discovered a couple years ago, photographed without a zoom lens

Over the years I've taken part in many area hummingbird banding projects. What we've learned is that these birds are very territorial, that the same birds will patronize the same feeder on the same day each year. Birds at one feeder are likely related. As the different families have grown, so has my need for lager feeders. Currently they are consuming two gallons a day! I've also had occasion to rescue a few.

This bird got stuck in the grape jelly set out for the Oriole, was cleaned and released

Tired of filling quart feeders 2-3 times a day, I recently decided to hang chicken waterers to make my life easier. These have been ideal. They are inexpensive, unbreakable, easily cleaned, and red. I just measure four cups of sugar and fill the rest with water. The generous lip allows for a couple dozen birds to feed simultaneously.

Throughout my life wild (and domestic) animals have trusted me, but I do seem to have a special relationship with these birds. Here are a couple videos I hope you'll watch and know you will enjoy. The first one Farmer Rick took of me hanging the feeder. Amazingly they even land on my hands. The second one I took holding the camera in front of my face, so you can experience what I do when I feed them. Be sure to have the sound turned up on that one to hear their chirps and the whirring of their wings!

I even enjoy painting them.

For more animals friends, be sure to visit Farm Friend Friday!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday Stills: Rust

First, I should say something about the obvious lack of recent posts.

We've only received a half inch of rain in the past ten months and are under the highest level of drought. Our well went dry at the beginning of Spring and we are currently surrounded by smoke and wildfires burning up hundreds of thousands of acres in west Texas, some as close as an hour away. Hauling water for our farm and planning for the possible evacuation of ourselves and 67 animals has become more than a full time job.

Rust--we have plenty of it. On a farm it's always working, even while we sleep. I've learned to appreciate it's artistic efforts and use it to justify my tetanus shot. I've tried to pick some of the more interesting cases for this photography challenge. I can imagine myself making a series of abstract quilts based on these images. Which one do you like best?


For more images of rust, visit Sunday Stills.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Farm Friend Friday--Peeps!

Tuesday night we heard the unmistakable sound of a peep! Adelka, the Buff Lace Poland, has been dutifully sitting on a dozen eggs and Wednesday morning a little one appeared from under her.


It's extremely rare for this breed to hatch their own chicks, and these are the first to be born on our farm, so it's pretty exciting! I bought an incubator for the task, but there was no need for it.

 Look at me!

By yesterday afternoon there were eight little balls of fluff!


I was hoping some of the offspring might be Karina's, but her untimely passing was 25 days before first hatch and chicken eggs hatch in 21 days, so I'm suspecting they are all Adelka's.

 Kryzsztof and gal

Prior to hatching, the father Kryzsztof had been moved into his own apartment, and has been steadily pacing around in his loneliness since. Today I carried him over to view them through the hardware cloth. His head shot up like a muppet in astonishment at seeing all his peeps, and Adelka gave a soft purr of contentment.

 Everyone eating from my hand

Today she let me handle the chicks, watching carefully to see that I was gentle with them and returned them to her. They were all eating out of my hand, so the co-parenting has begun! I like to be able to handle my adult chickens and for them to be gentle around people.

 Nap time (click to biggify!)

When she feels nap time is over she starts barking a repetitive sound and they all scurry out from underneath her fluffiness. She begins the tidbitting process until several are eating at the feeder. They all seemed happy to eat from my hand. When she feels they’ve had enough recess she emits a low growl and they all run back under her breast held up like a garage door. She uses her beak to tuck the last little cute tushie back underneath. Adelka is a great mom!

Visit more Farm Friends at Farm Friend Friday!
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