Monday, January 26, 2009

Winter, colorized

They say the cold is blowing in tonight with sleet. After many days near 80 degrees it's hard to believe Winter might actually come. I decided to colorize today's sunny photo to make it look more seasonal.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Different Kind of Animal Rescue

It's decidedly difficult to be in a creative profession especially if you have to interrupt the flow to be your own bookkeeper or turn out a proposal. Even an overcast day can dim your artistic soul. On these days I try to discover something new and outside my personal world to engage and kick start my mind. One of the best ways to do this, I've found, is to follow links from links from links to see where you end up. Somehow I started with NPR's song of the day, and followed different musicians to different play lists to this odd bit of animation/music video (have your speakers on). It's not really my kind of music but I thought the animation fit the words well.

I thought about doing animation once, half a life ago and even interviewed in the Big Apple for a position in the days before computer graphics, but decided the City was just too crazy for me. I like the simplicity of this kind of animation, which reminds me of my childhood. (Does anyone remember Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent?) Of course I like chickens and animal rescue stories!

Healthy Harvest

As many of you know my husband and I are part of the local food movement, and helped start Healthy Harvest, a local group in our canyon interested in community building through food--a subject near and dear to everyone!

We are interested in saving and sharing seeds, organic gardening, preserving the food we grow, eating healthy, discovering foods grown within a 100 mile radius of us (100 Mile Diet), starting a community garden and a farmer's market, and the politics of food.

Since I am really too busy to continue producing their newsletter, I started a blog to keep locals informed. Blogging is a very new idea in our rural community, but so far the feedback from the group has been very positive. I'm hoping others in the group will eventually agree to be team members and actively post their ideas, photos, etc. too.

I put up a widget to show where the hits were coming from, and the first couple of days there was one lonely dot in Texas. But, amazingly, through the power of the Internet, people began to discover it. So, now I will share it with you and the other groups to which I belong. I hope our effort will encourage you to get something similar started in your locale.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

After the Rain

It was a beautiful morning after a gentle night of rain. The plants are thankful. Now the sun is out, and the wind is kicking up making it one of those glorious days that punctuate winter.

Here's the permaculture tomato patch-in-waiting, snaking its way between the path and fence line. As you may recall, last year we used Fukuoka's no-till method of planting directly into the prairie at this location. It was a bad year locally for tomatoes because of the intense spring heat, so it's hard to judge the outcome and too soon to give up the idea.

After the tomatoes came down we began composting our chicken manure in situ, and this fall I planted hairy vetch directly into the mounds. Supposedly you can plant tomatoes directly into the vetch in spring while it's working to fix the nitrogen in the soil. The vetches are doing well. My husband has decided that Hairy Vetch sounds like a big band leader, and probably has a brother named Dicky Vetch.

I wonder, do others of you that live on the farm come up with your own farm cosmology and language? The other night my husband mumbled "thank you" and what I heard was "oink". It is not unlikely in the future we will use "oink" in lieu of this to add levity to the chores.

So to all my blog readers, oink!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Panoramas of the Devils River

Here's some of the panoramas I took yesterday. For the full story, see the preceding post.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Something Interesting is Going On Here

Well, the new year is certainly off to an interesting start. Here we are only on day three and after fox rescue, and shots, we are spontaneously transported to visit an otherworldly place.

Our friend Dean, a sculptor and stone mason who guides for the Rock Art Foundation, invited us to go with him on a tour to a private ranch 70 miles--or one meridian--due west of us as the crow flies.

But as the truck goes, much, much farther. The gate alone was worth the trip. Something so powerful must lay ahead to warrant this many locks!

This is the Devils River. Originally it was named after a Saint, but a Texas Ranger changed the name.

We were very glad we did not offer to drive. This IS the good part of the road. Most of the rest of the road consists of rock ledges that resemble stairs. Dean brought his old truck, and we added a zillion more dents and scratches today.

The Devils runs cool and clear. In case you are wondering, it was in the mid 80's today.

When the staircases got too steep for the truck, we took them on foot.

The flora here is Tamaulipan scrub and Chihuahuan desert plants. Just about everything has thorns. Mas plantes espinosas. Maybe that Texas Ranger tangled with some.

We visited three rock shelters with Pecos style pictographs dating from 4,000- 2,500 years ago.

These particular rock shelters were not under continual habitation, but the native peoples obviously spent enough time in the area to leave their artistic mark on the walls.

This anthropomorphic figure is considered a Shaman. We saw many of them today.

We took advantage of the shelter furnishings whenever possible.

This is my favorite Shaman. Notice the bird on his arm. Could this be the Great Chicken Shaman?

This photo gives you an idea of the scale of these things.

I was surprised to find anything blooming in the severe drought and in winter. This looks to be a hypericum of some sort. The one you may know is St. Johns Wort.

This image is thought to represent the flower of the Datura, used by many Southwestern cultures to induce shamanic visions.

In this shelter the rocks are very thin and look like they were stacked by a stone mason using Datura.

Here's our friend Dean, whom we thank for taking us on this wonderful, mystical adventure. When I have more time this week I will post some of the panoramic images I made.

Wishing everyone a magical 2009!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Random Act of Compassion and Stupidity

Sundays have become the day we take Francisco on an "adventure walk" which might be to the river, or to the pioneer cemetery, or down some ranch road. Although he is on leash, he loves to flush deer and other critters from the brush.

This week it was quite an adventure for us all. We came upon a beautiful fox trapped in a deadly snare fighting for its life. This is likely the same fox who keeps our field mice population in check that was sighted in our pumpkin patch this summer by our farm sitter.

Foxes mostly eat rodents, beetles, berries, and occasionally birds. They are not predators of cattle, so there was no sense to this trap. We raise chickens and have not lost any to the fox or other predators, only to our own dogs. Out of compassion we returned with various snipping implements to free him.

A snare is like a small braided metal noose with a Chinese torture device attached--the more the animal struggles, the tighter the noose becomes, unable to release the tension. Fortunately this fellow caught it in his mouth and was not exactly choking to death but he was frantically trying to chew through it and cutting up his mouth.

We could not find any of our umpteen pairs of gloves. The snare was so tight our long armed loppers were useless, and might have done more damage than the snare. Time was running out, so I just grabbed him and instead of fighting he just relaxed in my arms so that the tin snips could do their work. My first thought was he would instantly bound away, but he just laid in my arms and nuzzled his snoot into my coat.

He willingly got in the car with us, and I took him into our infamous guest bathroom, which has been a recovery ward for many animals, both domestic and wild. He let me feed him electrolyte solution with an eye dropper, and clean the blood out of his mouth. I checked him all over to make sure he didn't have any other injuries. His stomach gurgled and he let out a belch that smelled like road kill. Then he gave a sigh just like my dogs do, and fell asleep in my arms.

I petted and massaged him for half an hour, then transferred him to a pet carrier. I checked him every half hour and petted him through the grill. After about four hours of rest I knew he was better when he gave me a wild look of defiance, as to say "Oh, yeah, now I remember, I'm a fox!" So we loaded him up and released him in a large protected natural area. He took off in the direction of our place, so maybe we'll see him again.

Monday I was at the veterinarians getting shots for a couple of our dogs, and on hearing my story the vet said "Well, at least you didn't get bit" and then I admitted I did. You see, the last time I reached in to pet him, he tapped my thumb. It happened so quickly at first I didn't realize it until I saw blood coming from the teeth marks above my thumbnail. "It was just a little bite". Then I learned foxes are one of the high risk rabies carriers in our area. I hadn't thought about that. He recommended I go immediately to my doctor. I told him I'd be OK and would take my chances. He said "It's been nice knowing you".

I went to my doctor who sent me to the State Department of Health, where I learned all about rabies, how the shots had to be dispensed within 72 hours (it had already been 24) and the exorbitant cost of the vaccine--$1,400 not including my doctor's fee to administer them. I called my insurance company whose rep told me the health department was not "in-network" yet could not direct me to an in-network provider.

My husband took the news well and was supportive of my dilemma. After all, he wasn't exactly a bystander in all this. He had just spent the day building a new greenhouse door, and was grappling with the fact it was upside down and inside out from what he'd planned and was going to have to rip it apart and re-do it. His mistake only cost $14 and a half day of work. (He finished it today and it's fabulous!) He is so wonderfully understanding.

Researching Texas rabies statistics online, it appeared every one in four fox bites turned out to be rabid. That's a 25% chance on 100% fatality. My homesteading friends encouraged me to get them. Tuesday I picked up the vials, signing the Human Rabies Biologicals Payment Agreement and Surveillance Report, and headed over to my doctor's. The nurses prepared a bouquet of syringes. I got two shots of Human Rabies Immune Globulin in the top of my thumb (@#%&!), and the rest of that in two shots in the same arm. Then, six shots of Rabavert divided between my two shoulders. I left with cotton wads taped to both shoulders looking like I'd had wings amputated.

I go back tomorrow for another round of shots, and three more times this month. The good news is I ought to be covered another 30 years for rabies so if you amortize it the cost doesn't sound so bad. Hey, we might even get to itemize medical expenditures for once on our taxes. Knowing me I will find another occasion to stick my thumb into a wild creature's mouth. (We have since purchased many new pairs of gloves).

Watching the fox bound away was entirely worth it.

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