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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Winter arrives with a vengeance!

November 16
The garden is all in now—see the garden page on this blog for an update.

The weather went from 60 degrees to 15 degrees in less than two hours last Sunday.  It snowed, and then got to −22F later in the week.  The ducks are in the greenhouse because there was no time to get them acclimated.  Hubby had to take vacation from work Monday thereafter to help me move them from their pen to the greenhouse—they would not be herded.  It probably had something to do with that rude wing-clipping we did Sunday when one of the ducks demonstrated her new found ability to fly!  I had considered leaving them unclipped for the winter, but after the very skillful flight the duck demonstrated, I had visions of them flying off into the wind, the cold hitting and they would die because they were not able to take the cold.  Thus, wing clipping party!

We had little luck hunting.  I did get a buck deer but Jim did not.  We also did not get any antelope.  Every trip to the ranch seemed to included 50 mph wind, making finding and then getting close enough, impossible.  We came home opening weekend and found our 21 cubic foot freezer had died.  Fortunately, it was still at 21 F and the food still frozen or at least cold.  We stuffed everything into the other freezer and coolers.  I went in search of a new freezer, only to discover hunting season is the wrong time of the year to look for a freezer.  Finally found a 21 cu ft replacement, which was bigger than I thought I needed, but turns out I was wrong.  With all the garden produce to freeze, it's working on getting full already!

It has now warmed up to mid-twenties, with wind.  If it stays that warm, the ducks can go back out to their pen.  They'd be happy!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

I'm Back!

Looks like I have been gone for along time from this blog.  Needless to say, the Pekins are grown and actually three have gone to freezer heaven because there were to many males.  However, remaining male and female are too noisy and badly behaved for me to continue my Pekin adoration.  They will be going to freezer heaven in the fall.  The female is not yet laying eggs and I am waiting to see if she does soon.  Otherwise, they will both be gone.

The Muscovies are doing well.  Unfortunately they like to sit on eggs frequently and I have one in a separate pen right down sitting on eggs and some ceramic eggs (she doesn't seem to care what she's sitting on).  Another hid under our shed all summer and managed to hatch exactly zero ducklings.  I did have to fence around the shed to avoid another such incident.  Then one built a nest under a car (not one we drive).  We pulled the eggs out and moved the nest, but that was not to her liking so she went back in with the others.  Now, the Muscovy male has decided to show he is boss and runs the Pekin male out of the Muscovy pen, or just blocks the door and keeps the male prisoner.  Ducks are such sooo cute.

Pekin pen taken over by Muscovies

"Lone Ranger" nesting under the shed

My garden has done really well.  I have peas, beans, and carrots galore, chards and lettuce and the tomatoes have set on but are not yet ripe.  I even managed to keep it more or less clear of weeds!  This is what gardening used to be like before the grass took over.

Lettuce over 12 inches in diameter

We were going out to the cabin for the Labor Day weekend, but going in the road was quite wet with numerous puddles.  We decided if it rained as predicted, we'd still be there mid-week.  We left after about 2 1/2 hours when the clouds started building up.  It rained on us about the time we got to pavement, which is good since the gravel road was still very wet.  It rained here overnight and it appears to have rained in the area of the cabin repeatedly (judging from radar).  If it clears, we are going to cut down a dead tree and some branches off others.  I did cut some down the other day but the remaining ones require two people to safely cut them out.  For some reason, the tops of the trees were not as filled out as in previous years.  Considering the amount of rain, I would have thought they would have done better.

This is a peacock that was wondering about for some time.  He had an annoyingly loud cry, usually early in the morning.  Seems to have disappeared for now.

We took pictures of wet road, wildflowers, birds, etc at the ranch this year.

Swallow nest on the Hut


Interesting prairie "art"

Horned lizard

Very wet roads

The road to our cabin was completely overgrown

The butterfly is a mourning cloak that hatched from a caterpillar I found.  The wings never dried properly so I put it outside in the cage I have for such things and it lived about a month.

More evidence the drought is over!  Heavy rain has been very common this summer.

Time to sign off for now.!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ducks, snow, flowers and critters

April 18, 2014

It's duck season here!  First, we fetched six muscovy ducks, full-grown, because we thought we would not get Pekins this year.  Their was on female laying, but after a foot injury, she stopped.  There are five females, so in a while we should get more eggs.  These are very, very mellow ducks.  I have to chase them out of the pen or they just lay in there all day long.  I stopped with the daytime feeding so they have incentive to go look for food!
A week ago, the farm store called and said they had our ducklings.  I was like "What?"  We had cancelled the order because they seemed uncertain about getting the ducklings.  Since we really like the Pekins, we went ahead and got the ducklings.  They are in the garage right now so they stay warm and dry.  They should be big enough to go outside in about three to four weeks, depending on weather.  We won't house them together.  I'm making a new pen for the muscovies that includes two trees inside and a lot of sagebrush for cover.  It won't have a "top" on it, but the muscovies can climb (as seen by the "injured" duck that climbed out of the infirmary and was atop the regular pen) and should be better able to avoid predators.

Muscovies in their pen

Week old Pekins

Look, I can climb!

There have been a couple of snow storms in March and April.   Today, it was 71 degrees with 35 mph winds!  Of course, it could snow several more times before actual "spring" arrives, assuming we don't just skip to summer!

Frost along the ramp treads


Because it got down to 10 degrees last weekend, I had to cover the daffodils and tulips and picked the buds that had formed.  They all did fine and will hopefully keep blooming in the warmer weather.

We have a tiny bunny living under the ramp again--he hides under the porch.

Lastly, this is a yearling deer in snow.  She looked so sweet.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I am testing video on my blog.  Note that I am not good with a video camera and that some of the video was done at quite low resolution.  Watching full screen on a large screen may not be advised.

The first video is a swift fox we captured and later relocated.  He's very vocal.  It's amazing how much sound comes out of such a small animal.  Also, he "barks" without really opening his mouth, which I thought was interesting.


Next is a buck antelope jumping a fence.  Until the last 10 years or so, antelope went under fences, not over.  My guess is they learned to jump from being around deer, which sail effortlessly over fences.  Having to go under fences was a huge disadvantage for the antelope since many fences have little space underneath them.


Lastly, the great Wyoming wind!


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Time flies when you're having fun!

It's been a long time since I updated here.  Summer has ended, fall is past and winter is upon us.

This year we had a yellow-headed blackbird stopping by our yard.  I cannot remember having seen one in the past, nor had I seen the juncos that were here earlier in any other year.  It may have to do with our feeders actually being full this spring!  I also found a camel spider in the house again--I rarely find these bugs inside or out.  
Camel spider
yellow-headed blackbird

The small garden area did well, probably due to the increase in precipitation this year.  We had far more rain than last year and it seemed to make a difference.  We had a large crop of zucchini, two spaghetti squash, lots of lemon cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, beets and a few carrots (the carrots didn't come up very well).  I had allowed the cucumbers and squash to "climb" the chicken wire fences--with some interesting outcomes!
zucchini plants

tomatoes in greenhouse

Vegetable squash growing in fence

Lemon cucumber growing in fence

October 4th marked the end of summer/fall with a heavy, wet snowfall of 18 inches.  Trees came down all over the city and county, leaving the landscape strewn with limbs.  Two month later, the county and city are still trying to get to all the downed limbs on city property, while homeowners wait for tree services to get to their name on the list.  We lost only 3 large branches, but we did go our and knock the snow off the branches to help avoid losing limbs.  The duck pen, with it's chicken wire and snow fence cover, collapsed on the south side.  The ducks were fine--they were a bit confused as to what happened, but they had apparently been in their house at the time of the collapse.  We dug out the snow and pulled the sides back up, but it will require repair before spring and new ducklings are brought in.

Can you find the ducks?

Heavy, wet snow and bending trees

Duck pen before collapse

Sagebrush being weighed down

Very bad for fence

Ice storm a couple of weeks later

Ice storm

Trees down

We ended up with two female ducks which started laying eggs in August.  They were quite prolific layers--up to 5 eggs per day!  I ended up freezing many of the eggs because I just could not use them fast enough.  Since the females were such good layers, we opted to find someone to take the ducks, rather than butcher them.  I plan on going with Pekin ducks again next year.  These were funny to watch and did not follow me around endlessly as did the Rouens we had last year.  Pekins grow very quickly and could go outside quicker than the Rouens.  The one downside was the Pekins seemed messier.  They went everywhere around the yard together--so funny to see them waddling all over the place.  They travelled much more of the five acres than did the ducks last year.  
"Aflac" duck!

Oh, that feels sooo good!

"Headless duck"

ducks in a row!
We did not get any deer this year in hunting season.  The one night they were in the yard was the night the duck pen collapsed.  We had not seen much of them anyway--I think because it rained, there was more natural food and they stayed away.  We still them out on the prairies near the house, but had not seen any in the yard until recently.  The are mostly nocturnal at this point.  The weather is getting colder, so I expect to see more of them come in as winter progresses.

Two point buck, barely

Can you locate the deer?

Stopping for brunch

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer more or less arrives

It's warming up now--in the nineties occasionally.  Yesterday, it was cooler and stormy, with a tornado warning.  One tornado did tough down to the south of here, but did no damage.  We had some pea-sized hail and a lot of wind, plus .15 inch of rain.  Then things cleared and all was well.

We have been out to the cabin several times this year.  Last trip, we found hera buck moth caterpillars.  I brought a few back to see if I can get them to pupate.  I put them in a jar and they formed a caterpillar "train"!  They are now in a more natural setting in a screen enclosure outside and a plastic box inside.

On the way back from the cabin, we saw this sign:

Followed by:

The last two trips out, we took pictures of wildflowers and critters.  We saw three badgers in one day (always a good day when you see badgers!), plus a fox, several eagles and a baby antelope on other trips.

The pair of antelope were the first doe/fawn pair we had seen this year (June 9th).  The tiny fawn we saw June 16th.  He/she is only a few hours old.  The fawn did not move even though we drove past it twice, stopping to take pictures each time.  Very tiny antelope just lie very still in the sage brush.  I just happened to catch a glimpse of this one and we stopped for pictures.  Earlier, we slowed down when we spotted a fawn that looked fairly young, but it was old enough to get up and run when we slowed down.  They learn quite quickly to move away from danger--only the tiny ones lie still while you photograph them.

The photos above and below are paintbrush
we photographed on the way to the cabin.  This
type of paintbrush grows mostly in Shirley Basin.
It's greenish or purplish, unlike the more common
red paintbrush.  Indian paintbrush has many
species growing throughout Wyoming.

                                  These are wild irises.

The ducks are now quite large.  They are allowed out of the pen during the day as long as someone is home.  It took a bit, but they are now wondering about the windbreak and garden areas most of the day.  These ducks are more docile than the Rouens than we had last year, though these are by far noisier.  They almost sound like geese when they get to quacking.  They know me and will stay lying down in the grass when I come by, but they don't know my hubby yet, so they still stand up and start quacking when he goes by.   It's interesting the difference between the two breeds of ducks.  The Pekins still lie down a lot and it wasn't until yesterday that I actually saw them "playing" in the water container we have for them to jump in.  Until yesterday, they would drink out of it, but not jump in.  The Rouens would immediately run to the pans when I turned them loose and jump right in.  The Pekins are much larger than the Rouens already.  We are watching to see how these work out before we decide what species to get next year.

Bug hunting in the windbreak trees!

 Ants were swarming the hose connection earlier in the week.  I don't know if they were looking for water or what.  It was a bit disconcerting!

This is a kingbird atop the empty feeder.  A pair of these have built a next in the windbreak and like to dive at me and squawk when I go past the tree.  They hover above me and make as much noise as possible.  This is the first year I can remember them nesting in the trees, though I always see several of them in my yard each year.