May 30th, 2012 §
All five eggs hatched and the babies are still around and look healthy. It’s amazing that they can go, in one week, from tiny naked midges to these rather robust beaks with blue feathering bodies attached.
It doesn’t look like their eyes have opened yet, but they should within the next day or two.
May 23rd, 2012 §
Mama Bluebird’s extra vigilance this time around—her third clutch this spring—has paid off. I opened her nest this morning, after she flew off it, to find one remaining egg from a clutch of five and a squirmy mass of newborn chicks. Wish her luck!
May 18th, 2012 §
I was in the house tonight working at the computer when I heard Tuck start barking outside. Lots of barking. Some growling. Very unusual from him. I looked out the window and he was pointed toward the road at the front of the house. I yelled out the window for him to be quiet, thinking he was after some biker or something on the road, even though I trained him to not bark at bikers and he usually doesn’t.
He ran to the porch to check in after my yell, but then shot back into the field, barking. This definitely warranted checking out. I put on my slippers and stepped outside.
There was a huge black vulture perched at the top of a dead tree right between the road and my property line. Tuck raced up and down through the field, barking but respecting his invisible fence. What a good dog to notice this anomaly, this potential threat from the air. Ever since I asked Tuck, many months ago, to help me get a huge flock of vultures out of the big oak–which he understood and did with a look and shake of my head–he’s been super alert to threats from the sky. Even though this vulture didn’t put anything at risk, I don’t mind Tuck’s generalizing as he also applies this vigilance to hawks and eagles that could carry off a chicken.
I knew this could go on forever, so I figured I’d finish up the job Tuck started. I ran down the road in my slippers clapping and jumping around, yelling at this vulture to get lost. If my neighbors needed final proof that I’ve lost it, they got it tonight! But I got proof that my young farmdog is acting just as I hoped he would, and that we can take care of this place together.
May 14th, 2012 §
Unlike the chickens, which will return to the coop to lay their eggs, the guineas just drop them wherever. Including in the middle of the driveway! When you’ve gotta go…
May 13th, 2012 §
Just went to check on the bluebird box. The pair had a couple of eggs in there—their third attempt this spring at a family. I gave my cursory, customary tap on the box, but there’s never been anyone home each time I open it. My fingers were turning the latch when I saw a glint inside the entry hole. My breath caught, unsuspecting of this connection. Mama bluebird was holding her ground, looking at me with bright eyes. She didn’t seem worried—just aware. I backed away…slowly…and she held fast to her nest. No photos, she’s had shock enough for the day.
May 5th, 2012 §
At 10:00 p.m. on a Wednesday night, right in the face and all down his chest and front legs. Though scrubbed with dish soap and vinegar for an hour, both of us exhausted, he still smells like burnt balloons. Especially now that it’s raining. The winter woodsmoke smell of my home has been replaced with something just as strong and way less pleasant.
You should have seen his face the morning after when I wouldn’t touch him. Broken hearted. I hold my breath and kiss his head.
May 1st, 2012 §
On Sunday afternoon I decided to take advantage of the last day of the national parks system’s free entry week. I loaded up the dog and within 20 minutes of leaving the house we were on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains breezing by the ranger station into Shenandoah National Park. Five minutes after that we were in one of the most beautiful forests I’ve seen—and that includes many of the major national parks out West—Glacier, Grand Teton, Olympic, Redwoods—and more.
I think that what made is so beautiful was really lucky timing, though I am sure the park has its beauty in all seasons. On this trip the trees were just barely leafed out, yet the undergrowth was blooming with wildflowers. Tiny streams ran everywhere, including alongside the trail. The scrub hadn’t grown up yet, so I could see straight through the forest all around and it was like being in a magical glade. It was about 65 degrees, and the sun made dappled patterns across the ground. The wide trail was covered in wild grass. It was like hiking on a shag rug.
I am pretty sure this is a wild elderberry. I saw food everywhere I looked, thanks to last year’s herbalism class. Fiddleheads and ramps and nettles. For the first time I understood the appeal of wildcrafting, though I didn’t pick any plants myself, and understood how one could survive on wild foods.
On this short hike I also saw more bear sign than ever in my life, and that includes a few months spent in an Alaskan forest! There were fresh scrapings on trees, and many huge piles of scat in the middle of the trail. I also saw a lot of dead tree stumps that had been torn open as the hungry bears searched for their spring breakfasts.
Needless to say, all the smells were intoxicating to my trail companion!
We ended up hiking basically straight down the mountain and then turned around and slogged back up. Tucker was so cute on the walk up—every time I stopped to rest or take a picture, he’d pause a few steps ahead of me on the trail and turn around and keep an eye on me until I got moving again. With all the bears in the area, I was grateful for his watchful attention. How lovely it would have been to have just kept on walking—in a few more steps we could have picked up the Appalachian Trail and gotten to Maine in time for lobster season!