Friday, February 25, 2011

Winter's Grip Returns

Mud season is temporarily halted.
I woke up this morning to 4 inches of wet heavy snow.

Its beautiful, but its wearing out its welcome.

However, I did have two signs of Spring.
A flock of wood ducks flew up from a section of the creek.  

And I heard the "conk a reee" call of the Red Winged Blackbird.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spring Cleaning

I have a love/hate relationship with Spring.
I love the longer days, warmer temps and rebirth of the woods but,
I hate the mud and resulting mess.

Once the ground is visible, I can see the effect of confining three 1200 pound animals to a small area.

Mud , manure and wasted hay are everywhere
and it needs to be controlled and cleared.

Seems I had help from the very perpetrators who created theis mess.

It will take several days, but I'm up for the challenge.
The birds are chirping & the smell of spring is in the air.

Besides, do we ever out grow playing in the mud?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Despooking Weekend

I spent the last weekend at a mounted police de-spooking clinic.
For those of you who don't have horses, the horse is the flightiest domestic animal.
They have no defenses such as horns, antlers or tusks,
so their main defense is flight.

And sometimes when they are fleeing, a swift kick toward the perceived danger helps.
And getting rid of that load on their back helps too.
All of which presents a problem for the rider!

Horses can be spooked by something as simple as a plastic bag blowing across their pasture. 
Their motto is "Run from danger, then figure out if it is dangerous".  

 So I decided to desensitize Jasper to some possible dangers.
Early in the clinic, we encountered some pretty easy obstacles.

Walking over a plastic tarp is scary to a horse. 
As is walking on a bridge.
 Unstable footing is dangerous to a prey animal. 
If you go down, you are dinner.
Swim noodles simulate things brushing against them on the trail. 
An inexperienced horse will spook at that.

The bridges were then propped up in the middle,
making a new obstacle, a teeter totter.

Next, visibility was reduced by using smoke bombs.

Humans can see better in smoke than horses,
so your horse has to learn to trust you to guide him through the smoke.

It wasn't easy.

Next, we exposed them to scary sounds, whistles, sirens, & loud speakers.
And taught them to escort a police vehicle around the arena with lights & sirens blaring.

As the course progressed, the obstacles were combined
so as you crossed one, you immediately stepped on, under or through the next.

And finally the instructor added fire.

Which we had to walk our horse through. 
Jasper had other ideas.

Eventually the horses walked through the fire too.
And we survived the course, got a certificate and came home exhausted and satisfied.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Meltdown

We've had several days of above freezing temperatures
and the Spring thaw has begun.

Going from...
Snow covered frozen creek
which is...
Solid enough to support weight, 
Snow melting on top of the ice, 
Snowmelt flowing over the frozen creek, 
Areas of open water
Ice jams and chunks of ice floating away,
Free flowing and deep.

And now we begin a new season,
mud season!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count begins today.

Don't know what it is?
Its an annual 4 day event, when birders count the birds in their area, 
creating a snapshot of where the birds are across the continent.

 You can count the birds for as little as 15 minutes.

 If you're unsure about bird identification,
you can print a regional list of birds in you area to help you.

Then you simply report your sightings on a web page.

Its fun, easy and educational.

If you are interested in taking part, here's the web site.

Have fun!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Slow Moving Sanitation Engineer

Remember these?

Possum tracks.

So I set up my scouting camera in the vicinity and this is what I saw.

A Virginia Opossum

You may notice that the camera site is baited with a tomato.
"Possums" are Nature's garbage men.
They will eat many things,
including insects, grasses, snails & slugs, rodents,
rotting/overripe fruits & veggies, and carrion.
They are also have a very short life span for a mammal of their size, averaging 1-2 years.
They have 50 teeth, more than any other North American land mammal.
And they will play "possum", pretending to be dead, if attacked.