Mo Bloggin'

A little o' this, a little o' that

Archive for the tag “Solstice”

It’s a jungle out there

Solstice sky.

Solstice sky.

And it’s a recurring theme for me, the shock and awe I have for this riot of growth. I know it isn’t unique—anywhere that experiences four distinct seasons, and especially long winters, is just as resurrected each spring.  Our daylight hours are running close to peak right now, with the sun rising at 5:11 a.m. and setting at 9:08 for nearly 16 hours of daylight, so it’s no wonder the plants are going wild.  We’re closing in on solstice, so gaining less than a minute more each day until the 21st, when it will begin going in the wrong direction again (shorter days). [I started this draft two weeks ago.] And the riotous growth will begin to taper so maybe I can get ahead of it some. Ha!

These long, long days are wonderful…and wreak havoc on my schedule.  I find it hard to come inside much before 10 p.m. The house is a mess, the garden is half planted (the other half is covered-carpeted really-with volunteers (a.k.a. weeds)), and the green keeps getting greener.  The driveway needs bushwhacking from the road to the gate (it looks like an abandoned property).

Coming home on a recent rainy afternoon.

Coming home on a recent rainy afternoon.

The sheep are doing a decent job of keeping the grass around the house from growing a foot high, and are also sampling some landscape plantings along the way.  They’ve decimated the comfrey and the valerian, and the wisteria (that

Lawn mowing.

Lawn mowing.

last is just fine – the vine is in a poor location and I hacked it back to a stump earlier this year), and have so far left the garden alone, though I saw Minnie nosing the fence the other day (it’s a light netting that can be easily pushed down).  They were nibbling on the hops vine earlier in the year, but now that there’s so much else to eat, they seem to be less interested.  Even so, I have to get the weed whacker out to take down the grass seed heads and the Canada thistle patch – no matter how much I kill off every year it comes back stronger every year.  The bull thistle is nearly as bad, but doesn’t seem to have the same traveling root system (not a typical rhizome, but not just a taproot either), so a well-placed shovel or hoe action a few times a year seems to keep it minimized around the property.

Another recurring theme for me is this constant feeling of not having enough time to do everything, even with these deliciously long days (sleep being one of many things that’s compromised because of it).  I have so much I want to do, so many interests, and so many of things I am already doing.  Just keeping up with the full time job would be plenty, and then I add the second job of maintaining (or trying to) a small farm with livestock, pets, garden (growing my own food) and general upkeep on acreage. Add in an obsession like Nosework, or carting, or the desire to work with Daisy in herding. Her instincts are fabulous and she is SO good, and can be really helpful at times, but when she doesn’t know exactly what I want, and when I’m not sure how to tell her what I want/how to work with her, it can

A recent cart trip to a local park.  On the Snoqualmie River.

A recent cart trip to a local park. On the Snoqualmie River.

become chaotic quickly.  I still want to do Nosework with Farley, since he has such an affinity for it, but have taken a break for a few months (file it under the “something’s gotta give” heading).  Daisy’s work with the sheep is ongoing by necessity and her keen interest. I also get her out with her cart as time allows. Pal seems to be missing from the equation – he’s not bad at Nosework, but his forte is hunting for real.  He never stops hunting, and the only time he stops when he’s outside is when he’s on point (usually a songbird in a tree) or stalking varmints.  I watched him in the pasture the other day, holding a 3-legged point on something in the grass, slowly, slowly, putting the fourth paw down as he crept forward in ultra slow motion stalk. He’s really amazing to watch, though it’s like living with a 47 pound cat at times.  I know he gets shrews nearly as regularly as the cats, and just tonight I found a dead mole in the sheep pen.  I have no idea when he got in there to get that.  Last night when I was wrapping up for the night, filling the hay nets before it got full dark, and Farley and Daisy were still busy with their outside tasks (Farley waiting for me to throw the ball again, Daisy rounding up the chickens), I noticed Pal on the porch, lying on the doormat.  I smiled, thinking he was finally growing up and slowing down a bit (he’ll be 5 years old in October).  By the time I got done with the tasks it was pretty dark, and as I walked up to the porch he got up, happy to see the three of us coming to go inside.  I noticed a rather large object in his mouth.  He’s not much into toys, so I knew it wasn’t one of Farley’s many stuffies scattered around the yard.  A bone dug up?  Or a…rat?  (large rat!)

Pal, my canine cat.

Pal, my canine cat.

Was it a squirrel?  No tail.  What the…?  I was amazed and dismayed to find it was a small (half grown) rabbit.  Quite dead of course, and he was all happy, ready to go inside with his prize.  No. Way.  I was amazed partly because in 4.5 years here I’ve seen a rabbit only once on this property.  I have no idea where he got it (what part of the property).  It was of course adorable, as a juvenile, though I didn’t turn the porch light on to get a good look.  I tossed it into the grass and he jumped down the steps to get it – I heard a bony crunch as he grabbed it and I thought he was going to eat it (a good thing!) but he left it and came inside. Sigh. It was gone this morning, which means that most likely Farley took it off to bury it on one of their late night potty trips.  Farley’s my buryer, in an arcane save-it-for-later mentality.  Fortunately none of the bodies he’s buried have been dug up for later dining (to my knowledge), but there have been plenty of bones (I generally confine him to the house when I feed them raw bones, as he will take every one I give him and bury it, if given the opportunity.  And usually moving it several times before he’s finally satisfied it’s safe from marauders (his housemates).  An hour, a day, or a month later, one of them will bring a blackened gross thing up to the house and it takes me a moment to figure out what it is.

Eloise, a.k.a. Pudge (or sometimes 'weesa).

Eloise, a.k.a. Pudge (or sometimes ‘weesa).

This evening the one of the hens grabbed an odd looking object from the front lawn (lawn being optional, since Daisy has made a large ugly scrape of dirt in front). The chickens regularly glean the mice and shrew leavings from the cats (and the common ancestry of birds and reptiles becomes acutely apparent at these times, as the hen generally chokes down the whole thing, like a snake), but this looked different.  I’d noticed Daisy sniffing something this morning, but when I toed it, I thought it was a clump of manure.  I chased after the hen, realizing from the angles sticking out of her mouth, that what she had looked like a…gulp, bat.  By the time I got to her she had the thing half swallowed, but I grabbed it by the—yup, it was a bat – wing and pulled it out.  Ugh!  I love bats, and was truly bummed that one was killed.  It was tiny—like a small shrew with wings—and had obviously been dead for a couple of days.  Of course I get all heebie jeebie about rabies but when I thought about it, and remembered having observed not only super low flying by bats (only a few feet off the ground at times) and also wild leaps up by the cats to get them, I can only assume it was bad luck for the bat.  I’ve seen them do the same thing with dragonflies – another critter I love and have rescued dragonflies from the cats (and not gotten there in time for others).  Life with carnivores can be hard to take sometimes.

My cute little Pal.

My cute little Pal.


Solstice musings

It’s December 20, and I have done just about zero with regard to Christmas shopping.  I tried to go Christmas shopping over this past weekend, but didn’t get too far before I threw in the towel.  I think I’ll have to shoot for New Year’s gifts at this point.  And I’m okay with that.  As mentioned in my previous post, I’ve got a few things going on right now and know that piling on more isn’t going to work.  My brain is elsewhere.  

Another factor in my stress level is the ongoing, seemingly never-ending construction project.  I hired Rob (the same fellow who fenced off the pasture for me in September) to build a confinement area for my sheep – a 30 x 40 pen and shed (the shed is basically an extension of the garage roof, so not too elaborate, by design) to get them off the pasture and out of the weather.  I called him at the end of October.  He got started in mid-November.  Right now it will be a Christmas miracle if it’s finished by the end of the year.  There are so many things about this that are bugging me that I don’t know where to start, but suffice it to say the time it’s taking is the primary factor.  This has been compounded by the fact that we’ve had some hellacious weather in the past month, where I was near tears (okay, in tears) over the fact that my sheep had no shelter.  The snow over Thanksgiving was no problem – the sheep stay warm with their thick woolen coats, and the snow just piles up on them, insulated as they are by the wool.  It’s the rain that bothers me.  They seem to handle it okay, but to see them out there in the pounding rain (and it has come down by the bucketful for a couple of weekends) and howling winds, with next to no cover, well, I’m feeling all kinds of terrible about my caretaking – I never should have gotten these animals before I had things built.  I just had no idea this job would take in excess of six weeks, and I suppose it’s my own fault for not clarifying things from the beginning.  

On the plus side, these little guys seem to be doing okay, however awful I feel about their lack of cover.  I called tonight to inquire about “how soon”, and hopefully my inquiry will spur faster work.  I realize that Rob has other commitments, but it’s time to prioritize.  He does nice work, but timely completion is important too. 

Besides the snow over Thanksgiving, we’ve had several very wet storm patterns come through, with several days where rainfall records were set, and the ubiquitous fall flooding last week (the snowfall and flood pattern is backwards this year, as we usually have flooding in late November; and it ain’t over yet, either).  The valley flooded, with the river coming over its banks and several area roads closed due to overtop flooding.  This meant that my evening commute more than doubled to two hours in length.  My regular commute route was flood free, but many of the other arterials were not, so it was gridlock as everyone tried to get home by the same two-lane road. 

My place was fine, though I was a bit astounded at the amount of water flowing down the hill.  The northeast side of the property is a county designated wetland, and the drainage during the downpour turned the whole north side of the pasture into a torrent of water, much of it in weird underground streams that gushed up like small geysers in several spots.  There’s still a lot of water flowing down the hill, though most all of it is underground at this point, and the geyser action has abated.  The underground streams are bizarre to me, and it can be a bit nerve-racking walk the fence line or pasture in that area, listening to the water flow under your feet.  What surprised me even more than this area, though, was the water flat out flowing down the hill behind the house.  The entire chicken run was a 25 foot wide watercourse, and water flowed under the coop too, all of it heading for the wetlands gully to become part of the north side drainage.  Thankfully not at flow volumes or directed enough to do any undermining of the coop itself, but still disconcerting.  The back yard behind the house was drenched, with 3 or 4 inches of standing water in places.  And the year-round stream on the south side of the property was a raging froth of brown water as the flooded banks sloughed off.  I know it’s only December – solstice tomorrow – and we’ll get more of this kind of weather a few more times over the coming months.  I only hope my sheep are under cover by then.  

As the year winds up, and we experience the solstice lunar eclipse tonight, I’m thankful for the great year that was 2010.  For me it looks like 2010 will close out with as big a bang as it came in with (new home purchase and move in January), as Cutter’s bright light wanes and fades out on this plane.  There was lot of joy this year, as well as this near-unbearable sadness now, but I’m so grateful for the time I had with my buddy as I eek out the last days with him in his physical form.  It’s been quite a ride.  

I’m looking forward to a fabulous 2011.  I have big plans and more big dreams to come true.  Stay tuned.

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