Monday, December 26, 2005

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Spirit

This is MY present! Go open your own!

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Australian Tile Painting

My present.
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My Mother's Present

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sudden Storm

I was just reading email when there was a very bright flash of light coming through the bedroom door. I had barely enough time to look at the spot and start to wonder what it was when KAA BOOM! Oh, lightening. Unusual, around here, to have it so close. The next lightening was maybe 3 minutes later, with thunder many seconds after, so it was moving away quickly. The only thing left, it seems, is the rain.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Battle of the Skies

The clouds have finally blown in, and are taking over the sky. An advancing army of clouds, following the wind scouts. Once they've secured the area, the rain will fall.

Mt. St. Helens sent up a plume of steam in protest before being enveloped by white and gray clouds.

Mt. Rainier has gone from a shining white presence to a violet-blue background. I can hear the distant drums behind the roar of the wind. The clouds are meeting no resistance.

Hopefully with the clouds and rain in control, it will also warm up.

A good day to be inside drinking gluhwein.


I feel like we are under siege by the wind gods. Last night I thought Hawai'i might be headed our direction, but today the winds have changed from the southwest to the southeast. Might explain why it isn't getting much warmer.

Our rather rare windstorms rarely last more than a few hours. This one started last night, maybe around 7 PM, and is still going strong. Very strong. A few small trees have come down, only one of my recently planted bamboos has been uprooted so far. Not sure how they are going to survive first freezing then drying wind. So far none of my structures (like canvas carports) has succumbed, but the winds are persistent.

Charlie is out with the sheep, keeping the world safe. He came in for awhile, but then felt he was needed elsewhere. The other dogs are quite happy to stay in, thank you.

My little lamb-lgd thinks he should be in with us. I had tried him in with the sheep again for a couple days, but he just hangs around wherever a dog is and cries.

The wind is supposed to blow in warm weather, clouds, and rain. So far it is still clear and cold and very, very pretty. Even if I can't open my front door for fear of not getting it shut again.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Coyote Confrontations

It's been foggy for the past couple weeks. Foggy doesn't quite describe it; it's more like we've been living in a cloud bank, with the clouds billowing, rising and falling a few thousand feet at most. Last night I was preparing myself for the dense patch I'd driven into the night before as the road rose into thicker cloud, when I drove into starry blackness. It took a moment to get over the shock of such a long sight distance.

I wasn't alone in my delight. As I was feeding the sheep what sounded like a dozen coyotes started squabbling just beyond the fences. I straightened up to look that direction and a white blur flashed past me. A white blur with a very deep bark. Charlie pushed through the gate to the far pasture, and the coyotes silenced, but another group howled further away and to the south. I heard Ursa, my 11 year old Caucasian Ovtcharka, take up the verbal battle on that side of the farm.

The sheep ate peaceably, but my hackles were up. The closest coyotes yipped on and off, just to let us know they hadn't given up. I made a mental plan to drive back down there to see if I could frighten them off with the car lights - but by the time I finished my chores they had moved on. I could hear Charlie working his way up the hill.

The coyotes serenaded most of the night, but from a distance. Charlie and Ursa barked their boundary in reply: this far and no further. Jesse the Samoyed protected the back yard while Berna the Anatolian protected him. The herding dogs and I curled up in the warm house and slept, knowing the sheep, birds, and house were safe.

This morning the sky is clear and blue, the sun is bright, the ground white with frost. And the dogs are prancing delightedly, having spent a night hard at work.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Morning Drama

The clouds are a dark lid on the world. But it is an ill-fitting lid; to the south one mountain keeps it from sealing tightly. The open area glows gently white in a world of darkness, then turns a deep orange-red. Suddenly it turns gold, and it is obvious this is a living thing, trying to get inside. It reaches tentacles of light inside, refusing to be kept out. I can almost hear the lid rattling against the surrounding hills, although in reality the struggle takes place in silence.

The mountain is surrounded, almost eclipsed by the bright rays as they force their way in the wedge. And then they retreat, perhaps to find an easier lid to loosen. All that remains is a white glow through the slit, but it is enough to lighten the sky, revealing the circle of mountains that hold the cloud-lid tightly to the north and the west.

Only St. Helens stands tall, holding the edge of the lid up with her broken arms. But the light creature has retreated and she looses strength, lowers her arms, and allows the lid to settle around her waist. She will save her strength and try again tomorrow to keep the clouds from sealing out the sun. A bright orb floats into the crack sending a burst of orange rays across the land. It hovers there, peering inside, a bright promise. The lid may hold today, but the sun will persist. This is a silent and solemn promise, delivered before she pulls back the light and moves on.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Starry, Starry Night

The sky is crystal clear. The moon is full. Only the brightest stars are visible, but they shine and twinkle brightly. By 10PM there was frost on the ground; tonight will be our first freeze. The most wonderful thing is that the mountains - both St Helens and Rainier - stand out a glimmering white against the pale blue-black of the sky. I haven't seen either mountain in ages, and now they both appear at night. Fog has settled in some of the valleys, looking like a series of still lakes.

The coyotes are howling in the distance, my dogs bark in response. Some bird makes an eerie sound every 3-4 minutes, until I go out with a flashlight to discover the source, and silence greets my ears. Charlie the Pyr glides silently up beside me, his coat stiff with frost. I see Ursa's tail flagging and she again barks at the coyotes. My old girl is going to happily spend the cold night outside - cold means no rain, and it's the rain that drives her inside. I hear my new rescue dog whining softly in the background.

I wish I had a warm fur coat and could curl up under the stars with Ursa to enjoy a rain-free night, but the cold drives me back inside to my warm house and soft, warm bed.

A good way to start a week.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Missing Hen

My leghorn hen had disappeared about a month ago, and I'd finally decided she must have been nabbed by a raven or a coyote. Then, while Charlie and I were feeding the sheep, I saw her - and her 3 yellow day-old chicks. Charlie went trotting up to them and I had visions of little yellow balls being tossed into the air. He put his big nose up to one of them, then turned to look at me in delight, "Look! Babies!"

Meanwhile momma hen was fluffed up to full round and jumping in his face. He ignored her. He checked out all three chicks, then trotted back out of the field, looking back at me with that same delighted expression. My dear boy. This is the dog I got because he kills chickens. Momma hen followed (or preceded) him out of the field, bouncing in his face. He continued to ignore her. She finally decided he was far enough away to not be a threat, and went back to her yellow puffballs.

About that time my cat went streaking across the field, ignored by all other critters. She doesn't seem to be considered a threat by anyone.

These are the moments that make everything worthwhile.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Thoughtful Dog

Jesse (Samoyed) darted out the front door of my new place (that I haven't quite moved to yet) last night to chase the sheep that are currently hanging out in what one day will be the front yard. Having a Sammie chasing sheep on hilly property on a rainy night isn't my idea of good stock management, so I called him back. I could barely see him. He could easily see the sheep. At first he ignored me, and then I could see him slowing to think about it, weighing the options. He stopped and stood there a moment. Looked at me. Looked at the sheep. Took a few steps in my direction - to great praise. Stopped and thought some more. Looked around again. Sighed. Made up his mind.

My beautiful, wonderful white boy came running full speed up to me and into the house. He wasn't even interested in the food rewards I was offering, he just lapped up the praise and hugs. He believes me when I tell him he is the most wonderful, best loved dog in the world. And so do I, even though I know his insecurity with the new place factored into the decision. He may also have been concerned about the Great Pyrenees who guards those sheep, who was also watching him. Whatever his reasons, he came to me instead of chasing sheep. What a guy.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Eternal Move

My life continues to be interesting (as in the Chinese curse). I sold my house - closes the 15th of April, I hope. I have a fencing contractor working on sheep and dog fencing at my new place, so I can move my critters off the property by the 15th, my last day for using the 10 acres I sold last month. The easy access by vehicle is at the end of those 10 acres, so moving the critters before the 15th is important. I haven't yet found someone to do the hauling. I may be backing up to the gate in my van, moving 10 at a time.

I've been spending every spare moment moving something somewhere. I have to clear my barns by the 15th of May, and it is too wet and steep to get a vehicle to any of the barn doors. So it's haul the stuff to the van, move it, haul it out to store at the new place.

My neighbor took his horses back yesterday, and pulled a bunch of fencing panels and a kennel down to the end of the property where it can be loaded into a vehicle. Saved me time, arm and back muscles, and much frustration. He also moved the picnic table, so I can take it over for the dogs to play on.

If the fence gets put up in time, and I can find someone to haul the sheep in time, I need to put up a temporary fence at the corner to corral the sheep so they can be loaded. If all of those things don't fall into place, I need to fence in an area of the property I still own and the piece I've just sold, to keep the critters up there. Then I need to figure out how I'll manage to move them.
Today the weather held out long enough to get a vanload of stuff moved out of the barn and then onto the new place. Then it started raining.

Charlie (my working Pyr) carefully watched everything we moved. He came into the barn to see what we were doing. He stood by the fence watching us load things into the van. We even had the gate left open a lot of the time, and he never even tried to leave. He doesn't like things being removed, but if that's what I want, he'll go along with it. But not happily.

I'm now down to thinking less than a week in advance. Anything more and I get overwhelmed. The problem is, once one task is completed I'm hit up the side of the head with the next task that is due immediately. I just keep going, moving on. One day I'll be sitting on my porch, watching the mountains and the cows in the valley and my critters in the field, surrounded by my dogs, peafowl and geese, and this will all be over.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The End of a Busy Day

I'm moving. It's difficult enough moving a household, but add in a farm and it begins to seem impossible.

Today a friend and I hauled the extra gates we had pulled out of the fields last week down the creek path to the nearest road. Gates are heavy. The road is about 1/4 mile away - not a long walk, but a very, very long haul. Then we loaded them in the van and took them to the new place for the fence I'm having put up there.

Charlie the Pyr watched this, watched the horses and sheep watching, and joined all in trotting along with us on the other side of the fence. Nice to know you are providing entertainment for the critters.

On our return, I saw something large and white laying out in the field. It wasn't moving. It looked fluffier than a sheep.

I parked the van, and could see that the lump had still not moved. I got in the car and drove back down to the end of the field. The large, fluffy white thing that still hadn't moved looked very much like a Pyr. I ran into the field, calling "Charlie!" I ran and ran (he was near the center of the field), calling his name. I was certain by now that he had been shot in his own field. I was within several yards when the completely inanimate object raised its head and became Charlie. An alive and well Charlie.

Charlie looked at me with interest. I don't normally run through the field towards him, screaming nearly hysterically. He got up. I knelt down and opened my arms, and he came to me. He was a bit surprised at my joy and delight. He enjoyed the hugs. We walked together back to the gate, and he was disappointed that I left him there.

The neighbors off the far corner of the field had a gardening crew in, mowing and making noise. I think Charlie was out there keeping his considerable bulk between the noisy strangers and his charges, and just sort of snoozed off.

I'd been feeling tired and run down after two days of hard labor. Now I'm quite awake. And very, very glad that my wonderful guardian is still alive and well.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Frog Song

I came home to 3 messages. “Hi Judy? This is Rosie. On Armstrong? Do you know you have a sheep down? You have a sheep down. Bye.” “Judy. This is Donna. Did you get that sheep up? I hope so. I hope that sheep is up now.” “Judy, this is Reid. I couldn’t get the hay today, I’m still trying to get hold of the people tonight. If I can’t get them tonight I’ll try tomorrow. I’ll get you at least a couple days’ worth tomorrow.”

Rosie and Donna are two elderly ladies who live across from my field. They walk up and down Armstrong together for daily exercise, and are my first defense against critter problems in the far field. They don’t, however, seem to understand that I work in a different town, and am not likely to respond to distress calls immediately.

Reid is the across-the-street neighbor whose horses I’ve been boarding for the past month or so – since they broke down his fences while he was at work and started playing in the road. The deal is he gets the hay, I take care of the horses. This morning I fed out the last of the hay.

It is, of course, dark. We just went through torrential rains, so my clay-soiled property varies from under water to soggy to sucking mud. I can’t find my good flashlight, just a wimpy plastic one. I trudge out to find my missing sheep.

As I slip and slide down the hill I’m wishing Rosie and Donna had given me a clue as to the location of the downed sheep. Fifteen acres isn’t a huge area, but it’s dark, and my flashlight only illuminates about 3 feet in front of me. I walk over to the point closest to their houses, and start circling back.

The horses have been following me. Well, they came to say “hi, where’s the food?” then turned heel and ran off. Now they’ve come back to see what I’m up to. If they were dogs they’d lead me to the sheep, but no such luck. They run up, then run off. When I finally light up a white form, both horses trot over to it. Great, thanks guys. Now they are circling us as I try to get the ewe on her feet. They walk with us as I urge the ewe back to safety.

About once a minute I say a word of thanks for the warmth. The tropical storm that brought all the rain brought warm weather along with it. It must be 60 degrees out here. No cold fingers, no cold toes. Three days ago it was 18 degrees.

The frogs have started their winter song, filling up the night. We get to a flooded area, the ewe stops. Why didn’t I remember to bring grain? Push. Balk. I keep trying to light her path, but she really doesn’t want to go through water. Finally, dry land again, and she picks up the pace. I leave her in a relatively dry grassy spot and run off to get grain.

And get stuck in the mud. Running is not allowed. I never knew how bad clay mud could be until horses came to live with me. Clay holds its shape enough to be uneven, and clings to things that enter, trying to keep them from leaving again. Sucking mud.

The horses mob me for the grain. I slog through the mud and water to a dry patch – away from the ewe – and give them half the grain. Then slog back to the ewe with the rest. Now over to the pond to fill the bucket with water. This takes me past Charlie, the Pyr. He moves silently off. I must be walking funny because of this darned mud, and he can’t hear me because of the frogs. Near the pond the sound is almost deafening. When I first moved here I spent hours looking for the frogs that make all this noise. When I finally found them, I was surprised they were so tiny. Such a small creature, such a large sound.

Silence. As soon as I reach the pond the frogs stop singing. Charlie saunters over to the fence. The ground around the pond is dry, I’m walking normally again. Bucket filled, I stop to give Charlie a pet and say hello. He is surprised and delighted to see me. This rescue dog spent months tied to a barn without food because he killed a chicken. While we talk the frogs start up again.

With the sated ewe on dry ground and protected by two brave horses, I head back to the house. The breeze carries warmth that feels like summer. The frogs are singing. Life is good.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Winter Joy

In a dark, damp and dreary winter, sunrise isn’t an event one waits for. Dawn lightens the sky around eight, with no sun in evidence. Then, once in a while, nature provides a delightful surprise. On the way to work this morning I glanced south – and caught my breath. In a world of gray was a band of pale gold, and rising through the band, gold and silver limning snow, ice and rock, stood Mount Saint Helens. A white cloud hat, jauntily tipped, rounded the crater, wispily mimicking the once-perfect peak.

Rising daylight lightened the gray-black clouds to the north blue, and as I turned east at Tumwater Mount Rainier stood proudly clad in a cloak of billowy white clouds, one filament jutting out like hair blowing in the wind.

The beauty of the land surrounds me, blesses me, and keeps me safe. I start work knowing there is joy even in the heart of winter. The mountains are watching, waiting. They protect this land, and remind its inhabitants of their power.