Sunday, May 28, 2006


I've previously mentioned my Houdini goat, Nibbles. Here she is, the picture of sweet innocense. You'll notice, however, that she is on the lush side of the fence. Posted by Picasa

And today she brought her friends along. They are having a great time digging into the blackberries that are growing madly with the warm and wet weather we've been having. I'm quite happy to have this area pruned, but do prefer to be the instigator. I decided Nibbles had a good idea, and my self-motivated mowers (the sheep) have joined the goats and are edging the lane. They seem to prefer weeds to grass, but both need taming if I'm to have driving room this summer.

Foxtail Farm

Due to sheep selection I may need to rename my farm from Ravenwood to Foxtail. These hardy plants are doing much better than the grass I'm trying to establish as pasture for my sheep and goats. This is a difficult task as I don't have enough fenced areas to give the grass a fair start, and of course the soil is heavy clay.

Elsewhere, in non-sheep areas, the foliage is highly varied. Obviously these other plants taste good to sheep. It's a good thing sheep don't like foxglove, as they are poisonous plants. I'm glad I don't have to scour the fields for plantlings. I will have to attempt to reduce their numbers, but I'll wait until after they've bloomed. They are beautiful.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has a series of wildlife cams that are very interesting. I haven't seen my bald eagles lately, so I went there to view their Kent Eagle cam - and there's a chick! It looks like a chick in the Osprey cam nest too, but it's so rainy today it's hard to tell.

A fun way to spend some time on a wet Washington weekend.

Go to

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Raven Young

A profusion of raven calls greeted me when I poked my head out the door last weekend. By the time I got down to the location of the fuss, all evidence of ravens had flown. However, the next day on my way to work I saw a young, bedraggled raven picking at the goose food on the side of the lane. That night he was on my neighbors covered car. By morning he made it to the garage roof, and from there to the house roof. He croaked mornfully, as if the world had abandoned him, banishing him to a wet and loney existence. I put food out for him, but got only raspy calls and suspicious looks. I last saw him in the trees next to the house. Hopefully the adult ravens I saw winging his direction were his parents, and he is now off learning how to earn a raven livelyhood.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Sunrise in Spring

The weather is warm and sunny and the sun is rising over Mount Rainier - it must be spring. Lovely long days are the reward we receive for tolerating the damp, dark winter. The new resident swallows swoop past the window and the air is alive with birdsong. Glorious spring.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Roosting Roosters

For those who don't believe that chickens can fly.

Low Flying Birds

I live on a narrow ridge on the way to the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. There are some interesting things that happen when you live on a ridge.

Birds flying from point A to point B are pretty determined about flying. Last winter while sitting at my computer I turned to look out the window. A Bald Eagle was flying by like a transport plane, just about at eye level. I went outside to see where he was heading, and saw him take a straight path almost due south.

Now that was strange - exciting, but strange. Eagles are magnificant creatures, especially when seen so closely and in flight. It wasn't until a couple weeks ago that the reason for the low flight occurred to me. I was about to get in my car when a Kingfisher flew by at eye level, about a foot from my nose. He didn't seem to notice me, the car, my dogs. Why would he fly by so low?

The birds are on their way somewhere, flying high above the ground and the trees. They come across a ridge, but as long as their path is still above ground and tree level, they don't adjust altitude. They just get very close to the ground at the top of the ridge.

So I get a birds-eye-view of the birds. Life is good!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Berry Delight

Blackberries, while good to eat, are a real problem in the Pacific Northwest. Anytime the soil is disturbed Himlayan blackberries take root. Today between showers I was clipping back vines. My goal was to clear out the area I see out the kitchen window.

As I started clipping and piling, my donkey brayed and the sheep baahed. What was I doing throwing away perfectly good food when they were obviously starving. So I moved down their direction (there are berries everywhere) and threw the branches next to the fence. Heads popped through the fence and devored the greens. The pigmy goat Nibbles (someday I will learn to not take animals people don't want anymore) aperated through the fence and helped clear the leaves so I could see the big vines.

At some point I realized I had stopped working at clearing out berries (a job) and started feeding treats to my animals (a joy). They've done a great job of clearing their field and a path outside the fence themselves. It doesn't look like their necks are 2 feet long, but a path that size exists that wasn't here last year.

When I started clearing a path to Jesse, who had taken a walk in the woods and gotten stuck on the other side of a briar patch, I got grumbles from the fenced crew. Jesse rescued, I came in for a late lunch, and the sheep wandered off. Nibbles levitated back into the field (I never actually see her get between places, but she seems to go at will).

I now have a much larger path, several berry-free moss-covered stumps sprouting huckleberries, and happy sheep. Another good day.

Keeping Watch

Jesse the Samoyed hangs out with Ursa (Caucasian Ovtcharka) and Berna (Anatolian Shepherd Dog). Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Samoyed at Sunrise

Jesse recently figured out how to squiggle under the gate into the sheep field, and under the fence by the pond. You are seeing what happens when a fluffy white dog digs and squirms through mud. He's quite pleased with himself, barking at the rising light. Or perhaps he's telling his tale to the sheep-who-thinks-he's-a-dog.

Posing on the front porch, not understanding why I wouldn't let him inside, Jesse thinks his mud coat is the latest fashion. Posted by Picasa

Swallow Rapture

It must be spring - the swallows have returned.

As I was putting Berna in her daytime abode I heard happy chattering. I turned to see four tree swallows gliding, diving and swooping around the eaves, over to the fir tree, up in the air. Chatter, chatter, chatter (that's how you can tell they are tree swallows). I'm hoping the swoops and chitters of delight mean they have decided this is home.

I'll go to work today a bit happier, a bit more aware of this wonderful world, this beautiful place that delights tree swallows. Swallows who dance their joy across the sky.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Two Beauties - Maddie and Pele Grace

Great Pyrenees or Pyrenean Mountain Dogs
Euzkotar Taylor Made For Love VA CGC 3/4/90 to 11/28/2003
Euzkotar Love's Ring Fire VE CGC 3/4/90 - 8/23/2003

Maddie came to stay with me several times when her human family went on vacation. Here is a story that became my tribute to this wonderful dog.
This morning I let Maddie out to splash in the ponds and get covered in mud as is her routine here (and not allowed at home). She did not come in when I called her for breakfast - definitely unusual. But I could hear her barking her presence to the world, so I wasn't concerned.

When I went out to feed the sheep, Maddie was in the loafing shed - vigilantly guarding one yearling doe (who didn't belong there), one ewe, and one newborn lamb. She wasn't disturbing the pair, wasn't trying to take over the lamb (a common problem with new guardians), she was just guarding. Then she would go out onto the bridge, bark a warning, and return. During the time I was feeding she did one full round of the field, a solid bark down the creek, and ended up back in with the new family. Looking very, very happy.

My dogs are much more casual these days about lambs. Drew was lounging on the hill that overlooks the entire sheep area, and Natasha was out patrolling the fence line. I think that as the oldest dog Maddie gets to call the shots on where her presence is needed.

Maddie is 8 years old, the mother of two litters. One of her pups was the 1996 and 1997 top winning Pyrenean in Finland, and a house and yard dog. A pup from her second litter is a full time Alpaca guardian in Alaska.

The first time I saw Maddie was in a show ring, at my first show. She is, however, from solid working lines. Maddie herself has several working 1/2 sibs. One of her mother's sisters guarded llamas until she died at the age of 12. Others worked in varying environments. Her mother's sire was not only a show champion and producer of champions, but had any number of pups who guarded successfully on both small family farms and large open range situations.

I would gladly take this show dog, house pet, and brood bitch as a working dog to protect my flock. Her instincts are obviously very much intact, she knows a job when she sees one, and does it. She can, and has, done it all.