Sunday, February 28, 2010

Moonrise, Sunrise

The cloudy day made the prospect of seeing the full moon unlikely. I kept checking, and the moon found holes in the clouds and made her appearance.

The next morning the clouds were still there, but as often happens they didn't quite meet the edge of the earth, and sunlight glowed and gleamed as the sun started his journey up the sky.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Terremoto! Earthquake!

My cousin and her husband are on sabbatical from their teaching jobs in Australia, spending a year touring South America. Last night they were in Valparaiso, Chile. This is Debbie's account of the experience.

Valparaiso, Chile.

Would you believe it we have just been in an earthquake!!!! Volcanoes are one thing, But an earthquake was not on our list of ‘must do’ experiences for Chile!!!!

4.00am and we are sitting in the small plaza outside our hostel waiting for an aftershock. The whole neighbourhood is in the street, walking around and cars are roaring up and down the hills sightseeing in the the dark!(just like people do after a cyclone. The entire city has lost electricity and water. And apparently it was much worse in Santiago. (instant info- via mobiles).

Next morning.

That would have to have be THE most terrifying experiences of our lives!

Brian was woken up by the screeching of all the seagulls going bereserk down at the port, then the constant rhythmic tapping of the window glass. And then he leapt out of bed yelling, ‘It’s an

I thought he was crazy - but that quickly turned to panic when rubble from the ceiling fell down on out bed! All four walls cracked from floor to ceiling, with plaster and furniture going everywhere.

We are staying on the top floor (the 3rd) of a really dodgy old ricketty wooden building on the top of one of Valparaiso’s 42 hills. Not sure whether it would be a safer option than being in a solid (or not-so- solid in Chile’s case)concrete structure.

At least wood gives.

But that was the scarey thing! With zero experience, we had absolutely no idea what to do! Cyclone thoughts of hopping in the bathroom ran through my head. Why the hell did we skunge on accomodation and change from the dearer one? Would we have been any safer there? Feeling the whole ‘house of cards’ rock from side to side, throwing us into the walls and furniture.

As we were fleeing in our underpants making for the labrynth of 5 flights of dingey rattling stairs, we where invited by 2 Chileans to join them in a door way, where we braced ourselves for another few solid minutes. (For a moment it felt like we were back on the Antarctic Dream crossing the Drake Passage again!)

Brian thought of Stuart Diver. I thought, the girls wouldn’t even know where we were and what a violent slow death it would be. Trapped in the rubble! Apparently, 150 people are dead – 5 from Valparaiso.

It was horrifying! I don’t think I’ve felt so scared in all my life. In a strange country, in the pitch dark, with no trust in the building, no idea what to do and the mighty earth rumbling beneath
you, making you feel so totally insignificant and out of control. At it’s peak, the house rattled violently for a solid 3 minutes. Bone shaking, teeth rattling - shaking with fear.

Needless to say, we formed a close bond with the 2 Chileans in the doorway, bracing the architraves, all hugging each other in our jocks! And decided to go with their local advice and stay put and ride it out -while the Chileans, kept saying ‘tranquillo,…..tranquillo.’ (calm down!) rather than try the stairs.

When it died down a bit. Every household in our ramshackle hood, made it into the square to sit it out till dawn. With mother earth rumbling every 20 mins or so in after shocks. What a weird feeling that is. How small and helpless human beings are against mother earth. Adds new meaning to ‘the earth moved under our feet….)

Funny how sunlight makes you feel safer. We were so exhausted, from adrenolin, we went back upstairs, found a better, less damaged room and slept for 5 hours. The after shocks continued, the ominous tapping of the glass, and rumbling, and the sea gulls started up again - but we took the local’s word for it, that the worst was over.

Woke up to the news at lunch time. 8.8 on the Richter scale! That was the epi-centre in the town of Concepcion. It was about 7.5 here. So that’s huge!

The lovely poor family who own this hostel were wonderful to us. All the neighbours are helping clean up. A real sense of community. All our gear, was covered in debris and rubble, but no damage.

And we feel lucky to be alive, especially when we go through those horrible 5 mins in our mind. It is unreal.

At least we are safe from the potential secondary hazzard of a tsunami! Lucky we are not on Easter Island until next week, where they are on alert.

We love adventure travelling, but that is enough excitement for now.

I told Brian I don’t want to feel the earth move again for a while!

- Debbie Mann Power
Valparaiso, Chile

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Carport Reborn

January 18 - the carport (the one actually used to shelter the car) was lifted across the road by the wind. It was jammed in between two trees, but looked relatively unharmed.

February 19 - Two of us cleared a space to roll the carport down to, and then dislodged it from the trees. This was not an easy process, it was tightly jammed and the ground was not flat and smooth under it. We removed the legs and left the roof for another day.

February 21 - Rebirth! We carried the roof with sides attached to it's new location closer to the house, where it will be better protected from the wind. Two of the legs were damaged. We started with substitutes, but were later able to straighten the legs enough to use the originals.

Amazingly, there was no other damage to frame or cover. I'm very pleased with Costco's new carport design.

A happily sheltered car.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Protecting Nesting

It's not only the sheep who think it's spring. The peacocks are displaying their newly regrown tails, and the peahens are hunting for the best nesting spots.

This hen came running out of the woods when she heard the sheep come by. I love the way she blends in with the undergrowth.

Her usual nesting spot is just behind this hill, and she seems to be concerned the sheep will find it first.


February is a fun time for sheep breeders. Lambs are some of the most enticing creatures, full of fun and cute as can be.

Busy country lane. The chickens and peafowl aren't thrilled at sharing their territory.

Jesse making sure everyone keeps together.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Timing Is Everything

I spent most of the day doing inside work, as it looked like it would burst out raining at any moment. Dark sky, heavy clouds, the feel of rain in the air.

About 2PM I decide that it isn't going to rain, and get the sheep out for a walk. The power company mowed the sides of the road and around the poles of the power lines, and new grass is sprouting.

It starts raining on the way up the hill.

No big deal, we can all handle rain. The sheep and goats are THRILLED with the grass. Yum yum.

It starts raining harder. Sheep don't seem to care, so why should I? I traipse through the newly cut areas, figuring out where I can put fencing to make a new pasture. Goats are inching back towards home.

Now it starts pouring. Sheep start moving down the hill. I follow. Half way back it starts to hail. We all move faster. Then it becomes torrential hail and rain. My entire property looks like rice patties eerily tilted. The sheep run under the neighbor's garage eaves. I join them.

After some time I decide the rain and hail aren't going to stop, and the goats, some of the sheep and I head back home. The rest of the sheep stay out to eat the field behind the neighbor's. I haul a bale of hay through the mud and muck in the driving hail to the shelter, followed by complaining goats. I put everything away, head up the hill. I am completely soaked and dripping.

Hail stops, rain lightens. By the time I get to the house the rain stops. I go out at dusk to gather the rest of the sheep. It still isn't raining.

*Sigh* Perfect timing.

ASI Proposal On Managing Livestock Protection Dogs

The American Sheep Industry Association has a working group on Livestock Protection Dogs, and they have written a draft management program for using dogs on federal grazing allocations. They are asking for input from sheep farmers:

(1) whether you agree that the program is needed;
(2) if the guidance is do-able on your operation; and
(3) what parts of the draft would helpful to you.

I think they could also use input from everyone using livestock guarding/protection dogs. The certification they are proposing covers both herding and guarding dogs, and includes farm flock owners as well as range sheep operations. This may help protect our right and ability to use working dogs.

From the draft:

ASI strongly believes that the use of LPDs on federal grazing allotments is in serious jeopardy, and anticipates three possible outcomes: 1) Federal agencies develop their own mandatory regulations for the use of LPDs on grazing allotments; 2) Federal agencies completely eliminate the use of LPDs on grazing allotments; or 3) ASI takes a proactive management position and adopts a stringent LPD certification program that sets high industry standards for the use of LPDs with the intent to effectively manage and maintain the use of LPDs on federal grazing allotments.

Farm flock owners are also subject to potential restrictions on use of LPDs because of occasional conflicts with neighbors.

The purpose of the ASI Certification Program is to encourage sheep producers using livestock protection dogs and herding dogs to adhere to best management practices (BMPs) that optimize the use of these dogs while minimizing potential conflicts with neighbors and recreational users of federal lands. Throughout the certification program, the term livestock protection dog (LPD) is used and is meant to include herding dogs as well. LPD owners must complete the certification program annually to maintain a current certified status. LPD owners must also be a member of their ASI-affiliated state sheep association (if applicable) in order to participate in the certification program.

Full Circle - Back To The Way It Was

I am absolutely delighted with all the interest bubbling up about changing the way we do agriculture. More and more studies are showing that the "improvements" in agriculture started in the 50s are not only not working well, but are downright unhealthy for us, the animals, the plants, and the planet. The recommendations are to go back to pasture farming, with an undercurrent for sustainable farming.

Pasture raising poultry has gained in popularity. City folk are getting involved - many cities allow 3-5 chickens per household. Edible Forest Gardens are making inroads into urban areas.

An interesting site Eatwild promotes eating grass-fed animals, and has a series of articles about why you should eat grass-fed - and why you shouldn't be eating cheap meats. Ranching With Sheep speaks to the other side - the benefits to farmers and ranchers following sustainable practices.

Can we undo the damage we've done over the past 60 years to our health, our animals and our land? Perhaps. The exciting thing is this movement is coming from the bottom up, individual farmers and ranchers changing their practices. Individual consumers seeking out local, high-quality products, and being willing to pay premium prices for them.

A grass roots movement to grass based food.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

In the Flight Path

Millie is a rescue Pyr I got with the idea of training her as a working guardian. Twice I've thought she was trained, put her in with the animals, and she's done well for a while - and then starts playing with (and damaging) her charges. I'm going for a third try.

We started over at square one. She now lives in a large kennel in the middle of everything, where she can watch Charlie, the hoofstock, and is surrounded by the birds. She comes with me every day as I do chores, now loose with her long line trailing behind her. When I'm around she is tied to the outside of the kennel (where she can go in and out), so she has more exposure to everything.

The neighbors are building a barn, so I get lots of barking at the strange noises. But this afternoon Millie was really carrying on, with that "come look! come look!" bark. She was jumping skyward, tearing between sides of the kennel, and jumping up some more. I stepped outside to see what was going on.

I was just in time to be under the flight path of a low-flying Bald Eagle. Full white head and tail. He was so close I felt like I could reach out and touch him. Obviously Millie thought that too, as she tried to snatch him out of the sky. He ignored us both, winging his stately way in a straight line north.

I always tell people to listen to their dogs, and come when asked. Sometimes we are richly rewarded.

Millie, very pleased with herself for chasing off an eagle.

New Ewe Lamb

This little darling was born last night around 4 PM. She's no more than an hour old in these pics.

Her mom is one of my favorite ewes - always curious, always talking. Now she has someone to talk to who will listen. Mom wouldn't look at the camera, but she has the same markings as the lamb.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We Now Return You To Your Regularly Scheduled Weather

After days of warm, sunny, spring-like weather the clouds have returned, along with rain and chilly temps. Ah well, we still have trees budding and even some blooms. I always take pictures of our beautiful days, so lest anyone get the impression we have great weather - here's winter normal.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

A New Disguise

St. Helens? No - just a wandering hill, slinking through the foothills.

I love the cloud patterns. It's hard to see in the small images, but the clouds look like waves breaking over rocks.

Friday, February 05, 2010

February Beginnings

Or "Why I Consider February the Beginning of Spring"

I have two bantam hens with chicks. Small hatches - two with this hen, one with the other.

Mom teaching the chicks what food is edible.

Ram lamb, born the end of January. Babydoll Southdown.

Mom and lamb doing well.