Nature


I don’t bother picking up the sheep placentas in the pasture, because the sheep move on in their graze every couple of days, so the afterbirth doesn’t pose much of a biohazard to them. Bronte the LGD eats a lot of them, but eventually she gets full. She tends to opt-out of eating her proper dinner almost the entire two weeks of lambing, because she’s eaten so many placentas! Sometimes she finds them while they are still exiting the ewe, and she gives them a gentle tug to hurry them along. Smile with tongue outOne of the many humorous and gross things that happens on a farm that makes a farmer just shrug. Placentas are very nutritious, after all.

I had the sheep in a few areas in the orchard near the house, where I didn’t put a dog in with them, so those placentas got left behind too. I figure some scavenger bird will find them and benefit from them, or else, they’ll fertilize the soil.

Sure enough, here is a pair of turkey vultures doing cleanup duty. I rarely see them land anywhere other than trees. I was able to sneak up and get a reasonably close shot of them on the grass (unfortunately beyond several sets of fencing, so they are somewhat obscured) before they busted up when they saw me. I sat down and got a few more shots while they lingered. They circled and circled, apparently reluctant to leave behind those delicious placentas- I’m sure those were a good find!

I never realized what these guys were until our neighbor got a close-up shot of one sitting in a tree, where you could clearly see his red, featherless (and rather unappealing-looking!) head. When I saw them in flight, I always assumed they were some variety of eagle. They are bigger than a hawk, but not quite as big as the bald eagles we see so often here. The patterning on the bottoms of their wings is very distinctive, however, if they are flying low enough to see it. Thankfully, vultures are indeed more of a scavenger, and less of a concern for predation.

We have multiple bald eagles that return to this valley each spring to nest and stay for the summer. I get uneasy when I see them fly over the lamb crop, but so far (knock on wood) I haven’t lost any lambs to them. A friend of mine who lives upriver on the North Fork Stillaguamish has a lot of trouble with eagles getting her lambs. For us, Bronte is a pretty good deterrent. Kirk has seen her come leaping up out of a sound sleep to chase off a bird that was zoning-in on the sheep. The eagle had to put ‘er in reverse pretty fast in midair to avoid that six-foot-tall, grizzly-bear-dawg standing up on her hind legs!

This dude (or gal?) was sitting on a fence post in dense fog the other morning, hopefully also just focusing on placentas, not eyeballing my live lambs! Annoyed

This goes under the people-always-ask-me hashtag #howdoyoudoit? How do you get home from a stressful, drama-coworker, overtime-ridden day at work, a Seattle-area traffic commute, then go out and do farm chores before eating dinner at 8pm (or later)?

I admit, on rainy, cold days, often I hesitate to go out. When I come home wearing my frail office Khakis and a semi-dress jacket, I shiver at the bitter winter cold (bitter, for us, my East Coast friends, is sub-forty…). I’m reluctant to embrace my farmy chores. But of course it’s mandatory, no avoiding it, animals need to be fed, no-matter-what. So, I suit-up in sweatpants, a hoodie, a flannel jacket; and my Muck Boots, toasty off the boot drier. And, out I go.

And then, there is this. Silence; clean air, and this nighttime view of almost nothingness. The whole world shrinks a thousand fold. It’s like submerging undersea from a metropolis land view, passing through a veil.

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SnowGeeseInSnowWe live on a major bird migratory route. Above is a photo I captured a few years ago, of Snow Geese in the snow. I am not a bird expert, so I have no grasp of how many different species move through here over the winter, but I know it’s a lot. Flocks of little birds are not always as noticeable. Though, I do often see intermittent spikes in my chicken feed consumption, that I attribute to these stoppers-by, seen fluttering about the feeder en masse for a day or two, then gone. The big birds are another matter, they are a constant and dramatic presence. Ducks by the thousands (millions?), for sure. Bigger yet, Canada Geese, Snow Geese, and some other goose species I’m not as sure about. And the big daddy of them all, the Trumpeter Swan.

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We went razor clamming last weekend. We easily got our limit both days we were there, which rendered about nine pounds of clam meat when all was said and done. Grayland,WA is aptly named; our coastal beaches in winter seem to have more shades of gray than one would think possible. But, beaches in winter here are desolate; miles of endless, private recreation for two border collies, who aren’t deterred in the least by cold water and whipping wind. And the weather had some good windows, where it wasn’t too cold or wet. As long as you bring about ten changes of dry clothes, you are fine. Winking smile

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This was the best I could do with my point-and-shoot zoom from the house down to the far pasture. I knew I couldn’t get any closer without disturbing this scene. We have here a tall, white bird, a reposing ram, and a dead-looking guardian dog.

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I spotted this beauty on the inside of a metal garbage can that contains dog kibble for the LGDs. She’s the color of a pumpkin, with splotchy white spots on her back, and perfectly striped, hairy legs. I don’t think such elaborately colored spiders are so common here, most of them are drab brown.

Moses is photo bombing here, wondering what is the holdup on dinner delivery.

Coyotemidday

 

Alright, enough with the game cam. But this was a particularly good shot- not bad for an automated camera, huh? This was around 11am on a Thursday.

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