Tag Archives: wildlife

Habits

Waking before the alarm is my norm.  The alarm is always set, just in case, but it rarely goes off, even if sleep has alluded me at bedtime or having one of the sleep is optional nights when something awakens me after an hour or so of sleep and then no sleep comes again for hours.

At this time of year as the days lengthen, the sky has lightened just enough to see movement in the yard upon awakening, but dark enough to not know what is moving.  This morning, just below our window, were several dark shadows moving slowly away from the house.  By the time the morning ritual and dressing have occurred, it is light enough to distinguish what animals are out and about.  This morning was rich with wildlife, not all on our farm.  The shadows below the window had moved along the treeline to the upper edge of the hay field, 4 large does that stopped and warily looked toward the house with the activity of letting the dogs out and getting them fed, the coffee started, and the “barn” kitty fed on the front porch.

At this time of the morning, the eastern sky is lightening, but the sun has yet to rise above the hills and trees, but its back light highlighting the skeletonized leafless trees on the ridge in the header photo.

Forty minutes later, while waiting at the road for the school bus, the sun is just beginning to climb above that ridge.

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Once home again, chickens let out, watered, and fed, it is fully light and  Girlie, the barn kitty, always seeks a point high enough to enjoy the sun’s warmth.

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The picture that was missed was the flock of a couple dozen turkey down by one of the covered bridges, slowly crossing the road and ambling up the hillside.  They have been spotted several times in that area recently, but not in a place safe enough to stop and take a photo.

Today we are expecting record high temperatures and this morning was already so warm that only light jackets or sweatshirts were needed by the grands as they headed off to school and preschool.  We will enjoy today, a slightly cooler but still springlike day tomorrow, then plunge back into winter for a short stent before another trip up the yoyo string next week.  This has not been a typical winter in any sense.

Voyeurism

Each time it snows, we are treated to a bit of winter voyeuristic experience.  The woods surround our home on three sides and during the summer, the leaves on the trees and the undergrowth prevent us from seeing any wildlife unless they venture out into the open field.  When we have snow, even a couple of inches, we can see pretty much to the back property line.  This allows us to catch glimpses into the woods to see the deer and turkeys as they walk within the edge of the woods.

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These two images are the same area of the south woods beyond the hayfield.  Very magnified as that edge is quite far away.  You can see the difference.  I didn’t see any animals when the photo was taken, but we have.  The few inches of snow that we received over the weekend, are gone, the yards and roads are muddy messes and it is supposed to be near 60ºf tomorrow.  Tonight the deer must have known that hunting season ended on Monday, two bucks and two does ventured out closer to the fence to graze at dusk.

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Again, highly magnified, thus slightly out of focus.  To give you an idea of the distance, here is the back edge unmagnified.

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The tree line you see is the south edge of our hayfield, the cedar tree almost dead center above the railing is the one in the above photos.

I love watching the wildlife that surrounds us, the deer, turkey, rabbits, chipmunks, mice, moles, and voles as long as they stay away from anything they can damage.  We see an occasional bear, coyotes, groundhogs, squirrels, assorted songbirds and raptors.  We have seen raccoons, skunks, and foxes, though never on our farm.

We love our farm.

A Peek in the Woods

The expected light snow has nearly ended.  The tops of the grass still exposed, the ground a white dusting.  Not the snow the grands had hoped for, to sled and tramp around throwing snowballs and getting soaked.

The chooks balked at their pop door when it was opened this morning.  It was as comedic as ever.  The first one or two shoved out by the remaining members of the flock, anxious to get out, until they too see the snow on the ground.  Once the critical mass inside is small, the last few refuse to leave and the ones forced out the door, quickly return to the inside of the coop.  Today, instead of trying to spread spoiled hay outside, as I know this snowfall is short lived, I just put their food inside with them.  Eventually today, they will all come out to search for bugs and shoots in the garden.

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Though the snow is light and won’t amount to much, it has frosted the trees, both the evergreens and the skeletonized deciduous trees along the edges of the fields in the wood lots.  The snow layer on the ground in the woods gives us an advantage to watching the wildlife that live in the woods and on the surrounding hill sides.  The winter dark furred deer and the dark feathered turkey are more visible.  They can be spotted more easily, deeper within the wooded areas, even when standing still.  Usually, we have to wait for them to come to the woods edge or spot their movement a bit deeper in the woods.

We still haven’t had a real snow this winter.  This is our third light snowfall.  It would have been a good weekend for a snow as Monday is a vacation day from school for the kids and from work for SIL.  He needs the long weekend, having developed a cold at week’s end.

This will be a good day to take a walk outside, bundled against the cold and carrying my camera to see what I can spot.

 

Olio – May 8, 2015

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

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Hardened off veggie plants waiting for the garden that isn’t ready for them.

The last free range time until we get the fencing up around the garden.  The fluffy critters ate half of the sweet potato plants I put in earlier this week.

The annual spring Turkey dance.  Flocks of 14 or more with the Tom fluffed up with chest puffed out and tail spread like the children’s drawing of a Thanksgiving bird.

Nearly 400 yards of undyed Dorset lamb plied and 200 yards of Coopsworth spun and plied.  I can’t decide whether to dye the Dorset or what to do with it, but the Coopsworth is for me.  A sweater once the huge bag full is all spun, plied and measured.

The first flowers from our garden.

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A nice weekend ahead with plans to deconstruct the compost bins, weed the remaining garden beds and get the seeds and plants in the vegetable beds.

We are half a week from chicks, we hope.  Broody Hen is being a great Mom, I hope she is rewarded for her efforts.

Loving our mountain farm.

Tracks

One of the beauties of having snow is the reveal of wildlife that are either nocturnal or camouflaged enough to hide in the woods.  With snow on the floor of the woods surrounding our land, we can see the deer and turkey as they move across the white background.  Usually we don’t see the deer until they move out into the field, but with the grass covered, they can be seen grazing from the low branches of the smaller trees and shrubs that provide the under story growth.

After the heavy snow last week, the first tracks that I spotted other than the kids and dogs were a path leading from the woods, across the hay field, up diagonally across the upper field and disappearing into the thicket.  An investigation to see if it was a deer or a coyote revealed that instead it was Jumper Jr., the young cow that belongs to our neighbor.  She visits frequently to graze our field, leaving her herd and last fall, even her spring calf on the other side of the fence.  She must have been disappointed to see that the grass was covered on our side of the fence as it was on her own side and she wandered back to eat the hay that had been provided at home.  It amazed me that such a large animal could leave such a narrow path through the snow, but her hoof prints were clearly visible in the path.

The day after her track was found, I discovered canine prints coming from the north east woods, straight down, across the electric fence and right up to the chicken coop.  Those tracks were not there the night before and our dogs are fearful of the electric fence, so it was probably a coyote or a fox looking for an easy meal.  Fortunately the chooks were securely locked in their coop for the night.  The tracks were somewhat degraded by the wind blown snow, so they were difficult to identify.

imageimage This morning in the light layer that fell yesterday, I found rabbit tracks and the tracks in the lower photo that I can not identify.  Both sets came from the north east woods and visited the spoiled hay bales, the compost bin, and the old compost bin where the squash and pumpkins grew last summer.

The critters are out seeking food with the ground covered by the iced over snow.  Perhaps I will spread some chicken scratch and birdseed on the snow surface for them.

It is Hay Time

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It is that time of year.  We have been watching the fields mowed and baled around us for days.  Jeff has been waiting for hot dry days to do ours as we have really good hay this year and he didn’t want to spoil it.  There are currently two tractors with sickle bars mowing the upper fields.  Tomorrow they will be tettered and tomorrow evening probably baled.  The lower field will follow.

For the first bit they were here, both dogs were going nuts in the house, barking and looking out first one window, then the next.  They have gotten used to the noise now, but we wouldn’t dare let them outside right now.

The plus side of this is that we will be able to walk our entire property for a few weeks after they are done, and we will be able to see deer and turkey.  The negative side is that this will disrupt habitats and we will see more bunnies near the house and mice in the house for a few days.  It usually brings out a snake or two.

Life is good on our mountain farm.

Weird Weather Year and It’s problems

Yesterday it was snowing here.  We didn’t get much accumulation, just a dusting as each of the other snows this year have been.  This snow triggered a memory of one of my first blog posts, a voyeuristic peek into the bare woods that nearly surround our homestead.  Our 30 acre farm is primarily hay fields.  There is a rock bar at the top of the property above the barn, a sink hole that swallows our two creeks to the west of that rock bar.  The upper part of the property is returning to woods, the west side and south edge of the property are wooded, the upper east side belongs to a neighbor and it is also wooded.  These woods give us a sense of isolation, we can’t see our neighbor’s houses at all in the summer and can see their lights at night in the winter, but the winter with the falling of the leaves, clears the view the brush obscures during the summer and we can see the wildlife that a mountain side farm supports.

Last summer, we thought we were going to need to build a boat if the rain didn’t stop.  It rained well into the time of the summer that is usually too dry here and it affected the garden, severely reducing the produce from some of the crops.  The young pullets and cockrell that we had started in March spent most of their day under the coop and the design of the coop, allowed rain to enter the drop down window on the east side.

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I struggled with an idea for sheltering that window so that the chickens didn’t get wet when perched below it inside.  My solution was to tack an 8 foot tarp just under the roof on that side, stretch it over three flexible poles that were anchored to the fence with cable ties.  That seemed to work for a few months, providing shade and rain shelter on that side of the coop.  This winter, however, we have had wind.  The farm is in a hollow on the south flank of John’s Creek/Salt Pond Mountain and it funnels the wind sharply across our land.  The wind tore the tarp free at two points and the flapping raised 3 of the fence stakes from the ground on the coldest day this winter, when our high only reached single digits.  The fence came down, the ground was too frozen to hammer the stakes back in, but the chickens were cooped to try to keep them from frostbite.  Unfortunately, the rooster and one hen suffered some on their combs and wattles anyway.  Our winter has alternated between mild, up into the 50’s days and frigid windy weather.  Today is the later, the sky is clear and gorgeous and 22 f.

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The coop problem however, still exists.  Generally the rain comes from the west and the west side of the coop has two glass windows that can be raised opposite the perches and an overhang that helps shelter them from all but a horizontal driving rain.  The fence posts have been reanchored, but the fence is really inadequate and has no real gate.  I guess when the weather and budget allow, we will begin the fencing for our pastures and at that time, perhaps the orchard in which the coop sits and the garden on the edge of it, will be fenced as well and the chickens will be able to have a larger area to free range.  Right now, their free range must be supervised because of our dogs, the neighbor dogs and the coyotes.

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For now they have to enjoy the bugs that hide in the old hay in their run, the pumpkins and other treats that I offer and the supervised outdoor time they can be afforded when the weather permits supervision.

Life is good on our mountain farm.