Things are moving quickly: Spring is galloping along. The mountains are no longer pristine white but streaked with rock.Summer skies are so different from winter ones.
I posted this next picture in the previous entry. Signs of spring are not obvious much yet,…until you look closely.
Sometimes we wonder if we are going to get green leaves before June. This year, they are a month early.
Dandelions are out.As are the very peculiar mistletoe flowers.They make the rudimentary soopollallie flowers look almost normal.The first tiny violets are out.And I have my first volunteers. I have taught Jamie, Jordan and Myles to use a chainsaw, and they have been working hard cutting and hauling firewood for next winter. I figured this was the best way for me to use three young muscular males. Unfortunately, two of them are very left handed: the chain saw is not designed for lefties and my heart was in my mouth watching them work!These nice dead beetle-killed trees were on a small hill surrounded by ditches. The ditches were completely dry, was impossible to drive onto the hill without building a bridge. So the guys’ most useful attribute was carrying the wood to a loading point.And filling the woodshed. (The blue staining of the sapwood is due to the fungus carried by the beetle. The fungus blocks the tree’s plumbing so the beetles do not drown in sap.)After four weeks I am finally eating bits of salad out of the box I built in the greenhouse. It has a lid that shuts at night and a blanket that goes over the top on colder nights (temps are still -5C to -10C, even though they might be +20C in the afternoon. My first attempt at growing tomatoes froze them instantly so I am bringing the next batch inside the house at night.)From the south bluff, cut leafed fleabane and Jacob’s ladder are blooming.
While I was sitting enjoying the flowers, a female mountain blue bird obligingly posed on a snag.Western toads are about (just as common as ever in this area.)And mourning cloak butterflies, this one looking pretty smart despite its hibernation.The muskrat has quietly reappeared in the pond.The green leaves still have a long way to go, but the pussy willows are blooming fully. (This one is female so not so yellow.)
And as soon as they blossom, the rufous hummingbirds arrive!
There is nothing subtle about Chilcotin weather. After a mostly cool and often dull March, we suddenly had a 3-day summer. Temperatures were supposed to reach 24C, but in fact I never saw them higher than 16C, in the shade. But in the sun, it was HOT.
After the frost had finished, of course.
On the first hot day, I could already hear the creek below the house.In the shade, it made icicles.The ice on the ponds rapidly disintegrated.Banks of ice still clung to the river.
Beside the river, the red alders were blooming.Because most of the snow had gone, I could walk everywhere in hiking boots. What freedom to be free of heavy winter footwear. (I also took my longjohns off – and instantly felt 5 lbs lighter!)The dogs love to sit on top of banks to sample the scents travelling up on the air drafts.Badger quickly overheats – he was glad to find a patch of snow to lie on.The lake across the road is still frozen, but it is now a solid grey.From the top of that bluff there is a great view of wetlands.Near the top on the right of the above photo is a patch of tawny sedge. In it were a couple of moose.And one day, beside the road, I saw a very pale fox. If Harry had not been neutered, I might think he had been straying away from home.There is a flush of green along the roadsides.And tiny weeds popping up on the drying mud of the driveway.Pussy Willows are abundant.
Spring gallops on. The first amazingly early cut-leafed fleabane came out.Not to be outdone, the aspens made a halo of silvery catkins.
The ice on the ponds disappeared very quickly.On the third summer day, a front started to move in over the mountains.The following morning, we had a gory sunrise.I wanted to clear some firewood trees from my driveway and burn the branches. I had left it almost too late to burn safely. Fortunately this sunrise presaged a dull, fairly windless day with promise of rain although we got only a few spits. Anyway, down came the trees,And up went the flames.And I got the first pickup load of wood of the season.
The air is full of flying geese, precursers of the spring migration. The redpolls instantly disappeared, but there are still one or two pine grosbeaks: they live here year round.
The hot weather brought a lot of “firsts.”
First robing singing. (They had been around for a couple of weeks but the prior dull, cool weather did not inspire them.)First song sparrow.
First chipmunk. (It’s windy, which is why his fur is parted.)The chipmunks fight among themselves. The one sticking his head up the back of the feeder is not too sure of himself.The birds are not as frightened of the chipmunk as they are of the squirrel, but they are still cautious.The male blackbirds are reduced, but still argumentative, but they are also leary of the chipmunk.One or two female blackbirds have arrived, but the males beat them up so they usually come to the feeder alone.The first flickers are cackling, and woodpeckers are drumming (Probably mostly the hairies.)
Following these passerines are the red tailed hawks.
As the ice moved off the ponds, the ducks arrived.I am always amazed how small the little species of ducks are compared with the mallards. Here is Mr Bufflehead.
And with his ladyfriend.Another tiny duck is the very handsome hooded merganser.
His ladyfriend is not far away. She has her crest raised.Unfortunately, another first is – mosquitos!
One other migrant deserves a mention. After a year of preparation, my new neighbours have finally arrived for good! (Ryan’s Dad, in the middle, helped them move in.)
You might remember this picture from the last post. In fact, the heifer that produced this calf needed some assistance. I got some great shots of the process – I have pulled calves many times myself – but Punky asked me not to publish the photos, and here are her comments about it.
Chris took some nice shots of Paul and I pulling a calf. After viewing, I asked her not to post them. But not because I felt uncomfortable or guilty about what we had done, but because once a photo is put out for the public, you no longer have any control over it. (It is very weird to see photos I’ve put on my blog when “Anahim Lake” is googled….. how did they get there? Who decided what?)
I’ll give you a tiny bit of background. The cow is a ‘first calver’ and this year we have had too many ‘big’ calves and have had to assist more times than usual. Why? That is the big question at the moment. And one I don’t have an answer to yet. Hence researching bulls, talking to our vet, and gathering any information I can pull together. Meanwhile back at the ranch, our heifers are strong, healthy and mothering their ‘too big’ calves beautifully. Just too often needing a bit of help (that should not be necessary) to give birth. Or the calf would die. And so would the momma. This is despite our careful and very specific selection of suitable bulls, our strict ‘pasture breeding’ so there are no mistakes or surprises with bulls meant for older cows, keeping our own known heifers (rather than buying) and all the other extra care and attention that the heifers get.
The carefully watched heifer in question has not been progressing quickly enough and it was well time to lend a hand. She quietly walked in to the maternity chute and I was able to easily set the chains. The first loop is set above the fetlock joint, and the other half hitched below the joint, below the dew claws. This means that the pressure is distributed between two points, not just concentrated in one spot. Obviously set the same on each individual front leg. We are then careful to guide the calf correctly and slowly in to position, in this case pulling the legs one at a time to start out with. While big, the calf was mostly just ‘bunched up’ and once we had his shoulders “walked” in to the birth canal, he came relatively easy. We are conscious of doing this procedure as naturally and thoughtfully as possible. We work with the cow, pulling with her contractions, and keeping the process in stages (as it would be without our help), allowing the calf’s lungs to drain, (we can help clear them if necessary) and encouraging him to take his first breaths once far enough out of his mother to do so. Once born, we quickly move him out of the way (so his mother can safely back out of the head gate without stepping on him) and set the calf in a position best suited to help expand his lungs. Healthy mother and baby are immediately left alone to get used to the new situation and bond without distraction.
But none of this information or understanding will you get from any still photos. I would usually agree that a photo is worth a thousand words, but in this case, it’s also about perspective.
I can almost see the caption above the picture on Facebook now… “Two hundred pound man carelessly rips calf from confined and helpless cow while woman smiles and assists. If you are against such animal cruelty, ‘like and share’ this horrible photo. Donate now to……”
See what I mean? If you are on Facebook or Twitter, or probably any of a hundred other social media sites, you’ve seen something similar.
Ranchers often get a raw deal from the public. Sure, we all condemn feedlot beef it is unnatural, unhealthy for the cow, and therefore unhealthy for the human that eats it. Range meat has a perfect ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats. The fat itself has no chemicals. Unlike feedlot beef that has a very high omega 6 percentage, whose fat is full of poisons, and who would not live much past slaughtering age because the liver disintegrates due to its unnatural diet. I live in an area where decent food is very hard to get especially in winter. How lucky I am to at least have real meat.