Feeding What?

I have always enjoyed identifying birds, tracks, animals, plants, trees… whatever seems to cross my path.  I was VERY frustrated on my cruise last year… asking locals what the names of the trees were and they would simply say, “I don’t know.”  I don’t like that.  I try to know what things are!  Now I may forget, but chances are, at some point, I’ve tried to look it up!  Or like this… I’m confused.
Winters tend to be hard on little songbirds in Wyoming, so I try to help out by feeding them just a little extra.
Next to Oregon Juncos, these are the most popular birds at my feeder.  I’ve been calling them Cassin’s Finches, because in my bird book… that’s what they look like.  But I double-checked myself before I wrote this… and now I’m not so sure!
I doesn’t help that I took this photo on a cold day… and they’ve fluffed themselves up to be fatter (and warmer) than usual.
Upon further inspection… I think these are House Finches.  I disqualified Rosy Finches and Purple Finches.  But I’ve listened to the songs… looked at photos… read about them… and I could STILL be wrong!  Argh.  Any birders out there that can help???  I’d like to know what I’m feeding!
Whatever it is, it is the top bird in this photo.  In the middle is a juvenile (I think) Pinyon Jay.  (Piñon is how I grew up spelling it.)  On the bottom is an Oregon Junco.  Now I KNOW it is a Piñon Jay, because these huge obnoxious flocking birds appear in winter and can clean out my bird feeder in 15 minutes!  Like I said, they are usually found in flocks.  But this guy is a loner.  Very unusual.  And the flock hasn’t come back since he has arrived.  Usually Piñon Jays send out scouts who then call (they sound like crows with a caw-caw call)  and soon afterwards the entire flock arrives.  Therefore, I only put a limited amount of seed out in my feeder.  That’s why I bought what I thought would be a deterrent feeder with the wire around it… Ha!  Piñon Jays can still reach in and steal the food.  I need to put another cone around it made of chicken wire, to keep them off of it!  But if any birders read this post, I’d like their opinions of this big guy as well.

Flat Light

If you live in snow country, you know what Flat Light is.  It is the inability to distinguish depth because the light is flat and doesn’t reflect normally in order for your eyes to perceive contrast and shadows.  Flat Light comes with cloudy skies, snow falling, and snow on the ground.  Watch ski races, and they will paint the bumps blue or yellow.  They do that to help the racer in flat light not wipe out and kill themselves!  You know what you get when you get Flat Light here?  You get stuck in snow drifts!  Which is what happened to Daniel and I as we went to the Mills Place.  Yes, it has been snowing.  Yes, it has been WINDY!  And as we turned off the highway to go the 80 yards to the house I drove right into a big drift across the road, which neither of us saw in advance.  We spent the next 20-30 minutes digging out.  Daniel successfully drove the Durango down to the house, turned around, drove back through the ruts, bogging down a bit, but then making it to the highway where we parked it until we were done.  We went home for lunch.  We then returned 1.5-2 hours later.  For the most part our ruts were drifted back in.
This hangs on the gate at the Mills Place.  I love it, but it has occurred to me to buy one that has an English Shepherd on it instead.  I’m not planning on getting a milk cow.  But the Mills had one.  This sign has been there forever.  Well, OK, a long time.  To the left of this is the cattle guard where we drive down to the house.  About the second post from the end is the drift.  See it???  Yeah, well, neither did I.
There goes Daniel.  My camera wouldn’t focus on anything at first.  Too much snow falling and Flat Light to do its job.
Daniel is standing where you should have seen our right tire rut.   It was all filled in in two hours!  wow.
The left side of my Durango was here.  Notice he’s pointing it out for you.  Like you couldn’t figure that out.  He’s so helpful, my son.  I love him.  He dug out my car.  And didn’t complain.  And he hiked to the shop to get a shovel.  Because I don’t carry one in my Durango.  I think he called me Miss-Safety-Who-Doesn’t-Have-a-Shovel-in-Her-Car, or some sarcastic moniker like that.  But for all his hysterical sarcasm, he’s a sweetheart, and I even cooked him lunch for digging me out.  What a thoughtful mother I am!  Notice the snowflakes that are falling sideways in this photo.  That’s why he’s squinting.  Because I made him pose in the middle of a blizzard.  What a kind mother I am.  At least I made him stop sticking his tongue out.  Like I wouldn’t notice, Daniel!  Shees!  Some things you can still see even in Flat Light!

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!

and a Happy 50th Birthday to me…


As I sat down to write this earlier… my youngest son called.  It was after 11 pm. He had run off the road was the jist of his sporadic cell phone call.  “Come pull me out.  Bring a flashlight.” I understood that much and went and woke up Vernon.  Daniel was in the shower and rinsed quickly to come along.  Toria was already in her pajamas and in bed, but came out to hold vigil on the couch until we returned.  Bundled up, we trudged out to the pickup and drove down the road.  I assumed he had headed for the Mills Place where he spends the night alone.  He wasn’t there along the three mile stretch.  We returned and headed north this time, which made sense.  That’s the only place to get cell service.  I hadn’t heard the specifics of his call so I sent us on a wild goose chase.  There he was.  North of our turnoff just half a mile.  He had slid off while turning around after finishing a call to his girlfriend.  He apologized for the inconvenience.  But he was OK.  His Dakota was OK.  The sky was dark and full of blazing stars.  It was warm.  It took 5 minutes to pull him out.  He headed for his bed and we returned to ours.  A minor event.  But a Christmas blessing nonetheless.

We thank You for our health.  We thank You for all the blessings You continue to bestow upon this family.  We thank You for all the gifts we’ve received from You.  I received one tonight.
I hope you enjoy your blessings as well.
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Feeding Hay 201

For years we have fed on two different ranches… ours and the one we lease from a neighbor.  It helps keep cows/newborn calves separate, just in case someone gets ill and wants to spread it… plus it is easier on the fields and creek to spread the cattle out.  I’ve shared many pics of us feeding and graining and chopping ice and calving, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never sent out photos of how Johnny feeds.

 While it takes two of us to feed on this place, Johnny has always fed by himself with this cool contraption on our leased ranch.
It is called… get this… a bale feeder!
Vernon has pulled it out of the shed and is unhitching the bale feeder from the tractor.  The large bales in the haystack behind will be loaded onto the feeder with the deadly looking grapple hook on the front of the tractor.  This is a large hay stack… each bale measuring 4’x4’x8′ or so.  Each stack contains either first cutting hay, or second cutting, even third cutting if we managed to get some!  Each has its various qualities of protein content.  What I know is, the first cutting of hay, the stuff we cut in June… it is full of obnoxious grass pollen that makes me wheeze when I breathe and makes my lungs sound like Rice Krispies cereal.  We also prefer square bales to round… the thinking there is that round bales aren’t packed as tightly as square and so moisture (rain/snow/dew) can soak in and rot the hay.  Although the outsides are tan, the insides of the bale will still be green.
Once loaded, you pull the baling twine off of each bale… the bales are shoved to the front where they are chopped into pieces and spit out onto the ground.  This negates having to have a person back on the trailer pitching the hay off.
Kinda spiffy engineering.  Smart people those farmers… engineered themselves right out of a job… That’s why in the old days this ranch could support 3 families with occasional extra help… but now it is a one family job with all this mechanization making life easier!