Monday, April 8, 2013

Jenn Attends Permacuture Workshop with Sepp Holzer

We have been busy, busy, busy here at Sundog over the past six months.  I thought I would have plenty of time to post news during the winter months, but between remodeling, shoveling snow, taking care of animals, and taking a part-time job as the City's planning consultant,  the months just slipped on by.

However, it is a new year, and Spring is here (even though it just snowed last night), so I am getting excited again about the work to be done here at Sundog.  Namely PERMACULTURE!!!

Sepp talks about seed mixes
Last month I attended a five day workshop in Loma Mar (just south of San Francisco) that featured world famous (literally) Permaculture Specialist Sepp Holzer.  It was  a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet Sepp, hear first hand about the work he is doing world wide, and ask as many questions as I could think of. I made the most of it!

A total of 70 people attended the workshop, some from as far away as New York.  We all camped in tents on a 16 acre undeveloped property in Loma Mar that was the focus of the workshop.  I was very impressed by the level of expertise present at the event.  Not only was Sepp full of information (as was to be expected), but so were the workshop sponsors AND the participants.

Most of the sponsors came from Montana, where permaculture has a strong foothold.  Most of the participants came from the western United States (California, Washington, Oregon and Nevada), with a few from Texas and New York.  There were representatives from alternative farms, plant nurseries, the computer and high tech industry, a lawyer or two, and several folks who were either retired or soon-to-be retired that wanted to try something new and earthy.
A raised bed is created using tree branches and logs as a base material.

[For those of you who are unfamiliar with Permaculture or Sepp Holzer just Google them and your screen will be filled with information.  Or you can look at my Permaculture page for a quick overview.]   

To make sure I came away with the information I needed for our project here at Sundog, I took site plans and photos of Sundog to the workshop, and I had everyone I could drag over comment on what we should do here.  I was thrilled to find that everyone was happy to contribute and there were a lot of great ideas generated, including ways to enhance our ponds, where to place  raised beds and terraces, what plants might do well, and how to build greenhouses that required no heat or added light (even in our harsh climate).

Branches cover the raised bed to shelter seeds and aid in germination.
Sepp and the project sponsors made sure we all knew how to build a proper raised bed (see photos), grow mushroom cultures, and build a proper pond before we left.  All of these are critical elements to maintaining the healthy, polycultural, organic landscape envisioned by permaculture.

We also were able to procure free seeds at a "seed swap" to spread on our properties, and listen to some intriguing lectures on why we should not worry about "invasive" species and the importance of stepping up and trying new things (even when "experts" say the idea will never work).

I, for one, learned a lot, and made some new friends that I hope to keep in touch with and learn from in the future.  I also came away with a clear idea of what I want to do here at Sundog.  Now, I just need to get Kim on board! 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Our Buckeye Chickens Are Five Weeks Old!

Our eggs arrive safely!
Today marks the five week birthday of our Buckeye chicks. 

They came to us still snug in their eggs, wrapped in bubble-wrap and nestled in shredded newspaper from Crains Run Ranch in Ohio.  Judging from the box, the Post Office did their best to shake them up, which definitely reduced their viability, but no eggs were broken, and 10 out of 24 managed to hatch and survive their first few days.  I am told that this is considered a GREAT hatch from mail-order eggs. 
Eggs in the incubator with automatic rocker and humidity sensor
22 days later they start to hatch
Then into the brooder to stay warm while they grow
This is the first hatch-ling (shown above) at 2 days old
10 days old (getting feathers!!)

Four weeks old (head feathers coming in)
17 days old (tail and shoulder feathers!)

So, my ten little peeps are in the brooder right now and in the next two weeks they will be ready to get out and stretch their legs.  I  hope to have their coop ready in the barn by then. 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Winter is Here!

Our Halloween pumpkin covered in snow
I am sitting here at my desk watching fat little snowflakes drift down from the sky.  The trees are already covered with fluffy pillows of the stuff, and where there once were areas of dirt, gravel and pine needles (not to mention hay bales, wood piles, and potted plants) there is now a sea of white.
Kim's motorcycle waits for space in the garage!

Our house with cargo trailer in front
This is my first winter here at Sundog. My first winter ANYWHERE that has SNOW, in fact!  I feel like I could watch it come down for hours on end.  It is mesmerizing.

It has been snowing for three days now, so we have accumulated about 18 inches at this point.  Walking through the drifts to feed the horses and fetch materials from the garage and basement has given me an idea of what the next six months are going to be like, and all I can say is YIKES!

I actually like walking through the snow, as do the horses and dogs.  My boy Cody loves to catch snowballs, and our older hound-dog, Tulip, cannot get enough of "porpoising" through the drifts.  She doesn't seem to need to have a direction.  She just jumps in and keeps going!  The horses dig through the snow with their nose, taste it a bit and throw their head around.  The chicks are too young to go out in it, but I am looking forward to seeing their first responses to it too.

Even the cold is not a problem (so far).  Put on enough warm clothing, and you look forward to the snow!  No, the biggest problem I see is the digging.  EVERYTHING is UNDER the SNOW!  To go down the stairs, you have to dig them out (or you can just sweep the snow off the stairs if you keep up with it, but take one step, and you compact the snow so only digging will work). Want some firewood?  Dig it out.  What to drive down your driveway?  Dig it out!  Hmmmm.  This is going to take a little more planning and patience than I thought, but the good news is that I will get exercise this winter!

We are suppose to have sun again in a few days, so this snow will soon be gone.  However, it was great "practice", and I have already gotten together my list of "must do's" before the real winter storms hit!

I see my last communication was way back in August!  Well, a lot has happened since then!  We have made great progress on the barn, taken down a number of trees that were threatening to fall over onto our house, gotten most of the electrical system repaired, and hatched out our Buckeye chicks!  But I will save these stories for another post.  Looks like I am going to have plenty of time to write!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cheveyo and Kahuna Kai Arrive August 25th

Kim and I had a great time in Reno this weekend at the Wild Horse and Burro Expo.  We traveled there specifically to pick out our new horses.

As many of you know, wild horses are gathered from public lands by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) when their numbers exceed the carrying capacity of the land.  The BLM contracts with a variety of people to care for, and in some cases train, these horses in preparation for adoption.

One of the best programs we have found for training is offered by the Warm Springs Correctional Center in Carson City, Nevada.  Inmates participate in a program to learn how to care for and train wild horses using natural horsemanship training principles (not all programs use these gentler training techniques).

Kim and I traveled to Carson City earlier in the year to witness how well the horses were trained before they were adopted out, and came away VERY impressed.  This weekend, we checked out their latest graduates and found two that were perfect for us!

Cheveyo with his trainer, Ken
The horse I adopted was named Oreo Cookie by his trainer (Ken) since he is a chocolate brown Appaloosa with a white blanket.  However, his slight roman nose, stocky build, and white blanket dappled with black spots remind me of an American Indian war pony.  Since this rugged look contrasts sharply with his gentle and calm nature, I decided to change his name to Cheveyo, which is Hopi for "Spirit Warrior".

Kim adopted a beautiful Buckskin who was named "Big Kahuna" by his Hawaiian trainer, Ryan.  Big Kahuna means "the best of the best" in Hawaiian. A very fitting name for this wonderful horse, but Kim wanted to emphasize the magic he weaves over everyone who meets him, so he will now be known as Kahuna Kai, which means "Wizard !" in Hawaiian.  I was not at all surprised that Kim ended up with a horse touched in some way by Hawaii as it is her favorite place in all the world.  Perhaps she should have named her new boy Kismet!

Kahuna Kai with his new love, Kim

The Barn Is Nearing Completion!

Ever since we arrived we have been working on renovating our barn.  Previous owners had added a loft apartment that was poorly constructed, and allowed the foundation to become undermined.  The electrical system  had been eaten by pack rats and the water line had frozen and burst the pipes as well. 

New foundation being poured

Concrete floors go in for tack room and office
All of these problems have now been  corrected and a new roof is going on as I type.  Good thing, because our horses are arriving next Saturday!
Tear out of the upstairs apartment is nearly complete

New shear panel and vapor barrier go on

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

We're Here!!!

Kim and I have finally moved in at Sundog Ranch.  It has been a long time coming, and we could not be happier.

Life in the country is wonderful.  We have been especially impressed with the friendliness and helpfulness of neighbors as far as 40 miles away!  Here are just a few of our experiences:

Horse Trailer Breakdown:  Kim and I were hauling our newly renovated horse trailer to Sundog when, just 40 miles from our destination, it broke a hub.  We were very glad we only had household goods, not horses, in the trailer.  The second bit of good news is that we broke down right across the street from the Triple J Ranch, whose staff and owner came to our rescue by moving the trailer to a safe place at the ranch and giving us the name of a great mechanic who could fix it.  It is being repaired as I type. 

Tire Repair:  Kim's beloved Gator ran over a screw last week and decided to keep it embeded in one of its tires. We noticed it when all the air ran out.  No matter.  We took the flat tire to Less Schwab in Alturas.  To our surprise, they repaired it for free!

The Wave:  There is a lovely habit in the country.  When you pass another car face-to-face on the road, you waive. Simple.  Lovely. Friendly. Hard to get in the habit of when you come from the crazy, impersonal freeways of the big city, but our new neighbors are teaching us by example.

Tom, Our UPS Driver, Stopped By To Welcome Us to the Neighborhood!:  Well, that is the whole story, but we think it is extraordinary.  Kim is a retired UPS Driver, and she was known for her friendly and helpful ways. She would often take her breaks while visiting with her customers and their dogs (her weakness), but we are a long way up the hill for the UPS driver to just "stop by"! We told him to call ahead next time and we would send him away with some fresh mountain spring water or a cup of coffee. We can do "country friendly" too!

Driving a Skid Loader:  The latest adventure has been with heavy equipment.   We hired a great local company, A&M Plumbing, to repair a variety of plumbing problems on site.  One of these  involves digging a 150 foot long trench to reconnect the barn with our water supply.  Billy, the owner of A&M Plumbing, has been driving his family's back hoes and skid loaders since he was 10 years old.  He is a whiz on this stuff, and he shared the fun by allowing me to jump on his skid loader and take it for a spin!  Life is good in retirement land!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Love the Internet, I'm Just Say'n

I don't even know where to begin about how much I appreciate having the Internet as a source for information and a vehicle for communication.  I love reading the blogs of folks like me, who are trying something new and sharing their experiences.  I also love finding free plans and little gems of information like how to build barns and hay sheds, or simple windmills and water pumps. Then there are the chat rooms where you can ask questions and a total stranger will offer their advice, much of which is very good!

I don't think moving out to the hinterlands would be nearly as fun or inviting if I did not know that the Internet would be going with me.  Sort of an electronic umbilical cord to what I have come to view as the best of civilization.  Oh, yes, there is a lot of junk on the Internet as well.  Forgotten bits of information, misinformation, and lone tirades of angry people.  There is also electronic illness and disease in the forms of worms and viruses, because there are always ill people that cannot resist inflicting chaos and confusion on others.  However, unlike the world that is largely in the news, dramatized in sitcoms, or put into feature length film, I find the world of the Internet is largely full of good people doing interesting things.   It is sad we are all so busy trying to make ends meet that we don't get to experience more of people's lives directly, but I think the Internet evens the field a little, and brings more of us together in constructive ways than any other medium I have experienced.

One of the best sources of information I have found on the Internet are University websites.  For instance, I was looking for building plans for a simple hay shed, and eventually came upon a site hosted by the University of Tennessee Agricultural College that has a bunch of plans for everything from chicken houses, barns and fencing to hay and equipment sheds.  All accessible for FREE.  Life is good, and so is the Internet!

For those of you who have not looked at my right-hand blog column recently, you will see a series of websites, blogs and books that I highly recommend.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What About Fire?

Perhaps our biggest safety concern in the mountains (surrounded by pines and not much else) is FIRE.  We do have a fire station just up the road that is manned during the summer, but there is a lot of forest, and professional help can only go so far.

Reading up on this, it appears we have two choices in the case of fire:  abandon the property or stay and fight.  Though staying to fight sounds dangerous, lots of people are killed abandoning their property because their exit route can be cut off by another fire.  There is only one paved exit off our mountain, and it is long and winding.  So, there will be no sprinting to safety.  The thought of trying to leave that way also makes me uncomfortable as we will have no idea what waits for us down the hill.

However, Kim has asthma, and the merest whiff of smoke can cause problems for her.  I cannot fight a fire on the ranch without her help, so any plan we have will need to address this.

Finally, we will have a lot of lives to protect when you consider our dogs, horses, chickens, and perhaps a few cows and pigs.  Too many lives to haul down the mountain in one trip.  So, staying to fight may be the only strategy I can live with, and I suspect that, in the end, saving our buildings will be the key to everything.

So, I will be researching strategies and opportunities over time and recording my findings under "Fire Protection".  Please take a look if you are interested in this topic, and if you have anything to to add, please comment!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Other Preparations for "Home Defense"

Least anyone feel Kim and I are trigger happy, let me tell you a little about our ranch wildlife philosophy.

We are practicing permaculture on our ranch.  That means, our primary goal is to figure out how we can live harmoniously with the wildlife around us (see the "Sundog Permaculture" for more background on this concept). In fact, ideally, we want to figure out how the wildlife can HELP us do what we want to do.  For instance, a raccoon family in the area is likely to keep other raccoons away. Kill the raccoon and you only create an opportunity for another raccoon to move in.  Same with wolves and bear.

Even if we were not interested in permaculture, Kim and I LOVE wolves, foxes, raccoons, bears, hawks, squirrels and all the other animals that surround us.   Killing them is the LAST thing we want to do.  The problem is, once they get a taste of chicken (or fruit, in the case of the vegetarian "preditors"), it will be very hard to keep them from coming back for more.  So, our FIRST task is either to make it very difficult to get that FIRST taste or to have enough to go around!

BARRIERS:  Our property will be surrounded by a five foot woven wire fence.   Though no fence will keep a determined animal out, it will keep our animals in and help take them out of the "easy meal" category.  Since most predator attacks occur at night,  all of our smaller animals (and our horses) will be in a secure barn or coop at night.  Our important food crops will also be protected (from the cold and the nibbling mouths of wildlife) by greenhouse walls.  Finally, our chickens will have plenty of tree cover during the day to reduce their daytime visibility from the sky (where hawks will be hunting).  Their dark plumage should also help them avoid detection to some degree as they will blend into the shadows and pine needle ground cover.

DOGS:  Our next level of protection will come from our dogs.  Kim and I have four dogs all told.  Two are Australian Cattle Dogs, who take guarding our property from unknown humans very seriously.  The other two are Catahoula mixes, and they are excellent hunting dogs that love to chase squirrels and do not like other predators on their property.    All four dogs will be patrolling our property, backing each other up, and their scent will be on everything.  We are hoping that between this and the barriers our livestock will be reasonably safe, and squirrels and other rodents will be keep in check to some degree.

BIOLOGICAL VECTOR CONTROL:  We are depending upon our chickens (an perhaps pigs) to help us keep rodents and bugs in check as we will not be using pesticides or poisons of any kind. We will also be encouraging bats and birds to live on our property as well.  The more they work, the less we have to!

MOTION DETECTORS:  Our barn and chicken coops will also be protected from predators through the use of motion detectors that turn on lights and/or water pistols. Hard to keep your concentration when you are being soaked with cold water or illuminated so all can see!  These signals will also likely start the dogs to barking, which is an added deterrent.

DISTRACTION: We plan to have a number of fruit trees on our ranch, which we know will attract birds and squirrels.  However, we will also be planting a number of lower-growing food crops underneath the fruit trees, some of which will provide food we are not interested in at the same time the fruit trees are ready.  This "polyculture" approach to farming should serve to distract bugs, squirrels, chipmunks and birds from the fruit we want to some extent.

SHARING:  We plan to plant far more fruit trees and berries than we need so we can afford to share to some extent. 

OTHER STRATEGIES:  We will keep looking for other strategies that require little energy on our part to be effective.  Necessity is the mother of invention, right?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect!

Recent target practice with a Glock, 17 shots/17 hits!
Hand guns and rifles are among the many tools that Kim and I are becoming proficient with in preparation for ranch life (much to the relief of my father and brothers).

While they are thinking of our safety from imaginary marauding bands of cutthroats, Kim and I are more concerned about protecting our livestock (and ourselves) from four-legged predators like foxes, raccoons, wolves, lions, and bears (which really are there and might very much like a chicken dinner).

However, what can be imagined can also become reality.  Though we are fortunate to be moving to an area that has had little but petty thievery  in its history, it pays to be prepared, and it never hurts to have skills even if you never have to put them to the test.

So, in the spirit of "the disasters you are prepared for never happen", we are becoming proficient at handling and shooting a variety of guns, as well as learning other less lethal home self-defense skills and strategies.  My instructors tell me I have an aptitude for it, though I am not sure how to take that.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Our Horses Are Going to Come From Nevada!

Horses are on the horizon for us, but probably not until this Fall.
Hank Curry, the trainer in charge of the Mustang Training Program

The Mustang Training Center at the Stewart Conservation Camp, a Men's Correctional Facility in Carson City, Nevada
Kim has always dreamed of having a Mustang, but we were worried they might be too much horse for us.  Many of our friends and family members have warned us to stay away from them saying they are too wild to handle, skittish, and small.

At first, we were dissuaded, but we took an opportunity to fly to Carson City Nevada where there is a Mustang training program at the state correctional facility.  The inmates learn to gentle and saddle-train the Mustangs (a way to keep them busy and learn a trade), and then (after an intensive four month program) the Mustangs are auctioned off to the highest bidder.  Bids range from $150 (the starting bid) to $4,000 (a rare high).

What we saw on our weekend trip was nothing short of amazing!  Sixteen horses were up for auction. Every one was beautiful, well mannered, and quite well saddle trained.  We had the opportunity to meet all the horses, nose to nose, talk to the trainers, ask all the questions we wanted, and then see all the horses perform in a group exhibition before the auction.  It was a beautiful sight to behold, and it was hard to remember that these horses had never been handled just four months before!

The Mustangs in formation after the exhibition ride
When the bidding started, each horse was brought out individually and his rider put him through his paces in front of the crowd (all the horses were geldings in this auction).  All the horses circled the arena at a trot and canter, changing gates and direction with ease and with very little direction from their rider.  They all stopped on a dime, backed up well, side stepped beautifully, stood still while being mounted, and allowed their hooves to be picked up without any trouble.  Many of the riders demonstrated that their horses could also be ridden bare back, remain unconcerned even when flags and ropes were waved over their head and in the face, would stand still even if you mounted on the wrong side, would follow the rider around the arena if they dismounted and let the rains drop and walked away, would turn any direction the rider pointed to while the rider was on the ground not holding the reins, helped open gates with the rider mounted, and allowed the rider to dismount by sliding off over their rump without any concern.  Two even allowed their rider to stand on top of the saddle and lay prone on their bare back with their feet on top of the horses head!  All without flinching or shying in any way. 

As to size, the smallest was 14 hands (which did seem a little small for us), and the tallest was 15.3 hands (a little BIG!).  Most were about 14.3 hands, which seemed just right.  We were assured by all the riders and many spectators that any of the horses (even the 14 handers) could easily carry an adult rider without any concern.

The Love of Kim's Life - Dollar the Mustang
Though Kim and I were not there to bid on any of the horses (since our facilities are not ready), both of us fell in love with all the Mustangs after seeing these demonstrations!  Kim's special favorite was Dollar (shown in the adjacent photo).  Though his photo many not show it, Dollar was especially charismatic and playful.  He loved people coming up to him and showed it.

The most surprising thing about the day was that most of the horses sold for less than $500!  They were all worth over $1,000 given the skills they demonstrated.  Apparently, it is a sign of the times, economically speaking. 

So, we are now convinced that we can and will be able to handle horses trained by this facility, and we will be back in October to pick out our two Mustangs!

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Years Resolutions

Our last artificial Christmas Tree!
Kim and I are celebrating our last Christmas in the Bay Area and are very busy preparing for our move to Sundog Ranch in late Spring of 2012.

First and foremost, we are working on our physical fitness.  See our new Health and Wellness page for details!

We are also working on our ranch improvement plans.  We have a lot of work ahead, I'm afraid.  In addition to redoing most of our electrical wiring in the house, barn and garage, we also need to replace our gas fireplace with a wood burning one; look into adding a wood burning boiler for heating the garage, barn and other outbuildings so our animals don't freeze; replace all our roofs; and fix the break in our water line so the animals in the barn have water.  We will also be refurbishing the house by replacing kitchen cabinets and appliances, updating both bathrooms, repainting all the walls (inside and out), and updating the floor coverings.

Let us know if you want to help!  In the mean time, may New Year's Day find you and your loved ones happy and healthy, and may 2012 bring you a series of wonderful surprises!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

We Found Our Horse Trailer!

Kim and I were very excited to find this 1966 CM Circuit Champ two horse trailer for just $995!  It is an oldie, but a goodie, and we plan to restore it to its former glory.  A nice winter project for us here in the Bay Area while we look forward to moving next Spring!

Friday, November 11, 2011

End of the Year Cleanup Complete

Some folks do Spring Cleaning, but on a ranch where it snows you also have to do Winter Cleaning!

Like most remote places, we don't get trash service where we are, so every scrap we don't want needs to be either burned or hauled off the property to be recycled or deposited at the dump.  Since this is a big deal, you wait until you have a pile large enough to be worth your while.   However, before the first snows of winter, you have to take care of all the piles you have been ignoring lest you create wildlife habitat under all that snow where little babies can be born in the Spring!

Our little bonfire burned for 3 days!
Burning is my favorite way of disposing of paper and wood.  Who doesn't love a fire?  This is the method that most folks use up here since they are bulky and you have to pay $20 per cubic yard for the Transfer Station to take them.  I was shocked to hear this since untreated wood and paper are so valuable in the Bay Area, where we come from.  However, the long haul distances makes it uneconomical for recycling here, so it just gets dumped in with the household trash at the transfer station.  The same is true for glass.

When we are up here full time, we will compost all our paper and cut used lumber up for our wood fireplace.  However, we resorted to burning these this year to get rid of the piles of debris before the first snow.   

Though paper and glass are not recyclable here, metal and plastic are, and it is big business.  Everyone in the community visits the recycling center.  This has been quite an education for us.  All that plastic covered wire we pulled out of the house that the rats ate?  Full of RECYCLABLE COPPER!  Who knew? We got $85 for it!  All those old and greasy metal cabinets that were in the garage?  RECYCLABLE!  Broken light fixtures, toasters, screen doors, twisted window frames, tangled blinds, smashed scraps of hardware cloth? Yep, those too, as long as they are mostly metal, the recycling center here will buy them.

Kim and I took a trailer load of mixed metal in hoping to get $20 for it, and walked away with a $139 check!  We also took a load of painted wood and plywood (stuff you should not burn) to the dump, and $60 flew out of our hands to pay the dump fee. (Ouch!)

There were several things that were just too big for us to handle (including a surplus army generator that weighed a ton and no longer worked).  Just looking at it all made us depressed, so we decided to call a local guy to haul away everything else on the property (including the pile in the photo below) and paid him $200 to cover the dump fees.  He was happy to do it for all the metal he received.  The generator alone was worth about $600 as scrap due to the huge amount of copper it contained.  It took him all day to cut it up in small enough pieces to haul away, and he had to come back twice more to remove all the remaining debris.  I'd say he earned his money!

One of three junk piles that needed to be removed.  All are gone now!  Hurray!
But junk was not the only thing needing to go before Winter.  Kim and I spent 10 days setting out live traps and catching all the remaining "varmints" in our house and garage - 6 more Wood Rats and a young Grey Squirrel.   I sealed the property up by installing two new doors (on the garage and pump house), replacing and patching vents, and nailing metal plates and boards over every opening I could find.

The last of seven Wood Rats caught and released this year
Townsend Big Eared Bat hanging in basement

Before sealing up the basement, I checked carefully to be sure our little bat friend had made it out.

I have been told this little guy (who is only about 2" long) is a Townsend Big Eared Bat .  Its ears are tucked close to its head in these photos, so you can't see them, but we did get a good look at them later that day.  This is likely the same bat I misidentified in an early post as a Little Brown Bat.  In any case, it spent several happy days in the basement after he discovered an opening I made in the wall while replacing vents.

Kim and I plan to put bat roosts on the outside of the house and barn next year to encourage bats to hang around to keep our bug population down.  Townsend bats generally like to eat moths.

Photo Note: I stayed about six feet away from this little guy when taking these photos.  I have blown them up for you to see more detail. 

close-up of knobby face characteristic of this bat

We will see how many of our friends have moved back in when we return to stay in June of 2012.  Until then, keep your fingers crossed for us!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wildlife Takes A Bow

This Mountain Chorus Frog looks
like the ones we found
(Internet Photo)
We saw a good deal of wildlife in September!  Most surprising were the two frogs we found hopping around in the garage!  One of the silver-dollar sized creatures was hidden under a tarp by the door, the other was hoping around in the middle of the floor (disturbed from its hiding place by our activities).  

Little Brown Bat (Internet photo)

We also saw Little Brown Bats flying around under our deck where our wood pile will go, in a room that is soon to be our office, and out under the eaves of the house.  There are lots of bugs flying around the ranch, so these are very welcome visitors.

Night Hawk  (Internet photo)
About a dozen Night Hawks (small moth-eating birds) also flew overhead early one evening.  It is very rare to see Night Hawks at all, let alone in a large group.  Kim and I were lucky enough to see one nesting on the ground in Spring.  They nest among the rocks using only the bare ground.  I almost stepped on her before she finally moved!  They are small birds, about the size of a Sparrow Hawk, and very cute!

Most of the chipmunks and squirrels are very happy with our visits as we always put fruit and nuts out for them.  However, one little guy is not so thrilled as we permanently sealed the access he had to our house and stole his stash of nuts, dried mushrooms and dried dog food.  

Wood Rat (Internet photo)

In our quest to reclaim our living area, we also relocated a Wood Rat from our house.  This little gal had been stealing our food at night and nesting under the shower pan which she accessed via a closet. We have been trying to track her down for months, and finally nabbed her and took her a few miles away to live near one of the lakes in the area.  She should be very happy, and we will be happier too.  She was a cutie though!  Looked more like a chinchilla than a rat due to the furry tail and big ears.

The mice looked something like this!

Mice have also shown their cute little faces this trip.  We pulled down a section of drywall in the garage to determine what had caused the hole in the base of the wall, and out fell about a dozen little mice! Tiny little guys!  Probably still very young, but quite ambulatory.  They ran outside and dived under the foundation.  I can see that keeping rodents out of our things is going to be an ongoing battle.  You’ve got to admire their spunk!

Cows also visited the ranch this trip.  We always see them down at the base of the mountain where their owner lives, and occasionally wandering around the National Forest and the unfenced pine acreage that surrounds us.  However, this time they actually walked over a downed section of fence and came onto our property.  It is very odd to wake up and see a herd of cows munching on the weeds near your house!  My boy Cody was in fine form herding them back through the fence opening. It made his day! 

What we have been very surprised and disappointed by is how few birds we have seen.  There are lots of bugs, as I mentioned, but very few birds.  Aside from the Night Hawks, we have only seen a few Stellar Jays this trip.  Oh, there are the usual group of summer migrating pelicans, Canadian geese, and a variety of small water birds down the mountain by the lake and lots of California Quail in the fields near it, but not much up here at the ranch. Odd. 

I think my most delightful discovery was the little one foot long garter snake that visited us near the house.  S/he was beautiful and delicate with thin yellow racing stripes running down her black body.  You hardly ever see a snake up close, so this was a real treat!

RV Gone!

 When Kim bought the ranch three years ago, she brought up an older model Fifth Wheel trailer to live in while she completed some repairs on the house.   

The trailer has sat unoccupied on the property for several years and sustained some damage last winter due to the snow load on the roof.  We tried all summer to sell it since it is clear it cannot survive the winters here.   

We like the new view we have without the RV!
Finally, we found the right guy and the right price and it is now off the property!  The ranch looks SO much better without it, and it has gone to a home where it will be put to good use. Yahooo!  

Electrical System Back on Sound Footing

During our September stay we were also able to get our electrical system sorted out with the help of a very good friend and his buddies who are professional electricians.  This has been a big worry for us as it was clear from the get-go that past owners and the resident squirrels, chipmunks, and wood rats have spliced and diced the system badly over the years.  
wire eaten by rodents

My brother, who is an electrical engineer, visited us in August to take an initial look at the system and promptly shut down several breakers pending repair of some grounding and wiring problems.  After our professional electricians took a look in September, the entire system was shut down! 

Although it will take awhile to replace all the damaged wiring and get everything up and running again, our friends were able to get us back on safe footing so we can start the repairs.  I don’t know which was worse, the “work” done by previous owners, or the work done by the resident rodents, but we are putting everything into metal conduit this time! 

New Stairs Up!

Thanks to a local contractor, Kim and I now have a new set of stairs leading up to our front door.  We were VERY happy to see them as we needed to move another trailer-load of furniture up to the house in September.  Three more loads to go and we will be all moved in!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kim's Shadow Full of Fun!

Kim added another useful toy to our barn - a 2005 Honda Shadow VLX!

Yep, this is another of her dreams come true.  She had a motorcycle before, and could not wait to get back in the saddle. When a friend decided to sell hers, Kim jumped at the chance.

Me?  I'm happy to ride shotgun!