Thursday, August 27, 2015

My Mowing Friends

It's late August and I don't expect to be mowing overgrown pastures--and I certainly don't expect to have guests.

But as I mow during this unusually wet and cool summer, my favorite birds arrive. First there are a few, and within minutes a dozen barn swallows are swooping in front of me, behind me, around me, gobbling up the insects that the mower stirs up.

I try to capture them with my camera, but they are quick, darting in and out of view. And soon I give up, and just enjoy their orange-tinted breasts, their petite frames, their forked tails. Their moves are kinds that stunt pilots try to replicate--and can't.

Any day now, the swallows will gather and leave, flying South to where the weather is warmer and the insects plentiful during the fall and winter months.

But on this late August day, they are still here--and so I mow and mow, listening to the diesel engine, the blades cutting grass, and reveling in being a small part of their aerial acrobatic show.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Geese and Me

When the trained goose dog died last summer, the Canada geese took notice.

For three springs, Mickey, the old Border collie, ran to the pond and harassed any goose she might find. For three springs, no geese made a nest at the pond.

This spring I walked four Border collies around the pond. When the geese saw them, they stepped into the pond, and my four dogs went about their daily sniffing and play games. They never harassed the geese.

Two geese took notice and made a nest. And soon, there were two adults and three goslings.

We continued our walks, and the geese continued stepping into the pond.

In the past few weeks, other geese joined the flock. Now, 23 geese are hanging around the pond--except when they are munching on the newly planted alfalfa.

This week, I decided to train one of my dogs to harass the geese.

While walking through an alfalfa field one morning, I spotted the geese. So did Caeli, my prick-eared Border collie who has some sheep herding training.

"Walk up," I told her.

She did with gusto.

As the geese took flight, I celebrated.


One goose panicked and lifted off a few seconds after the others.

And Caeli was there.

"Lie down," I yelled.

While I wanted the geese gone, I didn't want Caeli mangling one in our front field.

Caeli dropped, her nose inches from the goose that had flattened itself on the ground.

"That'll do."

Caeli looked at me, reluctant to leave.

"That'll do."

She came to me, her eye never leaving the goose.

After attaching her to a leash, I walked over to the goose who appeared uninjured, but on the ground.

As we walked away, the other geese circled back to the field, and the goose stood, ruffled her feathers and joined the flock.

This morning, the 23 geese are still hanging out at the pond and the nearby alfalfa fields.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Late Summer Gift

Every morning this summer, I walked into the barn and found the two Haflingers standing head-to-tail in a stall. All 35 lambs and ewes, as well as the llama, were crowded into another.

During a normal summer, the sheep would be snoozing outside in the pasture or near the barn. The horses--never ones to miss an opportunity to eat--would be grazing.

But this year an overabundance of rain produced a record crop of mosquitoes. Before dusk each night, the horses and sheep sought cover in the barn.

Temperatures dipped into the 50's overnight and a light breeze stirred the air. When I walked into the barn during the pre-dawn hours this morning, I was greeted only by the kitten.

I found the sheep outside in the paddock and the horses in the pasture--and the meteors falling from the star-filled sky.