Monday, November 28, 2016

Elk Hunting in Wyoming

   I returned from a trip to Lander, Wyoming a few weeks ago.  I had been invited to go elk hunting by my good friend Quentin, who used to work with me at the Beez Neez Apiary Supply.  The elk hunting didn't go too well because of the unseasonably warm weather. The elk were still in the high country because there had been no snow to drive them down to their winter range.  Unfortunately I had a tag for the area where the elk weren't. I did see a few large herds of elk about 5 miles south of our hunting area.  The elk hunt may have been unsuccessful, but it was still a wonderful trip.  I saw a lot of incredible scenery and enjoyed hanging out with an old friend.  It finally snowed the day before I left to come home.  I had the adventure of hunting elk in a Wyoming blizzard.  The visibility for most of the day was about 20 feet.  An elk would have had to trip over the truck for us to shoot one.

Our view from the truck, waiting for better visibility
    Our hunting area consisted of several hundred square miles of prairie intersected by the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail and the Pony Express route.  Our area included the place where the Willie and Martin handcart companies crossed the Sweetwater River and the Rock Creek Hollow memorial site.  We visited the Rock Creek Hollow memorial twice, once in pleasant weather and once during the blizzard.  I am amazed at the faith of the early saints who were willing to endure incredible trials for the gospel's sake.  The weather was miserable with good clothing. I could only imagine the misery of the poor hand cart pioneers who didn't have the benefit of good winter clothing.  I later learned that Quentin had helped build the stone memorial at Rock Creek Hollow when he was 14 years old.  His ward built the memorial as a youth project so Quentin hauled rock and mixed mortar.

Willie Handcart Company Memorial

         We may not have seen a lot of elk, but we sure saw a lot of Pronghorn antelope.  I would estimate that we saw over 1500 antelope on most of the days we were hunting.   Each antelope herd consisted of about 50 to 100 animals and we usually saw more than 20 separate herds on a given day.  Sometimes they stood and watched us, but usually they would take off running.  It was impossible to count them all.  The Pronghorn is North America's fastest land animal. Quentin told me that they can reach 55 miles per hour.  Their horns are quite unique in that they shed them every year.  We stopped at one point when Quentin noticed a pronghorn shed lying in the middle of the dirt road.  After I had picked it up he told me that he had only found about five pronghorn sheds in his life.  Amazingly, I found another one just five minutes later.  They turn grey as they weather and look just like a stick on the ground. I wouldn't have been able to spot it except for the fact that I noticed it was hollow.

Where the deer and the antelope play

      The above photo shows a herd of antelope on the ridge line with a solitary mule deer walking in front of them.  This was one of the few antelope herds that just stood and watched us.  In addition to the multitude of antelope, I also saw numerous jack rabbits, sage hens, wild horses, and one coyote.  We mostly saw the jack rabbits in the evening while we were driving back to the paved road.  The jack rabbits' fur turns white in the winter.  Normally that gives them pretty good camouflage.  It was having the opposite effect because of the absence of snow.  The white jack rabbits were looking pretty exposed. I'm sure they were feeling pretty relieved when the snow finally arrived.

Sage hen hiding behind a clump of sage brush

A white jack rabbit attempting to hide by holding still

       We probably saw about 40 wild horses, usually in groups of 5 or less.   Quentin told me that they used to hold round ups to reduce the wild horse population. I had heard about programs that allowed people to adopt a wild mustang.  That currently doesn't happen because some environmentalist group filed a lawsuit.  I'm not sure what their objection was.  Note how even the hoof print is in the photo below.  Since they spend a lot of time running on rocky ground their hooves wear fairly evenly.  It is all of that standing around on soft ground that makes horse shoes necessary.  Based on the number of hoof prints I saw I'm thinking there are a whole lot of wild horses roaming central Wyoming.

Wild Horses

A Hoof Print for Hannah

Monday, November 21, 2016

Speaking in Church

     A few weeks ago, Linda and I both spoke in church.  As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as Mormons, we have no paid clergy.  Various members of the congregation are given opportunities to speak each Sunday, usually on an assigned topic. Linda and I were both assigned to speak on recognizing and following personal revelation.  One of my daughters has since requested we provide copies of our talks for her children.  Since communication with my grandchildren is one of the primary purposes of my blog I thought I might as well just include it in the blog.  I'm somewhat inclined to ad-lib so I usually don't give a talk exactly how I wrote it.  However, in this particular case I followed my written remarks fairly closely.  After all of that preamble, what follows is the talk I gave in the Desert Hills Ward on October 24th, 2016:

     Since we are relatively new to the ward I thought I should give you a brief introduction to our family. Linda and I both grew up in Richland and graduated from Richland High School. In fact, we met in the Carmichael Junior High School orchestra.  I served a mission in Northern Italy and we were married about four months after I got home from my mission. We moved away about a year after we were married and then spent seven years in the Air Force living at various times in Monterey, California, San Angelo, Texas, Bellevue, Nebraska, and Eielson AFB, Alaska near Fairbanks.  I then was hired by the FBI and we spent 9 years in Houston, Texas followed by 13 years in the Seattle Division where I retired in 2006. For the past ten years I have owned a beekeeping supply store in Snohomish, Washington which hopefully will be sold by the end of the year.

     We have 25 grand children, soon to be 26 grand children.  I tell people that I am wealthy beyond my wildest dreams. I would refer you to Proverbs 17:6   "Children are an heritage of the Lord....As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man...Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them."  My mother, Cozette Tunnell, has lived with us for the past ten years or so. I keep telling Linda that I should get one of those T shirts that says "I still live with my mother." One of the remarkable coincidences in our family is that not only do I share my mother's birthday, but we have two grand daughters who also share our birthday.  some of this brief bio actually has some relevance to the topic Linda and I have been asked to address, which is  recognizing and following personal revelation.

    I would like to start with a little foundational material, quoting from the second paragraph of the Family Proclamation..."All human beings - male and female - are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and as such, each has a divine nature and destiny."  We can learn a great deal from this short quote.  First note that it says "beloved spirit son or daughter". So we are the spirit children of heavenly parents who love us and we have a divine nature and destiny.  I would offer that divine destiny means there are important things that God wants us to accomplish in this earth life.

   I would also refer you to 2 Nephi 2:25  "Adam fell that men might be and men are that they might have joy."  So not only are there important things God wants us to do in this earth life, part of that divine destiny is having joy.  So God wants us to be truly happy.  Not the fleeting happiness that the world seeks, but that abiding joy that comes when we live our lives in accordance with God's will and do our best to follow his counsel.

    Then I would refer you to the numerous scriptures where we are commanded to pray and to seek knowledge, understanding, and guidance from our loving Heavenly Father.  One of my favorites being James 1:5 "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

     So the basic principles are pretty simple. Let's review them once more.
1. We are the beloved spirit children of heavenly parents.
2. We have a divine nature and destiny.
3.  That divine destiny means there are important things we are supposed to accomplish during our earth life.
4. That divine destiny also means we are intended to have joy.
5. We are commanded to ask God for guidance and direction and we are promised that He will give us wisdom liberally.

     I would suggest that a great place to start following personal revelation is to read your Patriarchal Blessing.  If you don't have one, talk to the Bishop and do whatever it is you must do to be worthy of a patriarchal blessing.  I know that there is a younger age limit in that the Bishop has to determine you are mature enough to be ready to receive a patriarchal blessing. apparently the only upper age limit to receiving a patriarchal blessing is that you aren't dead yet.

     My patriarchal blessing has been very helpful to me in that it has functioned as a road map to important life goals, such as serving a mission and marrying the right person in the right place. Linda isn't mentioned by name in my blessing, but I was promised that I would find a good girl who was willing, able, and prepared to go to the temple.  I feel very strongly that marrying Linda was an important part of my life's mission. I prayed about that decision and realized that I wouldn't find anyone who would be a better mother to my children. That important prayerful decision has payed enormous dividends in my life as so much of my present happiness stems from it. If you have made a prayerful decision regarding marriage it also makes it much easier to persevere through the difficult times that happen in most marriages. I am not saying that it is church doctrine that there is only one right person for each of us to marry.  I just know that I was supposed to marry Linda and my life has been blessed because I followed the Lord's counsel in that decision. My patriarchal blessing also contained important counsel about obedience and following the counsel of church leaders as well as accepting assignments to serve in the church. I have never turned down an assignment to serve in the church and I know I have been blessed because of being willing to serve.

     The principles may be simple, but the application of the principles can be difficult at times. Linda and I have tried to seek direction from God in our lives.  I think in general we have done a pretty good job of getting direction from God in all of the important decisions we have made in our lives and in following His counsel. At times though it can be really difficult. We truly are like little children compared to God. He understands everything while we understand relatively little by comparison.  As a result we often don't ask the right question.  Linda gave one personal example of this regarding our transfer back to the Pacific Northwest.  In that case we got the right answer, but not for the reason we thought.  I'd like to give you another one where I received an important answer to prayer that didn't mean what I thought it did at first.

     Before we left Texas, my oldest son went through chemotherapy treatments for cancer.  The chemotherapy did a fine job of kicking the cancer to the curb, but it was very hard on him and damaged his immune system. Jonathan was a very smart boy. He was a National Merit Scholar and had earned a free ride scholarship to the University of Texas. It was his heart's desire to use that scholarship to attend the University of Texas.  All of this happened and then I finally got the transfer orders sending us back to Seattle.  It was very difficult for us to let him go away to school at the same time that we were moving, but it felt like it was the right thing to do.  A month or so after we left Texas, Jonathan fell ill and Linda flew down to Austin, Texas.  I followed a week later and I was able to see my son right before he died.

     When Jonathan was so sick I had earnestly prayed to my Heavenly Father and asked if he would be okay.  I received a very powerful answer that my son would be okay.  It was like being wrapped in a warm blanket of God's love.  It was very comforting and I assumed it meant that Jonathan would be healed and recover from his illness. But that wasn't the question I had asked.  I later realized that from God's perspective this was not a tragedy.  Jonathan was a very good young man and he was more than okay. Even if I had initially misunderstood the meaning of the answer to my prayer, it was very comforting to feel God's love.  I knew that He was mindful of us and the pain of our loss, but that our son was where he was supposed to be.

    At times I have been inspired to do things that were important for me to do, but I didn't realize it was inspiration at the time.  This is sort of like Christopher Columbus being inspired by the Holy Ghost to seek out the new world.  We know from one of Nephi's visions in the Book of Mormon that Columbus was inspired by the Holy Ghost, but I suspect Columbus may not have realized the source of his obsession at the time. My enlistment in the Air Force falls into this category. Linda's brother had joined the Air Force and I had given him a very bad time about that decision. Then, within a year, I did the very same thing. I could offer no logical explanation at the time for my flip flop.  As I look back on my life I now realize that I was supposed to do that and I can see how it impacted the rest of my life. I went into the Air Force with a guaranteed job as a linguist. That is how I learned to speak Russian, which subsequently helped me get hired as an FBI Special Agent.  I can't take much credit  for making that decision other than I did have a strong desire to do the right thing.  I was living the gospel and doing my best to keep God's commandments. Maybe the Lord knew I wouldn't be able to understand why I needed to do that so He just gave me a desire to do it and let me figure out the why when I was ready.

    So God cares about where we live, who we marry, what we do for a living, how we serve in the church, and a good many more things. He even cares who leads the music in the Primary. I served in the Bishopric for a while in our prior ward.  One of my responsibilities was the Primary.  Staffing is sometimes a problem in Primary as not everyone seems to realize what a special privilege it is to serve the children of the ward.  So one Sunday morning in Bishopric Meeting I was making recommendations to the Bishop regarding staffing the Primary.  I also suggested that I should inquire about a particular sister's music background in order to determine whether she might be a good choice to serve as the Primary Music Leader.  Our Bishop was very particular about making prayerful decisions about callings. He would usually prayerfully ponder names for weeks before making a decision to extend a calling. In this particular instance he surprised me and approved the name on the spot, directing me to extend the call.  When I met with the sister a week later, I extended the call and she readily accepted.  I then asked her about her music background and learned that she knew three chords on the guitar and could play "Hot Cross Buns". However, a week earlier she had the thought come into her head that Primary Music Leader would be a fun calling. She put a lot of effort into learning her calling and was a wonderful Primary Music Leader.  The children readily responded to her kind gentle demeanor.  I consider her to be a great example of a woman of faith.  She had every excuse available to decline the calling, but accepted it without hesitation.  She understood that who the Lord calls, He qualifies.  She had the faith that she could learn whatever skills she needed to serve effectively in that calling.   As I have thought about this since, I think I now realize why the Bishop was inspired to immediately approve the calling when I had merely suggested that I inquire about her music background.  If I had known that she had so little music background, I probably wouldn't have suggested we consider her for that calling.

    When we pray for guidance it is critically important that we pray with real intent.  That means we have to be willing to act on the answer.  He doesn't answer our prayers for guidance because we are merely curious.  With this in mind I would like to tell you the story of how we ended up moving to the Desert Hills Ward.  Linda is the one who received the initial spiritual promptings that we needed to move back to the Tri-Cities. I'm sure the Lord told her first because she was more willing to listen. I was quite content living where we had lived for the past 24 years.  I had lots of friends from church and from the community.  I had a big vegetable garden, my grape vines that I had started from cuttings, and fruit trees that I had grafted. I'm the sort of person who puts down deep roots. I was serving as a family history consultant in our ward which is a dream calling for a family history geek. I felt like I was making a serious difference in that calling.

    When Linda first brought up the idea of moving back to the Tri-Cities I was somewhat skeptical and even a little grumpy about it.  Okay, maybe I was a whole lot grumpy about it. However, she persisted and even pulled out the "I let you buy a bee store ten years ago" card and I had to agree that it truly was her turn to get to do something she wanted to do. However, just because I had agreed to it doesn't mean I had a good attitude about it. However, I also agreed that I would make it a matter of serious prayer. I think I prayed about it for more than a month before I received an answer.  We had come over to visit Linda's sister Liz, who lives in Richland.  While we were there the Spirit confirmed to me that we were indeed supposed to move back here.  With a very clear confirmation from the Spirit my attitude about moving changed significantly.  The move was still very painful and a great deal of work. It is just so much easier to do hard things  when we know that they are also the right things.  I still don't know all of the reasons we were supposed to move here, but I do know some of them. I'm sure I'll understand more with time. I always seem to understand life better through hindsight. However, it is a very good feeling to know that you are where the Lord wants you to be. It is also a wonderful feeling to know that He cares about where we live and that He still has service He wants us to perform and things He wants us to accomplish.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Birdwatching with Ali

    Every day that I am home I start my day by taking Ali on a walk.  A purebred English Setter, Ali doesn't consider these walks to be recreational. As far as she is concerned she is on a hunting trip.  Ali spends most of our walk diligently nosing the ground for the scent of quail, straining at the leash until she smells what she is seeking.  Once she has found the scent, she goes into stalk mode, walking carefully and more slowly, looking for her prey.  When she finds the birds, she goes into the classic "on point" stance.  She takes her hunting seriously and I find her quite entertaining to watch. I would have never guessed she is 13 years old from watching her hunt for quail.  She also pointed at ducks when there was water in the canal and occasionally points at the doves or the herons.

A Grey Heron Roosting Above the Beaver Pond

    A few days ago Ali came to the point position quite suddenly pointing toward a thick brushy area along the canal road.  As I was looking for the quail I thought she had found, a mule deer doe jumped up from behind the brush, not ten feet away.   I guess that is why its illegal to hunt deer with dogs.  The deer rely so heavily on their camouflage and their ability to hide.  With a dog on their scent, the poor deer have no place to hide. A few months back she pointed at a mink on the canal bank.  It really is fun to watch her work.

     I had been giving Ali the freedom to roam our property as she seemed inclined to stay put.  However, she has recently started taking herself for "walks" down by the empty canal.  Her walks have included supplemental activities such as rolling in the dead fish in the drained canal and crawling through the brush collecting cockleburs.  After such a "walk" yesterday afternoon she came home a dirty nasty mess.  I gave her a bath and spent several hours combing the burrs out of her coat.  Wet dog may not be a pleasant smell, but it is light years better than dead fish.



Monday, October 17, 2016

Western White Clematis, also known as Virgin's Bower

      I have finally discovered the name of the most likely source of my unexpected fall honey crop.  A friend from church advised me that the mystery vine, covered with white flowers is none other than Western White Clematis, also known as Virgin's Bower.  Once I had determined the name of the plant, I went on line to learn more about it.  Several web sites listed it as a minor honey plant, indicating that there usually isn't enough of it in one place to make a major contribution to the bees honey crop.  In our location it is quite plentiful along the river and the canal.  Every time I looked at it in late August and throughout September the blossoms were being worked by lots of honeybees.  It is very possible that there were other plants the bees were also working at that time, but I didn't notice any.  I took the dogs on a walk down by the canal almost every day that I was home so I have about six weeks of observations as to how much the bees seemed to like that particular blossom.

Western White Clematis, aka Virgin's Bower
    There is one way I can remove all doubt as to the source of my August and September honey harvest.  I can mail a sample of the honey along with a fifty dollar check to Texas A & M University.  They have developed a pretty accurate method of determining the floral source of any given honey sample.  They first determine the pollen content of the honey.  I'm not quite sure how they do that, but every floral source leaves a pollen fingerprint. When the bees are collecting nectar they can't help but get some pollen in the nectar. Based on the percentages of the various types of pollen found in the honey, the scientists can determine what the floral sources were.  Normally I am not sufficiently curious such that I would pay someone to determine the floral source of the honey my bees had collected.  Due to the fact that we are living in a new place and I am unfamiliar with what is available for my bees, I'm a little more willing to pony up the money to get a definitive answer.

After pollination the blossoms develop a hairy look similar to the Truffula trees in The Lorax 
            Another interesting thing about our new home is that there are lots and lots of praying mantises on our property.  I've found large green mantises and large brown mantises.  I've also found a lot of mantis egg cases in all sorts of places.  A month or so back, I was downstairs talking to my mom when I heard a blood curdling scream from upstairs.  I ran upstairs only to find Linda doing the praying mantis version of the bee dance with a very large praying mantis clinging to her shoulder for dear life.  Apparently,  the mantis had climbed onto her shoulder when Linda had gone out onto the front deck to water some plants.  I think it was a pretty traumatic experience for the both of them. I was able to rescue the mantis and return her safely to the outdoors.

The very mantis which terrorized Linda so much

A Mantis Egg Case

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Meeting a Mink

    On my daily walks along the canal with the dogs we often see wildlife.  The list thus far has included deer, a beaver, a muskrat, bullfrogs, a turtle, Canada Geese, Mallards, Kingfishers, White pelicans, California Quail, and Mourning Doves.  Ali particularly enjoys "pointing out" the quails.  So yesterday morning I'm walking the dogs and we had just crossed the bridge to turn south on the canal road when Ali drops into the most beautiful point.  I was puzzled at first because she was pointed in the direction of the canal.  Just across the canal is a place where there are often quail, but Ali usually ignores the birds that aren't on our side of the canal.  After a moment I realized that she was pointing at a little mink on the canal bank not six feet away from us.

      At this point Oreo lunged after the mink which then moved down the bank to hide in the horsetails growing there.  Oreo was extremely lucky that I had a firm grip on his leash and he wasn't able to have his heart's desire at that very moment. If he had gotten loose that little mink would have probably rearranged his face and caused him some serious injury.  The expression "Wild as a mink" has a very firm basis in fact. They are very much like a weasel with bigger teeth and claws.  Fortunately, I kept my grip on his leash and Oreo still has his rakish good looks.

     The close encounter with the mink got both of the dogs seriously excited.  Ali was in serious hunting mode for the remainder of the walk.  I am amazed at her energy when she gets into hunting mode. It is hard to reconcile that with her 13 years of age.  Oreo often tugs hard at his leash, but usually settles down by the second half of the walk.  After meeting the mink, they both drug me along all the way back to our driveway.

      I looked up minks on wikipedia after we had finished our walk.  I didn't realize they lived in our area. I expected that they would more likely be found living in the mountains.  As it turns out minks eat a lot of fish, frogs, and tadpoles and like to make their dens along rivers and creeks.  In fact minks will often attack and kill muskrats and then take over their homes.  Our canal is absolutely full of small fish, frogs, and tadpoles so I guess that was a perfectly natural place to find a mink.

     Speaking of Ali's age. I found her pedigree as I was preparing to take her to see the vet.  Her full name is Miss Ali Girl, born on July 3, 2003, the daughter of Valley View Bandit and Valley View Debby.  Since English Setters are hunting dogs, the pedigree actually lists how well her immediate ancestors had performed in hunting field trials.  Neither of her parents had participated in the field trials but it appears that her maternal grandparents were serious hunting dogs.  Her maternal grandfather, Whiskyndick's Lad Duffy, had placed 16 times in field trials, while her maternal great grandfather, CH I'm Dick Too, had placed 51 times in field trials.  However, the most serious hunting dog on her family tree was her grandmother's father, Tomoka's Smokin Mike, who placed 120 times in field trials and produced 49 winners among his numerous progeny.  With that sort of family background it is no wonder that Ali has such strong hunting instincts and knows just what to do when she sniffs out some quail.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Buster's New Home

      Towards the back of our property there is an old shed.  The previous owners had once used it for cattle, but that had been a number of years ago.  It was pretty nasty on the inside, filled with old junk and cow manure.  I got to looking at the shed and found that it was more structurally sound than it had appeared to be. The west wall of the shed is indeed dilapidated and needs to be replaced, but the rest of the building is reasonably sound. I decided that it was worth rehabilitating the shed to serve as housing for our goat, Buster, ands whatever other animals we eventually collect.  I'm thinking about eventually doing sheep and maybe pigs.

     My daughter, Rachel, and her family visited us this past weekend.  Her husband, Chet did some serious lobbying for favorite son-in-law status as he spent most of this past Saturday helping me clean out the old shed to make it useable. The first order of business was to pull out most of the junk and wood.  After we had cleared out most of the interior, we moved one of the interior support posts so it was lined up with a second support post. Then we installed a third support post.  We attached heavy duty cattle panels to the posts to create a pen.  Yesterday and today I made and installed a gate for the pen. The pen was finally completed this afternoon.

     The last task was to remove the piece of fencing that blocked Buster's access to the barn.  I had Buster's full undivided attention while I worked on this.  I don't think he was focused on the barn entrance as much as he was on the vines which grew around the barn entrance.  Once the fencing was down, Buster immediately plunged through the opening and happily began munching on the vines.  However, a few minutes later he did notice the entrance to the barn and went inside to check out the space.  He seemed happy with the place although I'm not very good at translating goat bleats.  The place still needs to be cleaned up a bit more and could use a few bales of fresh straw.  I will also need to replace the western wall before winter comes.  In spite of the work remaining to be done I'm happy to declare victory of the time being.


Buster's New Home

Homemade Gate

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A New Place in the Sun

    I apologize for the lack of posts over the past six months. Frankly, I was too involved with preparing a house for sale, selling a house, buying a house, and moving all of our household goods to our new home in West Richland, Washington.   The move was very painful for me. It was difficult to move away from dear friends and to leave my fruit trees, grape vines, and vegetable gardens behind. It was also painful to forego having a vegetable garden this year.  However, there is also a lot of up side to the move.

     First of all, it is much cheaper to live over here.  We were able to buy more house for less money on three irrigated acres.  The cost of many things have decreased significantly, such as trash pickup, electricity, and car insurance.  Since we are trying to actually retire, living life a little more cheaply makes a lot of sense.  Secondly,  it is very nice being closer to my extended family, most of whom live in the Tri City area.  It is particularly nice for my 84 year old mother to live closer to more of her children.  Third, I can grow a lot of things in eastern Washington that I could never have grown in western Washington, such as watermelons and other heat loving vegetables and fruits.  Other things are simply a lot easier to grow here such as tomatoes, grapes and cherries.  I am really looking forward to next year's vegetable garden.  While it is painful to start over with grape vines and fruit trees, I have a much bigger area here for such things. Lastly, at some point, after the sale of the bee store, I will have room to raise a small flock of sheep and to raise some pigs. At least that is the plan for now.

      This past week I finally brought our pygora goat, Buster, to his new home.  Friends in Snohomish had been goat sitting Buster for the past few months.  Buster's welcome there had started to wear thin due to his escape artist ways.  Fortunately, I had a seriously goat proof  pasture all ready for him.  I loaded him up on Wednesday evening and drove him over the mountains to his new home.  The trip went well.  Adjusting to his new home did not go as well. Unfortunately, Buster had a traumatic experience with a few dogs while at the goat sitters.  This made him very nervous about our dog. Allie, and Oreo, the little dog we are currently watching for our daughter.  Buster panicked when he saw the dogs, and ran into the well house, breaking a pvc pipe connection that caused a two and a half day water outage.  We just finally got the water back on in the house late Saturday afternoon.  The irrigation water wasn't interrupted as that is a separate system. However,  things were a bit inconvenient for a few days.

      We were real fortunate to have a new friend from church who is a retired plumber.  We were also fortunate in that the repair process lead us to discover that the bladder in one of the pressure tanks had started to leak.  A few days ago, I wouldn't have even known why that was significant. I have learned a little bit about plumbing and wells over the past few days. The pressure tanks provide water pressure but they also help protect the well pump by reducing the number of times the pump has to turn on and off.  Apparently, starting and stopping are harder on a submerged pump that continuous running.  Having two working pressure tanks extends the life of the well pump, which is a much more expensive repair.  I'm still not feeling grateful to Buster, but it may have been a good thing that we had to fix the water system.

      One thing I have really enjoyed about our move is our new dog.  Allie is a English Setter, about ten years old, who we ended up adopting from the prior owner of the property.  It only took a few weeks of regular walks for Allie to figure out that she was my dog.  When she is off leash and we're sitting out front, Allie isn't content until she can find a place to lay down or sit next to me. She is very well behaved but seems to have a few quirks.  First of all, she rarely barks.  I have only heard her bark once since we have had her.  That lone bark happened when Mrs Buzz Saw hissed at her.  Her previous owner told me that she will bark at coyotes if they are at the back fence.  We have taken her to the Columbia River a few times where we learned that she doesn't like to swim but enjoys wading.  She also doesn't seem to know how to fetch.  When I'm walking Allie, I have to hold the leash in my right hand and she has to walk on my right side.  If I transfer the leash to my left hand, Allie will circle around behind and come back to my right side.

     I try to walk the dogs first thing every morning that I am home. It gives me some incentive to get a little more exercise.  I have been walking them along the canal road which doesn't have very much vehicle traffic.  The climax of the walk for Allie is when she finds some quail, which she usually does.  There are quite a few quail living in the vicinity of the canal and we have seen as many as 70 on one walk.  When she smells the birds, she immediately comes to attention and goes into stalk mode.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mrs Buzz Saw Update - November, 2015

    I was informed that some of my grandchildren were hungry for news about Mrs Buzz Saw's daily activities. I have some reservations as to whether that is a good idea. Mrs Buzz Saw tends to alternate between being lazy, behaving badly, and intense neediness. However, to comply with the wishes of my darling grandchildren I've decided to do this post anyway.
Mrs Buzz Saw doing what she does best

    The above photo depicts Mrs Buzz Saw doing what she does for most of any given day, that is indulging in extreme laziness. She takes laziness to an art form. Her two favorite locations for this activity are one, on the back of the living room chair closest to the front window, and two, on our bed, usually curled up next to Linda's laptop.  I'm not too sure the time she spends on our bed stems from any loyalty or love she feels for us. I think she likes to lie next to the laptop because its like sitting next to a little heater. The laptop's cooling fan sends a constant jet of warm air in her direction. I think she likes the back of the living room chair because of the wonderful view it gives her of small helpless birds should she actually wake up for a few moments.

Examples of Mrs Buzz Saw's Needle Felting

     Mrs Buzz Saw has a number of favorite activities that can all be grouped under the general heading of "behaving badly." She has recently taken up the hobby of needle felting. If she can get access to any of my wool bats she delights in working them over with their claws until they are all felted together such that they could never be spun into yarn.  I would be more supportive of her needle felting if she formed the wool into any sort of useful shape. Sadly, she only does abstract free form sculptures.  She also like to sharpen her claws on the upholstery. We got her a scratching post once, but she ignored it in favor of Linda's couches and chairs.

Catching mice and rats does have my full support 

    In addition to her needle felting Mrs Buzz Saw also enjoys hunting, specializing in small helpless creatures.  This is a hobby which I halfway support. That half being the vermin she kills such as mice, rats, and moles. She really is a skilled hunter and does have some positive impact on reducing our vermin population. The half I don't support consists of all the little song birds she kills.  While she eats a portion of her prey, she sometimes decides to share them with us.  It is not uncommon to get up in the morning and find Mrs Buzz Saw has left a dead bird or mouse on the welcome mat.  Once I found a rather long rat tail and an undetermined internal organ on the mat on the back deck.  Sometimes in lieu of a bird there are just a few feathers. This morning I found a decapitated chickadee at my back door. I could add bird watching to her list of favorite activities, but she only likes watching birds as prospective prey. When I refill the bird feeder I have to remember to move the ladder back away from the feeder. If I don't take the time to move the ladder, Mrs Buzz Saw will climb to the top of the ladder and watch the feeder from a few feet away.  Oddly enough, the birds are reluctant to use the feeder with a hungry cat sitting close by.
Mrs Buzz Saw likes the "high ground"

    The last category, "intense neediness", usually manifests itself after we return from a trip.  I will try to sit down to watch a football game only to discover that isn't going to happen until after Mrs Buzz Saw's need for petting is satisfied.  My options at that point are to either walk downstairs to throw out the cat or simply give the cat what she wants and watch the football game over or around the cat for a few minutes.

Nature in my backyard.

   I haven't posted for a while, a reflection of things being busy at the bee store and teaching beginning beekeeping classes two or three days a week.  We're getting closer to the package bee craziness, but at least all of the bee classes are through.

   I had a quiet morning at home on Monday and was surprised to see a humming bird.  I am amazed that such a small bird with such huge energy requirements can be active when the temperature is in the 40s.  The high on Monday was only about 55 and it wasn't much above 40 degrees Fahrenheit at 8:00 am. Sadly, the humming bird wouldn't stay in one place long enough for a photo.

The rough skinned newt when I first noticed him.

   On Thursday morning last week I was putting out the trash cans.  When I went to move our big blue recycle bin I saw a little salamander next to the can.  I needed to move the can but I didn't want to run over the salamander so I moved him out of the way with a stick.  As soon as I moved him the salamander went stiff and bent into an odd position that exposed it's bright orange belly.   I took some photos and then spent some time on the internet trying to identify the type of salamander.   It turned out to be a rough skinned newt.  That identification was later confirmed by a zoologist friend. The rough skinned newt is native to Western Washington and Oregon. They are poisonous to eat, their skin having the same poison found in puffer fish.  Apparently someone once ate one on a dare and died a half hour later.  That explained the odd behavior when I moved the salamander. His bright orange belly was advertising that he was poisonous.

The newt after I touched him with a stick
        I was amazed to learn we had a local creature that was so deadly poisonous.  If they were larger their poisonous nature might be more commonly known.  As it stands, they are so small that even the most adventurous survivalist probably wouldn't be tempted to eat one.  I'm guessing the death I mentioned above probably involved alcohol.

Morels growing in our yard

       On an edible note, I discovered these beauties growing in my back yard.  More specifically, my grand daughter, Hannah Kang, asked me about the weird mushroom she found in the back yard. I was amazed to find they were morels.  They were growing where we had briefly had an above ground pool for last summer's cousin camp.  We had to bring in some dirt to even the lawn before we replanted the grass.  I can only surmise the morel spawn was in the dirt we imported.  Morels are supposed to form a symbiotic relationship with certain tree species. Morels are somewhat mysterious compared to other mushrooms.  They don't appear in the same places from year to year.  In Washington State they tend to appear in old burns up in the mountains. This past summer having been a bad fire year, this spring is predicted to be a wonderful morel year.

      Morels also happen to be the first wild mushrooms I ever hunted.  When I was about eleven years old we lived in Centerville, Iowa.  My grandparents, Guy Dudley Tunnell and Sylvia Linnia Lee lived on an 80 acre farm, a few miles west of Mystic Iowa, about eight miles from Centerville.  One spring we hunted for morels in a small oak forest across the road from my grandfather's farm.  I knew next to nothing about mushrooms at that time.  Someone showed me what they looked like and I got busy hunting.  I think all kids enjoy a treasure hunt.  I don't remember exactly how much we found, but it was a significant amount. We ate them sautéed. I remember them tasting a bit odd to my eleven year old palate.  I learned to appreciate the taste more as I grew older.  I used some of my backyard morels last Saturday in a wonderful mushroom gravy over pork chops.