on my property. I see deer on and off throughout the year. However, during the fall I see a lot more deer. The other night when heading to the chicken coop to move the chicks into the brooder for the night I surprised a buck close to the chicken coop. He bounded off before I could count points on his rack. Yesterday morning heading out to water the hogs I saw a doe (deer not goat) in the horse pasture.
Last Saturday as I headed into town I was just about to the bridge over the Rio Grande when five Javelina or feral hogs ran out of the Bosque on the north, across the road and disappeared into the Bosque on the south side of the road. I say “or” because I’m still on the fence as to the species. Javelina are not pigs although the physical resemblance is strong. If my weight guesstimate is accurate, these were too large to be Javelina, but I’m not the best at estimating weight. Given it was 10 a.m. and broad daylight, I’m leaning towards feral hogs. Either way, knowing that both Javelina and feral hogs inhabit the Bosque is the primary reason I no longer walk dogs along the river.
The last Year of The Snake was February 10, 2013 through January 30, 2014 and it won’t come around again until January 2025. You couldn’t prove that by me however.
In an earlier post I mentioned that in the not quite ten years I have lived here, I had only seen nine snakes on the property and two of those were just recently.
The dogs and I went out just before dusk tonight to turn on the heat lamp and move the chicks into the brooder for the night. After that was completed I walked around the front of the chicken coop to close the pop hatch to the main chicken coop and heard an unmistakable rattle. I called the dogs and retreated to the house where I left the dogs inside before returning to the chicken coop.
Sure enough there was a seriously p**d off rattlesnake, this one caught in the chicken wire of what I think might have been a rabbit hutch placed next to the chicken coop. The chicken coop itself is built with hardware cloth which makes it predator proof but the outside run to the coop and this small structure were built using chicken wire. It appears this snake went into the hutch and then was unable to exit — possibly due to eating whatever it went in after. At a guesstimate, this snake is a little over 2 feet in length. If you look carefully, you can see the head. The tail might be a little blurry because the snake was agitated and rattling like crazy. Again, since I won’t try to disentangle it, with luck it will be able to get out on its own; otherwise, there will be another dead rattlesnake in the morning.
This snake brings my total up to ten, three just in the past few weeks. I’m wondering if the brush hogging I had done a short while ago has moved the rattlers closer in to the structures. I may never know exactly why I am seeing more snakes, but I do know I am going to be taking more precautions when I work outside in the future.
The beginning of July a tree crashed into the horse corral. See post here.
While a friend came over early the next morning to remove the crown so I could get the horse out of the corral, because there was a bee hive in the tree, he couldn’t cut up the big pieces of trunk until I dealt with the bee hive. At the time he left the plan was for me to take care of the hive and he would return the next week to finish the tree removal. I was unsuccessful in finding anyone willing to remove the hive and so had to resort to killing the bees. Not my first choice but I needed to get the horse back into her corral. As it turned out, my friend’s schedule prevented him from returning. After the horse tried to jump out of the (former) sheep pen – now rebuilt – into the goat pen, mangling the cattle panel and injuring herself in the process, I went ahead and put her back in her corral where she has been co-existing with a large tree.
Yesterday in the late afternoon, the friends who had assisted with the bees returned with a chainsaw and removed the trunk up to the fence. At that point, the chainsaw quit and we decided it was good enough for the time being. It has certainly made a difference in the appearance of the corral – I had forgotten how large the corral really is.
Taming the wild tree
The heartwood of the cottonwood had rotted out, as is common in the species. This allowed access for the bees and while we found the center of the trunk full of dark, rich “compost” when we got to the section where the bees had resided, that was mixed with honey comb and honey. I had been toying with the idea of trashing my shoes — traipsing through the sticky mess left by the tree removal cemented that idea. I figured it wasn’t worth even trying to clean the shoes.
Hopefully sometime in the next couple of months the rest of the tree will be removed and I can find someone to repair the fence.
Remnants of honey comb and honey
The previous owners had sown sunflowers in the area in front of the house. Since I haven’t been willing to use herbicides, my weed control is limited to pulling weeds by hand. I had thought I had pulled all the sunflowers before they seeded the first year I was here, and indeed, in the next couple of years I had a couple of sunflower plants but certainly not many. Over the years, the number of sunflowers have waxed and waned. This year though I have more sunflowers – and in places they have never been before – than I have ever seen. This photo doesn’t truly show the enormity of the situation.
Internet research suggests that livestock will eat the entire stalk, not just the head, so I plan on starting to pull sunflowers to feed to the remaining sheep and the goats.
A walk down the drive with the dogs the other day showed several different wildflowers in a wide array of delicate colors but unfortunately when I walked down again intending to take photographs, they had already disappeared, to be replaced with purple tansyleaf tansyasters. The closest I could come to my location was ten miles south and it appears the flowers blooming were those I had last week. Blooms are generally very transient in my part of the world so it is a matter of blink and you miss them.
ADDENDUM: So I took the dogs down the drive earlier this morning looking for wildflowers that I saw last week and did find some still blooming in a different area (as well as a “bush” that just exploded into color this morning). Photos are from the phone so not the best . . .
Except for hanging gates and finishing the weaning pen.
A friend came over this morning and we erected the shelters for the wet and dry doe pens.
I used the fence line to set the shelters, and if needed I can tarp the back of both shelters along the fence line. These were inexpensive and easy to make using T-posts, cattle panel, baling twine and a tarp. The tarps were used billboard covers so there are images and writing on the inside. If I had had to buy the T-posts and cattle panels, I estimate the cost to build both would have been about $150.00. Since I had everything but the tarps my total cost was 32.40. For comparison, the wood and tin shelters which I moved to the new pens cost approximately 300.00 each to build.
After it cooled down a bit this evening, I went out and finished digging holes for the two gate posts and then put up the rest of the fencing. The gates are tied on with baling twine for the time being.
View from south end facing north. Dry doe pen on left and wet doe pen north of the dry doe pen. I’ve moved the three dry goats so each pen now holds three does. Eight foot alley with gate. Kidding jugs straight back. New buck/weaning pens on right. I have not put up a dividing fence and gate so right now it is all one large pen. I will also attach hog panel to the fence for the weaning pen so the kids can’t get through the cattle panel. When I don’t have any young kids in the weaning pen, I will leave the gate between the two open so the bucks will have more space. Each pen has a shelter.
I moved the two bucklings from the kidding jugs to their new pen at feeding time. They spent about 15 minutes chasing each other around the pen before settling down to eat. Buckling on the right is CBF KS Cowikee. The buckling on the left is Seldom Herd DA Cosmos.
Over the past weekend I finished rebuilding the former sheep pen. Once a new shelter is erected, that pen will be ready for use. I marked off where the 8 foot alley gate needed to be set and ran a string to mark where the front of the two additional pens will lie. I couldn’t start building those pens until the other shelter was moved from the current goat pen to its new location as I didn’t want to have to maneuver around fencing. Monday evening after work a friend came over and we moved the shelter and brought over the two additional 8 foot gates which will be used for the two new pens.
Line showing where south and west fencing will be erected. This shelter was moved from former sheep pen
Tuesday evening after chores I strung the remaining lines to mark the two new pens and started setting T-posts and attaching cattle panel. The pens are about half done at this point. I still need to dig holes to set posts for the gate in the alley and the pen gates before I can finish putting up the last cattle panels since those will need to be cut. Other than installing the gates, I should be able to finish putting up the pens by the end of this coming weekend.
Second shelter moved from goat pen and east fence
Building the two new shelters for the doe pens shouldn’t take long so it looks like I may indeed make my goal of having the pens constructed and ready for use by the end of this month.
Back of second shelter and north fence creating alley way between pen and kidding jugs
For the past week and a half or so I haven’t been finding eggs in the nesting boxes. Then a few days ago when I went to check on eggs, I discovered a hen lying dead on the chicken coop floor. She had no apparent injuries so her death was a mystery.
Then Tuesday evening when I entered the chicken coop I found a rattlesnake that had gotten caught in the chicken wire in the run just outside the pop door.
If it had been anything but a venomous snake I would have gone to get gloves and tried to release it, but assuming the snake was the culprit in the missing eggs and death of the hen, karma caught up to him.
I’ve been here for ten years this November and with the garter snake from a couple of weeks ago and this snake my total snake count is four non-venomous and five rattlesnakes.
The other night after my friend finished brush hogging he took a look at the railroad tie post and gate he had put in for me about 7 or 8 years ago. He thought I had dug out enough that he could get it out and sure enough, one good kick and the tie fell over. He then dragged it over to where I was going to set it up as the alley gate. So tonight after chores I took a shovel and dug down about 18 inches. I had measured the edge of the gate to the center of the railroad tie and then measured the same distance from the edge of the lambing / kidding jugs to mark the center of the hole. Unfortunately, when I tipped the railroad tie up and the bottom of the tie fell into the hole, it didn’t fall into the center. I tried and couldn’t pick up the tie to re-center it and I also wasn’t able to push the tie out of the hole again. Finally, I decided I could live with the gate being a little off-center. It will still open and close, though only one way now instead of both directions. I filled in the hole and called it a night.
I didn’t think we had received more than a usual amount of rain this year but the weeds are proving me wrong. I generally start pulling weeds by hand in early spring and can more or less keep the weeds on the drive and around the house under control but this year – perhaps because I took a vacation and was gone for two weeks – I haven’t been able to keep up with the weeds and it was getting hard to get down the drive or even walk anywhere on the property. I usually pay a friend to come over with his tractor and brush hog 3 or 4 times a year to keep the grasses down. He has been in high demand this summer and so he hasn’t been able to come over after work until last night. He mowed down some of the high weeds along the drive as he came down the drive and then proceeded to do his usual brush hogging, plus whatever weeds he could deal with. I still have areas where the weeds will have to be dealt with by hand but things are looking much, much improved this morning.
Standing in the barn facing south (these grasses aren’t quite as high as elsewhere)
View from same spot in barn after brush hogging
This morning while I was milking goats I kept hearing a strange sound. After putting the last goat back in the pen, I headed towards where I thought the sound was coming from. When I got to the pond (which I have never filled and only has water during monsoon season or after a heavy rain) I looked down and saw a toad. As I watched, a snake (I’m not good with snake identification other than rattlers, so if anyone knows what type of snake it is, please let me know) emerged out from behind a piece of flagstone that had fallen into the pond with a toad in its mouth.
Snake Eating Toad
The toads lay eggs in water which is why I have toads in the pond at this time of year. Evidently the snake knows that as well and has found a source of a quick meal though the toad seems awfully big for the snake to eat.
I went out later to see if the snake was still around and while I didn’t see the snake, I found two more toads hanging out in the pond.
Two More Toads