In July of 2017 a cottonwood came down during a thunderstorm and landed on the pipe fence of the horse corral with the tree canopy almost completely covering the corral. The horse was unhurt but trapped in the far corner of the corral. A friend came over the next morning before work to chainsaw enough of the tree so I could get the horse removed to another location. It took awhile to deal with the bee hive that had taken up residence in the trunk of the cottonwood but once that was accomplished, the rest of the tree was able to be cleared from the corral. That still left part of the trunk on the pipe fence itself but the remaining tree blocked the horse from getting out of the corral. A few weeks later, I was finally able to get the rest of the tree cut up and then used a piece of cattle panel as a temporary patch. Another friend with welding equipment and skills agreed to take a look and see if he could fix the fence. When he finally made it out, we talked about possibilities and I asked if, instead of replacing the two sections of fence that formed that corner, it would be feasible to cut out the damaged sections and replace it with a gate that fit diagonally across to the undamaged sections on either side. He went home and built a gate but it was over a month before he could fit in the time to bring the gate and his welding equipment out. Tonight, after a few mishaps, the damaged pipe and cattle panel was cut away and the new gate welded in place. It took over eight months, but everything is finally done – and I have two gates.
About 20 miles north is the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. Unlike the Bosque del Apache, the Sevilleta is generally closed to the public. However, about once a month guided tours are offered to parts of the Sevilleta otherwise not accessible.
Yesterday a friend and I took advantage of one of these guided tours. The below photos are of the West Mesa – a limestone cap where the sides have eroded leaving a promontory which narrows and then widens again. This area is the result of volcanic activity which is still being monitored.
The moon now is the second full moon of the month which makes it a Blue Moon.
Tuck and Fix under a Blue Moon
The weather this fall was unusually warm. However, the cold weather has moved in with a vengeance this past week. The other morning it was in the teens when I got up and was still below freezing shortly after 9 am. I think the high was only 43 degrees. I had scheduled a propane delivery for next week, mainly just to take advantage of the propane pricing I had locked in last year that will expire shortly; however, if this weather continues I may actually have need of the delivery.
The borrowed ram has returned home and I’m hoping that he bred at least one ewe while he was here. The hogs are now gone – it was apparent that they weren’t going to pay for themselves and I didn’t want to spend another winter having to carry water out to the pasture every day.
The weather has not been predictable for the past few years and this year has been no exception. It has been warmer than usual and the fall colors are just now peaking. I have only seen and heard a couple of groups of migratory birds over head – a far cry from the November ten years ago when I moved here.
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
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 weekend was spent taking down the working pen, cleaning out the lambing jugs where the bucklings currently reside, building a second compost pile with the old bedding, left over hay, and of course goat manure, and re-configuring the former quarantine pen for the sheep to give them more room. (The sheep got moved out of their pen to accommodate the horse when a tree fell into her corral.) I still don’t know if the two new does are bred, but one is starting to look as though she may be bagging up. If I have kids this fall I will need to have the lambing jugs available so my goal is to build three new goat pens plus two new shelters by the end of this month.
As usual Tuck and Fix were with me while I worked. It really is too bad Tuck doesn’t have opposable thumbs, but since he isn’t able to help with removing T-posts he elected to find a shady spot to lie down. Fix has decided that he needs to emulate his great-uncle and when I looked around to see what mischief Fix was into, I discovered he was quietly laying next to Tuck, just observing. When the temperatures started to climb I decided to quit until evening. However, later in the afternoon it started to lightly rain and I figured it was a good time to finish putting up the new, temporary sheep pen. I headed back out, accompanied by the dogs. Again, Tuck and Fix found a good spot to observe while being out of the way. Shortly thereafter the rain stopped – and the humidity soared – but I wanted to finish up so I kept working. It then started to rain heavier than before but still something I could work in. I looked over to see both Tuck and Fix hightailing it back to the house. I told them they were both wimps and kept pounding a T-post in. As soon as the T-post was set, the heavens opened and the rain started coming down in buckets. I ran towards the house – and nearly killed myself tripping over Fix who had come back to find out why I was still out in the rain. Fix is starting to act more like an adult dog and less like a puppy. . . I’m going to miss my puppy but am ready for the next stage in starting Fix as a stockdog.
In the last post I mentioned that a dog with a herding title may not be able to actually work. There is a huge difference between taking direction in an arena where the handler is standing close by, and being able to work without direction to accomplish a task. In my experience, very few dogs which trial are capable of the latter. (And yes, I used to trial dogs many, many years ago.)
As an example of the difference, here is one of the many instances where Tuck has proven himself as a working dog.
Back in September of 2013 heavy rains caused flooding in my area (see post). The sheep had been in the east pasture when it started to rain and while Tuck and I had gone out after the rain let up, the depth of water and degree of mud made me decide to leave the sheep out for the night.
Tuck trying to get to the East Pasture
I received a phone call early the next morning from the post office saying that my order of chicks had arrived. I knew I was not going to be able to get off my property so I called a friend and asked her to pick up the chicks for me and once the frontage road had been cleared, I would meet her at the gate to pick up the chicks. So later that afternoon, after the county road crews had worked on both the frontage road and the county road I live on, she drove over to deliver the chicks. Tuck and I navigated around the cottonwood that had fallen in my drive and waded down the drive (which was still under water) to meet her at my gate.
Drive under water
Unbeknownst to me, the road crew had knocked down the corner post (a railroad tie) and the fence in the east pasture along the road was down. As my friend drove up she spooked the sheep that had made their way onto the road and the sheep took off south, around the bend and out of sight. My friend was upset and wanted to know what to do to get the sheep back. I simply told Tuck to bring me the sheep and he trotted off while I stood talking to my friend through the window of her vehicle. In relatively short order, the sheep appeared around the bend with Tuck behind them. He pushed them through the gate and down the drive where I knew the downed cottonwood would block them until I could wade back down the drive with the chicks.
A good working dog does not need to be micromanaged and given constant directions to get a job done. The dog simply needs to understand what the job is and then left to decide the best way to accomplish it.
Photo of bee taken to confirm it was a honey bee hive
Sadly, though I spent time this past week trying to find someone willing to relocate the bees, I was only able to locate one person who agreed to do so but his fee was too stiff for my pocketbook. While some beekeepers are interested in collecting swarms, evidently retrieving bees in a colony is something totally different.
So a week after the cottonwood came down, two friends came over to help kill the bees.
So last night just before dark, when the bees had all returned, one friend suited up and removed the “shelf” and then sprayed a foaming hornet and wasp killer into and around the entrance. He was concerned that starting to spray might result in angry bees flying out, but we saw no signs of activity. This morning when I checked the entrance I saw one solitary bee. This afternoon there were half a dozen bees but this evening I again only saw one. I had planned on re-spraying again tonight, but will wait and check tomorrow.
Entrance to hive is under bark “shelf” (just below shadow of pipe rail)
I regret having to kill the bees but I couldn’t get the rest of the tree cut up and the pipe fence repaired until the bees were gone.
Good view of entrance hole with “shelf” removed
Sometime this weekend, after I’m sure there are no more bees, I’ll clear as much debris out of the corral as I can and then arrange for the rest of the tree to be removed. The horse will be happy to be moved back to her corral.