Wednesday, May 16, 2018

April Potpourri

It's so easy for me to get behind on photos! Here are some from April. We went for a drive and saw a pronghorn. I love watching these animals, the fastest land animals in North America. They are also unusual in that they don't jump over fences, but go under them.

On this particular drive we were heading to a wet meadow area, but due to the dry winter, it looked kind of brown.

This fence post caught my eye. And in the background you can see that there isn't much snow on the mountains.

This is one of my favorite trees. Sometime I hope to go down and take a night sky photo with its silhouette.

Back at home, the kestrels have moved in and make a lot of noise.

One day I found the kestrel was excited about its catch--a lizard.

Our dog, Maggie, jumped out of the back of the truck and broke her femur. So she had surgery and was on a lot of confinement. Fortunately she's been recovering well.

We have a lot of playdates. I loved that one incorporated some music practice. These two will be performing in the spring concert next week. They will have a duet, as they're the only brass players in their school.

A couple coworkers and I led the elementary school on a wild cave trip. The kids had a great time and were delighted to have an opportunity to crawl and get muddy. One of the chaperones was surprised how we incorporated how much science into it--programming bat equipment, checking climate data, reading maps, showing geologic features. It's easy in caves, there are just so many cool scientific areas to study!

Our currant bushes bloomed, and that brought lots of pollinators, including these cool sphinx/hummingbird moths. They are not easy to photograph! They move around really fast.

I thought it was cool to see how the proboscis is curled up while it's flying.

Then it extends it to take a drink.

The flowers help provide a bullseye.

Desert Girl did a session of dog training for a friend. They were so cute! One of Desert Girl's ambitions is to become a dog trainer, so it's good to start young.

Caving friends came via a small airplane, and they let the kids sit in the cockpit. They immediately started dreaming up their adventure.

These ladies are awesome, I will have to do a whole post more about their geologic work in Lehman Caves soon.

We squeezed in some trail work on the local Sagebrush Discovery Trail. The flowers along it have been great in May (also another post!). There are still so many more rocks to move, but we're slowly making a difference. And it's always great to socialize!

One of the school events was a Young Author's Fair. Guest speaker Glenn Terry came in to do some cowboy poetry. Then the kids read each other's book that they had written for the event and did some activities. Parents and friends also get to read the kids' books, which are very entertaining.

We had a few EMS and fire calls for the month, including this vehicle fire. It had stalled, so the driver pulled it over to the side of the road, and then it caught on fire. She was able to get out safely, but the car was totally engulfed. Fortunately minimal brush caught on fire, as you can see there was some wind.

We got good practice with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBAs). There are so many toxic fumes from a car fire that you don't want to breathe even a little of that smoke.

One last tidbit was a school field trip to the Aquarium in Draper, Utah. It's a 3.5 hour bus ride--each way--but it was worth it. Everyone had a great time and we certainly got to see things that we don't usually see in the remote desert!
Hope you had a good April and are enjoying May!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

It's Branding Time!

 May is the traditional month for branding, but we got started earlier this year to avoid the heat that's likely to come. (And by "we" I mean my ranching family, I had nothing to do with it.)

Brandings are fun, because the cowboys and cowgirls like to do it the traditional way, roping the calves. This takes more time and people, but uses traditional cowboy skills. For this branding, cowboys were roping one calf at a time, and bringing them back to a harness type device that kept the calf in place.

The horses are well trained to move just when told and also to stay still while the calf is being processed.

A happy new recruit doing the beginner's job--loading ear tags.

Once the calf is in position, it receives its vaccinations, an ear tag that has pesticide on it to keep the fleas away, ears cut (instead of actual branding with a hot iron), a rubber band around delicate parts if it's a male to keep it from becoming a bull, and a mark on the forehead to indicate that it's done.

Brandings are fun to watch, as there is so much going on all at once, and so much skill on display. It's also fun to get a glimpse back into what life used to be like before all these modern day accoutrements.

Brandings are also an opportunity for family and friends to get together.

Young people learn skills from the more experienced.

And there are beautiful horses!

Have you ever tried roping? Desert Boy got a lasso for a birthday and we've practiced around the yard. We all need a lot more practice! Thinking of lassoing on a moving horse makes me admire the talent these folks have even more.

This calf made me laugh. Her expression makes it look like she's just out for a little ride.

Fortunately the weather was fantastic for this branding.

We couldn't stay too long due to other obligations. But in a later post we'll return to another branding, where the kids got to help out!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Nesting Owls

One afternoon while the wind was blowing hard, I was picking up sticks in the yard. I noticed a feather moving up in the crotch of a big poplar tree. I looked closer. And lo and behold, I saw a Great Horned Owl sitting there.

Now, we frequently have owls in our yard, but they usually fly away when we get within 20 meters. This one stayed. A hint of a suspicion starting forming in my mind. The next day I went back out, and she was still there. Now I was convinced. This was a mama Great Horned Owl, and she was sitting on her eggs.

I looked up information about nesting Great Horned Owls and found some really interesting information from a Cornell Lab of Ornithology bird cam site. The owl lays 1-4 eggs, each one a few days apart. Then she sits on (incubates) them for 30-37 days. During this time, she stays on the nest for pretty much the whole time, as she has a special featherless brood patch that keeps the eggs warm. Her mate catches food and brings it to her.

I was expecting to be watching the well-camoflauged mama for a few weeks. But just one week later, I saw some extra movement in the nest. An owlet had hatched!
It was small, but the beak was easy to distinguish. And by the way, I'm taking all these photos with a zoom lens at 400mm, a crop sensor camera, and then cropping the photos in post-processing. So even though it looks like I'm right there, I'm standing way back.

Just the next night, the owlet looked so much bigger. The owls are born covered in white down. About a week later, they start getting some colored feathers. At three weeks they will start developing ear tufts. And at 6-7 weeks, they will leave the nest.

Mama owl has her back to the owlet; she seems to change position a lot. And while I was watching there was a little bit of activity on the side. Another owlet! I couldn't get a good photo due to low light levels, but I'll share a photo soon.

It's so much fun to have all this activity right in the backyard. We've had owls nest nearby, but never right in the yard (to our knowledge). Stay tuned for more owl photos!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The First Annual Old Capitol Storytelling Festival

 We received a note home from school in early March saying there would be a First Annual Old Capitol Storytelling Festival. We weren't quite sure what to expect, but they were having two nights of concerts/storytelling in our area, plus a storytelling contest for the school kids.

First off, the Old Capitol refers to Fillmore, Utah, which was the first capitol of the state of Utah. And before the state of Utah was declared, it was the Territory of Utah, which not only included all of Utah, but most of Nevada, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.

We talked with the kids, and Desert Girl decided she wanted to enter the storytelling contest. She started practicing right away for a maximum of a five-minute-long story, and she decided to talk about camping at Ibex playa.

On Sunday night, we went to EskDale High School, where we listened to the orchestra play beautifully.

Then it was time for some stories. This night's theme was about different religions and beliefs, and I found it quite interesting.

Various speakers talked about different belief/religious systems.

One pastor couldn't make it in person, but had recorded a video. He lives in Salt Lake City and drives down to Delta every weekend for his congregation. Except when he does missions in Africa, and then he preaches via video, so it was very apropos.

On Monday night we went to the Border Inn for the last night of the Old Capitol Storytelling Festival.

Clive Romney, who had visited the schools earlier in the day, provided some entertainment.

Then the two winners of the storytelling contest told their stories. Desert Girl's teacher was so glad that only two kids had wanted to tell stories this year, as it made it very easy to judge!

Desert Girl did a great job, talking about how when we took an old camper out to Ibex playa and a window broke, Dad fixed it with "marshmallow glue." The next time we camped there, we just took a tent. The wind blew so hard that night it broke the tent poles and pushed the tent down on us. "Mom cheated and got out of the tent with her sleeping bag and slept on the other side of the rock."

Desert Girl then concluded talking about how the next day we went to the Leamington Rodeo, where she competed in mutton bustin'. She wasn't so good at it, and it hurt when she fell off, but she did get some Skittles for her efforts.

The kids got their prizes, which made them very happy.

Then it was time for the adult storytellers. Delaine talked about the Massacres in the Swamp Cedars.

Dave told a few stories about experiences around the area.

And Denys had fun relaying some family history.

It was very enjoyable to listen to live entertainment. Next year both the kids say they will compete in the storytelling contest. They have until next March to figure out their stories. For more information, check out the Old Capitol Storytelling Festival website.
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