Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Useful Technology

Yesterday was a day I set aside to do, what I knew was to be, a certain difficult battle with technology. My mission was to suck up the fortitude to compile photos and videos of the various horses I want to sell and get the information ready to get to possible buyers. It used to be such a simple thing to take your camera out, shoot some stuff, plug it into the vhs tape player to make a copy, and then mail it off to prospects. The problem with technology is that every couple of years when I need to do something like this, the equipment has changed, improved, gotten infinitely more complicated, and what I did know then, I have now forgotten.

Now the process involves the camera, of course, now digital, but also a computer, with its always evolving software updates to be able to edit the material. Once the editing fun and games is muddled thru, then comes burning it to a dvd, or worse, trying to upload it to either emails or web pages, none of which ever seem to be compatible with the data, requiring a new upgrade of software. The cycle of this perpetual, tormenting learning curve has me wishing for a simplification of this nightmare, like where people actually come a see a horse in person. I ask too much, I know. I like horse and buggy technology, and the dark ages were comparatively much easier.

Anyway, as I typed away at my computer on the dining table and waited for incredibly slow sites to upload stuff, I was creatively cussing this annoying process when a tiny movement across the room caught my eye. The various dogs who were lying around the room took no notice, each in resting mode and softly snoring. Then another flash of movement revealed the shape of a tiny bird, flitting from one window to the next. It was a wren who had come in the open screened door to the porch, and on into the living room. It was very confused.

Our living room area and the foyer have an open two storied ceiling, and these areas are separated by the wooden beamed stairs which rise to an overlooking balcony. There are large windows over the doors to the back porch and over the front door. So this tiny trapped wren was flying back and forth from these high windows, hoping the light from them was an exit. I climbed the stairs to see if I could assist its efforts.

The wren nearly flew into me as I intersected its path and then it changed course and flew into the kids’ bedrooms, first one and then the other as I followed it around trying to herd it back towards the living room area again. I closed all the possible doors to narrow the options of its egress, and had the porch door open in hopes it would figure it out soon. Then I saw that another wren had joined in the mix, having also ventured inside and now it too was trapped by these walls and panes of glass. These two little birds now had the Yorkie's undivided attention.

We have two different types of wrens in our area, the Carolina and the House, and I couldn’t tell which these were. Just as I was going to look it up in a field guide, I heard one of them do their call, and a thought occurred to me of how to solve my puzzle of their identity using a bit of technology.

My cell phone is a hand me down iphone from my uber-techno husband and this thing is grossly more gadget than I ever need to place a call, but does do a good job as a portable camera. It happens, tho, to have an ap on it for bird watching, complete with all the pictures and info one might need to identify a bird. It also has their voices. So I played the Carolina first, not it, and then the House call. It was a perfect match, so much so that the birds flying around my house answered, and then flew downstairs. One landed on the piano a few feet from me, the other a bit further away. They were so cute. Troglodytes aedons, the cell phone identified them as.

I kept playing the cell phone House wren call and walked with it to the open porch door. Obedient little wrens they were. They followed me, found their way out to the now open screen door and to the freedom of the trees beyond singing as they flew away.

These weren’t the first wrens to venture inside, or to nest on the back porch here, but it did make me think of why they are called House wrens, with this habitual characteristic of the species. These were the absolute first, tho, that I have helped get out by using a cell phone/gadget and its technology.

In the course of the day I didn’t accomplish much of what I had wanted to get done with the video/horse stuff, but technology, and me, were back on better terms for this, my attitude towards it improved. I had to concede; it has its usefulness, even if only to help a little bird or two to fly back home. Thank you to Mr. Jobs and all the other nerds who made it possible.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Lunacy of the Poor Puppy, Jack

When I told the vet this morning, what had happened over the weekend to the, once again, poor puppy Jack, I was asked "Did it happen on the full moon?". A definite "Yes" was my answer. In recounting and rethinking the events, it must have been a perfect storm of misaligned energies and forces that set things awry and got things so crazy.

There was a huge full moon that was just rising this weekend as I was finishing my rounds of the afternoon feeding of the horses. The dynamics of the herd were still in a total state of chaos since I had recently weaned Frank, the foal, who was born on a full moon, 6 of them ago now. The subsequent reshuffling of the herd had all the horses jockeying for new social rankings and there were lots of flattened ears, teeth showing, and a few spinning back kicks thrown as they were sorting the situation out. Frank’s dam, Joline, had been placed in the group with Robijn and Sunset and was quite obviously at the bottom of the pecking order and was being repeatedly chased away from her hay pile. So I went back out into their paddock to move her pile further away from these two other mares and their gnashing teeth.

As I was moving her hay, I fussed at the two evil food hogs, and tried to defend poor sweet Joline. From where I was I could hear across the way in my neighbors’ farm, the sound of a dog fight and one dog obviously getting the bad end of the duel. It sounded gruesome and I could hear voices hollering trying to stop them as I turned and walked back to the barn.

 Then, as I got closer to my own barn, I could hear yet another dogfight going on in one of my stalls. I ran to the stall gate and couldn’t at first make the latch release but I could see that it was one of the terriers on the bottom, with my big dog on top. The sounds, too, were horrific and nauseating.

Finally I got the gate open and went in to break it up. I grabbed the large one by the skin of her neck and back and lifted her. This did not improve the situation as she had a firm hold on the terrier, who I could now see was Jack, the Australian terrorist being held by his head in the jaws of the big dog and both came up as I lifted. I was screaming, kicking, and punching and was getting no where. My grip slipped and I fell backwards on my butt and still the growling and screaming continued.

Finally I was able to get enough of a good kick into the big dog that she loosened her grip long enough for me to pull her away. Jack was quickly up and ran away and I sat upon the side of my big dog and held her down until she relaxed and submitted to the restraint. I was gasping for air, my heart was pounding, and my hands shook. The adrenalin rush had done its job but its effect wasn’t gone. It had just come out of nowhere, this fight, so unpredicted, and so violent, all over a few tidbits of spilled horse feed. I sat there stunned.

My dog is a shepherd, German in every way. They are my favorite breed, loyal, intelligent, sensitive, etc. I have had many of them in my years and loved them all, but most have regrettably had an incident of some type of skirmish with another dog. The fights are always brutal and traumatic to the other dog and to the breaker, or breakers up, of the fight. Shepherds are hardwired to be possessive and to be dominant, are formidable to this end, and do not suffer fools lightly. They fight with one quick and determined bite, a firm hold that squeezes and crushes, and one that does not loosen without one using a force greater than the dog possesses, to do so. This time a kick in the ribs was the final answer to my saving Jack from an almost certain death.

After locking the shepherd away, I assessed poor Jack’s damage. There were two holes on top of his head, perilously close to his left eye, and blood poured freely from them both. Another hole was under his jaw, and a bright red stream flowed from it as well. The jaw bone was not broken and inside his mouth his teeth checked out ok as well. So I cleaned the wounds and tried in vain to regain some composure, questions screaming thru my brain about the whys of what had just happened.

By this time the moon had risen to above the tree outline and out in the woods nearby the coyotes began howling like Sirens and the remains of the afternoon air hung wild with an electric energy. Had that rising full moon's appearance really caused such a flurry of fighting, all of it coinsiding in such a brief moment? Was it indeed caused by being in the exact crossfire of the beam of light from the setting sun before it illuminated the rising white orb?  Legends and stories abound of lunacy and strange events, including werewolves, all being caused by the full moon. This orb rose and left revealing no answers. Come next full moon tho, I will be very cautious in animal world, and may lock them all up.

In animal world, the dominant being rules, and eats first. The possession of dominance can change with a tiny change in social dynamics, age, and energies from varied sources, perhaps not excluding the power of the moon. Dominance is not strictly the domain of the larger. It can be a state of mind and attitude. Jack was unfortunately, a bit mistaken on his perceived level of dominance to try to take food from the shepherd on this day and hopefully won't repeat it. He is terrier though, and the smaller they are, the high their opinion of themselves.
Jack is home from the vet with new antibiotics. He is not looking real pretty but can almost get his left eye open, and is feeling much better. Pecking orders have been  re-established and peace is settling down on the farm again. Tonight I will finish the spanakopita for Thanksgiving with the family, and tommorow do the "over the river and thru the woods" thing again to my parents' house yet again. It sure seems like Thanksgiving was yesterday when it has only been twelve rises and falls of the moon since the last.

And so begins the holidaze of 2010. Hope everyone has a happy one.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Bare Bones

There is a gentle rain falling today outside the door to the back porch. The droplets fall with varying intensity upon untold numbers of fallen colored leaves, and this softens their impact, quieting them, and it makes for a peaceful, relaxing day, devoid of any pressure to get horses riden or to get any of those pesky outside jobs done. They will wait. Today is for tea, and for doing some writing, and perhaps some painting. There is also the strong possibility of my doing some sewing of some sort, but anything might happen. There is just a relaxing of my shoulders in this being relieved of outside duty, a free pass from farm world, courtesy of Mom Nature, and  it is greatly appreciated.

Yesterday we wondered back to the creek bed again. It is still very dry and the water was even lower than the last time we were there. There were many more leaves on the floor of the creek bed and many animal tracks telling the story of their need for the diminished water supply in our area. Deer tracks were the predominant ones, of all sizes from the heaviest adults to the tiny sharp imprints of fawns. There were skid marks where several had misjudged the slipperiness of the blue hard packed clay near the remaining pools, where they came to drink. Raccoon hand prints overlaid some of these, as did fat tracks of cows.

In one of the longer pools it was evident that an animal with a belly about a little less than a foot wide, had crawled thru it leaving a path thru the leaves exposing the sand below. Alligator? Perhaps. It is quite possible and very interesting to think so.

The light was not as spectacular as the last time we had been there and the element of surprise was diminished but it was nice to just be wandering with no purpose, in a pretty place with no agenda. The fun part about going to a place with very little idea of what you might find, is that that is what you do sometimes find, the unexpected, is sometimes amazing and boarders on the magic.

Mark was busy taking photographs while I was taking in the stories these footprints told. Following a trail of tracks, I ventured up the sides of the creek to visit with one of the largest two trees I have ever been around. The main tree was a cypress, firmly planted in a huge sand bar, with its roots and knees circling its base in a 50 ft. or so perimeter. Growing out of the massive root system closer to the creek was a huge sycamore, climbing towards the heavens with glowing white bark and shaking yellow leaves. These beings, albeit vegetable, were alive and were presences to be admired. I walked close to the cypress and put my palm towards the bark and felt its energy, the heartbeat of a tree. I was awed.

I noticed a few feet away, in this lovely grove of these two giants and its supporting group of mock orange trees, that a cow skull lay in the sand, upside down and bleached white. I snapped a few shots with my cell phone and then noticed more of this poor dead cow's skeleton scattered around its final resting point.

This cow's carcass had obviously made dinner for many a scavenger as the bones lay in a circle a good ways away from the skull, a heavy thigh bone here, and toothless jaw over there, and varying leg parts that I couldn't really tell what they were, all here and there, pulled away from the source and picked clean.

I started to gather these relics up and called Mark over to see them. He told me to place the other bones around the skull and he began taking photos of the still life of bones. I gathered more and slowly the grouping began to take on a renewed life of its own. 

In the deep white sand surrounding the cypress giant, I happened to see a piece of whitened bone, perhaps a vertebra I guessed, sticking out of the ground. When I pulled on it, it quickly suggested it was not a mere back bone, but with a bit of digging I was able to pull the whole treasure out. It was an entire pelvis, white and unbroken, preserved by being covered with sand so that no small rodent could chew the bone for calcium supplementation. It was massive, and yet the abstraction of it not being attached to the cow, lent itself to new interpretation, and gave it new  suggestion and life.

It is interesting to me that we as humans, and perhaps other animals do too, tend to involuntarily try to see the face in an abstraction. We want to recognize the face, and in seeing something with such symmetry as an upside down skull, or cow pelvis, out of context, and it is amazing how quickly the abstract becomes a personality to our brains.

Such was the case with the pelvis, which soon became referred to as Elvis. Mark took many photos of our new found friend, that are haunting and surreal, ones that transpire mere cow bones in a grove. We left the re found bones of the displaced carcass back rejoined with the skull, but borrowed the pelvis and hope the deceased won't mind that we took it home. What a gift this ol' cow left behind.

It just doesn't take that much to find magic in life, but it does require an effort. It is out there and it is everywhere, if, you get off the sofa and open your eyes and see it and feel it. It is amazing to have had such experiences in this one place, so close to my back door, in this jumble of trees by a creek bed. Ireland was a magical and mythical place to visit of course years ago, but this little spot in my back acreage ranks a pretty close rival. The shaking yellow leaves and sky stretched trees, bleached white cow bones, and possible alligator trails of yesterday left me feeling refreshed and happy to think that there are still mysteries and things to be discovered. It is hardly ever a bad day to walk in the woods, and Elvis concurs.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Autumn Song

This past Sunday was Halloween. I think it may the first that I did not carve a pumpkin for. There were no costumes and no trick or treaters out here at the farm. There never have been since we live so far away from suburbiaville. When our kids were small and enjoyed knocking on doors for candy we always had to go to town and find a neighborhood that looked promising for loot. This Sunday was quiet, tho, and it settled into a nice memorable day of its own merit, not requiring the help of pumpkins, nor of costumes and candy.
I fixed a late morning breakfast of leftover corned beef, turned into hash with diced potatoes and sweet sautéed red bell peppers and onions, with a sprinkling of thyme. This was topped with two soft poached eggs. A spot of fruit on the side and a light screw driver completed the fare. It made for a nice mellow start to a fine autumn day. 
I have always loved corned beef, the salty flavor that goes so well with horseradish, potatoes, cabbage, carrots. I regard it as high comfort food. I also am reminded every time I eat it of one of the worst whippings I ever got, as a kid at my parents’ table. 
On that memorable occasion my mother had prepared corned beef hash, which I liked immensely, even tho it was from a can, as were most food groups in the mod ‘60s. As we opened our napkins, post prayer, and took stock of our grub, I casually remarked that the food looked just like the Kennel Ration canned dog food that we fed our pup Skippy. I meant nothing by it other than an observation. I just remember my surprise at being suddenly snatched from my chair by my father and getting a very solid paddling, while I protested the innocence of my intention. I learned to keep my non positive, or any questionable comments to myself from then on. There is holy hell to pay for insulting a cook.
Anyway, back to Sunday...various chores which got done at a leisurely pace, made for some of the day until later in the afternoon when the sun began washing the landscape with a warm golden hue and made long cold shadows as it began its decent to the horizon. We climbed onto the four wheeler and went back to the woods.
Our property is approximately 90 some odd acres of which, maybe 30 or so are relatively high ground and is open, used as a horse farm, hay fields, and site for home and barn. It quickly slopes behind our house into seasonal wetlands, hard wood covered, dense and dark, until it gets to our northern border of Pinchona Creek. I had seen from the back of horse a few days ago that it looked that the creek was at very low stage and might be revealing interesting things without the usual flow of water over it.
We climbed down the banks into the creek bed where only a mere trickle of crystal water flowed now. The banks loomed some 25 to 30 feet over our heads. At our feet were small black mussels, and a carpeting of leaves from the many species of trees in the canopy above. 

We stood on a long flat hard blueish clay bed at this spot, an ancient deposit of a chalky vein that runs under the Black Belt soils and which is home to many fossils and impressions left by animals that lived in the sea that once covered this area. I broke a few pieces apart and found impressions of bivalve/clam shaped group.

As we walked further along the creek bottom we came around a turn to huge ancient cyprus trees standing nearly 150’ or more by my guess. They were covered in Spanish moss and they looked like swaying dancers in the breeze, lit from a low angle, making them seem even taller. The banks, that are normally under water, now showed how these giants were not subject to be eroded away like the oaks and pines are. Wild and crazy root systems intermingled and occasionally rose to form a knee, but together it all formed a net or barrier to keep the bank from being undercut.

I had never seen as large of a grouping of these trees before and to find them literally in my back yard was just amazing. To find the spectacular in unexpected places is why we enjoy exploring, and it certainly paid off this time. Mark, of course, took many gorgeous photos of the beautiful scenery we were in and I did the ones here on my cell phone. It was hard to not see something wonderful in every direction I turned.
The sun finally got too low and it was time to get on the four wheeler and head back to the house. We came out of the woods into the wild flower field. Leaves were being blown around and drifted without course. It was a nice Halloween. Van Morrison wrote his Autumn Song many years ago but there is not a fall that comes that his song plays nonstop in my head.  “Leaves are brown, they fall to the ground.....I just feel like singing Autumn song....”