Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Cardinal Sin

Sharp-shinned Hawk

There have been hunters here all winter..... A Cooper's Hawk hit the big window a couple weeks ago. Our fledgling birder, little Peggy, goes to that window every single day now and asks where the bird went.

"It flew away," I tell her, but she always asks again. 

I thought that was who was sending all the birds on all the feeders up in a whirl every little while and bouncing them out of the trees and hedgerows willy-nilly.

However, when I was at the sink this morning I saw a small hawk chasing a cardinal around the fence between the backyard and the horse yard. I grabbed the camera to see if I could find the fray and hurried up through the snow.

To my astonishment the hawk had a female Northern Cardinal trapped up against the snow fence that surrounds my old round pen where I started the Border Collies on sheep. And he was utterly unafraid of me. 

He wanted that hen cardinal and he wanted her bad. I took a bunch of photos, waited for the cardinal to get brave and leave, and then left him to it.

I know, I know, you are not supposed to interfere with nature and all that, but dagnabbit, those are MY cardinals. Let the hawk eat starlings. Or House Sparrows! He could feast on fifty or sixty of them and I wouldn't complain.

Seriously though, much as I find it disconcerting to see the feeder birds on the menu, hawks have to eat too. This little sharpie will keep our local fliers honest as well as adding another bird to the year list.

Over the past few years we have seen many more Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks around here, whether because the population is increasing or our habitat is appealing I don't know. For whatever reason it is nice to see them. 

Saw this guy and an immature down by the river the other day

Eye of Newt?

Eye of the Tiger?

Well, actually it's not an eye at all. It's a baby chick inside an egg being set upon by a fluffy blue Cochin hen. She is one of several that Liz has brooding down in the heifer barn. We went a'candling last night and got to see this tiny Belgian Bearded Danver embryo flipping and blipping around inside its shelly a little nautilus without the curves.

There are quite a few eggs in a similar state down there, just waiting for the days to pass until hatching time.

There are also a couple-few eggs up here at the house, waiting to be sold to hungry customers. No chickies inside these, I promise. That's for you, Joe. lol

Tuesday, February 09, 2016


Turning this.....
We're manly men.....

Into this
Imagine splitting logs that large, some of them with grain like this, with an ax


Farmers are known for it...making something from nothing, finding a new way to do  a thing, or getting by without buying. These photos show a tandem hay rake setup the boss built  many moons ago.

It is beyond simple, but it does most of the same jobs an expensive commercial model could. Of course there are no hydraulics involved, but that is generally a good thing from my point of view. He got the idea from a couple of older farmers he knew, modified it a bit to suit his circumstances. we still use it, at least twenty years later.

Many a windrow has been rolled into another one to save trips over the field and thus time and fuel with me or one of the guys at the wheel.

 Raking hay was probably my favorite job back when I drove tractor every day. It is undemanding enough to allow the mind to wander.....but not so much so that you fall asleep counting Barn Swallows. Still I was grateful to have the dual rakes and for the time they saved us.


The seat of the

Or maybe I should just say rusty.....

Monday, February 08, 2016


Some of the lower mountains from the Indian Lake overlook

With his snowmobiles lined upvacant in the old heifer yard, some on the trailer, some on the ground, all facing north, but all forlorn at the bare ground, Alan wanted to see at least a little snow.....

So he invited me to go to the Dacks yesterday. I do not say no to such requests.

We are puppets of the mountains. When they pull our strings we dance without complaint....we danced on up to Tupper Lake looking for the turnoff to Sabattis Bog. We found it on the way back and went looking for the good birding that is said to exist there. That we didn't find. We did pick up a few Blue Jays, a large flock of American Goldfinches, and a single pair of Red Crossbills....but it was pretty quiet. In fact the quiet was astonishing. Now and then we heard a snowmobile far in the distance and there was sometimes the sound of moving water, but that was all. It was delicious, better than the half time show at that ball game everyone was all excited about yesterday. 


Snowshoe Hare with Alan's big foot for comparison

Foxy Loxy

The tale of the tracks in the fresh-fallen, delicate, powder (see, we did find snow) was a fine script to read. Here a Snowshoe Hare doodled back and forth across the road and into the swamp. There a large bird strode back and forth, every detail of its feet clear as as a well-printed program, listing the cast of characters in the snow. His vote was turkey..I wondered about Ruffed Grouse. After looking up tracks, he is probably right, but expert opinions are always welcome.

After our little side jaunt down the long and lovely road to Sabattis, (the video above shows a part of the road there on the way back out. It is amazing to drive such a nice road back into the wilderness, but there is a big camp and a Boy Scout camp back there) we headed for the real High Peaks. What a backdrop they form for the puppet stage, poking their lofty noses right through the clouds, unwilling to associate with the gaudily patterned tourist puppets taking in the ice house at Saranac Lake and all that Lake Placid has to offer. I prefer the wilder side of the mountains for the solitude, but the busy High Peaks display astounding scenery....which alas is nearly impossible to photograph around all the buildings and cars and people.

Raquette River at Tupper Lake

A little beaver dam we found

A large beaver house just across the way....see it right there in the center?

And later, home again, home again, to hit backstage early in order for him to get off to work at 2:30.....AM that is......Decades of dairy farming have not prepared me to hit the stage that early, no, no, no....

Still I wouldn't miss the mountains and a day with my favorite chauffeur and birder for a dozen good naps and a box of cookies. 

Saturday, February 06, 2016


Male Norther Harrier
Keeping a list, and trying to expand it each year, of all the birds we see on the farm means looking constantly for year birds. This month has pretty much been a desert in that respect. We got the eagle the other day, but that's about it.

What with on thing and another, mostly foul weather, and ice, and mud, I haven't been able to get out and walk pursuit much this year.

However, today was perfect. Cold enough so there was no mud. No wind. Lovely frost flowers everywhere.

I started up through the heifer pasture.

Cardinals followed. Only one or two come into the feeders, but there were many out in the woods. A dozen? More? A lot anyhow. They trailed along behind me all the way from the buildings behind the house to the farthest corner of the Heifer Pasture.

Once there I crawled under the fence, no mean feat, but I could trust the electric fence not to bite me, because the deer had torn it all down. Big job there come spring. As soon as I ventured into the open hay fields the birds all stayed behind.

All the way up through the heifer pasture I looked for year birds. I think I saw and heard a pair of Bluebirds, but they just wouldn't let me see them well enough to be sure. I wasn't disappointed was amazing to be out on the land.

A little corner where the Savannah Sparrows and Bobolinks love to nest

By the time I made it to the 30-Acre Lot I was ready to sit down, and the tongue of the blue hay wagon was perfectly positioned for same. The metal was cold, but the peace was profoundly pleasant and more than made up for it.

See him there in the left hand corner?

I stayed there...and stayed....and stayed....watching geese fly over, listening to crows, just soaking up the alone of it all.

Then, a flash, white, like a car in the distance, only it was over the brush in the 60-Acre Lot. No cars there.

I trained the binoculars on the field, but nothing appeared.

Suddenly, over the very field where I perched out of sight on the wagon tongue, flew a wonderful year bird. A male Northern Harrier. He obligingly tilted and teetered back and forth across the grass with crows screaming all around. It took a while but I finally got him in the viewfinder.

And then he vanished. I took down the binoculars and there he was. He had landed right in the field. I watched and watched until he finally flew and then walked on down from the fields, full of the delight of such an exciting bird, and the water burbling under the ice everywhere, and all the peace and interest of outside.

Back at the house I was training the camera on a Carolina Wren that was singing from the Winesap Apple tree...and right over my head, flying low and loud, came a Common Raven....year bird number two in just one walk. How cool is that? 


Sometimes you need some. And despite the constant furor that reigns indoors here, you don't have to go far to find it. 

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Farm Side

The Schoharie, doing its mirror thing

If by chance you like to read the Farm Side on the Friday editorial page of the Amsterdam Recorder, where it has resided since 1998......

For some reason that was not revealed to me, it is moving to, if you want to read it, you will have to grab the weekend paper.

This week it is about WOTUS....not for the first time, but this is a huge, ongoing issue for anyone who has land and wants to use it for anything.

Here are some of the pages I used for research:

NASDA letter to the House Committee on Agriculture

The House Committee on Agriculture 

The Week that Was

Head 'em up, move 'em

How did we end up being busier in retirement than we were when we had sixty cows and forty or fifty heifers?

Or at least as busy? maybe we are just older and slower so we seem busier......

I dunno, but it feels as if we are going every minute. 

The excitement for the week included an eagle swooping down to take a hen right by the barn. The birds are normally safe inside the stone and wood building and their coop, but they were outside while the coop was getting cleaned.

An evening head count, or beak count if you prefer, seemed to show that at least most of the birds were still there, so maybe he didn't get any, but he was sure after them. They were scattered all over all the buildings, when normally they just hang around in front of the barn. It was a big job to round them all up.

I stood down at the barn while the kids finished up the cleaning, and recapturing, watching him sail back and forth in front of the barn looking to come in for lunch. Pretty exciting way to get a year bird.

And then there were mundane jobs like keeping the stove going, helping get a canvas on the new load of sand, and all the ordinary things we do.

Like answering the phone. I'll tell you what..hay is getting scarce out there. We are getting down to where we have to be careful to keep enough to feed our cows and sheep and horses until spring, so we took all our hay ads down. We have enough to sell a bit, but we are getting enough business from repeat customers for that.

Anyhow, until we took the ads down we were getting nine or ten calls or more right in a row, from all over several states and a big chunk of NY.

 The worst of it was that I kept answering the phone when Rachel from Cardholder Services called, because the phone numbers "she" uses look just like cell phones from other states. I sure do make the guy who answers when you press "1" mad when I tell him I'm turning him over to the FTC. He has called me some downright unpleasant names.

The boss got a pretty flattering comment on the hay the guys put up though. One of our regular buyers has a brother with horses on the race track and he is going to buy some. That is the gold standard around here....hay that is good enough for race horses.

It is important to have good help