Pink Rain

This time of year, I am generally in the middle of dinner preparation about the time the brilliant sunsets take place. Lately, cloud cover or moisture in the air has produced some spectacular skyscapes. Being surrounded by woodlands to the north and west, and residential areas to the south and east, it is difficult to capture spectacular sunset photographs and other sky scenes. Still, with just a few moments to capture the changing sky before darkness closes in, I always dash outside with the camera, abandoning my kitchen duties, when opportunity arises to photograph the often-colorful, waning light of day.

Oklahoma has been fortunate to have some lovely warm weather off and on this past month – just enough to give us a sense of hope that spring might soon be around the corner. I have taken advantage of these days of 50° and 60° weather, working in the woodlands to clean up downed timber from past years of ice and wind damage. Late Tuesday afternoon, as I put up my electric buggy and tools after a day of toting and burning brush, I noticed towering cumulonimbus clouds off to the northeast, with dark blue skies to the north. I knew this meant the possibility of rain for some folks to the east of us and, for our area, I hoped it meant another spectacular pink sunset!

My first view to the west from the back porch.

My first view to the west from the back porch.

About an hour later, as the sun was beginning to set and I was in the middle of dinner preparations, I glanced out the kitchen window and noticed a site to the east that I have never seen before. Deep blue clouds cast a dark and stormy hue to the sky in that direction but, in the middle of it all, were bright, pink streaks of rain, visibly falling in a vertical descent to the earth. “Look at this!” I exclaimed to FD, who joined me at the window, verifying that what I was seeing was, indeed, pink rain. Of course, you all know me, I ran to the next room, pulled on a jacket, grabbed the camera and dashed out the door. And greeting me as I stepped out the back door, was an equally stunning view of sky from the west. Vivid pinks, blues, and lavender, set against the stark black silhouettes of trees, illuminated the evening sky. I quickly snapped a few photographs of this beautiful western sky, and then dashed to the north side of the house to capture the pink rain falling back to the east.

Pink rain falling to the east, illuminated by the setting sun!  Notice another "widow maker" dead tree off to the left side. This scary-looking tree looms over FD's mom's garden area... another removal project we must attend to!

Pink rain falling to the east, illuminated by the setting sun! Notice another “widow maker” dead tree off to the left side. This scary-looking tree looms over FD’s mom’s garden area… another removal project we must attend to!

I cannot say I have ever witnessed as many pink skies in my life as I have this winter. But then maybe I just never noticed them or paid attention as I have this year. Perhaps I should be thanking our orphaned juvenile squirrels, Punkin and Mr. Gambini for causing me to catch sight of these beautiful winter skies. For it is often that they show up on the back porch at sunset for a pecan or two, before rushing off to their new-found homes in the woodlands. Or maybe it is having a nice, big window at the kitchen sink where I can so easily gaze out to the north while I prepare our evening meal. Whatever it is that draws my attention to the evening sky, I am thankful that it has helped me be more cognizant and appreciative of the little piece of heaven that is right here, right now. And I know I will not soon forget these lovely winter shades of pink, nor the first pink rain I have ever witnessed in my life!

Softer muted colors appear as the night sky closes in.

Softer muted colors appear as the night sky closes in.

© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

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If Nature Celebrated Valentines Day

When Daisy deer was just a wee fawn, I did not yet have an understanding of the influence pure instinct had on so many of her actions and mannerisms. Often, I reveled in the moments when she gently licked my arms and neck, or the times she would join me, close by my side while I worked. In my human way of thinking, I felt this was her way of showing love. But, when she began raising her own fawns, I realized her gentle licking was actually an act of mutual grooming… a bonding time between mother and baby. Not only does mutual grooming serve the purpose of bathing in areas that each could not mange by themselves, it also helps to imprint individual scent.

Spirit begins the process of mutual grooming, starting with Daisy's eyes.

Spirit begins the process of mutual grooming, starting with Daisy’s eyes.

Spirit moves to the chin and neck areas.

Spirit moves to the chin and neck areas.

Spirit concentrates on a bare patch area of skin near Daisy's mouth. To me it appeared to be some kind of insect bite. Saliva also has medicinal qualities, somewhat like an antibiotic.

Spirit concentrates on a bare patch area of skin near Daisy’s mouth. To me it appeared to be some kind of insect bite. Saliva also has medicinal qualities, somewhat like an antibiotic (See my post Daisy’s Deer Medicine).

Notice the roughness of Daisy's hair? Spirit has done a thorough job of grooming her mama.

Notice the roughness of Daisy’s hair? Spirit has done a thorough job of grooming her mama.

Yesterday morning, I was fortunate to follow Daisy and Spirit around the woodlands of our immediate area. Several times, Spirit walked close to Daisy and began the mutual grooming process. Though I had many obstructions to dodge with my camera lens in the depth of the woodlands, I still managed to capture many good photographs depicting the bonding ritual in every bit of its tenderness and caring.

Daisy and Spirit_9838 Daisy and Spirit_9840 Daisy and Spirit_9842 Daisy and Spirit_9847 Daisy and Spirit_9848

I wish you all the happiness and caring that comes with this special day – earmarked by humans as a day for expressing love. For all of us, this should be more than just a gesture to spouse or family… love reaches far beyond that with friendships and masses of people… and yes, with Nature too. Let this Valentine’s Day, as we should with all days, be about a connection of open hearts and loving acts of gentleness and kindness.

© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

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I Wore The Wrong Clothes…

Back in late September, FD started getting his hunting gear together in preparation for the upcoming deer hunting season which would open October 1st. Other years, he managed to get his things organized in late August or early September but, somehow, things did not come together in as timely a manner as usual. Constant business travel kept him out of town much of the summer, and missed communication with the landowner left him scrambling around at the last minute to get set up. On the day he loaded everything to head to the cabin, I opted to go along and help him out. Of course, we both knew I would really not be much help, and would wind up just going along as a photographer. Still, it was rare I was able to go to the cabin with him, and any time I did tag along I was elated. The mostly-undeveloped region where he hunts is a wild tangle of wilderness, and I had never been in that particular area with my camera.

FD opens the cabin up after we arrive. It has been closed up for several months.

FD opens the cabin up after we arrive. It has been closed up for several months.

View of lake from cabin.

View of lake from cabin.

The weather man called for it to be hotter than Hades that day, so I wore what I would normally wear on a warmer day’s trek to the river – the only difference being that I generally wore my work boots in the woods. But those boots were hot and heavy so, for this trip, I opted for my Keen hiking shoes, thinking they would be much cooler and easier on my feet. For the same reason, I also wore lighter-weight pants. These were actually scrub pants that I had long ago discovered were great for photographers in the summer months. What with all the little snap pockets of various sizes, I had room for extra SD cards, a battery, my cell phone, a pocket-sized pack of Kleenex, and whatever else I wanted to tote along. Aside from all the handy pockets, the scrubs provided ease of movement and the fabric was light and comfortable – perfect for summer wear! FD wore jeans, which was more appropriate for him, as he would be doing the work necessary to install his tree stand.  FD and I both wore camouflage T-shirts.

After whacking weeds around the cabin, FD stops to pick burs off of his clothing.

After whacking weeds around the cabin, FD stops to pick burs off of his clothing.

This shows both a green bur and the dried bur. Burs disperse by catching on animal hair or bird feathers, spreading to other areas. Of course shoes and vehicle tires are another effective way of spreading seed. :(

This shows both a green bur and the dried bur. Burs disperse by catching on animal hair or bird feathers, spreading to other areas. Of course shoes, pants, and vehicle tires are another effective way of spreading seed. :(

When we arrived at the cabin, it was apparent FD had some weed whacking to do before tackling the tree stand installation. Grass burs, along with other prairie grasses and weeds, grew quite tall, right up to the cabin. Not only was this a fire hazard, should there be a wildfire in the area, but it also made sheltered access for rodents to make homes at the cabin. FD noticed areas along the window screens where rats and mice had already managed to get under the shutters and eat away at the fiber glass screens and wood of the windows, and making nests in between. So FD cranked up the weed eater and I took off to the lake, away from the noise.

Right off the bat, the grass burs became an annoyance for me. I had not walked far before I found them stuck to my pants, socks, and shoes. I had no idea they were this bad, and had never had this experience out here before. Thinking back, I had rarely visited the cabin in the summer and autumn months. It was usually springtime when I came out with FD to do some bird watching and photograph wildflowers and butterflies. The burs dug into my ankles and, as I walked along, they worked their way down my socks and into my shoes. In an effort to escape them, I got off the main path and ventured into the woods. At least the grass burs weren’t so bad in there. I found a fallen tree trunk to sit on and began pulling burs off my clothes. Soon, I heard the motor of the weed eater stop.

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I managed a few photos before heading back to meet FD.

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By the time I returned to the cabin, FD, who was already sweating profusely, had his tree stand strapped to his game cart and had loaded a pack with the tools he would need to get his stand attached to his tree. The afternoon heat was sweltering and heavy. As we headed out from the cabin, I was sure not to say a word about my grass bur problem. Men do not want a whiny woman trailing along and complaining about stickers in her shoes! Besides, I had noticed FD had lots of burs sticking to the back of his jeans and shirt from the weed eater throwing them up on him.  If he could tough it out, then surely I could too! So, I loosened the drawstring on my scrub pants and lowered them where they would hang low on my hips. This way, with my pant legs lower to the ground, it would keep the burs from getting onto my socks and into my shoes.

As we walked to the lake dam, I realized the weeds and prairie grasses were nearly as tall as we were! FD was walking in front of me, and I could see the plant debris (pollen and dust) going airborne as he trudged through the tall growth at a brisk pace. I trailed behind, trying to get a photograph here and there, and stopping now and then to get the burs out of my shoes. I soon found this to be impossible to do and keep a decent pace, as I was falling further and further behind FD. I finally just set my mind to deal with the jabbing in my shoes and move along, doing my best to keep up with FD’s pace.

FD is well ahead of me... I'm always behind trying to get photos!

FD is well ahead of me… I’m always behind trying to get photos!

I realize by now, this trek across the dam is going to be an allergy sufferer's nightmare!

I realize by now, this trek across the dam is going to be an allergy sufferer’s nightmare!

FD told me some years back Walnut poachers came in and cut out some of the old walnut trees. Stumps like this, sawed off at the ground, were observed all along the path we hiked.

FD told me some years back Walnut poachers came in and cut out many of the old walnut trees. Stumps like this, sawed off at the ground, were observed all along the path we hiked.

FD taking the last steps up the hilltop where he will set up his tree stand.

FD taking the last steps up the hilltop where he will set up his tree stand.

Over the dam, then up a steep incline of sand rock we climbed, with the sun beating relentlessly down upon us. “Would those clouds to the west never block the sun?”, I wondered. “And why hadn’t I worn jeans?” My flimsy scrub pants were just no match for these horrible stickers and burs. And, if I had only worn my work boots, I would have had a higher top to protect my ankles against the burs. Finally, my negative thoughts were interrupted as we made it to the end of the dam and headed into the deeper woods, where I was happy to find the bur population had dwindled. However, I still had a collection of those stabbing bastards in my shoes!

As we moved on into the woods, I wondered how much further it was to this tree where FD put his stand? We climbed steadily, at times stopping to whack a path through blackberry thickets that had crept into the easier routes around trees and shrubs. Sweat was pouring off of FD, while I was focused on each painful step I took, wondering how long my agony would continue. Finally, we stepped into a beautiful, shaded hardwood bottom, where a swamp lay just beyond. The trees became tall and the woodland floor was carpeted with leaves, walnuts, and acorns. I felt like we had reached heaven! As I marveled at the beauty that surrounded us, FD stopped just ahead. There was his tree.

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Twenty-five feet up in a cedar tree, FD secures his stand.

Twenty-five feet up in a cedar tree, FD secures his stand.

After pulling burs from my pants, socks and shoes, I delight myself in photographing a beautiful swamp area of the lake.

After pulling burs from my pants, socks and shoes, I delight myself in photographing a beautiful swamp area of the lake.

FD wasted no time untying his chair stand from the cart. He strapped a tool bag around his waist, tied one end of a rope to his tree stand, and carried the rest up with him as he climbed the branches of the old cedar tree. After reaching a familiar height, he tossed the rope up and over a limb and began pulling the stand up while I guided it from the ground. It was heavy. I knew I could never climb as high as he was, and I surely couldn’t pull a heavy metal tree stand like that up with brute strength. I asked if I could do anything to help, but the answer was no, and I knew it would be. FD had done this many times by himself. So, at this point, I sat down and took another opportunity to pick burs from my socks and shoes, placing them in a sandwich bag I carried in my pocket for small trash. I wasn’t about to disperse seeds in this area that had remained untouched by the grass burs. With my socks and shoes cleaned of burs, I grabbed my camera and headed out to photograph the swamp, where bullfrogs of all sizes made plopping noises, jumping off sunken logs as I approached.

FD cuts his way through new growth of blackberry thickets.

FD cuts his way through new growth of blackberry thickets.

Heading back now, our goal is to reach the other side of the lake!

Heading back now, our goal is to reach the other side of the lake!

That is one sweaty shirt!

That is one sweaty shirt!

These tiny wildflowers  were almost lost in the red sand rock as we headed up towards the dam.

These tiny wildflowers were almost lost in the red sand rock as we headed up towards the dam.

The trek back across the dam was not so difficult - we'd knocked down some of the weeds the first time across.

The trek back across the dam was not so difficult – we’d knocked down some of the weeds the first time across.

The cabin from across the lake.

The cabin from across the lake.

 

FD finished up his task just as a bank of clouds moved in. We made the long trek back, around the lake, up and down the hills, stopping again to cut back a few blackberry plants so that he would have a clear path when he returned to hunt the next week. As we neared the dam once again, I bolstered myself for the agonizing trip through the allergen-laden weeds while my lower extremities were attacked by those damned burs!

Finally back at the cabin, I pulled off my shoes to clear stickers yet one more time. That is when FD noticed my bur problem. He felt bad, as he had not thought to suggest I wear jeans and boots before we left the house. Still, the day was not a loss. I ended up with some nice photographs, and I saw an area of the FD’s hunting grounds I had never seen before. I also gained a better understanding and appreciation of what it takes for FD to prepare for hunting season. And I learned a painful lesson about wearing appropriate clothing when hiking in wilderness areas!

Having that "cold one" at the end of the day helped me forget about my painful experience!

Having that “cold one” at the end of the day helped me forget about my painful experience!

© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

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Wondering and Wandering

Early last week, the Oklahoma weather warmed up to temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s, which is almost unheard of for January. Having such nice weather, I enjoyed time outdoors, working in the woods, burning fallen limbs and doing some tree trimming and general cleanup along the pathways in our woods. The weekend before, FD had run the chainsaw to cut up much of the larger timber that had fallen last spring in the canyon below our house. As the ongoing drought had kept us from doing much burning last summer, I plugged away gathering wood from the summer stockpiles we had created, and burning it on the warmer, calm days we had early last week. Then the wind arrived on Thursday, and ended my fun. It is not safe to burn on windy days, and depending on the wind gusts, sometimes it is not even safe to be in the woods should a “widow-maker” limb be blown down from above.

With the wind howling furiously outside, I found myself rather restless on Thursday. I had hoped by working outdoors those previous days, that surely Daisy and Spirit would catch my scent in the light breeze and come to visit. That often happened when I took walks through the woods, and on longer treks to the river a mile away – I would just be walking along and, poof!, Daisy would show up. So, when it became overcast after lunch, I decided to walk to the river and see if I could find my two girls. It had been since early January that FD and I had last seen them, bedded down one night in the pasture just south of the house. I missed them terribly and, what with all of the fawns disappearing this past autumn, I just could not shake the thought I had in the back of my mind that their extended absence might mean something grim.

Crossing our property fence, I walk into the neighbor's pecan orchard. This area is gorgeous in the spring and summer months.

Crossing our property fence, I walk into the neighbor’s pecan orchard. This area is gorgeous in the spring and summer months.

There was much to observe along the way… there always is. The animal trails – and there are many – are always ever-changing, and something new or discarded can be found along the way. Depending on the time of year, the scenery is ever-changing too, but to me, it is always beautiful, and I never know what I might find along the way. I certainly understand the inclination of deer and other wildlife to roam this alluring expanse between our home and the river.  And today, I really hoped I would see Daisy and Spirit.

Starting out, I chose an animal path along a southern fence line. With the wind blowing out of the south, my scent would carry to the north, so if Daisy was anywhere near the old river channel or along the running river, she would be able to detect my presence. But as I plodded along, I saw not one deer. In fact, I saw only a few deer pellets (scat) and hoof prints. No armadillos, no skunks, no coyotes, and only a few birds. Finally, as I neared a wheat field not far from the river, a flock of blackbirds rose from the field and put on quite a show. A black mass, like a cloud, moved rapidly from ground to tree. The whoosh of wings could be heard as they neared me. I stood for a bit, watching them land to feed on the winter wheat again. And as I took one step forward, the black cloud lifted, and in perfect synchronicity, all the birds within the cloud flew to the north and east, landing in a long-dead tree, bleached white by the sun. I thanked them for such a splendid show, and moved on to my river destination.

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A flock of blackbirds entertains me with swift movement ... I can hear the whoosh of wings!

A flock of blackbirds entertains me with swift movement … I can hear the whoosh of wings!

As I reached the high ridge overlooking the river and looked about, I did not notice very many hoof prints in the dirt of the paths down to the water. “Where were all of the animals?”, I wondered. Usually, I saw so many. Somewhat bewildered, I took a few photos of the river and turned to head back home. I was disappointed, and had to remind myself that it was normal for Daisy to disappear for lengths of time from late December through March. Though she has been on her own for three years now, I still never seem to be able to check my worry when I have not seen her for two or three weeks at a time. Oh well, I suppose a mother will always worry… So, as I crossed the fence back to our own property, I put a message out to Daisy on the wind, telling her that I loved her and I hoped she and Spirit were doing well.

Only the wind seems to tunnel along the river bank this day... no sign of animal life.

Only the wind seems to tunnel along the river bank this day… no sign of animal life.

A hunter has discarded the head of a young buck. The antlers have been sawed from the top of the skull. The coyotes or vultures have stripped the hide and meat from the bone. The lower jaw bones were laying nearby.

A hunter has discarded the head of a young buck. The antlers have been sawed from the top of the skull. The coyotes or vultures have stripped the hide and meat from the bone. The lower jaw bones were laying nearby.

The next morning, as I stepped out on the back porch to feed our orphaned squirrels, Punkin and Mr. Gambini, I spotted the color orange, at the deer feeder below. There was Daisy! I scrambled around to get her favorite fruity kibble snacks and some deer feed, and quickly headed down the slope. Soon Spirit arrived and they both headed to the water tub, taking big, deep pulls of the fresh water. Daisy stopped for a little corn as well, but they seemed anxious to move on. I walked with them as they grazed on woodland grasses and browse. For forty minutes, I weaved through the trees and saplings, vines and briers, following their slow, leisurely pace and enjoying some time with “my girls”.

Daisy already eating her fruity kibble snack, while Spirit has some corn.

Daisy already eating her fruity kibble snack, while Spirit has some corn.

Spirit picks up scent... perhaps the fox has marked this area.

Spirit picks up scent… perhaps the fox has marked this area.

Daisy catching up to Spirit.

Daisy catching up to Spirit.

Nibbling a few greens and browse.

Nibbling a few greens and browse.

Daisy still grooms Spirit.

Daisy still grooms Spirit.

As we reached the west end of our property, the strong smell of skunk interfered with my delightful moment. Daisy froze, as did Spirit. I froze too, closely observing the girls as they watched some movement just a few feet away. Thankfully, Pepe Le Pew sauntered on, passing just a few feet from us. Even with the skunk moving on, Daisy and Spirit quickly jumped the fence into the neighbor’s bottom land! Apparently deer are not fond of skunks either! I also made quick tracks to head back to the house, moving in the opposite direction of Daisy and Spirit, when suddenly I was catapulted to the ground. Something had me by my yoga pants and, as I felt myself flying forward, all I could think of was, SAVE THE CAMERA!!

Daisy is on high alert!

Daisy is on high alert!

Spirit and Daisy both freeze as the skunk comes nearer!

Spirit and Daisy both freeze as the skunk comes nearer!

Both Daisy and Spirit leap the fence to distance themselves from the skunk!

Both Daisy and Spirit leap the fence to distance themselves from the skunk!

And save the camera I did. Not a blemish nor bit of dirt or debris touched it. I can not, however, say the same for my yoga pants which now have a nice rip where an old, rusty line of barbed-wire fence snagged them up. And, I should probably be thinking about getting a tetanus shot since the barbed wire gave me a nasty gash in the calf as well. This is another one of those times when I think it would be very nice to have long, slender legs like Daisy has, and little dainty hooves. But all in all, I guess I should just be thankful the skunk decided to move on – or I might not only be bloody, but stinky too!

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It is always a good day when I get to walk with Daisy and Spirit in the woods – even when it makes for a little more early morning adventure than what I have planned!

© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

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