Archive for March, 2012

I heard on the radio that Missouri has set a record for the number of warm days in March. It has been unseasonably warm this month. March not only came in like a lion, with high winds, but also ferociously with high temperatures. By the end of the month we are to see temps in the high 80s!

As the usual migration of birds began, I knew that spring was on its way. The Canadian geese could be seen flying overhead in their massive V formations; the robins were back looking for worms in the lawns; the finches, both yellow and purple were at the feeder; the martins were gathering in their martin houses and of course the blue birds had begun nesting. The Juncos were still hanging around so I knew winter wasn’t officially over; not before they leave anyway.

Redbud tree in bloom

One good rain and the trees started to bud. In Missouri the first to bloom are the redbud trees. Seeing their reddish-purple flowers dot the woods is a sure sign spring is here. Time to get those gardens tilled and shrubs pruned in anticipation of warmer days. We don’t put in the vegetables until after the dogwood blooms. March is famous for another frost or even a mild snow. Many an anxious gardener has had to replant after a freeze killed off their precious starts.

Apple Blossoms

Busy doing the normal chores, I noticed the fruit trees starting to bloom. Now I was getting concerned; one year we lost the fruit crop because of that March freeze I just mentioned. I was hoping that would not be the case again this year. Next appeared the lilacs in bloom; what a wonderful fragrance those flowers send out through the air. I love to walk by those bushes.

Dogwood in Bloom

Nothing seemed really odd until the dogwood began to bloom. Wait! This is March. The dogwoods aren’t supposed to bloom until mid-April. I am really confused. The blooming dogwoods are my trigger to put the garden in. Do I plant or do I wait? This is not right! I started to poll various “old timers” around me. No, they could not remember the dogwood blooms coming this early in the year. Sure seems odd. The box turtles are out and about also and we usually don’t see them until May.

You have to know something about these “old timers”; nothing really fazes them. They have been around long enough to have seen many odd things. They might consult the Old Farmers’ Almanac but they will probably wait to plant at the regular time, the end of April. Never can trust what the weather may do. So, like them, I will wait and hope the summer doesn’t get too hot and take its toll on my crops.

Praying for cooler weather as I enjoy the coloring of my world.


Dogwood-Missouri State Tree

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For over a year I have been trying to get a photo of Santa Fe’s face. You would think this would not be that difficult. I suppose I could have put a halter and lead on her and staged the shot, but what would be the fun in that? I wanted a natural pose in a natural environment. So what was the problem?

Santa Fe, like her mother, likes to eat. She is always grazing, which means her head is always down.

Always Grazing

When she would finally come up for air, she was turned away from me or heading in the opposite direction.

Looking the Wrong Way

I would patiently (or not so patiently) sit in the pasture waiting for my elusive shot. In the mean time I would capture plenty of photos of the other alpacas. It wasn’t a wasted effort but I was not accomplishing the task at hand.

So on Sunday, I again grabbed the camera and headed to the pasture. The sun was shining, the alpacas were all outside and I had nowhere else to be. I even had a plan; I would take our new dog Linus with me to get her attention. That was a good plan except that Linus is a little intimidated by the alpacas and would not respond to my coaxing him into the pasture with me. Plan B: I would be on the pasture side of the fence and Linus would be on the non-pasture side of the fence. This could still work. There I sat with Linus right behind me. The alpacas were curious about what he was up to. I was finally going to get my opportunity! All I had to do was get all the other alpacas out of the photo, make sure the lighting was good, be ready when her head finally came up and hope my battery did not go dead.

Click! Click, Click! Not Santa Fe but great shots of the little ones. Still waiting for the right moment. Patience; wait for it. Now! I captured Santa Fe!

All right, she does have a mouth full of hay, but her ears are up and the lighting is good, and her eyes are open, and I did wait a year for this photo. At least I finally captured the shot I have been trying for. Maybe I could get another one. Would that be pressing my luck? What have I got to lose?

What a Face!

A second shot! This one is better than the first. The coloring is actually more accurate. Must have been that cloud blocking the sun. Yes, I know, she still has hay in her mouth but this is who she is, and doesn’t that just give her more character? Please say “yes”, I did wait a year for this face.

Well, I am off to update her page on our website and find out what other shots I may be in need of. Hopefully my next prospect won’t be so elusive. Smile for the camera, pacas!

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I am a sunshine lady. Two or three days of clouds, overcast skies, or rain and I am starting to slide into a slump. Just let a hole break in the clouds which shows a patch of blue and I perk right up. I will find whatever excuse I can to get out into the sunshine, including cleaning up pastures. I don’t want to lie out and “sun bathe”, I just want to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the brightness it gives to everything around. I suppose I am most appreciative in the cooler months than in the heat of summer.

Living in Missouri has the advantage of lots of sunshine. We get a good amount of rain but after it is finished watering our fields, the sun re-appears and smiles on us.

Catching the Rays

I think my alpacas are sunshine happy too. It is not uncommon to find “alpaca rugs” lying in our pastures as they spread out on their sides and soak up the warmth of the sun. Sometimes I wonder if they are alive as they lay so still in their comfort. I have one large male who will even turn his head up as if to catch the sun’s rays on this extended neck. On a warm Spring or Fall day you are apt to find me sitting out there with them, enjoying their company and the shared sunshine.

Sometimes it is good to just stop and sit and take in everything around you. I become too fixed on the next chore that needs to be done, or the next item on my schedule, or the next errand I have to complete and I miss the wonderful things around me. I watch the dust fly through the air as the alpacas roll in the spot they made; a mother and her cria nose to nose giving kisses; a dragonfly landing on the sleeve of my shirt; a hawk calling out from the top of a tree; a blue heron looking for lunch in the pond.

Maybe the sunshine is just a reminder to look around and appreciate the day.

Join me?

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I live in a state which participates in Daylight Savings Time. Every year, twice a year, we have to adjust our clocks on the appropriate dates. The purpose of DST is to allow more hours of sunlight at the end of the day so that workers can have additional time for leisure activities. I continue to ask, how advantageous is this and is it necessary?

I am a shepherd. My schedule rarely changes to the length or shortness of daylight. I head to the barn the same time each morning whether it is light outside or not. Gradually the days get longer and those dark mornings see sunrise again. It always brings a smile to my face as I head out and notice the change. After a long winter of cold, dark mornings, I can now appreciate the change of light, temperature and season. Life is good!

THEN … the calendar says we MUST change our clocks and “spring ahead”. That is all well and good for the person who gets off work at 5:00 pm and wants those longer evenings of light to get out and spend time outdoors after work. But really, in this day and age of electronics and more television and media than I would ever care to watch, how many people are actually spending that extra hour outside?

So on March 11, 2012 it will again be dark in the morning when I head to the barn. The farmers and the shepherds, who are actually working outside in the mornings, have to again wait for daylight to catch up with the clock. We, who tend the animals and the crops that provide for the comfort of the mass, must give up our precious morning light so the mass can play longer. Where is the fairness in this system? Maybe the 1% should demonstrate against the 99% who are stealing our hour of light.

Just a thought

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The Sequel

This could be the sequel to a couple of my previous blogs; The Great Escape or Nothing Happening.

I was heading to the alpaca barn with my second load of hay. As I crested the drive, something didn’t look right. It only took a few seconds to realize THE BIG BOYS HAVE ESCAPED FROM THE BARN!! Do you think they would follow the gator load of hay back? Not a chance! How about some grain? No way!

So here I go, rounding up a group of adult, male alpacas who would prefer to find the newly sprouting grass than listen to anything their shepherd has to say. With the help of our other worker, we managed to herd them back into the barn and their pen.

Life on the ranch continues …

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