Calf Roping

September 1st, 2014

Calf Roping

The Calf Roping was the best part of the rodeo at this year’s Holmes County fair.  There were a lot of contestants in an event that demands multiple cowboy skills.

Calf Roping

He’s got to lasso the calf from the saddle of a galloping quarter horse, which has to be well trained enough to instantly stop on a signal from the rider.

Calf Roping

and keep enough pressure on the lariat to keep the calf relatively constrained, but without pulling it over.

Calf Roping

Once the cowboy reaches the upright calf, he has to wrestle him down to the ground.

Calf Roping

Most of the contestants carried their piggen’ string in their teeth.

Calf Roping

Assisted by the horse, which is backing up to keep the lariat tight, the cowboy quickly ties together three of the calf’s legs. 

Calf Roping

Once he’s finished tying off the calf, the contestant signals with his arms to stop the clock.

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The cowboy has to remount his horse and wait for 6 seconds to demonstrate to the judges that the calf is completely immobilized.

Calf Roping

And then another calf shoots out the chute.

Bareback Broncs

August 23rd, 2014

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I thought this Bareback Bronc rider at the Holmes County fair got off to a bad start with a very lively horse. And then the horse fell over.

RodeoRollover

After a short wrestling match on the ground, the rider managed to hold on when the horse got back up.

Saddle Bronc

He ended up using two hands, so he was disqualified, but it seemed like a morale victory, and the crowd gave him a good round of applause.

Bareback Bronc

As rodeos go, this one was on the small side, with only a couple competitors in the Bareback Bronc  event. This guy in the orange chaps ended up with a higher score.

Bareback Bronc

I’ve got some more rodeo shots to blog, but the light was best for this first event, fading pretty quickly.  Hopefully, next year’s fair will be held in the new fairgrounds, on higher ground, and hopefully with better light.

Making A Splash

August 17th, 2014

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After 2 years of debate, Elizabeth and I finally decided to take the irrevocable step of hiring Marvin the Yodeling Yoder to remove 6 of the maple trees between cabin and pond.  Arriving for an initial consultation, Marv admitted that he’d never dropped such large trees into a body of water before, but after considering the logistics, he started to exhibit some enthusiasm.  Even in a lifetime of tree felling, I assume that there are always new challenges.

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A couple weeks later, on a lovely spring Friday, Marvin’s driver delivered him, a suite of Stihl chainsaws, and a JD tractor. Elizabeth, my parents, and I all pulled up chairs and cameras, and prepared to enjoy the show.  Marvin loves to yodel after dropping each tree, which is always a treat.  Combined with the added excitement of the big splashes, tidal waves, and the added complication of aquatic extraction, it was the most fun I’d had since the day all the cement trucks arrived to pour the foundation walls.

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Its no small matter to end a life that has lasted longer than my own, even it if is just a tree, and there’s no going back.  The tumbling trees in the first two images can also be seen 4 decades earlier, at center left above, a November 1976 shot showing the excavation of the pond (dozers are digging the dam in the background).  Checking several stumps, I was able to count 60 about rings, representing a relatively short but eventful life for a sugar maple.

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As shown in the somewhat cluttered Spring 2013 view, It was apparent as soon as we moved into the cabin that we’d eventually take down more trees.  The inconvenience of fishing them out of the pond was only part of our hesitation, though.  The development of a woodland, even one that has been thoroughly pawed over for 150 years, raises aesthetic questions about our relationship to the land, and practical issues about ongoing maintenance.

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The improved view above also includes a slice of lawn 2.0, a recently top-soiled, graded, and fertilized area of turf that now requires the regular ministrations of a used Lawn-Boy, courtesy of the Amish wizards at Charm Engine. Elizabeth has taken the weed eater to the tree-free slope between house and pond several times this year, and I’ve gingerly explored the adjoining slopes with tractor and brush hog.  While we love being close to nature, there’s an appeal in conquering it, too. It isn’t a question of whether more trees will come down and more petroleum-enabled mowing will take place. Its only a question of how far civilization spreads.

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There’s a reason that country people usually don’t build their houses in the middle of the woods, and it involves more than the soothing satisfaction of surrounding yourself with a putting green. Besides the annual summer millipede plague, and a ceaseless series of teething rodents, the trees represent a potential threat to the cabin. As we learned this week, when the wind is strong enough, falling trees don’t feel compelled to obey the law of gravity.  A nocturnal snotbuster of a storm this week brought down a dead tree, taking out the Internet dish. Marvin had offered to take that one down too, but I enjoyed seeing the woodpeckers and assumed that it when it did fall, it would be in the opposite direction.

Marsh Marigold

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

Much of the Killbuck Valley is carpeted with bright yellow Marsh Marigolds, and I found two small clumps in our swamp within site of the watercress patch, on the far side of some deep muck.  Sticky, smelly, more-than-booth-high muck.

Claytonia virginica

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Mom has never documented Marsh (or perhaps more aptly Swamp) Marigolds before, and I don’t remember seeing them.  Everything else blooming right now, in forest, field, and fen, is familiar.  The shady east-facing slopes of our hollow are crawling with Spring Beauties, in various sizes and ranging from deep violet stripes to almost pure white.  A lot of sunny spots also have Spring Beauty.

Rue Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides)

Rue Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides)

The east-facing face of our hollow, on the far side of the pond, is dominated by Rue Anemone, with surprisingly little overlap with the Beauties.  Virtually all of the Anemone are white, but I found one plant that is more of a violet color.

Rue Anemone, (Anemonella thalictroides)

Rue Anemone, (Anemonella thalictroides)

Downy Yellow Violet (Viola pubescens)

Downy Yellow Violet (Viola pubescens)

Mom says that we have 3 different yellow violets. I found one example, and I’m putting it down as a Downy Yellow, although some Google searching indicates some controversy over popular and scientific names. It was near the waterfall and not far from the only White Trillium that seems to be blooming in the entire county.  The rest of the Trillium just sprouted a couple of days ago.

White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

 

Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata)

Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata)

Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana)

Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana)

I only found one Round-lobed Hepatica, but there are lots of Bloodroot, most of them apparently getting ready to bloom during the next several days.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

 

Azure Bluet (Houstonia caerulea)

Azure Bluet (Houstonia caerulea)

The woodland flowers are in a race against time, trying to process as much sunlight as they can before the trees leaf out and shade them.  There are just a few patches of Bluet in the woods, but so far,  I don’t see any in the sunlight areas around the cabin.  With more time to grow deep weedy roots, and long sturdy stems, the larger field flowers have just begun to poke their leaves above ground, but some of the smaller wildflowers are growing in the sunny spots.

Purple Wild Violet (Viola sororia)

Purple Wild Violet (Viola sororia)

Gill-over-the-Ground Glechoma hederacea)

Gill-over-the-Ground (Glechoma hederacea)

Not really having a lawn to worry about, I consider Violets and Creeping Charlie (Gill-over-the-ground, a pervasive member of the mint family) as being flowers, not weeds.  Arguably, some of the evasive European plants that have established themselves in the USA should be considered weeds.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed is starting to bloom, and we’ve already got a couple of those below-the-mower-height dandelions blooming next to the cabin.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

It seems like every reptile and amphibian in the valley has been out this weekend, and most of them spend their evenings singing at the top of their lungs.

I took my iPad and a microphone out to the edge of the swamp last night and recorded the frogs singing (click to hear it–you wont’ want to miss this).  Peaking at over 85 decibels, it was pretty impressive, with the peepers making most of the noise, and some wood frogs, and maybe leopard frogs mixed in.  I went back to the swamp this afternoon to see if I could get some pictures, but all the action was on the other side of the road, in a flooded cornfield, which was full of American toads (above), singing an entirely different song, with a bit of mating mixed in.

Gartner Snake

Much quieter than the amphibians, the snakes were also out in force this weekend.  Elizabeth and I each saw a couple gartner snakes.  I ran into the little fellow above just below our waterfall, and he didn’t seem to be in a big hurry to get away, so we decided to do a photoshoot.

Myriad of hazards

March 15th, 2014

Weather hazard infographic from the National Weather Service in Sterling

The winter of 2013-2014 is apparently reaching its dramatic conclusion with an increasingly rapid alternation between balmy shirtsleeve weather and arctic blasts.

Wednesday morning’s weather bulletin from the nearby National Weather Service office nicely encapsulated this winter’s exceptional variety: “WE SOMETIMES SAY THE FORECAST HAS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. I THINK WE CAN TAKE THAT LITERALLY AT THE MOMENT…AS THIS FORECAST HAS ALMOST EVERY POSSIBLE WEATHER TYPE/HAZARD…IN THE FIRST 36 HOURS. STRONG TO SEVERE STORMS…SNOW…WIND CHILLS…STRONG WINDS… UNSEASONABLY WARM TEMPS…UNSEASONABLY COLD TEMPS…POTENTIAL FIRE WEATHER CONCERNS…MINOR COASTAL FLOOD POTENTIAL…THERE IS NOT MUCH LEFT.”

Today (Saturday) has been a beautiful Ides of March. Elizabeth and I spent a couple hours outside with no jackets.  Tomorrow the National Weather Service, in what seems a weekly ritual, has release yet another winter storm watch as today’s comfortable mid 60s drops in less than 24 hours to the mid 20s, bringing 2-8 inches of more snow.

So far, the only thing we seem to have missed is the Ajax storm (a white tornado).

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