Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Calm Before The Storm

It's getting longer and longer between blog updates and that's because we're just kind of cruising right now. If this blog were a cross-country airline flight, we'd be about Nevada. There's some turbulence coming up as we cross the Sierras and then we'll be landing in L.A to finish the journey. Well, something like that, anyway.  In the meantime, we're getting ready to ship cattle on Saturday and the cattle season will be drawing to a close. Yessir... the cruise part is over, we're about to hit some turbulence, but hopefully we'll get this thing landed and get back on terra firma.

To get ready for cattle shipping, I've been spending a lot of time feeding and counting cattle. “Feeding” involves driving around towing a cake feeder. I honk my horn to signal the cattle and they come running for the sweet, high-protein cake. This serves several purposes; it puts weight on the cattle and it also trains them to the feeder which makes gathering easier. Cottonseed cake is expensive stuff and a lot of cattle owners don't like to feed it, but it really is good stuff from my perspective. Feeding takes a lot of time, a lot of wear on the ranch truck, and gasoline costs money. But it's also a great way to count cattle and it gets me out in the pasture. 

Trusty Ranch truck and cake feeder
The wheel turns the gear which turns the chain which turns the belt...

...and the belt pulls cake out into the hopper, which an arm opens and dumps.

Cattle at sunrise

Deer season opened on Saturday and we've been out looking for a buck. This is the first season in a long time that I've had trouble finding deer and I attribute it to the dry conditions. The cattle are foraging in areas where they don't usually go and I think this pushes the deer out. But, we found 14 deer yesterday and I'll be heading back to that canyon this afternoon to see if I can waylay a buck when they come out again. [Edit: the wind came up and I never made it.  Oh, well....]

On the falconry front, both birds are flying fairly well and reliably. They're both going up decently. Neither has taken a duck although the peregrine knocked a teal down a few weeks ago. I'm taking a short break from flying right now while I get ready for shipping and while I deer hunt. Will probably start flying again on Wednesday, though. Just a short break.

On the Davidic front, 2 weeks ago the doctors decided to give him 2 units of blood instead of the usual 1 unit. For some undetermined reason (there are a lot of those in this game) he didn't do well and inside 2 weeks had actually dropped to nearly his worst level. The hospital wanted us to come to ABQ that evening, but the reality of a 4.5 hr drive, arriving at 10 pm, and then etc, resulted in Mom and David going to Santa Fe and doing another transfusion on Saturday. Then they stayed over on Sunday to meet with the doctors on Monday. Come Monday, the docs decided not to meet after all, and so they came home. If it weren't for my mother's house in Santa Fe, this would a LOT more stressful, but, thank God, she has a very comfortable little place there that's a great home away from home.

I'm finally getting some solid guitar work done and getting my savings account built up again. That's nice and I really enjoy working on guitars. It's relaxing and satisfying work.

That's the update from here.

Sunday lunch in the local cafe.  Mom and David were in ABQ.
First snow.  You might be able to see the sandhill cranes on the right.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Peregrine progress

Today is a new day and I made some progress with the peregrine.  First, for the uninitiated among you, here's what I'm dealing with  (I suggest you turn your computer speakers down, or at least have the "MUTE" button handy):

For the past week, I've been let the peregrine eat and I've been going inside with no food, just saying hello, and then leaving.  I'm trying to break the food association link.   This didn't really make any difference in behavior, although he did gain a little weight. Tues ,the wind was blowing from the south, pushing it up the butte where I flew the prairie Sunday. She was scheduled to fly, but unfortunately was still a little heavy so I decided to take a chance with the peregrine and see how he'd do.

I set him on the ground right at the truck so I wouldn't have to walk with him screaming thru the hood in my ear. After several sit-on-the-ground sessions where he'd sit until I got too far away and then he'd get up, make a circle around me, and land again, we got closer to the butte. He felt the wind and went right up the side to the top where a tiercel prairie immediately joined him. The two chased each other around a bit and I was really surprised at how well the peregrine handled himself and how aggressive he was- HE made most of the moves on the prairie. They flew around for awhile and then I tossed two pigeons just as the falcons drifted out of sight over rise. Nothing.  The pigeons circled aimlessly, looking for home. Nothing.  The pigeons gained height. Then, suddenly, WHOOSH!!!! the peregrine went ripping by overhead, followed by... the tiercel prairie. We were treated to stoop after stoop as both falcons chased a specific pigeon and each other.

The birds drifted off to the east where they were joined by a female prairie. The pigeon went out of sight over a rise and I saw the female put in a more serious stoop. We started running, watching for rattlesnakes!, and about 0.8 mi later (I Google Earthed it)  found the peregrine out on the flat, happily munching away on his catch. He was glad to see us.  The prairies were nowhere to be seen.

I let the peregrine eat, then tore a wing off, got him on that, and picked him up. He didn't like being picked up too much, but I got him eating again, then hooded him. We had a long walk back in the now 25 mph headwind and back home, I gave him a wing to tear on.

Good flight. Just like the prairie did, he got some height. I think that butte's going to be useful, but I'm getting telemetry I can carry with me!

Sunset on the prairie with the peregrine

 Mom and David are off to ABQ for another blood transfusion for David.  This is Number... I've lost count...6?   They're also getting the camper window that I busted in Winfield replaced.  $350...whoooshh.... gone!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The End of an Era

The past couple of weeks of have been pretty stressful.  There's an ugly ranch situation going on that I can't talk about until it's settled.  It has me talking to our lawyer, getting papers together, calculating, re-calculating, and just doing a lot of wondering.  We're looking down the road at shipping cattle, with all the preparation and busy-ness stuff that brings.  I always hold my breath until the final count is done as you can count pasture every day and come up with great counts, but all that matters is how many head cross that scale and go into the truck.

Over at church, attendance has been dropping steadily and rapidly and I was beginning to wonder if I might be the problem.  I held meetings with church members and had some discussions that I feel good about.  I'm sticking tight for now, but that, too, was a stressful time.

The biggest news. though, is that my grandmother, the matriarch of the family, died on Sunday evening.  She'd been in the nursing home for a year and half with rapidly declining health, mostly unable to recognize any of us for maybe a year.  This probably gave us all time to say our goodbyes but it's sad to see someone decline like that.  It was my grandmother who kept 2 ranches and a bank running for close to 30 years after my grandfather died and she kept that control until just about 3 years ago.  At that time she passed the reins on to my mother and aunt, splitting the main corporation into 2 separate ones.  That's when I got "promoted" from "cowhand" to "ranch manager".  Not more than 2 months later, she fell and broke her hip and that was the beginning of the end.   Here's a link to her obituary

In other news, my falcons are flying.  The prairie falcon is doing great.   The peregrine, not so great.  Here's what I said on the falconry forum:

Today, I had a south wind which means that it blows up the face of this butte in my backyard:

The prairie killed a pigeon two days ago, ate all she wanted, and was fasting yesterday. Today, her weight was right back to 630, so I loaded her, some pigeons and went out to the base of the butte. She has started going up on her own, but I figured this would help. There were a bunch of ravens and a wild prairie flying around the butte- the wild prairie went into a stoop on the opposite side and didn't come back up so I went ahead and let my bird go. She flew in 1 circle- I could see her catch the wind on the down turn- and then immediately headed for the butte where she circled and went up just like an elevator until she was up there mixing it up with the ravens. I didn't want things to get out of control, so I tossed the pigeons- one strong bird and one young bird. The young bird flapped a hundred yards and landed on the ground and by then the falcon was in full-tilt stoop at it. This was cool- 1) her first real altitude, 2) first real stoop, and 3) coming right at us.

She whapped the pigeon hard enough to roll him over and then kicked up and looked back. This was really cool to see as she was RIGHT THERE. She flipped back but overshot the pigeon. Pigeon then got up and headed upwind- he could see the pigeon house and he was going for it! The prairie got off the side and worked up above him and drove him back down wind where she was able to tag him again, but he let the wind lift him and she went underneath. After that, he _really_ pumped for home and she was right after him. They disappeared over a rise and seemed to have gone down into a creek bed between us and the house- about 1 mi away.

We got a fix with the telemetry and then I sent my wife in the truck down the road and across the creek while I walked toward the fix. When I came over the bank of the creek I paused to look and the first thing I saw was the prairie dragging the pigeon down the opposite bank toward me. When I actually approached her, she flared away a bit, so I tossed the lure down. She ignored it, but seemed to settle down at the sight of the familiar object, as she stayed toward me and started plucking feathers. She'd already eaten the head, so I pulled the pigeon crop and helped her break into the breast. After eating a bit, I ripped a wing off and moved her to that while I pocketed the rest. Then I picked her up, hooded her, gave a couple of more bites thru the hood, and we walked back to the truck with her sitting very nicely. Back at the mews, I set a wing/breast on the perch and unhooded her. She'll be stuffed tomorrow, but that's okay. Good effort = good reward.

I was happy. Sure, she tail-chased the pigeon, but hey, she hit it twice and as far as she was concerned it was HERS. I am happy at her persistence and I'm also glad I put the Power Max on her instead of the Scout. I got some exercise and it was a beautiful evening on the prairie.

Update on the peregrine: he's acting like a spoiled little brat. Screaming, baby-fluttering, sitting on the ground, etc. I'm tempted to wring his noisy little neck, but I've been here before and patience rules. I've put him up for a couple of weeks while I focus on the prairie falcon as duck season opens on Weds and I always intended for her to be my duck hawk and him to be my late season pigeon hawk, anyway.

What I'm going to do for the next 2 weeks is work on his screaming by going into the mews a lot and feeding him thru a food chute at night (so that the food is there in the morning). When I fly him again, I'll look for that south wind and fly him up against the butte. He just needs a little maturity, some flying experience, and we'll be fine. 

I've otherwise just been working on guitars and chatting on Facebook.  Am very much looking forward to getting cattle shipped and out of here and moving on into winter.