Thursday, November 24, 2011

Waiting On Winter

We're in that stretch of the season where cattle have shipped and I'm mostly tying up loose ends and getting ready for winter. So far, the weather's been really nice- we've had a few cold days but for the most part it's been 40-60 deg F days and nights just around freezing. The wind hasn't been too bad, generally running about 5-20 mph. We got 2-4" of snow a few weeks ago and then that melted off.

I've been taking advantage of the weather and flying my falcons and I've discovered that they both fly really well between 9 and 3 pm. Any earlier and I'm not awake. Any later and they know that the coming evening means they won't eat and, as a result, they both stick too tight to me and don't fly. At mid-day there are thermals and both birds are steady enough that I can let them soar on the thermals to gain some height. The birds have different styles that are interesting to watch. The prairie falcon is more business and seems smarter as she'll herd pigeons around in the sky until she gets them where she wants them and then she'll dive. When she gets a foot on a pigeon, it's all over. The peregrine flies faster and will chase pigeons more but he doesn't have the control over a pigeon that the prairie falcon does. And he screams almost constantly. The prairie is fun, the peregrine is kind of obnoxious.

Wating for lift-off. Prairie falcon

The peregrine nearly got eaten for lunch himself last week, I was flying on pigeons and after a couple of strong fliers, he went up nicely again, so I tossed one I thought he could catch. They had a good chase around on the flat and then the pigeon decided to out-run the falcon but he was just slow enough that the falcon though he could catch him. I watched the chase thru binoculars and finally saw a pitch-up about a mile away.

First thing I did was get out the telemetry and get a signal. As I turned toward the truck to drive over, I saw an immature golden eagle winging across the prairie about 60-75' off the deck heading straight toward the peregrine’s location. That didn't look good so I jumped in the truck and headed off as fast as I could go. I managed to get ahead of the eagle (by driving 40 mph across the prairie...) but wasn't sure where the falcon was and didn't want to run over him. So, I stopped and jumped out with the telemetry and that's when the eagle passed me, rolled over in the air, and stooped, just over the rise from where I was.

The falcon was up almost immediately, but ignored me and flew off. Another telemetry chase ensued and I found him sitting on the ground about 3/4 mi away. He flew 100 yrds to the lure and I everything looked fine until I noticed him favoring a leg (although he did manage to wrap it around some food first). I didn't find any blood and the leg doesn't look twisted or anything, so I decided to wait and see. Back home, he devoured a quail but definitely favored his right leg.

I checked on him several times during the night and each time he looked a little better. The next morning he was on his rock near the window, on both feet. When I went in, he flap-jumped over to me and was a little gimpy on the right leg but was able to use it, move it, and stand on it. He also flew across the mews, no problem. A week later, he looks pretty normal. He was one fortunate falcon.

On the Davidic front, we finally have a preliminary diagnosis. David seems to have an extremely rare disease called Congenital Erythropoietic Porphyria (CEP). You can read about it here: and here:
David isn’t showing the extreme blistering that you’ll see in these links, but he does have some blistering on his face and, ironically enough, we encouraged him to get sunlight to boost Vitamin D because that’s supposed to help other anemia conditions. He has tested positive for most of the conditions and we’re waiting on some definitive test results now. In the meantime, he continues to have blood transfusions, but they seem to be less and less effective. In the beginning, he was getting 1 unit of blood every 3-5 weeks and we were able to drive to ABQ and home on the same day. Then he developed antibodies which must be matched. In addition, the doctors upped his blood from 1 unit to 2 and then 3. All this means that it might be 4-8 hours before the transfusion is even started and we’re typically there for 2-3 days at a stretch now. And he’s requiring transfusions every week now in spite of, or maybe because of, increased units. His hemoglobin dropped all the way to 3.5 g/dL once and has been below 4.0 a couple of times. Normal is 14-18 g/dL. I had David’s blood tested yesterday and it was 5.0 (less than 1 week after 3 units of blood) but because today is Thanksgiving and because a weekend visit requires an ER visit, we (us and doctors) are trying to hold until Monday. But, I assure you, we’ll back in ABQ on Monday morning, bright and early- maybe even checking into the ER Sunday night and getting started. I don’t know.

Out on the ranch, I’ve mostly been doing some prairie dog control. We have a LOT of prairie dogs. I’m in the process of GPS’ing the towns, but I think we’re going to have close to 3,000 acres of prairie dogs. In a normal wet year, they’re not too bad as the dog towns actually green up before anything else and the cattle really like that fresh short grass. But in a dry year like this past one, they can do some serious damage to the gramma grass. Plus, they are not self-regulating populations and can increase very rapidly. So, I’m doing prairie dog control.

David with Prairie Dog #1 with his new Ruger 10/22

Right now, we’re just spinning our wheels. Mom, Brianna, and Derek went down south to Pinon NM for the holiday and David and I are going to some neighbor’s for Thanksgiving dinner. I am battling a weight loss plateau and so I’m not going to eat much, if anything, but David likes to visit people, so I guess we’ll go visit.

And that, folks, it what’s going on. This is (Wild Kingdom voice on) Life on The High Plains. (off).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The End!!!

I’m sitting here in a nice warm house writing this while the wind’s blowing 40 mph outside, creating sub-zero wind chill factor.  We finished shipping cattle yesterday and it’s the end of the longest, hardest ranch season I’ve yet had.   The drought was absolutely killer and the only thing that saved us were the rains at the end of July and into August.  Others were not so fortunate.    Adding to this were some business disputes, the battle with my son David’s blood disease, and the passing of my grandmother.  It’s been quite the year.  But here we are, still alive and kicking. 

The actual process of cattle shipping went extremely well, thanks in part to the feeding that I was able to do about a month prior, and also to an exceptionally good group of cowboys that worked with and for us.  The cattle love high protein cattle cake and when I fed them this year, I used my FoxPro predator call as an additional call.  I programmed a siren and a recording of me honking the horn into the FoxPro.  Once the cattle were trained to this, they really came well.  I was able to call them across the pasture and then thru the gates.

Cattle following the feed truck

Cowboys following up, pushing the stragglers

Cowboys at work.  Waiting to load the alley with more cattle.

Phillip working the alley.

Like father.... son!

So, what’s next, you ask?   Well, plenty… we’ve got some maintenance to do before winter fully hits, shutting water off, winterizing things, and stuff like that.  Then there’s the battle for David’s health- that will surely take priority as we try to figure out what’s wrong with him.  I’ll be flying my falcons when it’s not too windy, and I mostly hope to get to work on some guitars!  And I think I’ll start praying for rain NOW.