Sunday, February 28, 2010

Welcome to the Neighborhood

The pasture across the street from the Unfarm is almost equal parts grass and blackberry bushes, with a couple wild apple trees and several hawthorns sprinkled in here and there as well. There are also a couple of places in the southwest corner where poison oak has settled in. (This fact I discovered by accident a few summers back. It was quite uncomfortable and needless to say, I have no trouble identifying poison oak now.) In the far west edge of the pasture a small stream flows out of the forest and trickles its way through the pasture.

The stream is rather small - it doesn't support fish, or even any crayfish, that I have ever seen - and by the middle of summer it is often just a trickle in places. Which is why I was surprised to discover, two summers ago, that some beavers had taken up residence there. Where they came from I have no idea, as the forest and pasture are a sort of island in the middle of suburbia and I wasn't aware that we had any beavers anywhere in the area, let alone near enough to consider immigrating to our neck of the woods. But immigrate they did - although I suspect they did not go through the proper governmental channels and are residing there illegally - and they promptly began altering the area to suit their tastes. It was actually somewhat amazing to watch the transformation. Every so often during the spring and summer I would shimmy between the wire fencing around the pasture, and amble down to the edge of the pasture to check out the renovations. Over the course of the last two years the beavers have built at least one impressively sturdy dam, taken down well over twenty trees, made a large clearing, and created two small lakes where the stream once was.

The beavers have been great neighbors so far, even though they are elusive - I have yet to spot one, but I did once come upon a deer enjoying a drink from the lake - but tonight I have discovered an unexpected bonus. Apparently the creation of a new lake, however small it may be, is big news among the locals. Word has gotten out and a multitude of frogs have taken up residence alongside the beavers. I love the sound of the frogs croaking away in the spring but up until this year the only frogs we ever heard were the one or two tree frogs who have found their way onto the Unfarm. Not that I didn't appreciate their attempts, but there's something about the sound of a chorus of frogs that is sort of comforting, in a way. It reminds me of the country, I suppose.

So welcome to the neighborhood, little ones. Now if only I could convince a bat to move into our bat house. I wonder if they work through a realtor...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's official... spring is here

Spring is here. Okay, not technically, but for all intents and purposes it's spring. How do I know this? Because a few weeks ago I heard from the peacock for the first time, and just a couple of nights ago as I was falling asleep I heard the Great Horned owl that lives in the woods near our house.

The peacock, I should mention, is not ours. It lives on a small farm on the hill across from us, with the owl's woods in between us. In the fall and winter it tends to stick closer to home, but in the spring and summer it goes on walkabout looking for other peacocks. Unfortunately, we are rather low on peacocks in this area but that doesn't stop it from wandering. We even got a visit from it two springs ago - it came to the Unfarm in the evening and stayed all the next day before moving on again. I think the chickens attracted it in the first place, but weren't enough of an enticement for it to stay for any length of time. (The chickens, for their part, didn't quite know what to do with this GIANT bird in their yard, so they did their best to ignore it. It wasn't easy - he was quite a spectacle.)

The garden is also showing signs of life again: we have three crocuses (the last hold outs in the battle against the animals) that are up and blooming, a great many scilla have started re-emerging, and the daylilies are now a few inches tall. Oh, and the primroses - the primroses are making their come back.

That is how I know it's spring. This is not to say that the weather will be all blue skies and sunshine from now on - far from it, as we still have about three months left of the rainy season. These last few sunny days are simply a fluke, designed by the Pacific Northwest weather gods to torment those of us who choose to live here: they give us just enough good weather to send us into a sun induced euphoria, only to swamp us in again with clouds and rain from one end of the horizon to the other. But I've seen this trick before so I know to enjoy the sun but expect the rain, at least until June.

I suppose it is somewhat of a blessing then, that I am currently taking statistics and accounting - the homework keeps me occupied when I might otherwise be tempted to work in the garden. The amount of clay in our soil is good for the plants, but it means that the ground can't be worked until it has been sunny and warm for a couple of weeks at least, once the winter has ended. Until then, I get to spend my days learning about conditional probabilities and writing up financial statements. Does life get any better? (I certainly hope so.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Destination: Panic, ETA: now

Good evening everyone, and thank you for flying Anxiety Air. Please fasten your seat belts and keep your chairs in the upright position. Our final destination today is Panic and our ETA is... now.

How did I end up here again? How is it that I seem to attract animals with less than ideal health? (Not that I love them any less - my animals are my world.) Let's review - a cat with hyperthyroidism that led to heart failure, a chicken that needed a hysterectomy, a duck with "failure to thrive" (meaning that there was something wrong with Kodi, but the vets couldn't figure out what exactly it was) and two rabbits who succumbed to severe gastrointestinal problems, one right after the other. And now here I am again, sitting in the vet's office with my duck, Minna, hoping and praying for good news.

When we last left our story, Minna was under the weather and I was contemplating a vet visit if she didn't show improvement by the morning. So, Monday morning, with no visible improvement, I packed her up (and Maggie, who would rather sit inside next to Minna all day long than spend even ten minutes outside without her) and headed to vet number three: the bird specialist. The diagnosis? A pinched nerve from laying an egg. The treatment: five days of Celebrex. If she still hasn't shown any improvement by Thursday morning, I'll need to recheck with the vet. Leaving the vet's office, I felt fairly optimistic - the medicine would work and Minna would regain the use of her leg. Need I say that today is Thursday and she still hadn't improved? The new plan is to finish the Celebrex and start a course of antibiotics (she produced two soft shelled eggs this week, prompting the vet to suspect an infection in her uterus.) If there is still no improvement by Saturday morning, Minna will head back to the vet for a cortisone shot.

Needless to say, I have been in a panic all week, and it is only getting worse with each passing day that Minna fails to improve. I am praying that she recovers from this, as I am nowhere near being ready to say goodbye to another of my little ones. I will add updates when I can. Prayers for Minna's quick recovery are much appreciated.