Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Morning Musings

A few inches of snow fell during the night with snow showers still dusting the countryside this morning.  As I made my morning rounds I paused for a moment to capture this peaceful rural scene.

On the way to the farm I helped extricate our neighbor lady's car from the road ditch.  While on her way to church she had spun out and slid off the road.  A good push on the front fender while she gently backed up was all it took to get her turned around and headed safely home.  Continuing to the farm and tending the cattle I had plenty of time to think about some of the things I have to be thankful for.

I am thankful for my family, those that are with us and those who have passed on.  Each one in their own way has influenced my life and made my time here richer.

I am thankful for the lifestyle that I am able to lead; thankful for not having to get up and drive a long commute each morning, thankful for the farm that my grandparents bought in the 1920's and retained while struggling through the depression.

I am thankful that I live in a peaceful country, a place where I don't have to worry about war or  paramilitaries invading my home, taking our belongings, and destroying our lives. I'm thankful for a warm home with plenty of comforts and food.

I am thankful for our good neighbors who are always a pleasure to chat with and who we can always depend on to give us aid and moral support during times of hardship.  And that goes both ways.

I am thankful for the career that I had and the various jobs that I held.  Each job and the coworkers influenced me and enriched my life.

I am thankful for the hardships that I have faced.  While hardship is never pleasant to go through, the hardships test us and teaches us to make better life choices in the future.

When I think of all the things that I have to be thankful for I realize that so much of what I am thankful for are things that I had no choice in.  These are things to be truly thankful for rather than proud of.

None of us chose what family we were born into, we didn't choose what race we are, we didn't chose what religious tradition our family taught us, or what socioeconomic group we are born into.  Not one of us had a choice in whether we were born black in an underdeveloped country, a mixed race person born in a so called shit hole country, or being so fortunate as to be a white American.

None us us had any choice about our birth but we do have a choice in how we live our lives.  We can either choose to be thankful for what we have and treat others as Jesus commanded "you shall love your neighbor as yourself"  or we can stand up, beat our chest proudly and vilify those who are less fortunate than we.   

Thursday, January 10, 2019

So We Need A Wall To Protect Us

I think back over the past couple years, thinking of the heinous crimes committed here in my area.
A man on his way to work early in the morning spotted a duffel bag lying in the road and stopped to check it out.  Unknown to him three people had placed it there and were lying in wait.   Upon getting out of his car, the victim was hit with a hail of gunfire, the perpetrators fled with his car and the few dollars he had in his pocket.  They were apprehended a few days later.  The motive was that the leader wanted to kill someone. They were all local people.

It was nearing shift change at a rural Pennsylvania Turnpike exit when an armed man accosted two tollbooth personnel.  While he had a plan to have them tie up each other they outsmarted him.  The male employee was able to disarm the assailant and run outside, alerting the guard of the armored car that had just arrived to pick up the tolls.  The gunman, unknown to them, had a second gun.  In short order the turnpike employee and the armed guard were both dead.  When the Pennsylvania State Police arrived they killed the gunman.   The gunman’s motive was to rob the armored car.  He knew the schedule, he knew the routine, and he was a retired State Police officer who had been assigned to the Pa turnpike.  He was also was employed as range master at shooting range in nearby Harrisburg.

A family living just a couple of miles away was going through some serious domestic issues.  One night it reached the boiling point.  When it subsided three lives were wasted, the wife and one step daughter lay dead, two step daughters were traumatized, and the husband was headed for a life behind bars.  I knew him, he was a hardworking man born and raised right here in Fulton County.

With this in mind, I think of all the post I see of people wanting our government to build a wall on our southern border.  Now I would be the first to agree that we do need border security and in places a barricade of some sort certainly is necessary however no wall will protect us from the crimes real and imagined that our POTUS trots out daily.  As Walt Kelly said over two hundred years ago “we have met the enemy and he is us”.         

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Winning the Battle

Two weeks ago I posted the story of the birth and problems with this couple.  At the time of the post the cow would not allow her calf to nurse nor allow milking.  Using kicker clamps I was able to milk her some that evening but soon she learned how to circumvent the kickers and fire away unhindered.  Resorting to a belly band and a leg rope I was able to restrain her to allow the calf to nurse a little.  However unrestrained she would kick her baby, knocking him back several feet at times. Concerned for the calf's health and strength I continued supplemental feeding.

By day three I noticed the calf was having problems walking and maintaining its balance while standing.  While I cannot be sure, I suspect that she had injured him with some of her blows. At this point I took him away from her and would only allow him contact with her while she was restrained.  Keep in mind that she was showing every normal mothering instinct by this time except allowing nursing.

Day six I decided to once again allow him to nurse without restraining the cow and after only a couple slurps she struck at him with a powerful blow.  Fortunately I was supporting the calf and able to move him out of harms way.  At that point I finally lost my cool!  Moving the calf to its pen, I opened the stable door and chased her out informing her as she went that she had had her last chance, (yes I do talk to the cows).  A few minutes later I texted my livestock hauler about taking her to market.  He soon responded that he would pick her up the following Wednesday, some six days away.

For the next two days I fed the calf while she spent much of her time standing outside the barn bawling and running frantically from door to door anytime I was near the barn.  Finally I relented and invited her in for one more "last chance", and this time she allowed the calf to nurse without so much as raising a foot!  Keeping the calf in a separate pen and only allowing them together for nursing over then next two days I was able to observe that the transformation was complete.  She is not only the doting mother but also the consummate wet-nurse.

Perhaps even with cattle the old adage, "distance makes the heart grow fonder", is true. Whatever the case the calf now has a good mother and her trip to hamburger land is postponed indefinitely.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Wildlife Management Fail

In the mid 1980's I became interested in arranging a trip to hunt caribou in the Ungava Peninsula region of Quebec.  The George River caribou herd was growing rapidly, trips were affordable, and the success rate for hunters was nearly 100%.  I was fortunate to have been able to make three trips, one each in 1987, 1989, and 1991.  The above photo was of our party in 1991.

The herd which was estimated to number some 50,000 animals in the 1960's had grown to 800,000 animals by the early 1990's.  Sport hunters were allowed two animals of either sex and the killing of wolves was strictly forbidden.  The major management concern voiced by the managing ministry was of the herd eating itself out of house and home.

The early 1990's was the high water mark for the George River herd.  By 2001 the herd was down to 385,000 animals and dropping farther to 75,000 by 2010 when all sport hunting was banned.  The herd population has continued to fall with the 2018 estimate being only 5,500 animals.

According to government researchers wolf populations are considered low, habitat disturbance is low, calf birthrates are normal, and the animals tested are healthy with decreasing prevalence of parasites. However the herd continues to decrease.  Consideration was given to place this herd on the  Canadian endangered species list.

Caribou populations in many areas around the arctic are decreasing and may very well be tied to global climate change. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

New Baby, Stubborn Mother

A cow who's first two pregnancies resulted in stillbirths, went into labor yesterday morning.  A couple hours later her delivery was complete without assistance.  However she didn't seem to understand what she should do, walking off from her newborn bull calf.

As I dried the calf with old towels she became interested and soon was licking him enthusiastically however when he tried to nurse she nudged him away.  After giving him time to gain some strength I maneuvered his to her bag and she kicked him each time he nuzzled her teats.

Its imperative that a newborn have colostrum within a few hours of birth so the next step was to attempt to milk her but I soon found that what was gentle kicks when her calf nuzzled became roundhouse kicks that if landed soundly could break bones.  Borrowing a set of kickers from a neighbor I was finally able to milk her a little and feed the baby a mix of her colostrum and a bag of colostrum supplement.

Today the calf, while much stronger, showed no interest in attempting to nurse.  Again I struggled to milk the cow some and supplemented her milk with milk replacer.  I still have a couple tricks up my sleeve and remain optimistic that mother and son will soon bond in a nourishing relationship but only time will tell.

Such is life on the farm!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Whitetail Rut Wrap Up 2018

While my photographic success during this years rut didn't measure up to some ruts of the past it was more the fault of other obligations on my part rather than the lack of whitetails.

This buck was the nicest one that I encountered.  The photo opportunity was fleeting as he spotted me at the same time I spotted him. 

Other bucks were more accommodating

Some posed nicely

While others intent upon pursuing does seemed oblivious to the clicking of the shutter

 And some were at a distance where my presence was not as noticeable

Lip-Curl's are one of my favorite poses with this rut providing me a number of opportunities. 

I am most thankful to have once again had the opportunity to photograph another whitetail rut.  Whitetails have always held a special place in my heart. Whether it is a tiny spotted fawn, a soft coated brown doe, or a heavy antlered buck, they all are incredibly beautiful and graceful, deserving of out attention and support more so as other living beings who's presence enriches our lives rather than as mere targets to shoot at and antlers on the wall. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Get-a-Way

With rifle deer season only a day away, this buck appears well practiced in his survival skills.  Judging from his size he has lived through a number of deer seasons.  Beginning Monday morning his skill set will once again be tested.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Pretty as a Picture

For a Whitetail enthusiast such as myself, the rut is a like Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all rolled into one.  Bucks are the main attraction however hunting the rut with cameras is much different than with weapons.  One of the most glaring differences is there are no bag limits for photographers and another is that rack size, while important, is not nearly as important to a successful shot as is lighting, background, and pose.  Since we seldom experience accumulating snow prior during the rut in my area capturing this nice buck, posing nicely, on the fresh fallen snow was special!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Its Been a Long Time

Today, with sleet and snow softly falling, I was spending time working on photos and occasionally surfing the web.  It was when I visited this blog that I realized that nearly eleven months had passed since my last post.  Much of what I said in the closing lines of the last post concerning my disillusionment with social media still stands and has made me more reluctant than ever to share my opinions on issues of the day. 

Here in south-central Pennsylvania the white-tailed deer run is in full swing.  Bucks, that for months were seldom spotted, are now pursuing does with wild abandonment.  I spotted a high six point buck tending a doe this morning as the winter storm was just beginning. 

A couple of days early I caught this little six posing nicely.

This buck, again from this morning, was watching a doe standing nearby.  As they so often do, he stood motionless for many minutes until she suddenly bounded off.  He was right on her heels as they rushed out of sight.

And during those times when no whitetail activity is occurring, photos ops still abound.  I suppose that this squirrel couldn't find room in the knot-hole for himself and his tail but it certainly made for a unique pose. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Wrapping up 2017, Down on the Farm

As 2017 draws to a close new life arrived on the Hill Farm

This calving cycle began badly when the first calf died shortly after what seemed to be a perfectly normal delivery.  A week later, when doing the morning check of two cows that were due, I found the one to have gone into labor during the night with the calf turned backwards with one leg bent inside, a half breech.  With a little work I was able to clear the blockage and was able to pull the calf.  I thought I was working with a dead calf but was surprised when it was alive at delivery.   Apparently the delivery had been too difficult; for the calf was unable to stand and died during the following night.  So with that recent past and the very cold temperatures I was concerned with keeping close watch on Fairy who was running 11 days over due.

Fairy went into labor around noon yesterday.  As the afternoon wore on I became concerned that she wasn't progressing well and a check revealed that she was attempting to birth a very large calf.  Again it was time for the chains and after perhaps  half an hour of assisting her through her contractions Frosty arrived!

He was slow getting up and with the nasty cold I was concerned.  Fairy was diligently cleaning him and to help keep him warm I blow-dried him.  Still not able to stand I milked two quarts of colostrum from Fairy and tubed it into his stomach and left him on a pile of fresh dry bedding.  This morning he was bright-eyed and strong!  Mission accomplished!

Of course I cannot forget Heinz, the baby we reared on the bottle this past summer.  He still comes in each morning for his scoop of chop.

And Baby Jane is wintering well also.

During the past two years I have withdrawn considerably from posting my writing on social media.  It is not that I have lost interest in wildlife photography and the issues that surround it but rather that the poisoning of social media by the past election has left me disgusted.  I have watched as people have posted and shared obvious false hoods that undoubtedly came  from professional propaganda mills, fought with their "friends" labeling them as Libtards, Snowflakes, Conservaturds, etc etc etc.

As if politics isn't bad enough I have seen the social media fighting between the bird watchers, hunters, and wildlife photographers.  If a photographer get too close to an animal or bird that it moves the photographer is roundly condemned by all and even regulation may be proposed.  However, for an archer to get 7 yards from a "trophy" and dart it with an arrow; Oh that's something to brag about!  Even if the hit isn't quickly fatal and leaves the animal to suffer. Yes, to say it mildly, I'm disgusted.  While I will continue to share some of my photos both here and on Facebook I will try to keep away from controversy and try to enjoy my life in the wilds and down on the farm.

I sincerely hope that Social Media and our country can become a much friendlier environment in 2018.  Thank you for reading and a Happy New Year to All!