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For 25 years the Ozarks have been my home. Many of my books are about or set in the Ozarks. They reflect my interests in nature, goats and science. A writer has a long memory of people and places to draw from when developing a book. My memory tells me of my southern California roots, my University days, teaching high school science and the many goat owners I have met over the years. For now reflections about my years in the Ozarks forms the basis for two new books. My goats are a source of inspiration for another.

Enjoying Warm Spring Days

I love warm spring days. They are made for being outside.

That means cleaning out the goat barn. The warm sun is enjoyed on trips to the manure pile.

The next item on the list is clearing more garden paths. The dead nettle and chickweed are dying and seeding. It’s time to pull these and mulch the pathways to keep the weeds from taking over this summer.

Nubian doe High Reaches Topaz Willa

High Reaches Topaz Willa is getting old. She went to sleep. When she woke, she was alone. She came to the barn to find someone and found me.

This day I am rescued from the garden by a goat. It seems Willa has gotten separated from the herd. She came to the barn lot seeking help finding the herd.

The first warm spring days are special. Only dogged determination and the terrible mess keep me working in the goat barn.

A goat in trouble takes precedent. I empty the load of manure and go to the house to change into hiking boots. Grabbing my camera and walking stick, I am ready to take Willa back out to pasture.

goats reappear

I am amazed by how easily a herd of goats can disappear and reappear. Willa went to sleep and the herd disappeared. We passed this spot going to the ravine and no one was here. Now the herd stands here wondering what we are up to.

The herd had disappeared up a hill that morning. Two ways down are favored by around early afternoon. Lately the herd was taking the long route down into the ravine.

Willa and I go to the ravine. No herd. Willa is happy to have company and starts grazing.

Camera in hand I go down to visit several tagged trees. Last summer I identified these trees, tagged them and have taken pictures of their bark, buds and winter looks. Now these are ready to bloom.

goats like warm spring days

My Nubian goats are enjoying the spring weather. They race around gorging on seeding grasses and budding brush, then lie down in the shade to chew their cuds.

Two are in bloom and I take pictures. This is when my walking stick comes in handy. It has a hook on the end for pulling down branches as I have yet to learn to levitate and don’t climb trees.

Willa comes looking for me. We resume our search heading down the hill pasture toward the creek.

The herd has materialized by the creek. Willa is reunited with them and her kid.

I check out another tree. The shingle oak is in bloom.

greening hills on warm spring days

Overnight the trees have greened. The grass is lush. The breeze is warm and light. The clouds sail overhead billowing into shapes and morphing into new ones. Quiet surrounds you, fills you, heals you. This is my Ozarks in spring.

Turning to look back at the hills, a warm breeze ruffles my hair. The smell of dogwoods adds a little perfume. The trees are leafing out turning the hills light green. The goats are relaxing in the shade.

I turn back toward the garden. I walk past it and off onto another hill, up another ravine in search of lady slippers.

Warm spring days are too precious to spend working all day.

Watch for the new book “My Ozark Home” due out later this year. For now, check out Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Baltimore Orioles Arrive

Over the last twenty-five years the bird populations have changed a lot. Another new resident arrived this year: Baltimore Orioles.

Baltimore Orioles like hummingbird feeders

Baltimore Orioles are bright orange with orange outer tail feathers. They are summer residents in the Ozarks. This one likes the large hummingbird feeder.

There weren’t many birds here when we moved in. A handful of hummingbirds came by the feeder we set out. Cardinals came for sunflower seeds in the winter.

Mourning doves moved in. Blue jays mobbed the feeder. Now watching the action outside is exciting. The bird guidebook has moved onto the kitchen table.

This year indigo buntings, brown thrashers, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, blue jays, mourning doves, rose breasted grosbeaks, red winged blackbirds, various sparrows and warblers take turns gobbling the sunflower seeds. We’ve added scratch feed and peanut butter to the menu.

The feeder too has changed. Originally it was a platform with two five gallon buckets holding up another platform as a roof. Now the platform is smaller with a wood structure and tin roof protecting it from rain and snow.

Baltimore Orioles take over the feeders

Four pairs of Baltimore Orioles like the hummingbird feeder. They do not like to share. The second oriole had to move to the second feeder.

The hummingbird feeder has changed too. The first held a pint and lasted several days. Now, by late summer, five quart feeders empty daily.

Last year a pair of orchard orioles discovered the sugary treat. It enticed them to stay and nest in the sugar maple in the front yard.

This year the Baltimore Orioles arrived. The first hummingbirds had arrived a few days earlier. They were not impressed with the giants now sitting on their feeder.

A second feeder went up so the oriole could eat at one and the hummingbirds at the other. Then another oriole arrived.

Every morning four pairs of Baltimore Orioles take turns enjoying both the hummingbird feeder and the sunflower seeds. The hummingbirds hover unhappily until the orioles leave.

Baltimore Orioles and hummingbirds

Hummingbirds get chased off by the Baltimore Orioles. Since the orioles sleep late, the hummingbirds mob the feeders early. The orioles often arrive singly taking over one feeder and leaving the others to the hummingbirds. Unlike the orioles, the hummingbirds often sit six or eight at a time on a feeder.

Each hummingbird feeder has eight stations. All eight on both fill up with birds drinking as fast as they can.

When these two feeders empty in a day, another feeder will go up. Otherwise we watch and put it up when the hovering cloud is as big as the feeder customers.

The Baltimore Orioles have been here over a week now. They seem to be taking a look around. We hope they build nests like the orchard oriole which has returned again this year.

Enjoy more about an Ozark spring in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Lone Star Tick Season Arrives

Warm weather is pouncing into the Ozarks. Hints of warm weather bring out the lone star ticks.

A lone star tick gets its common name because of a single white spot on the back of the adults. These are the common ticks in the Ozarks spring to late summer.

The cool weather did bring out a few ticks. A tick here. Another there. Enough to be annoying, but not a problem.

lone star tick on leaf

The white dot marks this as a lone star tick. It clambered over rocks, leaves, twigs and ground is a frantic attempt to reach me.

That changes with warm weather. Armies of ticks are out in force.

Although ticks are common out in the woods, they aren’t easily seen even when you look for them. Many are immature and a bare sixteenth of an inch across. Even the adults are less than a quarter inch across.

I met up with an adult lone star tick in the woods. The pussytoes are in bloom and I wanted a picture of some.

Since pussytoes are less than six inches tall, I sat down to get the camera down for a picture. This audacious lone star tick started racing over toward me.

This tiny creature was eighteen inches away. How could it know I was there?

lone star tick on twig

This was one determined tick. I shoved the leaf or twig it was on back a foot. Still the tick raced over towards me. It was amazingly fast leaving most of my photographs blurry.

I tossed it over a few inches. It immediately began racing toward me again.

After two or three times of tossing this tick aside and having it still race toward me, I knew it was homing in on me somehow. Mosquitoes use carbon dioxide and heat. What was the tick using?

The beacon had to be heat. I find ticks prefer warmer areas on the goats so it must be heat. Once a goat is bitten, the area reddens heating up and becomes a tick magnet.

One thing for sure, this tick had to be extremely sensitive to heat to notice the slight increase from me over eighteen inches.

Unfortunately for the tick, it was rushing to execution.

I have zero tolerance for ticks. The insect repellent is coming out of the closet. Soapy water and chickens are even better as the ticks die.

Kids Find Playgrounds Everywhere

The fun part of raising goat kids is watching them play. They find playgrounds everywhere.
Goats trace their wild cousins into the mountains of Asia. Mountain animals climb. Goat kids love to be on top of things.
In the barn the kids use their mothers for playgrounds. After a big rainstorm, all my does are covered with mud from little muddy hooves standing on them as they try to sleep.
For the most part goat mothers are tolerant. They ignore the little hooves bouncing on them and leaping onto their sides and backs.
In the barn lot the kids race up and down the goat gym. When they finally wear out, the gym steps make great places for a nap.

firewood playgrounds are also nap places for Nubian doe kids

The fallen sycamores are cut into short pieces of firewood. After playing on the pieces, these little Nubian does find a good place for resting.

The pastures offer the most opportunities for finding playgrounds. The grassy parts are only good for naps. The woods and ravines are the best.
The ravines have wet weather creeks in them. These are usually deeply eroded channels snaking their way down the spaces between the hills.

Creek bed playgrounds are good places for a Nubian kid fight

Barely six weeks old these little Nubian bucks are already testing their fighting skills. the edge of the creek bed has good places for this and stumps for napping.Nubian

When water travels at high speed, it undercuts trees along the channels. It leaves boulders exposed. Kids jump down from the pastures onto these perches. They leap back up. They play king of the mountain.
Last year’s storms blew down many trees. It will be years before these fallen giants are gone for lumber, firewood or rot away. Until then, they are another source of kid playgrounds.
Kids leap up onto the trunks and chase each other up and down. Kids get up at each end and challenge each other or squeeze past each other. Their balance is amazing as they race at full speed up these rounded paths.

fallen tree playgrounds for Nubian kids

The fallen tree is wide enough for one Nubian kid. These two are trying to squeeze past each other and rejoin the other kids in play.

Some of the trees blew over, but lodged in nearby trees. Those at low enough angles become climbing places for kids. Luckily those trees aren’t so far off the ground that a kid falling off gets hurt.
Goat kids grow up so fast. They play a lot at a month old. They still play at two months old. At three months eating is more important than playing. I need to get out more to watch my kids play before they get much older.

Goat kids are playful and full of antics. Check out Capri Capers for Capri’s antics.

Ozark Land Shells

Growing up in southern California, I picked up lots of shells at the beach. I amassed a large collection of about 1000 species, all identified.

Collecting shells is a thing of the past now. That isn’t because there are no shells to be found in Missouri. I’ve moved on to other interests.

Still, seeing a shell is special.

old red morel

The top of a red morel is much brighter than this old specimen shows. It was about 4 inches tall, medium sized for a red morel.

The other day I went out seeking a red morel mushroom spotted in the ravine the day before. I’d never seen one before.

The red morel wasn’t red and was getting soft on this second day. It was the only one.

A little further up the ravine was a single morel.

morel mushroom

The commonly thought of morel is tall with a pitted top. The center of the top and stalk are hollow. They are a popular dining area for insects and snails and must be washed carefully before cooking.

People talk about finding morels in the woods. They bring home bags of them, enough to share with friends.

This property seems to be a morel desert. The biggest group ever found was a mere couple of dozen. This was one year and never repeated.

Missing the morels is a disappointment as they are very tasty. Still, the chanterelles in early summer are delicious as well and they grow here in abundance.

snail shells are coils

Snail shells are tight coils. The original shell would be at the very center but is often, as it is on this shell, gone. The body is ridged. The foot has a thin margin.

Near the morel I spotted a snail. Usually these mollusks vanish into their shells as soon as they spot me. This one ignored me and glided along on a dead oak leaf.

Snails and slugs, both gastropods, are nuisances in the garden. I toss them over by the creek. Out in the ravine the snail was no problem, so I settled in to watch it for a few minutes.

Gastropod means stomach foot. A snail fits this as its foot glides along on a slime trail it lays down. Its stomach sits on top of the foot and tucked into it’s shell.

snail shells are slightly conical

Snails put out four projections from their heads. The top two have eye spots on them. The bottom two test the ground before the snail glides onto it. The shell has many tiny ridges or growth rings on it. The shell is created a layer at a time. It is slightly convex.

The shell is a spiral. The baby snail makes a tiny shell. As the snail grows, it adds to the edge of the shell making the coil larger in length and diameter. When threatened or staying dormant, the snail retreats into its shell. Over the winter the snail excretes a film sealing its shell with it safe inside protected from winter’s fury.

Land shells are usually plain. They have no bright colors or spines. They are still a marvel of delicate architecture worth admiring.

The Ozarks is a biologically rich area. Read more about the Ozarks in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

My shell collection along with the identification books and field notebooks is available to anyone who can make use of it. I collected until 1972 mostly on the west coast, but in Baja, on the east and gulf coasts plus purchased some. I used it for teaching and have echinoderm tests, corals and sponges in the collection as well. If you are interested, please email me through the contact page.

Chicks Grow Up Fast

My chicks arrived two weeks ago. They were little balls of fluff. Chicks grow fast.

Now those balls of fluff have tiny tails and wings. They love to race across the floor flapping their wings. They can’t get off the ground yet.

These pullets are a tough bunch. My chick house has no insulation. The walls are wood covered with metal. There are plenty of air leaks. The outside temperature is the inside temperature.

chicks grow and need less heat

Different breeds of chickens look very different. I like lots of them and have several breeds in my flock. There are four kinds of pullets.
The black ones are barred rocks. The plain buff feathers are buff Orpingtons. The brown with black bars feathers are New Hampshire. The chicks with cheek puffs are Easter Eggers who grow up to lay blue and green eggs. By three weeks of age almost all of the fluff will be gone and the pullets will become gangling adolescents.

The chicks huddled under their light when the temperatures plunged. Even with blankets wrapped around the cage, they were cool.

Well, one night I put an extra blanket on and they got too hot.

Chicks grow up fast. They don’t need a hot heat lamp now. Their feathers keep them warm. And they have doubled in size. Besides, the temperatures are approaching normal spring ranges.

Hazel is raising chicks in Mistaken Promises. Grandfather talked about chickens and fresh eggs until she thought it would be fun. After committing herself by talking Lily into joining the 4-H Poultry Project with her, she discovered the work.

Chickens are one of the easier ways to be a country person. Depending on the breed and standard or bantam, chickens can be kept in a small area. With handling many breeds can become pets.

chicks grow feathers fast

Ball of fluff chicks are cute. Larger chicks feathering out look disheveled. This is when they produce lots of dust. This is a Buff Orpington pullet chick like those Hazel Whitmore is raising in Mistaken Promises.

Hazel and Lily have Buff Orpingtons. These are one of the breeds easy to make into pets. The hens are a golden buff color. Their feathers are fluffy. They are docile and calm.

Grandfather built Hazel’s chicken house years before for his wife Helen. He built a sturdy building. He had a nice brooder hood. Hazel’s chicks lived in style.

I’m jealous.

County fairs in rural Missouri are the place for 4-H members to exhibit their livestock and crafts. Hazel will show her pullets at the county fair. But Hazel is being stalked by one who hates her and all around her. And that person is at the fair too.

Mistaken Promises is the third in the Hazel Whitmore middle grade series. It will be release this fall. The first two, Broken Promises and Old Promises, are available now.

Writing Mistaken Promises

Mistaken Promises is the third book about Hazel Whitmore. It is a long overdue book.

The series began with a simple premise: city girl moves to the country. A favorite series for me is Anne of Green Gables. It too has such a basic theme.

Broken Promises was my first attempt at writing a novel. Like all new writers, I had such grand ideas and little knowledge of how to realize them.

The book draft was a disaster.

Broken Promises

A couple of years later I resurrected the novel. The basic idea was the same. The plot was totally different. This time the novel came together and became Broken Promises.

The book had a major flaw. Hazel didn’t leave the city until the last chapter. A second book was necessary to put the city girl in the country.

And Old Promises was written. Hazel lives in the country. At heart she is still a city girl.

Old Promises

Many people move to the country, but never really leave the city behind them. Some try, but are overdoing it. This burns them out quickly and they leave or go back to being city people living in the country.

Hazel doesn’t know yet. She misses many of the things from the city. She finds she values some things in the country.

The plot in Old Promises centered on a family feud rooted in the past. It erupts at the end in tragedy. This does not end the feud or solve the problems.

Mistaken Promises was born in that tragedy. The feud and the bullying Hazel thought were over, are back and far different from the previous semester at Hanging Rock School.

Hazel, still the city girl, finds being part of the country is interesting. She can have her cats, her chickens and get fresh vegetables to cook. None of these was possible in New York City.

Internet service is slow. Cell phone service skips her house. Possible friends live far away. Entertainment such as plays, theater, Central Park are dreams from her past now.

What will the future bring to this transplanted city girl? At thirteen, Hazel is still deciding on her future and trying to survive to live it.

Meet Hazel Whitmore in the first two books of the series: Broken Promises and Old Promises.

Gobbles Announce Turkey Season

Calendars don’t accommodate weather. This is a cold, wet, wintry spring. A few days lure plants and animals into spring. The next day sends them scurrying back to hide. But turkey season is still on the calendar.

Like all the other creatures, turkeys have been trying to greet spring. For tom turkeys this means putting on displays and gobbling. For hen turkeys this means finding nesting sites and hanging out with the toms.

turkey season toms

During the fall groups of tom turkeys forage for grass seed in relative harmony. In the spring these same toms are rivals competing for hens.

Usually gobbling is audible much of the day. Turkeys parade across the hill pasture easily watched from the house.

This year gobbling is an early morning sound, if the weather is warmer, like forty degrees. Otherwise the turkeys stay up in the woods scratching for leftover acorns and plants growing in spite of the frosts.

Turkey season for hunters is in April. Toms have been gobbling for a few weeks. Hens are busy laying eggs in their nests.

This year turkey season is still in April. But the toms are still getting started.

turkey season display

Only tom turkeys are hunted in the spring. During most of the year, tom turkeys keep their feathers down and aren’t much bigger than the hens letting them slip away from sight. Spring brings on the displays with tails raised and spread, feathers standing up, wings spread into fans. This is hard to miss from quite a distance away. However, wild turkeys are still wary birds and impossible to approach in the open.

There are a lot of turkeys around my hills. There is a north pasture bunch. The hill pasture bunch is the one I usually hear and see. Another bunch is in the south pasture. Next door is a huge bunch.

The bunches on my hills haven’t been hunted in years. I don’t hunt due to time and lack of skill. The neighbors love deer hunting, but don’t do much about the turkeys. The family who hunts deer on the place don’t hunt turkeys.

So the turkey population continues to go up.

Like all natural populations, turkeys die for lots of reasons. Coyotes catch them. In bad acorn years, many starve to death. Poults get picked off by coyotes and hawks.

There are still enough turkeys for a hunter to enjoy wild turkey dinner. And this year a hunter has asked to visit these hills for turkey season.

Find more about turkeys in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

April Snows Arrive

April is a few weeks into official spring. Wildflowers are starting to bloom. April snows arrived anyway.

The day was too warm for snow. The clouds were snow clouds.

What makes a cloud a snow cloud? It has that dark gray color yet is thin enough for the sun’s disk to be visible.

April snows on tree

A few days of warm weather has the tree buds swelling. April snows cling to the branches and trunks of the trees belying the spring promises.

Still, the temperature rose from a chilly twenty-four to forty. Much too warm for snow.

The temperature began to drop, settling at thirty-five. Still too warm for snow. But the snow fell, an inch of it.

April snows are wet snows. The temperatures are too warm so the flakes are almost melting as they fall. The ground was still frozen, so the snow chilled and stayed.

April snows are pretty snows. Wet snows stick to things. It lines the branches. It forms patches on rough tree bark. It makes little hats on bushes and fence posts.

April snows snow caps

Buckbrush leaves were already spreading out. Now the leaves hold snow caps.

April snows are not welcome snows. Deer have been gorging on fresh spring grass, now buried.

Tree buds have been swelling. Leaves are impatient to spread out and catch warm rays from the spring sun.

Birds have been singing, marking out nesting territories. They now sit huddled on cold, snowy branches. The insects are hiding leaving many birds hungry. Others are mobbing the bird feeder.

cardinals in April snows

Spring grass pokes through the April snow, but the insects the cardinals seek are in hiding.

Cold breezes don’t drift this snow. Instead the snow crusts over with an ice layer. The ground is slick. Walking is dangerous. The wind chill makes the air like a dose of ice water soaking through jackets and shirts.

April snows are best viewed from inside the house. Wood heat warms the rooms. Snow muffles sounds and chases traffic away.

April snows are nice to look at for a lazy afternoon. Then the snow needs to admit the day is too warm for snow. The April sun needs to remember it’s spring and make this snow a fading memory.

Some of the special times of an Ozark year are in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

My Ozark Home, a book of memories, photographs of my Ozark hills and haikus, will be released this fall.

Baby Chicks Arriving

Last year I let one of my hens set some eggs. A second hen started to set, but quit. That’s the problem with many of today’s hens: They don’t set and hatch baby chicks.

The seven chicks the hen hatched did fine. They grew quickly as the hen shepherded them around in their yard. Five of them grew big combs.

Three roosters argue over who is ruling the hen house already. More roosters aren’t wanted or needed. Hens are welcome.

Baby chicks cage

This arrangement worked fine on a warm day. It failed the chick test: they were cold. The light moved into the cage and blankets went up around the cage. The chicks were happy through a cool night in the forties.

Having new pullets in the fall is nice as they start laying and lay through the winter fairly regularly. Older hens don’t lay regularly over the winter, at least mine don’t. I prefer the heavier breeds, not the egg production breeds.

Eggs were in short supply this last winter.

Older hens lay fewer, but larger eggs. Many of my hens are not just older, but ancient for chickens.

This year I ordered baby chicks. As I don’t plan on dressing any roosters out this year, all the chicks are supposed to be pullets. There will be twenty-two baby chicks.

There is a chick house. It isn’t fancy as I was the carpenter. The last time I used it, the black snakes found a way in. And the roof decided to leak.

baby chicks huddle

The ultimate test of a chick set up is given by the chicks when they arrive. These chicks are huddling. They aren’t real cold, but they are not warm enough. They are not giving distress calls. The light was too far away. Moving it into the cage made the chicks much happier.

The house has new wire up around the eaves. Every hole I could find is plugged. The roof is tarred.

Still, black snakes are wily creatures. They can find holes where I see none. I have a wire cage.

The cage isn’t very big. It is big enough for a couple dozen baby chicks. The holes should be too small for the big snakes to get in. My chicks will start out in it.

happy baby chicks

Happy chicks cheep softly and rummage around getting drinks of water and eating food. Sometimes the entire flock will lie down on the floor to sleep.

Another advantage to using this cage is keeping the chicks warm. This spring has temperatures rivaling a yoyo tournament. Even the best days have stayed in the fifties and sixties, flirting with freezing at night.

So the chick house is set up. The floor is covered with feed sacks for when the chicks get big enough to get out of the cage. The cage is set up with cardboard around it, a heat light over it and supports for blankets at night.

The containers are full of chick starter. The glass waterers are cleaned and ready. The cage floor has layers of newspaper down so one layer at a time can be taken out revealing a clean layer below.

All is ready. And we wait. The baby chicks will arrive in a day or two.

Rural living is different. Livestock is a serious responsibility. Check out Dora’s Story.

Asclepias by Richard Edward Rintz

Milkweeds, genus Asclepias, are a hot topic recently because of the monarch butterflies. Their caterpillars only eat milkweeds which give them the chemicals making them taste bad to birds.

Another plus for milkweeds is the abundant nectar they produce. Insects of all kinds descend on the flowers to feast on this bounty.

"Asclepias Volume 1" by Richard Edward Rintz

“Asclepias Volume 1” by Richard Edward Rintz

In spite of all this publicity, milkweeds remain an obscure group of plants. Many people don’t realize the number and variety of kinds of milkweeds found just in the United States.

Dr. Richard Rintz does know. He spent years tracking the plants down and photographing them. He spent more years researching the various species. The results are now in a three volume set of books called “Asclepias.”

"Asclepias Volume 2" by Richard Edward Rintz

“Asclepias Volume 2” by Richard Edward Rintz

Each species has its own section. Photographs of the plants begin the section. A history of how the plant was discovered, the formal description – translated into English – and comments about the plant follow the photographs. Drawings from the original descriptions and drawings of the flowers done by Dr. Rintz complete the species sections.

The last full treatment of Asclepias was done by Dr. Woodson in 1954. He organized the genus, tried to settle some of the name and species arguments and gave range maps for each of the species. More information about different species has come to light in the years since. Dr. Rintz has included this.

"Asclepias Volume 3" by Richard Edward Rintz

“Asclepias Volume 3” by Richard Edward Rintz

These volumes are a botanical treatment of Asclepias. They can get very technical. They are intended to update Woodson’s monograph for botanists and serious amateurs interested in the genus.

For the rest of us, these volumes have gorgeous photographs of milkweeds. Only the scientific names are given, but finding the common names is not difficult.

Milkweeds vary from plants not much larger than a dollar bill growing on deep red sand dunes to eight foot tall erect leafless stems in the desert southwest to the broad-leaved plants common in my area of the Ozarks. The flowers all have the typical Asclepias five wells, but vary in color from white to yellow to pink to purple. The range is large and fascinating.

The three volumes are privately printed, 8 1/2 by 11 inches and spiral bound. A set is $200 plus postage. For the present as copies are limited, if you wish to purchase a set, please contact me by email.

Cute Goat Pictures

Each week I browse through a Sunday paper. The latest one announced a call for goat pictures specifying cute or funny.

I seem to have a lot of goat pictures. Are any of them cute or funny? Is my definition of cute or funny the same as that of the paper?

action goat pictures

Action shots are the hard ones. The goat is moving which can cause blurring unless the camera lens speed is high, but then less light is let in the lens so the picture can come out black. The action is often some distance away necessitating using the zoom. The higher the magnification, the easier it is to move the camera blurring the picture. This is High Reaches Silk’s Augustus as a kid.

Any excuse to browse through goat pictures is welcome. I went browsing.

Kids are cute. They are among the cutest baby animals around. They are notoriously difficult to photograph acting cute or funny.

flying ears action goat pictures

Nubian ears are long and seem to act as wings when a kid runs bouncing and leaping across the ground. For every acceptable action kid picture, I delete five or ten. Taking such pictures takes lots of time following the herd around until they get bored enough with having me around to start acting almost normally again.

This difficulty is due to the tremendous energy filling the kids. They are only still when snoozing, usually in a place difficult to use a camera. Any other time they are a blur racing around. By the time the camera is aimed at the cute kid, it’s moved on and is no longer cute.

Goats as a rule don’t like getting their pictures taken. I go out several times a year to get pictures to update my picture galleries. I walk by the herd on various hikes and stop to take a picture or two.

action goat pictures

Nubian bucks love to test their skills against one another. They love to play. Augustus and Gaius played like this for half an hour or more. I took lots of pictures and kept a half dozen. Augustus would rear up, then plunge down so fast he was only a blur. To get a good picture meant setting the camera up and waiting until Augustus was at the peak, then snapping the picture hoping to get it before he came crashing down.

The goats see the camera and turn their rumps to me. Another ploy is to walk up and lick the lens. Then there are the ‘scratch suddenly’ or ‘toss the head’ or ‘move into the middle of the group’ ploys.

doe and kid goat pictures

Nubian goat kids learn many difficult lessons as they grow up. One is how to follow mother goat both out and in from pasture. High Reaches Jewel’s Sasha is so unhappy being stuck in the barn lot while her friends are out grazing. Young kids get tired quickly, lie down, go to sleep and get left behind. They are hard to find nestled down in the grass. This afternoon was the first day Sasha’s kid was allowed out with her mother. Sasha is determined to find the herd and leads her kid down the trail. The kid gamely keeps up. This picture was a lucky one as I happened to be out with my camera and looked back to see Sasha and kid coming behind me.

I see the cute, funny, beautiful goat pictures on Pinterest. I think “If that person can do this, I can too.” Then I go home, get my camera and get laughed at by my goats as they dare me to try.

Still, I do get lucky from time to time. Maybe these other people get lucky too.

cute goat pictures

Goat kids can be so cute. This pair went out with the herd and laid down to rest while the herd grazed nearby. The first thing most people notice about Nubian goat kids is the ears, especially if they are frosted (white).

The secret to great goat pictures seems to have two sides. One is having help to set the goat up for a great picture as for a show picture. The other is luck perhaps with someone to distract the goats from the camera or trigger a great shot.

sweet goat pictures

This is one of those goat pictures both cute and special. Nubian does don’t often sleep with their young kids. Augustus was one of Silk’s last kids and she was very attached to him. Goat kids form play groups and tend to sleep with the group. Augustus always preferred Silk to his peers. But finding the two together, not waking Silk up and getting the picture was luck.

Unfortunately I have no help. I must continue to trust to luck and value the special shots I do manage to get.

Cute goat pictures are scattered throughout Goat Games. Check it out.

What’s Growing In the Ravine?

Spring is slowly fighting its way into the Ozarks. The weather has warmed, but still has cold days and nights.

In spite of the challenges, wild plants are growing in the ravine. Actually they are growing all over, but the ravine is of special interest due to The Carduan Chronicles. I went out to see what’s growing.

rue anemone flower

Finding a rue anemone in bloom in the ravine was a surprise. They are lovely, but I don’t think they are not edible.

The Carduans will need to find plants to eat. As they are confined in the ravine, due to their size and distances out of the ravine, the plants growing there will be the selection they will be drawing from.

What’s growing in spite of wildly fluctuating temperatures? Lots of plants are putting out new growth. Many are ones I don’t recognize. Those I do recognize included galiums (bedstraws or cleavers), cinquefoil, wild strawberry, wild onion, two or three kinds of violets, toothwort, rue anemone and spicebush. There is a dandelion relative and several grasses growing in the ravine.

wild strawberry leaves

Wild Strawberry has small, edible fruits. The plant is easily identified by the three leaflets and hairy petioles. The fruits are hard to get as they are popular with many creatures. I need a picture of a ripe fruit and plan to cage a plant once it sets fruit so nothing makes the fruit disappear before I get a picture.

Other than nuts that fall out of the trees in the fall, the Carduans will not be eating the trees.

Thanks to “Botany In a Day” I have a few plants to taste test. It’s hard to describe how something tastes, if you have never tasted it.

violets are what's growing

The best violets for fresh eating are blue and white ones. Both the leaves and flowers are edible. This is the blue violet coming up as all the leaves grow up from the rootstock. White violet leaves look much the same, but the plant has a stem with leaves from it. I found the blue violet leaves mild and the white violet leaves a bit bitter.

I tried some violet leaves. The first one was from a blue violet. It wasn’t bad, kind of a tasty lettuce. The second was from a white violet. It was a bit bitter.

Spicebush buds and flowers are bitter. I’ve tried the leaves before and found them spicy and palatable.

wild onions is what's growing

These are not green onions. These are wild onions. They are edible. It’s easy to break off a leaf and eat it. The flavor is like a bite of regular onion and explodes in your mouth.

The fun ones are the wild onions. These little things look like miniature green onion tops. They don’t taste like that. Wild onions explode in the mouth like a bit of raw yellow onion.

Winter is giving up at the point I am in my writing. The Carduans are beginning to do some exploring. They want to know what’s growing in their ravine.

Now that I know some of the plants growing in the ravine, I know what the Carduans will find. And what they will try eating.

For more about the Ozarks in the spring, check out Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Frustrating Weather

Along the coasts frustrating weather between seasons is rare. The ocean is a huge temperature sink moderating the air temperatures. this lets one season merge smoothly into the next.

In the middle of the country, like Missouri, such influences are nonexistent. Frustrating weather becomes normal.

March is supposed to be spring. It is on the calendar. It isn’t outside – today. Yesterday was a balmy seventy-four degrees. Today the temperature sits at thirty-six degrees.

frustrating weather affects alder

Black or common alder and hazelnut bushes look very similar over the winter, same size, same gray bark. Even the catkins are similar unless you look carefully. The easy difference is the female flower. Alders have cones as in the picture. Hazelnuts have little cylinders with a spray of red threads – the split pistils – sticking out.

Even the wild plants don’t like this frustrating weather. The alders and hazelnuts are blooming. The spicebush buds are big yellow globes poised to burst open.

Frustrating weather has these plants and others surging into spring one day and sending them back to winter the next. Spring is trying. Winter is resisting.

spicebush blooms despite frustrating weather

Spicebush blooms in early spring, as soon as the weather warms up. The buds started swelling during the first warm spell. then they waited through the cold spell. Back and forth as the temperatures varied until the buds are finally opening in spite of the weather.

Gardening time is starting. Potatoes are already stashed under the mulch trying to grow. Peas are trying to germinate.

Mulch does help. The surface temperature varies widely. The underneath temperature stays fairly steady, at least under six inches of mulch, it does.

I don’t have a heated greenhouse for starting seeds. Tomato and pepper seedlings need two things to do well. One is warm temperatures. The other is lots of sunlight.

The first was easy. I put the seeds on damp sand in Petri dishes set on a shelf in front of the wood stove fan. The seeds happily germinated and went into cups of soil.

frustrating weather hurts seedlings

Cups of soil take up lots of room. Germinating the seeds in small containers works well. The seedlings are moved into the cups when the root is a quarter to half an inch long. I press a finger into the damp dirt, place the seedling against the side of the hole so the top is just under the rim, then back fill the hole, tamping the soil down. The seedling pokes up through the soil in a day or two. The cups are in various kinds of containers to make moving and watering are easier. The containers come in overnight and go out on the porch on warmer (57 degrees and up) days.

Usually I ferry the trays of seedlings out onto the front porch for the day. That way the seedlings get plenty of light.

But the temperatures must be sixty degrees minimum. Thirty-six degrees is not warm enough.

Seedlings don’t understand about cold days. They want to grow and do. They become spindly. If they get too bad, I must try again.

Frustrating weather strikes again.

I can only hope the weather warms up again tomorrow. It is supposed to rain off and on for the next week. The porch has a roof.

All the seedlings and I really want right now are some more warm spring temperatures.

Tracking Tree Flowers

Most people think of redbuds and dogwoods, when tree flowers are mentioned. Those are big and showy.

Most trees don’t have big, showy flowers. They have small flowers. Some have small flowers and catkins.

Around here, the silver maples bloom first. Their clumps of red cup flowers burst after a few warm days. They often get frozen, but seem to be cold hardy.

The next tree flowers belong to the elms.

slippery elm tree

This slippery elm tree grows along a gravel road.

Slippery elm is common on my hills. It is one of three listed for Dent County. The other two are American elm and winged elm.

slippery elm tree flowers

Slippery elm flowers do have red on them. There is a definite green calyx under the red. The flowers are wind pollinated so the pistils have large stigmas that reach out into the air to catch pollen floating by.

There were American elms on my hills. They have died.

I think there are winged elm along the road. It tends to be a small tree in fence rows. I’m still checking for it.

Elms bloom before putting out leaves. I use leaves to identify trees. Elm blooms as a group are easy to spot. The kind is not, for me.

I should have spotted and labeled these elms last summer or fall. Leaves fell before I got to the elms.

elm tree

This is a magnificent elm tree. It grows near a parking lot at ShawneeMac Lakes Conservation Area. Once the leaves come out I will know what kind of elm.

There is a lovely elm at a local conservation area. Getting a picture of the tree was easy. So was the bark. Not even my hook stick could reach the branches.

I was in luck. The tree is next to a parking area. I pulled my truck up under the tree and climbed into the bed. Not high enough. The cab roof worked.

So I now have pictures of the winter tree, bark, buds and flowers of this elm. Which elm is it? I’ll find out this summer when the leaves come out along with the seeds.

My stick was long enough to snag a branch of elm tree flowers along my road. I’m pretty sure this is a slippery elm, but will wait for the leaves. The flowers were a different color, so I suspect is isn’t the same elm as the other one.

elm tree flowers

These flowers are definitely elm flowers. They are very pink ones and different from the slippery elm flowers.

March weather this year is a yoyo. Warm and cold fronts kick each other back and forth every few days. Warm days tempt the trees to break bud. Cold days warn them to wait.

Several trees have labels on them. I’m waiting for them to bloom. Their buds are swelling. Every week I need to go by and look or I will miss these tree flowers.

I don’t want to wait another year for my pictures.

Doe Kid, Buck Kid, Misidentification

Now, any goat owner will tell you it’s easy to tell a doe kid from a buck kid. There are several very obvious differences.

Buck kids have scrotums. They are smooth under the tail. They urinate from the middle of their bellies with their legs planted out in a rectangle.

Doe kids have a tiny vulva under their tails. They squat to urinate. They tend to have smaller, more streamlined heads than buck kids.

buck and doe kid

These two Nubian kids are so alike in size. I assumed both were bucks. Wrong. The black one is a buck. The gray one is a doe.

Telling a doe kid from a buck kid is much easier than figuring out whether or not a kid is polled. For that the hair is swirled over the horn buds and smooth over polled. Hair can stick up or otherwise distort this look.

Three does had kids. Agate was first in the morning. Violet was acting like kids all day but had them in the morning. Lydia had hers that evening.

There was enough time to leisurely take care of each kid set. I took a cursory check and decided Agate had two little bucks. She moved into the large pen with Matilda and Rose.

Nubian buck kid

This little kid is definitely a buck. I double checked. High Reaches Agate isn’t concerned about it. She loves her kids.

That was a mistake. Matilda started chasing Agate. Hay was a temporary distraction. The chase resumed.

Matilda and her week old buck moved into the barn. Peace reigned in the kidding pen. The kids piled up in their cubby hole and slept.

Nubian High Reaches Agate with her kids

The problem with an Houdini buck is keeping him away from yearlings. So High Reaches Agate had twins at just over a year old. She had little trouble kidding, but didn’t know what had happened. She stood looking at the kids, then at me, then at the kids. She sniffed them, but didn’t talk to them. Finally one of the kids started talking. Agate is now a devoted mother goat.

Kids have trouble staying warm for the first few days. They can be stepped on. I build cubby holes for them.

A kid cubby hole is a line of bales against an outside wall. Two bales are put in front spaced apart half the length of a bale.

Two bales are piled on top of the wall line behind the space. A bale is placed over the space leaving a cubby hole.

Kids move into the hole. The hay provides insulation. The small space stays warmer than the outer temperature and keeps drafts out. Does can sniff their kids but can’t step on them.

This year I’m short on hay. Two straw bales backed by thick flakes of straw with a two inch thick board over the top did the job.

Nubian doe kid

How could I ever think this lovely kid was a buckling? All I can think is that I was very careless. This is definitely a doeling belonging to High Reaches Agate.

Kids grow fast. They want to jump on things and run. Even a big kid pen is too small in a few days.

I moved the kids out into the barn while the rest of the herd was out to pasture. My barn is set up with kid cubby holes.

A sunny day invited pictures of these last six kids. I moved Agate and her kids out. That’s when I noticed. Agate doesn’t have two buck kids. She has one buck kid and one doe kid. Oops.

This is a buck year for me. There are six buck kids. With the addition of Agate’s doe kid, there are three doe kids.

And I’m reminding myself to be more careful in the future.

Goat kid antics play a part in the madcap adventures in Capri Capers. Check out the sample pages.

Doe Rejecting Her Kid

High Reaches Matilda is a good mother goat. She has raised triplets. This year she is rejecting her kid, the little doe from her twins.

The day started out like any other day. Morning chores went smoothly. The herd was lined up devouring morning hay.

Toward noon I opened the pasture goat. The herd rushed out. Hay is great, but new spring grass is much better.

kid Nubian doe kept

High Reaches Matilda’s little Nubian buckling is her pride and joy. He thinks he’s something important too. This is the kid Matilda decided to keep.

I watched the herd file off toward the north, closed the gate and went back to the barn to let the boys out. Matilda was still in the barn munching on hay.

This goat has been playing the ‘any time’ game for two or three weeks. She is one of the first out the pasture gate. Kids were due today.

Bucks can be nuisances. I let Gaius out and ran him out of the barn. He was upset as he wanted to scrounge for leftover hay. Instead I put a barrier across the door.

rejecting her kid doe

Why would High Reaches Matilda reject this lovely Nubian doe? She is lively, alert, active and pretty. Still, Matilda was very busy with her little buck and didn’t notice this one. When her attention was called to the doe, Matilda seemed to think this wasn’t hers.

Augustus hung over the barrier. Anything new needs investigation. He finally gave up and went out to eat fresh grass.

Matilda hung out in the barn all day. She was in labor. She had feet showing. She wanted to wait for the herd to come back, so she did – almost.

The first kid, a little frosted buck, was born about the time the herd was wandering back from pasture. A barn full of goats is not healthy for a newborn. I picked him up and led Matilda in to the kidding section.

Matilda was going to have a second kid, but I had to put the boys up and let the herd in. I left to do early evening chores. Matilda was happily taking care of her little buck.

When I got back, a second kid was on the straw. Matilda was still taking care of the little buck and ignoring the cries of this second kid.

Nubian doeling

Nubian doe High Reaches Rose is delighted with her little doe. This is Rose’s first kid, but she is a good mother.

Picking this second spotted kid up made Matilda stop to look her over. She gave her a couple of licks and turned back to her little buck. She was rejecting her kid.

Usually a doe rejecting her kid indicates something is wrong with the kid. One first freshner rejected her first kid and was a wonderful mother the second kidding. Why was Matilda rejecting her kid?

As far as I can tell, this kid is fine. She is active. She loves to eat. Evidently Matilda bonded to the first one and didn’t notice she had a second so assumes this one is being foisted off on her.

Whatever the reason, I now have a bottle baby.

Spring Robins Arrive

Robins aren’t really migratory birds. Their populations shift south in the winter and north in the spring. Spring robins move north ahead of the migrants.

My clues for spring are the return of the vultures, the bluebirds and the spring peepers. Robins are usually counted as harbingers of spring, but only fun to watch for me.

These red-breasted birds never used to visit here. Then one or two came by. For several years flocks have moved into the pastures for a few weeks, then moved on. None seem to stay for the summer.

spring robins flock

A flock of robins is fun to watch. Each one stands up so tall. They hop from place to place. The flocks can be a few birds to a dozen or more.

Looking out the kitchen window toward the bird feeder, mourning doves are the common sight most of the time. They line the tree branches shortly after dawn and wait for the tray of seeds to come out.

Since the seeds don’t arrive until after sunrise, the doves become impatient and begin searching the ground for those dropped the day before. The ground seems to move as the birds are so close together.

These birds too were rare the first few years here. A couple of pairs decided to give the place a try. Now I can count an easy eighteen most mornings.

When the spring robins arrive, many of the birds walking across the lawn are not doves, but robins. These are a bit larger, browner and stand more upright.

one of the spring robins

Robins spend a lot of their time on the ground. their feet say they are perching birds.

The pastures too are scenes of moving robins. They search around the clumps of grass looking for unwary bugs. They like to do their searching before the chickens are turned loose.

The spring robins usually show up about the beginning of March. Spring is usually moving in by then, the ground thawing, the bugs emerging.

The birds must be hardy as winter isn’t ready to depart. The first daffodils are blooming so snow is in the offing.

March does mean the cold winter surges are short lived. Spring returns with warmer temperatures luring the creatures and plants to awake for the year.

New Kids Coming

This year’s new kids are due any day. Which day is never certain anymore as Augustus is a master of escape. Maybe I should change his name to Houdini.

Usually the arrival of new kids is anticipated enthusiastically. This year is different. I know I can keep none of the kids, no matter how cute or endearing or special.

Someone else will have those special kids. I get to see them for three months, then say good-bye.

Nubian High Reaches Matilda expecting new kids

Nubian High Reaches Matilda’s kids have settled. Still she is playing the ‘any day’ game making everyone wait to see her kids.

My herd is as big as I can care for now. It’s easier to sell the kids I’ve known for only a short while than does I’ve known for years. The kids will all leave.

Since only Augustus was in on when several of my does were bred, I am left watching and waiting. The does know this and do their best to look like today’s the day for weeks.

Matilda and Agate look like they will be first. Matilda’s kids have settled. She has sunk around her tail bone. Her udder is taking its time filling up.

Agate has discharge from time to time. She has a nice udder.

Nubian High Reaches Violet expecting new kids

Nubian High Reaches Violet is starting to waddle, but is not concerned. Her kids will arrive sometime in March.

Then there is Violet. Her udder is starting to fill out. Her kids haven’t settled yet. Her history is getting both done overnight.

In the meantime, I’ve put the barn in order. There is a large area for the new mothers and their new kids.

Pens are better, but are more difficult to set up. Two of my panels are in use and unavailable. A third could be used, if I have to. That leaves me two.

Agate expecting new kids

Nubian High Reaches Agate is getting ready to kid.

The two can become one pen or the front of a kidding area. The area was picked.

March is a waiting game now. I’m watching Matilda and Agate. However, Violet, Pixie, Lydia and Rose are getting ready too.

New kids are fun. Will they be does or bucks? Will they have spots? Will there be triplets? All of us are waiting to find out.

Learning Botanical Families

Like animals are sorted into animal families, plants are sorted into botanical families. These are based on the flowers.

As I struggle to identify the wildflowers I come across, I’ve tried to learn the different botanical families. A few are fairly easy.

botanical families include Asteraceae

A common Asteraceae flower head has a disk of tiny flowers surrounded by ray flowers that look like petals. Not all Asteraceae flower heads have ray flowers. They all do have the tiny disk flowers.

The Asteraceae includes flowers like daisies, dandelions, sunflowers and pussy toes. All have masses of tiny flowers squashed into a single head on a disk.

The Asclepiadaceae have complex flowers with five petals, five hoods and pollinaria (packets of pollen). Common milkweeds are butterfly weed, swamp milkweed, purple milkweed and green milkweed.

botanical families include Asclepiadaceae like butterfly weed milkweed

Butterfly weed milkweed, like most milkweeds, attracts lots of butterflies, beetles, bees and wasps. The flowers have five backswept petals, five wells of nectar and five horns pointing into the wells. The sizes and colors can vary, but all the flowers have this basic pattern putting them into the same botanical family called Asclepiadaceae.

Other families were more difficult for me to recognize. Then a friend loaned me a book “Botany In a Day” by Thomas J. Elpel that goes through most of the families and explains how the flowers are arranged in each family.

Family by botanical family I am plowing my way through this book. It is easy to read and understand, just filled with information that takes time to absorb.

Then I found Elpel includes edibility and medicinal information for plants within each family. It is mostly the medicinal uses and many are ones I would never want to try after reading the descriptions.

Botanical families found in Botany In a Day

The book “Botany In a Day” includes keys to the various botanical families and pages about each family along with edibility and medicinal information. It’s written for Montana but many families occur in the Ozarks too.

The edibility is what I am interested in. I do pick and eat a number of wild greens. Lamb’s quarters is a favorite. Pokeweed, chicory, plantains and chickweed are other tasty treats.

The problem with these plants is where they grow: disturbed ground such as gardens and roadsides. I need to know about edible ravine plants as the Carduans in The Carduan Chronicles will be sampling and eating some of these.

This book is a step to finding plants for the Carduans. The first step is identifying the plants out in the ravines.

Back to poring over “Botany In a Day” and learning the botanical families. Then I can identify the plants and find which ones are not only edible, but tasty.

Paradoxa Native Plant Walk

Sunday afternoon was a pleasant escape from cleaning up after six inches of rain with the high water that followed. Paradoxa, the Rolla chapter of the Missouri Native Plant Society, held a winter tree identification walk.

Finding trees is easy in the Ozarks. They tend to be big and hard to miss. Over the winter most trees are bare trunks and branches.

For someone like me who depends on leaves and flowers to identify a plant, bare trunks and branches are daunting. Where do you start?

tree barks

Bark helps identify a tree in winter. The Osage orange bark (left) is yellow with long ribbons intertwined. Shagbark hickory (center) has long, thin plates of grey bark. American elm (right) looks like well worn gray pavement.

As the Paradoxa group wandered around looking at the different trees, several important things to look for became obvious. First was bark.

All trees have bark. Take a closer look at the bark. Bark is not usually smooth and featureless. Bark has color, texture and furrow patterns. The combinations help identify the tree.

terminal tree buds

Terminal buds are another help in identifying a tree in winter. Osage orange (left) has small buds on a big bulge. Post oak buds (center) have shingled scales and a gang of buds. Shagbark hickory (right) has a single large bud with two scales, one on each side. This bud is starting to open.

A second characteristic is the terminal buds. When a tree goes dormant in the fall, it makes leaf buds covered by scales on its branches. The one on the tip of a branch or twig is the terminal bud.

Some buds have many small scales giving the bud a shingled look. Others have two scales, one on each side.

Some trees have a single terminal bud. Other trees like to have groups of buds.

Paradoxa plant group

Two retired forest service men led the Paradoxa group on their winter tree identification walk.

The Paradoxa group looked at the bark and buds. Some were easy like the black walnut. Others were hard.

Where do you go for the hard ones?

One place is the winter tree guide published by the Missouri Department of Conservation. The Missouri Trees guide has the bark and buds in it.

Paradoxa group hiking

The Paradoxa group includes people of all ages. Many are Master gardeners or naturalists. All are interested in Missouri native plants.

The more interesting place to go is on a guided walk like the one Paradoxa held on Sunday. Everyone on the walk is interested in Missouri plants. Each person knows a different set of plants.

As we walked along, we made comments about the different trees. Those who recognized the tree helped those who didn’t spot the best ways to identify it in the future.

The Missouri Native Plant Society has chapters like Paradoxa in many parts of Missouri. Anyone interested in Missouri plants will find joining the groups helpful and fun.

Writing Prompts Challenges

The last time I remember working with writing prompts was fourth grade. Mrs. Adams would put a line of pictures along the blackboard. Each student chose one to write a story about.

My books now trace themselves back to an idea about a plot or a character. I don’t think of these as writing prompts, but suppose they are. That is what a prompt is: a topic idea to build a story around.

goat show writing prompts

This is a good writing prompt for me, being at a goat show. Rural topics are a big challenge for city dwellers.

A writing buddy likes writing from these prompts and talked me into trying a weekly prompt. We trade off weeks coming up with an idea.

My writing prompts are usually some happening like picking up a coin. Hers are one word. The latest was Cursed. We tend to drive each other mad as the prompts force us to approach our writing from a new angle, get out of our comfort zones.

writing prompts fawn

Could you use this picture as a writing prompt? This fawn is old enough to start losing its spots and be on its own, but young enough to not race away when come across by a vehicle.

Cursed was such a word for me. I’m not much interested in the horror, occult or similar topics. I like much more practical, everyday topics. What could I do with this one?

The thing about a writing prompt piece is its rough draft quality. Many times the piece is written in a short time with no editing review. I came up with this one:

 

I stand assessing the enemy. I am bigger than the enemy. The enemy has vastly more members. I have weapons to attack my enemies. They have only their roots.

And, in the end, the enemy will win.

I know before beginning, the enemy will win. The enemy always wins this war. Still I get ready and go out to do battle hoping to delay the inevitable.

Smart people are supposed to learn from their mistakes. I fight this battle every year refusing to learn, or accept, my defeat.

Every fall I put up barriers to stop the enemy. Every spring I put up more barriers. The enemy’s numbers are reduced, but the army still comes.

Every spring I plow up the legions of tiny enemies. Every summer I dig and pull hundreds of my enemies. The enemy regroups and launches a new assault.

Why don’t I admit defeat? Why don’t I give up and surrender?

Each winter I consider quitting. I tabulate the costs in time and money. Both are precious commodities.

Spring wafts into view. The land greens. The air lightens. The birds sing. The seed racks and transplants arrive in the stores.

I am doomed, cursed, fated to fight the war another year.

Why? Why can’t I admit defeat? Why can’t I resist spring?

That first sun-ripened, sun-warmed tomato is why.

 

Yes, it is gardening season here. My spinach and turnips are sprouting. Flood cleanup has delayed putting the Buttercrunch lettuce in.

writing prompts floods

Nothing like ending a drought with six inches of rain and a flood. This might make a good writing prompt, but not until cleaning up is a distant memory.

I wanted to see the ravines in flood for the Carduan Chronicles. Wading through the water wasn’t an option.

Botany Season Begins

Officially the season is winter. Officially the pastures are paved with dry, yellow grass and the hills with bare limbs. Botany season has begun anyway.

No wildflowers are blooming yet. Even tiny corn speedwell is waiting this year. There has been warmer weather, but no moisture.

botany season begins with river birch

One of the special sights over the winter is the tree bare of leaves so the trunk and branches show. This river birch has so many fine twigs giving it a brushy look.

Storms are forecast and touted as bringing rain, sleet, snow and mixtures. They track north of the Ozarks. We stay in the severe drought belt.

This week we have hopes. This week the rain, even a scattering of snow has moved through here. There is mud in low places.

Green leaves line the road. Dead nettle and chickweed are shaking off their winter survival settings. Pasture grasses are stirring and sending up a few new green shoots.

botany season willow tree

This willow is a small tree. It’s twigs and buds are yellow and hairless. Which willow is it? There are eight to choose from. I will wait to see flowers and leaves.

This doesn’t sound like good botany season timing. Nothing is blooming. Things are barely growing.

I walked out to look at the willows and plants nearby. River birch catkins are swelling as are black alder catkins. If the weather stays warm enough, the catkins will bloom within two weeks.

The willows are a mixed bag. They are shrubs to small trees that like water such as the nearby cold water spring fen. Each year I go out to try to identify the different ones growing there. Each year they defeat me. I know there are four or five of the eight species found in Dent County growing there.

willow buds

Willow buds are long and narrow, alternate. This willow has hairy twigs and buds in off white. Other buds are red or yellow or brown. Most have no hairs.

This year I am going to identify these willows.

A willow has male plants producing catkins and female plants producing seeds. The plants usually appear similar except for the flowers.

Some willows bloom before leafing out. Other willows bloom as they leaf out. A few bloom after leafing out. All the leaves are similar, long and narrow with a single strong vein down the center.

botany season willow shrubs

These willows are only shrubs. They grow thickly in one area making it look red with their twigs and buds. Which willow are these shrubs? Eight possibilities. I will wait.

The key to identifying these willows is visiting them several times over the spring. I need to see the flowers and the seeds. I need to see the leaves, bark and twigs. Most importantly I need to keep my records of which willow is which straight.

I now have bark, twig and bud pictures of each different willow, I think. Each has its little folder. The first one should bloom about the time the river birch blooms.

My botany season has begun.

Scrounging Winter Pasture

For months the goats were out gorging on grass and browse. Winter pasture has little to offer.

Last year’s wind storm blew down big trees. The goats sampled the leaves. There were too many leaves for the goats to eat all of them. Those remaining are now brown and dry.

Normally the grass is deep in the fall from late rains. The rains did not come. The grass is skimpy.

fallen trees are winter pasture

Trina and Flame are munching on the last of these leaves on a fallen oak. The leaves are a sad reminder of better times for browsing.

Goats used to walking miles every day don’t like being cooped up. They soon pick on each other. Since several are heavy with kids, this is not good.

Winter pasture helps. There may not be much to eat. The goats must go distances to scrounge what there is.

Don’t think the goats wear themselves out. Goats don’t walk as though on a treadmill. They wander to one area, nibble, lie down and relax. Then they get up and repeat the routine in another place.

Nubian doe in winter pasture

Nubian doe Sasha, the oldest doe, relaxes in the remains of the winter pasture.

Over the warm months the goats eat breakfast then line up at the pasture gate. Now the herd lines up in the barn waiting for hay. Only after the hay is eaten, trampled and otherwise disposed of, do the goats entertain the notion of going out to winter pasture.

Nubian kids on winter pasture

The three remaining Nubian doe kids are getting big. They play tagalong after the does on the swings through the winter pasture and the woods.

My routine changes accordingly. I milk, put out hay and go to the house. A couple of hours later I go back to the barn. If the weather is good, I let the goats out. If the weather is bad, more hay goes into the troughs.

The bucks root for good weather. The does and bucks share the barn lot. When the does are in, the bucks are in their pens. When the does go out, the bucks get out into the lot.

Nubian herd on winter pasture

Hope keeps the Nubians herd scrounging through the winter pasture and the woods. Maybe something new has appeared.

The rains seem to be returning. At least, several storms have dropped an inch of water each lately. The temperatures are warm for February. The grass has noticed and is putting up a few pioneer blades.

Perhaps winter pasture will give way to spring pasture in a couple of weeks. The goats would be delighted.