Friday, July 30, 2010

A Good Day

I was going through my July photos and realized I still needed to post the last full day of my brother Ed's visit. When you take a lot of photos, they sometimes overwhelm you. Someday, when they develop a system when you can just think "Delete," and the computer deletes the photos for you, or "Name it this" and the photo is automatically named, or "Crop" and the photo is cropped perfectly, I might not get so far behind.

We got kind of a late start that day, and it wasn't until after lunch that we made it up to the trailhead. Both Desert Boy and Desert Girl fell asleep on the drive, so I told my brother to go ahead and we would meet him later. I enjoyed taking photos of flowers and the time passed quickly. Then they woke up and it was time to hit the trail. It was cool, and I had forgotten to bring a jacket for Desert Boy, so he wore one of my shirts. He thought it was fun wearing mommy's clothing.

Hiking with Desert Boy is a series of distractions. He hikes well if he doesn't think about it. So we are always looking for games, like counting how many dead, hollowed out logs we can find. Or crossing bridges. Or moving wood around. Or looking for insects, especially butterflies, he can chase. Or thinking about the snack that he'll get if he goes to the top of the next hill.

We reached the trail intersection and sat down to have a snack. Shortly Ed came down the trail and met us, and we decided to go a tenth of a mile to a subalpine lake.

Desert Boy was all for that plan, because it meant he could have yet another snack and play the squishing game. The squishing game is a favorite, and Desert Boy is equally happy being the squisher or the squishee. As long as he isn't squished too much.

Soon it was time to go, so they posed for a photo by the nearly full lake (a bit of a surprise for early July--often more has already evaporated) and we headed out.

We were a little late for our next activity, so Desert Boy got to ride on Uncle Ed's shoulders until the end. He thought that was a good way to travel!

Our next activity involved canyoneering with a five-month old. Sounds reasonable, right? Okay, we were actually having a picnic at the reservoir and the steaks were taking forever to cook. So we started on a little hike, which led to this gorge, and we couldn't resist going to the bottom of it to check it out.

Ed passed Desert Girl down to my husband.

Then it was time to find a way down with Desert Boy.

There were little waterfalls and pools of water, just perfect for playing in on a summer evening.

While we were playing, my husband and Desert Girl were taking a little break.

Desert Boy got plenty wet.

Then I ran back to check on the steaks and they were done. Yum.

Emma enjoyed licking one.

It was relaxing, a good way to end the day.

Emma wasn't too sure at first about her uncle holding her. She definitely has the concerned look down pretty well.

But then she decides, I like my uncle holding me.
More steak, please?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Evening in the Swather

Most Sunday evenings we play softball, but one Sunday evening my husband wanted to get some oats and wheat cut so it would be ready the next morning for the crew to chop. I wasn't feeling particularly ambitious, so I thought sitting in the swather (also known as a windrower) would be just fine. Plus I had an ulterior motive--the evening light on the ranch is absolutely beautiful. And sure enough, I couldn't resist snapping a lot of photos. So this post is rather long. Just warning you.

We all loaded up into the swather. Desert Boy sat on Daddy's lap, I sat in the passenger seat, and Desert Girl stayed in her car seat on the floor. We weren't going more than ten miles an hour. I feel like this is where I should say something pithy, like The family that swathes together stays together. Ack, that just sounds dumb. Maybe you can come up with something better. My excuse is that it's pretty early in the morning and my mind isn't fully awake!

I want you to notice the size of the swather. It's huge, it takes up the whole road. Keep this in mind.

We went out past the alfalfa fields, with some good clouds in the background adding a little extra drama to the scene. It's especially nice to have clouds in summer, because they signify a little shade. Considering that we have sunshine about 363 days a year (really, there are usually only one or two days a year that I don't see any blue sky), we appreciate the clouds.

A little bit of the field had already been windrowed and then chopped, the yellow part my husband was walking on. There was still about half a pivot left to go.

Here are two rows done. The swather cuts the oats and wheat, then they need to dry for at least a few hours, then a chopper comes and cuts the grain into about one-inch long segments and blows it into a truck that runs alongside the chopper. The truck delivers the chopped forage to the silage machine (which is not the correct technical term, but it makes sense to me, so I'm going to use it), and that puts it into the long, white silage bags that keep everything nice and moist and keep out the oxygen so it can ferment. Yes, fermentation is part of the process. It's supposed to be, even though it sounds wrong. It helps break down the silage so it's more digestible to the cattle.

The swather is ready to charge the field. You can see that the light is getting better and better.

The textures of the field fascinated me, from the stiff, bristly recently cut grains, to the long stalks now lying on their sides, to the still-standing oats and wheat gently swaying in the breeze.

Here's Desert Girl. She watched for awhile and then fell asleep. The rumble of the swather was good at soothing her.

Desert Boy had fun steering. He said things like, "I'm a big boy. I can drive now."

To my surprise, we saw some sage grouse out in the field, picking up dropped grains in the area that had already been chopped. Sage grouse are getting rarer and rarer (despite that, the state still has hunts for them in some localities, go figure). We don't see them all that often, so it was a real treat.

My husband still wanted to do two more rows, but Desert Boy and I were ready to get out. Admittedly, the swather does get a little boring after awhile. And even though it's a huge machine, it seems small in such a large field.

Virga (rain that doesn't hit the ground) started coming out of the distant clouds, making them look a little more threatening.

Desert Boy went over to inspect the oats and wheat, which were taller than him. We had a little safety talk about never going into a field when a machine is running in it. He listened well and was eager to back away.

Here's a closeup of some of the oats. As the country goes from being more rural to more urban, more and more people forget where their food is coming from. My husband laments this fact a great deal.

The swather was making its way back around the half-pivot in the last rays of the day.

All done for now.

The swather gets to rest. It needed to rest. It was having trouble cutting and running the air conditioning at the same time (which I will now admit is also part of the reason Desert Boy and I wanted to get out--it was getting quite warm in the cab!).

Good night, field.

Good night, deer eating in the field.

And good night, skunks.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mountain Home Range-Part Three

After our fun insect-collecting and relaxing stop, we headed even higher up the mountain range. The road was a faint two-track in pretty good condition.

We saw these neat cliffs behind beautiful lupine, and I couldn't resist stopping. The nieces and nephews were up to the challenge of climbing up the cliffs.

Grace and Alyshia looked for handholds

We made it to the top and the view was great. There's nothing like being up high in the mountains in the cool air and looking at the hot desert floor down below you.

Desert Boy also made the journey up the cliffs. He loves to climb, but flowers can get boring quickly.

When it was time to go down, we found a less steep way, and Kayli joined us. Desert Boy was delighted.

Some parts were steep enough he had to sit down.

And Henry was glad to meet up with us, for he hadn't been able to scale the cliffs.

We heard some noise from the cliffs and found Alyshia and Ruby chunking huge rocks over the edge. They bounced spectacularly.

Then it was time to go to the end of the road. A deer crossed our path. We had noticed much more elk scat than deer, but we didn't see any elk.

Chris walked out to the edge to enjoy the view of the valley on the other side.

Ed enjoyed the company of some old bristlecones.

None of the bristlecones were super old (more than 3,000 years), but there were several that could easily have been more than a thousand years old.

It just boggles my mind thinking about something living that long, and all the different conditions it must have experienced over its lifetime.

The bristlecones were patchy, not a very large grove.

The kids had elected to stay near the vehicles and play in the shade of the bristlecones rather than hike up to the top with the adults. They were quite creative in their games.

Then it was time to head down. We crossed the mountain range and came home via another valley. It was so much hotter down low! So when we got to the lake, we couldn't resist and jumped in, with our clothes on.

It felt great, and we didn't really want to leave, but we still had things to do.

Lola and Caleb had switched vehicles, and both Desert Boy and Desert Girl were delighted to have their cousins nearby.

What else did we have to do on this long day? Why, shuttle tractors, of course! Tom was going to make the most of having a big crew. My brother Ed volunteered to drive one of the tractors.

Tom explained to him how to drive the old tractor. "It has no brakes, so if you need to stop, just shift down."

"The front tire is bad, but I don't think it will blow out."

"You can't really tell what gear you're in, so just try moving it around and you'll eventually get something that works."

Or something to that effect. Ed was grinning, wondering what he had gotten himself into. But he was up for a little adventure, especially one that he would never have back in D.C.

So after a little false start, he got it into some kind of gear and took off down the road.

Meanwhile Chris was showing Grace how to drive another tractor. Grace is learning to drive so was eager to be behind the wheel of some big farm equipment.

And they're off!

Alyshia and Ruby took another tractor, but my camera battery had died so I didn't get any photos of them.

But Ed managed to take a photo as he was driving down the road.

Yeehaw, good times!
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