December 27, 2008

Snow (just a little)

No white Christmas, but we did have some snow yesterday. "Weather" is much anticipated here as clear skies and lots of sun are the norm. The winter storm was announced with lots of fanfare, and I was looking forward to playing out in the snow with Shawna who is really in her element then. It started with rain and lots of wind as is usual here, and we saw some spectacular rainbows off our west side.

It turned to snow in the afternoon and the temperature dropped by the hour, but none of it stuck because it all arrived horizontally. I wonder how much accumulation there is in the Chiricahuas as that's where it was all headed.

This morning it was 19 degrees when I got up, the wind had ceased and the anemometer on the weather station is still frozen, but it has warmed up to 31 by now. The domesticated animals are not used to these temperatures; I wonder if their blood has thinned as ours certainly has. One of the chickens took a header on a patch of ice in their yard, and Bueno was trying to do wheelies in his stall, sliding into the back wall.

It is wonderful to see how different features of our landscape are accentuated when there is a dusting of snow. But I do feel for the birds and the desert animals, in spite of the fact that some jackrabbit has done a number on one of my landscape cacti. I need to throw out some more birdseed.

December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas ...

... to you, from all of us at the Whoadammit Ranch. We are planning a quiet day, grateful for all we have and wishing you as much good fortune and health as we are enjoying.

As you can see in the picture, we have weather moving in; right now it is raining already and snow levels are expected to drop to 4500 feet (that's us!) tomorrow. On Sunday it should be clear again however, and in the 50's. After all, this is Arizona!

December 23, 2008


It is a blustery afternoon and there is not a lot going on, other than baking horse cookies for Christmas, so I thought I would write about Buggsy. 'T was this week three years ago that Buggsy joined our family. He was Dan's wrangler horse at Grapevine Canyon Ranch for about 9 months before the Ranch owner decided to sell him to us.

It is customary for the wranglers to ride and/or train the new horses the Ranch buys, prior to adding them to the string for the guests. Buggsy had been bought from the local Baptist Camp where Buggs had been giving kids rides into the Cochise Stronghold. The horse program there ended, so Buggs came to Grapevine.

There were a lot of trust issues to be resolved. Kids are often not kind to animals, and Buggsy was very afraid. He bonded well with Dan over time, and it was a joy to see them come in after a guest ride: Dan and Buggsy in the lead, the horse obviously proud to be carrying Dan. But time came to give Buggsy to a guest to ride, who was selected by Dan to be a good rider and who would not jerk the horse around.

The guest, the Ranch owner and some other guests took their horses to the Chiricahuas on the other side of our valley for a ride. After the ride the horses were turned loose, thinking that they would stick around munching the nice green grass over there. But something happened and Buggs took off, not to be caught by man or beast, with the saddle on and the guest's rain slicker. Everyone returned to Grapevine when it got too dark to be looking for Buggsy any longer and Dan was informed of what had happened.

After a sleepless night on Dan's part, he and the barn boss drove to the Chiricahuas to try and find the horse. They informed a local rancher and left hay, but no Buggsy. The barn boss then decided to take his RV and camp out and spend his days looking for the horse. Meanwhile, hunters had reported seeing him, with the saddle now on his belly and dragging the slicker, but no one was able to get close. The rancher left his corral open which had a water tank and a trick gate that would close should an animal wander in to drink.

Adam was about to spend his first night when the rancher's daughter caught the horse in the corral, unharmed and apparently no worse for wear. Buggsy returned to Grapevine, but Dan was able to convince management that he would not be a successful guest horse, that he was a "one person horse", and guess who that person might be? So it happened that Buggsy joined us, right before Christmas in 2005.

Buggs had never had friends while he was at Grapevine, but he fell in with Bueno and Cody quite readily. He and Bueno spar playfully, and he and Cody are fast friends who eat from the same lunch hay pile. While Dan still worked at the Ranch, he would take Buggsy with him from time to time and use him as his wrangler horse. Buggsy would return from the ride and then be tethered to the trailer while Dan got ready to go home. Buggs would stand out there looking out over his former colleagues and have the air of: I am a private horse now, and I don't have to deal with you guys any more. He would be delighted to jump in the trailer to go home. Going to work was not such fun though: when he was loaded into the trailer, and still when we load only Buggsy, he would shake so hard, the truck would even move. I think he still fears having to leave us.

We think Buggsy is happy here: happy with his own stall and with kind and consistent treatment from us. In turn, he is a gentleman as a horse. We can put any guest on him and he gives them a quiet and secure ride, but when asked, he can be our Ferrari. It is great fun for us to see him leave his stall after breakfast and run around in the playpen, shaking his head and prancing like the Arabian he is.

December 20, 2008


To me, one of the joys of having animals is caring for them. And I must admit, our "boys" and "girls" have it pretty good. Our dogs are seldom alone, and accompany us everywhere possible if they so wish, our chickens live in the Chicken Taj Mahal (so named by a visitor), and our horses get new shoes every 6 weeks. That is certainly more often than we do: I cannot remember when we have bought new clothes, leave alone shoes. But, the animals are our hobby and that's where our money goes.

One of our riding friends told us this summer about an equine dentist that she was very impressed with and she volunteered to have him come to our neighborhood and look at our horses. Today was that day, and thankfully the weather was its Arizona winter's best. Almost 60 degrees, no wind and lots of sunshine.

I was impressed with the dentist too. His horseside manner was wonderful, and he even got Buggsy, who is very wary of strangers, to melt in his hands. I had no idea how important teeth were to a horse's sense of balance, and how if that balance is not achieved, the horse compensates with his body in sometimes obscure ways.

Our horses were in good shape. Bueno did not need any care at all, but the one needing the most work was the hardest to deal with: Cody. With Cody's "not in my body" attitude when a needle is merely discussed, the dentist was only partially successful in fixing some of his problems. Cody will have to come back in 6 months or so. By then he will have had some time to think about what happened today, as well as be worked on by us, and will be more amenable to having his mouth worked on. I find that when you run into a problem with Cody you just need to give him time to digest.

December 13, 2008

Christmas Cookies

A few weeks back my friend Barbara suggested that we collaborate in baking Christmas cookies. We chose today for the "bake day", and while our men played computer games and "whined" from time to time for samples, we baked our hearts out. We picked all new (to us) recipes, and all have turned out to be winners. Here is part of the action.

And the result.

December 12, 2008

WD Taxi

We caught another wood rat this afternoon. We check both the tack room and the potting bench daily now, and the trap had not been used in more than a week. But this morning there was sign of a rat in the potting bench and I even saw his tail. Dan sat the trap around lunchtime and this afternoon we had already caught him/her.

Nowadays we transport the prisoner to uninhabited, by humans, desert, about 1/2 mile from the WD. Here is our catch, ready to be relocated.

I must admit I feel a bit smug as we seem to have found the perfect bait for the wood rat. In talking with my neighbors, only one of them reads this blog and hopefully she will honor my request, there is a mystery as to what kind of bait to use. I have heard anything from peanut butter to bacon to apple to apricot, but nothing works as well as a mesquite bean. It is so simple! You cannot even poison a wood rat successfully because he does not eat the bait, he just hoards it. I hope word will not get out, because all of aforementioned neighbors kill the wood rat.

Oh, how could you? I mean, is this cute, or what?

Down the road we go.

December 11, 2008


Hawks are a common sight here in the Sulphur Springs Valley and not a day goes by that we don't see one or more species. Lately we have a hawk do a regular fly by of the Whoadammit Bird Buffet, which is served twice daily and is very popular with all the birds and the two kinds of quail we have here: the Gambel and the Scaled quail.

Yesterday on my way to the chicken coop I spooked a hawk out of the garden. He flew away from me, made a sharp turn and sat back on the garden fence. I think I may have disturbed his breakfast. We have a lot of small birds and rodents still eating the seeds of the basil plants. I stood very still and was itching to get to the camera in my pocket but knew that the minute I made a move he would be off. Instead I decided to take a good look at him so that I would be able to identify him. We were so close! We could have shook talons/hands. He was about 12 inches tall, with a speckled white breast and an eye bar over his yellow eye.

I found in the bird book that he was either a young Cooper's Hawk (most likely), or a young Sharp-shinned Hawk. I should have noted the shape of his tail when he flew off, for positive identification. The Cooper's has a rounded tail, the Sharp-shinned a square one. What a thrill to see that bird so close. If only I could have taken a picture....

December 8, 2008

Some Weather

It was only supposed to be a 30% chance of precipitation today, but it is pretty wild out there right now. Always optimistic and used to wet weather, I was determined to go for our daily walk but after I had let out the hens and was in the barn feeding horses, a hail squall pinned Emma and me in the tack room. The noise on that metal roof!

However, determined to finish out my "to do" list this morning, I ventured out after a cup of tea only to be turned back by a huge clap of thunder. I covered the hay pile as the wind is really howling and rain might be blowing into the barn, and headed back to the house. Cleaning the chicken yard will have to wait a day. Even the hens were smart enough to seek refuge into the coop.

Weather is awe inspiring here! With our huge skies and high winds these squalls are amazing to watch as they pass over the valley. I guess it will be a "stay in the nest" day for us.

December 7, 2008

Getting Ready for Christmas

I almost have to force myself to think about Christmas. Aside from the fact that time seems to fly by and I still seem to be in fall mode, the weather does not urge one to belt out Jingle Bells right now. But I refuse to succumb to the ho-humbug, or procrastination, because if you don't celebrate the holidays, what are they for?

We decorated the house and the barn this past week, or at least we hung lights (in t-shirts). Dan also welded a wonderful wreath from used horseshoes, a must here out West in my opinion, which we hung on the big round pen. I still plan to make a wreath for the front door, but because I use fresh materials I want to wait until we are a bit closer to Christmas.

House decorations do go up early here. A couple of our neighbors have a friendly contest of who has their lights up first, and their houses are always lit on the day after Thanksgiving. I do admit that it is very festive and welcoming to look out into our dark night and see their lights.

I went out to take a picture of the horseshoe wreath just after sundown today, and found this beautiful sky outside. The bright colors are part of a rainbow that arched fully over the WD.

And this is our house with its lights.

December 2, 2008

Late Harvest

I really enjoy the fact that the weather knows how to return to "normal" here after a storm. We can have some rainy and windy days, but it only lasts a short while and then it is gorgeous again. It makes you appreciate and enjoy those "off" days, knowing that the sun will be returning shortly. The soil is still moist from the Thanksgiving storm, but we are having a beautiful day today with temperatures in the low 70's.

Dan mentioned that unless I provided more tomatoes, our standard lunch sandwich of homemade bread, cheese and tomato would come to an end, so I went to investigate our tomato situation. We had some frost last night, and the tomato plants are certainly on their last legs/stems. I did manage to pluck some tomatoes, but I think this will be the final harvest. I am reluctant to pull up the plants because there are still plenty that feed the birds. I saw the curvebill thrasher, who hardly stepped aside while I was in the garden, and there is a family of sparrows that seem to spend their entire day there, feasting on the leftovers. Then there are the quail who go by the garden on their way home, after having been fed seed in the back yard, for a green snack. Perhaps they call that dessert.

The remaining tomatoes will also be fed to our chickens who also think they are a delicacy: they come running to the fence when they see me coming from the garden.

Birthday Girl

It is Emma's birthday today, her first. She is a special dog, as all our dogs seem to be. Emma, however, is very affectionate, as well as smart. For some reason her puppy hood seemed very short, perhaps because she has always been such an easy and sweet dog. She wants to meet everybody and lets you know by an enthusiastic wagging of her tail. She is careful around older or infirm people, and did not react at all when once a cane was inadvertently put on her tail.

Being a Labrador, or should I say Lappador (even at 60 or so pounds), food is very important, and we have gone to a "slow down" food bowl to have her take 15 seconds to finish her meal, rather than 5. She is also my sous-chef, helping out by putting her front paws on my feet when I am preparing anything edible, and faithfully follows me from stove, to sink, to counter. She has yet to turn something down when offered, but one of her favorite snacks outside is rabbit raisins, although she does not pull up her nose at horse poop, or horse food in the form of alfalfa pellets.

Em is good friends with Shawna, and we go through daily rounds of tail biting, head locks, and butt swings. What Emma lacks in strength and weight she makes up for in agility. I relish every morning when I take these dogs for a walk: Shawna investigating something in the bushes, and Emma racing past me with her ears aflapping. May she have many more birthdays with us.

November 30, 2008

First Snow!

No, not here at the WD, not even on Mt Glenn (7519 ft) in our "front yard", but on Mt. Graham (10,720 ft) in the Pinalenos to the north of us. We had a storm on Thanksgiving Eve and Day that brought more than 0.5" of rain (yeah!) to our place, but looking out over the horse playpen this morning there was snow in the distant mountains!

I took the picture with the greatest zoom option available so I could show it off. Here is what it really looks like from the horse barn.

This does mean that the trips to Riggs Lake, my favorite picnic spot, are over for the year as they close the road once it snows. We will have to go to the Chiricahua National Monument (in the mountains east of us) for a snow picnic as it will remain open year round. I do love picnics! Even in the snow.

November 29, 2008

Sandhill Cranes

Every year our Sulphur Springs Valley hosts large flocks of Sandhill Cranes in the winter. This past winter there were more than 36,000 of them! During the day the cranes pick over the now harvested corn fields and then either spend their leisure or night time at the Willcox Playa, which is a large dry lake northeast of the WD Ranch, or at the Whitewater Draw, about an hour south of us.

The valley is very popular with birdwatchers because we have a lot of other overwintering birds as well, among them the various kinds of hawks, and in the Chiricahua Mountains (the eastern border of the valley) are some rare birds such as the Elegant Trogon that people travel far and wide for to see.

On this holiday weekend we took our visiting friends to Whitewater Draw to view the cranes, and have a picnic. The Thanksgiving storm is now completely gone and the weather was clear and warm. Some cranes, and Snow Geese among them, had already arrived although it is still early in the season, and we also saw a Black Phoebe and Vermilion Flycatcher.

November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving ...

... to you, reading this blog. We celebrated with friends, and contemplated on how much we have to be thankful for. And we ate, a lot. The weather was blustery, but it made it a perfect day to hang around the kitchen, smell those wonderful smells, eat at leisure, and watch some really bad football games. These pictures should sum it up.

November 24, 2008

Kid Cody

I usually write about the "wild" animals around the WD Ranch, but today I want to feature one of our horses, Kid Cody, or Cody for short. He is the one I have ridden most frequently this year, and he and I are becoming a good team.

Cody is our youngest, tallest, and darkest horse. He was born in Oregon in the barn where we boarded Bueno, and where we were taking riding lessons. His mom was Dan's lesson horse, so we joke that Dan was already given cues to him before he was born. Cody is playful, and still looks like a colt although he is 8 years old now, but his best attribute is his temperament. He is laid back to the point of being lazy, always good humoured and very sociable. There is not a horse that goes by, or a horse trailer on the road that does not get greeted with a whinny. He gets along with any horse, never challenging the pecking order. He would just as soon get along with everybody, animal or human. He always touches noses with the dogs when they come to the arena fence, and he always comes to the gate when we are in the vicinity.

There are some things we do need to work on however. He is not the easiest horse to load into a trailer after the wind slammed the door shut on him once when he was about to be led out, and he does like to have "fun". He may be a bit lazy, but he does have moves. I have seen his hooves well above his head when he plays out with Buggsy and Bueno in the arena. This is spectacular to watch, but not so spectacular when you are on his back. Recently we trotted back to the barn after Bueno and Dan, and Cody decided that this was just jolly; he lowered his head and started bucking. Thankfully he did listen to me and came to his senses, but I think we have some loping exercises in the round pen in our future. That is what I like about having horses: there is always something to work and improve on.

November 21, 2008

Warm and cozy

Remember the eviction notice I posted for the wood rat who had made his home on the counter of the adobe oven? Well, he either cannot read, or he is thumbing his nose at us because he is still there. Seriously, I had thought he would be gone by now because we have had a couple of days with winds in excess of 40 mph, and the cover under which he is camped, and which protects the oven from erosion by possible rain, had been flapping to beat the band. Nobody could have put up with that for more than a day. Well, the wood rat did!

However, we have entered a symbiotic relationship of sorts. We are still finding wood rats around the place and continue to live trap them (and marking them to check for repeat offenders). The only bait we have found to be reliable are mesquite beans, but on the bushes the beans are all gone: eaten up by the various desert creatures, including coyotes. Our little "oven rat" has an impressive stash in front of his little cozy nest. So, now when we need some beans, we gently lift the cover, excuse ourselves, and take some of his supplies. He has not come for us yet, so he must be willing to pay his rent.

November 19, 2008

Arizona Autumn

It is difficult to believe that it will be Thanksgiving next week! Aside from the fact that time runs through my hands like water no matter how hard I try to hang on to it, it doesn't feel like the latter half of November. True, the tomatoes in the garden have just about had it, but we still have leaves on the trees! We have had a little frost and some high winds, but even the mesquites are still green. This morning a butterfly fluttered by, and a couple of hummingbirds continue to visit the feeder every day.

There a definite signs of fall though: the days are considerably shorter, especially in the evening when the sun now sets behind Mt Graham at 4:30. And because we live on its bajada, we are in shade while the rest of the valley is still basking in sunlight. Shorter days also means fewer eggs from our hens: we are currently averaging 8 a day as opposed to a dozen in the summer. I have started to stockpile eggs because we are having house guests for Thanksgiving, and I will be cooking breakfast for 6 for a couple of days. I am looking forward to it!

November 18, 2008


I come across a lot of interesting foot prints on my morning walk. It's all dirt road for 1 1/4 mile to get to our house, and the "roads" to access other properties around are all dirt tracks. The first part of the walk is a bit boring because it is along the road, but most of it is either just track or trail.

I am the only one that walks there it seems, but there are lots of animals that leave their marks. Horses for one, and sometimes I can judge which of my neighbors has been riding (Cheerio has large feet, being part draft horse). The other day somebody ponied a foal: small hooves and no shoes. But mostly it is tiny feet: cotton tail and jack rabbits, kangaroo rats (who also leave tail marks), javelina (sometimes with babies). I can't tell coyote from dog prints and of course there are lots of those with Emma and Shawna accompanying me every day.

Yesterday I found a track that I have not seen before, and I have not been able to identify it either. It looked like a raccoon to me, but we don't have those here. Perhaps it is a badger? I must admit, I would not know one if I came across it.

November 17, 2008

Out the back gate

We are truly living a dream. How many people are in the position, like we are, to walk out the door on any Monday morning, like today, in sunny weather, saddle up two of our good and reliable horses, and ride out our back gate to go exploring in the Coronado National Forest?

We dreamt it, but I for one did not believe it would truly ever happen. What have we done to deserve this? I can only think of one price I have paid for this privilege: I have gotten old. Old looking I guess I should say, because I feel as I did in my 30's. What has happened to that face in the mirror? Too much sun exposure without sunscreen is the answer, but I grew up where too much sun was not an issue, and if I ever did get the opportunity to soak it up, by golly, I did! I guess I should look at those wrinkles as the fabulous vacation memories of my young years.

Our rides are generally not eventful, just relaxing, and we try to make them fun for the horses as well as ourselves. We do not have any pasture at the WD, so we give our boys plenty of opportunity to graze at good looking grassy spots along our way. It relaxes them, lets them be a horse, and gives us a chance to look at the spectacular scenery. We are generally just gone for a couple of hours, a couple of times a week. It does not get any better than this!

November 11, 2008


We are still live-catching the occasional pack rat, but the marking experiment with the nail polish was only partly successful: pack rats don't sit still for the procedure. Nonetheless, we have yet to find a repeat offender.

Unfortunately, we are catching other critters in the live trap, mostly in the potting bench. Granted, it is a wonderful potting bench; the potting bench to end all potting benches and a standard by which any potting bench should be measured. It houses all the garden tools, pots, anything one needs to keep a garden and landscape in tiptop shape. It is, however, not the most secure of places: the pack rats love all those nooks and crannies, and I have found a bird in there from time to time.

Yesterday there were pots toppled over again, and some clothes pins had been strategically placed on the floor as a nest foundation, so Dan set the trap around lunchtime. When he came out a few hours later, Emma was keen to investigate some rustling in the potting bench and lo and behold, a Canyon Towhee had found its way into the trap! Dan said that when he released it, it flew off with an offended "tweet". Then again, maybe it was "thanks".

So, to prevent a repeat performance, we left the potting bench door just ajar. Even if a bird got in through a crack in the roof, it would be able to get out. This morning I checked the trap, and it was sprung, but when I lifted it to the bench it was awfully heavy. A rabbit had gotten trapped, and it was none too happy about being in such a confined space!

Of course we let her go immediately, after taking a picture, and she sped away behind the shop/shed and hid in one of the left-over downspouts. The dogs were inside when she was released but it took them no time at all to find her, safely in the middle of the tube. I wonder if she is the same bunny that the coyotes tried to get out a few weeks ago. See here: wild night

The dogs were called off and I gave the bunny lots of time to find its proper burrow.