nature, photography, Uncategorized, wildlife

Happy Accident

Pelicans BWMy ag teacher used to tell me to remember the 6 Ps.  As in Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.  I try to reset my camera settings each time I put it away so that it’s ready to go the next time I need it.  I mostly remember.

Today, a flock of pelicans buzzed our house and I ran to get my camera. I was shooting in a high ISO on another project and hadn’t remembered to reset my camera. So the image I got was shot from behind the flock and has a lot of noise.  At first I was disappointed and frustrated that I’d flubbed the pelican capture again, but the more I looked at it, the more I kind of liked it.  I think it gives it some extra grit. Some mystery.  It reminds me of a mystery novel cover.

Sorry, Mr. Berry, but my poor planning worked out okay this time!


food, humor, Uncategorized, writing

TomatOHNO Soup

Tomato SoupI don’t like fresh tomatoes.  My husband doesn’t like fresh tomatoes.  Wyokiddo doesn’t like fresh tomatoes.  We are united as a family in that regard.  But when I saw half a dozen beautiful Roma tomatoes in my food coop pickup, I figured I could do something yummy and healthy.

It was a windy and grey afternoon, so tomato soup sounded like a good idea.  Oddly enough, while we don’t like fresh tomatoes, we all love tomato soup.  We generally eat the canned variety, but I’m always up for a culinary adventure.  I got on Pinterest, researched some recipes and got to work.

The soup looked wonderful.  The slightly orange color was positively beautiful and my kitchen emanated savory aromas from the roasted tomatoes, garlic and onions.  My mouth was literally watering as Wyokiddo and I set the table.  The whole fam eagerly tucked into the dinner table, armed with the grilled cheese sandwiches and spoons.

You know how one bite of a new recipe and you know this will become a stable in your cooking arsenal?  When all the ingredients come together in one perfect, creamy, delectable taste sensation?

This was not that recipe.

I didn’t like it.  My husband thought it was too oniony.  Is that even a word?  Wyokiddo actually gagged when we asked her to try a few additional spoonfuls.

So I’m taking suggestions for new and improved homemade tomato soup recipes.  As for Wyokiddo, she’s asked that I let daddy make the tomato soup from now on. 🙂


agriculture, country life, nature, Uncategorized

Shell Shocked

Egg With No Shell 3.jpg

On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings

Ever since Outdoor Guy brought home an egg with no shell, I’ve been humming the tune of “A Horse With No Name” by America.

For those folks raising poultry, this is nothing new. But have you ever seen an egg without a shell? This was laid by one of the hen pheasants here at the bird farm.  Poultry of all types such as chickens, guineas and quail, will sometimes lay an egg with no shell.

There are several reasons a hen might lay such an egg,  including hot days, insufficient shell-forming material, old-age, insufficient dietary protein, overweight hens or even a hen laying an egg faster than she can shell it.  The breeding pheasants here are young and fed a diet specifically designed to meet the kind and amount of protein required.  They are also provided oyster shell grit to peck and scratch at for additional dietary calcium.  They are far from fat, so that leaves hot weather and stress as the culprits.  I’m guessing hot weather – it spiked up to the 80s here the last few days, which is pretty warm for April in Wyoming.

Last night when Outdoor Guy brought it in to show us, the egg was still full of air and egg-shaped.  As it lay on the counter overnight, air leaked out, giving it this deflated balloon appearance.  And that’s actually what it feels like – a water balloon.  Soft and -mildly squishy with a papery-covering.  When we candled the egg, there was no yolk inside.  So something went goofy with the hen.  But it isn’t something Outdoor Guy is worried about.  Of the more than 30,000 eggs laid at the farm, only three or four of these appear each season.  Whatever hen it was should be back to laying healthy, fertilized eggs in no time.  Life keeps trucking…or rather, clucking right along.

Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la, la la la la, la la la la la




Uncategorized, videos, wildlife

Thirty Seconds of Zen: Starlings Take Flight


I love watching starlings.  This group, known as a mumuration, was swooping and swirling as if a single entity just outside our my backdoor.

A study done by National Council of Research and the University of Rome found starlings model a complex physical phenomenon, known as scale-free correlation.  There’s actually some heavy-duty math underlying the phenomenon, but essentially each bird in the flock responds to changes the others make in direction or speed.  The changes are made nearly simultaneously, and the information moves across the flock so quickly it looks seamless.

I don’t fully understand the science, but I certainly know beauty when it takes flight.


country life, parenting, Uncategorized, writing

The Tough Stuff

Wyokiddo and I were exploring in a nearby tree belt when I heard the scream.  If you’ve ever heard it, it’s not a pleasant sound, or one that you ever forget.  It was a rabbit screaming, and it meant trouble.  My dog had found a bunny hiding under a tree and had it in her mouth, ready to shake it.

“Roxy, NO!” I yelled.  She immediately dropped the bunny, but the damage had been done.  A quick look told me the bunny had a broken hind leg.

We built a yard for our dogs for this very reason.  To keep them safe and keep other animals safe from them.  But I like to let the dogs run around with us when we are playing outside.  I’d kept the dogs away from the areas I knew had rabbit nests, but we’d inadvertently found another.  I scolded the dog, but was really scolding myself for letting it happen.  Damn.

“What happened, Mama?”  Wyokiddo was immediately at my side, crouching in the grass beside me.  “Awwww, a baby bunny.  It’s so little.  Is it hurt?”

Ugh.  Moment of truth with the almost 4-year old.  Should I gloss it over or be honest?  I chose honesty.

“Yes.  Roxy hurt this bunny.  She broke its leg, and there is nothing we can do to help it get better.”

“It won’t get better?”  Wyokiddo asked with big eyes and grave concern in her voice.

And thus began one of those conversations I hate having with my daughter.  We talked about how the bunny was hurt too much to help, and that the kindest thing we could do was to have Daddy euthanize it.  I told her it is our jobs as people to make sure we are responsible enough not to let an animal suffer, even if it makes us sad to kill the animal.  I told her killing the bunny was much kinder than leaving it to slowly starve to death or be found by another predator and suffer more.  So we found a box for the bunny and some shade and texted Daddy for help.

On our way back to the house, Wyokiddo and I talked about what happens to an animal or person when they die.  It is a talk we’ve had entirely too often at our house lately, after my father passed away last fall and we had to have one of our dogs euthanized.

“Is the bunny in heaven, like Papa and Archie?  It went to be with God?” she asked.

“I like to think so, kiddo.”

It would have been so easy to lie to Wyokiddo.  I could have left the bunny under the tree and told her all would be well.  No questions about death or heaven or why dogs kill bunnies.  But that’s not reality.  As much as I want to protect my kid from the ugly side of life, I know she needs to feel sadness.  Loss.  Confusion.

She needs to feel those emotions because they are part of life.  Animals will die.  Girls will be mean to her.  Someone will lie to her or hurt her feelings or try to take advantage of her.  And she will need to know what to do with those big emotions – how to process them, how to deal with them.

Outdoor Guy and I use these moments to teach her how to deal with the tough stuff as a 3-year old so that she has the grit and emotional intelligence to deal with the tougher stuff as a 13 year-old or 39-year old.  We talk about the tough stuff now to build trust and honesty among our family.  We want Wyokiddo to know we will be open and honest with her and that she can ask tough questions.  Yesterday it was a a hurt bunny.  Someday it will be mean girls, cute boys, drugs, school shootings or worse.  So we tell her the truth, in terms she can understand.  Always.

“Is it okay to be a little mad at Roxy because she hurt the bunny?”


“Is it okay to be sad that the bunny died?”


“Is it okay to be excited that Grammie and Papa are coming to visit even though the bunny died?”


“Can I pet the bunny and tell it good bye and that I’m sorry?”

“I think that’s a great idea.”

I wish everything could be lollipops and sunshine in Wyokiddo’s life, but I know it won’t.  My hope is that by dealing with the tough stuff now she’ll be better prepared to chase away the rain and spread her own sunshine in life down the road.




nature, Uncategorized, wildlife, writing

A Wonderful Bird is the Pelican

Pelican Possee

The pelicans rode the thermals, their black-tipped wings spread wide, heads tucked in close to their bodies.  Fifty-two of them in all, swooping and swirling on the unseen breeze.  Their white bodies stood out perfectly against the unbroken expanse of bright blue sky.  Turning, banking, dipping, but never flapping a wing.  The flock was equal parts floating flower petals and f-15 fighter jets flying in formation.  Higher and higher they rose, a seemingly hodgepodge vortex of feathers, until they disappeared from sight.  For fifteen minutes today, Mother Nature treated me to the most beautiful ballet I’ve ever seen.

I spent my time marveling at the show and thinking of my dad.

A wonderful bird is the pelican
His bill can hold more than his belican
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week
But I’m damned if I see how the helican

Anytime the word pelican came up on conversation when I was growing up, my dad would recite the old limerick.  I would giggle at the mental image of the bird with a beak full of groceries and the sheer naughtiness of my dad swearing.

“He would have loved this,” I thought to myself.  And in that moment, I missed him so much it felt as if my heart might split right in two.

I thought about the conversation we would have had, me telling him about this perfect spring day watching pelicans soar and sharing random pelican facts.

“Did you know some pelicans can hold more than 18 gallons of water in the pouch under it’s bill?”  I would have told him.

“The helican!” He would have responded in that big, booming voice of his, and we both would have laughed.

Oh how I wanted to call and tell him about this moment.  About how my sky was filled with the most improbable demonstration of grace and beauty I’ve seen in a while.  Instead, I stood and watched the birds slip out of sight as a tear or two rolled down my cheek.

When I came in the house and checked my photos, I was disappointed to see that they hadn’t turned out.  In my wonder of watching the flock, I flubbed my camera settings and overexposed my images so much, even Photoshop couldn’t save them.  This was the best of the bunch, and it in no way does justice to the beauty of the moment.

But even without the perfect picture, I’ll remember this day I watched a pelican air ballet with a silly limerick in my head and my dad in my heart.

I miss you, Big John.


nature, photography, Uncategorized, wildlife

Cuteness Advisory

Warning!  You are about to experience an overload in complete adorableness in 3…2…1…

Cottontail Bunny 1 CR

This cottontail bunny is probably a month or so old.  It and three siblings were nestled between our bird pens and the barn.  Normally, I find beauty in the unusual.  But cute is cute, and these little bunnies have the cute market cornered!

It is tempting to pick up these little guys for a snuggle or closer inspection.  But, please don’t unless it is ABSOLUTELY necessary for their survival (such as in the path of a mower or in your yard where dogs or cats will easily get them).  These are wild animals and should be left alone to remain wild.  They have usually not been abandoned by their mother or orphaned.  Either mom will return shortly or the babies are old enough to leave the nest.

Attempting to “rescue” these bunnies or other newborn wildlife can be illegal, unnecessary and harmful to you and the animal.  You can stress the animal or pass on disease. The animal can bite and scratch and pass diseases on to you.  Or, worse, you could actually cause the newborn animal to be orphaned by its mother.  Every year, Wyoming Game and Fish wardens and biologists have to euthanize newborns like bunnies, antelope and deer fawns, bobcat kittens, etc., because the public mistakenly believes these young animals have been abandoned. Misguided folks pick up the animals and bring them to the Game and Fish offices to be saved, when in reality, the animals are being placed in serious jeopardy.  Learn, look and leave them alone!

This has been your wildlife public service announcement of the day.  You may now go back to your regularly scheduled web surfing. 🙂


nature, photography, reptiles, Uncategorized, wildlife

Awwwww, Snap!

2aSnapping TurtleMeet our resident common snapping turtle, or as I like to call him, Igor.  Why Igor?  Because his slow, deliberate crawling and massive carapace remind me of those hunchbacked assistants you always see in Gothic films*.  And any creature this cool deserves a better description than “common.”

Igor is a bit of a legend around here. We met him in our first few weeks of life here at the  bird farm.   He has a penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  My husband has relocated him back to his ditch a few times, and once last summer I saw some benevolent motorists rescuing him from the highway.  He’s even been relocated to a pond several miles away on numerous occasions, but he always shows back up here in due time.  The irrigation ditch and pond next to our property must be the turtle equivalent to an oceanfront beach home in the Bahamas.

This is the first time we’ve seen Igor since last fall, so I’m glad to see he’s made it another winter.  In captivity, common snapping turtles can live up to fifty years.  I have no idea how old Igor is, or really if he’s Igor or Igoria.  And I have no plans to try to find out; I enjoy having all my fingers intact.

There are two types of snapping turtles in North America – the common snapping turtle and the alligator snapping turtle.  Common snapping turtles like fresh or brackish water.  with muddy bottoms and lots of vegetation so that they can hide more easily. These turtles spend most of their lives in water, but will venture on land to lay eggs or search for new nesting sites.  They eat plants and animals, and are both scavengers and active hunters.  Snapping turtles will basically eat anything they can fit in their mouth – frogs, fish, birds and mice.  Igor is bigger than a hubcap.  It takes a lot of mice and frogs and bugs to get that large.

If you ever have a need to relocate a snapping turtle, proceed with caution.  They have strong jaws and sharp claws.  Don’t pick them up by the tail and drag them, as that can hurt their tail and scrape up their soft undercarriage.  Grasp the carapace above the back legs.  That will keep you out of reach of the turtle’s jaws and claws.  Or better yet, use a shovel or cover the turtle with a blanket.

I hope this is just one of many Igor sightings Wyokiddo and I get to have for years to come.  He’s an amazing and beautiful creature, if not in a conventional sense.


*An interesting footnote for all you film and literature aficionados…Igor is most often associated with Frankenstein, but that’s a bit of a misnomer.  Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein novel doesn’t have any sort of character, and the 1931 classic film Frankenstein has an assistant named Fritz.  But Fritz just didn’t seem to fit this guy, so Igor it was!