Monday, October 31, 2011

Horses Have to Eat Too, Right?

All my horses tend to be chow hounds. In late spring and summer they live strictly off pasture and a daily treat of fruit or carrots. In fall and winter, I supplement with grain in differing proportions depending on how much green grass and hay is available. The grain ration is never enough for my guys.
And that can be a problem, both physically and behaviorally.

Cody puts on weight easily. Already this fall he's a fat little butterball, which is a problem because miniatures are especially prone to diabetes. Yet he's only getting a bit of grain right now to counter the pasture they're on where the drought's sucked much of the nutrition right out of the dead grass.

Cody pretending to be slim - he was too vain to have a new picture taken.
When I'm distributing their grain, Bonita follows me from feed bowl to feed bowl, trying to snatch a mouthfull from each. Because she's the baby of the herd at just a year old, I put feed in her bowl last. Eventually she'll learn patience. Her mother, Bella, did.

Bonita checking out the "treat wagon"
After being Hah!'ed at enough and told "Not your bowl!" a hundred times, Bella figured out it takes me as long to put grain in everyone's bowls as it does for her to walk once slowly around the outside of the barn. She learned to self-regulate! So now I don't dawdle when I feed because I want to be sure there's food in her bowl by the time she comes back in.

Bella had colic recently and I stayed up with her during the night walking her a bit and rubbing her tummy and generally worrying over her. A fair percentage of horses die each year from severe cases of colic, so it always requires a sharp eye to be sure it's not developing beyond a simple, mild case. Luckily, Bella responded well to pain meds and being fussed over. It took her a couple of days to come back 100% but once the crisis point was past, I was grateful.

Bella, feeling much better thank you.
So much to worry about with the horses seems to be over what they're eating or how they're eating it. May I just ask how horses survive and thrive in the wild? Do we over-coddle?

Of course, my little beasties love to be coddled.

Speaking of which, Ricky showed up Saturday morning with this mysterious coiffure.

Reminds me of those mysterious crop circles that appear overnight.
Hmmm... isn't it Queen Mab of the Faeries who comes in the night to braid horses' manes? Or perhaps it's the little girl who lives on the other side of the pasture.


No guest post for Wednesday, but I do have a story about a very naughty lizard. Plus, I've got a meme in my back pocket that I haven't forgotten about...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It’s a God-Thing: Part Two – Lady

Today’s guest post is from V.K. Whetham.

Lady (R) with Rocky (L)
Recently I was sobbing. 
Now, I must insist to make it known that I am not prone to fits of sorrow, frustration or anger. My father, who has never been one to give compliments, has given me exactly three that I can remember. Since this is the year where I will reach the exact middle of my life expectancy – if those “How Long Will You Live” calculators have any accuracy at all – and because I see my father as a very wise man, these compliments have meant more to me than just about anything else in the world.
I say this with no negative feelings or sarcasm.
What he said was, “I’ve always seen you as the most positive of people.”
This was in response to the first sentence and the second.
I was sobbing because I am a mother of a teenager. Being mother to a teenager is the scariest, loneliest, least fulfilling and most agonizing state of existence. It is all part of a great plan where we will give up our children to their futures, willingly. In fact, many of us will not only voluntarily show them the door, some of us will pack their bags for them and set said bags on the porch. Attached to one bag may be a bus ticket. Nothing else.
I wasn’t left to cry alone. Lady, my 10-year-old Mastiff, climbed onto the couch next to me, arthritic hips crackling, and then set her head on my hip. She then gently, quietly began to moan. This is Lady’s way of communicating. She moans from the couch so I’ll bring her treats from the kitchen. She moans at her water dish when it is empty. She moans when she itches and she moans quite loudly when she is outside in the rain and would prefer to be inside. She doesn’t know English but she does know the universal language of moaning.
“Patience,” I read in her big brown eyes.
“But –” I blubbered.
“Patience,” Lady moaned.
I petted her. She moaned slightly louder, then laid a big paw on my thigh.
Now I will tell you the secret of an optimistic life. First, be born into a family that loves you. Second, be born into a slightly dysfunctional family. Third, succeed. Fourth, join a profession where you have the opportunity to serve others. Then you will know how grateful to be. 
I looked down at my beautiful Lady – and I no longer felt like crying.
I adopted Lady from the Humane Society. I hadn’t planned to do it. It was an accident. 
I had just purchased a home and it wasn’t even a home that I really wanted. But it had “potential.” I fall in love with anything that has “potential.” Ask any of my exes. They all had potential.
Point of truth: Don’t date anyone with “potential.” Date someone who has lived up to their potential.  

Anyway, my new home had potential, which meant what it really had was a backyard, if one defines backyard as being LARGE: a 7000 square foot lot with weeds, a canoe with a hole in its bottom and a white wooden fence in need of repair. It is exactly 7 times bigger than my house. I didn’t see the weeds, the fence or the canoe. I saw gardens, grass, fountains and birdbaths. I smelled fertilizer and the acrid scent of herbicide. And I saw a dog. Maybe two.   
I was surfing “how to” gardening websites and ordering bulbs for spring planting (I purchased my home in August) with my computer resting on boxes to be unpacked. I was in seventh heaven. I had outlined ideas how I was going to landscape my new backyard before I set up my bedroom. So it was only natural for me to visit the Human Society to look at dogs. Not to adopt, but to plan.  
That’s when I saw Lady, a beautiful, red-brindle Mastiff-cross. I read her biography. She was 4-6 years old and had been at the Human Society for 3 years after being taken from an abusive owner. Apparently, they thought she was part pit bull and hoped she would be a good guard dog. They tried to make it so by being mean and abusive. Since Lady doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, it didn’t work. Lady licks, eats and guards the couch or bed, depending if it is day or night. She also moans. But she is not mean. She would only defend herself from an extreme situation.
So there she was waiting in the Big Dog Pen with other Big Dogs that were not very nice to her. They bullied her even though she was the largest, weighing in at 109 lbs. But she patiently waited, licking visitors with her tongue year after year after year. Three years is a long time to be waiting for a forever home, especially when you’re a dog whose life expectancy is 10. That’s 25 years in human time. Twenty-five years is a long time to be locked up. Murderers in this country get less time with good behavior.
I decided she’d done her time, and within 10 minutes after meeting her I was writing a $35 check and loading her up in my car. Best $35 I have ever spent. I should have paid them more.
Lady spent the first 3 months living by choice in an 8X10 room with the washer and dryer. She came out for bathroom breaks and food. She growled when anyone approached her but would let us pet her. I just figured that if this was the best she would ever be, then so be it. At least she wasn’t waiting anymore. I promised her that whatever life she had left would not be spent locked up with a bunch of bullies because someone had criminally harmed her. We punish our victims too often in this country. 
I needn’t have worried. Eventually Lady found my bedroom with the big queen-size bed. It was dark in the back room and much quieter than living with the washer and dryer. Once she found the bed it was good-bye utility room. This meant she had to sleep with me where she learned to moan to be petted. It was also where I discovered she snores quite well – but I think she already knew how to do that. 
Then she found the couch. Lady will tolerate almost anything and anyone as long as she is on the couch or the bed. She will guard her bed or her couch.
She does hide in the utility room, underneath a folding table, when she hears thunder and fireworks. Fireworks should be banned and those that use them inside city limits should be sentenced to spending their next 4th of July at the Humane Society. In the Big Dog Pen.
After I started fostering dogs from the Wyo Herd Rescue, also an accident (all the best things in my life have come to me unexpectedly), I discovered that Lady is a therapy dogs for other dogs.  She has been my best companion and my strongest aid in fostering other dogs. If a dog, male or female, is overly aggressive or domineering, Lady gives them “the eye.” It’s not pretty. If the dog continues, she pins the wayward soul down while barking and growling in the offender’s face. She eventually lets the dog up, tail between their legs and without a scratch. A third warning has never been necessary.
Timid, shy and injured dogs are allowed to lie next to her. Her soft moans and body heat gives them comfort. She lets the puppies sit and bounce on her. She licks the wounds of the injured, cleans the dirty and defends the weak with that “eye” and sometimes a sterner warning. If the dogs play too rough, inside or out, she growls, also in warning. Rough play ends immediately. Children running through the house also get “the eye” and then a warning. They stop in their tracks as well.
Otherwise, children love her. They offer her a treat and she thanks them with a large, wet lick that makes them giggle. She’ll clean their faces as well. She is the perfect mom, the perfect therapist.
But it wasn’t any of these things that stilled my tears. It was one thought, “How Big is God?”
God is Big Enough to move my heart to accidentally adopt this beautiful dog. He is Big Enough to keep a gentle giant patiently waiting for her forever home, knowing she would be needed for the dozens and dozens of dogs that would follow her. He is Big Enough to remind a grieving mother that Lady was not alone nor forgotten, and neither am I. He is Big Enough to remind me that if Lady had patience for 3 years, who am I not to?
What did I hear when Lady moaned on my lap? Not pity but “Patience, He is Big Enough.”
What is the fifth element to living an optimistic life? Faith. It is remembering that God has his eye on the sparrow. Does he care less about his children or love them less?
He has a plan. It is for good and not for evil. Eight years ago when Lady entered a shelter, beaten and abused, he said to her, “I have a plan. Patience.”
Lady laid her paw on my leg and I heard, “Patience. He is here.”
Next time V.K. visits: Even cats find their way home. 
Adopt one, until there are none.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Flora and Fauna

Despite the summer drought, a few native plants and animals seem to be abundant this fall. Where there was a drastic decrease in the number of hummingbirds and dragonflies, there was a marked increase in the number of rabbits and, surprisingly, bumblebees. I missed seeing some of the rarer birds, such as the painted buntings, from seasons past, but I saw -- and heard -- far more owls.

Painted bunting photo taken last year
Rainfall appears to be on the increase now and, coupled with an extra-long Indian summer and mild October, we at last have new, tender grass popping up. We did flirt briefly with one overnight temp near freezing, but today we'll be close to 90 degrees (32C), with cooling but still mild temps forecast for the next week or so. As long as the new growth has time to establish so it's ready to come back strong in the spring, I'll be happy.

Here's a guy I rarely see in the flesh, although I often, literally, stumble across the snout holes they leave where they dig up tasty bugs. I've also found a couple of armadillo dens under the trees.

Another coyote wandering through as seen from my office window. What do YOU see from YOUR office window, hmm?

Buffalo Bur (aka Solanum rostratum) has a lovely flower but large burs and spinehairs on its stem make it particularly noxious. It didn't seem to mind the drought at all.
I think this is frostweed. Large and showy when there's a lot of it clumped together. Kind of sad-looking when there's just a few stray branches here and there.

Goldenrod. If you look at it as a weed, you won't like it because it's hard to kill out.

This is a beautiful stand of huge old oaks. Those are carports under the trees. I would love there to be more oaks on the property than there are but am happy with the few specimens that lend their grace about the place.

Can you spot the cat in the dying boxwood hedge? Poor Magic isn't usually so exposed in his hidey hole.

This is Cody popping in to say Hi!

The herd hanging around my detached garage. Note the empty hanging baskets where flowers usually grow. Oh, and that "window" is just a bit of screen surrounded by shutters and a couple of non-working lights to give that long white expanse a more homey feel.
Ricky, sporting some serious rocker bangs.
Ginger (l) and Loki (r) acting nice and happy right before launching into ...
Killer Death Match 5000.
They really do love each other.

And, as my 'dillo friend is clearly saying, I believe we're done here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

You Gotta Have Faith

This week's guest post is by Landra Graf.

When you work in rescue you realize that you can’t save every animal that crosses your path. If you could save every single one, then there would eventually be no reason for shelters and pounds to exist. But every once in a while you come across a sweetheart with a story so profound that you can’t turn your back on them – even when the odds are against you and the animal.
For Pawsibilities, Faith, our resident pittie is that animal. She was brought in to the Windsor Pound after she was found emaciated and running loose at a local gas station. For those who are not aware, emaciated is just another word for a malnourished, starved dog. Faith had just delivered a litter of pups, but the pups were never found. To make matters worse she was passing balloons and trash in her stool, and it was several days for all the mess in her system to clear.
This is Faith in her emaciated state.
With a little help from Colorado Animal Rescue Express, who contributed a high-calorie dog food, we were able to nurse Faith back to health while she was in the pound. At the time there wasn’t a single open spot in our rescue, but regardless we wanted to help. Faith turned around nicely, but 2 enemies were lurking in the background, neither of which we could fight while she was still being held in the pound.
Happy Tail Syndrome
The first one was Happy Tail Syndrome, which is when a dog’s tail is traumatized then keeps breaking open because they’re smacking it against a kennel, simply by wagging away. This tends to happen to a lot of dogs in the pound, but especially pit bulls.
The second enemy was a relative of a breeder actively attempting to adopt Faith for breeding purposes. While our rescue understands that breeding is not illegal, Faith, in our opinion, wasn’t fit enough to return to a breeding lifestyle. This poor girl was lucky to survive her pre-pound life without suffering from anxieties or additional health issues. Also, without a detailed vet visit there was no way to tell if Faith suffered from any disorders or other potential problems. With much discussion between our rescue and others we were able to successfully pull Faith from the pound, get her spayed, her tail docked, and board her until we could find a suitable adopter or rescue.
One of our rescue directors spends at least 4 days a week with Faith and since her original arrival Faith has made leaps and bounds towards recovery. She loves car rides, knows basic commands like ‘sit’ and ‘enter’, does extremely well with children, and has excellent leash skills. Her favorite thing to do is allow our rescue director’s son to pet her while she lies in his lap.  
We continue to search for Faith’s forever home, hoping there will come a day soon when this pittie can find a family that will love and care for her. If this girl’s journey has taught us anything it’s that you gotta have faith that things will work out, that you can make a difference, and that sometimes you’ll succeed.
For those interested in learning more about, fostering, or adopting Faith email
Pawsibilities…Are Endless is a tiny rescue located in Central-West Missouri not far from Warrensburg, Sedalia and Whiteman AFB. We specialize in helping animals in need find their forever homes. To assist in these efforts, not only do we provide local adoptions, but we work with other rescues to find homes for our furry packages across the United States. In Pawsibilities' mind, nothing compares to helping an animal find their happy-ever-after.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rocky the Comeback Kid: It’s a God-Thing

This is a guest post by V.K. Whetham.
I remember the first day I met the small border collie like it was yesterday; some images just stick in your mind.  I picked him up from an animal shelter in a small, very rural town.  The entire shelter has ten kennels – and one of the runs is used as storage.
This little border collie was found by a sheriff’s deputy who undoubtedly saved him from death. The deputy had seen him several times on his patrols, clearly abandoned and becoming thinner by the day. Haunted by these sightings, the deputy searched for him on his day off.  After hours, he finally found the little guy and was able to coax him into a crate with pleas and food.    
The border collie was so thin every rib was visible. Dirty and shaved, he was every bit the picture of an orphaned waif. He was also terrified. It was quickly determined he wasn’t adoptable “as is,” and a search for a rescue began immediately. That’s how WyoHerd rescue and I got involved.
We have no idea how this little dog ended up all alone in rural Wyoming – far from any home, town or farm.  We don’t know why someone shaved him.  We don’t know if he fell off a truck or if he was a dump job.  Many people do dump dogs in rural areas knowing that some kind farmer will find their dog and give him/her a home.  People believe these dogs are better off dumped in the middle of nowhere than in a shelter where they could be euthanized.
People are mistaken. Dumped dogs more often than not end up dead from being hit by cars, starvation and disease. They are easy prey for predators. Sometimes they turn to hunting small farm animals or robbing rubbish bins to survive, and farmers shoot them.  Farmers don’t want strays mingling with their dogs because strays often carry disease and parasites, nor do they want their pets threatened or attacked by strays.   
We also didn’t know what this little dog’s name was – no tags, just a collar. I knelt down next to him and petted him. I whispered in his ear, “I’m naming you Rocky.  You’re going to be a great comeback story, just like that boxer Balboa.” Rocky peed on my sandals.
It took a few days to coax Rocky out of the crate and even more time before he didn’t run and hide when the doorbell rang. Rocky was fairly easy to housebreak, but marking was another problem.  He was only about a year old but had already started marking everything in sight – and when I say everything, I mean everything.  Once this behavior starts, it’s very hard to extinguish. 
Rocky had some things going for him that other rescues often don’t. He is a beautiful dog with remarkable markings. He is also an unusual color for a border collie – reddish/brown and white rather than black and white. At the time he was very young and small. He looks purebred, just smaller than most border collies. He was also in good health.
I didn’t have Rocky for very long when a couple called from out of state to adopt him. I talked to them twice on the phone, but I had some doubts. I told my rescue coordinator that I wasn’t sure about them. They claimed they wanted a “special needs” dog.  They said they were experienced with dogs and could tolerate the marking problem. Still, Rocky had a lot of needs; I was confident he would be a great dog but he his rehabilitation was going to take some time.  I wasn’t sure he was “ready.” They said they understood. They could handle it. And Rocky was adopted within two months.
This was in September, and by November a relationship I had been in for three years crumbled around me rather unexpectedly – well, unexpectedly for me anyway. It was a crushing blow. I was humiliated and horrified. The details are brutal. I ended up homeless, living with friends for a month until I could move back into my home I had rented out. I was paralyzed with grief for months.
In December, I received an email from the rescue coordinator. Rocky’s adopted family no longer wanted him. Turned out the marking behavior was more than they could handle, he began attacking their small poodle out of jealousy, he wasn’t very obedient, and the husband didn’t have the time to spend with him.  He was needy and demanded constant affection. Would I take Rocky until another home could be found for him? I emailed her back without hesitation. Rocky had a home; he just had to come home.  
So Rocky came home. He walked into the house without hesitation and folded himself into my arms. He hadn’t forgotten me either. My Mastiff, Lady, all 109 lbs. of her, jumped – okay stepped – from the couch onto the coffee table to get a better look at him, tail wagging, protruding butt wiggling. My Aussie sniffed him, snorted and, in her usual princess-like attitude, began to walk away. She didn’t get out of the living room before turning back. She licked his face. Even my princess, snobbish and particular about who she greets, couldn’t resist him. We were so happy; Rocky had come home. He really was the comeback kid!
Rocky didn’t demonstrate any of the problems he had at his first adopted home except for the marking, which has improved with time. He can be needy and demanding of affection, but with time and obedience this too has lessened. He still will occasionally mark when he’s upset or anxious.
Sometimes when people adopt special needs dogs they treat them like fragile figurines and don’t provide correction and obedience training. The problem with this is that dogs are pack animals and if guidance and corrections are not provided to anxious dogs, they become more anxious. They know they can’t be the leader of the pack and if their humans don’t provide the leadership, they become frightened, desperate and sometimes a bit bratty. 
Love, food, water and medical care are the bare minimums. Obedience, time and guidance allow dogs to feel safe.  It works the same for children.
Border collies are notoriously smart, and Rocky is no different. As I turn off the lights for bed, he rushes to the bedroom and curls up on the pillow next to mine. That’s his spot and no one is going to get it.  Also, he never lets me go to sleep without touching me. Sometimes it’s a paw on my shoulder or a tail across my legs, but always he is there. Remember Nick? Rocky became a bit jealous when Nick began to sit on the couch to be petted, so he would run to Nick’s bed and sit on it – staring at him. This made Nick nervous and Nick would go back to his bed so Rocky could have his spot back. This doesn’t work anymore because Nick doesn’t care if Rocky has his bed as long as he is sitting next to me, so Rocky lays on him now to get him to move.
Also like most Herd dogs, Rocky always has his eyes on me. He’s never underfoot but always near. He’s not a brave dog, so I suspect his plan is if danger approaches me, he’ll be there to show me a way to escape. Lady’s our muscle, and, at 109 lbs., she doesn’t run very fast – or ever. Rocky would probably convince her to guard our backs.     
Rocky’s return was salve to my open wounds. I realized when he returned things were going to get better, happiness would return and this too would pass. He offered renewed hope and optimism.   
I also saw it as a “God-Thing.” Some people say they don’t believe in God because they can’t see him. It’s hard to find something if you’re not looking for it. I don’t believe in coincidence. I don’t believe that Rocky came home by accident. I don’t believe he was found accidentally by a sheriff’s deputy or that he came home exactly when I was able to provide him with the care he needed. 
I believe something more was involved, something bigger. I believe he was a part of a bigger plan that was executed exactly in the manner it was meant to. I have no proof of this, of course. But how big is God? Certainly he’s big enough to save a little dog’s life and to bring him home when his family needed him the most. 
How big is God? So big that when I whispered in a little dog’s ear that he was going to be the Comeback Kid, God heard my promise and made sure it came true.  


V.K. will share Lady's story here soon!

Adopt one, until there are none.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hay Season

The temperatures have finally moderated and we had some decent rainfall this weekend. Yay! The much-needed rain will help with the fire danger and start the long journey back to full ponds, lakes and reservoirs.
The drought damage, though, will extend well beyond this season. Warm-season grass that should be matured and going to seed now to produce new grass in the spring withered long ago.  The rain is too late to help our native Bermuda and too early to jumpstart the cool-season grasses. Still, it’s more than welcome.

The horses have munched through the pastures with the best grass. There are three other pastures they can graze but the grass in those is sparse and poor. I’d put off mowing them – that is until last week. The first pasture I’ve tackled is 8 acres I bought off a neighbor who moved a couple of years ago. The neighbor used to run a couple of cows and a horse on it, but it hasn’t been mown often. I did give it a rough mow last year and was pleased with the amount of good grass in it. I had expected a good crop this year, too.
Yep, gotta mow around all those trees up ahead.
It’s fenced, but it’s old fencing: a combination of rusted barbed wire and even rustier field fence. The steel T-posts holding the fence up are weary-looking but solid for the most part. The mid-posts and corner-posts, though, are wood, and many of them either were burnt by a grass fire a dozen years ago or are simply decaying.
My plan was to string an electric fence inside the perimeter to keep the horses away from the rusting fence line. In normal soil, the extremely lightweight, fiberglass posts are easy to set. The ones I bought even have a convenient ridge built in that you step on to drive the post about a foot into the ground. This, however, isn’t normal soil. No way I could set the new posts into ground as hard as concrete. So I mowed the acreage and let the horses into the pasture, hoping that the game of finding a few blades of grass amid the weeds will keep them entertained enough they don’t go rubbing their backsides against the fence to give themselves a good scratch and wind up getting cut on the rusty barbs.
I’m not sure the ground will be softened enough after this bout of rain to drive in the posts. So far, the horses are behaving themselves and thoroughly enjoying being in a pasture they’ve not had access to before.
The brush pile is waiting for a calm day just after a rain to be burned and buried. It's been waiting now for nearly a year.
A couple of the acres have a lot of trees on them. I’ve tried to leave as many seedling native pears as I can in a small grove but that means tedious mowing to get around them. It takes me, on average, about an hour to mow an acre. The cut grass has to dry for a couple of days before being baled – or bagged, which is what I do since I don’t have expensive baling equipment. I use a large grass sweeper that collects the grass but doesn’t bag it. I still have to circle back around and hand bag all the hay.  To mow, rake and stuff 50 bags of hay takes me the better part of 5 days.
It's a John Deere with a 5-foot drag-behind mower (aka brush hog)

The brush hog in action!
Fifty bags of poor-quality hay will last maybe 2 months if I s-t-r-e-t-c-h it out. I’ll mix it with a like amount of good-quality, purchased hay; add in 3 or 4 dozen bags of leaves (they’ll be dropping soon enough!); and supplement with plenty of grain. Goats and horses will do fine.
Once the ground dries out, I’ll tackle the other two pastures and bag up maybe another 30 bags of hay. Whoo! It’s a good workout. The best thing? Just look at the sunsets after a long day’s work!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Summer Drought

Here in North Texas, within 10 miles of the Red River that forms the southern border of Oklahoma, we experienced record-breaking heat and an extended drought this summer. Officially, there were 66 days this summer when it’s been 100+ (38C). It’s been as high as 117 (47C) on the thermometers here a couple of times. As late as Sept. 29 it hit 100 degrees.
We’ve had measurable rainfall here at Rainbow’s End twice in the past 4 months. The first time was barely more than a trace and the second time, in late August, was a decent inch or so. Last month, I watched two systems go by, dropping rain to the west and to the south, but not on us.
While the temperatures have finally moderated this week (yay!) to cool mornings that warm rapidly to the high-80s (~31C) in the afternoons, we’re still looking for rain. Maybe this weekend. There’s a 20-30% shot at scattered showers.
I’ve posted pictures elsewhere of land so dry and cracked it’s dangerous for livestock to run across. The pastures the horses have been using have pretty much been grazed over. I mowed an 8-acre pasture this weekend that has lain fallow since last year. It’s mostly weeds, but there’s a little grass in it. I’ll be able to bag about 10% of it as winter feed and the rest will be used for bedding. Hay prices last month were already 1/3 higher than they were last year. I’m betting they’ll be double or more by December.
Non-native trees have really struggled. My althea and crepe myrtles didn’t bloom at all this year. This maple tree dropped its leaves in early August. I have no idea if it will recover.
Similarly, and not surprisingly, the water-loving willows and cottonwoods also dropped their leaves prematurely. 

The native cedars (junipers), which are evergreens, seem to be doing well, and the bois d’arcs are hanging in there too, though fruit production is way down. Same with the native pear trees. Thankfully we started out with good rainfall in the spring -- the ponds filled and fruit set well. As the drought wore on, however, immature fruit dropped and much of it dried up “on the vine.”
The pear crop started out promising enough in late spring. By early September, it was a dried-up memory.

I’ve come to rely on a pear crop and bushels of horse apples to keep the goats and horses and ducks and chickens treated up and happy in the early winter. I’ll continue to treat them with fruit from the grocery but, ouch – another bite out of the wallet.
There are three ponds on the property: one a natural catch-basin for run-off and two that were dug to provide the dirt to build the pads for the barns. The smallest pond is about 5-foot deep (that’s how tall I am!). Here I’m standing on the dry bottom looking over the rim.

The catch-basin is the largest pond. When I first moved here, it was home to a couple of hundred catfish, stocked by the previous owner. I’d bring leftovers and dry dog and cat food to feed them. They’d come a-swimming over as soon as they saw me. It was quite delightful. A couple of years after moving in, we had our first summer drought and the pond dried up for the first time ever. There were a lot of happy herons that year. Thinking that first drought was just a weather blip, my dad and I took the opportunity to build a small pier in anticipation of restocking the pond and enjoying the antics of a new batch of catfish the next year. It wasn’t just a blip, though, and when the pond threatened to go dry the next year, I had to face the fact it would be a long time, if ever, before the pond would see fish again.
The pond, full, in winter during one of the very occasional snowfalls the region gets.
When the pond is full, water is within an inch of the top of the lower section of the pier. During heavy rains, the lower section goes underwater completely.
In the upper right you can see a tree that's fallen in due to erosion.
The dogs love to swim. Today, Loki is standing in the pond wondering where the water went.
I am quite baffled where these mollusks came from. These shells are 6-8 inches across and there are numerous shells scattered along the dry pond bottom. One of nature's mysteries.
Behind the main barn is what I refer to as the duck pond. In the past, it’s been where the ducks trundle off to in the mornings and hang during the day before coming back into the much-safer backyard to spend the night. Sadly, there hasn’t been much trundling lately.

The ducks have to go through the goat yard on their way from the backyard to their duckpond.


This is the normal water level in the duck pond.

This is the level it was at last week. Today, it's even lower.
Another of nature's mysteries. A crayfish (aka crawdad) in a land-locked, man-made pond. I've seen a handful of these guys around. My guess is their eggs came in riding on the legs of wading birds. 
So we wait for rain. My appreciation for the trailblazers who settled this country and had to live off the land and survive whatever the seasons threw at them has increased tenfold. While my plans to bag up enough hay this year to see the horses through winter and to harvest enough native fruit to keep them happy fell through because of the drought, I know my beasties and I will find the needed feed anyway. Early settlers had no such safety nets. For what we have, I’m thankful.