Monday, August 31, 2015

No Horses, No Owls.....

Although the place where I was horse-sitting last week is only just over an hour north of here, and only ten minutes or so inland, the ecosystem  seemed quite different - drier air, hotter sun, cooler nights, trees taller and more sparsely branched,  with a feel to the air that reminds me of the Okanagan. Perhaps it was coincidence - our long hot dry summer is coming to a close, and even a small change in elevation can bring a marked change in the environment and temperature.

Bright fall colours
a week earlier than in Crofton

The property I stayed at is quite high up, offering distant views of mountains to the northeast and a feeling of incredible freedom in all directions - no dark ugly condos staring one in the face here!

Mountains in the distance,
not a condo in sight!

Some things are familiar - the deer are plentiful, just as they are here in Crofton, though I was surprised how many very young, still spotted, fawns I saw.  Here in Crofton, most have lost their spots already.  Perhaps the slightly different ecosystem and climate means ours are born a bit sooner.

Spotted fawn prances across the field

The rabbits are even more plentiful - on one evening's walk, I counted over 30 on a neighbour's lawn, in an area no bigger than my own small front yard.  They ranged from very teeny newborns to granddaddies twice the size of little Mitzi.  They are very skittish, and trying to get more than one in a frame was impossible - lift the camera, even from many yards away, and they skedaddled to the safety of the shrubs.

Run, rabbit, run, rabbit
Run Run Run

The geese were already heading south, and we saw and heard several flocks overhead.  This group had just risen from a nearby field and was hurrying to catch up with the rest of its v-formation:

The geese are on the wing

One evening, Mitzi and I went for a long walk up the road, passing by a spot where yellow grasses waved in the foreground of  a ridge of trees at the edge of what seemed to be a cliff - we couldn't check it out as it appeared to be private property, and besides dusk was quickly becoming dark. But we did take the time to capture these two shots:

Multi-toned rock in grass

Grasses, trees, and endless sky

The night sky and sunsets often took my breath away.  At twilight the towering, sparsely-branched or barren trees and short bushy shrubs turned into black silhouettes against a deepening blue sky, and the orange and red of the setting sun could soon be seen along the horizon.

Twilight at 'the ranch'

Sunset through the trees

But perhaps the most fascinating sight - other than the owls whose photos I posted last week - occurred not at dusk but in the afternoon.  A cloud began moving in, and all along the wavy leading edge of the cloud was...... a rainbow!  Not the traditional arc so often seen here, and not the pulsating prism of Northern Lights I came to know and love when I lived in the Northwest Territories, but a simple undulating rainbow ribbon that stretched along the length of the huge cloud mass  - too huge to get all in one shot - as it made its way across the azure sky.

I watched the rainbow ribbon for half an hour as it moved in unison with the cloud, never deepening but never fading,  until it was time for me to feed the horses. By the time I returned to my camera, the rainbow was gone. The memory, however, will stay with me for a long, long time:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Straight from the Horse's Mouth

One of the drawbacks of looking after horses is the tendency to take a zillion photos, because - well, they are just such beautiful animals!  Boo and Magic, whose personalities are quite different yet who are clearly best of friends, told me in no uncertain terms that they deserve their own post.  So here we go:

Y'hear that?
We get our own post!

So what's the post time and who are we running against?
I made a racing joke! 

Me:  Magic, you are silly!
Magic:  Pfffffft! 
For some reason, I ended up with far more photos of Magic than of Boo - perhaps because Magic lost his initial shyness with me and decided I was his new BFF, or perhaps because black horses (like black dogs) are harder to photograph.

Or maybe because I'm
SUCH a handsome horse!

Yeah, and he's so humble too!
Boo:   Judge for yourselves, blog readers -
This Princess is mighty fine looking!
Yeah, yeah!
Forget the beauty pageant and let's EAT!

Got hay?
And that's the best of the horse photos, I think, though I've dozens more if you really want to see them.  Meanwhile, I've a few non-horse photos still to edit - of deer and bunnies and skies and trees.  I'll likely post those ones tomorrow.  But for tonight.....

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Whoooo? Mitzi, Magic and Boo!

I've been horsesitting up island again, and the birdlife is amazing.  Bewick's wrens and nuthatches, quail and eagles and woodpeckers and hawks and..... owls!  I heard them screeching the last time I was here, but couldn't see them - likely their baby was very young and being kept well hidden.

The owner of the property had since seen the owls - or at least two of them - so I was really hoping I would be able to get some photos this time.  Armed with two cameras, neither of which is working properly in autofocus mode, and a limited knowledge of how to use the manual settings especially in twilight, I sat outside for a couple of hours the first evening.  But nothing.  Nada.  Not even a screech.

But last night after putting the horses to bed at dusk, I startled three of them on my way back to the house. The trio - a mom, dad, and juvenile, I think -  were likely hunting in the field on the downward slope.

Mitzi:  And it's a good thing too!
Mama Jean was threatening to tether me in the field
as Owl Bait!!! 

Me:  Mitzi! I was just teasing!  If you would eat your dog food instead of bunny poops, deer poops, and horse poops, I wouldn't have said that!

Mitzi:  Well them poops smells waaay better than dog food!
Me:  (Mutters to self:  There's no arguing with a Bichon Frise - they always win!).  

The owls flew to the top of the trees, the largest owl screeching at the smallest one and coaxing him, or her, into the deepest, greenest branches of the trees.

Papa Owl: You stay away from my kid!

From a nearby treetop, the third owl screeched her instructions.

Mama Owl: Not there!  Go over that way!
Make him hide deeper in the forest!
(Note to those who know more about owls than I do - I have no idea which adult is male and which is female, nor if the juvenile is a boy or girl owl.  I am using poetic license.  I'm a writer not an ornithologist.)

And for the next hour, I madly clicked away, trying to get some half-decent photos as the three of them played "Catch me if you can" among the tree tops in the darkening night sky.  From the dozens of shots, I was able to work some photographic magic on a few to lighten the dark sky and bring out the owls - or at least their silhouettes.  Enjoy.

Owls in flight

Magic and Boo say this post is long enough, and they aren't going to share the limelight with some silly birds, so I'll post photos of the rest of our visit in a couple of days.  But I will let them have the last word:

You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours.
Gotta look our best for OUR blog post!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Welcome Home, R.A.S.T.A.!!!


They are home!  The animals from the Rescue and Sanctuary for Threatened Animals have been safely moved to their new home in Chemainus, and this blogger is one happy camper!

Today, for the first time, I met Theodore (aka Theo) the steer, whose shelter I painted.  And I met Wilbur the big farm pig, and Tango and Romeo the mini donkeys, and Toby the mini horse, and 39 potbellied pigs whose names I will take a bit longer to learn.

Wilbur, the big pig.
Have you ever seen such a handsome dude?
White shirt, silver cummerbund, black pants!
I'll go out to dinner with him any time.

Romeo and Tango

Toby - who made shy with me
Pigs, pigs and more pigs! 

Today, I spent several hours there just breathing in the wonderful scent of farm critters and hay and warm sunshine.  Today I photographed to my heart's content.

Those who have known me since I first became involved in animal sanctuaries about ten years ago will be able to imagine the size of the smile on my face and the feeling of utter contentment in my heart.

Senior pig with yellow flower

Piggy snout to piggy belly

Lucie and Theo share a quiet moment

Toby:  Why does that lady keep trying to take my picture?
Romeo (or is this Tango?): Because we are the stars of the blog!

Lucie, the owner of the sanctuary, is not smiling quite so broadly as I am.  For Lucie, the trip from southern Alberta to Vancouver Island was far from relaxing.  Before the animals could be loaded, there was twelve hours of prep for the journey.  Then four hours to load - Theo, bless him, loaded with no trouble (though the actual travel, with him pacing side to side redistributing the weight in a dangerous manner, is another story - but mostly he was a good boy).  The little pigs and equines loaded nicely too.

Theo gets some luvin' from Lucie

Of course we loaded nicely.
It was a long trip!
I'm thirsty!

The trouble maker was Wilbur the big pig.  He was Not Getting In the trailer.  No Way.  No Sir!  He fought and bashed and dashed and threw things.  He rammed and banged and roared and stomped.  Of the four hours to load the animals, Wilbur took three.  When at last he was safely inside, he was exhausted and so was Lucie.  They began loading the animals at 2 AM;  they arrived in Chemainus over 24 hours later. That was a long, slow, scary trip.

I'm sowwy.  I didn't mean to be naughty.
I was scared! 

Wilbur today is somewhat the worse for wear - in fact, he is not doing well and Lucie is watching him very closely, hosing him down to keep him cool, assisting him to stand (as much as one can assist a seven hundred pound pig) so he will stretch his muscles and keep his joints moving. His back end is weak, one of his rear legs and thighs trembling, the hoof turning under with every step.  He is refusing food, except for fresh strawberries and celery.  He needs all the positive vibes you can send for his speedy recovery.  That's my first request of three.

Is that celery for me?

As if worrying about Wilbur wasn't enough weight on Lucie's shoulders, a donation of thousands of dollars worth of framing material (2x4s and 2x6s) for the shelters - a donation she had been assured was hers - has fallen through. And workers hired to build the shelters are here and have no materials to work with!  So that's my second request - if any of you have connections to builders, contractors, lumber yards - that might provide even some of the framing materials, please call them NOW. The sanctuary has, of course, talked with businesses here, many of whom have provided gift cards or other materials and discounts, but what is really needed now is the personal connection - someone reading this blog who personally knows someone in a position to be generous with framing material.

Got Labour.  Need Wood!
And the third worry is the metal roofing for the shelter - we have still not been able to obtain this, and again your personal connections would really help.  Whether it is a few sheets or a whole bunch, the animals and the sanctuary owner will thank you.

And if you don't know anyone in the industry, maybe you could make a donation towards the costs?  You'll find their webpage here, or check them out on Facebook.

After all, can you really look at these faces and turn away?





Can you?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A letter to Theodore

(Theodore is a 3000 pound steer who is one of the critters making their home with R.A.S.T.A, an animal sanctuary moving to a property within ten minutes of my home.  I've been helping out a couple of times a week, doing odd jobs to get everything ready for the animals, who will likely arrive this week. If you'd like to see a photo of Theodore, head on over to their website here.)

Dear Theodore,

This is to let you know that your accommodation,  Shelter No. 1, is more-or-less ready and awaiting your arrival.  The paint crew (yours truly) finished painting it today, inside and out, with the paint generously donated by Cheryl of Dulux Paints.  It is a lovely light greenish tone which blends in beautifully with your new surroundings among the tall trees, freshly cut pasture, and soft earth.

The paint job isn't perfect - I'm a  "Jill-of-all-trades and master (mistress?) of none".  I'm sure, as you are a steer of great size, that you can appreciate the challenges of painting a wall which is two inches from a wire fence and about 15" max from another railing and pile of bricks.  As a person of  some size (in girth, though definitely not in height), squeezing into that narrow spot and painting with some accuracy was - well - a challenge.  But we got it done!

Finished!  Including the back! 

Your much greater height might have come in handy, though, to reach those rafters.  Even on a ladder, my 5'1" doesn't quite get me where I want to be.  And sticking an extension ladder between the rafters didn't leave much room - okay, didn't leave enough room - for this oversized painter to climb on through and paint from above.

I'm no spring chicken (or maybe I should say "I'm no young heifer"), as you'll soon find out, so looking skyward through my trifocal progressive lenses poses problems - the top of the glasses are the distance part, and painting the rafters looking up from the ladder required the middle or close up part.  I'm sure you would have laughed along with me, though, as I clambered up and down, up and down, trying to see what I'd painted and what was still bare.  Gotta maintain a sense of humor. Theodore.  If you spot somewhere I've missed, I'll touch it up for you.

Staring up at a bright blue sky and brilliant sun didn't help matters.  Yes, that's right - you can see the sky through the top of your shelter.  And the trees.  And the birds and bees and a spider or two.  In fact, you'll find a few painted spiders in your abode.  No, those aren't some scary giant breed found only in BC - just ordinary brown or black or white or pink or orange spiders who crawled out of their hiding places just as the paint sprayer or roller or brush was going past. But I digress.....

You can see the sky through the roof of your shelter, because the search is still on for donated or affordable metal roofing.  Maybe one of my blog readers will have some to donate? Or know someone in the business who might donate some or at least give the sanctuary a break on cost?  Moving is a huge expense, and as every sanctuary owner and rescue knows, caring for animals is financially challenging at the best of times.

Metal roofing wanted - for this  and several other shelters
to be built.

I promise you there will be a roof over your head come winter.  But for now, you will be able to enjoy your open-air roof, with gentle breezes to keep you cool in the daytime, and moonlight and stars to lull you to sleep at night.

It's beautiful here on the island, Theodore, and the winters are mild with little or no snow.  Sometimes there can be many days of rain, but it seems those times aren't that frequent any more.  And besides, you'll have a roof over your head, food in your belly, good friends to keep you company. What more could a steer want?

I'm looking forward to meeting you, Theodore, you and all your friends - the mini donkeys, the mini horse, the farm pig, the many potbelly pigs, the dogs and cats and ducks and chickens and whoever else comes along.  I'll have a lot of names to learn!

But do me a favour, Theodore?  Please ask everyone to load easily, travel safely, and unload smoothly. Lucie has done so much work here for you, and she's exhausted, so she really needs everyone's cooperation for the trip.

Before you know it, you'll be here -  and I can't wait to meet you!

Jean, the Jill-of-all-trades (but mostly a photographer and writer and animal lover).