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THE BEAR DID IT! AND OTHER ON-VACATION ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS.

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My young nephews invited me to join them at the picnic table for an adapted version of BananaGrams. Every word we created with our letter tiles had to have something to do with the animal kingdom I was instructed. Photo by Adam Sherman

Everywhere we go, there they are: Animals that is. Even on vacation.

Some dogs, like some people, me incl uded, are quite content to spend their vacation on a raft. Photo by Dennis Forer

Some dogs, like some people, me included, are quite content to spend their vacation on a raft. Photo by Dennis Forer

My dad started a wonderful family tradition 50 years ago—a week or two spent in the same place at the same time each year. As the family has grown and moved away from home, this annual August trek has become a mini family reunion while on vacation.

Prince is my sister’s family’s golden retriever. It’s hard to say who enjoys the mountain-air morning runs more, Prince or my sis. Those outings always end with Prince madly splashing into the swimming hole and begging to be sent into the deep on water retrieves. Prince also likes to retrieve the rubber rings used in the game of Muckers, which is much like Horseshoes. Each year, we set up our Muckers pit behind our cabins and have an all-ages guys-versus-gals tournament; however Prince must watch the game from the cabin’s veranda. Otherwise, it would turn into Prince’s own game of “Catch Me and the Rings If You Can.” Give him a bed and a dog chewy something, and he’s content all the same. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Sparky is my brother’s family’s dog. He’s small but mighty in charm and character. Family vacation came as a relief for the little guy: He’d had a hard school year, what with two of the three kids in his family going off to college and all. Here at last, his pack was united. Photo by Adam Sherman

Our stay in cabins on a river in the woods almost always includes a few dogs of our own. Other families have vacationed with cats and ferrets.

When I was young and on vacation here, I spent the largest part of each day at the stable, waiting for my turn to ride one of the for-hire trail horses.  Wilderness pack trips and promises of great fishing in the cold lakes of the back country were then one of the main draws to this rustic 1920’s-era “resort.” Dad and I took a lot of those rides back in the day.

One thing that has remained constant at our family vacation spot for 50 years is blue jays. If the warm sunshine in your face doesn’t wake you when it stretches above the mountains in the early morning, the blue jay conversations just inches from your sleeping bag will. Photo by Adam Sherman

Much-younger, my siblings had their own kind of animal fun watching fat chipmunks and shimmery blue jays  scatter after bread crumbs. The once bustling stables were abandoned long ago, and the tack room and hitching rails have gone to weeds. But a sturdy new corral is home to a couple of overweight donkeys that come hee-hawing to the fence whenever someone with a carrot or sugar cube stops by.

Youngsters in ours and other families pester parents to take them on walks “up to where the donkeys live.” For me, the little long-eared fellows evoke Dad-and-me memories of following along behind a string of mules packed with supplies for forest rangers at lookout stations and Boy Scouts at high country camps.

“Mr. Donkey, just because my sweater is green like an apple does not mean you can eat it! Let me have my sleeve back, and I’ll give you a carrot!,” I said to this sweet long-eared fellow. He’s gone a tad “sour” from all the handouts he gets from vacationing kids – and yes, adults, too.  Now corralled, this donkey and his partner used to roam the resort at will. Since the warped doors on the old vacation cabins don’t always close tightly, these clever donkeys would use their long noses to wedge the doors open, tip-toe up the rather rickety stairs, go inside and binge on human sweets and treats. Photo by Adam Sherman.

“Mr. Donkey, just because my sweater is green like an apple does not mean you can eat it! Let me have my sleeve back, and I’ll give you a carrot!,” I said to this sweet long-eared fellow. He’s gone a tad “sour” from all the handouts he gets from vacationing kids – and yes, adults, too. Now corralled, this donkey and his partner used to roam the resort at will. Since the warped doors on the old vacation cabins don’t always close tightly, these clever donkeys would use their long noses to wedge the doors open, tip-toe up the rather rickety stairs, go inside and binge on human sweets and treats. Photo by Adam Sherman.

My nieces and nephews appear not to have my horse-crazy genes, but they do smile sweetly when the donkeys’ soft lips and bristly chin hairs sweep across their small palms as they offer treats. Family dogs aren’t always so enthused by the donkeys: Sometimes they growl a grumble or hide behind the person nearest at hand.

Watching the kids and donkeys interact again had me thinking about how entwined animals are in our lives, even when we’re away from home.

Butterflies float through our mountain forest vacation spot but infrequently. This beauty took a breather on a corner of the riverside beach. Back home, my mom’s husband’s family has a renowned butterfly garden; hence he gave this visitor a hearty welcome. Photo by Dennis Forer

My cousin’s husband had his camera slung over his shoulder while walking near the river the morning this bird of prey passed overhead. There’s an eagle’s nest not far from where the photo was taken, so we assumed this was an eagle. Once we had the photos in hand and could enlarge them to look at details, it looked to be an osprey – probably out fishing for breakfast. No matter the type of bird, it doesn’t get much better than snapping a photo as it soars against a cloudless blue sky before the heat of the day sets in. Photo by Dennis Forer

Most years, while we’re on our family vacation, there’s some kind of bear activity in camp. Generally that involves midnight raids with bears climbing on top of chain-locked dumpsters and straining to get the lids off. The noise they make is the worst of it.

However, last year, on the bittersweet final night of our vacation, a bear ripped out a screen and climbed into a nearby cabin. The bear had its way with the refrigerator and most things in the kitchen. Meanwhile, the woman sleeping at the back of the cabin jumped over the veranda and ran to safety. The bear was later trapped and moved to a distant section of forest.

Here’s how my youngest niece, Sara, who was age eight at the time, told the tale, which appeared in her school’s newspaper.

A BEAR STORY

“I went on an adventure to Trinity Alps Resort with my family. It is an adventure because you are in the wilderness. When we went on walks in the wilderness I found chipmunks. We had three cabins in a row this year: We had Sierra, Santa Barbara and Sacramento. My family was in the one Sacramento. Everybody in the family comes to Trinity Alps Resort.

“Our last night at Trinity Alps Resort the bear was out! My mother woke me up to show me that the bear was out in the garbage can. I was so scared I had to go in the room with the roof. I was sleeping out on the veranda which has a roof on it. But there are other openings all around you.

“Guess what? The black bear actually got into a cabin. It tried to open the door. But instead he broke apart the window. The lady’s name was Sharon. So she heard a noise in the kitchen and then she went into the kitchen and she saw this black thing on its two hind legs and then she realized that it was the black bear! So she ran to the veranda and she jumped over the veranda.

“Then she ran over to my cousin Mikayla’s cabin and she told Mikayla’s dad all about it. Then Dennis, Mikayla’s dad, drove Sharon to Jim’s house. Jim is the kind of person who keeps everybody safe and keeps things straight. So Sharon slept the rest of the night. The bear got into the cabin at 3:00 in the morning before the bear got into the garbage can about 4:15 in the morning. My dad was in the bathroom about 4:45 shining a flashlight in the bear’s eyes.

“There is a cabin called Napa and the person who is staying in Napa which is Mrs. Jansen. She gets freaked out because there is like a little path where the bear comes and goes. I was selling jewelry there, too. In the morning we went to go look at the cabin. At Mikayla’s cabin I got a Hershey Bar. You might not want to read this at night but the chocolate part won’t scare  you as much as Mrs. Schuler [Sara’s teacher].”

Her teacher commented: “Good suspense. Now that’s a scary bear story!“

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AnimalsOurEVERYTHING! and blogger Janet Herring-Sherman have received a blogging-community award.

The AnimalsOurEVERYTHING! blog has received the Memetastic Award. Sounds like a bit of bragging, huh? Actually, it’s another kind blogging soul doing the bragging about my blog.

Her name is Sandra Bell Kirchman. She is a gifted author/editor/blogger. You can see samples of her work at: http://fantasyfic.wordpress.com/. Sandra’s fantasy fiction book, “Witchcanery,” was first published in 2007 and is now a collector’s item. The second edition was published in 2009 and can be purchased at most major online book outlets.

I can’t deny it: Getting an award for my blog feels swell! Accepting the Memetastic Award comes with two conditions. First, I’m required to write five little-known statements about myself and post them on my blog. This being a blog about animals, each scenario mentions, or is centered on, an animal or two.  Only one will be true. (See the stories below.)

The hope is that readers of my blog – that would be you – will give this unusual exercise a go and try to guess which statements are fiction. What that really means is that I have to write well enough to convince you each is true.

Please indicate your choice in a comment on the blog. Just enter the number (1 through 5)  attached to the statement you choose. I’ll name the winner(s) in a future blog; which requires my revealing the true tale as well.

JANET WONDERS IF YOU KNOW

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING STORIES ABOUT HER IS TRUE

1. I once stood on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif., and held the hand of a former college dorm neighbor while he threw his wedding ring into the Pacific Ocean. We’d been sweethearts at university, then parted for reasons I can’t even remember now. Several years later, I was working retail in the city by the bay: A chance meeting of a mutual friend in that clothing store was the catalyst for our reunion. Our mutual pal mentioned how often my name still came up in letters he received from my ex. Next thing I know, my once-boyfriend is traveling from Australia to see me again. The magic was still there; hence the dramatic disposal of his ring.  It was all a false alarm. Neither of us felt good about how our proposed affair would impact his wife. Or his dog. His dog-loving ways were what had attracted me to this guy way back when; so it wasn’t exactly unexpected when he began pining for the dog he and his wife shared down-under. We parted ways after a few days. I still wonder how he explained his absence — and absent ring — to his wife. Just as well, he was allergic to horses and cats.

2. I was once a guest of a royal oil sheikh from Saudi Arabia. We landed on his private airstrip and dined at his compound in Dhahran.  Then we headed to his stable – if you could even call it that, it was so, well, bejeweled. In the world of Arabian horses, this sheikh was known for his stud farm full of horses directly descended from those of the Bedouin tribes. Thousands of the Bedouin’s desert-bred Arabians were distributed to royal family members in the 1950s when the Kingdom of Saudi was being formed by King Abdul Aziz Ibd Saud.  The Bedouins were convinced to surrender their horses, which were essential to their tribes’ armed forces. How did I manage to meet the sheikh? My girlfriend was a flight attendant on his private jet. She asked if I might meet him and write about his stud farm.

3.  I guess I’ll do nearly anything for a good horse story. A photographer friend and I were on a magazine assignment to cover a really big horse sale at a prestigious breeding facility on a working cattle ranch. The ranch owner, a wealthy New Yorker as I recall, had sent his pilot and plane to pick us up several hours away in another state.  I admit feeling quite privileged to be “flying in.” I didn’t anticipate the plane would appear to be made from balsa wood. Ascending the tiny, teetering set of stairs, I nearly turned back. I reminded myself that the photographer and I had been hired as a team. I didn’t want to let my colleague down. Sundown was approaching when the pilot yelled that we were going to descend for our landing. I thought I’d heard wrong. All I could see out the filmy windows were rugged fields and crags: no tarmac. That’s when I closed my eyes and started praying “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys” in rapid repeat. After the plane first hit ground, it seemed like the bumping over boulders and crowhops would never end. When the pilot shouted, “Everybody hold on real tight!” I thought, “This is it,” and saw visions of Heavenly horses. Suddenly, we fell forward in our seats, then stopped with whiplash force. Engines off, the only sound was the wind having its way with the sagebrush outside. The nose of the plane was kissing the foot of a mountain. A Jeep and driver were waiting to take us on the overland part of the journey.

4. My uncle was an administrator in the U.S. Peace Corps in the 1960s-1970s. He, my aunt and three cousins were “stationed” in Paraguay in South America. We — my dad, mom, sister, brother and I — visited them there. They had a mega-champion Chow, a big fluffy red dog with a black tongue, with an equally impressive litter. We were going to oversee the pups’ transport to their buyers in the States. I was fifth-grade age at the time. When we disembarked the plane, the lack of oxygen at that height left us disoriented and unable to take a deep breath. Someone began distributing an antidote for the altitude sickness. We were instructed to put the little leaves they’d dispensed into our mouth. The leaves’ soothing juices cleared our heads and calmed our lungs. My uncle explained this was a common cure for the adverse effects of thin, low-oxygen air. Then he told us they were coca leaves; as in, that’s where cocaine comes from. I thought my dad was going to throttle my uncle. They started laughing crazily instead.

5. I was an extra in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. In 1962-1963, the famous thriller movie-maker was filming “The Birds” in the small coastal town of Bodega Bay in California. My best friend’s family had a weekend cabin there. It was just down the hill from Bodega Bay’s tiny elementary school. We were playing on the school-yard  swings and tossing a ball for her German shepherd when members of Hitchcock’s film team showed up to scout locations. They looked around, then handed us little business cards. The gentlemen, dressed dapper in hats and ties, told us a movie was going to be filmed there. They added, “We’ll be needing some children to pretend they are running out of the school to get away from something scary. We might be able to use your dog, too. Have your parents call us if you want to be in the movie.” We did, and we were. My glasses were even a prop.

PAYING THE AWARD FORWARD TO OTHER BLOGS

Condition two of the award acceptance is that I pass this Memetastic Award along to five bloggers whose sites I find appealing and interesting, in other words, top-drawer. I’m happy to do so. They are:

“Tag,” you five bloggers are “It” now. Your turn to pass the Memetastic Award on. Here are the rules:

    • You must proudly display the award in a post.
    • You must list five things about yourself; and four of the five must be BOLD FACE LIES.
      (your readers must guess which one is the truth)
    • You must pass this prestigious award on to five deserving bloggers.

HAVE FUN!

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FAWNED OVER

I've been partial to fawns since childhood. This was taken circa 1960s in a California national forest where a park ranger had rescued this orphaned fawn. Photo by Edgar J. Herring

Does and fawns, nouns that elicit Madonna-and-child-like visions of peaceful mothers and their babes: Until the doe thinks her fawn’s in peril.  A sweet-seeming Bambi mom can turn mean in a hoofbeat. That’s what happened when a pint-size dog (He weighs in at 14 pounds.), on an innocent gopher hunt, was caught “trespassing.”

Here’s how the scene unfolded. The pooch’s owner heard a weird sound while doing evening chores. She looked up and saw upwards of 208 pounds of white-tailed deer running dead at her! Next she noticed the mad-as-a-hatter deer was really stampeding after her little dog — also speeding straight toward her.

Some fancy arm-waving and shouting detoured the deer into the woods just in time to avoid a woman-doe collision. The little dog, kiy-yiy-yiying all the way home, was shaking, dirty, limping and missing some hair. The assumption is that he got rolled, stomped, or bit by the doe. After a few shaky, achy days he was back to normal – and now a rare visitor to that particular field.

Imagine your surprise if, walking through the tall May grass, you literally stumbled into this all-alone fawn. Apparently, the new baby was napping while Mom was several yards up the hill, scaring the life out of one of the farm's resident dogs.

Same place, same day, an all-alone fawn was discovered in the hip-high grass of a resting field just down the lane.

Gates were left open to encourage Mom and baby to reunite and make their way back into the woods. Next morning, no sign of the fawn; instead, a path of recently flattened grass leading away.

No coincidence I’d say. That fawn had to be the brand new offspring of the raging doe.

“Like a lioness” or “like a mother bear” are phrases used to describe a human mother who, instinctively and aggressively, jumps to her child’s’ defense or protection. I think we can add “like a mother deer” to that group.

IT’S SUPERMAN! NO, WAIT: IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE!

Turkey vulture profile, in a manner of speaking. In the air, their faces seem a muted coral color. Close up, the color is a brilliant lipstick red. Looks like smudges of dark eyeliner around those eyes if you ask me. Photo source: http://mollysbox.wordpress.com

Riding toward the river near the barn, I spied a hint of red high in the for-once very-blue sky. A red-winged bi-plane was flying a pattern of dips, lifts and somersaults.

Stage right, another spot of red appeared  lower in the sky. It was a red-beaked turkey vulture. It, too, was repeatedly diving, soaring, and floating on the breeze. It looked as though the small plane and big bird were a pair waltzing in-step to a choreographed sky dance.

I sat in my saddle and pondered how oddly enchanting the scene was. I’ve never thought of vultures as anything besides unsightly, unseemly scavengers. It turns out, vultures are uniquely built for expert soaring and are considered by many experts to be one of the smartest birds there is.

They’re big on family, too: In late spring or early summer vultures nest as a clan in caves, cliffs, and tree hollows. They “speak” in hisses and grunts; hence locating them by ear can be challenging. Vultures don’t bestow us with lyrical birdsong; instead they give us acrobatics with sky as their theater.

The wingspan of an adult turkey vulture can reach six feet. Photo source: nationaleaglecenter.org

Since vultures  prefer to fly over open fields and meadows rather than dense woods, we often get to watch them play the thermals above the valley behind our home. My appreciation for vultures has been awakened. Now, when I observe them — so ungainly on the ground — glide and swoop with great grace, I see them as winged dancers, not just as opportunistic gleaners of nature’s fallen.

Watch this short public broadcasting video for a glimpse, http://www.opb.org/programs/ofg/segments/view/1718

THE ANIMAL LESSON THIS WEEK, from the vultures, relates to the 12-step slogan, “Keep an open mind.”


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This week’s post comes to you not from the barn or a farm, but from Australia! And, no, not because I’m a tourist there, but because one of my blogging colleagues, Barbara Taylor, lives in the Land Down Under.

She recently posted these photos of the kind of wildlife that roam about in her part of the world. Can you imagine seeing a kangaroo jumping along a roadside or across a lawn here in the states?

And the flamingo-colored cockatoos! How pretty are they? You have to love any animal, furred, finned or feathered, that mates for life as these sorbet-colored birds do. Barbara’s blog is called Passionate About Pets, and she is. You can visit her site at http://passionateaboutpets.wordpress.com

Eastern Grey Kangaroos of Australia. Photo by Bizzliz Photography


“These guys (kangaroos) were grazing in the bush at the end of our street. They graze early morning and late afternoons, so that’s the best time to see them. During the heat of the day they stay in the shadows of the trees to keep cool and snooze!

Galah, or rose-breasted, cockatoos of Australia. Photo by Bizzliz Photography.

“Galahs feeding off a bird table. They are also known as the Rose-breasted Cockatoo. They are found all over Australia, are an intelligent and social bird that mate for life and are quite common as pets.”  by Barbara Taylor

FINCH FEST

Male goldfinch getting his share of seed before the finch food frenzy begins. Photo by Karen Mendonca.

The first time I saw a colorful bird in the wild, I felt blessed. It was shortly after we moved to Oregon. A bird feeder was a monumental part of making the new place feel like home. The reward  came the very next day.

Seeing a wee bit of yellow winging in for a landing may not stop the hearts of many. The goldfinch truly took my breath away. The next day, the yellow finch brought a friend, or perhaps his mate, to dine.

Each day, the guest list grew, and more little lemon-colored finches flew in. Once, there was a finch convention of 32 vying for a place at the table of thistle seed.

That was when we lived in the valley. Now we’re in the high foothills and finchless. Seems they don’t take to  steeper altitudes. We see other wonderful birds — ducks, geese, hawks, falcons, crested blue jays, robins and blackbirds.

Still, I miss those dear little finches and the bright contrast they  brought to the landscape of greens and browns. I liken them to the pleasantness of sweet and sour lemon drops tickling bored tastebuds. By Janet Herring-Sherman

Postscript: I think God heard me pining for goldfinches. As I walked from the driveway to our front porch this afternoon, a little yellow fellow zipped right across my path and into the ravine! I think I heard myself say to the bird, “Hey You, come back.”  I’m adding this to my to-do list — a trip to the feed store for some thistle temptation — a finch favorite.  Where there’s one, there must be more, right?

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I was about five when Dad gave me my first pup, Shep. He was a McNab shepherd and born to work. Without any herding to do in the new suburbia of the 1950s, Shep became bored and destructive. Eventually, Dad found him a more suitable home on a sheep ranch. I was heartbroken, yet somehow understood it was best for Shep that way. Photo by Edgar Herring.

Today is the fifth anniversary of my father’s passing. He’s the one who started me on this animal-loving journey.  My first pup, a gift from him, was a McNab shepherd named Shep after my uncle’s childhood dog. I’m certain Dad also was the key to my lifelong fascination with horses.

The California farm where he and my uncle grew up during the Depression was small and diverse. My grandfather’s team of horses was key in working the ground and hauling crops of potatoes and apples to the packing sheds at the rail stop up the hill. Dad much preferred driving the hitch to milking the family cow or cleaning chicken houses. Earning the right to drive the team was a sort of rite of passage. It meant you were in charge. The horses and cargo were the driver’s responsibility.

One summer, Dad was instructed to with make a delivery to the packing house. His city cousin Jack, on his annual trip to see country kin, was along for the ride. Shep — the original one — trotted alongside.

Apparently Jack insisted on having a turn at driving and tried to grab the reins from Dad. I’ve never driven even a single-horse hitch, but I can see why interfering with control of the horse(s) would not be wise. Dad told Jack as much, but Jack would not be deterred. So Dad made his point with an elbow and a shove.

Dad didn’t intend for Jack to fall off the wagon. I picture Shep licking Jack’s wounds as Dad pulled up the team and climbed down to help. At dinner that night, Jack told my grandparents he wanted to cut his stay short and return home. He left by train the next day. That was Jack’s last summer at the ranch. Dad and Jack stayed close through the years: The wagon incident was never discussed.

I’ve always wondered what words passed between the two teen-agers standing on the dirt road after the fall. Shep must have dutifully stood by, wagging his tail low and slow as dogs do when they’re unsure. Whose side was he on? I like to think Shep sat between the cousins, like a mediator, since each had been wronged by the other.

Hoss was a pistol. A small Jack Russell terrier with a personality the size of a bison, he died April 15. Hoss was a pivotal piece

Hoss, a Jack Russell terrier, was a tether-ball playing, gopher-digging, cattle-herding dynamo. Photo by Mary Corning, Four Winds Resources.

in the lives of my horse trainer friends, Carmen and Norm.

For one thing, he was the self-appointed sheriff. He’d bark an alarm if the slightest thing looked amiss in their driveway or front pastures. He did not pretend to like giving up his usual armchair just because you wanted to take a seat there. He’d let you sit, then jump back up and burrow in beside you. If you happened to have a treat in your pocket, he knew. There was no resisting his earnest brown eyes.

Less begging and sudden weight loss were the first clues something was wrong. Turned out he was anemic, because his immune system was destroying red blood cells. Medication helped, and Hoss began eating home-cooked meals three or four times a day, begging shamelessly for more. He rallied and strutted his little-dog stuff for three more weeks. Hoss died at home, in the middle of the night, in the arms of those who adored him for nearly 14 years.

When I met him, Hoss was pretty much retired and a house dog. But he’d had his hey-day. Here are a few of Carmen’s  memories from back then. “In his younger days, Hoss was totally obsessed with tether balls and would have to be stopped before he dropped!  He would also roll balls (of all shapes and sizes) with his nose, at high speed all over the house, barns, or parking lot, until we could catch him and stop the action!  Other obsessions were chasing us through the house, or vice versa, playing tug of war, chasing cats/squirrels, and digging for gophers! He loved to help get the cows out of the arena, and they were actually afraid of him … thinking he must be an over-sized rat!”

Rest in peace Hoss and may you be nudging balls through the halls of Heaven 24/7.

BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT TIME

Barn cat Lillie has a kitten litter — all girls and mostly black with hints of white on some toes and a tail tip. The email I received with the happy news indicated she’d had two kittens. By the time I got to the barn to ride later that day and peeked at them – there were three!

Later I noticed a note on the whiteboard we use to communicate news in and around the barn. It read, “Please keep the dogs out of the tack room. Lillie is in there with her babies, 2 (+1). Thanks.” I feel honored that she’s made a nursery out of the old fleece horse blanket I folded up for her behind my tack box.

PUTTING THE SQUEEZE ON BUCKEYE BABY 

The Buckeye hens I wrote about in my last post have done their part to keep their endangered breed alive and well. My friend Stacy reports two chicks peeking out from beneath the protective feathers of the three “moms” sharing nest duty in recent weeks. Here's one of them taking a tentative glance around the barn. Photo by Russell Shellington.

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It being Easter, let me introduce my blue-egg-laying Ameraucana chickens, Teddy,
Georgie, Frankie and Alex. My sister nicknamed the four-hen flock Sisters in honor of a 1990s television series

Ozzie, the rooster and two of the hen Sisters, Teddie in the middle, and Frankie, the white one, on the right. These Ameraucana hens are not as inclined to set on their eggs as much as some breeds. In spite of Ozzie's persistent pestering, my Ameraucanas have no offspring. Photo by Adam Sherman.

we used to watch together on Saturday nights. The show, “Sisters,” was about four sisters born to a father who wanted boys; hence their names.

I collect a few things: cobalt blue glass, decorative pumpkins, Santas and home-made Easter eggs. I enjoy inventing tasteful ways to combine them. In this photo, taken by my son, the contrast of the blue bowl and the pastel eggs is heightened by the angle of the late-morning sun. And by the way, these aren’t decorative eggs, they’re the real deal; all two dozen plus, courtesy of our four hens. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Hens that lay blue and blue-green eggs are actually called Easter Eggers in poultry circles. The secular part of our family’s Easter holiday includes decorating a few of the Sisters’ eggs to add to our collection. But we’re spared the dip-and-dye step, because they’re already so pretty in blue.

The Sisters’ have been blessing us with all manner of eggs of late. We thank them for each and every gem. Hens Alex, Teddy and Georgie are a mix of intricately designed sorrel, gray and brown feathers. Frankie’s different: She’s a wheaten color — but stands out mostly because of her antics.

She was the first to start laying when they were young; the first to escape the day the coop gate blew open; the first to inspect the new hen house; and our rooster’s favorite. Frankie’s one smart chick: She’s figured out if she roosts early enough in the evening, she can avoid the attentions of the always-ready-at-sunset rooster. I’m convinced Frankie’s the one that lays the torpedo-shaped eggs as well.

Ameraucanas are not as inclined to set on their eggs as much as some breeds. In spite of our rooster, Ozzie’s, efforts, the Sisters have no offspring.

Buckeye hens share nesting and hatching duties on a clutch that includes eggs from each. Buckeyes are a historic poultry breed in danger of extinction. The roosters are said to possess a range of sounds, including one that sounds like a dinosaur’s roar. Perhaps that's what hampers their popularity! Photo by Janet Herring-Sherman.

My friend Stacy has hens more than happy to set. Hers are a heritage breed known as Buckeyes. She currently has three Buckeye hens that insist on setting on the same nest at the same time. They appear not to care whose eggs are whose.

These personable hens share the maternal duty of gently rolling and repositioning the eggs to make sure they incubate nicely. Looks like they engage in chit-chat, too. I wonder if the chicks will imprint and bond with one or all of their moms?

Since Buckeyes are reputed to be as good as or better than cats at mousing, it would seem they’d be a popular choice for country and suburban dwellers. Not so.

Buckeyes are a threatened species on the conservation list compiled by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Since 1977, this organization has been working to keep 180 historic breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction.

Perhaps that’s why these Buckeye hens are so very earnest in their mission to hatch out chicks with burnished red plumage and comical personalities like their own. Even if it takes a village.

A handsome duck dropped in this week. Literally. Right onto the railing of the deck that backs our house. We had the good fortune to be sitting nearby when it arrived. If I hadn’t seen this drake myself, I’d swear this was a photo of a perfectly painted decoy, or a watercolor. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Living in the mountains near a forest, we’re treated to animal sightings pretty frequently. This one was unusual because it occurred just a few feet away from us.

My husband, Jim , and I were watching TV just before sunset when he suddenly became very still and told me not to move. He didn’t want any motion to startle the duck that had just landed on the railing of the deck right outside our tall windows.

At that point, I couldn’t see the duck and thought perhaps Jim was playing a belated April Fools’ trick.

Then, the partially metallic-green head of a male duck came into view. Its webbed feet walked purposefully along the railing.  About 18 inches behind him, along came a female, wearing feathers in more muted tones.

She followed his every move. A few times the drake stopped, turned to face her and kind of pecked at the air around her head. I worried she’d loose her balance and fall. Jim reminded me she could fly.

A new variety of bird seed mix filled the feeder on the deck’s corner, and we think that’s where the pair was headed. We never found out, because a hawk buzzed by and the ducks scattered. I’m guessing the drake was in the courting stage, because once his mate starts to incubate her dozen or so eggs, he’ll leave her to it and join an all-male flock.

I’m puzzled as to the type of duck this is: When compared to images of Mallards and Wood Ducks, it doesn’t quite match. Wonder if ducks lay colored eggs?

Have a very  blessed  Easter.

And did you know that the Bible contains 138 mentions of animals, according to http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/animals.html?

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