Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bird Hotline!

I was out of food at the bird feeders yesterday; not completely out as there were 3 cakes of suet but no seeds in the feeders. A few hardy souls were scrounging around the leftovers on the ground hoping to find an uneaten seed. There were also a few birds on the suet feeders but not nearly the numbers that we have in the yard when the "bottomless" sunflower seed feeders are full. I had every intention of going out yesterday afternoon for bird food but instead hung out with the dogs on the couch watching the full season 5 of Top Chef, in order to catch up in anticipation of last night's finale. I worried that the birds were starving and would have a hard night last night since they didn't get their daily ration of sunflower seeds. I really did worry about them and my husband had to reassure me multiple times that without my assistance they would still make it through :-)

Today I went out early on an sunflower seed run. Fred Meyer was out, Pet Zoo was out. I had to drive 10 miles to Animal Food Warehouse to purchase a 40lb bag, which they just had shipped in this morning. (Looks like lots of Valley people are feeding the birds and that is great!) Also the Animal Food Warehouse has lots of inexpensive yummy rawhide chips and rubber chew toys for the dogs, so everyone got something. (well, not the cats, but they are happy with just their food and water and the hammocks in the windows...cats are easy!)

Within 10 minutes of the filling of the feeders the population of birds in the yard went from 5 to over 100. What sort of "hotline" do these little guys have to get the word out so fast that the feeders are once again full?

I should apply for a grant to study the communication between these birds. They do it all without "WiFi" or cellphones or text messages. What is their method of such speedy communication? Could we apply it to our computer networks or other areas of our human lives? Something to think about....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This is Entropy

He is an 8-year old Anatolian Shepherd that belongs to our friends Dave and Sandie. He is big. He is at the near the top end of the standard size for his breed. He's not fat, he is just a big boy, 150 lbs!

Entropy's dad is a scientist; his first of many degrees. Entropy's name is related to physics and the second law of thermodynamics, the one that deals with "disorder, chaos, and lack of predictability". Entropy the dog is anything but chaotic. He is big, calm and sweet.

The reason this post is here is because my brother and his wife have a dog named Oskar. He is an Anatolian Shepherd too, but he is more on the low end of the weight and size scale for the breed. He also, in his younger years, would have deserved the name "Entropy" more than Dave and Sandie's dog. This is not a reflection of my love for Oskar; he was just a handful when he was younger and I am dealing with that with some of my younger pups. The only thing that keeps me going is knowing that they will perhaps grow up and mellow.

After spending an evening with our friends Dave and Sandie, they are also hoping that their human children will one day grow up and "mellow". At least one of them, who Dave claims has turned his once red hair to grey!

Leave it to me to only get photos of the dog. Their 3 children are also beautiful, as is our friend Gail's child who was there also.

I just couldn't get over how big this dog was! He has his own myspace page. That's how big he is.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pillow Fight!

I wasn't around for this "pillow fight" but I have photographic evidence that it did indeed happen! Long story short, I went away for a few hours to help Sally fence in her deck. I placed Annie in the kennel and put away anything that Brian might get into; trash can, remote controls, blankets, etc. Well, apparently I forgot to put the pillow away (yes, pillow, singular, as in we only had one left anyway as the others had already been eviscerated...)

The above photos are of the scene that greeted me when I returned home. Not that anyone admitted guilt, but Brian is the likely culprit as Annie was locked up and the other 3 no longer have an interest in destroying property, only dog toys.

Rather than acting contrite, or ashamed Brian greeted me heartily while romping through the inches of feathers and down that covered the living room floor and furniture. He was pretty darned proud of himself.

Cleaning commenced with the majority of the stuffing being swept into the trash can. I attempted to vacuum the remainder, but the vacuum exhaust just blew the feathers around and made even more of a mess. Curious cats entered the scene and proceeded to chase the flying feathers around! After a bit more sweeping and a little more vacuuming (the vacuum plugged up twice with down stuck in the bottom hose...) the majority was removed. There are still feathers and down floating around various corners and under furniture and I suspect we will be seeing them around for a few weeks.

The last photo is me taking a well deserved rest and Brian trying to make up :-)

Brian just received his very own kennel yesterday so hopefully no more messy surprises for a while.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

All About Brian

Didn't really have a post for today so Tuesday, February 17, 2009 is officially "Brian Day" on the blog.

Brian was roaming the house last night and Benton decided to do a little training and told him to sit. Well, he decided to do his "sit" on the steps and there he stayed, just being his little photogenic self for a good long while. Well, a good long while in dog moments, at least long enough to get some photos of his cute mug. Yeti the cat was trying to move in on his photo-op as she is a complete camera hog!

More on Brian:
We were on a hike at Crevasse Moraine Park on Sunday and Brian got the "good dog" award of the day. A momma and baby moose crossed the trail about 100 yards in front of us and Brian went running towards them and stopped when I yelled "no Brian". He then proceeded to come back to me and not go chasing after the moose. I was so very proud of him and I think this was a major breakthrough. I think that Annie would have chased and harassed the moose until she was kicked in the head and knocked out or worse. Annie is beginning "shock collar" training this week in an effort to make her more controllable. I don't want to kill her spirit, just make her more obedient, especially when her disobedience puts her in harms way. Annie can have a photo page once she receives a "good dog" award of the day....

That's all folks!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentines Hike at Eklutna Lake

Here is a short video of our hike yesterday on Eklutna Lake. Temps were in the 30's with a light wind and it was absolutely beautiful! Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Garden Video

I just created this short video last week as a test project for the larger garden video that I am preparing. It's a short series of photos from the Visitor Center Garden in Palmer, Alaska, where I am assistant to the gardener in the summer months. I hope you enjoy this short trip through the garden and will post a larger version once it is ready.

Looking back at the vast library of photos that my boss and I have taken of the gardens makes me....

1. Long for summer
2. Makes my back and knees ache remembering how much work goes into creating this each year :-)


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count is this weekend, Friday February 13-Monday February 16. Everyone with feeders or just resident bird populations, should go to the link and take part. Sounds like fun!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hanging with Eagles (and Ravens)

This is a short movie of photos taken during one of our walks last week. The park abuts the landfill on its west side and as the landfill creeps closer to the western trails, the population of Eagles and Ravens on the trail increases. The birds are drawn to our human "leftovers" and seem to be well fed and thus complacent, allowing people to get very close to take photos. Even people with rambunctious dogs!

There are plenty of other trails in the park that are well away from the landfill, but some of my favorite walks are on these trails nearest the dump. Hardly anyone uses these areas and it's not unusual not to see another soul during a walk. The only sounds, aside from the landfill earth movers, is that of chattering Ravens and the high-pitched "weee" of the Eagles. There is an open valley to the right of our favorite trail and you can watch the Ravens and Eagles taunting each other and hear their calls echoing through the valley. A nice way to spend a few hours.

Sorry for the small size of the photos, this was really just a test video. I hope to get better Eagle close ups in the coming week.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Birds Abound

Female Pine Grosbeak
For the last week our yard has been overrun by flocks of birds; Common Redpolls, Bohemian Waxwings, and Pine Grosbeaks. I believe this is because I changed from a mixed bird food back to strictly black oil sunflower seed; that seems to be the crowd favorite around here.

It seems that these birds have a pretty efficient communications "grapevine". Within 24 hours of filling the feeders the resident Chickadees and Nuthatches were joined first by a few, then very quickly, by massive flocks of Redpolls, Waxwings and Grosbeaks. The squirrels were also out in force.

The cats have been having a fabulous time stationing themselves at various windows watching the show.

The Redpolls are fun to watch as they move like one big organism, flying in and taking off in one large orchestrated group. The slightest noise will spook them and send them flying off, only to return a few seconds later. They also get into tiffs at the feeder with the resident Chickadees and Nuthatches. We've been having little scuffles all week, but so far no casualties. No window casualties either, which is surprising as the Redpolls often hit the windows. They will hit people too. Benton and I have almost been hit multiple times walking around the corner to our cars. The birds travel rapidly up and down the driveway between the front yard and back yard bird feeders. You better remember to look both ways before entering that line of avian traffic!

Other sightings at the feeder this week. Two Northern Flickers were hanging around eating the suet cake. This was very exciting as they were the first that I had ever seen. Beautiful birds! They were joined by a Gray Jay, which is also a rare visitor to our yard.

Monday, February 2, 2009

On Sarah Palin and Shoes

Sarah Palin wearing Boots that we can't wear in the winter in Alaska without hurting ourselves

I've finally found a common ground with Sarah Palin. SHOES!! This woman loves herself some shoes! Hell, someone even paid over $2000 for her used red patent leather buckle pumps on EBay! Well, the person who spent that money probably has his or her own reasons for purchasing a $90 pair of shoes for $2000. That person probably has a disorder that is much more psychologically complex than just a love of shoes. I hope that there is a party going on somewhere where lecherous foot fetishists are getting together to drink cheap champagne from Sarah Palin's Naughty Monkey pumps. They are open-toed pumps so I would recommend duct taping the toes shut so that the champagne stays put. Duct tape is an old Alaskan remedy for all sorts of problems and if you just paid $2000 for Sarah Palin's old shoes, well, you should know that. She is "duct tape" personified....

Anway, back to the link of her in those damn boots!
Damn her eyes, I mean, Damn her feet! Damn her for traveling to warmer ice free climes for no better reason than to wear those awesome boots without risking life or limb. Well, she was going there to "pal around with the Elite Washington types" that she really didn't like a few months ago, but now we know the TRUTH. She goes to warmer places so she can wear cool shoes without breaking a leg!

All is now forgiven Sarah Palin. I forgive you for forsaking our state in your recent 3 month quest for national stardom. I forgive you for being uniformed and making a mockery of all Alaskans during your battle with the "gotcha liberal media". I now understand why you don't want to be in Alaska. You want to wear AWESOME shoes and boots without risking your bones!

But Wait (looking thoughtful and putting my index finger to my cheek)
Sarah Palin did film that video on icy the icy streets of Juneau last spring in some really cute spike heeled boots. Mere mortals would have ended up with perhaps one, but probably two seriously sprained ankles running around like she did on those icy streets in stilettos. There's more. She had 4 inch heels on in the Turkey Slaughter video, in the snow and ice and chilly wind. Very brave shoe choices indeed. Sarah Palin, I applaud your shoe heroics here on the icy streets of Alaska.

I thought that Sarah Palin wanted to go to DC because she could exercise more "shoe freedom" there. Now I'm not sure why she wants to go. I'm going to have to do some more research. Could it be that life and politics is really about more than just shoes?

An historical note:
The model name of Sarah Palin's open toed Naughty Monkey pumps (that sold on EBay for $2000+) is called "Double Dare" (god lets all hope that she doesn't see fit to go there...McCain dared her once, and she actually accepted!).

Other styles that she could fit in her shoe closet are called "Colorful Talk" (that works well for her, she can toss them up with her "word salads"), "Animal Thunder" (what she wears when she sends people out to shoot wolves from helicopters), "Cut Like a Blade" (trust your ears on that one) and there's even a "Romance in Paris" shoe (which she wears when speaking to French President Sarkozy, or at least someone who sounds french who really might be Sarkozy...or NOT)

Ahh, it's the shoes that matter and the Naughty Monkey brand seems to have a style to fit every Palin occasion!
Now if they could only develop the "Bush Doctrine Sling Back" and the "What do you Read Open Toed Pump" Sarah might have shoe for every occasion.