Just Kidding

10/22/2014

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One of the perks of working at a rural school district is the rural part. A small herd of goats resides close to my office, just past the playground. Boer goats to be exact, who provide moments of entertainment throughout the day. You need that when you constantly stare at a computer screen, answering emails, and entering all manner of data. Thankfully, a window gives me an excellent view of the herd.

The reason for the goats is a hobby farm next door to the District Office where I work.  A retired couple can be seen tending their livestock, and working in the garden every morning. It's such a peaceful and pastoral scene. (Sigh.)

Springtime with Maisey on the log
 and Daisy on the ground.
Along with the goats, the couple keeps a flock of Rhode Island Red chickens. A magnificent rooster guards his harem. You definitely don't want to mess with him. He has no sense of humor and when he squawks, those girls come running to the safety of the hen house. These particular hens can be seen jumping in the air to catch bugs, scratching in the dirt, or dashing around the small pasture. The flock is definitely free range and seem delighted to be there. They have it pretty good.


Back to the goats. The goat herd started in February when one of the two resident does had twins. The kids were doelings; one is black-and-white (I've named her Maisey), and the other is brown-and-white (Daisy). The other doe produced another set of twins in early summer.  Mysteriously, that doe and one of twins are no longer part of the herd. The remaining kid is a buckling. His button horns appeared recently--he's growing up already. (Let's call him Maurice. It seems to fit for some reason.) He's a handsome boy, brown in color, with an edging of black on his coat.

Maurice
I began making friends with the doelings in the spring. Now they run to the fence when I call. Maisey is greedy for the handfuls of grass I offer. She's quick to jump, placing her hooves high on the fence to push her sister out of the way. I think she likes looking me in the eye too. Quite sassy and confident. Daisy, however, is reluctant to take any grass. She good-naturedly tolerates her sister and is resigned to second place. Mama sometimes appears and pushes both of her daughters to the side, taking the grass for herself. You have to let the offspring know that you're still in charge.

Maurice has recently warmed up to me and starts crying for attention when I appear for my lunchtime walk. Now I have to pet him before the girls, and he gets the first offering of grass. Boys! He complains rather loudly about the separate pasture he has from the girls from time to time.

My family had a milk goat on our farm long ago. I helped my mother milk the nanny everyday. I never cared for goat milk. A little too strong tasting for me, but my brother liked it. The point of this post? It's kind of nice to have that little piece of my childhood next to my office. And it's a bonus to find joy in the simple things, like feeding a handful of grass to a precocious goat. Who else gets to do that on their lunchtime?

Maisey and Mama

Maurice unhappy about his separate pasture.

Boer Goat Factoids


  • Developed in South Africa in the early 1900s
  • Boer means farmer
  • Bred for meat rather than milk production
  • Mature at five months
  • Adapt well to desert conditions
  • Has a high fertility rate - lots of twins
  • Scads of personality (my observation)





Mama

Daisy with Maurice on the left.

Grasshopper Season

9/09/2014

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The arrival of the horse lubber grasshopper signals the change of season from summer to fall in southern Arizona. The large, brightly colored grasshoppers appear in September with equally large appetites. Last year they managed to turn my iris into coleslaw. They munch on everything from flowers to foliage to seed pods.

bugguide.net
The oddly colored insect with its bright greens and yellows is one of the largest grasshoppers.They sport pink coloring under their wings. The markings on their face resemble a bridle hence their Latin name, Taeniopoda eques (eques - horse rider). The bright colors warn predators that they don't taste good and may be poisonous. That's always a plus if you're a bug. Their size is a bit daunting and they can reach a length of 2.5 inches. 

It's common to see battalions of horse lubbers marching across country roads this time of year and being crunched under tires of passing vehicles. It's sort of like the lemmings jumping into the sea. Because of their size, they don't fly all that well and make a clicking sound when they try.If you're walking through the grass, these monster grasshoppers scatter, jumping every which way. I don't like that at all. It's kind of creepy. They prefer the southwest as their habitat, and are common in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

Horse lubbers have attitude, and if disturbed they may drop to the ground and hiss. They've even been known to snap their forewings. Great--don't you think? Just what we need, an angry grasshopper of large proportions. Fortunately, I haven't observed this particular behavior since I do my best to avoid them. They'll be with us throughout the fall however, finally succumbing to the cold in November. 
Photo by Robert Shantz

It seems that the high desert always has interesting critters and everything is a little bigger, a little more unusual, and sometimes a little meaner. Hopefully we won't be the subject of a news report about grasshoppers taking over southeast Arizona. But it might make a good sci-fi movie -- The Invasion of the Horse Lubbers. Catchy right?

Taking Flight

8/21/2014

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The nest of swallows tucked under eaves of my office building was in transition last week. The four birds were various stages of leaving the safety of the daub brown nest for the wild blue yonder. The bravest fledgling had flown to a nearby tree. One was still firmly seated in the nest, watching two siblings inch their way from under the roof. Another took a test flight and came back, contemplating the next move. The other ledge-sitter dithered, not quite ready to take the leap. But, by the next morning the nest was empty. 

Each had overcome fears and uncertainties. The timing was a little different for each of them, one apparently fearless, while the others had a few issues leaving the familiar and secure. There was no future huddling in an overcrowded and undoubtedly smelly nest. The parents were ready for them to leave. It was time. The birds were meant to take wing.

We were were meant for flight too. Stepping out in faith, leaving the familiar behind, trusting God to lead us in a whole new life in Christ. Our decision to trust Jesus and receive forgiveness of our sins is really just the beginning. God has a grand adventure for us. It's not about riches, fame, or power. It's trusting that God tells the truth in His Word and us obeying that truth in how we live.  We do like the safety of old habits, comfortable sins, the familiar, refusing to step out with God. We prefer to be babies as the writer of Hebrews penned.


For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn't know how to do what is right. Hebrews 5:13 NLT.

God offers us a real life, but we must trust in Him alone just like Abraham, Daniel, Peter, and Paul. Who knows what God will do in our lives if we simply trust and obey. This new life is counter-cultural, with a totally different way of thinking. It's not popular. Daniel can affirm that as can many others.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV

The authentic Christian life is outlined in Romans 12. I encourage you to read that chapter in its entirety. It's a definitive passage on living by faith. It's not nest living, but soaring on the journey to where we really belong.

 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16 NIV







Humming Right Along

8/09/2014

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That signature buzzing a/k/a humming wings and the flash of iridescence darting in and out of my salvias, red yucca, and agastache (hummingbird mint) provides endless entertainment while sipping a cup of coffee in the morning. Living helicopters which are extremely aggressive, these little birds are amazing creatures. Because we live directly on a super highway of migration, thanks to the San Pedro River, we are treated to all sorts of unique bird visitors. On our hikes in the mountains or just watching our feeders we've identified the Rufous, Broad-bill, Broad-tail, Magnificent, Black-chinned, Costa's, and Anna's hummingbirds. Interestingly, we have no Ruby-throated hummers in Arizona. That particular bird is the only one who migrates from Mexico to east of the Mississippi. The rest prefer western climes. 

The Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (SABO) does excellent work in recording data that helps us understand more about these flying jewels. Over the course of the summer, SABO conducts weekly hummingbird banding in several different areas around Casa Wallace. I joined the banding party this week at the Casa de San Pedro B & B to watch the experienced volunteers do the work of collecting valuable data on the hummers.  I was privileged to meet Sheri Williamson who is licensed by the National  Bird Banding Laboratory to attach tiny metal rings to tiny hummer legs. Sheri has a great website which I encourage you to visit. She is a naturalist, ornithologist, author, and much more. (Link to Sheri's Website.) You'll find a treasure trove of all things feathery. It's worth the visit and you'll find out the do's and don'ts of feeding hummers which is very important.

Sheri holding a Rufous male
The Casa de San Pedro is a beautiful setting for capturing hummers and we found places to sit while a handful of men intently watched the traps hung over the feeders. One had a remote (which is why a man is in charge of this) to spring the trap once the hummer is under the netting. Another quickly caged it in a small, soft net enclosure and delivered it to the crew of women who were ready for the next phase. 

Susan with a caged hummer
Teeny Tiny Bands
Sheri expertly removed the hummer from the cage and made measurements from beak to tail which were entered by Kathy, the data collector. Beak length, tail and wing length were taken. The minuscule band was quickly attached, the number recorded. Sheri then took a straw and blew at the chest feathers, determining whether it was a juvenile or adult, amount of fat, looking for pollen and louse eggs. A lot of information is collected within minutes. Each bird has a distinct personality. Some are quite docile, accepting human handling with barely a wiggle, but others have real attitudes and are not pleased to have their afternoon feeding disrupted. Each bird was weighed, held securely in a bit of fine mesh, clipped to the scale. A Black-chinned female weighed in at 3.8 grams. After that, Susan the volunteer who releases the birds, gently held her disgruntled captives and offered each the opportunity to stick their beak in the feeder on the table. Most were greedy and sucked down the nectar until they were full. 

Highlight of the Day!
Now, here's the best part. Observers get to help release the birds. I was fortunate to release a young male Broad-bill who was content to stay in my hand for probably a full minute before he buzzed away. It is considered good luck if they pee in your hand and I was also blessed with abundant good luck. Susan comes prepared with tissues.

This is the 19th season of collecting hummingbird data on the San Pedro. Much has been learned about about their travels and their lifespans through this study. One of the birds caught on Friday was already banded. Kathy quickly found his data from the band number. A young male Rufous, he had been caught just two weeks prior. When measurements and weight were taken again, his checkup showed he was growing normally and he continued to be a bit of a grump. The ladies shared that  birds may be caught multiple times over the years. One female was caught approximately 20 times over a ten year period. The typical lifespan is 4-5 years, but data is now showing longer lives for some. Year around feeding and favorable garden habitats may contribute to that. 

I continue to be amazed by God's incredible creation. Birds with extraordinary jewel-tone colors, who hover, fly up, down, sideways, backwards--even upside down. Delicate, fierce, and beautiful birds who brighten my garden with their presence. 
Checking out the heartbeat.
It sounds like a rushing wind!
Over 1200 beats per minute.






The Trap

















One of the trails around Casa de San Pedro






Amble to Albuquerque

7/28/2014

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SimplyLife has been on hiatus due to the press of revisions on the third Gracie Andersen mystery. We did manage a quick trip to Albuquerque during that period however. Heretofore our only visit there was speeding through it on our way to relocate in Arizona. We weren't desperate to journey to this iconic Southwestern city, but the opportunity to visit our youngest daughter and son-in-law, who were there courtesy of Uncle Sam for some training was the real draw. 

An uneventful and dreadfully boring road trip(there is only so much desert one can handle in a day along the I-10) brought us to the city limits in seven hours. We jumped into tourist mode to jam in as much sightseeing as we could in two days. Since our daughter was in charge of finding restaurants, she insisted that we eat "local" and franchises were not allowed. This entailed some exploration of downtown ABQ which proved entertaining. The eateries had excellent fare and one even had the distinction of a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives visit. My favorite was the Slate Street Cafe which was tucked away on a side street. Check out my Trip Advisor review here. In fact, you can check out all my reviews on Trip Advisor.


Even though we've lived in the Southwest for over a decade, ABQ has a different flavor than Arizona. There is a strong Pueblo Indian influence that dominates rather than the Mexican culture in AZ. We decided to take the trip up the side of Sandia Peak to enjoy the tram ride and the views at the top. It was a perfect day, but lots of people were smushed into the tram with us. One gets to know the other tourists up close and personal when it's crowded. However, the views were fabulous, but the disappointment was that the Forest Service had closed the hiking trails. Not enough rain had fallen yet. We were relegated to an extensive boardwalk around the tram area. The ticket price was a little high without the trails to explore, but it was a good time for conversation and soaking up the high altitude views above Albuquerque. 

Since it was the 4th of July weekend, we took the bus to Balloon Fiesta Park to join thousands in celebrating our country's independence. The city does an excellent job of transporting people on buses to alleviate some of the traffic. At a $1 for a round trip, it couldn't be beat. Once we arrived in Fiesta Park, lo and behold, our favorite food vendor from the Prescott Highland Games was there serving up Messy Nessies and shepherd's pie. We ate Scottish, and sat on the grass to view a stunning fireworks display. We even saw the Rio Ranchos fireworks from afar which set the stage.


The pièce de résistance of the trip was the train ride to Santa Fe. The Railrunner was a cheap and comfortable alternative to driving. I haven't been on a train in many years, and this was relaxing and fun. We rode the rails for about a 90 minute trip to Santa Fe, alternately napping, talking, and watching the beautiful countryside go by. Then it was a short walk to Old Town which is filled with galleries, restaurants, and all sorts of shops. We ate in the park, purchasing our lunch from a street vendor who made killer carnitas. David had carne and I went with pollo. There's nothing like homemade tortillas. Apache and Anasazi vendors spread their jewelry on blankets, all beautifully handcrafted and at a fraction of the price in the stores. The last visit of the day was to the Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. However, a wedding was in progress and we were unable to slip inside for a peek. We did see the happy bride and groom emerge from the front doors.


A quick trip, but full of good family times and a bit of an adventure rolled into one. A serendipitous blessing mid-year.  

The blessing of the LORD makes rich,

and he adds no sorrow with it. Proverbs 10:22




In the Highlands

5/20/2014

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A couple of weeks ago, my Scotsman husband and I headed for Prescott, AZ to enjoy the annual Highland Games. It seemed entirely appropriate to celebrate our anniversary with bagpipe bands and watching men throw heavy objects. After all what do good plaid-wearers do for special occasions? Watson Lake Park was the perfect venue. Its unique rock formations were a gorgeous backdrop for the multitude of events.

The good news right at the admission table was that we were both eligible for the senior discounts. What a boon for my husband who's a pro at pinching pennies. We checked in at the Clan Wallace booth to meet the kin and swap family histories. Then it was on to the herding dog demonstrations with border collies showing off their skills. Rather than sheep, which is standard fare, we were treated to a  flock of cranky domestic ducks. The dogs manipulated the fowl every which way and finally into their pens. The ducks seemed to prefer the pen to running willy nilly around the arena. They didn't seem to be in favor of canines.

Duck Herding
After that, the field games grabbed our attention. It seems that any self-respecting Scotsman must heave rocks, hammers, and even large poles called cabers. The sign around the field cautioned bystanders that they were free to move if any flying object came their way. I did step back a time or two when a caber landing seemed a little uncertain. Women joined in the fun and I give them a bucket of credit for tossing a small telephone pole. The tossing of the caber has a lot to do with balance and finesse rather than brute strength. The brutes were over throwing small boulders in another section.

Wallace Plaid on a Good Dog

Throwing weights over a bar
The music was absolutely fantastic. I'm telling you there's nothing like three, yes three topnotch bagpipe bands playing Amazing Grace, America, the Beautiful, and the traditional Scottish marches.That music stirs the heart. Then there were the funky bagpipers -- California Celts and The Wicked Tinkers. Jigs, folk songs, a little Robert Burns, pirate tunes, and some calypso was thrown in for good measure. Excellent musicians and entertainers all around.

My husband enjoyed a Messy Nessie which was a banger (sausage) with cabbage and ground beef over the top. Very high in protein. I had a shepherd's pie which is vegetables and meat under a layer of mashed potatoes. Haggis was available, but neither of us were willing to get that authentic. As you might expect whisky tasting was very popular, but we rambled to the vendors who offered plaids, knives, swords, and all manner of Highland garb.

The Highland Games have been around for a thousand years at least and were brought back to popularity by Queen Victoria who was enamored of all things Scottish. She became the patron of The Gathering. Some interesting history can be found at this link: http://www.royal-deeside.org.uk/brhistory/gathering.htm.

The folks who put the Prescott Highland Games on do an excellent job. Parking was a breeze. There were tractors and wagons carrying folks who declined the walk to admission. The layout and ease of taking in all the sights was well done. Enjoy the photos and video of our little excursion to Prescott. If you're considering a visit next year, visit their website at www.prescotthighlandgames.com.




Choosing a caber - Notice the name on far caber.
Bonnie Lass and the Caber
video

Choosing a Puppy for Your Children

4/27/2014

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"But, Mom the puppies are really cute. I'll take care of it. Honest. We need a dog. I'll walk him and feed him. Pleeeeeese, can't we get a puppy?"

The age old parent-child exchange about getting a puppy. The big decision to bring a baby canine into your family. How the passionate promises of feeding, walking, and cleaning up after the puppy pour so easily from your child's lips. You know, however, you'll be the one doing all of the above and more.  Of course, puppies are adorable, soft, cuddly, entertaining, annoying, labor intensive, and sleep disrupting. But, most likely you'll cave and get one anyway.

Companion dogs are members of the family, and the puppy you add to the mix needs to be a good fit. Emotions run high over that furry, roly-poly critter whose antics can melt the heart of the stone. Take a deep breath and do your homework before making the commitment. Don't get a puppy at Christmastime. The excitement of the holiday will make it a very difficult time for the puppy and your family. Wait until the holidays are past and you can focus on introducing a new family member correctly.

Here's a puppy picking list for you that will help in selecting just the right one for your situation whether you go to a breeder or a shelter.

1. Beware of puppy mills, backyard breeders, and pet stores. A healthy puppy is paramount to a great experience in adding a dog to your family. A reputable breeder and shelters who make sure the dogs are given their shots, and have been vet-checked are your best choices.

2. Be realistic about the size of dog to choose. Too big and too little are the same problem. Look at your home, yard, and the age of your children. Young children aren't going to be able to walk a Great Dane when it reaches 8-9 months of age. A teacup-size dog may be cute for you to carry in your purse, but a young child can easily, albeit, unintentionally injure a small dog.

3. A purebred dog can be quite an investment, depending on the breed. If that's out of reach, many shelters offer excellent programs that include all shots, spaying, neutering, microchipping, and more. At either a breeder's kennel or a shelter, runs should be clean, the dogs well cared for, and records available.

4. Like a baby, a puppy needs a lot of equipment - a crate (yes, it's a necessity), a bed, collar, puppy food, toys, and a leash for starters. Regular vet visits during the first year are important too. They need shots, and health checks as they mature. Count the cost of responsible dog ownership before proceeding.

If you get the through the first list and decide to continue, let's check out the next step--selecting a puppy.  I've gotten both puppies and adult dogs. We've gone to shelters and breeders with successful adoptions. The puppy personality test can be used successfully with adult dogs, as well as pups. Every dog has a distinct personality, just like people. Breeds are distinct in their pluses and minuses for your particular situation. Collies are beautiful dogs, but are you prepared for high maintenance hair?  Males and females are different too.  There are lots of things to consider.

The puppy personality test will show you how social, dominant, submissive, and how sensitive the dog is. These are extremely important in how quickly and easily your furry bundle of joy will adapt to his or her new home. Remember humans are the alpha dogs in the house, and you want a dog that easily accepts the proper position in the household.

1. Place the puppy a few feet from you. Then kneel down and call him/her, clapping your hands, and gently coaxing. The puppy may charge at you and lick or bite at your face and hands, or some may cautiously approach you, or not at all.  You'll be able to quickly assess how confident, and how social the dog is. A puppy who comes to you readily with tail up, is an ideal response. If the puppy jumps or bites at you when he comes, shows aggressive behavior, while the dog who is hesitant or cowers with tail down is a fearful, shy dog.

2. Kneel down and gently roll the dog on his/her back, and hold for about 30 seconds. Does the dog struggle the entire time? Maybe he/she doesn't struggle at all or the puppy may struggle for a few seconds and then settle.  This little exercise shows the dominance tendencies of the dog in a social situation. The more the dog struggles, the more dominant and aggressive he is. One who struggles and then settles is ideal. He's willing to accept restraint. The puppy who doesn't struggle or avoids eye contact is overly submissive and fearful.

3. Another dominance test is bending over the puppy and interlacing your fingers under the dog's belly. Lift it gently off the floor for 30 seconds.  Does the puppy bite at you, struggle, lick your hands?  The response will tell you how the dog accepts dominance while he/she has no control.

4. Sensitivity to touch is tested by pressing a finger and thumb on the webbing of a front foot. Exert increasing pressure on the webbing until you get a response while counting to 10. Stop immediately if the puppy shows any discomfort. If a dog responds before you can count to five or six, its sensitivity is high. Think about kids pulling on ears, or a tail, or tugging at loose skin.  A highly sensitive dog may react by snapping or biting.

5. Homes with children are noisy places. Check out the puppy's sensitivity to sound by hitting a large metal spoon on a pot a couple of times. If the dog listens, walks toward you, or appears curious, he/she is't overly sensitive and isn't deaf. If a dog cringes or hides from the noise, he/she may not be right for your family. If there is no reaction at all, the dog may be deaf.

6. Retrieving a ball is a test to see if the dog is willing to work with a two-legged alpha dog. If the dog doesn't cooperate and willingly participate, don't expect that to change.

Now is not the time to rescue a sick or poorly socialized puppy. A home with children needs a well-adjusted and healthy dog who's a willing learner. You may like the "spunk" in a nippy puppy, but that's a behavior that will take time, consistent training, and patience to change. A shaking, shy one may tug at everyone's heartstrings, but the dog needs the same training as the dominant personality. Fear biters, and piddlers come from this group. Piddling and nippy dogs aren't fun as they get older. That behavior can be changed, but only through consistent training as is needed for the overly spunky puppy.

A nice, balanced personality is the best choice. House training, and adjusting to home life is quite enough for a puppy to handle, and for you too. A special needs puppy is best left to owners with experience, and the right home environment.

A puppy can be a great addition to your family. Sophie, the black Lab our daughters grew up with came from the county shelter and was a terrific companion for 10 years. She waited everyday for them to come home from school, napping in the shade of the maple in our driveway. She also surreptitiously gobbled a pound of hamburger out of a grocery bag while I unloaded the car. Life with dogs is always interesting.

Resource Link:  American Kennel Club

SimplyLife

Positively encouraging

10/22/2014

Just Kidding

One of the perks of working at a rural school district is the rural part. A small herd of goats resides close to my office, just past the playground. Boer goats to be exact, who provide moments of entertainment throughout the day. You need that when you constantly stare at a computer screen, answering emails, and entering all manner of data. Thankfully, a window gives me an excellent view of the herd.

The reason for the goats is a hobby farm next door to the District Office where I work.  A retired couple can be seen tending their livestock, and working in the garden every morning. It's such a peaceful and pastoral scene. (Sigh.)

Springtime with Maisey on the log
 and Daisy on the ground.
Along with the goats, the couple keeps a flock of Rhode Island Red chickens. A magnificent rooster guards his harem. You definitely don't want to mess with him. He has no sense of humor and when he squawks, those girls come running to the safety of the hen house. These particular hens can be seen jumping in the air to catch bugs, scratching in the dirt, or dashing around the small pasture. The flock is definitely free range and seem delighted to be there. They have it pretty good.


Back to the goats. The goat herd started in February when one of the two resident does had twins. The kids were doelings; one is black-and-white (I've named her Maisey), and the other is brown-and-white (Daisy). The other doe produced another set of twins in early summer.  Mysteriously, that doe and one of twins are no longer part of the herd. The remaining kid is a buckling. His button horns appeared recently--he's growing up already. (Let's call him Maurice. It seems to fit for some reason.) He's a handsome boy, brown in color, with an edging of black on his coat.

Maurice
I began making friends with the doelings in the spring. Now they run to the fence when I call. Maisey is greedy for the handfuls of grass I offer. She's quick to jump, placing her hooves high on the fence to push her sister out of the way. I think she likes looking me in the eye too. Quite sassy and confident. Daisy, however, is reluctant to take any grass. She good-naturedly tolerates her sister and is resigned to second place. Mama sometimes appears and pushes both of her daughters to the side, taking the grass for herself. You have to let the offspring know that you're still in charge.

Maurice has recently warmed up to me and starts crying for attention when I appear for my lunchtime walk. Now I have to pet him before the girls, and he gets the first offering of grass. Boys! He complains rather loudly about the separate pasture he has from the girls from time to time.

My family had a milk goat on our farm long ago. I helped my mother milk the nanny everyday. I never cared for goat milk. A little too strong tasting for me, but my brother liked it. The point of this post? It's kind of nice to have that little piece of my childhood next to my office. And it's a bonus to find joy in the simple things, like feeding a handful of grass to a precocious goat. Who else gets to do that on their lunchtime?

Maisey and Mama

Maurice unhappy about his separate pasture.

Boer Goat Factoids


  • Developed in South Africa in the early 1900s
  • Boer means farmer
  • Bred for meat rather than milk production
  • Mature at five months
  • Adapt well to desert conditions
  • Has a high fertility rate - lots of twins
  • Scads of personality (my observation)





Mama

Daisy with Maurice on the left.

9/09/2014

Grasshopper Season

The arrival of the horse lubber grasshopper signals the change of season from summer to fall in southern Arizona. The large, brightly colored grasshoppers appear in September with equally large appetites. Last year they managed to turn my iris into coleslaw. They munch on everything from flowers to foliage to seed pods.

bugguide.net
The oddly colored insect with its bright greens and yellows is one of the largest grasshoppers.They sport pink coloring under their wings. The markings on their face resemble a bridle hence their Latin name, Taeniopoda eques (eques - horse rider). The bright colors warn predators that they don't taste good and may be poisonous. That's always a plus if you're a bug. Their size is a bit daunting and they can reach a length of 2.5 inches. 

It's common to see battalions of horse lubbers marching across country roads this time of year and being crunched under tires of passing vehicles. It's sort of like the lemmings jumping into the sea. Because of their size, they don't fly all that well and make a clicking sound when they try.If you're walking through the grass, these monster grasshoppers scatter, jumping every which way. I don't like that at all. It's kind of creepy. They prefer the southwest as their habitat, and are common in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

Horse lubbers have attitude, and if disturbed they may drop to the ground and hiss. They've even been known to snap their forewings. Great--don't you think? Just what we need, an angry grasshopper of large proportions. Fortunately, I haven't observed this particular behavior since I do my best to avoid them. They'll be with us throughout the fall however, finally succumbing to the cold in November. 
Photo by Robert Shantz

It seems that the high desert always has interesting critters and everything is a little bigger, a little more unusual, and sometimes a little meaner. Hopefully we won't be the subject of a news report about grasshoppers taking over southeast Arizona. But it might make a good sci-fi movie -- The Invasion of the Horse Lubbers. Catchy right?

8/21/2014

Taking Flight

The nest of swallows tucked under eaves of my office building was in transition last week. The four birds were various stages of leaving the safety of the daub brown nest for the wild blue yonder. The bravest fledgling had flown to a nearby tree. One was still firmly seated in the nest, watching two siblings inch their way from under the roof. Another took a test flight and came back, contemplating the next move. The other ledge-sitter dithered, not quite ready to take the leap. But, by the next morning the nest was empty. 

Each had overcome fears and uncertainties. The timing was a little different for each of them, one apparently fearless, while the others had a few issues leaving the familiar and secure. There was no future huddling in an overcrowded and undoubtedly smelly nest. The parents were ready for them to leave. It was time. The birds were meant to take wing.

We were were meant for flight too. Stepping out in faith, leaving the familiar behind, trusting God to lead us in a whole new life in Christ. Our decision to trust Jesus and receive forgiveness of our sins is really just the beginning. God has a grand adventure for us. It's not about riches, fame, or power. It's trusting that God tells the truth in His Word and us obeying that truth in how we live.  We do like the safety of old habits, comfortable sins, the familiar, refusing to step out with God. We prefer to be babies as the writer of Hebrews penned.


For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn't know how to do what is right. Hebrews 5:13 NLT.

God offers us a real life, but we must trust in Him alone just like Abraham, Daniel, Peter, and Paul. Who knows what God will do in our lives if we simply trust and obey. This new life is counter-cultural, with a totally different way of thinking. It's not popular. Daniel can affirm that as can many others.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV

The authentic Christian life is outlined in Romans 12. I encourage you to read that chapter in its entirety. It's a definitive passage on living by faith. It's not nest living, but soaring on the journey to where we really belong.

 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16 NIV







8/09/2014

Humming Right Along


That signature buzzing a/k/a humming wings and the flash of iridescence darting in and out of my salvias, red yucca, and agastache (hummingbird mint) provides endless entertainment while sipping a cup of coffee in the morning. Living helicopters which are extremely aggressive, these little birds are amazing creatures. Because we live directly on a super highway of migration, thanks to the San Pedro River, we are treated to all sorts of unique bird visitors. On our hikes in the mountains or just watching our feeders we've identified the Rufous, Broad-bill, Broad-tail, Magnificent, Black-chinned, Costa's, and Anna's hummingbirds. Interestingly, we have no Ruby-throated hummers in Arizona. That particular bird is the only one who migrates from Mexico to east of the Mississippi. The rest prefer western climes. 

The Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (SABO) does excellent work in recording data that helps us understand more about these flying jewels. Over the course of the summer, SABO conducts weekly hummingbird banding in several different areas around Casa Wallace. I joined the banding party this week at the Casa de San Pedro B & B to watch the experienced volunteers do the work of collecting valuable data on the hummers.  I was privileged to meet Sheri Williamson who is licensed by the National  Bird Banding Laboratory to attach tiny metal rings to tiny hummer legs. Sheri has a great website which I encourage you to visit. She is a naturalist, ornithologist, author, and much more. (Link to Sheri's Website.) You'll find a treasure trove of all things feathery. It's worth the visit and you'll find out the do's and don'ts of feeding hummers which is very important.

Sheri holding a Rufous male
The Casa de San Pedro is a beautiful setting for capturing hummers and we found places to sit while a handful of men intently watched the traps hung over the feeders. One had a remote (which is why a man is in charge of this) to spring the trap once the hummer is under the netting. Another quickly caged it in a small, soft net enclosure and delivered it to the crew of women who were ready for the next phase. 

Susan with a caged hummer
Teeny Tiny Bands
Sheri expertly removed the hummer from the cage and made measurements from beak to tail which were entered by Kathy, the data collector. Beak length, tail and wing length were taken. The minuscule band was quickly attached, the number recorded. Sheri then took a straw and blew at the chest feathers, determining whether it was a juvenile or adult, amount of fat, looking for pollen and louse eggs. A lot of information is collected within minutes. Each bird has a distinct personality. Some are quite docile, accepting human handling with barely a wiggle, but others have real attitudes and are not pleased to have their afternoon feeding disrupted. Each bird was weighed, held securely in a bit of fine mesh, clipped to the scale. A Black-chinned female weighed in at 3.8 grams. After that, Susan the volunteer who releases the birds, gently held her disgruntled captives and offered each the opportunity to stick their beak in the feeder on the table. Most were greedy and sucked down the nectar until they were full. 

Highlight of the Day!
Now, here's the best part. Observers get to help release the birds. I was fortunate to release a young male Broad-bill who was content to stay in my hand for probably a full minute before he buzzed away. It is considered good luck if they pee in your hand and I was also blessed with abundant good luck. Susan comes prepared with tissues.

This is the 19th season of collecting hummingbird data on the San Pedro. Much has been learned about about their travels and their lifespans through this study. One of the birds caught on Friday was already banded. Kathy quickly found his data from the band number. A young male Rufous, he had been caught just two weeks prior. When measurements and weight were taken again, his checkup showed he was growing normally and he continued to be a bit of a grump. The ladies shared that  birds may be caught multiple times over the years. One female was caught approximately 20 times over a ten year period. The typical lifespan is 4-5 years, but data is now showing longer lives for some. Year around feeding and favorable garden habitats may contribute to that. 

I continue to be amazed by God's incredible creation. Birds with extraordinary jewel-tone colors, who hover, fly up, down, sideways, backwards--even upside down. Delicate, fierce, and beautiful birds who brighten my garden with their presence. 
Checking out the heartbeat.
It sounds like a rushing wind!
Over 1200 beats per minute.






The Trap

















One of the trails around Casa de San Pedro






7/28/2014

Amble to Albuquerque

SimplyLife has been on hiatus due to the press of revisions on the third Gracie Andersen mystery. We did manage a quick trip to Albuquerque during that period however. Heretofore our only visit there was speeding through it on our way to relocate in Arizona. We weren't desperate to journey to this iconic Southwestern city, but the opportunity to visit our youngest daughter and son-in-law, who were there courtesy of Uncle Sam for some training was the real draw. 

An uneventful and dreadfully boring road trip(there is only so much desert one can handle in a day along the I-10) brought us to the city limits in seven hours. We jumped into tourist mode to jam in as much sightseeing as we could in two days. Since our daughter was in charge of finding restaurants, she insisted that we eat "local" and franchises were not allowed. This entailed some exploration of downtown ABQ which proved entertaining. The eateries had excellent fare and one even had the distinction of a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives visit. My favorite was the Slate Street Cafe which was tucked away on a side street. Check out my Trip Advisor review here. In fact, you can check out all my reviews on Trip Advisor.


Even though we've lived in the Southwest for over a decade, ABQ has a different flavor than Arizona. There is a strong Pueblo Indian influence that dominates rather than the Mexican culture in AZ. We decided to take the trip up the side of Sandia Peak to enjoy the tram ride and the views at the top. It was a perfect day, but lots of people were smushed into the tram with us. One gets to know the other tourists up close and personal when it's crowded. However, the views were fabulous, but the disappointment was that the Forest Service had closed the hiking trails. Not enough rain had fallen yet. We were relegated to an extensive boardwalk around the tram area. The ticket price was a little high without the trails to explore, but it was a good time for conversation and soaking up the high altitude views above Albuquerque. 

Since it was the 4th of July weekend, we took the bus to Balloon Fiesta Park to join thousands in celebrating our country's independence. The city does an excellent job of transporting people on buses to alleviate some of the traffic. At a $1 for a round trip, it couldn't be beat. Once we arrived in Fiesta Park, lo and behold, our favorite food vendor from the Prescott Highland Games was there serving up Messy Nessies and shepherd's pie. We ate Scottish, and sat on the grass to view a stunning fireworks display. We even saw the Rio Ranchos fireworks from afar which set the stage.


The pièce de résistance of the trip was the train ride to Santa Fe. The Railrunner was a cheap and comfortable alternative to driving. I haven't been on a train in many years, and this was relaxing and fun. We rode the rails for about a 90 minute trip to Santa Fe, alternately napping, talking, and watching the beautiful countryside go by. Then it was a short walk to Old Town which is filled with galleries, restaurants, and all sorts of shops. We ate in the park, purchasing our lunch from a street vendor who made killer carnitas. David had carne and I went with pollo. There's nothing like homemade tortillas. Apache and Anasazi vendors spread their jewelry on blankets, all beautifully handcrafted and at a fraction of the price in the stores. The last visit of the day was to the Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. However, a wedding was in progress and we were unable to slip inside for a peek. We did see the happy bride and groom emerge from the front doors.


A quick trip, but full of good family times and a bit of an adventure rolled into one. A serendipitous blessing mid-year.  

The blessing of the LORD makes rich,

and he adds no sorrow with it. Proverbs 10:22




5/20/2014

In the Highlands

A couple of weeks ago, my Scotsman husband and I headed for Prescott, AZ to enjoy the annual Highland Games. It seemed entirely appropriate to celebrate our anniversary with bagpipe bands and watching men throw heavy objects. After all what do good plaid-wearers do for special occasions? Watson Lake Park was the perfect venue. Its unique rock formations were a gorgeous backdrop for the multitude of events.

The good news right at the admission table was that we were both eligible for the senior discounts. What a boon for my husband who's a pro at pinching pennies. We checked in at the Clan Wallace booth to meet the kin and swap family histories. Then it was on to the herding dog demonstrations with border collies showing off their skills. Rather than sheep, which is standard fare, we were treated to a  flock of cranky domestic ducks. The dogs manipulated the fowl every which way and finally into their pens. The ducks seemed to prefer the pen to running willy nilly around the arena. They didn't seem to be in favor of canines.

Duck Herding
After that, the field games grabbed our attention. It seems that any self-respecting Scotsman must heave rocks, hammers, and even large poles called cabers. The sign around the field cautioned bystanders that they were free to move if any flying object came their way. I did step back a time or two when a caber landing seemed a little uncertain. Women joined in the fun and I give them a bucket of credit for tossing a small telephone pole. The tossing of the caber has a lot to do with balance and finesse rather than brute strength. The brutes were over throwing small boulders in another section.

Wallace Plaid on a Good Dog

Throwing weights over a bar
The music was absolutely fantastic. I'm telling you there's nothing like three, yes three topnotch bagpipe bands playing Amazing Grace, America, the Beautiful, and the traditional Scottish marches.That music stirs the heart. Then there were the funky bagpipers -- California Celts and The Wicked Tinkers. Jigs, folk songs, a little Robert Burns, pirate tunes, and some calypso was thrown in for good measure. Excellent musicians and entertainers all around.

My husband enjoyed a Messy Nessie which was a banger (sausage) with cabbage and ground beef over the top. Very high in protein. I had a shepherd's pie which is vegetables and meat under a layer of mashed potatoes. Haggis was available, but neither of us were willing to get that authentic. As you might expect whisky tasting was very popular, but we rambled to the vendors who offered plaids, knives, swords, and all manner of Highland garb.

The Highland Games have been around for a thousand years at least and were brought back to popularity by Queen Victoria who was enamored of all things Scottish. She became the patron of The Gathering. Some interesting history can be found at this link: http://www.royal-deeside.org.uk/brhistory/gathering.htm.

The folks who put the Prescott Highland Games on do an excellent job. Parking was a breeze. There were tractors and wagons carrying folks who declined the walk to admission. The layout and ease of taking in all the sights was well done. Enjoy the photos and video of our little excursion to Prescott. If you're considering a visit next year, visit their website at www.prescotthighlandgames.com.




Choosing a caber - Notice the name on far caber.
Bonnie Lass and the Caber
video

4/27/2014

Choosing a Puppy for Your Children

"But, Mom the puppies are really cute. I'll take care of it. Honest. We need a dog. I'll walk him and feed him. Pleeeeeese, can't we get a puppy?"

The age old parent-child exchange about getting a puppy. The big decision to bring a baby canine into your family. How the passionate promises of feeding, walking, and cleaning up after the puppy pour so easily from your child's lips. You know, however, you'll be the one doing all of the above and more.  Of course, puppies are adorable, soft, cuddly, entertaining, annoying, labor intensive, and sleep disrupting. But, most likely you'll cave and get one anyway.

Companion dogs are members of the family, and the puppy you add to the mix needs to be a good fit. Emotions run high over that furry, roly-poly critter whose antics can melt the heart of the stone. Take a deep breath and do your homework before making the commitment. Don't get a puppy at Christmastime. The excitement of the holiday will make it a very difficult time for the puppy and your family. Wait until the holidays are past and you can focus on introducing a new family member correctly.

Here's a puppy picking list for you that will help in selecting just the right one for your situation whether you go to a breeder or a shelter.

1. Beware of puppy mills, backyard breeders, and pet stores. A healthy puppy is paramount to a great experience in adding a dog to your family. A reputable breeder and shelters who make sure the dogs are given their shots, and have been vet-checked are your best choices.

2. Be realistic about the size of dog to choose. Too big and too little are the same problem. Look at your home, yard, and the age of your children. Young children aren't going to be able to walk a Great Dane when it reaches 8-9 months of age. A teacup-size dog may be cute for you to carry in your purse, but a young child can easily, albeit, unintentionally injure a small dog.

3. A purebred dog can be quite an investment, depending on the breed. If that's out of reach, many shelters offer excellent programs that include all shots, spaying, neutering, microchipping, and more. At either a breeder's kennel or a shelter, runs should be clean, the dogs well cared for, and records available.

4. Like a baby, a puppy needs a lot of equipment - a crate (yes, it's a necessity), a bed, collar, puppy food, toys, and a leash for starters. Regular vet visits during the first year are important too. They need shots, and health checks as they mature. Count the cost of responsible dog ownership before proceeding.

If you get the through the first list and decide to continue, let's check out the next step--selecting a puppy.  I've gotten both puppies and adult dogs. We've gone to shelters and breeders with successful adoptions. The puppy personality test can be used successfully with adult dogs, as well as pups. Every dog has a distinct personality, just like people. Breeds are distinct in their pluses and minuses for your particular situation. Collies are beautiful dogs, but are you prepared for high maintenance hair?  Males and females are different too.  There are lots of things to consider.

The puppy personality test will show you how social, dominant, submissive, and how sensitive the dog is. These are extremely important in how quickly and easily your furry bundle of joy will adapt to his or her new home. Remember humans are the alpha dogs in the house, and you want a dog that easily accepts the proper position in the household.

1. Place the puppy a few feet from you. Then kneel down and call him/her, clapping your hands, and gently coaxing. The puppy may charge at you and lick or bite at your face and hands, or some may cautiously approach you, or not at all.  You'll be able to quickly assess how confident, and how social the dog is. A puppy who comes to you readily with tail up, is an ideal response. If the puppy jumps or bites at you when he comes, shows aggressive behavior, while the dog who is hesitant or cowers with tail down is a fearful, shy dog.

2. Kneel down and gently roll the dog on his/her back, and hold for about 30 seconds. Does the dog struggle the entire time? Maybe he/she doesn't struggle at all or the puppy may struggle for a few seconds and then settle.  This little exercise shows the dominance tendencies of the dog in a social situation. The more the dog struggles, the more dominant and aggressive he is. One who struggles and then settles is ideal. He's willing to accept restraint. The puppy who doesn't struggle or avoids eye contact is overly submissive and fearful.

3. Another dominance test is bending over the puppy and interlacing your fingers under the dog's belly. Lift it gently off the floor for 30 seconds.  Does the puppy bite at you, struggle, lick your hands?  The response will tell you how the dog accepts dominance while he/she has no control.

4. Sensitivity to touch is tested by pressing a finger and thumb on the webbing of a front foot. Exert increasing pressure on the webbing until you get a response while counting to 10. Stop immediately if the puppy shows any discomfort. If a dog responds before you can count to five or six, its sensitivity is high. Think about kids pulling on ears, or a tail, or tugging at loose skin.  A highly sensitive dog may react by snapping or biting.

5. Homes with children are noisy places. Check out the puppy's sensitivity to sound by hitting a large metal spoon on a pot a couple of times. If the dog listens, walks toward you, or appears curious, he/she is't overly sensitive and isn't deaf. If a dog cringes or hides from the noise, he/she may not be right for your family. If there is no reaction at all, the dog may be deaf.

6. Retrieving a ball is a test to see if the dog is willing to work with a two-legged alpha dog. If the dog doesn't cooperate and willingly participate, don't expect that to change.

Now is not the time to rescue a sick or poorly socialized puppy. A home with children needs a well-adjusted and healthy dog who's a willing learner. You may like the "spunk" in a nippy puppy, but that's a behavior that will take time, consistent training, and patience to change. A shaking, shy one may tug at everyone's heartstrings, but the dog needs the same training as the dominant personality. Fear biters, and piddlers come from this group. Piddling and nippy dogs aren't fun as they get older. That behavior can be changed, but only through consistent training as is needed for the overly spunky puppy.

A nice, balanced personality is the best choice. House training, and adjusting to home life is quite enough for a puppy to handle, and for you too. A special needs puppy is best left to owners with experience, and the right home environment.

A puppy can be a great addition to your family. Sophie, the black Lab our daughters grew up with came from the county shelter and was a terrific companion for 10 years. She waited everyday for them to come home from school, napping in the shade of the maple in our driveway. She also surreptitiously gobbled a pound of hamburger out of a grocery bag while I unloaded the car. Life with dogs is always interesting.

Resource Link:  American Kennel Club