Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Deer and Coyotes

A suspicious doe

Living where there are mountain lions and the alleged occasional black bear can make one wary when hiking or jogging in the mountains, but I think I have nothing to fear (hah -- watch me get eaten by a cougar tomorrow) since there is a huge deer population this year. Check out these pictures from one day alone... sitting in one spot for 15 minutes, no less.

A young buck

The A doe who took a while to notice us. If we were hunters we would've had a week's worth of dinner by now!

She sees us

The mountain lions and coyotes certainly have a lot of food out there which will hopefully keep them fed and away from people (especially the former... I've never heard of coyotes eating anyone). That said, it is still a little disturbing to walk out the door and find things like this lying around:

And since the deer are doing so well, the coyotes are, too. The other night I recorded a sound that I hear almost every night (yes, they just did it again as I wrote on this blog).

Coyotes Talking

Mackenzie's Momma -- You and sheep, LOL! I agree, though. Of all the animals I have ever worked with, sheep have been the most freakishly stupid. I think we bred the idiocy into them. That's why we kept our ewe - she was supposed to go to the market but she showed some spunk and spirit and intelligence, which we knew was rare!

Tracie -- Okay, I really need to watch The Lost Boys now!

Friday, June 19, 2009

San Francisco Zoo

Today we met up with our cousins and went to the San Francisco Zoo! I told myself that I wouldn't put up too many pictures but... well.. I couldn't resist. Enjoy!


Giraffe, Zebra and Kudu

I went to the zoo for the first time when I was 13. All of my friends and teachers couldn't wait to hear me gush about how much I loved seeing the real life lions and tigers that I constantly drew. They were beautiful, powerful, and graceful, of course, but the animals that enamored me the most were the lowland gorillas. The briefest glimpse into the eyes of a gorilla changed my life forever. I saw myself looking back at me. They are Great Apes (like us) and truly are our kindred.

Male eastern lowland gorilla



About a year ago last winter, I believe, a young man allegedly taunted one of these tigers. It leapt out of it's enclosure, chased him through the zoo, and killed and began to eat him before zoo staff shot and killed it. Since then, glass has been placed all around the enclosure to ensure visitor safety, however it makes it hard to get a decent picture.

Siberian Tiger

6-year old African lioness

One of the tigresses was in heat and the male in the feeding cage next door couldn't stop hitting on her. Check out his seductive yowls.

A Sumatran tigress

A gazelle

Two abandoned grizzly bear cubs were rescued from Montana. They were right up against the glass and the reflections didn't allow for good pictures, but this one of their claws turned out all right.

As a biologist in a documentary once described a grizzly's claws and paw: "Steak knives on a dinner plate."

A young girl said, "Take a picture of the polar bear before it dies!" I remember a world where we didn't have to worry about the fate of polar bears like we do now. Children are already growing up in a vastly changed world.


A... wallaroo, I think?


Carrying off a snack


A guinea pig impersonating Clara! See the similarities?

Clara two autumns ago

The other piggies

Prairie dog

A mysterious someone

A golden eagle

A great horned owl -- the likes of which I have often heard at night!

Baby alligator

Navajo-churro sheep

These sheep were just... standing there... like statues...

We seeeeee you...

Mackenzie's Momma, I know you'll back me up here... doesn't this sheep resemble an Alpine goat? Often the only way you can tell the difference between a sheep and a goat is it's tail: it points up for a goat and down for a sheep!

We came back to the chimps and one pulled a blanket onto him/herself and lay down for a rest.

By the time we got home, season one of Escape to Chimp Eden had come in the mail and we watched the first episode tonight. Amazing stuff!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lessons Learned

My gross foot

A few months ago I read that being able to run barefoot would help keep plantar fasciitis at bay. Given that both my dad and uncle have the problem, and that I run anyway, I decided to try to build up to running barefoot. At first I did half and half -- 15 minutes in tennis shoes, 15 minutes barefoot. That was fine. Then I took a break from running barefoot (though I often am barefoot all day anyway and even hike barefoot). When I started up again, I escalated too quickly. I ran for 20 minutes barefoot. Fine. Then I ran the whole 40 minutes barefoot, twice, with no problem, just a little soreness in my heels. Third time, however, I was limping and could feel fluid in my heel. I was afraid to look and when I did, I saw the biggest blood blister that I've ever seen.

The injury itself doesn't really bother me. I stabbed it a few times and drained all the blood out and was running (in shoes) again a day later, thank the gods. What bothers me is the fact that while I was running, I was in intense pain in my heel, but I ignored it.

I think I may have an obsessive compulsive disorder when it comes to physical challenges, because this recent self-injury triggered a wave of memories.

There was the time at Raging Waters where I hung onto plastic-coated ropes that were suspended above a fake river. The point was to be able to drop into the water but at the time I wanted to test myself to see if I could do what I'd seen soldiers do in training videos -- climb all the way across and back again. The only problem was that my hands were wet and soft. I climbed all the way to one side then started back across the other, my hands burning and shooting pain, but I kept going. When I finished, I was shocked to see that I'd torn off large chunks of the flesh of my palms. Then the real pain came. I could hardly use my hands for a week. I couldn't even wash my face. It made my regular babysitting/nannying jobs difficult.

There's also the other time that I went horseback riding in my new "riding" Wrangler's. I don't know what toss pot designed these "riding" jeans, but they have a huge friggin seam right up the buttcrack. On the way back home, my tailbone was in pain. Instead of getting off the horse and walking the rest of the way back, however, I endured. It hurt so bad that I was sweating. Needless to say, my tailbone was bleeding by the time I got back to the barn and I could hardly sit or walk for over a week.

There are several other stories I could recount, including manic canoeing, but these past three are the most dramatic, I think. Which has led me to wonder... WTF is wrong with me? Am I so obsessed with achieving my goals that I'll willfully maim myself? Am I that idiotically stubborn? Is it OCD?

Yeah, pretty much, I guess. Or something close. Truth is, I've realized that instead of accepting pain as a warning, I acknowledge it as a challenge. So when I achieve my goal (running the full 40 minutes, completing the rope course, making it back to the barn) I feel like I'm victorious, no matter the injuries. If not, I feel like a failure.

I don't think this comes from lack of an instinct for self-preservation or a tenacity of will. I think it comes from the desire to prove to myself that I am more than a mortal body. That I can overcome my physical pain in pursuit of my goal. That all life is more than just placing one foot in front of the other until the feet can no longer tread.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Dinner in action

Alex and I love the 1994 film Little Women. Mostly because we love seeing the March girls behave like... actual girls. Not dolls. And I was so frightened by how much Jo March reminded me of myself that I wondered if I could have been Louisa May Alcott in a past life (not to say I could ever achieve what she has, but to say that I am impressed by how well she nailed the personality type). I really need to read the book!

Something happened yesterday that made Alex and I realize just how much we can relate to the March girls: the revelation that not much has changed since the 1860s. I mean, sure, a lot has, but still, when you live in a rural area, you make your own excitement. I've already mentioned that we have a sport of running and hiding from the mailman (today it was the UPS man). Yesterday we took the event to a new level.

I was outside filling the bird feeders and grooming Chee Chee when I heard strange, mechanical sounds. I was about to go into the house to tell Alex that I could hear a giant Terminator, but instead heard my mom shout, "A fire truck just pulled up our driveway!"

I stepped outside to see. Yep, there it was, parked on our driveway... with fire-people stepping out. My dad was already greeting them, and since Comanche was with me, he began to bark as soon as I stepped out. Of course, they all turned to look at me. I stared for a moment then dashed back into the garage and ran through the house, shouting at Alex to come see.

As you'll be able to tell, we had a lot of spy work to do. And I realize I should attempt to explain a small portion of the madness that is Kellie-Alex conversation.

When Alex predicts that the firemen will stay for dinner, that's because once upon a time, a man in a truck came to deliver pipe corral fencing. He stayed to help us set it up. Then he realized his truck was broken down. It was too late for a tow, so he stayed for dinner, and what happened to be my little brother's birthday, so he got to join in. His name was Dave, and he was an old cowboy. He told the most amazing stories (ghosts and lost treasure in the desert) and dubbed himself Uncle Dave. My dad ended up driving him home for the night then the next day he came back to work on his truck... only to realize that all that was wrong was that one of his gas tanks was empty and he needed to switch to the other. Oh well, it was an awesome adventure.

But you can see why we were worried the same would happen again. And we were shocked when we realized one of the younger firemen was petting none other than Black the Communist.

Spying, Part 1

One of the firemen kept looking over, as if he saw us, so we decided to stay low to the ground so that he'd mistake us for children. We decided it wasn't enough to see, and that we wanted to hear, as well, so we slipped into the kitchen, beside our neglected dinner, and spied some more.

As you can see, we nearly got given away by Junior.

We couldn't hear them that well, so I had to get my Bat Sonar Equipment.

Which in turn made us feel like Steve and Tango from Ghost Hunters.

Mackenzie's Momma -- I'm sorry to hear about the drought! As you well know, we've been in one for a few years. Here's to hoping both of our water worries will be over soon! The pickers (and foxtails) over here are already insane. Any time the dogs go out we have to spend a lot of time picking pokies out of their toes and fur!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Spring's Farewell

Spring has come and gone! Maybe not by the calendar, but certainly by the vegetation. Check out the last of the spring's wildflowers.

California poppies, lupin, and a few other flowers whose names escape me at the moment

Lots of wild grass and lupins

Grass filling in a ditch carved by rainwater

A pretty bee

I am always bothered by just how many dead bees we stumble upon on our hikes, so it's always to see them alive and healthy and busy, like this bee!

Busy Bee

In this next clip you can't really see the bees, but you can certainly hear the lovely birds.

Pretty Birdies

In other news, I have found evidence that trolls exist. Like, creepy little midget things. Check out the footprints Alex and I found last week.

Proof of midget trolls' existence

They are not rabbit or bird or cat. Near as we can figure, they may be some sort of rat... or kangaroo mouse, which is supposed to be extinct in these parts. And for comparison, here are some beetle footprints.

Buggy tracks

A raccoon and a human intersect

We've also had very strange weather lately. In the middle of last week we had a tiny bit of rain and a thunder storm!

The thunder clouds at sunset

Check out the video Alex filmed while I was on my butt on the couch, waiting to watch Little Women.

Also... I love Escape to Chimp Eden. Okay, so I've only seen it twice, but seriously. It's a beautiful show. This clip is what first caught my attention. Check out the sheer skill of Nicky as he runs and claps at the same time.

"Hello, Nicks!"

And if that doesn't convince you that this show is amazing, check out this blooper. I nearly die laughing every time.

Chimp Eden Blooper

The best part is that Eugene Cussons, the host, is probably used to all kinds of strange chimp behavior that makes the rest of us laugh. Which makes his reaction even more priceless.