"I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free." ~Wendell Berry

Sunday, October 14, 2018

How Many Tears

"I think the hardest part of losing a dog you love isn't having to say goodbye...it's the way your entire world changes without them and the emptiness that's left in your heart when they go".
Nikki Freeze - March, 2006 - October 12, 2018
"Because even a moment of your love is worth years of pain later."
Friday, October 12th, my heart shattered to pieces as Bob and I watched over Nikki, my beautiful German Shepherd, as she crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I thought that was going to be the hardest part, but I was very naive'. The act of coming home held more daggers for our hearts as we drove down Reed Road. I can't remember ever having lost a dog that has ever caused me this much pain.
The parable, "The Little Orange Boy - Choosing Tears", told us we would always suffer their loss, but we seem to forget that pain - until we lose another pet.
We adopted Nikki in September, 2006 from Diana's Grove, just after moving to Licking, MO. According to the best information they had, she had been born in March, 2006 and had pretty much been tied to a tree outside for the first 6 months of her life - she weighed less than 40 lbs - severely underweight for her age and breed. When we first met her, we took her for a walk and it was the first time she had been on a leash. She couldn't get far enough away from us as she strained and pulled against it. We brought her home that day and, after taking her for another walk, we took her in the house and she found the farthest corner in the back of the house and curled up and stayed there.
Nikki - her first day home. 6 months old

Nikki with her Dad, first day home. 6 months old
Bob and I settled in to watch tv and waited for her to make the first move. After 2 hours, I felt her cold nose nudge my elbow. From there on, she was my girl. It took her another 2 months to become similarly comfortable with Bob. It was evident she had been severely abused by a man, so Bob had to work extra hard to earn her trust. And work, he did. She was so skittish, it took us 2 months to introduce her to a brush, to keep her beautiful white coat groomed. She did all the typical puppy stuff during house-breaking and being the wild girl she was, her herding instincts were very strong. One of my favorite memories from those days - I worked from home and I would walk and talk while on a conference call. She would herd me back to my desk as I walked and I would have to mute myself as I laughed at my funny little girl nudging and pushing me back into my chair. Her favorite toy - that she never shredded - was "Patch". We set a crate up in my office and left the door open -she voluntarily walked right in and napped next to me during the day - it became her 'safe' place.
Nikki - 8 months with her favorite toy, "Patch".

Nikki - 8 months - she loved her crate....and Patch.

Nikki - 8 months - oh those ears!

Once we had her on a good quality dog food, she became more energetic, bigger and stronger and we walked for miles - across the fields, up and down the dirt roads, even all the streets in the City of Licking. There isn't a field or road around this area that we haven't walked. I took her to a few training classes as she gained more confidence and she was a quick learner. She learned to stay, wait, down, sit, stand, heel and eventually, we taught her to sing and play hide-and-seek.
Nikki - 10 months - training at her CGC class. She was more interested in making friends than she was in learning to sit.

If there was ever a dog that loved fall & winter, it was Nikki. We taught her to play and man, could that dog fly when catching a ball.  We loved her and she fiercely loved us for over 12 years. But now she's gone and I want to know, I really want to know how many tears does it take to stop this aching pain that is tearing our hearts apart when we recall our memories of Nikki?
Nikki - ~7 months - strong, young and energetic.
Nikki - 8 months
After getting her food adjusted, she started to grow - a lot.
Nikki - 9 months & challenging me for the Queen position. She finally settled for "Princess".
How many tears will it take to wash away the pain I feel when I look at her now-empty bed still lying beside my bed when I go to sleep at night?
Nikki - 15 months We moved into our newly-built home in Feb., 2007 and after sniffing out all the rooms, she decided she still liked our bed the best.
How many tears will it take to wash away the ache and emptiness I feel when I see the empty spots where she used to lay beside me in my office  as I worked each day?
Nikki - 15 months

Please, someone tell me, how many tears will it take to wash away the pain, deep in my heart when I look around our living room and she's not there?
Nikki - 17 months. Hanging out with Mom & Dad - you could always tell when you got the 'look' when someone was hungry.
How many tears will it take to wash away the pain I feel when I step into our yard where she used to play and play, so strong and energetic?
Nikki - 28 months - She was an explorer and always, always energetic, so we had to exercise her a lot.
How many tears do I have to shed before the pain subsides when we pop some popcorn - her favorite food - and we still feel her there, staring down her Dad, begging for another bite?
Nikki - 5 years, 6 months - By the age of 5 1/2, she had bulked up and weighed in around 90 lbs. It was probably due to all the popcorn and treats. Popcorn was her favorite treat.
 And maybe some bacon too.
Nikki & Mom - 5 years, 6 months
 Thanks to her Dad's persistence, she would lay on the floor near (not next to) him and act goofy.
Nikki - 5 years 9 months
How many tears will I need to shed before I can look down that staircase without remembering our "exercise game" and stop this excruciating pain, stabbing at my heart?
Nikki - 7 years, 5 months - Our own doggie stair master - to help her lose some weight (she was up to 95 lbs.), we tossed her favorite toys downstairs. Sometimes, I had to go get it when she got tired. :)
How many tears will I need shed so that I no longer feel this pain from missing my constant companion, my shadow beside me - my walking buddy?  We must have walked down this driveway a million times together.

Nikki - 7 years & 9 months. Bob used to tell me, my ponytail was swinging in time with Nikki's tail.
How many tears will it take to wash away the pain when I look for you in this house? You were everywhere and we miss you terribly.

Nikki - 8 years, 6 months
You could buy all the expensive toys in the store, but her favorite was one of Dad's old socks, with knots tied in it.
Nikki - 8 years, 7 month
 She had a terrific nose - and loved to walk with me in the woods in the fall.
Nikki - 8 years, 7 months - She loved to walk with me and explore all the scents left in the forest. I could never let her off-leash though, because her nose would get her in trouble, and her recall was terrible.
How many tears will it take to erase the pain I feel in my heart when I come home and no longer see your beautiful face in the window eagerly waiting for me, demanding that I take you for a walk to make up for my absence?
Nikki - 9 years - she could hear anyone entering our driveway from 300 yards away.
One of our neighbors once told us he came knocking while we were out.  He told us he had to leave, because he was afraid "that big-ass white dog was going to come through the window and attack him". Nikki believed in the Power of Barking.
How many tears will it take to mend my heart next Spring when my martins return and you're not here to watch over them with me as we relax on the porch?
Nikki - 10 years, 1 month - No matter where I was, she insisted on being there with me. Even if it meant sitting on the porch in 90 degree weather, she would lay there and enjoy all the different smells that wafted through the porch screens.
I really, really want to know how we're supposed to get over the loss of our girl who was a big part of our lives for over 12 years. During the summers, she hogged the vents and now I can't bear to remove her blankets or rugs where she lay.
Nikki - July 7, 2018 - she started sleeping a lot more and we had to lay down more rugs on the hardwood and tile floors. If she slipped she was unable to get herself back up, unless we helped her.
How many tears will it take before I no longer break down every time I walk past one of your favorite spots in the house for keeping track of your humans?
Nikki - October 2, 2018 - one of her favorite places to lay while I was in the kitchen. It was the best spot in the house for being able to keep track of her humans.

Nikki - October 2, 2018 - along with her Mom & Dad, she no longer had any patience for the heat this summer and demanded to go back indoors after confirming the 90 deg. temps were really intolerable.
The worst part about waking up every morning is not seeing your huge paws and nose as you patiently waited for me to rise and rather impatiently waited for me to put on my shoes, dancing around & around me as I grabbed your leash. How many tears must I shed before this pain, deep in my heart finally goes away?
Nikki - October 4, 2018 - she always waited by the bedroom door for me in the mornings.
They say time heals all wounds, but as I'm living it, I can tell you, it is a slow, agonizing process. She was everywhere in this house. She was everywhere on this property, Reed Road and even in Licking. We did our best to give her an adventurous, fun, stimulating life. But for me, it all ended too soon.

You can remedy & medicate many ailments, but age is the one for which you can do nothing about.
There aren't enough tears that we can shed that will help us right now and I can hear every second on the clock as it slowly ticks by without her.

We miss our girl and love her so much.  RIP, Princess Nikki Freeze - you created so many memories here and we will be missing you forever.  But rest easy, knowing you are in our hearts always - we love you.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Grand Finale to a Great Purple Martin Season

After an initial rough start to the 2018 season due to some unanticipated moves by the GHO, I was able to finish the year with a total of 76 pair and we fledged 360 young.
Kicking off this season with a warmer-than-usual Spring, many of my adult pairs were able to get started with nest-building and egg-laying in parallel during the same 2 weeks. This resulted in many, many nests fledging simultaneously from July 3rd through July 14th, with hundreds of martins returning in the evening, filling the arms on the gourd racks.
The new fledging tree behind my house held dozens of newly-fledged martins. As I watched them every day, I worried that the hawks would be drawn to such easy prey, but it never became a problem The tippy-top of this tree is easily 100 feet tall and the new fledges were able to drop and gain speed quickly. They were safer up there than they were on the top perch rods on my gourd racks.

The young fledges demanded food from whomever came flying in, whether it was one of their brothers & sisters or not.

After watching over the young fledges roosting on the arms for several nights and wondering if I was making a mistake by allowing them to roost there, it became apparent the owl had either tried & failed to broach the nets beneath, or wasn't quite sure she could keep from getting tangled in the ropes. Either way, the netting was the final touch to my cages this year that allowed for a nice balance of allowing the martins to escape during a hawk attack, but also kept the owl out (see this post from June, that was the reason I had to install the netting: http://kathyfreeze.blogspot.com/2018/06/nest-checks-new-hatchlings-and-nets.html)

This was the first year in my 12 years of hosting purple martins that I've had this many fledges returning every night.  It was also the first year, the new fledges have been able to safely roost all night on the gourd arms of my racks - protected from raccoons, snakes, and owls.

This was also the first year in the last 5 years of dealing with the GHO where I've felt I have created the best balance between providing protection for the martins and coexisting with both a GHO and a Barred owl.
Instead of the usual fretting, worrying and anxiety, this year was filled with the sheer joy of seeing so many healthy young'uns on the rails and in the surrounding trees.

I'm glad I never gave up the fight and surrendered, because now, I have a lot of experience with what does and does not work when you have to contend with owls.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

June & July Summer Blooms

As I looked through my SD cards in my camera today, trying to clean them off, I realized that I had taken a lot of native wildflower pictures.  Every year, I try to document via pictures all the wildflowers that are blooming each month, so that I can see the progress we're making. There are several that do very well here and, in spite of the very hot, dry weather we've had, they are at least daring to spread their petals and square off with the intensely hot sun.

Late June Bloomers
These were planted in December, 2014.  They did okay, in 2017 but at the end of June this year, my gray-headed coneflowers were kickin' it in the west savanna area.
Gray-headed coneflowers
Black-eyed Susans
Virginia Mountain Mint
Butterfly Milkweed (bloomed from June through July)
Ox-eye Sunflower
July Bloomers
The heat intensified in July, but still, the wildflowers were determined.
Royal Catchfly (red) and Black-eyed Susan

Even more Gray-headed coneflowers bloomed in July

Ladino clover seems to love the heat

Queen Anne's lace (wild carrot)

And 4 years after planting - looky, looky who showed up!!  Royal Catchfly - there were 4 plants this year (also planted in the Savanna with the Gray-headed coneflowers).

The Partridge pea started blooming in early July, but has really been showing off since the last week of July into August.
Partridge Pea
Of all the blooming flowers I thought the honeybees would love, the sumac was not even on my list! But, turns out sumac is one of their favorites here.  So, I guess I'll let it stay.
Smooth Sumac - only 1 of 2 flowers on this page that the honeybees seem to really like.

Rose Pink
The Rattlesnake Master is spreading like crazy - it has basically taken over my specimen garden, ousting most of the coneflower varieties there and only the prairie blazing star is hanging on. Since it's a native wildflower and all kinds of bees and butterflies love it, I'm not going to try to stop it. It's too hot to try to fight it. The clever prairie blazing star has managed to spread to other parts of my field, so it has figured out how to outrun the rattlesnake master.
Prairie Blazing Star in a field of Rattlesnake Master.
Wild Quinine
Turns out, the most favorite plant on my property for the Bumblebees have been all the St. John's Wort bushes I've planted.  They are crazy about it...unfortunately, the Japanese beetles are too. *sigh*
Interestingly, I haven't found one honeybee on the St. John's Wort and the Bumblebees are enjoying a pollen Bonanza!
St. John's Wort
I have a lot of favorites, but Wild Bergamot scores in the list of my top-five.
Wild Bergamot

Trumpet vine
We plant a LOT of red clover - the Bumblebees love it and the Honeybees don't use it (due to the difference in the length of their "tongues").  Guess who just bought 50 more lbs. of red clover? Heh!
Red Clover - Bumblebees LOVE it!
Common Milkweed and Wood Sage
Bindweed - the flowers are open in the morning, but close up when the temperatures start rising.
Ironweed (with Queen Anne's Lace in the foreground)
Prairie  Fleabane
This picture doesn't do the wildflowers justice - Wild Quinine, Queen Anne's Lace, Coneflowers, Sumac and Prairie Blazing Star are just a few of the predominant native wildflowers you can see here (click on the picture to get an enlarged view - that's true for all of them).
July - Wild Quinine dominates, but it will soon retreat and another will come up to carry us into Fall.

Passion Flower

Wood Sage
Lastly, a few of which we're not sure

Wild Potato Vine?
Well, I have searched & searched and we thought the vine & flowers in the picture to the left were either a variety of Morning Glory, or "Redvine"; but the best online site I can find calls it "Wild Potato Vine"

UPDATED 8/15 - Thanks to Chuck Yetter & his wife, these have now been *correctly* identified -  they're called "wild petunias". 
A field of wild petunias - you're welcome, Chuck!  :-)
Field full of "wild petunias".
Out of all the flowers above, the only ones I've found that my honeybees really like are the Butterfly milkweed and the Smooth Sumac.  I've been searching all my August blooming flowers and haven't been able to find from where my honeybees are getting their pollen and nectar stores for the Fall.  Today though, my investigation may have identified their source.  Stay tuned....pictures and details are forthcoming!