Sunday, December 12, 2010

Get Ready

Rain and snow greeted newly arrived cattle in December 2009
Cowboy V called today and he'll start trucking in cattle soon.  This weekend, rain or shine, we'll be closing gates.  I tend to leave the interior gates open after all the cattle are gone by midsummer, so the deer and I can frolic from one pasture to the next without pause.  Actually, the deer just stot over or flex under the wire fences, but they'll detour through an open gate if handy, and by staggering which gates are open, I guide the deer's sharp hooves along gentle slopes rather than carving up the steep ravines.

During the December to July grazing season, Cowboy V rotates the cattle between pastures, so it's important to start with all gates closed to control their movements and make sure they are efficiently clipping the grass.  This time of year, overgrazing isn't a problem, there is enough thatch from last year and new growth is starting up.  But later he will move the cattle from pasture to pasture every few weeks to keep them fed while allowing time for the grazed meadows to recover and start growing again.  Soil, moisture, grass, cow, rest.  Repeat for 8 months.

The new interior fencing on the ranch has unbarbed wire on the bottom 3 strands
 which makes it friendlier to wildlife but is still strong enough to contain the cattle.
I've already cleaned out the watering trough by the house and I'll get the one in the corral tomorrow before the Sierran treefrogs start laying eggs in it.  The water situation looks good at the beginning of this grazing season.  The water tank is full.  The water was one to two feet deep in the main springbox all summer, so on October 11th when I found a long forked branch, I wedged it between a lower corner and the upper lip of the concrete casing as a refuge for the snakes and lizards that sometimes somehow splash down in this covered vessel.

Forked branch provides retreat above water level.Springbox shown with lid removed.
It was probably too late in the reptile year to test its suitability for snake traction, but recently I found a juvenile alligator lizard impatiently waiting at the top of the branch.  I bored him so much with photographing his tiny mug, that he finally let me pick him up and toss him into greener pastures.  I'm trying to come up with a name for this design in the event that it succeeds. Life boat-branch, refugia log, or springbox rescue apparatus?

Last weekend, I did the first wet season check of the Dipper Ranch ponds.  The water was just starting to trickle through the Mallard Pond's outlet.  Swirled duckweed on the pond surface showed the dancing visit of recent storms, but not enough rain to flush the floating summer plants downstream.  All seemed tensely quiet at the Monotti Pond where cattails overtowered the still dry outlet.

Mallard Pond in early season agitation
Most exciting of all, the Newt Pond was filling from the uppermost pastures.  This is the first summer of my 4-year residence at the Dipper Ranch that the Newt Pond didn't dry up.  That means the hundreds of coast range newtlets that hatched in the pond last spring probably made it out to be adults, or decided to spend another winter there before they face the terrestrial challenge of their life cycle.  The ponds and springs on the ranch are important for watering the cattle, but we also manage them to support wildlife.

The Newt Pond is muddy while refilling.
The cloudy water may hide newtlets from predators.
I rescued a little, lost dog today which was running around on Alpine Road near the Mindego gate.  She was soaked and trembling, and such a runt, any fog-weary driver could have easily hit her while she was zipping back and forth across the road in a panic.  No collar and no neighbors nearby.  I turned her over to the rangers who wrapped a plush purple towel many times around her tiny wet body.  Amusing to see the stinky doggie get passed from one big, tough ranger to the next.  I don't think they put that dog down the whole time they were making phone calls, sending out notices and waiting for the animal rescue center to pick her up.  She's a sissy dog, not a ranch dog, and it's possible someone dumped the poor critter out here in the country. Coyote bait.  I don't begrudge the coyotes a meal, but it just doesn't seem right for someone to treat a domesticated animal that way.  Domesticated dogies are at home on the range, but I hope the little doggie finds her people or a warm home.

Juvenile alligator lizard in the springbox.
The juveniles look different than adults,
but have the same tough guy attitude.

See also:

Sierran treefrog, Pseudacris sierra
Coast range newt, Taricha torosa torosa
Northern alligator lizard, Elgaria coerulea
Duckweed, Lemna minor


  1. Great pix as usual. Love the tough-guy lizard. They do that have look about them, don't they? Thanks for the new word, stot. Something just for quadrapeds.

  2. Ranger K: you are the first one who made me aware of the real definition of dogie versus doggie. Words are great; let's keep sharing them (and making more up!). I'm writing something now that will have a few personal versus actual definitions.


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