Friday, January 12, 2007

Just another night on the ranch

We’re feeling better. Yay! Health never feels better than after you’re sick. We're still not 100%, so it's off to the store for more tea and oranges. Thanks for the advice DBR.

It’s good we’re mostly back, because the ranch needs us. Last night as the sun was setting we scurried around mulching the sages with rice straw. At Popsey’s behest we’ve planted dozens of Mexican sages over the last couple years. They are one of the few plants that the deer don’t seem to like. Of course they are one of the heartier plants you could ever grow, but that seems to us like a good enough reason to plant them (besides that they're pretty). Why struggle so hard planting weak species that don’t like it here? If they hate it that much, let someone else grow them. That’s been our philosophy, at least until we get a greenhouse or fenced, wire-encased, raised beds, (40 feet high with constantine wire and armed guards) or some other protective infrastructure in place.

Last winter, after the sages died back, we cut the dead branches off. It turned out that was the wrong thing to do in this climate. When the frost hit the new leaves that were coming out got annihilated. Quite a few of the newer plants never came back.

So this year we’re trying a new tactic, leaving the dead branches on, even though it’s rather unsightly, in hopes they will help protect the new growth, and mounding some straw around the base of each plant for protection.

At least that was the plan, but we hadn’t done it yet, and the weather report predicted not only frost, but snow possibly down to 1000 feet in the next week. That’s us.

We bundled up, and ran back and forth from our stash of straw with the wheelbarrow, filling it up and wheeling it around to the plants. It was getting dark to the point where it was hard to see, but we wanted to get as many covered as possible.

I looked up at one point and noticed Mooka was nowhere in sight…unusual. But it was dark, and she does tend to blend in at night. We called and whistled, but she didn’t respond…more unusual. We walked around calling some more, and pretty soon heard the telltale jingle of her collar. Whew. She was right there in the meadow. She’s usually more responsive than that, but we thought no more of it and continued on, for there were a few more plants to get covered.

We finally couldn’t see at all any more, so decided to be done and go inside. Looked around and again didn’t see Mooka. Called and whistled. This was strange. Then I spotted her across the meadow from where she was earlier, but she was looking at the ground and not responding to us. Something was up. I went over and realized she was hunting. Then I saw she was watching a dark shape scuttling around on the ground. By then I was pretty close. To my great dismay, I then realized not only was it definitely a living creature, but it still had some pep in its step, and worst of all, it was running straight toward me.

I did what any self-respecting ranch-wife would do in that situation…squealed in horror. I’m not generally that afraid of wild animals, unless they surprise me in the dark and threaten to run up my leg or something. Popsey hurried over. “Go get a flashlight!” he bellowed, “And a shovel!” I gladly skidaddled out of there and ran up to the house, grabbed the requested items, and ran back down.

“Turn off the flashlight,” he directed. By then it was pitch black. He and Mooka were surrounding the shadowy shape, which was still moving around on the ground menacingly. I passed him the weapons, and he turned the light on it. “It’s a giant rat!” he said, “No, it’s a gopher! Get Mooka!”

Good luck catching Mooka when she’s on the hunt like that. I tried but it was hopeless. While she stuck her nose perilously close to the creature, he chopped the shovel down on the thing’s neck, killing it on the first blow. It was indeed a gopher.

We cheered, patted Mooka, and disposed of the dead gopher. Good work team. Mooka earned her pig ear.

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