Welcome to My Little Piece of the Prairies ...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Quack! Quack!

When I first moved to this area, something that I really noticed was the number of sloughs and the incredible number of waterfowl that made them home.  Growing up in Southern Alberta, I saw ducks but nothing compared to what we have here.  One is hard pressed to find a puddle not inhabited by some form of waterfowl!  When you truly getting looking at these small bodies of water, its amazing the number of different waterfowl that can be found.  I believe there are at least 4 different kind in this snap shot.  Front and centre with the beautiful white neck, is a Northern Pintail, hiding behind the grass, to its left, is a pair of Blue-Winged Teals, in the background are a couple of Green-Winged Teals, and there is also a mallard crouched down in the grass!

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Grebe Dance!

Meet my 'Horned Grebe's (Podiceps auritus)!'  This pair has made a slough, north of our house, home for the spring/summer.  It has been an absolutely miserable day!  The north wind has been blasting us and most of the day was overcast!  Reluctant to head out with my camera (I'm allergic to the cold at times), I was hoping to find something close by!  Well, to my delight I found this pair 'mid-mating dance!'  It was impressive!  My regret... they were a stretch for my lens and I am certain the wind was shaking not only my camera but my entire body!  I am hoping I can repeat this on a CALM, WARM day!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Morning Sky!

I love being out early in the morning with my camera!  It is truly a beautiful, peaceful time of the day!  After our rain yesterday afternoon, the morning air was 'extra' crisp (I wore my snow pants ... sad I know)!  As you can tell, I sometimes (most times) have difficulty just picking one picture to post.  I really like the sun rising up through the clouds and I love the lens flare of the sun in the second picture!  Unfortunately, this might be the extent of our 'sun' for the day.  The remainder of the day is forecasted to be overcast with showers/'snow'  looming in the distance!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring Storm Clouds!

"April showers bring May flowers!"

Although the winter was long, and spring has had a slow start, I have to admit, I love the first spring rain storm.  It just seems to wash all the 'brown' away and freshens everything up!  There is nothing better than the smell of a crisp, spring rain!  These are some of the storm clouds that rolled in late this afternoon while we were out riding.  We managed to make it back just in time!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Piece of History!

Established in 1912, the Heart Lake School still stands just a few miles south of us.  Looking at this old one room school, standing up on the hill, makes you ponder the past!  Who went to the school, how long did it operate, did the kids get a spring break?  Hmmm ... somehow, you just know there were more school days than not!!  However, I do think the children that attended this school, 99 years ago, likely had spring fever as well!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Prairie Souls!

First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus -
Crocus.  ~Lilja Rogers

The Crocus (Anemone patens) seems so delicate yet it is one 'tough' little forb!  The first to blossom and bring color to the native prairie in the spring, it withstands the cold winds and spring storms!  Perhaps this is why they remind me of my Mom and a few other key 'ladies' that have been and still remain in my life!  Like my Mom, they were, or still are, connected to their rural, prairie roots and they were/are strong, caring Women that can weather many a storm, standup, dust themselves off and move forward!  They are 'resilient', they are my 'Prairie Souls' and I do believe, each of them love the Crocus.  I know my Mom did!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Coot on the Run!

The American Coot ... aka 'Mud Hen!'  Part duck, part chicken, part grebe ... or so it seems ... these funny creatures have arrived back in the sloughs.  I was hoping to catch a few ducks on this Easter Sunday but instead I caught this coot charging at its rival!  I was trying to figure out my exposure lock on my camera ... hmmm ... I still need to figure it out.  Back to the drawing board!!  I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Easter Sunday!  Happy Easter everyone!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring Sky!

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.  You know how it is with an April day. ~ Robert Frost
Finally, on April 23rd, we are seeing some double digits weather wise!  The sun is definitely warm but the wind still has a bite to it!  However, the grass is starting to pop up in some places and soon that blue spring sky will be anchored by green and not brown landscapes!  I think many of us are looking forward to that!  Hmmm ... will we still complain about mowing the lawn?  Do we dare?

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Red-Winged Blackbird Returns!

Well, I have yet to hear or spot a Meadowlark but hopefully this is a good sign that they are on their way.  This evening, while out for a quick tour, I heard the classic calls of the Red-Winged Blackbird.  These two lads were across the road from each other ... strutting their stuff and staking claim on their territory before the 'ladies' arrive.  Unfortunately, I did not have my best camera lens along with me ... so not the greatest shots.  However, I enjoyed watching the flashy display between the lads.  After hearing many Red-winged Blackbirds perished in the United States this winter ... it was nice to see their return.  Our cattail marshes would just not be the same without them!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Boy and His Heifer!

Meet my youngest child and "Lucky" the heifer; her name provided by our boys after losing her Mom soon after "Lucky's arrival.  "Lucky" is a spunky lil' orphan that spent the first few days of her life living in my back porch due to the last wonderful spring snowstorm!  However, she has since returned to the cow herd but with every feeding, our youngest child feels the need to share adventures in the pasture with his new found 4-legged companion!  Seeing these two splash and play in the puddles and  run along side each other definitely brings a smile to your face!  How could it not?  I think this is where the "Tale of Lucky" begins.  Somehow, I don't think "Lucky" will be moving onto greener pastures anytime soon ... not if the kids have anything to say about it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Budding Optimism!

April is a promise that May is bound to keep.  ~Hal Borland

Could it be true?  Is that really what I see?  Yeah!!!  Finally, at least the trees are starting to show signs of optimism ... signs of spring!!!  A full month of spring ... and we are just now starting to see a few hints of more colorful things to come!  Hopefully this warm weather continues!  I am ready for green grass and an array of blossoms!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Not Quite Above the Wire!

A familiar scene in Alberta these days!  Water, water, and a bit more water.  Here at home,  we dare not complain about the amount of water lying around ... especially when the fields in the southern portion of the province look like lakes.  Besides, sloughs do serve a purpose and a refuelling of the water table can never hurt!

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Raptors are Back!

With the warmer weather that is usually associated with spring, our prairie rodents always surface!  But before long, the prairie skies are filled with the high pitch screams of soaring raptors!  The 'hawks' are back!  I find raptors fascinating!  Their incredible, razor-sharp, eye-sight and their stealthy flight is amazing!

This is a couple of 'light phased' Swainson's Hawks (Buteo swainsoni) that are nesting in some big trees north of home.  They arrived last week and appeared to have had a bit of rough migration.  However, the snow has stopped, the sun is out and their feathers now look preened!  I am attempting to master full bore 'manual' on my camera and catching raptors in flight can be tricky!  Especially when they swoop down from a tree top screeching!!  Someday I hope to master shutter speed and aperture!  Haha!  In the mean time, I continue to have the greatest respect for wildlife photographers!  And I am putting a plea out to my hubby for a 'bigger, better, lens!'

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Mighty Mouser!

Just one of our four-legged critters that works very hard at keeping the 'vermin' under control!  'Eli' was rescued by my hubby as a kitten and he has been eternally thankful to him ever since.  Hence, when he is not out hunting, Eli loves to find a lap (especially Brad's) to curl up in!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Lady

The lady of the trio, 'Spritz' is my mare!  No longer a spring chic ... she was a foal I raised out of my Mom's mare, 21 years ago.  Shhhhh... don't tell her how old she is... and don't remind me!  I love her blaze face and her long flaxen mane and tail (wind twists and all)!  With the boys being big enough to ride their own steeds, we are looking forward to warmer weather and riding once again.

Friday, April 15, 2011


With the exception of a few (very few) green blades of grass, the forbs that usually brighten up the native pastures in the spring are definitely still sitting dormant.  Usually by now, the crocus' and three-flowered avens are blooming.  This is last years 'Gumweed' (Grindelia squarrosa)... (hmm... I wonder if my range prof. would be impressed that I remember this?).  Usually a bright yellow, sunflower-like plant, with a very sticky resin on it, this plant was at one time used by Native Americans to relieve asthma, bronchitis, and colic.  Modern medicine now uses the flower extract to treat whooping cough and asthma!  Who knew?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

If Only She Could Speak Her Mind ...

I was not going to post a picture of cow ... however ...

'Spot's' look just says it all ... 'not impressed!'  Yes, it is definitely spring time in Alberta and none of us should be shocked by a spring snow storm.  However, despite knowing that this tends to be a regular occurrence, we Albertan's seem to live in denial and utter our complete disapproval and shock over such storms.  Hmmm ... as if most of us had just rolled off an apple cart yesterday.  Haha!  If only that were true!  As the saying goes ...'just wait 5 minutes and the weather will change!'  The beauty of it ... at least we can speak our minds!  As my 'Papa' always says ... "gahhd!"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Leaky Roof!

Ah, yes ... those old buildings that still stand out on the prairie.  If only their walls could talk!  This is an old stone building that was originally the old butcher shop in Byemoor, Alberta.  It now stands up on a hill in one of our pastures.  The original land owners actually took it apart and rebuilt it on their home quarter many, many years ago.  The stone work is in amazing shape ... however, I don't think that roof will shelter much from the pending spring snow storm that is on the way.  I think it has seen one too many storms over the years!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Buddy Boy!

The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears.  ~Arabian Proverb

It's April, and the north wind was blowing again today.  I am just not certain ol' Buddy appreciated the wind as he headed down to the big slough at the east end of the pasture.  Buddy is pushing 30+ in years and has been a solid horse all those years.  He has always been our 'go-to' horse when we needed to quickly cut cattle or get something in.  There have been many occasions he has been boarded bareback and rode with a halter!  The one and ONLY time Buddy EVER raised an eyebrow occurred with myself in the saddle!  While rounding up for branding ... Buddy and I managed to step right above a duck nesting in the grass close to a slough!  Needless to say, Mama duck flew up hitting Buddy in the belly!  She hit him hard!  We were NOT expecting a duck nor a duck to smack him hard in the belly!!!  Let's just say ... I don't care ... but there is not a single champion saddle bronc rider that could have out rode his buck!!!!  And ... neither did I!!  He never bucked before that instance and has never bucked since!  Poor bugger, can't say as I blamed him!  Now in his senior years, with his grey hairs ... he babysits the boys on his back!   I love watching him kick up his heels and blaze across the prairie with youth in his soul!  He's a pretty special lad!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sweet Serenade!

I was so excited to finally see an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) return the other day.  With the warmer weather and the retreating snow, there were a handful of robins out in the yard this morning scouring the grass for grub!  Their cheery lil' warbles are definitely a familiar sound in everyone's backyard!  I spotted this handsome lad up in one of our many trees singing his sweet song!  After a few bars of his tune, he calked his head and looked down at me, as if to say "are you not going to request an encore?"

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bath Time for Baby!

I love calving season!  And I really love calving in April and May.  Many years ago, my husband and I sold the 'auction mart' specials that came with our place and bought 30 hereford/red angus cross heifers from Don Dubeau down by Medicine Hat!  This was the start of our herd.  The last few years have brought many changes and we've significantly reduced our herd.  However, with lil' heifer gems like this one ... its likely our herd will slowly increase once again.  Her Mama ... 'Rosie' is one of the first heifers we kept back out of Don's original 30.  She's a sweetie ... that has produced alot of other 'sweeties!'  She definitely keeps her baby clean ... even the ears!  "Oh MOM!"  The boys and I haven't named this newest edition ... not yet!  We'll keep you posted!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring Migration

I love seeing and hearing the spring migration!  Although its the Canadian Geese that you hear and notice in the sky right now, either ahead or behind them, follow so many other 'birds of a feather!'  The crows have been back for a few weeks and over the course of the last few days, we've noticed the return of a few hawks.  Today, we spotted the return of an American Robin!  I love their cheery little songs!  Well, this isn't the greatest shot but hopefully I can hone my photography skills prior to the migration of the snow geese and swans!  Usually an impressive sight, especially on a clear blue day! 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Barnwood with Age Spots!

Despite what the thermometer read, it was one of those spring days where the wind just cut right through to your bones.  So far, we have not had many windy days (knock on wood).  Unlike our old corral out in the calving pasture, the boys and I retreated to the house and warmed up with a cup of hot chocolate!  My husband's Uncle built this big corral many, many, many years ago.  It has sheltered alot of livestock over the years but the north side is definitely showing the years of weather!  However, I must say, the moss does give it extra character! 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reflections in a Slough!

Nature rejuvenates so quickly, so completely. ~ Jeb Dickerson

Once thick with trees, this slough ... perhaps pond ...  was hit by years of drought.  Earlier in the day, the geese enjoyed swimming in it once again, and soon the ducks will return.  As the sun sets, its nice to see reflections in the water.  Yes, WATER!!!  You just know that this slough and the surrounding area will be regenerated.  I just enjoyed the stark beauty of it and smiled knowing I will continue to enjoy it for many years (wet or dry)!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The End of a Perfect Day!

The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire.  ~ Sharon Ralls Lemon

After another day of sun and warm weather, there are a few more patches of pasture peeking through the snow.  Fritz and Buddy were happy boys and ended the day grazing peacefully in front of a beautiful sunset.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My 'Honkers' Are Home!

Yup!  It is officially Spring!  Meet my honkers ... 'Honker 1' and 'Honker 2.'  For as long as I can remember, this pair of Canadian Geese has arrived each spring and made our feed yard and calving pasture home.  They have become such a fixture during spring and calving season that we now await their arrival!  Morning coffee in the spring is just not the same without hearing them 'honk' as they travel to and from the dugout, sloughs and back to the feed yard.  The only question we have is 'where did they spend their winter?'  If only they had passports that could tell us their story!  We would love to hear about their travels!


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