Friday, April 30, 2021

April Highlights Reel

Spring Snows & Spring Ephemerals

Spring is my favorite time in Appalachia. But she never arrives lightly. Her weather is turbulent and unpredictable. Snow is to be expected. In fact, there is some old Appalachian adage about counting foggy mornings in the fall (between certain dates) to predict number of spring snows (occurring after a certain date). Whereby "spring snow" dictates enough snow to track a chicken in. 

This "Fools Snow" on April 1 was the most significant of our spring snows
It built up in a hurry on our road
And caused near-white out conditions for some time.
The wind came from just the right direction to blow steadily and consistently through the door cracks and into the barn. This was actually the worst the snow blew into the barn this entire snow season.
The drift above my dry lot and barn reformed in < 24 hours. It was nuts!
It also lasted for days and days and days.

Aside from the return of our migratory birds and hibernating herps, I love seeing the spring ephemerals come into bloom. Each new species gives me joy.

Dutchman's breeches.
Squirrel corn
Ramps and a mountain stream
Spring beauties
Trout lily and ramps behind
The best lil rampin' pony standing amidst a field of ramps. Note the bags of ramps clipped to the saddle.

Stan Turns 20!

Oh sweet boy, I can't believe you're two decades old! Your attitude is so good and your health and fitness are admirable. I sincerely hope we have many more years of fun WV adventures ahead of us.

"Lady. I don't care what my age is. Give me my damn dinner." -Stan, probably
Not taken on his birthday because he was mid-shed and looking motheaten as all hell, but it does show off what great body condition he is! I took this photo a few days ago when Willa and I headed out for a ride. Those dapples are new! I'll be really interested to see if they persist.

Farm Chores

I needed to pick up one more round of hay to get me through until this year's harvest. So for the first time since bringing the horses home, I set off to my hay guy solo to get it, stack it on the trailer, truss it down tightly (didn't lose my load this time!...Yeah, that was a thing last round...whoops!), bring it home, and stack it. The guy I get it from helped with the loading/tying down, but the rest was just me on my own. 

All I can say is OOF. That was a lot. Still, I got 'er done in good time. My only wish is that I didn't [have to] do it the day I received my second COVID-19 vaccine (it was the only time my schedule worked with the weather to get it done). I was racing the clock to get the hay up before my reaction kicked in 10 hours post-shot. But I was really grateful the hay was up and done when my reaction kicked in because it put me down for a solid 40 hours. 

Ah, yes. I'm so smart lol
A row at a time, I'd toss the bales off the trailer onto the ground.
And then I'd bring them in one at a time and stack them. 

Once I recovered from my vaccine reaction, I set about re-doing my ghetto-ass weather walls on the barn overhang. The tarps did their job through the winter so well that I knew I wanted to keep walls on the overhang permanently, but I hated the look of tarps and needed something nicer. 

Enter porch covers from a job Dave worked late last year that the homeowner wanted him to take to the dump! One of the best parts about being married to a contractor who works in an area of second homes is all the nice stuff people deem "trash" for him to get rid of. True trash heads to the dump with all the other construction debris, but nice stuff usually ends up at our house or friends houses.

Still need to resolve the overhang, but I LOVE the light this provides!
Serious LOL to Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum choosing to stand bums to the wind in a short hail storm while Grif did the smart thing and stood under the overhang eating. 
The opposite side before. If your eyes are keen, you'll notice a wee dark splotch below the conduit piping where it comes out of the barn (top right) and runs along the beam to the corner of the overhang (top right). Remember that dark blotch for a few moments...
The part-way through of the opposite side. I took the opening between the vertical post and the barn and put more metal sheeting up.

Except that I had a little glitch when I went to start the second wall renovation. I honestly would never have noticed this fella if I hadn't needed to do work RIGHT WHERE HE WAS ROOSTING. That's right, for the second time in the years I've lived up here on this mountain I had a federally endangered Virginia big-eared bat (VBEB)(Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus) roosting on my property. It's like they know I've been designated the new national lead biologist for their species and just have to spend time with me. While they're incredibly cute, I really wish they wouldn't. This little one caused me to have to delay my work until it headed off to its next nightly roost.

One ear is folded and tucked behind its wing. The other stands erect in all of its glory and demonstrates why this bat got its name!

These bats are only known to five states on the east coast. Most of their numbers are in West Virginia. They're an incredibly stressy species, meaning that they're ridiculously sensitive to disturbance and handling. We have regulations in place in our state that these bats cannot be in hand for more than 10 minutes and cannot be held in captivity for more than 30 minutes. They'll become so stressed out that they die. I've seen it happen and it really sucks. 
Interestingly enough, the disease that has absolutely obliterated so many North American bat species, White Nose Syndrome (WNS)(Pseudogymnoascus destructans) doesn't affect VBEBs. In fact, since WNS began affecting WV bat populations in 2007-2008, VBEB numbers have steadily increased each subsequent year! This is due in part to more caves being gated and protected from human disturbance, but also because so many other bats died and left habitat available for VBEB to move into. (Just a quick visual for you: when WNS hit my state (and the same is true for many others), our most prolific species, the little brown bat - which is known across the country - population was decimated. Absolutely decimated. Their population died back in our state by 98% (i.e., hundreds of thousands of bats). When biologists entered caves to do annual hibernation counts those first few winters WNS was present, the biologists had to literally climb over piles of dead bats. Absolutely tragic.)
And while I'm on my bat soapbox, let me just remind you that bats are incredibly beneficial for us. They eat oodles of bugs every night and save us hundreds of thousands of dollars on pest control - especially farmers - by eating those bugs. Since WNS was brought to the US in 2006 causing massive die outs of bats across the country, pest control costs have increased. Anecdotally, cases of West Nile have also increased (at least in WV) during this time. I don't know if that is correlation or causation of the bat die off, but I find it fascinating nonetheless. 

The next chore on my list was to re-do the path down to my barn. My brother did an amazing job with it last year, but he even mentioned then that the best thing to do would be to churn up the earth and replace the rocks so they'd be more stable. I borrowed my friend's tiller again to create a few more flower beds and took a few minutes to churn up the path, too. (Tillers make dirt work SO SIMPLE, omg.)


And finally, while not a "farm chore" per se, it directly contributes to horse fun - I scored a sweet high-top cap in great condition for my truck for next to nothing! While I'd one day like to get a bigger trailer, the way life currently stands I won't be getting one any time soon. Knowing and accepting this, I decided I really wanted to get a cap for the truck so that I could build out a bed in it to minimize the amount of gear I take horse camping. 



Last but not least, I made a last-minute whirlwind trip to Maryland to visit Miss Austen this month. It's always so much fun - and such a nice change of pace! - to visit her and play horse over there. 

Lyra. How do your bones let you do this?
Look! Finally the perfect Taiga and Lyra comparison. 
Two wee pocket huskies.
So similar!
Both good girls.
And the husky pack is reunited again. 
Bastion ears!
These dorks.
Look at that old red man movin' out so happy.
Austen is always working to orient me to the area. With each visit, I learn the trails better. It's so fun!
Maryland horse country in the spring is so damn gorgeous.
Like seriously though. And my favorite part about Austen's barn is that these pastures stay this amazing no matter the time of year. They do such an amazing job managing this land for the horses.
Such a gorgeous evening!


  1. You had a jam-packed April! And my goodness the little bat is cute. I love watching them wing around our property at dusk eating bugs! I haven't ever seen one sleeping in my barn though :( so I'm jealous.

    1. If you have a day-rooster on your property I hope it isn't endangered! lol

  2. That bat is adorable. I haven’t seen a bat around since the white nose fungus happened. 😢 I too have loaded and stacked hay by myself. Once even a round bale.

    1. The northern area bats were hit so much harder!

      And DAMN. Moving a round bale alone sounds like a feat!

  3. Our new house comes with a partial acre of forest and a part-time swamp. I will be looking into putting up bat houses to encourage them. I think there's already an owl.

    1. Love it! Bat Conservation International has great resources for bat houses. =)

  4. Omg so many husky dogs in one photo! I can't believe you did all that hay after the vaccine. You a bad b.

    1. Soooo many husky dogs! And yeah, it wasn't my best decision, but the weather dictated it must happen.

  5. I loved the saga of the snow drift. That's crazy.

    Happy big two-oh to Staniel.

    Loved seeing the bat photos. That's super cool you're the national lead biologist for the species!

    As always, I love seeing all your media here.

    1. Cool and so intimidating to be the national lead!

  6. Spring is my favourite season too - seeing everything come back to life after winter is pretty neat.

    Sounds like you had a busy, but good April! The bats are very interesting - neat that you had one in the overhang.

    1. The return of sound and color to the landscape will never cease to make me smile.