Welcome to "Hog Heaven"

Welcome to our 'blog site' for Hog Heaven Ranch. From here you'll be able to view the latest postings of photos and read any new news from us on the ranch.

The Animals at Hog Heaven

This is a slideshow showing all the animals that visit the ranch. Form time to time, I'll be adding more slides.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We at Hog Heaven...

Good day to you all,
I just wanted to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.
In additon, I wish you and your spouses (of the opposite sex) and your children, and families, the very best of this holiday season; to which I will say this most Politically Incorrect, but appropriate comment.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
God bless you all.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

From Fluff to Feathers

Our four little Ash-throated Flycatchers are growing quit well inspite of the perishing heat we've had during the last few weeks. It's almost a month now since Momma began laying her eggs, and about a week and a half since we first spotted little gray fuzzy things in the nest.

The chicks have been kept nourished with the help of their parents, and we suspect an aunt is also in on the project.

As their feather begin to grow and their beaks harden up, we can expect them to be learning to fly quite soon now. In the meantime, they just rest, eat, and keep a wary eye on me as I stick my camera in their faces.

Life's really good here at Hog Heaven.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Squirrel Family has grown!

The other day, I spotted a baby squirrel down in the large dead tree beside the barn. It was not much bigger than a chipmunk yet was an exact duplicate for Sammy.
Joanne spotted them just off the patio yesterday and also caught sight of one peeking around the corner of the solar power shed.
This morning just before breakfast; while I was in my office checking my emails, Joanne called me to the kitchen and asked me to bring my camera.
This is what we saw: These cinder blocks are 8"x8"x16" so you can see, these little fellows are not much bigger than about 5" without counting the tail.
Hoping against all odds that Momma would get into the scene as well so I could take a photo for comparison of size. My wish was granted and for an extra bonus, a Lark Sparrow also jumped into the shot, just for good measure.
Spring has indeed sprung at Hog Heaven!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Eggs have Broken...

Because our little Flycatcher's nest is so high up in the corner of the front entry alcove, it's difficult to observe some of the activity as it happens, and we're dependent on a mirror image in aimed from the otherside of the entry. None the less, we have seen some activity of exciting proportions and have witnessed Ashley apparently feeding some hatched chicks in the mornings and evenings.

Our suspicions were founded when one morning we saw the little flashes of a wobbly baby bird's head as 'momma' returned to the nest. Then there was two little yellow beaks in view; ever so tiny and quite wobbly and unstable. I had to take some photos to record the moment, so with much difficulty and long waiting sessions, we were able to catch a couple of blurry, fuzzy images of the babies. Faces only a mother could love!
Then because my shots weren't as clear as I'd have hoped, I decided that to get a good look into the nest, I needed to wait until Ashley had left the nest and then I could quickly hold my camera close up to the nest and attempt a 'macro' type shot to see exactly what the contents of that nest were.

It worked! We are the proud landlords of four brand new baby Ash Throated Flycatchers, with fine grey fuzzy bodies and large yellow beaks. Amazing... Truly amazing indeed!
Now we'll just have to keep our distance and watch these chicks through to fledging and hope that all four of them survive this unseasonably hot summer. In the meantime 'momma' and her mate are busily catching tiny bugs to keep the chicks fed.
Other than the faint "peep" of the partent birds as they signal their return to the nest site with a beak full of food, we haven't heard much noise from the nest. Too early we expect, but we're both sure that soon; really soon, we'll be entertained with a quartet of little voices.
Life is; oh so good at Hog Heaven.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

If You've got Water; They Will Come...

Yesterday I did my rounds of all the 5 gallon water buckets I have strategically located around the area of the house, and found a couple of them 'bone-dry' in just one day. Now I know that the weather has been a little warm, but that's a little unusual. Something large must have come by in the night and sucked up all the water.

The Javelina, though they usually come in packs of about 10-12 animals usually don't drink that much because they also get their moisture from eating Prickly Pear Cactuls. So I filled up all the buckets again and also some of the little 'bird-baths' we have out there. We'd keep an eye on those drink stations around dusk and see what comes by. Living at Hog Heaven is good for your neck muscles, because you spend a lot of time 'rubber-necking' out of all the windows trying to spot some of our visitors. Last night was no exception.

We'd just settled down to watch the Angels - Devil Rays baseball game when Joanne went into the kitchen for a glass of water. "Vern, Vern, Elk" was all she 'yelled' in a SOFT whisper. I muted the TV (which seemed superfluous because the Elk had obviously heard it through all the open windows, and went for my camera.

Joanne had noticed this huge 'cow' Elk stooping for a drink from the bucket I'd buried beside one of our mineral licks, but her attention had been focused so much that she'd missed the two Mule Deer standing less than twenty yards beyond, obviously waiting their turn at the 'lick' or water bucket. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough to catch the Elk and Deer in a single framed photo, but did manage to capture these two shots.

The Mule Deer doe and young buck couldn't wait for that thirsty Elk, so they moved off to the right to the next water bucket. After quenching their thirst, they just browsed around on the lush green tufts of grass that had come alive with the first signs of spring. Life is Good at Hog Heaven.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ashley has begun laying - we think

Our little Flycatchers have been busy since my last posting on this subject and the nest is complete and the hen has begun sitting on the nest in a more permanent fashion. We are expecting from three to seven creamy white eggs, blotched with brown and lavender, which the hen will incubate for about 15 days. Once hatched, the altrical young; (born naked), will remain on the nest for about two weeks.

In the meantime, we have posted our front door 'non-passe' as well as all of the front deck. This is a very exciting time for us and we feel quite protective of our little family and don't want to spoil it in any way.

The hen departs the nest from time to time to feed, and we expect that once she has laid the eggs and begun the incubation process that she will be fed by the male. This isn't guaranteed at this point, but the information we have is that she incubates the eggs alone.
Our proud little father returns to visit the nest every so often and the chatter of conversation is quite loud. We can only assume that he's telling her to hurry up and get those eggs laid, and her loud response would probably be for him leave that to her.

We haven't been able to determine exactly which of the birds is which at the moment; they are to all external appearances, identical. Only when she's on the nest do we know who's who.

There will be more posts and hopefully photos to follow as things progress. Our attention is also directed to the back yard where we have a female Jackrabbit; who has obviously just had a litter of leveret. We haven't seen the young yet, but the doe is a regular visitor; twice a day to hungrily devour a couple of handfulls of corn. Every morning I arise at 5:00 am and there she is waiting for me to feed her. It's such a treat for us to see Spring in action; up close and personal.

Life indeed is: "Living at Hog Heaven"

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A bird named 'Ashley'

A couple of years ago, Joanne and I discovered a little bird hanging around the front door alcove just about sunset every day. Because we are greatly interested in birds and animals, we like to identify them as we discover new arivals. We have a beautiful 'Smithsonian' book on North American birds which has a 'sidebar' notation on each bird; where we can log the time our first spotting, the date, and also the location.
We identified our little 'front door vagrant' as an Ash Throated Flycatcher and learned that; if we provided him/her with a place to nest, that he/she may use it. This little fellow would spend the nights roosting upon the 3/8" wide trim work above the front door, which seemed a little precarious; and besides, he'd poop on the door trim as well. We didn't mind that part; it was easily cleaned up, but we were concerned for his comfort, for fear that he may go elsewhere.
So, I grabbed a piece of the trim molding that I had spare, and placed a little ledge just inside and above the entry alcove. I painted it so that it would look less obvious to humans, but hoped that our little Flycatcher; whom we'd affectionately named, Ashley, would find it. I even took a small mirror which was used as a sun visor mirror in a vehicle; mounted and aimed it on the opposite end of the alcove so that we could observe any activity on the ledge. We did notice that he/she was very much aware of our ledge but still continued to perch on the door trim overnight. Perhaps it was because the ledge didn't afford him/her a clear view of any intruder, that Ashley didn't want to use it. I’d almost decided to move it to the side closest to the door where he/she could see out into the open, but then we spotted Ashley and his girlfriend trying the ledge on for size one day.
That was last summer; about June of '07, but that visit was the only time we'd seen them on the ledge. Though we were ecstatic about the prospect of Mr. & Mrs. Ashley T. Flycatcher nesting on our 'ledge,' it wasn't to be. Perhaps they'd build a nest elsewhere for the 2007 season and were perhaps thinking about the following year. That must be it, I thought, so I'd decided to leave the ledge just as it was and give it another year or so. We wanted this to happen so much that we were prepared to leave it there for years if necessary. After all, Hog Heaven was for ALL the birds and animals; we were just residents of 'their' ranch.
To our delight, Ashley returned this spring; from his winter vacation in Central America, and all of a sudden we noticed there were a bunch of twigs and blades of grass on the ledge. Could this be? Yes indeed it was, because the pile of 'debris' on the ledge began to grow. Grateful that I hadn't moved or removed the ledge, we now quietly studied the progress.
Suddenly an idea came to me. I could point the camera at the mirror, and if I was to zoom it up, I might be able to see the birds in action. As you can see, that is exactly what I did and here are the results.
I'll post again after the eggs are laid and she's sitting on them, but for now, we're extremely delighted to see these lovely little birds making their home at our home.
Be sure that there will be more on this later, and hopefully some more photos as well.

Friday, May 23, 2008

As Things Change

As you can see from the last time you visited, I've been messing around trying to make the blog a little more pleasing to the eye. I've made the "Animal" slideshow a permanent fixture, rather than a 'blog posting' so that it can always be at the top part of the page. That way, you won't have to scroll down through all the postings to find it. Of course, you could click on the "Archive" sidebar and locate it there, but I just wanna make it easy for you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Delivery and Setup of the Ranch House

I've numbered these photos so you can see them in sequence, beginning with the delivery of our home in three pieces, placing them on the pad, removing all the transportation gear (wheels,axles, hitch tongues etc), and the levelling and connecting of all the parts. Once the house was all together and levelled, the drywallers and painters came to finish of the plastering and painting inside, so one would never know that it was in three pieces. The carpet crew then came to install the carpet followed by a cleaning crew, so we could then move in.

The Property in the Beginning.

In these photos, you'll see the property as it was when we first purchased it. It was November of 2002. The road into the front gate was rough as the developers had just bulldozed it in order to allow buyers to choose their land.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"The Overview of the Ranch"

This photo, taken from the South East marker of our property shows you just how vast this piece of land is. As you look along the left side of this photo, you'll notice a little white spot by the road that travels left to right. That little white dot is our 27 foot motorhome parked down there.

The altitude down there is 5,680' ASL, and where I took this photo it is 5,820' ASL. As you can imagine, at almost 6,000' above sea level, we are subject to quite a lot of snow in winter.

The climate can vary from just into the 100's in summer to -0.6 degrees (which was our record low) in winter; yeah, that's zero point six degrees Fahrenheit!!! The thing is; once you pass 32 degrees fahrenheit, which is freezing, you really don't feel any colder, unless the wind blows.

We have a monsoon season during July and August each year when we are subject to most of our rainfall. During our first monsoon season in 2006, we were averaging one thunderstorm and lotsa rain almost every single day for about 8-10 weeks. That was exciting because we hadn't yet completed our landscaping and drainage plans. I spent many an afternoon, in torential rain, digging ditches with a mattock in order to divert the run-off from flooding my workshop. Since then we've added stem-walls and french-drains to divert the water. As you can see by the photo, we are on the western slope (the weather side) of the Juniper Mountains and there's tremendous run-off and risk of flash flooding. We have diversion ditches dug in a "V" formation, just East of the buildings to redirect the run-off the mountain away from flooding the house, workshop and barn. Those ditches have filled and almost overflowed during the 'monsoon' season.

The Beginnings of a Blog

As I begin to understand this 'blogging' stuff, I thought it appropriate to 'post' my first comment. It may take me a while to get proficient at contributing to our site, and I ask that you be patient with me.
In the meantime, I'll continue studying the 'ins and outs' of making this site interesting for you all to visit.
Eventually you'll have the ability to view any photos we've posted and also search through an archive of blogs and photos to see just what fun we're having, living at "Hog Heaven."
Though the photo (included) doesn't really reflect it, both Joanne and I are getting younger with every day as we enjoy our life here at Hog Heaven. Life is good!