Whew! This Spring has been incredible. The meteorologists often use the word “breezy” when it’s actually howling steady at 45mph and gusting to 60 plus mph. A winter storm blows in and next we have a blizzard with snow drifts higher than the top of the hood of my car and near white-out driving conditions.

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Let Freedom Wave…

Flag waving. Parades and picnics. Sparklers and Fireworks. It’s the Fourth of July.

Flag Butte, Dawes County, Chadron Nebraska

Old Glory raised on Flag Butte

At 6am sharp, the raising of Old Glory on Flag Butte kicks off Independence Day.

4H Happy Hustlers gather with family and friends begin to assemble at the base of the butte about 5:30a. Their young legs carry them easily to the top on the hill.

Everyone is invited and many who have come, have been climbing the butte annually since they were kids. Others, who always meant to climb are now, for the first time (some in their 70s),  making the trek to the top of the steep hill.

 

Raising Old Glory on Flag Butte

Raising Old Glory on Flag Butte


 
Our Local 4H: Happy Hustlers gather to hoist the flag to the top of the pole. A short prayer of thanks is led, a commemoration to our great nation and honors given to our fallen soldiers who have given their lives for our freedom. A fitting moment of silence; then awe of the expanse viewed from the top of Flag Butte where we all stand, looking across our prairie, our land.

Pine Ridge Area, Dawes County, Western Nebraska

The view looking west from atop Flag Butte

 

Breathtaking. Beautiful.
We can see for miles and miles and miles.

 

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Thunderstorms, Fire, and Wheat.

Smoky skies hang over Western Nebraska

Wild fires in western Nebraska fill the night sky with smoke.

By the end of June, farmers and ranchers are sitting on pins and needles as they scan the western Nebraskan skies for signs of weather. Within minutes the blue sky can fill with huge thunderheads and high winds packing a whopping 60+ mph speeds, and hail the size of quarters raining down. The years work all destroyed if mother nature says so.

This is a tense time for families; thier livelihood relies on what the heavens will bring…
will it be the gentle and much needed moisture, or the havoc of wind and hailstorm?

Wheat ripe for harvest in western Nebraska

This wheat is just about ready for harvest.

And there it is, racing east to west. Whose farm will she torment?

Thunderstorm rains down on wheat fields north of Chadron, NE.

Thunderstorm punishes wheat fields north of Chadron, NE

Soon, we could watch blots of electricity lighting the sky like a strobe light.  Amazing power across the land.

Lightening in Western Nebraksa

This lightening strike started a grass fire N.E. of Chadron, Ne.

And the harvesters moved into the fields to save what they could before another torment was unleashed.

Wheat harvesters in Western Nebraska

The Custom Cutters have arrived. Within minutes this wheat will be binned.

It’s a race against time as cutters knock down the wheat, bin and haul it to the grain elevator in Crawford, NE. They work fast knowing that every minute counts when the weather and moisture of the grain are at stake.

The air is thick with smoke from the previous days fires north of Harrison and Crawford Ne. Grasslands are burning in Wyoming from the same storm. Smoke laden air mixed with wind and dust from dry-land farming make for an incredible evening sunset and sky.

Smoky Skies over Western Nebraska

Smoke from wild fires create Apocolyptic skies.

 

American pronghorn take a break from the hot sun in Western Nebraska.

Pronghorn find the just-baled wheat a welcome relief from the hot day.

Throughout the week equipment hummed in the fields. Balers turned 1 &1/2 ton rolls out of hail-damaged pasture grass and wheat; while combines gleaned what they could into the late hours of the night. Red, silver and blue paneled trucks raced to the nearest grain elevator, dumped their load and raced back to the fields for the next load.

Harvesting wheat at night in Western Nebraska

Wheat is harvested through the night, as long as the temperatures remain warm.

Duanne sits atop his old John Deere tractor pulling the disk behind and digging deep into the soil. He knows its hot outside, but the rain might come tonight, and the ground could use the moisture. Old times like Duanne don’t seem to notice the scorching heat, or maybe they just ignore it, “’cause they gotta git the job done!”

Farming in Western Nebraska

106 degree heat. “It was cooler on the tractor than in my house,” says Duanne.

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WOW, What a Spring!

Spring horse round-up on Ash Creek Ranch

Mares running from a stallion just let into pasture on Ash Creek Rranch

What a Spring indeed! I can hardly believe what this season has been around these neck of the woods.

Our incredible season started somewhere back in February, when we got a few warm days; then in March we had days in the 80s. By the time April rolled through we’d hit 90 more than once! Our cottonwoods started early as did so many of our trees in the forest. It seemed all Gods’ creations were taking advantage of the early frostless days.

I should have paid attention to all the signs that pointed toward a warm Spring; as when the geese flew north more than a month early;

Ring Neck Pheasant rooster & hens

This Ring Neck Pheasant calls to his two hens.

or the Pheasant rooster rounding up a couple of hens; or the fact that our wild turkey were strutting and gobbling earlier than usual.

Jake Merriam turkey

Young turkey out looking for a hen.

To the frustration of many turkey hunters, who had arrived, with no doubt seemed to them good timing, only to catch a fleeting glimpse of Nebraska’s Merriam heading higher into the ponderosa pine ridge. Running much faster than their pursuers.  (Our turkey are known for their spindly muscular legs that pace as high as 26 mph. with a range to wander as much as 6-7 miles.) They are a curious bird no doubt. Often, they opt to run rather than fly when being chased.

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November….

A time to gather.

For our resident wildlife, November is a time of gathering. Whether it is our Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep or herds of American Pronghorn.

American Pronghorn in Western Nebraska

American Pronghorn in Western Nebraska

In just another month there will be 100 plus in this pasture, and other fields. Their biological clock is responding as the days grow shorter and colder. The days are dark by 4:30 now.

Frost is in the air and blowing quickly toward R Lazy J.

The frost is blowing in from the West.

Frost is in the air, blowing in from the West

I watched this icy cloud push into my warm afternoon, and within minutes I was engulfed with its’ icy breath. I was glad I was in my car, a mere toggle of the heater switch and I was toasty warm.

 

Mule Deer in Western Nebraska

Mule Deer in field near R Lazy J, Country Hideaway

 

 

 

 

 

November is also Hunting Season…

Whitetail and Mule deer are plentiful along the Pine Ridge and are highly prized among those who seek their trophy buck.

Merriam Turkey in Whitney Nebraska

Merriam Turkey hunt for bugs and seeds through prairie grass.

 

 

 

The Ponderosa Pine Ridge is also the prime spots to find Merriam turkey. One of the few species of wild turkey left in the Americas.

Along the Ridge one can also watch the Bighorn sheep as they gather and move through the area.
So many game here to see and enjoy in a day.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep rams

Bighorn Sheep rams following the ewe.

 

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Autumn along The Ridge

Cottonwood trees in autumn

Our Cottonwood Trees along Indian Creek

Autumn has been beautiful this year, so it was hard to see the season come to a close.
But here we are, just a few more days left of our fall colors, and so it goes.

Crow & Crown Butte, Crawford Nebraska

Crow & Crown Butte in Autumn colors

The warming temperatures and light winds have filled our blue sky with the heady weight of dust and cool moisture drifting up from turned soil.

No Till Drill

No-Till Drill

Tractors across the land have been working hard tilling the brown dirt and drilling rows of winter wheat. In just a few weeks, the farmer’s hard work have begin to show, and now these rows are sprouting green.

Cutting dead ash tree

This dead Ash tree will make great firewood.

For Jerry and I, we race against this season’s push to get our home ready for cold and the winter winds of our prairie.

Old dead “snags” of Ash and box elder trees are bucked-up for firewood. Leftover deadwood trimmings are piled for critters’ shelters, or predators’ blinds.

 

Short Prairie Grasses in the National Recreation Area

Merriam Turkey

Young Merriam Turkeys foraging along the creek.

While the temps are pleasant, a mild 75, weather bugs or birds, coyotes or deer, our wildlife are storing fat and forage for the all-to soon-to-come winter months.

On the last of the seasons’ wildflowers and prairie blooms insects are working fast and furious collecting nectar, mating and building their winter homes.

Bumble Bee and Sunflower

Bumble Bee gleaning pollen

Whether genetically programmed, environmentally stimulated or learned, their internal clock says , “It’s time to prepare for the approaching winter months on the Nebraska prairie.”

Hummingbird

Hummingbird drawing tiny drops of nectar from pink vinca.

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Weather alert!

This summer has been filled with weather alerts. And yesterday was no different. We take heed when we see storms like this build over Little Wolf Ridge and Chimney Butte

Thunderstorm building over Little Wolf Ridge, Whitney, Nebraksa

Thunderstorm building over Little Wolf Ridge

.  The day was beautiful and the clouds spectacular.

 

Thunderstorm over Chimney Butte

Yesterday it changed from spectacular to dramatic then dangerous. This storm let loose marble-size hail just minutes after these shots were taken.

Hail storm forming over Little Wolf Ridge

In minutes the blue turns to grey as hail forms inside storm over Little Wolf Ridge

Nearly a half inch of rain pounded down in 15 minutes.

Hail storm forming over Chimney Butte

Updrafts then downdrafts build into a Hail Storm over Chimney Butte

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Our daily bread

This gallery contains 12 photos.

  It’s Wheat Harvest Season. This just may be my favorite time of the year. For me, It has been a hard wait for the grain to mature. We have had so much rain this year, that the wheat has … Continue reading

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June came and now…. GONE!

This gallery contains 17 photos.

Wild. Wet. Wonderful. That was my June in the great Panhandle of Western Nebraska. Incredible weather. I played photog and tourist, taking in some of the sights and sounds of the Panhandle. So many moments stopped me in my tracks. … Continue reading

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Rain Rain Rain

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Rain rain go away…. It is somewhat of a curse to wish good rain to depart, since this is the time when the farmers are looking to the skies for the wet stuff to fall. But these past 2 weeks … Continue reading

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