R Lazy J Country Hideaway http://www.rlazyj.com Explore country life, wildlife and weather in Northwest Nebraska Mon, 03 Apr 2017 22:59:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://i2.wp.com/www.rlazyj.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/cropped-DSCN1974.jpg?fit=32%2C32 R Lazy J Country Hideaway http://www.rlazyj.com 32 32 36144040 Wind, wind, wind and more wind! http://www.rlazyj.com/wind-wind-wind-and-more-wind/ Tue, 28 Mar 2017 03:00:16 +0000 http://www.rlazyj.com/?p=1407 And the wind just keeps blowing. I can see how this must have driven homesteaders mad in the dust times of the depression. This area of the Nebraskan panhandle saw some dramatic changes in the past few years that has greatly altered the flow of the wind; and the effects of the wind on our landscape and game population.

Anyway, today the landscape is altered greatly. Pasture grassland restored to a natural balance. Beneficial to not only the land but to our ranchers and farmers.

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Gobble gobble. Nebraska’s Merriam’s Turkey http://www.rlazyj.com/gobble-gobble-nebraskas-merriams-turkey/ Fri, 24 Mar 2017 17:52:21 +0000 http://www.rlazyj.com/?p=1373 Wild Merriam's turkey flock in the cattle feed pasture.

Wild Merriam’s turkey flock in the cattle feed pasture. This is a great place to winter, free food and twice a day!

Our wild Merriam’s turkey believe snow season has bugged out of here. Normally their flock can still manage to be in the hundreds and more, but the birds have moved off some of their winter grounds, which for the past several years have been the neighbors’ cattle corn and feed. I can usually hear their boisterous voices as the rancher grinds out fresh alfalfa in a long line along the ground. The birds under foot of cow-calf pairs pecking though the feed for corn and cake.

And this early morning, as I sat on the deck listening for the birds, I could hear they were on the move. Hens’ satisfied clucks and plucks while young Jakes chattered along the creek area tell me they are moving to their Spring grounds. The large Winter flocks will be growing smaller and smaller as the birds set up their mating routines. I expect to be hearing Toms soon, once they have found a suitable strutting ground. I love this time of the year!

 

Along Indian Creek the grasses are pushing through.

Along Indian Creek the grasses are pushing through. Soon the Ash trees will awake from winter. This too is a favorite area for our Merriam’s turkey. Lots of grub to eat along the bank of our creeks.

Three antler sheds and a Merriam's turkey wind feather.

I found these three antler sheds along my Indian creek hike and a new turkey feather. Lots of deer sign, track etc; but not too much track for the birds yet. Not sure were they are today.

 

 

 

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January 2017 http://www.rlazyj.com/january-2017/ Fri, 06 Jan 2017 01:30:40 +0000 http://www.rlazyj.com/?p=1321 Really? 2017? Already?!
Oye!

Winter cold front pushes across the landscape.

Winter cold front pushes across the landscape.

Our January broke onto the land with a frozen winter frontal system. I watched it push over the landscape and encase it all in ice.

If I didn’t know better I would think that I’m living on the windswept plains of North Dakota, but no, I am here in the Western Panhandle of Nebraska. Our own High Plains, High Country.

Little Wolf Ridge Butte framed by winter ice.

Little Wolf Ridge Butte framed by winter ice. Back door into the Ponderosa Recreational Area.

So out I venture, camera in hand to catch a few shots before my fingers go numb. Not too long outside, but just long enough. I watch my “boys,” if they start to shake their heads, ears flapping from the cold, then I get inside immediately.

My dogs: Brown & white Roscoe & Bandit enjoying the time outdoors

My scouts: Roscoe & Bandit ramping up their energy to be out in the freeze. Ready to go!

Here you go…. a few shots of my new year. It’s January 2017, in the Panhandle of Western Nebraska.

One Ponderosa frozen in time, and still standing.

One Ponderosa frozen in time, and still standing.

Stand of Ponderosa encrusted in ice and surrounded by snow.

Stand of Ponderosa encrusted in ice then frosted in snow.

Tree damage. Sleet; then snow, followed with 60 mph winds lay these burned snags down like matchsticks.

Tree damage. Sleet; then snow, followed with 60 mph winds lay these burned snags down like matchsticks. There are serious “widow-makers.” and sure footing is necessary!

Ponderosa tree lay frozen on the ground.

Another casualty of blow down. So many trees toppled from foothold in the sandy grassland soil.

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March blows in like a lion! http://www.rlazyj.com/march-blows-in-like-a-lion/ Tue, 29 Mar 2016 02:41:41 +0000 http://www.rlazyj.com/?p=1260 Wall cloud, before a cold front, lit up in yellows and gold from the setting sun. Air temps dropped to near freezing within minutes of its arrival.

Wall cloud, before a cold front, lit up in yellows and gold from the setting sun. Air temps dropped to near freezing within minutes of its arrival.

This March truly did roar into Western Nebraska like a lion. The winds at our house blew in at over 70 MPH during that first week! It wasn’t suppose to be that high, but our area gets hit really hard with the winds now that we no longer have foliage on our pine trees. Burnt pine trunks sticking out of the ground do not hold back the wind at all! There is no shelter belt anymore.

Wind snapped and broken tree limbs lay like matchsticks across the ground and dry ravines in the National Forest.

Wind snapped and broken tree limbs lay like matchsticks across the ground and dry ravines in the National Forest.

Nebraska wind has changed our landscape just as great as the fires had in 2012. The following couple of years we had a good amount of rain; and heavy rains add to the erosion where the burn was the most severe. And today, the winds have snapped the trees at the top, middle or bottom of the blackened snags. You need sure footing when out hiking now.

Sure footing and a watchful eye will keep our hikers safe among the littered forest floor. Tree trunks splintered as high winds ripped through the county.

Sure footing and a watchful eye will keep our hikers safe among the littered forest floor. Tree trunks splintered as high winds ripped through the county.

Our landscape has evolved dramatically since the Dawes Complex Fire of 2012. Every year I get out and hike the hills and canyons to see the changes. It can be a little treacherous on the old game trails, so finding new paths to walk can make it a challenge when trekking up and down the ravines and canyons. Thank heaven for sturdy shoes.

Although fire swept through this area in 2012, there were many trees that survived and the groundfloor is thriving with nutrients from the fire's ash. This game trail was well traveled this Spring and will be in the coming months as game and foul look for mates.

Although fire swept through this area in 2012, there were many trees that survived and the groundfloor is thriving with nutrients from the fire’s ash. This game trail was well traveled this Spring and will be in the coming months as game and foul look for mates.

This is the view of the old postal road that wound through the forest up to residents who once lived in the East Ash Creek area and table. Tall skinny Ponderosa Pine are remaining sentry of the area.

This is the view of the old postal road that wound through the forest up to residents who once lived in the East Ash Creek area and table. Tall skinny Ponderosa Pine are remaining sentry of the area.

There is a silver lining to this change. Every year I am amazed at nature’s recovery. It is a cycle I am privileged to witness. The lush forage for the wildlife is full of nutrients and life.
So as we come to end of March, the temperatures rise and fall. This is also the time I get out to hunt for deer antler sheds, and check for new game trails.

Young Merriam turkey along Indian creek at RLazyJ

Young Wild Merriam’s turkey grazing for bugs near Indian Creek.

It’s that time of year when I keep a sharp eye out for sign of our wild turkey. Where they have wintered and where they are heading to show off their feather finery.
It is that time of year when I can explore. I love it out here.

Sunset gold highlights our late winter grasses and buttes.

Long evening shadows and sunset gold highlights our late winter grasses and buttes.

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Autumn http://www.rlazyj.com/autumn/ Sun, 01 Nov 2015 20:48:05 +0000 http://www.rlazyj.com/?p=1219 November 1.

Sunrise over the eastern buttes of the Pine Ridge National Recreation Area

Nov. 1, 2015     Sunrise over the eastern buttes of the Pine Ridge National Recreation Area

Our morning began with a phone call interrupting our early cup of jo. “I killed a mountain lion last night.” said the crackley voice on the end of the line. “Right down by the bridge crossing. It just ran out in front of me. And it was too late.”

I drove on over to see the size of the cat.

It was a female, young, maybe 1 1/2 to 2 years old.

Female mountain lion

Female mountain lion that had been hit by a rancher’s truck Oct 31. 2015. along Bethel Road toward Robert’s Trailhead, Pine Ridge National Recreation Area.

Not really sure whether or not she had had her first litter yet. I knew there had been one mountain lion or more in our canyon. I had seen the large foot prints, sometimes questioning whether they were from my large dogs.

Female mountain lion paw against my hand (paw is at least 6 inches)

Female mountain lion paw against my hand (paw is at least 6 inches)

 

 

 

However, a cat’s print is much larger and rounder, and without claw marks on the print.

Our turkey have been scarce lately too, another sign of local predators. But the coyotes have been busy too. Quite healthy looking as well. We knew there have been cats in the area. More sighting by local ranchers and farmers, more signs of their presence. Kill sites too have been spotted.

The deer make a awful sound when they are being taken down.

Shades of yellow, orange, red and green grassees along Cunningham Creek, Pine Ridge Recreational Area. Nebraska National Forest

Autumn puts on a beautiful show along Cunningham Creek where I had seen fresh cougar tracks in the mud just a few days earlier.

Their crying and screaming is similar to a child’s crying out for its mother. I’ve heard that sound a couple of times this season. Autumn. At first I was taken aback by the shrill cries of desperation and then it succumbs. Cries then whimpers echoing off the canyon walls. My dogs went crazy  barking and howling back at the unfamiliar sounds. I will not forget that sound.

 

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Wheat Harvest! Custom cutters are back! http://www.rlazyj.com/wheat-harvest-custom-cutters-are-back/ Wed, 29 Jul 2015 22:08:55 +0000 http://www.rlazyj.com/?p=1170 It’s harvest time and the custom cutters have arrived!

Custom Cutter operation setting up in the wheat fields.

Custom harvesting operation from Hemingford, NE have arrived to cut the neighbors’ wheat fields.

Over the past 21 days dust and wheat chaff float in the air like a mist over an ocean of gold. Farmers have been patiently waiting for the wheat heads to be ripe with the perfect moisture and protein count. They snap off a head, roll the grain between their palms of their hands forcing the wheat seed away from the husk. If it feels and looks right, looks perfect, then they cut.

Mature wheat field ripe for the cutting.

Mature wheat field ripe for harvest.

The 2015 harvest has been delayed by several weeks. Too much rain fell this year. “Too much rain” is rarely heard from a farmer’s lips in these parts of the country.

Turbulent thunderheads overhead.

Turbulent thunderheads overhead dropped quarter-size hail shortly after this image was taken.

Northwest Nebraska is dry land farming and ranching area. Land owners depend on the rain and snow to water their fields of wheat, millet, sorghum or sunflowers. but this year we have had just too much for the month of June, normally the time the wheat has for really soaking in the sun and coming to maturity. Daily downpours with intermittent hail and fierce winds have caused the wheat crop to suffer.

Farmers have been stressed over the possibility of losing their year’s labor in the field. Some have found their wheat to be with “rust,” a bacteria that grows on the stalk damaging the crop; others have discovered their wheat heads that appear healthy are sterile of seed or near empty.

So when the crop is cut and gleaned by the harvesters, ranchers often turn to a higher source, their faith, to sustain them through this tense time.

Harvesting Wheat

Harvesting the first of many wheat fields to be cut.

Some are thrilled that their crop even has enough seed still in the wheat heads that they can even harvest!

Dwain Soester waits anxiously near his red grain truck.

Dwain Soester waits anxiously near his red grain truck. How many many bushels will his field yield? 20? 30?40? 50? per acre.

There are many damaged fields which are being mowed down, wind-rowed, and bailed for the animals. Hail damage, rust or aggressive weeds and invasive plants have spoiled the harvest.

Grain unloaded from harvester.

The grain bin truck pulls alongside the combine. Wheat seed pours out from the harvester, quickly filling the bin. This looks to be a good yield for the farmer.

The financial risk a farmer takes on an annual basis to feed our world is overwhelming. I don’t know how they do it, year after year…

Future farmers on tailgait of service truck.

These three future farmers watch their dad from their perch on the service truck. These young boys are anxious to work and start driving, but for now, they must stay put.  Watch and learn. Soon, they too will be driving and helping to provide.

But I do know this, most love their work and the life that living on a farm provides for them and their families.

Thunderhead over the Pine Ridge

These thunderheads threatened all the nearby fields as it steadily built over the prairie. Fortunately, it did not let loose it’s fury until it was well to the East of the area.

Inner strength, Faith and Hope keep them going to the next season.

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Back to Basics and Biscuits http://www.rlazyj.com/back-to-basics-and-biscuits/ Sun, 12 Jul 2015 17:37:39 +0000 http://www.rlazyj.com/?p=1125 This was a fun weekend. One of our annual events out here is the Chadron Fur Trade Days, always the second weekend of July. An assortment of events which highlight the challenging life of mountain men and the fur trade of the West. Visitors can head on down to the primitive rendezvous camp on Bordeaux Creek to watch buck-skinners recreate an authentic 1800’s fur-trade era, which includes their trappings, buckskin clothing, axes and muzzleloaders, teepees and tents, wares and cooking supplies necessary to survive.

Monte Deckerd and his chuckwagon were on hand at the Trader’s Market to demonstrate how mobile and efficient cooking could be on the prairie.

Monte Deckerd's Historic Chuckwagon, Chadron Fur trade Days 2015

Monte Deckerd’s Historic Chuckwagon, Chadron Fur trade Days 2015

Monte served up fantastic buffalo stew and cowboy beans with yummy hot-out-of-the-dutch oven biscuits! OH MY! MMmmm Good!

These are some of the shots I took between bites of that delicious bowl of stew! Enjoy….

Deckerd's Historic Chuckwagon, most of the hand-forged implements hang on the sideboards available at a moments need.

Monte Deckerd’s Historic Chuckwagon, most of the hand-forged implements hang on the sideboards available at a moments need.

Deckerd prepares handmade buscuits for the dutch oven.

Deckerd prepares handmade buscuits for the dutch oven.

Deckerd's Chuckwagon features many original hand forged tools

Deckerd’s Chuckwagon features many original hand forged tools

Chuckwagon features original green paint on the buckboards and orange paint on the wagon wheels.

Chuckwagon features original green paint on the buckboards and orange paint on the wagon wheels.

US Calvary harness and saddle balance on the tongue of the chuckwagon.

US Calvary harness and saddle balance on the tongue of the chuckwagon.

Deckerd has competed in cook-offs in both New Mexico and Colorado and belongs to the American Chuck Wagon Association.

Monte Deckerd's Chuckwagon self designed dutch oven grill

Monte Deckerd’s  self-designed dutch oven grill. Notice the assorted shovels and racks for the heavy  pots and pans. The biscuits are just about ready!

Not all locations allow open pit fires for cooking, so Deckerd designed and had a welder from South Dakota forge this portable open grill and feed. I was amazed at how efficient this design proved. The food was simple and great.

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Visually exhausted! http://www.rlazyj.com/visually-exhausted/ Mon, 15 Jun 2015 09:00:48 +0000 http://www.rlazyj.com/?p=1066 This morning I had a hard time opening my eyes. The early hour ruckus of insects and birds barely tempted me out from under the sheets. Songs in chirps and cricks called out to me, but I could barely hear them through the haze in my mind and the beating of drums in my head. Hungover from the intoxication of stimuli overload. If I am this tired, how must the dancers of the Inter-tribal Gathering feel?
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My camera card was full of images of yesterday, my mind was full too. I am visually and mentally exhausted.DSCN3580

I have attended this annual event in past years. This is it’s 16th Gathering: Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Navaho, Cherokee, Seneca, full-bloods, and mixes of indigenous nations.
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In the years past, I have heard the drums pounding, the singers voices chant, rhythms vibrating across the grounds and echoing through the air.DSCN3464

This time, it was different. I listened. I felt. I sensed. I became aware. My senses overloaded with the prayers of loss, grief, sorrow, joys, new life, celebration.
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The hint of summer air not only carried their voices of song;  it tasted of memory, old memories. Tribal memories. The Inter-tribal Gathering came to celebrate their ancestry, their heritage and their vision. Families. Clans. Tribes. Maternal guardians. Warriors. Shamans. Metals of honor that are not measured in weight of gold, but in the passage of time. Their Indigenous connection to earth, wind, fire and rain; to the heavens, the afterlife, and their stories.
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It was five hours of brilliant colors swirling, metal bugle-beads jingling, men’s feather bustles fanned out in display like a bird strutting, and always the drums beating; The deep voices chanting.
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Ribbons braided into the locks of long black or brown or blond hair.
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Porcupine quills of brilliant dyes and tiny glass beads threaded by the hundreds, thousands and more all intricately woven into turtles or circles or patterns of sacred geometry to cover assorted accessories.
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Shalls were open wide like butterfly wings that danced in rhythm to the drums, the fringe twisting forward and back.
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My eyes took in as much as I could, my camera lens saw more. Smiles, Spirits, Seekers.  Stories. Pride. The artistry and story telling of the dance. Celebration. Survival. Tradition.
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Beneath the Ponderosa-covered shade area I crouched low to shoot the dancers. I breathed in the salty sweet taste of Indian tacos from the local concession, yet a heady scent of sage and pine swirled around me. I was intoxicated by sound, scent, color. texture. Transfixed in time, and yet time drummed forward. Nearly five hours had passed since I first arrived on the grounds already blessed by the Inter-tribal leaders the day before. No alcohol. No drugs. But intoxication non-the-less. Intoxication from the memories of ancestors, elders and natives of this land.

Discovering we are all indigenous to this planet.

 

 

 

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Look what I found…! http://www.rlazyj.com/look-what-i-found/ Sat, 06 Jun 2015 13:14:17 +0000 http://www.rlazyj.com/?p=1051 Look what I found hiding in the grasses. DSCN3126

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Young fawn tucked into the high grasses.

I was just a breadth away from this little critter.

I had been shooting the creek area below the house and the dogs were scouting and romping through the tall grasses. They did not even see her. So glad they have no scent when they are little like this. She stayed so very still when I leaned over to take this shot of her, and she watched every move I made. I slowly backed away and called the dogs in to me, so as not to frighten her any more than she already was. Her mother no doubt very nearby watching every move we were making; yet, still blending into the background of a spectacular day.DSCN3082

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May is almost gone now… http://www.rlazyj.com/may-is-almost-gone-now/ Tue, 26 May 2015 01:17:09 +0000 http://www.rlazyj.com/?p=527 Spring Lamb protected beneath its' mother.

Spring Lamb protected beneath its’ mother.

Springtime is here and so are the activities that accompany the season. By the end of May most of the babies have been born and taken to their mother’s milk, quickly growing. Calves, lambs and foals arrive.

So is it for the wildlife as well. This morning I caught a glimpse of a baby Rocky Mountain Sheep tucked into a little cave up on the side of our butte. It’s mother and several ewes where nearby grazing the edge of the sandstone cliff.

Last Springs fawns have been kicked off their mother’s teat. Now they collect to forage and fend on their own. And this mother fox had just brought her kits to the surface to get a bit of sunshine and play time. There were four of them wrestling outside their den.

My “boys”, Roscoe, Bandit & Peanut and I got out early today. I spotted this nest of turkey eggs evident that a mama hen was close by, filling her stomach with protein-rich insects. She only gets off her nest for a short while so as not to let her nest get cold. I spotted her up a ways and got the dogs out of there before they caught up with her.

No need to get her feathers all ruffled by the “boys.”

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