Monday, June 27, 2016

Shavetails, Bell Sharps, and Bellwethers.

  In military terms a Shavetail usually refers to a Second Lieutenant who is not very experienced in Army matters.  The saying comes from the practice in the army of shaving the tails of newly broken pack mules to distinguish them from seasoned ones. Good to know when you were picking an animal from the group. 

Bell Sharps is another grading system, 
and another whole fashion statement!

  As the mules were trained and passed muster for performing various duties, their achievements were noted by again altering their tails. When needed, the soldier knew which animal to chose for which specific task. 
One bell was a pack mule, two bells was pack and ride, three meant he'd pack, ride, and drive.

Looks like the one on the left is training the one on the right 
as to the proper etiquette of driving. 

               Bell Sharps is not to be confused with Bellwether, 
                                literally a whole different animal. 

   A bellwether is one that leads or indicates trends. The term is derived from the Middle English bellewether and refers to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated buck or ram (a wether) leading his flock of goats or sheep.

          My Bellwether, Cowboy. Best Nubian goat in Weld county.
                                        Miss you sweetie


Monday, June 20, 2016

The Summer Solstice---with a Full Moon! 2016

Litha is upon us.  
The summer solstice.
The longest day of the year. 

The North American summer solstice happens on 
June 20, 2016 at 6:34 PM EDT. 
It has not occurred with a Full Moon in 70 years!
     The summer solstice happens exactly when the Earth's axial tilt is most inclined towards the sun. And although but an instant in time, the term is used much like the word Midsummer to refer to the entire day on which it occurs.

     A Celtic quarter day (as opposed to a cross-quarter day) it is a direct barometer of what the future weather will hold. 

     This magical day has been celebrated from Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain in England, 
to Chaco Canyon in 
New Mexico

           It is also touted in literature, most notably in Shakespeare's 
"Midsummer Night's Dream".


  Tonight, we ask blessings on our land and the animals that abide there, as we hope for a glimpse of the Tuatha DeDanan. 

  Bonfires were often lit on the Summer Solstice. If we jump the fire will the crops grow higher?    

      Languid from the heat of the day, and energized by the coolness of the evenings, we laugh at the memory of the cold dark days of Winter. But the fullness of Summer is transitory, and we must remember to give thanks for what this season brings. 

                           And so the wheel turns. 
                                           Have a magical day. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Those Baby-faced Belugas

   In the movie Finding Dory, there appears to be a character named Bailey the Beluga whale. Finally, one of my favorite animals is getting a little press-time. I've been fascinated by them since childhood, in other words a dang long time. They almost look extraterrestrial, or carved of alabaster. And they blow bubbles, and seem to have a perpetual smile. 

     "They're an evolutionary surprise - a warm-blooded mammal in a numbingly cold sea. Resembling curious ghosts, these intelligent mammals use one of the most complex sonars of any animal. 
Jean-Michel Cousteau 

The beluga whale gets its name from the Russian word for "white ones", its color and globular head make it easily recognizable. They are born dark gray, however, and can take up to eight years to turn completely white.

The beluga is closely related to the narwhal; and they are the only two members of the Monodontidae family.


The beluga is able to swim backwards, and can change the shape of its bulbous forehead, called a "melon",  by blowing air around its sinuses.The neck vertebrae is not fused together, giving it the unusual ability to turn its head up, down and side-to-side
 Belugas, like other arctic whales, do not have dorsal fins (a dorsal fin causes extra heat loss and would be a major hindrance in the arctic ice), but they do have a tough dorsal ridge. They also have a thick layer of blubber that insulates them from the icy arctic waters. Being quite social, it is possible to see pods numbering in the hundreds near Churchill, Canada. Their dives may last up to 25 minutes and can reach depths of 800 meters. (over 2000 feet!)
   Belugas are one of only three whales that spend all their lives in arctic waters. The other two are the Bowhead--a baleen whale, 

    and the Narwhal, a toothed whale like the beluga.

Yikes, where'd that sweet smile go.....

    Threats to beluga whales include climate change, hunting, oil and gas development, and industrial and urban pollution. Polar bears and killer whales are known predators of belugas throughout their Arctic range.

                                        Bye for now......

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Sad Tale of the Tasmanian Tiger


The Thylacine is a large carnivorous marsupial now believed to be extinct, or at least extant (hoping for the later). The only member of the family Thylacinidae to survive into modern times

     Although commonly called the Tasmanian Tiger or Tasmanian Wolf, the thylacine has more in common with its marsupial cousin the Tasmanian Devil. With a head like a wolf, striped body like a tiger and backward facing pouch like a wombat, the thylacine was as unbelievable as the platypus which had caused disbelief and uproar in Europe when it was first described.

The female produces up to four young who are dependent on the mother until at least half-grown. Interestingly, males also had a back-opening, partial pouch in which they keep  the "family jewels" safe from harm and temperature fluctuation.


Aboriginal rock-paintings of Thylacine-like animals have been found on walls or overhangs of exposed rock surfaces. At one time, they roamed freely in Australia, extending north to New Guinea and south to Tasmania. In recent times they were confined to Tasmania where their presence has not been established conclusively for more than seventy years. Introduction of sheep to Australia resulted in bounty hunting, and along with the introduction of dingoes and man, the entire population of Thylacines was tragically killed off. 

      Carnivores, and relentless hunters, they supposedly made a husky barking sound or a loud yap when anxious or excited. With their back legs slightly longer than their front legs, they had an awkward way of moving, trotting stiffly. They have no webbing between toes, and at times they stood upright with their front legs in the air, resting their hind legs on the ground using the tail as a support, exactly the way a kangaroo does.They were even known to hop for short distances in this position.  

On 7 September 1936, the last known Tasmanian Tiger died in captivity in the Hobart Zoo. Sightings since then have been proclaimed but not substantiated. Too bad they killed off the animal in their own coat of arms....

   Tasmanian coat of arms