Acorns and Rocks

I start walking around 8 a.m., which is my usual time to hike with the donkeys and dogs, but it’s unusual to hear coyote yipping at this hour.  The sound seems to be coming from the creek.  Coyote normally hunt-sing at night, so I wonder why I hear them now.  But, like many mysteries at Mule Springs, this one hovers unresolved.

 

So, I turn our little group in another direction and make my way, carefully through tall, dead grass, to the house site we did not choose. It sits directly above the old barn, and is distinctive for its single noble oak perched on the hill.

 

The dogs circle outwards and hunt for mice while the donkeys stroll along with me. First Chippo walks by my side, and I lay a hand on his furry brown back. We walk in unison for a few moments, and then he speeds up, and I slide my hand down his backbone, over his rump and give his tail a slight squeeze as he moves ahead.  Ziggy comes up then, and stays with me as we pass the oak and move fifty yards away to a colorful grouping of rocks.

The group of rocks we encountered on our hike. Various tunnel entrances allow squirrels to reach the burrow below the rocks, and the rocks present a more challenging barrier than bare ground for coyote.

 

A variety of lichen in butterscotch, pearl-gray, and deep rose splotch the stone. Verdant mosses add cushiony depth to the twiggy spray of fungus designs, and at the base of each rock, acorns lie scattered. An old tattered bone rests among the chips of broken acorn. Its presence may be more than coincidence. Birds and animals need calcium. I envision a bright-eyed ground squirrel sitting up and gnawing on the bone fragment. As its teeth score the bone, the squirrel peers over the oak savannah watching for movement.

 

The ground under the largest rock is dug away and allows the squirrel instant escape from overhead predators. Perhaps these rocks comprise a dome for a burrow?  Though each squirrel has its own tunnel entrance, many squirrels can live in a burrow.

The big lichen and moss covered rock. Escape access for the squirrels below the rock.

 

Variety of wild buckwheat and one of the few flowers blooming on the farm in fall. Several examples of this plant were scattered around the rocks. Apparently neither donkeys nor squirrels eat wild buckwheat as it flourishes throughout the prairie lands here.

 

The squirrel site: broken acorns and a small bone.

 

A well-trodden rodent path runs from the big rock down to the oak savannah where many acorns lie ready for eating and storage. This fall the squirrels will make many trips on the path to reach the acorns.

The rodent path leading from the rocks down to the oak savannah.

 

It’s been a banner year for acorns. Certainly it has not been a mast year where acorns layer the woodland floor ankle-deep, but it has been raining acorns for several weeks. They have pinged the barn’s tin roof, and kept up a constant staccato drum as they hit and rolled onto the walks and lodged into every pit, pot, and crevice below.

 

On this fine day an oak in the savannah stands covered with pumpkin colored leaves.  Soon enough, the orangey-brown leaves will layer the ground under the snow, while California ground squirrel lie half-curled up against each other in their protected burrows.

 

Pumpkin colored leaves covering a white oak in the east oak savannah at Mule Springs Farm.

 

 

 

 

 

18 thoughts on “Acorns and Rocks

  1. What gorgeous colors, between those lovely blue rocks, the wild buckwheat, and the oaks! And soon to be covered by snow….hope for new photos then!

    1. What gorgeous colors, between those lovely blue rocks, the wild buckwheat, and the oaks! And soon to be covered by snow….hope for new photos then!

      Hi Mary– Usually no snow before Thanksgiving! 🙂 Sher

  2. I’ve often wondered what kind of oaks grow in that area. Do you know? They remind me of what we called scrub oak in the mountains of New Mexico, but I’m not even sure that was the right name for those trees, let alone these ones. Beautiful, whatever the name! I’ve always loved oak trees. Lucky squirrels.

    1. I’ve often wondered what kind of oaks grow in that area. Do you know? They remind me of what we called scrub oak in the mountains of New Mexico, but I’m not even sure that was the right name for those trees, let alone these ones. Beautiful, whatever the name! I’ve always loved oak trees. Lucky squirrels.

      Hi Andrea– They are white oaks- that is their official common name. When I lived in The Dalles many years ago, we called them scrub oaks like you, but once I got the farm and began some research I learned they are called the Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana), also known as the Garry oak. I was out for a two hour hike with the donkeys this morning and noted all the leaves are now off the oak trees. It happens quickly! Thanks for checking in. Sher

    1. Hello Sher,

      Another lovely adventure…thank you for bringing me along. :0)
      Ardy– It is good to hear from you. I sure wish you could have a chance to be around my donkeys. You would love them so much; I can imagine the experience would make you want to move south where it is possible to have animals with hooves. I have some posts coming up, I will be sure to let you know about–donkeys and dogs and the social donkey. Miss you. Sher

  3. Thank you for sharing your walk along with the beautiful flora along the way. I can just picture you walking with your beloved mules and what they would feel like running a hand along their back. I love hearing about your place and your animal friends. Continue to share!
    Judi Harris

    1. Thank you for sharing your walk along with the beautiful flora along the way. I can just picture you walking with your beloved mules and what they would feel like running a hand along their back. I love hearing about your place and your animal friends. Continue to share!
      Judi Harris

      Thank you Judi — it is always nice to hear from you. I’m glad you enjoy the stories. 🙂

  4. Well written, Sher, you have a wonderful gift of descriptive and picturesque phrases, that gift and the photos gave us a beautiful story of life on a farm and the joy and comfort our animal friends give us.

    Art 🙂 Labrousse

    1. Well written, Sher, you have a wonderful gift of descriptive and picturesque phrases, that gift and the photos gave us a beautiful story of life on a farm and the joy and comfort our animal friends give us.

      Art 🙂 Labrousse

      Hey Art– Thanks so much. I read over what you said several times and thought how well it captures what I hope to do with writing. I have always been so drawn to watching and interacting with animals, and it’s nice to be able to share my joys and interests with other through words. Sher

    1. Loved the pics of lichen covered rocks – & who knew that squirrels dug burrows? very interesting – thanks. The foliage on the oaks is gorgeous. Thanks Alison- I know it is so different looking here from where you reside in South Africa. Thanks for checking in. 🙂 Sher

  5. Hi Sher,
    I so enjoy your writing and photography. Just a pleasure to read your rich descriptions of what you see and experience.
    Bruce

  6. Hello Sher
    I think this is such a cool thing to do – to go for a morning walk with your donkeys. They seem to love walking along with you, don’t they?
    And that last picture took my breath away – such *STUNNING* colours!!

    1. Hello Sher
      I think this is such a cool thing to do – to go for a morning walk with your donkeys. They seem to love walking along with you, don’t they?
      And that last picture took my breath away – such *STUNNING* colours!!

      Hi Reggie
      Hiking with my donkeys is my favorite past time. It is a time of bonding and observation. Thanks for checking in again; it is always nice to hear from you.

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