Monday, January 16, 2012

Feathered Winter Vistors, Pine Grosbeaks

This winter has been pretty good, temperatures were actually well above normal, there was not much snow (I know, I know, bad for crops), but that all changed two days ago. A cruel cold wind blew in snow and drastically cold temperatures. We went from +5C to -20C in a matter of less than a day.

The wind also seemed to blow in some new guests, birds that we have not really seen here in the past, although they are not uncommon in the area.

We normally have black capped chickadees, waxwings, nuthatches, and blue jays, but over night we had a group of two new arrivals, redpolls (small birds), and some very attractive, robin sized birds.

At first we had only the female birds. I had a hard time identifying them because the bird book I have only pictures a male, and the females had what I would call an orange head, and the bird book said the females have an olive head (to me olive is greenish). So I thought I had a mystery bird at the feeder, eating sunflower seeds so fast I had to fill up the dish several times throughout the day.

It was not until the afternoon that male arrived (no surprise) and I was able to make an accurate identification; Pine Gosbeak, perhaps Alberta's equivalent for winter beauty to the cardinal, a bird that is rare to see here.

From what I read, Pine Grosbeaks are a forest dwelling bird most of the time but enjoy mountain ash trees (which I have always wanted but still have not gotten around to buying). They are slightly larger than finches and the defining feature is the white bars on their wings, which the females do have also.

The location, for anyone who is interested, is central Alberta, about 1 hour SW of Edmonton.

Other than the new birds, there is not much happening, the weather is frightfully cold so everyone is trying to stay warm.  I gave a whole bunch of chopped up apples to the sheep this afternoon, they liked that.  I suspect the birds might like some too, I shall put some out tomorrow.

Pictures are copyright © owned by me.


Friday, January 13, 2012

The Seismic Man Came to the Farm

Today a man visited the farm.  He had with him a map and lots of permits and contracts.  It seems the company that owns the mineral rights to my farm, and all those around me for miles was on the prowl.  They want to do seismic tests in the area.  As a property owner there is really nothing you can do to stop them. 

On his map I could see my small hobby farm, just an inch big.  The map was criss crossed with green and red lines.  The man pointed out my property, it had a green dotted line right through the middle of it, and a red line running down the side, but in my neighbors property.

He informed me of intended tests in the area which involve running a cable through my property (the green line) and drilling 30 ft deep holes for small explosives on a neighbors property (the red line).  I was not the only one.  These lines criss crossed a huge map, I was but a blip. 

He informed me that as a land owner I would get paid for this.  He also informed me of my rights to get a well test prior to the procedure.  I took him up on the offer for the well test, as water is too valuable to risk.  The contract stated that if any "damages" occurred as a result of the geophysical testing I would be compensated.

Since my property was small I would get their minimum pay out, but that payout (I am not sure I am allowed to say what it is) is about the same as I would make working a few days.  Heck they would even pay me (a smaller amount) for my trouble if they decided to cancel.

It is winter here, but he assured me that is the best time to do the tests since some of the land they have to test is swamp, they prefer to cover it in the winter when the ground is frozen. 

Of interest the entire project, just to do these geophysical seismic tests the land this way, is going to cost around a million dollars, about $2,500 per quarter section (by the time they pay land owers and the guys to lay the cable, drill holes, and so forth).

I will let you know what happens later, he figured it would be a month before the guys were in my area to lay the wire.  I told him to make a note that the crew watch out for the curious llama, perhaps I should have warned them that the ram is getting pushy too.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Why Don't Sheep Shrink when they get Wet?

A question was recently asked on WebAnswers. A person asked “How come sheep don't shrink when they get wet?”. This thought must come from the fact that wool sweaters sometimes shrink after washing.

The answer is simple really, sheep are living things, it is the wool that shrinks, not the animal beneath the wool. A wool sweater may shrink but it is not made up of “sheep” it is made up of the fleece that the sheep has produced.  As well how the wool was treated makes it more prone to shrinkage.

What really causes a wool sweater to shrink is not so much the washing, but rather the drying. When the wet wool gets hot the fibers naturally cling together, they have a natural crimp that grabs on to the other wool fibers and do not want to let go.

An actual living sheep might get wet, but it does not get hot enough for this to occur. Also the woolen fibers on he sheep are all growing naturally in the same direction; from the skin out. Sheep hairs are not as smooth as human hairs, they even have minute scales, after being spun into yarn the fibers are all over the place, and the texture of each fiber grabs onto those next to it. If agitated further these fibers can be made into felt. This is why the hair of some animals can be spun into yarn, or made into felt, but you cannot do the same with hair from every animal.

So to get back to why the wool on sheep does not shrink, but the wool in sweaters does, we see that the wool in sweaters is not as well arranged as on the sheep – the fibers are going every which way, when you add water and heat, the fibers grab onto each other, pulling each other together resulting in shrinkage.

To prevent shrinkage, some wool is treated with chemicals to remove some of these scales, this does result in less shrinkage, but shrinkage in sweaters can also be prevented by not heating up wet sweaters – they can be dried safely with cool air.

If you happen to have accidentally shrunk your wool sweater you can “un-shrink” it by soaking it in warm water with a bit of hair conditioner added. Pull the sweater gently while it is soaking. Remove from the water and lay flat, pulling gently again relax the hold the fibers have on one and other, and to pull it back into its proper size.

If you would be interested in joining WebAnswers (they pay to Google Adsense) you can join here and have fun answering questions on many topics.