previous home
A Fall to Autumn
October 1 - November 10, 2023
Emotions after summer • colorful trees • scrambling and climbing • remodeling cats' home • green-head goes courting
write us Česky

This year's autumn seemed short to me shomehow.
This year's autumn seemed short to me shomehow.
Sherman Mountains.
Sherman Mountains.
For a long time, I did not use to like autumn. Apparently it's a residue from my childhood, when autumn meant going back to school. Summer break had ended and an endless desert of institutionalized education stretched before me. Even now in retrospect I don't find any positives in school attendance. Four hundred years past Komenius's reforms, schools still look medieval, or alternatively, like a Nazi prison camp. Inmates sit in orderly rows reminiscent of military parades; one's day is strictly rationed by acoustic alarms like in an old factory, and students are piled into classes sorted by reference to the moment of their birth — which indicates nothing about their maturity or skills. The result is mass education, which suits no-one — half of the pupils does not see what's going on, and the other half is bored, for they'd already known it for a long time. Still, everybody must endure it, for at least twelve or thirteen years — to get a paper, which again indicates nothing about their knowledge, aptitude, skills or maturity.
There's no escape from school — changing one's job is much easier than changing school. In a job, you can switch to another position, update your profession — and have the right to sue your boss and colleagues if they bully you. School, you simply must survive, without a chance for a pardon or getting your sentence reduced for good behavior.

Thus for me, autumn has been tasting like the end of something nice. These days, I try to find autumn's good side — like, it's going to get cooler again, there will be beautiful leaf plumage on trees — and that my beloved winter approaches with snow and days of rest, when I DON'T HAVE TO bounce around our property. My summer got extended this year with my stay in Europe, where September remained warm and one could even swim in a lake. Thus I partially missed Wyoming's fall and returned to the moment when fall colors were in full swing — or more likely, at the end of its pretty season.
 
Lake Owen.
Lake Owen.
Yellow and green and red.
Yellow and green and red.
Sid and I decided to make a trip around our vicinity and see whether we would still find colorful leaves somewhere. Our plan was to reach Lake Owen, but we were lucky to choose a detour through our Sherman Mountains — which were very nice indeed. Lake Owen lay some thousand feet (three hundred meters) higher and the season was obviously finished there. The lake remains very pretty, but leaves were partially fallen (young trees that tended toward red on previous years), partially brown — with islands of gold in between. The uglier form of autumn had already arrived there, when everything is depressingly brown and gray, but still not covered by white snow.

Thus updated on the state of affairs, we journeyed to Sherman Mountains again on the following weekend — during Sid's Saturday droning, he discovered a belt of yellow trees along a creek under Twin Mountain, and we hike a trail there. Nothing important happened, except our enjoying the fact that we had moved to a truly awesome place.

On October fourteen I pulled ice from a bucket in the goat run; our feeling of approaching winter intensified. It got strangely darker before noon, and I remembered that an eclipse was supposed to happen. Tom came to our rescue, for he had brought two dark film paper glasses for watching the sun, which he had been issued at the university; we could keep running to the front porch and watch the Moon crawl across the face of the Sun. The eclipse wasn't complete at our latitude, but still it was very interesting. We made a few pictures — using a very advanced method, when you hold narrow paper spectacles/strip with dark film in front of the camera lens. At least we did not completely miss it. And the eclipse happened mercifully on Saturday morning — kids were already at home and I was not yet at work.
 
Trees in a gully.
Trees in a gully.
Twin Mountain.
Twin Mountain.
I get a day off on Sundays. Lured by interstate cameras that promised snow in the mountains, I took Sid out to Snowy Range. In fact, at three thousand meters (ten thousand feet) there was snow. We set out along our favorite sightseeing route by the Lookout Lake, but had to give up in a spot where the trail climbs abruptly among rocks and trees up to a viewpoint. Slipping on frosty rocks, alternated by crushing through the snow into melted water underneath, seemed sort-of less than healthy.

On one free Monday I then made a solo trip to Box Canyon. I had hoped that in this miniature valley hidden inside Turtle Rock, I would still find some trees not ripped bare of leaves by the wind, but no luck — I was late even there. Still I enjoyed my outing. I managed to drive through the gate all the way to the parking near the canyon mouth (this road is closed in winter and one must march another mile from the upper parking. I encountered a few people there (three, I think) walking their dogs. One person even ventured the few hundred yards along a paved trail into the canyon proper — but I was alone on the trail up to a viewpoint saddle. This trail is not marked anymore — it used to have an official status; in some sections bridges survive and traces of old railings remain in the saddle, but otherwise you must look for its remnants. I had read somewhere that they closed it intentionally, since visitors made too much mess there. On the other hand, if you show at least elementary effort, you will find the trail.
 
There's snow in the mountains already.
There's snow in the mountains already.
Yetti.
Yetti.
It stroke me that I got up to the saddle rather quickly, but then I realized that it was perhaps for the first time I cheated and hiked only from the nearby parking lot. And since I did not feel like going right back to the car and drive home (I would had spent longer time in the car than in nature), I got attracted by round shapes of the cliff top and decided to try to walk around the top of the canyon. I had to descend a bit, to climb again into another small saddle on the other side of the rock — no trail led there, no rails, bridges etc. The little saddle opened other views — and seemingly realistic option to climb up to a ridge under Turtle Rock. It's ultimately achievable, as we sometimes see figures there, so some route up there exists — but I don't really know which way, so I tried to get through a maze of giant boulders on a slanted cliff surface in various directions — and I always ran into an obstacle — either the incline became impassable only in hiking shoes and without a rope, or I got stuck in a dead end under walls many feet high. Since these were typically individual boulders or small cliffs, I could possibly inch up some chimneys and cracks — but climbing down is much harder; I was not sure that I would find a way in the opposite direction if I had to turn back. It became clear that my tentative route down from the ridge on the southern end could be similarly complicated. I did not have much choice and had to abandon my sortie (this time). After all — Rakoncaj gave up two hundred yards under the top of Everest, why could I not give up Turtle Rock in favor of not having to wait (with a broken ankle, perhaps) for rescue in a spot without a phone signal and where no one goes on a weekday.

My descent was — as I had expected — much harder than scrambling up. Especially with my creaky knees, but I managed. On the next day I was sore a bit, mostly shoulders and arms — and I realized that for tree years, I had NOT CLIMBED AT ALL. One could not go to a climbing gym during covid — and in the meantime the local gym at the college got demolished, for they remodel he the whole athletic hall — and the next closest gym is in Fort Collins, which is rather far. Still I gathered my resolve and went to try Ascent Studio, while including lunch with Sid (who works practically on the same street, though a few miles off) and shopping at Costco (which we don't have in Wyoming either). The best surprise at this gym were routes with automatic belay. They have five ropes with such arrangement, covering three routes each, including one crack. For my situation, after three years with zero practice, I'm glad to climb three to five attempts, and I'm done.
Less pleasant surprise were the Greenies — people of Colorado — who are very distanced. My attempts of basic superficial conversation meet with silence, alternatively with a look straight through my person. No, I don't expect that random people would strike a dialogue with a strange woman in the street — but this is a climbing gym, frequented by people that share a hobby, so I would expect some common ground.
Even in the overcrowded California, otherwise strange climbers would greet each other (as a minimum, they greeted the gym's front desk person), and when handing over a rope said at least "hi" or something in the sense that the route is free now and so on. I admit that for the last three years I got spoiled by Wyoming, where people tend to be very approachable and friendly, but Colorado strikes me as a real extreme. We shall see how it's going to develop — perhaps people would get used to me — and perhaps they won't. As soon as it starts snowing, I should prefer spending my days Nordic skiing, rather than in a smelly gym.
 
Lake Marie.
Lake Marie.
Little bridge at the bottom of Box Canyon.
Little bridge at the bottom of Box Canyon.
On the home front, I'm struggling under both cats and goaties. We have been dealing with making access to outdoors available to the cats. As cold weather came (it freezes frequently at night), we can't keep a window open. For a few days, I kept a path open for the cats from the kitchen through our laundry room into the garage, and an open garage door there. They naturally liked that, though they had spent most of the time watching the world from under the cars parked in the garage. Hugo actually kept perching on components in the underside of my car, which seemed sub-optimal to me. The next phase included installation of a cat door in the wall between the laundry room and the garage. The door for people is made of metal for safety, and poking holes into it would be silly, so the wall won. In a house built from wood and gypsum partitions, such task is easy. When the cats began using the opening with their natural nonchalance, we made it more difficult for them by installing a plastic curtain — to make the opening less drafty.

The following phase consisted of installing another cat door — this time into the external house wall from the garage out. A door for people leading out of the garage faces more or less north — that being the direction, which in Wyoming one really does not want to keep permanently open; it would invite winds of the strength and speed of an international express train, right into the house. A garage door for cars, situated to the east, is better off, but then snow drifts tend to pile up against it. A porch protected from north by the garage is the best spot. We can also see onto the porch from the kitchen, and keep track of what's going on there, and whether it's only cats that enter our garage and not other vermin. Given the fact that our house has a faux stone foundation about three feet up from the ground, we had to have the cat door installed ABOVE it. It also seemed smart because then mice and rabbits would not tend to jump that high. It's clear that a raccoon or some other capable beast could overcome such step, but in our situation, every barrier is welcome.

Naturally, as it is with ingenious plans, a collision with a hard reality ensued. Catty boys did not understand that there now was a small window in the wall, and much less that they should climb up to it. We bought cabinets as shoe storage, which offer — in my opinion — a beautiful opportunity to jump up to the little window — and a cat can sit on the cabinet and look out (if one is being a lazy cat who refuses to leave a warm house). Nothing. Then one day I grabbed Hugo and pushed him through the opening. He was puzzled for a moment — and then went to meow in front of the main entrance to be let back indoor. I grabbed him again, pushed him, this time through the opening from outside back in. Subsequently he kept avoiding me for a week. I tried to arrange their favorite fishy pâté next to the cat hole. Nothing. When I managed to catch Hugo again and push him out, he returned back home through the right orifices, not even trying to squeal at the human entrance — but the more carefully he avoided me thereafter.
 
Autumn in Box Canyon.
Autumn in Box Canyon.
I can't find my way up.
I can't find my way up.
I did not dare to try pushing Guido through the hole. Guido is an old cat, apparently partially deaf; most likely, in earlier phases of his life he lived through a head injury — sometimes he's a bit out of it. And he horribly fears any constriction of his movements. When you try to pick him up, he springs away in a hysteric trajectory, and runs in some random direction — including, for example, hitting walls and furniture. Meanwhile he would watch TV with me in the evening, letting me brush and pet him, and scratch under the chin and on the belly — I just mustn't reach for him with both hands, or squeeze him in any way. Guido also meows weirdly — either he really does not hear himself, or he's got another problem — he has a thin, high-pitch voice — and when he looks for Hugo, instead of classic cat calling, he howls weirdly.
Hugo also lets me pet him, but he does not enjoy it long. If you pick him up, he won't be happy, but will let it happen. He will disentangle from your arms in all decency, without using claws or teeth. But from his past as a half-feral barn cat he keeps being very agile, and if he decides not to get caught, you won't. He's got lightning-speed reactions and despite his tiny figure, he's a strong and mighty cat.

I gave in after some time and as my last attempt, installed a commercial cat gym next to the shoe cabinets in the garage, same as the one they used to get to the regular windows in our basement. It seems that this has finally succeeded and at least Hugo began to use the cat door in its intended function, going out. I have not seen Guido in the opening, but nothing can be done. He would have to copy it from Hugo and learn by himself, because I really can't grab him and push to the hole.

My goaties got me other worries. I have decided to fill our nest with baby goats, now that our own children left for the university. I spent the summer doing a run-around of obtaining paperwork for my existing young goats, and by looking for a breeder with a buck. Then it was necessary to figure out, whether I want baby goats from all three of my young female goats, or only some. I sense that Lori is a never-ending baby goat, and I doubt that she would manage her own offspring — she herself did not master drinking from her mother, apparently lacks a full set of instincts, and it is questionable, how well she could care for babies. A baby goat needs a lot of care — not for long, but the more intensely, and I feel too old to get up every two or three hours every night and feed from a bottle. Then there is concern for the baby goat to stay warm — not having a mother to cuddle up to. Thus I rejected Loreena. Her sister Enya is very smart, funny and mischievous goatie, but I would like to keep her babies as my own pets, for my own company, and thus later. Hence this year the lot fell on Bonnie. Mostly because Bonnie is the only one of the young females with a visible little udder, and so I hope that she will milk well. Her mother, Twilight, had milk for a year and half, which is rather exceptional with this breed originally meant for meat. Bonnie could have enough own milk, and her babies could sell well.
 
The cats grasped the concept of bedding much more eagerly and quickly than the concept of crawling through a cat door.
The cats grasped the concept of bedding much more eagerly and quickly than the concept of crawling through a cat door.
Hugo (finally) outside.
Hugo (finally) outside..
Before one takes a goat to a buck, it's a good idea to have all basic tests done for various nasty goat illnesses, so that they don't spread among goat herds. Thus I made Bonnie an appointment at the vet's, for I reckoned that I'm not ready to pull her blood myself. I had thought that I simply load Bonnie in our truck and drive. After mere ten minutes I was totally soaked with sweat, and Bonnie was hysterical from being removed from the herd and from her mother. It began to dawn on me that violence will be the only choice — and that I can't lift on the order of ninety pounds of fighting goat on my own. Fortunately I could call a obliging neighbor on the phone, who helped me load the goat. At the vet's they made a smart decision, dismissed the thought of unloading Bonnie from the truck-bed, and pulled her blood after they cornered her right there. Unloading then at home was easy — all I had to do was bring the steps and Bonnie rushed out like a released Kraken, and hurried home.

Still the torture of my goatie was not at an end — registered goats must have a number tattooed in their ears — which is usually done when the baby goats are relatively small and easy to overwhelm. Bonnie is fully grown, and though I invited help in the shape of another breeder, a nice rodeo still ensued, whose result was green ink smeared all over the pen, me, the other breeder — and Bonnie. Poor goat looked like Fantômas (a villain from comedies with Luis de Funès, with a dark cyan full-head rubber mask), because she had ink all over her head and even a few smears on her back. The other goaties did not like that and kept chasing our poor little Fantômas from their company.

After these adrenaline experiences, I began to doubt whether the whole affair makes sense and is worth the trouble. Before me lay a couple weeks of observing if Bonnie goes into a rut — followed by Operation Ball Lightning (a goat stays in rut for 24 hours on average) also known as taking the goat to the buck. Before, with Licorice and Twilight, I solved it by letting them spend fall months at Colleen's on the eastern side of Sierra Nevada, with their herd and a buck named Jasper — and I picked them up pregnant. I don't have such luxury here, and a normal process consists of your bringing the goat, letting the buck get busy with her, and going back home in thirty minutes. I could not quite imagine that with Bonnie, who made recently bad experience with me (vet and tattoo). It also required alignment of my work hours (3-4x a week from four in the afternoon onward) with the buck's owner work hours (till three thirty on weekdays). And having some good soul available at the right time, who would help me loading and unloading the goat (i.e. most likely would have to accompany me to the breeder). Family discussions and planning about on what days Sid could drive home earlier from Colorado, or perhaps kids from the university, were rather complicated. I notified people at work that it may happen that one night I suddenly won't show up, since I would have to take my goat to a buck. They laughed — having not heard this particular excuse before — but they agreed that when it comes, it happens.
 
My goaties are by far not as happy about the snow as I am.
My goaties are by far not as happy about the snow as I am.
Fantômas Bonnie.
Fantômas Bonnie.
A period ensued, when we waited for Bonnie to show signs. Goat rut is variable — even with the same goat across multiple months, so one cannot rely on "noticing". Moreover, Bonnie was rather scared by previous events. After a week of goat's rear-end inspections and pondering whether she bleats differently than as usual, whether she behaves strangely or noticeably, I arrived at a conclusion that I must have missed her rut, or maybe that I am quite useless myself. Thus I permitted Sid on Sunday that he may take the truck and go on a trip. While he was packing, I double-checked my goaties and got the impression that maybe, just maybe Bonnie could be in rut. I pulled out our veterinary expert Lisa, who declared that she thought this could be it. Meanwhile Sid already sat in the truck, whence I chased him out, we called Tom to help (and load the goat) and we went to the breeder.

Amy (the breeder) was very nice — when she saw our shaken goatie, she said that Bonnie needs time, and let her rest in one section of the goat barn with Boston the buck, sending us off to have lunch. Perhaps this was wise, for Bonnie showed no interest in poor Boston, only watched us and waited to be taken home. Amy texted me then that Bonnie ignores Boston, but apparently takes notice of an older buck, Yahtzee. I agreed to try Yahtzee. It went well with him and by the evening we brought Bonnie home — this time she more or less alone climbed in the truck-bed — perhaps she also wanted to go home. Animal husbandry seems to me pretty rough — I'm glad that the goaties at least have it arranged so that they're able to choose a partner. I don't have a clue why Bonnie did not like Boston, but I'm glad that there at least was a choice. And I'm glad she chose an totally ideal day — I had no shift at work, both children were at home, and helped me a lot, and it was a relatively warm fall day, so we did not get to wade through mud or did not take shelter from a blizzard. Thus I hope that it all happened and we won't need to make more attempts — but at worst we have it all practiced now and it seems Bonnie liked it at Amy's after all — she was able to nibble on hay a bit and relax, so next time she might not make such a scene with getting in the car.


previous home write us Česky