Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Drizzly Day at Ironstone

It’s hard to tell it’s almost spring here in the foothills, unless you visit Ironstone Winery in Murphys.  The flowers were amazing even on this drizzly day.

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One of the lucky gardens who work there said they have 562 wine barrels of bulbs this year.

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Pale yellow daffodils and white tulips are perfect partners.

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Most of the tulips are just starting to bloom…..

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Raindrops.

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Drizzly days don’t bother the funny face violas.

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Trees are bursting in bloom too.

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A visit to Ironstone is never complete without a stop to see the nugget.

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(Note to my Texas friends…..this nugget was found less than three miles from our place in Jamestown at the old Harvard Mine.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Pi (3.14) Day to Pai!

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(special thanks to B for the cute pic)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Seeing the Elephants

ARK 2000 is an elephant sanctuary located on 2000 acres near San Andreas owned and operated by PAWS (Performing Animals Welfare Society). To celebrate our birthdays friend P and I went to see the elephants yesterday.

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Entering the facility the first thing you see are these huge fences that surround the 10 acre Siberian Tiger habitats.  No,  the original plan for ARK 2000 did not include tigers but when an desperate  situation developed in southern California,  ARK owners Pat and Ed agreed to rescue 36 of the over 100 tigers that needed immediate care.

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Each of the tigers has it’s own personality and name.  One of the females came over to the fence very deliberately to greet Pat.  She says that they do not think of these animals as pets, but as friends. 

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We were allowed inside the perimeter fence to get camera lenses through the chain link.  Still these are long shots.  If a tiger turned in the direction of the fence we were asked to step back.  Sometimes they don’t come down the hill at all so we were very lucky to even these.

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Our group of 20 visitors were asked to park our cars at the Asian elephant barn.  The three Asian female elephants are Annie, Gypsy, and Wanda.  They have their own dedicated barn and pasture.  On a previous visit I got to tour inside that barn.  It includes an ‘elephant hot tub’.  Big enough for just one elephant at a time, and do they ever love it!

We walked on down the road along the pasture of African females Mara, Maggie, Ruby and Lulu.  They were enjoying some forage hay and were reluctant to follow us out to the elephant lake.  After much coaxing Mara followed Ed (carrying a birthday gift that looked like a bag of treats) along the fence line.

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Maggie came for a few minutes but decided she much preferred the company of her elephant buddies to ours.  Mara, on the other hand, was very content to hang out for special attention.

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As always, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

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Ed had treats in his pocket.

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After hanging out at the lake for an hour or so we walked back to the corner where the other girls were gathered. 

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Elephants show respect by backing into groups of their elders.

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The diverse group of visitors came from as far away as Los Angels for the opportunity to spend the day with these wonderful animals.

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We are so lucky to have this facility so close to home.

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After lunch we caravanned to the area of the sanctuary dedicated to the bull elephants.  Again, rescuing bull elephants was not part of Ed and Pat’s original vision, but when the need arose they stepped up to do what was necessary to house not one, but THREE bull elephants. 

The three Asian bulls are half brothers.  Sabu, below, is new and still in quarantine.  He is 11 feet tall and weighs 7 tons.  That’s Brian, elephant handler extraordinaire, with Sabu.  Maybe you noticed the fencing in the female’s pastures……big posts with 1” cable for the rails?   The bull elephants require even bigger posts  with that same size used for the rails.  The posts go six feet into the ground set in concrete.

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Don’t be fooled by what looks like a small enclosure,  it’s actually only the alley way that connects Sabu’s pasture to his barn.  Yep,  each bull elephant has his own private barn.

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Looking back at Nic’s barn on the left and Sabu’s on the right I realized that the barns were built on the knoll with the pastures on opposite sides clearly as a every effective means for keeping the bulls separated.  This view is from the location of Prince’s barn still under construction.  His pasture will be on the far side of his barn.

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We got to meet the welder responsible for the outstanding work done on these fences.  It’s hard to imagine the scale, but this gate is just over 12 feet tall.

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And here’s Nic!   Don’t let this mellow attitude fool you.  He is treated with total respect,  never taken for granted for a minute.  Bull elephants are extremely unpredictable.  While Ed fed Mara her treats by hand,   he tossed bananas to Nic from a safe distance.

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Pat and Ed do not believe in captivity for any animal.  The only reason these animals are here is that they cannot survive in their natural worlds.  All the elephants were handled for years and years by barbaric methods that included bull hooks and chains.  Look closely at Brain’s stick….it has a soft ball on the end.  This is his tool for directing the elephants in the direction he needs them to go.

Inside Nic’s barn were got to observe a routine health exam/training exercise.   Nic voluntarily positions himself in the specially built enclosure to allow blood to be drawn from his ear.

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Windows built near the  floor allow Nic to safely raise his each individual foot for inspection, cleaning, and a trim if necessary.  Nic’s feet are all in good condition.  Elephants who have stood on concrete in a restricted area for many years are not so lucky.

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Seeing the elephants and watching these dedicated people work with them is truly an amazing experience.  If you ever get the chance to visit ARK 2000 I hope you jump at the chance.  If not, please consider ‘adopting’ an animal or making a donation.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

I Can't Comment!

I can't leave a comment on anyone's blog! Maybe someone can help?

If you are reading Bonnie....so glad you and Mom are safe (and comfortable) at home.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

24 Hours in Napa

Mustard is blooming all across the valley.  I found this field along Jack Tone Road on my way to meet a friend for a quick visit in Napa.

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The ‘Riverfront’ is a faux section of town that is beginning to look really natural.  Give it 30 or 40 years and we won’t know the difference.

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There is probably a list describing the downtown art,  we didn’t have one,  so each piece was happy serendipity.

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Another happy surprise were the art installations in the empty store fronts.  Vintage Button Lady and Mosaic Woman are two striking examples.

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Appropriate for the parking garage.

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In front of the Napa Valley Museum.

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I really like art created from found objects,  but this one stretched my imagination.  It’s a pile of ranch junk.  I know…….

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Good food,  fun walks around town,  a search for Italian cherries, and some exploring was a good start to learning about Napa,  but the area really deserves more than 24 hours.