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Author: Robin

Winter Storms: Prepare Now, Have Fun Later

Winter Storms: Prepare Now, Have Fun Later

Winter Storms

Preparing for winter storms is different out here in the woods. We don’t have the same resources as urban dwellers.

winter storms, heavy snow on trees

STORM WATCH! Quick! Get to the Store!

Wait until the last minute, preferably until the first snow flakes fall or freezing rain starts to build up, and then rush to the store. Buy the last loaf of bread, gallon of milk (don’t drink milk? buy it anyway, it’s a storm requirement), and if you’re in Maine, a bottle of Allen’s Coffee Brandy (I’ll dehydrate before I’ll drink that stuff but again, if you’re in Maine, it’s a requirement). Fight for that bread! It’s going to storm and you might not get out for days. Days I tell you, and what are you going to do without bread? You might want some toilet paper while you’re there too but if you have to choose between the two…

Water

Water was my biggest surprise when we left the city. You don’t have to have electricity to have water when you’re on a public water system. When the power went out the first time and water trickled to a stop, I was stunned. Without electricity the well pump doesn’t turn on. The only water we have when the power is out is what’s already in the pipes and can trickle out on its own. We need a generator to run the pump OR we can fill containers. I scrub the bathtub when the storm starts and fill it with water. We can wash up, water the poultry and dogs, and flush the toilet (pour a gallon of water into the bowl to flush). I also fill the perk coffee maker, that old fashioned one that works on the stove. If you’re coffee dependent and have a thermal carafe, make a pot of coffee and let it sit. Our carafe keeps coffee hot for 15 hours.

One gallon of water per day per person is the standard amount to store. If it’s a normal storm and the roads are going to be cleared tomorrow, be reasonable. If not, store that water. You’ll use it even if it’s to flush the toilet after the power is over.

Water for Poultry

Add 1/3 cup of salt to a 20 ounce drink bottle and fill the bottle with hot water. You don’t need to ever heat the water again. Place the bottle on its side in the bottom of a Fortex or other watering pan used for poultry. Add enough water to cover three-quarters of the bottle. The water in the pan still freezes but the ice is thin enough for the birds to peck through around the bottle. One was alright in a 20 inch pan but two is better. The birds eventually figure out where to peck through the ice to get to water. This is going to save me from going out to the hen house during tomorrow’s nor’easter.

This works outside on a normal day. The ducks’ pan might have ice on top of the water but at the end of the day the water in the bottom is still liquid. I can flip the flexible pan over to break the ice out. Leave the salt water bottle in the pan for morning.

Cooking

The stove is propane. Having an electric stove doesn’t make sense to me. When the power is out the burners will still light. Some stoves, propane or natural gas, have a pilot light. A match held to the burner before turning the knob works just as well. Lit match first, remember that. Turning on the knob to release the propane into the air and then lighting the match is dangerous. Match first, then turn the knob. The oven won’t light without a pilot light. Don’t try to light it with a match. ove is also suitable for cooking.

Heat

We heat with wood so staying warm isn’t an issue when it’s storming. A fan that spins with the power of heat is always sitting on the wood stove. It’s no where near as powerful as the blower on the stove but works well enough. The burners on a propane or natural gas stove put out a lot of heat. You can at least heat the kitchen in an emergency.

Freezers

As homesteaders and frugal shoppers, freezers are always full with either food or ice. If we don’t lift the doors they won’t start to melt for the first two days without power. Freezers don’t run constantly. I can hear them click on once during the day and again in the evening. Running a generator once a day will keep the food frozen. You can run the fridge on a generator too. Learn how to use your generator safely well before the storm.

Gas

Speaking of generators, get gas ahead of time. Fill the vehicles and make sure you have enough for the snowblower. Steve plows with our tractor so he needs to fill the tank with diesel and have a propane heater ready to warm the engine so it will start.

Lights

winter stormsCandles and flashlights provide plenty of light as long as you’re using good candles and fresh batteries. They’re not high maintenance but you do have to think about them. We use Luci lights. They charge under a lamp or in the window. One charge works for 12 or more hours, and it’s unlikely you’re going to need artificial light for that long. Most of us will turn the light off to sleep through at least part of the night. I store Luci on the window sill in front of plants so I don’t see it until it’s needed.

Headlamps keep your hands free to carry water, hay, feed or anything else you need to do outdoors. Something to keep in mind – they drive me crazy inside because when the person wearing one looks at you, the light shines directly into  your eyes. Be sure to have another source of light indoors.

Solar lights. You know those little lights used outdoors for decoration? Charge them in the sun, preferably in a warmer spot like a plastic black mat that absorbs heat, and bring them in before sunset. One .99 cent light should be bright enough to light up the bathroom and serve as a nightlight.

Shovel, Salt, Sand

It’s important to keep exits free of snow during a storm. While you’re preparing for a storm, bring your shovel, salt and sand inside. Don’t plunk it down in front of the television. The porch or mud room or just inside the kitchen door is handy. It’s hard to dig through a snowdrift to get your shovel if your shovel is in the drift. Use enough salt and sand to make walking safe but there’s no sense in spreading much of either if the snow is still falling.

winter storms, gamesGames and Books

Make some hot chocolate and get out the games and books. Winter storms can be a lot of fun. I’m reading a book on food photography but when the nor’easter starts tomorrow I’ll probably switch to something amusing. Board games, hot chocolate and cookies (baked the day before) are a great combination.

Charge!

Charge batteries and devices. These days it’s easy to recharge but go into the storm with everything charged. My truck has a regular outlet in it, no adapter needed. A phone will charge while a vehicle is being cleaned off, snow shoveled around it, and the mailbox cleaned out. Winter storms are good times to put down the gadgets but it’s also convenient to pick one up and check the forecast.

Always Have These Things on Hand

We’re talking about winter storms today but you never know when something else might happen. An automobile accident can wipe out the power. Always have on hand:

  • matches
  • lighting
  • water if you need electricity to get water
  • manual can opener (that’s all we have)
  • healthy food. Your body needs good energy for shoveling, building forts, and if you have it, tending livestock when the storm clears.
  • meds. You might be able to refill a day or two early when a big storm is coming. Call the pharmacy in advance. Do not wait until the last minute on this one (because you’ll be fighting for bread, right?)

Preparing for winter storms isn’t a big deal when you’ve been homesteading a while. I hope the tips are helpful not only in preparing for winter storms but for things you should have on hand just because.

Thinking Ahead: 2017

Thinking Ahead: 2017

Thinking Ahead: 2017

Thinking ahead is one of my favorite things. It’s a lot like day dreaming.

thinking aheadThere are a few things I’m planning to do in 2017. Not resolution type things (I have a couple of those but that’s not what this is about) but more of a to-do list crossed with things I want. Thinking ahead is fun when plans are for things that make a life in the wild nicer.

Mason Bees

Thinking ahead is something I’ve been good at with bees. They’ve been on my want list for a long time. We like honey and some of the fruit trees don’t get pollinated well now that the wild honey bees have vanished. Steve hates bees and they know it. I think 2016 was the first year in at least a decade that he didn’t get stung by a bee, wasp or hornet. I’m on my own with bees so I’ve taken my time learning about them and their care. Start up runs around $500. Two weeks ago I decided I can buy a lot of honey for $500 and save myself the work (I’m cutting back, remember) and the headache of dealing with bears. I’ll be looking for places to buy mason bees and local honey.

Pretty-Up the Hen House

There’s a story to the hen house that I should tell you. The current story is that the hen house is ugly as sin. It bugs me. A lot. It needs a new coat of paint. For reasons I don’t know, the hens peck at the fresh paint until they’ve stripped all of the wood they can reach of its shiny red paint, leaving behind bare wood. Not wanting to settle for slapping a coat of paint on it, I’ve held out until I can put up the siding I want and replace the windows and door.

Observation Hut

The popup was taken down when the snow got too heavy and the time spent there is missed.
thinking ahead, 2017, popup, hunting, blind, camo blind, Ameristep blindHunting huts at Peter’s double as observation huts eleven months out of the year. Speaking of hunting, here’s a hunting story, in less than a minute. You’re welcome. As an outdoors write I crave outdoors writing time but when it’s too cold, windy, buggy or raining I don’t like to sit out there to write. Paper and laptops don’t do well in uncomfortable weather. We’re going to build a hunt that sits four feet off the ground, has windows on three sides and a door on the fourth. I’ll be able to work there while watching the wildlife. For the coldest days we’ll have a small heater.

Make More Cheese

One of my favorite foods is cheese. Good cheese. Not that I won’t eat a slice of American “cheese” now and then but turn me loose in Boston Public Market where I can find a hundred different real cheeses and I’m a happy girl. “How well does this melt?” “What is this farm like?” I’ll soon be cooking with a cheddar I bought at the market. Steve bought me a new smoker because I’ve outgrown our little one. I want to make and smoke cheeses.

Learn to Tan Hides

Having a hide tanned can be expensive. I want to learn how to do a small hide or two; a problem raccoon or ermine/short-tailed weasel, snowshoe hare…

More Creativity

thinking ahead, 2017, homesteading, American goldfinch, winterAnother of the things I’ll do in 2017 involves creativity. I got out of the habit of taking photography rides, bouncing along backwoods roads with three cameras on the seat beside me. Steve took me on a couple of rides to find moose in November, reminders of how much I enjoy photography, and a realization of how little I missed it because I was too busy to notice. I have some nature craft ideas I’d like to try out.

Camp in Baxter State Park

To get the photos of moose I want to take at Sandy Stream Pond, I need to be at the pond before sunrise. The gates don’t open until after sunrise and then it’s more than an hour to drive into the campground, park, sign in, and hike the four-tenths of a mile to the pond. Taking pen and paper with me will give me time to write while I’m waiting for the moose and deer. I’m going to camp at least two nights there.  Cabin, lean-to or tent? That hasn’t been decided yet.

More Writing for Myself

I’ve mentioned this before and now it’s well underway. Working with Walden Publishing has been wonderful. Cleo will mold me into a better writer through her feedback and calls for rewrites. It’s been a strong reminder of what freelance writing should be, and that makes me happy.

There are two writing workshops in February and March to attend, and I’m watching to see who’s instructing at Black Fly Writing Retreat. The women’s writing retreat is also on my list. Finishing the book and spending time here in the blog are at the top of my list.

What are you planning to do in 2017? If you’ve written a blog entry about it please drop a link in the comments. If not, still tell us what you’re doing. It’s nice to share ideas that might spark an idea in someone else.

 

Breakfast Frittata with Sausage and Cheese

Breakfast Frittata with Sausage and Cheese

Sausage and Cheese Breakfast Frittata

Our “kids” are grown so Christmas morning is quiet at our house. This year Steve is working “weekend duty” at work so he’ll be out to morning meeting and make sure everything’s alright. While he’s gone I’ll make our breakfast. We traditionally have a hot breakfast, not too big, that holds us over until we have dinner in the early afternoon. This year I’m making a favorite, sausage and cheese breakfast frittata. I’ll give you a couple of ideas to make this a brunch frittata or even a breakfast-for-supper fritta, too.

breakfast frittata, fritatta, frittata recipeIt’s easy to change up the breakfast frittata. Add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes for a bit of heat. Fresh or granulated garlic changes the flavor slightly. When using fresh mushrooms, saute them first to remove excess moisture. Add leftover vegetables such as asparagus (there’s never leftover asparagus at my house) or broccoli.

For a buffet, remove the breakfast frittata from the oven in time to let it cool for five to ten minutes, then slice. Or, serve it cold. This dish travels well for potlucks because it can be served hot or cold. I’ve learned that when served cold, guests are more likely to add this to their plates if the pieces are small. Instead of cutting the frittata into eight pieces, try 12 or even 16.

 

Dear Winter – You Arrived Early

Dear Winter – You Arrived Early

Dear Winter

Dear Winter,

I don’t mean to be rude but in the woodsyou were early and consequently, I wasn’t fully ready for you. Of course I knew you were on your way but I was hoping you’d be right on time. Oh, I’m ready in some ways. The firewood is in, shelves full of food, and freezers filled to over flowing. We’ve worked hard to fill the larder.

Still, you were early. Early cold, snow and ice I wasn’t ready for but here it is and so I’ll make the best of it. Early ice on lakes and ponds means early ice fishing, a good thing. You were supposed to arrive today, not two weeks ago. It was -18°F this morning, more like mid or late January than December 20th. Steve got up first to start coffee and stir the coals. He added birch logs to the glowing red coals and the bark caught fire quickly. The click click click of the wood stove expanding and beep beep beep of the coffee maker signaling the readiness of its black gold were enough to coax me out of a warm bed.

Happy Solstice

You decorated well for the occasion. A six-inch blanket of snow, crusty with a little fluff for beauty, covers the ground except under some of the evergreen trees. Icicles hang from the porch, barn and hen house roofs. I worry about the snow and icicles falling from the hen house roof and hurting one of the birds but so far so good.

A few of the deer still come to the food plot at night. Snowshoe hares dig up turnip greens at the edge of the plot, staying close to the woods for safety. There are no signs of coyotes or bobcats around the homestead and as long as you, dear Winter, don’t throw a lot of snow tantrums, at least the bobcats will stay away.

Feeding Birds

Your early arrival brought Evening grosbeaks, redpolls, mourning doves, chickadees, blue jays, red breasted nuthatches, American goldfinches and Juncos to the feeders in droves. Woodpeckers – downy and hairy – are at the suet and energy blocks on and off all day. Pileated woodpeckers bang away at the trees along the rock wall in search of grubs. I keep the feeders filled, hang fresh suet when needed, and toss out scraps of homemade bread that the blue jays especially like.

Creativity

I’m not entirely upset about your early arrival, my dear Winter. I do love you and the downtime you bring with you. I’ve been writing more and thinking of things I want to do this winter. Maybe I’ll really pick up the pencils and sketch pad I bought myself two years ago. Since my mind spins these days I’m often up, showered, coffee made and at my desk to write by 4 am. The full moon on the snow eliminates the need for lights as I move through the house in what some folks consider the middle of the night. I watch the bright moon move through the crisp, clear sky and say goodbye as it sets. Hours. It takes hours, and that’s exactly how much time I’ve been spending in creativity these days.

So, dear Winter, while you were early and I was and wasn’t ready, you are welcome.
black-capped chickadee, chickadee, dear winterdear winter


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Hybrid Seeds – A Few Things You Should Know

Hybrid Seeds – A Few Things You Should Know

Hybrid Seeds

I’m surprised by a few things when it comes to gardening. First, the lack of understanding in hybrid versus heirloom seeds. Hybrids are sometimes made out to be the villain of gardening. Second, the thought that USDA Hardiness Zones are “grow zones.” That one makes my eyes bug out. Rolling eyes are insulting and I’m probably guilty of doing it when I hear or read “grow zones.” Third, the unwillingness to start a garden before a specific date regardless of what the gardener is growing and the weather conditions. We’ll talk about that one later in the winter. Today we’re going to talk about hybrid seeds.

Can You Save Seeds From Hybrid Fruits and Vegetables?

You can save seeds from hybrids and the plants will most likely produce. You won’t get the same fruit or vegetable but you’ll get something. It might be delicious and it will at least be interesting to see the end result. The result will be a cross between the parents, and if the parents are hybrids their parents’ influence might show up in the end vegetable. You know those tomato volunteers that pop up in the spring? There you go.

hybrid seeds, cross pollination, heirloom seeds, open pollinated seeds
Hybrids are Tasteless, Right?

Do hybrid seeds grow tasteless food? Some certainly do, but so do some open pollinated and heirloom seeds. Open pollinated doesn’t mean heirloom and heirloom doesn’t mean open pollinated, by the way. Heirloom doesn’t have one specific definition. They’re varieties handed down through generations or age dependent. Some people consider a variety an heirloom once it’s been stable for 25 or 50 years. Open pollinated generally means the seeds will breed true – you’ll get the same fruit or vegetable every time.

Can you tell whether these seedlings are hybrid, open pollinated or heirloom? No, me either.

Hybrids are Not Genetically Engineered

Hybrids are the result of cross pollination.  Birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators cross-pollinate blossoms. Pollen floats on the wind and causes cross pollination. I wish I knew what apples crossed to create the ornamental variety growing at the edge of the road. Had I know that’s what it is before the tree was too big to move I’d have put it in a better spot. The apples look like clusters of cherries.

hybrid seeds, bees pollinate plants, bees, cross pollinationYou can cross pollinate plants easily with a paint brush, your finger, or by pulling one flower off to brush its pollen onto another flower. It’s not the same as genetically engineering a daffodil gene into rice (to increase Vitamin A, this is impossible naturally), or a gene from a firefly into a fish (to glow in the dark, sold as pets) or a nut gene into another food (imagine what this could do to someone with a nut allergy).

Genetic engineering happens only in a laboratory. That’s a simple way to keep the difference between the two straight.

Eggnog Cookies with Creamy Frosting

Eggnog Cookies with Creamy Frosting

Eggnog Cookies with Creamy Eggnog Frosting

Growing up, Christmas was about food, visiting family, food, presents, food, and food. Mum spent days baking and making candy. The dining room table, so big it seated eight easily and ten if we squeezed together, was covered with sugary treats. I carried that tradition on for decades. Now, with a waistline I have to keep a very close eye on and only two of us in the house, I seldom bake sweets. Or…I did until I realized I can bake, have a few cookies or whatever it is I’ve created, and send the rest to work with Steve. Winning! Eggnog Cookies have been on my “I’m going to make that next year” list for a long time. I finally made them this week and now I’m kicking myself for waiting for so long.

eggnog cookies, eggnog frostingThe eggnog cookies recipe I started with came from Pinterest. Looking at the ingredients and amounts, I knew I wasn’t going to love the cookies. I made adjustments twice and came up with a recipe so good I can’t stay out of the cookie jar. I packed them up and sent them to work with Steve this morning.

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Winter Mornings on the Homestead

Winter Mornings on the Homestead

Winter Mornings

Winter mornings have taken on a new way, or more accurately, returned to old ways. I woke this morning, excited about the day ahead, and snuggled up to Steve. As of last night my freelance writing days are on long-term old…or maybe over. I’m still working on cutting back and refocusing, and I’m making a lot of progress. I’ve kept one publication, Walden Publishing, and let the rest go so that I have time to finish writing a book or two.

We lucked out with only four inches of fresh snow.  chirp  The call was familiar but I couldn’t place it and couldn’t find the bird. There are few deer on the game cameras now. It’s so cold at night the batteries are either slow or don’t work at all. They’re here according to the activity in the snow. The kale stems are nibbled down a little more each night. The deer stop short of eating the terminal bud. If they don’t come back to eat more before spring the plants might break dormancy and grow again. Fresh kale in the spring would be nice.  chirp 

Back in the house…

Back in the house, winter mornings are feeding the dogs and the sour dough, laundry to wash and hang by the wood stove, supper to plan… Speaking of supper, Steve is doing some of the cooking on a regular basis now. I love love love having a meal cooked for me, and he’s a great cook. He made chicken enchiladas and American chop suey (goulash) on Sunday. I’ll cook only twice this week and spend more uninterrupted time writing. We’ll have baked cranberry chicken tonight. Anyway, we’re talking about mornings. I brought in a bin of white pine, eastern hemlock, white cedar and balsam fir and went about making a wreath and three swags.

A blue jay napped in a hydrangea bush outside the sun porch, puffed up against the cold wind, barely flinching when the thin branch bounced. The feeders are full of suet, energy blocks, corn, sunflower and other assorted seeds.  chirp  I found the chirp when I brought fresh water to the ducks and chickens.  chirp  A robin huddled under an apple tree behind the hen house, pecking away at a frozen apple. It flew into another tree so I left quickly. Will it stay the winter? Time will tell. The photo is a maxed out zoom on my phone. I’ll take a different camera with me on a warmer day.

winter mornings, evergreen wreath, Christmas wreath

winter mornings, kale, deer
winter morning, terminal bud, kale, food plot

winter mornings

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Snowy Food Plots and White-tailed Deer

Snowy Food Plots and White-tailed Deer

Snowy Food Plots

We’ve been waiting for snowy food plots to learn how to the wildlife will react to the food we’ve provided. There are turnip and radish tops above snow but as you can see, the deer are pawing through the snow to get to grass. Unfortunately we don’t know what kind of grass seed was in the seed mix.

snowy food plot, white-tailed deer, Maine, food plots in winter
snowy food plots, deer, deer in winter food plots

snowy food plots, snowshoe hare tracks in snowThe deer have flattened one food plot, their favorite, and moved into the larger plot behind the house. The smaller plot was full of kale and oats, apparently the does and fawns’ favorites. They ate the seed heads from the oats and the leaves from the kale, leaving the kale ribs standing. Most of the ribs and oat plants are gone now. Now that we have snowy food plots the deer paw through the snow to get to food. They seem to favor grass over turnip and forage radish tops. When the grass is gone we expect them to pull up the turnip and radish roots. The roots they miss will die and improve the soil.

The short-antlered buck was here. It’s always good to see the bucks. Splay, the big old doe that’s fat and round looks like she’s packed on enough calories to last two winters. Good for her!

Snowshoe Hares

There are a lot of snowshoe hares this year. Remember the kits? I find their tracks near the wood yard. It’s easy to tell them from the others because they’re much smaller. The tracks above are from an adult hare. Hares are in the snowy food plots eating tops off turnip and a little grass. None of the animals want anything to do with pumpkins yet. That’s unusual. Maybe they’ll be the last thing eaten before the deer move on to their winter feeding grounds.

I hope to harvest one or two hares before the season closes at the end of March. They’re hard on the fruit trees in winter and the garden in summer. While I won’t be growing an outdoor garden, they can ruin the food plot as the tender shoots pop up. I’ll be looking for hares in the food plot only, not going into the woods to find them. I doubt I could find them without a hound and Zoey’s ears turn off when she’s behind a hare. She doesn’t hear a word we say yell.

Elsewhere on the homestead

I’ve made one wreath so far. I’ll make more today, finish decorating the tree that I haven’t told you about yet, and make a soup for supper. I haven’t been to the freezer yet. I’m going with whatever suitable soup meat I see first being the kind of soup I make. It could be caribou thanks to most generous Cristina, turkey or chicken we raised, or moose thanks to a friend who hit a moose. I wish I were baking bread today but since we still have half of a sour dough seven grain loaf there’s no need to bake.

What’s happening at your place today?

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Hibernation in the Woodlot

Hibernation in the Woodlot

Hibernation

Hibernation is underway in our woodlots. We can let the dogs out in the evening without worrying about them bumping into raccoons, skunks, porcupines and bears. Or…can we? Sometime during the night a small animal chewed the bottom out of the mesh bag and dropped the suet to the porch floor.

Late one December I stumbled upon a soaking wet carcass.  I assumed from its black fur that a neighbor’s cat had fallen prey to a coyote or fox until I got closer. The smell wasn’t strong but it was unmistakable and I didn’t need a closer look to know that a skunk had come out of it’s den for a walk in the snow.

In elementary school, we learned these animals fell asleep in a cozy den and didn’t wake up until spring. I was in awe of the bear’s ability to give birth while sleeping, and of the cubs’ ability to find their way to nurse all winter. Should have known that was too good to be true.

Maine’s True Hibernators

There are three true hibernators in Maine. The little brown bat, struggling with white nose syndrome, went to their hibernacula in September and October to spend the winter and don’t emerge until early to mid-spring. Unless you have a cave, mine or empty building in your woodlot you probably don’t have hibernating bats. The little brown bat’s heart rate drops from one thousand beats per minute to five during hibernation.

ground hog, whistle pig, hibernation

Have you noticed the resident ground hogs giving your late-season garden a break? They’re the second of Maine’s true hibernators. Like the little brown bat, ground hogs settle in to hibernate in early to mid-fall. They dig a den that might be attached to the tunnel where they spend the rest of the year. It’s located below the frost line and above the water table. The ground hog’s body temperature drops to 38°, heart rate to four beats per minute, and breaths only ten an hour. If ground hogs are hibernating in your woodlot they’re most likely at the edge near a clearing.

Meadow jumping mice do well to survive winter, though many don’t. Unlike most animals preparing winter, jumping mice spend only two weeks fattening up. Their den is a small chamber less than two feet below the surface, often beneath logs. Once dug, jumping mice line the chamber with dry plant material, close the opening with soil, and don’t emerge until spring. Unlike other rodents that stash seeds for winter, jumping mice don’t need them. They won’t wake to eat or drink while hibernating.

We most often see our part-time hibernators, skunks and raccoons, during January thaw before the coldest part of winter sets in, and again in late February. In mild winters like that of 2015/16, both were out and about for two weeks starting on February 1 (raccoon) and February 3 (skunk) according to photos on our game cameras. We know now that bears aren’t the sound sleepers we once believed. They seldom leave the den in winter and when they do they don’t go far, and they don’t eat or drink. In the 18 winters we’ve spent snowshoeing our woodlot and surrounding woods I’ve seen bear tracks only twice. Loggers sometimes rouse a bear out of its den by moving a pile of logs, or sometimes a single log.

We’re more likely to find tracks in the snow than the part-time hibernators while we’re in the woods. Take a look around. Tracks tell part of the story of what animals were out and about when least expected.

Long Winter Nights and Short Days of Late Fall

Long Winter Nights and Short Days of Late Fall

Long Winter Nights and Short Days

The long winter nights of late fall are here. We’ve had snow for about a week, more before it rained. Crusty snow is covered in a layer of soft fluff now. Sunset is early, 3:48 pm today, and sunrise isn’t until 6:57 tomorrow, after some of our school kids get on the bus. It’s technically still fall but it’s winter. It looks, feels and smells like winter.I take Ava and Zoey out to run while I do morning chores. Zoey runs like a maniac but Ava is usually on my heels waiting for her birds. She wants to snuffle them, checking them over to make sure they’re alright. Running, hunting and play is reserved for after her morning chores are complete. We start chores before sunrise when the overnight temps have been colder than usual to make sure the birds have an early morning drink to help them stay warm.

Grass leaning inside the poultry pen. Meadow vole hole in the snow.long winter nightsIt didn’t go unnoticed by Ava’s and Zoey’s noses. They followed the trail through the snow but didn’t find the vole.
long winter nights, duck tollerThey worked together to track a snowshoe hare. No luck there, either. They tracked the hare while I checked game cameras (does and fawns).
long winter nightsI stopped to take a picture of the pumpkins Steve put in the food plot for the deer and hare. Here comes Zoey! Didn’t I mention that she runs like a maniac?
And there goes Zoey!
By the time chores were done, cameras checked, bunnies and voles tracked, and Zoey run until she collapsed in the snow to pick snowballs off her feet, the sun was up and bright. long winter nights, sunrise, spruce trees, snow

I met a dear friend for lunch today. On the way into town I saw three bald eagles flying together, circling, diving at and ducking from each other, and a fourth eagle later on. Is this the beginning of a new pair? Dating? Courting? While the days are still getting shorter? Am I overthinking the whole thing? I’m grateful to live in a beautiful area where I can see four mature American bald eagles in 15 minutes.

Evening chores are done in mid-afternoon now. I warm leftover winter squash and rutabaga and fill a quart jug with warm molasses water for the chickens. The ducks aren’t thirsty this late in the day but the Silkies gather at my feet for their warm drink. I close the door to the pen and gather eggs while Ava snuffles her birds good night, and then lean against the wall to watch. Snuffle snuffle squawk! snuffle. Ducks crowd into the back corner to avoid the snuffle fest, do their version of a dog turning in circles, and eventually settle in.

We leave the hen house when Ava’s ready to tolerate Zoey’s antics. They race around, tugging on a mostly frozen toy, growling like the mean dogs they could never be, and wear each other out. We haven’t moved the firewood rack inside yet…still…so I lug three armloads in to thaw overnight by the fire. I’ll do it tomorrow. Or Thursday. Or next week. Soon.

By 4:30 pm we’re back in the house. I’m back in pajamas, writing at the dining room table, enjoying a glass of red in a warm house. Supper is herbed rice, a pint jar of green beans and fresh haddock – five minutes prep, 20 minutes cooking, two minutes clean up. Taproot magazine arrived today and thanks to long winter nights, I have plenty of reading time each evening.

 

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