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Category: Robin Writes

Snow Keeps Our Floors Warmer

Snow Keeps Our Floors Warmer

Snow Keeps Our Floors Warmer

When it comes to snow I want none or a minimum of two feet on the ground. Snow keeps our floors warmer. It does. Seriously. Snow is a good insulator. When the snow drifts against the house it serves as insulation around the foundation. This old house has a field stone foundation for the cellar that lets cold air in. The floors, especially the tile in the dining room, are freezing cold under foot even when our feet are sporting nice wool socks. Snow banks the foundation and keeps the entire house warmer. We’ve barely burned any wood so far this winter.

The north side of the house seldom has a snow to bank the foundation. The roof doesn’t pitch that way so snow doesn’t fall off and pile up there. The northeast corner doesn’t have enough accumulation, either. Wind blows through the clear space between the house and trees, blowing the snow away. Steve felled a balsam tree when I was getting ready to make wreaths in November to be sure I had enough tips. He chose a big tree in a spot he plans to clear to expand the food plot in the spring. I snapped the best tips to make wreaths and later went back with pruners to lop off the entire length of each bough.snow keeps our floors warmer, banking, snow, foundation

On a warm (perspective; it was 35°) December afternoon I pressed the boughs against the snowless foundation, tucking branches into other boughs to keep them from springing away. It snowed the next day and as the wind blew it trapped the snow in the boughs instead of blowing it away. Nature’s insulation is free except for an hour or two of work.

When spring arrives some time in April I’ll pull back the boughs, pile them back into the tractor’s bucket, and move them to the burn pile. Snow keeps our floors warmer and then the boughs keep our hearts warm with the first fire of spring.

 

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.

 

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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Frosty Morning to be Out ‘n About

Frosty Morning to be Out ‘n About

Frosty Morning

It’s a frosty morning to be out ‘n about. My routine change is still working itself out. It’s a long process, it is. I was out this frost morning to tend to nine chickens and eight ducks and nothing more. It took ten minutes to fill a bucket with warm water, fill their water pans, let them out and collect one egg. Now that the bully turkeys are gone they might start laying well again. I hope so. There aren’t many eggs left in the fridge.

This frosty morning takes me off the homestead to see people face to face. Groceries, the feed store, friends, and to vote. Then home to hunt for an hour or so before dark. Supper, freezing three whole turkeys, and then maybe some reading. Enjoy your day.

frosty-red-clover
frosty-raspberry-leaf
frosty-dandelion
frosty-goldenrod
frosty-timothy

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Catching Up. Where did September go?

Catching Up. Where did September go?

Catching Up

Oh my goodness did September ever get away from me. I feel like nothing got done even though I’m on the move from the time I get out of bed until I fall back in, worn out but excited for the next day. Hunting seasons are all-consuming. Most everything I normally do still has to be done, and done in considerably less time. I have a little catching up to do.

Meet the Neighbors

piggies

Uncle Harold stopped in to ask if I knew who in the area has piggies, specifically 14 to 16 week old piggies. Wayne and Joe have pigs but I think only one might be that young, and they’re a half-mile through the woods and across the main road into and out of our little community in the middle of no where. I called to be sure and no, not their pigs, but Joe came up to see if he could help. The animal control officer called around and nobody seemed to know who owned these happy, friendly champion rooters. Turns out they belong to the people whose garden, flower garden and lawn they were uprooting when we found them. I met Mr. Neighbor and Son Neighbor and they’re good folk. Son raised the pigs and delivered them to Mr.’s house a day or two earlier. He grabbed two by one back leg each and wheelbarrow walked them back to their pen with the other two pigs following right behind. Nice pigs.

High Tunnel

I’ve decided to uncover the high tunnel for the winter rather than use it. Steve, as he sometimes needs to, had a talk with me. “Just because you want to do something doesn’t mean you have time, and when you don’t get everything done that you think you should…well…then I have to live with you.” (I don’t know WHAT that means… okay, maybe I do.) He’s right. When he gives me these little chat-slash-mini-lectures in three sentences or less he’s always right. So no high tunnel this winter. We’ll uncover it in two or three weeks and re-cover it in the spring as soon as we can get to the wiggle wire channel on the baseboards.

We had two family days at camp this month, one larger, one smaller, both lovely. The garden has kept me busy. A few days tending bear sites alone plus going with Steve to do it on Saturdays had me out and about and away from work at home.

catching up
The view from my tree stand

Bear Hunting

This happened on September 16 after spending 60 hours in two sites, in one tree stand and two ground blinds. I’ll tell you about it soon, maybe even tomorrow or Friday if I get a chance to do some more catching up. I planned to have this story shared by Monday but decided I would process the bear myself once it was field dressed, skinned and cut into manageable pieces. It took longer than I expected. Taking this bear was nothing at all like the first.

catching up, bear hunting, robin follette, maine

I’m leaving on a jet plane (did you sing that?) on Friday morning and will be in the wee hours of Monday. I’m going to spend the weekend with friends who are hunt and pro staff with Prois. We’ll be dove hunting and hanging out. I can’t explain how excited I am to get to meet these women face to face. They’re a special breed, these women who hunt, some on levels much higher than mine, and all to put food on a lot of tables.

For now, the meat chicks, laying hens, turkeys and ducks must be put up for the night because we have two raccoons hanging around, and I have some catching up to do in the kitchen.

Tree Stand Life – what happens around me

Tree Stand Life – what happens around me

Tree Stand Life

Bear hunting isn’t going well. Remember when I had so many bears coming to the barrel? Except for one bear, they are gone. Blackberries are abundant but starting to dwindle as they ripen and fall off, are picked by people, and eaten by the bears and other animals. There were substantially more mushrooms than usual after decent rain in September. If hyperphagia has started the bears aren’t coming to our bait barrels to gorge on food. Chubby shows up off and on now, often walking past the barrel on his way to somewhere else. I’m living a tree stand life these days and loving it most of the time. This leaves me with a lot of time to think, plan, and observe the natural world around me.

tree stand life, observe nature, nature notes

Turkeys

I was able to watch Eastern Wild turkeys the first two days of tree stand life but after being “busted” on day two, they haven’t been back. Turkeys have excellent vision and the biggest tom spotted me in no time. One alarm call and they were off, not to be seen again so far.

Whitetail Does and Fawn

When the wind isn’t blowing I can hear what’s going on for miles around me. Early in the season I listened to two deer walking slowly up the gravel road behind me. Ten minutes later I heard cracking in the woods and feet scuffling in the dry leaves this time inside the tree line. The deer slowed its pace as it approached stand. It came out of the dense woods into a clearing that’s filling in with wild hazelnuts. Deer stomp when they’re alarmed or angry. It stood 20 feet from my stand and stomped non-stop for two or three minutes, and then blew so hard I was startled. I laughed to myself. It’s like knowing the toaster is going to pop up and jumping when it does.

A big doe, so big that if she were a buck people would say “nice buck,” blew 103 times in the first 15 or 20 minutes. She startled me twice because I thought she was done. Listening closely, I could follow her movements without seeing it. Eventually I knew she was far enough away that I could slowly turn my head to the left and strain my eyes in her direction. After bursts of 17 to 20 blows at a time, she gave up on finding what (me) she knew was there but couldn’t see. She “got” me on Monday when I was looking for a bear at the barrel instead of paying attention to all that was around me. A sudden noise made me think a bear huffed at me, and it took a second to realize it was her blowing as she ran away.

Two days later, while sitting behind the ground blind, cracking in the woods to my right caught my attention. A doe and yearling browsed 100 feet away on grass and raspberry leaves. I could see parts of them but never their entire bodies at once. This time, the deer didn’t know anything was “off.” It was easy to watch them, and good to know I could sit so still they didn’t know I existed.

Owls

Barred owls start hooting each afternoon at 4:30, give or take a few minutes. I can almost tell the time based on the owls. Steve can do the same from his stand. One or two barred owls start hooting there at 6 pm. Some days it’s only one, other days there are two. And one day, a great horned owl started to hoot leisurely at first, then frantically for quite a while. I wanted to know why but of course, sitting on the side of a tree no where near the owl, I’ll never know.

Mobbed by Birds

Chickadees mobbed me many times. Dozens of chickadees surround an offender, flying between trees and hopping among branches until their curiosity is satisfied or they’re convinced the threat is over. The mob got me in the first week of the season. It started with noisy blue jays and grew to chickadees and other small songbirds I couldn’t see without turning my head. Were bears close enough to hear the ruckus? mmmm…I don’t know. After a while I moved enough to use my phone and record the racket.

Skunks & Squirrels

tree stand life, skunkThe Three Skunkseteers keep me amused part of most days. Each skunk is different. Three sizes, three stripe patterns, three personalities, three feeding patterns. The largest skunk balls up something with its front paws and then scrambles backward, rolling whatever it is it has across the forest floor. I can’t tell what it has even after inspecting the ground where this happens.

Red squirrels are a big part of tree stand life whether you’re hunting bear, deer or something else. I’ve watched chase scenes that would make Hollywood envious, fights that make bar room brawls look like child’s play, and a little sex, too.

Imaginary Bears

Bears do show up while I’m living the tree stand life. They’re imaginary. As the sun drops and moves to the west the shadows change. I strain to see the large black spot behind the barrel, the black space that appears for a few minutes as the sun is behind a large balsam tree. As the sun fades the black space grows. Movement? A bear? No, just the breeze blowing a hazelnut bush to the right of the barrel, along the trail Chubby uses when he shows up a7 9:30 pm and again after midnight. By the time I have to climb down and make my way through the woods to gravel road the imaginary bears are gone, too dark to exist.

 

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Sheet Mulching – What, How, When, Why

Sheet Mulching – What, How, When, Why

What is Sheet Mulching?

Timing is everything! I have “research sheet mulching” on my to do list. I’ve been told a couple of times in the last week that I should be doing it. Dan went into great detail and answered a lot of questions. I like the idea but I’m not sure I have the time. If you use sheet mulching how much time does it take you do an area about 10′ x 10′? Do you spend a lot of time gathering the materials? Is it worth it to you? The timing was right on – I was asked to share this graphic and I happen to think it’s pretty great.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not going to plant a garden outside next year. I’ll be relying on the high tunnel for everything I grow and a local farmer for a few things I won’t grow. I have to get control of the weeds. It seems like sheet mulching might do a good job of this while improving the soil at the same time. I can’t possibly sheet mulch the entire garden at once but I’ll most likely give it a try in one spot.
sheet mulching

Where I’ve Been – Five on Friday

Where I’ve Been – Five on Friday

Where I’ve Been

I’ve been in beautiful places and seen interesting things while away from Amy’s Five On Friday for a few weeks. You may join us if you’re a blogger by following the link. It’s a good way to meet other bloggers, see places and things you’ll likely never see in person, and be part of a blogging community. If you’re not a blogger you’ll still get to see new things. Here’s where I’ve been.

This Old Tree

This old tree with a puzzling rectangular hole lies on the shore of East Musquash lake. I think the hole was cut so that something could live in the dead tree, but what? What would live there that needs such a large hole? Duck boxes have small round holes. Any ideas?
five on friday, log, bird house, nest box, duck box

Lake Champlain

A ferry across Lake Champlain between Ticonderoga, NY and Shoreham, VT.  A farm tractor and tedder rake were also on the ferry. That’s something you don’t see every day. The ferry is fun to take and it saves about 20 minutes. When I’ve been on the road for nine hours every spared minute matters.
Ticonderoga Ferry, where i've been, five on fridayDowntown Old Orchard Beach, Maine. I hadn’t been there since I was 16. It’s changed a lot, and not for the better. You can barely see the pier from the road now. It was fun getting there. I was with a new friend, in her tiny BMW convertible with the top down, holding my camera out like a tourist.

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

old orchard beach, where i've been

Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Lake, Paradox, New York. I spent six days here at a writing retreat. This was my third year at the retreat and my first 1,000 mile trip as the driver. Having a new truck with Onstar has given me a new sense of freedom. I know the truck isn’t going to break down (under 4,000 miles) but if I happened to get a flat tire I have roadside assistance to rescue me as long as I’m on pavement. Onstar gave me turn by turn directions. I didn’t love five lanes of rush hour traffic Friday night but I did it.
where i've been, paradox, NY, Pyramid Lake

Upta Camp

Best of all, Camp Sweet Family Camp. Built in 1951 by my then nine year old mother, Great Grampa John and other family members.
upta camp, camp, upper sysladobsis, Maine, Lakeville, where I've been
week of wildlife, five on friday

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Silent Writing Retreat

Silent Writing Retreat

Silent Writing Retreat

My pointed effort to unplug from the internet and phone started in 2014 when I attended a silent writing retreat. The location doesn’t have wifi and cell reception is sparse; if you walk through certain spots at the right time your phone might connect long enough to download a text or two.  Texts are mostly left to be read when I get home. Unplugged 2016 starts tomorrow when I leave for the same silent writing retreat.

Bear Mountain, Pyramid Lake, Pyramid Life Center, Women's Writing Retreat, silent writing retreat
Main House, Pyramid Lake, Pyramid Life Center, Women's Writing Retreat, silent writing retreat
canoes, Pyramid Lake, Pyramid Life Center, Women's Writing Retreat, silent writing retreatTwo years ago I sat down with pen and paper and wrote my heart out. Holed up in a cramped, homely bunk room by myself, I wrote almost every free moment, and what I churned out was excellent, especially for a first draft. I less involved last year as I worked through a couple of more difficult things. This year I’ll be fully immersed again, writing like a madwoman, and taking two workshops rather than one as I was last year.

Writing & Reading

Plans change. The piece I wanted to write before I leave wasn’t written. There were too many other things I had to do in writing and life to get to it, and now I don’t know what I’ll read. There will be writing assignments in each workshop so choosing one of those pieces is an option. I used to be excited about reading my work to an audience because it was nerve wracking, something I needed to take a deep breath and dive into. Now that I’m no longer nervous it’s lost its edge. Maybe I’ll find something new about reading to an audience that excites me this year.

Silent Writing Retreat?

Silence. Not completely, but the right amount of silence to not interrupt anyone. We’ll be laughing and talking in places like the beach and dining hall but in our cabins, on the trails and in other places where writing happens, it will be quiet. We nod to acknowledge each other on paths but there’s no talking because someone you pass might be writing in her head.

Unplugged

Unplugged 2016 – no outside news at all. I see a little local news in the morning when Steve has it on.

Can you imagine being completely, totally away from the news and outside world for seven days?Click To Tweet

I keep the television and radio off stations that carry the news but I can’t get away from news and negativity of this modern world but still see it on social media. It’s wearing. It’s depressing. Being unplugged will do a lot for my heart and soul. Each year I’ve come home to spend less time on social media and more time unplugged, and I’m sure this year will be the same. Maybe more so.

Do you unplug for a while? Could you? What do you do while you’re not being dragged down by the outside world?

Finding Peace of Mind Outdoors

Finding Peace of Mind Outdoors

Finding Peace of Mind Outdoors

I wrote this yesterday morning when I was disappointed and disheartened. The state of the world and the inability to visit with friends online without having a lot of hate and discontent thrown at me is upsetting. I needed to set some boundaries with people who are not used to me saying “sorry…no…” Self-preservation is important, and that involves not setting myself up as a target in some topics that get ugly fast. I headed outside earlier than normal because finding peace of mind outdoors is the best way to ground myself again.

Finding Peace in Beauty

Buff Silkie Hen with chick

I went outdoors early this morning. The much needed rain stopped during the night. I think we’re probably still two inches below normal but we got enough to give the pond and garden the boosts they needed. The Silkie hen and her three checks spent their first night loose in the hen house so they needed to be checked on first. I took food and water and spent a few minutes leaning against the wall, watching the interaction with the other birds. Sweetie’s a good mother. When the other birds get too close to her babes she lets them know it’s time to back off.

Finding Peace on the Homestead

The turkeys have outgrown their small overnight box and moved into one that’s 30 inches tall. There are seven now, down one quickly when the failure-to-thrive poult died. These seven are growing like weeds. When their box tipped to let them loose they emptied out like popcorn, running around the pen, flapping and “flying.” Happy, healthy birds. They’re amusing.

Looking toward the pond as I left the turkeys, I spotted momma snowshoe hare eating clover beside the clump of trees where the kits were. I didn’t harm the when I held them last week and said a little thanks for that.

Finding Peace in the High Tunnel

gourds, vertical growing, high tunnel, peace of mind
finding peace, peace of mind, small warted gourd
finding peace, tomato, vertical growing, high tunnelIt was still chilly in the high tunnel. I opened the door to let the breeze in, nature’s way of pollinating tomato plants while the pollinators are still too cool to move early in the morning. The gourds, cucumbers and tomatoes needed to be pruned and attached to the twine. Snipping the vines, weaving some of them into the twine, and watching a baby garter snake help me put my life into perspective. I took the scenic route back to the house to make a mental note of what I wanted to pick for a fresh bouquet.

Finding peace of mind outdoors. You probably don't owe anyone an explanation when you walk away from the ugliness.Click To Tweet

Next week I’ll be at a silent writing retreat, out of reach of a signal and away from the ugliness of the world. I’ll spend the week with wonderful, creative women as we hone our craft together. I’m looking forward to finding peace of mind outdoors with them.