Feeding the Very Hungry Bobcat

Part two of our bobcat issue. We are feeding a very hungry bobcat.

Feeding the Very Hungry Bobcat

living with a bobcat

Monday, February 23. -9*F. I put the beaver and game camera in the JetSled and followed our snowmobile trail into the woods. My first thought on where to place the carcass was a poor choice. It’s not as far from the hen house as I thought. I left the sled and snowshoed around to find a good spot. I needed a clearing, a set of tracks so I’d know where to set up the camera, and a place to leave the beaver that I can see from a distance. I wanted to be able to check the carcass using binoculars.

living with a bobcat, bobcat trail

The bobcat’s most used trail runs below the red line.

Set up was simple. The carcass is leaning against a maple coppice. There’s a game camera ten feet away. The bobcat came into the clearing from behind the tree I’ve attached the camera to.

beaver carcass against treeTuesday, February 24. -15F*. I didn’t note the windchill on these mornings. Knowing doesn’t make it easier. I couldn’t see any signs of the bobcat finding the carcass but there are tracks through my first choice for a site. The tracks leave there and walk directly to and around the hen house and into the pig shed. It looked like the cat tried to jump up to two of the windows.

Is it ever going to stop snowing? The best thing for the bobcat is a crust on the snow that is thick enough to support its weight as it runs so it can start hunting successfully again. This plan of mine does not include feeding this bobcat for long. There will eventually be crusty snow and without the food I’m providing the cat will move on. It won’t be so hungry that it’s desperate. This is a temporary boost.

Think about the number of times you see a bobcat when you’re in the woods. They’re not interested in being around people. The tractor is running while Steve moves snow, we’re riding snowmobiles, I’m snowshoeing daily and I have the dogs out several times a day. No bobcat wants to stick around here. It’s here because it’s struggling. Overall this doesn’t do much to help the wildlife but it makes a difference for this one cat.

“Just shoot it.” I’ve heard that a lot. I will if this doesn’t work. I think the hen house is bobcat proof now but I thought so until the cat got in. Crap happens. I don’t like to kill something I’m not going to eat and I’m not ready to try bobcat backstrap.

Wednesday morning. -3F*. My timing was poor. I looked 100 feet past the beaver in time to see the bobcat disappear into the alders. It’s exciting to see the cat but it’s also a little unnerving. I’m respectful of its power. I’m not going to approach it, corner it (which is impossible) or do anything stupid. There were claw and bite marks on the carcass. I left. There are no new tracks anywhere near the hen house.

hungry bobcat

The bobcat ate a lot more than I expected for a cat that weighs less than 30 pounds.

I was surprised by how much the bobcat ate in 24 hours. What you can see here is what’s left. It ate the entire inside of the carcass. There are several sets of tracks coming and going; the cat has been here many times. We found four spots where it crossed the road up to a half mile from here so it’s still hunting.

Friday. -13*F. It must have had a full belly. Nothing changed on the carcass in the previous 24 hours. There are no fresh tracks near the hen house.

Saturday morning. -19*F. The difference in the carcass was easy to see with binoculars so I went in. Part of the carcass has been moved but I can’t tell how much. Part of the head stuck out of the snow. There are fractured ribs showing but the cat hadn’t eaten much. There is one set of tracks in and out, and none near the hen house.

Sunday morning. -16*F. Nothing as far as I can tell.

Monday. 13*F. The bobcat was here Sunday afternoon.

hungry bobcat

hungry bobcat

The bobcat has not been back since Sunday afternoon. Wednesday’s forecast calls for warmer weather and heavy snow followed by very cold temps again. This should give the bobcat the surface it needs to stop breaking through. I expect the cat to visit the carcass until it’s gone. By then it shouldn’t be so hungry it risks coming into the backyard. We’ll see.

hungry bobcat

Another Hungry, Desperate Bobcat

I thought I was ready this time. I knew it was coming. A bobcat always finds its way to our backyard during February of a hard winter. We had our first snowstorm on November 2 and have seen little bare ground since then. The snow is between three and four feet deep depending on how much new snow we get and how much settling it does. Snowshoe hares and bobcats have a hard time staying near the surface even with their huge feet.

bobcat paw, living with a bobcat

A bobcat paw. NOT from the bobcat that killed my ducks.

Friday, February 20, I went out first thing in the morning to take warm water to the chickens and ducks. It was 5* and the wind blew. Inside the hen house, a duck tried to drag its barely attached leg across the floor. Did he go up to roost, as ducks sometimes do, and get his leg stuck? Odd. I did a head count by flashlight to be sure I could see all of the birds and came up short a chicken and a duck, not counting the wounded duck.

An end wall divides the hen house and old pig shed. The shed was attached to the hen house when it was built. The shed is empty except for a broken bale of hay and snow that blew in. Splattered blood marked a broken board between the two sections where a bobcat tore at the board to get into and out of the hen house. Blood and feathers littered the hay bedding. The cat worked hard to get in.

Steve put down the suffering duck, a drake, and set it aside for me to clean later. I showed it to our English Shepherd so she’d understand and took her around the hen house to look for tracks. She’s familiar with bobcats after last year’s attack. She followed tracks to the door of the pig shed, but I called her back in case the cat was still there. She followed more tracks through the soft, deep snow but she could barely move. I called her back again. She stood on a snowmobile trail and barked while I searched for the missing chicken , found a hammer, nails and board and made the repairs. She was still barking her when I went in for a much needed cup of coffee and to clean the duck. Later, I waded through the snow to get to the door of the pig shed. It looks as though the bobcat spent the night in there and left after the snow stopped falling, probably when I went to tend the poultry. Part of the missing hen duck’s wing stuck out of the snow and hay, buried for the later. I retrieved her and brought her to the house so the bobcat wouldn’t have another meal when it returned.

bobcat killed duck

I dug up the duck and took her away so the cat wouldn’t have another free meal.

There wasn’t any sign of the bobcat for the rest of the day.

Bobcats will kill several birds at a time, bury some for later, eat what it wants, and bury the carcasses.

bobcat buried duck in snow, living with a bobcat

The bobcat scratched snow and hay from around the duck to bury her.

Saturday morning. -14*F. The bobcat was back during the night. It tried so hard to get in that it scratched paint off the door. The ducks were a nervous wreck until they say it was me coming in. Bobcat tracks led out of and into the woods in two places and circled the hen house several times. We were busy enough outside on the tractor and snowmobiles to keep the cat at least out of sight for the day. Just after sunrise the missing chicken was waiting at the door to be let in. She was roughed up and a little bloody but will be just fine.

bobcat track in snow, living with a bobcat

Bobcat track.

Sunday morning. 8*F. I tended the poultry as soon as the first rooster crowed. There were new tracks from the woods and around the hen house but no new scratches at the door. Later in the morning, washing dishes, I glanced out the window. “Oh dammit!” There are bobcat tracks on the hen house roof I couldn’t see before sunrise. This is a first.

I started talking to people in the know about what I might do to convince the cat to move on. Hunting season is over. If I catch it in the act of harassing my poultry I can and will shoot it but we don’t want to go that route if it can be avoided. Before the bobcat broke into the hen house it seems to have hunted all of the partridge and snowshoe hares. There haven’t been signs of either for two weeks. The bobcat is hungry and having a hard time hunting in the deep snow. I’m ticked about my birds but feel bad for the cat.

Paul Laney, a Maine Guide from Grand Lake Stream, offered a beaver carcass. We’ve come up with a plan. If I feed the hungry bobcat away from the house it might stop trying to get my poultry. I can also have the bobcat live trapped and released elsewhere but I’m not comfortable with that. It’s already struggling to find food. Moving it to a new location doesn’t feel right because I have other options. I accept Paul’s offer and make arrangements to pick up the carcass Monday morning.

Monday morning, -9F. I talked with Brad Richard, our game warden, to find out how far from the house I needed to place the carcass and if I needed to label it as bait. Since I’m not baiting the cat for hunting purposes a label isn’t necessary. Brad will help me keep food available to the cat by bringing parts of road kill if he has one, and if this keeps it away from the house. And then I made the drive to Grand Lake Stream to pick up a rather bizarre looking beaver carcass.

beaver carcass, living with a bobcat

The beaver carcass.

Part two will be online in a couple of days.

Greenbelly Meal Bar Review

Greenbelly Meal Bar

If you are a high energy, hard working person who needs high fat, protein and carbs to keep you going, Greenbelly Meal Bar is for you. A Greenbelly Meal Bar is almost like a Rice Crispy bar for grown ups.

Each serving (two large bars) is a third of your recommended daily protein, carbs, fiber, fat, sodium and calories. They are filling and they taste great. These aren’t a snack you should eat on the couch at night while watching television. The Cranberry Almond bar has 24 grams of fat with 7 grams of saturated fat, 790 mg of sodium (which sounds like a lot but when you’re hiking or otherwise working you need sodium), 17 grams of protein and 95 grams of carbs. Fiber makes up 9 grams of carbs and sugar another 42.

The ingredients are natural and tasty. I tried all three flavors – Cranberry Almond, Dark Chocolate Banana and Peanut Apricot – and liked all three a lot. They were great boosts before snowshoeing, running and hitting the rowing machine.

Greenbelly Meal Bar

Greenbelly Cranberry Almond Meal Bar

The Greenbelly Meal Bar is large but I’d still be willing to pack them in my backpack for camping and hunting while walking ridges or trudging through snow. You don’t need space for water or water purification items for an instant meal.

Cassani Fogless Shower Mirror Review

Cassani Fogless Shower Mirror

I received the Cassani Fogless Shower Mirror for free and agreed to use the product and write this review. My opinion is not influenced by receiving it for free.

Cassani Fogless Shower Mirror 2

Steve has used the Cassani Fogless Shower Mirror more than I but I’m the one who put itup and who cleans the bathroom so you’re getting opinions from both of us.  The mirror comes with a stainless steel wall mount, a stainless steel razor mount and the shatter-proof, fogless shower mirror. It’s simple to install.

Cassani Fogless Shower Mirror

I was surprised by the size when the mirror arrived. It’s larger than previous shower mirrors we’ve had. It almost seemed too large. Once I stood in the shower and looked at it (admittedly before attaching it to the wall…) I realized it’s the right size to see your entire face at once. Cassani uses what they call Anti-Fog Nanotechnology, and it works. It’s very simple.

It’s convenient to shave in the shower and avoid the messy sink, especially when you can see in the mirror so well. The mirror is easy to clean. You don’t need and shouldn’t use a bathroom or window cleaner. If necessary I spray it with the shower head and wipe it off.

I wouldn’t mind taking this mirror camping. It’s shatter proof so I wouldn’t worry about it being a hazard in our backpacks. It’s lightweight and thin and wouldn’t take up much room. I like the mirror!

NaturaliDerm Organic Facial Moisturizer Review

NaturaliDerm Organic Facial Moisturizer

(I received a free full-size bottle of NaturaliDerm OrganicFacial Moisturizer to review. My review is honest and not influenced by receiving the moisturizer for free.)

I’ve been using NaturaliDerm Organic Facial Moisturizer for about a month. I typically never put anything on my face other than real soap that I make. The description sounded good enough to give it a try because the ingredients are all natural, and am I glad I did. I love it! Working close to the woodstove leaves my skin dry. NatraliDerm Organic Facial Moisturizer is light weight so within 30 seconds of applying it the moisturizer was absorbed and forgotten. It’s highly moisturizing and not at all greasy or oily. The scent is light, natural and pleasant which is very important to me because I’m sensitive to smells. It feels good on my skin. I watched closely for clogged pores or any signs of reaction since my skin is so fussy and not used to having anything on it – and nothing happened other than smoother, softer skin. One squeeze of the dispenser is all I need for my entire face including a second application to my dry spots. It really is very nice.

NaturaliDerm Organic Facial Moisturizer

NaturaliDerm Organic Facial Moisturizer

NaturaliDerm Organic Facial Moisturizer has aloe barbadensis to hydrate and restore skin moisture. Witch hazel tighten pores and really is working on my big pores. Shea and cocoa butters are providing protection from the frigid temperatures and wind we’ve been having this winter. My face isn’t as red and my skin doesn’t sting when I’m outside. D-Panthenol, which I had to look up, is vitamin B5. It promotes healing and is an anti-inflammatory. There aren’t any parabens, harsh preservatives, or any artificial fragrances or colors in NaturaliDerm Organic Facial Moisturizer. It’s unusual that I recommend anything like this but this is a big exception. It’s a great product that I’ll continue to use.

Winter Flowers in Black & White

Winter Flowers in Black & White

Evening primrose. Not the flower but the seed pods. In summer the flowers are light yellow.

winter flowersQueen Anne’s Lace, lacy and white in summer. It’s a member of the carrot family.

queen anne's lace, winter flowersGolden Rod. Not to be confused with ragweed. This probably isn’t the one that makes you sneeze. goldenrod, winter flowers

What a Hellacious Winter This has Been

Hellacious Winter

What a hellacious winter this has been. I had plans. I had PLANS, dammit. And then I fell down the stairs and broke myself. Not steps as in steps off the back porch (of which there is only one) but stairs. The entire flight of stairs. And everything changed. It has taken ten weeks to get back to almost normal. I’m still dealing with the torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder but on the positive side, it’s getting better thanks to my chiropractor. Another positive is the amount of time I’ve had to sit and contemplate people, places and things. I’ve learned that a couple of people I’ve met will sell their souls for a few dollars while others can’t be bought. I have places to go and things to do this year that I’ve never done before.

The snowshoe trail

A photo posted by Robin Follette (@robinsoutdoors) on

We’ve had a record-breaking amount of snow and cold this winter. Thinking I was going to be ahead of the game this year, I put up two extra cords of firewood. Ha! Joke’s on me. They aren’t extra, they’ll be burned. It’s been so cold for so long that we need extra wood to keep the house warm. Most days I work by the woodstove. We haven’t been above freezing for about six weeks, and then it was only twice, each time for about an hour. I seldom work at my desk in front of the window because I can’t see outside. On the positive side, we have two “extra” cords of wood and we are warm.

Being and feeling useless is humbling and hard. Until this morning it had been three months since I’d slung a 50 pound bag of food over my shoulder and carried it to the hen house. I had it open and was filling the hopper before I realized I had corn instead of layer pellets but what the heck, the birds were happy. I’ll try it again this afternoon and make sure I have pellets. I’ve been housebound when there’s ice or deep snow. On a positive note, thanks to Steve and Taylor, I was able to be housebound.

I haven’t stepped foot in the high tunnels since November. I haven’t started seeds for tunnel transplants. I haven’t seeded anything in there so there’s nothing growing. It’s too cold for anything to grow even now that the sun is high enough in the sky and the days are two hours longer than they were at Solstice. On a positive note, the seed starting medium has thawed and I’m starting seeds this afternoon. Better late than never. I plan to spend a few hours out there on Tuesday when it’s above freezing outdoors. If it’s sunny it will easily reach 70* indoors. I’ll start working on my tan!

In my time of contemplation about people, places and things I cut ties with a couple of publications that weren’t working for me anymore. I didn’t like letting one in particular go but when someone chooses to let their end of the deal drop you do what you have to do. On a good note, I’ve picked up two brand new publications that pay well and pay promptly.

There haven’t been many opportunities to be outdoors and collect material to write about because of my injuries and the weather. On the good side, I’ll meet my goal of finishing the first draft of the short stories by March 31.

There’s no down side to this one. I’m kicking off opening day of open water fishing by fly fishing in Grand Lake Stream with friends. More about that later!

Our Snowshoes

Our Snowshoes

Our snowshoes have gotten a lot of use this week. We are making the best of a winter filled with both record breaking snow and frigid temperatures. I’ve fed the turkeys, made sourdough starter and spent quite a bit of time outdoors. Perspective: In a normal winter – it’s only 14*, too cold to go out. This winter – it’s up to 14*, I’m going out!

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Our snowshoes

How To Make Sourdough Starter

How To Make a Sourdough Starter

Are you new to sourdough? Don’t want to buy a starter if you’re not sure you’re going to like sourdough? Here are simple directions on how to make a sourdough starter in less than ten minutes for under a dollar.

Wild yeast is everywhere. No, it’s not a question of your housekeeping skills. It really is everywhere. I use organic whole grain whole wheat flour to make my sourdough starter but unbleached white flour works too. Choose the flour you like best. My second choice is organic oatmeal flour.

Sourdough requires a little work. It’s not as simple as tearing open a pre-measured package of yeast but it’s not difficult. sourdough starter

The benefits are worth the ten minutes a week you’ll spend tending your starter.

  • Sourdough is fermented and is full of micro-organisms that break down fibers and increase beneficial bacteria that make the finished product easier for some people to digest. Today’s modern quick rise doesn’t produce the benefits of the long rise of sourdough. sourdough starter
  • Glutamate forms during the fermentation process. Glutamate produces a flavor enhancer called umame. Bread bakers often name their starter Umame. Give your dough a full day to rise to let umame do its thing. It’s worth the wait.
  • The texture of bread leavened with sourdough is chewy (in a good way) and airy. Its crumb has body. It’s more than something to hold the good parts of a sandwich together – it is one of the best parts of a sandwich.

You need:

  • one quart canning jar with lid/ring or a crock with a cover
  • 1/2 cup water (well, spring or filtered, not public utilities)
  • 1/2 cup flour of your choice

how to make sourdough starterSo, here’s what you do. Mix the water and flour in the jar. Sit the cover loosely on top to allow carbon dioxide to escape. Within 24 to 48 hours the mixture will become bubbly. You should feed the starter now. Remove one-half of the mixture and add 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup flour. Do this daily for about a week. After a week you can cut back to feeding your starter to once or twice a week if you aren’t using the starter often. Add more flour than water when you feed the starter to provide more food for the starter.

how to make sourdough starter

This starter is thick. It won’t have to be fed for up to a week.

This is the thicker starter shown above, one week later.how to make sourdough starter, one week old sourdough starterI use the Pickle-Pro Fermenting Lid.

pickle-pro, pickle pro, fermenting, how to make sourdough starter

Feeding Wild Turkeys

They showed up a week ago Monday, 16 Eastern Wild turkeys. They ate all of the bird seed they could scratch up from the snow. A few were brave enough to come to the back porch, a bold move for a nervous turkey. I don’t normally like to have them here because of the damage and droppings but this year we’re feeding wild turkeys.

Feeding Wild Turkeys

We’ve had over ten feet of snow this winter and currently have 45″ on the ground. Even the snowshoe hares are having a hard time getting around. I didn’t have the heart to chase them away when they came back Tuesday morning. They ate all the seed, left and came back. They left and came back, left and came back, all day. feeding wild turkeys

Bird seed is expensive so I added chicken layer pellets to the bird seed. The turkeys arrived on Wednesday, puffed up, stretched up as though an extra inch or two of height would change their view of the pellets, and eventually decided it might be okay if they ate the seed as long as they didn’t touch the weird pellets. I mentioned bird seed expensive, right?

One of the small turkeys, last year’s poult, doesn’t act quite right. It separates itself from the rafter, stands on the snowbank and looks off into the distance. It will eat a small bit of food then walk away again. It has a funny gait.

Bright and early Thursday morning the rafter was in the driveway, scratching through the fresh snow to get to the quart of bird seed and gallon of layer pellets. They ate the pellets without hesitation.

Steve bought one hundred pounds of cracked corn and weirded out the turkeys. Turkeys don’t like change. They don’t like it when the tractor isn’t parked in the same place two days in a row. They puffed up Friday morning, stretched up as though an extra inch or two of height would change their view of the weird and scary cracked corn, and eventually decided it might be okay if they pecked at it.

You learn a bit about them when you’re feeding wild turkeys. Two big jakes (there are no mature toms) lead the rafter. There are several smaller jakes and two presumably mature hens. The others are last year’s poults. They’re small enough to make me think they are the survivors of a very late hatch.

Turkeys get hangry. They peck at each other and spurs fly. The scuffle doesn’t last long.
feeding wild turkeysEarly Friday morning – movement in the pine trees across the road. Aha! The turkeys roosted in the trees the night before. I hadn’t noticed them until they started to wake up and move.

feeding wild turkeys, turkeys roosting

The best part of waking up…is not February.

feeding wild turkeys, turkeys fly down from roost

“I believe I can fly…” And they can. Turkeys don’t fly very far but they do fly well.

feeding wild turkeys, jake strutting

All he needs is a gallon of Axe to go with his teenaged persona. This is a jake.

feeding wild turkeys, jake turkey, tom turkey

“I should have landed in the road…”

We were busy outdoors on Saturday and Sunday. Turkeys are nervous birds and spent little time here. There were 16 in the rafter early in the week but they were down to 15 by week’s end. I suspect the not-quite-right poult has died, either on its own or perhaps taken by the bobcat.

There were 13 turkeys down the road when I left to run an errand Monday morning but they didn’t come here. It’s Tuesday afternoon and I haven’t seen them today. Maybe the commotion around here over the weekend was too much for them. Or the bobcat’s presence might have kept them away. They haven’t walked up and down the road in front of the house. I kind of miss them.

 

 

NeighborWoods – The End

Today is the last week of [NeighborWoods]. Erin and I hoped to build community based on outdoors photos. I was sure it would be a big hit. It was not. So this is the end. We have a new idea involving food. We’ll tell you about it soon.

This is the view outside my window. I toss bird seed on the back side of the snowbank so I can watch the birds while I work. This was taken six inches of snow ago so the bank is a little higher now. Tomorrow’s “up to seven inches” will add to it. In the spring we’ll have to use the tractor to move snow away from the house to avoid flooding the cellar more than we already know it will flood. Rough winter.

neighborwoods

Just One Sign of Spring

Sign of Spring

“If I could have just one sign of spring…one sign of spring to tell me it’s really coming,” I said to my cousin. That was on Saturday, February 14, the day before the next predicted heavy snow storm. We were at camp so Steve could shovel snow off the roof. There wasn’t a lot on the roof, most of it is has blown into a drift against the front of the camp, blocking the door.

The sign of spring appeared that Tuesday afternoon. Tammy and I were eating lunch. I got up to look for turkeys and instead found a lone robin, puffed up and shivering in the cold. He picked through the seed on the snowbank, choosing a few to eat. He came to eat three times that afternoon, and I haven’t seen him since. I hope he’s found some place warmer to spend the rest of winter.

sign of spring, first robin, robins in winter sign of spring, robins in winter, first robin of spring

I’m putting my down time to good use. I’ve had a short of Toradol in my right shoulder. It helped for a few days. An appointment with my chiropractor helped a lot. I’ll see him again this week. I’ve done a lot of writing. Each time I think I’ve run out of material for the short stories, something happens. The brutal cold, high wind and dangerous wind chill, and 128″ of snowfall we’ve had this winter do make it easier to be content indoors. Even if I weren’t still healing I’d be indoors most of the time. I’ve written two chapters, three assignments for 1800GunsandAmmo, outlined more in a memoir, and taken a lot of notes for another project.

I’ve neglected the blog but I promise to (try to) do better starting today. I’ll bombard you with four or five product reviews (two that will surprise you), tell you about a bobcat, a rafter of turkeys, seed starting with Renee’s Seeds, and share some photos on Sunday providing everything goes as planned this week.

Flower Varieties for Containers from Renee’s Garden

I’m as excited about the flower varieties I’ll be growing in hanging baskets as I am the vegetables from Renee’s Garden. I’ll be starting these seeds as soon as they arrive so that I have beautiful hanging baskets to kick off spring. We’ve had 105″ of snow so far this winter and there’s another blizzard coming Sunday. I. Need. Flowers.

Flower Varieties

blue heaven lobelia, flower varieties

Blue Heaven lobelia

Blue Heaven lobelia will be one of the flower varieties in my hanging baskets but they would also serve as a nice ground cover. The flowers are three-quarters of an inch wide and “bloom non-stop.” I’m thinking of tucking red and white flowers in with Blue Heaven for all American baskets.

I don’t know yet what containers I’m going to use for Victorian Posy, a pansy. Pansies are one of my favorite plowers. This is an antique variety with “rich deep shades” of color. I prefer rich color over pastels so this is perfect. Before summer ends I’ll transplant these pansies into the ground in time for them to establish roots and last through fall. I’ll stop deadheading (removing spent flowers) and let them go to seed so they can self seed for next year.

nasturtium little firebird

Little Firebird nasturtium

 

I know exactly where Little Firebird nasturtiums will grow. Little Firebird is one of the flower varieties I’ve yet to grow but have been planning for. I set aside hollow pieces of firewood last year, and Little Firebird will be growing in some of them.

Nasturtium blossoms are edible as long as you don’t spray them with pesticide. I’ve never had a pest problem with them so that shouldn’t be an issue. The colors will add a lot to the visual appeal of the salad.

thunbergia, blackeyed susan vine, flower varieties

Blackeyed Susan Vine, Thunbergia

Blackeyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia) will probably be in a hanging basket at the gazebo. I haven’t planted any perennial flowers there yet and this seems like a good fit for the atmosphere. I’ll start the seeds indoors well ahead of time so that they’re ready to go as soon as we’re using the gazebo again in the spring. I don’t mind carrying pots back and forth until frost danger passes.

Spring is coming. For now, we’re preparing for another blizzard on Sunday. Thinking about the gardens and putting an extra piece of firewood in the wood stove will have to do.

Let Nature Happen

Let nature happen.

Nature will take care of itself. It needs no interference from man but at this stage of evolution, man has done more than interfere. That’s a discussion of its own. Here’s what happened. Would you let nature happen or would you help the bird?

6:15 am. The redpolls were already feeding at the pile of seeds in the driveway. It’s 2*.

6:30 am. One redpoll is huddled in the middle of the seed, asleep with its head tucked under a wing. Its wings are spread out to help with balance. It looks ratty and disheveled.

7:15 am. The redpoll is still there, shivering, head under its wing.

I filled the water jug with hot water, put stale bread and mixed bird seed in a bag, and fill a quart pitcher with more bird seed. Boots and coat on, mittens tucked into my sleeves to keep the cold out, I step out with the dogs. All of the birds at the feeders burst into the air. The little redpoll stays in the seeds.

When I approach the bird wakes, hops a few feet and lies down. I put the bag of bread and seed, quart of seeds and water jug down and toss my mittens down beside them. The bird hops away the first time I reach but doesn’t move on my second try.

let nature happen, common redpollNestled into my warm hand, the male redpoll relaxes, drops its head to my hand and falls instantly asleep. Now what should I do?

One of the things I’m often told in regards to hunting is that nature will take care of itself. That’s fact that can’t be disputed. Nature will take care of itself. Animals will die natural deaths. Population will be controlled. That’s indisputable. My standard answer is along the lines of “this is true but it won’t be pretty and if we can do better for the animals, shouldn’t we?”

Nature will take care of its population if it’s out of balance. So now what should I do? Do I let nature happen without my help? How does this compare to hunting? Lots of thoughts.

Do I put the bird out of reach of the dogs and leave it to surely die? Leave it on the ground where I found it?

Nature will take care of itself. The bird, nothing but feathers and bone at this point, will soon die of its ailment or will freeze to death.

What would you do?

Venison Sausage Recipes

Venison Sausage Recipes

We’ve been eating sausage from my deer and wow! are we enjoying it. I put together a few venison sausage recipes and made maple breakfast, Italian and hot Italian, all loose sausage to be formed into patties or fried loose. The hot Italian was fantastic in spaghetti sauce, partly because who doesn’t like sausage in homemade spaghetti sauce and partly because I added too many pepper flakes. I’ll tone it down next time.

Venison Maple Breakfast Sausage

7 pounds venison, ground for sausage (we had pork fat added)
2 T Italian seasoning, adjust to personal taste
2 T Kosher salt
2 T black pepper
2 T garlic powder
3 T sage
3 T cardamom
1 C maple syrup (not pancake syrup) OR maple sugar to taste (I start with 1/4 cup)
Mix dry ingredients together and add to sausage. Blend well. Blend in maple syrup, 1/4 c at a time. venison sausage recipes

Cook a small sausage patty and taste. Add seasonings as needed. I let my sausage sit in the fridge overnight and try it again in the morning to be sure of the flavor. Better to have to add more seasoning later than overdo it in the beginning. You can add but you can take it back out.  venison sausage recipes

Hot Italian Venison Sausage

This batch of sausage was large, 11 pounds. venison sausage recipes

4 T garlic powder
4 T Italian seasoning
3 T sage
3 T Kosher salt
2 T black pepper
1 large onion, chopped finely
4 T red pepper flakes (this was hot for us)

Mix together and cook a small amount to taste. Allow to sit in the fridge overnight and taste it again in the morning.

Container Garden Varieties with Renee’s Garden

Container Garden Varieties

I am excited about working with Renee’s Garden again this year. Disclaimer – I receive a media package from Renee’s Garden with 15 packets of seeds. In exchange I write about them.

I’ll write about container garden varieties of vegetables and flowers, varieties for small spaces, and a few varieties that aren’t suitable for containers but I like. Today I’m starting with container garden varieties. I’ve been chatting with Michelle about missing fresh veggies, raised beds, containers and our eagerness for warmer weather.

Photos are provided by Renee’s Garden.

container garden varieties, renee's garden, tomato, hanging basketLitt’l Bites caught my attention immediately. The plants max out at 20 inches wide and 16 inches tall. The minimum pot or basket size is 16 inches wide and tall so I’m going to have to do a little shopping for larger hanging baskets. Litt’l Bites takes 65 days to mature from the time of transplant. Start the seeds six weeks before you plant to move seedlings into baskets of containers.

Super Bush is one of my favorites. I’ve grown it before and chose it again this year because it fits well in this series. Super Bush will be grown in large containers at the edge of the porch. They grow up to three feet tall and produce a lot of medium sized round, red tomatoes. They’re hardy plants, surviving several frosts with help from radiant heat off the house. The stems are strong and thick, and my plants didn’t need to be staked.

container garden varieties, Chard, Swiss chard, pot of gold, renee's garden,

Pot of Gold Swiss chard will grow in a container here in the house and also in the flower garden. I’ll start a few of the seeds in a 1020 tray and transplant them into containers in the house. Chard does well in cool weather so it will be fine growing in the bay window where it will get afternoon sun. Chard is a “cut and come again” member of the beet family. I’ll be able to cut all but three or four inner stalks from the plant, leaving the rest to grow. In the spring I’ll move the plants outside to the flower garden. They beautifully colored stalks will add color to the early season.

container garden varieties, renee's garden, eggplant, Little Prince

Little Prince is a new-to-me variety of eggplant. Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables and I’m very happy to have a container garden variety. Like the eggplants pictured to the right, I’ll stake my plants. Little Prince requires 65 days after transplanting to reach maturity, a relatively short time for eggplant. The trade for a short amount of growing time is the size of the fruit. These eggplant will be only three to four inches long. Three or four eggplant will be just right for a meal for the two of us.

I’m repeating Bush Slicer cucumbers. I’ll transplant one into a hanging basket and seed lettuce with it. The lettuce will be picked as baby leaves to add to salad. Bush Slicer will be the first cucumbers we eat this year. I wish I had window boxes!

Up next – probably container flowers. I’ve chosen four varieties.

Winter Doldrums

Winter Doldrums

I love winter but UNCLE! My goodness. Nor’easters, a blizzard, a storm, more coming. Steve is moving snow by the bucket load with the tractor. We had bare ground for five and a half months in 2014.

Kubota tractor, winter doldrums

Cranky doesn’t look happy

I’m just about useless. My shoulder got better after my fall but hasn’t completely healed so I had it checked. I have a torn rotator cuff. It’s not terrible but it’s a problem. I want to be able to draw back my bow by early April so I can target practice for the opening day of turkey season. I want to be able to paddle my kayak when the ice goes out (which will be July 2 according to Steve). I need to be able to roof rake, shovel snow and work in the high tunnel. I’m discouraged.

winter doldrumsAs soon as the weather warms up I’m going to strap on the snowshoes and get moving. Until then I have a date with Sheila on Monday. We’re going to the library to hear a Maine author read from her new book. And a date with the nutritionist and surgeon for my one year check up after gastric sleeve surgery on Tuesday. I’ll getting out of the house for a bit. That should help.

winter doldrumsPretty sunsets help and last night’s was beautiful.

winter doldrumswinter doldrums, winter sunset

Paddling the St. Croix River from Scott Brook to Loon Bay

St. Croix River: Scott Brook to Loon Bay

Ready for a trip to the St. Croix River? We’ve had snow with the exception of a about two weeks since the November 2 nor’easter. I wasn’t ready for snow. I was okay with not having snow until January. Or December, 2015. Winter was difficult last year (five extra weeks of winter, major surgery). My mind is still in July. To stay in denial I’m sitting by the fire and pretending the heat is coming from the sun and trying to not see the snow falling outside the window, and writing about the day we paddled the St. Croix river. Close your eyes and imagine…wait…don’t do that. Keep reading.


 

I was nervous. Three sets of rips. I love to paddle on slow moving streams that don’t have rocks and boulders that try to capsize me. Lakes and ponds with white caps? Bring it on! I love the workout I get from paddling against the white caps, into the wind. “Three sets of rips” was not what I wanted to do. “I don’t want to do this” fell out of my mouth and into the air many times the day we kayaked and canoed from Scott Brook to Loon Bay on the St. Croix River.

St. Croix River, Loon Bay, Scott Brook

Looking up river from Scott Brook

The St. Croix River is international water. The Canadian side of the river was lined with campers but there weren’t many on the American side. The St. Croix divides Maine, US and New Brunswick, Canada. Once we left Craig Brook all of the campsites on the American side were empty through Loon Bay. Or maybe I was paying so much attention to the boulders jumping out in front of me that I didn’t notice campers.

St Croix River, camping, Scott Brook, Loon Bay

Campers on the Canadian side of the St. Croix River

St. Croix River

The sounds of the first set of rips was intimidating; it’s what the unknown sounded like that day. The water roars and crashes and the wind, even though it’s calm away from the river, blows through the trees. The tops of rocks and boulders peak out of the water but just beneath the surface, the hidden objects – rocks and logs – tell only a hint of their presence with a mound of swift water. “I don’t want to do this.”

I followed Steve and Taylor as they paddled T’s canoe through the first rip. I stayed close…too close…and had to slow my kayak to avoid bumping into them. We made it through in a minute that sometimes felt like time raced by in slow motion, if that makes any sense at all. “There’s one. Here it comes. Made it. [bump] Dammit. [crash] Oh shit! [swing sideways] Dammit! Phew. Okay. Made it.” Breathe.

St. Croix River, Scott Brook, Loon Bay

Feeling confident and loving the flat water, I paddled ahead so I could spin around and take photos. Colin fished along the bank and caught bass and pickerel, a lot of catch and release. I fell back to watch him fish, wedging my kayak against the shore.

The second set of rips were as nerve wracking as the first from the time I heard the first roar. “I don’t want to do this….” It was different this time. By the end of the rip I was more comfortable with my ability to see what was coming up. I bumped into objects, got turned sideways and thought I might flip once, but I got through it. It was exhilarating! I did it!

We stopped for lunch on an island. I sat on the stern of my kayaking, feet in the cool water, a big school of two and three inch fish nibbling at my feet and the pieces of bread I dropped to them. A lone canoe approached but when the paddler spied us he turned, paddled back up river and around the island, out of sight. Did he not want to see someone else on this wonderful back country river? Did he not want to interrupt us? He’d have been welcome to stop with us, to have a sandwich, to wave as he paddled by. He’s one of only three paddlers we saw after leaving the landing.

I went through the two rips in my mind, reminding myself of how to look for the rocks and logs. My head was really getting into the game when we pushed our crafts out, stepped in and paddled away from the island. I’ve been whitewater rafting on Class IV rapids. This was just a set of rips.

Steve and Taylor stayed in front but this time I looked far enough ahead to set my own route. I passed them when they lodged themselves on a boulder. bump crash bump bottom out scrape spray in the face paddle paddle paddle WHOOP! HOLLER! Laugh! bump I was in the groove. I hit a log and more rocks in this third set of rips than in the first two combined and I had one hell of a good time. Behind me, Colin whooped and hollered.

Half the work of taking on physical challenges is conquered in the mind.

I floated down river, spun around and watched Steve and Taylor come through rips, paddling hard, bumping rocks and having a great time.

I love winter but today, while it’s snowing again and Weather Bug is chirping a wind chill advisory for -29*F, my mind is on the St. Croix River, paddling a kayak and enjoying the warmth.

January Full Moon

January Full Moon

January full moon, 2015

January full moon, wolf moonThe January full moon is the Wolf Moon. Wolves howled in hunger before prey became weaker and plentiful. It’s also know as Old Moon and After Yule Moon.

Note: If you jump ahead to February’s full moon you can compare the two. I expected something else.