Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October 24, 2012 On the road again....

We're on the road this week.  Monday, we traveled, in the pickup, for 12 hours to get to our first destination in Midland, Michigan.  The next day we all went for a hike to the highlight of the town...a tridge.  It goes 3 ways over the place where two rivers come together.  The tridge is quite interesting on its own....but the area around it is pretty too.  It was so nice to be out and walking around at any rate.  For those who don't know me well.....I don't do sitting down for long periods of time....well.  Doing it for 12 hours straight was well beyond my good humor margin.  Everything hurt. 
Today, we were out early for a walk in town and found the wild turkeys we saw yesterday when we were out for the afternoon walk.  Yesterday, they were hustling down the sidewalk ahead of us.  Today they were out in an open field where they have a practice soccer net.  We let Toby go chase them so they would fly into the trees, which they did.  He was a pretty proud dog....look, I did it again.  He was probably wondering why I didn't shoot those big "partridges." On the way back, they were on the ground again and he pretty much ignored them altogether.  I was amazed at how close they let us get to them.  When I have actually been out hunting wild wasn't that easy, believe me. 
Later this morning, we went out and explored the "city woods" hiking-horsetrail-skiing.....pretty much everything trails.  They were actually quite nice with a nice mix of trees and a creek.  During peak fall color, I imagine they would be  spectacular.  Now, the leaves on the trails were nice.
At any rate, Toby is a well exercised dog and he quite approved of the trails.  I thought they were ok myself.  But, any nice trail in the woods works for me.  It is always fun to see a bit of different plant life than the norm for what I see every day in "my" woods.  I even found and took a photo of a witch hazel blooming, which was pretty neat.  I had not seen them before and am not used to fall blooming trees.  Had to get back and on the internet to see what it was. 
Speaking of different.....there are a few other birds around here also.  One, I have no clue what it was this a.m. and flew just when I was going to get a photo.  There were a number of cardinals around also.  They are always fun as we don't see them that often at home.  The rest were pretty much what I usually see.  But, we are having a nice visit and good outside time....can't beat that.  :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gales of October - October 21, 2012

This was taken on Thursday, the 18th.  It was a blustery, rainy day.  Lake Superior was in fine fury.  I have been trying to post about that day since then, but having my usual technical problems with getting to this site with dial up.   It was an interesting rained all day, not always hard...but raining steadily.  While I was out with the camera, probably about 45 didn't rain.  I barely got in my truck with Toby and it resumed raining.  I'd like to say it was because I was living right......or something like that.  At any rate, no matter how many times you've watched Lake Superior is always interesting to watch or try and capture its fury.  I wish space and internet allowed being able to put full file photos on here so you could better see what I captured. 
As you can see, Toby also has reservations about getting too close to Lake Superior when the waves are this big.  He isn't too much put off if he is on a sand beach.  But, on the big boulders, he is more wary.  This one was labeled..."to get wet, or not get wet, that is the question."   He did get wet. 
We did need the rain, which finally put water back in the little creek that runs through the side of the yard.  It also got me inspired to get back at processing more of the vegetables I need to keep for winter, like tomatoes.  In fact, I did another big batch today.  I pretty much have the vegetables taken care of now.  In fact, before deer season, I am going to have to get another freezer.  I have put up that many vegies from the garden!  This is good.  :)
The next two weeks, I am going to be busy and may not get much time to do this.  But, I promise, I will be more scheduled starting later in November. 
I leave you with a bright spot in what was a gloomy day.  Even rainy days can be colorful.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 16, 2012 What to do.....what to do?!

As you can see, this isn't current since it was taken early spring with snow on the ground.  However, this is what I see all over the yard today.  I tried to get a photo yesterday of about 6 in one area on the mound, just relaxing like this.  Too many late afternoon reflections in the windows and couldn't do it.  Today, many are in the east field and just a bit too far away for a good photo.  But, it is grey and drizzly and I think even the deer are in the "what to do" mode.  At least, they think they are safe here by the house.  The wolf situation is truly getting out of hand.  At 5:30 yesterday afternoon, I walked by the window and saw 6 of my girls pointing, toward the county road I live on, and not moving a muscle....just watching.  I paced back and forth....window to window....knowing what was going on but where was it/or them?  Finally, I saw a big white wolf on the end of the driveway.....just diddling around down there....doing what it is wolves do when they are also wondering "what to do" and what can I get by with.  The amount of wolf sightings in the yard this past week has been amazing.  It makes me think I ought to rent out a spot for one of the people with a wolf tag to park and have at it come wolf season.  I mean, really......and this is only the ones we're seeing.  How many are we not seeing?!
In the Duluth News Tribune today, again, I see some of the people are still at trying to get the wolf season stopped.  People.....we have so many wolves in this state, a thinning out and education for them is badly needed.  Just yesterday in the paper it mentioned about 2 men hunting with their German shorthaired pointers and all of a sudden one is running back toward his master yelping with a big wolf in pursuit.  When he had a safe shot, which was by then very close, he shot it with bird shot.....dead.  He promptly reported it to the game warden.  City folks who "think" with their emotions instead of reality of this situation are just going to get the wolves in more trouble.  If they aren't soon educated about what happens when they continue to come too close to humans and their pets, a lot more wolves are going to get killed.....and you aren't going to be hearing about the numbers because they won't be legally tagged.  The hunting season is badly needed.  The wolves need to back off and give people their space again.  And, sorry folks....but, there really is enough space for all of us in Cook County, yet.  They don't need to live in our yards.  We should also be able to walk out our doors to garden, with our pets, to do whatever.....and not have to carry a gun.
And, yes....I do have things I am doing while in my what to do....mode.  I processed a bunch of tomatoes and got them canned this a.m.  It has been a while since I have had enough to do that.  But, when it got really cold, I picked them all and now they are ripening pretty fast.  I don't intend to let them spoil and I can't eat them raw that fast.  In a couple of days, I should be able to do another batch.
Toby, on the other hand, is laying here by my chair, wishing he was doing this!  He has his priorities straight.  By the looks of the grey and low cloud and fog yet, there won't be any hints of sunshine to coax the birds out of the brush....but, you never know.  It happens. 
On yet another subject.....I finally got to see the raccoons that are hanging out here Sunday night on the deck.  I had figured, more than once, we also had some.  They have been more and more numerous in the county these past few years.  The suet feeder has been nicely opened and the suet cakes taken out, just enough times, without damage, that I guessed we had one or more.  I had just sat down to read and heard a noise on the deck.  I turned on the porchlight and there, on the deck railing in a big bird feeder was a young raccoon.  In the heated bird bath a few feet away, also on the deck railing, was the other.  He was quite happily playing in the warm water.  I watched them for about 1/2 hour.  At one point, the one in the bird bath got out, padded over to the window where I sat, stood up on its hind legs.....and looked at me.  Cute!  Did I say cute?!  Well, they were.  Once they make a complete nuisance of themselves, I probably won't say cute.  But, it's back to hauling everything in at night again.  They don't break as much stuff as bears, but they either eat it....or put too much weight on the deck hooks that hold the feeders and ruin them.  They couldn't get into that hanging feeder on a bet.....but, it smelled it tried.  Oh.....the things I do for the critters around here!   :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

October 13, 2012 Fall Greys & Gloom

Today is one of those grey, gloomy, drizzly days that make you have a hard time to get inspired to do anything constructive.  Did you ever realize, that no matter what you have to do, inside or out, a nice sunny day always is so much more inspiring. But, in our area anyway, we can sure use the moisture.  There hasn't been any rain, to speak of, in a while.  However, the leaves are down and things are going into shut down mode, so we don't need any downpours either. 
One thing fun about fall, after the color is gone, is the other color....that of the birds migrating through.  Having been a bird watcher all my life, I always enjoy seeing who is coming and going.  This week, a pair of eastern bluebirds has graced us with their presence.  They are neat birds.  Of course, there are about 50 bluejays around.  They are pretty, but can they pack away the seeds, or what?!  The odd hawks are going through also, giving chase to someone or another regularly.  I have even found, much to Toby's dismay, a few grouse back on the trails that have been gotten by hawks.  He is never impressed to find a fresh kill someone else made, and he missed out on.  We have had a huge flock of rusty blackbirds around for a couple of weeks now, adding grackles the last few days.  I haven't seen a yellow-headed blackbird in a while tho.  Purple finches are back.  The always present chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches are busy.  The chipmunk is still busily packing off anything he can get his mouth on for his winter supply.  Yes, it is a busy place around here. 
With that, I guess I will go get inspired!  :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October 11, 2012 Last colors of fall

This is the last of the fall colors, just about!  There are still a bunch of lemon yellow snapdragons blooming nicely in the flower bed borders.  The frost hasn't killed them and the deer don't seem to like them....miracles do happen.  What is the chance that both things work for the same flower?!  By this time of the year, when frost has killed most things and the rest don't have long to go, I don't put any deer repellants out any more.  Food is less tasty in the woods so they are out eating every last clover and green grass in the big field they can find.  A few tasty flower blossoms never hurt and they do like petunias.  Right now, if I go out the door with treats for Shadow and her family and Zoe, I can be sure there will be 10 or 12 faces running to greet me.  They have also gotten pretty good at just following me around the yard to see if I might be nice and give them something.  Too funny!  They do make my day and I enjoy my four legged friends immensely.  "Fancy's Girl" was standing along side me when I was harvesting the cauliflower, brussels sprouts and some more carrots yesterday.  If I found a badly split and slug nibbled carrot, I would throw it to her. She gobbled it right up.  They have started nibbling the tops of the brussels sprouts as they make almost like little cabbage heads on the top, but don't bother the edible parts.  They don't like, at least not yet, cauliflower.  Carrot tops are just favorites!  Anyway, the south fence on the garden was just temporary til the next bed was ready to plant so my husband took it off recently.  The deer pets got right into checking that out. I expect they figured with all the time we spent in there, that must be good stuff! :)
Then, there is the matter of the 4 legged canines.  They are magnificent animals......don't get me wrong.  If people in the valley didn't have young kids or pets, I would enjoy seeing them a bit more than I do.  But, as you remember, I have my own dog to worry about too.  When you have timber wolves walking through your yard any time of the day, it gets a bit disconcerting.  Yesterday afternoon, I (and Toby) had just come back from some trail work with the chainsaw and a good walk.  As long as the  clothes were on, I went to the garden to pick.  I had just finished all that and Toby and I went in the house and I was on my way to wash my hands.  3:30 in the afternoon!  Deer tails are high as they are leaping north across the looking back.....and gone.  A minute later, here come the wolves.  This is the second time this week!  We don't even have snow yet, for the pete's sake.  We have a serious need of some wolf education classes in this area. 
One person has told me....well, you "feed" the deer.  Well, yes and no.  In winter, we "feed" the deer.  We live in a place that the deer like, open fields, mowed fresh grass and clover, a treat now and then when they come to the door, or basement window to beg.....not exactly "feeding" the deer.  Yes, I have pets!  However, as much as I have always liked deer, I would have never gone out of my way to make pets of them for several reasons....hunting seasons, gardens, and wolves.  Wolves, are of course, attracted to a place where they hang out.  But, the deer hang out here whether they are fed or not.  That, on a nasty winter, is how we started to feed in the first place.  They have food, running water year around and cover to sleep.  You can quite often see a bunch of deer laying around in the yard.  I ran across a picture like that recently on my computer.  But, when I went to find it again, I couldn't. Too many photos!  But, we have a number of other people who have wolves hanging around regularly too.  They don't feed any wildlife.  They have also lost a dog to the wolves.  They are in an area more populated than me.  The wolves just have lost their fear of people and are out to get anything they can, wherever they can.  They aren't a northwoods icon anymore....because they don't stay in the woods.
Ok, I will quit ranting on wolves now.....but, they do need to give "us" space too!
I will go back to harvesting the garden and finish freezing and blanching a few more vegies....get all tucked in for winter!   :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 8, 2012 Grey days of fall

Here is a photo from a few days ago when it wasn't grey.  There are a few flowers remaining that haven't frozen yet.  Plus, the big cosmo in the front that looked so healthy, yet never put out one flower.  I love fall.  The beautiful warm 70 degree (or warmer) days are just a joy.  However, there are the other ones, like today.  They look grey and bleak with the leaves all down and threatening to rain at the same time.  You just don't know what you should get inspired to go do. 
A few minutes ago I was upstairs while I was waiting for an email to load....slow speed today.  Shadow's two fawns were sampling flowers not yet frozen along the deck....4' from Toby's nose.  I am always so impressed by his willingness to let them so close and not even twitch.  But, he just got in from a very long walk with a few "partridge " smells to make it interesting.  That helps.  He even got to retrieve one that we kicked up along the deer trail in the woods.
Yesterday morning, when we were having breakfast, about 10 deer, that were scattered along the south edge of the fields...all at once....were headed north leaping and bounding for all they were worth.  No one was stopping to turn around to see if what ever scared them was still coming.  Looked like wolves around to us.  Well.....nothing came behind them.  About 20 minutes later I was outside by the deck steps talking to Shadow and her fawn.  All of a sudden, the low howl starts and then the rest of the pack started to howl, with the highest pitched one coming in last.  What a chorus.  I guess we were right about the wolves going by scaring all the deer.  There are very few things make them run like that.  Looks like they have taken to coming down the county road in a pack and turning off on the side road/driveway across from us.  Then, they go to the old field and howl.  This is what they did the morning I met the whole pack on the road too and about how long til they howled.  They did stay out of they yard, so that was good.  Maybe they have learned something. 
One local guy I know has one (wolf) that is radio collared hanging around where he is working.  It seems to think watching him and coming around is a game.  Some of the collared wolves have been handled too much and also have learned people are nothing to fear.  So it goes......    I sometimes have to wonder about how smart it is to collar all the wolves for research too.....when they are around so many people.  It is just another way to habituate them to people around them and let them know they can hang out with them and it's ok.  It isn't.  I do not think this is a good idea.  They also show up frequently on the trail cameras folks set out to see if there are any nice deer around. 
I have a bunch of photos of some young wolves, 6 in the litter, from a couple of years ago.  I was looking for them to use one on this post.  But, they must be on the other computer.  They were very curious and got quite used to people and cars coming by.  They were on an old road that isn't used much any more, except by a few locals.  If you would drive to the area, they all came on a run except one shy one.  They expected treats from the people.  I had "heard" that the mother had died of mange and that they were on their own.  They did look pretty scruffy and in the three times I went, I never saw any sign of an adult.  Now.....imagine what they grow up thinking of people. 
Well, the rain, drizzle rather, has started.  Just a serious heavy grey now.  Usually, this is when Toby and I would be getting going.  Lucky we knew the weather report and watched what it was doing.  So, I have a dog sleeping by my feet now.....content as can be.....rather than one letting me know it is time to go now.
I can go and vacuum cluster flies one more time for the day now.......

Saturday, October 6, 2012

October 6, 2012 Wolves: To hunt or not to hunt, that is the question.

This is a hot button topic these days in Minnesota.  If they asked me....and they didn't, I would say that hunting the wolves in Minnesota is the best thing that could ever happen to them.  Why?  Let me tell you.  Back in the 1970s when it was legal, I trapped wolves.....and every thing else that was legal. Do you know what, most wolves were pretty dang smart about staying away from traps and people back then.  They aren't any more.  Whether it be the hiker, logger, hunter....don't matter....they will walk up to you for a better look.  And if you have a dog with you, they are thinking about their next meal.  If we start shooting a few wolves again, they may get back their former fear/respect of people.  I am assuming, here, that a few people anyway, are going to miss.  Now, being shot at even, is just another sound they have gotten used to because it has been against the law for so long to kill one.   Just a few years after it was no longer legal to trap wolves, or kill them, I had to even quit trapping fox one winter.  There was a big wolf pack hanging around and no matter what I did, they would steal the bait and dig up the traps that were too small to hold them.  There was yellow snow everywhere.  It looked like a wolf barn yard.  I could hardly believe what I was seeing, such a short time after the protection was started at that.  They are not dumb animals.
Since protection, I have walked up to and been walked up on .....wolves. Usually one or two wolves....sometimes 12 or 13 wolves.....when the big packs have been around.  When you are out deer hunting, as I was one time....just having come out on a rock outcrop....see movement, stop see 13 wolves file by, that is quite a sight to see.
One other day, I was out prowling .... with a rifle ......deer season....I walked right up on a large wolf laying on a rock outcrop.  I was sooo close to it, even I couldn't believe it.  It saw up, looked at me like "what the heck!"  It walked off a few steps, turned around, and looked again with that how did you manage that look.  It never, ever, once acted nervous or did it run.  It just walked off.  Of course, armed with a rifle, I didn't need to be nervous either.  But, that isn't always the case.  I have had some up close and personal stories  concerning our magnificent wolves that made even me pretty nervous.  However, so far, I am still here to talk about it.
Those are stories for another day.  I will tell you some of them some time.
My latest incident was in July of this year.  I was out for my early morning walk with Toby, on the county road we live on, and I met the whole pack that is hanging out here coming down the road at me.  It is July.....summer.....when they used to be back  away from the people for the season, and here they of those few "oh shit" moments I have had in my life.  When you have your dog and see them all coming, it isn't a nice feeling.  However, just before they got in range of my Smith and Wesson I carry for that reason, they filed off into the woods without incident.  Boy, did I breathe a sigh of relief about then.
So, yes.....ask some of the people that live among them, lose dogs or other pets to their yards....ask them what they think.  A bit of shooting at the wolves again for their education and safety would be a good thing.  In the long run, it will help a lot more of them live longer. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

October 4, 2012 Hiking the fall colors

This has been a week of changing weather.  The forecast for the week was for nice early on and by later week changing to rain and snow.  Since the fall colors last such a relatively short time, we decided to make use of it.  Monday, my sister and sister-in-law and our golden retriever and their yellow labs, a brother and sister, took off for Mt. Josephine.  I, in all my years living here, had never climbed up there.  You can see part of the view from Highway 61.  However, the view is much better from the top of the mountain.  Of course, it is a good climb.  Just the uphill climb part on the narrow trail up is a mile long.  I would guess about a 3 mile round trip, which is not a big deal to someone who hikes every day.  This one is just steep.  The view, seen above, was magnificent.  It had really clouded up so colors all round on panoramic scenes were pretty flat.  But, we all had a new adventure and plenty of time to visit on our hike.  I think we will be back next fall to try and catch it on a sunny day. 
Tuesday brought my sister-in-law and myself and our dogs hiking a section of the Superior hiking trail in to Jackson Lake.  I had not been in there since they did the reroute of the trail.  They took out a gorgeous overlook that is really red with all the maples.....but, some of the new route is pretty decent too.  In fact,  since we walk through so many maples anyway, I think parts of the reroute were a nice addition.  The ruffed grouse were out and about this day so we got some of them as an added bonus and made out "bird" dogs they each got some retrieving done. 
As you can see, a lot of the red is down.  But, there was a lot of yellow and gold up yet.  It was just beautiful with the afternoon sun shining through it.  It is days like this that really makes a person appreciate the outdoors and fall both.  It is just unfortunate that those days don't last a little longer.  It was such a beautiful day. 
On Wednesday, the three of us and our dogs were on the road again.  We headed up the Gunflint Trail to part of the Border Route Hiking Trail that goes to Magnetic Rock.  It is a bit of a different geological oddity and we had all been curious about it for a few years now and decided it was the time.  It was cool in the morning and we dressed appropriately, in layers.  Well, our frosty morning turned to mid 70s pretty fast.  We were warm and down to tee shirts in a hurry.  The dogs were looking forward to swims. Onward to the rock.  The trail on this whole section is going over or by different rock forms.  They are so interesting.  I could put a lot of photos of the interesting rocks just on this trip in here.  I guess that is another thing that makes living up here so interesting....the diversity of what we have to offer......
Here is a photo of me and Toby, sitting in front of this Magnetic Rock.  We look pretty tiny, don't we.  It really is something to see this standing in the middle of this landscape.  None of us remembered to bring our compasses along to see just how nuts it makes them....but, that happens in other areas of the county too, even on places on Lake Superior when you are out fishing.  That isn't such a bad thing on the lake, unless, of course, the fog comes in and you think you are going one place and end up somewhere else.  Been there, done that.  One always pays serious attention to what's going on when you are on the big lake.  But, that is for another time.
After we got out from our hike to Magnetic Rock, we had some hot dogs that wanted to cool off.  The place available on the trail was a bog hole that made our yellow dogs come out black...muddy...dirty dogs....which we didn't want a repeat of just before getting back in our vehicle.  So, leashes were put on to get by that water hole and back to the parking lot.  Then, we headed down to Gunflint Lake for a picnic lunch and swims for our buddies.  Boy, such happy dogs when we got there. 
From an enjoyable lunch break in the warm sunshine, we headed back down the trail to the Clearwater Road and hiked up to Honeymoon Bluff.  This hike is much shorter....though quite steep, it is well worth the hike.  The colors were amazing and all the lakes were flat calm.  There wasn't a ripple on them.  What a view!  Did I ever tell you we live in an amazing county?!  Now that I am retired, I guess I will continue checking out the rest of what we do have to offer that I haven't quite caught up with all these years. 
Thursday, brings clouds and rain folks, we didn't get the snow here yet!  However, Lake Superior was absolutely roaring today.  Even Toby wasn't too anxious to get too close to those waves.  The leaves are quickly disappearing and roads are littered with blowing popple leaves.  Our beautiful fall days are nearly at an end for another season. 
I will leave you with a view of Jackson Lake as seen from the Superior Hiking Trail....gorgeous spot.  :)