Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February 25, 2014 Too much snow!

There is so much snow on the ground now, the deer are content to lay in the yard under one of the many big spruces and let their meal settle.  The trails are going in to the woods are getting shorter all the time.  A good many just go lay in the big spruce windbreak on the north side of the house.  There are deer to see no matter which window you look out now.  The snow hasn't been this deep in a long time.  And.....it's only February.  We can get a LOT of snow yet, before this winter is over.
Here is one of the orphan fawns that is hanging around.  This particular one is a little buck.  They are learning to fend for themselves pretty well these days.  They will stay to work on alfalfa long after many others have gone to lay down for a while.  They are also learning to defend their food pile if they get there first.  After all, they don't have a mom to stand up for them.  Some of the moms watch out for their fawns pretty well.  Others just give the fawn a whack and pretty much let them know they are to go find their own pile of food.  My favorite little buck fawn has a mom who does that to him.  That little guy is going to grow up to be pretty feisty, I think.  But, for now.....I most certainly have made a little friend.  I should really try to take the camera out with me one morning and try to get some close ups of him when I am feeding him.  However, it is hard to do both of those things well at the same time.   Shadow, as tame as she is......still doesn't like me pointing a camera in her face!
This is Zoe.  She is resting after her breakfast....just a few feet from the house.  The two fawns are under the big tree to the right of her.  She is such a good, watchful mom.  She has had a lot of bad luck.  She will be seven this spring.  Three years she has lost her fawn or fawns.  This year, she lost her fawn to a big bear.  A year or two ago she lost her fawn or fawns to a wolf.  The first year she had a fawn, she lost her fawn to something.  The cougar was around that year....so, it could have been that or something else.  That was when she got her hide ripped off of her left side and had bare red meat there all summer.....full of flies chewing on her.  It healed up nicely by winter.  She still has a long scar.  But, she is a beautiful healthy deer.  The two fawn she has now.....which don't even appear to be sisters.....we don't know how she happened to get them.....about a month or a bit more after the bear got hers.  They don't look at all alike in color or facial markings.  But, she really takes good care of them and watches out for them all the time.  If there is food, she guards the space near them and makes sure they get to eat.  They seem to have done very well too....considering they didn't get to nurse all summer like the other fawns.  So, life is interesting in the north woods.  It isn't always easy.  But, it all seems to work out in the long run.
As for the big bear.......I have no doubt he will be a problem again this spring.  He was around til snowfall and sneaking in and out of the yard regularly, looking for anything he could find.  He was pretty well behaved for a big guy, I will give him that.  Hopefully, that holds true again this year. 
On another note, I have learned a few new tricks.  See above.  I was at North House Folk School over the weekend.  I took the two day class "Birchbark Tutorial."  I had great instructors and learned a lot.  I also made these two wonderful baskets.  They are quite sturdy.  I made the smaller rounded one on Saturday using the diagonal weave.  I did the other large one the next day.  So, I learned two styles.  I opted to stay with the flat top instead of the zig zag top which you can get with the diagonal weave.  I think it will hold up better in the long run.  But, this is definitely something I can put to use.  That birchbark is some pretty practical, sturdy stuff.  I was truly amazed at some of the things you could do with it.  One, a wild rice container, box shaped......had the six square pieces put together and a sliding lid.  It is done by bending and steaming.  It stays tight.  Wow!  I am thinking I will have to make one of those, at some point.  But, it was just fun to get out and do something different on this long winter too.  I knew a couple of the people there and the rest were like minded about this type of thing.  So, the conversation was lively too.  What a great experience.  I won the gift certificate to go to the North House with a photo I took and entered in a contest.  The classes aren't inexpensive.  But, so many of them have so much practical usage.  I may have to go to another class in the future. 
So, now you know how I started off this week!  :)

Monday, February 17, 2014

February 17, 2014 More snow.........again..........

It was a beautiful day yesterday.  Toby and I spent some time hiking on Lake Superior, because we could.  It was only 6 degrees, but it wasn't snowing or blowing and it was heavenly out there.  We haven't had the ice that long....about a week.  My dad always let us out on it after 3 really cold nights when we were kids.  Some of the pilings were all of 4 inches thick.  So, it was safe enough.  Way out there, past those far ice pilings you can see, there were two people way the heck out there.  I would have had second thoughts about that.....being as how some of the ice outside the points has gone in and out a few times.   As long as they are inside the last pilings, I guess they should be safe enough.
Here is Toby along side one of the rock and ice formations.  You can get an idea how big it is.  I really do enjoy walking along side this and looking at the formations.  You miss some of that when you have to stay on shore.  When you get such a nice day with no wind, it doubles the pleasure.
Here, I am out near the end of one of the bays.  The ice pilings were good sized and slick under that fluffy snow.  That is the beauty of fluffy snow isn't it.....it covers everything so you can't see what you are stepping on.  Means now and then you end up on your butt......or someplace else you didn't intend.  I had planned on being out there this morning for shortly after sunrise....after I fed the deer.  However, it has been snowing all day.   All day.....snowing......again!   So, that didn't happen.  The sunrise or really early morning sun on that point with its beautiful ice way high on the cliffs and the ice pilings would be just beautiful.  However, they will probably all be buried before it quits snowing.  Did I tell you.....I am ready for it to quit snowing!  I am.  It's been a long time since I had this much trouble keeping trails open in the winter. 
That brings me to another subject.   Common sense!  Does anybody have it or use it anymore?  Last night, the part time neighbors across the road came up.  They arrived, for the first time for this year, about 9:30 last night.  They don't have their road plowed.  It is a good long way up that hill/mountain to their spot.  A couple of guys have tried it over the years.....but poor road and up hill and corners....doesn't make for nice part time plowing.  So, after lights and flashers had been going on down there for some time....I decided maybe I should go down and see what was going on.  It was almost time for Toby's last trip outside for the evening anyway.  Here, the two guys are getting ready to unload snowmobiles and go in to the  cabin.  I told them about the plow having to go by since they talked about leaving everything there.....on the road.  Well....after I went back up here, they pulled forward in front of our driveway....so they could get over the banks and into theirs......with their snowmobiles.  Well.....that left little room for me to get out of my driveway this morning....had I wanted to.  It's winter.  There are big snowbanks and it's slick.  It takes more room to get out onto the road this time of year.  You gotta wonder......what were they thinkin'.......
Oh well.....beats the other neighbor that tried that last year......with not quite this much snow....about the same time of night....with his 4 wheel drive jeep wagoneer.   He got in....a ways......further than I would have guessed they could make it.  Got stuck!  Sent the kid over here to call for a wrecker.  Next morning, a wrecker came out.  Had to go back and get a plow truck.  He made a couple of trips from town to try and get this turkey out of the snowbank.  They did walk all the way up there, in the dark.  How he ever thought he was going to drive that vehicle all the way up there in all that snow, I will never know.  Again......what were they thinkin'........
So......that is just a couple more reasons for the snow to slow down.  Wildlife is always my issue tho.  I will always handle it.....even if I am sick of handling it.   But......what can the critters do?  We're a heck of a long way til spring yet.
Here is some more nice shore ice I walked along side of yesterday.  Isn't that pretty.  And, I had it all to myself....unlike all those going to Cornucopia  to the ice caves.  I would love to see them.  But, it isn't convenient to go this time of year.   Obligations......to critters.  And, I do love those critters.  :)
Here, we are heading for the parking lot across the lake/bay.  As you can see, Toby is ready!  He has picked up the pace.  But, what a glorious afternoon on the lake.  Hopefully, we will have another one very soon.
Meanwhile....here......it is still snowing.......

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Feb 15, 2014 It's a Long Winter.......already.......

It's only mid-February......and, it's been a long winter, already.  Mind you......I like winter.  I love walking the shore and watching all the new ice formations on a regular basis.  I do not like all the strong, nasty wind we have had this winter tho.  That.....having gotten pretty regular.  I  even gave up on one of my ski trails for over a week.  I would go out and snowshoe it after all the snow and wind, only to have more of same the next day.  Plus, we have had an extreme amount of -25 to -32 degree temperatures this year with highs of only -10.  This, too, I can handle.....if it isn't blowing a gale.  But....it doesn't seem to end.  We have all of the items that make "real" winter to the extreme this year.  I am ready for 0 degrees and no more wind.  At this point, no more snow either.....
Heck, even some of my ice formations have lasted a couple of months.  That is almost unheard of.  That, I am not complaining about.
The winter has given me more time to think about things that annoy me too.  One of the more recent items that was written up in the Cook County New Herald was the fact that groups like the Izaak Walton League are still fighting to keep a snowmobile trail from going in to the Fowls.  Really.....that little "Tilbury Trail" never hurt a thing.   Ok, so technically, it ended up being a bit over the new line for the BWCA wilderness .....big deal.  It was a small, insignificant trail.  A few locals used it.  The great and mighty conservationists would have us spend how much money and clear how much space for how many miles to prove a point.  Some conservationists!  They should have left well enough alone and let them use that little trail that is there from logging days.  It isn't hurting a thing.  As for the noise......or whatever else they perceive to be a problem.....well......I don't see many of them going in there anyway.  So....who, exactly, is going to hear the odd snowmobile going in to the Fowls?
It's all about their power....not conservation.  Heck.....we'll all be dead before they ever resolve it at the rate they are going.
Another thing that annoys me is some of the practices by the MNDNR lately.  We all know the moose have a big problem.  They are ending up dead.  Many aren't making it to their first birthday.  I have no problem with them trying to find out why.....what the issue is.  However, last year they captured and collared many baby moose and stressed mom and baby.  Now....that was stupid!  Did I say stupid.....I mean really STUPID!  They didn't even follow their own advice about leaving baby animals alone.  To go out there and stress out and mess with those moms and their new babies in the name of studying an issue just doesn't cut it.  What the heck did they think that was going to do but send some moms off never to pay attention to their kids again.   What the heck are some of these people thinking about....or are they?   Now, they are flying around in helicopters harassing them again....to put 52 more radio collars on them for study.   Some are even finding out that wolves are a problem.  Imagine that.  I wonder if any of the wildlife biologists, these days, ever get out in the woods and pay attention to anything or if they just learn everything in college and then sit on computers and work with their models.  I sure am not seeing a lot of common sense in some of their practices.
Or...maybe I am just getting cynical in my old age.   But, I doubt that is the problem.  I grew up around here and have spent most of my life moseying around in the woods and observing things.  So many things have changed over the past....especially......last 10-15 years.  Things like ticks!  The ticks have just exploded up here.  As a kid....I saw probably about 3 ticks.  Now, they are all over ....and, more than one kind.  They are carrying way too many diseases.  I had even asked one of the biologists if they were checking moose for Lyme's Disease.  Some of them sure carry a lot of ticks.   I would still bet ticks are a big share of the issue.
When I was a kid....we didn't have grey squirrels here....or grey foxes.....or raccoons!  Now, we have a good number of all of them.  Things are changing.  Not all of the changes are for the better.  But, does that mean we quit using our common sense?!

 Back to the "long winter"......  I took some photos of ice pilings yesterday on my way home from town.  However, the few little bays where I live have had ice long enough for me to walk on now.  Toby and I did that today.  It was snowing pretty hard so I didn't adventure more than a few feet from shore.  But, we did have a nice walk on the ice of Lake Superior today.  That's the first in quite a few years now. 
Well.....we will see how the winter progresses.  We got at least another 4" of snow today on top of at least 6" on Thursday.  The fawns are in up to their shoulders now, off trail.   I saw one standing in the snow off the road I live on yesterday.  All that stuck out was its head and neck.  That is too much snow.  I hope we have an early spring this year....and no crusty snow getting to that spring!

Monday, February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014 Deer feeding-politics-issues in general

The other day, in the news-tribune, there was an article about winter severity and statistics from other years and whether or not people should be feeding deer.  Wolves were also discussed and whether or not they have an impact on the deer population.  Do you have to wonder if some of the people writing this stuff have any idea, whatsoever, they are talking about!
Granted......there is always going to be discussion on whether or not to feed deer.  I guess that would depend, largely, on where you live.  I happen to live in a place where I have the shelter, running fresh water year around, browse and open area.  They have places to rest or to play.  They also are nicely supplemented with alfalfa and corn.  What's not to like as long as you have a healthy herd.  By watching deer hunting statistics, I see that our area consistently has heavier weight deer than just about any other area of the state.  Some areas have bigger antlers.....but, we consistently win in weight categories.  The deer can have some pretty serious issues to contend with up here so they have to be healthy and strong.  There also are a number of people that feed deer in the winter in this area.  I think maybe that could tell you something about if it does some good.
Then, of course....there is the mind set that .....well, if they die, or starve...so be it.  Maybe they shouldn't be here.  Well, they have been around ever since I was a kid.  Some of the people that have moved into this area haven't.  I, personally, don't like seeing starving animals.  So, if they are started on good food to supplement their diet early in the winter...they won't get so run down.  Plus, they won't eat every tree and shrub around your house either.
Then, there are other issues thrown into the equation.  Hunting, for one.  If people shoot hundreds or thousands of deer every year.....while, for many years, completely protecting the wolf......how can you think this is a good deal for the animals?  The wolves also kill deer to make a living.  If no one is keeping them in check, you have another thing taking down the deer herd.  Of course, there is also all the road kill.  So...I just have to say, if we have so many issues to reduce their numbers.....maybe helping the ones that are around isn't such a bad thing.
Another issue: logging.  I have NOTHING against logging, let me be clear about that from the start.  What many of you don't know is that logging brings deer onto the job sites in the winter.  They have downed trees to browse on....given it is the right kind of trees.  The site is packed down by equipment so they can get around easily.  However, so can the wolves.  It also brings them to the site to get the more readily accessible deer because they too can move around more easily.  Go talk to a logger or two and find out how many have watched wolves watching them work on their site.  Or, maybe they were working on a piece of equipment to look up and find a wolf standing there staring at them.  Or, maybe they had to throw a binder at them and jump in the truck because it was standing right there.   The wolves are a big part of the deer herd numbers equation.  I am quite pleased they finally put a season back on wolves.  Wolves having some respect for people again is a good thing.  It most certainly keeps them safer, in the long run, if they stay out of people's yards. 
What I don't like is people from the cities or the big monied conservation groups saying what we can or can't do about them.  They aren't living with the animals and probably have never even had a close encounter with them.  If they don't know anything about the issue, they shouldn't have a say.  Then, sometimes people making the rules don't know what they are talking about either.  There is so much cronyism going on in politics these days.....I don't guess I even better start on that one.  The best person for the job isn't necessarily the one that gets it.  Somebody gets a plum job because of who helped who in the last election or because they need a person of color or a woman or whatever other quota they need.  We need the "best qualified" people for the jobs, in them.  Period.
How many of you have ever been out in the woods and had close up and personal interactions with a timber wolf or a pack of them?  What can you tell me about them from first hand experience?
I have had a good many, starting when I was 16 years old.  I have had them throughout my entire life.  Sometimes it was one or two wolves.  Sometimes it was 12 or 13 in a pack.  Then, a lot of other times it was 4-6, which is an average size pack around here.  Heck, one year I was trying my hand at bow hunting bears.  I had a bucket of honey out as an attraction for them.  I was sitting in a stand and a pack of wolves came in and were circling.  They came back a second time that evening too.  It was a bit disconcerting to have that many large wolves around, near dark, knowing you had a ways to walk back to your truck.
Or....out deer hunting.....heading into the wind....hear a sound....look to your right and there is a wolf going same direction 25 yards away, another behind you and another to your left.  Then, you wonder, how many more aren't you seeing.....
Or, out on an outcrop of rock surveying your kingdom...and 12 wolves go walking by right below you....
Or, the time you are sitting in your deer stand toward evening and you can hear the pack on the ridge getting closer and closer to you.  It's a ways home in the dark and you can't see them then.  Do you leave now or wait to see them go by. 
Or, out walking the dog on a county road....in July, and meet 7 of them on the road.  You grab your dog and get it on a leash, first of all....then what? 
I could go on and on......this is only a small sampling of my wolf interactions.  I haven't even gotten to some of the most up close and personal experiences....
So, just maybe I might know something about how wolves in the "wild" act around people.  I have to say, after all these years......I have not lost a dog to them or been attacked.  I have been very very close to many of them.  I have had some very intense moments.  But, I never had to shoot one of them in any of those circumstances or any of the others I haven't mentioned.  But, I don't honestly 100% trust them not to do that. 
So....it goes back to if we have seasons and predations on one animal, the others have to have something to keep them in check too.  If the deer need some extra food in a hard winter, give it to them.  The wolves will get their share, you can be sure of that.  It isn't a "Bambi" world out there where all the critters get along just fine.....  But, we live in a real world....one where humans interfere and the natural balance isn't kept.  So, unless it is.....feed the critters if they need it.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

February 9, 2014 It's been a long winter........

I was out trying to capture a nice sunset, for a change, yesterday evening.  I haven't done that in a while.  For one thing.....the area where I live has very few places where you can get a scenic sunset.  Most people like to go to the shore of Lake Superior to do that.  The directions are such that most places out here don't face properly to catch it.  The sun will go down below the hills and you will sit there wondering how come you don't see anything....to take off, drive down the road....and see....an OMG beautiful sunset happening before your eyes.  Location is everything.  Most of the time, I take them from my yard, which has only a few trees and the hills in the background.  No water for the beautiful reflections a colorful sunset can make.
I hadn't been to this spot since early winter for a sunset shot.  Therefore, I wasn't even sure exactly where the sun was going to set.  There were enough clouds to make some color....but, as it turned out, too many.  It didn't happen.  Of course, if you stay home.........it will color up beautifully.  So it goes.  I hadn't been to this spot for over a week; so, I was unaware of all the really nice ice forms that had built up since the last time there.  I was pleasantly surprised.  If there appears to be any hope of a pretty sunset tonight, I will be back.  I would sure like to catch that sunset in the split of this neat piece of ice.  I also found a few really neat ice caves.  One was so long......I'm not sure I could see anything but sky once I got in there.  :)
Here is another neat ice formation I found last night.  I walked a lot more shore than I ever imagined I would, just because.  The ice was just fantastic.  The wolves had been patrolling the whole shore too on this stretch.....just because they could.  The sunset wasn't cooperating so I figured I might as well look at all the fun stuff.  I was tempted to go this morning just in case the sun had moved far enough around this point to make it glow.  I wasn't too sure that was going to happen either.  So, with the cold north wind to discourage me.....I stuck to deer chores and walking the dog up here.  Sunrise wasn't completely blah......but, it is a pretty overcast day.  Plus, the deer liked me being out there on time!
Speaking of deer, they aren't having an easy winter this year.  I think we have every orphan fawn in the area plus plenty of other deer.  The one thing we have very few of is bucks.  Winter isn't always kind.  Last year, winter didn't want to go away.  Bucks are always the first to leave and sometimes they get themselves in predicaments and the wolves get them because they left before they should have.  The does that have been wintering here for a number of years are doing ok for themselves.  They are mostly safe from the wolves, good going on well packed trails, good food to supplement their browsing, fresh running water, shelter.....what more could they ask for.  We have anywhere from a low of two dozen minimum to over 60 at a time this winter.  Thankfully, we don't have 60 plus regularly.  Deer feed has gone up considerably since the years we started doing this. 
Anyway, it has been a long cold winter already.  We started in with the below zero temperatures pretty darned early this year.  And....they haven't quit.  It was 1999 the last time I saw -30 below 0 or more.  We have had -32 this winter.  At least, that was the coldest I saw it.  We have had far more -20 below or more than necessary too.  I can handle a lot of cold.  But........we have also had a lot of cold wind this winter.  That freezes you up pretty darned fast.  I have heard more people complaining about the wind than I have the cold. 
Hopefully, we will get on to spring in a timely manner this year and the deer.....and everything else, will go about its business in a reasonable fashion.  That means, also, no rain ........any time soon.  If we got rain with all this snow.........it wouldn't be good.  That is the one thing we can be thankful for.  We haven't had what has gotten to be the usual....a rain storm in December and January, to make icy messes out of everything. 
Well.....here's to a bit of warmup soon!  Not over 25 degrees tho.   :)