If You Feed Them, They Will Come

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During this winter, in particular, the forest animals that scrape out a living on our Michigan farmland have suffered record breaking arctic blasts of wind and cold.  Last week, the mercury bottomed out at -26 degrees for days on end.  The wind chills are reported nightly at -30 and higher for extended periods.  Several astute shoppers reported a deer sighting in aisle 12 at the Walmart store, where long johns are sold.  Considering all that the squirrels, deer, and birds are enduring, it is amazing to me to see, in so many of them, a persistent cheery disposition.  It is more than I can say of myself.

The bunnies, skunks and racoons are bundled up in underground nests and haven’t stopped by to say hello in a long time.  I think my two fat nanny goats are still alive.  It is hard to tell because they have stuffed themselves into a small, straw filled dog house in their barn stall.  Their only sign of life this winter has been when I hear a bunch of scritch-scratching inside the dog goat house.  Eventually, one gets unwedged enough to stick a nose out to “see”  if I’ve got a treat in my pocket.    I found a fur-lined mouse nest in the corner of my barn that was chock full of the little devils and I didn’t have the heart to turn them out.

A little six point buck. We’ll let him grow another couple of years before he ends up in the freezer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our favorite pastime has been keeping the binoculars pointed at the blue corn can at the edge of our woods.  (I was going to write “forest” but I think “woods” is really more accurate.)   On Saturday mornings, we pour shell corn into the can.  Without this supplement, I think many of our pregnant does would perish or abort.  Then we keep a suet stash going for my woodpeckers and pour lots of seeds and nuts in the tube feeder.  When the first winter blizzard  hit, we noticed a clutch of hen turkeys spying the bird feeders and they couldn’t reach them.  Now I dump 25 lbs. of bird seed a week on the ground, at the base of the old shell bark hickory tree, for them.  We hit pay dirt last night with a hard count of 46 turkeys gobbling up the food. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m fully expecting a kill-off at our pond this spring.  I hope not, but will not be surprised if all the fish have suffocated due to the thickness of the ice.  We had a fish kill situation about ten years ago and I had never seen anything like it.  Dead fish by the ten thousands were strewn up on the shoreline, suffocated and washed up.  Very sad.

This spring we will be watching something new and exciting in our woods.  Two eagles have claimed our land and have built a magnificent nest high in the tree tops.  Traditionally, eagles have only been spotted in northern Michigan.   We are happy to host them but they had better keep their beaks out of my hen house!  We didn’t lose any chickens to them last year so I am guessing that they are good fisherman on the big lake and even better  mousers in the fields.  Yesterday, I saw a couple of mackinaw clad ‘possums hitching a ride out of town on the noon train–obviously adopting a “better safe than sorry” strategy!

Look at Mr. Bushy-Tail

 

 

 

Locked and Loaded

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I’m pretty excited about THIS so I’m using lots of capital letters.

The iCPooch is REVOLUTIONARY.  This INTERACTIVE care device was invented by a 13 year old girl who had a dog that suffered from separation anxiety.  AND IT WORKS.  You can feed and talk to your dog when you are away.

Lock and load some treats in one of the four little trays that slide down a hopper.  Mine doesn’t stay clean long…usually there are bacon crumbles or cracker bits laying on the bottom.   Sync the feeder to your phone using the app.  (It was so easy even a 54 year old could do it.)

Now leave the room or leave the house or leave the state or leave the country.  When the spirit moves you, open the app to send a signal to DROP A TREAT!  There is a mechanical sound when the chute pops open and it took my dog 1.5 times to memorize it.   Works better than hearing aids.  She might not move when I call her from the next room, but let that chute sound off and BOOM.

Now here’s the best part…if you have a tablet laying around, you can opt to attach it to the front of the feeder to talk to your dog and see your dog on FaceTime.  SERIOUSLY.  YOU CAN CALL YOUR DOG ON THE PHONE.  Have her do tricks for you, too, sometimes, before releasing the treat.  I feel like I’m living in the future, in a Jetson’s cartoon.

iCPooch is fun for both of us and if you have a spare buck fifty laying around, get one.  It works on cats, too.  But I don’t like cats.  Not yet, anyway.  Everyone says I will when I get old.   I’m all about that pup, ’bout that pup, ’bout that pup…no kitties.

Here’s the website:

http://www.icpooch.com/

 

Conehead, the Barbarian

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Zipping through open fields on a frosty winter morning, hunting Birdies in Michigan, is all fun and games until someone ends up sporting a cone. 

Miss Priss had been working those ditch rows for pheasants, racing for hours with the grace and agility of a pronghorn antelope–or maybe it was like the “seven lords a leaping,” ~you decide.

At times, she was only wild ears flopping and rapid-fire recon eyes with a heart that wouldn’t quit.  The switchgrass is so tall; she was essentially running blind and bursting up through it.  She made course corrections this way.  You don’t have to teach a dog to hunt, you have to teach a dog to listen and to obey.

All day, she cut right or left to the whistle and aligned herself with the shotgun and the man that would ultimately produce her prize.  Teamwork.  After a couple of productive hours, our son, Adam,  had six birds in the bag. 

 Good dog, good day. 

 Then there was the blood.  On the floor.  That night.   Diagnosis:  a torn front foot pad. 

We put a little bootie on her foot and added a blow up donut ring around her neck for “insurance.”  Everyone went to bed.  In the morning, the bootie was gone.  She ate it.

Next up, the cage muzzle.  We didn’t have one so I ran to two pet stores to find the best fit. This way, I thought, she could get around easily, heal up, and it would prevent  her licking the paw to death me from having bruised shins and calves (if we had to go nuclear with a cone).  I tied extra straps to it for “insurance” and confidently went to work.  I am an overachiever, after all.

When I came home, she was at the door with an angel face–but the devil is in the details:  she was dragging all the yarn, five miles of medical tape, and the muzzle from her collar.  The foot was inflamed,  raw meat was hanging off of it, and she crapped a blue bootie, too.   Next stop, the vet’s office.

Yes, Remi,

my industrious

German Shorthaired Pointer,

my liebling gummibärchen,

you have earned that cone of shame.

 

 

 

Pussy Galore

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Six days of searching for any big cat sign, hunting in the wilderness five hours east of Vancouver, in Canada,  yielded little more than some minor chaffing and disappointment.  My husband was smelling ripe after wearing the same clothes ever since his outpost cabin burned down.  Admittedly, he was jinxed getting a lynx.

On the last day of the hunt, in the last hour, he heard a big Tom screech.  His mind’s eye flickered with a flashback to the old Mercury car commercials….it was the throaty growl of a confident cougar!  High stepping in stealth mode, John stalked it.  When he was within 50 yards, he realized that this old boy was about to mount a female.  Two cougars!

He turned off the safety, gingerly raised the barrel, took aim through the scope, and expertly blew that big Tom right off of the back of his woman.  185 lbs. of muscle and mean collapsed and fell to the ground.  He thought about letting the cat have his fun first, but he thought, “Oh, this cat is screwed already.”  With daylight fading, he really had no choice but to pull the trigger.  BOOM.   John gutted it and flanked the hide over his shoulders for the walk out.

The next morning, he transferred his trophy from the outfitter’s truck to the roof of a rented Alero and headed for the border.  There was six inches of fresh snow on the road and a blowing arctic wind swirled mercilessly with whiteouts; visibility was less than 20 feet and it was pitch-black-out-early.  No moon.  He had lots of luck on this trip, but it was mostly bad.

Now it is one thing to travel internationally with a rifle, a load of bullets, and some raw meat and quite another to do the same without identification, luggage, or money and projecting an aroma much like Pig-Pen’s from the Peanuts Comic Strip.   The fire had reduced all of his worldly possessions to ash.  He had no real shelter, no water, and no  civilization for a week. There were tracks as wide as I-75 in his under britches and his socks smelled of something that died a long time ago.  He was technically destitute in a foreign country and had to prove  he was a U.S. Citizen to the Consulate in Vancouver by knowing the full names, dates of birth, and cities of birth of both of his parents and his wife.  Successful, he was then photographed in his filthy clothing and his sprouting, grey beard.  New Passport in hand, he had what he needed to claim a seat on the next flight home.  I was thankful not to be anywhere on that airplane.

With his usual luck, the next best flight home hopscotched across the country in every direction with three big layovers and four connections lasting two days.  He landed in hot climates wearing his only shirt, a heavy woolen one, which caused beads of sweat to fester between his shoulder blades and roll down into his butt crack.  He soldiered on in his wet pants and heavy boots, arriving in Detroit 20 hours later.  I saw a lady being wheeled out with an oxygen mask and wondered, “Coincidence?”

 

 

Borrowed Underwear

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I’m curious to find out if he comes home with whitey-tighties or silky boxers.  Just what do our friends in the great north wear under their Mackinaws?  My destitute husband is living in borrowed underwear and outerwear ever since his spike camp burned to the ground in Canada while he was hunting a Lynx.  In a very Theodore Roosevelt kind of way, he has soldiered on.

He and his guide were five hours north of Vancouver, off grid, in the bush, spotting cats and killing time.  Then all hell broke loose.  Over the ridge, in a valley, blue smoke belched skyward.  Their horses spooked.  Nervous energy filled their lungs.  The two men split up.  John stayed in the mountains, glassing sheep and cat hunting, while the guide circled back to camp.  An hour later, the truth came riding back with just a sad look.   Up in smoke went the tales:  his worn Pendleton merino-wool shirt with the shoulder repair after a near miss with a wolverine, the spare boots that saved his life in the arctic circle after he went all Chuck Norris on a polar bear with a roundhouse kick to the jaw, and gone, sadly, is his lucky rabbit’s foot whose luck, obviously, ran out.

So far, as he tells it, he is getting by by the skin of his teeth.  They are trapping their meals and doing everything short of going all “Brokeback Mountain” to stay warm.   He has a smart horse this time, which is about the only good thing that has happened.

There will be no more word from him until Monday, January 4, 2015.

 

 

Sugar Momma

Last time he went out, he slept in a cave. So a simple fire should be a piece of cake.

Ever since his wallet filled with identification, cash, and pictures of his wife burned to the ground in an outpost cabin in Canada along with his U.S. Passport, I’ve been making calls to the United States Consulate in Vancouver to figure out how to get my husband back into the States.  I’m kind of thinking about leaving him there, but someone has to take out the garbage on Wednesdays.

What I learned from the agents is that I am married to a man who is technically destitute.  They have a label for people overseas who have lost their passports and money and now John has been labeled destitute.  He doesn’t know this yet.  When he gets out of the bush and heads to the U.S. Consulate in the rental car that (I hope!) is full of gas, he will learn the ugly truth.  He will have to stand in the “destitute” line:  I can’t get enough of that word –and he will figure out real quick who his Sugar Momma is.

Yes, I’m laughing.   In hindsight, he probably should have paid more attention to the American Express slogan, “Never leave home without it.”  Hopefully the outfitter he is with is still feeding him and will probably fill up his car with gas and give him lunch money and tell him not to talk to strangers.   Sugar Momma is working the deal on this end, and somehow, this big swamp buck hunter will get home in one piece.  No fear.

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