Journal for December 2003

It’s been an odd weekend – very warm yesterday – 45 degrees, and then a strong south wind all day and all last night, and today it’s cold – 25 degrees.  But the sun is shining, and hunting is over, and it looks beautiful.

I divided all the seeds for our planting yesterday, and today we had hoped to start planting – now that we don’t have to worry about getting shot.  But there’s no snow, and the wind blows the seeds – we were worried that the seeds would just blow away.  So we’ll wait for a little snow, and then try again.

Still lots of purple finches at the feeders, and lots of very tame chickadees.  I thought I would try teaching them to eat out of my hand.  I went out yesterday and sat with my hand on the feeder, to get them used to me.  They flew very close, and one flew onto the feeder to have a look.  I could hear all the odd noises that their wings make as they turn and stop and start.  I think if I put out a scarecrow on a chair, that will help them get used to a human figure – I’ll try it, anyway.

I saw a Broad-winged Hawk circling over Center Valley, and an adult Golden Eagle above 3 Finger Valley.

Lots of Bald Eagles this weekend – circling over the bluffs.

We walked along the creek west of the road to the old beaver pond by the big willow tree.  The ground makes a big mound, and in the top is a very round hole, about 8 inches across, leading to an empty area underneath.  I think it must be an old beaver den.  One of my books says they build vent holes in the top.  We walked down to the edge of the pond, and found beaver and muskrat footprints in the snow – the beaver prints lead to another hole in the bank.  So maybe the den is still being used.

We took a walk at dusk tonight and I saw a male Northern Harrier gliding over the CRP field, and then over the Narrows.  Also saw a full moon rising behind Goldenrod Valley, with veils of clouds softening the edges of it.

Last night was clear, with lots of light from the full moon.  Today is cloudy, and now it’s raining hard, and trying to turn to snow.  We saw a shrike on the morning walk, way at the top of a tree at the last turn of the driveway.  Also saw 3 deer in the woods above the house – they didn’t see us – they kept right on grazing.

Finally, lots of snow.  We got 6 or 8 inches over the week, so it’s nice and snowy now.  Not quite enough for the snowblower, but nice for looking at tracks, and beautiful to look at.

The birdfeeders were almost completely covered with snow when we got here.  The chickadees had dug a little hole so they could get to some of the sunflower seeds, and the woodpeckers had managed to uncover a corner of the suet.  When I cleaned the snow off, and refilled everything, everyone came back except the finches.  I’ve seen 3 goldfinches, and no house or purple finches at all.

We saw a Rough-legged Hawk several times, gliding above stag ridge.  And there are lots of Bald Eagles.

Today we tore down the beaver dam again – it was quite high, so it was a big project.  I feel bad about it; the beavers have a house in the bank, just east of the culvert, and I’m sure they want to raise the water level to keep their entrance under water.  There’s a huge pile of fresh sticks floating in the pond.  But we have to keep that culvert clear so we don’t have the road washed out in the spring.

I walked up 3 Finger Valley to cut some branches to force inside.  I got some plum and some apple branches – I hope they bloom – it will be nice to have some early blooming flowers.

It’s the last hunting day.  We’re all ready to plant, but we were hesitant to start when the hunting was going on.  Hopefully the weather will be good for planting next weekend.

The Shrike came by again today – I don’t think it caught anything.  We must be on it’s regular route.

I did see one purple finch today – and 6 goldfinches – so they’re not all gone.

Nearly the shortest day – it will be nice to watch the days getting longer now.  Yesterday I planted the first of our acres in the narrows field.  I had planned to start at the western end, but those “acres” were icy, and I was afraid the seeds would all blow away.  Even on the northern-most acre – the one I planted – the wind blew the seeds a long way – hopefully some of them will stick.

We had an inch of ice, and then a few inches of snow on top of it over the week – according to Jackie’s report.  88 got so bad – several cars and a truck slid off – that they had to close it.  We can still see the ice where the wind has blown the snow of it in the fields.

This morning we walked down to rip out the beaver dam again – they’ve built it up even higher than it was before.  But after inspecting it, we decided that it didn’t seem to be causing any problems.  It’s back from the culvert, so the water flows along fine, and the lake it makes seems to be stable, and we couldn’t find any reason that it would damage the road.  So we left it – I’m sure the beavers will be pleased.  One nice thing is that having the pond so close to the road means that it’s easier to see the animals.  Mike saw several beavers and a muskrat there yesterday, and we saw a beaver and a muskrat there today.  The muskrat was eating right at the edge of the pond, and didn’t seem to care that we were there at all.  We stopped and watched it, and then walked by, but he went on eating.

This morning we planted two more “acres” in the narrows.  Mike drove the tractor up the hill first, to make the walking easier.  Even so, the walk up the hill is the hardest part.  We pull buckets of the seeds up on sleds – that works well, except that we have to keep watching to make sure they don’t tip over when the path isn’t even.  It was a beautiful, warm day – about 40 degrees – so the planting itself was easy and fun.  And on the way down, we tobogganed down on the sleds in the tractor tracks.  A couple more acres tomorrow, and we’ll be almost half done.

On this longest night, the sun touches the tops of the trees on Stag Ridge at just before 8:00am, and gets to the top edge of the field at 9:00.  It will be fun to see how that changes over the year.

Last night there was mist in the Waumandee Valley – the sky was clear with lots of stars, but all I could see of the trailer house across the road was a misty orange glow.  This morning there’s just a veil of haze, but when the sun hits it, it makes almost a rainbow – orange on top, blue below.  When I walked out, there were sparkles on all the wild rye, and the sparkles were red and blue and gold.

We planted 3 more acres today – 6 total for the weekend, so we’re nearly half done.  On the way down we tried the toboggan again, and this time it was a little icy, and VERY slippery.  We each went part of the way – we couldn’t figure out how to get the buckets down and do the toboggan – so we took turns.  One turn was enough  – it would be fun to do it again when we’re not tired from working.

Nearly the end of 2003!  And it’s warm today – 45 degrees and windy.  All the snow is melting and it’s raining off and on.  There’s still some snow on the fields, but it’s disappearing fast.  The beavers have built the dam even higher – the lake behind it is huge.

Lots of birds at the feeders this week.  There are at least 50 goldfinches, a few purple finches, and I just saw 12 cardinals in the tree next to the deck.  They seem to like the seeds that fall on the ground under the feeders better than the feeders.

Yesterday we took a walk in the afternoon, and just as I was looking at some tracks, and thinking that they looked a lot like opossum tracks, Mike said “Look, there’s an opossum!”  It was walking along the top of the Tork’s dam, and when we saw it, it ran (waddled) for cover in the overflow pipe.

Last night we had the Christmas dinner of the Praag Valley Farming Association (Jackie & Dan, Emmett, and us), at Dan and Jackie’s.  On the way back we shone the lights into the beaver pond, and there was a beaver sitting there – completely uninterested in us.  It was eating the bark on some twigs – probably getting them ready to use to make the dam higher.   After we got home, it rained hard – so most of the snow is gone today.  There may not be enough snow on top to plant today.

I planted Lupine and Needle Grass today – there wasn’t much snow on top – it would have been hard to see where we were planting the main part of the seeds.  And it was very windy – but Lupine and Needle Grass are pretty heavy and Needle Grass is sticky, so I think they’ll be all right.

Richard sent us a picture he took of the opossum from the backyard in town – it came up on the porch, and looked in at the window!

I planted one more “acre” today – a difficult acre – a little too big, so I ran out of seed, and with not quite enough snow cover, so it was hard to see where I had been.  Frustrating.  But on the way up I saw a flock of Common Redpolls.  I tried to count them – I think there were 60 or 70.  They were in the tops of the birches.