Posts Tagged With: winter

“Channeling Natty Bumppo” or, “Quill Gordon Knows Sh*t”

Fair Warning: There will be no replacing of letters with asterisks beyond this point! There are also three photos of interesting, strangely hairy poop in this post. Tolerant, indulgent readers who make it to the end will be rewarded with a few pretty pictures of ice.

Once, long ago, I sat in a tavern with some coworkers, sipping root beer and swapping stories. A man at the end of the bar to my right squinted at me and slurred, “Hey! You don’t know shit!”

This was unfortunate because if he had been seated to my left he would have seen the patch on my sleeve signifying employment at the local zoological park and indicating what was actually an intimate and far superior knowledge of shit. Not realizing what he was in for, he wiggled his index finger and taunted me once more. “You don’t know shit!” he exclaimed.

“As a matter of fact,” I began, hitching up my uniform pants as I stood, “I do know shit.” I then proceeded to recite every term for shit I could think of, from spoor and sign to crap and beyond. I told about finding peacock feathers in elephant shit and the defensive defecation of large pythons but I didn’t get a chance to expound on the eucalyptus-laced dung of koalas or the flung-poo antics of monkeys because the man at the bar staggered over and cut me off.

Actually, he cut off my air by punching me in the throat, but that is not the point. The point is that I am neither surprised nor particularly bothered when someone leaves a message on the answering machine telling me they found some very interesting, strangely hairy poop in the woods and that it was such interesting, strangely hairy poop that they felt compelled to carry a large sample of said poop to my porch, leaving it on an overturned bucket, cradled by a lichen-covered tree branch.

Feces of a fisher

There are those among us who would take one look at this strangely hairy poop and say, “Them’s Sasquatch turds, for sure,” but they would be wrong. Continue reading

Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Where The Storms Have No Names

The Weather Channel (not the National Weather Service) has decided that winter storms need names, in the same way hurricanes and typhoons need names. Blizzards and hurricanes don’t care what they are called but evidently TV producers feel their coverage is more compelling if we are able to somehow humanize dangerous meteorological phenomena, which is interesting because effective propaganda generally dehumanizes the enemy.

We humans name all kinds of stuff that need not be named, and I myself admit to the occasional anthropomorphic fit. A chicken I called “Tiny” was snatched away by a bear last spring and I once knew a tapir we called “Jim” because it was easier than saying “ear tag #P379″ but the closest I’ve come to naming weather would have to be “that awful cold snap in ’92” or “the huge freakin’ blizzard during lambing in ’05.”

This most recent storm was given a TV name and many people will use it when they look back on this historic nor’easter. They got hammered and maybe it will help to have a name to shout as they shake their fists at the sky, but step away from the news and the roads and the towns and it was just more wind and snow.

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Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

On the Inside, Looking Out

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Embrace it, endure it, or leave. Winter doesn’t offer many choices and for the better part of this past week the best option has been to endure, hunker down and hope for the best.

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The sun shines brightly, through a lens of frigid arctic air, but the wind cuts like a razor and going out to do chores is, at best, a chore. Numbers on thermometers tell incomplete tales, unfeeling statements of fact, and over the years I have developed my own crude methodology to quantify cold. Completely unscientific and more than a bit subjective, it involves such things as the speed at which boogers freeze and the distance I can travel across the dooryard before I find myself doubled over and cussing. Based on those measurements, the cold this week qualifies as “pretty darn freakin’.”

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It’s also darn freakin’ pretty.

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After six days of hiding indoors, there’s an urge to go out, not so much to embrace the season as to defy it, so when the full moon comes up the armor goes on for a trek in the moonlight. Among popping trees and over thumping ice, coyotes howl and wind-blown snow sparkles like diamonds but after a couple of hours of that nonsense, there’s a serious urge to go in and embrace the stove.

The mixed flock of chickadees, nuthatches, and redpolls have been working the feeders through the cold. The seed they knock to the ground feeds mice and voles, which a pair of coyotes has discovered, but most other creatures in the neighborhood spent the week curled up in a hole, trying to stay warm, just like me.

Just like me, they’re also ready to get out again and this morning I saw a fox trotting down the road, looking ahead for a meal while also looking back, aware that it could just as easily become someone else’s meal. Everyone is hungry out there, after a deep snap like this, and the search for food goes on for as long as it takes. The fox risks death, taking what the coyotes consider theirs, and night creatures will work all day if that’s what it takes to survive.

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With coffee in hand, I sat in my blind (which is cleverly disguised as a house) and watched a flying squirrel this morning, a rare treat. Both shy and nocturnal, I can count the flying squirrels I’ve seen on two fingers. Continue reading

Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

A January Thing

Every fall I make noise about attending one of the big fly fishing shows over the winter, but by the time I feel ready to deal with a couple thousand anglers, all at once, the shows are over and done. The closest show to Fish in a Barrel Pond is in Marlborough, MA, this weekend, and quite frankly it’s just too soon. You all go ahead with your eager anticipation of the season to come, but some of us are still recovering from the last one. Opening Day will be here soon enough. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the peace and quiet.

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Categories: +Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

The Lazy Naturalist

My recent post, The Cry of the Sapsucker, consisted mainly of photos taken while drinking coffee in my blind, which is cleverly diguised as a house. Mike, who keeps the blog Mike’s Gone Fishin’…Again, commented that he, too, has a blind cleverly disguised as a house. Click that link. You’ll see that Mike does a lot more than take pictures out the window. The link to Mike’s Gone Fishin’…Again is a keeper.

Another friend, who lives in New Hampshire, almost all the way to Maine, sent a series of photos taken from his house of a bobcat he saw the other day.

New Hampshire Bobcat

It’s always a treat to look out the window and see something like that, and it’s great that the internet makes it so easy to share the things we see. I know it is appreciated by others because they leave comments, like the one on my post The Cry of the Sapsuckercalling it some “lazy-ass nature reporting”.

That comment came from Marc Fauvet, who keeps the blog the limp cobra (because fly lines are like wild snakes that need to be tamed …). Marc lives in Sweden, but that’s okay. His blog is beautiful, and a lot of fun. His “lazy-ass” nature reporting comment got me to thinking and, you know, Marc might be right. Maybe my pictures of a bluejay being disemboweled on the lawn were kind of lazy-ass.

Well, “kind of” ain’t good enough. We’re taking lazy-ass nature reporting to the next level by bringing you the first set of photos from our brand new concept, “Pictures Taken While I Slept”.

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Categories: nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

A Story of Life and Death, Written in Snow (19 Photos)

(Important Disclaimer: There are places where ice forms many feet thick and travel on frozen lakes is perfectly safe for a good part of the season. In other places, especially during a winter like this one, ice conditions can change from day to day, even hour to hour.

The strengthening sun creates soft spots as melt water collects in the dips between expansion cracks, and a route that was safe in the morning merits a second look after lunch. Faint tracks mark yesterday’s trail, which puddled up and froze over last night, leaving a thin veneer over a foot of nothing but slush and at least a bracing dunk.

If asked, Quill Gordon will tell you no ice is safe, but if you do find yourself crossing a frozen lake, check ice thickness often and be aware of changing conditions.)

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An overnight skiff of snow on the ice is like a clean slate. Any tracks or other signs of activity I see are recent, laid down only hours before my morning rounds. Otters, mink and squirrels are common, and I saw the tracks of a fisher cat last week but, far and away, the most common tracks I come across are those of coyotes.

It’s the time for pairing off and denning up, asserting dominance and proving worth, and the coyotes have been plenty active. Most are travelling in pairs, but a big, lone male has also been out and about.

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Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

They Call Me Mr. Sandy Pants

After a week that consisted largely of time spent lugging sand bags as cold winter water took an unauthorized route downhill, it was nice this afternoon to sit on a rock and watch the water go where it was supposed to.

With a little telephoto action, the area below the spillway of Fish in a Barrel Pond is what you might call a picture-rich environment. Continue reading

Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

As Long as Winter Holds Its Breath

Clear arctic air came screaming in from the north this week, riding a penetrating, relentless wind. A swirl of damp, mild air made a brief appearance, a lost visitor from warmer climes, but it was quickly torn to shreds, squeezed dry by winter’s cold bony hands, and sent back southward with a mighty blast. For hours and hours the wind blew until, somewhere in the middle of the night (it’s hard to know exactly when because the power was out), it stopped.

The fullest, deepest, coldest part of the season was here and, in the morning, it seemed to be resting. Not a breeze stirred. The sun shined bright but the blue sky was deceptive — it was cold out there. I usually say it ain’t cold if your boogers ain’t froze, but I didn’t feel like actually checking myself. I did notice, though, as I drank my coffee and watched the birds at the feeders, that a little puff of steam came out every time a blue jay pooped and that’s good enough for me.

With surface temperatures matching that of the still air, at well below zero (that would be well below zero to our metric friends), and the extra moisture left behind by that silly warm front, there was only one appropriate thing to do.

I got dressed, went out, and looked for frost.

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Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Four Photos of Ice

 

Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Quill’s Poetry Corner

It’s still ten below at ten o’clock and the first pot of coffee just kicked in, half-way through the second. A hoary morning, for sure, and even though the sun shines bright through a clear lens of chill arctic air, dark shadows loom, stretching northward across the ice, clawing for purchase while being drawn slowly south.

I’ll go back out, soon enough, but for now I am content to sit across from a south-facing window and study poetry. Everyone could benefit from a little poetry now and then, so I share with you now what I am reading today.

Lines Upon a Tranquil Brow

by Walt Kelly

Have you ever,

while pondering the ways of the morn,

thought to save just a bit,

just a drop in the horn,

to pour in the evening or late afternoon

or during the night when we’re

shining the moon?

Have you ever cried out,

while counting the snow,

while watching the tomtit warble

hello …

“Break out the cigars, this life

is for squirrels;

we’re off to the drugstore

to whistle at girls”

(Used with love, but not permission)

Categories: Humor, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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