Living at 9.750’ in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains means that encounters with wild life are going to occur on occasion. As we humans spill over into their habitat it is important that we live in harmony with wild animals. When you reside in their habitat there will be encounters and how you handle those encounters is important. We have made a conscious effort to not disrupt their lifestyle but peacefully co-exist with them.
We have black bear, elk, deer, coyote, bobcat, lynx, grey wolf and mountain lion in our area. We have managed to live respectfully with all of them throughout our 16 years. In the process we have learned much about these animals and have had numerous encounters with them. We have been inches from bear and within 8 feet from a mountain lion and are still here to write about it. We have found that wildlife is generally respectful of our space and we in turn are respectful of theirs. Encounters are sometimes sudden and unexpected but by staying calm and not panicking we survive safely. We opened the back door once and standing there inches away, with only a thin pane of glass separating us, was a bear. By remaining calm and taking advantage of the bears surprise we closed the door, waited a few minutes and allowed the bear to depart. Most encounters have occurred just this suddenly and unexpectedly.
Understanding Wild Animal Behavior
We have found that wild animals are far more predictable and respectful than many people we know. Many of the stories we have been told and read are far different from what we have actually experienced. We are never careless around wild animals and do not encroach upon their territory. Most often wild animals go out of their way to avoid us. I hope no one interprets this to mean that wild animals are your friend because that is clearly not the case. They are wild animals and will do what wild animals do but if suddenly encountered and you keep your head and stay calm you will most likely walk away from the incident unscathed. Understanding what the animal is telling you by its behavior and body language is imperative to staying safe. A close encounter with a mountain lion where the cat was coiled on the ground, ears laid back and snarling was its way of telling us that we had invaded its safe zone. We slowly backed up and made no menacing gestures, remained calm (not always easy) and it finally bounded away much to our relief.
I hear people espousing how dangerous wild animals are and in fact they can be dangerous, but usually they only want to retreat to safety. Our numerous experiences reveal that if we are caught in a situation with a wild animal when we stay calm and be respectful of their space that most of the time the incident will favorably resolve itself. I would never suggest that when you encounter a wild animal that you try to get closer for a photo or better look. That is clearly inviting a potentially disastrous encounter.
Our personal experience is that when you encounter a potentially wild animal that you first and foremost remain calm and not make any aggressive or sudden moves that would threaten the animal. Quickly assess your situation and if possible slowly back away from the potential threat. If you choose to live in their habitat you will have encounters and it is how you handle those encounters that will largely determine the outcome.
Common Sense with Wild Animal Encounters
Not all people should be exposed to wild animals outside a zoo. Some seem to lack the common sense to handle the situation properly. A good example would be the time we were camping in Custer State Park where buffalo roam free. A totally wild buffalo was resting by the road when a car pulled up and out jumped two adults and two small children. The man directed the woman and children over to stand in front of the buffalo so he could take a photo. Then he directed the woman to put one child on the buffalo for a photo - which she refused to do. People with this approach to wild animals should not expose themselves to wild animals. They are tempting fate that potentially could end with disaster.
While bears are very curious, trying to get close to one in the wild would be a major mistake. I have witnessed them lift a large rock with one paw that I would have trouble moving with our tractor. They are tremendously strong and nothing to be trifled with. Equally careless would be jogging in a mountain lions habitat. They see something running and their prey drive kicks in and they pursue and attack. Even though we have mountain lions around we still see people jogging down our road with ear buds and music in their ears just inviting a potential attack.
When you live in predator habitat you need to constantly be aware of your surroundings and conduct yourself properly. When you do have an encounter, remain calm, check for an escape route and find a way to extricate yourself from the situation. If that is not possible look for a weapon to defend yourself. We once had to back away slowly from a persistent bear and circle about a mile around to make sure we stayed safe. If you have dogs it is best to have them well trained so they will not show aggressive behavior toward a wild animal. A small dog or any dog that barks incessantly or challenges another animal will certainly pose no threat to a bear or large cat but in fact may provoke the wild animal. Dogs running off leash need to come when called as they are no match for a bear or cat. Coyotes tend to lure them off into ambush. The most important part of an encounter is to stay calm and not panic. We have walked away from many encounters simply by following the above suggestions.
Photo by dreamstime.com.
For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and mountain living go to BruceCarolCabin.Blogspot.com.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to blog about bees and beekeeping! I must confess, I’ve never blogged before, but it should be fun telling you about the wonderful world of the honeybee. I’m very enthusiastic about these little ladies and, as you get to know me, you’ll understand why. But here’s a little bit of past history:
Here in the original Down East they call me “The Bee Lady,” but you might call me the “accidental beekeeper,” because I had no intention of becoming so involved with these sweet golden buzzers — I was a gardener first and foremost but found when I moved here from New Jersey, by way of the Turks and Caicos Islands (that’s a story for another time) there were no pollinators for my squash! The sad little squashettes were just withering on the vine! The thought of hand-pollinating gave me shivers, so I figured, “What the heck. Get a couple of hives.” Well, let me tell you, these little girls are addictive! Once you take a peek into the workings of a hive, you’re hooked.
Bees and beekeeping have become my Crusade, and it is on that note I hope to seduce you into the world of the honeybee. To pique your curiosity about these lovely ladies, let me give you a few honeybee facts:
Did you know that honeybees are not native to the US? English colonists brought German bees, or "dark bees," to the New World in 1621. And in colonial NC taxes could be paid using beeswax!
The average colony contains between 30,000 and 60,000 bees: one queen, a few hundred drones, and the rest workers. While a queen can live as long as 5 years, a worker bee will work herself to death in 45 days. She can fly as far as 3 miles and at speeds up to 15 mph (a 4-minute mile!). In her lifetime, the average honeybee visits at least 650 flowers and produces only ½ tsp of honey! So, if you dip honey with a spoon and don’t lick the spoon, some poor honeybee’s lifetime production is for naught!
You should know, too, that honey is one of the safest foods in the marketplace. It has many qualities that resist or reduce bacterial contamination. It is very important to never refrigerate honey! It will crystallize and you’ll think it’s gone bad (it hasn’t. . .you can restore it by placing the jar in a pot of hot water for a couple of minutes—or better yet, just put it on your dashboard in the sun for a day). The best way to store honey for a period of less than a year is at room temperature. For longer periods (who has honey for more than a year?), freeze it.
As for pollination, did you know that it takes 12-18 honeybee visits to a cucumber blossom during a 15-hr period to produce a well-shaped cucumber? I gotta tell you, these girls have their work cut out for them!
So far I’ve given you the good news. But you all know there’s bad news, too. Honeybees—and all pollinators—are having a dickens of a time lately. Losses of thirty percent are not uncommon and I—for the first time in many years—lost hives over this past winter and then had trouble re-queening this spring!
The possible reasons are many and I plan to cover all the possibilities in future blogs. But to sum up, beekeeping is a fascinating hobby, and we need more beekeepers if we plan on keeping the world in good nutritious food. I hope this bit of trivia has whetted your appetite to know more about our honeybees and maybe start keeping your own hives! If that’s the direction you’re going, I’ll be happy to help you along the way. And if you’re just here to help the honeybee, Welcome! We all need to work together. Hope we get to bee good friends.
I enjoyed Bryan Welch’s article about Elon Musk’s creations. Initially, I was caught up in the techno-wizardry of the Tesla car, Space-X, Solar City, and the Vacuum Transporter. After that spell passed, however, I found myself deeply troubled by what I read and, to a much lesser extent, the fact that it was in Mother Earth News.
When our greatest visionaries and social commentators are touting luxury cars as solutions to our greatest problems, then yes, we are doomed. No doubt Mr. Musk is an accomplished genius and businessman, but he, like most of us, is trapped in a paradigm which limits his visionary capacity. Fancy cars are within the box. A Solar City that merely allows us to buy more iphones is in the box. The box is the problem! Until that is addressed we are still racing for the cliff at 0-60 miles per hour in four seconds or, even worse, at rocket speed. Yes, they are small steps in a better direction but no, not really visionary to me. (An aside: Electric cars are touted for their enhanced efficiency – mpg in a way. But don’t bicycles get really great gas mileage? And keep us fit? And what about horses? And horses with buggies or carts? They’ve been around forever and don’t need much gas or wars for oil.)
Humanity's love of technology — be it fire, steel, atomic energy, or computers — usually dangerously outpaces our capacity to use that technology wisely. Our innovation curve is way ahead of our wisdom curve. And it’s only gotten more exacerbated as the pace of innovation along with the growth of population has quickened. We need visionary, out-of-the-box wisdom to confront and solve our greatest challenges.
Here’s a fun story: For a while I lived in Missouri around an Amish community. While there a friend shared a story about a decision one community made about their barns. Turns out this particular Amish group decided to remove the lightning rods from their barns because the rods were adversely affecting their community. Without the occasional fire, they were losing one of the most important traditions, some of the strongest glue, of their community – barn-raisings. If I were in that community, I might ask how we could have both the rods and the benefits of the barn-raisings without so much fire and destruction. But the overall point I take from the story is that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do something.
Consequences of Elon Musk's High-Tech Creations
So how do Mr. Musk’s creations affect us and our community? I see four very relevant consequences not touched upon in the article:
1. They share the common thread that they further separate people from place, often at great speed.
To me it is precisely this separation of people from place that is a root cause of so many of our greatest problems. Who cares about trees if they never plant one or climb in one? Who cares about a neighbor if one is not around long enough to get to know them? Who cares about the soil, ponds and rivers, polar bears and monarch butterflies if they’re zipping about in vacuum tubes or fancy cars (presumably to and from work to pay the $70K bill)? As we flit about to jobs, to sporting events, to the mall, to doctor’s offices, to gyms while connected to little screens telling us to how to look, how to spend, and ultimately how to think, we drop further into the abyss of consumption and destruction with blind allegiance to the military industrial complex that feeds on our separateness. Further, while cheap energy has it’s perks, if it only serves to get us more iphones, TV’s, x-boxes, and thermostatically-controlled homes (made of toxic industrial materials) so we don’t ever have to feel the sun on our backs and the wind in our hair then it is a grave problem, not a panacea. It is too much candy for a five-year old. The last time infinite, cheap energy was sold to us we ended up with atomic bombs, the cold war, and nuclear waste not to mention an ever greater disparity in wealth. Thanks, but no thanks.
2. They rely on complex technologies whose raw materials are most likely mined and built by exploited workers.
Who mines and processes these precious materials giving the Tesla its special features? And where? Chances are great that they are mined by people who are treated poorly and paid poorly in countries with governments that lack great humanitarian practices that are propped up by our vast military-industrial machine. The iridium or chromium inside that Tesla (or even the rubber/oil on its tires), the silicon in a solar panel, and the titanium on the rocket all come at a greater human cost than the hefty price tags alone.
3. They ignore their environmental impact in the creation and disposal of the technologies themselves as well as of the creation and disposal of the gadgets made available by cheap energy (from Solar City, for example).
The environmental impacts of the mining and extraction of materials for these creations are enormous. Yes, even the holy cow of solar has great impact. Add their disposal, including the 1000 pounds of batteries in the car, and the impact grows. How many cities in China or Africa are drowning in our techno-waste - its people, soil, water, creatures suffering from our insatiable desire for the latest shiny object.
4. They typify our culture’s (the one dominant world culture based on extraction) age-old belief that new technologies will “free” humanity and/or greatly improve our lives.
Yes, technological advances are neat and often helpful. I am grateful for antibiotics, books and libraries, the saw and the screw driver. But time and again an advance is most needed only because we humans have so devastated, so polluted, so contradicted our health and environment. Our wisdom lags behind our material “progress”. Has atomic energy made us freer? Have cars really improved our lives and the state of the world? Are manatees happier with tablet computers around? Waiting for the next big thing (Mars, 0-60 in three seconds, i-glasses…)is a wonderful diversion to the best of life – walking, talking, creating at the human scale, napping … In other words, doing the work that connects us to nature, spirit, and each other while respecting the earth and all of its inhabitants.
What Makes a Visionary?
It is not fair to expect Mr. Musk to put his great intellect to work solving our problems of greed and our deficiency of wisdom. He is a product of the “box” and performing within its confines extraordinarily well. It is also too easy to put him or visionaries like Gandhi or Jesus or MLK Jr. on a pedestal; just out of reach or at the safe distance of history rather than expect ourselves to come up with our own solutions. To do that work and that visioning, to “Be the Change we want to see in the world” requires us to look long and hard at ourselves. A difficult and often disturbing task made even harder by the great current of culture pushing the other way. It requires us to be in one place long enough to see what needs to be done; to ask and observe, to walk and to talk, to listen and wait. Only when we can do that, each of us, will real and meaningful progress ever happen. Only then will our wisdom begin to out-compete our technological prowess. Let’s hope it happens soon.
Click here to read "Goat Farming, Part 1: Selecting a Goat Breed and Preparing for Arrival."
In mid-May of 2012, I got the call that my five little doelings were weaned and would be ready for pickup in a week. I was eager to bring them home immediately, but the breeder was adamant about getting them off to a good start and letting them wean naturally, which takes 3 to 4 months. Goat kids nurse exclusively as first, but soon they’re following mom around nibbling on whatever she nibbles on, gradually learning to browse exclusively. By the time a kid is weaned, it can be so big that it has to kneel to get its heads underneath mom to nurse - quite a comical site. She will more and more often begin to step away from these attempts, encouraging junior to go fix his own meal!
I spent the last week finalizing preparations: I ran a single-stranded hot-wire about dog-nose high around the OUTSIDE perimeter of the 3-acre pasture. Because I didn’t plan to start out with a guardian animal, this was a defense against coyotes or marauding dogs.
Preparing a Truck to Transport Goats
I also needed to get my truck ready to bring the little herd home. I’d learned that goats can become sick after the stress of being transported, and I wanted to make the 90-minute trip as easy on them as I could. Goats are content only in a herd, so you need to start with a minimum of two. Having herd members with them during transport makes the trip less stressful as well. My kids each would be about the size of medium-size dog when I brought them home. A couple of large dog crates would have worked well if I’d had them. I didn’t, so I built a wood-framed wire cage to fit in the back of my truck. I used old door hinges to join the sides and top so that it would come apart and lay flat in the barn between uses. Installed in the pickup bed, I covered it with a tarp, and filled it with straw bedding.
The day finally came to bring them home. The breeder had penned them up the night before. I helped her hold them while she tattooed their ears. Then one by one, she put them in her goat stand and showed me how to trim their hooves. My fainting goats would need less hoof care than many other breeds required, but it would still be important to keep them trimmed 3 or 4 times a year.
She gave me a 1/2 bag of goat food. Although I planned to pasture feed them, she encouraged me to use a handful of sweet feed to get the goats to come to me when I needed or wanted to handle them. She also urged me to buy either a mineral block or loose minerals made especially for goats (not for "sheep and goats", just goats), as goats often need extra copper in their diets. I started out with loose minerals but the dang chickens ate it almost as fast as I could put it out, so I switched to a block and that has worked well. The goats nibble on it when they feel the need.
Finally we loaded them in the pickup. They stood in the straw in the back of the truck crying for their mommas as I drove away. I could see them in the rear-view mirror and marveled at their “sea legs.” I’d been afraid they’d be jostled about, but they balanced just fine. The tarp protected them from the wind, and soon they were all quietly settled down together in the straw for the drive.
At home, they were unsure of me and their new surroundings and were reluctant to leave the truck. I lifted them out, one by one, and placed them near the goat shed and the water trough. I sat in a lawn chair nearby to watch what I’ve come to call “Goat TV.” Within an hour, they were browsing on the weedy pasture, frolicking together, playing King on the Mountain on an old overturned trough, curiously checking out their surroundings and me - and just being kids!
Stay tuned for Part III: Tragedy and a Hard Lesson Learned in Goat Farming
I traveled to the little town of North, South Carolina, and turned right onto Highway 178. After crossing a tea-colored stream, I went through a gate into my friend’s property. An 18-acre lake lay about a half mile into the property and it was a mild spring day. I loaded up a Jon boat with 150 pounds of fish feed and pushed off to fill fish feeders, and to survey the lake for early weeds. The lake water was also light tea-colored; acidic, tannin-colored water is common to the central part of South Carolina. The lake was fed by a swamp to the east, separated by a beaver dam, and then the lake fed the stream, which travels to Edisto River.
The lake was completely calm, and I paddled up a channel that ran along the shore. I slowed and let boat drift to a stop. Leaning over the boat and turning it so the light was still good, I could see about 3 feet into the water with my polarized glasses. There was a Christmas tree sunken under the boat. The needles were long gone but all the small branches were still intact. The whole tree was decorated with 1-inch fish ornaments. Young bluegill had taken up residence in this structure I installed in January. It was a great nursery habitat. Structure refers to three-dimensional habitat for fish to enjoy in a pond or lake. This occurs naturally in the form of aquatic plants, rock outcroppings, shelves that provide rapid changes in depth, and submerged trees. Fish populations benefit from increased habitat in the form of structure.
Make Pond Fish Habitats
One of the pond management things you can do this fall to help your fish is to add three-dimensional habitat, especially if you have a bass-bluegill pond. Bass and bluegill are actually both part of the sunfish family and one of their attributes is that they like to stay near some sort of structure. It makes them comfortable. When you are trying to culture bass and bluegill in a balanced system, the bass should control the large number of small bluegill. Keeping them in close contact with one another is key. Structure does this. It also concentrates the fish population so that you know where to go when you would like to catch a few.
Each year, I would cruise the neighborhoods and pick up curbside Christmas trees in January. With the trees piled high on my trailer, I looked like a Grinch that didn’t arrive on time to ruin Christmas. Using Christmas trees for structure is a common recommendation when reading pond and lake management guides. Something you learn when trying to launch them: the trees float, and it takes more weight than you think to sink them.
There are several tried-and-true types of structure and you can use your imagination to make more. A good place to start is the weight: 5-gallon buckets and 20 pounds of concrete mix. Then you can add any type of structure that will make good three-dimensional habitat.
Three-Dimensional Options for Pond Habitats
• Vinyl siding that has been cut into small strips and bent in different directions
• Bamboo trees 4-8 feet tall
• Polyethylene irrigation piping pipe –used or new
• Other recycled material- piles of broken concrete, tires, pallets
After construction is complete, launch the structures in depths appropriate for their size, keeping in mind that deep areas may not have enough oxygen to support fish during the summer.
You can also cut small unwanted trees along the pond bank and allow them to fall in the water; some people like to leave 18-inch tall section of the tree stump as a hinge so that it does not float away. In addition to making good fish structure, this partially submerged tree trunk will be a habitat for turtles.
'Liming' a Pond
Liming is another fall activity. This involves adding agricultural lime, calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate to the pond. The calcium and magnesium components raise the hardness, while the carbonate component supplies alkalinity. Hardness increases the successful hatching of fish eggs and the survival of small fry. Crawfish and other crustaceans that your fish will use for a food source will benefit from hardness as well. The alkalinity reduces the daily variations in pH, giving your fish a more consistent environment. It also promotes healthy chemistry in your pond mud and helps to cycle nutrients.
Naturally-occurring hardness and alkalinity can vary greatly depending on your soil type, water source and geology. Lime is inexpensive; however, applying it is a challenge. Brace yourself: You will typically need one to two tons per surface acre.
How do you know if you need to lime? You can use pool testing strips or aquarium testing strips to get a general idea of the hardness and alkalinity in your water. Your county’s cooperative extension service system will usually have a testing service as well. A level of 100 parts per million (ppm) on both alkalinity and hardness indicates that your pond has adequate lime. 20 ppm would indicate a definite improvement with a lime application.
Lime can be applied by shoveling off a platform constructed over the front of your boat. It can also be sprayed in or washed in from the edge with a pump. One to two tons per acre is a lot of heavy material. Be safe with respect to your back, and also take care not to load too much on a boat and tip it over.
Pond plants are dying back for the season this time of year and developing thatch along the shoreline. Thatch varies among different plants. Pickerel rush and cattails are native plants but do produce a lot of thatch that dies in the fall. If left alone, thatch falls in the pond, and creates sludge and structure for the aquatic plants to grow on next year, creeping further into your pond and slowly filling it in. Unless that’s your goal, it should be removed or thinned. A brush ax and pitch fork are commonly used. The “Pond Shark” is a great tool specifically for managing shoreline vegetation on your pond. I have used it and it works.
Stop Pond Erosion
Erosion can affect pond health long-term and erosion control is a timely project for the fall. Patching up edges of your pond that have been damaged by livestock, geese or simple weathering is a good idea. Simple application of a winter rye grass or other cool season ground cover can be effective. Reinforcement products made from coconut fiber, jute, straw mat, or other fibers that are wildlife friendly can be installed and staked in to control erosion and make for more successful grass stands. Addressing developing erosion early can prevent silt and mud from washing into your pond where it will affect the volume and water quality over time.
And you thought you were just going to relax and enjoy the pond this fall?
Next time, I will talk with you about cage culture of fish.
Is it just us, or did the holidays come out of nowhere this year? No worries. We’ve got you covered with the HOMEGROWN Holiday Gift Guide, featuring a bushel of ideas that don’t require rush shipping or deep pockets. In true HOMEGROWN fashion, you can find what you need to make most of the presents below at your local winter farmers market—or maybe even in your own pantry or closet—because the most meaningful gifts come from our hearts and our hands. We’re also including a few stocking stuffers under $20, because even the most industrious elves need a break sometimes.
1. Got a t-shirt? A needle and thread? You’ve got what you need to craft Cynthia’s head-turning tote bag. It’s perfect for hauling kale—or whatever 2014’s veggie of the year turns out to be.
2. One potato, two potato, three potato, four. Give Grandma a gift that she couldn’t love more: notecards personalized using homemade potato stamps. (Bonus: Once you’re done crafting, your tools can go in the compost pile.)
3. Remember those friends who couldn’t stop raving about your backyard honey last summer? Chances are they’ll go gaga for Charlyn’s homemade beeswax candles. Learn how to make your own votives and light up a loved one’s winter nights.
4. Decking the halls with boughs of holly smells awfully good, but Maryanne’s coffee filter wreath has a longer lifespan and a smaller price tag than store-bought greenery. Plus, it’s equally appropriate for indoor winter wonderlands and springtime bridal showers.
5. Can’t you just picture a few of these babies wrapped up and tied with a bow? Nope, they’re not candy. They’re seedballs, one way to show those neglected patches of ground some love, and they’re as much fun to make and give as they are to toss.
6. So simple, it’s genius: homemade crackers, the perfect complement to all those jams and jellies and spreads in your giftee’s pantry. Get tips in Kari’s 101.
7. In the Southwest, this time of year means delicious tamales. Learn how to make your own to give away—or, better yet, round up a few friends for a tamalada and let everyone take home his or her handiwork.
8. We’re past the window of opportunity for steeping a batch of homemade Kahlúa before Christmas (where did the year go?), but you’ve still got time to make mead using Penny’s Finnish recipe.
9. Have a family member who can’t make it home for Christmas? Nothing says love like a big plate of noodles. Make your own pasta following’s Jannine’s instructions then mail the results to anyone in need of a care package.
10. Calling all candymakers: Looking for a tidbit beyond the usual peppermint bark/orange peel/peanut brittle triad? Give Jackie’s apple cider caramels a spin of the whisk.
11. Paine’s miniature log cabins are crafted in Maine and burn incense made from balsam fir harvested by local woodsmen. Plus, they smell like winter itself for only $10.
12. You know what’s none of your giftee’s beeswax? Disposable plastic wrap. Ugh. Delight the thrifty and the eco-friendly alike with Beeswrap ($15–$19), a greener alternative.
13. If springtime feels too far away, give your favorite sweet tooth something to look forward to: her very own maple spile ($3.25) and a plan to go tree tapping.
14. Or maybe your sweetheart would rather fast forward to summer? Feed his garden daydreams with a 100-count bag of tomato trellis clips ($9.15) for the tamest plants ever.
15. Got another gardener in the family? Help her prepare her soil with a stash of biochar ($12) made from oak and tomato stakes on Pennsylvania’s Happy Cat Farm.
Want more ideas? You can find additional gift how-tos in Weeknight Wonders, updated weekdays through Christmas Eve. And just a note to you, our HOMEGROWN family: May your giving be heartfelt and your holidays be bright, and may your season be filled with delight!
This post originally appeared on HOMEGROWN.org.
PHOTOS BY (SEEDBALLS) SARADENT.CA, COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS ON FLICKR; (CABIN) WICKERFURNITURE, COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS ON FLICKR; (BEESWRAP) MARISA/FOOD IN JARS, COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS ON FLICKR; (SPILE) CHIOT’S RUN, COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS ON FLICKR; (TOMATO CLIPS) COURTESY OF JOHNNY’S SELECTED SEEDS; (BIOCHAR) COURTESY OF HAPPY CAT FARM; ALL OTHER PHOTOS AS CREDITED WITHIN LINKS
Despite a few days of rain and some temperatures creeping towards forty degrees, it is certainly getting colder, overall. Winter’s perennial arrival is unfolding. To accompany this change of season, Ryan and I find ourselves fielding questions from friends and acquaintances alike.
“How is the cabin?”
“You must be burning a lot of wood?”
“Were you warm enough last night?”
“Was the cabin cold this morning?”
We are touched by friends’ concern, and flattered that our well-being is at the forefront of their wintertime thoughts. Such questions are certainly valid, as we both have spent past seasons living in colder and less-heated abodes. However, we are pleased to assert that our cabin is: warm!
Our chinking improvements of this past September – mortaring between the logs with a mix of sand, sawdust, lime, and mortar mix – have yielded wonderful results. The difference from last winter, when the cabin was chinked with a rubberized caulk and oakum, is tremendous. While our woodpile is shrinking, the wood is disappearing slowly, gradually – and yet we’re more comfortable than ever before.
But what do we mean by warmth? It’s true that the cabin temperature fluctuates, as would anyone’s residence that is heated exclusively with wood, but not uncomfortably so. With a fire in the morning and evenings, it is still pleasantly warm late in the afternoon. Overnight, the cabin holds the heat such that the blankets with which we start the evening are still sufficient come morning.
Indeed, after cooking our evening meal on the stovetop, we’re often down to our long johns and t-shirts, basking in a heat wave. The loft is a toasty resting spot, and certainly stays warm long after the first floor has begun to cool. We no longer need to huddle around the stove come morning, nor do we stuff ourselves like Michelin men into layers of sweaters. Contrary to many inquiries, we do not see our breath when we first awake.
Most grateful for the improvements is Mica, who is relieved that we have finally made a proper canine habitat. He no longer has to accept the challenges of our unusual choices. We still look to him and say: “We’re only starting this fire for you, Mica …”
… but we relish the warmth as well.
Start planning your spring plantings now! Contact Beth via firstname.lastname@example.org to design your herb garden, vegetable plantings, or small orchard.