Monday, December 22, 2014

Winter is here!

Winter has arrived officially now. The longest night of the year is over. I am a winter person, though I will be the first to tell you that I prefer days somewhat longer than those of the past few weeks. For one thing, I am looking forward to fresh eggs again, as my hens are on winter egg break.

If the overcast weather that has characterizes this month ever disappears, I might start to see a few eggs again sometime in January. If the gloom stays, it could be February or even early March before the girls start to lay again. For now, though the girls are taking a well-deserved break.

I have been making mung bean sprouts for them, now that they can’t find interesting green things in the forest around my cabin. They love those and gobble them up greedily. Woe to the hen who is slow to arrive when I start handing out the sprouts. Slowpokes are out of luck. Chickens are not good at sharing.

Winter for me means I have to get used to switching out the chicken water each morning, a routine that always comes as a bit of surprise the first time I find their water frozen over. The puppies are re-learning about frozen water puddles but still think they can drink from them and still seem surprised when they can’t.

The truly bitter winter weather has yet to arrive, but I have no doubt which season I’m in today even so. It’s more than cold enough for my winter coat but I still don’t need my winter parka. I have it ready, though.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fog and coyotes

This week is shaping up to be an unusual one for sightings at Roundtop.  First, the fog and then the coyotes.  The fog you can see in today’s photo. The coyotes were hidden by that fog but they were close.  The chickens are on full lockdown for the foreseeable future and perhaps even longer than that.

The fog was as thick as I’ve ever seen it. Even with my headlamp, I couldn’t see more than five feet in front of me.  I can’t tell you how often I stumbled over my own feet because I couldn’t see a dip  underfoot.

I got home last evening around 5:30 and proceeded to run Baby Dog.  We had just gotten outside when I heard 2-3 coyotes howling.  They were down at the bottom of the mountain, probably near the bridge along the little stream where I take the adventure camp kids in the summer.  So that was close enough. Although I’ve seen single coyotes at Roundtop over the years, I’ve never heard them singing here.  That means there’s more than one—the singles don’t howl, having no one to howl to or with.

I take Baby Dog back inside.  About an hour later, Sparrow needed a walk as she was all full of herself, so out we went.  It was then that I heard one of the coyotes barking and very close by.  I am reasonably sure it was along the access road that heads down towards the little stream.  The road leads up to the slopes and a pond here on the mountain, just at the edge of good neighbor Larry’s house.   A few seconds later, the bark repeats and is slightly further down that road and then a third time it was further yet.

I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that even the coyotes couldn’t see very far and were more vocal than ever just trying to find each other. It’s also possible the ongoing rifle deer season has moved them off the adjoining gamelands and onto Roundtop’s property.  Still, that howling carries a long way and I’ve never heard them howling here before even at a distance.

I do know that this morning when Baby Dog and I were out walking, her hackles suddenly went up, and she started her serious, deep-throated, I-really-mean-it barking.  I didn’t see the coyotes—too foggy for that—but I’ll bet they were close.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Photo-bombed by whitetail!

This morning I was photo-bombed by a deer.
 Overnight I had a bit of snow, still from that nor’easter than brought the ice storm. Snow, of course, makes for good photos even if poor light, so I was taking a few photos. Then just as I was snapping this one, a deer bolted past. I didn’t know it was there and the photo/deer combo was a total chance.
As I wasn’t planning to take photos of deer, I didn’t have an appropriate lens with me, so my photo-bomber is pretty small, but she is right in the very center of the photo, galloping across the field.

Here’s a cropped version, blown up and blurry, of the deer. That’s the first time I’ve ever had this happen!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sunset after ice storm

Another Tuesday, another ice storm. This one was average in both duration and result. Some small to medium sized branches fell into the driveway and the power stayed on. For ice storms, this is a good result, though I’d be happier if I never had another one. It doesn’t take a very large branch to make a terrific noise when it falls on the roof. And that occurrence is always followed by dogs barking and cats racing to hide under sofa and bed.

After the ice storm comes the clean-up and clearing of the car, safely parked down at the bottom of the lane in an open area away from falling branches. I strapped on my Yak-trax and spent the next hour chopping through the ice that covered the car. Meanwhile, down off the mountain, the storm brought only rain.

The chickens huddled in the dark under the cabin—no eggs from them lately. While the chickens are looking miserable under the cabin, a few of the feral cats head to the chicken coop and curl contentedly in the straw there. It’s only at dusk, when the chickens return, that they leave.

Wild birds emptied my feeders well before noon. I’ve had no sign of winter finches but the usual suspects eat double or triple what they usually do in a day’s time. And near sunset they were still looking for more.

And it was when I was filling the feeders again for the last time yesterday that the sun finally broke through the storm clouds and made its first appearance of the day, doing so in rather dramatic fashion. I’m glad I was there to see it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

White Thanksgiving

White Christmases aren’t the norm here on Roundtop.  White Thanksgivings are even less so.  This year I had a lovely little white Thanksgiving that lasted prettily until this morning, when fog and light rain did it in. 
The puppies were surprised, as the last time they saw snow they were tiny little things, not today’s more-or-less full grown dogs with puppy brains.  They were delighted with the early season snow, racing around in it and gobbling it up like ice cream.  I strapped on my yak-trax and joined them. 
Baby Dog, my old dog, isn’t easy to impress.  She didn’t mind it.  She didn’t act as though she cared about it one way or the other.  I guess by now she’s seen it all and done it all.
The chickens were not amused. At. All. They don’t like snow on their featherless feet and soon retreated under the shelter of the cabin where the snow can’t reach. I haven’t had an egg from any of them since the snow fell.  They won’t care for today’s rain and freezing rain either, so I’m not expecting any eggs from them for a while. Fortunately, I’m well stocked with eggs, at least through this week.
The woodland birds showed up at my feeders in droves, even the elusive blue jays who typically only appear whenever I offer peanuts in their shells. This week, they came for whatever I had in the feeders. They weren’t fussy.
Winter means different things to different creatures.  Some like it, some don’t.  People are the same way.  The snow lovers believe winter was already too short even before any of us knew about climate change. The winter-haters head south as often as vacation days and finances allow. I’m staying put.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Moving too fast!

Whew!  I did not intend for Roundtop Ruminations to sit idle for a week.  Sometimes life moves so fast, I don’t know where it goes.  I do have a good excuse for one day of my idleness—a power outage when the outside temperature was 16 degrees.  Fortunately, my little fireplace kept me warm enough until the power returned. 
My second excuse is one I shouldn’t have, given my age and years of experience I have dealing with it.  Somehow, every year I still find myself in a similar pickle.  The shortened hours of daylight make it difficult to get photos.  It is dark when I get home from work.  And though it is light enough to see by when I leave the cabin in the mornings, the light isn’t very good.  This is evidenced by today’s photo, which is further worsened by a morning fog that was only just starting to dissipate.

Around the cabin, I am dealing with the roller coaster ride that is November. Record lows to record highs. Repeat.  Then add snow for Wednesday.  Perhaps a good bit of snow. Not Buffalo type snow but a lot of snow considering that today is above 60 degrees.  One day I hibernate among the cuddling animals, the next I am outside in my flipflops.  I have used so many coats this week—everything from my heaviest down parka to an unlined rain jacket.  Even for November these changes are extra extreme this year.  And now, I’m going to go dig out one of my snow shovels...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cold and damp

I was almost late to work today, and for a few minutes I couldn’t figure out why.  I got up at the right time.  I didn’t do anything extra or unusual that added minutes to my pre-work routine.  Finally, I figured out what it was. The morning was so foggy that although the dogs and I walked our usual morning route, that walk took longer than usual.  Even with the headlamp I could barely see. I walked off the edge of the road a time or two and kind of wobbled from side to side along the woods road we usually follow, slowly careening from one side to the other.  I must have looked like the proverbial drunken sailor.

Rain fell heavily this morning. My mountain was a mere 2 degrees from having the precipitation be something other than rain.  For this weather event, Roundtop is on the warm side of the storm.   However, once the rain ends the temperature will plummet, possibly into record-setting range.  The high tomorrow should not break freezing and the night will be down in the teens, with a strong wind blowing—that’s almost January weather!
So this weekend I moved the chicken pen into winter quarters, which means it is now next to the cabin and partially sheltered by it.  Last year I waited too long and the coop spent the winter exposed to the elements as it had frozen to the ground. This year, with my chickens a year older and my rooster now nearly elderly, I wanted to make sure that wouldn’t happen again.
Perhaps it’s the ugly weather that has one of the local opossums out and about most evenings.  I’ve had my bird feeders up for weeks now, but it’s only been this weekend that he or she found it.  And speaking of bird feeders, folks in northern PA are reporting evening grosbeaks again.  I hope a few of those manage to find their way this far south. It’s been years since I’ve had them at my feeders.