Thursday, November 30, 2006

In a Fog

This was the scene that greeted me this morning when I got up. Well, it's close. When I first got it up was dead dark. So this is more like what I saw when I left the cabin. My first thought when I stepped outside with Dog was, how am I going to drive to work in that? Fortunately, once I got off the mountain, the fog eased a little bit. At least it eased enough so that driving wasn't terrifying.

I am almost at the point where my photos will need to be taken over the weekend and then doled out day by day throughout the rest of the week. It is now fully dark when I get back to the cabin in the evenings. The morning light falls somewhere between pre-dawn and dawn. And the dawn part is fading fast.

I've never been one to be physically affected by the lack of daylight during the dark times. But I do miss it. I miss seeing what birds are around. I miss seeing the sun at all, except on weekends. It's really the only part of winter that I don't care for.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Open Water

One sign of how warm this November has been is the open water here on the mountain. I only had one hard freeze and several lighter frosts this month. This is highly untypical of November.

I'm also tired of hearing the local weather folks extol the virtues of the warm weather, as though it's a fine thing to have temperatures in the lower 60's when it should be at least 20 degrees colder. They don't seem to get that weather this warm this time of year isn't a good thing. To me the warm weather is just another sign of just how out of whack our poor old earth is. I think it would help keep the warming problem in front of the average person if the weather and news people would at least occasionally treat the warmth like the problem it is.

In the fall here, the leaves are now dropping a good two weeks later than usual. The waterfowl that normally fill the skies are completely, and I do mean completely, missing. They haven't had to fly south this year--at least not so far.

However, it's in the spring where I notice that the early leafing (about two weeks early) is doing the most damage. The spring warblers fly up from south and central America and over the eons have managed to evolve themselves to time their arrival up here with the appearance of the insects and worms they feed on. The insects and worms appear when the leaves first start to come out. Because the leaves are now coming out so much earlier, those insects and worms are also coming out earlier, and by the time the warblers get here the things they feed on are gone or too big or have developed into other things and the warblers can't find or eat them.

Roundtop has never been the kind of place where I could find 20 species of warblers in a day the way you can at the warbler hot spots. But I always could find 20 species during the entire season of warbler migration. Last year I had 3 species. Worse, instead of the 50-60 individuals I could always find, last year I found 8, of which 6 were the yellow-rumped warbler (the most common species). I had one black-throated green warbler and one black-throated blue warbler and that was it.

When I see open water everywhere and wear short-sleeved shirts in November, it's not a good thing. It's a wrong thing. It's the earth's way of trying to tell us that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Opening Day of Buck Season


Monday was opening day of rifle season for deer here in Pennsylvania. Roundtop posts their property, but allows regular employees to hunt on it. Since this is the time of year when they are operating at virtually a dead run to get ready for sking season, they prefer to allow shooting only by people who already know the mountain and know where people and buildings are located. That's makes excellent sense and is just fine with me, though I kept Dog and Baby Dog inside yesterday just in case.

My brother and his youngest son went hunting in the woods on mom and dad's farm yesterday too. My brother was up in his tree stand when he saw a large mink come by. I think we've all seen mink on that property, though they aren't terribly common. Brother put down his rifle and started to take a picture of said mink with his cell phone. Just about at that point a nice buck came bouncing through, and by the time brother closed and put away the cell phone, and picked up the rifle again, you guessed it, the buck was gone. But if he sends me the photo of the mink, I'll post it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Warm Light

I love the warm evening light of late autumn. I love how the western side of all the trees is caressed by it in the hour before sunset. It’s the sun’s last kiss before the long night ahead.

It is only during a brief time of the year that the light looks like this. This warm glow will only last for a few weeks and then the warmth will fade. January’s light is more brittle and far less warm. Late March has a similar light but to me there’s something warmer and certainly more bittersweet about the quality of light in late November and early December. It’s as though all the trees are facing the west, gathering the last of the day’s warmth within.

Sometimes I stand with the trees, feeling the sun’s warmth against my own face. Sometimes I simply watch the light play across the trees, the shadows first lengthening and then the light turning dimmer and dimmer as night settles in.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Winter's Rest Begins

Now that the leaves are all down, I have my view of the western mountain back again. Okay, so this view isn't the Grand Canyon, but after months of not being able to see much further than two arm lengths in front of me, I like this just fine.

November is normally a mean month, usually filled with ice storms, sometimes with deep snows. Freezing rain, sleet and virtually every kind of precipitation possible is the norm. Not this year.

It's been quite a bit warmer than is usual and, with one or two days of exceptions, it's also been quite calm. The weather has been grey and dreary, often rainy, but not cold and not severe. One evening, for a few minutes, I saw rain washed with wet snow on the windshield as I drove back to the cabin. That was the extent of the wintry precipitation.

In some respects, it's still a typical November, despite the warmth. Now that the leaves are off the trees, the forest is quieter than in summer. The occasional creak or slap of one branch against another is a lot softer than the sound of millions of leaves rustling in a breeze. The quiet of winter emphasizes that the trees are at rest.

In other respects, life is as busy as ever. Squirrels abound this year. The birds are busy and noisy at my feeders. Deer, no doubt unaware that in two days rifle season begins here, are plentiful and graze slowly through the forest.

It is the quiet time of the year.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fuertes Art at Cornell

Louis Agassiz Fuertes is one of, perhaps the premiere painter of birds. Fuertes was a native of Ithaca, and Cornell has a vast collection of his artwork.

This goshawk is in the Fuertes Room at the lab and is one of dozens such paintings on the walls around this room. I'm told that these paintings were originally painted on the wals of the old lab, and when the new one was built, they cut out the walls and installed them in the new place. The paintings are placed above head height and each one is amazing, let alone a room that has dozens of these panels.

Unfortunately, our own meeting was up on the second floor, in a standard issue modern conference room, not in this much larger meeting room. Of course, if I'd been sitting in this room for 1.5 days, with this artwork in front of me all the time, I doubt I would have gotten much accomplished.

The second photo are paintings of a kestrel and a mallard. They should give you some idea of how these paintings are lined up around the walls of the meeting room. It's a large room, and the paintings surround it completely on three sides. I could have spent hours in this room alone, just studying the paintings.

Here's a link to the part of Cornell's site that has many if not all of their Fuertes work available for viewing: http://cidc.library.cornell.edu/Fuertes2000/fuertes.asp In addition to all the paintings, the lab also has many Fuertes drawings and sketches, many on display in the office areas of the lab. My favorite is one that is where it can be seen by the public. It's a gourache, located with a dozen or more other gouraches in a narrow space behind the fireplace in the lobby. It's a snowy owl: http://cidc.library.cornell.edu/Fuertes2000/BirdView.asp?From=sr&Size=1&QT=T&QY=Gouaches&BirdID=2319

That's it for my trip. Tomorrow I'll be back with photos and stories from the cabin. Have a great Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Visiting Cornell's Lab of Ornithology

Once inside Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, what struck me the most was the artwork. It’s everywhere, both in the public spaces and in the private and office areas as well. We were metting there over a weekend, so even though we were back in the office areas and touring the lab, we didn’t get to see ornithological research in action.

The first photo is a sculpture of an ivory-billed woodpecker. I just love his party attitude! Although you can’t see it, on his binoculars are written the names of other extinct birds. Everywhere you go at the lab, you'll see lots of ivory-billed woodpecker things--the gift shop is full of them. (This guy's not for sale) .

The next is a weaving I saw back in the publications department that says “ornithology is for the birds.” The publications folks are grouped up on the second floor, and considering the wealth of magazines such as Living Bird, newsletters for members and their citizen science initiatives, it's a pretty small area with not many people.

One thing I didn’t know is that the Cornell lab also does research on vertebrates, so the skeleton of this giant python is back in their department. The walls were covered with posters that summarized individuals' ongoing research.

They do lots of bioaccoustical work, including on the too-low-for-human-ears-to-hear sounds that elephants make to communicate with other elephants over long distances. Naturally, most of their accoustical work is on birds, and their library of bird sounds and songs is unrivaled. They also use their accoustical library for commercial work. They've done the soundsfor the Harry Potter movies, for example.
But the highlight of the artwork are the originals done by Fuertes. I'll show some of those paintings tomorrow.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Back at the Cabin

Grrr! It's so annoying to come back from somewhere only to find Blogger on the fritz this morning.

I’m back from a weekend of work and fun at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y. I went up for a Hawk Migration Association of North America board meeting but managed to find time for some fun too.

I went up with Kim Van Fleet, a Pa. HMANA board member, and we stayed at a little motel called the Greyhaven, just on the south side of town. It’s a mom-and-pop motel. We were attracted to it because it was less expensive than anyplace else and because it had a wetland out back. The photo is of a beaver dam in the little wetlands. I didn’t see the beaver but it was an active lodge judging by the freshly cut twigs on it.

Our meeting was held at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology at Sapsucker Woods on the north side of Ithaca. There’s a little pond and a bird feeding area. We saw lots of Canada geese and a few mallards. At the feeders were black-capped chickadees, downy woodpecker, American goldfinch and several of the biggest gray squirrels I’d ever seen. We immediately dubbed them large enough for one to feed a family of four and decided they were likely a squirrel and chinchilla cross since they were so big.

In the evening Kim and I went to the famed Moosewood Restaurant for dinner. You’ve probably seen one of their vegetarian cookbooks. The Moosewood is run by a collective of folks, some of who have been there since the counterculture days of the first cookbook. It’s a small restaurant, very reasonable prices, with excellent food. They usually offer 4 entrees a day, one of which is usually fish, the other 3 are vegetarian.

Tomorrow (if Blogger cooperates): Inside the Lab

Friday, November 17, 2006

Road Trip!

I'll be offline for a day or so for a trip to the HMANA board meeting in Ithaca NY. Our meeting is going to be held at Cornell's Lab of Ornithology. So I should have some interesting pictures and will report on that until I get back.

The dreariness and rain has finally (finally!) left after a day of torrential rain and tornado watches. This morning is clear and the sky filled with stars. Dog and I scared up a roosting pheasant this morning before dawn. It exploded into the air just a few feet from us. This is a new Roundtop bird for me, bringing the number I've seen on the mountain to 130 (I think). What the pheasant was doing roosting at the foot of a tree along a woods road I'll never know. We heard its familiar warning chuckle as it flew away. It was likely a bird released for hunting season, though where it might have been released from is also a bit of a mystery. Anyway, after that, neither Dog nor I need caffeine to wake up this morning.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dreary Morning

It's a dark and dreary morning in the woods. I took this photo moments before a heavy rain started. This morning was far warmer than is typical for November, but even so the dreariness of November somehow still comes through. Apparently, dreariness has nothing to do with the temperature.

The woods are pretty barren right now. The winter rest is beginning. This morning I spent some time trying to find something small and interesting on the forest floor--perhaps an interesting mushroom or fungus--but came up empty handed. I expect such an expedition will be easier on a brighter and clearer day, and not when my mind is already half at work.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Last of Autumn's Gold

It is still foggy this morning, though less so than yesterday. This morning I found these few maple trees with leaves still clinging and even more surprising, still holding on to their color. The rest of the trees in the forest have dropped their leaves. It is only this small stand of maples, nor more than 3-4 trees, where autumn still holds on.

Soon it will be too cold to leave the dogs outside during the day, an event that I'm not looking forward to. With Dog at nearly 80 lbs., and Baby Dog at 45+, that's a lot of doggie energy to be loose in a small cabin at the same time. Last winter, Baby Dog was still a baby, but this year she is often the instigator of the roughhousing that Dog only too willingly joins in on. At this point I am resigned to having a pair of wild dogs, though I am occasionally envious of those who have nice, calm dogs who spend the day sleeping. Those ain't my dogs.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Foggy Mountain Morning


What's the point of having a great view if you can't see it? It's yet another foggy and dreary day. I try to take a photo each day for this blog, but some days are more challenging than others. This is especialy true, I'm finding, with the ever-shortening days. Going off daylight savings time gave me a bit of a reprieve, but now the shorter days are closing in once again. Add that to a foggy morning that further darkens the early morning, and a new photo becomes all the more difficult. I have no idea what I'll do in another week or so.

This morning Dog and I took our usual early morning walk. It was the first day since I tripped over Baby Dog and hurt my knee that I resumed my regular walk. Armed with my headlamp, the two of us headed into the woods. I found the fog disorienting and even had to stop a few times to look behind me and check my bearings. Was I on the right path? Had I somehow taken a side trail by mistake? That's how thick the fog was. It was so dense that I couldn't see the landmarks I take so much for granted that I don't even realize I'm following landmarks. I don't even realize I'm following them, that is, until they aren't visible, and then I see how much I have depended on that oak tree or that large rock to point my way. It's an odd feeling to find that familiar ground has suddenly become an alien landscape.

Still, I took my walk and found my way, if not as easily as usual. I figured it out eventually. Maybe that's what will happen with my photos when it very shortly gets too dark for me to take one in the morning or evening. I'll figure something out eventually.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Raindrops

The weather is rainy and cold, the kind of cold rain that makes me look for hot chocolate and a warm fire.

Activity at my bird feeders creeps up steadily. I start out the feeding season by adding just 2 cups of seeds and nuts a day. I am now up to 4 cups each day. Of course, the squirrels have now found my feeders, and this hasn't helped. By mid-winter this amount will double again, and before a strong winter storm, I will need even more to keep the birds well fed.

I have yet to see any winter residents at the feeders, though the juncos and white-throated sparrows are nearby in the underbrush. Perhaps they can still find enough food so that they don't need the feeders. Perhaps they are just shy.

Now that the leaves are off the trees, my view to the west is back, though obscured today by the fog that also hides the top of Roundtop Mountain from my view. It's not just the view of the next mountain that I can see, either. I can also see deeper into the woods from the cabin. This morning I watched a pilieated woodpecker bounce from tree to tree until he eventually headed own off the hill and into the valley. In the summer, I might have seen him pass, but I couldn't have watched him for 5 minutes or more, as I did this morning, because he would have been out of view about the second bounce. I can see how the birds plan and stage their runs to the feeders. The chickadees approach from almost out of view, stopping at several interim trees along the way to scout the conditions. The titmice often first fly past the feeder, land in a nearby bit of brush and then, when they are assured that nothing will attack them, land daintily in the feeder and choose their seeds. The red-bellied woodpecker is the loudest, announcing his presence first from a distance and then throughout the entire approach. Eventually, he will land in an oak tree that's next to the feeder and scurry over to the feeder, making loud noises the entire time he's moving along a branch. If nothing pops up to scare him along the journey, then he will eventually land in the feeder.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bitter Bittersweet

Yesterday I came across a nice amount of bittersweet plants, out along the forest edge. The orange and red berries on twisting vines make for a pretty seasonal decoration. It was only after I cut a few vines and got them back to the cabin that I realized my find was the non-native and invasive oriental bittersweet plant, not the rarer American bittersweet.

The most noticeable difference between the two plants is how the berries are located on the plant. As you can see in my picture of the oriental bittersweet, the berries are located all along the stems. In the American bittersweet, the berries are only at the end of each stem. The leaf shapes are also a bit different, but since the leaves are off by November, that isn't much help. The berries of this plant are still pretty, and I've placed a few stems on the outside of the cabin.

More leaves came off the trees last evening, so that this morning the forest looks like winter. Last evening was unusually warm. It felt moist ahead of the rain I'm getting this morning. I stood outside, long after dark, enjoying the feel of the warmth. Leaves dropped around me like the raindrops that would soon fall. There was no breeze to bring them down. It was simply time, and they fell. It sounded a bit like sprinkles of rain.

This morning, the rain is a cold one, and the leaves are ankle deep around me. Winter is not yet here, but it's getting close.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Fairy Dust

Okay, so it’s not really fairy dust. But that’s what this scene looked like to me when I first came across it. It’s really the “skeletons” of a kind of grass that has gone to seed and was sparkled with rain drops.

Blogger had some kind of major crisis yesterday that prevented me from posting anything. It gave me another scare this morning, but is at least momentarily okay.

The last rain has cleared out, leaving the weather clear and abnormally warm for the moment. That won’t last past today. The last rain storm came from the south, bringing warm weather with it. It is so warm that this morning Dog discovered a very large toad on our morning walk, which he greeted with delight. Having had his own toad encounter years ago when he was a pup, he didn’t try to eat it, the way Baby Dog tried to earlier in the year. Instead he nosed it repeatedly, watching it hop with each touch of his nose. He wagged his tail and seemed to enjoy his discovery. Since the toad was in an area where it might get squished, I picked it up and moved it out of the way, hoping for the best.

The rain that’s forecast for this weekend is from the north and west, and will bring cooler weather with it. It’s as though November is in a tug-of-war, with both fall and winter fighting for control. Winter will win, at least eventually, though if recent years are any indication, it will be a pale shadow of its past years. This is also a mild El NiƱo year, which during any occurrence usually means a mild winter.

Although the heavy rain I had two days ago brought more leaves down, many more than is normal for this time of year are somehow still attached. Until yesterday and today, this fall has tended towards the cool side, at least that’s what the local weather dude reports during his daily report. So I’m not sure I can blame global warming for the trees not being bare of leaves. But I'd like to.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Storm's Gift

It's rained most of the night, a hard, soaking rain. More leaves dance off the trees and tumble down to the ground. This morning the wind is from the east, the least common wind direction here on the mountain. The sight of leaves blowing past a cabin window from right to left, instead of from left to right, looks odd to me.

Inside, the cabin is snug and warm. The sound of rain falling on the roof is a pleasant one and makes it tough to get out of bed this morning. A warm bed is so much more enticing than the idea of walking two dogs in a cold, driving rain. Eventually, there is no choice, and I am up.

Dog loves the puddles he finds, splashing through the water that runs downs the lane, that collects in puddles at the foot of the hill. He is soon soaked and happy. Baby Dog doesn’t share that joy, avoiding as many puddles as she can. And yet the rain doesn’t make her want to go back inside. In fact, she is intent on the smells, thrusting her nose into one spot that apparently smells delicious and keeping it there for long seconds. I’m afraid she is about to roll in something terrible and eventually I pull her away.

I am soon wet. It is raining so hard that my raincoat and hat are soon overwhelmed and can no longer keep me dry. I am certain that when this rain is over, and the weather clears again, the forest will be changed, perhaps a little, perhaps a lot. More leaves will have fallen. The storm will likely move the season deeper towards winter. Perhaps more winter birds will arrive or the last of the summer ones will leave. Storms serve to hasten or at least concentrate the seasonal changes in the forest. Today, I am stuck in the unknown of the storm itself. Tomorrow, the forest will show me what the storm has brought.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Foggy Morning and Old Stone Wall

It’s a foggy day at Roundtop, a bit warmer than it was a few days ago. I’m still not as mobile as usual, so the photo this morning isn’t from somewhere in the forest. The stone foundation in the photo is all that’s left of an old house and barn that was part of the original Roundtop property. You can also still see the remains of the old road that led up to the house. That’s the open, slightly sunken area in the foreground.

I still have more leaves remaining on the trees than is normal for this time of year. I don’t know why they’re hanging on so long, especially since they are all dried up and have lost their prettiness. The color of the leaves that have fallen to the forest floor is the same as those still hanging on the trees, so it’s all a monochromatic brown right now.

Dog and Baby Dog are missing their usual long morning walks, as am I. I try to make it up to them by spending the same amount of time outside with them, if not walking. Dog finds this compromise a reasonable one. He busily sniffs all around, as though he’s never done that before, then returns to me for a good butt rub. Baby Dog is less understanding. She will stand at the end of the driveway, looking back at me as though she can’t figure out why we’re not heading out on our usual route.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Small Update

Dharma Bums has a nice post about blogging and bloggers they posted this morning that readers might enjoy.

Feeder Watching


I'm still moving kind of slowly--certainly slower than I expected--several days after hurting my knee. So naturally, this was a beautiful weekend that would have been a great one to do some hiking.

Instead, I rested the knee, hoping it would speed healing. I can't say that I've found that to be true, at least not so far.

Still, I did find some enjoyment moving at a slower pace. One was that I took some time to simply sit by the window and watch the birds that visited my feeder. Typically, I see the feeder visitors in brief spurts as I'm rushing between here and there. Sometimes I don't even see them; I just know what's there by their calls.

But slowed down at the moment as I am, I got to spend some time watching them, which I found both fun and relaxing. This little chickadee looks as though it's at a buffet line and trying to decide what to eat. I also saw the first white-throated sparrows of the season this weekend. My regular visitors to the feeder now include titmice, nuthatch, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, Carolina wren, cardinals, blue jays. Neither the few juncos nor the sparrows have yet taken up residence at the feeder--not cold enough for them yet.

Being able to watch the birds, as opposed to just seeing them, allowed me to see more interaction than I normally do. The white-breasted nuthatches are kind of bossy birds, not above thrusting their bills in the direction of other smaller birds who are attempting to eat at the same time as the nuthatch. Titmice choose their seeds carefully, then retreat to another spot nearby to eat it. Chickadees and cardinals will often eat while in the feeder. The red-bellied woodpecker is a spooky and cautious bird, often taking minutes to work its way into the feeder, where it will sort through multiple seeds until it finds the nut it wants. Cardinals are shy and most often feed in the early morning and late evening when it is almost dark. Blue jays only show up when the peanuts are in the feeder. They roar into a feeder at full speed.
Each species has its own distinct behavioral characteristics and "birdsonality," if you will. Taking the time to watch them on weekends is something I should do more often, even when I'm not slowed by a bad knee.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Shadows


I don't know if my photos will be too exciting for the next few days. I tripped over Baby Dog the other night in the cabin and hurt my knee. It's not too bad, as I thankfully didn't twist it as I fell, but it will limit my hiking and wandering this weekend. Baby Dog wasn't hurt (naturally).

The dogs are already missing their long morning walks. They are like wound up toys with no good way to expend their energy.

This morning was the coldest, so far, of the darkening season. I had 28 degrees at the cabin, and Dog's water bowl that was accidentally left outside overnight was frozen. Each morning a few more leaves tumble to the ground, improving my view out the back deck. By the end of the weekend, the view should be almost as open as it will get.

For some reason, there are always a few trees that hold onto at least some of their leaves much longer than their neighbors, sometimes even after the first snows have fallen. The leaves will look like wadded up sheets of paper tossed at a wastebasket but somehow still won't fall. I tend to see that most often with the oak trees, though it's certainly not limited to them. And, it's not always the same trees that do this. However, this year, one of those trees is one that's in the way of my back view. It's a good thing I don't own an axe (just kidding!).

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The View is (almost) Back!

Can you see it? You can just about see the outline of the next mountain to the west. This was the view from my back deck this morning. It isn't a good view of the mountain yet, but I can see the ridgeline in the background, so I know the mountain is still there.

After living in the "green box" created by the forest's dense leaf cover all summer, it's nice to know my view is returning again. I look forward to getting the view back each fall.

I also saw a few flakes of snow this morning. I can't quite call what I saw flurries yet. That would be giving them far more importance than the reality. However, tonight and this weekend, that could change, as the forecast does include the possibility of flurries.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fading Glory


I took this photo this morning as I was leaving for work. Most of the fall color has faded to an dull orangey-brown, but it's still pretty when the sun hits it.

Because I live on the grounds of Ski Roundtop, I’m allowed to use the resort’s dumpster for my household garbage. This is not completely altruistic on their part. The garbage truck won’t come back my private road, and I’m sure Ski Roundtop doesn’t want a week's worth of my garbage sitting at their front gate while it waits for the garbage truck. I say this in preparation to help explain my story.

After I got home from work and did a little cabin cleanup, I ended up with one white kitchen-sized bag of trash, which is about one week’s worth of trash for me. To dump the trash, I loaded the bag in the car and headed down the mountain to the dumpster, which is a little over .5 mile from the cabin. Because of the time change, my early evenihng trip was made after dark.

So I drove down my lane and onto the Roundtop access roads, passing one of their snow-making ponds. I saw a white-tailed deer cross the road in front of me. I slowed down to let it pass. It was in no hurry and probably had just gotten a drink out of the pond. I’m surprised it wasn’t at least a little warier, but it wasn’t. I watched it amble across the road and into an area with trees that Roundtop has cleared of underbrush (wouldn’t want those city skiers to see real, live underbrush in the woods). Then I saw a second deer near the first, this one lying down in the cleared area and already bedded down for the night. Now a cleared area next to an access road isn’t a typical spot for a deer to bed down in, but deer have never been known to be rocket scientists. Slowing down my car to take a look was all it took to convince the deer that this wasn’t the best place to sleep, so it got up and calmly walked into the woods (the real woods not the cleared version) and disappeared.

I continued on my way but hadn’t gone more than another 100-150 yards when I see two more deer, these munching grass by the side of the road. These are slightly more suspicious than the first two and wag their tails as they watch me pass but don’t run off.

After that the trip to and from the dumpster was uneventful, but when I returned to the cabin after being gone little more than 10 minutes, I discover one of the large local raccoons on my front deck eating cat food. It doesn’t move when I pull the car into its spot next to the front steps, but it does move when I get out of the car. It scurries away, down the steps and off the deck, but not without first grumbling at my disturbing it. It disappears under the cabin, still grumbling.

There is no moral to this story unless it’s just that I’m always surprised what suddenly turns up in just a few minutes when I’m outside the cabin door. There’s never a dull moment.