Monday, November 28, 2011

Midnight Visitors

12:15 AM
A few nights ago, I was getting ready for bed around midnight and I noticed the outside security light was on.  As I looked down, I saw a young muley buck with just knobs for antlers grazing in the snow.  He was joined by a doe, two other youngsters, presumably does, another youngster and two adult does.  It seems they walked across my front yard, under my porch awning or up the driveway, and then up the stairs on the hill to go up.  I guessed that there was at least 7 deer in the herd.

A few days later, my husband noticed that they had made beds right on our front lawn and spent at least some of the night.

Oh if they only knew that three of their buddies were cooling their heels in my freezer!  Lucky for them, it was dark and we had maxed out our deer tags.

Sadly, our elk hunting had to be called off due to colds -- first my husband, and now me.  Oh well, three deer is still a good hunt.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown

4:57 PM
Thanksgiving means cranberry chutney, fruitcake that non-fruitcake people like, and brining turkeys.  I pulled out the turkey yesterday from the freezer, unwrapped it, put it in a huge bag and stuffed it in a cooler full of water.  I then stuck that cooler out in the garage.  It hit about 10F last night, and I was worried I'd have a turkey-cicle, but I didn't, thankfully.  So, I dumped the water, added more, and left it to thaw.  With a 35 lb turkey, it's a major undertaking.

I try not to stress about that as there really is not much I can do.  If worse came to worst, I guess there's always an emergency run to a store or thawing the breast/legs of the other bird I cut up.  My mom would peg the anxiety meter on Thanksgiving which always made the holiday stressful.  Which is too bad because I think it needs to be a day of enjoying family and friends.  If that means takeout turkey, then so be it.

Yesterday was COLD and so I had to check on the livestock.  The major problem is keeping fresh water for all the birds.  I have a heater for the horses' troughs, Sid's bucket, the ducks' bucket, and heat lamps over the various chicks and their waterers, but it doesn't fix everything.  I literally dug out the mat heater that had sat under compressed  wood shavings and got it started.  Hopefully it still works and will heat up the water to melt the ice.  Otherwise, I may have to buy some waterer heaters.

Made the chutney yesterday.  I took a recipe off the web and modified it sufficiently to make it mine.  It's awesome.  Last night I soaked the dried fruit in rum and today baked the fruitcake.  I have a recipe in my King Arthur cookbook that is similar to this one, but it allows you to put in 6 cups of your preferred fruit.  In my case it was pineapple, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, and raisins.

Now, to plan out the rest of the meal and also get the critters fed tonight, as well as plow the road.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hunting, Elk, Deer and Mountain Lions

8:13 PM
One nice thing about Montana is its long hunting season.  It gives people who live here the chance to fill their tags, and their freezers.  For us, it meant going after a whitetail doe to fill my husband's doe tag and look for bull elk to fill our elk tags.

If you've never hunted, you're probably thinking it's easy.  It's not.  For years we'd go out hunting in Colorado and come home with nothing.  Not because we were lousy hunters, but because the game in Colorado was so pressured.  Here in Montana, the game isn't as pressured, but they can still be pretty cagey.

Most of our hunting had originally been blind dumb luck.  Now, we're familiar with certain areas and patterns the deer take, so we can put ourselves in the place where the animals are and hopefully bring home a deer.  Even so, it's still guesswork.  For example, we know that certain deer take certain trails at certain times of the day.  But even this isn't perfect, and we could find nothing in the same location.

We had filled our antlered deer tags, but my husband had an antlerless tag for whitetail.  Tough when you live in an area populated by two different deer species.  Whitetail are smaller deer with antlers that branch upward from a single beam.  They have smaller ears and tails that flip up like a white flag when startled or alarmed.  Mule deer have large ears, white butts and ropey tails.  Our whitetails tend to be red; our muleys are usually gray.  Now imagine, if you would, trying to identify the sex and species of deer from several hundred yards away in low light conditions.

So, we were getting ready to hunt our way out as the noon hour approached and I saw three whitetail does standing looking at us in a place where we usually see mule deer.  My husband took several shots and somehow managed to put all rounds in the same deer.  They all were lethal shots but the deer was just tough.  She managed to keep going even with a femoral and carotid artery hit.  She proved to be very fat-- the fattest deer I've ever seen.  Even the tanner mentioned how fat she was.

One of the surprising things this year has been seeing mountain lion tracks all over the place.  We've seen lots of coyote tracks -- they seem to be following the roads, but seldom mountain lions.  I've seen at least three distinct sized tracks in different areas.  The cats are definitely huge here, and definitely hunting.

We now have three deer in the freezer which is better than no deer in the freezer.  Now, onto hunt elk!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sure the earth moved, but around here, how could you tell?

10:00 PM
Today we had a 4.2 magnitude earthquake.  I'd like to say that something amazing happened such as books falling off the shelf or feeling something odd.  Heck, I figured my animals should've acted weird (well, weirder than normal).

Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.

No, I'm not looking for a major shaking, but when a 4.2 magnitude quake feels less than a Malamute thumping down the stairs or the train rumbling through the valley, you've got to wonder.  I mean, the news folks came out to my town and interviewed people.  Almost all said "didn't feel a thing."  Oh sure, there was one woman who claimed she felt it in her rocking chair and her fish tank had a minor tsunami, but my dogs, cats, chickens, geese, ducks, horses and llama said nothing.  Which pretty much made it a non-event.

I suspect that there was no earthquake.  I think it was Thor the Malamute in a play session.  Shakes the entire house.  And it makes far more sense to me.