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Thursday, January 23, 2014

In a Robert Frost State of Mind (Blog 174)

Because of the snow and cold, I have been off from school this entire week and have taken several walks along the seeded logging road that winds across our 38 acres in Botetourt County, Virginia.  Elaine, our daughter Sarah, and grandson Sam have accompanied me on some of these half-hour treks.

But in spirit the American poet Robert Frost has also accompanied me.  When walking along the snow covered lane, I think about the poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," especially the verse "the woods are lovely dark and deep."  Indeed, they are.

Yesterday, Sarah and I strolled the pathway as the sun was beginning to set and the night creatures were preparing to stir.  We came across a trio of whitetail deer that were about ready to enter a neighbor's pasture.  We saw signs of where a fox had rambled through the woods as well as where songbirds had fed, deer had pawed the ground to reach some vegetation, and much, much more.

The sign left by wildlife is always "writ large" upon the landscape if one knows how and where to look.  I enjoy trying to decipher the message that the creatures have left behind.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Wild Turkeys and Tame Chickens (Blog 173)

Every morning after I let our Rhode Island Reds out of their hen house, I pause for several minutes at dawn to listen for turkeys talking to each other on the roost.  Some mornings I hear turkeys and some I don't.

On Friday, I didn't hear any turkeys so I did a few chores, but right before I was to go inside I heard what I thought was a turkey near the chicken run.  Walking to the run, I heard Johnny, our beta cockerel who has had a head cold for several weeks, clucking just like a wild turkey.

To my surprise, turkeys began answering Johnny about 100 yards behind the run. Johnny replied back and a conversation ensued.  Johnny and his voice have not been right since his head cold and the poor boy has had trouble ridding himself of his malady.  I wonder if other folks have heard chickens and turkeys communicating?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Set for the Winter (Blog 172)

Today Elaine and I spent most of the day inside as an icy rain fell for much of this January day.  But sometimes it is good to spend all day inside, warm by the wood stove, and secure in the knowledge that life is good here with someone I love so much, who even on a cold winter day can make me laugh so much throughout the morning and afternoon.

The day before Elaine had cooked wild turkey breast in our Camp Chef cast iron skillet, and the leftovers were just the thing for two lunchtime sandwiches.  Then for dinner, we had omelets, courtesy of our Rhode Island Red hens.  Tomorrow, we might have the remaining turkey in a vegetable soup - a pleasant thing to contemplate.

Tonight, a scrabble game is the horizon, and Elaine has already playfully boasted that she will beat me by more than the 125 points she did on Wednesday evening.  Again, not much happening but it has been a quite satisfying day nevertheless.

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Grandson Sam, Chickens, Coyotes, and Graham Crackers (Blog 171)

Yesterday, I babysat my grandson Sam while Elaine and our daughter Sarah went into Roanoke for the day.  Sam is now nearly 19 months old and I can see the changes in him.  For example, when we were walking down the sidewalk next to our house, I pointed out the chicken run to him, and Sam immediately took off for the henhouse. He would not have been so independent a few months ago.

Back in the summer, I gave Sam some bread to feed the chickens, instead he ate the bread himself.  This time, when I told him to feed the chickens (while I was picking clover to give our birds), Sam gathered up dead leaves and stuffed them through the chicken wire.  Our Rhode Island Reds were eagerly eating the clover I offered and, of course, rejected Sam's dead leaves.  Nevertheless,  a delighted Sam continued to stuff leaves through the wire.

Later, local trapper Gary Guilliams stopped by with three dead coyotes he had caught that morning.  Gary is one of the sources for a coyote story I am writing for Virginia Wildlife, and I had asked him to bring by any song dogs that he caught so that I could take pictures of them for the story.

Sam was thrilled to see the coyotes and wanted to touch them, which I discouraged of course.

But the most interesting thing Sam did all day was tell me that he wanted "crack-ers" as he says.  I gave him some saltines, but he rejected them by more insistently repeating "crack-ers" and going to the pantry door and pointing upward.  It was only after I called Elaine and asked what was it specifically that Sam wanted did my wife tell me that our grandson had developed a fondness for graham crackers. "Why," Elaine said, " would he want saltines when he knows graham crackers are in the house."

Why indeed.