Thursday, December 18, 2014

Notes From the Aerie

We had a couple of days of warmish weather earlier this week. It was warmer down in the valley where virtually all the snow has melted away. Here, at the Aerie, where we are on the northeast side of the hill and at 2100 feet elevation, the snow was reduced but not totally removed. What was eight inches has become no more than an inch, maybe an inch and a half.

That warm weather has disappeared and been replaced by two days where the high at the Aerie was just shy of the 30 degree mark. If we could only see the sun once more.... It's been overcast and cloudy since...well, I can't remember when. Might have been sunny last week sometime. Briefly.

The Winter Solstice will occur this weekend, December 21, 6:03 P.M. EST. The period from sun rise to sun set--the "day"--will reach its shortest. Starting on the 22nd, daylight hours will get a little longer each day. I'm certainly looking forward to that.

******

After eight years in the Aerie, I finally got around to putting a mailbox out by the front door. We get our mail delivered to a PO Box down the hill and have ever since before we moved in. (We took one look at the last 40-50 yards of the road leading up to our driveway and decided NOT to put the mail deliverer on the spot during the winter. It's shady and about a 30-35 degree slope that would be hell for a 2-wheel drive vehicle, which is what she was driving at the time. That's also why Terry has two vehicles: a 2-wheel drive Aveo and a 4x4 Jeep.)

The only "mail" we get at the door is in the form of packages from UPS and FedEx. That and the invoice from the propane deliveryman when he makes a stop. He has been jamming the invoice in the crack of the front door. And every time he does, I worry that the wind will, one day, blow the bill away. So, I finally bought a small mailbox and spent some time Wednesday attaching it to the post at the top of the front steps.

Less than an hour after I finished installing the mailbox, I heard the "beep, beep, beep" of a truck backing into the driveway. Sure enough, the propane truck was here! When he was done, the bill--and the complimentary calendar--were placed in the new mailbox. I love it when a plan comes together!

BTW, the propane was a mere $2.20 per gallon. On October 15th the price was $2.40. That doesn't match the drop in gasoline prices (down to $2.70/gal for regular) but it's still a plus.

******

Christmas is coming! It may not be white Christmas here at the Aerie. (It WON'T be white if we should get at least one day of sunshine. How 'bout it? Can we get just one before Christmas?) It certainly will not be a White Christmas where Terry and I are heading. We're going to Anaheim on Monday to spend Christmas with Jessica, Rick and Sandy at Disneyland. We fly out on Monday while Rick and Sandy fly south from Portland on Tuesday.

Jess lives two blocks away and works at the park, but will be with us at the hotel in the park. She will be our personal guide and has already made reservations for a couple of the special events and meals.

I've never been in Disneyland and Terry hasn't been in the park since she was around 10 years old. There have been a few changes since. I'm really looking forward to the visit. It's the flights to and from I am not looking forward to.

******

Reading the news these past few weeks has done nothing to improve my blood pressure or my opinion of a sizable portion of the human race. I don't dare turn the TV news on for fear of yelling and screaming at the screen--or worse.

Even watching sports has become something of a risk. When football players and basketball players promote false narratives ("Hands Up" and "I can't breath") which promote nothing but devisiveness, it burns me up. They are (well) payed to play a game, for God's sake! NOT to push some political and or social agenda.

The same is true for actors and actresses. When an actor steps up to a microphone to espouse some political drivel totally devoid of reality or common sense, or makes the news because of some drunken, drug fueled behavior, that person's performance on the stage or screen might be the greatest in the world, I still won't be able to stomach it. In the back of my head I see/hear the idiot rather than the savant.

Enough of a rant. Time to close for tonight.





Friday, December 12, 2014

Hunting Season: Days 10, 11, and 12
And More

I'm calling it quits for the season. I've got some venison in the freezer and there's 8 inches of snow in the woods making moving around difficult on my knees and hard on my back. The thin layer of ice underneath doesn't help either.

Oh, the deer are still around. I saw tracks through that new snow when I hauled the carcass out to the back field. A regular set of highways heading right up the hill toward where I normally sit. Don't let anyone tell you they shy away from a gut pile either. A couple sets of tracks went right to that pile. For all I know, they were eating the stomach contents (lots of partially digested grass) just like northern caribou hunters will run for their spoon when they knock an animal down. (Lots of good vitamins in that stuff...or so I'm told.)

All day Thursday was spent clearing the driveway and parking area of that 6-8 inches of snow that fell Wednesday night. Friday was spent recovering from that labor, hauling the bones out to feed the wild critters and feral cats that might wander by, and just poking around the house doing some chores.

The sun has disappeared and the clouds have been spitting flurries for two days. The temperatures hae ranged from a low of 22 all the way up to 24 degrees. Thankfully there has been virtually no wind to speak of or those temps might get uncomfortable fast.

Flocks of geese have decided to head (mostly) south having found the farmers' fields suddenly covered with snow. (I say "mostly" because today, they seemed to be heading more southwest. Perhaps their leaders' magnetic senses are a bit scrambled.) My feeder birds are going through sunflower seed like crazy. I'm sure some of the seed's getting stashed away in little nooks and crannies in the trees somewhere because those nuthatches, titmice and chickadees are returning much too quickly to be carrying seed out to the trees, spending time cracking open the seed and eating the heart of the seed. There has to be a stash being filled someplace. There have been a dearth of squirrels so far this year. Last year we had as many as 12 at a time all trying to feed on the deck. This year we've, at most 3 or 4. I wonder if they've migrated, decided to stick with the acorns--of which there was a fair crop, or got hit by a disease.

Saturday I'm going to be cleaning my rifle and putting my hunting clothes and gear away. At least this year I got to use one of my tags.

Oh, I'll probably be watching the Army-Navy game on TV, too. This weekend, as they say, "it's the only game in town." Navy's got some cool looking new uniforms from the folks at Under Armor. Lots of color and flair. While not as good a team as the last couple of years, they should still be able to handle Army...again.

In ten days, Terry and I will be flying out to Anaheim to spend Christmas at/in Disneyland with our kids. I'm really looking forward to it. Not the flying part, the Disneyland part. Sure, the kids are in their 30s and I'm 65, but what does age have to do with going to Disneyland.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

We got snow!

Not when it was forecast to occur, but it arrived.

Surprise!

The forecasters had been predicting 8 to 10 inches of snow fro Tuesday. That didn't happen. Wednesday we saw just a few flurries amounting to less than half an inch. Then Wednesday night we were surprised with 6 to 8 inches of powder. It stopped falling around 8:30 and I was outside clearing the driveway a little after 9 AM.

 Vehicles and driveway were covered with 6-8 inches of snow.

 The tray feeder was covered, too.

The deck was covered also.

Terry cleaned off the deck while I tried to figure out if I wanted to use the tractor or the snow thrower. If it had been a inch or two deeper the tractor would have been the only option. I finally figured I could use the exercise so I fired up the snow thrower and took a long, slow walk back and forth, back and forth. It certainly wasn't an aerobic/cardio workout, but it was a workout just the same. Being light, powdery snow meant I could throw it onto an area I would later have to clear and the blower would handle it. (Something it wouldn't do if this had been a we snow.)

I got almost all of the drive cleared when Terry came out to clear off the Jeep and go down for the mail. While she was gone, I cleared the area where the Jeep parks then moved the truck and cleared that area witht he snow thrower. Then it was time for lunch. Terry made a great mac and cheese with ham and peas that warmed and satisfied.

After lunch, we both went back out with shovels to clear the snow that remained. To keep from throwing stones as well as snow, I had the runners set to their maximum height. That left 3/4 to 1 inch of snow on the driveway. To keep it from becoming even icier, that snow had to go. Together, it took us about an hour to clear the parking area and driveway.

While the temperature never got above 24 degrees, it wasn't bad working outside as there we had no wind.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hunting Season: Days 8 and 9
(No Hunting!)

Terry and I sat around all day yesterday waiting for the snowmageddon the forecasters were harping about. Never happened. Not here anyway. We had fog. Lots of it, too. Occasionally it would lift enough so we could see more than half a mile. Sometimes it would be pea soup thick and seeing the burn barrel (25 yards away) was an invitation to eyestrain. Needless to say, with all the fog, we had no breeze of which to speak. The thermometer would hover around the freezing mark; as low as 28 and as high as 34. All day the radar showed snow and/or ice to the east of us lined up just on the other side of Route 220 between Sayre and Towanda. That's as far as it got--the middle of Bradford County about 40 miles east of the Aerie.

I had decided to sleep in and not go out hinting because of the weather forecasts. Although the temperatures were fine and there was no precip to speak of, the fog would have made it extreemly difficult to spot anything more than 30 yards away. So Terry and I sat around the house waiting for the snow. And waiting asa the Photography Club meeting in Wellsboro was cancelled and reports were coming in from eat and north of us about how bad it was and weather forecasters were wetting their panties in glee over the WEATHER!!!! And nothing continued to happen here. Finally Terry decided she had had enough and went to the Ladies Guild dinner down in Mansfield. I stayed home and monitored the weather (and watched some TV). When she got home at 9 PM the snow still hadn't arrived. (Monday night the forecasters were saying it would be snowing by 6 AM Tuesday.) And it was still not snowing when we went to bed at 10 PM.

This morning we awoke to a light dusting of fresh new snow on the deck.Perhaps as much as a quarter of an inch.

Having hung the little button buck outside for two days, I decided it was time to do some butchering today. I skinned out the deer behind the house and then quartered the carcass in front of the garage before moving inside to debone the critter. Terry assisted with the deboning and removal of fat from the meat and then with the packaging of same.

This wasn't a huge deer by any stretch of the imagination and when we got done with removing all the inedible parts, we were left with about 45 pounds of very lean filet, roasts, steaks, stew meat and chop meat.

Julie the cat helped with the clean up as she helped herself to some of the ground venison sticking to the meat grinder and various bowls I set aside to wash. She normally doesn't eat raw meat and will ignore chopped beef, but she really, really likes venison!

We had closed the garage door while we deboned the deer and were a little surprised to see it was snowing pretty good when we went in to the kitchen to process the meat. Not much in the way of accumulation...yet, but there was every indication it would continue for a good while.

Saw on the news that Syracuse and the hills on I-81 in that area were getting/had gotten hammered. There were reports of a 5 hour delay on I-81 and a foot of snow in Syracuse. Even the Bolt Hole is getting upwards to a foot of snow. We won't see anything quite that drastic here at teh Aerie, but the folks at weather.com are still speaking of 1-3 inches tonight and another 1 inch tomorrow. We shall see.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Hunting Season: Day 7

I went out this morning at 6:30 AM when it was 15 degrees. Luckily it was not breezy at all and, except for the ice falling off tree limbs, totally silent. I sat for 2-1/2 hours and heard nothing and saw nothing.

Around 9 AM I thought I'd take a walk-about to see if there were any signs of activity. As I walked I heard a couple of shots w-a-y off to the south on the sunny side of the ridge, but they were too far off to have any impact on the area I was hunting. The ground was still covered with a crust of snow and ice and the trees would shed some of their ice cover when the breeze kicked up. I moved when the ice fell hoping the clatter of ice on ice would cover the sounds I made.

It hardly mattered. Aside a set of fresh dog/coyote tracks there were no fresh deer tracks. I did see a couple of gray squirrels and a pileated woodpecker and a couple of chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches but nothing else was stirring...not even a mouse.

I got back to my "usual" seat around 11 AM and settled in for the afternoon. I was just trying to decide if I wanted to have my sandwich when I spotted three deer coming down the trail at the bottom of the hill. None of them had antlers. I silently stood and rested my rifle on a tree nearby and focused on an opening near tot he one through which I had missed the buck last Monday. The first deer moved through that opening too quickly for me to squeeze the trigger. The second deer stopped in that opening and I squeezed off a shot. The deer kicked out like a mule and dashed off into the Norway spruces on the other side of the field. I swung to the first deer which had stopped in an opening a short distance down the trail. I squeezed off a second shot and that deer fell where it stood with blood spurting out onto the snow.

Thinking I had filled my two doe tags, I headed down the hill to put them on the deer's ears. Problem is, I missed that first shot. I found the spot where the bullet hit...directly under the deer's belly. That's why she bucked and ran off. The second deer lay dead on the trail. The bullet, quickly aimed and fired, had missed the heart and lungs but took out the neck. I searched the track of the first deer and found no blood sign...and a .270 Winchester would have left some blood trail within 50 yards. And with the snow on the ground, it would have been easy to spot. *sigh* Terry reminds me that I'm still doing better than most baseball hitters. One for three is .333. More practice is in order for next season, however.

(BTW I'm pretty sure the regs say I was supposed to "remove one tagged deer from the woods" before shooting the second although I can't seem to find that in the compendium. As I was on my own property, I thing I could argue that I HAD removed the deer from "the woods" (it was on my land) before shooting the second.)

Disappointed that I had missed on the first shot, I still had to tag and dress out the second deer. Turning it onto it's back, I realized I had shot a button buck. Checking it's head there were indeed two tiny bumps above its eyes. Dressed out, I dragged it down the trail to the Aerie where I hung it up in the back of the house. I saved the liver and heart and Terry sliced up and packaged them for me (she won't eat the organs). I also took out the backstraps which we will have for dinner tonight.

I may, or may not go out tomorrow morning. The forecast has become slightly worse according to one of the two BIG names in weather. One is saying we'll have snow by 8 AM while the other says to look for flakes after noon. Both are talking anywhere from 3 to 5 inches of snow...and ice.