What We've Been Up To....

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Last Year in Pictures

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Usually updated monthly

Birds Nest

Dog Pile in front of the heater

Wolf Tracks?

.......... We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it...No one has the right to take [dignity] from us. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope. --Pope Francis

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4 February 2018
Sunshine anyway, although nighttime temps are single and double digits below zero this week. When the sun shines, the house warms up without a lot of other heating or morning fires. Our kind of 'fire season'--when the bakeoven is available--is great for cooking and eating watching the day's fire. Better than TV.

Gene: I've started thinning out the 'dog hair' balsams (too thick) to avoid the other type of fire season. Starting near the house for firebreak. Also looking to replant the edges of the drive with hazelnuts; some hybrids and some native which are already in our woods. Looking at a lot of moving small trees and cages this spring, too. Nice but hard work. Love that we can see changes that are showing now after 10+ years. The foresters are still touting the 'thin to reduce competition' line while others can show that biodiversity supports better total health of the forest. Wish I could do silvapasture with goats, but that's a huge time commitment.

We are into precinct caucuses this week, so that tension is up. At least we have some candidates who haven't totally sold out. Worrisome. We are taking a 'Climate of Hope' class at UMD for Seniors and will likely get solar electric here when we can, perhaps go to an electric car powered by solar. There are things we can do now.

Leek sets are coming up as well as a batch of greens in the greenhouse. One of the mushroom logs in the greenhouse is starting to fruit. The year is beginning!

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12 January 2018
Karen's Report:
On Sunday, New Year's Eve day, in very cold weather, I saw a beautiful, sleek wolf just past the triple intersection on Thompson Lake Road. He crossed the road and then stood on the side for a bit and looked at me; I'd come to a dead stop when I saw him and just looked back. I saw him again near the same place on the way home; there was very little traffic that day and he was walking down Tracy Road and melted into the woods by Thompson Lake Road and was close enough that I could see him watching me. What a beautiful animal! Our neighbors Martha and Hilary who live on Thompson Lake say that something has been raiding the garbage cans left out for pickup and hope it isn't this wolf, because if so he will be shot. I haven't seen him again but we have wolf tracks all over our property, especially out at the southern boundary by the huge pile of maple logs that Gene cut down and split in fall, 2015. Miss Bea is always very interested when I take her walking out there.

A couple weeks ago I was following deer tracks across the drive and nearly walked in to a bird's nest at eye height between two aspen at the west side of our road; it has snow on it now but I'm hoping it will be re-used this spring.

Walking along Cannonball Lake Road it is deer and wolf city: many tracks and other wolf signs (urine); Miss Bea never fails to sniff the wolf pee and then mark it, four separate times, before I can convince her to move on. Deer prints and droppings are everywhere, and especially on our shelter trail: every 10 feet is another deer highway with droppings. I have also seen some fox tracks every so often along the road, but not in proximity to wolf tracks. I'm seeing groups of deer near the highway on the way home, they bunch up close to the highway and then all stand there and stare at me, and I often have to beep at a deer or two standing in the middle of Thompson Lake Road when I'm driving home at night, just to get them to move. There are too many when one sees them as often as I am! So far, it's been a very interesting winter for animal life.

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7 January 2018
Finally a reprieve from subzero weather! We even had a number of morning fires to keep the house reasonable. Living here requires a willingness to thrive with a significant temperature flux; so far, so good. Not much snow as yet. Been sledding the maple in; there's enough snow for that. But minimal plowing. Wood is holding out well even with big fires this week.

Rant Warning: Winter is a good time for reading. Anyone concerned about the looming climate crisis ought to read Naomi Klein's "This Changes Everything." Although written a couple of years ago, the book is packed with information and thoughtful analysis that should change attitudes. Also reading E.O. Wilson's last couple of books that show remarkable optimism for us regarding eusocial humans and how to support nature on earth. We have a lot of work to do in a very short time.

We may get politically organized soon, also. Very dissapointed in our conressional representative--a Democrat who has mouthed environmental supports in the past--abandoning us by supporting sulfide mining in Minnesota by a notorius Chilean corporation. The majority of Minnesotans oppose that, but the DFL figures that they could lose the northern Minnesota electorate; indeed the majority there voted for Trump. The rhetoric goes that they did well with iron mining (debatable) and turn a blind eye to the fact that there never has been a sulfide mine that didn't leak and pollute. To say nothing about the need to keep more of the earth undeveloped and reduce population; the rhetoric goes that "Our kids should be able to get a job here" regardless of chronic, population-related problems. The data--a recent employment study--shows differently; the jobs sulfide mining would produce are an order of magnitude less than the corporation's rhetoric, and most of those would be brought in from elsewhere, with the inevitable increase in crime. In fact, with the limited timeline of the mine and loss of tourism and retirement income due to the contamination of habitat, mining would reduce employment in the area over a couple of decades. This just postpones the problem while creating others. So we're supporting an alternative candidate for congress that comes closer to our needs, although third parties have a dismal record; we'll see. Anyway, living out in the woods does not insulate one from political concerns, for sure. OK, End Rant.

The gardening year commences by starting sets for leeks, celery, and greens for the greenhouse. Did my "winter gardening" and reviewed this year and ordered seeds for the spring. It won't be that long, but lots of winter to get there.

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22 December 2017
Life in the woods continues. Was able to cut and split next year's already-a-year-old wood, and as soon as snow allows, I'll begin to sled in about a cord of maple that has been drying in the woods. Not enough snow to do much skiing or snowshoeing yet; pack boots suffice.

After recent travels, we decided to stick close to home this winter. Works better to manage keeping the house warm and it is quiet (mostly) and lovely in the winter. Enjoy finishing up some of the remaining home-building tasks: trim, additional wiring and such. Snow up to several inches is easily cleaned off the walk and drive. I'm working on an "Owner's Manual" for the home; there is quite a bit here that is unlike suburban tract houses. It has its benefits; even in sub-zero weather, a sunny late morning in the greenhouse paying attention to things is remarkably restorative. Dog walks are enjoyable and an opportunity to keep up with (wild) neighbors' activities.

No activity on the shiitake innoculated logs last year yet, but brought a couple into the greenhouse just in case they might fruit over the winter. I often cogitate about managing the years of bearing on these logs; there is lots of info on inoculation but little on timing and tweaking the humidity, light, soaking, etc. I've always taken a 'just give it time' approach but think there is likely more to it than that. Despite the moisture last summer, it was a thin year for mushrooming; maybe this coming year.

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