Friday, October 31, 2008

Enjoying Some Time Off

I'm taking a few days off work so Mr. Johnson and I can spend some quality time out in the woods with bow & arrow trying to bag a deer or two before the shotgun hunters take over in a week. Unfortunately, the deer seem to have other plans and are conspicuously absent from these woods where we've had good luck in the past. However, the weather is quite lovely and today was sunny and calm with a gorgeous blue sky. (We even took what was probably our last motorcycle ride for 2008 this afternoon.)

To make up for the absence of deer, there is the usual overabundance of squirrels--gray, fox, and red. They spend all of their time chasing and scuffling in the leaves, sounding for all the world like a herd of deer. They certainly are fun to watch though.

Last weekend when we got out to one of our deerstands early in the morning, we found this blind had been set up about 12 feet right in front of the stand. We are hunting (with permission) on private land--comprised of approximately 160 acres. We are hunting in a 20-acre section of wooded area. The landowner also has some relatives who come down from The Cities for gun hunting season. Since those guys never have time to come down and scout for deer, apparently they thought it would be easiest this year to set up their blind close to Mr. Johnson's stand--probably because he would know where the deer are, right?
Needless to say, we were a little "upset" when we came upon this blind. I don't know about you, but we considered this rather unsportsmanlike. So I decided to return the unsportsmanlike favor and used this blind as an outhouse......but it was only for #1 (so you know I'm only 97% evil!)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Weatherman Was Right!

Yesterday turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day -- perfect for getting my outside chores done in advance of the wintry conditions the weatherman was predicting for today. So I got all my windchimes taken down, the hammock rolled up and lawn chairs stored away in the shed. Mr. Johnson and I picked 2 buckets of apples and I dug up my bumper crop of carrots from the garden. OK Ol' Man Winter--let's see what you got!

Here's the thermometer on my deck at 1:30 this afternoon.

And for my friends and family in California and other warm and sunny locales, this video is for you!

So, the weatherman was right--we have gone from "awesome to awful" in the same weekend! Just for the record, this is not the earliest snowfall we've ever had in October. According to my nature diary, in 2006 we had snow flurries on October 11th. October is an interesting month as far as weather goes.....according to my diary we've also had tornado watches, severe thunderstorms and have used the air conditioner and furnace in the same week!

Now if you'll excuse me please, I have to go start the fireplace!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Birdfeeder Activities

It was dreary and sprinkly this afternoon, but that didn't slow down any of the bird activity at my feeders. However, this half-empty nyjer feeder wasn't winning me any new friends with my backyard goldfinch population.

There......that's better!

I've had to put some of my seasonal window clings up on the patio door. In the last 2 weeks, I've had 2 goldfinches lose their lives after flying into this door. Although it looks kind of stupid to have these clings stuck down in the middle of the window, it seems to be working because I haven't heard any more birdies hitting the glass or found anymore casualties on the deck.

Here's a little junco also enjoying some nyjer seed in the tray feeder on my deck. I've got lots of juncos in the yard again now.

There was also an abundance of red-winged blackbirds in the backyard this afternoon. I think somehow or other they know there are winter storm warnings in Nebraska and Kansas, so they have decided to stick around here a little bit longer before heading south. Here's a male red-winged blackbird now wearing his "winter" plumage (according to my Kaufman field guide). I guess I never knew that the males didn't have black feathers year round. The brownish feathers give this red-winged blackbird a bit of a resemblance to a starling, don't you think?

And out in my fly-thru feeder I had 4 red-winged blackbirds--2 males and 2 females. I've always liked the red-winged blackbirds and hearing their calls in the backyard gave me a nice flashback to the early days of summer.

According to the weatherman, it sounds like we're coming to the end of our moderate autumn weather. As the huge low pressure system currently creating winter weather nightmares in Nebraska and Kansas continues on its northeastern path, our weather is predicted to change dramatically by the end of the weekend. One forecaster used the phrase, "from awesome to awful" when describing our Saturday to Sunday weather (I even heard the dreaded "S" word!) I guess we'll have to wait and see how "awful" it's really going to be, but in the meantime, I'd better make sure my birdfeeders stay full for my backyard feathered friends.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's On My Knitting Needles

Remember this book I got from my library? It's not due till Nov. 10, so I decided to start one of the projects in there -- the North Star Scarf. Since there's no way I'm going to be able to afford the qiviut yarn the patterns are written for in the near future, I checked through my yarn stash for something that I remembered my friend Don gave me a few years ago. Amazingly enough, I found the perfect substitute in the first bin I checked.
This yarn is called "Kinair" produced by Filatura de Crosa in Biella, Italy. The fiber content is 24% Nylon and 76% Super Fine Goat Hair. It doesn't specify what type of goat, but I'd like to think that perhaps it's from a nice little mohair-producing Angora goat like the one shown at the right. I wish you could feel how incredibly soft this scarf is--it's like petting a kitten or what I imagine the fur of a Pomeranian puppy would feel like. The really cool thing is that Don gave me a whole box of this yarn, so I have 9 more skeins still left to work with.

Here's a baby afghan I'm making for a woman I met at the Potholes and Prairie Birding Festival last June in North Dakota. It's for her first grandchild. They already know it's going to be a girl and she's due to arrive sometime around Christmas. It's about half-done and my goal is to complete it by Thanksgiving. I really like this pattern and someday, I hope to enlarge it for an adult-sized afghan.

Another work in progress is this "Snow Forest Lace Stole." It's been slow going -- there are 273 stitches in each row and 326 rows for the main body of the stole (almost 89,000 stitches!) Once the main part's knitted, there will be a lace edging added all around. I think I figured that this stole will consist of about 100,000 stitches upon completion!
I will get back to this project once the baby blanket's finished and my plan is to get it done and posted on my blog for the December "knitting for a worthy cause" auction.

On Monday, I started the last neck warmer from the hand-dyed 100% Alpaca yarn I bought a couple months ago. I can't remember for sure, but I think I've completed 8 or 9 of these in a variety of colors.
All of the neckwarmers are going to be available in my November "knitting for a worthy cause" auction. As soon as I get this one completed (probably in a week), I'll post them all for your bidding pleasure.

With cooler weather and shorter days now, my evening knitting time has increased and since I won't be watching much TV for the next couple weeks (getting tired of those political ads!), I should be able to get lots of knitting done.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Way To Go Mr. Johnson!

It was a calm, clear and frosty morning today as we headed out to our deerstands at 6:15 A.M. A bowhunter couldn't have asked for a more perfect morning. Mr. Johnson and I parted ways at our usual spot with a kiss and good luck wishes. We were both happy that we got to our stands without disturbing any deer bedded down in the woods or nearby cornfield. The sound of leaves falling from the trees resembled the sound of footsteps so you had to listen really close to decide whether it was a leaf, mouse, squirrel, or maybe a deer walking around in the woods.

Around 7:15 I heard Mr. Johnson's voice on the walkie-talkie telling me he had gotten a deer. He waited until he didn't hear any more noise of the running deer, then gathered up all his hunting paraphernalia and climbed down from his ladder stand to start searching. About 15 minutes later he reported to me that he had found the deer--a big fat doe. This deer will do a good job of filling up a shelf or two in our freezer.

Good Job Mr. Johnson!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Adventures Through Reading

Do many of you use Amazon to find and/or order books? I've ordered some field guides and an occasional pattern book from them, but a few weeks ago, I finally clicked on the tab that said they had some "recommendations" for me (based on previous orders, I guess). Holy cow in a canoe! They had almost 200 books (and even some birdhouses) on their recommendation list! It took me a while to go through it and I even added some to my wish list and then I had a brainstorm......why not see if I could get any of these books through my local public library and read them to see if I like them before spending $$ to purchase a book I might not really like.

Our public library participates in a SE Minnesota cooperative, so I can go to their on-line link and search based on title and/or author (which I can easily find from my Amazon recommendations). This is such a cool thing! So in the last 3 weeks, I've gotten the chance to check out and read the 4 books shown below:

Woodswoman by Anne LaBastille This is a pretty cool story and I was amazed by what Anne accomplished and how she survived on her own in the Adirondack Mountains of New York back in the early 1970's (especially without a cell phone, computer or any of our current "modern" conveniences).

Going Alone - a collection of essays by women adventurersEven though I'm more of an "armchair adventurer" I'm really enjoying this book. These women are brave, smart, some young and some older (like me), and it's neat to share their adventures through the pages of this book.

Arctic Homestead by Norma Cobb Norma Cobb was the last women to file for a pioneer homestead in the United States and she did it in Alaska. I could not put this book down. It's an amazing story about how she and her family (husband and 5 children) built their own log cabin and learned to survive north of Fairbanks, near the Arctic Circle.

Arctic Lace by Donna Druchunuas
This is a knitting book featuring "projects and stories inspired by Alaska's Native Knitters." I don't like to buy pattern books unless I look at them first--they're pretty expensive and sometimes there's only one or two patterns I like and I end up never using the book at all. However that's not the case with this Arctic Lace book and I know I will be purchasing this book soon to add to my pattern collection. There's lots of information--especially about Alaska history and native peoples and also the musk oxen who provide the qiviut fiber that these patterns call for. Are you starting to see an adventure/Alaska theme here? Me too!

I'm really thankful for my local public library and the resources and help they provide for me--all free of charge! I don't even pay a fee for my library card. I have donated some of the knitting pattern books I don't use anymore to the library and also those books I get from the book club that everyone always wants to read and I don't want to wait for them (like the latest Janet Evanovich or Mary Higgins Clark). I figure that's the least I can do for all the library has done for me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fall Colors In My Backyard

I haven't taken you for a walk around the backyard in a while, so I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the colors that are out there. (Remember you can click on the pictures to make them bigger.) We haven't had a hard frost yet although tonight's forecast is for temps in the low 30's. (I covered my second crop of lettuce just to be safe--it's finally gotten big enough to start eating.) I would say we're at peak color in the area right now and in addition to all the beautiful colored leaves, I still have some flowers blooming.


Gorgeous purple asters

One brave little purple coneflower

We lost quite a few apples in late season windstorms, but there are still some hanging on. I'll let them get frosted a little (it makes them sweeter) and then pick what I can to make apple butter and applesauce and maybe even an apple pie for Mr. Johnson!

Don't you love these Winterberry Holly?

I have several of these holly bushes in the backyard, but this one has the most fruit on it. I planted them especially for the birds, but the birds have never taken advantage of the fruit. However, they provide beautiful color in the backyard through much of the winter.
Asparagus plants are even changing color. This is how you find where asparagus is growing wild in road ditches--drive around looking for the yellow color in the fall and remember where it is so you can go back to cut some in the spring.

Some of the sumac from the roadside ditch is infiltrating the evergreen windbreak at the edge of my yard. It's annoying to me and I need to go cut some of these wayward visitors off, but the red leaves of the sumac are such a beautiful contrast against the dark green of the evergreens, don't you think? So I think I will give them a "stay of execution" until they have lost their leaves.

Here are a couple views of the staghorn sumac patch. This patch has probably quadrupled in size since I planted it about 7 years ago.I think this is the most colorful I have ever seen it!

Here's one of the maple trees--changing over from green to yellow. I think it's pretty amazing how some of the leaves are still completely green and some are completely yellow, while the others are half and half.

The aspen trees are just starting to change to their yellow leaves. I'm guessing within the week, these trees will be all yellow. This aspen grove is another success story in my backyard. By discontinuing lawnmowing around the 10 or so trees that were there, the little shoots just took off and now I have a really nice little grove. The only mowing I do there now is 3 trails through the middle of the trees--it's like my own private little aspen jungle! Bunnies and deer like to spend time in there too.

The Mountain Ash trees are covered with orange berries too. I'm surprised the Cedar Waxwings haven't eaten all these berries yet.

How about this handsome little feller? I've had bunches of these White Crowned Sparrows (adults and juveniles) in the backyard for a couple weeks. I tried hiding behind a shrub to get some pictures of these twittery little birds, and after 20 minutes, this was the only acceptable shot. BTW - I saw my first dark-eyed junco in the backyard yesterday afternoon also.

And here's one of the favorite spots for many of the birds in my backyard. It started out as 10 red osier dogwood seedlings that eventually grew into 10 foot shrubs. Now the shrubs are grown over with Virginia creeper and wild grapes, also one giant elderberry bush and a box elder tree right in the middle of the thicket. I keep a tray feeder right on the edge (you can see it in the lower left of the picture). It's so dense and excellent cover for the birds--especially when Cooper's Hawk swoops into the yard. I think the Gray Catbird nested here this summer, but I won't be able to check for any nests till all the leaves are gone.

I hope you all get a chance to go out and enjoy fall colors soon--in your backyard and beyond.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The 1-Year Swap

Last week I came across an interesting post at the blog of my knitting friend Herci. She had just signed up for her first knitting/crafting swap/exchange/circle/chain. And then I signed up for myself with Herci. Have you ever participated in one of these? I see them pretty regularly on some of the blogs of knitters and spinners.

Here's how it works: Herci will be hand-crafting gifts for 5 people who signed up for the swap on her blog. Those 5 people (I'm 1), will then announce the swap on their blog (this is my announcement), and hand-craft (in my case, probably knit) gifts for 5 people who sign up for the swap by commenting on this announcement post.... those 5 people then have to announce the swap on their blog, and make gifts for 5 people who join the swap by commenting on their post.... and the gift chain continues. The giver has 1 year from the date of the post to deliver their 5 gifts (hence the name).

Sounds like fun, don't you think? If you would like to join this swap/chain, you just have to comment on this post. I promise to put lots of love into the gift I craft for you!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Why I Bowhunt

Last summer at the birding festival in North Dakota, someone asked me why I hunt. I think my response was probably pretty lame, but it got me to thinking and now I'm going to try and give you an explanation, in words and pictures, how I can be a nature lover and hunter at the same time. I know plenty of people who enjoy nature without having to be a hunter, but I feel bad for someone who's a hunter and yet doesn't fully appreciate or enjoy nature while they're out hunting.

Hunting with a bow and arrow is so completely different than hunting with a gun. First of all, the deer season starts in September (usually around the peak of fall songbird migration), when the weather is still beautiful and I can enjoy being outside. The season lasts until the end of December, so there's no pressure to shoot the first deer you see like there is during the 6 days of shotgun season. Another reason is that there are no other buck-crazy hunters out there with guns blasting away at practically anything brown and furry, so I never fear for my life or Mr. Johnson's while we're out bowhunting.

The nice thing about bowhunting is that you're all dressed in camouflage, so once you're where you need to be, you become part of the landscape (i.e., invisible to birds and wildlife). So I get to see cool things like this little doe snacking out in the hayfield and squinting into the late afternoon sunshine. Did you even know deer could squint? (me either until I took this picture)

I got the chance to see eye-to-eye with this little buck. He could see my hands moving as I took the picture, but he didn't know what I was, so no fear on his part.

I got to see this little buck right under my tree--he never even knew I was there!

And he crossed farther into the field maybe 10 yards from my treestand. This would have been an easy shot for me with a bow, but I prefer to let this little guy grow up. And that's a choice I can make as a bowhunter because I know there are bigger bucks (and does) out there that would provide a lot more meat for my freezer.

Bowhunting in the fall allows me to spend time outside on gorgeous days like this.
Bowhunting forces me to physically challenge myself and makes me so thankful that I have good health. It's not quite as easy as it used to me, but I can still haul my 50-year-old body 15 feet up that little ladder attached to the left tree to the treestand (right arrow is pointing to it).

Once I get up into my treestand, I get to enjoy this view. Definitely worth the hike and climb, don't you think?

From my treestand, I can look down on beautifully colored leaves on my tree.

And when I'm not watching for deer, I can watch Eastern Bluebirds, checking out evening roosting spots in natural cavities of a nearby dead tree (this is something I have never seen before!)

And because I'm in the tree at bird level, I can get a photo of a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet -- at his level -- for the nanosecond that he sat still before flitting out of my camera range just 10 feet in front of me.

I can watch Eastern Wild Turkeys going about their business across the pasture.
And I can watch another little buck enjoying some sweet alfalfa in the same pasture.

And in addition to wildlife, I get to have a little fun with the cattle out here too--in the daytime..... .....and after dark. I enjoy cattle because they are so goofy and curious.

Bowhunting takes a huge amount of time, dedication and practice to be successful. I practice target shooting every day and concentrate on hitting the target inside a 3-inch circle. I feel it's my personal responsibility to not to take any shot where there's a chance I could injure, but not kill a deer. I actually bowhunted for 3 years before I shot my first deer 2 years ago. For me, shooting a deer is the hardest part of the bowhunting experience. While I'm happy that I'm able to provide food for us, I actually have to kill an animal myself in order to do this. So I'm always aware of my responsbility to the animal to try and make its death as quick as possible. (Reading Catherine Friend's book "The Compassionate Carnivore" made me even more mindful of this responsibility.)

So there you have it.....why I bowhunt. Not because I enjoy killing animals, but because I love nature and I get the chance to be a part of it for many enjoyable hours each year. We have an overabundance of deer in this area, so I know I'm not doing any harm to their population and we will have a freezer full of great tasting, organic, free-range venison that was harvested with skill, appreciation and respect.

And if you need anymore convincing, I enjoy bowhunting specifically for moments like this (shown in the video below) when I get to see and learn more about deer in their natural environment. These are things a person normally wouldn't have the chance to experience unless they're able to spend lots of hours out in the woods. "Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."