Pumpkins, Year 2!

Two years ago, Eric’s cousin Molly sent us some pumpkin seeds.  We planted them and, much to our surprise and delight, got 3 pumpkins.   Eric saved the seeds from those pumpkins, and we planted pumpkin seeds again this year, some in the front garden (for lack of a better word), and others in a clearing created by all the dead ash trees that were cut down during Arborgeddon.

The front garden vines produced 3 pumpkins again this year.  These vines died early, and we’ve harvested the three pumpkins:

porch pumpkins

The vines we planted near Arborgeddon took some time to get their legs, but one sure did:

pumpkin vine

We have three more pumpkins suspended from the vine that has climbed all over Arborgeddon:

pumpkin 2pumpkin 3pumpkin 1

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Night Critter

At about 7:30 tonight, Brownie wanted to go for a walk.  Normally I’d just let her outside and let her run, but Eric had just fed Willow, the outdoor cat, and I didn’t want Brownie to steal her food.   I put the zip lead onto Brownie and opened the door.  Our new dog, Cocoa, heard the door open and came running.   Cocoa (unlike Brownie) stays near us when we go for walks, so I waited, with the door open, for her to come.

I wasn’t holding Brownie’s leash tightly, and when she saw something outside, she bolted for it, ripping the lead out of my hand.  She tore into the brush, barking madly, dragging the zip line behind her.    To make a long story short, Nathan caught her, and noticed that she had treed something.  By this point it’s pitch dark.  Nathan took this photo of the critter:


We have no idea what this is.  Cat? Raccoon? Ewok?

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The Moose are a Lie.

We just got back from vacation: two weeks camping, hiking, biking, and kayaking in Northern Ontario.    Northern Ontario is a beautiful, wild area, and one of our favorite places.  This is our sixth trip there in 12 years.

All along the roads in Northern Ontario, there are signs warning about moose.  Simple moose crossing signs like this:


and evocative, glow in the dark signs, like this:



I would love to see a moose in the wild.   We’ve driven all over Northern Ontario, past countless Danger! Moose Crossing! signs.   In 12 weeks of driving around Northern Ontario,  I’ve seen at most, one moose.  This one:

Algonquin Moose

Which, you’ll notice, bears a distinct resemblance to an old  stump.

I want to believe it’s a moose.   I really do.  But I have to be honest.   We don’t have moose in this area, but we do have white tailed deer, and lots of deer crossing signs, too.  I guarantee you — if a Canadian family spent 12 weeks driving around here, they would see plenty of deer, unmistakable, side of the road, in your face, deer.  Not one, off in the swampy the distance, that kind of looks like driftwood.

It saddens me to say it, but I’m forced to come to one inescapable conclusion.

The moose are a lie.

It’s a conspiracy of the Ontario highway department (the OPP) and the Canadian tourism industry.   What better way to keep tired drivers alert on a lonely, empty highway, except signs urging them to keep alert for moose?   And moose —  moose calendars, moose posters, moose pens, moose tracks ice cream — sell.

It’s true, Canadians tell great stories about the moose — the night they saw 14 moose on Highway 17, the bull moose that jumped through a windshield and impaled the steering wheel on his antlers, how “no one sees moose now, because they sleep in August.”    That’s what’s Canadians do in the long, cold, dark, snowy winter — they enter  Tall Moose Tales competitions.  The winners get a cash prize from the OPP and a free moose mug.    An entire industry builds fake moose and plants them in the swampiest, most bug-infested parts of Ontario.   (Where? Moose Factory, of course.)

Yes, I know there are countless photos of Canadian moose on the internet.   It’s amazing what you can do with Photoshop.

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Grandpa Jim gets more than he signed up for

All the fields around the house drain into a creek that runs between the house and the road.   At our end of the drive, the north bank of the creek is wooded,  low and flat.  The driveway follows these woods from our house down to the road.  At the other end, where the driveway reaches the road, the woods give way to tall grasses.   After  a period of heavy rain, the ground becomes saturated, and the creek floods.  When the creek floods, shallow water quickly spreads through the woods at our end and across the grassy area at the other end.  This end of the driveway usually doesn’t flood, but the part near the road often floods.   It’s never truly unpassable, but it gets close.  A few years ago Eric built a wooden walkway and a footbridge, so that we can get through the woods and across the creek whenever it floods like this.

So yesterday, Grandpa Jim and Grandma Carol came to visit from Alabama, and while they were here, there was a heavy rainstorm.   When the rain stopped, the woods near the house were entirely flooded with at least 3 inches of flowing creek water. Brownie and I walked down the driveway to see how just badly the driveway had flooded.   (It had.)

On the way back — splash! Brownie heard something in the woods and took off after it, right into the flood water.    I see a flash of something furry.  I was hoping it was a deer, but Brownie cornered it in the flooded woods, and I could hear lots of barking and growling.

Grandpa Jim and I walked down the Eric’s boardwalk to see if we could get a look at the dog.  No luck.  Up on the bridge?  Couldn’t see anything there either.   I was getting worried about Brownie, so I jumped off the walkway into the floodwater (“Watch out for snakes!” Jim yelled. “I hope you don’t have any water snakes around here!”) and then up onto the Arborgeddon logs that fill the woods, toward the dog.

Brownie had cornered something in a rosebush.  (Floribunda Rose. Invasive. The only kind that grows in our yard.)  It was grey, with a pointed nose and ears.  At first I thought it was a  coyote but it seemed too small — about the size of a large terrier.    Now I think it was a grey fox, which is the right size and coloring.  Poor thing was miserable, standing in 3 inches of floodwater with a large dog running around it, snapping at it and running away just so she could charge back at it.

After about 10 minutes of futilely trying to catch the dog, while Jim yelled about snakes and swamps in the background, and asking if I needed anything that Eric could fetch, the fox made a break for it, right past Jim.  Jim said the fox ran through the flood and over the walkway.  Brownie came by a few seconds later, but had lost track of the fox.   She ran over the bridge, then jumped into the flooded creek.  The creek itself is at least three feet deep, and fast, during these floods.    Jim said she got caught in a bush, got loose, climbed out of the creek, ran back through the flood then over the bridge, and jumped into the flooded creek again.

When we finally caught her, Jim said “When she got stuck in the bush, she looked at me as if to say “get me out, I’m stuck!”  but she got on her own.  I thought she was a pretty smart dog..until I saw her jump back into that same creek.”

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Hey Kids! Get Off My Lawn!

No photos with this one…and that’s a good thing.

About a week ago, we saw Brownie outside in the back yard, having a ball with something that looked like one of those dog toys from Petsmart – the ones that look like a flattened animal carcass with a tennis ball for a head.

It wasn’t a flattened animal carcass dog toy from Petsmart.  Or at least, it wasn’t from Petsmart.

Brownie had found the hide of a dead raccoon  and was throwing up in the air, then racing around to grab it again.   What do you do with a raccoon hide?  Can’t toss it back into the woods — she’d just find it again.  Can’t bury it — she’d just dig it up.

Eric picks it up with a shovel and flings the carcass up into the branches of a honeysuckle bush.  It hangs there like a rejected taxidermy project — nothing but skin and claws.  He says “go and see if it’s going to stay there, or if it’ll just fall down in the wind.”

I go and look…and I notice that there’s three old beer bottles in the space under the honeysuckle.   Eric says they’re probably left over from the builders, but I fear trespassers.  If it was trespassers, they’ve a nasty surprise waiting for the next time they plan to party in our backyard.

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Bear, February 2, 1999 to October 18, 2014.

Good with cats.


Loved the outdoors.

Amy and Bear in TreeBear on the lake

A willing grader.

Bear Grading Reports

Down on the farm.

Down on the Farm

Bear on Doggie.


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Eric’s cousin Molly writes monthly newsletters for the extended family. Last year her letters included updates on her pumpkin patch and the size of George, the pumpkin. Molly’s pumpkin missives climaxed in March, with a small packet of pumpkin seeds she’d recovered from George the previous fall.

With an air of futility, we planted the pumpkin seeds in the front yard. Nothing has grown from seed for us. If seeds manage to germinate at all, the seedlings soon disappear, eaten by a critter or drowned in the duff. We covered Molly’s seeds with mulch and chicken wire, but didn’t expect much.

We were wrong!! By the end of August, we had a good 30 linear feet of pumpkin vine, climbing the oak sapling and surfing on top of the duff. The giant pumpkin leaves were a nice contrast to the fine leaves of the duff, and the yellow pumpkin blossoms fit right in with the hardy daylilies in the front yard. Even more surprising, we grew five pumpkins. The girls named them — Alfred Pumpkin the First, Charletta, Charlie, Peanut, and Tangerine. Only Charletta was ripe enough to carve for Halloween, but we saved her seeds and are going to plant pumpkins again next year. The plan is to try to use all the downed trees from Arborgeddon as a trellis.

Peanut the Pumpkin.

Peanut the Pumpkin


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