Archive for November, 2013

Nov 25 2013

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Long Winter Siege

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winter gardenEven though I’ve been expecting it, the first snowfall of the season always takes me by surprise. It came with a vengeance the night before last: wind howling, sudden whiteout, and the highway home as slick as an ice rink.

I awoke yesterday morning to find a latticework of frost spreading across the window. I went outside before breakfast to feel the arrival of winter. It slapped me in the face the moment I stepped out the door.

The garden in my front yard still has a little color in it. Traces of leafy green and autumnal red linger there. But for the most part, the plants have died back and are hunkered down for the long, cold season. The siege is on.

Here in Vermont, a casual approach to winter simply will not do. I have snow tires on my car now. The storm windows of my old house are down and the leaks around them have been sealed with rope caulk. My plow guy has staked the corners of the driveway in anticipation of the first big dump. Salt and shovels have been moved from storage to the front porch. I am ready.

At midday yesterday, I went for a walk on the Rail Trail with my dog Matika despite temps in the teens. The biting wind gave me an ice cream headache. Matika, with her thick coat of fur, frolicked in the snow. She loves it. But I only tolerate winter, seeing it as an opportunity to get a lot of literary work done since I’ll be inside for the most part. When you live this far north, you find ways to cope with long, cold season. Either that or you go a little stir crazy. Vermont winters are not for the faint of heart.


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Nov 17 2013

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Local Wildness

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wolf stoneWith the deer hunters taking to the woods, I decided to hike local today, going to Aldis Hill right here in town instead of venturing into the mountains. That way I wouldn’t have to put blaze orange on my dog or myself to keep from being shot at. I don’t mind ceding the mountains to hunters for two weeks. The rest of the year the wild is all mine.

Aldis Hill is located on the edge of town, only a mile from my house. I go there often. It’s convenient, that’s all. I go elsewhere when I want a taste of bona fide wildness. And yet Aldis Hill has its wild story to tell.

Near the top of the hill, no more than fifty yards down a path splitting away from the main trail, there’s a stone with these words cut into it:


I often think about that stone monument while hiking this hill. I think about a wolf prowling here 174 years ago and how impossible that would be now. I think about the fox den I found here once, the barred owl I saw here at midday, and the moose tracks I stumbled upon only a few miles to the east. That stone reminds me how relative tameness and wildness really are, how close I am to it even while zipping around town in my car running errands.



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Nov 09 2013

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Denizens of the Forest

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deerThanks to the government shutdown, I had the Saratoga Battlefield all to myself when I visited it a month ago. There were no other people there, that is. But the fields and forests of that park were chock full of deer. I must have encountered twenty of them during my morning walk.

No doubt the deer were taking refuge from the hunters going after smaller game, sighting in their rifles and getting ready for the deer season ahead. I could hear the occasional report of a rifle in the distance as I walked. The deer must have heard it as well.

Even though I am not a hunter, I do not disparage hunting. Short of poisoning deer or introducing more predators to the wild, I see no other way to keep their numbers down. Nature culls the herd each winter through mass starvation, but as a woods wanderer I find enough winter kill each spring as things are. Besides, I engage in another blood sport called trout fishing so who am I to judge?  Oh, and yes, I like the taste of deer meat whenever I get a chance to sample it.

Here’s the bottom line: If I were a four-legged denizen of the forest and on someone’s menu, I would much prefer being hunted down and shot towards the end of my days than to be penned up my whole life only to be “harvested” or “put down” by the most humane means possible. Running wild is the main thing. The rest is just the natural (or unnatural) order of things.

All this said, I like deer more alive than dead. Up to a point, that is. There are so many of them now that a midnight drive home is a dangerous proposition. I’ve come close to hitting deer several times this year. And few things are more depressing than seeing their rotting carcasses along the side of the road. Such a beautiful creature when alive. How sad to see them lying there.


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