May 24, 2016
It took ten to fifteen seconds and ended in a cloud of dust, and it was a sound unlike anything we had heard before, a tearing, scratching, snapping mess of sound, and it went on and on.
And then the old Young barn, a landmark on Young’s Hill, was a twisted wreckage of tin roofing, timbers, and sheeting. One of the nesting turkey vultures circled the heap in dismay.
There are a few thousand feet of hardwood lumber in there, a good Herreschoff pram I’d like to rescue, and a generation’s discarded tools, winter tires and furniture.
May 20, 2016
I have never managed to shoot a deer. They don’t exactly volunteer, it turns out. Before I retired time wasn’t available during the short hunting season: for some reason school administrators have a big conference that week, and I usually had to run the school in the principal’s absence. After I had retired, I couldn’t be bothered wasting a week sitting still on a deer run when there were far more interesting things to do.
A few friends have stepped up over the years to fill my license for me, though, and there were occasional deer which had been whacked by a passing vehicle. Of the two sources of venison, I’d have to rate the found carcasses generally higher in palpability than those shot with rifles.
I’ll provide a single example and then leave the subject. One evening in early December I was driving down Hwy 15 when I came upon a large yellow truck stopped on the shoulder, with drivers shuffling around at the front of the truck in some confusion. I stopped. A dead doe lay in front of the truck without a mark on her.
The drivers needed to move on, had a long run and nowhere to put the doe. I offered some steaks if they helped load it into the back of my SUV. I drove directly to a guy I knew who had processed venison all through hunting season. He skinned and cut it up for me for $100.
I reported the pickup to the OPP and the clerk concluded with: “Enjoy your deer.”
Clifford told me that the only mark he could find on the large doe was a small hole in one ventrical of her heart, no doubt from the hydraulic shock of impact with a large, flat object, the front of a Hertz truck. The meat was outstanding in flavour and texture.
I won’t tell the far messier story about a rifle-killed specimen which did not taste very good.
O.K., one more story. While commuting from Carleton Place to Smiths Falls I occasionally encountered road-killed ruffed grouse. Just about everybody picks them up. They’re hard to hunt, easy to clean, and flat-out delicious. One afternoon I was in a line of traffic when the Honda Accord three cars ahead of me took out a low-flying male with the tip of its antenna.
Three of us immediately braked for a U-turn. My SUV had rear-wheel drive, so I could power around more quickly than the Golf and the minivan. The grouse had landed on the centre line so I leaned out the door and picked it up. The other two drivers saluted and resumed their trips home. The thrill of the hunt.
Here’s a clever BBC article on why roadkill’s not just for the starving any more.
May 19, 2016
All Hell broke loose in Canada’s House of Commons yesterday afternoon when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau left his seat to assist MP Gord Brown, the Conservative Whip, to his seat so that an important vote could proceed.
The subsequent events are well documented on Parliamentary TV, though opinions vary as to the gravity of the Prime Minister’s faux pas. After due reflection, and in the context of the annual Stanley Cup Playoff television marathon, I would like to offer my view.
Now let me get this straight. NDP members chose to barricade a portion of the floor of the House of Commons so that the Conservative Whip could not make it through to resume his seat, thereby delaying a duly-scheduled vote. Whip Brown apparently chose to go along with this coercive act without protest, although this organized and premeditated action clearly infringed upon his parliamentary privilege.
MP Brosseau willingly joined this scrum, offering her physical stature to help form the impromptu barrier.
Prime Minister Trudeau saw the scrum for what it was, and his teacher training cut in. Over my 33 years in secondary schools I have broken up many situations like this, plunging through the crowd, nabbing the perpetrator (or in some cases the victim of a beating) and drawing the individual none-too-gently from the scrum.
Foremost in Trudeau’s mind would have been that Gord Brown had the right to move to his seat, and these individuals were taking that right away from him. Gord in this case would be no different than a grade nine girl on her way to the washroom, blocked by a gang of grade 12 boys in the smoking area.
Trudeau would have been furious with the ringleader/bully in this case, Tom Mulcair, who in his mind was clearly out of line. This outrage piled on top of the humiliation last week of a near-defeat in a vote because of Mulcair’s mischief.
So far everyone played his role in a classic schoolyard confrontation. But then Trudeau’s elbow struck MP Brosseau, and the NDP yeoman, the physical shield, suddenly went all girly, complained to Mulcair, and fled the House. This move by Brosseau was definitely not part of the classic confrontation model. Girls in brawls are if anything tougher than the guys.
CBC hockey analyst Don Cherry is going to love dissecting this play. Up until now he’ll agree with the many media analysts as to the statement of events, but here he’s going to turn on ex-hockey player Gord Brown for a gutless play in his unwillingness to go into the corners. Then he’ll defend Trudeau against Brosseau’s dive. He’ll show on video how the NDP stalwart had silently moved into position to get hit, and then went into a rehearsed dive, communicating with her captain, then rushing for the dressing room, missing a shift, but returning to the bench in time for the TV interview.
So Cherry will conclude: “Does Trudeau deserve a suspension for that elbow? No, the two minute minor was more than enough. But lemme tell you, from now on the refs will be watching Mulcair, and I’m disappointed by Brosseau. She’s been a promising call-up, but I don’t know about this. And Gord Brown, my buddy? I don’t know what got into his head.”
Here’s a video analysis of the incident:
The Beaverton has a great take on this, but I think their site has gone down because of the traffic. Try shortening the link until it works:
I predicted CBC’s Don Cherry would do an analysis of this film. Turned out it was retired NHL referee Kerry Fraser for MacLean’s Magazine. It’s pretty good, worth enduring the commercials:
May 13, 2016
Before his encounter with the roto-tiller this morning I’d only seen Freddy once, and that was two years ago this summer when he came out to watch my tractor mow around the seedlings in a stand of pine and walnut next to the woodlot. Accompanied by a much smaller coyote with an identical brown coat, Freddy spent an hour hunting mice in the lee of the tractor, deftly stepping out of cover to nab food disturbed by the bush hog.
At the time I was glad to see the pair. We’d been more than a year without a resident coyote following the disappearance of Emily, the old alpha who had set the rules around the farm for six years. Emily had become very tame as she studied our habits, and so she and her offspring often visited the orchard and garden, producing a few startled visitors and the odd photo-op.
Not so with Freddy. Apparently he had checked me out and found me wanting, because I just never saw him again. The tracks were there: huge paws accompanied by the delicate footprints of his mate. Our spaniel took great delight in their scat, so we were reminded they were around on every walk.
This morning the landscape waited nervously for the promised rain. Since 4:00 it had tried and failed to let loose. I paced the back deck, revelling in the sudden warmth but a bit nervous about Friday 13th and the coming rain.
Freddy appeared suddenly. He needs a good brushing to get that long winter hair (faded almost blonde) off his hips and shoulders.
While Emily used to enter the orchard with a confident swagger, Freddy skulks. The tall, rangy coyote floats lightly over the grass. This morning he spent much of his time looking over his shoulder, which made it harder than ever to tell where he’s going. I had a momentary surge of adrenaline when he took several steps directly toward the stairs to the deck, but he suddenly veered off toward the garden.
The scent of the freshly tilled soil obviously intrigued Freddy, but then he caught sight of the rototiller and jumped back. He stared, thought it over, and retraced his tracks out of the garden, disappeared behind a row of wild grapevines, and re-appeared one field over to complete his transit to the mouse-rich patch of seedlings on the knoll beyond the barn.
So that’s Freddy, a no-nonsense coyote mousing to feed his family.
May 1, 2016
Notice the new wheels on the old lumber trailer? I added two which I bought in 1980 or so and then forgot in the haymow. The mission to recover them from the now-derelict building was a bit more fraught than I would have expected. The floor of the upper level has separated from the rock foundation by almost two feet and settled, so I had to squeeze in through a pair of doors trapped by a foot of stone and find my footing on an unsupported floor inside.
As I gathered my wits after that endeavour, one of the resident turkey vultures decided not to sit through my intrusion and leaped into the air from the bare floor of the hay mow to my right. She looked HUGE in a confined area as the startled bird struggled up above the main beams, then glided down and out through the open door at the far end.
Now I have a pair of turkey vultures with a grudge hovering even lower over me than usual whenever I go outside.
Earlier in the day a mystery egg turned up on the grass below the barn. It had obviously been transported there, but only partially eaten. The egg was larger than a chicken’s Grade A, and seemed a bit “squarer” than the ovoid domestic product.
Logic indicates the egg was likely purloined from the nest of the neighbourhood wild turkey, though the lack of spots suggests a duck, but I’m pretty sure if a mallard were nesting in the barn I would have seen her flying in and out. But maybe that vulture was feeding, rather than tending a clutch of eggs in the abandoned building.
April 19, 2016
The first cruise of the year is always an interesting trip, even if the weather is fine and the fish aren’t yet interested. The highlight of yesterday’s expedition on Opinicon Lake (at Chaffey’s Locks, Ontario) was the huge deadhead below. Because it was unmoving in the wind and waves, I suspect that it is rooted in the silt 26′ below.
I posted the photo on Facebook (Opinicon Lake and Chaffey’s Locks Rocks) and a comment provides a rather precise location for the log. It’s a long way from the channel between Davis and Chaffey’s.
This picture is taken more in the middle of Opinicon Lake in front of Weatherhead’s cottage looking across the Lake at Bachenburg’s, Langlois’s and Burbank’s and Randall’s.
Dave Warren’s comment on Facebook leads me to believe that the thing may well be a local landmark. I hadn’t ventured up to Deadlock Bay for a couple of years, and things change on a lake over time.
April 11, 2016
Yesterday afternoon I noticed that a black cherry seedling transplanted to the front yard last year had not wintered well, so I casually looked around for a finger-sized hard maple to replace it. Maples of this age seem to hide in places where they are hard to dig out, but I persisted in a casual search until a hen turkey meandered past me through the pine-walnut stand as I sat quietly in the cab of the UTV. The large bird worked her way west and was on the verge of entering the woodlot when she suddenly spotted food at the edge of the mowed area and frantically pecked her way around for a couple of minutes before continuing on.
With renewed resolve I searched two fence rows between the house and the woodlot. Every transplantable tree smaller than my thumb was a black walnut. In 2006 when we began the walnut project there were no volunteers in these areas.
Young black walnuts are now even growing in what I would have considered inhospitable terrain a half-mile north of the seed trees, across a stretch of open field. Gray squirrels are amazing seed propagators, and the local climate has changed enough that black walnuts can now grow in exposed areas of the drumlin where they had no chance of survival before.