Monthly Archives: June 2015

Beaver Trapping Lesson

Beavers

A lot of people have the idea that hunters and trappers are terrible people who hurt cute furry animals. We had a reminder lesson on the truth when we attended a Manitoba Water Conservation demonstration on how to safely and humanely remove problem beavers. Dick and I attended because we thought it would be a neat adventure and it was. I felt a bit sad when the expert trappers took out two dead beavers and dissected them so we could see the oil and castor sacks. They also showed us how one claw on the rear foot is double to be able to scoop oil and groom their fur so they are water proof in their environment.

There are about 7000 problem beavers taken each year. They are almost all two year olds. At the age of two they are driven out of their lodge by their parents and must find new territory. Since there is only so much beaver territory, and beavers can produce as many as 8 babies each year, the youngsters end up moving into farm land and doing what beavers do. When they find and block a critical drainage ditch (like this one) and begin turning farmland or pasture into beavers ponds, they have to be removed. Live trapping simply doesn’t work. Beavers are highly territorial and if you move these youngsters to a wild area, they will be attacked and killed by adult beavers already present or eaten by predators. And so they have to be trapped and killed. The trappers are licensed and hired by the Conservation District to remove problem beavers at the request of land owners. They use humane instant kill traps designed to snap onto the beaver and break its neck. Alternatively they use weighted leg traps that drown the beaver. The trappers sell the hides, the oil and especially the castor. The castor is used in the finest perfumes and as a natural flavour in food and brings in $50/lb. Some beavers are eaten, especially by local Aboriginal groups.

We got a lengthy lesson on beaver lore and their life cycle and how they interact with their habitat. We were shown all the time and effort that goes into fooling beavers so they are trapped. Beavers are really smart and you need to hide the traps and use caster from other beavers so the beaver rushes in all pissed off about an intruder and spoiling for a fight. Even then, the beavers often trip the trap with sticks and avoid being caught. The older the beaver, the smarter and more likely to not get caught.

We learned about the problems trappers face. City do gooders like to come and spring the traps to “save” the beavers. The traps are valuable and so they get stolen whether by greenies or by common thieves. We learned a lot about beavers and their role in the country. We got to enjoy some fresh air and views of the country flora and wildlife. For me, the highlight of the trip was we got to ride in an all terrain vehicle (called a Gator around here) traveling to and from the beaver dam. That was a first for me and a lot of fun.

Riding

Vehicle

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How does your garden grow?

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My 50th parallel garden is growing by leaps and bounds in the usual 16 hours a day of sunlight in summer up here. I planted this from seed except where I specify otherwise. We are already enjoying the garden bounty. As I thin we munch what I thin in our salads. We shall shortly be eating our first meal with turnip greens. Turnip greens are a luxury I was introduced to in the south. We are also enjoying fresh herbs in cooking. The cat also loves fresh catnip. The catnip is growing so fast any cat in town who wishes to get stoned can join mine. (Catnip and herbs above.)

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The tomato plants were purchased ones. This is actually my second set. The May long weekend blizzard killed my first set. They have gone from just starting to bloom to having fruit.

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The cucumbers started from seed three weeks ago are doing very well. I am looking forward to fresh cucumbers and pickles and relishes.

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I put in two roots of horse radish. They have both come up now. I’m not sure if there will be enough root for my to use int he fall but I have located an abandoned garden with horse radish growing wild and crazy everywhere and I will take some from there if I need to.

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Potato plants took forever to appear from seed potatoes but are finally growing. We LOVE fresh potatoes from the garden, especially those little wee ones.

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The beans are just about to bloom. You can also see radishes and lettuce into the next row.

SAM_5619 Spinach. Love it raw. Hubby loves it raw and cooked.

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Baby carrots. Nothing beats a fresh carrot from the garden washed off under the hose in summer sun.

SAM_5623Garlic from seed garlic each plant one clove from the bunch of seed garlic. We are big garlic eaters and I want fresh garlic for my pickles..

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This is an experiment. It is plants for spaghetti squash started from seed. Will it beat the frost and produce something edible? We will see.

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Zuchinni started from plants about six weeks old. We have fried zucchini almost every morning with our eggs so I am looking forward to being able to pick and cook my own. My only regret is I could not  find plants with yellow zucchini, common in the south, here in the north. Yellow zucchini has a nuttier milder taste. Maybe next year I can start my own from seed.

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Chives from purchased plants.

SAM_5627 This was a volunteer I guessed was a squash. It is beginning to look suspiciously like a sunflower.SAM_5621

I put in one row of corn. It’s kind of silly to put corn in a small garden because they need so much room and give back so little but if we are lucky we can have one or two meals of our own fresh corn. You can see baby beets and turnips beside the corn. Most we will eat as greens as I thin. I few I will find other uses for.

Little Trees

Tree

Update: I have just been informed this is not a pine tree, it is a white spruce tree, Picea glauca (Moench) Voss.

I am a tree lover. I could outdo an Elf from Tolkien’s Middle Earth in my love of trees. Tu B’Shevat is my absolute favourite holiday. I suspect my love of trees is because I am a prairie girl and trees are precious and few and far between. Our new stick house has a lot of trees. Most are not native and flowering (but without fruit) and they have been neglected. We are far enough north that most pretty decorative nursery trees do poorly. And not unexpectedly many of my nursery trees, especially the ones that some previous owner wanted to make into a hedge, have winter burn and insect damage and are doing poorly. As they inevitably die I intend to replace them with local native trees and shrubs like wood and prairie rose. Wild roses make lovely hedges.

Among the trees were twelve little local pine trees, either white or black pine, they are too young to tell. They were likely dug up from a ditch or railway right of way where they get mowed anyway. That is what the locals who want pine trees do. This kind of tree, once it takes off, is a hardy lovely majestic tree that towers high and sways gracefully. As a baby it is delicate and doesn’t like most places where it is transplanted. It can be easily killed by either flood or drought. These trees also require a commensal fungi without which they wither and die. The locals move a lot of baby trees before they get one established.

Most of my little trees were in fine health. I inspected them carefully, gave them some nice slow release tree food, told them how much I loved them and urged them to grow. One was covered in aphids being tended by ants. The one nearby was just started to be infected. Oh imagine the maternal rage as I hosed off the aphids attacking my poor green babies. Weekly inspections and more hosing have done the trick. Aphids are gone. Just let them try it again. Mom is on defence with her hose at the ready. One little tree was crooked, tilted over by about 30 degrees, A support, some twine and some digging and the wayward youngster is now set upright to grow as trees should. Two little pine trees were set in my garden. Now that is a good place for a baby tree in terms of being tended and loved but bad if you want to rototill in spring. I had decided to leave them for now and then move them at some undetermined later date.

There was one tree that was not doing well. I tried. I watered it, I added food, I begged it to grow. Nothing. All the other trees sprouted new buds, extended the new green tips, and grew and grew. This one remained stubbornly more brown than green and had no signs of life. No buds, no change, just increasing brown. Several times my husband said “That tree is dead!” but I refused to give up hope.

Today I gave up. With much regret I uprooted the poor dead thing and moved one of the garden trees into its place. I took the biggest ball of dirt I could manage so hopefully the required fungus will move it with it. Since I was already on a roll, I moved the other little garden tree into an empty space between two slowly dying nursery trees. I watered them both carefully, and made sure they were properly straight. I apologized for disturbing them and explained as best I could about rototillers. I hope they understand and choose to grow. I am too old to hope to see them in full adult glory but maybe someone else will one day enjoy them.

Safety near the front of line.

FutureWe bought a lot of stuff to be done over the summer and I am slowly working my way through the list. My latest job is I got the two safety bars into the bathtub. I have heard it said that the way to stay financially solvent is to be very careful to distinguish want from need. I have found a good way to spot need is when you don’t really want it but you know you should.

Part of the reason I didn’t want to install these is that they remind me of old age, which is creeping up on us, and getting feeble, which I actually worry about more than dying. However, one of us already took a bad fall and at our age we’re entitled to a little extra security. And then again I know a woman who fell in her bathtub and broke her leg in a most awkward fashion and it was two years, four surgeries and months of physiotherapy before she could walk without a cane. She was 32 years old and an athlete. She had to pay to have her safety bars installed after that because she couldn’t manage herself. Now if I fall and hurt myself and need a long rehab, I won’t have to hire someone to install the bars before I can go home.

These safety bars are not cheap but I got some from the Sears Clearance catalogue so they cost me about half of buying anywhere else. They do the job just fine. They have been sitting in the bathroom in their box staring at me, making me feel guilty, since they arrived about a month ago. They should have gone in sooner. They were really more important than lights, tomato plants, curtains and new door knobs. Now they are installed, gleaming and all proud looking smug, finally.

These safety bars were a real pain to install. First I had to find the stud. The bathroom walls are done with plywood so the stud finder didn’t work. I kind of guessed based on the construction I viewed while checking out the support for the ceiling light. Then I had to drill a hole which turned out to be two holes. That is a two step procedure because the screws are a bit thicker than space between the tiles. This meant I had to first drill a hole through the porcelain. Fortunately, one of our cement cement bits worked very well. Then I needed to change the bit on the drill so it went into the stud. I ended by slathering up the big screws with bathroom silicon so that when they were screwed in, they were also sealed against water. The result is some very securely installed safety bars. I wouldn’t recommend climbing on them, but they are perfectly secure for grabbing.

Oh and I had one very nice experience. An old timer in town asked me how I liked my little house. I told her I loved it. Someone had built it right and I told her about how I had installed the ceiling fan and how well put together the house is and how much I appreciate the excellent craftsmanship.

“My brother built that house,” she said with a huge grin.

So thank you to the late Mr. Ben Lashewicz, a thoroughly competent builder, who built our little house in 1961. I appreciate your work. He built it for his daughter Patsy. Later on another Lashewicz lived in it. And it remained in the family, changing hands as the family grew, until recently. I just knew this was a much loved little home. One can feel such things.

Alonsa Lawn Nazis versus Neighbours

Neighbours

Our neighbour, the real thing.

Yesterday I had my first negative experience with our new home. We are trying to avoid debt and we had a lot of expenses with our house. One of the things we did not buy was a lawnmower. Instead we hired a local fellow at $20 pop to mow for us. The problem was this fellow wanted us to have a regular weekly contract with us whereby he would come once a week and we would pay him. We didn’t want this because, frankly we can’t afford it right now and secondly lawn doesn’t always need a cutting every week and we certainly can’t afford to waste money. The new fellow did an admirable job but he is a busy guy. Every time we called him to come mow it would be days before he did. The result was an increasingly shaggy lawn with a lot of dandelions going to seed.

Yesterday we got a letter from the local government. It seems we were in violation of local by-laws about lawn mowing and weeds and such and we had to cut our lawn IMMEDIATELY or face having the government come in and mow and we would charged $16 an hour. Strangely enough, the same guy we contracted and who was five days overdue because of how busy he is, was also the same person who would have been ordered to come in and mow. Some Alonsa Lawn Nazi had complained. In a flash I was reminded forcefully about the nicest thing of being a full timer in a rig. When the Lawn Nazis show up you can pack up and leave and give them the finger on the way out of the campground.

I hesitated to use the term Alonsa Lawn Nazi because it diminishes from the horror of the real Nazis and what their victims went through but I decided I would use the term anyway after seeing how common the term is on line and how precise the definition in the urban dictionary is:

“A nosy or tyrannical person/neighbor who tries to control your life or other peoples property that does not belong to them. Also known as socialist.”

Honestly, why anyone would take the time to complain about our shaggy lawn when we have already arranged for regular mowing and we haven’t been living here two months? It is absolutely beyond me! And whose business is it to tell me how often I mow my lawn? Who is being hurt by my shaggy lawn? Whoever it was that filed that complaint needs to get a life. They clearly don’t have enough to do with themselves. I also think people should not be able to file anonymous complaints and get local government to enforce their idea of lawn etiquette on others. Whoever the sneaky little coward is could have just come and talked to me and I would have explained our situation.

After thinking about everything, especially that threatening letter from the local government we decided on two things. 1) We can’t wait on the local guy to mow. We need to take care of our own mowing. We have to incur a little more debt now and pay later thanks to the Alonsa Lawn Nazi. We went to Dauphin and bought a lawn mower and whipper snipper. 2) One or both of us are running for office next election to protect ourselves from whoever this Alonsa Lawn Nazi is. Next thing they’ll be telling us we have to mow every Monday Wednesday and Friday, or we have to hire their nephew to mow, or we can’t have a vegetable garden or maybe my Hello Kitty lawn ornament has to go because they don’t like the look of it.

We rather laboriously spent about four hours mowing all of our lawn with our new electric mower. Because the mowing was overdue, it was thick, the weeds were high and it was hard work. The other problem was we ended up with funny little tufts all over when the lawn was done. We figured we would give the tufts time to pop up, mow them and then it will be easier because we will keep it up and we won’t have to depend on someone else. The worst of it the Lawn Nazi is probably watching us and congratulating themselves on getting action against us for our crime against humanity. Meanwhile, the weeds on the municipal owned land are higher than our lawn was.

Some of our neighbours walked over to chat and check out the new lawn mower. We told them about the letter. They were all shocked and shook their heads and said how disgusting it was and agreed whoever the Alonsa Lawn Nazi is, he or she should get a life. I said how upset I was and this was the first time I had actually found myself wondering if we had made a mistake moving here. Everyone hastened to assure me this was wrong. They shared stories of their own Alonsa Lawn Nazi letters. It would seem that Lawn Nazis occur in all places people congregate. There always has to be one snoopy, nasty, tyrant wannabe, who just can’t wait to butt their nose into other people’s business.

As I prepared my supper I looked out the window and lo and behold. One of my neighbours was mowing the lawn with his fancy wide ride on mower demolishing the tufting and uneven spots. After he was finished he said that he was so disgusted about the cowardly Alonsa Lawn Nazi that he decided to make certain our lawn was immaculate, just in case those tufts violated the order to mow immediately. And that is the difference between a Lawn Nazi and a Neighbour. It would seem there are far more neighbours in Alonsa than Lawn Nazis.

New tenants

We have new tenants. When we moved in I noticed a partial damaged nest left by some barn swallow built in a previous years. Even though the barn swallows were very busy on the utility building next door, no one seemed to be bothering with the single empty mud ledge under my eaves. That actually suited me just fine. I don’t like the swoop and dive aggression and the flying poop machines too close.

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Today I noticed a couple has moved in. They are busy renovating. Initially my response was to borrow a long ladder and chase the birds out before they had a chance to lay eggs. Before I did that, I decided to read up on the birds. Imagine my stunned surprise to discover the bird is considered “threatened” in Manitoba. I know that endangered species and related lists have become highly political and some species get added, or left off, as it is convenient to government policy. Even so I thought,

“Oh Mother Earth, what is your world coming to if these delightful acrobats of the air are threatened?”

So they can stay. Disturbing them is illegal anyway. This bird eats flying insects on the larger side, not the smaller ones like mosquitoes. We have an ugly local fly, bigger than a housefly, smaller than a horsefly, that bites like the dickens and is called the “bulldog” by the locals. One of the nieghbours had to make the three hour drive into Winnipeg to treat an infection left by a bull dog last week. While I was out observing my new tenants, one of these bulldogs started harassing me, looking for a meal. As I swatted and waved and shooed one of my delightful new tenants swooped down and picked it out of the air.

I like these birds even more now!

Spoiled Milk Cheese

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One of the disadvantages of living in the country is that stuff on the grocery shelves of the small stores doesn’t turn over as quickly as in the city. I forgot this and bought a 4 litre (about a gallon) of whole milk last week and yesterday I noticed a strong flavour to it. I don’t exactly drink a lot of the stuff. A gallon of milk lasts about a month. I just assumed that the stronger flavour was the taste milk gets when cows are moved from feed to pasture, which occurs about this time of year around here.

This morning when I poured milk into my coffee it went all lumpy. I checked the milk and found it was thickish almost lumpy in texture. It was not sour smelling yet but soon would be. I checked the expiration date and found it was set to expire today. Dang it! My mistake. Now back on the farm we rarely had sour milk because the one of homes we shared with was full of teenagers who drank it as fast as it was milked out of our three family milk cow. However, the odd time we did have sour milk, we made it into cakes and assorted other sweet things. Hubby dearest and I struggle to maintain our weight at a healthy level so the last thing I wanted to do was make naughty, fat layering foods like cakes and biscuits. Cottage chess on the other hand is one of our staple snack foods.

I did some reading on line and I decided to try my hand at cottage cheese. I read up on making both riccotta and cottage cheese. There is a whole lot of stuff on line about how store bought milk is pasteurized and you can’t do anything with it if it sours and you have to just throw it out. You can only do this kind of thing with fresh raw whole milk. If you try to start with store bought milk you end will end up spending the next three or four days sick from ghastly manufacturing caused bugs. I guess you can’t believe everything you read on line.

I poured the slightly lumpy milk into my crock pot and stirred in a couple of tablespoons of yogourt and then left it alone set on high. I finished up my morning coffee with almond soy milk, checked my email and then looked at the pot. The picture above is what I found. The liquid stuff was just boiling around the edges of the pot.

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I turned the crock pot to low and then went and did some cleaning and had a shower. When I got out, still wet from the shower, I separated off the curds and set them in a cloth to drain.

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Hubby dearest and I both tasted the cheese. It is a lovely soft texture, white, spreadable, about like ricotta with just a bit more of a ricotta tang than like cottage cheese taste. So I am not sure if I made ricotta or cottage cheese or something in between. It’s very tasty. The whey smells clean and faintly like yogurt.

The amount of cheese I got, about two cups solid, is worth a little more than the same amount as the milk I lost assuming it is cottage cheese. So much for those who say pasteurized milk can’t be used to make cheese. I’ll put in an update on the post if we get violently ill as the raw milk fans claim we will, but I don’t think we will.