Tales written in the fresh snow

I came home from work, and by the looks of the tracks in the fresh snow, there had been quite the party going on when I was gone.

At first, I was looking for the weasel’s tracks, which I found right away, but I was surprised to see grouse tracks practically right on top of the weasel’s. Upon further inspection, I found a whole covey’s worth of grouse tracks all around the yard.

The rabbit tracks were also plentiful, although that was not a surprise, since I have been flushing them all summer long.

I followed the story written in the snow as best I could. The new Siberian peas that had been planted two years ago, seemed to be of interest to the grouse, and I took note that the weasel enjoys visiting the Rover Hut. He probably has been entering the hut for some time, but his secret was not revealed until the recent snowfall. It made me wonder if weasels can catch red squirrels. We have an abundance of those damn, pine rats. I had a roll of insulation in the Rover Hut for a customer, and within 24 hours the red squirrels had attacked the roll, and little tufts of the stuff were all over the hut. We also are high on the rabbit cycle.

A little over a year ago, the neighbor’s cat died suddenly. It was an outdoor cat, and roved the entire area. I didn’t mind the cat, and it very kindly left me gifts in my work shed if I left the door open at night, but I’m kind of glad it is gone. She was a killing machine, and left a trail littered with small carcasses. Underneath the neighbor’s house is a ghastly killing field. This summer, I noticed far more birds hanging around than was usual, and I expect the weasel moved in to fill the vacancy.

The neighbor does have a new cat, but it’s terrified of the outdoors, and can not be coaxed out the door, which secretly thrills me, and less secretly amuses me. I told the neighbor to just embrace the new cattitude, and enjoy the fact that this pet is entirely different from the last one. I left out the part that I’m starting to prefer the weasel, if only for a change of pace.

After reading the snow, I went on my late afternoon walk, and flushed three ruffed grouse just down the trail from my place. The sound of those beating wings, and the sight of those zig-zagging brown rockets is a great way to forget one spent any time at work at all.


Alaska Day

On this date, 150 years ago, the formal transfer of the deed to the Alaska Territory took place at Fort Sitka. In March of 1867, the United States had purchased Alaska for $7.2 million, but it took until October of that same year to get commissioners from both countries to Sitka.

October 18 was officially designated a state holiday by the Territorial Legislature in 1917.

Here’s to 150, Secretary Seward.


The World’s Smallest Carnivore

As I loaded the truck this morning for today’s job, I caught a flash of white out of the corner of my eye. I stood still, watching and waiting. Sure enough, a hyper, yet timid weasel showed itself from my wood pile. It made a rush at me, stopped halfway to size me up, then ran back to the stacked firewood. I kept watching, and the weasel became bolder, venturing out further and further from the wood pile. Eventually, I was ignored completely, and the weasel went about its morning activities, hopping onto a railroad tie, and then slipping down into the marsh.

I assume it’s a least weasel, and not the short tailed variety, due to its small size. It’s coat has already changed to all white, with the exception of it’s black-tipped tail. At approximately six inches long, the weasel is a little bundle of energy. I’ve never had a weasel in my wood shed, and I always felt like I was missing one of the most important aspects of burning wood for heat. I’ve had friends with a resident weasel, and Dick Proenneke famously wrote about his, which he named Milo, in his wonderful journal: “One Man’s Wilderness”. Of course, with a home territory of several acres, the weasel may have just been visiting the wood pile. Still, I’m hoping it takes up residence, even if that multi room condo will be decreasing in size as we progress through the winter months.

Weasels can be ferocious predators, and will take on animals much larger than themselves. With their high metabolic rate, weasels need to consume roughly 40% of their body weight daily.


The Moose Has Landed


Comic credit: Jamie Smith – Nuggets

It’s a tad slick out there, as we bounce back & forth across the freezing mark.

I once had a moose climb onto my deck, and it landed in the same position as the one above. When it hit, the entire cabin shook. Once the tremor subsided, I went outside to see that the moose had moved off the deck, leaving four hoof slides, similar to the four points of a compass, marked in the fresh snow.


Black Ice


Icing Up

The snow has landed, although so far, it’s only a thin layer on the ground. The pond has started to get a coating of ice, after two nights of a hard freeze. After getting by with lighting a fire in the wood stove every other night, the ritual is now completed nightly. Soon, the fire will burn 24/7.

The season has turned.


30th La Carrera Panamericana

The 30th run of La Carrera Panamericana starts on Friday the 13th. It’s a 7-day, 3000 km, high speed, stage rally in vintage cars. The race runs between Queretero and Durango, over some challenging backroads.

There are some interesting cars running the race as usual: Several Porsches, quite a few Studebakers, Mustangs, a couple of Beetles and at least one Chevy Bel Air, to name a few.