Archive for the ‘wildlife’ Category

My “track”:

Look closely; it’s there!  Yes, I ran yesterday.  Actually, I ran until the snow got too deep and I had to walk.  I got in 30 laps, until I looked like the Abominable Snowman.

My running buddy:

In fact, she shows up from the neighbors’ house, runs circles around me, begs to be petted, and then races off to chase deer, cats, birds . . . and then she catches back up with me and does it all over again.

The creek in snow:

Cold frames seems a particularly appropriate name today:

I’m not sure there’s still something growing under all that snow!

Is it delivery?

No, of course it isn’t delivery.  We can’t get delivery here in normal weather, much less when there’s almost a foot of snow on the ground.  If you missed the recipe earlier, it’s here.

So, the NWS claims we got 9-12 inches of snow.  Our thermometer read 1 degree F above zero this morning.  How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

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Three nights ago I had seen our two cats hanging around and didn’t worry too much about bringing them in because I still needed to be working in my office (also known as their bedroom) and they aren’t terribly helpful when I’m typing.  I walked past the back porch door, where my big male cat was seemingly relaxing.  He caught a glimpse of me out of the corner of his eye and jumped up, running over to put his paws on the door.  That’s not like him, so I opened the door quickly.  As he dashed in, I heard what he was fleeing.  From the woods, just beyond the cleared area of the property came a howl, then another, then another, then a cascade of answering howls and yips.  Coyotes.

My breath caught.  Where was Tucker’s sister?  She had been here a little while ago–had she strayed too close to where the coyotes were hiding?  Had they caught her, and I was hearing their frenzy over their excitement at a meal?  They do that: signal when they’ve caught something.

I grabbed the flashlight and tore around the exterior of the house, looking all around for her and calling, with the coyotes yipping every time I called and whistled.  I said a quick prayer that my girl was okay and paused under the big oak next to our back porch.  As I stood there, trying to figure out what I should do next, I felt bark bits falling on me and then heard scrambling claws.  My girl was up the tree, waiting until I was directly below it to scoop her up before she would come down.  Was it one of the fawns that the pack captured and would devour?  I hoped not, but they certainly were onto something.

As you probably know, I like most of the wildlife around here, but I can do without the ‘coons and coyotes.  I’m not the kind of person who wants every coyote dead, but I sure as heck don’t like it when they’re on my doorstep.  My girl is usually too much of a homebody to get caught out by the coyotes unless they get really close, but on several occasions my big boy has gotten caught behind enemy lines.  He’ll come home in the wee hours of the morning, a hunted look in his eyes, bark and twigs all over his belly, as if he spent a lot of time in trees.  Typically too on those nights he’ll come from what I think of as the “wrong” direction, as if he had to circumvent what we call around here “the mean dogs” and the “evil yippers.”

I’ve listened each of the past nights since the pack was so close and heard nothing, not even an answering cry to my attempt at a howl.  This morning, though, a gray canine that looked too big to be a fox but too small to be a full-grown coyote stood at the back of the cleared area of the property.  If it’s a fox, no big deal; my cats chase those.  If it’s a coyote pup, it’s a a big problem, because the pack can’t be far away.

I often read about how people should never let their pets outside, how they are happier and healthier inside.  I also read about how neutering a male cat will stop him from wandering.  Tucker is “fixed,” but he still has an amazing sense of adventure.  A couple of years ago we put a pet camera on Tucker’s collar.  He’s big enough that he can wear the device, which was basically designed for a good-sized dog.  Seeing the pictures he took–every 15 minutes for more than 8 hours–was fascinating.  We’re surrounded by about 400 acres of undeveloped space, and I’m betting that Tucker knows a good portion of that acreage.  On the average day wearing the pet cam, Tucker ranged about two miles, climbing hills with an increase of 800 feet in elevation, crossing creeks, and visiting at least one cat about a mile from here, who peered into the camera as it flashed below Tucker’s neck.  We can’t protect him when he roams, but I can imagine how unhappy he would be without his range.  And he turns himself in every night–except for those when he gets trapped behind enemy lines.  All I can do those nights is pray that he’s found himself a safe spot and that he’ll hang tight until the pack loses interest. I don’t sleep well until both of my babies are inside.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Our seemingly endless summer really is coming to an end.  Our oak leaves dropped a couple of weeks ago from the heat, lending a fallish scent, but we knew that they were not presaging fall, just yielding to our hot, dry weather.  Better evidence of the coming fall is the parade of animals through our yard, trying to fatten up for winter.  Days are still in the 90s here, but the past few mornings we’ve dipped below 70 degrees F.  This morning it was 55 degrees F when I got up.  It was bliss.  We’ve been sleeping with the windows open and feeling the need to snuggle under a blanket in the wee hours before dawn instead of sweltering without even a cotton sheet like we have been for most of the summer.

Along with these early signs of fall, we’ve seen “our” wildlife return from their summer retreats.  While one doe and fawn have visited regularly since July, this evening we had almost the whole herd of deer back to see what had fallen under the apple tree.  Last night, I found a big, fat raccoon on the porch.  I scared it off, as I see nothing good that can come from having coons around.  Tonight I surprised an armadillo, and bark rained down on me as another critter–I’m guessing possum or coon–escaped up an oak tree.

All of this relatively cooler weather is inspiring me for fall planting.  I hope to get in some seeds for lettuce and related greens.  I started craving turnips today, so I’ll put in some of those too.  And I’ll definitely start some cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, preparing to cover them before they produce, in case of early frost.

Have you seen signs of fall?

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We went from unusually cool weather to dramatically (and unseasonally) hot weather in the second half of last week.  As a result, I found myself doing emergency harvesting of lettuce and other cool season crops, but I also got to see this lily burst into bloom.  I couldn’t resist sharing it with you.With this early heat has come a lot of humidity, like a giant’s warm, moist breath very time you walk outside.  That brought us critters, though, that might stay closer to the creek ordinarily, like this baby Ozark Zigzag salamander.  No, really, that’s what it’s called.  The photos are blurry because it was so tiny and I was so close.Can you see the little salamander on the big thumb?  Maybe that’s the giant whose breath I keep feeling.

No, that’s my husband’s hand.  The salamander must be really tiny.

Don’t worry; we set him free in a safe location near where my husband found the little guy.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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I am blessed to be able to live on the edge of the Ozark Mountains.  Further east of here, the Appalachians rise like archangels.  To the west, the Rockies reveal God-sized scale.  Halfway between these two great mountain ranges, the Ozarks are grand on a human scale.  I like that.Here the  Buffalo River can be seen from the Goat Trail, accessible downstream from the Steel Creek put-in.

We have grand vistas.  Do you see my friend in the distance in the photograph?

At this time of year, we have so much green that this creek looks green in the reflection.

Not only do we have glorious rugged landscapes, we’ve got a state full of wildlife.  Just today I saw a harem of turkeys in a field a mile from our home.  I didn’t have my camera with me, but you can see other Ozark wildlife but clicking here and scrolling down.

If you’ve never visited the Ozarks, consider it.  These humble mountains have a beauty I can only begin to reveal here.  Instead of inspiring you to contemplate the divine, they may just inspire you to contemplate humanity and yourself.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me via the comments section for permission to use photographs.  I will respond privately.

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Regular readers may recall my surprise when a spring peeper (frog) jumped out of my pepper seedlings and landed on my kitchen floor.  

Then last night not one tabby but two showed up, and one was quite, quite pregnant.

That’s why when I heard a familiar cry in the woods earlier today, my second impulse was to wonder if it were a hurt child and then to wonder if the cat had gone into labor and was in distress.  Therefore I didn’t grab my camera.  After all, it couldn’t be what I first thought it was, could it?  Oh, but it was!Can you see it?

Yes, dear readers, that is a peacock, wandering through our woods, calling like a baby cries.  Don’t ask me where it came from.  I don’t know.  But it’s definitely a peacock.  What will be next?  A platypus?   a pachyderm?

What the weirdest or more interesting animal that’s ever shown up in your neighborhood?  Do tell!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URLs are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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I was shifting around pepper seed-starting trays on my heat mat today, knowing that one end of the mat gets a bit warmer than the other.  I reached in and EEEEEEEKKKKKK!  What was that?!?  It was slimy, and it jumped!  I got over my initial surprise and then looked down and sawOkay, I knew I planted pepper seeds, but I do not remember planting peeper seeds.  And they grow from eggs not seed anyway.  But I was definitely looking at a peeper that had just sprung from my pepper seedlings, in my kitchen.  Thank goodness I’m not too squeamish.  Here is the unexpected tree frog being repatriated to the yard.Don’t worry; his color will lighten and he’ll blend in better as he adjusts from his former home of starter soil.

Um, this is a peeper, isn’t it?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Tweets and short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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A few days after I got out of the hospital some dear friends came to visit.  They gave my husband and me a break from each other and a chance to hang out with, shall we say, our own kind.  The wife of the couple walked around the yard with me, picking the spring flowers that I could not bend over to pick.  Our country yard is full of grape hyacinth, daffodils, buttercups, blue-eyed grass, and lots of other flowers I can’t identify, some wildflowers and some planted here decades ago and now naturalized. I’m reminded of Elton John’s lyrics:  “Lived here, he must have been a gardener who care a lot . . . .”  

My friend took some blooms home, and I added some forsythia and quince blossoms from branches that needed to be pruned to make bouquets.  As the flowers fade from both yard and home here, I want to share them with you.

quince with daffodils


grape hyacinths actually smell a little like NuGrape

(Yes, Linda of Flourish Now, that’s an egg cup as a vase–told you I like using them that way!)

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About twenty years ago, a bevy of swans made their winter home on the edge of the Arkansas Ozarks, after a storm blew them off course.  They are impressive

Matisse Swans, copyright Roger Head

as they gather on a local pond every winter, beautiful in their elegance and powerful as they trumpet.  Today, however, I admit that I was happy to see a pair on the wing, aimed north.  Swans do fly in a V formation (called “wings”), but they also mate for life, and I assume the pair I saw this morning was on

Swan Pair, copyright Roger Head

a practice run and therefore without the rest of their wing.  (My husband said it was date morning and that they just needed some couple time.) Perhaps spring is coming after all.  Safe travels, swans, and I hope we’ll see you next year.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Photographs copyright Roger Head.  Please contact Ozarkhomesteader for permission to reproduce photographs.

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Every once in a while, we get a hankering for alligator.  Once on the verge of extinction, American gator has come back from the brink.  You might as well eat it.  Grin. Thank goodness, gator comes from an adjoining state to Arkansas–Louisiana–so it’s sort of local.  Arkansas actually has gator too, but Arkansas gator doesn’t show up in markets; it’s just not that widespread here, and it’s usually an accident when it ends up as far north as even the edge of the Ozarks.

Some people ask me what gator tastes like.  I would say, “It tastes like chicken,” but that’s just not true.  I think gator tastes like frog legs, but with a lot chewier texture.  No, frog legs don’t taste like chicken either.  They taste like an incredibly mild fish with a texture that’s like the softest, moistest chicken you ever had.  Both frog legs and gator are family-friendly food; their flavor is mild, somehow familiar, and they can be prepared like your kids’ chicken nuggets, only much tastier.  I can also easily imagine a table of kids who would be delighted to nosh on an animal that’s so much like a dinosaur, such a big predator.

When we buy gator, we usually treat it like the Louisiana product that it is in this neck of the woods.  We’ll marinate it in a mixture of buttermilk and Tabasco to tenderize it.  Then we shake off the excess moisture, dip it in seasoned flour, and pan fry it.

Mmmmm:  husband at work in the kitchen.  He looks delicious when he cooks!

The gator looks pretty good too!

Turn, baby, turn!

Oh, Mr. Gator, are you ready for your close up?

We like gator with cole slaw.

Try it too with remoulade, a French-Cajun sauce that’s a fancier, tastier version of tartar sauce.  Gator is pretty tasty in etoufee or gumbo too, but if you overcook gator it will go from a pleasant al dente to rubbery.  You could also do smaller gator chunks, fried as above, as appetizers for a party.

Do you have questions about cooking gator?  Do you have a gator recipe you’d like to share or advice about its preparation?  Jump in!

By the way, alligator attacks on full-grown humans are rare, but you should always supervise children and pets near where gators could be hanging out.  And never, ever, ever feed an alligator.  You’ll make it associate humans with dinner, and none of us want gators thinking that way!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with a full URL link and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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