Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Till Spring

"Woodchuck" - graphite on bristol board
(private collection)

I had some difficulty putting a title to this post...nothing really makes sense descriptively, but I'll go on.

When we first moved here in the fall of 2002 we found Woodchucks nearly everywhere here on Prairie Hill Farm. Heads would pop up out of holes in the storage shed dirt floor whenever I'd walk in to get the mower or find a shovel. A head even popped up between my feet one day in the crib lean-to when I sat down to do some welding. (that was a little disconcerting)

I'd had plenty of exposure to Woodchucks growing up. Woodchucks (Ground Hogs to some) were something we marveled at - once we caught one in a cage trap and totted it home for a "pet". The snarling and gnashing of teeth made us decide it wasn't the "best" candidate for a "pet", so we carried it back and let it go. (Mom did have something to say about it)

I've taken a few photos of Woodchucks through the years...they're fun to watch in grassy meadows or wood lots where they readily climb trees. The young ones are really fun to photograph as are just about any small mammal, but I'm afraid the "fun" had run out on Woodchucks here in the yard and buildings some time ago.

I've repaired many doors on the out buildings here...all Woodchuck damaged, they love chewing through wood doors to get into any building. I've had to fill in huge tunnels under supporting walls and big holes in the middle of floors. I even caught one trying to tunnel under the house!

One day Georgie and I were sitting at the breakfast table looking out toward the barn and saw a Woodchuck up on the barn roof running around. What the heck!? Well, sure enough there was a new hole chewed through the barn roof! They love to climb into the hay loft, and chewing through the wood shingles and roofing planks to gain access to a roof frolic was not beyond these guys.

Since that day Woodchucks were no longer "cute" or "fun" here...the neighbors probably just shook their heads and thought "I could'a told you that!" Funny how it takes large doses of reality to look at something in a different way.

Well these guys were no longer welcome in the yard or buildings and the "enforcement" of this curfew has held pretty well over the past few years.

Last week I went out to the shop behind the studio to use the table saw...the shop is a metal lean-to attached to the back of the studio...its unheated with a sliding door and has a dirt floor. Right next to the table saw was a "big" hole in the floor with a lot of dirt piled around it. I guess someone snuck in for last minute winter quarters...

It's too late to do anything about squatters at this point. Woodchucks hibernate non-stop till early spring. I don't blame them...I understand. So I threw a door over the den need to give skunks or coons the idea I'm running a bed and breakfast for them as well! Come spring, I'll notice if our stow-away is up and about, then I'll put out the unwelcome sign again.

We're having great sunshine for Thanksgiving this year. We're not going to complain about the weather as all the snow has melted once again and that's just the tip of the ice berg as to what we have to be thankful for!

I do want to stop and take a moment to wish all of you out there a great Thanksgiving as well...God Bless!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bald Eagles in the Valley

Something we always look forward to in the late fall is the return of Bald Eagles to the Waterman Creek Valley here in NW Iowa. We are not the Eagle magnet like the Missouri or Mississippi River areas that bring them in by the dozens or hundreds, but we can usually count on a small number on any given day. The Prairie Heritage Center had over 50 eagles during their Eagle Watch last I grew up along the Des Moines River valley back in the 50's and 60's and my first Bald Eagle sighting there was around the time I was 15 years was quite a sight back then!

On Monday Georgie and I were at the Prairie Heritage Center south of here and watched 4 Bald Eagles (2 sub adults and 2 adults) settling into the eagle roosting area just off Waterman Creek and the Little Sioux River. This is a fun thing to see and it's heartening to have the eagles come back in this state and the lower 48 as a whole during the past 40 years! I believe there was an estimate of less that 600 Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states back in 1960!

I had posted ( ) on local Bald Eagles almost a year ago, but they are something we'll never grow complacent or bored with, and it's really neat to have them back again.

Wenasaga Bald Eagle - Oil on canvas
(private collection)

We used to have to go north to Georgie's folk's Ontario retreat along the Wenasaga River to see Bald Eagles and nests. I did an oil painting years back of the sight of an adult Bald Eagle catching a thermal high above the Wenasaga River, just upstream from the cabin Georgie and I honeymooned in 38 years ago.

It's a neat bird and it's a fortunate thing to still be able to hold a sight such as this so dearly in our hearts.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Indian Summer

In the mid 70's in November...doesn't get much better than that! Love Indian Summer!

I looked up the meaning of Indian Summer and I must say we sure make things complicated. I think the term Indian Summer is much more personal than the "strict" requirements thrown about from various sources.

We have experienced at least 3 hard freezes since mid October, and it was in the mid 70's today; whether or not that qualifies it, that doesn't concern me - I'll still call it Indian Summer.

I've been working in the studio on a long project, entering lengthy information in an html document. Needing some respite and fresh air, Georgie and I went on a long walk out back together. It's a half mile to the back of the back pasture, it's a real nice walk along the ridge of a prairie remnant.

When we returned we sat on the studio's front deck and watched the harvest down in the valley out front. The neighbors driving by frequently pulling their wagons full of corn...a lot more traffic than we usually get here.

The air is crisp and the sun is warm...most trees have dropped their leaves but there's still a few stubborn ones around. As the afternoon light lengthens behind us, a wonderful magenta casts itself on the upper tree branches and the valley takes on a wonderful glow.
Two bucks follow a doe and it's two offspring of last summer along Waterman Creek and the east a 10 pointer, the other smaller. A crescent moon - waxing, rides lower in the SW and the breeze is now a more pleasant tempo.

This is Indian Summer to us; we'll cherish it and replay the sense of it, the smells and sight of it, during long winter nights ahead...