Homestead update

While the rooster is plowing away on his hens, I carry pale after pale of water to the garden. We have several small plots and one that I am particularly caring for tonight. Fresh compost was spread over the top of a potato field. My wife needed her small pool cleaned out. So, why waste the water by dumping it into the grass nearby? I carried two five-gallon buckets time and time again to the rows of potatoes and watched as it traveled down the small trenches to the foot tall stalks that have grown over the last month. Its crazy to think that our last frost was in the middle of June.

There is a short list of plants that survived that ordeal. Tomatoes, potatoes, okra, pepper plants, beans, beets, radish, and strawberries. The plants that died overnight include; tobacco, peppers, bush beans, soy beans, corn, and tomatoes. In the cases where the same plant is mentioned different varieties handled the frost differently. The better boy tomatoes did better than the cherry tomatoes. Bell pepper plants didn’t do so well as the jalapeño. I was surprised to see Okra was still standing but maybe its those stubborn southern genes.

The soil is slowly coming together with fresh compost being added as the bins break down and are turned. Currently one bin is the home to volunteer cantaloupe. I also noticed that a rare blue butterfly is fond of the coffee ground tossed in and I have found their chrysalis hanging from the sides of the bin. When the lawn is moved large piles of fresh grass are added to the bins. The chicken runs are raked up and the coops cleaned out to added their manure to the pile. Then there are the rabbit cages. Our buck is a white and brown dwarf rabbit while the doe is a giant grey/ black variety that rivals the cat in size. Unlike the feces of most animals their waste is spread out over sections of the garden to break down with the weather.

After hours of work, planning, and designs the root cellar roof is still leaking. Three layers of plastic, a wooden framed gutter to direct the flow of water, and several inches of dirt did nothing to stop the incoming flood that continues by the entryway. My next option… build a metal roof over the cement one. The trial of the Hobbit roof is over and I don’t know how Bilbo Baggins ever kept his collection of maps dry while living in that hill.

The chicken massacre of 2021 finally came to an end after I ran netting over the top of the run. A hawk feather was found in the run after one of our grey chickens disappeared except for a fist full of feathers. It would appear this one put up a fight and was not going peacefully. RIP young grey chicken. Our current number stands at 16 and I think we will stay there for a while. The last four to have joined the flock finished their hazing phase and are now running around in the chaos. It will still be a while before any of the new chickens start to lay eggs.

In addition to the rabbits, we have there are the wild hare that run amuck on the property. There seems to be a large number of rabbits on our 15 acres and I haven’t seen any signs of coyote since winter. I’m not going to complain since rabbit taste better than coyote. We have partridge and turkeys as well. Only in a few cases have I see large flocks of turkey, lately the sightings have involved a Tom and a few hens. On rare occasions I will see a hen with baby turkey following behind. The deer are doubling their numbers again. The bucks have been busy with most does being accompanied by a fawn and the one doe with twins running around in my back yard. Even with all the gun shots I heard last winter the deer population doesn’t appear to have gone down at all.

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Being Elmer Fudd

This year, like previous years, I have failed to drag a deer home during hunting season. I thought things would change having bought my own land and seeing deer non-stop since the move. While I could come up with a list of excuses as to why this is the case there is one thing I have to admit, I am not good at this. I could go squirrel, quail, or turkey hunting and bring something home without question, and some would say these things are harder to do. I could say this is similar to fishing, I can catch blue gill, crappie, and sun fish until the sun goes down, but you won’t see me pulling a bass out of the water any time soon.

This year, like most years, not only have the deer eluded me but they have come to taunt me as well. A few years ago, I was fed up after a week of spending hours out I the woods with squirrel barking their insults at me and decided it was time to teach them a lesson. I went out with my shotgun bringing small game loads and filled my bag in an hour. I ran through the woods taking our every barking offender that dared to show their furry face. Walking back to the car I came over a hill to see two large does starring at me from thirty feet away. A clear and open side shot perfectly positioned and me without a slug in my shotgun. They looked at me for over a minute before turning away and running into the woods. In the end that bag of squirrels had the last laugh.

This year the mocking is even worse than before. On opening day, I went out to the spot I had decided on and brought one of my trusted Mosin-Nagant 7.62x54r bolt action rifles. This one had the smaller scope that was easier to use. The cold windy rain didn’t discourage me from marching out and claiming my prize. As I reached the back of the property, I set up next to an abandoned outhouse in the middle of a small field and waited a minute until a large doe walked out of the woods and looked at me. I raised my rifle and looked into the scope to see nothing but fog. Both sides of the scope were completely fogged over and sine it was mounted on the rear sight I couldn’t use iron sights to make the shot. On opening day, the deer got the better of me.

I set up a pop-up blind near that spot knowing that the deer move through that area. It’s not uncommon to see anywhere from two to seven deer moving through into the swampy woods behind the property. The first day I had the blind up a doe came out of the opposite end of the woods. A tree blocking my shot as its head looked around, then turning around to only give me the ass end before disappearing. The next morning, I opened the windows of he blind to see a set of tracks walking up to the blind and a pile of fresh doe scat sitting in front of it. At this point the score might be deer 3, Fudd 0.

Other odd things have happened since then. I went out to my car and found tracks and doe scat next to the drive and passenger side doors, no joke. Later in the morning when I go out to feed the chickens a doe and yearling will march through the small field behind our house in full view not giving me the time of day. It wasn’t long before I moved my pop-up blind again and realized I had to do something differently.

I spent an evening following the deer trails on the property and found four scrapes, a place where a buck marks a tree and clears the ground to pee on it. Its like a truck stop bathroom way of telling does, for a good time meet me here at this time. This buck was wanting to get some and I was willing to meet him at one of his spots. The next morning, I went out early, an hour before day break only to hear the snort and rustle of hoof prints as the buck ran off leaving me rejected and disappointed. Before heading back to the house, I unzipped my pants and left my own, for a good time call, on his clear patch of dirt next to the scraped-up trunk of a young tree. He has yet to call me.

For the last week and a half, I have heard the distance rings of shots across the land as my neighbors thin the herd and fill their freezers. At the local hardware store, I hear a young man talking about his brother getting two does in the first week and how his brother was disappointed about not getting a buck. The old man behind the counter says “how come? It only got antlers. They don’t taste any different.” My neighbor tells me today about our over neighbor bagging a big buck for the first time in a few years, likely my romantic rejection. Then he goes on to tell me that he usually bags three to four deer a year. Meanwhile, in Matt land, I can not bag one. There is always some detail I miss. I don’t go out early enough. I don’t stay out late enough. I brought the wrong gun for the weather. I put my blind in the wrong spot. I use a blind where I shouldn’t. Granted, I didn’t start hunting until I was 32. I didn’t start deer hunting until I was 34. After six years you would think I would have learned something. This is one sport/ hobby/ pastime that has a lot of trials and even more errors. I am worse that buckless Yooper in Escanaba in Da Moonlight. There are a few days left. I might be able to pull something off, but my hopes of filling the freezer or using any of my ammo for something other than target shooting are low. The deer mock me, they taunt me, and at this rate they know that my place is one of the safest in the area. Right now, they are going around telling their friends to go hang out at the fudge suckers house, while you’re at it crap next to his car. I’m guessing this is the deer equivalent to egging a house.

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Daisy: CHAPTER EIGHT

“Why do we have to wait here in the cold,” Daisy asked her father as they sit in a blind made from nearby tree limbs and branches.
“Deer run away when you go out looking for them,” Bill replied.
“There has got to be a better way to do this?” Daisy said trying to stay warm while snowflakes fall around them. “Why don’t people hunt in the summer?”
“You already know that from your hunting safety class. The cold preserves the meat so that nothing goes to waste. Now pipe down, all this talking is going to scare everything away. We won’t even leave with a squirrel.”
“That’s gross,” daisy said shrugging her shoulders.
“There may come a day when you have to eat what you can.”
“I’ll wait until then,” Daisy said. A second later the sound of leaves crackling followed by a twig caught their attention. Bill tapped Daisy on the shoulder to ready her shotgun, a .410 they had bought the summer before. She spent a few hours at the range with it, becoming comfortable with the kick. Neither of them said a word as they looked at the ridge, waiting to see what would climb over.
The pounding in her chest made her wonder if her heart was going to explode from her ribcage. Her breathing slowed down as her eyes focused on the ridge line. The cracking and popping of leaves and sticks continued and a second later a pair of brown ears extended from the earth. The deer ascended and a large doe appeared, thick and stocking it was a few years old and ate well before the winter. The doe faced Daisy and had not notice the two hunters behind the blind. Bill put his hand on Daisy’s shoulder and squeezed. She lifted the .410 and waited for the kill shot to appear.
Long seconds passed. Daisy took long deep breaths trying to slow her heart beat but nothing worked. Her skin tingled and the blood rushing through her veins was warm. Every sound, every movement, happened in slow motion. The deer was taking its time until it turned, looking at a tree, sniffing the bark for a potential meal. The side was exposed and Daisy could see the furnace, the hotbox of death. One clear shot and there wouldn’t be a chase, no tracking to find her kill. Daisy clicked the safety off in front of the trigger and took a deep breath. Her heart was still beating fast, the veins in her neck throbbed as she closed her left eye and lined up the sight.
The shot happened. The loud clap of gas exploding out of the barrel caught her off guard and she was startled when the deer stumbled and fell to the side, down the hill and out of sight. Daisy panicked and rushed out of the blind before bill could stop her.
The ridge overlooked the start of a swamp and on the other end was the open fields the older hunters preferred. The public hunting lands were thousands of acres of everything a deer needed to thrive. The sun was setting with a blood red hew painted across the sky. Daisy could see an orange clad figure walking in the field a mile away, his hunt ruined by the shot she had made. Looking down she found her kill and a few feet below that was a fawn that she had never seen. The mother was dead, the fawn looked at Daisy, turned and ran. A few seconds later the fawn disappeared into the swamp, thick brush hiding it from predators like Daisy.
“You did good.” Bill walked up behind her seeing the clean kill.
“It had a fawn,” Daisy said. “I just watched it run away into the swamp.”
“It will be fine,” Bill said.
“Are you sure?” Daisy asked.
“This deer was a fawn like that one at one time. Trust me, it will make due.” Bill pulled a buck knife from his pocket and unfolded the blade. “Remember not to nick the intestines.”

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