Wrapping Things Up

The year is drawing to a close.  There is finishing work to be done on things, but all the big things, that are going to get done, are done.

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Since the last post I showed friends how to cut up a deer.

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I planted as much garlic as is going to go into the ground before spring.  Was a bit torn about that, but finally decided that I had enough of every variety in the ground I need to for seed garlic next fall, and I can plant eating garlic in the spring.  They will not head up as well, but will be fine for the table.

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Started work on shelling Arikara sunflowers.  Just the heads saved for seed so far.

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Worked through a few gallons of Victor Kucyk 2175 corn as well.

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And whenever we visit Adickes farm in Buffalo, the cats show us how much they miss us.

So winter is coming.  We are as set as we are going to be.  Now, dreaming and planning for spring.

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Halfway Done With The Last Task

This was my view, up the bluff, to the south, opening weekend of deer hunting.  The lower story of buckthorn still had not lost its leaves, as there had been no hard freeze down in Red Wing yet.

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The view to the north was more open, but that was due to our removing all of the underbrush years ago, and keeping it cleared.

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The weather was uncomfortably warm, but the deer were moving.  Problem was that they were not moving where the brush was cleared.  Opening morning I caught glimpses of 16 deer.  Following day I saw 11.  One of the deer I saw opening day was a nice 8 pointer following a doe.  All I ever saw of either was flashes of their heads through the buckthorn leaves.  Never a clear shot.  Second day a really large buck got caught in vines, chasing a doe high up in the ravine.  Never had a shot on him either.  No does wandered into the openings. It was a bit frustrating for me and the kids, to have so many deer wandering around, yet none where we could take them.

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I went down second weekend to hunt Friday with Nell, but she and Phoebe stayed up much later than I did and was not rousable at 530 am.  At 741 am this little single horned fork buck walked under her stand.  He did not even flinch at the flash.  I gave her a hard time about that.  We had a basket 6 pointer come through too, but that would not have been quite the gimme shot this one was.

Those were the only two deer I saw all day, which was a bit frustrating.  Over the week, they had a hard frost and most of the lower story of brush had lost its leaves.  Seeing the deer would not have been a problem, if they had been moving around.  Only explanation I could think of was that the super moon had given the deer enough light to move around all night, so there was little need to move around in the daylight.

The forth day was not much different, but just enough different that it worked out.  Only one deer came through, high on the ridge south of me, but with the leaves down I could see him as he worked his way along a trail, was able to pick an opening, and we had one down.

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Mark was hunting with us, on the lower part of the property.  He helped me and the girls get him down off the ridge and through the heaviest of the brush, and most of the way, to the bottom of the bluff.

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The last 150 yards to the bottom of the bluff are pretty clear of obstruction, and I managed that with the kids helping.

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We hunted that evening, and the following morning, but those 3 bucks were all we saw.

img_9000Patti and Violet joined us Sunday afternoon to to help me butcher and pack the deer up for transport, and we were all home by about 930 last night.  He was a good sized deer.  We got about 100 pounds of meat off of him, and with the size of his neck and shoulders, there is going to be a lot of hamburger and sausage as well.

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This is the season of plenty for all of us.

 

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Working On Stands With Claire

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Claire and I headed down to my parent’s place south of Red Wing to make sure that the stands were good, and the shooting lanes were cleared, for one last season there.

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It is going to be hard to say good-bye to this place, which has been a deer hunting paradise for us.  We tried to figure out just how many deer we have all taken, in the 18 years my parent’s have owned the place.  Closest we could figure was over 60, between me, my family, my brother’s, my dad, and my nephew Ben.

 

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This stand has seen more deer taken from it than any other individual stand on the property.  So we have not moved it since it was put in, and there is no getting it down without destroying it or the tree.  It is going to stay right where it is.

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Even the strap on tree steps have grown into the tree.

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Again, there are a lot of scrapes on the property.  This one was made last night, under an old apple tree at the foot of the bluff.

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The size of the deer making scrapes varies wildly.  This is probably just a 1.5 year old buck’s print.

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This print is much, much larger.

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These two scrapes, barely 6 feet apart, are directly in a shooting lane of my brother Matt’s stand.

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Everywhere, there are saplings with all the bark rubbed off where bucks have been polishing their antlers.

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So another season is nearly upon us, and as stated, if all goes as my parent’s plan, the last one here.

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What can I say?  We are going to miss the place.

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Homeschooling Our Way

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For those that don’t know, we were informed earlier this year,  that all family vacations have to be preapproved by the school.  And limited to no more than 5 days total per school year.  That, and a few other things led us to raise our own kids 24 hours a day.

img_8906So far, I am enjoying it much more.  Kids too.img_8909Me, and the three older girls spent the week in northern Minnesota, where their grandfather grew up, visiting all of the grouse hunting areas he grew up hunting, that he was introduced to by his father, who I had the good fortune to hunt with for 3 years before he passed away in 1981.

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Since 1978 my dad has not missed a year.  Now, granted, who went with him has changed over the years, and this is the first year that all of my older girls, and all of my brothers got to go.  <grin> But it also does not mean that we cannot take any more time together as family due to some rule.img_8913We found a cute porky in the woods.  None of the dogs did anything stupid to it before we got them out of the area, and he was docile enough to allow a few photos.

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He never even chittered at us, so he was not real worried.  Just waited for us to leave so he could go climb a tree to eat.

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Odd, to come across a blue heron in the woods on a road.

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It jumped up into a tree when we drove past, which was stranger still.

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We walked all kinds of woods.  Honestly, the tag alder swamps are the most productive for birds, but the least fun to take a stroll in.  It is all beautiful though.

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We did not just get birds.  We got a lot of birds.  But a snow shoe made an appearance as well.

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Hard to come up with a better itinerary than days spent walking through the woods hunting and being outside in the north woods, and evenings watching my girls play monopoly together.

The trip ended with about 15 birds and a hare, which will end up being a large wild game feed for all of our families before Thanksgiving, where we eat turkey, finish filling deer tags, and hunt pheasants for Christmas dinner.

 

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Finishing Trees With Ben

He may not look happy, but he is just intense and concentrating.

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It went faster, and was more fun for me, to be working with him.img_8894 img_8895 img_8896

He stuck through it too, until I had the last 47 of them done.  95 total.

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In the background are the larger saplings the Adickes purchased when I got the large trees I planted up on our land this spring.  I plan on helping get all of theirs wrapped as well, but happy to have all of mine up at their place done.  Another end-of-the-year task I can mark as finished.

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Tree Work & Squash Processing at the Adickes Farm

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Home stretch for working on the grafted trees.  There are 95 at the Adickes farm, and while I know that not all will be successful, I do not want any of the trees there to get girdled either.  Not sure what the risk level is there.  Jerid keeps things mowed pretty well, but once snow is on the ground, critters can travel under the snow, so taking the same precautionary measures at there place as I did up north.  There is no evidence of any damage yet (other than a few errant hits with the weed wacker by me) and hoping to get them all done by later Sunday.

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They have a “mountain” of road sand/gravel gifted by the construction crew when the new road was built in front of their place and the crew found they had more than they needed.  I used it to seal the bottoms of the window screen cages I put around each tree.

I did 12 trees at a time, then would go into the house and work on processing squash so as not to stress my body out too much.

img_8870We started with Sugar Pie Pumpkins, which taste great, but a lot of work cutting, seeding, and peeling a bushel of the little guys.  We saved the seeds for roasting, while the pulp and stems were hauled by the gallon to the bacon.

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Which the bacon seemed to greatly appreciate.

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Cinderella Pumpkins (not really called that, but I do not know how to pronounce rouge vif d’etampes) was the next one we cut into.  That fills canning jars a lot faster.

img_8876That nearly filled (along with the earlier Sugar Pies) 35 quart jars.

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Then we got into the Giant Pink Banana squash (yeah it is really called that) which finished off all of our quart canning jars (will have to pick more up) plus every tray of Katrina’s dehydrator.

img_8882It was a long, but fun and fruitful day.

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Just to show, the above is an Antonovka which rejected a bud chip graft. The crust on my fingers is from the squash.  If you ever process a ton of it, you will know what it is like.

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That is an Antonovka which set the bud chip graft.

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And last, one that took the graft, and pushed the bud.  I honestly do not know if the tree will have enough time to grow a new bud under that one, and harden the wood off for winter.  If not, the tree is still alive, and I will just graft onto it again.  I probably have a dozen or so that pushed the buds to one extent or another.  Next year will tell how many work out.

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I pushed it as late as I could into the evening.

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Between canning sessions, and to finish the day, I did 48 of 95 trees.

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As I lost the light I needed to work, Jerid lit one of the piles of stumps and scrap wood they have out there, and we all hung around the fire for a while as the moon rose.

I will be back out there early (if my body lets me) tomorrow, hoping to finish getting through the trees.  Have that to do (47 more) plus a big family get together on my side, where we quarterly gather to eat and celebrate all the birthdays and anniversaries that happen this time of year.  So, I need sleep now, and there is another long day tomorrow.  The end of it all is coming.  A couple last weekends of garden work, vegetable processing, then deer hunting and meat processing, and then, maybe, after Thanksgiving weekend, a day off and a nap.

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Hoping We Are Not Too Late

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So, on the whole issue of rodent control, this is why we are wrappring tree trunks in metal screening.

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This larger tree was recently snacked on and not girdled.  I wrapped it in parafilm to protect the damaged areas.

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Not sure how much more we can do.img_8836 img_8839 img_8840 img_8841 img_8842 img_8844 img_8845

We cleaned up around every tree before wrapping them.

img_8849It was beautiful up there.  Tried to take  a few photos to show that.

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When I got to the seedling trees, the damage was more extensive.

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Mice and voles have not been the only predating animals on our property.  The horse which had broken free in the spring and come across our property then, did so again in July apparently, but was subsequently predated upon.

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I wrapped the grafts I have up there tight.

img_8857 img_8858 img_8862The nights are coming early, and we do not have near the daylight to get things done that we had this summer.  We are dark by 7 now.

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Sunday morning we went to Bayfield’s Apple Festival.  My kids had heard there was a vendor who had deep fried Oreos, and Claire wanted to try them.  I had not been to Apple Fest since the early 90s.  I remembered it as an apple themed food court at the bottom of a big hill.  It still is.  But a lot more people.

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Every single seedling apricot I planted in the field was eaten down to the ground.  The 5 in the high fence area are fine though.  I am hoping the window screen protects them for the winter from rodents.img_8868

The seedling apple trees we grew from Kleffman/Cortland crosses are fine, and all got screen protectors as well.

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So, other than making the mental note that I need to, in the future, do the screen protectors when I am planting, and not waiting until fall, we have the place set for winter.  Might make another trip or two up there before spring.  We will see.

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Birthday Girl, and Another Trip Up North

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We had a busy week.  It was Claire’s birthday, which for Birthday Breakfast meant a cherry tart and English Breakfast tea at Patisserie Margo in Excelsior on Tuesday.

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And the weekend was Claire, Nell, Pike, and myself up at the farm.  Doing some final preparation work for winter up there, hoping to keep the rodents off of the tree trunks until they are old enough that being girdled by a small animal is not a worry.

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Evenings are coming fast.  by 6 pm the sun was low in the horizon, and I was making dinner for us and a neighborhood friend who made the long walk over to the property to have pork chops on the grill.

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While we had a wonderful, clear, starry evening, the morning woke up with a heavy cold fog.

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Not a good focus in the dim light and fog, but what I am showing here is how one of the old trees on the property has the ground completely trampled underneath.  This tree set hundreds of incredibly sweet large crab apples, about 2.5″ in diameter.  They are an apparent area favorite of bears, who went to great lengths to get the apples from the tree.  Goldenrod and grasses, 3’+ tall everywhere else, are completely trampled into the ground here, and mixed with dozens of piles of bear crap.  They tore the tree up too, with a lot of the branches broken in their efforts to strip every fruit from the branches.  Come late winter, there is a lot of broken and cracked limbs I am going to have to prune off.

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Though we did not see him, the local farmer has been working on cutting the fields out there.  He left his equipment on the farm.  He appears to be about half done.  Kids had fun climbing around on the bales.

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He mowed and baled the driveway too which was nice.

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Just before 8 am we headed into town for pancakes.  We took the long way in, because I was hoping for a photo shot of horses in the fog.

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We got back at about 10 am, and Claire and I got back to work, fastening the aluminum screen sleeves around the trees.  Don’t want snow, ice and wind to remove them, and these loops are easy enough for us to remove later, should we want to.

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We did not stay too late.  It is going to take another trip to finish, and the plan is for all of us to head up there this next weekend, and check out Bayfield’s Apple Festival while we are at it.  We ended the trip with a hike for the kids and Pike in a river, as much to wash the dog off as for the kids to play.

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Just as a side note:  The trip very nearly started with disaster.  As we approached our property Claire rolled down her window to look out over our fields, and Pike took a flying leap out, as I was driving at about 20 mph.  He took quite the tumble, scraped the hair and a lot of skin off of his chin, gouged the side of his face, and tore up his paws.  Not a brilliant move on his part, and could have ended really badly if he had busted up all of his legs.  We did not have to deal with that trauma though.  Just a bloodied up dog.  This photo is the next day.  Did not take photos of him looking like a horror show.

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Harvesting With My Birthday Girl

So Claire turns the magic dozen tomorrow.

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She made a quick run with me out to the Adickes farm to cut the rest of the sunflowers, get them on racks in the greenhouse, as well as pick another bushel of squash (2 this year, all Baby Vi) and I started to dig sweet potatoes.

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We are using about 50 feet of shelving in one of the now empty greenhouses to finish drying them away from the song birds.  I learned the hard way, some years ago, what a cloud of blackbirds can do to a full acre of sunflowers.

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I do not have a ton of hills of sweet potatoes, but I also only dug up half of them.  I was working in muck, it was heavy, and I ran into a field clutch of a dozen chicken eggs.  Katrina asked me to collect them and I found from her later that there are chickens that are too lazy to go back to the hen house in the summer to lay them, but they are not broody either so the eggs just die out in the field.  But the pigs enjoy them, so they get turned into bacon.

I got about 5 pounds of sweet potatoes per hill.  Apparently they need to cure in 80 degree + heat so I am going to keep them in a bushel box in the car, with the windows up, for a few days.  Nights are getting cool, but sunny days should have the car warm enough to do what our weather is not this time of year.

And that is all I am going to type tonight.  Tired.  Need to head to bed.

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Canning Pears

My Friend Dave Macgreggor has a few pear trees that he grew from seed, are not named varieties, and he does not sell at the orchard, but he had a few bushels of those pears he was willing to let go cheap, so I made a trip up there and picked them up yesterday.

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They are not real big.  Most of them are about 2.5 inches across.

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Patti and I carefully quartered and cut out any bug spots, cores, stems and blossom ends.

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I poached them in sugar water.  For every 1.5 gallons of packed pears, topped with water, I added 2 cups of rough organic sugar.

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I am not done canning yet.  I think two runs to go in the canner.  I am up to 72, with 72-79 in the canner now.  Still enough pears for another full run in the pot.

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As an FYI, wrapping your thumb in duct tape prior to cutting all of the pears by hand might not be a bad idea.  I kind of turned the ball of my thumb into hamburger.

Also, as a note:  I did one run in the canner with the pears in brandy.  Alcohol boils at a much lower temperature.  I had been going with 25 minutes in a hot water bath canner.  If I do that again, I am not going to run it with the booze for more than 10 minutes.  A lot of the alcohol boiled off.

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I also had three jars fail in the canner, requiring me to empty it all and start over with new water, which slows things up.  Had two failed seals so far too, and those jars are in the fridge.  One sugar water, one brandy.

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