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February Journal

Gosh, here it is the end of February already! Two twelfths of our year gone!

Gosh, here it is the beginning of March already! And I missed my deadline for the February Journal! Well, we’ll write about February in March. Here we go…

It’s been kind of a whacky winter this year, with temperatures oscillating wildly from fifteen below zero F to sixty degrees F in a two-week period. We set a record last Wednesday, with a high temperature of 73 degrees F. In February? What goes on?

Well, this is the first year that I’ve actually heard myself complain that it was not cold enough, and there was not enough snow!  I think it’s good (and fun) to embrace winter activities. Too many people live in this climate just hiding in winter, running from the cold and snow, and wishing for an early spring. Don’t get me wrong, I like spring as well as the next guy. Still, we live in a place that’s frozen and snowy at least 3 or 4 months out of the year. Sometimes it stretches out a little. A “good” long winter will set in around mid-November, and the landscape can be covered in snow until March or later. Most winters don’t quite string out that long.

When kids were little, I’d be out a lot building snowmen, snow sculptures and snow forts. There would be sledding down hills and generally playing in the snow many days. I’ve been an avid fisherman since I was a kid, but didn’t take up ice fishing until I was nearly fifty years old. Not sure why, though there was a time I was not so eager to expose myself to sub-freezing temperatures.

This year I took up yet another new winter activity, namely Ski-joring. Joring refers to being pulled by an animal, usually dogs. (There’s also Cani-Cross, motocross with canines!) Some ski-joring is done with horses, mostly in the midwest. In 1926, ski-joring was an Olympic event! Most folks have never heard of it. Anyway, this year I bought these things called Ski-shoes or Climbing skis, and they have a few other names. Invented and still used by the Altai people in Northern China, they’re called hoks (“hawks”) in the native language.

Altai Hoks

Hoks skin detail

So hoks, or climbing skis, have a “skin” on much of the bottom surface of the ski. A velour-like fabric, it’s like sharkskin; smooth in one direction and grippy in the other. So you can walk up hills like you’re wearing snowshoes, but on the backtrail or downhills, you can glide a bit. They’re not as fast as cross-country skis owing to the large fabric patch being a bit less slick than an all-ski underside.

Of course there’s more to it. I also picked up a trekking belt which goes around your waist, and attaches via a bungee lead to the dog. This way she pulls the belt, leaving hands free for ski poles. I did some water skiing as a youngster, but never skied on snow, so I’m learning the skiing part before strapping myself to a Husky that can run 25 miles an hour! The trail camera got a pretty good snapshot of the joring rig. You can see the Hoks yourself (or buy them) at Altai Ski. I think the whole address would be: http://www.us-store.altaiskis.com. The trekking belt and bungee lead come from Nooksack Racing in New Hampshire. (www.nooksackracing.com) Sasha’s custom-made dogsled harness comes from Alpine Outfitters of Bend, Oregon. (www.alpineoutfitters.net) (That’s grandson Kacey in the green hoodie).

Of course the temps were too warm (around or above freezing) for hok skiing, and even caused the snow to stick to the snowshoes. Then the snow melted and it rained. Boo hoo! In spite of all that we keep on hiking the trails and visiting our Wonder Woods. It’s always great to be out here, even if the weather doesn’t spoil us with perfect climes!

Snowmobiling, also, rose on the popularity list, became the buzz of the season, then was similarly hobbled by less-than-desirable weather for snowmachines. Max saved his money from working on the dairy farm all summer (and winter on Sundays only), and bought himself a shiny used Ski-Doo. His father, son-in-law Matt, went out after him and bought a sled, too. Not to be left behind (should snow ever fall) I also added a new Ski-Doo to my inventory. Well, not a new one, but a good used sled that will serve me for years. Of course we still have the Arctic Cat Jag my father handed down to me almost ten years ago, which is now painted orange with a “REVENGE” stencil in black on the sides of the cowl. Max had an idea we could take the Jag to the grass drags in Bouckville. Maybe we will, yet. Grass Drags are summer competitions for snowmobiles, where, as the name implies, they drag race on the grass. I guess someone is even more obsessed with winter sports than I am, and couldn’t let the whole summer go by without an excuse to ride his snowmobile!

Any excuse. My Ski-Doo on the two inches of snow we’ve had since I bought it.

We did manage to get a little ice fishing in before the temps warmed up and the rains came. Grandson Max and I plied Engleville Pond for half of a Sunday. It was quite cold, in the upper teens, and a bit of wind was blowing, so it was easy to keep moving out on the ice! All I had for bait was mealworms, which are okay, but not nearly as effective as shiners (or redheads). We drilled holes, we set tip-ups. We jigged with the short poles and made the rounds checking baits. Alas, our cold and wet quarry eluded us. It was cold and blowy, and in that visceral way it was a beautiful day to be out there. A steady snow fell all the while, and we had the whole pond and the little hollow all to ourselves.

Folks often think we’re out of winter when February ends. March sounds so spring-like. Many forget that the biggest blizzards we get are in March. (29 inches of snow last year!) So it’s no surprise, after all my lamenting, that another whopper of a storm is forecast for this weekend, with teens and twenties being quoted as snowfall predictions. Probably too late for the pond, and temperatures are forecast around both sides of freezing, so it’ll be too warm for snowshoes and hoks again.

I’m not getting my hopes up, but I hear there’s a new-ish Ski-Doo that wants to get itself buried in the snow on the trails of Engleville! Come on, winter. One last hurrah.

See you in that altogether in-between season, the season whose only claim to fame is Colt’s Foot and mud. Okay, so some folks actually look forward to Spring!

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

Soft, Silent Snow

 

Hipsters

Hipsters

A mid-February storm front campaigned across our little world. She visited on a carefree Sunday, allowing me to enjoy every snowflake of the day. There would be drinking of hot coffee, and photographs of birds at the feeder through the kitchen windowpane.

There would be a long walk afield with Sassy June, more photos of the yellow-red dog romping with winter glee. Hour by hour, we shall watch the snow pile up from within the comfort of our rooms, or from the vista atop Widowmaker Hill.

We’ve had enough snow now to justify donning the snowshoes, but halfway through the walk the following day would find temperatures rising, and the snow would stick to the bottom of the snowshoes like muck. Abandoned and carried for the home leg.

I wonder that people who live in more temperate climes never experience the magic of snow. The world at once transformed and renewed, a whitewash on everything.

Out in the magic of a country wood, it’s as though a blanket were thrown over our bubble of atmosphere. Falling from the sky the feather-down stuffing of billowy clouds. Yet, though blanketed and muffled, if one listens closely no silence will be beheld.

Each flake through the air and falling on another emits the most minute, nearly inaudible whisper. In concert with millions, as the snow falls a soft hiss can be heard, the babbling of this vertical brook of temporarily-solidified water.

We watch as the concrete statue of The Virgin slowly disappears, as if sinking in white quicksand. Sasha’s plastic igloo doghouse sports a complete cover of snow, looking like the genuine article. The wren house, vacated until the cacophonous June return, builds up a welcome mat on the doorstep, growing higher with each subsequent viewing, threatening to cover the very portal it serves.

The radio scanner is on, and we listen to the calls for Sheriff’s deputies and State Troopers. “Vehicle off the road, Town of Carlisle. Vehicle in the ditch, Town of Seward.” Return calls for tow trucks, sometimes EMS. We listen to the plow drivers. “Better hit Sharon Hill again before you hit the back roads, Gary.” “10-4.” comes the reply, “Gotta watch that big turn on 145, it keeps drifting in pretty bad.”.

From time to time the big Internationals would rumble up Engleville Road, their giant steel plows scraping, seeking pavement, tire chains clanging. The dump hopper filled with sand & salt sprays out a swath from the spreader. The truck will stop and back up at the stop sign by the school to drop extra sand and salt, climb US 20 East up the hill at ten miles per hour so the de-icing traction aid will lay heavily.

As darkness falls, the snow continues. Solar yard lights buried up to their globes come on, illuminate the snow from within. The flashing orange lights of the snowplows streak up the fields, throw shadows of trees and houses as they crawl past like some iron bison, oblivious of the snow. The television is showing colorful maps. “Blue areas reporting 8 to 10 inches of new snowfall. Here in the purple areas,” Steve the weatherman says, pointing at the map, his finger covering Engleville, “reports are coming in of 18 to 20 inches, and still more to come.”.

I am overcome by a sort of pioneer spirit. The pellet stove will keep us toasty, and we can close the door at the pantry to hog the heat for the living room. If the power goes out, we have gas heaters that will work. The cupboard holds several old oil lamps with oil, just for such an occasion, not uncommon in northeast winters or July thunderstorm seasons. More lanterns are available upstairs amidst the camping gear, including one that will recharge in the car. There is a library full of books we could read to one another when the TV is off and the sparse light gathers us more closely. Soon I am fairly wishing for a power outage.

A chance to evade all these lights from room to room, better to see the moonlit snowfields before us. A time without fans whirring and refrigerators cycling and sump pumps pumping on and off, to listen to Frost’s gentle sweep, to read those words while living them. Alas, deep in the night the snow would cease to fall, and power went uninterrupted. So strange to feel we missed out on something due to the power staying on.

In my childhood, it seems power failures were a bit more common. My mother, always the wide-eyed adventurer, no doubt taught me to look forward to outages. We would not feel forced, yet were compelled, each to gather around the light. My mom would stop cooking supper (on the electric range), my dad would come in from his darkened garage. My sister and I would abandon our chairs, no Family Affair or Man From U.N.C.L.E. tonight.

And my mom would adventurize the experience. There would be Tee Pees of blankets, or they might become Conestoga wagons, prairie schooners. There would be foods that didn’t require cooking, like peanut butter and crackers which would become K-rations for the troops at the front. Baloney sandwiches became “chuck wagons”. And there would be reading.

Here’s hoping the next storm packs just a little more wallop!

Off Season

Off Season

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

Two Ponds Saturday

South Bank View

South Bank View

My grandson, Maximus James, made a visit to the Engleville Tick Ranch last weekend. He can last only so long without a pilgrimage to the grandparents’ old homestead, the place where he spent his days as a preschooler. Where the school bus picked him up and dropped him off during kindergarten and first grade. Mam & Pop’s place served as daycare for him, and sister Elizabeth for a couple of years. Mam their governess, the Ark their second home.

Nowadays they live far away to the north. Well, okay, they live in the next town over, about fifteen minutes away, but still, a trip to Mam & Pop’s is like a mini-vacation.

So, after Saturday chores; going to the dump, bike-joring with the Chusky dog, mowing the lawns, we headed for Engleville Pond to do some Bullhead fishing. Max has caught a wide variety of fish, but not a bullhead, and that was his intended quarry today. He made up a mess he called dough-balls or stink-balls, wads of bread or dough with smelly attractants. Usually these are made with raw dough and the stuff chum is made of. In this case, Max grabbed a slice of deli turkey and some mayonnaise and made something of a club sandwich ball with English muffins for the bread.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted with the honking of geese as they drifted slowly away from us toward the far bank. The air was still, and the water like glass. The colors of fall leaped at us from all sides including below as the oranges and yellows reflected off the mirror surface.

Max had a tough time getting the soggy English muffin to stay on a hook. We grabbed a big hunk of muffin and dipped it into his turkey-club-jumble, and that stayed on long enough for a few casts. I fished for about five minutes before I was overcome with the need to grab the camera and get some snapshots of the beautiful Saturday afternoon. As luck would have it, while I was shooting across the pond a flock of geese flew in from the east. They cackled raucously as the 150-bird formation slowed, with fixed wings, descending towards the smooth surface of the pond. I took advantage of the opportunity to shoot some geese on the wing, so to speak.

We plied the waters of Engleville Pond a while with no luck, and decided to relocate to Bowmaker’s Pond. Back in the when, we called it Bowmaker Swamp. Because it was a swamp. The Department of Environmental Conservation dug out much of the swamp to open the water up a little, I guess, and maybe help with flood control or drainage. Now there’s quite a patch of open water, and the cattails have begun their slow march, spreading year by year. The milfoil and other aquafauna are also vigorously trying to reclaim the territory. Here, too, we found Canada Geese gathered. Resting and feeding as they pass through on their long migration to the Gulf of Mexico.

We had some fair fish action at Bowmaker’s, curiously catching five fish of five different species. First Max caught a Crappie, then a Bass. After a few more casts he caught the ubiquitous Sunfish (Bluegill). Finally I landed one, a nice pickerel about nineteen inches long. The only fish I didn’t get a snapshot of. Lastly, Max caught a little yellow perch.

It was a bit of a last hurrah for shirt-sleeve weather. By the time it neared sundown, a chill was in the air. The geese at Bowmaker’s lined up on the pond for some nice photos. At one point, you could hear their conversation starting. At first just a few honks, then bit-by-bit the rest of the flock joining in until there was a unanimous chatter. This meant they were readying for takeoff, and I got a few pictures of them running across the water, big wings flapping, honking the whole way. Finally they would take to the air, and with another minute of avid honking the birds ascended, circled, and faded off over the eastern horizon along with their noise.

Wherever we went today, the bright sun and golden colors of fall surrounded us. The sky held but a few ribbons of clouds, and the air was mild. Back at the Ranch we’d have a nice dinner, walk the dog around, and settle in for Saturday Night at Pop Pop’s. This means watching Ghost Hunters or Finding Bigfoot, or perhaps a Godzilla movie as we await ten o’clock and the ritual viewing of Svengoolie, and his own mix of monster movies.

There would be recliners and blankets, pretzels and green tea. Falling asleep in the chairs and moving to the bed (or couch) at 2 a.m. Sunday would leave us little time, though we managed another run with the mushing dog and at some point we made a walk around hunting squirrels. Max bagged one Pine Squirrel, which interested Sassy June the Chusky Dog greatly. Max kept the trophy tail, and we gave the carcass to Sassy, who quickly lost interest when she saw the thing wouldn’t run.

Mushing, Fishing, Hunting, Movie-watching, two ponds, trail hikes and chores, it was an action-packed weekend. I savored every moment with my grandson, my little dog, the honking geese and the colorful trees.

Sometimes I ask myself out loud:

“Am I dead? Is this Heaven?”

October Sunrise

October Sunrise

Take care and keep in touch.

 

Paz

 

Squirrelly Sunday

Max On The Lookout

Max On The Lookout

Grandson Max, his father, Matt, and his cousin Pierce came over a couple of Sundays ago to do some squirrel hunting. We gathered up our “22’s” (.22 caliber rifles), and headed for the hardwood stands out back.

Max & I Head For The Woods

Max & I Head For The Woods

It was overcast and cool, around 30, and as we walked the top of Widowmaker field, a few downy flakes drifted by. In just a few minutes, the mini flurry stopped. This season of hunting is better with a snow cover. It’s much less noisy when walking, and tracks in the snow can lead us to the haunts of squirrels and bunnies. Today, we’d be crunching around on a six-inch deep carpet of autumn leaves. Even thinking about walking made crunching sounds.

Little Beaver Creek

Little Beaver Creek

Matt took up residence in a tree stand at the transition line, where the forest meets fields. Pierce took a stand north of there, while Max & I “drove” the hardwoods from the south. For those unfamiliar with the term, “driving” is to have some members of the hunting party transit the area, working toward those on stand (in a fixed location). The idea being to drive the game toward the awaiting hunter.

Seasons Past

Seasons Past

Max & I saw two squirrels on our foray, but didn’t get a shot off. Matt bagged just one, and Pierce went scoreless (we’re keeping score for the season.)

In days past I entertained some hunting interests. Over the last couple of decades, my preferences have changed. I don’t mind keeping a fish or two for a shore dinner at camp, but I am no longer interested in killing anything else.

For Max’s benefit and the camaraderie of men’s company, I tote my Savage .22 inherited from my father. It’s even loaded with bullets. I’ll let Max believe we’re hunting together, and I’ll congratulate him and other members of the party on their kills.

“Not sure what I’m going to do if I see a squirrel.” I confided to Matt out of Max’s earshot, “Maybe I’ll just shoot the branch below it.”

Luckily for me and the squirrels, not so much Matt, Max or Pierce, the little critters managed to elude us anyway.

After the marching about, the others headed to the rifle range as I walked around with Chuy the Wonderdog. He has always had a fear of loud noises. Thunder turned him psycho, and he’d climb up into the chair or onto the couch to hide behind me, trembling like a leaf. Thankfully, age has reduced his hearing, and he hardly seems to notice thunder anymore.

Likewise, in the past he was terrified at the site of guns, knowing they were loud. He’d run for the back door as soon as he saw someone carrying a long gun. During hunting season, with shotguns going off all around all day, he’d confine himself to the house.

His hearing may be diminished, but he watched from a distance as those guys milled about the place where guns were often fired. He watched for a few seconds. As soon as he heard the first discharge from the .22 magnum, he made a bee line to the house as fast as his 105-dog-year-old legs could carry him!

Is That What I Think It Is?

Is That What I Think It Is?

Happy Birthday to Chuy (originally named Scooby Doo by Ryan). January first is his observed birthday. As of the first, he’s officially fifteen!!

Birthday Boy

Birthday Boy

Take care, and keep in touch.

 

Paz

 

 

Welcome to Engleville

Well hello. Come on in, and welcome to Life In Engleville.  Founded as Engle’s Mills (by a mill owner named Engle), adjacent to Engleville Pond (which was Engle’s mill’s millpond), the modern name of the hamlet is Engleville. Not large enough to have a zip code, but it appears on maps about ten miles south of the Mohawk River valley, historically significant and made famous by Cooper’s tales.

Sometime around 2007 or so, the world’s population reached a tipping point, from whence more people lived in the city than in the country for the first time in history.

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Chuy The Wonderdog

I’ve lived in rural settings all of my life except for a couple of phases around the college-aged years, when I stayed for brief periods in a couple of urban environments. Cities have some fine things and many of their own merits. I chose the quiet country life, to live modestly and raise a family.

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Shadow Paintings

The goal of this blog is to share the life, activities and surroundings of our country home town. Hopefully this will amuse, inspire or entertain visitors.

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Wild Turkeys In The Cornfield

Living my Life In Engleville is key to pursuit of my own brand of zen enlightenment, Armchair Zen, and I hope the experiences and images related herein will afford others the opportunity to share the wonders and joys of a life lived simply and purposefully.

My goal is to treat each day as a gift. A one-of-a-kind adventure, a unique moment in time which will never be repeated. Within each day lies beauty and inspiration. Perhaps in people we spend time with, perhaps in the wonders of nature, perhaps in the activities and actions we choose as we wind our way through the days.

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Whitetail Deer In The Yard

May your days be filled with wonder, and if you need a wonder-boost, come on back to Engleville. I’ll be here.

Wonders on the trail.

 

 

Family Farm Day

Snow Country

Drop a line, keep in touch. Don’t be a stranger.

See ya,

 

Paz