For Fox’ Sake…


That may be my favorite blog post title EVER.

On Sunday July 6, Mr. Wonderful, Male Spawn, and I took a day trip to the Vermilion Falls and Vermilion Gorge hiking trails. Northern MN has been getting a lot of rain and so I hoped there would be lots of photo opportunities. The weather didn’t cooperate, but the wildlife did!

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Next time we’ll take video, too. On the short walk back to the car, someone pointed out a dragonfly.

Dragonfly, mn, pajari girls, cook's country connection, photography, pretty bugs

Then Danny grabbed my arm and pointed up the trail…

Canid, fox, cross fox, red fox,

Canid, fox, cross fox, red fox,

 

Canid, fox, cross fox, red fox,

Canid, fox, cross fox, red fox,

 

Could it be a Red fox? They come in many colors…including Silver, which is different from the Gray fox,  which are one of only 2 members of the Canidae family that can climb trees…but the Gray fox has a black tail. Crap.

This was driving me nuts! (I really really really hoped that it was a young Timber Wolf. That opened another can of worms. )

I sent the photos to my friend Colleen who works at the USFS, LaCroix Station. The biologist there said it was a Cross fox. 100% sure. At first I didn’t understand. Was that a cross between a Red and Gray? Nope, it is a TYPE of Red fox. At one time it was thought to be it’s own species, but DNA study changed that. However, “fur farmers and trappers continued to treat each red fox colour form as a distinct species long after scientists concluded that they were variations of the same one”, according to Wikipedia. Well, that clears things up!

I have hauled my Nook around everywhere with me, even to a Little League game. Jeremiah’s dad (John) said he would look into it, too. He works for the DNR. **JUST IN** The DNR says Cross Fox, too! Thanks, John V.!

 

I posted the pictures on Facebook, too, getting several different opinions.

At this point, my vote is Cross fox.

What’s your vote? Please Like, Comment or Share…for fox’ sake!

 

 

PS: If you liked this post, check out Cook’s Country Connection’s Wild Neighbors page. Chop chop. Tell Lois The Employee of the Year sent you. Loveyabye!

 

 

Another Mysterious Burrow


We have been seeing a new critter in the pit at the House On The Hill  and became mostly sure after consulting  my North American Wildlife book and Wikipedia that it was a pine marten or a woodchuck (aka groundhog, aka the critter who lies about winter almost being over EVERY. YEAR.), yet it moved like a beaver. However, when the trail cam captured the photo below, we all got a little nervous, thinking a woodchuck might not be the only new neighbor.

badger, woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

I tried and tried to zoom in with all the photo editing software at my disposal, but this grainy crop was the best that I could do; he was just too far away.

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

I don’t know about you, but that looks like a badger to me. This made us all nervous, because badgers will eat your face off! (Plus, they don’t care; they don’t give a SHIT. This link goes to the Honey Badger video, but they are closely related to the regular badger, whose link is here.)

Then another mysterious hidey-hole appeared behind the barrage. (That’s a barn/garage combo.)

hidey hole

getting this shot made me nervous, because on
This was a little closer than I should have been, but the only way to see the hole through the equisetum. Threw out my ankle some, too. You’re welcome.

ANYWAY…I had managed to get a few grainy shots of this little guy with the Canon, so when I found the hidey hole I placed the trail cam on it to be sure it was him living there, not a badger.

woodchuck

 

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

He or she is very cautious, pausing regularly to stand up and take a look- and sniff- around.

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

She or he seemed to have gotten used to us, and even has a shortcut through Squirt’s playhouse. The white metal to the left is his gate.

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

Hiding in the Lupine…

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

And in front of the barrage.

woodchuck, groundhog, trail cam, marmot, ground squirrel, land beaver, cook's country connection, northern mn, minnesota animals, pajari girls, petting farm

These are my favorite facts from  the wiki link.

  • weighs up to 10 pounds
  • burrows are up to 46 feet long and five feet or more underground, with several exits
  • the average woodchuck (groundhog) moves 35 cubic feet of dirt when making a burrow
  • they are perfect for Hep-B -induced cancer research
  • they do NOT chuck wood…the Native American word for them just sounds like “woodchuck”
  • that does not stop people from yelling out my back door, “Hey you dang woodchuck! Stop chucking my wood!!”

Which may or may not have something to do with why we haven’t been seeing it up as close to the House on the Hill, but did show up on the trail cam when we placed it near Pajari Pond. But that’s another story.

You wanna watch that Geico commercial now, don’t you? So do I.

PS: Do you have a trail cam? What kind of creatures have you seen on it? I’d love to see the pictures!

Hummingbird Moths


Sometimes, it’s the shots you DON’T get. A few years ago, I captured a hummingbird moth on my camera phone. It was mostly a blur, and I had never seen anything like it. It sounded like a bee or a hummingbird, and the wings moved so fast that usually I could barely see them with the naked eye. Plus, Lois and I were probably having daiquiris in the garden. Ever since, I have been interested in, and wanted to capture these bugs on film. All I had was this one blurry, crappy picture and it kinda drove me nuts.

hummingbird moth, nicotiana, tobacco flower

This spring, I was delighted to see them on my own lilac bushes. At first, the yellow and black stripes on their bodies reminded me of a bee of some kind. But when I sped up to 60 frames per second on the Nikon, I was surprised to see that the wings on these moths were … transparent!

 

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 Also, the proboscis is funky! Their tongues just kind of curl up under the chin when not sipping nectar.

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If you are as nerdy as me and want to know more, here is the wiki link I used.

Horse Driving– Another How-to Not-to


This story is embarrassing. But it’s also so damn funny that I can’t not share it.

It’s been two three years since I last harnessed up my mini horse for a drive. (This is Laura by the way, not Lois.) He recently came back to my house from Lois’ for some “retraining”. That means he was being a bully to the other, older animals. Click here  for part of that story.

 

miniature horse, pony, cook's country connection, pajari girls

The training has been going well–mostly re-teaching him manners with leading and doing some longe line work. Where before he was impossible to catch, now he comes willingly.

Ok. So. We had to walk him next door to have his shots for the Petting Farm, and Danny thought we should drive him instead. I decided we would see how he did with harnessing and hitching up to the cart first.

 

squirt harnessed

He had grown, so I lengthened the harness as needed and he stood just fine. So far, so good. Even without a sturdy hitching post, we were gettin’ ‘er done. I was feeling confident that driving a horse was similar to riding a bike; you never forget.  The bridle was tougher to put on (always has been with him) but I figured out how to make that bigger too, and was finally able to get it in his damn mouth. (THIS is why I have a mini instead of a Belgian.) I attached the lines -called “reins” on a riding horse-, so we had steering and brakes now too. Check, double check.

 

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This is what I pictured: My Little Pony trotting up the driveway to Lois’s, with me and Danny riding comfortably. That is not even close to what happened.

Danny and I walked him down to the bottom of our driveway. There was a lot of traffic, so we waited patiently. I had the lines in my right hand and the longe line (aka emergency brake) in my left. I gingerly stepped into the cart and as soon as I sat down, I was flipping backwards. Next thing I knew, I was looking UP at the Norway pine, the sky, little hooves flailing and horse teeth.

My life flashed before my eyes, then I realized I wasn’t mortally injured– just banged up with a little road rash. When I regained my feet, there was the cart, with the harness and bridle and lines still attached, and the pony munching clover a few feet away. He looked at me like, “And you say I’M FAT??”. I became aware of cars passing and all I could do was laugh, now that nobody was dead.

This is what the cart looked like when I stood up:

driving horse 003

…except the harness was still attached. By some miracle, Squirt aka Elmer just slithered right out of all of it! I was sure I would have a terrified horse tied up in knots right there on the shoulder of Hwy 24. Or worse yet, on my head. Apparently I forgot something critical.

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Standing at the end of the driveway, all I could do was laugh. And laugh. And guffaw. And wave back at the cars passing.  All I could think of was the hearse from Disney World’s Haunted Mansion ride.

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*HA! I almost published this without answering the question, “What the hell went wrong??” .

I forgot to snap the cart to the breeching. I think the strap I neglected is called the Tilbury Tug. Horseman Ed calls them  “holdbacks”. I now call it “don’tforgetthekeepthecartfromtippingnoverdumbassthingyclip”.

 

 

 

 

An Easter Adventure


I know, I know, you thought I was lost. But I haven’t been really lost; just preoccupied. My sister is opening a petting farm, and I am helping with the web stuff and taking photos. (AFTER you read this, you can go see what we are up to there.  🙂 )

We spent this Easter with Mr. Wonderful’s family in North Dakota. It was nice, low-key, relaxing, etc.

The one stuffing his face? That one’s mine.

 

Until the egg hunt. See, it took us a while to talk the spawn into participating. (They are hitting teen years.)

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By the time we got outside, there had been a thief in the yard.

 

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So we set up the trail cam, replaced the malted milk balls with sunflower seeds, and went for a walk. Six hundred sixty eight pictures later…

 

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False alarm
False alarm

 

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It was a big ‘ol mama squirrel…
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with cravings!

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Ok… NOW you can go to www.CooksCountryConnection.com

I Have Worms! Again!!


…and I’m happy about it.  A little over a year ago, I shared my passion for composting worms in a post called, I Have Worms. I took last winter and summer off, not wanting to bring the bins inside after spending the summer outside. I had hoped the worms would survive winter in compost bins and piles, but they didn’t. 😦

Luckily, I had shared worms with several friends, and Ms. J. still had some she was willing to share back.

worms, vermiculture, compost, recycle, fertilizer

I am still happy with the content of the original post, but wish there were more pictures. So this time, I’ll be keeping a kind of photo journal of the process. Welcome.

First, I keep my compostables (fruit and veggie scraps) in the freezer. It speeds up the decomp process and eliminates smell and fruit fly issues.

worms, vermiculture, compost, recycle, fertilizerAlso, the smaller the chunks, the faster the worms can break it all down. This Pampered Chef hamburger masheer thingy works GREAT to chop up frozen romaine.

worms, vermiculture, compost, recycle, fertilizerPlease note:  when adding compost to an indoor worm bin, thaw it out first or  the worms could die.

In order to separate the worms from their poo (castings) later, I’ve found the best method is to feed on only one side of a bin at a time.  When the pile gets near the top, I will start feeding on the left side only. The worms will move to that side, leaving their nutrient-rich fertilizer on the right. I first tore up a small brown paper bag into one by six- inch strips for bedding. Then I added an ice cream pail’s worth of fruit and veggie scraps (thawed to room temp),

worms, vermiculture, compost, recycle, fertilizerfollowed by more paper bag and finally 2-inch layer of black dirt.

worms, vermiculture, compost, recycle, fertilizerTa-dah!!

I am so excited to have worms again! I can make dirt and super fertilizer all winter. Also, I eat better (more fruits and veggies) and my fridge is cleaner because I am always looking for more worm food. And Mr. Clean (aka Mr. Wonderful) doesn’t even mind that they’re inside. Much. 🙂

We’re Baaaaaaack!


Losing Cook Dollar Barn was one of the worst experiences we have lived through. It wasn’t just a store; it was an important social hub for the Pajari Girls, and our little town, too. Every day, the list of people and things we miss gets longer. And when people told us that there must be something even better around the corner, we KNEW they were lying.

Now, we are headed back. Back in “A Barn, if not “The Barn”.

So here’s the scoop: barring zoning, insurance or licensing issues, Her Highness The Queen of Poo (Lois) is hoping to open the Peterson family homestead as a petting farm/ event location this summer! Can we get a whoop whoop??

farm barnherd, pony, llama, goat, sheep

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great pyrenees, dog, boy, farm

walli, corgi, dog,

goat, farm, pajari girls

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pony, farm, horse. girl guinea hens, fowl, poultry bunny, rabbit, zip, hens, chickens, farm, eggs Flemish Giant, rabbit, bunny donkey, the farm, pajari girls

Rooster Noodle Soup


I am very nervous around poultry.  (See “Guinea Monsters From Hell”)   And I used to hate cooking. So this Martha Stewart-esque-ness is new to me. I have been growing, canning, cooking, drying and freezing food a lot more the last few years. Now, being unemployed AND on the Low Child Support Diet has encouraged me to do even more, and to do it better. It’s been a slow process, and many people have contributed along the way. Here are two that I remember.

One of my favorite bloggers is Jackie  Clay.  (Check her out here. Chop chop!) We are lucky to have this awesome lady in our community, and I have learned so much from her books and blogs about living off the land in this area code.  I subscribed to her blog for several months before I even attempted canning on my own.

I vaguely remember Anthony Bourdain saying that the poorest people had the best-tasting food, because their seasonings could make even the cheapest cuts of meat and other ingredients taste good. That’s when I started growing herbs, tomatoes, etc. in containers and finally a garden.

As I mentioned, I am scared of live poultry; however, they are delicious, especially roasted with organic herbs that we grew here on the hill. Growing rosemary, sage, celery leaf, red onion, garlic and thyme makes me happy.  So as long I have Lois and Jill next door to raise chickens, I will cook them.

omnom, thyme, sage, celery leaf, rosemary, funny farm, organic

By the way, does anyone know why when they are alive they are hens & roosters, but as soon as the heads come off they are just chicken?? Same with cows, bulls, steers, heifers, and beef… What the hell?Roosters, Funny Farm, Pajari Girls, Food, Soup

I believe it’s important to know where our food comes from.  I like that the chicken (fka: rooster) was grass-fed next door, not in a cramped factory “farm.”

Rooster, Banty, Food, Pajari Girls, Funny Farm, chicken

And better yet, the next day I made the leftovers into soup and paired it with homemade bread.  Note to self: next year, grow a LOT more carrots and potatoes.  As far as fast, cheap and easy goes….it was super cheap and really easy…two out of three isn’t bad.

omnom, rooster noodle soup, chicken noodle soup, homemade soupPS: Thank you Ant, for the title! You’re right; Rooster Noodle Soup sounds way better than Chicken Noodle Soup.

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