Sunday, May 4, 2014

Curiosity Often Killed the Ground Squirrel

Caretaker’s Log, Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I feel better rested when I wake up than I have the last few days. The cold is sticking. It’s 57 degrees in the loft bedroom. It’s 26 and something degrees outside.

The phone is still out.

I go for a walk on the cold-stabilized snow collecting tracks. I’m like a kid with cereal box prizes—gotta collect them all. I can now recognize beaver, ground squirrel, and my own tracks. I’m pretty sure I can recognize a wolf’s, but not sure if the dog like impression with non-retracted claws is coyote or fox. Are these geese tracks?


There’s one particular ground squirrel who seems determined, cat or no cat, to take over the front porch. It chatters at me often and darts into one of its bolt holes when I venture too near.

A red tailed hawk sits on the eastern fence post.

It’s four weeks here today.

Caretaker’s Log, Thursday, May 1, 2014

May has arrived. I can’t believe it. I knew the time here would go by quickly. Time does that. But I’m still surprised and somewhat alarmed.

I have my coffee, eat my granola, work the crossword.

One of my monthly chores is to clean out the grease trap. I’d had it on my calendar to do yesterday, but wasn’t sufficiently motivated to do much of anything but collect tracks. 

For a moment the metal hatch eludes my measures to lift it. Until I figure out how to unbolt the long securing screw with a nifty twisting by my gloved fingers. Karen hadn’t shown me how to do this, but I’m sufficiently clever enough to work it out on my own. 

Grease traps are not meant to be beautiful. It’s a job that’s got to be done. I’m grateful that I don’t use much of anything to be collected in the grease trap. I spoon out the thin layer of goop and let it slick into a plastic storage bottle. 
These collected bottles get carted out with the rest of the trash when things are taken out of the Darwin at the end and beginning of caretaking stints (or when the summer crew arrives and the spring caretaker leaves). I seal the bottle up, close and resecure the hatch, replace the wooden top door, and put back all the sundry items that stay in that spot. I can cross that chore off my list.

Another monthly chore is to check the charges of the spare batteries, both 6 and 12 volt. I do. They are fully charged.

When I exit the generator shed I hear the geese, or is it the ducks, fussing. I look out over the field for them and see a coyote traipsing along next to the fence line. I’m stuck in place with happiness. Then, moving as cautiously as I can so as not to frighten it off, I sneak around back to the house to grab my camera and the binoculars. It’s so close. And then it moves on and away. With the aid of the glasses, I follow it across the field until it disappears into the far brush.

The ground squirrels, all 1000 of them, are out of their minds. I’m sure the saying goes, “Curiosity often killed the ground squirrel.” I’m about to find this out for myself. Or maybe the saying is something else, about the startling of a human creature.

I go to the barn to fill up the Lodge’s diesel dust bin with sawdust and diesel. After I figure out that the diesel spout is a pump and not an open/shut valve, I’m happily dispensing diesel and pouring it over the sawdust when I catch a movement and glance down between my feet. There, staring up at me with innocent and curious eyes, is a ground squirrel. Naturally, I let out a startled yelp which sends this brave g.s. running out of the barn. “You crazy ground squirrel,” I call out after it. “The barn is no place for you.” I finish my task and close up the barn tightly. The ground squirrel is sunning on the fencing just outside and lets me get terribly close.

All in all, it’s been an exciting morning.

While I’m on a choring roll, I vacuum the house. I bring in some firewood. I take a bath and wash my hair. I do a load of laundry in the bathtub, washing my sweatshirt for the first time in four weeks. So there’s that.

It’s 46 degrees out and I hang my clothes over the porch railing to dry.

Since the phone is still out I try to Skype with my mom. It’s frustratingly unsuccessful. While I’m hassling with my computer, the internet connection, and sound levels I look up and out the window to see a red fox trotting across the far field. I love foxes. And I think abstractly of the bible verse, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Red foxes are easy to identify.

Later, I catch sight of a swimming beaver. I spy on it with binoculars while it’s eating.

The field is full of wildlife today. Two crows gang up against the red tailed hawk. Probably trying to steal its dinner. I don’t watch to see who wins the wing flapping battle. When I look out the window some time later all the birds have flown.

I finish the 1000 piece The New Yorker jigsaw puzzle I’ve been working on.

Is that the coyote I hear howling?

Caretaker’s Log, Friday, May 2, 2014

Up an at ‘em. It’s 40 degrees outside at 9 antemeridian. No reason to make a morning fire. Instead I make granola using up the last of the coconut flakes.

I take my crossword and my coconut milk creamed coffee and sit outside while the oatmeal turns golden brown in the oven.

The cat jumps in my lap. Later, she plops down under my chair. She’s the most companionable feline I’ve even known.

The river is noisier today.

I’ve read sixteen books since I got here.

I work a bit on the computer. I loll about.

I make a coconut cream, ricotta cheese sauce to use with the rice noodles and the artichoke hearts, heart of palm, mushroom, and garlic dish I’m concocting. It’s a decent lunch. A decent dinner.

I listen to Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night audiobook while starting a new jigsaw puzzle. I don’t know if I’ll finish it—the puzzle, I mean.

The ground around the snow measuring stick is completely snow free. I take a quick walk nearly to the culvert fence. There’s a lot of watery melt off everywhere.

The float charge is at 48.8. Maybe even 48.2. I need to equalize the batteries (another monthly chore). I’ll do it in the next days or so.

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