Monday, November 21, 2011

Walkus Interruptus

The garden is just about ready for Winter, oh, there's stuff here and there that could be done yet, but for the most part, I'm just waiting for the snow to fall now.  Actually, this is another of my favorite times of year, going outside now means I'm free to plunk down on the park bench and contemplate the rocks around here instead of stressing out about how many weeds or whatever there are that need dealing with.
I still need to wrap this little dwarf crabapple against the rabbits and sunscald yet.
 Once the ground freezes, I can walk almost anywhere I want on the farm without sinking up to my ankles in mud.  I really enjoy traipsing around our little farm and my trail in the Back Eight is my most favorite of all.  I find walking to be the most therapeutic exercise in my life, and if it's not all that great for weight control, it's absolutely essential for my mental health, especially after the gardening season is over.  I am not a person who loves to be indoors in any way, shape or form.  I love the solitude of walking down our little road and our back yard all year round. My trail is just over a mile long.
The dogs and I walk down the lane in the Back Eight almost every day, enjoying the sights and sounds.  I take their leashes off and they are free to sniff and run as much as they like (and roll in some aromatic goo, too, unfortunately!) and just be dogs.  There's no one around to see us or care.

Teddy (the white one) and Pudding (the gray one) are brother and sister Shih Tzus from two different litters. I've had a few dogs in my lifetime, and they were all big fellas.  The largest was the late, great, Sparky, a huge German Shepherd, and we adored him.  After Sparky's passing, we were without a dog for years  until these little ten pound wonders came to my attention.  We've had Teddy since he was a puppy and he's coming 12 years old.  Pudding is six months older than Teddy and a more recent addition to our family; she was given to me by Ann after she moved to an apartment and couldn't take Pudding with her.  Pudding's been here for over two years already.  Where did that time go?
Teddy is getting older, his eyesight is not what it once was, but he still thoroughly enjoys our backyard 'walkies'.
Pudding is a very hard dog to photograph due to her color, hard to make out what you're looking at most the time, but she is a die-hard walkies fan.  She will go with me for miles and rarely, if ever, tires out.  You'd think with those little legs they'd both be worn out, wouldn't you?  I wonder how many steps they put on in a day?  I should put one of my pedometers on Pudding's collar and see what it adds up to.  I bet I'd be shocked.

Pudding puts more miles on than either Teddy or I do.  She is forever running way ahead and then flying back to make sure we're still coming, she has a problem with us slowpokes.
She also hates to have me out of her sight and very often turns around to fix me with that adoring gaze of hers as much to say, "Are you coming??"
We take in all the scenery along the way....the oak tree in the photo above is on our line fence between our farm and the neighbor.  Years ago, the neighbor (who no longer lives here) wanted to saw this tree down because the limbs were hanging over his field too much, but since the trunk was on our side of the line, I said no.  He had already cut down a beautiful oak a few hundred feet away and I mourned the loss of that one so much.  It made me mad, actually.   I told him we'd take the limbs off this tree on his side that were impeding his harvesting, but the tree was not to be cut.  I know it didn't make me popular with him, but that was over twenty years ago and I'm still glad I put my foot down. I love oak trees.

The dogs and I follow my trail along the woods.  I planted some white pine up there a few years back that are really starting to grow now.  We don't own the deciduous woods.  I wish we did, but it's posted and off-limits.  When I was a kid it belonged to our neighbor, and I know every inch of that parcel very well even though I haven't been in there since the No Trespassing signs went up.  Back in the 70's, the neighborhood farm boys (and Carl, the blacksmith's son) all had minibikes and dirt bikes and they had an intricate system of off-road trails through farm fields around here after gaining permission from the farmers involved.  As long as they stayed on the trails, nobody would bother them.  They had a trail system going through this woods and it was so much fun.  I didn't have a minibike, but I did have a bicycle and I loved riding the trails in the woods every night after milking cows.  It was one of my favorite haunts.  But, times changed, the farm this woods goes with has been sold and gone and now it's a no-no.  I can still gaze at it over the fenceline though.  And I have my memories.
I love the serenity of open fields and woods, and the memories here of farming this land are always with me.  I remember my father most of all when I walk the lanes.  These are the same lanes our cows used to walk to and fro when they were pastured.  We rent the land out now to a neighbor and I know he would probably rather the lanes weren't there at all, but I am stubborn and demand they stay.  I use them so often just for walking or driving around the farm and I also know how much gravel was dumped in them over the years in places to shore up the mud.  Not all of my memories are good ones; my father was not an easy-going man, but they are all part of what makes me who I am.  It's history no one else will care about and when I'm dead and gone this will probably one day be a shopping mall, but as long as I live, I hope to keep this land the way it is.  Peaceful.
For now, it's land for little dogs to explore and run around on.

And land for a middle-aged woman to reflect and stretch her legs.
 Looking at the tracks in the lane, it's obvious we aren't the only ones stretching our legs...I see turkey tracks and, rounding a corner, there they are for reals.
Not the greatest picture of them, because they startled me as much as I startled them.
Whoa!  Look what Teddy spotted.............Deer tracks amongst the turkey tracks.  Oh-oh.

And this brings my tranquil ode to walking my solitary haunts to a close.  We interrupt this walkabout to announce the end of my walking in the daylight due to:

Hunting Season

If I want to stay alive out there now, I best be sporting  blaze orange.  And lots of it.   The ten day gun deer hunting season started on Saturday and now it's not safe to venture out into the Back Eight.  Or the road. And definitely not the woods.  Hunters are everywhere and where you least expect them.  Like up in trees.  A few years back, I was walking through the woods across the road before it was sold and had the uneasy feeling I wasn't alone.  When I looked up, there was a disgruntled hunter grimacing at me from his tree stand.  Ooooops.  I had forgotten it was bow-hunting season and had just messed up his chance at seeing any deer that afternoon. Lucky he didn't zing an arrow or three my way.

Even working in the backyard, I usually don a blaze orange garment of some type to repel bulletage.  So far, it's worked.  (And, yeah, I know, bulletage is not a word, either.)  We are surrounded by woods, with one right across the road from us, one to the north of us, and our own Back Eight, and sometimes when hunting parties get a deer on the run, they tend to get a little careless with the lead.   And that's when I go in the house and do something safer, like blog about it, because of an incident that happened about ten years ago. (Yes, it's flashback time.) 

Years ago, I had just gone inside the house from hanging  laundry on a very seasonable morning in November when I heard gunshots very, VERY close by.  I ran to the bathroom window (not a bright idea) and saw a buck deer running up the lane right toward our house.  He jumped into the Formal Garden and then back out, across our little bridge, and then tipped over about five feet from my washlines.  My washlines, at the time, were about ten feet from our house.  The deer wasn't dead yet, but I was petrified, because running right behind him was a guy with a gun leveled at him.  I immediately hit the bathroom floor, hugging the vinyl.  Yikes!  

After a few seconds, I didn't hear another gunshot, and, crawling up along the wall, I cautiously peeked through the blinds at the spectacle. 

The hunter was a young guy and visibly shaking (though I don't think as much as I was) and thankfully, when he saw me peering out the window,  he put the gun back down at his side.  Phew.  I wasn't in the mood to have my head mounted on his wall, too.  

I opened the window.  He was still panting hard and the deer was in agony. We were both in this position of weirdness; he has just wounded a deer that ended up running as far as my washlines and I'm not sure where we go from here.  I could tell the adrenaline and 'thrill of the kill' and all that was still high, and I didn't want to risk annoying the guy, so I asked him if he would at least put the poor thing out of it's misery.  He did, with a knife he had on him.  Then he grabbed the deer's front leg and dragged it off my lawn and into the ditch across the road.  And proceeded to gut it right there.  Thanks.  Just what I needed.  But again, a stranger with a gun, and  I'm home alone..... and yes, I know he had tags on his back I could have reported him with, but like all weird accidents that happen, it all happened so fast.  I was just glad to see him go. 

Hence, my caution about walking during deer hunting season around here.

So now, all of my walks will be after dark, which is really not a whole lot of fun, though I do it often.  At least after dark I should be safe from bullets whizzing by.  Good thing I'm not afraid of the dark, though I will admit, there are times I hear things that make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.  Things that go bump in the night.  Twigs that crack underfoot...but not my foot........hmmmmmmmm?    

But the fear of walking after dark pales in comparison to having my walks interrupted permanently.
I just wish they made bullet-proof blaze orange.

Even though it's so not my color.


Sueb said...

Your walk is wonderful so peaceful and Teddy and Pudding look like they are having a whale of a time dashing around your feet ...Hunting season!... Gunshot! Good grief woman you don’t need a n orange jacket more like a suite of armor. Oh darn! now I have a mental image of you strutting up the back eight clad in silver armor with a big orange feather in your helmet. Seriously, please take care.

Pamela Gordon said...

You have such a wonderful property to take your walkies with the dogs in peace and quiet. Except for during deer season! Up here it's against the law to shoot within 200yards of homes but I suppose if the deer is wounded and runs on your property that would be an exception. I just wouldn't want to see that like you did. Stay safe! Oh, I don't walk at night unless it's on the road and it's snowing a bit and hubby is with me. I'm scared of things that go bump in the night! :)

El Gaucho said...

Fascinating, and very scary story. I'm not sure I would have been confrontational with a young hunter with a gun myself, but I probably would have made it known that his actions weren't acceptable. And I'm not up to speed on hunting etiquette, but the ditch across the road from a residence doesn't seem like a proper place to field dress your animal.

Zoey said...

Oh, my, Karen, I cannot imagine walking the back eight in the dark! I would be way to afraid of every little noise.

Just last week a hunter was telling me a similar story of his deer dropping right at the neighbor kid's swing set. Fortunately the children were not there. He said that was when he gave up hunting on his property. The area hd become too developed and he did not want to risk dropping another buck in a neighbor's yard.

I can imagine how scary it must have been for you.

Alison said...

Oh Karen! Your tale of the deer and the guy with the gun is pretty scary. I freak out when the Jehovah's witnesses ring the bell, so I would have been petrifed, especially when he started gutting it, Eeeww! But there is no way I would go walking at night where you live either, even though you are pretty isolated. Actually, because you are so isolated. Don't you have bears in those woods?

myomyohi said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the walk, and please do be cautious during deer season. I heard recently where a guy was trying to shoot a coyote and found out hours later he had actually shot his horse out in the pasture, because he missed the coyote.
Have a great week and enjoy the holiday.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

What a great property Karen and a great life away from the hustle bustle of the city. We are not in the city, but lots of traffic so I can't have my dog off a leash, he would love to run.


africanaussie said...

gosh I enjoyed that walk and your dogs are so cute. Sounds as though you better lie low during the hunting season but I am not so sure I would be game to walk out there alone at night in the dark. (Oh sorry game was maybe not the right word to use!) Take care out there - night or day!

HolleyGarden said...

Karen, I was going to say how much I enjoyed walking with you (and Teddy and Pudding) and hearing the memories of the land. Then you started talking about hunters shooting at you, even coming up to your house to shoot at you! Well, I am afraid of the dark. So, I would have to don the orange vest, and sing very, very loudly so no one would think I was a deer! We have hunters next door, and I often wonder which way they're shooting. I don't go over there to see, though! Stay safe!

Indie said...

I was thinking about how peaceful it seemed there, and then you started talking about the hunters! Between the hunters and the trucks, you must really have to stay on your toes in the fall!

I too hate to be outside. The outdoors is like a compulsion to me. Your walking path looks so nice! It reminds me a lot of my grandparent's dairy farm they used to have.

Lona said...

I love walking too Karen. It just feels good to get out in the fresh air and clear the cobwebs from my mind. LOL!A peaceful walk is so therapeutic. I will not me walking after Thanksgiving because Deer hunting season comes in then. We have too many new hunter that come here to hunt that at times I am afraid to get out of the house. LOL!
Have a Blessed Thanksgiving Karen!