Friday, January 30, 2015

"Them Bones..."

All my life I've been fascinated by bones.  Oh not a sick weird, strange, fascination, but a curious fascination.

I live in a very wooded area and nature has its cycle.  A deer is killed by coyotes and a skull and some scattered bones are left to find.

I sometimes pick up the skull and bring it home.  Finding sheds is a huge 'sport' of sorts around here too.  Many folks I know hunt antler 'sheds' and sell the antlers.
I collect them.

I wasn't sure for a long time what I was going to do with my pile of magnificent sheds and skulls.  I just piled them next to the out house and took the nicer looking ones and put them on the side of the building.

Then I started to think of things I could 'do' with the skulls.  I started with small raccoon skulls I'd found over the years.  They were in pretty good shape and not too difficult to handle.  Easy to wash and since they were old, all I had to clean up was mostly collected old leaves and dirt in them.

The first one's I did were around Christmas time.  As experiments, I thought they came out pretty cool.

In fact I showed one to my mom who is nearly 81 and she loved it.  I asked her if she wanted it and she immediately put it on a shelf for display.

I painted a black one with gold highlights for my youngest son and put gold 'gems' on it.  He thought it was awesome.

I moved on to one of my rather decrepit deer skulls that I'd found laying in the woods.  The mice had been at it quite heavily and at the time I thought it wasn't worth bringing home.

But now?

Well I think it turned out pretty neat for such a beat up thing.

Then I took a rather nice one that I had and painted the skull white after sealing the cracks with glue and gluing the teeth back in that were loose.

I didn't have the heart to do anything else but preserve this skull as it must have belonged to a magnificent young buck.

After dealing with white as a base for the skulls, I wondered what it would be like to have one look primitive or more natural...or even antique.

So I stained and old doe skull rubbing the stain in and wiping it off until I got the effect I desired.

This is probably in some ways my favorite after I painted the 'line' drawing of a deer on it.

I did some reading up on what to do with weathered antlers and came up with my own idea.

This was a broken up antler with the ends broken off.  It was scarred and chewed. So I used the same method as before to add a bit of wood like stain to it.  I liked it because it brings out the weathering and the cracks in the antler.

I didn't want to fill the cracks with wood putty and try and reconstruct the antler, I wanted it as I found it.  Cracked and imperfect as mother nature made it.

I intend on finishing a couple of more of these wayward antlers and mounting them on a board with the tines up.  They will adorn the space above the new windows and hold white lights [you know, the Christmas kind].  Or they will become hangers, or curtain holders.

I may even take my group of antlers and construct a lamp base out of it.  

And then there is my prize possession.  A complete coyote skull.  I just preserved it in its natural bone color.

I have another very old skull that is full of lichen and moss.  The skull is badly damaged and the old oddly shaped antlers have been chewed on.  But it looks like it will be a nice challenge.

And it is shed hunting season again.  The bucks start to drop their antlers about now and it just gives me another reason to walk trails and look for more odd things.

Who knows?
Maybe I'll find some cool bones.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Recipe for fun!

Morris was all up for sledding with the grand kids when they came...

In fact he was so excited he made sure that he made just about every sled ride there was.  Although sometimes he bailed and ran alongside whoever was sledding.

The video below is not of great quality, but you can see that Morris was riding in between my grandson and I.  Morris was trying to see over Dennis as we went down the pasture hill.  

I really don't know who had more fun, the grand kids, Morris, or me!

After lunch we headed to the creek to see the ice wall.  Morris and Ariel led the way.

There was a lot of exploring to do near the ice wall.

The creek may seem awful small here, but it really is such an important part of the valley.
The soothing sounds of the water trickling over the rocks is reason enough for a visit at any time of the year.

By this time Morris was getting pretty tired.  He had given up on running back and forth to physically check on all of 'his people', especially 'his' kids.

So he would pick a spot and watch everyone.

We gathered at the ice wall for a group shot of ourselves.  I set my camera up on a tripod and grabbed the remote.

Morris of course photo-bombed us over and over.

Of course we had to head back towards home and we all came to the conclusion, I think...that the visit was wonderful and jam packed with activity...but too short.

The kids wanted to sled again, or go hike to the east side of the valley.

But we would have run out of daylight.

Fresh cold air, snow, the creek, sledding, and outdoors?
That was the ingredients for Fun.

Morris was rather put out when the kids left.  He searched the house and then laid on the pink sweatshirt that Ariel had worn and sighed.

By late evening, he seemed quite a bit stiff, so we gave him half a baby aspirin.

This morning, he was back to his bouncy stuff.

Thank you to 'gtyyup' at Life at the Rough String for her advice for assisting elderly Terriers who get a bit sore after doing too much.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Trail Blazing ~by Morris

Sure,  I knew it.  She got out her backpack, and got on her other gear.

I was not going to let her get outside again by herself.

No.  I hadn't been out since the blue ice adventure where she thought it was funny when I was sliding around on the ice.

I thought it was even funnier that she couldn't walk on it without ice cleats.

Anyway when she grabbed my little red leash I knew I was going!

She reached down for me and I jumped into her arms and settled into the crook of her arm.  I braced my back legs on her belt and off we went.

I jumped out of her arms when we got into the woods and raced ahead on the crunchy thin snow.  Last year she had to wear snowshoes to get around, this year, well the snow seems to be a bit lacking.

Then she got out the saw.  I don't like the saw very much, it is a hand saw thing that she uses when she works on clearing trails that have briers and other prickly things grow into them.

The sun was shining and she and I made our way slowly up 'Badger's' trail.  It wasn't used at all last year but she had maintained it to a certain point.

I guessed her goal when she started to work on the briers and multiflora rose.  She was re-routing because of a tree that had come down and the washout that was too narrow and deep to cross any longer.

I kept running around smelling and digging for vole nests or mice nests.  I kept a close eye on her and that sharp thing.

Last year I got my nose very close to it and got it cut.

Finally we made it to the creek and she put the hand saw away.  I knew the way home from here and figured we'd head up the creek.

I was right.

But then she pulled out that camera of hers and started to set up the tripod.

Really?  I was tired.  I was cold, I wanted to go home and maybe look for some really icky things to eat.

But ever the patient assistant that I am, I quietly sat on a rock over the creek and watched.

Then she sat on a rock and called me to her.  I was cold so I felt like a nice warm lap would be a good idea.

Then it was time to head home.  I know the trails as well as she does by now and I rarely wander off of them except to make sure a tree is marked properly or find something very yucky to eat.

It looks like we'll be ready as soon as the weather breaks to take Siera for rides in the woods.

I'm glad.
That means I get to go riding also.
Siera is good about me sitting in the saddle as a passenger.

Life is good.
Perhaps we'll go out and work on more trails soon!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Some days it is just the air I breath

That makes it all so worth while.

I took a very short walk and was sort of sad to find that so much snow had slowly melted into the ground.

Tracking by the creek revealed activity by some raccoon, and some deer, but that was about it.

I just sat for a while by these rocks that I like so much and listened to the cardinal and the chickadees sing.

Today I'm looking forward to more work on some of the beautiful 'bones' in my collection.

I revamped an old shed and it looks like an exotic piece of driftwood from the light antique stain I used on it.
Now I'm going to polish it a bit and see what it looks like.

I'll have to photo another one that is grey and weathered to compare what I've done.  I didn't think to do a before and 'after' shot.

I may even walk out again through the forest looking for more antler sheds.  It is a nice way to get exercise and enjoy the fresh air.

Yesterday afternoon was quite warm and I spent most of it just taking it all in.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Afternoon tracking and a visit to the ice cave

I wanted to hike back to a place we call the 'ice cave'. Depending on the amount of snow and melting and freezing that occur during the winter, this rock formation can have some incredible ice formations.

Hubby thought he'd do something different also.  He got his varmint rifle and camouflage on.  He was going to hunt coyote, while I tracked for coyote in different parts of a large tract of land.

We parted ways at the our creek and I continued on.
I was going to look for raccoon, coyote, deer, and any other tracks I could find while we still had snow.

I was still hunting the elusive coyote dens.  I wanted to know where the coyotes were the busiest this winter. With good reason, they would see Morris as nothing more than a mere snack and an impostor now that it is coming on to the mating season for them.

Not far up the trail that leads to the top of the ridge I did come across very a large coyote track.
At least I think it was.

I'm not sure if this track is similar in size to the one I found last week.

Here is a shot of that one again.

From now on I'll bring my mini tape measure.

The track got quickly mixed up with deer and other tracks including squirrels and rabbits.

Rabbit track:

I crossed what we fondly call the 'Velodrome' which was planted last year, but I'd call the crop a pretty miserable failure as it never made it to harvest.

I hurried down to the ravine where the ice cave was. There was a small 'ice falls' but not much of one.  I found a safe area further down the ravine to climb down and study the tracks at the bottom.

I thought that I'd finally spotted a coyote den.

When I walked up above it and peered at the tracks, it was obvious that it was another raccoon den.

But the 'falls' were still worth the trip.

I circled the ravine and came up so I could walk across the small section of rock that made the top of the ice falls.
I looked down and was able to see the well traveled trails of the raccoon in the dirt and snow.

It is hard to tell the depth and steepness of this ravine but it is deep

The view from the top is pretty deceiving.  But at this point I am still half way below the ridge behind me.
The back valley creek lays at the very bottom of this ravine.

The weather folks had called for rain/sleet/and ice so I turned around and headed back home.

I took the snowmobile trail down into the first valley so I could find my husband without disturbing what he was doing.

Imagine my surprise when I found the 'hot spot' of coyote tracks.

I found so many tracks where I hadn't seen any just a few days before.  The coyotes were on the move and it meant that I'd have to either leave Morris at home or keep him very close for our hikes for the next two months.

I think I actually enjoyed walking slowly and trying to figure out the tracks of animals more than anything else.

I found hubby and we headed towards home together. He'd used the e-caller and nothing had come in. We both agreed that our long afternoon in the woods had been very enjoyable.

If the weather holds, I plan on hiking to the back valley to walk it and perhaps get some nice photos.
It is another difficult place to get to, but well worth the hike.

I used to ride back there with Badger all of the time. The cattle are now long gone from this land and the brush is taking over making it difficult to get through unless you are on foot.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Date with the Contractor....

We are doing an addition and remodeling to the little red house in the woods.

I was sort of thinking along these lines...

But I am fairly sure that this won't happen.

In fact....

I'm having all sorts of thoughts...

I'm thinking the addition will look like this?

Hopefully we get all of our communications straight!

Time will tell!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Back to the Ice Flow

Morris convinced me that it was a good day for a hike.  As long as I took him, that is.

He sort of promised not to eat really icky things.  
So I loaded up my camera back pack and we set out for the ice flow on the east side of the valley.

I put ice cleats on my boots and was happy that I did. The extra traction assisted with going up and down hills and in the areas where the snow was soft.

It was even more important to have these cleats for when we got to the ice flow.
I had decided to walk up the ravine on the ice.
Well, I was able to in a few spots, but the going was slippery even with the cleats.

A few times Morris stopped ahead of me.  Or attempted to stop.
His feet slipped even when he was standing still.

However he seemed perfectly content to be my camera assistant.

When things got too slippery for his taste, he simply climbed the side of the ravine and watched me from above.

I'm sure he thought I was an idiot.

If that dog did not have on that red collar ... I wonder if I could have found him?

However, it was worth the walk and the hike.  Thank goodness for the cleats.

The spring in the upper part of the ravine was still producing water.  The spring is in an area that sun can get to while the rest of the ravine is in the deep shade.

So water keeps running over the formed ice and building. It looks as though waves of water were instantly frozen in this shot.

And yes the colors were blue, green, and brown in the ice.  I imagine from the minerals in the soil and rocks.

Lastly, a shot of the Adventure Dog/Assistant standing in the middle of the ice flow.

My next goal is to get to the 'ice cave' not at Wildcat Mountain, but here ... in the back valley.

And Morris kept his promise.  He didn't eat anything ICKY, but he did roll in something really nasty and got an immediate bath when he got home.

I know I wrote before about Morris going on a long hike with me and then it seemed he felt bad or perhaps stiff the next day.

He suffered no ill effects whatever after this hike.  I'm pretty sure that the warm temperatures probably had a lot to do with it.

It was 40 degrees when we took this walk.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Yesterday was very temperate for January.  After morning chores and going after small bales of hay, I thought I'd take a hike.

I just took a small backpack, some water, and the varmint rifle.
I was going to look for coyote sign and see what the other animals have been up to in the woods.

No DSL camera, no dogs, just me and my little point and shoot.

I went up the dead end road.
I stopped to look at some tracks.

I want to believe that these are dog tracks although there has been two sightings of a wolf.  Our neighbors have some dogs that run loose and I am assuming that these tracks belong to one of them.

My first goal was to check out The Hole.  When I was out with Dixie a few days ago we had come past what we all fondly call PeeWee's Hole.  It is the entrance to a cave ...and when PeeWee and his brother were young they had a ladder to get down into it.  The brothers are gone now and the hole more of a memory than anything else.

When I went past The Hole last time with Dixie, she was so curious that I was afraid she'd go down the hole. 
Knowing that her main goal in life is hunting, I got hold of her and dragged her off.  
I wasn't about to have her go down there.  
Two years ago another one of our hounds went down after varmints and hubby had to climb down and get the dog.

Here is a view of The Hole from yesterday.  A lot of snow has melted and I was able to get close enough to check it out.

Clearly it is being used as a den.  
But I couldn't tell if it was coyote or raccoon.  
So I followed the melted down dirty trail into the woods.

Clearly, it was a raccoon den.  

And the raccoon had been active withing the past 24 hours.  The other trail led into the picked corn field, the trail through the woods led directly down the steep hillside towards the creek.

I walked on.
I decided to go to one of the more remote locations on PeeWee's. I call it the East Ravine.  It is located on the far eastern portion of the property and is not very easy to get to.
It is a what we call a dry run.  Flood water and snow melt pound down these ravines and flow into the creek in the valley.
This one is unique because the sun rarely touches it.  
In November my son and his wife had visited and we hiked through this ravine.  We found a small spring.

Here is a shot of my son's dog, Teslin, near the small spring in the 'East Ravine'.  This was in early November.

Here is what it looked like yesterday.

I was quite surprised.  The spring must put out a bit more water than I thought.  We've had quite a few thaws and freezes which probably explains the build up of the ice flow.

However I don't recall this ever being like this in any past years.

The waters seem to be frozen in motion.  I could hear some water trickling under the ice and the top of the ice was wet also.
Of course the temperatures were above freezing.

The color variations in the ice were also interesting. 

There was a blue tint to it in places and others had a reddish tint to it.

I took some shots then went down to the Big Spring and walked in the valley and up the creek to get home.

I really want to get back to the East Ravine today while the temperatures are still nice and the ice is still thick.

PeeWee's Ice Cave will have to wait until Tuesday.