Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Here's why the coronavirus is so serious

Coronavirus or Covid-19 may seem off-topic for this blog but something Canada Health Minister Patty Hajdu, who incidentally is from Thunder Bay, said yesterday shows how relevant it is.  In essence, she said that like other Canadians, she wishes she could self-isolate at a cabin on an island in a lake somewhere until the whole crisis was over but we have no choice but to deal with it, here and now. I would add we also only have one chance to get it right.
I believe all levels of our government are doing the right things by shutting down everything but essential services, telling people to self-isolate, insisting travellers quarantine for 14 days and shutting down the border. All these measures are temporary. When the spread of the infection has stopped, things will start up again. It's a hit to the economy, of course, but the alternative is utterly grim.
Epidemiologists -- scientists who study how epidemics spread -- say that until a vaccine is developed every member of the human race will eventually get Covid-19. What does eventually mean? Without the delaying measures we are now taking, almost everyone would get it in the first year and whoever doesn't would get it in the second. That's how quickly it would spread.

It is NOT like the flu

 The various seasonal flus that we get have been around for years and we all have at least a partial immunity to them, especially if you get the flu shot. Still, the flu kills tens of thousands in the United States and hundreds to over a thousand in Canada every winter, mostly elderly people but younger ones as well.
Is is estimated eight per cent of the population gets the flu each winter and of those who get sick, 0.1 per cent will die from it.
Now let's look at Covid-19. Disaster planning models have estimated it could infect 40 per cent to 80 per cent of the population and the mortality rate will be 1-3 per cent. The higher mortality rate comes when health care systems are overwhelmed and can't treat everybody, exactly what is happening in Italy right now.
Let's look at the worst-case scenario -- 80 per cent get sick and three per cent die. In the U.S. that would mean 7,900,000 deaths. That would compare with 419,000 deaths in the Second World War.
Here's the numbers for Canada: 910,000 deaths as compared to 43,600 deaths in the last world war.

It is catastrophically worse than seasonal flu deaths

But that is the worst of the worst case. The other end of the worst-case prediction was that 40 per cent get sick in which instance all the numbers above are cut in half. It's still horrendous.
All of the above, however, is what is estimated could happen if no measures were taken, if we just carried on as usual. Fortunately, we are taking measures. We are self-isolating, we are social-distancing, we are quarantining sick people, we are stopping people from moving around.
Although we can't stop this from spreading entirely we can drastically slow its spread until a vaccine is developed. Once everyone gets vaccinated, we are home free. Or at least all but the anti-vaxxers will be in the clear.
Meanwhile, we can keep the hospitals from being snowed-under. We can increase our capability to look after the very sick with more beds, more protection equipment, more ventilators.
These measures are all that is keeping the situation in the realm of the possible.
We can prevent millions of deaths. Just by staying home and staying away from each other for a couple of months.
If you live in a place where politicians or anyone else is considering relaxing restrictions, call them up and chew their ass off. Tell them to prove the sincerity of their convictions by first getting sick with coronavirus themselves. Then they can tell the rest of the population how harmless it is.
There is one other myth that needs exploding, that young people don't get seriously sick. The facts show that people ages 20-40 and 40-60 are as likely to need hospitalization as those over 60. They just are less likely to die as those over 60. But in a full-blown pandemic, the hospitals are over-run. It won't be possible for many of those younger people to be hospitalized and their death rate will increase substantially.
Stay home. Stay the course. Tell stupid politicians what you think.
We only have one chance to get this right.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Our medical friends are riding into battle

It is now the eve of the biggest battle our friends and family in the medical field have ever faced. It is difficult to find words to express our admiration, our respect, our love for all of you.
If you were on a train, we would come to see you off, waving flags, waving hats, waving our hands until you were out of sight.
We would organize marching bands, sound our horns, beat our drums, twirl our batons.
If you were on buses we would crowd every overpass, cheering as you passed beneath.
We would rain confetti upon you, shoot off fireworks.
We would do whatever we could to give you courage, to give you strength, to steel your resolve for what lies ahead in the next few months.
We know that you are not fighting for glory. You are fighting for us.
Doctors, nurses, orderlies, nurse practitioners, receptionists, paramedics, dentists, first responders, police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers, pharmacists, diagnostic technicians, lab workers, medical students, retired people from all the above and every other health care worker. You are standing up for us.
Thank God for you all.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The world needs more Saw-whet owls

Cork and I heard something last night that I haven't heard in years -- a Saw-whet owl.
These are the coolest little raptors. For one thing, according to the Cornell Lab All About Birds website, their main prey is man's nemesis -- the Whitefooted Deer Mouse. Go owls go!
The Saw-whet is just tiny, not much bigger than my hand, and if it wasn't for their perplexing call you could easily not even know they exist since they are strictly nocturnal and incredibly elusive. I once found one dead and I have heard of another that flew into a window. That's the total of Saw-whets seen in my experience.
However, I have heard their calls a couple of dozen times. Click on the Cornell Lab link above and listen for yourself. Their main call sounds like the back-up alarm of a vehicle.
The Saw-whet that I found dead seemed to have died of a heart attack. I found it years ago in the winter right after a fresh snow. It had been sitting about eight feet off the ground on a balsam branch and had fallen into the new powder beneath. It never even fluttered its wings.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Recognizing light through the gloom

It was a grey day here, maybe around the world, but then the clouds parted
When I was a little kid, maybe 10 or 12, I was returning to camp with my dad when our outboard clunked out. We were at Middle Narrows, exactly half way between the town of Red Lake and Bow Narrows Camp. It was 10 miles in either direction.
Today you could just flag down the first passing boat and ask for assistance or even pull out your cell phone and call for help. But this was the early 1960s and not only were there no cell phones then, there weren't other boats on the lake either. You could go for days without seeing anyone.
So what to do?
Dad tipped the motor up, and took off the cowling. I don't know what he checked but a quick examination told him this wasn't going to be a quick fix.
"How do you feel about paddling?" he asked me.
I grabbed one of the two paddles and moved to the stern. There were two seats there, one on either side. I sat on one and started paddling with the J-stroke which allows you to paddle in a straight line.
Dad sat on the other. He brought out his mechanics tool box. It was about the size of a lunch kit and held every mechanics tool he owned. He ever-so-carefully started taking things apart on the 35 h.p. Evinrude. This was a delicate operation because there was an excellent chance that any dropped part would end up in the lake. It was made all the riskier by my dad's fingers which were the size of bratwursts.
Our boat was an 18-foot cedar strip Nipissing skiff. It was loaded to the gills with gasoline barrels, propane tanks and lumber. We were heavy and while that made paddling the craft more difficult it did have the advantage of keeping us low in the water and out of the slight headwind we faced. I stroked along.
We were too far from shore to gauge any progress I might be making but by watching bits of algae in the water I could see that the boat was actually moving forward, just very slowly.
Every half hour or so Dad would put everything back together and I would climb over the stuff in the boat to the bow to allow him to pull-start the engine. Dad was a powerfully built man, a former heavyweight boxer, and still, it was difficult for him to pull out the recoil rope. He would give it a dozen tries then chuckle.
"Well, now we know one more thing that wasn't the problem!"
Then he would point a finger toward the sky.
"Trial and error!"
I would move back to the stern and resume paddling and dad would go back to work on the engine.
We did this off and on for hours.
Eventually I paddled all the way to Wolf Narrows which was half the distance back to camp. It might have taken three or four hours to get there. Dad grabbed the other paddle and said, "Well, with two of us paddling we will fly home."
Then something occurred to him and he went back to work on the motor. Again, he pulled the rope.
"Hey!" I exclaimed. "Did you hear that?" It had been just one putt, just a tiny change in the sound of the cylinders being rotated by the starting rope.
He looked at me sharply. He had not heard it but he knew that my young ears were far more sensitive than his. He stared at me for a couple of seconds, then back to the engine he went.
This time, the engine sputtered, almost caught and died.
"Well, well, well!" he smiled.
Back to the engine.
Now it sputtered and caught and gasped and shuddered and died.
"I think we're going to be back in the boat business," he said.
Back to the engine.
This time it started and ran terribly but kept going. Dad fiddled with something and the engine picked up rpms.
He put it in gear and we moved ahead but at perhaps one-quarter of our normal speed.
"It's running on one," he yelled, meaning only one of the cylinders was firing.
Thirty minutes later we were home. Mom met us at the dock, wondering what had happened.
"Ahh, we had a bit of motor trouble, but we eventually figured it out," Dad said.

My point here is we need to always be alert for signs of light in the days of darkness ahead. They are there. They are always there, and in them we will find the way forward.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Lemming spotted in Nolalu, Ont.

My first evidence of the little creature came from a set of tracks in the driveway. They showed a scurrying animal, weaving left and right from one side of the driveway to the other and often reversing directions. That's odd, I thought. It had gone all around the house, a couple of times.
My guess was it had been a star-nosed mole. These chubby creatures occasionally come above ground and snow and since they are practically blind, seem to wander aimlessly.
Then, a few hours later, I saw the animal, this time on top of the snow right in front of the house. It wasn't a mole at all. With binoculars I could see it had the short-nose and tiny ears of something like a meadow vole or meadow mouse but it was browner and had a longer furry tail. It occurred to me I had seen this creature once before, at camp. Outside worker Ben Godin and I one spring were flipping over boats that had been stored for the winter in the yard and there were a half dozen of these meadow-mouse-like animals running around our feet. They weren't afraid of us and unfortunately, we accidentally stepped on several as we moved the boats down to the lake. Our best guess was that they were lemmings but aren't they only found in the Far North? We were just too busy to research the question.
But now I have more time and sure enough there is a lemming species in the southern part of Northwestern Ontario and the northern states. It is the Northern Bog Lemming. There is also a Southern Bog Lemming in more southern areas.
There are no bogs near our home in Nolalu but there are some a few miles away.
I wish I had gotten a photo because my research on the Internet showed that photos of this mysterious rodent are practically non-existent.
The way the lemming in our yard was behaving -- running aimlessly around above the snow -- would not bode well for his survival.  I expected to see a hawk or owl pick him off at any moment.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

'Holy mackerel, this is slippery!'

"Hey Dan, can you do something about this before a deer falls and hurts itself?"
"What's that you're doing? Spreading wood ashes? Will that help?"
"By golly, it works! Now a deer can get a grip. Thanks."

Sunday, March 8, 2020

History of Red Lake, camp, mines, fish

I gathered from my old Bow Narrows Camp blog a list of postings that dealt with history and thought you all might like to review them. Just click on the heading to view the complete post.

How Red Lake got its name

Pictograph at Artery Lake, west of Red Lake

DB Dowling left his mark here in 1893

Initials carved in soapstone at entrance to Pipestone Bay

 Remembering First Nations peoples of Red Lake

Ojibwe men who guided for Bow Narrows Camp

Which fish species are the oldest?

Lake Agassiz

West Red Lake Mining Museum

Home site of Bill Brown, Red Lake's first postmaster

 How long have people lived at Red Lake?

Middle Narrows pictograph about 1,200 years old

  Stromatolites made life as we know it

Bob Leis with book and stromatolite

Jim Paishk: pipemaker, master storyteller

Jim Paishk

It just didn't seem possible

Guide Jimmy Duck with hunter couple


The lone man in the canoe

This is how it all started

The Trapper's Cabin. Who was the trapper?

The cabin at the east end of West Narrows

The camp telephone back in the 1960s

Bill Stupack and my mom, Del, with CB-style telephone

Refrigeration system 50+ years ago

Ice house at Bow Narrows Camp 1948-1967

Traveling on thin ice a half-century ago

Frank Paishk and canoe

Bow Narrows Camp back in 1961

Bill Stupack, my mom, Del, and me with bear trap

Lime kiln last remnant of '26 gold rush

Lime kiln in Hall Bay

Things you discover while hunting

Monday, March 2, 2020

Finding answers to the climate crisis

"As I travel in Canada from coast to coast to coast, people are always asking me: 'Dave, what is the answer'? And I say the same thing to them all: What is the question?" -- the late comedian Dave Broadfoot, a member of the Royal Canadian Air Farce.

Ten years. That is how much time is left to cut our carbon emissions by 50 per cent. How are we going to do it?
I am reminded of a line by former U.S. vice-president Al Gore in his ground-breaking movie An Inconvenient Truth. It was something like, "We not only need to find new answers but also look at things we know for sure that just aren't so."
Transitioning toward a carbon-free economy is a challenge, for sure, but remember that opportunities are always disguised as problems. The biggest obstacles to solving any problem are inertia (we don't  like change) and psycho-sclerosis (hardening of the attitudes.) Change is always frightening unless it is goal-oriented and attitudes aren't something we are born with.
We know our goal -- cut fossil fuel usage 50 per cent by 2030. An attitude that we need to change in order to reach that goal is that this is all someone else's responsibility -- the government, for instance. Governments, unfortunately, are reactive, not proactive. Politicians must get re-elected and so they wait to see what a majority of voters want to do before they decide to "lead."
So it is up to us, average guys, to take the bull by the horns. When enough of us do it, "suddenly" the government will get involved.
I started the ball rolling, vehicle-wise, a couple of weeks ago when I got a call from my Nissan dealership in Thunder Bay. This was a new salesperson who wanted to introduce herself and say she noticed my Frontier pickup was now 12 years old! Wouldn't I like to trade it in on a new model?
Well, I said, it is still low-mileage and runs great. Anyway, I added, once we pay for our other vehicle, a Grand Caravan, our next vehicle will be an EV. I'm pretty sure I heard her gasp.
Ninety per cent of the miles we put on our vehicles is commuting from Nolalu to Thunder Bay and return, I explained. Round trip is 100 kilometers (60 miles). We can easily do that with an EV and charge it at home.What we hope happens in the next couple of years while we pay off the Caravan is that someone will come out with a higher EV, like an SUV. Automakers don't seem to have twigged to why so many older people prefer SUVs and vans -- the seats are higher off the ground and thus are far better for those of us with bad backs. There are hybrid SUVs and vans -- the Pacifica -- out there right now, to be sure, but they don't have the all-electric range of an EV.
I hoped she passed on our conversation to her boss and then her boss to Nissan Canada. We need to start stocking EVs.
In other news here we have succeeded this winter in reducing our propane usage by about 50 per cent, just by using a woodstove. The furnace only comes on after we go to bed and the stove runs low. I am surprised that this stove, a Napolean high-efficiency model that is rated for 1100 square feet, heats our 2,000-square-foot home easily. It isn't even located in the home proper but rather in a wing in the sunroom. A small, quiet, fan moves the heat out of the sunroom and into the main house.
Up at the cabin on Red Lake we already have a solar refrigerator and starting this summer will have a solar water pressure pump. We will still use propane to cook with and heat hot water, however, I hope to eventually pre-heat the water with a solar system (a black tank sitting in the sun).

Monday, February 24, 2020

Not a deer trail but a super highway

Rush hour on my bush trail that I keep clear of snow.
It will be interesting to see how wildlife populations on our property react this spring and summer to what so far has been a near-total absence of canine predators. This has been the first winter in probably 15 years that timber wolves haven't scoured our land each night in search of whitetail deer.
By this time we normally have a half-dozen deer kills right near my walking trails. This year there hasn't been a track of the big predators.
Nor has their been any sign of red foxes. They typically whip around the property every few days and have proven remarkably adept at catching ruffed grouse while they slept beneath the snow. In fact one time I saw evidence of where a fox went after a group of five partridge that were hanging around the house. The fox got a bird each night for five consecutive nights. In an intriguing display of animal behaviour, it left half of the last partridge near our front step, seemingly as a present to our black Lab, Bud. The fox then left and I didn't see a sign of it for weeks. Bud, of course, accepted the gift.
The coyote photographed a few posting back isn't a regular visitor. I would say he swings through about once a week. He seems most interested in mice.
Someone must have shown my post about the absence of some animals this winter to the red squirrels because the very next day a couple showed up for the first time at the bird feeders. There suddenly are lots of tracks from them around the trails too. I suspect they had put away a ton of green balsam and spruce cones last summer and have been munching on them rather than ones still on the trees. Apparently the store has now run empty.
Deer are really thin now. They have been losing weight every day since last summer.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Feb. 22 in Nolalu, Ont. +10C (50F)

There is still lots of snow but the temperature is WAY above freezing
10C outside, 28 C inside
My goodness! The temperature shot up to 10 C or 50 F today. Just a few nights ago it was -28 C.
The snow is sliding off the metal roofs.
I'm breaking out the BBQ.

Snow has slid off our old root cellar

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Friendly neighbourhood coyote visits

It was a beautiful sunny day today, although a bit cold, and it brought out a lovely coyote who walked right across the middle of the field in front of our house.
The snow has compacted now and that toughens it enough to let animals like the coyote stay relatively afloat. The total depth of snow is over 30 inches.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

See conditions on entire Earth right now

Visible Earth

NASA has a great website and app that lets you see climatic conditions on the entire planet at once. Called NASA Earth Now, it tells you either current or the latest readings for things like cloud cover, temperature, carbon dioxide, soil moisture, gravity and much more.
I have downloaded their app to my smartphone and it works wonderfully.
It is great to see the big picture, not just get snippets of weather and climate information. You can rotate the globe to see any place on Earth. You can also see the orbits of NASA satellites.
I have made screenshots of just a couple of the views here.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Some birds and creatures are AWOL

Here at our home in Nolalu we are blessed to have a bunch of friendly birds and animals to cheer us up through the winter. The four deer in the video visit our bird feeders every couple of hours. We also have several ruffed grouse or partridge that feed on the birch catkins right outside the windows. Then there are all the songbirds: bluejays, Canada jays, hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, goldfinches, chickadees, juncos, and pine siskins. Although not at the feeders I have also seen redbreasted nuthatches and white-winged crossbills.
But there are some birds and creatures missing this year. No one has seen a pine grosbeak in the entire region. The Christmas Bird Count for all the towns in the Northwest didn't record a single bird. There were a few found east of Lake Superior. There aren't any evening grosbeaks being seen either but that is not as unusual as they are known as an irruptive species. Pine grosbeaks, however, are dependable winter birds at feeders and their total absence is a mystery.
When it comes to creatures, I have not seen a sign of a wolf or a fox on our land in Nolalu. Last year the only fox we saw were grey foxes, a new species here. I have a couple of trailcam photos of a coyote this winter. Only a few miles east of here coyotes are known to run in packs but here at our home, which is in a more-forested area, all coyotes seen are singles.
Something also seems to have happened to red squirrels. There are none at the feeder where in the past we could have 14 at a time. I have seen a few squirrel tracks but, incredibly, I have only seen a single animal.
Is all of this somehow due to the big seed crop produced by trees last summer? I don't know but it is the only explanation I can think of. Red squirrels' primary food source are conifer seeds. Trees last summer were so heavy with cones that their tops were bent over.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Is this a cool puzzle or what?

Brenda is a puzzler and just did this great puzzle given to us by South Carolina friends Howard and Millie. I love this artist, Mark Fredrickson. This one is going to have to go up to the cabin!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Will frozen ground melt beneath the snow?

Except for right near the surface, the ground and rock in this region stay the same temperature the year-around. It is about 45 F or 7 C. It is like this for thousands of feet. That is similar to the temperature in your fridge. The approved method of thawing frozen meat from your freezer is to place it in the fridge. It will be thawed in less than a day.
A heavy blanket of snow, such as we have here in the Nolalu area, southwest of Thunder Bay, makes good insulation. It is well known that snow can prevent the ground from freezing if the snow comes early in the winter. Even if it comes later it stops the frostline from going any deeper. I don't think anybody would dispute this.
However, once the snow has fallen and is insulating the ground from more freezing, my question is does the ground start thawing from the bottom-up? It should be the same as thawing meat in the fridge.
Our ground was frozen probably a foot or more before the heavy snows started coming in January. Now we have at least 30 inches and more is sure to follow. When April comes around and the snow melts, will there be unfrozen ground beneath?
I have another question, why is the ground so cold to begin with? The outer core of the Earth is 5430 C or 9806 F. I would expect the ground, and rock beneath, to get warmer every inch that you go deeper, at least once you get away from the top 10 feet or so that is influenced by surface temperatures. Yet, in the gold mines at Red Lake miners had to wear wool long underwear when they were underground to about 5,000 feet deep. When the Goldcorp mine went 5,000 feet deeper the conditions were hot. I get it why it would be hot 10,000 feet deep. I just don't understand why it wasn't also somewhat hot at 5,000 feet.
Despite my research on the Internet I can't find a clear answer to this question. Anyone know?
I have a theory. I think the Earth and rock might still be cold from the last ice age.
Here's another quandary to ponder, this from my old Bow Narrows blog. What is a shadow?

Monday, February 3, 2020

We have turned the corner on winter

This winter has been easy on the woodpile and wildlife
Everyone is realizing that the deepest part of winter is behind us and we have only had a few days and nights of bitter cold. December, January and February are the months that we can experience -40 C cold, with or without the windchill. There is only February left now and here in Nolalu I think we have only had a couple of nights in the -30s. Incredibly, January saw nightime temperatures in the single negatives and daytime highs just below freezing.
The forecast for the next two weeks shows cooler weather but still remarkably warm for this time of year.
On the downside, it has been cloudy most of the time. That has been hard on those folks relying on solar. We have friends who live off the grid and they report using their generator to charge their batteries a record number of times.
Incidentally, they also have exciting animal news. They have seen wolverine tracks near their home which is in a lightly-inhabited area southwest of Thunder Bay, almost on the Minnesota border.
That is the farthest south I have heard of a wolverine in Northwestern Ontario. These largest members of the weasel family are making a comeback in the province, starting in the area around and north of Red Lake. They cover immense territories. I wouldn't be surprised to next hear the same animal has been spotted half-way to Duluth, Minn.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

🎶 Macho, macho man, I wanna be...🎶

"Rugged individualism, derived from 'individualism', is a term that indicates the ideal whereby an individual is totally self-reliant and independent from outside, usually state or government assistance." -- Wikipedia.
So you're a big, tough guy, right? You don't need no stinkin' help from anybody, do you? You pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, went to the School of Hard Knocks, forged your identity, blazed your own trail. You are one self-made, righteous dude!
That is the image many North Americans see when they look in the mirror. And it's an utter fairy tale.
Those of us driving big honkin' pickup trucks, racing fast cars and scorching the pavement on choppers and hawgs can get no farther on our own than our umbilical cord to Mama Oil will allow.
We are babies nursing at the gas teat.
Do you really want to be on your own? Then cut mommy's apron strings and get yourself an electric vehicle. Get your own solar system. Make your own power.  I repeat: YOUR OWN power.
Suck it up, Buttercup. It's time to be a man.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Update on local climate change issues

It has been a warm, snowy winter so far
The City of Thunder Bay joined 470 other Canadian cities and declared a climate emergency. The move signals the importance the cities place on climate action and is meant to spur-on federal and provincial initiatives. The climate emergency declaration was something Thunder Bay high school students had asked for during their weekly Friday climate strikes.
A spokesman for Thunder Bay noted that the city started a greenhouse gas reduction program 12 years ago and since that time has saved $13.5 million.
This is a recurring theme: what does reducing greenhouse gas cost? Nothing; it saves money.
Meanwhile provincially, Ontario Conservative Premier Doug Ford's government is actually tearing down wind turbines and dismantling solar energy sites. That move is costing Ontario taxpayers $230 million this year alone. Oh yeah, he also ripped out EV charging stations already installed at Toronto GoTrain parking lots.
My take? Unrelenting stupidity. What's next? Book-burning?
In other regional happenings, Tesla has also installed multiple charging stations in Dryden and Nipigon. I reported earlier that the electric vehicle company had also installed chargers in Thunder Bay. Without any fanfare Tesla seems to be doing this across Canada.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

On the trail of a most-destructive beast

White-footed deer mouse track showing distinctive tail drag mark
With the heavy snow cover we now have here in Nolalu, 50 km southwest of Thunder Bay, Ont., there is little sign of animals. They are hunkering down for the duration, waiting until spring and the 30-plus inches of snow melts, or forms a crust that allows them to walk on top. However, there are suddenly footprints of a creature that wreaks havoc everywhere it encounters human beings: the white-footed deer mouse.
Just today Brenda had to get a deer mouse nest removed from the heater system of her car. In October, I had the same thing done with my pickup truck. Brenda's car was invaded while parked here in our Nolalu driveway. My truck was hit while parked in Red Lake Marine's parking lot in Red Lake. In addition, I had to remove a huge mouse nest from my tractor in Nolalu.
They are incredibly fast at their dirty work. Brenda uses her vehicle every day so they had only 12 hours to work on it before it started rolling again. I had used my truck two days before I turned on the fan only to find it made a loud racket. I had used my tractor all day long the day before its engine began running incorrectly and overheating. I opened the hood to find a small muskrat house-size nest beneath.
Brenda's car just had the nest in the heater. It cost $130 to remove.
My truck had 12 dead mice inside. It set me back $200.
There was no cost on the tractor.
When we owned the camp we had continuous destruction from white-footed mice. They are adept at slipping into the cabins and ruining people's food. In the lodge, it seemed the mice checked for an opening every night, perhaps a door not tightly shut or a window screen out of position. One time they gnawed a hole through the ceiling during the winter, and ruined hundreds of dollars worth of t-shirts and caps that we were to sell the next summer.
I have had them ruin all sorts of possessions and clothing.
It's important not to tar all mice with the same brush. In the 56 years that my family owned and operated the camp and in the 35 years that we have lived in Nolalu we have never had a single problem with any other mouse species. Meadow mice (voles), red-backed voles, jumping mice, star-nosed moles and shrews have caused us no problems whatsoever.
We were at a New Year's gathering at a friend's house out here in the country and every person there had virtually the same experience with white-footed mice, including with vehicles and machines. In fact the conversation started when our host revealed he had just paid $700 to repair his generator after white-footed mice had burrowed into the air cleaner and sent particles through the engine.
Many of us had also come up with the same type of wholesale mouse trap: a 5-gallon bucket. One fellow said he always has one such trap in his workshop. While you can fiddle around with ingenious gizmos for the mice to climb across before plummeting into the trap, you really don't need anything: just place a regular bucket against a wall with some bait in the bottom, like sunflower seeds, and the next day you will have one or more mice inside. It's up to you what to do from there.
I prefer to place a few inches of water in the bottom, then rig a bait over the top, something like a chunk of bacon. I only place such traps inside, of course, usually after the mice have destroyed something.
With such a widespread pest you would expect to see them all the time. In fact, just the opposite is the case. I haven't seen a single live deer mouse in the wild for years. They are that elusive. I see meadow mice and red-backed voles -- the woods version of the short-tailed mouse set -- frequently, any time I mow the fields with the tractor or just walk in the bush. Meadow mice are the dark, plump, short-tailed creatures that eat seeds from plants that grow in the fields. Red-backed voles do exactly the same thing but in the bush. I've always been impressed at how segregated they keep themselves. Two feet into the bush around a field there are zero meadow mice, just red-backs. Two feet into the field there are no red-backs, just meadow mice.
On our snowshoe walk today we discovered that the last heavy snow knocked a lot of maple wings (seed cases) off mountain maple shrubs. It must be a favorite with the white-footed mice because their tracks were everywhere. Their tracks are distinctive because they show the creature's long tail dragging through the snow.
Other than signs of the mice, we found one grouse den, a few rabbit tracks (snowshoe hare) and deer trails. Deer are wandering beneath the white cedars, feeding on branches weighed down by snow. It's a struggle for them to get through the snow but on the good side, there is somewhat less snow beneath the conifers.

Grouse plunked into snow, spent the night, then flew out the other side

Enormous track of the snowshoe hare
I cleared this trail through part of our bush

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Beautiful winter weather here in Nolalu

Perfect for outdoor activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing
I almost canceled my planned snowshoe walk today because the thermometer showed it was -20C (4 below zero F). I thought it might be too cold for our dog, Cork, to stay outside for the 45-minute trail loop. It looked windy too and that is always what makes it feel bitter. Then we went outside to get the mail and realized the wind was only an issue in the wide open spaces. And there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The sun, reflecting off the snow was absolutely brilliant and warm. So I strapped on the snowshoes and we took off.  It was wonderful.
Four inches of snow had fallen since we last traversed this trail three days ago and that is like nothing to repack with the 'shoes. Back in the shelter of the trees there was no wind at all. I was glad I had ditched my heavy parka that I had worn down to the mailbox. I just wore a flannel shirt with a light weight parka.
We found fresh lynx tracks and my heart quickened when I realized the cat was headed toward one of my cameras. Alas, the elusive critter did what they usually do, walked right up to the camera but on the wrong side of the tree. Anyway, a group of four deer showed up on the camera card. One of them had spotted the camera and came up for a close inspection.
Chickadees serenaded us all along the way. There is nothing cheerier or braver than the tiny chickadee, my pick for Canada's national bird.
I moved one of my trail cameras to another spot that showed today's lynx tracks. I had seen tracks there the last time I was on this trail so I figure there is a chance for a pic.
Yesterday was a major firewood cutting day for me and Cork. We brought in four toboggan loads of dry balsam (about a week's worth), working up a good sweat in the process. Cork and I work as a team; I cut down the trees and saw them into four-foot lengths and Cork chews up all the branches that I cut off.
We're expecting another six inches of snow on Friday evening. Snowfalls are coming every few days now. I have what I consider the perfect machine to deal with snow, a Kubota tractor with a front-mounted snowblower. It beats a plow which gets stymied when there is no longer anywhere to push the snow, a situation that already exists. So in addition to our 200-yard drive, I also do three of the neighbours. It just takes a couple of hours to clean out all of our drives.
"What's this funny thing tied to the tree?"
Cutting and hauling out dry balsam is a great workout for me

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