The Deer ticks in the valley are back with a vengeance, in numbers that match those of last April. The mist repellant that I put on my clothes has done a good job of keeping them off my skin. How I know there are more ticks, is because I forgot to spray up before a walk a couple of times, and I picked 7 ticks off myself each time. The tick mist does a good job when I remember to use it.
I hadn't seen a single tick in this Valley since the second week of June. They appeared again the first week of October and have been multiplying in numbers ever since. I was bitten 11 times from mid-April to mid June but only once this fall. It's hard for a person who lives on the land to avoid an unavoidable pest like the Deer tick. There are things that have to be done, things I have to do. There are several piles of firewood along the edge of the meadow that I need to bring up to the house. There are lots of small, dead box elder trees that I need to cut up for future firewood. There is still a lot of seed planting to be done in the grassy prairie meadowland and a whole lot of garden work to do. The truth is, I am outside every day. It's how I live; it's the way I survive and always have. I love being close to the land. But the Deer ticks are even harder to make peace with than the wind.
Saturday morning, the first winter birds appeared at the bird feeders. Their timing was right on, in more than one way. For one, they always seem to show up around the second week of October, after spending their summer in the far north. When I talked to my mother on the phone the night before, she said she had Juncos at her bird feeder. I kinda wondered why she got Juncos before I did, when she lives 150 miles further southeast.
I want the Juncos to stay and spend the winter with me, so I encourage them by sprinkling a little extra birdseed on the ground around the feeders. Juncos tend to be ground diners, and like to kick through the dead leaves or snow to find their food. The high price of birdseed has become a drawback though. Black sunflower seeds are now $25.00 for a 50 pound bag, which is becoming a bit of a burden, though I would be the last one to say it's not worth it. The past couple of years, since the price of seed started to climb, I've noticed how dirty some of the bags of sunflower seeds are. For $25.00 a bag, the seed should not be littered with debris--little pieces of leaves, chaff, stalks and stuff. Not only am I getting less seed for my money, but this dirty debris will tend to build up on a bird feeder. When it rots, it becomes a contaminant to the wild birds. Dirty seed is not a safe product for the wild birds, and if you are not happy with the seed you bought, I encourage you to bring it to the attention of the dealer you bought it from. I've bought enough bird seed in the past 50 years to know clean bird seed when I see it, and that's what I want to use at "my" bird feeders.
Cracked corn is notorious for building up on or in a bird feeder and getting sour. I use it only when the weather turns cold, and then I just sprinkle it on the ground.
At the end of the valley, where the Sumac borders the hayfield, five beautiful does stood close together, their heads up and their ears in the alert position as though they were being followed. It's the rutting season, which means the bucks are in the mood for love. He follows the does almost constantly at this time, when he isn't sparring with other bucks in the area for the right to court the does. The does, on the other hand, aren't in the mood yet, and would rather the buck leave them alone. But he follows them anyway, day and night. There is only a single day when a doe will accept the buck. When she is ready, he will be there waiting.
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