Ruffed Grouse

moon phase Week of 11/07/2004 Best days to harvest for storage.

A pair of Ruffed grouse glided by me as I drove along the gravel River Road this morning. One of them had reddish-orange tail feathers, and the other had gray ones with black bars. No two grouse have the same color patterns, but basically there is a red phase and a gray phase. No other birds have as many earthy colors in their feathers. Their lovely plumage is some of nature's most beautiful work.

Ruffed Grouse

The grouse landed in a nearby crabapple tree, so I got a good look at them as they perched on the bare branches. I knew if I stopped, the birds would probably fly away, so I passed by slowly and did not disturb them.

The ruffed-grouse populations here run in 8 to 10 year cycles, or at least they have historically. These days their habitat is scarcer, and the beautiful birds are becoming a rare sight.

It's the first week of November, and there's been no frost the past seven mornings. The temperatures have been in the 50s and low 60s. It's been nice to be able to keep the house warm without using much wood yet or carrying out many ashes. At times it feels more like late September than early November. I know the nice weather won't last forever but I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

The deer ticks, too, are taking advantage of the mild weather. I didn't see a single one in June, July, or August, but think there are more ticks now than last spring. I find them crawling on me every day, even if I just walk across the yard. I try to live with them, and am diligent about tick checks.

It's been nice to get things done outside without being pressured by the weather. I've dug the dahlias and gladiolus but still have some canna lily tubers to retrieve from the ground. There's plenty of time before the ground freezes, around the tenth of December. I've also been able to plant some new spring bulbs at my leisure - narcissus, tulips, and daylilies. This work will pay off six months from now, when there will be some new faces in the yard.

My harvest of birdhouse gourds was disappointing. The cool summer produced only a dozen gourds large enough to use as birdhouses. I put a small nail through the stem of each and hung them in the open shed to dry. Here they will freeze without touching each other. By spring they should be nice and dry, comfortable new homes for some lucky wrens. It's another example of a little work now that brings something to look forward to in the spring.

I'll haul out the ladder to harvest the remaining few hard-to-reach runner beans. I picked the rest a week ago. I like to wait until they are very dry and beige before I pick them. I've had good luck storing them in a cool, dry place, in a large brown paper grocery bag. After the chance of frost has passed in the spring, I will shell them, and plant the large purple beans. I've been saving my red runner beans this way for over 20 years, using the same beans year after year. I can't think of these beans without seeing a beautiful little hummingbird in my mind's eye.

Many of the jobs to be done each fall insure that spring will be something to look forward to. A little effort now will result in much pleasure later. An organic dairy farmer must feel the same way upon looking at the field, and knowing there will be healthy food for the farm animals through the winter. There are so many ways that the earth gives, in return for our mutual giving.

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