Two months and two weeks ago (July 20th) I posted my last blog about what is going on here. The temperatures were up to 102° and the Williams Flat Fire, the biggest of the year, had just started. Unfortunately life does not play out like the plot of a cheap novel. There is no beginning, middle or end and no way to follow a consistent theme – though I usually try to do that.
9/3/2019 Northern Lights photo by an unknown local photographer (has nothing to do with rain or the rest of this blog).
Except maybe the theme is rain. There was a LOT of that. Within 2 weeks the Williams Flat fire was under control due to a heavy rainstorm. From there it has been a downward spiral until Saturday September 28th, the coldest September Day since 1926. Over 30 Inches of snow fell at higher elevations. We got 4 inches of rain here that weekend. The grape harvest was a month behind already because the grapes were just not building sugar in our live-in outdoor refrigerator.
So extreme measures are being taken to bring in the harvest and make wine. (More about that later since I’m just trying to catch up with August and September.)
In early August I put up my bird nets as usual to beat the migration and discourage huge flocks from wiping out my grape crop. We did have a few warblers, but not many. I was relieved to see that the pileated woodpecker is back. He (I’m assuming it is a he since he is colorful and makes a lot of noise) doesn’t get under the nets but pecks through them to get to the grapes after pretending to be interested in the wooden post he is sitting on. Also he eats the whole grape and does not just poke a hole in them – inviting bees, flies, mold and vinegar. So no real harm done.
There used to be lots of warblers and I bought lots of bird netting to keep them off the grapes. But every year there seem to be fewer. I am contemplating just letting them have some to keep their numbers up. Another bird I love having around
is the cedar waxwing. (This one obviously had a bit of an attitude.) It learned to get in and out of the nets and didn’t really do any damage. You can see in the picture that the grapes are far from ripe.
Other critters in the neighborhood include this cougar caught on a neighbor’s game camera. I love how slinky it looks in this picture.
Of course you can’t talk about predators without mentioning bears. So a local game camera struck again with a picture of one of our local bears. So far we have not had trouble with this one, although it came up to visit earlier in the summer. An orchard just above us keeps the bears at bay by disposing of spoiled fruit outside of the fences. But in orchards further north of us there are piles of bear poop all over. Bears can be very destructive if they climb the trees to get to fruit but if they are able to munch on windfalls and plants, they would rather stay on the ground.
Speaking of pesky scavengers, it has been an epic year for skunks. You could hardly ever drive the 22 miles to Colville without passing one or two dead ones in the road. Of course we have our own local one that digs holes at night for insects and occasionally must get excited and spray because we smelled it on a few nights. I even saw it early one morning heading toward the house and was able to convince it (from a considerable distance) to go in another direction.
All that was okay until the night of August 30th. Cheryl woke up sensing that there was something in the house besides our cat and dog. We leave the doors open at night in hot weather to cool off the house. She spotted the skunk heading into the bathtub room with its tail high in the air. We became very quiet and got back in bed. Wisely our dog Gretchen stayed in the bedroom too although she did growl. Not that we got any sleep. But although we didn’t hear anything, by morning light the skunk was gone and “she” didn’t spray thank goodness. (Female skunks reportedly don’t smell as bad as males.) After that we put low barriers in the doorways and didn’t have problems.
Predators need prey and we have a big crop of fawns this year. They are usually not much trouble since we have a high fence around the garden and vineyard. They do consider flowers as candy so we have lost a few on that score. Here they are checking out our old apple tree for downed fruit, or at least low hanging fruit. But being too familiar with us might have been the downfall of one doe. On the morning of Friday September 27th, both Cheryl and I smelled something dead when we went outside. I found a dead deer in the brush near our compost pile. I think it was Daring Doe. I got our neighbor Vern to help bury her with his backhoe. He thinks she was shot with an arrow in the gut and went there to die in what she felt was a safe place. There was no doe season this year, so whoever shot this deer in the gut was doing it illegally. If it was Daring Doe, she should have been more afraid and it would be partly my fault for not scaring her more.
I have more stories of course about the night the cat brought 3 different mice into the house, and we had to catch two of them to get them out (She got one on her own), or the turkey invasion in the vineyard. But enough critters for one blog.
There were a couple of other times that our neighbor Vern helped us out with his tractor. One was in unloading a pallet of rotten (but non-GMO) feed that Red Bridge Farm gave me to add into compost.
Another was helping move a heavy mortar mixer onto a stand in my soil yard to mix compost for the vineyard and for potting plants.
There will be more about that later. I still have a few stations to add to the soil yard to make it fully functional.
What I am not able to do right off is write about everything that happened in the last two months without taking another two months to do it. So this is a wrap for August and September.