The mornings start out downright chilly now, even in the house. It's a great comfort to get up and start a fire in the stove and just sit there and sip coffee with the man. I have found nothing so radiantly warm and mesmerizing as a wood fire. I can stand with my backside to a fire for a long time before I feel like I'm heated through, and I can sit before a fire for an hour just gazing at the flames flicking this way and that and changing from red to yellow to blue. We've had no snowy weather yet, but with the sun so low in the sky, it never seems to be bright and sunny anymore. It's mostly gray and hazy with a sharp wind.
The colder, biting weather keeps me from walking up the road or through the open pastures, but instead I like to take to The Woods. The Woods are really shelter belts planted long ago to block wind and snow from homes and for livestock. For me, The Woods make for a quiet, mostly wind-free place to walk, and the scenery is altogether different from the open prairie. I have to take my time walking there because there's quite a lot of down trees and limbs lying around and the grass is fairly tall and lays over certain branches. The trick for me is to keep track of my footing whilst looking up in the trees to spy out owls and grouse and raccoon.
Yesterday I took a long walk through several shelter belts around the houses and barnyard and I did find one lone owl. Actually, I didn't spot it on my own, but I was making so much noise stumbling amongst the branches that I scared it from its perch and it flew away. I couldn't identify it, but it was smaller than a Great Horned Owl and did not have ear tufts that I could see. I'm anxious to go walking again and see if I can get a look at it again -- maybe close up. It could be either the Short-eared Owl or the Eastern Screech Owl. If you have time, there is a short video on the camouflage of the Screech Owl. They are HARD to find when perched because they blend in so well with the tree bark. See this one below.
Eastern Screech Owl,
Wikicommons by Zach of Gamboa, Panama
From the Garden:
I roasted the last of the tomatoes tonight. I had a box full of green and slightly ripening tomatoes that I plucked a month ago and hoped would ripen soon or later. Most of them did, but some of them just went bad and I fed them to the eager chickens. I've decided that I like roasting and freezing tomatoes best of all methods of preserving. They tend to be sweeter and less acidic than canning. I brought in a big bucket of carrots from the garden and covered the rest that are in the ground with a heavy layer of hay mulch in hopes that they can stay there awhile longer. I've found that carrots tend to stay crisp and fresh longer in the ground than any other place, but I can't let them freeze or they will turn to mush.
The butternut squash were plentiful and are especially delicious. I found a really good recipe in my cookbook by Ina Garten called "Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics." I involves roasting the squash with pancetta (or bacon) and garlic and sage. Oh is it ever good! Click here for Maple Roasted Butternut Squash!
About Weaning Calves:
All of the calves are now weaned and eating feed -- ground hay and a very little cracked corn. We used the calf weaning nose flaps on one bunch and that seemed to work out pretty well. We decided that next time we will keep them in for 6-7 days in hopes that the calves don't wean as hard as they did. It takes time for the bawling part to subside even though the pairs are together in the pasture. We've had a few sick calves, but very few. Those who do get sick are the calves that won't eat. They tend to pout and sulk and stay away from feed and water and that makes for sick animals.