Sunday, September 27, 2009

The fruit of my labor

The elderberries I brought home from the mountain cooked down to 1.5 gallons of juice. I used a gallon of it to make jelly. Twenty 12 oz jars and six 8 oz jars. I still had a half gallon of juice left over to put in the freezer for later use.

Normally when I finish this chore I pick a batch of blackberries for jam, but I still have a jar of processed blackberries and a jar of processed plums in the freezer from last year, so I think I’ll call it good for now. Besides, I’m running low on jelly jars.


Sometime back, maybe a couple of years more or less, I saw the first praying mantis that I had ever seen. I broke open a bale of hay to feed my horse, and lo and behold, a mantis popped out! I had seen pictures of them, so of course I knew what it was, but I had never actually seen one. Yesterday evening I was watering what is left of my garden when I felt something on the back of my hand. At first glance I thought it was a bit of a leaf or a twig and I almost brushed it off - and then it moved. Another mantis! I carried it inside and placed it on a neutral background so it would show up well and took this photo; then took it back outside and released it back into the garden area. They are tiny predators, good at catching and eating other insects, so they are good to have around. No wonder I haven’t seen more. With that green coloration they would be hard to spot among vegetation.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Not quite a dry run

Our cool weather was to nice to last. Temperature is right back in the 90's every day now. I took Bear over to Quartz Hill today and set up a couple of calling stands. Stayed a half an hour on each stand. On the first stand I started with a fawn distress sound and didn’t see anything. After 15 minutes I switched to a woodpecker distress and called in a few blue jays. I used the same sequence of sounds on the second stand and didn’t see a thing. Bear treed a squirrel in between stands, and we brought that one home for dinner.

Aside from the oak trees in my back yard, I haven’t seen any acorns anywhere I’ve been so far. There are manzanita berries, and that will furnish wildlife feed for awhile, but the closer it gets to fall and cooler weather the more the deer and bear will be looking for acorns. I’ve seen a little bear sign, but very little. Most are probably still in the high country, but when they drop down lower for the big fall feed I’m afraid they won’t find much around here.

Got hot again today, and there is smoke coming in from somewhere. Might be from a small fire right on the CA/OR border.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Opening weekend

Small game season (tree squirrel, mountain quail, and grouse) opened here yesterday. Normally it is hot on opening day, but Saturday dawned cloudy and cool with a slight chance of showers in the forecast. I had 2 things on my mind; the possibility of bringing home a little meat for the dinner table, plus it was time to check the elderberry bushes up on the mountain. The berries here at home had dried up in the summer heat and didn’t amount to anything. I put a big plastic bucket and some plastic garbage bags in the bed of the pickup along with the standard hunting gear, loaded Bear in the cab with me, and headed up the mountain.

Usually there are some squirrels active around the few houses I have to pass, and this was no exception. I saw 4 before we passed the last house, but once we started up the mountain we never saw another squirrel. I put Bear out in front of the truck and roaded him through some of the best squirrel country, but they just weren’t moving. After awhile I picked him up and headed for higher country and the berry bushes, keeping an eye out for grouse or quail, which were even more scarce than the squirrels. By now the clouds had dissipated, and the temperature quickly approached the more expected 90 degrees.

The elderberries on the mountain didn’t let me down. They are even more prolific than last year if that is possible. I could practically stand in 1 place and pick a bucket full, and in short order I had 2 sacks filled. While I was picking berries, a fellow I know came driving down the road. He had been farther up the mountain with his black lab in search of grouse. He said there were no goose berries or snow berries on the mountain, favorites of the berry eating birds, and grouse were few and far between. His dog had flushed a couple without him getting a shot. Quail are seed eaters, but they seemed to be in short supply too.

Having picked more than enough elderberries to keep me busy for awhile, I loaded Bear back in the truck and drove back down the mountain to a shady spot by a creek to eat lunch. Along the way I saw 1 lonesome quail run across the road, and that was all the game I saw the rest of the day.

Today (Sunday) dawned cloudy and cool again, but unlike the day before the clouds stayed. It eventually warmed up enough to be just comfortable in a T-shirt. I left Bear at home today and took old Sadie out, not that she would be of any great help. She is fast approaching 14 years old, and the years are telling on her, but she still likes to go. She still looks pretty good bouncing around here in the yard, but she tires quickly. I roaded her a little bit at first, but she soon ran out of gas and I picked her up; then just road hunted for a little while to see what might turn up. If game had been scarce yesterday, it was non-existent today. Even the squirrels around the houses weren’t moving. I eventually parked in the same place for lunch where I had been yesterday, having seen a grand total of 1 ground squirrel. I know the hunting will pick up as we move closer toward fall and hopefully get some rain, but this is about as poor as I have ever seen it on opening weekend. For now, I know what I will be doing the next couple of days. I have a heck of a lot of berries to turn into juice, which in turn will be turned into jelly and syrup, and maybe even a little elderberry brandy.