Winter 2016-2017

Winter has been quiet around here, except for our encounter with an ermine, as you will see down the page.

Mostly we've been looking at snow. It snowed and snowed and snowed this winter. Here is part of the garden.

For a while, we tromped pathways around familiar areas.

Then a bit of snow was followed by freezing rain and made even the path-ways useless.

It was almost impossible to walk where the ice fell on packed snow. We ended up breaking new paths through the ice along side the regular trails. Soon snowshoes became essential to go anywhere outside of the immediate area.

With snowshoes on, we could again go anywhere. How long have this wonderful footwear been around we wondered? Researchers figure that they had to have been invented before people could cross the land bridge from Siberia to Alaska, that would be at least 19,000 years ago. Not all old technology is obsolete.

One day this still-life at our pond begged a picture.

Having dried to the bottom over the Summer, it was good to see the water rise. One day, after a thaw raised the water level, the ice lifted and the pond smiled at us.

It turned out to be a theme as the winter progressed.


And covered with frost.

Finally, after the recent thaw and rain, water started to flow out the back of the garden.

Before the pond was full, there was the ermine.

It was cute, furry and as white as new snow. When we first saw the little creature it was sticking its head out from under the corner of the shed looking around with jet black eyes.

It was collecting small lumps of ice, presumably for drinking water on that frozen day.

How sweet we thought.

It was not so sweet the next day.

It was my birthday and Claire and I had been out for a long walk. She arrived in front of the shop before I did and let out a yell. "Come quickly! The ermine caught my guinea."

The ermine had caught a guinea hen, or rather, the hen was running around with the long white winter weasel firmly attached to its leg. The ermine was about 14 inches long, including its tail and about as big around as a squirrel. As the hen ran in panic, the ermine flopped around behind like a long scarf.

Claire tried to knock the ermine off the bird with a shovel. When I arrived, I picked up a stick to help as the bird ran under the table in front of the shop. As I went to poke them out, Claire grabbed the ermine by the tail and yanked it off the guinea, tossing it away. Immediately, the predator jumped back at the bird and latched on again with its teeth. Claire grabbed it again and tossed it. Then it jumped for another guinea hen. Still crouched over, Claire grabbed it & threw it onto a snow bank.

Clearly outraged at the interruption of its meal, the ermine lunged, formidable teeth bared, straight at Claire’s face. She knocked it down again & I whacked it with the stick I had in hand. It didn’t move again.

The entire process likely took no more than a minute, but seemed a lot longer.

Claire stitched up the Guinea’s wound and applied antiseptics and lots of TLC. It rested by our warm stove, eating and drinking a little. Alas, its wounds were too much and it succumbed four days later.

We saved some wing feathers and the ermine went to some biologist friends who have a tank of carpet bugs. The bugs are good at stripping dead flesh from bones. We are anticipating an opportunity to look at the ermine’s awesome teeth without the intimidation of the fast moving, angry predator that was attached to them.

Other than that minute of excitement, our most remarkable news is that we harvested our last kale plant from under the snow on February 28th.

It had three stems and provided fresh greens for three days. It was delicious!

We still have lots of frozen and dried food stored to get us through to Spring and our window-sill is already nursery to onions, leeks and some hot peppers. Those slow growing seedlings are fulfilling the urge to plant while we await the growing season.

And the maple sap is dripping on the warmer days.

We had a batch of pancakes to celebrate.

And snow people on the last day before Spring.

We hope to see you when the snow is gone.