Antlers, snow... stew...
We checked to see where the tracks came from, to get an idea of where he came from this morning, so we could begin searching for his antler. Because of the snow we knew the tracks were fresh, but they are getting covered up quickly.
While getting breakfast ready Kevin yelled at me to come back to the window. Much to our complete shock and amazement.... while we were having coffee, Torn Ear dropped his other antler in the YARD. In 7 years he's never ever done that. It's like the best present ever.... now if we can find the other one, we will mount his antlers on wood so we'll always be able to remember him over the years. There was fresh blood running down his face right after he dropped his anlter in the yard. It was really something neat to see. When I am an old woman, if I live that long, I'll be able to tell stories about how that big buck would show up when I called his name. And everyone will just talk about how old and crazy I am and how that can't possibly be true.
He's old now, and he's been beat up. We've known him for seven years and he's likely older than that. In case this is the last year we see him, I would love to have both his antlers. But I'll be grateful for the one if it's all we find. All too often around here bucks are shot long before they ever reach his age. Without the big healthy bucks, I'm not sure how it's expected that the deer population will continue to grow and be healthy for years to come, but this seems to get over looked by a lot of people that don't know better, or care. Although there are a lot of smarter hunters who also care about conservation. I am not against hunting, but some of the bucks need to be allowed to grow and breed. I'm sure Torn Ear has done his job. While some people see a trophy, I see a friend. He has been a wonderful friend to both of us over the years and he is part of our family now. You can bond with a wild animal, and have a connection with them. And if you are able to do that, it is a life enriching experience, just as having a true bond and connection with any animal is.
Of course with 700 acres there are many deer here who are not part of our deer family. We've seen many strange deer whom either live at different parts of the property, or whom are just passing through.
We searched the place we thought we might luck out, and we did not find anything but lots of trails which we started to follow. We got up behind the barn on the big pond and found a few beds. The snow is very deep in the bush and it's not cold enough to freeze so walking is hard, you break through with every step up to your knees in some places. I broke in a few places well over my knees. It's hard to get around when you are breaking through that deep, especially dressed in heavy work gear.... you'll exhaust and overheat yourself quick doing that. I had to get my barn chores done, so Kevin took the Argo out so he could drive a bit, and walk a bit.
Buckwheat decided he wasn't going to be penned in the chicken coop anylonger and finally broke out, so now he's got to live in a big goat stall. Since we are one short at the moment, hopefully Hilda won't mind staying with Bucket and Bulrush for a bit, since she has a single stall which is good for Buckwheat. He's a few months old and the same size as my 6 month old babies. I expect he is going to be a very big boy. All my gates were frozen and I had to break ice to get everything working properly again. For now, it's all cleaned up and working well. The snow is fine and easy to clean up but under neath there is a layer of ice from when we got rain, but thankfully with enough force it was easy to break away.
I know winter has come now that I have really got the mule stuck for the first time this year. Ususally I do that several times. Kevin will tell you it's because I drive to fast. And, well, he's right. But I slid today and didn't expect it, so he winched me out. The Argo also died, it looks bad, like a tranny problem. We towed it home from across the creek with the tractor.... it's thawing out now and when Kevin gets in from plowing he'll take a better look at it. The joys of working with machinery! Can't live with it, can't live without it.
My dough is rising for rolls tonight to go with the stew I'm about to start and slow cook for a few hours.
At almost four PM it has stopped snowing. It's getting colder and it's time to put the critters into the barn into their cozy stalls for the night. Last night I was out late in the dark giving hay to the horses, locking the turkeys up. On the way back to the barn from the turkey house in the dark with the snow falling heavily.... I paused before I got to the door which was open just a crack. I took a deep breath, and slowly opened the door to the barn, with it's lights glowing, and all my sheep and goats munching happily on their hay. Flavious lying down, his eyes locked on mine wondering if something was wrong, or if everything was just right. In that moment I had an overwhelming sense of peace. It's like a dream come true to have that barn and see all those content, fat, and happy animals inside. It reminds me as we start a new year, to take time each day to be thankful for everything I have and to remind myself, never, ever to take it for granted.