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WHAT THE WALRUS SAID--Our Authors' Blog--

FOX IN WINTER

 

 

Get yourselves to Florida, an old friend e-mailed. It's 77 degrees here, and the breeze off the Gulf is balmy.

 

Tempting, no question. Northern New England winters are tough. Cold, snow, ice, and winds that freeze your nose.  

 

With our friend's admonition on my mind, I went out this morning for fresh air and to check the  icy path to our oil tank, not wanting the fuel-truck driver to slip. On the way back to our entryway, to get salt to sprinkle, I saw tracks.

 

They came from our pinewoods, passed near our front door, and then angled off across the snow.

 

Fox.

 

An expert tracker once told us dog tracks zigzag, because of attention-deficit disorder, but a fox walks straight and purposeful.  

 

I come out every day to see what news is printed on the snow. Red squirrel, down from a tree, bits of its spruce-cone breakfast littering the snow. Fisher, bounding across the white meadow. Deer everywhere. Tiny tracks, the passage of a white-footed mouse. Meanwhile, no matter how cold, chickadees cheerfully flit in the balsams. Overhead, ravens exchange raucous messages.  

 

We've been particularly mesmerized by the fox. It's mysterious. No tracks in new snow. Then, a half-hour later, tracks. Passing in front of a window, but never seen.

 

Today, though, at lunch, Joyce suddenly stood up, pointing out the window: "Look!"

 

Fox.

 

She trotted, that fox, just on the other side of the pond. A redhead so gorgeous—with an enormous fluffy tail—we wanted to run down and pet her, which would not have succeeded. She's a wild thing, hunting mice.

 

She turned her head and looked up at us, in the window, eyes dark and sharp. Then she vanished into the pinewoods, on pressing business.

 

Her beauty, though, lingered in the winter air.

 

Does that make bearable a long winter in this climate? I'm not sure.

 

A little, though, it helps.   

 

--Richard

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CREATURE IN OUR CLOSET

We've had a trying week with nature.

 

Snowstorms. Single-digit temperatures.

 

Meanwhile, a deer mouse cached food in our car's heating system, requiring a visit to the dealer for an expensive fix. It's not our thing, but this time we set traps, because mice can severely damage a car. Also, a house's wiring. We caught four mice, and after that the influx stopped.

 

Then we saw what looked to be a tiny, dark-furred mouse racing across our living room carpet. This visitor—it's practically a pet by this point—didn't act mouse-like, because it regards us resident giants with contempt, practically running over our feet.

 

It turned out to be no mouse at all. It's a short-tailed shrew. It weighs about the same as a dime (we looked it up), but it's our smallest, yet fiercest, mammal. It's a predator. It will attack prey several times its own size. Luckily, we're bigger than dragonflies or mice. Shrews may fight each other to the death, with the victor eating the loser. Daily they must eat their own weight.

 

We tried a mousetrap baited with peanut butter. No dice. We tried a plastic pail with a bit of smoked salmon on the bottom and a ramp offering an easy way up, theorizing that once the shrew dove off the pail's rim to get at the salmon, it would be trapped.

 

No dice.

 

We'll be getting a Havahart humane trap, hoping for a speedy capture and release, far out in our woods.

 

Also, we've installed netting around our hemlock shrubbery to keep our neighbors, white-tailed deer, from decimating it this winter.

 

We watch them, on these frigid mornings, hoofing the snow to find plants to eat. We imagine living out there, as they do, and it horrifies us.

 

Once upon a time, animals had these forested hills to themselves, including the black bears who occasionally lumber across our lawn and the red fox that patrols our pinewoods and the wild turkeys marching across the snow, down by the pond, and the two resident woodchucks, currently snoozing for the winter in their burrows.

 

Now we're here, and we're trying for détente.    

 

--Joyce & Richard

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WHAT DOES A DOG MEAN?




A friend asked me—why, in most of your husband’s novels, is one character a Pembroke Welsh corgi?

And the answer is: “It’s personal.”

Sometimes that dog character is Henry. Sometimes he’s Tobi. But his real name—he was a real dog—was Nosmo.

“Nosmo King,” in full, chosen by his previous family because they quit smoking and named him for a “No Smoking” sign. Not a name we liked.

Then we realized Nosmo could be a Hobbit name, like Frodo or Bilbo. So he became Nosmo the Hobbit.

He was preternaturally bright. Read More 

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APPARITION


Joyce awoke in the night and looked out the window. She saw a full moon, shining on fresh snow.

I lay half-asleep. Then Joyce gasped. I bolted out of bed to see what alarmed her.

“Something’s out there,” she said.

I saw only snow. Then, behind the pond, I saw a shape, indistinct in the moon-cast shadows, but something huge.

Massive shoulders hunched, it glided across the snow.  Read More 

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MURDOCK WISHES YOU HIS HOLIDAY BEST

Our good friend and frequent visitor, Murdock Morse, sends his holiday greetings to all.

Go romp in the snow, he says. It feels good!

--Joyce & Richard

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GRACIE WEIGHS IN TOO!

Gracie Duke--another good friend of ours--wants to second her pal Murdock's message: celebrate!

It's the darkest days of the year, she says. So get out there and bark! Bark for the return of the light!. Bark loud! It'll come!

Joyce & Richard

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WOODCHUCK KARMA


We once tried vegetable gardening, but a woodchuck ate most of our carrots and green beans and squash. He got so fat he couldn’t run, only slowly waddle.

We say “he” because of his size. Females are smaller, and possibly more into weight watching.

Woodchucks have western cousins—marmots and prairie dogs—but woodchucks are more eccentric, like old-time New England hill farmers.

For one thing, they’re loners. In early spring, males go roaming the woods, hoping for one-night stands. Otherwise, they’re commitment-phobic. They’re just not that much into each other. No wives, no husbands. They don’t even want friends.

Here’s the karma part. Read More 

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NEVER GET BELLIGERENT WITH A GOOSE




We greatly enjoy our animal neighbors, from black bears lumbering across the lawn to Blackburnian warblers up in the sugar maples, but we have our limit.

That limit is…Canada geese.

Yes, the Canada goose is handsome, grayish white with a black neck and head and a white chinstrap. Yes, they mate for life, a devoted couple, and kudos to them for that.

However…

They are large, and a bit thuggish. If the geese land on our pond, the wood ducks and mallards and hooded mergansers don’t come. Mr. and Mrs. Goose sail around our pond like the battleships of an occupying force.

They also leave a noxious mess on the lawn, nothing you want to accidentally step in.
Additionally, geese have a provocative attitude. Read More 

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THE LUCK OF TUX

Tux When We First Met Him




Tux, the Cardigan Welsh corgi, needed a new home, and that would be iffy.

It would be iffy because, despite being a little charmer, Tux was a little dickens. It also would be difficult because Tux lived with Pam, and she wouldn’t let him go just anywhere.

We first got to know Tux when he was still a puppy—we’d been visiting in Florida that winter and heard about a neighborhood couple with a new corgi. Joyce allows no nearby corgi to go unvisited, if she can help it, so we met Pam and Wayne, and it led to a warm friendship.

Pam and Wayne were Conchs, which is what Key Westers call themselves. They told us wonderful stories about Key West, back in the Hemingway days. They’d brought Tux into their home late in life because Wayne really wanted that dog. Tux turned out to be an imp, super smart, the Energizer Corgi, with a PhD in play and mischief. Read More 

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Christmas Murdock

Murdock and Casey share their Christmas


Our friend Eric Morse sent us this photo of Murdock, the unofficial east-coast dog-race champion, and his friend, Casey, the old cat.

Casey actually does regard Murdock as his best friend. Murdock, not so much. It's complicated.

No matter what, these two, with their Christmas tree and presents, radiate warmth and good will, just right for this season. In these stressful times, we can all use some of that.

So, we're sending out this image, to share with our readers.

Also, we think that Murdock, deep down, likes Casey a lot more than he lets on. Sometimes they snooze side-by-side, don't they?


--Joyce & Richard Read More 
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