Moose Scat

Now this is what I’m talking about, when it comes to really good scat identification technique.

I’ve never seen one, but I hear there are some bobcats in our area.  But there are lots of things I’ve never seen, which is good, because there’s always something new.

As to scat flavor, I think I’d prefer vegetarian pellets, such as this moose scat I found during a hike on April 30, 2013, scattered in several piles within a five minute walk.  Either there was one very prolific pooper on the route, or a whole family.

These are large pellets, roughly half the size of a walnut.  A few of them would be a mouthful for anybody.  I wasn’t hungry enough.  (Click on any picture to get even more up close and personal with these darlings.)

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Autumn Light and Color

Balsamea made a statement today.  She asked me to post it here.  Listen.


Going beech nuts

We have many beech trees (Fagus grandifolia) at Balsamea, and many red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) very happy about it.

Red Squirrel photo by Simon Pierre Barrette

Red Squirrel
Photo by Simon Pierre Barrette
under GNU Free Documentation License

One day I noticed one of our red squirrels tossing things out of one of our largest beech trees.  They were beech nut pods, inside which the tiny beech nut resides, inside which the tinier edible seed resides.  That seed is about the size of a pine nut.  There are two nuts in each pod, one seed in each nut.

I spent several hours spread out over a couple of weeks trying to figure out how to get into that hard inner shell. Nothing I found on the web helped. It made me wonder if the people writing about eating beech nuts ever opened one. Or maybe I’m just a lunkhead.

I tried crushing and soaking and boiling and roasting at various temperatures and durations. I tried chewing them in the shell. Think of chewing on a piece of 2×4. Maybe soaking them for a month would do it.

beech nut pod dry and opened on its own

Beech nut pod, dry and opened on its own, and seedless, the way the squirrels leave many of them.

Finally it came down to technique in how to split-peel it open on one of the three sides, for those that were eligible for opening. Eventually I learned to spot the ones that would open most readily. Then, about only a third of them had seeds in them.

If we say that twenty seeds is a mouthful (thinking about using these things as a source of nutrition), I suppose that with practice I could produce a mouthful per hour, if I first harvested a couple hundred pods, carefully selecting them for the right maturity.

I did try harvesting a dozen green pods that had not yet opened.  I forget now how long it took, but they did dry out and peel themselves open.  So, as food, you could harvest a barrel of them and spread them out to dry, under guard from wildlife.

Beech nuts

When the pods dry, they divide into four wedges that curl back, toward the stem base, away from the nuts.  It looks a bit like a flower.  From that point, the nuts either fall out or are easily picked out.

Given the labor involved, from harvesting to shelling, it is no wonder you never see them in the store. They’d cost a hundred bucks an ounce.

They have a nice flavor that seems to me something like walnut and almond combined.

Beech trees may grow for decades before producing pods, and a given tree may not produce them every year.

If somebody gives you a mouthful of beech seeds that they freshly harvested and shelled for you, know in your heart that they love you. Or they are just nutty above the neck.

Related article:
On The Beech ( – blog “postaldeliveries; Cumbrian Life)

Oh, Deer

English: A white-tailed deer

White-tailed deer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here at Balsamea we’ve always had lots of whitetail deer. I’ve seen them many times in the woods during our thrice-daily walks, a few times in the yard, on the road, and coming up and down the driveway. It seemed to me that our 19-acre patch of forest served as a popular route for them to go from the deep woods to the river, and to some apple trees across the road.

Now it seems we have our very own resident family of deer.

A few weeks ago while sauntering along one of our trails, Buddy was doing his usual sniffing and snooping everywhere, when suddenly a baby deer … not more than 25


Fawn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

pounds of it … let out a slightly blood-curdling wail as it scrambled out of a dense pile of sticks I made years ago when I opened that section of trail. Buddy was on the other side of the pile, backing out from where he had gone in to investigate. I think he was as surprised as the deer and I. The baby ran across the trail, directly perpendicular to my path, about three feet in front of me. It disappeared into the woods before I could say more than, “Buddy, stay here.”

He has been SO GOOD about obeying when I tell him not to chase. One day I tested him by letting him out the door when I saw three deer in front of the house. Buddy knows I don’t want him chasing the deer, so he now hesitates slightly before taking off. That hesitation is all I need for an opportunity to say, “Hey. You stay here.” And I don’t have to yell it or say it angrily. He just stays put, albeit a bit unhappily.

I don’t think he is “obeying” me. He is cooperating.

A few days ago we walked up on a big deer, standing in the trail not more than 75 feet away. When it bolted, oddly, it came toward us a bit, then turned. Buddy’s body went into that racing mode, but he stood still, pointing. I just said, “Good Buddy! You stay here.”

“What is it, Buddy?”

I am so lucky.

In warm weather, Buddy spends most of his time hanging out in the yard, supervising life out there.  I keep his bell collar on for the same reason he wears it when we are in the woods. It makes it so easy to keep track of his whereabouts. I can tell by the nature of the bell ring when he is standing still, moving slowly, trotting, or in a full run. When he runs, I also hear the pounding of his feet (I call him Thunder Paws), and if we are in the woods, there is also the crashing of sticks and leaves and brush.

This brings me to the second meeting with the fawn. Sitting in this very seat, I heard Thunder Paws launch like a rocket. As I looked out the window, I saw him flying about 20 feet behind the fawn, now bigger than in our first encounter. I ran out and blew the whistle. Buddy was back in less than a minute. (I carry the whistle on a lariat around my neck all the time. It is a 1000-foot audible leash. Having trained him to it for five years now, it is infallible.)

This morning I saw the fawn again. A beautiful deer came browsing up the driveway, munching away on maple leaves and some other things. It moved so slowly that I had time to get the camera and ease the door open for some pictures. (None of them came out any good. The lighting was against me.)

The deer was moving away, making it easy for me to slip out the door and step slowly toward it, continuing to shoot, trying to get that one picture worth keeping. Then I heard noise in the trees and there it was, the youngster, now about half-grown.

The bigger deer (presumably mother) hesitated a moment when she heard the fawn moving, then went back to eating. She looked right at me, but ignored me. So I kept advancing, shooting. I got within about 50-60 feet before I decided to try to get her to pick up her head and turn toward me for a shot, and maybe catch a shot of her bounding away. So I said softly, “Boo!” That did it.

Hawthorn – Before munched

It’s fun, and I always love to see any wildlife. However, beautiful and fun as they are, I have a bone to pick with these deer. They eat my baby trees.

I was so happy with a little hawthorn looking so healthy. Overnight, it was chomped down to nubs. Same with a certain maple I want to cultivate as it grows. They love the tender young leaves of several kinds of tree. This autumn I’ll fence off these trees that I want to conserve.

Hawthorn – after munch. Notice three stems bitten clean off.

It is a real problem, this tree-eating business. We have an overpopulation of deer. They eat so many young trees (seedlings, saplings) that they stunt the overall population of the things they like. This has an effect on the natural course of forest succession.

Alas, (does anybody say “alas” anymore?) as with invasive species and global warming and so many other things in life, the aberrant is now normal. The succession of the forest will be forever different now than it could have been if we had high-end predators controlling the deer population.

I’ve rambled on too long about this.

How about you? Any close encounters of the deer kind lately? Garden getting ransacked? What do you do about it?