The News from Wolf Cairn Moor 11_06

Discussion in 'Countryside Families' started by Haggis, Dec 18, 2006.

  1. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    By Northern Minnesota standards, the weather was extremely warm for November; plenty warm for our annual deer hunting endeavors, and warm enough to make us forget that winter can come down with all the tenderness of a mightily swung hammer on those would are not winter ready; and despite our 12 year residence on the Iron Range, we are never winter ready. Herself did manage to bag a fine buck for our freezer. The school is well under way for Herself and the Grand-Bairns, and the lot of them seem to be surviving the experience with incredible ease. Meanwhile crofter Haggis continues his daily routine of feeding, watering, or generally tending after the homestead animals, all the while searching for the free time to jot down a line or two concerning these activities.

    Bear season, as aforementioned ended on a melancholy, though strangely oxymoronic note, with a single sighting of a bear, but no shot, and therefore no bear beef for the winter larder. I did, however, get to spend many hours afield and was given the rare opportunity to be the lone witness to the ramblings of one very wild bear, and at incredibly close range. There will be other years, and others bears, and I will console myself in the knowledge that there are situations in which both sides of this exciting and slightly dangerous game may walk away winners.

    Deer season has ended much the same for me, the only deer I actually saw was at too great a distance for me to shoot, but, while I watched, through my good son’s scoped rifle, Herself laid it on the ground. A singularly startling sight it is to be watching a buck nonchalantly making it’s way across an open meadow, only to then see it seemingly faint, and from there, fall to earth; the report of Herself’s rifle came a second of so after the beast had tumbled, giving an instant explanation as to the deer’s sudden desire to lie in the tall grass. Within a minute or two she was standing over the creature and gave it a finishing shot; she could see what I could not, the deer seemed to be suffering, and Herself would not and will not have that on her conscious, nor will she knowingly, for the sake of the animal, allow it to suffer. In dressing the buck it became obvious that a second shot was not needed, as the first shot had broken the animal’s neck; what Herself thought to be “suffering” was merely the same nerve responses any crofter witnesses in the dispatching of a farmyard chicken or hog.

    One fears the old Haggis of Wolf Cairn Moor will needs be to harvest his undomesticated beef a couple of pounds at a time, by way of snared snowshoe rabbits, or more correctly, Varying Hares, which, by the by, abound in their scores, in the dozens of acres in the Diamond Willow labyrinth bordering southern edge of our cow paddocks, and in the many thousands of uninhabited acres to the south of our croft. It is easy to check 2 or 3 dozen rabbit snares before I milk in the morning, and then spend a few minutes dressing the catch after milking. It will take a long time to balance the scales between what should have been 70 or 80 pounds of bear beef, and another 120 to 150 pounds of venison from two deer, when one is paying the deficit in 2 pound hares. I will console myself with the knowledge that archery season for deer is yet in, and the season for snaring hares runs for many months. Snowshoe hares are much cheaper to feed and far easier to water than my home raised rabbits, then too, while snaring hares, one catches a few foxes, coyotes, fisher, and bobcats which may be, “sold for cash money when skint.”

    Once upon a time, and perhaps yet in secluded corners of the vast cold Northland, Native Americans called the snowshoe rabbit the “little medicine deer”. Rabbits were nearly always plentiful, even when deer or other large game was not, and snaring rabbits was far easier and more certain in success than hunting larger game, even children can now, as they did then, run a line of snares, many children could run many lines, with each picking up a rabbit or two a day; this latter situation has not changed even unto today. If a full belly was at issue, the snaring of rabbits was then, as it is now, a far surer means of filling empty cooking pots, and empty stomachs. On the morning of this writing I was showing Herself that the hares’ brown coats of two weeks ago, are now white peppered in brown. Perhaps in two weeks more they will be their characteristic white with black tipped ears.

    On the Saturday before the Sunday end of our 16 day gun season for deer, I conceded defeat in my gun hunting for deer, and my good son and I dispatched a well fatted hog for our freezer; it being evident that space left for bear and deer would not be used, and our skillets would be in want of greasing despite my failures, or the begrudged successes of wily unwilling critters, depending on one’s point of view. We had birthday parties scheduled for that same Sunday, and I knew the children would be over and could help us wrap meat; besides, we had killed, as aforementioned in the October letter, a hog for each of the children, so they were owing of us the labor for the processing of their own pork.

    Colin is now 8 and wee Eldrid is 1. Emily is out of hospital, for now, so she will be able to come to the croft for the festivities. Daughter #4, Eldrid’s Auntie/Mommie, related to us the most remarkable and heartwarming account of her in-laws and their view of Eldrid; the in-laws introduce the child as their newest Grandson, and have even had a separate birthday party for him in their home. Truly, Eldrid will be as much a member of our son-in-laws’ family, as this eternally smiling baby is of ours.

    It is wonderful when the whole family is together celebrating or just working as one, there are babies near about everywhere, and each of them enjoying their own emotional experience ranging from crying for some unknown reason, to laughing at something humorous, if only to them. Their parents, our children, carry on a half dozen different conversations with each try to catch everyone up to the current state in with which they individually are in their secret lives, away from “the family”. Herself frantically tries to put a smile on the face of every Grand-Bairn, and takes part in all of the conversations, while snapping photos of us one and all. During this particular birthday celebration the two babies: Eldrid and Aidin quickly besmeared themselves from the tips of their noses to the backs of their heads with cake and frosting, as babies are predisposed to do, and we “adults” as hastily found ourselves trying to get them to smile at rabidly flashing cameras. I’m not sure which are the most entertaining, the bairns, or their elders.

    It is typical for the very small children and some of the adult children to have a craving for a caleigh, or at least for me to play my guitar, the fiddle, or pipes, everything from a Henry VIII’s style rendition of “Green Sleeves”, to my own single-handed version of ZZ Top’s Greatest Hits, on resonator guitar to a variety of marches, jigs, and reels on the pipes, the adult children try to remember the words and the babies just dance; they dance in their own fashion, a beautiful baby dance, unfettered by the culturally contagious shyness that is sure to come later; they dance for the pure joy of the music. When our children were small I also played the fiddle or banjo for them, and they too danced, later I played bag pipes or piano for them and their reactions were far more reserved, now some of them can look back on well over thirty years of listening to Daddy playing music just for their ears.

    Thirty-five years ago, on the week-end Herself and I first met, I played “Me and Bobby McGee” for her. It seems that not much has changed, as most evenings, after she has spent her day teaching English, and another hour or two cooking or tidying the messes I make in our cottage, she will stretch out on the living room couch, before a crackling fire in our glass-fronted wood stove, to warm herself through and drowsily listen to my guitar strumming; one does not drowsily listen to the pipes in one’s living room. As we each grow older, our steps slow, and our hair grays, we each privately shudder in horror while pondering to ourselves, which shall come to pass first, the loss of the guitar strumming piper, or the patient listener? Once there was a wonderful poet who summed the whole of it in a single though somewhat dated and more than a wee bit politically incorrect verse in his Song of Hiawatha,

    "As unto the bow the cord is,
    So unto the man is woman;
    Though she bends him, she obeys him,
    Though she draws him, yet she follows;
    Useless each without the other!"

    It is this, “Useless each without the other” that catches my eye, and more often than I am willing to admit, bring tears to it.
     
  2. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    After the clan had departed for their various homes and hearths, I took advantage of the remaining sun, and my quickened spirit, for what might be the last of the season ride on my cobalt blue Harley, Sultana. There was snow and ice on the road in some places and it was more than a tad chilly, but I wore my knitted cap, and didn’t ride too awfully fast. I did receive no few surprised looks from those in heated autos going in the opposite direction, but no matter, I wasn’t out there for them to see, I was out there to feel alive, and enjoy the remains of the day, in my own way.

    Daughter #1 seems to be getting weaker every day and was back in hospital this month, for over a week, with extremely high blood pressure, perhaps the Docs will remove her kidneys this time as the nonfunctioning kidneys are suspect as the cause for the dangerously high numbers of her blood pressure. I never realized there were so many kinds of tears until Daughter #1 became ill. There are tears of pain, tears of fear, tears of dread, tears of relief, tears of disbelief, tears for one’s self, tears for the grief of others, tears of thanks, tears for what is, tears for what may be, tears of weariness, tears for each other, tears for those who have prayed with us, tears for those who have worked with us, tears for Daughter’s children, tears for what will become of Daughter’s children, tears for Daughter not having her children with her, tears for Daughter not seeing them grow, tears for the children not having their Mother, now or perhaps ever, and there are tears from somewhere deep in the soul, tears from the wellsprings of the heart, and uncontrollable tears from somewhere inside us that cannot be named, and as I write this there are tears. I’m supposed to be too manly, too old, and too curmudgeonly for tears, but I cannot help it, and I’m not ashamed or embarrassed. There are at last, tears for dear Daughter who must suffer this pain alone, now matter that we all pray for her and stand by her, the journey is hers alone, and I cannot begin to imagine how she must feel for herself, for her children, for us, or for all who have come to love her.

    Thanksgiving was a wondrous event, all of the children were in presence; a situation on which we cannot lately depend; given the events of this last year.

    Herself and I took it upon ourselves to kill Christmas, or rather to harvest the bronze turkey we had dubbed Christmas, it being the largest between our two turkeys: Thanksgiving, a hen, and Christmas a tom, a tom; we now plan to have Thanksgiving for Christmas. Christmas weighed 28 pounds when oven ready and without the benefit of stuffing; he was a large bird indeed. We had no scale on which to weigh the gobbler, so Herself mounted the bathroom scales, found her weight, and remounted the scales with the dressed bird. The difference between the two weights, one of which I, upon threat of prolonged physical harm to my person, am forbidden to reveal, ever, was 28 pounds. Herself carried the bird to Daughter #4’s new home for roasting, the family having made plans to dine there, and set the gentleman in the oven some 8 hours prior to meal at which he was to be guest of honor.

    Family members began drifting into Daughter’s home by noon, though the meal was scheduled for 3 in the afternoon, but no matter, we are a family, and the ceremony of punctuality normally associated with such formal affairs have a way of becoming irrelevant with family.

    I have mentioned in earlier letters this summer of my strictly controlled regiment concerning certain foods, the result of which was the loss of nearly 100 pounds in just 6 months, but the stringently adhered to list of food types of which I willingly partake was torn asunder, and discarded on this day. There were homemade breads, cakes, many kinds of pies, varieties of stuffing’s, homemade cranberry sauce, and of course the 28 pounds turkey. I ate some of everything, and a full piece of every kind of pie; an amount in and of its self equal quantity to any one pie; all eyes were upon me for fear I would burst, but I survived to tell the tale.

    One is at a proverbial loss for words to describe the laughter of my children and their children as they feasted upon the bounty collected before us, and all the while seated upon every flat surface in Daughter #4’s home; the tables being filled with Grand-Darlings, we older folks held our plates in our laps; though I took notice of no less flavor in the victuals, nor a lack of camaraderie in our cordial company for the want of a communal board.

    Christmas did us proud, with the half of his exceptionally large breast feeding the lot of us, the children parted out his remains to be taken to their homes for turkey sandwiches or midnight snacks. Daughter #4’s better half took a tremendous quantity of Christmas with him when he departed the following day in his big semi-truck. Son-in-law being a large man, and “no mean trencher mate”; it might be added here that he also carried along a pie and a half.

    We have had our Jerseys: Lucy the old cow, and Tulip the first calf heifer, artificially inseminated by a local farmer who sidelines in the trade; we are all in hopes for September calves next fall. September calves translate to summers free from milking for us and perhaps a chance to visit distant and aging family members during fair weather. As I have aforementioned, little Tulip has only been milked once a day during this, her first lactation, and she is holding steady at just under 2 ½ gallons of milk each day. Next year, when the Grand-Bairns are older, and larger, and hungrier, the additional milk produced by Lucy will be sorely needed.

    The AI guy gave us a young bull calf by way of a gift, a half Holstein and half Jersey bull calf. We have not named the little fellow, though I have taken to calling him “Half-Pint”. By next December he ought to weigh in the neighborhood of 1000 pounds, at which time he will generously “volunteer” to fill space in the families many freezers. He doesn’t eat much just now, a 3 pound scoop of grain once a day, and a ¼ bale of hay, but in a short while, he will in want of more. He was a wild calf when he came here, and though Herself admonished me in no uncertain terms to not make a pet of him, the little man fairly dances when he sees me coming, and licks me on my face and hands at every opportunity. He tries to kick or head but everyone else. The family as a whole are taking bets as to whether I will be willingly part with him next winter after making a pet of him, but I am determined to follow through on converting him to beef; the children are winking and nodding at each other despite my stated determination. But then, he would make a handsome yoke mate for Vercingétorix II, and he is learning to lead well???

    So it goes at Wolf Cairn Moor.
     

  3. Tracy Rimmer

    Tracy Rimmer CF, Classroom & Books Mod Supporter

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    Haggis -- your posts are always so beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Give Herself and the rest of your wonderful family my best Christmas wishes -- may your and yours find peace and joy this holiday season.
     
  4. Jen H

    Jen H Well-Known Member

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    As always, Haggis, thank you for your wonderful words.
     
  5. Alice In TX/MO

    Alice In TX/MO More dharma, less drama. Supporter

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    Thank you, Haggis, for your beautiful words. The paragraph on tears will become part of my collection of the wisdom of others. You are a blessing to this board.
     
  6. midwsthomestead

    midwsthomestead joy seeker

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    Perfectly exquisitely lovely, thank you and happy holidays.

    ~~
     
  7. Melissa

    Melissa member

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    Thank you Haggis, you make the ordinary, extraordinary; a reminder to us all.
     
  8. crashy

    crashy chickaholic goddess

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    I love how your writing skills puts us right in the life of Haggis I am forever amazed by your writing talent. I thank ya kindly.
     
  9. MarleneS

    MarleneS Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Haggis for taking the time to so wonderfully update your Homesteading friends on the goings on of your part of our planet. If only we could all have the family you so beautifully share with us so freely. Hugs to each and everyone of them and yourself.

    Marlene
     
  10. SeptemberWolf

    SeptemberWolf Well-Known Member

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    Hi - I've been following your updates on Emily, and have had no way of telling her in person that I'm praying for her and thinking of her. Could you please convey to Emily that the person she shared many things with, at Pine Mill, who is a friend of Neil's, who came down on Wednesdays, who visited her, who did Reiki for her ... always has her in her thoughts.
    Blessings to you at this wonderful time of year; my thoughts and prayers to you and your family.
     
  11. largentdepoche

    largentdepoche Well-Known Member

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  12. ginnie5

    ginnie5 wife,mom,taxi driver,cook Supporter

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    I just love reading your posts! Please tell Emily we are still praying for her.