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 sonâs scoped rifle, Herself laid it on the ground. A singularly startling sight it is to be watching a buck nonchalantly making itâs way across an open meadow, only to then see it seemingly faint, and from there, fall to earth; the report of Herselfâs rifle came a second of so after the beast had tumbled, giving an instant explanation as to the deerâs 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 animalâs neck; what Herself thought to be âsufferingâ 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, âsold for cash money when skint.â Once upon a time, and perhaps yet in secluded corners of the vast cold Northland, Native Americans called the snowshoe rabbit the âlittle medicine deerâ. 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 haresâ 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 oneâs 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, Eldridâs 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-lawsâ 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 âthe familyâ. 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 âadultsâ as hastily found ourselves trying to get them to smile at rabidly flashing cameras. Iâm 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 VIIIâs style rendition of âGreen Sleevesâ, to my own single-handed version of ZZ Topâs 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 âMe and Bobby McGeeâ 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 oneâs 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, âUseless each without the otherâ that catches my eye, and more often than I am willing to admit, bring tears to it.