Monday, November 14, 2011

Hanging Deer

It's that time of year again. Deer hunting season means that the deer have to be "dressed" and hung from trees or rafters to age the meat. This image - a deer dangling from a rope - has always made me uncomfortable, despite having grown up the loyal daughter of an avid hunter. I very much believe that proper conservation of wildlife includes carefully regulated hunting even though I personally could never shoot a deer or rabbit or even bird. If I am uncomfortable with the sight of hanging deer, I can only imagine how much it must enrage those who are against hunting, further fueling their hatred for those who harvest animals for human use.

Why do the deer get hung from trees after being dressed, anyway? Apparently it is to age the meat and let chemistry do it's thing. I found an excellent article from Field & Stream which succinctly explained why. Here is an excerpt:

Proper aging begins as soon as rigor mortis ends-and this process is definitely not controlled rot. Rot is zillions of bacteria eating the muscle cells, their waste products creating the familiar stench of decaying flesh. Bacteria attack only after meat is exposed to the air, and bacterial rot is accelerated by higher temperatures. It doesn't happen at all if the meat is frozen. To properly age your deer, you must keep it at temperatures above freezing and below about 40 degrees. This holds bacteria (and rot) at bay, allowing natural enzymes to do their work.

So hanging a deer before butchering is necessary, but do all of us have to see it? You may be proud of your success, but please show some respect for the animal that has given it's life for you and hang it in privacy -- at least your BACK yard, not right out by the road. It amazes me that people also photograph these hanging deer -- it looks violent and ugly and reminds me of a lynching. I understand photographing your deer, but hold it's head up to show the beauty and dignity of the animal that will be feeding your family this winter. 

In my opinion, human beings are a part of nature and the circle of life, but we must use our power and our position at the top of the food chain thoughtfully and with respect for the rest of nature. 

random internet photo of hanging deer

random internet photo of a deer that looks a bit more dignified

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November Morning Goats

A warm early November morning, and the goats are happily munching on their hay in the sunshine. They are so content ...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Apollo's Rough Morning

'Beautiful day. What to do, what to do?

I just had an entire can of wet food, so now I'm craving veggies ...

... mmmm, grass!

Mom? What's this? Wait - does this make my nose look big??

Let's be clear: I do not have fleas. I simply have an itch.

It's been fun, but I have hunting to do. Catch ya later.

Fall Pond

Fall means time for the fish to go to "bed" for the winter. People are always amazed to learn that the koi and comets remain in the pond all winter long without food until spring when the ice melts and the water warms up. As long as your pond is deep enough to not freeze all the way to the bottom, your fish will sleep away the winter months, requiring little care during that time. Keeping them healthy requires a only few key components.

1. Netting ~ Covering the pond with a fine net keeps out most of the leaves and debris which if allowed to settle in the water will change the balance of your pond, so the net goes on as soon as any leaves start to fall. Through experience I have learned that crisscrossing a few 2x4s will keep the net elevated above the water surface even if some leaves, ice and snow settle on it.

2. Food ~ Once the water temperature begins to drop, it is time to switch the fish food to a fall/spring blend which is formulated for cold water feeding. They get fed less and less often, and eventually the feedings stop entirely. I put a thermometer in the pond to keep track of the temperature, but I have found that the level of fish activity is an excellent indicator. As it gets colder, they become less active and they swim more slowly. Instead of leaving wakes as they race to beg for food, they approach more slowly, looking like they really. want. to. eat. but. are. having. diffficulltyyy reachiiiiing meeeeeeeee. Once it get's really cold, they stop coming over and just sort of hang out at the bottom, moving very slowly, if at all.

3. Running Water ~ It is imperative that a hole in the ice is maintained throughout the winter, and this can be the most challenging part of keeping a healthy pond during the blustery winter months. I remove my powerful pump and I drain the external filter, putting both away in the garage. Then I hook up a smaller pump and my Pondmaster low-profile filter, minus the fuzzy stuff that goes inside. Since the algae has ceased growing there's no need for the fine mesh, but the large debris is still blocked. I attach a piece of rubber hose that is then hooked up and over one of the 2x4s so that the water is running continually. This works like a miracle. There are times the pond is completely encased in snow drifts, and the temperature goes down to 0F, and I can still hear the water running underneath it all. The small splashes of water create an ice cone going down to and connecting with the surface ice on the pond, keeping the snow out. The first winter I tried using a little donut-shaped heater that is designed to keep a hole melted and open, but snow would blow in the middle and it would freeze up. My girlfriend who has a pond suggests using a pot of boiling water and setting it on the surface to gently melt a hole, if necessary, but I have never tried it. REALLY IMPORTANT: never ever chip away at the ice because the sound waves can hurt your fish friends that are trying to sleep.

I am not an expert by any means, but I have also never lost a fish to the changing seasons. I suggest you research many of the educational sites available on line, and then through trial and error find out what works best for you and your pond.

Here are a few views of the winterized pond ... 
... the water is running through the hose that is up and over a board ....

... the these boards keep the net elevated regardless of leaves and snow which land on top.

The fall pond garden is as pretty as the summer version, in my opinion.

The Japanese Maple turns a brilliant orangey color, and drops its leaves fairy late in the season.

How can you not love Sedum this time of year? The way the sun was hitting this it looks illuminated from within.