Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Encounters of the Bear Kind

Posted by: Lynne

(I am still trying to play catch-up on  my older blog posts!)

We have bears up here but we rarely see them. Other people have reported sightings, and we've caught them on our game cameras that are down by the pond but seeing one around the cabin? No, only once that I can remember and that was years and years ago.

A couple of weeks ago we were driving into town when I spotted a black animal on a hillside. It moved and I said to Rick, that's a bear! It was just a small black bear and when he saw our vehicle he started to run. And let me tell you, that bear could run! 

He ended up running straight down the middle of the road in front of us before he veered off in sage and kept right on running. It was an unusual sight for sure.

The very next morning I got up and opened the curtains, checking out the meadow before I let the dogs out. To my great surprise I saw a bear with two cubs in our yard. I think I casually said to Rick, oh there's a bear in our yard! I guess I was kind of casual about it because it was a very common sight in New Jersey where we lived to see bears in the yard. She looke pretty comfy with the bird feeder pulled to the ground and was munching happily away on bird seed.

One cub was sticking pretty close to mamma, while the other little cub was a bit more brave. I don't think this is the first time this crew has visited since one other time when we were gone for a few days we came home to having the bird feeding station askew (instead of on the ground like this time) and the bird waterer base was unscrewed from the top and on the other side of the fence. As you can see in the pics below, junior is having a great time batting that very same waterer around! Maybe it's really a bear toy?

He was just having a great time using our fence as a balance beam.

I think I'll just walk along here for a little ways ....

Maybe I"ll just kind of sit here for awhile ...

We watched all the silly antics for awhile, just because watching cubs play is so darned cute. They are such little kids! And so smart as well. But, enough was enough and we don't want them feeling comfortable hanging out in our fenced yard, so Rick got the rifle out and went outside to fire it off over their heads to scare them away. I laughed myself silly at the little cub's reaction to Rick coming out of the house.

Whoa, mom ... what the heck is that big white thing?

Time to leave!

And over the fence they went. Well, almost all of them anyway. The littlest cub could not figure out how to get over the fence and was pitifully mewling for mamma, who was by then all the way to the edge of the Ewok Forest, running back and forth next to the fence line. Mamma looked as if she was thinking about coming back for it and I was also just about to go out and open the gate for the poor little thing when it finally figured it out and climbed over and went lickety-split to mamma.

You were adorable bear family but we'd rather you didn't come back for a repeat visit anytime soon!

Monday, September 04, 2017

WANTED: The couple that poached wood from our property

Posted by: Lynne

I can't quite believe it, but while we were gone for the day yesterday, September 3rd, our neighbor caught someone cutting wood from our property. He did not challenge them because he said they kind of acted like they belonged and thought maybe we had given someone permission to cut. Uhm, NO. When he came back a little later they had gone. He said the wood was piled four feet high in the back of their pickup. I think they owe us for a cord of wood.

This is very upsetting to say the least. We don't know who they were but we have a pretty good description of them and their truck (full description follows). Late last year we closed off the road to the public (with permission) that travels back through our land and on back to only three other property owners where the road dead ends. We put up a sturdy rope with a clip (no lock) and Private Property/No Trespassing signs on either side. These people undid the rope, passed through and put the rope back up again. Maybe they are illiterate? Maybe they just don't know that you just don't do those kinds of things?

So, the man was 6' about 250 lbs, 50+ years of age with a long white beard. The woman with him was roughly the same age, blonde hair. They were driving a Dodge dooley pickup, silver/gray/blue: no license plate number since the tailgate was down and he couldn't see one. He said he's seen the man around at HOA meetings cutting wood on BLM land that borders our properties. He has also been known to wear a black sailor's cap.

If this description matches anyone you know in Sand Creek Park please let us know. We did make file a crime report with the Larmier County Sheriff's office.

Who knows, they might be doing illegal things on your land in the near future!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Unexpected Demise of a Pack Rat

Posted by: Lynne

Ah, pack rat season has begun. Last week there was a little "gift" left for us by the door on the back deck. It always starts this way. A little leaf, a chewed-off flower or maybe a pine cone or some other treasured little piece of pack rat paraphernalia. Sometimes the gifts change daily, almost always artfully arranged. Also artfully arranged is the beginning of a nest under the hood of our vehicles. 

Although extremely cute, they are nasty little beggars and stink to high heaven. They also chew through wires under the hood and once we even had one get tangled up in the serpentine belt of our Surburban, kiling the rat and throwing the belt right off. And trust me, the truck doesn't go anywhere without it. In short, they are a nuisance. And, every year at this time of the year it's the same old routine as the rats prepare to bed down for the coming winter.

So, we've been setting the no-kill trap evey night, baiting it with pupperoni dog treats because they smell so much. Each night the bait is taken, but the trap is not tripped. Last night while laying in bed I thought I heard the clang! of the trap springing shut. This morning, sure enough, there was the pack rat in the trap. (The bait this time was an apple slice.) He was not very happy. For some reason I just couldn't feel sorry for him.

We loaded him up in the Ranger and drove off to find a spot in which to release him. We stopped, pulled over to the side of the road, opened the trap and released him. Instead of running for the wide open meadow the stupid creature tried to run over my feet and promptly ran right under the Ranger. It did not come out the other side. sigh. There aren't too many places underneath the Ranger where he could hide, but we didn't see him. We knew he was there and we sure didn't want to drive him right back home with us, so we went for a ride hoping to lose him along the way.

I told Rick he should step on the brakes really hard and maybe that would jar him loose. He did so and we immediatley smelled the stench of pack rat. Rick said, well I guess we at least mananged to make him pee himself ... but we didn't see him anywhere behind us. We drove around for a little while, jamming on the brakes here and there but to no avail as far as we could tell. We took the bumpiest way home we could think of. Still nothing.

When we got home I got out of the Ranger and could smell pack rat stench. I looked down at the right front tire and saw bits and pieces of what used to be the pack rat lodged in the wheel. So that was where the critter was hiding! When Rick washed the wheel out he found the remains of the rat almost intact. Sorry, rat, we tried our best to save you but you had to be a smarty-pants.

So much for our no-kill trap.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Moose Walk

Posted by: Lynne

We went for a walk the other day to collect the game camera cards and change them out. As we were walking past the part of the trail through the forest that gives a glimpse of the bog, Rick happened to glance over and said in a hushed voice, moose, a cow. I looked over and sure enough there she was, at nearly noon laying down and taking a nap. You can see her through the branches in the above photo. She wasn't too disturbed by us, but she did rise to her feet.

And, look whose head popped up when she did — baby girl moose! Silly me, I should have realized it was mamma and baby as they like to hang out around our area. Now we really had to cautious. It made me a little nervous being on foot. Thank goodness we didn't have the dogs with us like we usually do, but Destin had just had a bath and Bella was still not ready for a long walk even though she is well on the way to recovery from her nasty bout with kennel cough. 

It was difficult to get a good shot of them through all the branches because the camera wanted to focus on the branches instead of them.

We debated about whether or not to make the circle trip to retrieve the rest of the camera cards since our route would take us right past them again, only a little closer on the other side of the bog. We decided to chance it. As we grew closer to the bog we walked as quietly as we could. When we saw them, mamma saw us too. She lifted her big head and pointed her nose right at us, nostrils flaring while she took her measure of us. Baby Girl Moose meanwhile had run into the denser willows to hide. I was basically holding my breath, but mamma was not concerned with us much and went back to stripping willow leaves.

To take these photos I just had my normal lens on (18-135mm) so we were pretty darned close. I'm sure she was keeping an eye on us even though she appeared to be pretty nonplussed, but as long as we kept going and did nothing threatening she was just going to carry on eating.

I am may be anthropomorphizing here, but we think she knows our scent since she frequents our cabin and the whole area surrounding it. In a sense, she knows us. Maybe she has even gained a bit of trust in us. Not that we trust her all that much ...

She's a very big moose. Even bigger when you are standing near her!

Since that day she's been around the cabin quite a bit. The same night that we had seen them on the walk we let the dogs out for their final duties around 8:15, and we did not see her and baby girl standing by the salt lick. But Destin did and he started barking and doing his jumping-on-hind-legs jig at the edge of the fence. She just stood there and looked at him. (Thank goodness for the fence.) I went out to get him and chased him around the yard some before he decided to go in. The moose did not budge.

Last night around the same time I got up to close the curtains and looked out into the meadow. There they were again. Mamma at one mineral lick and Baby Girl at the other.  We watched them for a while from the porch and could even hear them licking and smacking. Once it got dark Rick went out with the flashlight and could not see them so we let the dogs out. Turns out, they were both there in the aspen forest and Destin started to bark. They just stood there and Destin said oh what the heck, and stopped barking. No big deal. Just the moose again. It would be great if he got used to them being around and didn't bark at them. 

Now that we know she's here a lot of the time we need to take extra precautions when we go for walks. (Destin always wears a bear bell when we have him off-lead.)

Note: By the way we know it's a baby girl moose because all female moose have a white anal patch just under the tail.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Thermal Runaway

Posted by: Rick

You may remember from earlier posts, that we have a small shed across the driveway from the cabin where we keep our winter provisions. It has a chest freezer for meat. A second propane refrigerator for overflow from the one inside. And, this summer we installed a propane dryer for drying clothes. I worked, last summer, to get the shed insulated and critter proof, with plenty of shelves for storage. This article talks about the provisioning step.

The shed worked well throughout the winter. The heat from the propane refrigerator and full insulation helped keep it warm. Yes, there were a few times when it got very cold outside that we had a few items freeze. So, this winter, only "dry" goods and other items that can be frozen will be stored there. It would be nice to have some source of heat just for those cold days. After all, the freezer and refrigerator tend not to run when the ambient temperature is that cold, so generate no heat to warm the shed.

We have the opposite problem in summer. Even with all the insulation, the inside of the shed gets warm. Sometimes very warm. That causes the refrigerator and freezer to run more. And, the more they run, the warmer the inside of the shed becomes. And, the warmer it becomes the more they run! Thermal runaway results! We don't use the fridge for much in the summer, so I could just turn it off. But, we do use it for beer and wine.

To fix this issue (somewhat), I purchased a solar powered attic fan. It consists of a 70 watt solar panel that powers a 12 volt fan mounted in a 12" diameter housing. I replaced one of the passive vents in the shed with the fan. When the sun is shining (and likely warming the inside of the shed), the fan comes on. The fan speed varies with the intensity of the sun. The fan then pulls air through the shed, blowing the warm air outside and pulling cooler, ambient air inside.

70 watt solar panel that powers the fan.

The fan from the inside of the shed.

The fan vent cover from the outside along with the wires from the solar panel.

I haven't permanently mounted the solar panel yet. It just sits horizontal to the ground on the stack of snow tracks for the Polaris Ranger. It gets sun from first thing in the morning until late afternoon. The fan makes some noise, but I'm pretty happy with the situation. I can just unplug it for winter.

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