Sunday, April 17, 2011

Going Wild

Okay, after some research and looking at pictures, what I saw was indeed a pig. It was rather smaller than the animal that puts the B in your BLT, but it was female (no tusks), may have been a juvenile, and anyway feral pigs come in various sizes but are often small. They come in various colors but the gray coat is accepted style. The problem is that Connecticut is one of the few states in which they have not been reported. Either this one didn't get the memo, or it was somebody's pet that wandered off. Its indifference to my presence would argue for the latter. I hope so, because they can do a lot of damage.

I can think of three other Old World mammals that Europeans have unintentionally introduced to the wild in North America. Horses don't cause a lot of problems because they pretty much occupy the niche vacated by the slaughtered bison, and the federal government limits their numbers -- to the bizarre objections of some people.

Then there are rats. They seem to limit themselves to human cities, and so only bother humans. Their ancestors must have had some other niche, but whatever it was, they don't seem interested in it nowadays.

Finally, and this sad to say is the biggest problem of all, there are the feral cats. Cat lovers, and there are many, don't like to hear a word against them, but as Maryann Mott tells us in the linked article, it is estimated that feral cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, and more than a billion small mammals such as chipmunks, every year. They never existed in the Americas until Europeans started losing their pets. Domestic cats have not changed much since they started using cute fuzziness to freeload on humans, so they revert to the wild very easily.

Cat loving activists try to deal with the problem by sterilization, but that seems to me like sweeping the beach. There probably isn't much that can be done beyond targeting specific colonies that are readily accessible. This is one more reminder of the collateral damage we do with purely innocent intent.

The new photo in the banner recognizes the change of season.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What in tarnation?

I saw a critter yesterday morning that I've never seen before and still can't identify. I was standing in my field fairly early in the morning, around 8:30, when it came strolling along. It was pretty big -- let's say terrier sized, but with a much fatter body. Call it pig like. It had a ragged, unattractive gray coat, like a giant rat, and a bright pink nose. The snout had a flat end, also pig like.

It had absolutely no fear of me. As it drew even, about 30 feet away, it turned its head to regard me and sniffed two or three times. Then it continued on its leisurely way. It had small eyes and I had the impression, possibly incorrect, that it didn't see well.

I have checked out several guides to North American wildlife and I can find nothing like it.

In other news, I got a donation of a truckload of chicken shit from a local farmer. Unloading it was a chore, to say the least, not to mention cleaning up my truck and my person thereafter, but I'm looking forward to a jumping garden. Assuming the alien beast doesn't eat it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Changes in the Land

Some of you city slickers who see this may figure I'm pretty well set for next winter. I wish. This is a decent start, but half of this still needs to be split and it all needs to be put away in the woodshed, which, oh yeah, doesn't even exist yet. (Click to enlarge; click twice for the really big view.)

The source of most of what you see here is my neighbor, who is selling off some building lots (alas). He knows about this blog now so he might even read this. (Yo, Henry!) I'm helping us both out by removing whatever of the debris from road and lot clearing is suitable to be consumed one day by a Vermont Castings Defiant Parlor Furnace. Ultimately, if I keep at it and work hard enough, there's enough there for me to get three or four years ahead, easily. And I still have at least three or four cords worth down on my own property.

Now's the time -- the voice of the chainsaw is heard throughout the land.

But ... Henry and I were talking with his logger yesterday, and it seems since the price of fossil fuels started in a general upward direction a few years ago the firewood market has taken off. It is now basically impossible to buy two-year wood; the sheds have been emptied. One year wood is all you can get. For those of you who don't know the art of wood burning, you can call wood "seasoned" that's only a year old but it takes two years for it to get optimally dry, and that used to be the standard.

So, what does this mean? Maybe it's not so good. As I have discussed here before, the Europeans cleared the New England forest not so much to make way for field and pasture, or for timber, but for fuel. In commercial quantities, that mostly means charcoal. It was the coming of the fossil fuel era that allowed the forest to grow back.

Firewood around here right now mostly comes from land that is cleared for other purposes, as in my current case; and from sustainable harvest in well-managed private holdings, public forests and private watersheds, (which I used to participate in with my father on New Haven Water Company property), often as a byproduct of logging. Land owners generally know enough not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

But right now, we're flat out. There is no more to be had. That means, presumably, that the price will be going up, and the temptation to fell more trees will grow. This is one more inconvenient truth about the Long Emergency we may have to confront.