Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Daily Coyote

I was in Borders with Obo the other day, and saw the most beautiful (well, they're all beautiful, but then I'm biased) coyote staring out at me from the cover of a book. Turns out it's a book called "The Daily Coyote", and of course I picked it up immediately and started reading... it's the story of an author and photographer (Shreve Stockton) in Wyoming who adopted a coyote pup to keep it from dying without it's parents (who were shot, incidentally, by her friend - who then gave her the pup; I find that slightly disturbing, but I haven't read the whole book yet and will try to withhold judgement for now). The book documents the author's life from pre-coyote (his name is Charlie) through their first year (I believe) together. It started out as a blog - http://www.dailycoyote.net/ - which is still up and running where she posts the most amazing photos of Charlie, and gives information and updates on their lives.

I am dead jealous. I can't imagine the challenges faced by trying to live with a wild animal - even one that you've raised yourself. I have enough knowledge and respect for wildlife that I can't say I would ever deliberately undertake such an effort (raising my four-year-old is enough of a challenge!). But I'm jealous nonetheless. I adore coyotes, and am moved by the photos and experiences Shreve Stockton shares in her book and on her blog.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Day 11 With No Power...

We're on day 11 following the ice storm, and still have no power. We spent our first two nights at a co-workers house in Framingham, and the third night up in Nashua with my in-laws. I found a friend of mine who had an available generator on Monday, and Obo trekked to Lowell to fetch it and hook it up to the house to get the furnace running.

So that's the way we've been living... heat and hot water thanks to the generator, and a few lights, but that's about it. Cooking needs to take place outside on our camp stove (a real pain in a snow storm, as Obo will tell you following Friday night), and our fridge still has the odor of spoiled food (despite a thorough cleaning - we're going to take bleach and baking soda to it this week) so we're not willing to use it yet, even if the power does come on.

With the twin snow storms this past weekend, we gave up and went back to Nashua on Saturday. We waited last night for the majority of the snow to abate, but that meant that we didn't get home until 8:30 PM. and had a 40 degree house to try and heat. Man, was it cold going to bed last night!! I've slept outside in 40 and even 30 degree weather, but don't exactly relish the feeling of camping in my own bedroom.

So we missed Yule last night due to the storm, but plan on doing a small celebration at home tonight. This is the most un-holiday-ish holiday season I can remember. We haven't done any x-mas shopping (cards are out of the question), and missed holiday events we had planned on attending with the Society of Elder Faiths last weekend. Blah. I'm looking forward to traveling to see my family over New Year's. Hopefully that will help us feel more like celebrating...

In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out what I haven't learned from our experiences so far (there has to be a silver lining there somewhere). Certainly one lesson I have learned is not to take anything for granted. As Obo said to me last week, these things always happen to 'somebody else'. Well, not this time. And a line from an article that I read in Pan Gaia magazine recently has stuck with me... something to the effect of whatever can happen, can happen to you (relative to planning for lean times). I certainly feel like we're there right now.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Surprising Damage from Ice Storm

Central MA (along with many other parts of New England) was hit with a massive ice storm yesterday afternoon, which lasted into this morning. Weather and local officials said it was the worst storm in at least 10, and some said even 30 years. As a transplanted New Yorker, it's definitely the worst storm I've ever seen. And the damage surrounding our house is phenomenal.

I was up all night last night listening to the gun-shot and thunder-rumbling sounds of tree limbs crashing to earth all around us. It was the most terrifying night I can remember. I was half-convinced that the pine next to our driveway was going to crash into the house. It didn't, thankfully (actually the house and both cars have escaped unscathed so far - there's still more limbs and power lines coming down, and hopefully that will continue). Poor Pandora was a nervous wreck, panting and pacing all around our bedroom. We finally gave up (she was keeping us awake, along with all the racket outside) and gated her downstairs, and she spent the remainder of the night sitting in front of the gate, knocking into it with her paws, and panting loudly. Needless to say, I didn't sleep at all last night.

We're without power, as is most (if not all) of our town, and driving down to work today was a hazard, with no traffic lights at major intersections, and trees limbs and power lines all over the place. We're trying to decide if we're going to try and stay at home tonight, or head elsewhere for a warmer night....

Monday, December 8, 2008

Wolves and the Ranching Way of Life

I just heard an interesting story on NPR regarding wolves and ranching. I’m a wolf advocate, so these stories particularly garner my interest. It started out by reminding us that the Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves are being de-listed (from the endangered species list) at the end of this year; a relief to ranchers who will be allowed to hunt them on (and off) their property. While I’m not in favor of de-listing these wolves yet (and although the science for doing so with this population is sound [this time], I vote with the argument for not de-listing until the species is appropriately recovered throughout it’s entire former range*) they didn’t focus on this statement. Rather they used it to segue way into the struggles that ranchers now have in order to make a living every year; a perspective I found refreshing.

The main point of the story being that wolf predation of cattle is the least of a rancher’s worries, even though the loss of just a few head of cattle can be thousands of dollars to an individual rancher. It was mentioned that wolves don’t even account for the majority of cattle takes in a given year – coyote and grizzly bear do. Unfortunately for wolves however, (and anyone familiar with reintroduction efforts of the species can tell you this) they become the scapegoat because so many people have a visceral reaction to them. They are seen by many who work the land as the ultimate predator that men (often the grandfathers and great-grandfathers of today’s ranchers) worked to eliminate from their lands completely. Sadly though, an ecological perspective – the importance of top-level predators in an ecosystem – is lost in the daily struggle to make a living. Not a perspective that I can’t understand, but I find it sad nonetheless. Isn’t the struggle to make a living and expand our way of life the argument which justified the deaths of so many Native Americans during the colonization and western expansion of our country?

The story went on to talk about the diminishing returns ranchers are seeing every year - making it harder for them to stay in business. And some ranchers are taking big money from developers to sell off their land, creating what could become a drastic change in the western landscape. The question was raised whether traditional ranching, or multi-million dollar tourist "ranches" and increasing development would become the future of the west. They wrapped up the story succinctly by stating that among all the woes facing ranchers, wolves are the one issue that they can “put in their crosshairs and pull the trigger on.”

*More on the argument for delaying wolf de-listing... Waiting until wolves are recovered throughout their former range (see this link from the US Fish and Wildlife service for a map) before de-listing has a sound scientific argument: a population potentially under threat (and yes, despite their strong numbers now, humans still can prove a threat to wolf populations - we've already shown this to be true by eradicating this once wide-spread species in the first place) wouldn't be an isolated one, and could [potentially] renew itself if necessary with individuals - and genes - from a more stable one. Additionally, some argue that recovering wolves in their entire former range, instead of saying that they're stable just "here", is truer to the spirit of the endangered species act.