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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - December 4

Pine Marten photo by Fran Smith
Pine Marten photo by Fran Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
December 4, 2020    

The territory has rounded the corner into the concluding chapter of a sad and difficult 2020. It is hoped the usual tidings of December cheer can revive some smiles to a grim America.          
Apparently our winter expedition is still being put together. With just a couple weeks remaining until the Solstice, month eleven departed as one of the warmer November’s I can remember.                                                                                                                                                       
Not only have temps been mild, the upper Gunflint is in the midst of a continuing drought, dating back into the summer. With several days of leaden clouds looking like snow, only a couple inches have been added in this neighborhood to cover the brown patches mentioned last week, and that is about it, weather wise.                                                                        

To confirm, the unusual November warmth, I have not enjoyed the ambiance of our wood burning stove since late October, just relying on commercial made heat.                         

Meanwhile, a few nights in the past week have cooled enough to crank up the Zamboni. A few smaller lakes have frozen, thawed, frozen again over the past thirty days and are now slushy to thin.                                                                                                                                                     

In regard to the larger lakes, I did see Poplar Lake has taken on its’ winter coat. In the meantime, Gunflint, North, Seagull and Saganaga were trying on their winter wear earlier this week. However, another blast of warmth and southerlies saw them slip back out of their crystal covering. So water temps are at the point of waiting for a combo of zero and no wind to really get it on! Substantial safe ice may only be found on the smaller shallow bodies right now..                

With Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror, the madness of holiday shopping, Christmas flicks on the tube and cooking/decorating have many folks in a state of hysteria. While the forest needs to be re-flocked for a second and third time, inside trimming rituals are taking place in many homes and businesses, as “getting ready for” takes on new meaning.                            

At Wildersmith, we are no exception. I’d been searching the past couple weeks for the perfect tree, and discovered in the hundreds of thousands, not far from my back door, there seems to be not a single perfect coniferous sole. Although as a piney ecological complex, the forest is natural perfection.                                                                                                                        

Finally, with tree cutting permit in hand, the Smith’s found one that pretty well fills the bill, with minimal imperfections. And once brought inside, the perky little pine looks to be a perfect fit. At least this aspect of holiday shopping frustration is resolved. Now the annual household decorating debate will be getting underway.                                                                                                                                                         
Wreath making has been the order too, as white pine and cedar pruning remnants have been recycled into symbolical orbits of celebrating life.                                                                         

Gala seasonal merrymaking is already underway at the deck side feeding headquarters.  I’ve opened the cache to several different menu items, and my “wild neighborhood” guests seem delighted.                                                                                                                   

Especially so have been the pine martens with the provision of turkey day leftovers. While these delicacies lasted but two days, the addition of a frozen can of bacon lard has become a prized treat for winged folk and martens alike. Add a garnish of sunflower seeds, corn on the cob, peanut butter cakes, old frozen fish and chips, and outdoor dining couldn’t get any better.                                                                                                                                       

With an update on the squirrel hunting marten, mentioned last week, I report its’ success in amassing poultry parts and two squirrels in one short time span was apparently cause for being AWOL two days. There might have been serious indigestion inside that den.                      

Breaking news comes from Hungry Jack Lake reporting the sighting of a couple bandit raccoons. Perhaps the invasive ring tail critters, who’ve been frequenting places along Gunflint Lake lately, have moved on to the east, or maybe invited some relatives up for a border country Christmas.                                                                                                                                      

If a heads-up to wolf pack members could be arranged, these garbage mongers offer a pre-holiday menu alternative to beaver and snow shoe hares. A tip to human pelt collectors, raccoons have a great liking for bread and blueberry jam.                                                                  

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as we await the cold season Solstice.