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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - March 15, 2019

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

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith     March 15, 2019    

Winter on the Gunflint backed off since our last radio gathering. Spring nudged its’ way in with a preview, although it has not been a serious showing, as yet.                                                                                  

The “Vernal Spirit” turned up the thermostat along the Mile O Pine last Saturday. With the mercury tinkering around the freezing point for the first time in countless weeks, conditions took on an almost balmy feel for border country.                                                                                                                                  

I noted three takeaways with the warm-up. First, this neighborhood hasn’t had a below zero morning in several days. Second, the loosening cold grip found huge chunks of snow falling from tree branches after having been attached in most places since November. And thirdly, a joint effort between the powerful March sun and the county highway department has the Trail free of packed snow and ice.                                                                                                            

Although roadsides remain stacked high with snow, it’s nice to see bare black top for a change. Further, we drivers can loosen their white knuckle navigation grip on the once slippery surface. However, diligence is still to be maintained as those annual roller coaster dips are magnifying by the day, lurking to test both driver and vehicle resiliency. Meanwhile back country roads have given up little of their white majesty.                                                                                                

The warm-up stalled briefly with the onset of daylight savings time madness.  After week long cries of more big snow drama for the northern plains, another forecast flop saw nothing more than a nuisance of white accumulation and gusty winds along the international border.                                                                                                                                                                                 
Before we meet again, the Vernal Equinox will make spring official, and coupled with the “crust on the snow” full moon on the same day, I predict there will be a 100% chance the universe will get a double dose of heavenly happenings next Wednesday. How’s that for an atmospheric forecast?                                                                                                                                                            

Nevertheless, it’s anyone’s guess as to what winter-spring will be like for the next six weeks. If one has lived up this way for very long, caution is always taken in regard to never getting too excited about breaking out warm weather wear or putting snow removal equipment into storage much before May. One thing guaranteed, mud season will come in all its “yuckiest” sooner or later.                                                                                                                                                  

While inside observing the wimpy attempt at snow last Sunday, a “flight” of blue jays gathered in the trees near our lake side deck. They were obsessed with an ear of corn I had put out.                                                                                                                                                                     

There were at least a half dozen of the blue bullies. As I expected, they are never too bashful about gluttonous behavior at the food trough. But as I watched, it became obvious a pecking order exists (no pun intended) as to who goes first.                                                                                         

The blues were perched in adjacent branches apparently willing to take turns selecting a few kernels and then departing, only to come back later, getting in line.  All this went unusually orderly, that is, until one swooped in from out of nowhere and dispatched its cousin from the cob setting.                                                                                                                                                      

There were several repetitions of this bullish activity while others remained anxiously awaiting their opportunity. Knowing” there is no honor amongst thieves”, this crass display seemed the ultimate in bullying, expressly as it related to family members, also of ruffian character.                                                                                                                                                                            
To end the kernel plundering, a resident squirrel came on the scene and must have chattered, “Enough is enough”, then cleaned off the last of the gold nuggets. End of story!                                                                 

Later the same day, one of several neighborhood pine martens came by for a snack. It so happened I was out in the snow grilling at the time. Piney became quite curious about what I was doing, and ventured near the grilling operation when I stepped indoors. As I went in and out of the house several times, the little fur ball became ever braver in getting close enough to get a good look and whiff of the yummy goings-on. At one point, I tossed the little guy/gal a slice of fried potato, which was found to be a tasty treat.                                                                                                      

Concluding my cooking exercise, the hot greasy potato skillet was set off the heatto cool. As we ended dinner, Piney returned to explore the now cooled fry pan.  Finding the fatty remains to its liking, the marten spent several minutes enjoying this licking good treat, actually wading in with both front paws.                                                                                                                                 

What an amusing observation! Fortunately, we caught a digital of the greasy feast. See it posted on under the drop down Community Voices, Wildersmith column.                                                                                                               

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, a gift beyond beautiful!