Remains of Winter

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Blowing dust and dirt made for some dark days this winter.

I found myself restless and irritated at having to spend so much time indoors this winter. Last year’s weather allowed me to work outdoors all through the winter months. I managed to clear downed wood in the pecan orchard and I burned the debris for weeks on end. We entertained family who helped with cleanup in the woods, all of us in short-sleeved t-shirts working in the warm temperatures. The weather was nothing short of outstanding last winter. But this year had proven to be blustery and cold. The winds blew almost daily, preventing me from burning. And then by the time we had some gentle, warm, windless days, the drought had created such dry conditions that a burn ban was implemented over most of the state of Oklahoma. So instead of reveling in outdoor work, I put my energy into tasks and projects in the house. I painted a few rooms, and I deep-cleaned each area of the house. I did a lot of computer work – organizing files, catching up on correspondence, and researching all sorts of things. In a way, I was thankful for time to tackle these less desirable tasks, as I had put them off long enough.

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A coyote left its scat signature (left center) next to a scattering of feathers near the slough.
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I found massive scatterings of feathers throughout the pecan orchard near the slough. They seemed to be from ducks and geese.
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Duck feathers in the grasses not far from the slough.
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I found this owl pellet next to dove feathers on the buggy path through the orchard.
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This large scattering of mostly black feathers was located at the water’s edge of the slough.

Despite inclement weather, I still managed weekly trips to the orchard in the electric buggy, and hikes by foot to the nearby river. My findings were typical for the winter season. It is a difficult time of year for all living things, but this year I seemed to find more fallen birds and waterfowl than anything. There were other critters who had also perished, but revealing no telltale signs of why death occurred. I wondered about disease, starvation, or extreme cold.

But there were some remains I discovered that did reveal a story. The images below focus  on deer parts that a neighbor to the north has been discarding along our fence line again this year. He harvests deer at another location during hunting season, and dumps the carcass near the fence where our property lines meet after he cleans and butchers them. It is no wonder we have a coyote problem here when the neighbor feeds them free food.

I have become hardened to what I see on many of these walks to the river, or the discards I find in the pecan orchard and beyond to the old river channel. I think of the wild orphans I have raised and released to the wild, knowing death could have befallen any of them. I also think about what they face in the wild, and how brutal life can be for them. But I remember too, the beautiful seasons of their lives, and being so fortunate to be a part of their early wild freedom – watching them forage for food and find shelter, roaming the surrounding area with them, and understanding their desire to explore and experience adventure, even when it can mean risk and danger.

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FD found this wild hog head in the river area. It was fairly fresh (and smelly) but he found no way to determine the cause of death.
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Same wild hog skull, but view of upper jaw. I find those beetle-type bugs on many skulls.
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I found this wild hog leg and shoulder east of the river about 1/8 of a mile from where FD found the skull. Notice the coyote scat just above leg?
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This is a nice, old and weathered deer skull I found in our woodlands near the old river channel.
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FD found this coyote near our west fence line. It could have died naturally, or perhaps the neighboring farmer shot it.
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I am no lover of coyotes, but I found this view rather soft. It doesn’t look very predator-like anymore.

© 2018 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


26 thoughts on “Remains of Winter

    1. I am sure many people could not stomach some of the remains I find on walks and hikes. Remains can take so many forms. The messiest death I found was of a raccoon that my neighbor’s dogs took down on a killing spree in our woods. It was the grossest, most gelatinous heap I’ve ever seen. I ran across a wild hog one time where the backstrap and legs/hams had been removed. Someone had probably shot it and harvested some meat, leaving the fresh kill for predators. From a distance I could not tell what I was seeing, but it was a gruesome sight. It took me a while to understand that it was a hog and the legs were cut off. Daisy and her fawn Spirit showed up about the same time, coming from the opposite direction. I stood back, observing her very careful and wary approach to the hog, catching scent and stomping her front legs. She never did get very close to investigate. Finally, she and Spirit trotted off a ways where I joined up with them. That hog lay there for a week with no vultures or predators touching it. The following week, amazingly not a trace was left. Nothing. I never found parts drug off a distance either. Very strange.

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  1. Oklahoma is such a fascinating place. I was only there for less than three months. I left before winter really got wintry at the end of 2012. I really want to go back. I learned so much about horticulture from old Okies who migrated to California. Although it is not my home, I could stay there for a long while. It is so much less complicated than here.

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    1. It is always refreshing to read your thoughts on Oklahoma. I still chuckle to myself when I’m busy cutting down red cedar trees, which are so invasive in our state. I think how you saw them in a completely different light than most folks here do. I still leave the larger cedars in the woods, simply because the birds love them for cover. I think you would enjoy roaming this place in the spring. You would love foraging for morel mushrooms, wild onions, dewberries, and goodness knows what other edibles exist in the orchard and woodlands!

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  2. I find a few remains on my walks too and they are sometimes a bit grisly. The skeletal remains are okay, but when the carcasses are fresh it is a bit confronting. I do love those duck feathers though! If customs would allow I’d have you send me some so I could draw them. I may have to use your photo as reference instead, if you don’t mind? Thank you for the tour!

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    1. You may certainly use any of my photos, Ardys! If I had known, I would have picked them up for you. I often find beautiful feathers in the woodlands, and many are brightly colored. These duck feathers had such an interesting pattern. Dogs from town recently nabbed and killed one of our Barnevelder laying hens. I had always marveled at their feathers, but found that on cleaning up the area of the kill, the individual feathers were quite boring. It was the grouping of them that gave the hen such a lovely appearance.

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  3. Compelling shots, Lori. I wonder what we’ll find during the melt. We’re not even close yet, though, with nearly six feet of snow on the ground. When I find carcasses I often think about how my body could look the same one day. Some wise person once said, worrying about dying only causes you to suffer many times a thing that happens to you only once. Hah! Animals are so lucky that they can’t/don’t fret about these things!

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    1. I imagine you see a lot of death in the wild up in your neck of the woods. I do love walking along the river area, even though it can be a snarl trying to meander through, because I see a lot of skeletal remains. It speaks so much of what tends to travel through and what predators exist. I find owl pellets quite often – and scat is also interesting to note what is on the menu for various critters.

      I learned a lot about death and the decomposition of a human body, while visiting with the bio cleanup people after our friend Brad’s death. I suppose some people would not want to know such things, but to me it was fascinating, educational, and allowed me to see my friend’s departure in a different way. What he left behind was simply a vessel that he used in this life. It is the same with the animals. They are here, and then they are gone. We can find peace in the letting go, or we can conjure up thoughts that promote fear. I like to do like the animals – not think about what can be at all! Just live in the moment!

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    1. Wild pigs inhabit just about every part of the US, but I do believe the problem is much worse in Texas than it is here, and it’s very bad here. I hope to do a blog post on that sometime. I have a few photos. I recently discovered a huge wallow area at the “boot” area of the river where I like to hike. I realized on seeing that, that it might not be wise to proceed into the boot area if they were back in there. We had them in the orchard last fall, just as the pecans were falling. The hogs did not return after a week or so of rooting around. Most of our pecans were no good this year having scab disease or the weevils got to them. Maybe hogs are not interested in wormy pecans!

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  4. Spring is always full of messes around here too. That is not very kind of your neighbour to share the carcases with you calling in things like coyotes we have an issue with them as well i would not take kindly to someone bating them to my home!

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    1. I agree. It’s just bad manners, and I believe it is illegal to dump any carcass in city limits. But, short of putting a game camera out to catch him in the act, there isn’t much to do about it. There really isn’t a good place to put a camera without it being seen.

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  5. Here in the city, most of what I come across is road kill: squirrels, raccoons, and possums. Occasionally a low-flying bird, or one that’s badly miscalculated, will be hit by a car. But out in the refuges, or along the country roads, it’s a different story. Always there are deer along the roads, of course. Sometimes, there will be the remains of a hog back in the brush, or along the sloughs. There are predators out there I’d rather not encounter, particularly the bobcats and hogs. The coyotes aren’t interested in facing off, but those other critters are a different matter. Well, and the alligators.

    The most interesting thing I saw and photographed a few weeks ago was an alligator breakfasting on something I couldn’t identify. It looked as though it had been in the water a good long time, as it was floating. They say a human body will start to float after three days, so I suppose the same is true for whatever the gator had. Honestly, I wondered if it might have been a calf at some time. There are cattle on the edge of the refuge that get loose and wander, and there’s no reason a gator couldn’t snatch a young calf and pull it in. I try to remind myself of that, and stay away from the edge of the water.

    Too bad you don’t live in Texas. Our Game Wardens would take care of that deer dumping, pronto.

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    1. I would have to have video of the neighbor dumping the carcasses. I’m sure the game warden would get on it pronto, but I need proof. That area is just a fence line with no trees or structure to attach a game camera to. So unless we catch him in the act, there is little to do about it.

      We have been hiking all over the area looking for antler sheds, and all I’ve managed to find are more grisly deer parts and a opossum skull (not fully decomposed yet or I would have kept it). So, either the neighbor harvested more than one deer this year or the coyotes have been feasting. I like to examine the bones and teeth and see if I can determine the age.

      Skulls, bones and teeth are often boxed up and sent to my young artist friend, who creates wonderful designs and decor.

      I am glad we do not have gators here. I noticed last week that the snakes have emerged. I will have to be much more careful now, as I work around wood piles and the slough.

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  6. Unlike you, we’re protected from death here in our segregated suburban communities. Also, the only animal scat appears in the morning on front lawns near the street — night walkers freed by the dark from picking up after their well-fed pets. Of course we read about death in the streets downtown or in shattered neighborhoods, but that’s not like seeing up close the remains of rage or drug-induced violence. What you see on your walks is rather like what we look at after a meal as we toss chunks and bits down the garbage disposal and grind all that away from our consciousness. If we thought about what eating really is, we might be more respectful of our food, where the entrees really came from, what it was like to tear or saw them away from a bloody body, and why it is a kind of sacred ritual– eating of a body that gave up it’s life, not consciously but somehow willingly as part of nature’s cycle, so we can have life .

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    1. (Accidentally tapped “send” — more to say about what you teach us, Lori, with your camera and your respectful attitude, your curiosity but also acceptance of the ways of the animal world. Sadly, we sometimes hear the word “animals” to explain the deaths from human violence, when it’s the calling ourselves off from each other, group by group, that’s really responsible. . . . And more to say about that, but I’d rather stop and look at the pictures again, and think about what life really is, and if meaning is relevant in the human world.)

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      1. While you “accidentally” tapped send, I had already responded to the first part of your comment and did not see the continuation until I had finished. I think though, that this was a good thing. What you have to say here deserves its own attention – it is a different focus on life and death. My walk with nature really took flight when we raised orphaned fawn, Daisy. As with any mother, I found raising her a real learning process and discovery of a world I had never bothered to give much attention to. At the time (and still) I struggled with my walk in the human world, often abhorred and disgusted by the way we treat each other – especially in a family group. I saw a different world with the animals – respectfulness and acceptance. There is a pecking order, and a respectfulness that follows. There is acceptance, sometimes confrontation, and walking away. Killing is not for sport. It is about survival. At least in what I have witnessed. I have never understood the term “animals” being used to explain humans who are violent and kill. I generally consider words like “predator” or “monster” more appropriate.

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    2. Your words are so descriptive and thought provoking, Albert. I am tucked away in a different kind of world, which I find fascinating and quite educational. By being open to everything of nature, though sometimes difficult and disturbing, I have reached an understanding, rather than judgement about it all.

      I think you would love a walk/hike in this area of the Midwest. I find and identify various scat continually, which tells me what animals frequent the area, and what they are eating and foraging for at the time. Scat tells us so much about the rhythm of life, and death.

      I often find the thoughtlessness and and destructiveness of humans appalling. I believe the early Native Americans in this country were a much more evolved people than white man ever was.

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