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The Last Windrow: It's not easy living in the woods

When my wife and I built our house out in "the woods" in 1978, we knew we would have furry visitors from time to time, but we didn't plan on having to replace personal property.

When my wife and I built our house out in "the woods" in 1978, we knew we would have furry visitors from time to time, but we didn't plan on having to replace personal property.

It's getting to be difficult getting along with our northern critters.

Over the years, we've always had a dog somewhere on the premises. There is something about a barking dog that keeps the denizens of the forest at bay. Even our miniature Dachshund, Willy, put fear into the hearts of any wild animal bent on destruction. His bark is definitely worse than his bite.

And, more recently, our big black Lab, Jada, would put anything on the run that might have ideas on doing damage.

Unfortunately, both of those beloved pets have gone to their reward, leaving my wife and I and our house at the mercy of whatever might be wandering around out there at midnight.

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Just a week ago I stood staring out our kitchen window at our bird feeding station. I must have uttered some oath because our daughter came into the kitchen and asked me what I was upset about.

"Just look out there!" I said.

When she did she saw two disassembled wooden sunflower feeders, a crushed finch feeder and the suet feeder that was nowhere to be seen. I still haven't found it.

Sometime during the rainy night, Mr. Bear had come to visit and basically laid waste to my entire system. Even with the bedroom windows open, I had not heard a sound.

I took the remnants into the basement and reassembled them as best I could. The finch feeder had a nice tooth hole showing, but with a little tinkering I was able to give it new life. I re-nailed the wooden feeders together and they are again holding seeds.

I have searched the nearby woods for the suet feeder, but evidently it was taken as a sack lunch.

Through social media I found out that many of my neighbors had experienced a like event. They took pictures of the destruction, all the time lamenting the bear activity. One even dared to put up his feeders again only to have them re-visited and crushed a second time.

Now he and I are both taking all our feeders in at night. We hope the blueberries come early this year to satisfy the hunger pains of Brer bear.

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Last summer at one o'clock in the morning I heard a muffled chuckling that seemed to be coming from our back deck. I'm usually a light sleeper and I thought at first I was imagining the sound.

But, I continued to hear this soft murmuring and finally arose to check it out. I flipped on the lights at the corners of the eaves and discovered a large porcupine quietly digesting our wood picnic table at the corner of the deck.

I yelled at it, but there was no indication this "porky" was disturbed by me.

"Fine," I thought. "I'll put fear into your heart!"

I went for the shotgun. Now, I don't find any pride in killing any defenseless animal and was only intent on scaring this critter off our deck. It was dark, it was 1 in the morning, my eyes were a bit sleep weary when I pulled the trigger as I aimed slightly over the porcupine's head.

The blast sent the porky leaping off the deck and it headed into the woods. You don't see leaping porcupines very often.

It was only after closer inspection that I discovered that not only had I scared off the animal, I also had shot off one leg of the picnic table. That, too, was restored on the work bench in our basement.

If the porky returns, it will return no more. Let's be clear about that.

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We've had birds that have built nests atop our garage lights and nearly burnt the building to the ground. We've had red squirrels that chewed their way into our attic. We've had garter snakes that somehow wound up on my wife's kitchen cutting board. We've had ruffed grouse that have committed suicide by bashing into our picture window.

It is not easy living in the woods, folks. We who do are exposed with no insurance.

But, my wife and I wouldn't have it any other way. I have to keep telling myself that as I gaze at that newly repaired picnic table leg.

See you next time. Okay?

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