There’s a Bear Out There

A black bear
Black bears like the one above are trying to pack on the pounds to last them through the winter.

My dogged barked at 3:39 a.m. and ran downstairs. That was reassuring because it meant whatever she was barking at was not on the front porch.

This late-night barking happens from time to time and we do not discourage it. She is a flock protection dog genetically intended to protect goats and sheep from wolves, and barking is her first level of defense. The idea is it warns off the predators. She will attack if the predator gets too close, but in many cases, the predators are smart enough to stay away or not desperate enough to risk coming closer.

When our dog barks in the middle of the night, she is protecting us, and we look to see if any of the motion-detection lights are on. If they are, this is usually enough to make me grab the bed-side shotgun and run out onto the deck. The most I’ve seen is deer. So far, no bears have pillaged the beehives and no coyote has attacked the chicken coop. Of course, that probably has as much to do with the electric fence as it does with the dog.

Bear Scat

Apparently, last night’s visitor was a bear. While I missed seeing it, the bear left us a present in the driveway: a nice pile of bear poop. It was bigger than coyote scat, and the bear had been eating persimmons or something else with good-sized seeds.

When I walked the dog the next morning, we found a larger pile up the road a few hundred yards. This made me wonder if it was a female with one or more cubs. I traded my Glock for an even bigger bore revolver on my subsequent dog walks. We don’t fear the bear so much as we want to be prepared.

The bear has been around for several weeks. Neighbors saw one about half a mile away. This is the time of year when they are less likely to be shy because they are trying to pack on the pounds. We are very careful about not leaving anything outside that might attract them.

Warmer Weather

Last week’s cold front has moved on and we’re enjoying more seasonable weather. Despite having nine-tenths of an inch of rain early last week, it’s been a dry October. We’re hoping more rain will move in this weekend or early next week.

In the warmest, sunniest part of the day, the bees have been leaving the hive and returning with pollen. I doubt there’s much nectar out there, but every bit they can find will help them make it through the winter.

 The yellow jackets have been especially nasty after the cold spell. One flew at my face yesterday and bounced off my sunglasses. It’s as if the yellow jackets know their days are numbered and are angry about it.

As a beekeeper, I don’t like it when people say something like, “The bees wouldn’t leave us alone at the picnic. One tried to fly into my beer.” Those are not bees; they are yellow jackets, which are a kind of wasp. You can tell them apart because yellow jackets are yellow while honey bees are golden or brown. Honey bees also have fuzzy bodies while yellow jackets have no little hairs and are usually skinnier with very narrow waists.

Unlike bees, which overwinter as a hive, the queen is the only yellow jacket that survives the winter. The worker wasps die off as it gets cold while the queen goes into hibernation. If you find a large yellow jacket in suspended animation this winter, squishing it will mean fewer yellow jackets next year. I find a few in my woodpiles as I bring wood in during the winter.

A cover crop that just sprouted
he cover crop we planted in our raised beds two days after it sprouted.

Cover Crop

The cover crop we planted in our raised beds has sprouted, which is good news. It also means the soil stayed warm despite getting a hard frost with temps in the mid-20s at least three nights last week. The above image is the cover crop the day after it sprouted. Hopefully, the warm days will allow it to become more established. My wife tells me it will grow all winter, which seems hard to believe. In any case, it’s a positive sign for our garden.

I also took advantage of the warmer days to re-stock our indoor firewood pile. It was nice to do this in short sleeves instead of all bundled up. I laid a fire in the wood stove. When the weather turns again, my wife will wake up and head downstairs, where a single match will be all it takes to start it up.

Remember, just because the world, the media and the politicians are going crazy out there doesn’t mean you have to get sucked in. Be sure you are prepped for winter because it is inevitable.