High: 12° F
Low: -7° F
Conditions: partly cloudy with occasional light
This time of year, caninaturalism requires a lot of excavation. That’s good news for a husky mix like Ari, since the husky part of her heritage is (in)famous for their digging prowess. But lately, someone or something has beaten Ari to the punch:
Across the fields and meadows around our house, we’ve been noticing what archeologists call test pit sites: small sample cores taken to see what lies below. In this case, what lies is overwintered grass: not quite as nutritious as hay, a little bit better than straw.
And judging by the tracks around these sites, they are becoming increasingly interesting for our neighborhood deer. Given a choice, whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) prefer to subsist on Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) this time of year.
It has a higher nutritional content and better calorie ratio for the winter months. Plus, no digging is required. So why are the deer suddenly so interested in our terrestrial frozen food section?
Ari and I set out this afternoon to visit the cedar bog in the woods behind our house, hoping we could discover what’s up. The caninaturalist found the main deer path right away.
And then reveled in her discovery.
By the time we made it to the cedar bog, the reason for our deer’s shift in dining habits was clear: there are no more cedar boughs within reach.
I’m 5’8” on a good day. As this amateurish self-portrait shows, the cedar boughs are stripped clean to a spot somewhere just over my head: too tall for most deer to reach. So instead of the characteristic, scaly green boughs, what exists at deer-eye level is this:
Even less nutritional value than the grass. This isn’t good, either for the hungry deer or the damaged trees.
Late winter is a lean time for most animals, especially in the boreal forest. I’ll close today, then, with a recipe for Ari’s favorite dog biscuit recipe. Not much consolation for foraging wildlife, but a great way to tell your dogs you love them.
Ari’s Oat Biscuits
1 cup flour (I use whole grain spelt or brown rice flour)
1 cup oatmeal
½ cup wheat germ
½ cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Pinch of salt
Dash of honey
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add molasses, butter, 2 tablespoons oil, and ¾ cup water. Stir well, then turn out on a well-floured surface. Knead for 2-3 minutes, then roll into a thick round. Cut biscuits and layer on baking stone. Mix remaining 1 tablespoon oil with dash of honey. Brush on biscuits. Cook at 350° F for approximately 30 minutes. Let cool and harden before storing.