It’s the time of year again when the whiskey jacks (Canadian grey Jays) begin to get serious about storing up food. Daily I scrape food scraps on to the bird feeder and watch the friendly almost tame birds swoop in to see what tasty morsels we humans are sharing today.

Columnist Libby Whittall Catling notes families of whiskey jacks stay in the same area and they are quite territorial. She finds it quite entertaining every day to watch the lovely grey birds swoop and land on the bird feeder.

They pack it away by beakfuls to hiding places in the trees, behind the bark and in between branches. We often laugh at their hard work as it is probably the squirrels who find most of the food caches. That’s OK, I really enjoy helping to feed the woodland creatures. It is a hard cold winter out here, and everyone can use a few easy calories to help keep warm.

Yesterday was bread-baking day here in Reliance and Roger decided to mix up a huge double batch of his famous whole wheat dough. He has been making the same recipe for more than 40 years out here now, preferring it to bannock for daily toast. He separated out a big chunk for me to make a couple dozen hamburger buns. I decided to also make an apple tart since we have a bunch of apples going a bit soft.

To make a long story short, I made a few creative mistakes in the spices for the apples and to add to the failure of the shockingly bad flavored bread tart, I burnt it. And the apples didn’t cook either. I don’t know all what went wrong exactly, but cloves, nutmeg and cardamom aren’t really a good mix with char and rubbery apples. I debated covering the whole thing in a powdered sugar glaze to make it more palatable, but then realized we would probably just lick off all the icing and not eat the bread and apples anyway. Too bad, such a waste, but not every creative idea can be a spectacular winner. Sometimes you have to cut your losses and move on to the next idea.

Regardless of our inability to consume the very pretty dessert, the whiskey jacks who live in our yard are very happy to be the recipients of the klusterfuken torte. A beige and cream gyrfalcon even swooped down to check it out, the ruined cake sitting high and proud in the bird feeder. Or maybe the gyrfalcon was hunting a nice dinner of whiskey jack; pragmatism rules in the bush. Ever since that one time I saw an eagle grab a gull out of the air and land on the lake ice in front of our house and start tearing the gull apart while it hopelessly struggled, I understand death is all around us all the time, no matter how hard we try to insulate ourselves from it.

Families of whiskey jacks stay in the same area and they are quite territorial. It brings us so much entertainment every day to watch the lovely grey birds swoop and land on the bird feeder. Almost always one at a time, they politely wait on the house roof above for their sibling or aunt to take their share, seldom fighting over the treats.

It is just about our moose hunting and wood cutting season again too. A nice looking bull showed up over on Maufelly Point across the narrows this morning. I just knew Bullwinkle was going to appear today because we are crazy busy preparing for a paying job that starts tomorrow. As Roger and Gus discussed the easterly wind direction, the dogs were put in to the bedrooms and the generator turned off. We all stood at the windows with binoculars or spotting scope trained on to the kilometer away shore where the moose stood. I sat down at the kitchen table for a minute, thinking of all the work that needed to happen for our upcoming job and I started to laugh. There was no way humanly possible we could handle getting a moose right now, the work of butchering many hours of hard slog. And yet, here was the moose! Our winter meat! Fresh meat! Fat from summer, not yet into the rut.

Old Gus D’Oust said to get your meat when you see it cause it might not come back that way again later. I kept laughing and laughing, thinking, isn’t Mother Nature the comedienne! Thankfully the moose, turned away by our sounds and smells, probably my crazy laughter, slowly walked back up into the bush, disappearing so quickly, you wonder if it was ever there at all. That’s OK, I hope he stays fat and happy and content over there on that peninsula for another two weeks, when we will be ready for him. The air will be cooler then, and we will be able to hang the meat in the old cabin to age a bit without worry of spoilage.

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