How not to trap a squirrel

Five years ago I planted 5 goumi bushes to create a visual screen along the driveway. They have delicate white flowers that turn into a small hourglass shape berry which has a tart, slightly strawberry flavor with a very large seed. Once the bushes started to produce large quantities of berries, a flock of catbirds would descend and devour them. They literally picked the bushes clean. I didn’t realize that attracting catbirds would be so problematic; this year they came early devouring the suet and birdseed and at this point are ignoring the just about ripe goumis.

It seems the catbirds have a fondness for nuts of any kind.

Sitting Pretty Like a Catbird? Durham, NH 19 June 2015 ©

Sitting Pretty Like a Catbird?
Durham, NH 19 June 2015 ©

We are running neck to neck trapping catbirds and squirrels. While in the trap the catbird will make sure to eat all of the peanuts and peanut butter. We did net the blueberries this year in case these indiscriminate foragers head to that side of the yard. So far they have been ignoring the raspberries but I think they clean out cherry trees.

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It’s Berry Season

Strawberry picking at Butternut Farms is official on.

First Picking 11 June 2015 ©

First Picking
11 June 2015 ©

Before I could snap a picture, the empty quart container above was greedily consumed . Apparently breakfast for two requires a full quart of fresh picked strawberries, who knew?

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How to trap a squirrel

It seems that if you leave a trail of unshelled peanuts leading into a trap, the normally wary gray squirrel with very small brain gets a little too comfortable and quickly ends up being relocated miles away. In the last week we have relocated a dozen grey squirrels and a half-dozen chipmunks.

Lulled into complacency Durham, NH 5 June 2015 ©

Lulled into complacency
Durham, NH 5 June 2015


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Attractive Oranges

We usually see Baltimore Orioles for 1 or 2 days every spring. It’s rumored they have a sweet tooth for oranges, apparently it is no rumor:

Baltimore Oriole ♂ 26 May 2015 ©

Baltimore Oriole ♂
26 May 2015 ©

Putting cut oranges in a suet container has been keeping them coming back for over a week now; typically alternating visits by the male and female.

Baltimore Oriole ♀ 26 may 2015 ©

Baltimore Oriole ♀
26 may 2015 ©

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Country Style Spare Ribs

Recently a friend prepared roasted pork bellies as an appetizer. I liked it so much I prepared a modified version using country-style spare ribs. The main cooking theme is low temperature, long cook time with the bellies layered atop sliced wedges of Granny Smith apples. What I discovered was that with a little modification the apples become a major feature of the recipe. The process is fairly easy as long as you plan ahead.

While shopping earlier in the week, I found a nice small package of center cut country-style bone-in spare ribs:

Center Cut Bone-in Country Style Spare Ribs ©

Center Cut Bone-in Country Style Spare Ribs

A day head, if you want, dry rub the spare ribs and refrigerate, covered, for 14 to 18 hours. I used a quarter cup of basic pork dry rub augmented by an additional 1 to 2 teaspoons of cracked anise seed.

Spare Ribs with Dry Rub Applied ©

Spare Ribs with Dry Rub Applied

Preheat the oven to Convection Roast 300° F. Prepare your mise en place:

Core and cut apples into wedges ©

Core and cut apples into wedges

First, core the Granny Smith apples and then cut into wedges lining the bottom of your cooking vessel. I used a Le Creuset cast iron pot with cover. To the pot add 2 ounces of apple cider vinegar and 2 ounces of white wine, I favor Prairie Fumé from Wollersheim Winery in Wisconsin, it is a very crisp, clean, un-oaked wine. Place the spare ribs atop the apples and dab with barbecue sauce to taste. I was out of our home-made sauce so I used Sweet Baby Ray’s, it has a fairly mild, sweet taste.

Ready for the oven ©

Ready for the oven

Using my cook-top, I brought the liquids to a quick simmer before covering the pot and placing in the oven; I didn’t want a cold cast iron pot to draw down the oven temperature.

Finished Cooking ©

Finished Cooking


Cooked Spare Ribs ©

Cooked Spare Ribs

After cooking for 2 hours, turn the temperature down to 275° F and then 1 hours later, slightly crack the lid to allow some of the steam and liquid to escape, browning the spare ribs; cook for another 1/2 hour then remove the lid and cook for 1/2 hour more.



Apple Confit ©

Apple Confit


Remove the spare ribs and keep warm.





Scrape the apple mixture into a colander and strain off as much of the pork essence that you can. Discard the fat:

Excess fat rendered ©

Excess fat rendered







Mash the apple confit to the consistency of applesauce. Layer some of the apple confit on the plate then top with spare ribs. Add your vegetables du jour and serve while still hot.

Finished Meal ©

Finished Meal



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Potential Colony Collapse Disorder Solution

A solution for Colony Collapse Disorder possibly available as soon as this fall. That is the great news, the good news is that it is completely compostable, using no fungicides or pesticides thereby avoiding the dreaded Monsanto collateral damage syndrome. Essentially it uses a simple change in temperature to sterilize the male Varroa Destructor leaving them amorous but shooting blanks.

Even creationist have to love this science.

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Voles Damage Blueberry Bushes

Blueberry Bush Spring 2015 ©

Blueberry Bush Spring 2015

I don’t have my driveway plowed because of the damage typically done by the plow boys so I was somewhat confused as the snow receded this spring, such as it has been, and I noticed various blueberry bushes scattered around the yard. Speaking with a retired Professor from the Thompson School of Agriculture I found out that this was most commonly the result of a vole infestation.

Blueberry Bush Spring 2015 ©

Blueberry Bush Spring 2015

Blueberry bush branch damaged Spring 2015 ©

Blueberry bush branch damaged Spring 2015


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Annual Oyster River Spring Regatta

The 2014 – 2015 winter was long and unwelcome but eventually spring arrives. A few weeks ago the Oyster River in Durham, NH lost it covering of ice and now flocks of geese and seagulls are common sites again. Four swans continue to check their breeding grounds above the dams then return to the river with hopes that tomorrow will bring warmer weather and clear access.

Although ice is out in the river, there are numerous pieces of the former ice shelf along the shore line hung up in the shallow parts of the river waiting for a good high tide to dislodge them. Each spring we’re entertained by the seagulls when they catch an iceberg as the ebb tide begins. Sometimes they will drift down into the bay below the sewer treatment plant and fly back across from the Beard’s Creek inlet and attempt to catch another ride. I have never seen them feeding, just sunning and enjoying the ride.

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Christmas in Montréal

Just returned from a wonderful three days in Montréal, still dreaming of a brown Christmas in southern New Hampshire. I see little value in winter other than putting all the insects down and replenishing the water table.

Place d'Armes, Vieux Montréal  © T20R11

Place d’Armes, Vieux Montréal © T20R11

The five-hour trip to Montréal lets us arrive in time for lunch. Their weather was as mild as ours and we enjoyed walking around the old City as well as venturing around Place des Arts. After attending a Christmas concert, we returned through the dancing water park that is part of Place des Arts; rotating prisms replace the water jets during the winter.

Rue jeanne-Mance, Montréal © T20R11

Rue jeanne-Mance, Montréal © T20R11

Rue Jeanne-Mance, Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal  ©T20R11

Rue Jeanne-Mance, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal ©T20R11

The restaurant scene in the old city has improved significantly in the last few years, we found many new favorites and didn’t have the time nor inclination to return to our old favorites. Much more on restaurants later.

If you are going you might want to download the Bookenda app. It lacks a mapping feature which makes it more difficult to use than OpenTable but many of the restaurants that I wanted to sample used Bookenda. It is always advisable to make your reservations well before you leave as the more popular restaurants, especially around the holidays and other major events.

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Thanksgiving can be stressful

After the anxiety of Thanksgiving preparations and working hard to avoid being the center of attention it is nice to get out and stretch your legs. Someone has to take the initiative and lead the way:

Ahead of the crowd                                                                                             ©T20R11

Ahead of the crowd ©T20R11

The flock wasn’t far behind:

Pleasant post Thanksgiving walkabout                                                             © T20R11

Pleasant post Thanksgiving walkabout © T20R11

There were over 3 dozen birds circling the house, picking away at the high bush cranberries (cranberries and turkey – who knew) and gleaning the neighborhood bird feeders.




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