Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bear Sighting! And the Garden Gate Latch.

Do you see the bear at the edge of the forest?  See it's dark menacing shape, right behind the chicken coop, when looking through the living room window at mom and dads house?  

Here's a close up.  It looks like it's standing on it's hind legs, sniffing in my direction!  I did a double take when I saw the bear, and told mom what I was seeing.  Instead of being alarmed, she just said she sees it all the time too.  What?!  

Here's what the scary bear looks like when you walk up to him.  Not a bear at all, just a flaking dark stump in the woods.  Shoot.  I must admit that I was only momentarily fooled into thinking the stump was a bear, but the shot of adrenaline that I received in that quick glance was plenty enough excitement for me.   I'm not sure my brain immediately understood the shape as a bear and not a Sasquatch, but either way it was a momentary thrill.  Growing up in those woods I was never afraid of running into a bear, probably because no one ever reported seeing one there.  But, bears have been seen in the nearby mountains, so it's always a possibility, and there were many times when I convinced myself that I heard big foot howling, or saw his dark shape moving through the trees.  

A garden gate latch may not be as exciting as a bear sighting, but for mom and I, rigging up the latch was a great accomplishment, and deserves to be photographed and recorded for posterity.  We had no help from manly muscles and manly power tools, so it truly was an accomplishment for us.  Armed with a screw driver and a scrounged up L-bracket and a shoe string, we completely remodeled the garden gate latch.  

The old latch configuration required that we reach behind the gate post and around the electric wire to fumble for the lever which unlatched the gate.  Closing the gate required putting your back into lifting the gate an inch while simultaneously pushing on the gate post to correct the angle, all the while aiming the two pieces together and gritting your teeth until you heard the click that let you know it was okay to let go.  The whole process was made even more interesting by the closeness of the electric wire that runs up the gate post to the fence charger, so most of the time I was holding my breath too, bracing for a shock.  It took quite a bit of dexterity and practice to operate the gate, let me tell you.  Our new gate latch has a handy string which can be pulled to release the lever without having to reach around an electrified pole.  It's genius, if I do say so myself.  And after moving the latch location on the post and the gate, it now swings closed all by itself, hands free.   It's the little things in life that really make all the difference!  

Here you can see the gate from a distance, and the little house on a pole near the gate, which used to be a bird feeder, but now shelters the electric fence charger and it's timer.  The garden fence was a weekend project for the whole family early one summer.  Even the nieces helped me dig holes for the posts.  The woven wire fence isn't stretched super tight, like it would be if it was supposed to contain a cow or other large animal.  Our goal was to keep the deer and chickens out of the garden, which it does pretty well.  What it's doesn't do well with is keeping out the the groundhog or the rabbit.  The groundhog can eat a bed of snap peas or sweet potatoes in a single night, and the rabbit was so smart that she had her babies in the garden fence right next to the lettuce patch.  

When I would tell many of my friends that we were having issues with a groundhog, they would recommend that it be shot. It's just a ground hog, right?  Well, Brandon, mom, and I were discussing how to accomplish this one day (which shows you just how irritating it was to have the groundhog treat the garden as a buffet) when we noticed the groundhog at the edge of the forest.  He stood up on his hind legs until he could almost reach the blossoms on a wild daisy, then he bent the plant over and munch the blossom off.  Then he waddled to the next stalk and ate the flower, doing this over and over all along the edge of the woods.  He was adorable!  We all looked at each other, said "awww" and decided that we couldn't shoot him, he was just too cute.  I mean, he eats flowers!  Wimps.  So that's why the garden fence has an electric wire along the bottom on the outside, to keep the groundhog and the rabbit out.  It's only six inches off the ground, and it's on a timer so mom can set it to go off during the day when's she's out there working.  It's a solution that allows for harmony with the local wildlife.  I doubt it would work on a real bear though.    

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