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Day to day, week to week life at Blue Rooster.
Posted 4/5/2012 7:35am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

Thursday, April 5

It's been just over a year since we lost Bud very suddenly to a severe case of colic and in that time Roy has struggled with how practical it is for him to continue his dream of working with draft horses. Everthing that horses can do can be done quicker with a tractor or skid steer.  They complicate the already limited barn space.  To work them requires specialized equipment which takes up space in barn that could be used to store hay.  We had to admit that horses are an additional expense that we really could not justify economically. 

So we quit trying. While we tossed these questions around, Bob's presense became increasingly valuable to us. Without a horse companion, he'd seek attention and companionship while we were in the barn.  At first I responded to his large, loping head hanging over the gate out of guilt for his lonliness, but increasingly I realized how calming it is to stand next to such a powerful, gentle creature and doing barn chorse was not complete without a conversation with Bob. While I curried him, his big, soft lips nibbled at my head or shoulders.  He moved around his pen and barnyard to watch what we are doing and always walked to gate to get a goodbye rub before we left the barn. This past fall and winter, Roy cut logs shorter and put Bob back to work by himself.  Without much more discussion, it was clear that selling Bob was not an option. We simply are not done with our horse adventure yet.

Roy's been watching the papers, Craigslist, and all the draft horse websites for a teammate for Bob for nearly a year but there were not many horses out there that matched Bob in size or fit our budget.  He followed several leads in the fall, but experience and indecision about the horse dream made him cautious. Several months ago he found a listing near Pittsburgh that sounded like a good match. He had several conversaitons wtih the owner and in mid-March Roy and I took a trip to Pittsburgh to meet Buddy.

When we got to the farm Buddy was standing by the water tank with another horse. We were impressed by him immediately but he was apparently not impressed by us.  After a brief greeting he turned and walked very decisively over the hill and out of sight. When Lisa, his owner came out to bring him back, he was followed by his long-eared mule-buddy, Levi.  "He just wanted to hang out with Levi; they are always together."  While Rich put a harness on Buddy to hitch him up, the tall, slim figure of Levi looked on and Buddy kept looking around to see that Levi was there. Conversations between Shrek and Donkey kept popping up in my head as I watched the two of them relating.  Buddy's focus changed however when he was hitched to the forecart and taken for a drive.  We were hopeful that we had finally found a good teammate and companion for Bob. 

After few phone calls and negotiations, Buddy was delivered here last Friday. Bob and he have become fast friends, (although I wouldn't be entirely surprised if Levi comes trotting over the hill one of these days. Hopefully he's made other good friends among the horses and goats at his home.)  Buddy is more gregarious than Bob and immediately warmed up to us. He is first to come to the gate for attention while Bob, who is by nature more reserved, stands back and waits till Buddy has had his turn. I've witnessed very little of the 'power games' horses often play going on between them. No biting each other's hauch or head tossing; just calm acceptence of each other's presence.  It is a still early and we have yet to hitch them together.  No doubt we will have many more stories to share but at the moment it feels like we've managed to make a good addition to the farm.


Posted 3/29/2012 9:28am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

March 29, 2012

There is only one other year in my foggy memory that I recall turning the animals out on pasture this early.  It was that same year that we celebrated St. Patrick's Day at my in-laws eating my mother-in-law's wonderful dandelion salad with hot bacon dressing.  It is one of my favorite meals of springtime and the memory of it makes me aware how much I measure the passage of time by both what I am eating and what we are doing with our farm animals. All but the pigs and Bob are back on pasture and I've got a bowl full of dandelion waiting to be cleaned and bacon thawing in the fridge. Spring is here and the pace of life has quickened.

Our goal in early spring, when the grass is growing quickly, is to move the animals daily and get around all of our paddocks twice in the first 30 days. Setting up fence and moving animals takes about an hour or two for one person each day.  If time allows, we work ahead so that on a busy day all we have to do is open a "gate" and move them into the next paddock.  When the growing season slows down, we make the paddocks bigger and move them less often, then in the fall flush, we'll try to move them quickly again.  Just to be clear; we fail at this frequently.  Not that we leave them without pasture, they always have grass.  What we fail at is keeping up with the pace of growth.  Inevidably the grass gets ahead of us and our paddocks will have both long, stemmy grass that has gone to seed (the seedheads, by the way, are usually what the cows and sheep go for first on those older plants --it is the only "grain" they get and they do like it) and fresh, young growth underneath. If time allows, we might clip the pastures using the horses and and mower, but often we just allow the young and old grass to grow together. It seems that some of those seeds work their way through the animals or directly onto the soil, helping to make a better stand of grass, legumes, and broadleaf "weeds" the following year.  Clipping is most important if we have a lot of bull thistle or burdock coming into the pasture.  But... like I said, time to manage all these variables is our particular struggle. From talking to other farmers and non-farmers alike, it seems we are far from alone in needing more time to do what we feel needs to be done.

Last week I expanded the sheep paddock in a rush and as I was stepping in the last of the electronet posts I realized my fence was going to be about three feet short.  I considered walking to barn for another length of fence, but I was in a hurry and since there was some high tensil fence behind the electronet, I opted to skip it rationalizing that the sheep and their lambs would not find the small gap or be deterred by shocking high tensil fence.  I should have recognized that needing to rationalize my choice was a red flag right away, but alas, I rushed off to Village Acres to prepare for an event at the FoodShed.  When I arrived home late in the afternoon, the sheep were spread out with the cows in the paddock adjoining them.  It could have been worse; they were not on the road. With the help of Roy, Mac, and Pip we got them separted and back in their appropriate paddocks. Lesson relearned: Sheep are far smarter than they look and will go to the greatest effort to reveal your weakness and stupidity. 

Posted 3/15/2012 8:58am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

Last Saturday was shearing day.  We hoped that the lull we were anticipating in the arrival of our "surprise" lambs would coincide with shearing so that new-born lambs would not be caught up in the stress of the day. However to our dismay, there has been no lull in lambing adding to our suspicion that a lucky ram lamb sneaked by us in August when we separated them.  The Thursday before shearing we had a new set of twins and a single and we dreaded moving the flock across the road to the barn with confused, stressed, new-born lambs in tow, but Pete was scheduled, our help was lined up, and it it was high time the fleeces came off for the spring. 

Friday afternoon I set up electro-net in the shape of a large funnel to help guide the flock and new lambs towards the gate. We assumed that when to older ewes hit the road and saw the barn they would know where to go and the younger, less experienced ewes and lambs would obediently follow. When Roy came home from work he put Bob out on pasture, cornered the breeding rams into a small pen, opened up a round bale in the barn yard for the sheep, held a brief strategic planning meeting with the girls (who were not happy to be pulled away from their play in the woods!) and, taking a deep breath, we opened the fence for the flock to come out. Our first thought was to give the sheep a lot of time and not use Mac or Pip to pressure them. The lambs kept running back to their familiar paddock while the ewes, happy to be on pasture with early grass sprouting ignored the bleating lambs in favor of filling their mouths. The girls and I gently pressured them from behind while Roy called them towards the gate. Everything was going very smoothly until they reached the gate by the road.  The older ewes moved up to cross then suddenly turn to look for their lambs and the rest of the flock responded as though their turning was the signal to go back.  After several attempts, we called in the expert. Mac was thrilled to have the job.  I was afraid that his tendency to put on too much pressure would create chaos, but he stayed very controlled, gently staying back from the young lambs and only pressuring the older ewes. Within a couple minutes of putting Mac to work the flock was across the road and in the barnyard; every single lamb accounted for.  After that, setting up for shearing was a matter of Roy doing some heavy lifting and by early evening, everything was in place.  

I missed the action of shearing day this year because it coincided with my monthly trip to New Morning Farm's Sheridan School Market, but according to Roy, everything went exceedingly well. Three sheep into shearing and the reason behind our early lambing was discovered; a ram with a feminine young face and testicles that will not win him any bragging rights had cleverly disguised himself in the ewe flock.  Before you think we are total idiots, which may well be true, let me just give you a little insight into animal sexual behavior.  When a ewe is in heat, it is not at all unusual for another ewe to mount her; cows act the same way.  With wooly sheep and saggy udders, sometimes it just doesn't occur to one that more is going on than ewes behaving as ewes often do.  Oh well.  This frisky adolescent did earn some bragging rights now however.  Our lambs look quite vigorous and are growing well.  It's no wonder the little guy stayed so thin, he was quite busy.  Properly identified, he was put in his place among the breeding rams where he was overheard telling exaggerated stories of his months among the ladies.

Posted 3/1/2012 7:39am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

A huge flock of geese flew overhead this morning as I was filling the water tank for the the sheep.  It appears the winter that never arrived is already poised to slip away.  When I think about planting peas and spinach in the garden I feel ready to reach into rich spring soil with the warm sun on my back, but I enjoy each season and I feel a little cheated by winter this year.  

The lambs keep coming. Just last year we were patting ourselves on the back for getting our lambing season into a neat four-week window and this year we were confident we had achieved that again. It's humbling.  Farming has a way of keeping one humble. The truly baffling part of the whole ordeal is that we still have no idea when this all happened, but apparently when we ran the flock through the chute to separate the ram lambs last August, we missed a little guy (and he must have been very little at that time, because Roy swears he groped every single lamb and it usually is quite simple know if you've got a ram or a ewe in your hands).  We are now nearing fifty lambs in the last month, far more than the short ram breakout that we had assumed happened, would bring.  No, this must have been a little ram that grew into his role around late September and found he was quite adept. 

The mild winter is fortunate for these early arrivals though and for that I am glad.  Had this happened last winter, especially on top of our difficult winter farrowing (pigging) season, it would not only have humbling, but outright depressing.  The lambs are already forming little gangs that dash about or stand and pop straight up in air as though they have more energy than their gangly legs can contain.  Winter or spring, the joy of new life is infectious.

Posted 2/10/2012 4:26am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

Last weekend we spent several days at Pennsylvania Assoc. of Sustainable Agriculture's (PASA)Farming for the Future Conference.  It is always a good time of reuniting with friends and learning more than I can hold in my head long enough to apply. (Another reason an iPhone 4S needs to be in my future. "Siri, take a note and remind me of this in three months when I am planting tomatoes".  Siri? Wasn't Steve Jobs around in the 70s? She should have been call "Radar".  That's who I really need hovering around me.)

Anyway... we returned home Saturday afternoon and were going about the business of unloading the car, greeting the dogs, and putting wood on the stove when I happened to glance at the barn just in time to see a "sheepish" ram's face duck away from barn window in place he was not supposed to be!  Our breeding rams have been hanging out with Bob for the last month but they do not have access to the feed aisle -- something was amiss!  Sure enough further investigation revealed that one of the gates out of their pen was open and Bob and the rams had been indulging in pig feed placed there to make it easier for our neighbor boy to feed the pigs.  When I found Bob, he was in the drylot trying unsuccessfully to look innocent; big and mischievous yes, innocent, no.  Can't imagine four ram lambs working together to upend a 30-gallon tub full of ground grain when big ole Bob could gently nudge it  for the same effect. To Bob, whistling Dixie while intently surveying the condition of the cows next pen over, it was no big deal.  We however were on the phone with the vet immediately.  Horses and excess grain are a potentially disastrous mix and we were worried. Besides the blank look on his face as he counted and recounted the cows and pigs, clearly too intent to be bothered with our frantic goings on, he seemed fine. 

The next morning, he still seemed fine.  His stomach was rumbling and his "road apples" kept coming.  Good news.  However now the worry was not colic, but foundering, a painful infection that settles into horse hooves making it hard to walk.  Bad cases can result in the hoof sloughing off.  It is no joke and we had the vet come out to assess Bob and give us the necessary medicine to case symptoms showed up and by Sunday night, Bob was clearly having pain in his feet.  Giving oral medicine to a horse, especially one that is 18 hands high is no easy task.  Roy hollowed out apples, filled them with the paste we were to give him, and sneaked them to him.  Bob would take it, break it half and spit it out. Imagine trying to hold a huge horse head, forcing his mouth open, and squirting a thick paste deep enough that he is forced to swallow.  It just isn't going to happen. Usually Bob nibbled at the apples and finally ate them and by Monday night his walking had improved significantly. 

In situations like this it is easy to point fingers. "Who left that gate open?"  "Who did not tell the farmsitter to always close the feed aisle gate even if it seems unecessary?"  But mistakes are made and usually they are by us and we knew no ill will was intended and thankfully, all was now well again.

Until Wednesday afternoon when I went out to check on Bob and the rest of the animals.  Just before going back to the house I noticed something odd about the manure pile in the cow pen.  Four legs were sticking up from the side of it. A heifer had gotten wedged upside down between the manure pile and the fence and she could not get up!  Cows can die this way.  They bloat, can't breath, and if left upended, they die. My first thought was to call Roy at work but as soon as I heard his stressed out voice saying, "What the hell can I do about it from here??" I realized I had a much better option.  Call Charles. Before I called him my farmer brain kicked in and I decided to shut Bob and the lambs in their pen so I could get the skid steer into the barnyard.  The quickest way to move Bob is to tempt him with oats, but given our recent past, I thought the empty oats bucket was the best thing.  A trick that is in his best interest and it worked (sort of - more on that later.)

When Charles arrived I had the skid steer in place and with his encouragement (I was afraid of hurting her - dying upside down in a manure pile vs. a scratch from a skid steer?  It takes awhile for the farmer in me to really take over.) I lifted her up and turned her over onto her feet.  She looked awful, covered in manure and shivering from the snow that was falling on her.  We walked her into the dry, warmer barn and left her to recover from her ordeal.  

Charles and I were walking back to his tractor when we heard some ominous bumping from the barn.  There in the feed aisle were the rams and big Bob again! "That bugger can open the gate!  I'm sure Ethan and I had the gate closed last weekend!"  Charles laughed.  And he's right. Once before I took the blame for Bob getting out assuming I must not have slid the bar across far enough, but those big lips are pretty dexterous and Bob is not as innocent as he likes to pretend.  Annoyed that my grain bucket was just a ruse, he took matters into his own lips and we caught him!  He hem-hawed around like he was just rounding up the naughty lambs than circled back into his pen.  This time the inside gate to grain bucket was closed so he was in no danger.  I've got just the fix for this problem.  Baler twine.  Like McGyver, farmers can fine innumerable uses for baler twine and duct tape.  Problem solved.

Posted 2/1/2012 9:08am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

This past summer and fall, Bob, with Roy's careful guidance, pulled several large oak trees out of our woodlot. An early summer storm several years ago caused a sudden wind burst that took out some of best "seed stock" trees just above our northeast pasture.   I've learned from forester Roy, that trees, like cows and sheep, should be selected for.  Leave the healthy, strong trees in your woods to replicate themselves for the future.  Put that way, it makes perfect sense to me.  Aren't we just trying to mimic natural selection?  But nature is a mysterious beast full of befuddling and random acts. With one strong gust roaring down the mountain, several dozen trees were downed, many of them marked as foundational to a healthy future woodlot. That said we decided to slice them up into a new barn floor. 

The outside bays of our barn have never been very strong and therefore a waste of good space. Getting thick, oak planking down has given us a lot more hay and machinery storage. As the new planks went in, the old, dry thin planks were pulled out and this winter we've heated the house with them.  It's been so mild that they actually lasted into February.  Admittedly this is not the cleanest form of heat, however, until our house is heated with solar panels or geothermal heat, it is probably one of our cleanest options.  At least we didn't have to haul it in.

Last weekend Roy and I spent several hours behind the garage cutting and stacking the planks to fit into our outdoor furnace.  The ewe flock is wintering in the pasture just behind the woodshed and at times I found myself mesmerized by the chewing motion of their mouths. During the afternoon the majority of the flock was laying on the ground, their jaws gentling grinding.  It is almost like watching waves wash up on shore. They seem so content when they are ruminating and the affect is calming. 

While most of the flock lay serenely chewing, the rest were gathered around the hay feeders eating hay and watching.  One ewe stood facing us, strands of hay hanging from her mouth, scratching her hind end on the corner of the feeder. I could of sworn she was daring me to comment, but I didn't.  Eating hay is an itchy business and if she needed to take care of her issues, I was fine with that. The flocks composed acceptance of the way things are had infiltrated the air around them and the more I watched them, the more I felt their calm stoicism settle into my being. 

Posted 1/18/2012 7:18am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

Yesterday was cold, wet, and dreary.  I had errands to run in morning and indoor work to do in the afternoon. Once or twice I went outside to let the dogs out for a break or to put wood on the stove, but the dogs and I were equally interested in returning to our warm shelters. When the girls arrived home from school at 3:45, my "farm" work was necessarily and happily interrupted and my attention turned to their stories, their "desperate need of something to eat, NOW!" dinner plans, and the day's news on the radio. This sudden activity was a jolt to my quiet day (as I'm sure any parent with school age children can attest) and when the girls were settled into doing homework or playing, I slipped outside to check on the sheep. 

In the interim the day's rain had ended, the air was warm, and the light, so steely and gray earlier, was an incredible, luminescent gold. Perhaps you saw this sunset. I went about my business making sure the sheep's water tank was full, turning off the woodstove fan, kicking an old soccer ball for Mac and Pip, and in between, standing still to enjoy the glowing world around me. When I suspected the water tank was full I turned towards the sheep pasture; the sheep were standing still facing west too. There is a group of young ram lambs in our  far west paddock and my first thought was they were watching each other, but the ram lambs were facing west as well.  I've seen sheep stand still, all facing the same direction in the rain, usually with their faces away from the direction the rain is coming, but I've never witnessed this sort of... reverence? appreciation of beauty? fascination? from the flock.  The dogs didn't seem to notice the glorious sky; they were too busy chasing each other, dashing about looking for something to do. So there I stood with the sheep, facing west, bathed in radiant tranquility and wondering about this flock of wooly, sober, skittish sheep standing still beside me. They were lovely company as the sun sank low and shimmering sky gave way to darkness. 

Posted 1/6/2012 7:15am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

Unemployment for a draft horse in his prime appears to affect him in ways similar to a capable young person who also cannot find suitable work.   In the past several months we struggled to know what exactly to do with our restless, moody fellow.   We do not want to and cannot afford to buy a horse that does not meet our needs just to give him companionship, nor can we afford to buy a horse that is guaranteed to be well-trained and match Bob's stature.  The right horse at the right price is out there, I'm sure, but when time and resources are at a premium, it requires some patience to find him or her.  

So... what about poor Bob?   He spent time with the steers on pasture, which he seemed to enjoy.   He found that galloping around them would create quite an entertaining circus; one solution to boredom is entertainment, after all. But these are the steers we are trying to fatten for market.  We don't want them to be fit and trim; they are supposed to get nice and pudgy as fast as they can.   Having a spunky horse rodeo-ing around them does not help put finish on a grassfed steer!

Roy recently had a day that allowed enough time to hitch Bob single to pull out some logs, however when he put on his collar it no longer fit.   Bob, at nearly seven years, is apparently still growing.   Luckily the next week Roy found a used collar for $50 at local Amish harness shop and shortly after hitched up Bob for a day in the woods.   

Most of our horse equipment is made for a team of horses but ground driving, walking behind the horse, is always an option.   Roy had several short logs that needed to be brought out of the woods and while one trip with the tractor or skid steer could have done it, it was definitely worth it to make several trips with Bob, for both Roy and the horse.   I'm not sure who was feeling worse about the situation, but getting the two of them back to work in the woods together was transformative.   Roy is now more patient with finding a suitable teammate for Bob knowing that working single is an option for the time being and Bob is so much more calm and social when we are in the barn.   It's as though he feels valued again; like he has a purpose on our farm.  

Yes, this is definitely an anthropomorphic interpretation of  Bob's demeanor.  Perhaps his muscles are just tired from working and he thinks that when he sees us he will get oats.   I can't say for certain.  But I know that working with some animals is incredibly satisfying because they seem to understand more than they can expressly communicate.   Horses and dogs especially communicate with their eyes, ears, and bodies what they want from their humans.  The mysteries of human / animal interaction gives me a lot of joy, but a mystery it will remain.   I am happy that Roy and Bob have found that they can work well together.  If Bob's contentment is only about oats, Roy's, I know for certain, is about collaborating with a massive animal on task that requires them working together and feeling the satisfaction of a job well done.

Posted 12/16/2011 7:51am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

Last night the wind came roaring down the mountain at regular, sleep-disturbing intervals waking the girls and us up from our otherwise peaceful night. When I crawled out of bed just before dawn and peered out the window to the west, the tops of the spruce trees were churning and dancing in the moon and starlit sky. Minnie, our furry feline, sprung up to claw at the window on the backdoor while I was grinding coffee, and startled me out of my morning stupor.  Apparently the warm night she was shooed into before bed was no longer as inviting and she was ready for her daytime nap under the Christmas tree.

I usually try to schedule my week so that I am at home at least two full days. Those days might include a "quick" run to East Waterford, eight miles southeast, to go to the bank or perhaps a bike ride to check on the ewes a 1/2 mile down the road at our neighbors, but for large part of the day I am catching up with book work, communicating with customers, throwing in a load of laundry and preparing food. I admit, I love these days.  I love them more than I used to because they are a far rarer gem.  (I barely remember when I tried to find excuses to leave the farm, - a Christmas bazaar at a local church that usually offered very little I was actually interesed in purchasing -- an infant strapped onto my hip and another in a small stroller.)   Today is an "at-home" day and knowing I was going to be home,  Roy asked if I would feed the pigs and do the morning chores.  On a brisk, breezy, sunny morning, there are few things I like doing more.

Ebony greets me when I enter the pigpen.   Ebony greets everyone but not everyone is as excited to see her as I am. She's a bit of a nuisance, but I can't helped but be charmed by her willingness to be scratched and petted, even if at times she might be actually trying to bite me.  I take it as affection; Roy and the girls think she's a bit aggressive.  When she gets to be three hundred pounds and comes running at me squealing and barking, I might change my tune. One has to find things to be amused by in life and Ebony makes that a simple task for me.

The dogs too bring us a lot of joy and amusement. They greet every day with so much energy and enthusiasm it is like unleashing pure happiness when we open their pens. They bound around chasing each other and dashing to each family member to get their morning greeting.  We've done a poor job at teaching them to stay "off".  It seems to take more discipline than they can manage to not try to greet us face to face.  What is so amusing about them is as soon as we give the "off" command they sit directly in front of us, noses pointed towards our faces, eyes pleading to be petted and rubbed.  Pip cannot just sit at look at us; she lifts her paw and persistently strokes our legs till we rub her ears.   It is so damn affective and impossible to resist.   I am constantly amazed at how clearly they manage to communicate, with eyes and head gestures, exactly what they want from us. They've trained us far better than we have them.

This morning Bob seemed a little lonely.  We know he is lonely for horse companionship, but he may need to wait a few more months. Finding the right horse at the right price is tricky.  He is now in the barnyard, close to the cows and pigs, but in his own pen.  Because he had been out on pasture for the last several months, it had been a while since I curried him.  He stood so still this morning while I curried the dust off his coat it was as if he were waiting for the pastor to serve him communion.  His hooves are large and his legs so powerful that to be close to them and feel they are completely relaxed is a holy experience.  So much grace is given to us from these creatures and so often our lives are too busy to recognize it.  Doing the chorse on a windy morning has done far more to bring light to my spirit in middle of winter than the brief time I spent shopping for stocking stuffers at Target yesterday. 

Posted 12/5/2011 8:17am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

Deer hunting season in Shade Valley, like other rural areas of Pennsylvania, is a two week aberration from normalcy. Suddenly the quiet roads are busy and gun shots rumble and echo down the valley.   I used to dread hunting season. When we  first moved to this farm, new to the community, and without fences delineating our pastures from surrounding cropland, we had several confrontations with hunters taking wild shots from the road that divides it.  It felt like a dangerous time to live in the middle of deer country; and I grew up in a hunting family, married a hunter, and had started hunting myself. 

We have since gotten to know many of the local hunters, made it clear that our land is open for hunting as long as the laws and common hunting courtesies are obeyed, (such as asking for permission and not shooting from your beer-can strewn pick-up truck!)  We swap hunting stories with our neighbors who we otherwise rarely talk to and find that our connections to them and the community are strengthened.  I've found that other activities that place us in close proximity to the undomesticated world do not create the same sort of story-swapping culture; at least not among the folks we rub elbows with on a regular basis. A morning of cross-country skiing through the woods is fun, but no one seems interested in what I experienced out there, unless of course I was run down by a 12-point buck.  

This coming Saturday regular deer hunting season will close and for several weeks we will still have stories to swap with neightbors we meet in passing, but soon after the normal, quiet routines of winter resume and we'll hunker down in our individual homes and wait for the snowstorms to bring us out and give us new experiences to share.