January has been a mixed bag of weather. Snow, rain, wind and sun; sometimes all in the same day. Temperature swings of 20 degrees in the same number of hours make for interesting times. When I open the hen house to let the chickens out for breakfast they're not sure what to expect. Will they be able to scratch in the dirt, will they need to fly over the snow or will they slip/slide into the barn to sit out another grey day?
A few weeks ago when we had snow on the ground, I noticed an unusual trail going across the garden. A shallow trench that came from the woods, went over the garden, across the driveway and into the field. It finished at the big apple tree that the pigs love to sleep under in the summer. In the fall they treat the tree like a vending machine, rubbing against the trunk and then noisily chomp on the small, hard apples that fall to their feet.
Looking up into the branches I could see the trench builder.
A porcupine, sitting in the highest branch.
It would seem that porcupines have a special method for dealing with snow. In much the same way that I use a snow shovel to clear a trench for the chickens, porcupines create trenches so they can travel more easily from their dens to food sources. As a result, their footprints in the snow are not visible. Instead, the large rodents leave behind impressive trenches.
All week he has used his trench to reach the apple tree. From our window, we watch him come out of the woods and amble along his trench across the garden in front of the house. He built a return road for the homeward journey and each day the two trenches become a little bit deeper.
It rained last night and his roads disappeared along with the snow. It was +7C today with sunny skies, the weather lady says tomorrow will be -7C with snow. I'm thinking the weather must be as confusing for a porcupine as it is for the chickens.