Dave Simpson: Up Where Distancing Is No Problem

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

Nice to know that 2020 isn’t nearly as rotten a year if we can just get far enough away from members of our own species.

Twenty miles up a rough dirt road, the final five miles steep and full of potholes, is far enough. Social distancing is the order of the day up here at 9,600 feet elevation, and you’d have to work hard to get within 600 feet of someone, much less six feet.

Not long ago, a lady who was upset about something I wrote sent an email saying I should come up here to my cabin, not bring any writing materials, and NEVER COME BACK. (Helpful suggestions like that come with the territory.)

If you can avoid the temptation to tune in the news on the radio, you can spend an entire day not thinking about whether or not masks work against Covid-19, about kneeling athletes, about Portland, Ore., or about the looming presidential election.

Maybe they’ll have things worked out by the time the snow flies and cabin season is over. But I doubt it.

Keeping the radio turned off is particularly important because the only news that comes in clearly in the morning is National Public Radio, where they’ve given up any semblance of impartiality. It’s non-stop Trump-is-a-dope-and-despot coverage, all day, every day. I’ve considered using my radio for target practice.

Podcasts can save the day. My favorite so far is a solid hour of a calmly gurgling mountain stream.

But, on to the not-so-bad news of 2020 up here where the buses don’t run:

The mosquitoes haven’t been nearly as bad as usual, probably because the standing water disappeared more quickly than usual. Mosquitoes were a real issue 35 years ago when we were horsing around logs to build the cabin, and we returned to town Sunday afternoons covered in sweat and layers of mosquito repellent.

I remember looking down at a stick of butter on the picnic table and seeing half a dozen mosquitoes mired in the sticky butter. Nothing like a little extra protein on your slice of toast.

Mosquito technology has improved over the years, and a spray or two of Deet, and burning a Pic coil in the evening seems to keep the rascals at bay, at least this year. And for the last three years I’ve hung something called “Mosquito Eradicators” in trees on either side of the porch, and they seem to help.

Back in the 90s we saw a lot more hummingbirds at my feeders. I have a  photo from back then of more than a dozen hovering around a feeder. But in recent years there haven’t been nearly as many. Four is the most I’ve counted this year.

There’s one hummingbird that seems to be in charge of running off the other three. A rust and red colored beauty, he terrorizes the other hummingbirds, even though there’s plenty for everyone at my feeders.

Maybe hummingbirds are selfish, and the mean bird is just protecting what he considers his valuable assets. Even in the animal kingdom, we apparently can’t all just get along.

I heard a bird expert say on TV that red dye in the nectar does not attract more hummingbirds. Tell that to the birds I see trying to feed at the red Coleman lanterns hanging from my porch rafters. I always put red food coloring in my feeder nectar.

Last year I spotted several nice bucks on my little acre of forest, but so far this year I’ve seen just one doe. I spotted a moose calf on the road coming up a couple weeks ago, and if there’s more leg in any animal short of a giraffe, I don’t know what it is.

Bark beetles wiped out thousands of our trees 11 years ago, and one neighbor cried as the dead trees surrounding her cabin were cut down. We cut down 65 on my place, and I’ve spent the last 11 years cleaning up the forest floor.

The good news is that the new trees that have come up are now as tall as I am, enjoying the newfound sunlight.

Nature has a way of dealing with a crisis.

(I’m not sure it works that way in town.)

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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