Friday, January 30, 2009


How could I resist a face like that? I don't understand how anyone can. I do think that I may be in a minority, when ever anyone visits my home and sees the number of squirrels that are freely eating from my feeders, no barriers to stop them, they are quite unhappy! They say things like, I hate squirrels, why do you feed them, rats with hairy tails, they even bang on the windows to scare them. Where does the animosity come from? I find them cute and endearing. This morning when I got up and was pouring my cup of coffee, and there was one squirrel knocking on my kitchen window...he was hungry and letting me know it! I loved that he knew who brought him his food. I promptly went out and filled all my feeders and soon had a dozen gray guys out there. This Winter we actually have a few squirrel nests in the yard. We don't suffer any damage from them, except the one last Summer that decided to chew in to our back closet and give birth to three babies in an old laundry basket while we were on vacation, after I discovered the nest, she promptly moved them. I will be getting my wildlife rehabilitation license this coming Spring and I might just specialize in the dreaded Gray Squirrel!
Species:S. carolinensis

Body length: 9-12 in.
Tail length: 7-10 in.
Weight: 12-28 oz.

Sexual Maturity: 11 months.
Gestation: About 44 days.
Litter size: Usually 3, but up to 9.
Females may have 2 litters a year, 1 in March or April and the other in June or July.

Habit: Tree-dwelling, but spends much of it's time on the ground.
Diet: Mainly tree seeds.
Call: Chattering and piercing scream.
Lifespan: 3-4 years.

Today........Big Pete and I did a snowshoe up at Cascade Lake Park. Very hard going due to the hard Ice crust on top of the few inches of snow. We were the only ones to forge a trail most of the way. Petey seemed very happy, I think he was following a coyote trail. Came home, had a very relaxed Doberboy...worth the crappy conditions to just do it and get out there! Oh and on a side Euro Doberman has for the very first time ever at 27 months old has decided to chase his first Squirrel! He was very bored today after me working Wed/Thurs day and laying on my lap watching the craziness out back with a dozen squirrels fighting for the premo spots for food, and suddenly decided....MOMMY LET ME OUTSIDE!! ....I've always been happy that Petey never bothers our feeder birds nor the squirrels....might this be over??? He is so good he even watches my 20 Turkeys feeding. No desire to head out and chase them....could start tomorrow!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Like clockwork

I'm still sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee in my PJs and bird watching. Happy for getting to sleep in, on a week day with my sweetie Petey because my sons have a week off from school. All of a sudden twenty large dark birds come strolling in to the yard....TURKEYS!!! I've been waiting and hoping that I would get my flock from last year back, and here they are. I can't think of any place on earth that I'd rather be right now then sitting at my kitchen table watching the birds and squirrels enjoy the banquet I set out for them each day. The cost of the food is minuscule compared to the complete utter joy of watching all of these creatures up close and personal on a daily basis. How could I mind doing anything in my kitchen? I look out either window and I have a nature show that rivals any program I've ever seen on TV. Today's notable cast also includes a dozen Gray squirrels, a Red Squirrel, female coopers hawk, Pines siskins, Purple finches, brown headed cowbirds, Carolina Wrens and my usual Winter cast of ....the flock of cardinals, Chickadees, bluejays, T.Titmouse, Downeys, Red-Bellieds, Mourning Doves, Starlings, House Finch, Juncos, W.T. Sparrows, Goldfinch, Nuthatches, Tree Sparrows. Over the last two decades of living in this house, I could have had a roomfuls of nice furniture if I hadn't spent so much money on bird seed. All those possessions would need to be replaced now after growing a active houseful of boys for the last twenty years, I think my investment in helping all these creatures survive, and filling my heart with joy each and everyday was a far better investment. I hope my sons have received the gift of nature from all that has surrounded them their entire lives, it is a gift that initial cost is nothing, and it lasts a lifetime. When you see nature with open are never bored or depressed you just need to look around to find something interesting to focus on and change your outlook for the day. My heart is full and happy today, my turkies are back and I hope they visit everyday for the next couple of months, their cracked corn will be waiting for them each morning. They can depend on me.

Later on 1:30pm...Two hour hike with Petey up in the Co. Park. Beautiful clear cold day. I let Petey do his zoomies on the little pond,that was the first time I've ever let him even walk on it, as the last two Winters it was not trust worthy enough. We also saw three deer, Petey went to talk chase, but came right to me when called, today...I had a pocket full of treats...which was big surprise for him!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Who cooks for you....who cooks for you all

Another chilly dusk walk, up at Cascade Lake Park. It isn't a time of day that I ordinarily take a walk, but I'm really starting to enjoy the blissful silence of the last moments of the day. Dawn, Day, Dusk and Night time each offer unique experiences with different creatures for those of us willing to venture out of our box. Every type of animal has their own niche that they fit and thrive in. If you never get out during those other times you don't experience all that being out in nature has to offer. The forest was silent except for the sound of two Barred Owls calling back and forth and a lone Coyote barking. The owls are courting and soon to be setting on eggs. Their voices calling back and forth are magical, truly something that everyone should experience. I'm really looking forward to taking Petey out for dusk walks on the two days I have to work this week. Petey has discovered his own new joy during our dusk walks...doing zoomies all over the frozen pond! He is also able to just stand and listen to the owls call, I've never had a dog who looks and listens to everything around him. Yes....he is my perfect companion....moms boyfriend may be won't ever get another like him, I pray that I don't have to find that out for another decade.

Barred Owl
Strix varia
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Subfamily: Striginae
Genus: Strix

Length: 16-25 in.
Weight: 1-1.5 lbs. (females slightly larger than males)
Wingspan: 38-50 in.

Common Names: hoot owl, rain owl, round-headed owl, swamp owl, wood owl

Etymology: strix (Latin) - "a strident owl"; varia (Latin) - "variegated"

Description: The barred owl is a large owl with a round head, no ear tufts and a long tail. Primarily gray and brown with white bars and edges, and the face is gray-brown. Barred owl under parts are buff with vertical streaks, the collar is barred horizontally, contrasting with a streaked breast. These owls have dark brown (virtually black) eyes and a yellow or white beak almost covered by feathers.

Flight: Buoyant and light, noiseless with slow, heavy wing beats. Rarely soars, but frequently flies high.

Voice: Loud, very vocal hooting, often in response to each other. "Hoo-hoo-to-hoo-oo, hoo-hoo to wha-aa" suggests " Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" They are extremely vocal in February and March, and again during late summer and fall. Probably the most vocal of all owls.

Habitat: Barred owls prefer mature forests and heavily wooded swamps. They roost in densely forested areas, and hunt over farmland, open country, roadsides and rivers. They are often associated with red-shouldered hawks.

Distribution: The barred owl is found all over the eastern United States, north into Canada and south into Florida and Texas. They are also found in the Pacific Northwest, overlapping with spotted owl habitat.

Nesting: Barred owls are fairly sedentary, a behavior that may contribute to establishing long-term pair bonds and nest territoriality. They frequently use abandoned red-shouldered hawk or crow nests; also large, deep hollows in trees or nest boxes. Barred owls will often nest close to red-shouldered hawks without conflict, and may use the same nest several years in a row. They lay 2-3 (rarely 4-5) white eggs, with a slightly rough texture. Incubation is all done by the female, and lasts approximately 28-33 days. The young owlets begin branching by 4- 5 weeks, but do not fledge until they are closer to 6 weeks old.

Food: Barred owl prey size spans from insects to woodchucks, geese, and herons. They are opportunistic hunters, and will often eat easy to catch prey such as lizards, frogs and small rodents.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Purple Finches

Today was a wonderful day to be home watching the birds at the feeders. We were graced with a flock of six Purple Finches. Some of the Pine Siskins also returned. Lots of ground birds, I'm really loving the White-Throated Sparrows, Juncos,Mourning Doves, American Tree Sparrows.

Petey and I headed up to Cascade Lake at 3:30pm went for a quick walk. We actually ventured out on the lake for the first time this year! I have always been afraid of walking on ice. I don't know why that is, but I have felt this way since I was a little kid. When my boys were little I would take them skating on Lakes but was always nervous the entire time. Today when we arrived at Cascade there were about ten quads on the lake....I figured it was finally *safe* for Petey and I!! Petey was overjoyed running through the deep snow on the lake. I wonder what he was thinking about, he usually swims in that lake!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pileated Woodpeckers

39 degrees overcast. Nice snowshoe up at Cascade Lake Park. Lots of birds out and about today. Merlin, Chickadees, Nuthatch, T.Titmouse, Robins, Raven, R.B. Woodpeckers,Pine Siskins, Gold Finch, two Pileated Woodpeckers and heard two Barred Owls calling back and forth the entire walk. Petey had a great time!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Crepuscular walk

Long two days at work. Longer days for poor Petey as they are the first two in a couple of months that he as home alone. Bobby wasn't coming home from work until late, so I decided when I got home to quickly put on a pair of winter boots and head up to the Co. Park in the waning daylight. The last thing I felt like doing after a few bad nights sleep, a crappy two days at work and the typical commutes to and from work,was to walk up a snow covered hill in 26 degree weather in the dark. Guess what? As always when I just do it, I had a great time! Watching Petey run his little heart out and bound with complete and utter joy, just puts a huge smile on my face with in minutes of stepping out of my car. Petey's exuberance over the little things in his is contagious. He is in my life to push me to get outside no matter how I feel! No more excuses that it is too dark, as we are on the other side of darkness now, and the days are getting long enough to get him out on work days too. Our walk was blissful. Completely quiet, a couple of twinkling stars, and the crunch of our feet on the snow. By the time we come out of the fields a wonderful sense of peace had come over me...and I felt like I had just come home from a vacation. Petey is a gift that I give myself everyday....he makes me get out there and live. My beautiful brown boy is now sleeping at my feet, he is at peace too.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

No stair-climber for this girl! Two hours of snow-shoeing in beautiful sunshine 28 degree weather, is far more fun then any gym workout I've ever done. Petey and I headed out to the Co. Park and had a wonderful hike. Bird of the day was the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, I saw a total of five of them. I even watched on feeding on sap that was dripping from a hole in a tree. Other notables, a couple of Red-tails, Turkey vulture, Flicker, chickadee, TT Mouse, RB woodpecker, Crows, Blue Jays, Downy WP.

After our glorious snow shoe I decided to to a bird watch drive. Went down to the prison, State School, Upper and Lower Wisnter, where I saw 4 black ducks,several Red-Tails, Juncos, WT, Tree, song Sparrows, Raven, Canada Geese, Mallards, Ravens, Lg. flock of Horned Lark.

Home is where them most bird action is going on....huge flocks continue, and I'm loving every minute! Hoping for some turkeys any day now.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lapland Longspur

I had a very long week of work, very cold weather, hubby having foot surgery, and son Jason having a car accident. I didn't get out for a walk again for the rest of the week. Petey has been very patient,and behaving very well despite having no exercise again for many days. Today Bobby, Petey and I decided to head out to Pine Island and see what Tundra Birds are spending the Winter out on the farm fields. I was not disappointed, in fact I am very happy that we went! I got Lapland Longspur for my life list! There were two of them, several hundred horned lark, a hundred Snow Buntings and 4 Rough-Legged Hawks, two Dark Phase. Lots of Redtails, Sparrows and Juncos. Very successful birding trip. On the way home we drove past a bee tree! I could see the honey combs sticking out of a hollow, it isn't often that you find one. We stopped at the County Park and ran Petey for a little bit up at the golf course, he loved the large expanses of snow to run over, was so excited to be out there! Three male Robins, a few Juncos and Chickadees were up at the park. Yesterday flying near the park were two Black Vultures.

Feeder birds yesterday and today, are in the hundreds. Flocks of Cardinals, White Throated Sparrows, Juncos, Finches, Purple, House and Gold (gorgeous male Purple yesterday) Mourning Doves, Downy and Red Bellied Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmouse, Chickadees, Nuthatch, BH Cowbirds, Starlings, Crows and two Carolina Wrens.

As for my eating....I've been doing fantastic! Eating very healthy, I'm really feeling good being off of the wheat.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Personal Discovery

I love going out into nature alone, except for my dog. The silence that I find out there alone clears my busy head. It is a time that I can think deeply about my life, and think about myself instead of about my family and the many obligations that comes with having such a large busy family. I have come to regard nature time as ME time, nonnegotiable and necessary to remain sane in this often crazy world of mine. Today I was thinking about how hard it is for me to stick to a diet exercise routine for very long. I realized it is because, I'm trying to do what works for others! I need to find the approach to whole living that works for ME for the long haul. I want to get off the diet mentality I've had for the last couple of decades and just eat what I should and work out for what my body needs. I can't stand routines, I can't stand being ridged in any way shape or form. I had this light bulb moment while I was thinking about how I approach dog training, how much I can't stand strict obedience training. All of my dogs of the past were NOT trained very well. They worked out well with in my life, no real problems, and all were good dogs, but I always wished for a better trained dog, and I just didn't have it in me to stick to training day in and out. Now with Petey, I have to work on training, because he is a much smarter dog then I've ever owned before, and he needs clear rules, and leadership. He pushed me to learn a way of living his daily training and keeping it fun for us both! Now I want to find out how to apply that same approach to eating better and doing at least some exercise in my second century so I can have a healthy body if I am one of the few that gets another fifty years! The Paleo way of life seems the way to go for me, being able to eat all I want of natural unprocessed foods, continue with hikes and just add some weight training....when I feel like it! I can live with this approach for the long haul, I won't see results overnight, but in a couple of months I should. Despite being deep in thought, Petey and I had a nice hike, very cloudy, 28degrees and no wind. No birds either! There was someone on the pond at Cascade Lake, Ice Fishing and another hiker came by with his dog.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Gotcha day for Petey!

Two years ago I picked up my Sweet Pete from his breeder and we began our journey through life together. It has not been with out lots of ups and downs, the downs few and far in-between, and only because of my inexperience as a first time Doberman owner, I had no idea what I was in for. He has taught me far more then I have taught him. He pushed me to learn all I could about training and leadership. I now look at dog ownership totally different then I ever had in the past. The ups are what this blog is all about, the companionship of a great dog.

Today we went up to Cascade Lake Park. It was 25 degrees out, and a nice couple of inches of fresh snow covering the ice. Petey was overjoyed at running on this new and what seems very comfortable surface, he kept running back to me with this smile on his face, saying in his way~Thank you. This continued for the entire hour we were out. It was truly beautiful today, trees covered in ice, bright blue sky and the ground covered with fresh snow. I think that is what I love best about getting outside in nature for exercise....even if you go to the same place day after day, there is always something new to look at. I hope that I never have to go back to the boredom of machine exercising. Birds of note today...Black Vulture and a lone Male Robin, he must have wanted to stay around and see what Winter was all about.

Yesterday hubby and I took our second son up to college at SUNY Oneonta. Such an incredibly beautiful area. His campus is situated so you see lots of tree covered hills all around it. Lots of trees on the property too. I think he is going to be very happy up there.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


We are having a snow storm today, just a wonderful to watch from inside a nice cozy house! Nice that it is Saturday and everyone is able to hang around the house and not have to drive anywhere, although we have been out twice. Once to do a repair at my moms Condo and Hubby hurt his hand on Thursday while riding his motocross bike,or should I say falling off his bike, and today it was really swollen. I insisted we take a ride to the ER and get an X-Ray. Thankfully nothing is broken. Friday he does have surgery on the foot he broke a year ago...falling off that damn bike! So I will be back at the hospital again! Lots of feeder birds today, including a gorgeous pair of purple finches. Tonight just as I anticipated there is a FLOCK of Cardinals, about twenty or so. It's hard to count them as some of them end up under my kitchen window and I can't get them all at once. For the last decade or so I can always count on a large group from January until around March. There are up to thirty some days when the weather is really bad. Most people feel lucky to have a pair at their feeders. When we have company, if they happen to look out side and see the large number, they get so excited.

Poor Petey had no run today, too many obligations for me, and I was also a bit nervous going out there with the light covering of snow over all that ice, could have made for some very bad falls for both of us. He has had a houseful of kids to play with, so I don't think he is suffering too much!

I'm almost done on my research for Petey's backpack, and shoes too. The shoes he will need them in case of any type of foot injury while we are out backpacking. Not easy to carry a 100# boy! My boy has BIG feet! Although he is really just med-lg size dog, his shoe size on Ruff Wear is an XL...and maybe even an XXL...the size shoe that St. Bernards wear!!! He never did grow into those big feet of his! Maybe I ended up with a Dobe with HUGE feet because of the life he was going to lead, no cat feet for Petey, big giant feet with just as big nails, that are perfect for running, jumping and going over very rough terrain. Not once has he had a problem with pads or nails. He has cut pads pretty badly and they don't even bleed for more then a minute, nor does he ever limp from injuries, and they heal in no time at all. My Weims didn't have as good foot pads like Petey. I do put Mushers secret on Petey's feet a couple of times a week during the Winter, but I don't over baby his feet. His nails are pretty long too, and I only cut the tips off about every ten days. As for the backpack I think I'm going to get the Ruff Wear Palisades Backpack. It has built in water bladders. I recently purchased Petey's new sleeping pad, and it s much bulkier then I had thought, I think Daddy will be able to carry it with his own sleeping pad, not with out much complaint as it weights three pounds, but it can be used on other vacations if we decide it is just too heavy. It is also from Ruff Wear. They have wonderful products!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Home alone....

I am having a very rare moment at home~ALONE! Except for my Sweet Pete, who at this point of the morning is still lounging in the sun spots. Everyone is out of the house, so I filled my feeders, got a cup of coffee and watched the action begin. I have about twenty Pine Siskins, such a treat as most years we don't get more then one or two of this irruptive species. I just ordered two new thistle feeders for them, Rainbow brand, that fit eighteen birds on each feeder. I have problem with forgetting to take them in the house once our bear season begins, and have lost a total of five feeders over the last two years. I am so content sitting cozy in my warm bright kitchen watching all the beautiful birds outside my window, that I dread having to go outside in the cold to do my errands and take Petey for a much needed hike. I'm not sure how far we can hike today, as we had an ice storm again on Wednesday, trees and ground are solid ice. I won't chance Petey slipping and falling on the ice. We are expecting a storm tomorrow, so I was sure to make up a big batch of my favorite peanut butter mix and fill all the woodpecker feeders. I changed the mix a bit, have to see how they like it, I used all corn flour with peanut butter and shortening. I put it all in the food processor and that is it, so easy and inexpensive next to the cost of pre-made. There has already been a visit from a nice mature female Sharp-shinned Hawk, she sat in the apple tree and gave me a very good view. Lots of ground birds enjoying the corn and white millet. Juncos, W.T.Sparrows, A.T. Sparrows, Mourning Doves. At least a half dozen gray squirrels and a couple of Reds. Other feeder birds, include an ever growing flock of Cardinals, Blue Jays, Gold Finch, Starlings, T.T. Mouse, Chickadees, House Finch, W.B. Nuthatch.

Petester and I got out for a very treacherous hike today, it was extremely icy up in the Co. Park. I only fell two times! Yikes,after the first time I was thinking I need to have my head examined for going up there, but it seemed once I started I might as well keep going for the whole loop. I was being very careful, there were areas on the trail that are steep and the light covering of snow had been blown off, so there was nothing to catch my feet when I started sliding. We were alone up there except for lots of foot prints. Petey really enjoyed following lots of different well run deer trails and then a turkey trial! He followed their trail for about ten minutes, nose to the ground the entire time, looked like he was having a ball tracking! Nice day as usual, and if I didn't have this awesome Doberman Pinscher, I would have not been out there enjoying nature on a day like today. He is the BEST!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My Dad

Yesterday was four years since the passing of my Dad. I still miss him more then I can express. Although I don't cry much over him anymore, I still have a deep ache that I guess never goes away. You never *get over* the loss, but you do learn to live with it. My sons also miss him, life is just not the same with out his funny wit. Because he died so suddenly, we had no warning and no goodbyes, I think that complicated the grieving process for me. I can finally talk and laugh about him. I am most grateful to him for giving me my love of nature. He was also one of those people with the Natural Intelligence, as is his one grandson Derek. I feel we are truly born different then the rest of the population. One of my friends actually wrote a college paper about me on this very subject. From as far back as I can remember, he fed the birds in our suburban LI backyard. We also spent much of our family time on the beach. We were lucky to have a boat, and access to a private beach on LI, Gilgo Beach. Back in the day, few people had boats and fewer frequented a boat access only beach. I spent a glorious childhood snorkeling, swimming and seeing lots of shore birds. My dad was at his best while out on the water. My fondest childhood memories were alway out on Great South Bay. He was always happy and beaming while at the helm of his boat. My dad collected decoys, and I now have his collection. Mom kept their shorebird collection. Our Summer vacations were spent at Mr. Whites Cottages on Peconic Bay out on the North Fork of LI. We stayed in a tiny cottage right on an inlet. Weeks full of stars, seafood, fishing, snorkeling, and lots of nature. A paradise for me. Over the years of my childhood, my dad was also one to bring me home every turtle he found crossing the road. We now know better then to do this, because a turtle crossing a road is either heading to lay eggs or coming back from laying eggs. Having those close up personal times with many species of turtles gave me my other love, and I still keep a turtle to this day. He brought home, snappers, diamond back tarpins, box turtles, wood turtles and painted turtles. I was only allowed to keep them a few days and then he would release them in a nice natural area. We now know that turtles have home areas, so this is never a good idea either. I know better and have done better, my turtle is captive born and bred and replaces the same species, Asian Yellow Pond turtle that I shared from the age of eight until I was thirty four with. It took me ten years after losing Pee-Wee to locate a breeder in Florida and have at the time four month old PJ join our family. He now lives in a fifty gallon pond in our family room.

Ice storms again today, feeders are just loaded with birds. First thing I did this am was to get new food out tho the birds. Getting wet during the Winter is very hard and dangerous to them, they need lots of fuel to stay warm.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I've gotten out hiking all the days of the New Year! Petey, Bobby and I went to both Cascade Lake Park and the County Park over the weekend. We did one hour loops each day. Not enough snow on the ground to use our snowshoes. Typical Winter birds around.

Today Petey and I went out for two hours in the Co. Park. We did the woods trail as well as looped the fields. Only notable sightings were a couple of Robins. Spent the entire time thinking about my New Years resolutions. Trying to get it in to my brain that I need to keep them! Today is the day I start. I am lifting weights again as I know that if I don't, I won't be able to spend my remaining years of life, outside in nature alone. I need to regain the muscle mass I've lost over the last few years since my Dad's death which was four years ago tomorrow, so starting this week in not only fitting because it is a new year, but also because it was his death that had me jump off the fitness wagon, I lost my MoJo and just never regained it. I need to be strong enough to carry a pack and keep myself from getting hurt just on my daily hikes. I don't want to end up a frail old lady over the next decade. I know that lifting weights is the answer to staying strong as I age. Part of my plan is to also go back to the Paleo way of eating. I do not feel well nor can I keep my weight lower and stable when I center more on a vegetarian diet with too many bad carbs. A year ago I had a colon biopsy that told me that I don't have celiacs disease and since then it has been a license for me to eat wheat. I do believe I have wheat sensitivities. I now have a lot of extra weight because of eating carbs again. I feel like crap most of the time. I found this blog on the web and it fits my plan to a T. I've copied and pasted it here so I can refer back to it, and remind myself of my goals for the year! It makes total sense to me like no other plan and it is one that is close to my heart with they type of exercise it recommends. I love lifting weights and hiking in the woods it it for me. I won't use exercise equipment...because I HATE them! I'd much rather get dressed for the weather and get out there!

The following was written by Mike O’Donnell a professional fitness coach and trainer. His blog can be seen at The IF Life.

A Health Plan So Easy, Even a Caveman Can Do It:

Fred Flintstone is not my idea of a real caveman as he had a car (albeit powered by a foot engine), worked sitting on a dinosaur, and got his food from a drive-thru (we have all seen where the brontosaurus ribs tipped over his car). But if you look at the overall health and fitness of the Paleolithic (or “hunter and gather” period from 10,000 years ago) cavemen, they were all pretty strong, not overweight by today’s standards, and did not suffer from modern degenerative diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancers.

Most people will argue “Well they had an average shorter life span compared to today,” which actually is true but not for the reasons some think. The key word to look at is “average.” Living back 10,000 years ago was not a walk in the park. Back then there were higher infant mortality rates, deaths from pregnancy/childbirth stress or complications, and many deaths simply from the overall stress of the climate. And of course, none of these survival hazards were accompanied by the modern medical emergency care that we have today. So many ways, comparing modern man’s life span to caveman life span is comparing apples to oranges

But even if you look at more recent cultures that still followed the hunter-gatherer lifestyle up until the last few centuries, you will see men living longer on average than today’s man and, more importantly, living without high rates of modern degenerative diseases. Hunter-gatherers simply lived longer, healthier, and more functional lives. So we can definitely learn a thing or two from our old cavemen ancestors. Let’s explore what they did.

Cavemen lifted heavy things

Whether it was getting a log for firewood, using rocks as weapons, building a suitable shelter or just bringing back the animal that they hunted down, life was full of things that were heavy, unstable, and needed to be carried over long distances. Rarely were they picking up neon colored 5lb weights. Their bodies were capable of lifting large objects (or a larger load of smaller objects) and transporting them far.

Caveman sprinted and walked for survival

Survival meant making sure they had something to eat and not being the dinner for something else. While they gathered food they would walk over and around hills searching for plants, nuts, and seeds. When it came time to hunt, they would sneak up on the animal herd and then sprint into action with a spear or rock as their only weapon. If a region was barren of food, then it was time to move the whole tribe somewhere else. A caveman’s life was filled with these brief bursts of intense activity, coupled with a slower, low paced walking/hiking lifestyle. There was no jogging for hours at a time.

Cavemen didn’t do isolated exercises, just full body movements

I’m pretty sure the gym craze and nautilus equipment came long after the caveman period. I don’t think caveman took time out to do some crunches during a hunt or calf-raises on a log. What they did do is move their body the way it was meant to move. That meant pushing objects, pulling things, throwing rocks and spears, climbing or walking up hills, squatting down to pick up something, lunging over and across objects, or lifting items over their head to carry home on their shoulders. Their body was perfectly balanced by natural movements, not by isolating muscles.

There were no running shoes, knee braces, or lifting straps 10,000 years ago

Ever see a lion stretch his hamstrings or tie up his specially made shoes before hunting down dinner? Well that was the same case with our cave guy. They ran barefoot on all surfaces, up and down hills, climbing over rocks and so forth. When they picked something up they didn’t have lifting straps, just their bare hands. As their grip strength increased, so didn’t their whole body strength. Because of these full body movements and the lack of “assistance” equipment, I am sure movement based injuries from daily activity were not something that occurred (unless it was because of a fall or other battle related injury). Now look around today and you will see endless physical therapy clinics, ortho-shoe inserts, and children wearing knees braces. What happened to our natural movements and balance that came from them? Since most modern sports/movement related injuries can be traced to muscle imbalances, maybe it is time to get back to correcting our imbalances first. Cave guy probably didn’t pull his hamstring chasing dinner, yet most modern people are pulling muscles with less strenuous activities.

Cavemen ate natural foods and meats and got plenty of sunshine

Diet is such a huge part of any health, fat loss, or muscle gain. What did our old buddies eat? Well they could have gathered up local vegetables and fruits in season (that would be the summer months). Also they would have eaten nuts and seeds as they found them. When it came to meat, they would eat the whole animal, especially the organs like liver and brain (great sources of vitamins, minerals, and fats). It’s been shown that cavemen actually had larger brains than modern man. Why? Most likely because of their penchant for cracking open animal skulls and supping on their brains, as the brain is mostly fat and a huge source of the essential Omega 3 fatty acid DHA (which is shown to increase brain function). Who knows, if they had never eaten the brains of their kills and developed their own brains in the process, we might still be living in caves painting on walls.

Cavemen didn’t eat every 3 hours and breakfast was not the most important meal of the day

Long ago there were no convenience stores to get a soda or candy bar, no supermarkets to find dinner, and no canned food to keep around for days. I bet if you looked at cave guy he didn’t wake up to have the “most important” meal of the day as his largest meal. Unless there was some meat left over from last night’s hunt, it was time to get back out there and look again. He could eat smaller portions of whatever fruits and nuts he found, but mostly he hunted for the big game. He had plenty of energy, and in fact needed maximum strength and alertness if he was going to outsmart his prey. The largest meal of the day was dinner (not breakfast), when he returned home and shared his kill with the family or tribe. That was a time for celebration and a feast to be enjoyed for hours.

The only big stress was famine and not being eaten by something else

Lifestyle has a big impact on health and the #1 issue of modern life is the chronic stress that many men face daily. Back in the old days there was only the pressure to find food and just plain survive. They had plenty of time for relaxation and didn’t have reports due on Mr. Smith’s desk by noon (another reason Fred Flintstone wasn’t a real caveman). Also there was no artificial light or TV to keep them up late at night, so they got a good night’s sleep. Sure there was stress here and there, but it functioned in the way our body was meant to use it. There’s a reason it’s called the “Fight or Flight” response and not the “All Day Ongoing Stress” system. Used once in a while, the “fight or flight” response is fine; used all the time, stress will keep our bodies in a constant state of breakdown and make us sick. Cavemen had plenty of time to relax, socialize and even play. How does that compare to most of our modern lifestyles?
How to Live like a Caveman in the 21rst Century

Ok, let’s be honest, I’ll be the first to say that I am not about to go live in a cave and give up my laptop, cell phone, and internet. But we can learn what is important in seeing how our bodies were MEANT to move/eat/live for optimal health and fitness. Remember that cavemen didn’t have all the issues of chronic degenerative diseases that we have in epidemic rates today. So we need to take the lessons from the past and apply them to our lives today if we want a chance at healthy aging.

Lift heavy stuff

Not only will you be able to build lean muscle, but you will also get your hormones going for optimal fat loss and muscle building. Keep the weight heavy and the reps low (between 5-10).

Do full body compound exercises with your body or free weights

Forget isolation work for your major lifting movements. Don’t make machines the staple of your workout. Focus first on full body movements like pushups, pull-ups, squats, deadlifts, lunges, and more. Use your body or free weights to stimulate all your major and minor muscles (stabilizers). Make those the base of all your workouts and you will see tremendous results for the whole body. Not only that, you will also lessen you chance of injury down the road as most are usually due to muscular imbalances caused by too many machines and too much isolation work.

Go run/do intervals

We have all seen the evidence that short bursts of high intensity effort can lead to more fat loss. High intensity cardio releases the hormones needed to free up more fatty acids from our fat stores to be burned up. The best workout program will involve some sort of sprinting/interval for a bit, followed by a slower paced activity.

Walk/hike/dance for “lifestyle cardio”

Be like our ancestors and go for a long walk in nature. Pack up the backpack if you want to make it more challenging, like you were moving camp or carrying home dinner. Go find a winding, hilly trail and enjoy just being outside. Leave the iPod at home and let your mind wander and let go of the many things that may be stressing your subconscious. Or just get out with friends and go dancing, a very common and ancient form of human interaction and celebration. But whatever you do, just enjoy it!

Workout naked

Okay, not totally naked, but forget the straps, gloves, braces, and special shoes and inserts. No matter what you’re doing, be as naked as you can be. If you can’t naturally hold a weight, you shouldn’t lift it. If you need special shoes and knee braces, you’re not correcting all the imbalances or improper form in your running. Get Nike Frees or try running barefoot on a grass surface. You’ll quickly find your natural stride. Be a man with a strong grip, a rare phenomena nowadays.

Eat whole natural foods

If it wasn’t around for cavemen, then you shouldn’t be eating it. Stay away from anything that comes in a bag or a box. Fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and meats (with healthy fats) should be the staples of your diet. Take some fish oil (as most of our food is devoid of healthy omega 3s) and you will see improvements in your brain focus and overall health (anti-inflammatory, spares muscle, helps burn fat). If you would like more information, I highly suggest reading The Paleo Diet by Dr Loren Cordain.

Have days of feast and famine

Honestly, the whole diet book industry has done more harm than good with their “you must eat a large breakfast and six times a day” sales pitch. Do we really need a large breakfast? No. Does a large breakfast probably just put you to sleep? Yes. Are we going to starve if we skip a meal? No. Is there any real science to the metabolic advantage of eating six times a day vs three times? No, because in the end people lose weight not with the amount of meals they have but based on their insulin control and calorie deficit. The idea that your metabolism will crash if you don’t eat six times a day is the biggest and most harmful myth out there, mostly pushed by guess who? Supplement companies who make their living selling bars and shakes that you’re “suppossed” to eat six times a day. This is not how we were designed to survive.

Time to get back to the environment in which our bodies were supposed to operate, and become stronger because of it. Integrate your own periods of feast and famine. What does that mean? Maybe you need to take some days off with lighter eating through out the day (less calories). Or you could also fast some days skipping breakfast or longer, but always eating at some point later in the day (this is called IF, or intermittent fasting). It’s also important to add in the feast part and have larger meals (like at dinner) when you have the famine part, as it’s not about starvation. Whatever you choose, your body best responds to a continually changing environment. Optimally you want your largest meals in the hours after your main resistance training workouts for the week, when your body is primed to maximally take in nutrients. Remember if you want to lose weight it still boils down to insulin control and calorie deficit, not how many meals you eat. Personally I have done intermittent fasting for the last couple years and have experienced increased mental clarity, more daily energy, easier stubborn fat loss, more muscle retention on less eating and most importantly I’ve brought the joy of eating back into my life. (you can read more about why I do IF )

Relax, get outside, get your sleep, go have a beer with buddies, dance, and just enjoy life

If there is too much stress in your life, then your health and well-being will suffer. Stress was only meant for small, infrequent bursts of the “fight or flight” response. Cavemen didn’t have all the imposed work deadlines, traffic, overbooked schedules, and money worries that most people have daily. It’s time to remember what really matters in life and enjoy the company of the people/family around you. Getting plenty of sleep will also help your natural hormonal cycle of repair that occurs during the night. Have a beer, get out and dance, or just go relax with friends. Find what really matters to you in life and learn to enjoy it….I’m sure even Fred Flintstone might agree on that one.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

I have a lot to be thankful for this past year. It was a year full of good fortune and lots of great nature trips!

I started the year going to Vermont with people from work. We stayed at Stratton Mountain, such a pretty area. I love to go snow shoeing there.

Next trip was to Florida for a blissful week in April. We spent time with hubby's late father and his wife in Naples, good birding a nice boat ride with my MIL in the mangroves at a Nature Conservancy property. The community they live in is actually a Audubon Sanctuary, I love it there, birds and animals everywhere. Later on in the week, we headed to Punta Gorda, and spread my grandparents ashes on the gulf. It was a beautiful day, residents of Windmill Village took our family out on five different boats out to the bay. It truly was a wonderful way to celebrate the lives of my Grandparents. I was on a boat with two of my cousins, and really enjoyed being with them and talking. Bald Eagles flying over, dolphins swimming with the boats. Everyone stayed down in FL for a few days, we stayed at my mothers rental. Lots of birds, spectacular bald eagle experience,we were able to get right next to a nest and watch two immature eaglets right up close and personal. While there I met a couple of women who told me how to get to a burrowing owls nest, we found it and got to watch a pair of owls in their hole.

Next we were off to Letchworth State Park for Memorial Day weekend. I love that park we stay in the same cabin every year, and it is like coming home for me. Lots of Warblers, beautiful weather, good food and friends, what more could I want??

Our family vacation was to CA. We started out up in Point Reyes National Seashore, spent a couple days up there hiking around and eating tons of great food. I love the markets in CA, everything is so fresh and healthy. Next we went down to Monterrey, spent a couple of days there, did a whale watching trip for humpbacks and possible pelagic birds, and went to the aquarium. Sea Lions, seals, and lots of Sea Otters everywhere. Monterrey has to be one of my favorite places on earth. The restaurant are excellent, food and views. Two nights I sat and watched sea otters and sea lions while eating dinner, I was in heaven. Next we went to Yosemite and stayed in a home about a half hour from the park. Really nice house and it was cool to see just how different CA is then home. They have been in a drought for many years now, lots of wild fires all over the state. Yosemite is GORGEOUS, pictures just don't do it justice. Lots of birds to watch, nothing new for the life list, but still nice to see beautiful birds. The last night we spent in San Fransisco. Another great meal, fun city. We were bumped from our flight home, and ended up getting six free tickets to anywhere in the lower forty eight....this Summer....Yellow Stone!

Next Bobby, Petey and I went on a camping trip up to Rome, NY. We had a nice time with Bobby's family.

Labor Day weekend brought us to Maine for four nights, we stayed on a pond in Bridgetown and visited with my sister. Listened to loons at night.

A couple of weeks later I drove down to Long Island and got on a plane with my best girlfriends from HS, we went to of all places Las Vegas NV. Crazy place, not my cup of tea at all, but good to be with friends. Three of us took a small plane to the Grand Canyon...that made the trip very memorable for me, as I got to see a CA Condor...actually two of them. Just incrediable how big they are. I spend every Friday for ten weeks in the Fall at a hawk watch, so seeing a Condor for me is a huge deal.

A few weeks after this trip hubby and I joined boarded a cruise ship! We went to be with his brother as he married his long time girlfriend. The ceremony was so touching, nice to see such a happy couple so committed to each other. After wards we set off for eight nights down to St. Thomas, Puerto Rico and Haiti. In St. Thomas we went Kayaking and snorkeling in the Mangrove Forrest, which serves as a nursery for baby fish. favorite part of the entire trip for me. Funny there were only three of us from the cruise ship that signed up for this trip. Not too many cruising people like real nature experiences! I got a couple of new birds, and the snorkeling was amazing. So many fish to see. I could do that everyday. Reminded me of being a kid on LI. I spent so much of my childhood snorkeling. In Puerto Rico we took a trip to the Rain forest, I loved it there. Got a couple of new birds. I found it really neat to be out on the ocean, seeing sunsets, sunrises and stars. I wouldn't do another cruise down to that area, but I would do one to Alaska or a nature one. I did have a really great time with our family. Came home very rested.

Final trip of the year was to Maine for Thanksgiving. We rented a beautiful log home at Sunday River Maine. House was large enough that we all were comfortable, everyone was able to help cook and clean. I found it to be my favorite Thanksgiving in a very long time. Quality time with my family, mom, sister and her daughters.

My goals for the coming year are to get in good enough shape to start backpacking again. I have a great desire to get out into nature away from people, to experience the quiet of the wilderness. Petey will be doing these trips with hubby and I.