Scott Trauner

Freelance writer and founding editor of The Connecticut Outdoor News ( "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." -Benjamin Franklin

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Location: Connecticut, United States

Monday, June 25, 2007

Hens, fieldstones and lettuce

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Around the Homestead

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hands-On Learning

Sometimes, on nice days, I bring my English classes outside to read. Last Wednesday, I brought my American Literature class out to the baseball field to read Huckleberry Finn. Approaching the batting cage, several of my students pointed out a relatively small bird of prey (to be identified shortly) on the grass, just a few yards away. The intrepid bird didn't seem to mind the twenty-plus teens snapping photos of him with their cell phones. It soon became apparent why.
Inside the batting cage, there was a sudden flapping of wings. Ravelled in the netting inside the chainlink cage was a mourning dove; the predator had been problem-solving, trying to get to this unfortunate victim. The raptor jumped up to the top of the cage as I entered the cage. The netting was so deep into the bird's plumage, that I couldn't figure out just how many of its appendages were tangled. It was bleeding where it had rubbed against the nylon net for what was probably days now. One of my students had nail clippers on his key chain, which I used to snip two strands of nylon and then wriggled the bird out of the trap.
Outside, the students watched for the raptor, should it have tried to swoop in after the dramatic rescue! The dove stumbled on the grass for a moment and then soared up and over the foul-ball territory beyond the left field fence. Needless to say, we were all a little distracted after this, but it was a lesson Huck would surely have appreciated.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Backpacker's Global Warming Issue

Stay tuned for Backpacker magazine's upcoming Global Warming Issue. My environmentally low-impact hike/bike from the New Haven Green to the top of Sleeping Giant will be among the hike descriptions.

Monday, April 16, 2007

On Self-Sufficiency and Efficiency on the Homestead

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my best friend Pete's backyard. Most of the yard was taken up by a large garden, with the exception of a chicken coop and the baseball diamond we built for the intense Wiffleball games we played. And a bin for coal. And a long, sturdy clothesline. And a rabbit hutch. And a brick oven. All around a house Pete's dad built himself. Yes, it is a big yard, and now that I have my own, my fondness for Pete's yard has become clearer. I think it is the efficiency with which the elements of the yard fit together like a puzzle that makes me think about it so often now. It was more of a homestead and has become a sort of a model for my own suburban system of self-reliance.

Our house in Wallingford, Connecticut was built in 1920 by its original owner, a poultry farmer who owned many acres before it was gradually whittled down to our current .92 acres. Looking at the old map of the property, you can even see the many structures that once stood around our home; I often find concrete foundations beneath the top soil of the woods. One remnant of those days are the two hatches on the side of our detached garage. I'm not sure if the farmer made these or the hippies that supposedly lived here at one time, but these roughly cut holes are screaming for chickens. And so after four and a half years of living here, I finally set the posts, framed the run and built a door. Now all I need to do is attach the poultry netting and build a few nesting boxes. I plan on getting 4-5 laying hens with the help of good friend and extraordinary beef and chicken farmer Nunzio Corsino. I called our Town Hall last week to be sure it's okay; in a residential area, you're allowed up to 12 chickens- no roosters.

I situated the door of the coop so I can easily rake the chicken manure right into one of my three compost piles: one for yard waste and two for fruit and vege scraps, egg shells and coffee grinds, one further along in its decomposition than the other. This all happens in a corner of the yard out of sight from where we entertain in the summer. I also have my wood pile, with which we fill our woodstove in the winter as our primary source of heat, cutting our oil bill considerably.

On the opposite end of the yard, across the new clothesline I installed and in plain view of guests, is my 15x5 vegetable garden, bordered by scrap wood I got for free at a nearby plant that makes railroad ties. I've already planted brocolli and onions- two hardy plants that can withstand this April cold. I bought them as sprouts, but plan on starting the rest of the garden from seed. By the time summer rolls around, I hope to have my rainwater collection system in full swing, which will have the garden working spigot-free, one step closer to living off the grid!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Taste of Spring

Sometime around the new year, I put my bike away and began driving to work again. I had accumulated over 1,000 miles, saved hundreds of dollars in gas (and CO2) and felt great for the duration of each day I rode in.

It had been about two months since I rode to work when the weather changed yesterday. With lows in the 30's and highs in the 50's, I had felt worse in our mild November, so I tuned up the old Cannondale and rode the 7 miles to my job. Aside from the dark morning (we changed the clocks ahead Sunday morning), the ride was comfortable with a great slice of moon and stars following me in. I rode again today, but it looks like winter may be reluctant to leave us. Rain and colder temps are in store, but the bike will be out for good soon enough.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Flatwater in January? What's wrong with this?

The auto body shop near my house has a digital thermometer on its sign. I often ride my bike past it on my way to work in the morning to see how cold it is. Saturday, however, I drove by it while trying to decide where to go hiking; it read "73."

I had a whole menu of options nearby: Sleeping Giant, Castle Craig, The Mattabesett, Ragged Mountain. Then it hit me. I'd go paddling, instead.

I had put our kayaks in the basement last fall and didn't think we'd be using them for awhile, but when I carried my boat out of the hatchway, I immediately felt how much warmer it was outside than it was inside. I was wearing shorts and a thin, long-sleeved tee-shirt. It was January 6th.

When I got to the boat ramp at Lake Quannipaug in Guilford, there were four or five other vehicles with either boat trailers or roof racks. I launched, took a left and cruised under Route 77 to the marsh where I often find peace in summer, when frogs and turtles are basking and growth is ckoking the landscape.

Now, I felt like I had to duck just a bit more beneath the overpass. When I came out on the other side, the marsh was a lot more open. Where there is usually an entire platform of lilypads, there was black, still water. I was able to make an entire lap along the phragmites and the bare trees gave up the many cyclists that zipped by on RT. 77.

Out on the main body of the lake, there was a group of kids fishing off the large stones near the shore. There were boats trawling lines and a father and young son casting from their bass boat. Swans were gliding along the surface and hawks were circling above.

As warm as the air was, the water sure was cold. Just like the air over a hot road wavers in the distance, the surface of the lake was projecting the same effect. It felt like May. It didn't just feel like May, but it smelled like May, too. When I reached the island at the far end of the lake, I poked around a bit, expecting to see things blooming, just like Washington DC has seen the early bloom of their cherry trees.

Paddling back to the ramp, I passed the spot where my friend tried to teach me how to roll in his whitewater kayak last summer. It seemed like a long time ago, and there was suddenly an eerie feeling to being able to go flatwater paddling in January on a lake. The water dripping off my paddle wasn't just water, but melted ice. Or water that hadn't even made it to ice. Yes, it was nice to get out there on this beautiful afternoon, but there was an ironic reminder in the day's activity that maybe something is wrong.