I promised myself that I would add one of these stories here every time I told one. I tell them at one point or another throughout the summer. There will be no chronology - not yet anyway - nor will there be much of a schedule. You never know; I might add a story every day and I might not. This is my life. Every day is an adventure.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bear Play

Yes, bears do play, and sometimes it's rather comical. Catching a bear playing is really quite hard. I myself have only seen the play come out once and that was in a two-year-old cub. My first encounter with bear play was our very first summer here. We had only just taken a look-see, paced off our property corners, and had the surveyor come out and put our property on the map. On our next visit we brought the weed-eater and a small one-gallon gas can and we brought back the chainsaw and I'm sure we had a machete or two; it was time to clear the yard and see what we could make of the place so we could start building.

I picked a spot that was more grass than anything else, but six-foot grass can take a bit to cut. What brush we found fell to the machete, and small trees met the chainsaw. We decided to call it quits when we ran out of gas. We were all pooped anyway, even though the afternoon was barely half over.

Not wanting to carry all our tools back and forth every day, we found a place in a tree where we could hang the weed-eater and chainsaw, but there just wasn't anyplace to hang the gas can and we hadn't brought any rope. Maybe we could have thought of something, but really who's going to bother a gas can? So we stuck it in the fork of the tree.

Now, as I've recounted in a previous post, I live roughly half a mile from the river, so when we returned the next day we had the dubious pleasure of carrying a full sized can of gas. I'm sorry, carrying five gallons of anything is heavy lifting as well as awkward. Don carried it sometimes, but he also carried the gun and I'd rather he be able to use that, so I carried the gas. The boys were still young though my oldest could help too.

When we got to our tree, everything was just as we left it - everything except the gas can was gone, and not only move but totally not in sight. Well, we had to get on with our work and we had gas so we didn't spend much time looking for that little can. In truth, I can't remember when we found that gas can. As my yard stands now, it was clear across the front of the yard and down in a tiny cleft in the ground, totally out of my present keep-the-grass-cut yard but not far. The boys found it when they were playing, and if they were playing here, we had already moved here, though I think the house hadn't been built yet.

They came running up to us. "Hey mom, look what we found." They presented us with the little red gas can, but the poor thing would never hold another drop of gas. It had a multitude of holes in it all over, most of them quite small but ranging in size from toothpick size to a couple big enough for me to stick my little finger in at least up to my first knuckle. Considering all the holes and how far it was away from its starting point, at least one bear had a blast playing with it. I wish I could have seen it. My mind fills in all manner of details, rolling and kicking it up into the air, tossing it, shaking it, tackling it and rolling. Maybe there was two cubs and they wrestled over it. There's no way of telling.

I remembered this story because I now have another gas can that was similarly played with. Last fall it was down on the gas barrels and one day I found it on the other side of the trail. I didn't think anything of it and I didn't look very close. Planning to use it this winter, my husband wanted me to bring it to the house. Only when we were going to fill it did I see the holes. Something must have interrupted the play this time. And now, thanks to the receding show, it has become visible again.

If you watch bears carefully, you will see dog behavior, cat behavior, and even people behavior. They are fascinating creatures, and yes, they do play.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Battle for Season

The wind hums through the trees, sometimes a light breeze, sometimes a wannabe gale, struggling hard to push back the sun's heat.

The sun shines bright, higher and higher every day, five minutes longer than the day before, patiently advancing toward spring despite the wind's struggles.

The snow is now polished to a high sheen, glowing brightly in the afternoon sun. One step, once covered with a bit of packed snow, now only has a small patch and may be dry tomorrow. A small gas can, once covered by the last snow, is now visible, as if the last snow never happened. I went out and got my buckets of snow today, discovering in the process that the sheen was all polish and no ice, one small victory for the wind, in the battle over season.

The not-so-pretty part about this time of year.... They call these months the starving months. It was -1.1F this morning when I got up, and got up to about 10F during the heat of the day. For the assorted creatures out there, most food is either buried deep or frozen very hard, and if not enough stores were hidden away, and even if it was, it would be running low. Heaven forbid the industrious squirrel forgot where one of his stashes was hidden.

Small birds chatter merrily as they flit from tree to tree, searching desperately for seeds the wind might have left behind.

Moose eat the tender shoots and branch ends from the assorted bushes and small deciduous trees - whatever they can reach. Plenty of those still visible, but thanks to the incessant wind, such browse is freeze-dried, as evidenced by an orange-red pee spot too small for a moose and yet way too big for anything else. His struggles clearly visible as he plows chest deep through the snow in search of something he or another hasn't already found earlier.

The tracks I saw, or didn't see, as I walked to the river this afternoon. One moose. I suppose it's possible there were two, but I doubt it; I didn't think to try to count. The tracks were old but the trails were still quite clear. Young, maybe two years old, pretty young to be all alone, though not unheard of. Since he was peeing red I doubt he'll make it to spring, but I can always hope.

I didn't see any squirrel tracks, and I don't recall hearing one, but that doesn't really mean much, it was pretty cold.

I didn't see any rabbit tracks, but that doesn't mean much either, there's not many around - too many coyotes. Then again, I haven't heard any coyotes calling either, but that's not saying much, they don't call during the day all that much.

Mice, well mice don't leave many tracks this time of year, though I have seen some here and there throughout the winter. Nothing is going to bother the mouse population, they're safe and sound in their grass-lined tunnels deep under the snow where all the grass and their seeds are free for the taking - industrious little creatures. When the snow is all gone, there will be an impressive maze left behind to be raked up or merely obscured by new growth.

Spring is coming, I can feel the heat in the sun, though the wind is still out of the north and quite cold. The snow is very dry, still less than a third of a bucket of water per bucket packed with snow, and I pack it as hard as I can. I'm concerned that the rivers will be late in filling, delaying my going to work. Then again, last spring the sun heated us up to 80F for nearly a week in May, which got me there in time to meet the first employees getting off the plane - that's a first.

Tomorrow is the start of the Iditarod sled dog race - The Last Great Race. Ride a sled behind a team of a dozen or so dogs all the way to Nome. It's an amazing spectacle. Watching it on TV, well, watching it on TV just isn't the same. This year will be a cold one for them. The moose will be dangerous, willing to fight for what little solid footing the trail may provide to give them a break from plowing through the deep snow, even if only for a little while.