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.


Friday, April 22, 2011

April Showers Bring...

I stepped outside my door yesterday morning and realized that there was a sizable spot of bare ground out there, off to the side of the main trail to the steps. In front of the steps there's still an inch or two of ice - don't worry, it's not slippery, it's too pitted to be slippery.

Now that's not the first bare ground to show up; the first one was under the exhaust of the generator, which sits on top of the doghouse. Putting it there for the winter is tons easier than trying to keep a hole dug out for it on the ground, and the exhaust keeps the snow 'down wind' melted to a distance of roughly three or four feet and the top of the doghouse is easy to scrape off.

Back to the real melted spot. So far it is the only spot of bear ground that I know of. I'm sure there are more. Places like under the big spruce trees always have less snow and at the rate of melt I'm sure the bare ground around those trees is growing daily. I also saw that the four-wheeler no longer has snow on top of it, but the snow around it is still every bit as deep as the four-wheeler is tall - around waist deep there, give or take a few inches.

Other trails: the trail down to the fuel drums now looks like a trail in new snow, if you ignore the dirt darkening the snow in that trail. You see, the new snowfall we had a little while ago is still white, but where it was disturbed the dirt underneath was found by the sun that has been shining for weeks nice and warm every day. The darkness of the dirt absorbs the sun's heat and melts the snow faster than the white of new snow, so since the trail down to the fuel drums is pointed primarily in the same direction as rays of the at it's hottest, it had become a bit of a trench. The trail to the outhouse or the freezer are both sideways to that source of heat and so are melting sideways. The said dirt, visible in all trails, melts the snow to the side, each fleck of dirt moving to the north a tiny bit every day, thus creating a false trail, so to speak. Now, if I were to walk where the trail appears like it should be, I would quickly be wading in snow that is still more than knee deep. However, walking on the packed part of the trail isn't easy. It too has been 'burned' sideways by the angle of the sun's rays. Yeah, it's interesting walking around out there these days.

Last night, it started raining, and it is raining still, now the clock around. I know 'rain' means many different thing to different people. If you live in Texas, rain comes down in buckets and can cause flash floods, an interesting detail found only occasionally in western novels. Here such a goose-drowner happens only once in a great while. Our normal rain is sure to get a stroller wet, and driving an open boat in the rain is highly unpleasant but all in all, it's rather pleasant if you don't have to be out in it.

The rain, nice as it might be, does complicate my problem with walking around outside. Since it didn't freeze last night, and likely won't again tonight, getting to the fuel drums for my little can of gas might be interesting. I may have to plan on wet feet tomorrow morning. Then again, it may work out better than I think it will. I like little surprises like that.

Now that the rains are falling and the nights aren't freezing, one more step towards spring has been covered. That's not to say there won't be more freezing nights but they are numbered I'm sure. Any time now I'll be seeing small flecks of green and I'm not talking about the perma-green trees.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Nature's Opera

There was coyote song on the air this morning, and it was so echoing and so varied that opera was the first thing that came to mind. Like opera on stage, it is sung in a different language, and unless you can speak Italian, there's no understanding the words and one must depend on the actors, the scenes and the costumes in order to understand the story, and of course, knowing what the story is ahead of time helps immensely. Unlike opera, rather than lasting a couple hours, coyote song is over in moments, leaving the air echoing emptily, leaving my ears searching for another note.

With coyote song, there's no knowing what the story is. There's no script to follow or look up online. Some say they are calling their brethren to the hunt, and some say they are calling to the kill. I've even heard they'll call in frustration as the quarry gets away. Whatever the reason, in my opinion, it is pure heartstrings.

Ever since our foot of brand new snow, I've been out early to fill my buckets. My thought was to have most of my buckets full of nice clean water, and when I have all but two or three full, I'll circulate the last of them until I run out of snow to collect. Last night it froze (it's 25F right now). I was outside, packing this crunchy snow into my buckets when I heard this soprano note climb and fall, echoing through the trees. There must have been half a dozen of them sounding off, imitating each other as if they were singing 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat'.

I wish I had more operatic terminology so I could make it clearer. Take my word for it, it was so pure and stunning it took me a moment to identify what I was hearing.

There are other opera singers out here. Unfortunately they seldom occupy the same stage at the same time. The lonely wolf cry, something I seldom get to hear, is the soloist tenor. The woodpecker, which I did hear this morning, is the percussion. Sometime next month maybe there will be swan song and goose song and maybe even some duck song. Before too much longer there will be the whip-o-will song back in the swamps, at least that's what I think they're called. I hear they are calling a mate, and I hear they are really quite comical about it. Unfortunately, I've never seen it.

So tell me, what sounds do you hear on a quiet morning when most of humanity is sleeping?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Winter's Last Gasp

I woke up this morning to a fairly thick snowstorm outside my window, and when I let the dog out, I saw upwards of two inches of snow on the steps. Course it looked deeper so I went out and measured it.

It's well into April; last gasps are supposed to happen in March, or well most of the time they do. March was beautiful. Clear skies, cold nights, and warm days. All this week it has been clear skies most of the time, warmer nights - most of them barely getting below freezing, and very warm days reaching well up into the forties during the day. It did try to snow once a couple days ago, but it was scarcely enough to give a white dusting noticeable on various dark objects and gone by the end of the day.

This is the time of year when I dread going outside, even to go to the freezer. The path to the freezer is still three feet deep in snow. I know this because I broke through the other day and was suddenly sitting on said path, and I don't recall my foot touching ground.

This is the time of year when the packed part of any trail becomes narrower with each sun's crossing, when all the tree trash blown out of the trees over the winter has started eating at the snow, creating a choppy surface sure to twist the ankle of any unwary creature. And now that I think on it, this is why moose, and other assorted bovine-type creatures, have the leg structure they do. Mother Nature long since created them to be able to walk most anywhere without twisting an ankle.

Now that there is a brand new layer of snow over those trails, twisting my ankle is more of a certainty. Fortunately, my excuses for going outside are few and I'm very familiar with the hazards, so the worst that will happen to me is that I fill my shoes (again) with snow.

I wear my shoes most everywhere, most any time of the year. I put my winter boots on when I know I'm going to be wading around in snow for an extended period of time. Even if I'm wearing my snowshoes, I prefer to wear my shoes. Back in November, when I was packing the runway the hard way, I was wearing my shoes with my snowshoes. Though I might not have developed blisters if I'd worn my boots, neither would I have managed to get most of that runway packed in one day. The only other time I wear something other than my shoes is when I start walking to work and have to wade across a muddy spot along our trail. Spring runoff creates a small creek, and when the ground thaws out the mud seems bottomless. That's when I wear my husband's knee-high waders, at least until I get to the boat. These poor things, made by Timberland, have covered a lot of distance on my feet over the years, and if ever I see another like them, I'll get a new pair. They've spent their fair share either in the oven over night or hanging over the wood-stove drying out after I've filled them with snow once too often and they start feeling soggy.

It's hard to say how long this snow will last, not long I'm sure, but the white will slow the melt and cover the ugly for a little while anyway. Spring is the ugliest time of year. Things are no longer white, draped in winter's glory, nor are they green, bursting with summer's promise of bounty. Even fall's colorful glory is by far prettier than spring.

But such is the time of year. Now is the time when I start thinking about accumulating enough water to make it from gathering the last of the snow to collecting the first of the rain or going to work, whichever comes first. Now is the time of year when we should be gathering firewood, but with my husband's seemingly constant migraines, it looks like that may not happen this year. Weather change, be it good or bad, and even if it misses us directly, gives him a bad headache and running a snowmachine, not to mention the chainsaw, becomes a painful prospect for him. Aw well, we may still get out there - there's still plenty of time, and now maybe just a little more.

Back last October I posted a spring rant I'd written on my other blog, before this one existed. There I talked about the ugliness of spring in town, sad really. Out here I go out of my way to pick up my trash, any trash wherever I am, even going off out into the brush to pick up what a bear drug off. Last fall, on one of my last trips out with the boat, a friend tossed a soda can on the beach. Sure, it wouldn't have been there come spring, but out of sight does not mean gone. So what if it's somewhere else. So what if it ends up at the bottom of the river crushed to an unrecognizable lump of aluminum. So what if it will cause little damage in the grand scheme of things. It is trash and I won't litter up my world. I picked up that can and tossed it in my boat. I don't know if my friend even noticed, I didn't say anything to him. But another friend there saw and noticed the entire thing. He smiled. Even here at home I'll pick up after my family. A couple winters ago my son was out here. He and my husband both smoke (trying to stop), and at the time they had cigarettes with filters (store-bought cigarettes). Their habit was to stand outside and smoke (giving me a break), and then flick their butt somewhere in the snow. Roll-your-owns I don't worry about, heck, I don't even find them come spring, but cigarette butts are another thing. When I started picking them up by the handful (almost), I started hollering. I believe in taking care of my world the best I can. Too bad so few people feel the same.

Do you take care of your world? Make me feel better about spring; tell me how.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Getting Lost

Becoming lost really is relative. One day, several years ago, during moose hunting season, I decided to walk along a ridge above a small creek. There was a game trail along this ridge and there was a foot or so of snow on the ground so I was wearing my snowshoes. Since it was hunting season, I was also carrying my 30.06.

Cutting across the landscape are some size-lines. They are man-made lines cut arrow-straight through and over any and all terrain. Some of them go on for miles and miles, and some start and stop after covering much shorter distances. If any of them parallel another, it is purely by accident. I don't know what their purpose is, but I believe they were an aid in making topographical maps.

Near my home is one heading roughly east and west. About a half mile to the west is another that crosses the first at near ninety degrees. My goal on this day was to hike around this ridge until I encountered that first size-line and then head on home, going out of my way by maybe a mile from our normal trail.

Needless to say, I missed the size-line and continued walking on, ending up on the second size-line. Having never approached the size-line from this direction before, and being just a mite stubborn, I walked much, much further than I should have, and I did find a small herd of moose - perfect for shooting. No, I didn't shoot one. I had already been walking for maybe a couple hours (did I mention I was stubborn), but I wasn't stupid (not much), I had no desire to hike an entire moose out that far on foot. My shot would probably bring my husband and two sons as fast as they could get there, but it just might take all night to get the entire moose home.

Still not finding the landmarks I was looking for, I decided there was nothing for it but to turn around and follow my trail back to the beginning. Yeah, I was an idiot; I should have come to this decision long ago.

Needless to say, my rifle was getting heavier by the mile and my arms were starting to feel like they were going to fall off. I was SO so so glad to run into my men as they were trying to hack their way along my trail with a snowmachine, some miles before I made it entirely back to my starting point. And thanks to their trail, I could now take my original target trail back to the house.

I'm sure my husband acquired several gray hairs that day, just as I'm sure my boys did a little more growing up - fear of losing a wife and mom to the wilderness of Alaska would do that to a person, but I was too exhausted to notice much by then. I gave them all a hug and handed over the tonnage that was my rifle, and trudged on for home, leaving them to get the machine turned around and follow.

To this day, I have never lived it down. I wasn't quite lost; I did have my own trail to follow back, but my family didn't think of that. Needless to say, I try very hard not to be so stubborn.