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, November 22, 2013

It's a Snowshoeing Day

Yep, started snowing late last night, and sometime during the night it warmed up to +26F (-3C), where it has hung for most of the day. When I got up this morning it was still snowing and by the time it got dark again this evening, there was a total of a foot of new snow. But what to do before the sun went down. Dishes? Groan - yeah those need to be done up too. But, it was such a nice day out there, and I do like walking in the snow, so as soon as my computer's battery abandoned me, I went out and dug up my snowshoes.

At first I was only going to walk my assorted paths around here around the house, but I just couldn't resist; I headed on down the trail. I tried to resist though. This was my first time on snowshoes this year, and it is a quarter mile or so one way down to the river. Sigh - Knowing full well I would be plowing a new trail both ways on purpose since I wanted to make it wide enough for the snowmachine.

Walking with snowshoes is a study in patience, and walking in foot-deep snow is like walking up stairs every step you take only you don't go up. Walking uphill or downhill, you need to be extra cautious. Going up there's the chance that your foot might slip back, taking away part of your stride. Going down there's the chance your snowshoes might try to turn into some clunky skis. Fortunately, nowhere along my trail are the ups and downs so drastic, but care still needs to be taken. Up or down, shorter steps are mandatory.

When I finally made it back to the house. Yeah, I was really tired. I discovered my husband working to get our snowmachines broken loose and moved over in front of the house. Groan - I had 0 energy left in me. Long before the house came in sight I was anticipating waffles, but no, snowmachines first.

He'd already brushed them off and was getting one of them started. I pulled at the skis, getting one loose easily enough but I couldn't move the other one until I gave it a good kick. Shoulda turned the machine on it's side and scraped the frozen grass and mud off but he took off anyway, scarcely able to turn and getting stuck once, which meant I, now snowshoe free, had to go up there and try to give it a pull and ended up stomping a bit of a trail in front of it.

Lesson learned, we scraped the skis before moving the second machine. While Don did a few laps around the house, I carried the assorted tools, snowshoes, tarps and covers up to the house. Walking in a freshly snowshoed trail isn't easy. That snow might be compressed to more than half its depth, but it is by no means packed. That takes time. Did I say I was pooped? Ah but a fat hash-brown patty later and a little time to recover, I'm rearing to go tomorrow. hahaha (not really) I doubt I'll be sore, but I don't think I'll be so venturesome.

Oh, river news: I did not venture out onto the river down there, but I didn't see any signs of overflow. That's a good thing. However, here at the house it is not the same. There was a foot of new snow on the pond out there and it is soaked with overflow. Ice that was flowing over the low spot we have has filled the gap to the point of just looking like a flat river has run through there - all frozen of course, and down in the little creek beyond, all manner of icy waterfalls now covered with snow. No water that I can determine is running past here, but that doesn't mean much. Last I could hear there was still some water flowing under the ice, and there has always been an underground trickle, no matter the time of year. However, I think the -11F temps we had for like three days in a row sure made a lot of ice and froze the ground down a good space. I don't think a foot of snow is going to get us down onto the river with the snowmachine, but it's a start.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Critters and Ice

One day last week, when I went down to the river for my daily walk, there was as yet no snow on the ground. I like to watch the daily changes brought on by the freezing weather, and I like the walk. That day I spotted a chocolate brown critter. I wasn't sure what it was; it was too big and the wrong color to be an ermine and not big enough to be a martin unless it was a juvenile, but still I've never seen a chocolate brown one. When I got home, my husband had the best suggestion, saying it was probably a mink.
Cute little bugger. When I first spotted him, he was gamboling around on the ice that was about a quarter inch thick that day. Maybe thicker in some places. He was searching around the edge of the ice, around and under the shelf ice that had been broken off as the water level went down, leaving sections of ice leaning up on the bank sometimes propped up on sticks or some uneven protrusion. He was on a hunt for fish left behind by the dropping river, and I'm not talking about the live variety.

Salmon, our summertime sport-fishing treasure, swims upriver to spawn and then they give up. Sometimes they become trapped in some little backwater upriver somewhere and sometimes they drift down river dying slowly along the way. My dog used to find some such carcass every year along there so I figured this little guy would find something too. He did. By the time I found a place closer so I could get a better look at him, he was ensconced under a shelf of ice gnawing at his find frozen into the mud there. All I could see was a sliver of his rump wiggling from time to time. Then I got cold so I went home.

Yesterday, I got another treat. A family of otters - mom and three half-grown kits were fishing a short distance downriver from where I stand. They too were far enough away where I had to guess what they were, but since they were in and out of the water, I didn't have to guess too hard.

Otters, minks, martins and ermines are all cousins and are similar in body build to each other but vary in size by quite a bit. I skinned one once that was probably 4 feet long from nose to tail tip. I hear the ocean going variety can get twice that size.

When I first spotted them, one had just climbed out of the water and was nosing around another one. That one happened to be laying still at the moment so I couldn't tell what it was - just a black shape on the white snow.

As I watched, I was able to distinguish the four shapes. While I was watching, mom explored the edge of the bank (my side) followed closely by one of her kits. The other two were more interested in the edge of the water and would go toward mom a short way and then back to the water as if impatient for mom to join them and show them more of the interesting stuff under the water and under the edges of the ice along the bank.

Mom eventually rejoined them. She led them into the water, heading directly across to the other side. She was probably being smart. That water was probably very cold and they couldn't afford to get too wet, though they are nature-made for their watery life. Mom then gamboled away from the edge of the water, taking time to enjoy a slide as soon as she hit snow. Her little shadow hung close to her side, the other two still played in the water. As soon as they joined her, poking at her with their noses to get her moving again, she led them close to the bank and then on downriver and out of my sight. Cute to watch.

While there's no way to know for sure, I like to think those who hang closest to mom as they grow up are the girls learning how to be moms, while those more inclined to range are the boys. Can't you just see the boys being more careless while sis hangs onto mom's apron strings? I spotted this behavior with a family of spruce hens this summer. Two could always be found close to mom, even after their number began to grow smaller. Ah, whatever, it's just my fancy. I love watching my world.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mother Nature is a Woman

hahahahahahaha Why do I say that? Because women love to redecorate and Mother Nature has been doing a lot of that here lately.

When we first moved here, the contours of the riverbank were different than they are today. This change was very slow, and truth be told, I didn't really pay much attention to the different changes. One place where we used to park, farther inside the little slough we currently park in, the bank has receded several feet. I know this because once upon a time it was possible to lay an entire sheet of plywood on the ground at the foot of the hill. Now, the bathtub I salvaged that sits there (a bad place to put it) has had to be moved twice in order to keep it from falling into the river. I won't be able to move it again and I can't get it out of there - it's too heavy to carry. I don't have the plumbing or the room for a bathtub anyway A few years ago, we dropped a couple trees there so we could park our big boat on a mud shelf held there by the branches. That worked then, but not anymore.

On the edge of our slough, there was a point of ground that nearly choked off our little parking place; it served to hide and protect our boats. This point was formed because out front, between our riverbank and the river I take to work, there is an island. That island was formed because something out there on the other side, something I have never been able to see or determine, caused the current to split off and cut toward our bank. The current, little that it was, coming out of our little slough, turned that little spur even farther, causing it to flow upriver where the curve of the bank again turned it back out into the main river out there.

That island, and the constant swirl of current there is the reason why we can never get a barge delivery of fuel here. I order my fuel one or two barrels at a time through the lodge where I work. That was kinda hard since I didn't work for most of the summer last summer.

Over the years that island has grown, though not in height. Spring breakup keeps it scraped off for the most part. The incoming river water has also always deposited silt inside our slough which was added to that little spur of ground. Every year, that sharp point of ground would build up during the summer and then as the water went down, the current coming from our slough would eat away what the river had deposited. This year, that in-out dance was very lopsided. It started last year. Well actually, I guess I really should back up even farther. Though I don't remember exactly the events that caused it, that point lost it's covering of swamp grass and whatever else grew out there. I don't remember what all - it wasn't much. It is under water during healthy chunks of the summer.

As the island out front grew, the current that was carried inside hit that little spit of land harder, and last year's flood caused it to eat away at it leaving it a couple feet shorter than it was. This year we have had two near floods here. The first one succeeded in turning my little spit of land into a little turtle-back as the incoming current succeeded in pushing it's way across the land at an inner point, cutting it down and trying to create another swirl around what was left of my spit of sand.

All the rain saturated the ground everywhere and there were several mudslides - small things that I've been able to spot along the edge of my little slough, but one fairly large one that has been waiting to go for some years now, taking a root ball of some small birch trees I cut several years ago in order to ease the pressure on that piece of ground. Now those small stumps sit nearly perpendicular to how they had been at their prime. That rain also softened my dwindling spit of sand. When the water went down again, the torrents of runoff coming out of my little slough ate away at my little lookout point, cutting in in half, making it impossible to walk out on due to the cut edge on one side and the sharp bank on the other side. I stamped down a little levelness but it certainly wasn't wide enough for a casual stroll.

Then come flood #2 I am so tired of rain. By the time the water went down again, the island out front was several feet fatter and my little spit of land was nearly nonexistent. Once was the time I could walk out onto the end of that point and kinda see up river a little better. Now the water is low enough that I can walk out there again, but so much ground is gone the island out front is probably shoulder high by comparison, and I can barely see water over it. I can still see upriver but the view is kinda puny now, not to mention that I have to wait half way into winter to be able to walk out there. 

Guess what!!!!!! They are predicting more rain!!!!! Gaaaaa!!! Well, I'm hoping that it's been cold enough that it'll be snow. I'm TIRED of rain. It's November after all.