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.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring is in the Air

For the last few days, there's been a light haze in the sky. Not enough to call clouds, but more than perfectly clear skies. This time of year, clouds have a different effect than you might think. They're rather like a blanket for the Earth. No clouds is rather like trying to sleep without any blankets at night - all the heat that may have accumulated during the day simply goes away during the night. Clouds will hold some of that heat in, at least until the sun comes out again. But it always has the opposite effect during the day, shielding the surface from much of heat of the sun. In the end, without clouds, nights are colder and days are warmer. For some time now, it has been 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 to -15C) in the morning when I got up and reached nearly into the 40s F (5 to 10C) by mid-afternoon. With clouds, over the last three days, it has barely frozen at night, and only reached mid 30 during the day.

These warming days set other things in motion. I'll be going to work come June and I need to make some effort to getting ready for that. The hardest part is getting up earlier in the morning. Being 'solar powered' like I always say, it's hard for me to get up in the dark, but the days are now longer than the nights, not by much but still longer, so getting up earlier is easier. Still, if I don't go to bed earlier, getting up earlier really sucks. So I set my alarm every morning, but since I don't HAVE to get up - well you know how it works. I'm getting better though, slowly.

I've also taken up my walks again, and kudos to me, I do 20 leaning push-ups off a tree at the river. Can I keep that up? I think so. It's not much really, but it's something.

This morning I got up to snowflakes, but it didn't even accumulate half an inch, and it was all gone by this afternoon. There's still 2 feet of snow out there, but over the last few days, another step became visible out front. I've also started to accumulate buckets of water. I collect snow to drink and this winter, a bucket has equaled a third and more recently, a half a bucket of water. So I let it melt, and now I'm consolidating. When I get eight buckets filled with water, I'll keep filling the last four with snow as they empty until I run out of snow or until it starts to rain, whichever happens first. Speaking of which, I need to check to see if there's room under the eves in back for the buckets. 

At work, it is my hope that I'll be able to do my advertising and maybe some writing during the afternoons when everyone else takes a nap. Napping is something I've been told to do, and I probably will at times, but sleeping while I'm at work just doesn't feel right. I've spent 12 years thinking that while I'm at work, I'm 'on the clock', and I always felt guilty even stopping for lunch. Previous housekeepers have been in-house employees so they had a cabin to retire to for those long afternoons. Since I go back and forth to home, the housekeeper's cabin has been assigned to other employees this summer, leaving me without someplace to sleep, so I'm going to take my computer to work and see what I have time to do. They have internet; I'll have to see if I can do my advertising there, but if not, at least I'll have quiet to write. I also might do things in the kitchen like canning whatever fish they catch for me, or baking some cookies or bread. There will be empty guest cabins from time to time, so I'll be able to sneak a nap once in a while. We'll have to see how things develop.

Last summer, the last three weeks of the season, I had four books here that I could sell. With the lodge being primarily Swiss, the last thing I expected was to sell books. This summer, I anticipate having six books here, or I will as soon as I can get them here; the mail hasn't been cooperating this winter in that regard, and with luck, there might even be another one here by the end of summer - I hope so. Last summer there was room for a couple of my books at a time in the little rack where they have folders and papers displayed. I guess this year I'm going to have to drum up a bookend so I can have them on the end of the counter, or maybe I'll come up with a better idea.

Sigh, the days will be LONG, but summer is short. I can do this. Soon enough, I'll be back here at home annoying all you fans with my book covers.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Alone in the Wilderness

The snow we got the other day was only two, maybe three, inches deep, but it dusted all the trees again in a winter wonderland glory. It also covered all the ice that had grown dirty with assorted traffic and wind blowing dust, seeds, and bits of moss out of the trees. Here in the yard, only the toughest winds will carry branches this far, but it's happened before.

This morning was a normal February morning; -7F (-22C) and clear blue skies. With new snow on the ground, I decided to go for a walk. It was a little warmer around two in the afternoon when I headed out, but still quite brisk, but without a breath of wind, it was really beautiful. Plus, I was curious if we had any furry neighbors in the area.

Last week there was a couple young bulls right here in the yard early in the morning. They were close enough to identify them as bulls; it can be hard to tell this time of year, after they drop their racks. In this case, one of them still had one rack, but the other one had lost both his. When I say they were close enough to tell, I could see what is called buttons on the one's head above his eyes. They can sometimes be hard to spot. Of course the other one still having a rack made identifying him easy. I kept hoping he'd drop it here in the yard, but no such luck.

We've had a trio of camp-robbers hanging around most of the winter; I've spotted them about once a week or so, give or take a day or two, and recently a raven has been hanging around too. Since the raven showed up, I haven't noticed the camp-robbers so they may have moved on, not willing to risk contending with their bigger cousin.

Anyway I wanted to see if anything else was hanging around and fresh snow is the best way to do that. The snow has been so hard lately even those moose were walking on top of it most of the time. After a quarter mile down to the boats and back, all I saw was maybe a half dozen mouse trails crossing my path; no squirrels, no rabbits. Kinda depressing. I even stopped to listen for a couple minutes; except for a far-away plane, nothing. I miss the little birds that used to always be around flitting from treetop to treetop.

I guess we're home alone in my winter wonderland. I live my life here, but it gets kinda lonely when nothing else is around to watch or listen to.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Snow vs Rain

So what's with the weather these days? It seems like Mother Nature can't make up her mind what to do with all the precipitation. Last year (September, 2012) she dumped inches and inches of rain, causing the rivers to crest over their banks by several feet, doing quite a bit of damage in the neighborhood.

This last fall, she tried again only it was later, in October, when the rivers were mostly empty. The water made it over the bank but not by much, enough to float the boats sitting there, but only just. Not satisfied, she tried again with less success. I guess she was just trying to do a little house cleaning.

Anyway, whenever it rains like that in the fall, I wonder if it's all going to come down as rain, or if there will be something left over for snow. There always has been, but you know how it can be. This year, that might be the case. This year, there's only about two and a half feet of snow, compared to the normal five or so feet.

But snowfall, or the seemingly lack of it, isn't the only oddity. Over the last few years, it seems that the winters have been getting colder, or the cold spikes have been getting longer, however you want to look at it.

What I used to consider normal was temperatures ranging from -10F (-23C) to +20 (-6C) with the occasional cold spikes down to -20 to -25F (-29 to -32C). Sometimes these cold spikes happen in November but nearly every year they happen in February, lasting only a few days, maybe a week at the most.

I no longer know what normal is. Those cold spikes now last sometimes weeks, though still centered around November and February. Average temps now hang around minus something, and occasionally it will warm up to 0F (-18C) or so and drop some dry snow. This winter, it has warmed up to above freezing and actually rained - twice - how depressing.

But the weather, the temperature, isn't much of an issue - it is what it is, it's the lack of snow that's really making things inconvenient around here. For us to get on and off the river, we need to shovel in a ramp. It's like shoveling a ramp down from your second story balcony. Two feet of snow on the ground for some distance around, both at the top and at the bottom, got us our ramp, but it's kind of steep.

Another issue of lack of snow, is being able to drive through the woods to get firewood. Elders and other bushes average around 4 feet high. Normally, snow weighs them down and covers them over and driving over them isn't hard. There's not enough snow for that yet.

And the rain. Poor trees. The high humidity + the very cold temperatures caused frost to cover all the trees. No problem and really rather pretty. Snowfall sticks to the frost and coats every branch, making them look all pretty and white, still no real problem. The wind blows and knocks most of it out of the trees and they're fine, but add rain to the mix and suddenly you have these snow-coated branches, and now that snow becomes saturated with water. It freezes and the wind won't dislodge much of it. The first bout of rain was bad enough but it hasn't snowed much since then, some fine dry stuff most of which sifted away, but not all. Now it's rained again, quite a bit actually, maybe a quarter of an inch of water in the bottom of the buckets I had outside. Now all the young birch trees and thin branches are bowed hard over.

This morning, when I was out in the rain packing trails and such, I heard a tree somewhere back of the house break. I'm pretty sure it was just a branch or maybe the top of a small spruce tree. I couldn't see it and it wasn't a big sound as if a whole tree had fallen. If it stays warm, and maybe a wind blows some of that will be knocked loose, but the warm will cause new issues. Overflow on the river. We need to pack a runway, and day before yesterday overflow was already showing up out there. It's going to make packing a runway very difficult. It really needs to get cold again. If we pack a runway like this it would be ruined, leaving ruts that will freeze and never smooth out. Ruts in a runway might damage a plane, if not cause landing problems.

So yeah, blame the rain on me cause I was wishing for more snow, now I want it to get cold again. I guess I'm not much different from Mother Nature. I need to make up my mind. hahahahaha


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.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Life and Death Drama

This is the wilderness, so life and death happens every day somewhere. Usually not directly in front of me though.

Since my husband doesn't seem to be comfortable with silence, I really treasure my walks. I'll sometimes stand down there by the river and just watch the water drift by and listen to the silence. A lot of times, that silence is cluttered with bird chatter or some plane flying over somewhere within hearing, but mostly it's just quiet; I can give my brain a break and not think about anything, or maybe I take the opportunity to work my way through some issue in one of my books. Something that's very hard to do with a radio or TV going all the time seeming to demand at least some form of attention.

So yesterday, I was standing down there watching the water drift by when I heard a flutter behind me. There was some faint squeaking too but I didn't register it at first. Directly behind where I was standing was a big spruce tree, and I'll admit to being slightly alarmed to be hearing any noise that close behind me. I turned around in time to see something fall from the tree. The fluttering sound was a Magpie. The something that fell was a Lemming.

Now I don't see Magpies around much - I have always considered them scavengers, but I suppose they hunt too. This might have been proof. Now I have no idea how this scene developed. Was the Lemming already in the tree? Did the Magpie catch him there? Or did the Magpie catch the Lemming somewhere else and he brought him to this tree to feast on here. However they came together, the Lemming managed to escape his fate in the tree and make it to the ground in tact. A comparable fall for a person would have been fatal, but the little guy merely bounced once and then dived for cover in the dead grass and weeds under the half inch or so of snow.

The Magpie dropped down right behind him, but he danced away when I turned around. I decided to watch and see how this little drama would develop. Now the base of this tree was maybe four or five paces away from where I stood but the Magpie was bold and after watching me for a moment, and when he decided I wasn't going to interfere, started to look for the Lemming after all. Looking and watching, he started to peck at the snow-covered weeds where the Lemming had taken shelter and it didn't take him long to flush him out.

The Lemming made a dash off across the trail but there was no way he was quick enough to outrun wings across open ground, so when the Magpie caught up with him, he turned to fight. He was quite a valiant little fellow, jumping to the attack, and succeeding is causing the Magpie jump back several times. The encounter reminded me of maybe Puss-in-boots should he ever find himself in a fight with a man, or maybe Reepicheep, the swordsmouse in the Narnia movies. He was so valiant and brave, but the fight was moving around behind the tree where I couldn't see so I moved for the first time since the beginning. The Magpie danced off a bit and the Lemming dived for cover once again, close to where he'd been before.

I took another step and that was too much for Mr. Magpie so he flew up into the next tree away, and when I stepped around to see if he was still there, I saw his form making a hasty retreat far off through the trees. Well, since it was time for me to go back to the house, and since I didn't want Mr. Magpie to find Mr. Reepicheep under such puny cover, I started to turn over the shelf of grass and snow, very carefully. I wanted to make sure he was unhurt, not that there was much I could do for him, but I also wanted him to find a different hiding place in case Mr. Magpie decided to come back and look for him after I was gone.

Like before, I succeeded in flushing him from his hiding place, but this time he went in a different direction, taking shelter next to a log that had some other things leaning on it. Much safer from some hunting bird. And though I couldn't tell for sure, he seemed unhurt. I hope he only had a few bruises. Satisfied I had done the best for him I could, I went home.