Promise

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.

Anna

Friday, October 3, 2014

Watching the Seasons Change

I went for my walk today - I do like my walk, and now that it's more than likely the bear(s) have moved on, I can actually walk rather than ride the 4-wheeler. When I'm driving, I miss all the little things, like birds tweeting, tracks along the trail, being able to stop and just listen once in a while.

I learned something today though, something I hadn't really thought of before, but should have suspected. The course of a river is sculpted by more than gravel, waterlogged trees and rocks. Clay can do it too.

Over the years since living out here, I've watched the river change. It's a very slow change and most of it didn't affect me very much. I mean, the water comes up - I go to work. The water goes down - I stay home. The water freezes - I wait for the water to thaw out and come up again.

The big river has gone through some evolutions over the years. Up past Lake Creek, the river has eaten away at a corner, washing away the bank a little or a lot over time, the cut band up there says this, but I never really paid much attention to it - I don't know anyone who lives there anymore. What I see is marked by where the planes park when they land out there. When I first started working at Riversong, they used to park right out front, on the other side of the island out there, and to help ease the traffic, there was another place a few yards upriver called Magic's beach. At some point trees and sand gave away and the current was pushing harder against this bank. Magic's beach went from a sandy beach to a nearly unusable cut back in a single year and got worse after that. The already shallow landing site across from Riversong got shallower so the owner found a new parking place for his traffic at the bottom of that island. They had to retrieve their guests by boat anyway and it was simpler to go directly down inside of the island rather up and around. Eventually that too grew too shallow and muddy. Now, most of the planes land on a narrow muddy, sometimes sandy spit at the bottom of the island where Magic's beach used to be. I don't work out there anymore so I don't know where Riversong's traffic is landing, but I think it's at the same place. Their traffic has been lesser over the last two years though - things have changed.

Closer to home: When we first moved here, there was an island in the slough out in front of our trail. During the bulk of the year, it is under water. It's presence makes it impossible for us to get a fuel barge in here because it would be where his engines would need to be idling in order to maintain parking during offloading. This island was created because the water, for some reason I have yet been able to determine, swirls around it all the time, at least until the water goes down far enough that it no longer makes it around the downriver end.

Also, where our little creek empties out into the slough, there used to be quite a point reaching nearly all the way to the other bank. Since we parked our boats inside this creek, going in and out meant making something of a hairpin turn around that point and to miss the island. Recently, probably because of our traffic back and forth nearly every day, the point began to wear away. When the water gets down low, like it does every year shortly before freeze-up, it would also wear away at this point. A few years ago the top layer of grass washed away and that was the beginning of the end of that point. Last year at this time, it was completely gone. I liked that point; I liked walking out on it because it gave me a little better view upriver - not much, but a little. Unexpectedly, during the course of the summer, a healthy lump of sand was piled back up there. It isn't exactly in the same place though, and when the water went down this year, it didn't flow around the other side of it like it had always done in the past. This year the current leaving our little creek curved past that pile of sand on the close side. It cut away more at what was left of the point, which was next to nothing anymore. During the summer months, the water cutting around the outer island kept bashing into the bank that used to be the foundation of that once-upon-a-time point, shaving away at it.

Today I went down to see how things had progressed. The water flowing from our creek was, and had been, cutting away at this odd pile of sand. I would guess it's about half gone now; it's as if Mother Nature had changed her mind and now wanted the island gone. Of course all this sand has to go somewhere. You guessed it. That island out in the slough gets bigger every year. Not taller, just bigger.

So what was it I learned today? About clay? Where I thought for sure the water would continue to carve it's narrow little slot down to the gravel like it has done every year I've lived here, it has moved over. It's not Mother Nature being fickle apparently there's a thick foundation of clay down there. I knew there was clay, I can see it. I fight with it every time it gets soggy. That stuff is really slimy when it gets wet enough. So this clay may not last against the current like rock or gravel would, but it's protecting my parking lot for a little while longer. Interesting.

Another interesting thing: There is a clay here in Alaska that when fired makes a creamy item laced with red lines. This has always fascinated me because, as I understand it, there is no way of telling where the red lines will end up - they are invisible in the raw clay. A couple years ago I discovered a pottery maker on Facebook. Anyway, I asked them about it, about how I might be able to tell if what I had here was this kind of clay. Or even how to tell for sure if it is clay and not just slimy, silty buildup. They offered to test a sample if I could send them some, so all year I've been trying to figure out the best place to collect a good, clean sample. I think I have. Time will tell. Just like with everything else I need to mail from here, this too will have to wait until such time as I can mail something - probably some time next summer. I'll be sure to keep you posted on the outcome.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

An Interesting Summer

Yep, an interesting summer indeed. Now I know for sure that I'm getting old. The start of work was a bit rocky in my opinion. Getting to know a new boss is not always a smooth journey. It seems he couldn't trust me to get the job done, concentrating more on how many hours I put in rather than the fact that I was forced to wait on the others to accomplish certain deeds before I could finish what I had going, and so needed to move on to a task I really wasn't ready to move on to. Ah but I'm just complaining; I can do that once in a while. I'm rather set in my ways, and I realized that I was rather spoiled over at my last place of employment.

As the summer progressed and things settled into a rhythm, a new kind of spoiling was discovered. Since I was expected to be there through dinner, my day ended up averaging 13 hours long, but for the duration of the King fishing season, there were empty cabins, and it was expected that I take a nap. Of course, my boss told me more than once that I would have to clean up after myself before the cabin could be rented during Silver season - as if I wouldn't know such a thing - as if he thought I would 'move in' to a cabin to the extent that it would require such 'cleaning up' after. There was no such place during Silver season, so those 13 hours were really long, even though my afternoons could still be considered down-time and I could just sit down somewhere, sleep was not an option. I took my computer to work so I could do some writing or editing. That worked out just fine until I got too tired to think. You see, there isn't even a day off. It's 13 hours a day, 7 days a week. The only days off are a week or so between King season and Silver season. I didn't really need the break to rest, not then, but it was nice to be able to catch up on things here at home.

As soon as the chef got his start-up supplies in, I put in my first list. Since my freezer was nearly empty, I ordered things to fill it. My reasoning was that since there were some things down in the bottom of the freezer, it would be easier to keep things frozen if it was full - meat stays frozen better next to other frozen meat rather than next to a volume of air - it just seemed hard to get the freezer to cycle. Then again, maybe I was imagining things. Next year I'll be ordering meats last.

Since my boss couldn't be bothered to buy a flight in order to get supplies out here (I'm talking about lodge supplies) my stuff didn't come and didn't come and still didn't come. The lodge was running out of stuff too. I was getting worried, I mean I had two more big lists of stuff to get out here, and if it was so much trouble to get this much, I was wondering how I would be getting the rest of it. Of course, the chef was fit to be tied as his options for what to fix for his guests were getting skinnier and skinnier. You see, at this lodge, they get their supplies only 'space available', meaning if a plane has to come out here empty or only partially loaded for someone else, they'll throw something of ours on, and since it was start-up season for all the lodges in the area, very few planes came out here empty - hence the occasional need to buy a flight at the cost of what one guest pays. Ah but that would have cut into his profit margin; we were expected to suck it up.

Yeah, in case you haven't guessed, I don't have a very high opinion of my new boss. For him, all his decisions are based on his profit margin or his personal advancement or image. That is no way to run a lodge. That's also a whole other rant.

But enough about my boss. He pays, so I will work there until I get a better offer somewhere else.

I finally got my meats and filled the freezer, and since the summer wasn't very hot, we were able to run it every other day most of the summer. There was an unanticipated side-effect to having a full freezer though. Something compounded by the cool summer which produce very nearly no berries - hungry bears - bears that know what a freezer is. So for the duration of the summer, my husband had to stay home and guard the freezer. There were at least two black bears who came around from time to time. Don was able to run whichever one off each time, but one time he actually had to fire his pistol off to do the job, and even then, the bear seemed to think about it. This happened by the time I reached work. One of them came back since I've been home and even though I'm a light sleeper, I wasn't able to prevent the bear from mauling the freezer. At 2:30 in the o'dark morning, I heard a noise and jumped out of bed. By the time I reached the front of the house, I heard another noise near the front door. Looking out the window to the right of the door showed me nothing out of place so I went to the other side of the house to look out over the freezer - there he was, highlighted by the moonlight, half way across the yard and heading away at a leisurely pace. I stayed up for another hour just to make sure he didn't come back - he didn't. The next morning I went out to look around and discovered an empty trash can tipped over and all kinds of muddy footprints all over the freezer. Seriously, he couldn't have worked on the freezer for very long, but still my newish freezer now has at least three new scars. He was biting at the lid, trying to get in. I think pure luck kept him out, like maybe he was leaning too hard on the lid while he was biting it and he didn't get a good hold on the lid, only pinching the top at best. Close call. We've been talking all summer about moving the freezer to the shop, or maybe back inside. This pretty much decides the issue. We also need to get a dog. I'm a light sleeper but a dog is better. 

Another thing that happened this fall, and earlier this summer I wish I'd seen, was a young moose came calling. When I saw him, I heard a thumpty-thump and thought it might be a bear (this happened before the previous account) so I jumped out of bed and went to look. There, standing in the middle of the yard was a young bull - maybe a 4-year-old. His rack was still bloody so he only just lost his velvet and he was cranky with rut. As I watched him, he started to make a head-down approach at our snowmachines. He could pick on most anything else, but not the snowmachines so I opened the window to holler at him. He backed off from that to check out the new distraction, but he wasn't done. I had to holler at him and even step out of the door to wave at him before he gave up and moseyed on up past the guest cabin. That afternoon, I jumped on the 4-wheeler to check the boats and saw him still hanging around up the sizeline not far from the cabin up there. I haven't seen him since.

Earlier during the summer, my husband told me about a young bull and cow that came calling. He said it was so funny. The poor bull was trying his hardest to impress his female friend by mock-charging various things in the yard, namely the big smoker still set up in the middle. Apparently his girlfriend wasn't too impressed, but that didn't stop him from trying. He didn't hurt anything so my husband just watched. When I got home, he told me about it, making sure I knew how badly the female of the species tortures their male suitors. haha It did sound so cute and so funny. I wish I could have seen it.

Yesterday, I went down to drain the rain out of the boats, they're pulled now, by the way, unless the water comes up again. My boat is tentatively pulled and left still low if that event happens - I couldn't even get the boat out of the slough until it is floating again anyway. I pulled the plug so my boat could go pee and then stood there looking out over the river. Around the corner came a pair of otters. I haven't seen otters for a while now - they are such a comical creature. The first one swimming around the corner immediately dove, but the other one did something like a double-take and the cocked his head to the side before following the example of his companion. I sat down in the hopes that my non-upright posture would be less threatening and they would come close again, but they didn't. They did hang around farther out though. They were hunting dieing fish, so I left so they could get on with it.

So there are critters around again, not like last year when my world was rather devoid of wildlife, to include those of the feathered variety. Not many of those around still though, but they are around. I'm thinking it'll be a while before the big flocks build up again. My spruce hen momma raised another family here. She had five chicks this year, and I'd occasionally meet them on the trail. It's rather funny when they decide to just walk along in front of the 4-wheeler. They are rather short-legged, you know. Their leisurely pace is really quite slow. hahaha I got a big kick out if it though.

I do love my life here. I would miss all of this if I moved to town.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.