Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Moose Moose

Q. When do you know it's finally Spring at Willow Retreat?
A. When Mr. and Mrs. Moose and Junior Moose come for a family visit!

A couple of days ago, as I cradled my first cup of coffee of the morning, I happened to glance out of the kitchen window.  Across the lawn, and staring straight at me, was a moose.  I soon realized that it was not just one moose, but three: Mom, Dad, and Baby.  Well, the calf was hardly a baby anymore, but most definitely still a youngster.  Of course, I scrambled for my camera, stuck the telephoto lens on, and got snapping. Here are some of the better pics:

Mom and Junior having a conference while Dad is busy with the important stuff: eating!

I felt like he (or she) was staring right at me!

Now they're all looking at me!

Nice profile shot there.  Kind of looks like a cross between a camel and a donkey ... ?

Check out their white legs.

Not arguing with this fella!

It was really cool to see these guys at the bottom of our garden.  It serves as a reminder that the wilderness is all around us, and we must respect the habitat of these majestic creatures.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring ... ??

As I sit here watching the snow falling from a grey April sky, I wonder if spring is really on the way, or if nature is just teasing us once again.  A couple of weeks ago, the daytime temperature hit 24 degrees.  It was truly bizarre to be sitting outside in summer clothes, sweating, and having to drink ice-cold beer to cool off (oh, the hardship!). 

24 degrees C ... on March 22!

We even managed to get the ice out of our water line:

And there's Molly supervising the proceedings.

The crazy temperatures started the spring melt in earnest.  Here is the pond waterfall in full flood:

And the sluice gate had to be opened to the max to drain the excess water:

Molly worked hard of course:

Alas, the temperature returned to normal, and everything froze up once again.  Now, on April 5, it's 4 degrees and snowing ... but the robins have returned to the garden, squirrels are busy in the woodpile, the bulbs are sprouting, and tiny buds have appeared on the trees.  Spring is there ... you can feel it ... hovering at the edge of winter.  Check out this rather confused bee who awoke to balmy temperatures and a clutch of snowdrops:

We have of course been busy as bees here at Willow Retreat.  This is the perfect time of year to clear out tangles of bush, deadfall, and brambles before they start to grow.  And before the bugs come out!!  The woodland edges needed a serious haircut, and we have already burned a massive stack of cuttings.  We are also starting to drain the boggy areas.

One of the things we were shocked to discover as we cleaned up is that a lot of garbage, including barbed wire, has been dumped all across the property.  Paul is absolutely furious about the tangles of barbed wire, which are very dangerous, of course for humans, but especially for animals, as they cannot see it, and it has just been strewn around willy-nilly.

Barbed wire.

You really want this pretty face spoiled by a run-in with barbed wire?

Along with barbed wire, we have also found a lot of garbage.  Here are just a few examples:

Old broken bicycle.

Old snowmobile cowling.

Another old bicycle.

We have been really appalled at the quantity of garbage such as this that has been scattered about the property.  It seems to be a case of "out of sight and out of mind".  Well, now that we are clearing up, it is certainly not out of sight, and guess what?  We do mind!  In fact, we are fuming!!

Here is one of our debris piles from a cleared patch near the pond:

We now have a nice clear walk through from the lawn to the pond:

And here is another section that had to be cleared of deadfall, eye snaggers, ankle breakers, and brambles:

There is just so much to be cleaned up.  The surrounding woodland has been left to get seriously overgrown and is a tangle of dead stumps, brambles, fallen trees that have been left to rot, and all kinds of debris.  It's going to take us a long time to get it all cleaned up, but all we can do is one section at a time.  Here is an example of what we're facing:

Of course, Molly is always willing to help:

This is what we call "The Bog".  It is really not bog at all, but is a good example of what happens to ground when it has been logged.  There used to be massive, old trees there, but they were felled and used as lumber.  The unused wood was just dumped in place to rot on the ground.  Then, the area was simply left.  What happens then is, as the trees are no longer there to use the water, the earth becomes wetter and wetter until it is saturated, and then nothing can grow except sedge grass and moss.  It becomes a haven for mosquitoes and blackflies, and is essentially unusable.  Because it is not true wetland, but simply a logged and abandoned section of woodland, we have embarked on a reclamation program to turn this area back into viable ground.

Paul started the reclamation process by digging drainage ditches, and laying large diameter O pipe.  By working with the natural lay of the land and with the action of gravity, this will encourage the water to drain from the ground and re-enter the creek system further downhill.  Once the ground is drained of excess water, it will return to nutrient-rich soil and be able to once again support plants, grass and trees.

This is the beginning of a work in progress.  It is a fairly large portion of our property, and as part of our commitment to forest stewardship and ecologically sound practices, we are determined to reclaim this area and restore it to healthy woodland.  In a very short time, we are already seeing an improvement.

Well, the sun is now out, and I'm going to go help Paul clear out some more brush.  Another big bonfire tonight!  I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter, and hope the sun shines on you all.