Sunday, 27 November 2005

Pulling out the Mukluks

Belated Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! It was a wonderful weekend here, filled with good times, good friends, and of course, good food. We have about five inches of snow on the ground, so it looks like the start of winter. Addie was so excited on a recent day when she pulled out her mukluks. She's been waiting for the snow for several weeks now. The lake is still open, but it is cooling off. Our mornings are often filled with the grey steam off the water, and this in turn freezes on the trees, twigs and exposed blades of grasses down by the shore. It turns the shoreline into a mass of ice crystals, and it looks like a fairyland of sorts.

Our snow came in two recent snowfalls, and it does look like it is here to stay. Of course, about the time I say that, we get a freak warm-up and melts it away. Keeping my fingers crossed that this does not happen! I spoke with some folks who went out skiing all three days that they were here. They did the Lonely Lake trail, Big Pine, some of the Banadad trail, and even the South Rim! I asked about the rocks that might still be exposed, and they assured me that yes, indeed, there were still rocks out there waiting to dig into ski bottoms. We decided that those gouges and scars add to the memories of our early winter ski adventures. And that is also why we generally reserve an older pair of skis to be our rock skis! I may try to pull my pair out one day this week and see for myself how the ski season is shaping up.

We fired up the sauna last night, and took our first sauna of the winter season. Three members of our party were brave enough to make a mad dash into the lake. Because the shoreline has some ice on it from the waves splashing up and freezing, I guess that it was more of a fast meander than a dash. I was the self-appointed safety officer, and I held the flashlight so that they could make their way to shin-deep water. Then all three of them layed down in the icy water to cool off. Yipes! A moment passed and they made it back up to land without any mishaps, all the while talking about how wonderful it was to do that. I still can't. It is so much easier for me to just walk back up and take a cool shower. I think it is because I think about it too much!

The days are noticeably shorter as we approach the winter solstice. The sun is going down around 4:15 each night. On the days that it is cloudy, it feels dark even sooner. On Friday last, we pulled out the beeswax pots and the wick so that we could continue our tradition of candle-dipping. Several people joined us in the lodge kitchen to make candles to use during these short days. We've been doing this for about twelve years or so, and it is a pleasant way to start the holiday season. The candles that the kids made in the early years still hang on our kitchen light fixture. These are the ones that were a bit misshapen or a little too fragile to use. I like to see them hanging there, to remind me of those days so long ago. Now it is Addie who most often joins me to fashion some big beautiful tapers to use at the table. We don't always use up all of the candles during the year, but we still make more. It is actually quite relaxing to stand and dip the wick for several times, watching the candle build in size.

With snow on the ground, I feel certain that the bears have gone in to hibernation. I pulled out the bird feeder and filled it. Once again the chickadees and nuthatches are busy flying in and out to scoop up the sunflower seeds. We mostly see rose-breasted nuthatches, but occasionally, a white-breasted one will swoop in. I've seen many bluejays and grey jays in recent days as well. There is still an eagle flying about, as we saw him making several passes in front of the lodge yesterday. I'd imagine that when the lake freezes over, he will certainly head out, if not sooner.

Friday, 11 November 2005

A Pretty Good Day

For this post, I turn the pen over to Greg.

When I heard the loons, I knew it was going to be a good day. November tenth. Loons during deer season. I wasn't in my stand yet, though I was pretty certain that Paul was in his, as he had left five minutes before me. (Robert got a buck on opening morning, so he must figure that he can sleep in.) But I was working my way through the woods as quietly as possible, and I heard loons. Two of them.

Once seated, a pileated woodpecker flew just overhead and landed in a nearby birch. And laughed and laughed. At me? I'm not even sure he knew I was sharing the woods with him, but these clowns are good company. As long as you're in the mood for the company of a raucous clown. The clown left and it was quiet for a while.

The loons called a few more times before a flock of black-capped chickadees flitted in and I was where they wanted to be. So they flitted about me and my stand. One landed on my leg and another on my right shoulder. Whenever he turned, his tail would brush my ear. I felt honored that they should consider me their tree stump. And then they, too, were gone.
A shot rang out from right about where Paul should be. I waited and listened for any successive shots, but none came. One shot--meat, two shots--maybe meat, three shots--probably no meat. Of course, sometimes that one shot is a clean miss and there is no chance for a second one. But then, Paul has never used more than one shot to bring down a deer. These thoughts were passing through my head as I took a long, scenic, roundabout route to his stand. In part because it was such a beautiful morning, but also in hopes that he would have the thing dressed out by the time I got there. I found Paul standing at the edge of the treeline with a big grin on his face. "I need your tag, " he said.
"Did you gut him out?", I asked.
I pulled out my k nife, thinking, "I'm sure I've shown him this before." And also thinking, " Maybe I'm being taken." But then, it wasn't even 8:30 in the morning and already it had been a pretty good day.

Friday, 4 November 2005

Snow showers and firewood stacks

Yesterday was a teriffic day for working outside. Although it was cloudy, there was no precipitation, and that is all one needs for appropriate conditions for working on the woodpile. We tackled different aspects of it---splitting, loading the skidsteer, transporting it to woodsheds near cabins, and finally stacking it. The weather felt just unsettled enough to indicate that a change was coming. So we took advantage of the day and worked until dark. By then, several new, neat stacks of wood had "appeared", almost as if they had grown overnight. Of course, all of our aching muscles indicated that it wasn't a quick process, but it certainly was a satisfying one. We also put away the last of the boats, motors and canoes, and got all of the lawn furniture stowed away for the winter. With all five of us working, things quickly got done.

Turns out, it was none too soon. Today we woke to flurries in the air and white on the trees and roofs. It looked great! Having gotten so far on the firewood chores made it a whole lot easier to enjoy seeing that snow. It snowed throughout most of the day. Nothing really stuck though, as the ground is still too warm. I do love to see snow in November, as it feels like the right time of the year for it. Hopefully it is another snowy winter like last year.

Deer season opens tomorrow. As a precaution, Greg has "dressed" Moses and Jethro, the donkeys, in blaze orange sashes and halter ribbons. They seem to tolerate them, but that's about it. Last year, I had Greg tie a strip of orange fabric around Moses' tail. Wasn't long before it was found in one of the piles that he leaves behind!

Tonight we had a campfire to burn a bit of brush that was laying around. We pulled out the special tool, and had our favorite campfire food: brats on a rake. Greg made a special rake several years ago, with straight teeth and large rings on the bottom. This is perfect for sliding near the fire, and the straight tines make it easy to rotate the brats to cook all sides. They tasted great!