Friday, 23 May 2008

The Rest of the Wolf Story

Back on May 4th, I had the stroke of good fortune to be able to see and photograph a wolf in our yard. The wolf had taken down a deer right behind Greg's workshop, and for the next couple of hours, I watched from a perch just several feet away. You can read my blog post and see some of the photos here.

I re-read it today, and saw that I had not yet followed up with the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say. We kept a fairly close watch on the carcass that evening (when, incidentally, it snowed again). There was no activity, and I was afraid that I had frightened the wolf enough so that he might not come back at all. The biggest nuisance of that possibility would be that we would be left with a bit of a stinky mess to clean up. The next morning, we still saw no indication of the wolf's return, but we did see many ravens and crows, both for real and by their tracks. At least someone was making a meal out of the remains. Interestingly, though, by Tuesday morning, it was ALL gone. Sometime in the night, the wolf finally must have returned and dragged away what remained of the whole deer. All that was left behind were a few tufts of hair.

In the days since, I've had many opportunities to share my story and photos with friends and family. In the process, I've gone over the photos, and have a few more to share with you.

This was taken while I was still in the truck. The wolf had dragged the deer into the driveway from the north edge where he had taken it down.

It wasn't until I had this image on the computer and zoomed in that I realized what had happened. It turns out that the doe was pregnant, and the wolf took the fawn. This was the second photo that I took, and later on I could tell that the wolf was carying off another fawn, so the doe actually would have had twins. On my computer, I can zoom in enough to see that the little one had hair, and was fully formed. It had long, dangly legs. She was probably just a few weeks away from giving birth.

Last weekend, I was sharing the pictures and videos with our friend, Caleb, and his family. He is much more computer savvy then I am, and he offered to put one of the videos on YouTube. (Thank you, Caleb!) Here is a link, so you can see the last couple of moments when I was watching and filming the wolf:

Thursday, 22 May 2008

The Feeder is the Place to Be

One of the most "happening" places at Heston's lately is our bird feeder. For many years, we have put out a bird feeder for the winter, and we enjoy seeing our little flying friends eat up the sunflower seeds. This year, with the long cold stretch that we have been having, I've left the feeder up, so that the birds can have another source of food. Mostly the spring birds that we have seen are the purple finches, rose-breasted nuthatches, and occasionally a few goldfinches will fly in. Some blue jays also come along, as did a red-winged blackbird, and they seem quite large compared to the finches. The smallest birds have returned, too. A hummingbird showed up on Saturday, May 17th.

I've written before about Greg's bird rescue service. When we re-roofed the lodge a few years ago, we dismantled the entrance to our screen porch. It still isn' t a fully screened-in porch, as we need to frame out a doorway, add a door, and the screening. Sometimes birds exiting the feeder will fly north, and find themselves in the screen porch instead of the outdoor air. Even with an escape route at the far end of the porch (i.e. a ripped out screen), some birds need a little help finding their way out. Most recently, Greg was able to add a flicker to the list of numerous birds that he has assisted.

These are such colorful birds when I see them at a distance--it was great to see one close-up.

If you look closely at my bird feeder above, you may notice that it is bent up a bit. Normally, the feeder hangs from a cup hook on the end of the rafter. That way, the shells fall to the ground below, rather than on the porch. On recent mornings, the feeder hasn't been on the hook. I checked the ground, expecting it to have fallen straight down. Oddly, though, it was on the porch each time. I didn't think that a bear could manage that feat. Those are typically the pests that we need to be aware of when it comes to sunflower seeds. Someone suggested to me that perhaps the pine marten was to blame. Sure enough, one day I caught him in the act. I think that I may have outsmarted him though. When it is hanging on this large hook, right over the porch, he isn't able to get it unhooked. I have to say, I am very impressed by his acrobatics as he attempts to get his booty. Alas, despite my good intentions of continuing to feed the birds through this cold spring, I have had other interruptions. These were of the black and furry kind. But that's a story for another day!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Getting a Little Wild Around Here

While sitting quietly and enjoying my morning tea yesterday, I noticed a lot of bird activity out the windows. I got up to see the action, and a hawk was pursuing a raven. It was easy to tell by the flight pattern that he was mad. I am guessing that the neighborhood hawks that I mentioned a week or so ago might have eggs in a nest, and that the pesky raven thought about helping himself to some. No go, not with this hawk around.

Greg came in to the room, glanced out the same window, and said "Moose! Moose!" in a very loud whisper. I took a quick peek and then ran for my camera. The pair were right between the lodge and Tamarack, heading towards the parking area. I made my way to the backdoor and opened it before they got there. But they must have seen enough movement through the glass, as they started to move faster up the road. We watched as they strode up the hill, and then took a left towards the donkey pasture. Moose encounters in the past for the donkeys have resulted in indifference on Moses' part, and extreme concern from Jethro. While the moose never actually made it up there, we did see that Jethro was definitely on the job in regards to these intruders.

It looks like we have guard donkeys. Greg says that he could let them out at night, to keep an eye on the place. The only problem, and it's a big one, is that they would cause more trouble than protection. They love to eat the porch railings. And now with growing season upon us, they'll look for all sorts of green and edible treats. We won't be letting them roam free anytime soon.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Pozzuoli. The City On The Volcano

The first Greek settling was there on the left

Yesterday I passed afternoon by one of the members of our Bon-group, Lia. She lives in Pozzuoli in province of Naples. In this period she is preparing a ritrit with Geshe Gelek Jimpa, and I wanted to take the test that we will study with him. So I went to Lia in Pozzuoli.

Pozzuoli is a very interesting place, I have to say you.
The Romans used it as a recreational place. There are many healing springs there. From other side, it's the place where the first Greeks were landed to create their colony. So where you will look there, your eyes have to see the historically priceless things.

Not only historicaly. Because there is a VERY-VERY nice place here: a half-sleeping volcano (and you have to know that there are many different sleeping craters there). Solfatara it's name.

Just before I married and came in Italy, about 15 years ago, it was difficult time for the residents. There were about 400 shocks, Lia said, they slept all clothed to be ready to run away if necessary (Where???). She had 2 little children at that time. So, after that the earth raised 1,90 m. There are columns of a Greek temple there where the residents can see how changes the hight of their earth. They, columns, were under the water of the sea after Greek period -about 2-4 meters in depth, I think, now they are abow sea level. But the main part of the Greek town is under the water today, and you can see it from the boat in summer.

I have to go there for ritrit and I'll make more and best photos next week.

Baia, the half-insel there was the preferite recreational place for Romans

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Gone! Ice Out on Gunflint Lake

Officially, Greg says that the ice out was May 12th. It was too dark to see if it was out on the east end, but in the night, we surmised that it was. The waves were pushing in hard from that direction, and once again, we woke up to the sounds of open water. It turned out to be one of the less dramatic years, as ice-outs go....I see white lines of ice pushed up against the Canadian shore, so we missed out on that part of it. Still, it always feels great to see that open water again, so we don't mind.

I walked down to the landing to get another view of all that water.

Just a few residual little chunks of ice left, floating out there. The temperature is only 39 degrees, so it is good that I chose to wear long johns today. It will be a bit chilly down by the water as we put those docks in. But it's a welcome task.

We've been hearing good things about the trout fishing. The last few days, the water at the west end of the lake has been the busy spot. Good catching and nice sizes. Now we can see what folks find out about the walleye fishing, as they head towards the east end of the lake, and on into Little Gunflint, Little North, and North Lakes. The water level is high, so there shouldn't be many problems getting into the next lakes.

Now, as I like to do every spring, I can quote from one of my favorite childrens' books: "Let the wild rumpus begin!"

Monday, 12 May 2008


Almost gone! 'Twas a very ho-hum day for the ice. It was white most of the day, which is totally the wrong color for this time of year. We didn't have much sunshine or warm temps, so I didn't have much hope for seeing open water on this day. Right around dinnertime, the sky changed again, and it began to snow. Each time this has happened lately, I take a deep sigh, and tell myself that yes, I do have enough patience to make it through this snowfall, because it certainly must be the last one.

Then, about seven-thirty, Greg glanced out the window and said, "Holy Cow!"

We looked out to see what he was exclaiming over, and saw lots of open water, about halfway across the lake. This photo was taken as a close-up of the north half of the lake.

And here is a shot of our bay:

I'm thinking that tomorrow morning we will be putting the docks in---Hooray!

P.S. It's still snowing, but it isn't sticking.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Lynton and Barnstaple Steam Railway

A couple of months ago I reported that we'd gone out on possibly the coldest day of the year and all nearly frozen. Well today was possibly the hottest day of the year so far and I decided we'd all go out in Victorian costume. We boiled. Still, we weren't out for long.

The Lynton and Barnstaple Steam Railway was today celebrating its 110th anniversary with a Victorian themed weekend. The railway now only has a bit of the old narrow gauge track left, and this has been restored in recent years. It runs from Woody Bay station, to Killington Lane, some ten minutes away. The cost for this return trip is �5 for adults and �3 for children or �13 for a family ticket. Today, anyone wearing Victorian costume got a 20% discount. Hence our attire.

There is nothing at Killington Lane station, but you get to walk up and down the platform while they move the engine from one end of the train to the other. Then, once back in Woody Bay, you get to avail yourself of the tearooms. We sat in the garden in the blistering sunshine and enjoyed our tea and cake whilst listening to two Victorian gentlemen tell a tale of Martians on Bodmin Moor. Very entertaining and even the audience participation wasn't too bad.

In case you were wondering, my oldest daughter stayed behind on the pretext of revising for her mock GCSEs hence avoiding dressing up, and my husband was a party-pooper and wore jeans and a t-shirt. Boo Hiss!

Nothing Fishy Goin' On Around Here

That title translates to "Yes, we still have ice." Each morning I wake up and hope that I will see open water out there. Before I actually get up to look, I listen (the window is open a crack), and really, I have my answer by the silence that greets my ears. But one of these days, it's bound to change. I remember one year when we returned from a road trip in late April. The ice was black that day, but it still looked solid--like it wasn't moving anywhere. Lo and behold, though, the next morning it was completely gone. It was the oddest ice-out I have ever seen, or in this case, slept through. Most years, we get to see the ice actively working, as it moves against the shore and breaks into large chunks. We've already seen a bit of that. Today the wind is blowing, so maybe it will start to push up on a shore somewhere...Truth be told, though, we did have snow showers this morning. It ain't warming up any too soon.

Because the ice didn't go out yesterday, we weren't putting our docks into the water. And also because the ice hasn't gone out, our fishing friends are waiting to come up. With no fishing activity, we decided to grab a rare opportunity. The Grand Marais Jazz Festival was happening in the county this weekend, and we realized that we were free to go to one of the concerts. We hopped into the car, and headed to town to hear the Erin Bode Group at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts. What an excellent concert! We have heard these very talented musicians before in Grand Marais, but not on the stage of the ACA. The venue was great for their music--vocals, stand-up bass, keyboard, guitar, and drums. Much of what they performed was original compositions. One song, in particular, hit close to home. I don't know the title for sure, but Erin sang the line, "I've seen a thousand mice," about the first home she and her husband shared. I really enjoy it when artists let the audience in on their steps through the creative process, which she shared on this, and some of the other songs. Afterward, we had a nice chance to visit with the band, and some members of Erin's family, who are longtime friends of the Heston clan. We appreciated the opportunity to get caught up on all of the happenings.

One of the best things about yesterday was the chance to make new memories on May 10th, for it was that day last year that we witnessed the Ham Lake Fire on the Canadian shores of Gunflint Lake. That scene will be forever etched into our memory bank, like a video waiting to replay. It is nice to have a good memory in the bank, waiting in line for its chance to hit the play button. After the concert, we went out to dinner at the Angry Trout, for a taste of the fish and chips we so enjoy. We had done that last year, too, when we first reached town after evacuating. Our friends John, Liz, and Lily were there for dinner, too, and we recalled that they also had been at the Trout that same smoky evening the year before. So a circle has been year since the fire, a wonderful concert and a relaxing time at the Angry Trout. Life is good.

And to all the moms who read my blog, I hope that you have a very Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, 9 May 2008

How Have You Imagin A Man

In our museum in Salerno I've seen an other interesting thing when I read books about history of art.
Statue of Hermes Kriophoros that is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. This statue was made in 520-510 BC. I wanted to find it in Internet and here it is. I found it in this site.

The photo is made not from the side I wanted to show you, but I could not find other. Look at the sheep in the hand of Hermes. It is so interesting! Why? Look at it's relaxed position. It seems to be a cat, not a rem.
Are you agree with me?

So, I loved this God, the god of flocks and herds. Soooo much I loved him, that I wanted to show to you, how much he loves animals...

But when I opened the page I found other pictures that represent the same god.
And I thought, it's an interesting mode to see the most important parts of the person. Look at these statues.

By the way. (I saw now the central person on the picture on the bottom here.)
There is a National Archeological Museum in Naples. And there is a "Hidden Gabinett" there. It is a place where there are all most incredble sorts of representations of this theme there. The kings collected them and had them hidden that women could not see them.
If you'll visit Naples, don't forget about it, you will discover manythings, you could never imagin in your life. I Bet.

To see the big pictures visit the site where I found them.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Yet Another Woodpecker: The Black Backed

On Saturday, while we were up at the end of the trail, we got to see a black-backed woodpecker, working on a pine tree in the burn area. I heard him before I saw him, and was delighted to see that it was a male. The little yellow spot on his head was the clue. Unfortunately, we didn't get a real good picture of him, but if you look closely here, you can see him just beyond the branches. It is not a commonly sighted bird, so we feel pretty lucky!
Our birdfeeders have been crazy lately with what Greg calls tweety birds. I've seen the usual chickadees and nuthatches, and we've been swarmed with juncoes and purple finches. The feeders and ground below them are a frenzy of activity most of the day.
Last week, we noticed a pair of sharp-shinned hawks flying frequently overhead outside the lodge. Our guess was that they were probably building a nest nearby, and in fact, Greg did see them make an attempt at mating. Today, someone stopped in to use the phone, and she said that she had just seen a hawk in the trees near the bird feeder, and it was pursuing one of the small birds. I don't know if it was successful in its meal, but it is a continuation of the type of events that I saw earlier this week with the wolf and the deer. Nature is so amazing....if I just keep my eyes and ears open.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Planting Trees--The Update

Despite a day that started with a few inches of snow, planting trees on Saturday (and participating in the other planned events) was a boatload of fun. We had an energetic team of nine people join us to plant a plot of land near the end of the trail. Armed with planting bars, bags to carry seedlings, and lunches, we ventured into the woods to work. The day involved lots of climbing, and lots of clanking when the planting bars hit rock. That was a common occurrence, but we did manage to find enough soil to put around a thousand red and white pines into our plot.
The planting went much better in the afternoon, because the day had warmed up and melted away most of the snow. We finished at about three-thirty, and took a quick group shot before heading back to Gunflint Lake.

Many thanks to John, Amanda, Gregg, Cathy, Amanda, Erik, Lisa, and Kari and Matt for all of your help. I'm looking forward to going back to that spot at the end of the trail, to keep an eye on all of our little trees.

The weekend events included dinner on both Friday and Saturday nights in a large tent set up at the Gunflint Northwoods Outfitters. The food was fantastic, and the setting was great. It rained all day Friday, but the tent was quite comfortable, thanks to large heaters. After dinner that evening, Layne Kennedy gave a talk and presented a slide show of his excellent images taken around Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail, and in the Boundary Waters. We got to see some older photos taken on a ski-in yurt trip twenty-one years ago (I was pregnant with Robert), and some photos on the South Rim with Addie when she was just five years old--and though she was on the ground in this one, she was already quite a good skier back then.

After dinner on Saturday, the dance band The Splinters livened up the tent with zydeco, polka, and other fun tunes. Many folks, us included, seemed to tired to dance, but we did enjoy watching those who had some energy reserves.

Sunday brought the Ham Lake Half-Marathon and 5K Run to the upper end of the Gunflint Trail. I didn't attend any of this, as I needed to mind the store (and take photos of a wolf!). Greg participated by working on radio communications in conjunction with traffic control for the race. From all accounts, the races went very well, and folks had a great time. I've talked to a couple of runners, and we agreed that it is an excellent course, even though it does include the triple threat of three hills at the beginning of County Road 50. How well I remember those three hills back in my short running days! At least for these runners, those particular hills were done in the early part, as they started the race at Gunflint Pines and finished at Trail's End.

If you misssed the fun this past weekend, I hope that you'll consider joining us for future festivals here on the Trail. Like I mentioned earlier, it was a boatload....and the ice isn't even out yet!

Monday, 5 May 2008

Valley of the Rocks

Ordinarily this is a lovely place to visit. Today we had a bit of a bad day. When I looked out my window this morning it was lovely blue skies and bright sunshine everywhere. By the time we got here it was cloudy and windy. Plus the whole point of the visit was to take some nice photos to put in a frame I've just bought and getting out of the car I discovered I'd brought my camera but no memory card, so I only managed a few photos on the internal memory.

Anyway, the exercise was good. The Valley of the Rocks is just outside the town of Lynton on the coast of North Devon. It is very rugged and beautiful and today there were loads of wild goats everywhere. Most people come for a walk round and follow the many paths along the cliffs, other come to climb. My husband decided we would go down to the beach despite the fact that the sign said the path was closed. We saw others coming up the path so we thought it would be OK. Well teenaged daughter was up for it, smallest daughter didn't know any better, but middle one was rather worried so when we got near the bottom of the steep, windy and precarious little path on the edge of cliff and the path had collapsed she decided to stop where she was and I waited with her. The others made it to the bottom without incident and ran round on the sand for a while. Of course that meant they had further to climb back up. My husband is now paying for this, moaning about his aches and pains! Ha!

If you do go for a visit, stick to the paths that are open. And make sure you drive round to the toll road so you can see the White Lady, a hole in the rock formation that looks just like a lady in a white dress.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Blogging....

I was all set to write about our wonderful experience with the Gunflint Green Up activities, but that will have to wait a bit for some breaking news. Today, as some guests from Spruce cabin were checking out, they told me that they had just seen a wolf feeding on a deer, right out back of the workshop. I was so surprised--I'd been out just a couple of hours earlier to feed the donkeys, and hadn't seen anything then. They said, no, it had just happened, and that the wolf ran off when they came along. They added that the wolf had run just a short ways towards our back woods. As soon as they checked out, I went outside with them to scope it out, and to see if there was a good spot for me to camp out temporarily in order to try and get some photos. Luckily, the old Ford was parked about fifteen feet from the deer, with a clear view through the windshield.

I grabbed my camera, and climbed quietly into the truck. Past experience has indicated to me that a wolf will sometimes come back, and by golly, I didn't want to miss it. I fiddled with the camera, found a good spot for it on the dashboard, and then waited. And waited. I thought about all those excellent wildlife photographers out there, and had a hint of what it must be like for them much of the time. Still, I was going to wait. This was my chance.

About a half hour later, along came the wolf. I was so excited, but was able to get some steady shots, and to not alert the wolf to my presence.

I was hoping that the wolf had some buddies nearby, but they never showed up. This guy was in it alone, and he went for the meal. He started to pull on the hide, and sometimes had mouthfuls of skin and fur. Then he got into the meat of the hind quarter, and gobbled it up so fast I wondered if his mother ever taught him manners. Probably not in his world. He was quite intent on his catch, but he would pause and look around, keeping an ever-watchful eye and ear on his surroundings.

For a good hour or so, I alternated between watching him and waiting for him to return. He sometimes would grab chunks and haul them off. I don't know if he was eating elsewhere, or stashing food for when the moon is high. The crows were flying by some, but they didn't land. After they left the area, I heard and saw ravens. I thought for sure that they would land and get in on the meal, but they didn't either. In the winter, that is often a sure indication to us that something has been killed nearby. Occasionally we even see eagles land on deer carcasses. No eagles today, but this was an area that might not be so visible from the sky. When the deer first went down, it was right by the garden behind the workshop. The wolf dragged it a few yards down the hill, towards Spruce and White Pine cabins, but I still had a good view from the truck. But then it started to tug it to the other side of the roadway, and my view was blocked by some trees. In a bit of irony, it was the clump of birches that has a sign on it reading No Hunting. Hmm, I guess that doesn't mean wolves.

At that point, I got a little braver and decided to find a new post outside of the truck. While the wolf was in the woods away from the deer, I sneaked over to the stairs of the storage building that we refer to as the laundry building. I waited some more, and though it was windy and cold, the sun felt wonderful on my back. It took some more time, but the wolf rewarded me and came back to get some of his lunch. I got some more pictures. Then I decided that I wanted to get even closer, so I made a plan to get to the back of the laundry building. There is a porch on the back side that is higher up, and I figured that I could get a nice shot from right above the wolf...should he reward me and come back yet again.

So I quietly made my way to the porch, and took up a post at the corner of the railing, with my back against the door of the bunkhouse space. More waiting. This time it was in a dark, shady spot. I got colder and colder, and I tried not to move much, for fear of blowing my chance of seeing him again. This wait seemed like the longest of all. I kept thinking about statues, and stand-offs and staredowns, and how I didn't want to be the first one to give in. By then it was around two in the afternoon, and I had been watching and waiting on this wolf for about three hours. (Thank heavens that I didn't have anything pressing in my schedule today!)

Oh boy, did I get lucky....He did indeed come back in, and not only did I get some great photos, I was able to record a bit of video as well. A couple of cars pulled into the parking lot, and while he noticed them, he would only back off a bit, and then come back in. It was so exciting that I didn't want to stop the camera. But I knew that I needed to get back to the lodge, because I was supposed to be watching the front desk. So finally, I stopped the camera. Then I slapped my palm on the porch railing to indicate my presence. The wolf stopped, backed up a bit, but never looked up at me. He was going to eat some more, but I was so cold, I knew that I needed to go inside anyway, so I made a big production of noisily going down the stairway, and off he ran into the woods. Here is my best photo of the day:

It's a little gory watching something like this, but I felt a sense of privilege, too. It's rare to get an opportunity such as this, and I wanted to do my best with it. I have more photos, and so if you'd like to see some more shots of it, leave me a comment, and I will post some. And you know where I will be looking, first thing in the morning. I need to know the rest of the story.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Bright White for Green Up

In the summer, when I see a group of campers beginning their trip on a rainy day, I say to them, "It's not quite what you pictured when you were planning this trip last winter, is it?" They tend to agree, but then we look to the brighter side and say that it's still worth going out there and having a good time, making the best of it until the weather changes (which it will). And off they go with smiles on their faces. What's better than a day in the woods--weather aside?

So begins our day of tree-planting, as part of the Gunflint Green Up. When this festival weekend was in the planning stages, we weren't thinking snow. This morning when I got up, snow was about all I could see. Sometime during the night, probably about the time that the sounds of rain diminished on our metal roof, it started to snow. When I looked out the window, I couldn't see Canada. That's the benchmark.

Will it stop us? Of course not! It just means that we will wear a different set of outside clothes than originally planned. I thought that I would be pulling out the rain gear this morning. Instead, it will be the winter coveralls. That's for the morning, anyway. By afternoon, it will be partly cloudy (which I am choosing to view as partly sunny) and temps in the forties. So I'll bring another jacket along to switch into. (Maybe it's yet another arrival of spring!) We'll still be out in the woods, planting little white pines and red pines, making memories for another day.

Everyone is happy and excited to be here for this festival, so we're going to make the best of it. After all, when living in Minnesota, isn't it about perspective? Oh, and I'm bringing a batch of brownies, too. That should help.