Walking the dog before daylight and a few digressions
March 13, 2013
As the snow has retreated it’s been muddy for the last week in Eastern Ontario.
Over the years I have taught the various spaniels the “Wash your paws!” command, leading the dog of the day through the patch of clean snow nearest the door to clean her paws for drying inside the house. This morning for the first time in recent memory there was no snow for the procedure. On the other hand the dog had avoided the small puddle in the driveway and her paws weren’t all that bad when we arrived at the mat inside the front door.
Things are drying up a bit, at least temporarily. At this stage I truly dread the next big dump of snow.
With the sap refusing to run without another freeze I decided to prune trees to fill in the time. Four acres of walnuts planted from seed in 2005 were first for the annual trim, then a row of thirty blight-resistant butternut hybrids planted in 2008, then a hundred butternuts from 2006. Twig borers regularly attack the butternuts, killing the leaders. The trees respond by shooting out lots of lateral branches and even suckers, effectively turning the butternut into a shrub, unless pruned.
Because the hybrids are a test plot owned by someone else I’ve been reluctant to prune them, but finally Rose gave permission last year and I had at the suckers and extra leaders. They look much better now and I fervently hope they don’t contact blight from the wounds, as so far I haven’t seen any blight on any of the planted butternuts.
Mind you, half of the 2007 butternut planting next to the woodlot are routinely stripped of their early leaves by a convocation of insects ranging from caterpillars to twig borers, but they simply grow new leaves and carry on. What’s more, every rutting buck who braves the wolves to explore the property stops to beat up on a butternut tree or two, tearing the fragile bark and snapping branches. Something about butternuts just seems to challenge bucks. Maybe the thick terminals on the branches look like antlers.
Speaking of things which look like antlers, (Wandering much this morning?) the handle-bar ends on a mountain bike can also provoke a buck. Back in my salad years I was racing a spaniel down the Clear Lake Road and turned at speed onto the Cataraqui Trail only to encounter head-on a large buck. Instantly he dropped his antlers for a fight. As I reluctantly closed the distance between us he thought better of it and abruptly sat down on the trail before leaping into the swamp and making his escape. By the time I had clawed the bike to a stop he was long gone. That was one very large buck, likely the twelve pointer who lived for years in the area.
If I have wandered this far I might as well go all of the way. The buck encounter wasn’t a patch on my friend Les’s session one Sunday morning on the Marina Road. Cell phone coverage at the Indian Lake Marina is spotty for some carriers so Les got into the habit of driving a golf cart out towards the county road when he needed to call Ottawa. His favourite calling spot was on a flat stretch adjoining a swamp, halfway between the lake and the road.
Les had likely picked up the paper at the mailboxes and stopped on the return trip this fine morning. He had no sooner shut off and taken out his phone when he heard a rapid series of slurps crossing the swamp. A doe raced out of the mud and across in front of his cart. Then he heard more slurps and a very large cat tore across the road after the deer!
The wide-eyed report of this sighting led to some skepticism at the marina and suggestions it was probably a wolf or fisher, so owner Wayne Wilson jumped into his Kubota and drove out to look for tracks. He returned assuring us that there were both deer tracks and very large cat tracks in the mud exactly where Les had said.