Finally, a crust

March 12, 2015

Anyone who has read far in this blog knows about my weakness for crusted snow. I love to travel on it, to enjoy the freedom it gives, to watch the dog react to her new mobility, to wiggle some powered vehicle to the top of the thin icy layer and giddily drive around in expanding circles until it drops through with a great, tire-spinning crash.

After four days of thaws dragged the bottom out of the huge snow accumulation in this area, last night it froze hard. At dawn (after the online papers and breakfast, anyway) I set out with a bemused spaniel to see how far we could get on the snowmobile trails which were the consistency of a Dairy Queen slushy yesterday afternoon.

While the crust over unpacked snow was fine for Taffy, it wouldn’t hold me. The packed trails were solid, though, so we set off, lightly dressed (no vest for the dog, vest and light jacket for me) to explore this fresh wonderland.

The northwest wind was pretty cool, but that sped us along until we reached the woodlot. It’s been a while since we’ve walked through this section. Two middle-aged maples have died and shed their bark at the tops, and one small elm. I might be able to salvage a log or two from one maple.

We came upon feathers and bones from a kill. At first I thought it was a grouse, but the grouse-sized feathers looked more like turkey plumage, and a remaining leg bone was quite large. It surprised me that the predator left a bit of skin and some bones. Perhaps it wasn’t a coyote. A little further along Taffy found another kill just emerging from the snow: something furry, likely a squirrel. I called her away from it in case of porcupine quills, and didn’t investigate further. I haven’t examined a fox kill before, perhaps the smaller canine is less fastidious than the coyote. Or the predator could be an owl, I suppose.

As we followed the trail to the north side of the woods I stepped gingerly around tracks of the mess I made a week ago when the Ski Doo bogged down in drifts. I had to blast a wide circular path through small saplings or else leave the machine there until spring and worse, walk the half-mile back to the house through deep, soft snow. (You won’t laugh if you’ve ever had to do this.)

In today’s cold I decided to jog back to the house. That worked fine until one foot broke through the track, then both feet, and then my wrists and elbows. Oh, well, I wasn’t cold any more and the lungs were now getting an excellent workout.

A fast walk would have to do. Taffy enjoyed the chance to range across the small fields wherever her nose took her. She had a great time digging beneath the crust near a small ash and came up chewing a couple of times. There’d been a lot of vole damage on those particular trees last winter, so go get ’em, Taff.

And back to the house, still clean, refreshed, and a bit chuffed at taking advantage of the window of cold temperature. I love the crust.

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