A morning walk, 6 April 2024

Setting out for our morning walk, we checked on the trail-side beaver lodge. The beavers, at least two, survived the winter. Their tail-slapping has resumed.

It’s “Brown Season” in the Clearwater Valley. The retreating snow reveals a lot of dead, squashed, moldy things. The green-up won’t start for a few more weeks. That distant late-lingering snow patch corresponds to the Pucker Bog, the only true bog within walking distance of the house. There’s a reason why the snow leaves the bog last. And that is the reason for the bog’s presence there. Bogs like it cold. Sadly, Pucker Bog is evolving into a Spiraea stand. The local climate’s gotten too warm for bogs in the southern Clearwater Valley. The fens are OK, but the bogs are doomed.

Moose poops. We used to see dozens of moose poop piles along our usual trails. But now we’re now lucky if we see one. I suspect the main problem is all the crisscrossing jiggle-jaggle of blown-over drought-dead trees in the forest. It’s hard to get around now, even for the moose despite their powerful long legs. They’ve had to move on to where they aren’t so restricted. The wolves can more easily pass through all the wreckage of dead trees. So for them it’s good hunting, and for the moose it’s a catastrophe.

In all our waking hours it never ends, the game of “Can’t Have My Stick”.

Four rattly birch bark cylinders strung along the stick, and the whole assembly perched on saplings beyond jumping height. Buki’s doing “push-push” to knock the stick down. She’s had a lot of practice at this, and she usually handles the task expertly. This game of push-push was difficult at first. It’s not a natural canine action. But once she mastered it, we transferred push-push to more applications, such as opening and closing doors.

In this photo is one of the nearby forest patches (which we call “Whisper Wood”) that remains in relatively good condition, without so many dead and fallen trees. It’s in a moist hollow, so the trees are somewhat buffered from the effects of the drought years. It’s become a favourite place for us to visit. A reminder of how healthy our local forests used to be before the climate started accelerating in its warming/drying. Buki knows this forest by name. She’ll lead us there if we ask her to take us to Whisper Wood.

Home again to an afternoon’s worth of maul-work, chopping aspen rounds. Or in other measures, this is one tree worth of aspen rounds. Poor tree. Yet another of our loved old aspens reached its fungal and ant-chambered end. I admired this tree for 20 years. Today, I saw its interior in each cross-section from base to tip. I smelled the perfume scent of its polypore fungal infection and examined the dark sinewy borders between the fungal territories mapped out within the trunk. It’s a scent that will alter to something less pleasant as the wood dries, but today, it was a scent I wouldn’t mind having in bottled form. I chopped each of those sections and felt the grain and knots resist or give with each strike of the maul. I set aside the rotten portions from the trunk base for campfires, and retained the less punky portions to burn two or three winters from now in the woodstove for winter heat.

Except the twigs, this whole tall tree will pass, log by log, through our house, transforming into heat and ash, and smoke that will drift out the chimney. A strange thought.

Before today, I knew this tree only from the outside. Its standing glory is only a memory. But now I know something of its anatomy. Poor tree. But at its roots, it remains alive. New stems will grow, but I won’t live long enough to see them as tall and glorious as the stem I chopped today.

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