Monday, 27 February 2012

Through the Looking Glass...Otherwise Known as Ice

Those with more chicken savvy than I have will be relieved to know that since my last post it has come to my attention that one should never clean a chicken coop with the chickens in it!  This is the learning curve I was talking about, and I am very grateful to my chicken-raising friend for all her advice!  I am also glad that both hens survived my cleaning frenzy.  I hope that my inexperience does not cost any aviary life, and this is much less likely with the advice of good friends.  :-)  My current reading material is Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens, and that is helping keep our chickens healthy and our eggs safe as well.  But there is so much to learn!

After leaving the barn I took the leisurely way home, after which I wrote the second half of the last post.

From January 1, 2012

I took my time, wanting to see how frozen the creek was a little further upstream.  The creek winds its way from the south-east corner of our property to the north-west corner.  Down by the road the top is frozen completely over.  It widens into a calm pool near the garage, so with little movement and not much depth that is the first section to freeze.  The girls were outside with a friend just before Christmas, and they came in with stories of walking on the creek.  I warned them that the ice would be thin and uncertain, that parts of the creek were still not frozen so they could not be sure at any point how thick or secure the ice would be, and was then let in on the secret that they had broken through in several places.  Cold water did not deter them from having a splendid time, but they assured me that they would not walk on the creek again until we had confirmed its safety!

As the creek passes under the bridge to the pasture it is forced through a deeper, narrower passage, churning over rocks as it meanders west-ward behind the garage.  Here it takes a little longer to freeze, and I have taken to periodically checking this portion of the creek to see how far from the shore the ice has grown.  It was the most beautiful section of the creek in the fall, and is now proving to be so in winter as well.  The ice forms from shore and rocks, leaving portions of the water visibly bubbling beneath the open skylights.  As the snow has fallen it has left mounds of sparkling frosting on these icy patches, adding to the picturesque winter scene.  It is as if the landscapers had planned it this way.  As I cross the bridge to the pastures I am treated to the most breathtaking view:  the creek as I have just described it, anchors the Norman Rockwell-like scene deep in the creek gorge; the rocky bank leads up to the pasture on the right and on the left to the site of native shrubbery, now dormant for the season, out of which grows a structure, its red paint faded and worn by years of garage service, watching over the entire scene from its place of importance, a silent testimony to pioneers of old.

From this beautiful scene the creek works its way toward the house and then bends northward into the forest.  It divides the land cleanly in two, the house and woods on the western bank, the pastures and barn on the eastern.  In warmer fall days I often wandered into the forest, enjoying the company of the many birds and squirrels who find shelter among the trees, and on those walks I see the creek from the west bank.  Wandering along the creek on the pasture side, the east bank of the creek, is a more arduous journey.  The pasture fence is set back some ways from the edge of the embankment.  Along the western side of the pasture is a grove of trees offering shelter from wind and rain for the animals that prefer not to retreat to the barn during inclement weather.  The grove grows thicker near the embankment and so the fence stops the pasture short of the most dense section, leaving a strip of land between the creek and the pasture that is difficult to navigate once the fence is breached.  However, there is one section of the fence that juts out closer to the creek, a section less overgrown, which affords a striking view of another widening in the creek, as well as the house on the hill beyond.  It was to this point that I made my way after finishing with the barn chores for the day.

The widening at this part of the creek is of particular interest because it is easily accessible from the shallower slope on the west bank.  The pool is calm, and, so I’m told, offers a cool retreat from hot summer days if one chooses to wade in the water or to set a lawn chair just so where one’s feet are in the cool water.  A good book and glass of iced tea would complete the refreshing picture.  Or choose to watch the minnows and frogs play in the pool.  Whatever refreshes, this is the place to do it! 

From the barn I could hear the faint gurgling of the creek, a sound that normally dominates the air but of late has been muffled by the cover of ice, so I wanted to see how much of the creek was frozen beyond the bridge and garage.  So as Matthew headed southward to the pasture gate, the bridge and eventually the house, I headed westward to the edge of the pasture overlooking the pool.

Many times since moving in I have wandered out onto my land to see what I could see.  Never have I been disappointed by the scene I have discovered.  Not once has the beauty of this land failed to amaze and delight me.  This day was no exception.  From my vantage point in the pasture I looked out over the creek and saw the pool below, completely frozen over except for a small hole in the ice where the creek flows into the pool.  Through this opening the rushing water tumbled and churned, creating the illusion of a hot springs bubbling up from the earth beneath, yet fuelled only by its own need to reach the river.

I wandered along the fence, ducking under the low-hanging evergreen branches, stopping to photograph a set of tiny footprints that told the story of a squirrel scurrying down the tree trunk and off across the snow.  I wondered briefly if this was the squirrel the kids have named Taz because of his antics at our bird feeders.  That squirrel would have reason to run, having carried off the peanut feeder to points beyond our yard, presumably finding it suitable storage for his own personal winter stash.

I neared the pasture gate, lifted it over the accumulated snow and passed through.  Crossing the bridge I headed reluctantly towards the house, longing for warm spring days when I will be able to more fully enjoy this beautiful land of mine.

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