Thursday, December 30, 2010
It seems as if we only take photographs when the ranch is covered with snow. As predicted, we got about 9" from 10 p.m. on Tuesday until early this morning. Yesterday, after plowing the driveway for the first time that day, I strapped on my snowshoes for a mile-and-a-half walk up the first hill. Looking back, I took this photograph of the ranch house from the first switchback of our long driveway. The snow was wet and heavy, and dragging on my snowshoes and the remnants of electrified fencing from last year's grazing season. Up past the barn, long ago taken over by elderberry bushes, now covered in a thick glaze of snow, and down past the peony patch. Nearly 30 years ago, I'd photographed that barn for the first time, it's roof and cupola intact.
When I started snowshoeing two years ago, I was 58, recovering from some surgery that didn't go exactly as planned. But, I was traveling light, getting fitter and enjoying the land in winter, looking at familiar trails in a new way and looking for animal tracks. Now, as a diabetic, I haul around a waist pack with a water bottle and snacks, as well as glucose tablets for a quick boost. At the top of the long drag up to where we one day hope to build a new house, I needed that boost. Amazing how quickly glucose kicks in - and how badly you need it when you figure out you need it. I coasted home and took my sugar - 79 mg/DL. Kerry wondered how low my sugar had been before I took the glucose. A piece of homemade blueberry pie brought me back up. After an hour, it was time to re-plow the lower driveway. Did it again this morning. I hope the person who invented the ATV and detachable plow blade got appropriately rich.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
One of the doors to the shed, where I store the gas cans,has pulled loose from the frame at the hinge. I pounded three longer nails through the hinge, scaring the hell out of the feral tabby who lives in our woodpile. Donovan and I are going to have to re-build the shed this spring. Kerry thought we wouldn't be getting much use out of it, but it's so fragile - 50 years on - that even mild use has taken its toll.
Waiting to hear whether my insurance company will pay for an insulin pump this year. My diabetes has been under control - pretty much - with the exception of a day or two following a mild fever. Then, the blood sugar went up into the 300s, and didn't come down until yesterday. Working out on a stationary bike brought it down to the 120s before lunch. Right in the target zone.
Monday, December 13, 2010
A false spring has come to Shenanigan Valley. The snow has mostly melted, probably too quickly to really impact the water table. Cable Creek is running high and fast. The deer and turkeys have stayed up in the hills, no longer needing to forage on downed willow leaves in the front yard.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Overcast, but warm today. The snow has been melting, and plowing the driveway created some icy versions of Jersey barriers, that won't melt off until sometime in spring. I decided to go snowshoeing, this time with poles - much faster, better balance, and more of an upper-body workout. No surprise, since I did a lot of cross country skiing in Wyoming. What did surprise me was a line of moose tracks crossing the driveway, about 150 yards from the house. We've seen what we thought were moose tracks in soft dirt, but nothing with as clear an impression as these - about five-and-a-half inches long, with small impressions of dew claws. After I finished my mile-and-a-half loop, I brought out my camera to take this shot. Still waiting to see a moose in the flesh on our place.
The newspaper says we’ve gotten more than 32” of snow so far this brief winter. Didn’t seem that much until I got to the second switchback of our half-mile-long driveway, and the drifts proved too much for my ATV-mounted snowplow. The driveway goes up to the site where we hope to build a home someday. We’re now living in Karen’s childhood home, not far from the county road, and plowing that section of the driveway was quick and easy. Getting half of the long driveway plowed made it easier for the first day of snowshoeing in two years. Last winter was so mild, we didn’t strap on the shoes once. But, we did on Tuesday. Snowshoes, check. Gaiters, check. Poles, no (until I got some this morning at Cabela’s). Then it was up the driveway, still with about an inch over the hard-packed gravel and dirt.
The lower meadow was covered with the tracks of wild turkeys. We stopped by a large apple tree at the start of the first switchback to drop pieces of stale bread for the birds. Next, I guess, will be a big box of Honey Nut Cheerios I can’t eat now that I’m diabetic. Past the switchback, the snow alongside the driveway is pockmarked with the hoof prints of the deer that come down to graze near our house in the early mornings and evenings. At the second switchback, we keep going straight, past the ruin of Mr. Cable’s log barn. Years ago, the roof caved in, and the interior is now home to an enormous elderberry bush, which in the summer produces great bunches of purple berries, food for the magpies and shelter for the hummingbirds. We make our way down to the lower meadow, ringed on the south and east by more apple trees, and then along the now-frozen spring, which had provided water to the Cables. On past our small aspen grove, then the hundred-yard site of summer’s red peonies, to the slope leading up the backside of the home site hill. Two autumns ago, I’d transplanted a small fir tree from dead-center on the trail we’d just traveled, to a clearing just east of the trail. Every day, when we’d walk the trail, I’d look over to the little fir, and say “hello” to it. But not on this trip. The deer had nibbled away half of each branch. It looked pathetic. Still, I knew that, since the deer had not eaten the top, it would continue to grow. Sometimes I think of the deer as little more than big-eyed vermin.
We slogged up the long drag of a hill, pausing once to rest for a few seconds, wishing we’d had snowshoeing poles. Up through our putative building site overlooking the slope down to the old house. Back on the unplowed section of driveway, we could soon see Mount Spokane to the north, heavy with snow. Shortly after we moved here, we put a bench near the house site from which we could see Mount Spokane, changing with the seasons and conditions of light. From there, we can see most of the valley west of the county road, the red barns and white fences, and cattle grazing spring through fall. Sound echoes up the hillside, and we can hear our neighbors plowing fields or plowing snow, each in its own season. Logging trucks chugging up the county road; chainsaws working overtime; children playing in their yards; stock cars at distant Stateline Speedway; the train moving down the tracks at Otis Orchards.
Then, all downhill, past more transplanted firs – these unmolested by the deer. The breadcrumbs at the first switchback is gone, the turkeys scattered. Pete, our long-haired black cat comes to greet us. Here comes Tigger, the small middle-aged tabby wearing his perpetual sneer, the result of losing an upper fang to a carelessly swung door in his youth. They escort us back to the house. The first day of the snowshoeing season is done.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
There are layers of time here, also. The valley had been part of the Coeur d’Alene Indian reservation until it was opened for homesteading in the early 1890s. In 1951 my parents bought these 66 acres from William Cable, whose parents had homesteaded a larger piece of our side of the valley. He sold off sections through the 20th century until, in his 80s, he and his old wife were surrounded by this single piece of land and fruit orchards.
My parents lived here for many years. Dad died in 1994 and Mom continued to live here until November 2007. She is still alive, but lives in assisted living with advanced dementia. Still, she dominates my memories of this place. And so, my husband, Jay and I will write about our part of this beautiful valley -- the meadows and woods, the springs and the creek, the wildlife. Times now and times before.
Seems as if it's been snowing forever. About 5 inches on the ground, with deeper drifts up in the hills. We're expecting another 4-8 inches today. The snow has driven wildlife down to to our house to forage for food. Outside our living room, looming above our propane tank, is an apple tree that bore heavily this fall - we picked three boxes, which I'm now using for pies. The local critters are taking care of the rest of the harvest for us. Right now, I'm watching four doe shuffling around in the snow, looking up from the ground to the tree, taking care not to step on the wild turkeys milling around their hooves. There are also eight turkeys, some Toms, some hens, up in the branches, pecking at the apples or trying to swallow them whole. Most of the apples wind up on the ground, to be gobbled by the deer and nibbled or speared by the milling turkeys. The grounded turkeys are fighting over the apples; the deer are taking it all in stride. Everyone wins.