Monday, August 26, 2013

"How can one help marveling at the voyage we are making
on this planet? One has to lift one's self up and use one's
imagination to see that it is a voyage, and that our course
lies through the star-paved abysses of infinite space. Few
of us ever see it or realize it in all its awful grandeur. But
sometimes, as we look up at the night sky, we are surprised
out of our habitual stolidity and blindness; the mind opens
for a moment, and we see the Infinite face to face; the veil
is withdrawn, and the rays from myriads of orbs penetrate
to the soul. "

Both quotes are from The Summit of the Years
( 1913 ) by John Burroughs  they were chosen

to celebrate the fact that Helen has purchased her
8 inch Celetron Telescope and next year she can
enjoy watching the dance of stars above the slough.

During our 2 weeks at the cabin we were able to take the canoe
out several times and the photos that follow are combined
from all our trips. Like so may people we choose our future
retirement paradise (non-winter ) based on a proximity to water.
In this case a slough or prairie pothole. A definition follows but
basically they are ponds or marshes in which the water can
fluctuate wildly over the years depending on the long term
weather patterns. Within the last decade we have seen 

a drought which reduced many of these sloughs to a fraction 
of their former size and currently, our present situation where 
our slough is as high as anyone within the family can remember. 

This also means that we have gone from almost no beavers
 and lots of trees to lots of beavers and a lot fewer trees. 
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources claims on
average one beaver can take down 260 trees but I have read 

higher averages elsewhere and of course you rarely have
 just one. Changes to the water level also means that our normally 
fish-less slough has fish (many sloughs freeze entirely in winter 
eliminating fish this however helps the population of amphibians 
with less predation of their young).

One thing we did notice was that on our trip in May there 

were a number of pairs of Bufflehead ducks displaying, chasing etc. 
However on this trip we basically saw no ducks of any kind 
on our slough. We initially though they might be molting but 
when I visited other sloughs in the area they had mallards, teals
 etc. in plain sight and much closer to the road 
so I  have no idea of the cause of this.

 “ Prairie potholes (sloughs) are water-holding depressions

 of glacial  origin in the prairies of the Northern United States and 
southern Canada. Water is supplied to the potholes by precipitation 
on the water surface, basin runoff, and seepage inflow of ground water.
Depletion of pothole water results from evapotranspiration, overflow,
and seepage outflow. Since potholes generally do not overflow, seepage
outflow is the principal way in which dissolved salts can be
removed. Salinity of pothole water is therefore a good indication
of the seepage balance. Net seepage outflow results in fresh
to brackish waters that constitute ephemeral to semipermanent
ponds, whereas net seepage inflow results in brackish to saline
waters that constitute semipermanent to permanent ponds.”


One unexpected consequence of fish is fishers. I saw 
Kingfishers on several sloughs including ours.


Our slough is crescent shaped so this
Great Blue Heron would fly into the other 
arm only to see us come around the corner 
yet again.

I have noticed in several places on 
the property the beavers will almost entirely
denude a spot but then leave a tree or two; 
to paint the sky with bird song?

On this trip it was a green green world, a world of 
reflections, a world of mirrors.

"How wonderful that the globe itself should have
been born out of the nebular mist — the cosmic
world-stuff in the womb of the great sidereal
mother; that it should have had its fiery and turbu-
lent youth; that it should have sobered and ripened
with age; that its mantle of fertile soil should have
been wrought out of the crude igneous and stratified
rocks; that it falls forever around the sun, and never
falls into it; that it is so huge that we cannot span
it, even in imagination, but can picture it to our-
selves only by piecemeal, as with a globe of our own
making; and yet that it is only as a globule of blood
in the veins of the Infinite; that it is moving with
such incredible speed, and yet to our senses seems
forever at rest; that the heavens are always above
us wherever we are upon its surface, and never
under us, as the image of a globe might lead us to
infer would be the case at times — all this, I say
and more, fills me with perpetual wonder. "

Sunday, August 18, 2013

" I could see that I lived in the created world, and it was
 still being created. I would be part of it forever. There was no escape. 
The Spirit that made it was in it, shaping it and reshaping it, 
sometimes lying at rest, sometimes standing up and shaking itself,
 like a muddy horse, and letting the pieces fly.” 
from Jayber Crow
Wendell Berry

To get to the cabin,, once you have abandoned highway 
for a gravel grid road is to enter a farm field. 

My wife pointed out on this trip, that what she is looking forward to
about the cabin are the changes from season to season, year to year. 

But even the trip from the grid to the cabin is a study in niches. 
Here it is still a working farm which in this season is given over to
the shredded wheat shapes of the great round bales. 

It is in their shade that Shaun will rest while we prospect for
arrowheads. The deer sleep in the tall grass at the edge of the field 
before the  grass gives way to aspen and the dogs are fascinated by 
the flattened down circles that mark their beds.  A trip down this lane 
is sunshine, vesper sparrows,goldfinches and the while tufts of 
the thistle heads releasing their seeds.



"But it is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky;
and the air smells now, as if it blew from a far-away
meadow; they have been making hay somewhere
under the slopes of the Andes, Starbuck, and the mowers
are sleeping among the new-mown hay."

from Moby Dick
Herman Melville

Then we mount the ridge above the slough. Here
is sun dappled shadow, the trails of beavers crossing
 from slough to slough, waxwings and woodpeckers.

And finally breaking free of the trees we find the 
meadow where the cabin sits and the slough beyond.


Monday, August 12, 2013

" I walk here and there, seeking open,
flat spaces against a sky up high.
I have discovered, too late, perhaps
that I always preferred the empty
more than the full
for breathing and forgiving."

from  The prairie farmland fields
Teresa Palomo Acosta 

We have been at the cabin for a couple of weeks which 
accounts for my absence from the net. Since we took the
dogs for the first time we converted the 9 hour drive into a
two day journey. They traveled well but I did enjoy the shorter
days. The first part of the journal was thru the mixed grass 
prairie an area that, once you are away from the rivers could 
be described as flat. It is very much an area of the open road
long distances between small prairie towns marked by water towers 
and the increasingly endangered grain elevators. It is a landscape
that celebrates its identity as big sky country. 


This particular elevator located the in aspen parklands area
of the northern prairie before it transitions into the boreal forest
is an indication that we are close to home.

"On the prairie, what you are left with is the bare truth,
 the land pared down to the bone, the basic dirt and 
grass and sky that shape the lives that play out upon it."

                           from The Secret Life of Cowboys
                                             Tom Groneberg