Life after Innkeeping

December 31, 2010

For the past 35 years  while we have run the Lodge, Christmas has been challenging. We celebrate with some of our family, always aware that the next day guests arrive. Shopping for the holidays included food shopping for the first few days of Christmas and New Years. Shelves, freezers and refrigerators were full. The cellar had cases of apples, oranges, grapefruit, potatoes and onions. I had lists upon lists in my head and on paper. Housekeeping took an enormous amount of time in the last few days. We had to provide a Christmas for us and then be ready to help some of our favorite guests celebrate theirs when they gathered with children and grandchildren.

Our family out skiing on Christmas Day

The weather was always a concern at this time of year. People often travelled long distances to come here. We worried about their safety and whether they would make it here on time. Meals often had to be adjusted for late arrivals. Winter is definitely our favorite time of year but it comes with lots of challenges.

This year was totally different. We shopped only for a few days. I had plenty of time to knit some gifts for many of the family. We had our traditional lobster dinner on Christmas Eve with the usual huge, christmas tree dominating the dining room. Tulla, who is now two and 1/2 still found some of the ornaments irresistible. She found it very strange to see me dragging a tree in and setting it up. She stayed and watched the whole process following me each time I went to the cellar for more boxes.

We took time for skiing both morning and afternoon on Christmas Day. It was very cold, down in the single numbers above zero. There was a sharp wind. The sun was out which made the ski even more pleasant.

The family stayed here with no worries about changing beds and cleaning up immediately for the impending guests. As Peter said this would be when we realized that we had finally retired. Peter doesn’t like that term but I can’t come up with anything better.

35 years ago

Here we are the year we bought the Lodge in our first winter. Yikes we were young and brave then with lots of energy. How exciting it was to be running a ski lodge. As children we had stayed in places like ours and loved being there. It was a chance to create our own traditions and introduce others to skiing in our quiet woods, sitting in front of cozy fires,  and lots of home cooked food. We wanted Moose Mountain Lodge to stay the same as it had been in the 1930s, a rustic lodge where people could relax and get away from traffic and noise and breathe our clean air. Our living room would only have games and books to read, no television ever. We hoped that people would enjoy the company of other guests and they did, often staying at the dining room table  until hours after the meal. People often met here and then came back again year after year with the same guests, staying in touch over the year to be sure that they did. Children met here and  arranged to see each other in other seasons. What fun it was to see them grow from beginning skiers to groups that went out skiing without their parents on the more challenging trails.

Our first years at the Lodge were challenging. Plumbing, road, and  weather problems, and running a business kept us hopping. Just when we thought nothing else could go wrong something else always came along. We learned that our guests, the ones who loved being there were not only willing to help but often knew better solutions than we did. Our guests kept us on track and helped us muddle through frozen pipes, power outages, and many cars in ditches. There were the occasional skier rescues after dark that caused  us serious worries. We often said that we didn’t consider anyone lost unless they missed a meal. Some meals were delayed while searching for lost skiers but we found them and they finally had the meal.

The lodge after Christmas 2010

The day after Christmas this year was strange. The phone didn’t ring, Tulla and I went out for a long ski in the morning, Peter slept late. It was the first day of a new chapter in our lives. There was no breakfast to rush back from skiing to cook, but also no cheery guests sitting in front of the dining room fire chatting over coffee. For years we have had the same two families here after Christmas. They are all delightful and cherish being here together. We missed them, loving to catch up with their lives. We didn’t miss the work and the worry however. There will definitely be an adjustment to our new life here on Moose Mountain. We both feel that the timing was right.  We wanted to stop while we both could still enjoy what so many have for 35 years. Peter and I love winter. Now we can relax with whatever weather comes and not worry whether it will be right for the guests. If the skiing is bad, we will stay indoors and do indoor things. If the skiing is good, we will be out there as much as we can. Tulla will make sure of that!

There will be time for reading, knitting, spinning, hiking, skiing and friends. Our schedule is no longer dominated by weekends and holidays. Peter spends a lot of time working with our forester to have a long range plan for our woods and trails.  I spend  time in the woods with friends and their dogs chasing after wildlife signs and occasional wildlife. Yesterday we found snowshoe hare tracks, moose tracks and the ever present squirrel tracks.

We were skiing in two feet of new snow which made it hard to follow tracks off the trail. The dogs had no problem with the snow, racing from side to side as we trudged along. My friend Mary has just finished and published a book about nature in New England .It’s called Naturally Curious by Mary Holland. She has been a naturalist for many years and can read tracks and tell what is going on with the animal. It’s a lot of fun to be out in the woods with her. We both enjoy just being out there with our dogs in the winter peace and quiet.

 

Tulla's icy nose

With new found freedom, I plan to ski many times a day, discovering things to delight me on Moose Mountain. This morning there were moose tracks in the meadow. Mary and I saw some yesterday at the beaver pond. There is constant action going on in the woods that we miss while we are inside. I plan to experience more of it by being out there where it’s happening.

Mary and Emma in deep

Tulla watches a squirrel on the trail

How fortunate we are to live here. I hope we will have many more years on Moose Mountain. I am never happier than when I am out in the woods with Tulla and sometimes Peter too. Yes, I ski more slowly and cautiously but it doesn’t diminish my delight in being out there. Both Peter and I have skied since we were very young. We grew up in skiing families. Now, we live where we ski, no long car trips to get there. Out the door we go, strap on our skis and down the driveway we slide and onto the trails. What a treat!

Home from a ski with Tulla

Winter is here

December 17, 2010

Open water near the dam

The temperature has been down in the low teens for the past few nights. The beavers continue to attempt to keep the water open in areas where they are still hunting for saplings to bring to their food supply. They have built three individual bank lodges this fall, right near the dam They will spend the winter in solitary confinement, in the dark. I believe that their metabolism slows, they expend less energy and thus need less food. They are still awake for a few hours each day even though they are living in darkness under the ice. Sometimes when Tulla and I are standing on the edge of the pond we can see them swimming under the ice. The open water becomes more and more agitated as they approach, signalling Tulla that there is a beaver nearby.   Then we hear a whoosh and a splintering of the ice, and there’s a beaver recovering from the collision. It takes him a few seconds to orient where he has surfaced. The first things he sees are our offerings of poplar and apples. We hope he will be distracted enough to stay around for some photo opportunities.

air hole in thicker ice

Occasionally a beaver will crash through  thicker ice  apparently to see where he is, leaving a hole like this. The ice is too thick to break the ice with his weight. It must be painful to do this. I wonder if beavers get headaches? The one on the right below is holding his head after surfacing. He doesn’t look happy.

A painful erruption

A few more nights of single numbers above zero and the ice is now solid all over the pond. I  have to stay away  for awhile with the dogs, as the ice is not consistently safe.  If they were to fall in, rescue would be probably impossible and fatal for all of us. It’s just best to stay away until the ice is a lot thicker.

We have enough snow on the ground to ski on flat trails. What a delight it is to  glide along in the woods with the dogs zig-zagging on and off the trail, following rabbit tracks and whatever those powerful noses find. Tulla’s brother Jack is visiting while his family is away on business. I love having two dogs when he visits. They adore each other and play indoors and out. They have funny games that they play all the time. Only they know the rules.

I am never happier than when I am in the woods on skis. I guess I have loved skiing more than almost anything else my whole life. Now with this delicious development in our lives (retirement) I have time to ski as much as I like. The days are short now, less than nine hours. It’s important to be outside when the sun is out however briefly. There is more snow in the forecast for the weekend.  The skiing will only get better and better if we can keep the cold. I sure hope so. The skiing will compensate  for losing the beavers for awhile. I can focus on exploring the woods and tracks in the fresh snow.

Jack leaps in early morning sun on the logging road

Winter is coming!

October 21, 2010

Early morning foliage

Read the rest of this entry »

My First Close Enough Bear Encounter

October 8, 2010

Each morning Tulla and I set off for the beaver pond.  First we check the culvert , then deliver apples and poplar to the beavers. I carry my camera in a back pack, a bag of apples in one hand and my tripod in the other. One morning last week Tulla behaved very oddly. She stood  still as I walked along, sniffing the air off to the left of the driveway. She seemed nervous and very focused on the apple trees below. Then she shot down the hill and raced around the bushes towards the trees. Twenty  feet ahead of me a large black bear burst out of the bushes and loped up to the driveway. He rose from all four feet to two legged stance with no effort at all and turned and looked at me.

 

Black bear peeking around the tree , by Mary Holland

 

I have never made direct eye contact with a bear. I’ll admit that I was scared. I desperately wanted my camera, which was zipped into my pack on my back. However I was also afraid to move. We stood twenty feet apart staring at each other. I would swear that he was ten feet tall. I’m sure he wasn’t, but he was big. He looked like a huge man wearing a bear costume, standing there with his coat glistening in the early morning sun. In a matter of minutes, Tulla came racing back up to the driveway. The bear dropped back down to all fours and took off down the driveway and into the woods. Not one picture was taken. I was so depressed to have missed such a great opportunity. As it was, I had the wrong lens on my camera, a long lens for taking beaver pictures. Even if I had dared to put the tripod down and taken the camera out, I am sure he would have been long gone. My  friends Mary Holland and Mary Sue Henszey have had several close experiences with bears. I wanted to include some pictures with this entry. They generously offered to give me some of their favorites.

I am sure this bear was a male. He was really big and had no cubs with him. At this time of year females have their cubs under close supervision. They never leave them. Two weeks before this morning I had seen a mother with three cubs while I was driving. Once again no camera. How many times to I have to be taught to be ready at all times?

 

Black bear on all four feet ready to run. by Mary Holland

 

I have a new routine now for my trips to the pond. My camera is around my neck with the wide lens  ready for action. My long lens is in the backpack to be used when we reach the pond. We are ready for action and of course there hasn’t been any since that day. When a moose comes around the corner in the trail, my camera will accessible for a quick shot before he turns and disappears. The bobcat that I saw two days ago when I was driving  would have been photographed if I had been walking in the woods.

Fall is a busy time for animals. It’s mating season.  The moose are scraping the velvet off their antlers in preparation for  their big annual event. Only a few lucky ones will succeed in finding a mate.. Here’s a young bull that doesn’t stand a chance of attracting a female this year. He must be about eighteen months old. Moose are born in June. The first year the males don’t grow antlers. This looks like a first rack or a spike horn as he would be called by hunters. Maybe next year he will have a more impressive rack. I took this shot last fall and hope to see more  moose this year.

 

Young bull moose with newly scraped antlers

 

 

Bringing a stick for winter storage

 

The cooler weather makes animals think about storing food for winter and eating as much as they can to gain weight for the leaner times to come.  The beavers are busy storing food in the mud near their Lodge so they can swim out under the ice and select a branch or small tree to bring inside. They eat  the bark off before they return it to the water. In spring when the ice melts the pond will be covered in clean debarked sticks that they have munched on all winter long. You can see the fall colors in the water here above the beaver.

Of course squirrels and chipmunks are racing around in the woods storing nuts for winter food. It’s been an abundant year for acorns, butternuts and walnuts. The animals who love those will be in excellent shape for winter. We had two sets of triplet bear cubs this year near us.That means that the sows were in great shape last winter.

 

Sq2 and cubs taken by Mary Sue Henszey in Lyme NH

 

When I saw the three cubs and mother, I stopped the car. The three cubs scampered up a huge white pine while the mother patiently waited for them.  Two of them slid back down the tree and promptly clawed their way back up another tree. Tulla was so excited that  I decided the kindest thing to do was to drive on leaving them to  continue on their way. As I left the single cub was easing his way back down the tree nervously looking from side to side as he went.

Here’s another picture of Sq2 eating berries at Mary Sue’s house. Mary Sue and Ben were lucky enough to have a bear den right nearby and the triplet cubs played and grew all summer this year in their meadows. Often they were too far away to photograph but they could watch them through binoculars. What a treat. Here she is sitting and gorging on summer fruit. It’s fun to think that we are sharing the woods with these wonderful creatures.  What great mothers they are homeschooling their cubs all day, teaching them what and what not to eat, how to climb,  and how to live on their own. They will spend one more winter with their mother in the den and then next spring she will send them on their way to adulthood and  to live their own lives. For now they have a fierce protector who will keep them safe for at least another year.

There’s a chill in the air now. The water in the beaver pond is colder. The leaves are turning  fall colors and falling to the ground. All this makes the animals aware that winter is coming and they need to find a safe place to stay warm and dry.

A berry lunch taken by Mary Sue Henszey

August on Moose Mountain

August 23, 2010

 

Early morning shadows

August is my favorite month of the summer. The bugs are gone, the nights are cooler and the days are usually somewhat cooler too. The sun is intense enough to ripen the tomatoes in the garden. Peter and I love to walk down to the garden just before lunch and select the best tomato for our favorite summer sandwich. We make BLTs with  warm tomatoes, local bacon and arugula from the garden on toasted homemade sourdough bread. It’s hard not to have one every day. 

The garden was started late this year. July was so hot that Peter and I had no energy to work outside in that oppressive heat. He had planted tomatoes, peppers and sugar snap peas early in June. Then everything ground to a halt in the heat. But then came August with cooler weather , more energy and enthusiasm for more planting. Everyone laughs at such late planting but it works. The leafy crops bolt in hot weather. The cooler days and nights of August are great for late plantings of the leafy vegetables. Now we have rows of swiss chard,many lettuces, beets and spinach. We will be harvesting salads for our fall guests until we close in late October. Our youngest son Warren and his wife had their first garden this summer.  They delighted in bringing us lettuce when we had none. However, we will return the favor in September and October. Warren came up several times to help rototill the garden. His enthusiasm and energy were a great boost for both of us.

Watching the garden action

 We have finally managed to teach the dogs that the garden is off limits. Here they are watching while Warren runs the rototiller. Peter has very special routines  when he plants. He spreads lime and manure and then creates long wide rows, cultivating them by hand to mix everything into the soil. Days go by when I ask, “Did you plant anything today?” the answer is most often .”No” When he has the soil just the way he wants it, the seeds finally go into the ground. My favorite saying is that they certainly won’t grow in the packages.

 Now they are all up and growing well. We have had some good rain which made all the seeds sprout and start growing rapidly.

View from the garden after a rain

I often peek out at Peter in the garden and find him enjoying the view. Even when you are on your hands and knees weeding you can still look up and see the mountains. How lucky we are!

Peter has always grown the vegetables. I keep the herb and flower gardens going more or less. This year the herb garden was a mass of mint, weeds and oregano. I had been warned by friends that the mint and oregano would take over and they did.

Early this spring I resolved to dig the whole thing out. It’s not a large garden but I decided to make it even smaller this year. Digging it out involved  using a garden fork and turning it over three times. Each forkful produces mint, crabgrass and oregano roots. Even during the third time of digging it up I still found some errant roots much to my horror. I grassed over almost half of the garden figuring that whatever weeds came up there would be mowed each week. Then I installed a barrier to try to keep the grass roots from invading.  So far the plan is working. The garden is small enough to spy early invaders before they become invasive. The garden is right by the front door where everyone sees it as they walk in. It was a huge guilt trip for me when it was out of control. Now, it is a quick and easy trip to pick parsley, basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, chives and mint.

new herb garden

I wasn’t able to discourage the Shirley Poppies that volunteer there every year. I love them so much. They are impossible to transplant. I would dearly love to have them in my rock garden but they refuse to cooperate. For years I have carefully saved the seeds and sprinkled them up there with no success. They start blooming in late June. Each morning I go out and pick a bunch for the day. They only last 24 hours. The next morning there are dropped petals all over the kitchen table. I keep them there as my personal bouquet

Shirley poppies on the kitchen table

 

They make me want to paint again, though I know it would be an exercise in frustration. Luckily the Shirley poppies are not invasive. They just have a mind of their own and come up where they want to be each year. They will be the only interlopers that I allow there. In August I weed most of them out and tidy up where they have been

Are there Moose on Moose Mountain?

August 7, 2010

 

People often ask us if we ever see any moose. Yes, There are moose on Moose Mountain. However,

Bull Moose in early morning fog

 

they don’t often come walking in the driveway, though they have on several occasions. They don’t knock on the front door. One has to be out in the woods to see them. They are “crepuscular, “which means active from dusk to dawn, like the beavers. I see them in the meadows, or at the beaver pond where they come to eat the coarse grass that grows on the edge of the pond. They also come to drink there. They were easier to spot when the pond was smaller. Now it is approximately fourteen acres large. Even my longest lens doesn’t get a clear picture from one side to the other. During the day when the sun is hot, they find a  secluded place to bed down and sleep the day away.  On more than one occasion I have interrupted a moose curled up like a huge dog in the woods. Here’s one I found sleeping one morning. His escape from me and the dog was to swim across the pond.

Swimming across the pond after interrupted sleep

 

There was a beaver swimming in the pond at the same time, but from my vantage point I couldn’t include them in the same picture. The beaver was not happy to have him there, The moose was not bothered by the beaver’s tail slaps warning him to get out of their territory. He swam to the other side as far away from me as he could and lumbered out of the water, shaking like a dog as he went.

Climbing back out of the pond

 

He wandered off into the woods to search for another napping spot. I  had never seen a moose swimming in the pond  and along with a beaver was an added bonus.

                                                                                               When moose are preparing for mating season, they scrape the velvet, or skin, off their rack. At this time in the year their antlers are growing at the rate of one inch a day. This moose must have been a young bull moose as I saw him in early September and his rack was not very impressive.

Here’s another older bull moose that I saw at the pond a year earlier. He still had the velvet on his rack but he had an impressive beard. A month later I saw him again at the pond. He had scraped the skin off his rack and came towards me grunting as he came, making me scurry for home with no picture taken.

Bull Moose with beard at the pond in early September

 

 It is also wise to avoid close encounters with cow moose when they have calves with them. The calves are usually born in June. At that time the adolescent calves are driven off by their mothers. It is at this time of year that one can often see young male  moose wandering forlornly alone for the first time.. It is their first experience with the solitary existence that they will live for the rest of their lives.

 The bull moose works hard at conditioning himself to be the strongest and best at attracting females when the time is right for mating. Once when I was hiking in the woods in early fall, I came across a moose wallow. It was a  wet muddy spot where a bull moose had rolled in the mud leaving his strong scent to attract a female. The air was filled with what seemed to be  like very strong horse smell. I moved slowly and carefully , hoping that he had left the area. I am grateful for my companion Tulla who has a much greater ability to smell and hear than I do. I feel safer with her in the woods with me.

Bull moose after losing his rack

 

Here’s a bull moose in November, after mating who has lost his rack. When they lose their rack they often lose only one side. For a few days they wander around, dreadfully unbalanced until they lose the other side.  I have often searched the woods trying to find an antler. Many people do find them when they are hunting, but so far I have had no luck. If you don’t find them before the snow falls the mice finish them off as added calcium to their diet.

Now the moose is more relaxed and only concerned with eating as much as he can to survive the coming winter. Moose tend to yard up like deer, finding a sheltered place where they can safely spend the snowy winter months. At this time of year when the deep snow slows them down, coyotes are their biggest threat. 

We have found several places on the mountain where moose have died. All that remains is a huge pile of coarse hair and a few bones, often just the jaw bones with the teeth which are probably not very appealing to coyotes.

     Here’s a young moose that I disturbed in the upper meadow in late November. He had slept through a light snowstorm and still had snow on his back.

Young moose in late November after light snow

 

Last fall when I was returning from town, a huge bull moose crossed right in front of my car as I headed up the mountain. I stopped and watched as he crossed the lower meadow and finally disappeared into the woods. Where was my camera, at home of course. When I told a friend about it, she said he probably thumbed his nose at me as he disappeared into the trees. It  was an exciting experience nonetheless. However I vowed to never leave home without my camera. We live in an interesting area, with many opportunities to observe animal behavior. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, with a camera to record it.

Summer Project

July 24, 2010

 

The past two summers, we have closed the Lodge in July and August. It’s a great luxury for us to enjoy our own place, sitting on the porch, eating dinner while watching the sunsets and perhaps even napping as a gentle breeze cools us. July can be buggy in New Hampshire and it certainly has been this year. We have had everything from ticks, black flies, moosequitoes, deer flies, and occasional horseflies. They all seem to disappear in August thank heavens. Once again we can sit outside, without doing the New Hampshire wave, and  enjoying the breeze. Gardening becomes a pleasure, not a chore. 

    I have started a long term project this summer to weave a rug for the front entrance. It will be almost four feet wide and eleven feet long. I have taken a bed out of one of the downstairs rooms and turned it into my weaving room. I am using the fleeces of my long departed angora goats. Angora goats produce mohair in great quantity as they are sheared twice a year. I had five big goats who had long lustrous fleeces. As they age their fleeces are no longer wearable ( too coarse and scratchy).

Winter down at the barn, Sylvia and her flock

 

However it is still wonderful for felting and weaving rugs that last and last. The current rug has been in the front hall for almost fifteen years. It’s about time to replace it.

    I am not fond of weaving. It’s a lot of work and one has to be very careful not to make a mistake when warping. I am not especially good at being careful. However the end result is well worth the all the preparation work. There are many ways to dye yarn or fleece for weaving. I decided that I really wanted to make a multi colored rug. This involved dyeing the fleece before spinning it to get many different colors in random patterns.

Dyed Fleece before drying

 

Here’s some of the fleece after it has been heated in an old stainless steel hotel pan in the oven at 325 degrees for about two hours. I then let it cool with the oven off to set the colors. When the water under the fleece is clear, the dyes have all been exhausted, or used up, and the fleece is ready to spin after drying. I hang it on the front railing in the sun. The gentle breezes dry it very quickly when it is separated. The fleece is in roving which stays in long strips which are ideal for spinning.

Tulla checks my progress

 

This seems like a long drawn out process and I guess it is, but spending so much time outdoors in the sun, handling the soft clean fleece is pure pleasure. Soon this batch will be ready to spin. I shall bring my wheel out onto the porch where I can feel the breeze, stay cool and  enjoy the next step. I only have three bobbins for my big wheel so I have to fill one with the colored fleece and the other with the base color. Then I ply them together on the third bobbin. Then they are ready for weaving. However, this rug project will take many pounds of yarn, many pans of dyed fleece and many bobbins full of yarn before there is enough to make the rug. It feels so good to be using the fleeces I have kept so long in the cellar waiting for a project like this.

Sylvia, our pet pig, who was the flock director died in 2002 at the ripe old age of 13. Very few people know how long a pig will live as most of them end up being eaten. The goats  died either just before or after her of old age. I have kept the fleeces for more than eight years, using them occasionally for felting projects. The old goat as I like to call it, is great for warm, indestructible mittens and slippers. I knit them large and then throw them into the washer and felt them. They wear like iron, keeping out wind and cold  at almost any temperature. It makes me feel so good to be using their fleeces again. 

     Each Tuesday a group of local women get together to spin, knit and laugh. We have been doing this for about thirty  years, meeting an each other’s houses when possible. We always love to go to the places where there are sheep and goats to watch as we spin. Often in the winter we have to get together at the library where there is parking and access on snowy days. Many of us used to have sheep and goats. Now there are only a few hardy souls who have  them.  Spring is an exciting time in the group as we eagerly wait for shearing days to purchase the fresh fleeces for spinning. There is nothing like spinning a fresh, clean fleece almost warm from the sheep’s back. The sheep is happy to be rid of that extra weight and warmth. Sometimes shearing days happen in the early spring before the temperatures have started to warm. It’s hard not to feel guilty for taking the animal’s warm coats. However it is  good practice to shear before lambing so the the lambs have easy access to food. The fleeces that I purchase are very different from my old goat. They are soft and silky, suitable for sweaters, hats and garments that are worn next to the skin for warmth and a delight to spin.

Bobbin and base colored fleece

 

Here’s my wheel with a colored bobbin ready to ply. However I must first fill another bobbin with the blue fleece.  The fleece is spun clockwise at first. When I ply, the yarn is spun counter clock wise to lock the two strands together, making a doubly strong yarn for weaving. It seems like a long, laborious process and is, I guess, but using my own fleeces and wheel gives me great pleasure during the whole project.

 I am planning to have the yarn all spun and plied, ready for the loom when the days get shorter in the fall and we no longer spend so much time outdoors. Then it will be time to warp the loom and start weaving. 

Here are four skeins that are finished and ready for weaving. I hope to be able to calculate how many skeins the rug will take. However every time I try to consult a weaving book  the whole process seems much too complicated for my brain. I prefer to just keep spinning and dyeing and hoping that at some point it will feel like the right amount of yarn. There are several knowledgeable weavers in the spinning group who will help me when I have questions. I’m sure that once I get started it  will all come back to me, like riding a bicycle or skiing. The end result is worth the effort. To make a rug like this from the very beginning is not only a challenge and a lot of work but a memory of days when there were goats and sheep here on the mountain.

Four skeins ready for weaving

 

I don’t miss lugging water down to the barn on icy days in the winter. Or stacking hay on our big old pickup truck on the hottest days of the summer, bringing the hay down to the barn where the hornets harassed me as I stacked hay in the barn. I do miss visiting the goats and Sylvia twice a day, stroking their soft locks and looking forward to having their fleeces to use. It was fun to see them outside on the East side of the barn on a cold winter day soaking up the sun in the morning. They loved to go for hikes, as a huge package, five big goats and one rather large pig. I had to entice them past the compost pile and the apple trees with peanuts in the shell. Once we were out the driveway they would go for a long walk, snacking as they went. Occasionally we would meet someone on the mountain, out for a peaceful hike. It was a shock to them to come upon all those animals in the woods. They weren’t interested in strangers. They were busy enjoying the delicious change of scenery and snacks. Raspberries growing by the side of the trail were a real seasonal treat. Sylvia ate the berries, the goats ate the berries and the bushes too. The only member of the family who didn’t enjoy these hikes was Tulla. Sylvia had no tolerance whatsoever for dogs. She especially didn’t want them anywhere near her goats. I  am sure that  for the thirteen years that Sylvia lived with the goats, their safety from coyotes was guaranteed by her presence. We had two times when stray dogs appeared down at the barn. They were sent packing immediately, with no question in their minds that Sylvia was a real danger to them. Tulla was very comfortable with the goats, but Sylvia charged her once and that was enough for Tulla. From then on, she maintained a distance of about fifty yards ahead or behind us when we hiked. That distance seemed to work for both of them. I do miss the goats and Sylvia. It was a wonderful addition to our lives, an added delight for many of our guests and their children. The goats and Sylvia welcomed visitors, a pleasant distraction as they wandered the meadows or napped under the shade of trees in their pasture. Sylvia dictated when to nap, when to eat, and when to go back to the barn for sleep. She was definitely in charge and they obeyed as a flock should. Who needs a sheep dog when you can have a pig?

Summer Sunsets

July 15, 2010

In March the sun slides down the north side of Pico on our youngest son’s birthday, March 8th. From then on it marches northward towards Glen Ellen and Sugarbush, reaching its Northern  destination on June 21st.  Glen Ellen and Sugarbush are almost due north from the Lodge. On December 21st, the shortest day of the year the sun sets down at Mount Ascutney, almost due south of us.

 

Killington and Pico in March

 

In summer, Peter and I often eat dinner on the porch, weather permitting. There are many sunsets to watch, some a lot better than others. Our favorite is frequently one that happens after a rainstorm. The valley clears, leaving mist rising from all the stream beds,heightening the colors of the sun as it breaks through the clouds. Here’s one that happened a few nights ago as we watched from the dinner table. How lucky we are to have this changing panorama below us.

 

Sunset after storm

 

The next night the sunset was totally different, clear, after a hot hazy humid day. July days tend to be hotter and more humid than August. We will have some great sunsets then and into the fall when the skyline once again turns a fiery red after the sun disappears behind the mountains. To me, the sun looks like a fluorescent tennis ball suspended above the mountains. It was a hot day and a hot sunset, We were happy to have it set .  A gentle breeze  cooled us as we sat there. Darkness settled in the valley as we finished our dinner, soon chased inside

 

sunset , May 3rd, 2010

 

 by moosquitoes. The silence except for an occasional hummingbird or owl is  welcome after a busy day on the mountain. How fortunate we have been to have landed in this piece of heaven on earth. We hope to remain caretakers of the view for many more years to come.

The battle for the culvert

July 1, 2010

 

Summer is here. The livin’ is easy. There’s plenty of food, warm water and time for dam repair. Extending the number of ponds and dams seems like a good use of beaver energy and time, at least to them. There are now six dams, five below the main dam which is in great shape. Once again the beavers have decided to take over the culvert and create dam number seven. I can’t allow that to happen. Which means that I have to check the culvert each morning for new activity. If they have spent the night bringing rocks, mud, sticks and logs to dam up the culvert, I must undo what they have done. If I miss a day, in two days they can dam it up entirely and allow the water to run over our only access road to the lodge. The town does not take kindly to road damage caused by beavers. Road damage is very expensive. 
        As far as we are concerned, they are welcome on our land. I am willing to work to prevent any conflict between the town and the beavers, keeping it in the family for now and for as long as I can cope with the challenge. I can be persistent, but beavers are well known for their determination and ingenuity.

This morning I had missed a day checking the culvert. They were reliably busy. I was too, but indoors, getting ready for more guests. This morning I found the culvert dammed up about halfway. The water was over the tops of my boots. They had been very busy and successful.

Half Damned Culvert

 

Tulla and I inspected the job and started lugging large sticks,partial logs, stones, mud and grasses with the roots still on away in our plastic sled. There must have been at least two hundred pounds of materials used. It is hard to imagine how one or two beavers can accomplish so much. I am sure that they use the water as much as possible to float the sticks and logs into place. Certainly the grate that I placed in front of the culvert helps them build against it. However, it helps me because before I had the grate they would fill the whole culvert with logs and sticks. At least with the grate I can see what they have done and remove it more easily.

Tulla inspects my work

 

I keep a plastic sled,  shovel and rake out by the culvert to use when we need to move a lot of materials. Tulla loves to watch but so far is no help at all.

We had guests this morning, but before I could serve breakfast I needed to open up the culvert and lower the water level. I am worried that the highway department will drive up the mountain some morning and discover the dammed culvert and declare the beavers a serious nuisance. The dams are on our property but I’m not sure that matters in terms of the damage they might cause to the roads down the mountain. Tulla and I will continue our battle, not outsmarting them but hopefully out lasting them.

Culvert open with water at a safe level

 

As I write this after dinner, they may very well be out there working away. I dearly love the beavers but like recalcitrant children they cause many problems and heartaches. They have an idea for their home and safety. I respect that. However they will have to adjust if they want to remain here. I wish we could communicate. For now, Tulla and I will remove their materials. They will continue to replace them. I marvel at their ability to use anything and everything that they can move one way or another. They are true builders using their environment to work for them.

Exploring Ponds Nearby

May 28, 2010

Two friends and I and two dogs hiked in to a secluded pond in the woods a few days ago. The other dog is Tulla’s best friend , Emma a chocolate lab. ( I’m not sure Emma feels the same way) We were on a quest to photograph dragon flies hatching. Last year we had spent a wonderful day there watching the miracle  and agony of the dragonflies as they struggled to escape their larval bodies. They rested after all the work, dried their wings in the sun as we watched and photographed them. They were all around us drying, flying and making the huge effort to escape the hard shell of their first metamorphosis. This year, we were too late. They were flying all around us with a few shells of their former selves lying on the rocks. It was sunny , warm and relatively bug free after our torturous approach through the woods. This time of year can be brutal in the Northeast with black flies hungry for a blood meal. There were also hungry mosquitoes landing on us as we walked.

     The spring started out early with warm temperatures that brought on black flies and blossoms too early. We bounced back to colder temperatures, even frosty mornings and a real snowstorm, threatening the apple trees and  crops like asparagus that had sprouted  in the warmth. Peter and I skied on April 28th and 29th on six inches of snow. At any rate this day was close to perfect, especially after we emerged from the woods into the sunshine and huge rocks that surround the peaceful pond. The dogs were delighted with the prospect of a swim and dove in immediately. Emma likes to wade and explore. Tulla likes the action of sticks thrown and the challenge of retrieving them from the deep water.

Tulla Dives

 

It’s hard to tire her out. She is approaching her second birthday soon. I have hopes that she will mature and calm down as she ages. So far it hasn’t happened. We must have thrown the stick at least fifty times. She was delighted.

We sat in the warm spring sun, talking about photography, learning  about  new approaches to dealing with light from our friend who knows a lot more about photography than we do. What a treat to be outdoors, in the warm sun with happy dogs and good friends. We talked, basked in the sun and enjoyed the utter peace of the pond. An occasional duck flew in,  too far away to identify or photograph.

       Tulla revived enough from her retrieving to torment Emma  who was happy to sit in the sun with us. We tried to relieve Emma with some more stick throws but Tulla wanted Emma’s attention. Emma is a wonderful dog. She often likes to play with Tulla, but definitely gets more attention than she gives. When we can tire Tulla out, totally, she and Emma have a great time. I do think that they love each other. It’s just a little one sided right now with a two year old and a five year old. Emma is amazingly tolerant. Tulla is amazingly persistent, an  obnoxious pup. We left as the sun made the exposed rocks too warm to sit without a dip in the pond. We were discouraged from a swim  when we saw leeches swimming over the granite rocks in the sun. We trekked back through the woods again, offering our blood to the hungry insects who welcomed us.

Tulla torments Emma