Saturday, 23 September 2006

September 23, 2006 Bring It On!

Today was the first full day of fall – and what a lovely day it was. We actually got a reprieve from the rain that has been falling for pretty much the last week and the fall colors were today backed up by a gorgeous blue sky.

Fall colors

Mark and I each ran a team this morning. That is actually his first time running dogs since breaking his leg last winter, although he has been helping hook up whenever he can all spring and summer. He had the amazing Snickers in lead and I know he delighted in being able to zoom around me every time my leaders (Draco and Runner) got confused (Draco because he was more worried about impressing the cute females on the team – Runner because it is only his second time in lead!).
The dogs are up to 15-mile runs now. It’s getting pretty toasty temperature wise when we get back into the yard, but thanks to all the rain in the previous week there are lots of water holes to stop and cool them down in.

The young leaders continue to do excellent, although the longer runs are a little more stressful, so I’m not running them in lead on as regular a schedule now.

One of the reasons these longer runs are more stressful on leaders is that there are A LOT more distractions once we leave the confines of our woods and start adding the roads and ditches to the runs. In the past week, we have had road kill, loose cows, horses racing us along fence lines, farm dogs and of course, traffic. It’s a kick to watch the eyes on all the two year olds get big when they experience all this stuff for the first time. Poor Charge just about jumped out of his skin the first time a semi roared by on the highway. After only a few runs though, he wasn’t even flicking an ear at their passing.

Round straw bales out in the field across the highway.

Thankfully, our local ditches are quite clean and there is very little garbage in them. Very handy considering that the young dogs feel the urge to pick up every wrapping, empty bag, can and such that we pass; I’ve wrestled some pretty ‘scary’ stuff out of their mouths over the years.

I have to find some time next week to check out my usual (and favorite) trail that comes out near the Perryvale Waste Transfer Station (aka The Dump). The Community Association sold a small piece of land that they owned next to the road and the new owner, who sadly died early this year, I believe blocked off part of the trail. I will be sorely disappointed if I lose that trail; it is one that we use on a really regular basis. Like all areas of the country, every year it seems more and more fences go up and it gets harder and harder to find trails that aren’t along roads and ditches.

One of my very favorite spots on our land

A closer view of the favored spot

I also have to find time to work on a few of the trails on our property. The beavers here seem to think that winter is fast closing in and are on a mission to chew down every popular tree along the top of the Gully and the Riverbank.

Beaver signs

The Beaver pond

My bench overlooking the Beaver Pond and the Valley

Beaver's work and paths along the top of the riverbank

Well used paths that the beavers use to skid their trees down to the valley

Honestly, I’m not too concerned with them knocking down the trees and using them (Mark and my title deed to the land really means nothing to them), but they really annoy me when they drop them over my trails and then just leave them there. 

Beaver handiwork

I don’t think it’s a problem for the dogs to step over one or two smaller trees, in fact, I think it is very good for them to learn to watch where they are putting their feet...

Downed trees on our trails

– but on one trail there is a series of 5 or 6 trees down and along the Riverbank they take down some trees that are just too big for my 4 wheeler to get over.

More beaver signs

The beaver should talk to the squirrels – or rather the relatives of the squirrels that decided they were going to battle with us for the right to the outhouse and the string off of my hammock. We will fight for what is ours, whether it is outhouses, hammocks or trails – and we will win.
I wonder if they know that I’m looking for a couple beaver hides for a friend to use to make me a new pair of musher mitts to match the beaver hat I bought in Nome last year??

©Penny Blankenship for
©Penny Blankenship

Anyway, busy beavers aren’t the only signs of fall around here. The trees are all decked out in their showiest finery;

The Tawatinaw river valley where it passes through our land

...the crops are either already harvested or being worked by farmers with swathers and combines;

My neighbours once beautiful canola crop waiting to be combined.

...many of the less hardy plants in my garden have succumbed to the cool (and sometimes already – cold) temperatures and died – although the tough pansies continue to bloom;

A few colorful, hardy wildflowers are still around.

...the squirrels have moved into high gear and are storing food in trees, nooks and any other cranny they can find;

Mushrooms in trees - the squirrels seem to think this is a good storage techinque to keep them from being buried by snow in the winter.
...geese have been flying over head in big, noisy flocks for weeks and ravens are beginning to gather and prepare for their upcoming trip; mushrooms are popping up everywhere – I’ve yet to be brave enough to pick and cook any, but I do have a mushroom book that assures me many of the varieties around here are very edible.

Moss and mushroom covered old handiwork

Mushrooms growing on old beaver chewed stumps

Shaggy Mane mushrooms
(I have to wonder if a sign of fall for my neighbors is the return of dog teams to the ditches and side roads in the area).

The Valley. Our house is at the end of the road to the right.

Our 'driveway'. See the deer??

The real start of our 'driveway'.

I also got one of my FAVORITE signs of fall the other morning, as we turned onto ‘Lee Heights Road’ on a training run the dogs and I all raised our noses to the wonderful scent of woodsmoke in the air. One of my favorite smells - and one associated very closely by both the dogs and I with fond, warm memories of many checkpoints and stopping places we have visited over the years. That smell more then anything else, awakens a longing for winter in me.

Bring it on….

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