Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cooper and BobCat's Most Excellent Adventure

Saturday dawned bright with mild temperatures hovering at the +2C mark.  It was the perfect opportunity to go and check how the drainage work for Highway 30 was progressing on the mid-point of our property.  We've seen the equipment off in the distance, and what looks like piles of snow pushed aside, so it was time for an inspection.

With Cooper leading and BobCat in tow, we started out:
Here is a little oak tree we planted in our hedgerow.  Check out the little bird's nest!  This tiny tree comes up to my hip, if that.  The nest probably belongs to a song sparrow.  Of all the trees to choose from, I'm not sure why he or she didn't set their sights higher.

The excavation work for the drainage of Highway 30 isn't supposed to begin before February 20th.  Why this little tree has already been bulldozed down is beyond me:
I'm sure by the end of this drainage fiasco, we'll find even more trees damaged or bulldozed over, since the work hasn't even technically started.  Well.  It looks like someone's been having fun driving the bulldozer around by the looks of the snow piled up on  the right side of the photo:
So far, we've received 3 registered letters about the work, plus Eric's attended one meeting, so we can't say we weren't warned.  The engineers do what consultants do best, which is dot their i's and cross their t's.  Maybe someone should have informed the excavation company that they were supposed to be accessing the ditch from the other side, don't you think?  Or am I the only one who knows how to read a map?

Getting back to business.  Note BobCat in the above photo.  The big tub normally abandons us at this point, if not well before.  Today, he must have been in a good mood, because he decided to tag along.  My goal is to make it to the construction of the actual highway which is just beyond the far end of our property.  We need to walk 1300m to get there.  The above marks our approximate half-way point.

With Cooper following his nose and BobCat trailing a few steps behind, we make our way to the end of our field and into our woods.  In the 10 years I've lived here,  I've walked to the end of the woods exactly once, and I didn't even do it on our property - I followed a trail on a farm a few properties over.  Today, we're trailblazing.
It looks like a Pileated Woodpecker's been here recently.  I didn't see any birds today, but I did hear a crow calling.  The woods were quiet - there were no coyote tracks, no deer tracks - just a few fox and bunny tracks.

I wonder if this is a bunny den?  The tracks lead right into it, but I didn't want to disturb it.  There's enough disruption with all the heavy-equipment work being carried out here that the wildlife's taken refuge elsewhere.  We'll leave these bunnies undisturbed.

I knew we had a dump at the front of our forest, what I didn't know is that we have a dump at the back of our forest, too.
Lots of galvanized metal, old mattresses, metal pails, washer drums and what-not.  This has probably been rotting here for the past 50 or 60 years or so.

I can turn a blind eye to metal, because it will eventually rust to bits, but the tires?  Oh, the tires are going to have to come out of here.  There were about 4 or 5 in various places.  Who knows?  Maybe we'll find something exciting when we get around to pulling these out.  If you look really closely at the above photo, you can see one of the yellow dump trucks used for building the highway off in the distance.
Here you go.  I've zoomed it in for you.  I have no clue why there were 5 or 6 trucks parked in a row here.  Probably so they're out of reach of vandals.  No fools venture out here, except for me.

At the ditch-line that signals the end of our property, we find evidence of beavers hard at work:
I don't know if this is a type of aspen or poplar, but they were busy little beavers.
BobCat is crossing the ditch that marks the far part of our property on one of the trees felled by the beavers.  Cooper's already walking on the ice that covers the ditch, and with all the construction work going on here, I'm not sure how deep it is, so I've called him off in the hopes that BobCat would turn back too.  My strategy worked.
Cooper's back beside me, and I'm looking down at what I'm pretty sure is the access to the beaver's den.  There was a lot of track activity around here, so I wanted to get Cooper back on terra firma.  The last thing I need this week is my dog breaking through a beaver dam.

I've never been this far on our property before, so I don't have any references to orient myself, save the ditch in the above photo, and the drone of the highway.  I figured I'd walk out the same way I walked in, following my own footprints in the snow.  That worked out really well until I looked down and discovered I was walking in Cooper's prints, and I wasn't quite convinced if they were coming or going.  That worked out well, didn't it?  Now, I've got a really good sense of direction and I'm pretty sure of where I am within 100m give or take.  I wasn't worried because if push really came to shove, I'd simply walk back on the highway under construction, and make my way home from there.  I found my way back through the woods and exited about 50 m from where I went in, but it was a slog.  I had snow over my knees a few times (hence, into my boots...) and at this point, I just wanted to get home.  BobCat too:

When I lost sight of him, I'd call his name, and he'd reply with the loudest meows I've ever heard him make.  I'm not sure if he enjoyed the experience or not, based on the wide-eyed expression on his face above.  Once back on open field, my wet feet decided we'd had enough, so we took the path of least resistance and returned on our neighbour's property, and his tractor path which made the walk infinitely easier:
The whole walk took us about 2 hours to complete, and I was happy to come home.  Bob spent the entire night on Cooper's dog bed in the kitchen and Cooper spent the entire night on our bed, so I'd qualify both as exhausted at the end of their most excellent adventure.  I slept pretty tight too.


Lyssa said...

That's a pretty impressive walk!

Miriam said...

This post is bringing back all kinds of memories: my mom has some property near Rocky Mountain House in Alberta, and many summer days the first year or two she had it were spent demolishing beaver dams, trying to keep damage to the creeks and surrounding trees to a minimum. But then she asked herself whose property was it anyway, and left the beavers to live out their engineering destiny in peace. So now there is a kind of beaver/human equilibrium that everyone seems happy with.

I am so sorry about the destruction that is happening because of the highway project - it must be very distressing to see, especially so close to home.

Shim Farm said...

Hi Lyssa, that walk would take me 30 minutes in the summer, but in the winter, slogging over plowed fields covered in snow, let's say it gets a bit long. I really should buy a pair of snow shoes, but I know myself, I'd probably only use them three times a year!

Miriam, I believe the beavers aren't doing any harm, so we might as well leave them be. They can live from 15 to 20 years in age - that's pretty remarkable. I don't see the point in spoiling their habitat. Now I need to convince Eric of that...

On a different note, I'm more frustrated by our neighbour cutting down irreplaceable trees in his hedgerow for firewood than I am about the actual highway being built.

Realistically, our infrastructure in Montreal stinks - our roads are terrible, our bridges and overpasses crumbling. We need this highway badly, however, the environmental impact remains to be seen. This drainage work was not planned at the outset, and I'm sure it won't be the last inconvenience we encounter because of the construction.

But on the bright side, because of the new highway, our road was turned into a massive crescent, cutting traffic from 3,000 cars a day to about 100, I'd say. No more speeding maniacs, just locals who are for the most part respectful of the 50 km/h speed limit. That's one added benefit we didn't account for when the work started.

Robin said...

I didn't know beavers lived in places that weren't in the middles of lakes and streams. Ok, so I don't know much about beavers...

Was the neighbor who cut down the hedgerow the one who caused you to lock the wood door on the barn?

That little nest in the tiny tree was cute. Not so very smart, but cute. :)

Shim Farm said...

I've just about convinced Eric that we need to leave the beavers alone where they are - they're a kilometre from our house, for heaven's sake! We had a huge "discussion" about their fate. I say, leave them. He says, trap them. I think I won. I mean, they do cut down trees, but they don't do a huge amount of damage. It's not like they're going to flood our forest or anything, but I'll keep tabs on them now that I know they're there.

The idiot who cut down the hedgerow is not our direct neighbour who steals firewood for a hobby. The farmer who cut the hedgerow is across the street, but waaaaaay down the field, thanks to the long-lot division system. I spoke to the city yesterday, and as long as he has a permit (which he did, apparently), he's pretty much allowed to do whatever he wants. But it still doesn't make sense. That elm tree was ancient and wasn't in anyone's way. In fact, all of the trees weren't in anyone's way, which is why I marvel about it. He did it for the money - plain and simple - because it's all being transformed into firewood. Still, the reality and lack of foresight pisses me off so much. I'm still not done with the whole matter, and I'm scoping out what my next course of action should be, because this should not have happened!

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