beaver ice

On a very nippy morning, after a freezing night, the town came and dug up the beaver dam, and when the water receded, an inch thickness of ice was left suspended in the grasses and bushes.

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(I needed a human to show the scale of the ice in my photos, and my obliging son took his “modeling” job quite seriously. )

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The work of beavers and ice hanging off stumps.

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All the twigs on the ground were stripped of their bark by beavers.

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I thought the children would have lots more fun with the ice, but overnight the temperatures rose, a melting rain fell, and it all went away……….

 

 

beavers near my house

 

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The woods have been extra interesting lately with revived beaver activity near our place.  Did you know that beavers are huge rodents?  Yes indeedy, and they are on my list of “favorite animals”.  How could anyone be afraid of a beaver or upset by a beaver? They are practically harmless.  They’re too busy working to be a bother to anyone.   After you see a photo of a baby beaver you’ll never be the same again.  Those tails!

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Anyone walking on our street could see the new beaver dam that I first noticed last week.  It’s where the stream goes under the road, so obvious.  It must be a favored spot because I remember years ago they made one in the same location, and the town dug it out.  Consequently, if I hear a loud truck these days, I run to the window and look to see if the town is digging the dam out of the stream like they did last time, with my heart filled with fears and woe.  I imagine all the work that the beavers put into their dam, all the gatherings of twigs, branches, grasses, stones, and mud.  Everything gathered and collected by a large rodent!  Imagine!

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Here is the most precious sight; of a lone stone on top of the dam, placed oh so carefully by a beaver.

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Well, and then I discovered ANOTHER ONE, this one is deeper into the woods in a place where no heavy truck or digging equipment can go.  My heart is lighter as I ponder the beavers that live near my house.

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This morning I was cleaning the kitchen and there was a pot of burnt peas in the sink.  They were burnt because Sarah and I were sewing pants for her doll and forgot about the peas.  (True story) So I left them in the sink until this morning, and then I walked them to the chicken coop.  Chickens are partial to burnt peas.  Then I continued on my way, looking at how the ponds were filled up nicely after two days of rain.  When I got to the stream I could hear the beaver again.  Oh joy!  It was about 8 am in the morning.  I rushed to the house to get my camera, a towel to sit upon, a breakfast in a sandwich bag consisting of cheese, raw mushrooms, and trail mix, and I also put on a pair of jeans because I was still in my pajamas.  Then I went down and sat.  Very soon I heard a loud splash and then another one.  Dang, I thought.  There are at least two and they know I’m here.  I sat and sat.  Then, finally my dreams (beaver dreams) came true.  I saw the first one.  I saw the second one.  And then, one more.

The third one allowed me to take its photo.

It was very hard, as it was behind branches and leaves, but I did the best I could.

It was silent the entire time.  Silkily silent.

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“A beaver’s forepaws are quite dexterous.  They can fold individual leaves into their mouths.”  Backyard and Beyond by Edward Duensing

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gliding through the water….see the glimpse of the famous tail?

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I encourage each and every one of you to visit your local library, go to the children’s section, and find every book you can about the beaver and check them out.  Read them this weekend, look at photos that are actually clear and nice, and be amazed by this animal.

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Oh I forgot to mention that this morning I also found their lodge.  It’s by the stream under the old dead pine tree on our property.  The first two beavers I scared ended up swimming toward the lodge and then they dived under the water to “go home and hide”, from me, presumably.

I found the perfect place to sit and stalk them, so conveniently at the bottom of our lawn, on a bank in the briars near the pond.  No one can see me.  I just have to remember to shut the dog in the house or he will stand and bark and scare everything away.

In fact, as I write this, I am filled with longing to throw the computer aside and run back down there.  Typing as fast as I can…….

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After many photo attempts, this one also eventually vanished under the water to the lodge.  “Goodbye for now” I said.  I sat for a little while longer and then got up as I was freezing in certain areas, namely my behind, hands, and nose.  I ended up walking down the edge of the stream, through the woods to the bird forest, through the dam field, into the woods again, across the rushing stream (very exciting) back across the field, down the little dirt road to the main road, and up it to home again.

I finished cleaning my kitchen and then had time to blog.

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I saw this sweet bird and several more just like it.  Autumn is nice because everything is going to seed, there are berries, too, and the bird activity increases as they fly about looking for food.

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See the spot of yellow?

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I discovered a crab apple tree.  They were at the end of their peak but maybe next year I can harvest some and make jelly.  I did eat one. . . . .it was nice and tart.

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reflections in the water

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One last beaver quote:

“When alarmed, a beaver dives under water, its tail slapping the surface as a warning to other beavers.  But in sum, beavers live unhurried lives.”

Ah, we can learn from the beaver, can’t we?

I found a caddis worm

Yesterday afternoon I went to the chicken coop.  It was the first day back to school for the children so I was alone and greatly enjoying the quiet.  There were three eggs in the coop which I promptly put into the pocket of my shorts.  I held in my hand a mug of lukewarm coffee.  A rose fiestaware mug, to be exact.

Seth and Caleb were playing catch by the road last Friday.  Across the road from our house is forest and when they heard a cracking sound, they looked up just in time to see a small bear jumping down from a tree and running away into the woods.

I had this in mind as I stood and gazed around me at the edge of our property.  Would I see the bear?  Was I nervous?

Our property sits on four acres and it borders state forest.  A shallow but constantly running stream also borders part of our land.  I walked away from the coop into the forest and toward the stream.  I was wearing shorts and sneakers, the air was warm with a cool breeze and sunlight streamed through the tops of tall pine trees.  Beneath my feet were old damp leaves and pine needles, and crackling twigs.

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A frog hesitated and then took a flying leap into the water and swam under water soaked leaves to hide.  I had surprised me so I stood still for a while just in case there were any others.  In the center of the water beyond reach was a gelatinous mass of eggs.  The stream had overflowed its boundaries with the rain, forming a nice big puddle of fresh water, just right for a frog nursery.  As I looked, I saw a tiny little wooden thing slowly crawling in hesitant dips and bobs on the bottom of the puddle.  It looked like a small pine cone … walking under the water.  But that couldn’t be right, could it?

I was wearing my perfectly good black sneakers and for a brief moment I had to decide; would I or would I not get them wet?  For a pine cone?

I would.

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I dumped my coffee out and dipped the mug into the water to rinse.  The water was cold and my sneakers were instantly filled with it.  I bent down to scoop my discovery into the mug and brought it back with me, just a step or two, to dry land.

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It was a tiny creature living inside it’s own homemade case of twigs.

I kept it in the mug as I took a few pictures and a video.

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It’s “front door” –one the end of the case– was finished off with whitish twigs.

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Right before I put it back I held it in my hand.  It was less than an inch long.

I proceeded on my walk and as I walked down the trail to the road I almost stepped on a snake.

It moved away from my foot fast enough but then had a hard time slithering away because it was so cold.

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Back in the house, I quickly located my favorite nature book and identified the strange water creature that I had found.

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“People who have never tried to fathom the mysteries of the bottom of brook or pond are to be pitied.  Just to lie flat, face downward, and watch for a time all that happens down there in that water world is far more interesting than witnessing any play ever given at matinee.  At first one sees nothing, since all the swift-moving creatures have whisked out of sight, because they have learned to be shy of moving shadows………….and then something strange happens.  A bit of rubbish on the bottom of the brook walks off.  Perhaps it is a dream, or we are under the enchantment of the water witches!”  ~Anna Comstock

Pity me, because I have to say I have never (until yesterday) tried to fathom the mysteries of the bottom of our stream….and it was only because of that frog jumping that I stood still long enough to discover my very own “bit of rubbish.”

Things I learned:

*You can take these things home, put them in an aquarium to observe them, remove the top twigs of its case, give it tiny strips of flower pedals, and watch it rebuild using the blossoms.  They are “underwater architects.”

*The inside of the case is lined with silk.

*The worm is not attached to the case and if you turn the case wrong side up and hold it down, the worm will flip over within it to right itself.

*An artist named Hubert Duprat collects them, keeps them in climate controlled aquariums, removes them from their cases, supplies them with precious metal and stones, and thus creates (using the worms) beautiful little works of art.  Click HERE to see.

*When they are ready to pupate (turn into a fly), it fastens itself to an object in the water and seals itself up inside.  Eventually it emerges as a caddis fly.

* People make fishing lures using the caddis fly as inspiration.

*If they are located in your backyard stream it is an indication that the water is clean.

*They can make their case out of almost anything including sand, stones, or even a hollow stem.

*Someone made this.

For more information you can read the wikipedia article HERE.

In fact, the more I dig around the internet studying these things, the dumber I feel!  Why haven’t I learned about these before?  What fascinating creatures they are!

“Little brook, so simple, so unassuming
–and yet how many things love thee!”
~Edward Carpenter

PS, I didn’t see the bear.   However, I thought I heard one at one point and peed a little in my pants.  Bears, worms, and snakes….oh my!