Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Revisiting Wildlife, Return and Weed(s)

This post is a grab bag of various topics, including a meeting with a beaver!

Here she is, looking very wet poor dear!

Going on my bicycle to get the mail at lunch time, I heard a big “splash” in the ditch. I stopped to investigate and there was Canada's national symbol by the side our lane! Had it remained quiet, I would never have seen it, but, when he/she heard me coming (let us say it was a she), she did what any properly brought up beaver does to signal danger: she hit the water surface in the ditch with her tail. However, following instinct was the wrong thing to do in the circumstances, as there was no place to dive in. I quickly rode back home to grab my camera, and luckily she was still there when I came back. To get back to safety meant crossing our lane, and beavers feel insecure on land.

We looked at each other and she growled. In fact, it sounded much more like a human grump than a dog's growl. You could see she was ready to pounce had I got any closer.  I don’t know what a beaver bite is like, but I was not going to test it. I kept my distance.

This sighting means trouble. The last time there were beavers around, they would block the culvert and create a large pond on one side of the township road. Municipal employees had to unplug that culvert every morning. Every night the beavers blocked it again, and the road would be flooded the next morning. Our lane does flood in spring and fall; it might flood even more depending on what project the beavers have in mind!

Fortunately, most years beavers cannot settle here. Spring and fall are very wet, but summers are usually dry – too dry for beavers to stay on our land as the water evaporates all around the only place low enough to build a lodge.  They feel and are exposed, and so they move on.

We are not the only ones who are back. Yesterday, I saw one of “our” phoebes, on its first day back from Mexico or Florida, checking the old barn swallow nest against the house where they have raised two broods each year for the last four years.  Normally, at this time of the year, bluebirds and tree swallows are fighting over bird boxes, but neither is not yet back this year.

As for our own return, we are back into our routines of splitting firewood and taking it in. The limitations imposed by our small solar power system have once again become second nature. This includes doing laundry only when the sun is shining (because the water pump is what takes most electricity, and the washing machine is using power at the same time). This time of the year, it is not a problem as days are already so long. You can even have a radio or the cd player on while you are doing the laundry!

However, things are different in November. Something else that also takes a few days to get used to (even if it is a pleasure to do so) is how very quiet the country is compared to the city. Not a sound is to be heard, except mostly for birds – at this time of the year the loud calls of Sandhill cranes and the gobble of the wild turkeys (and, if you are close enough, the grumps of beavers).

Concerning our own weeds, there are two creeping weeds that grow in our stone paths which perhaps some of you can identify for me. I have no idea what they are. They look like thyme, and at first I let them grow thinking our numerous patches of thyme were seeding. However, there are too many of them, too far from any thyme patch. They are everywhere.

In fact both weeds might be the same plant – the green ones having just sprouted, and the more established reddish ones having survived from last summer. I can see that this will be our number one weed, hands down. 


  1. Lovely pictures, Alain! We have rabbits and groundhogs to watch here, of course, but a beaver is really something.

  2. I am pretty sure it is purslane, Alain. KMG are presenting a seminar on ediblw weeds and purslane is included. It is good fresh in salads or used as a potherb.I can send you some recipes if you like. It is especially rich in iron.


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