The adventuresome life of a Great Pyrenees/Newfoundland dog in Northwestern Ontario

Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

And Then, the Rains Came

A few days after our fire, the rain finally came. It rained for most of the last half of September. In fact, it has been one of the wettest second halves of September on record.

We were glad to get the forest dampened down. Forests need to be damp. The trees need to drink and, well, you’ve just seen on a very small scale how dangerous things can get when the woods dry up.

But we decided to show you another aspect of forest fire aftermath that occurs in this area, something that happens when the rain comes after a bad fire. So, the Scribe and I went for another walk with the camera.

The burned area after the rainy latter half of September. Notice how bare the bedrock is.

Here in the Boreal Forest, the soil takes a very long time to build up. Elizabeth tells me that she used to work as an archaeologist in this region, and one of the things that always impressed her was that in the ten thousand years since the Ice Age (that sounds like it must have been a fun time…), there was often only about 30 cm or a foot of soil built up where she would be digging. Where in other areas of the world whole cities have been buried two, three or more times over and they use backhoes and shovels to dig the remains of civilisations up, here they use trowels and popsicle sticks and those ever so carefully!

So, when a forest fire comes along and burns all the organic matter, there really isn’t very much soil left. And, since it is the trees and other smaller plants that are holding the soil together, when those burn, the soil is washed away by the rain or spring run-off when it comes. You can see how that has happened in our burnt over area. The bedrock is naked except for the dead tree roots suspended above it.

As we surveyed the burnt area, Elizabeth said to me, “Look at those tree roots, Stella. They’re like the bones of the forest.”

Then she looked a bit closer. She always does that. She walks with her eyes constantly scanning the ground. I think that is left over from her archaeological days, too. I could see that she’d seen something odd now, but I had no idea what it was. She walked over closer to the bottom edge of the bedrock and started taking photos. She put the lens cover of her camera down so you could get an idea of size… (Click on the first one to see the photo gallery full size!)

Now, how did I miss that! When I went over to take a sniff, I was surprised to find that it smelled just like all the soil around it. It was so old that there was nothing left to chew on it. I looked at Elizabeth. “In the words of Wilkie Collins,” she said, “What does it mean?”

She poked around in the soil a bit but couldn’t find any more bones. She says it is not a butchered bone, nor has it been cooked (until our fire, BOL).

Elizabeth thinks she knows what it is. She says that she’s not 100% sure, but she thinks it is a bear femur. Bear bones look a lot like two-legger bones, but she thinks this is too heavy for a two-legger. She thinks another animal probably dropped it here after picnicking on it. One thing she noticed about it is that, in the last photo and at the right end, part of the bone is broken off, and she wonders if that might have been a hint of what led to the bear’s demise. But it might have broken off after it died. She’s hoping Lil the Egg Lady will put in her two cents and help us solve the Mystery of the Lone Bone.

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FIRE!

On September 10th, we were all enjoying a lovely Sunday afternoon. I was outside enjoying catching scents on a boisterous breeze while I lay on guard in the driveway. Kay and the Scribe were downstairs watching Eric Lamaze as he and his horse jumped over obstacles at a place called Spruce Meadows.

Eric was halfway through the course when something incredibly scary happened. There was a crack, and I saw one of the tall Balsam Firs along the little gravel path teeter in a gust, and fall, fall, then hang, while the powerlines that run past the house, past my palace and on to Al and Joanne’s house lit up and made the most horrible sounds: TZT TZZZZZT TZZZZZZZT. There was an explosion (I was already running for the house to warn my two-leggers of DANGER), and then more of the TZZZT sounds.

I don’t mind telling you I was too scared to bark. I curled up in the corner of the house beside the door to keep anyone from coming out, and I watched, and I listened as the explosions and TZZTs continued.

Almost immediately I got to the door, I could hear movement in the house: Elizabeth racing upstairs to see what was exploding. She thought the problem was in the house, something she could stop. But she couldn’t find anything.

Elizabeth then looked out the Dining Room window and saw the smoke, then the tree hanging on the hydro lines over the gravel path. She ran to the door to get me inside, and I willingly came in. I’d rather be with my beloved two-leggers in a dangerous situation. Then she ran to the old phone in the kitchen, the one that doesn’t rely on electricity to operate. She dialed 911. I could tell she was just as scared as I was.

“Fire!” she cried when someone answered at the other end.

And then it got scarier yet.

As she was talking to the emergency people, the tree finally broke the first of three lines. I could hear the explosion on the phone from where I was standing, and Elizabeth yelped. It must have hurt her ears a lot. “The line has just come down,” she yelled to the lady on the phone.

The lady was trying to find out where we lived. Elizabeth started again when the second line came down, and another explosion came through the phone. The connection held, though, and she continued after another yelp, and the third line came down. Elizabeth cried out again both in pain and fear, because now she could see more smoke.

She told the emergency lady that a fire was starting, that the bush was extremely dry (we hadn’t had rain for some time) and that the winds were very strong. “There are people living just a few hundred yards up the hill, and this fire is going to move fast,” she said. “Please, get the fire service here fast!” She had to tell the lady all this because the phone calls are answered nearly a thousand miles from here, and people there have no clue about our situation.

The lady told her to call again if she saw flames or if anything changed.

I hoped the wind didn’t change. It was blowing away from the house. If it changed, we’d have nowhere to go, and the fire would reach us very quickly over fifty feet of tinder dry forest. The live, sparking wires were across the road and might blow nearer the car, too. I didn’t think we could get Kay down to the river fast enough, and it was too cold for her anyway.

Elizabeth ran down to her room for a better look and saw eight foot flames licking up the hill. Oh, no, she thought. This is going to be bad. She ran back to the phone and called 911 again. They assured her that the trucks were on their way and would be there soon.

Kay got upstairs and wondered what had happened that the power had gone off. Elizabeth explained and I went to the livingroom with Kay.

Figuring there was nothing left that she could do, Elizabeth grabbed her camera and went outside. By then the flames had eaten anything close enough to show from the house, so we don’t have anything dramatic to show you. The firetruck arrived within ten minutes of her first call. I stayed inside, but Elizabeth was able to take enough pictures to give us a photo documentary:

By the time Elizabeth got outside, mostly just smoke was visible from anywhere safe to shoot.

 

But where there’s smoke, there’s usually still some fire.

 

Thank goodness the fire fighters and their trucks arrived quickly!

 

They get the area affected watered down, but there’s still some smouldering going on… Where do they go from here?

 

It’s a good question. The lines are still live and sparking, and they aren’t sure where the electricity is going. They need to wait for the Hydro men to come and call to have the power cut, otherwise the firemen might be electrocuted.

You can see the downed lines in the following photos, from the pole close to Al and Joanne’s house, past my Boreal Palace, and dangling behind the parked Growly Beast. And there they are in the last photo, hanging from the pole that holds our transformer.

Then the fire trucks left. We didn’t know what was going on.

It turned out they were just backing out of our little gravel path so that the hydro truck and the linesmen could get in and down to work.

 

Their first order of business once they had the power turned off on the main line, was to get the tree down. The firemen helped cut it into smaller bits and to get it cleared off the gravel path.

 

The linesmen ground the wires so no one gets any nasty surprises while working on the high voltage lines.

 

Now that it is safe to work the hoses again, a little conference ensues…

The hoses are moved to a better spot,

And the fire fighters go back to work.

 

They report back to the boss fireman,

And then, our heroes of the day decide that their work here is done. It took an hour and a half to get the fire completely out.

Then the labourious job of splicing the wires, winching them back up, doing the double checking and fine tuning and final tightening begins. Here’s a little gallery of the process – just click the first photo and then you can flip through them quickly.

It wasn’t just us that were affected by this tree falling. Several thousand people in the area west of us went without hydro for the time all this was going on, too. Kay and Elizabeth never did find out whether Eric Lamaze finished his competition or how he fared.

We went up later to check on things as the boss fireman asked Elizabeth to do. He wanted to make sure that there were no hot spots that might flare up again after they were gone.

We took a good look at the remains of the tree that had fallen on the lines.

 

The view from the Little Gravel Path going up our hill has changed.

After a closer look, we could see there was nothing much left to burn. Kay wonders if all those burnt tree roots will mean the end of many more trees soon.

That’s enough for this post. But the story isn’t over yet…

Who put Walter Pigeon on a Hit List?

Thursday morning, after Elizabeth let me out of the car at the bookshop, I did my usual security check of the parking lot before heading in to greet customers. Usually this process just involves checking to see if Isabella the bulldog at the Greek restaurant next door left me any messages, and maybe leaving her a message to say I received and understood hers, but this was not the case on Thursday. On Thursday, I found a visitor who was desperately in need of help.

I was about to pick him up and bring him to Elizabeth, but she saw me heading into the corner and knew by the way I was striding that I’d seen something she needed to know about. She’s pretty smart, my scribe is [Scribal note: Thank you, Stella.]. When she saw me lean in to pick our visitor up, she said, “Leave it, Stella!” That means she thinks it’s something she needs to look after, or that it might not be safe for me. So, I backed up.

Elizabeth took me into the shop. Then she went up to the attics and pulled out an empty liquor box. She put a cloth bag in the bottom and ran back outside with it. I could hear her running around and talking to our visitor, who was a little bit frightened of her, I think. She caught the visitor and gently put him in the box. Then she closed the flaps, found some heavier cardboard and a brick to put on top. She left an air hole so the captive could breathe, and carried it all downstairs. Then she washed her hands.

I was very curious to know what was going on. I trust Elizabeth to do the right thing. But her behaviour was very curious. I couldn’t understand why she would put our guest in a closed box. Usually, they are welcome to just come in and walk around the shop!

Elizabeth picked up the phone and made a call to our friend the Lil the Egg Lady. It turns out that Lil the Egg Lady also operates a wildlife rehabilitation centre (Sooo. That’s why she smells so interesting…) “Hi, Lil! It’s Elizabeth. I’m calling because Stella found an injured pigeon in our parking lot. I don’t know what’s wrong with it; it can still run around, and it seems pretty alert, but it’s got a lot of drying blood on it, I think. It was really tacky when I picked it up.”

Lil explained that several pigeons had come in from our that seemed to be poisoned. She thought maybe the tackiness was drying pigeon vomit. Eeeeuw. I went and got a drink of water. I’d had the pigeon in my mouth. I could have told Elizabeth it wasn’t blood that was making the flapper tacky. But she hadn’t asked me. Still, I hadn’t thought it was… you know. Yech!

After the call, The Scribe told me Lil the Egg Lady was coming to get the pigeon soon. It would stay quiet in the box, thinking it was night. If it was injured, then it was safer there than in the parking lot or lane. Big Croaking Black Flappers live there, too, and they like to eat pigeons. Walter (Elizabeth’s idea to call him that) was fortunate that I found him.

Well, Lil the Egg Lady came and took Walter to rehab. The day went on as usual. Later in the afternoon, Elizabeth got in touch with Lil and asked her how Walter was doing. Was he badly hurt? Was he going to be all right? The answer was shocking.

“He has no injuries. He fell victim to the sticky traps people have been setting out for pigeons. Seems poison wasn’t working well enough for them. Stella almost had a permanent pigeon mustache. Even goo gone isn’t cutting it. Poor wee thing.”

Elizabeth responded, “Oh, no! What harm are they doing that people need to do them such cruelty! I wonder who is doing this…. Are you able to help Walter at all? Does the stickiness wear off over time if you can give him a home ’til then? I’ll gladly give you a donation to help look after him if you can. Or does he need to be euthanized? Please let me know whatever, Lil. And if you could take a picture of him, for me, I will put my head together with Stella and we’ll write about this. Thank you.”

“I took some photos and hope to also add to my blog.

“Several stores took wasp and bird sticky traps off the market after the photo of several chickadees stuck to one hit the net. But they still have them in Kenora stores. I tried Goo Gone, dish soap and rubbing and only moved it around. In desperate measures, I coated it with very fine sand to keep him from sticking to things and so he didn’t preen pure goo. His beak was glued shut from preening. I will keep him/it as I love my pidgies. Hopefully he will start a molt and get new ones, but have to figure out how to get a molt started.”

Poor Walter! He would have died a gruesome death if I hadn’t found him when I did. He could have starved or died of thirst or been attacked by a cat or Raven… How could two-leggers do such a horrible thing! Like Elizabeth, I fail to see how these gentle Rock Doves could possibly bother anyone. They live on the downtown rooftops, minding their own business. They frequently fly over a couple of blocks to hang out at their diner along the railway tracks, where they eat grain that has spilled out of the grain cars. They’re pretty friendly chaps, and they make a lovely sort of purring coo noise that travels down the chimneys in the wintertime (they congregate around the chimney openings to get warm in the winter).

Lil said we could share her pictures with you. If you’d like to follow Walter’s progress, she will probably keep us all informed on her blog, Iggy’s Wildlife Revisited. You’ll also learn about other adventures she has helping animals there. Anyway, here’s what Walter looked like while she was examining him:

You can see how Walter’s feathers are stuck together so he can’t fly anymore.

His backside is a real mess, And look at his feet! Poor Walter…

Oh, dear… It looks like I left some of my wool on him.

I feel confident that Lil the Egg Lady will look after him well. We’ll be keeping tabs on his progress when she visits us at the shop, too. And if I catch the two-legger who’s laying traps like this in our neighbourhood, GRRRRR… I might not be able to keep myself from biting him/her! If you know who it is, PLEASE! tell them to STOP!

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