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

Archive for the ‘On the Campbell ‘Estate’’ Category

Goodbye, Old Friend

Jeff the Tree Man paid us another visit, partly to haul away the Balsam Fir bits left from the fire, but also to take a look at a very old and ailing friend.

The bear Cocoa chased up the White Spruce tree.

There’s an old White Spruce that has stood about twenty feet off the eastern corner of the two-legger house. It used to shade my first house and hide it somewhat from the busy world of two-leggers. It’s the tree, I’m told, that my predecessor, Cocoa the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, chased a bear up one day. The scribe and her brother used to climb it when they were little two-leggers. The squirrels love to climb up to the very top and cut down spruce cones to feed on through the winter. The Robins like to nest in it some years. I’m sure it could have told us all kinds of stories about what has gone on in its branches and over our yard and bay, stories that were from many years before even Kay and Elizabeth moved out here nearly 50 years ago, for, the Scribe says, it was a huge tree even then. Mind you, she was much smaller in those days…

But something happened this year. I guess it had been happening for a while, but it really became noticeable this year. The giant Spruce was dying, and this summer, it seemed to die back an awful lot. Jeff the Tree Man said he’d better take it down. After the fire, we sure didn’t want the big Spruce to fall the wrong way and demolish half the house!

So, one day at the end of September when the sun came out (I think it might have been the only day the sun came out during the last half of September. I was beginning to wonder if it was still up there…), Jeff the Tree Man brought his ropes and all his saws. He rigged up the tree and climbed up very slowly, removing the branches as he ascended. The Scribe and I were doing our Bookshop gig that day so we missed the action. But Jeff the Tree Man wasn’t able to do the whole tree that day, so he was back the next, and I got the Scribe to take some photos for you to see.

 

There’s Jeff away up the tree. I think he sees us…

Watch Out, Elizabeth! Maybe he didn’t see us after all.

We’ll try that shot again. This is the bottom of the big White Spruce.

Look up further…

I told you it was a tall tree. There’s Jeff the Tree Man again.

Jeff came out for a third day to get the tree cut up so we could use it for firewood to heat the house in the winter. He also had to take down a dead Aspen so the Spruce wouldn’t get caught in it and hang, so we will also have some firewood from it, too.

Elizabeth says that the White Spruce was one of the granddaddies of our forest. There’s another one at the edge of our driveway. A third, which was the biggest, down by the creek, was decapitated in a very bad storm about five years ago. It seems to be surviving, but Elizabeth thinks its days are numbered. There are a couple more at the east end of the estate, too.

We all are very sad to see this tree go. The whole area it shaded will change now, and things will never be the same…

Advertisements

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.

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…

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: