I was going to give you a full river report yesterday, but instead I cleaned the pond out. I completely filled the wheelbarrow with cattails, reeds, remnants of water lily roots, lotus stems, pine needles, parrot feather grass, algae and I don’t know what all. While I was doing that, Jim foraged in the economy for a new pump. We burned out two of them last year due to the fact that they had a hard time pumping water through the mat of algae and parrot feather grass that accumulated on the filter housings.
It is important for the pond pump to be operational during the winter. As long as the water is moving through the waterfall, there is enough friction and solar gain that it doesn’t freeze. The birds really like the water source during the winter. When it gets really chilly, I float a stock tank heater in the pond directly above the pump, and that keeps the little water course clear on even the coldest days. I believe the source of open water accounts for the large flocks of cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, timice, finches and sparrows I have visiting me during the winter months.
Today I have been cleaning the corn patch out. I was reading in one of Jeri’s books after we floated on Saturday — she has a whole book on Hopi cooking. Anyway, the Hopi corn can be planted 18 inches deep to help it with the drought tolerance. As I was digging out the massive and tenacious root balls my corn developed from being planted 2 inches deep, I could not imagine how you would dig out one that had roots that started 18 inches down.
I guess that accounts for the digging sticks they used. And think about it, 18 inches is really deep. That is almost half a meter. I wonder how they got their hole that deep. Maybe they planted seeds a foot deep and then hilled dirt up around the stalks as they grew. Either way, it would take a major effort to dig that corn up. I suppose you don’t even try, you just cut it off and let it rot in place. Probably helps prepare the soil for next year.
So, the river was absolutely wonderful on Saturday. The temperature couldn’t have been better. There was a stiff breeze gusting around us. It wasn’t blowing all the time, but when it did it seemed like we were having to paddle right directly into it. There were a couple of times I was resting on my paddle enjoying the view and realized that the wind was blowing me back upstream.
We floated from the K-P Bridge access down to Moon Valley. This is a six mile stretch that includes a very wonderful cave. We floated past the path that is the access to the cave entrance, and I noticed brightly beautiful red garlands of poison ivy that were draped across it, and decided that I didn’t need to go disturb any bats just then.
We saw numerous little cricket frogs jumping around. These little guys are less than an inch long. Once they hopped and landed, they would stay perfectly still, and they were camouflaged so effectively that you really could not see them even if you were looking straight at them, as long as they didn’t move.
At one time we floated past a turtle that was sunning itself on a log. They have gotten more sluggish as the water temperature has dropped. Soon they won’t bother to haul themselves out on a log at all, but stay buried in the mud, waiting for spring. This guy had put all that effort into climbing the log, he really didn’t want to leave it. But he finally did, once I floated to within six feet of him. He watched me all the way, seeming to say “I’ve got my eye on you, I’m watching every little thing you do!”
He finally dropped off the log into the river. There were monarchs out on the river too.
I’m not sure what that one was finding to eat right around there. That rather bedraggled willow herb is really all there is left right by the river. Up on the gravel bars there is ageratum, and sunflowers, and goldenrod galore.
I came around a corner in the river and saw this amazing tree stump looking at me. I took at least a dozen pictures of the grain in this log. I guess I haven’t lost my fascination with woodgrain.
Further down river we found a place to play Erl’s marimba. (Erl is what Jeri and I call the river god.) There are places where the bluffs overhang and there are lots of hollows and cracks in the limestone where the water has worn the rock away. If you sit next to a rocky river bank like that and rock your canoe back and forth for a while, you can set up a set of waves that eventually ripple into the holes and make a wonderful, mysterious musical sound. The tink tank tonk slapping sonorous percussion of the water filling those holes and hollows is what we call the “river marimba.” I badly want some sort of recording device so I can get it on tape along with the ecstatic bird song that usually accompanies this water music.
This was a very nice spot to make the marimba sound. Jeri and I have been known to spend half an hour in front of a spot like this, rocking our canoes and then sitting silently, meditating on the tones the bluff is playing for us.
Well, I gotta go, folks. I have a client coming soon, the first in a line of three today. I still have dirt all over my legs and arms from beating the dirt off the corn roots while I was cleaning that bed out.
And that’s all the news that’s fit to print!