Tuesday, October 29, 2013



So the temperature at night had sunk to freezing. It was time to mothball the cottage, suck the water out of every pipe and bottle, and do the sad once-around, wondering just what will be changed next visit and what will survive nature unscathed.
I love planting trees much more than I do protecting trees, which is what you have to do on a point in the Trent River where the porcupines munch evergreens closer to the ground, the deer nibble the top of shrubs, and the beavers lay waste as if they were Atilla the Hun.
It is hard to believe since we are on the Trent east of Peterboro and south of Havelock but there was a bear attack just seven kilometres away from Burnt Point recently where the sow wounded a woman and her two dogs because it feared for its two cubs. Now I can understand that. A bear is often spotted just a couple of kilometres away, so I keep a watch when there is a rustle in the woods. But my problems come from smaller critters - skunks and porkies and fat smug beavers. They worry me a lot more  because they wreck the lawn and the trees and then lose interest generally in carting branches and trunks away. We're told they have to gnaw to stop their teeth from growing too much but they act like vandals, not diners on a visit to the dentist.
At home, I inherited a huge cherry tree and a giant Chinese elm. I cut the the old cherry tree down while the neighbours watched, hoping, I suspect, that I would crush their old fences and buy them new ones. The elm needed a very expensive funeral after it fell in a wind on two houses, one fence and one car and scratched everything in sight while it toppled a chimney.
Now I glory in my backyard in a number of trees that the sons and I have planted, including a fine maple and a magnificent oak that I pray will be here a century from now even if the Etobicoke around it has been flattened by the passing of our civilization.
At least I don't have to wrap barbed wire and other shields around them as I have to at the cottage. And building cages and sticking wires around the lowest branches is as hard on my hands as it is on my temper. And the protection never seems high enough, because I must have very tall, very well-fed beavers.
I have many trees at Burnt Point, some of them healthy survivors from my planting efforts. That pleases me. And there is one goliath of an oak! There is a magic to oaks, I think, maybe because of all those public school yarns about how England ruled the seven seas because of the mighty oaks that the English turned into masts for their invincible navy.
So when a beaver dropped a small oak at the Point,  I tended the stump carefully and managed about 15 years ago to get one stout trunk growing out of the wreckage of the root.
This summer I boasted about how the oak was now 15 metres high (say 20 feet in understandable measurement) and would be proudly waving above the point decades after even my dust had disappeared. I watered it in the heat, and even fed it some fertilizer.
Readers know how I feel about beavers. My latest blog/column, headlined BEAVERS ARE PESTS, appeared August 14. So imagine my cursing fury on my final inspection when I found that a beaver had somehow shimmied above the protecting metal mesh and chewed the smaller oak right through. Then it cut up the fallen trunk into several lengths each about six feet in length and stored them in the wet slip of my falling down boat house.
I shoved metal into every opening of the boat house and took the lengths of oak and put them on the roof while I figure out some use for them. Too sturdy to throw away.
Just a few feet from the new stump (and there are about a dozen big stumps from lovely mature trees demolished by beaver just on my part of the Point) is the gnarled McIntosh Red that I just wrote about on Oct. 20 under the headline ALL HAIL THE MCINTOSH RED.
I wrote about how after 30 years or so of producing only a few blighted apples, my dwarf Mac had produced baskets of wonderful fruit this year as a nice surprise And my son Mark took a picture for the blog of me with the last glowing scarlet apple from the tree this year.
Actually it may be the last Mac ever. A beaver once again managed to get above and through the protective wire and chomped deeply into one side of the old trunk. Maybe a third of the circumference. It started to eat the rest but I guess I arrived back before it girdled the tree, which as everyone knows would kill a tree since there is then no way for liquids to get up to the branches, leaves and fruit.
Maybe I can save it. I have now wrapped the trunk as if it were a mummy, even shoving shingles under the mesh and wire as another shield.
I sat beside the stub and the wounded Mac, almost in mourning, as night came on with the first planet sparkling in the sky. I could see my breath. I wondered that surely even these bloody beavers should have hibernated by now. I couldn't see across the Trent to the wetlands where the beaver lodge is, but I knew it was there lurking malevolently, like a bomber base waiting to launch new sorties against my trees.
I thought back to my first newspaper job in the Yukon Territory where beavers were always building dams in the wrong place (for humans that is) and flooding  roads. No one said very much about it but if the trappers didn't get them, a stick of dynamite did. But we're more civilized now.
Perhaps not!


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GiaiMaBiAn said...
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