Monday, October 19, 2009
Into the Woods
We live on 3 plus acres which are secluded in the woods. Our property backs onto a Ledyard park which provides us with more isolation and a nice trail for hiking. Once the colder weather moves in (which it did in force recently; there was snow in northwestern parts of the state) and the horseflies and mosquitoes are gone, it's a good 45-minute hike through the woods with Chardonnay, our dog. Chardonnay is enthusiastic about these hikes, running ahead then checking back with us, chasing scents and the occasional deer or turkey. Since most of my shoes are slip-ons and I never wear shoes in the house, Chardonnay knows that if I sit down to actually tie a shoe, a hike is forthcoming and she starts her Scooby Doo bark in anticipation.
My favorite times to hike are in the fall when the leaves are still up and in the winter right after a good snowfall. The spring gets iffy when the mud is bad as it then becomes a challenge to keep Chardonnay from wallowing in the black stuff. Failing to keep her out of the mud results in the next challenge of bathing a dog with water from the hose that's so cold it hurts. Doesn't seem to bother Chardonnay as her motivation in life is to be cold and wet (and stinky), but not so much for us humans. The other challenge is to get the ticks that she's collected off of her before she comes back in the house. I often joke that we're going out tick collecting when we hike. Don't forget we live in Connecticut, the origin of Lyme disease (the disease was identified in Lyme, CT). Chardonnay has tested positive for Lyme disease twice, but her human family has so far escaped. Don't worry, she's also on Frontline year round to combat the little parasites.
Do you know what's it called when the wind blows and a swirl of leaves come down like snow?....Leaving (my word, thank you very much).
A few weeks ago a mountain lion was spotted on the park property next to us. My initial response was "Cool!" Then I thought, uh not a good predator to have around chickens. We have electric netting around the chickens, but big cats are probably better jumpers than coyotes and foxes. Nevertheless, Chardonnay and I set out in the woods to look for signs of a mountain lion, armed with the knowledge that big cats are much shyer than other large predators and tend to be afraid of dogs. I don't think I'd go by myself without Chardonnay. She's a Golden wimp, but the wildlife doesn't know that. To them, she's a 75-pound challenge with a big bark who smells like she has a human companion. To date, we have never had a problem with coyotes coming into our yard and I have to believe it's because they smell Chardonnay.
The hike through the park property is one large circle which has a couple of historic landmarks. One is a well and the other is the remains of a cellar foundation. The New England states have stone walls which were built by settlers trying to clear the stones off the fields so they made stone walls to divide property, hold the livestock in, etc. It looks very similar to the stone walls dividing up the sheep farms in England, hence the reason we are "New"….really original guys. When you see the magnitude of what they accomplished hundreds of years ago with no machinery to lift and stack the stones, it's very humbling.
It's part of our routine to look down the well to see if Timmy is down there (Lassie reference) and for Chardonnay to jump on "her rock" and pose for a moment. She'll go for 6 months without going on this trail, but she always remembers we expect her to jump on the rock when we come back to the woods in the fall.
I had played all the what if's in my mind in the event we actually came across a mountain lion. Would Chardonnay chase it up a tree so I could take pictures with my cell phone? My story would be in the newspaper and I could be a local celebrity for a day. Or would it run away so fast that Chardonnay wouldn't even see it (she has missed turkeys, pheasants and deer running ahead on the trail). Or would the lion sneak up behind me, Chardonnay obliviously up ahead chasing a squirrel, and jump me? Would she come to my rescue at the sound of the commotion or keep chasing the squirrel? Would the lion really be intimidated by a human with a large dog or take us both down? Would I have time to dial 911? And if I did, would there be a signal?
Nothing so exciting happened. No signs of a mountain lion were seen by my untrained eye. No kitty paw prints in the mud, no large litter boxes or big cat poop and no reaction to a new scent by the Golden Hunter. Maybe the big cat wondered off to new territory, but it'd still be kind of neat to see it.