Saturday, April 3, 2010

Singing in the Rain

As you may recall, we were away from the estate last weekend, and Arturo the gypsy groundskeeper was off visiting his three twin sons who perform an amazing high wire juggling act in a traveling show. That left just Chairman T. Cat to keep things in order. Though he’s a very stern authoritarian and has the requisite aura of ‘superiority’, Chairman falls short of ideal when it comes to actually making something work, especially if there is no immediate, obvious personal benefit.

So it was with some degree of concern that I made a quick check of the HQ and then a wider ranging ‘windshield cruise’ of the back 40 upon our return. There were no obvious signs of disarray and my most immediate concern was laid to rest: No dead (or live) rodents awaiting our arrival on the hallway carpet. You see with the few warmer days that had preceded our time away Chairman had gone on a hunting spree. His maturity is coming into fine focus. Like the jaunty fly fisher, he’s elevated his technique to ‘catch and release’.  But just like that egotistical fly fisher he wants someone to notice his achievements. He brings those tiny meadow voles to the sliding glass door on the back porch and mews his muffled cry (around the little critter in his mouth) and then once you come to see, he drops the little thing, only to have it run off in sheer terror. (toward the end of last summer he brought several into the house) I can only wonder if next year he’ll learn to use the little point-and-shoot to document his prowess, thus rendering us totally irrelevant to his hunts. Fortunately no terrified small grey creature was racing from couch, to plant stand, to refrigerator (ask me how I know of this ‘adventure’) There was however one little grey carcass under the patio table out back.

No mice in sight I assumed things were pretty close to normal. As dusk settled Mrs. C mentioned that she could hear a frog ‘singing’ from somewhere in the vicinity of the pond. I must take her at her word because for me to hear a frog croak, it will likely have to be perched on or very near to my shoulder. All the pond books say that given time, aquatic interlopers will eventually migrate to your created water feature. The closer you are to a wetland, stream, lake, or bog, the sooner it will happen. In our case it’s quite a way (100 yards?) to the intermittent stream through the woods at the back of our property. And the trek is mostly over short mown yard grass.

I received the news of our new tenant with mixed feelings: The thought of frogs living in harmony with the rest of our watery denizens is a pleasant one. At one time I even considered going out and recruiting tenants. They could help keep the bug population down and are unlikely to present any direct threat to the fish. On the other hand, wild creatures such as frogs, turtles and the like can be vectors for parasites and diseases that can be trouble for non native, colorful carp. Natives are hardy, exotics, sometimes not so much. I’m adopting a wait-and-see policy. But as dusk turned to dark I noticed one other unusual circumstance: The three baby gold fish that overwintered in the upper pond were not taking up their nightly station, staring into the underwater light.

There could be any number of explanations for this however I tend to subscribe to Occam’s Razor: "The meta-theoretical principle that "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity" (entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem) and the conclusion thereof, that the simplest solution is usually the correct one."   Frogs are omnivorous, and baby gold fish not accustomed to water borne threats are perhaps susceptible to predation.

A couple days ago I noticed that one of the three little fishes (the middle sized one I think) is still in the pond, though he hides much deeper in the vegetation of one of my underwater lily planters than he used to, and he only comes up to the light late in the night. So the pond ecology has been upset, or perhaps better to say it continues to evolve.

I have also noticed Chairman doing considerably more ‘hunting’ around the pond edges than he did over the winter. The koi and the comets are all very active now. The water temp flirts with 50 depending upon the weather and I have been feeding them for most of two weeks now. Not a lot but they go for the fish chow with great gusto. They rise to feed on their own in the evening and it is at this time that they mesmerize Chairman. He goes ‘on point’ and puts on the leopard sneak but the fish usually see him and startle back to the depths. I’ve shouted him off a couple times, he clearly knows that the fish are off limits but he’s a crack head when it comes to hunting. He’s not real big on swimming though so he may need a 'swimming lesson' to drive home the ‘no fishing’ message.  The fish have been particularly beautiful lately, for some reason they have taken to parading up to the waterfall, this is in a shallow part of the pond they usually eschew.  In Japan they are referred to as "Living Jewels".















Friday morning before the drive into work I stood just inside the garage and watched the big rain/sleet drops dimple the pond surface. I heard a very loud frog basso profundo resonating from near the pump intake chamber. If there is any correlation between volume and size I should think this guy would be big enough to swallow a steelhead.  I suspect that Chairman may be changing the focus of his hunting interests shortly. I really hope we do not come home from work some night to find a tortured frog carcass on the carpet.

The bad weather forecast not only scared me off, it also nudged the Oregon Randonneurs to move the Three Capes 300 to next weekend. Hmmmmm, a 300K next weekend? Along the Oregon Coast? Sounds mighty tasty!

Today, despite the weather I took the big horse out to 'the end of the road' for a little route scouting.  I'm developing another 200K perm route that would be just peachy if I could use the private Weyerhaeuser truck road between Alder lake and Lake Lawrence.  I have been meaning to check this out for a couple years now and this seemed like the ideal opportunity: cold, blowy, raining on and off. 

I navigated the maze of back coutry roads east of Rainier (it is amazing the places people choose to live!) and then I found the gated road I was looking for (Thanks in no small part to the Garmin Etrex)!  I'd driven far enough that I suspect this won't be much of a stretch of logging road.  As I was gearing up I got that sinking feeling, realizing that my bike shoes were still sitting safely on the back porch where I'd placed them so as to be sure not to forget them! Sorry Geoff, maybe one night after work next week.

Life is good, happy Easter to you.

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