St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015 Winter Walk on the Farm

Christmas dawned gray and cloudy this year and even the full moon last night didn't match the description "the moon on the breast of the new fallen snow, gave a lustre of midday to objects below."   
 I took a walk to the pond, found it frozen over hard enough to walk around the shallow edges and so did, staying out of the deeper water as my old age has replaced adventure with caution.  
Some photos on Christmas morning 2015. 

The early morning gray skies are reflected in the photos.  The camera sees bright white and stops down to drabify things even more than my eye does.   The pond froze high with the many late fall rains, and so flooded out into the grass tussocks along the shore.
The path I kept open through the corn all summer is still used by a deer coming to and fro from woods to farm yard and corn field. Occasionally they dig out a little corn along the way.  

The ice looked thick enough so I stepped on to the edge and it held without rumbling, so I shuffled all the way round to see the pond from the inside out.  

The pond is dotted with clear spots.  Didn't have my ice chisel to see if they are thinner there.  I wonder what causes them.  

The ice had patterns in it many places around the east edge.  Maybe these are frozen reflections of clouds above
Shuffling along, sliding boots and never picking them up I old manned my way around the pond

Approaching muskrat house #1, I noticed fresh activity and a hole in the top.  My guess, the late rains raised the pond and flooded the home so Mr and Mrs Muskrat opened the top to get out.  Or it could be a predator.  Not having observed muskrat houses from close up, I need to learn a little more about them.  Dad, who spent winters in the 30s trapping along the St Croix could have told me all about them.  60 cents a pelt in the days when a 12 hour work day on the farm brought in $1.  

No one was home when I called, but I think the door needs to be closed or it will freeze the water in the basement.  Most of the muskrats around this pond were what Dad called "bank rats" digging tunnels underwater up into the banks so their entrance wouldn't freeze and their homes were safe under the frozen ground.  

Muskrat home #2 had a hole in it too, but no signs of traffic in and out.
Approaching the outlet of Dub Lake where it breaches the old beaver dam that likely raised the water a few more feet in some pre-settlement days before the farmers tried to drain everything for cow pasture and farmland.  When I was a kid, this was a swamp choked with cattails and the beaver dam breached.  It got some attention in 1970 to be dozed out and the breach somewhat plugged

An ash tree straddles the outlet with a few sand bags in front of it, the attempt by a local beaver to raise the pond last spring.  It did, but a few more are needed this spring.  I put them in after the spring thaw but early so any muskrats will have all summer to build houses at a higher level.  I don't want to flood them out in the fall.  This year the rains did that, and the stream runs healthily draining it, and likely to end up with the ice high above the water level by March. 

There is a lot of wear on the snow here by the opening -- but no tracks in the snow leading up to the opening.  So is it muskrats coming out, or maybe the otters stayed for the winter.  I couldn't see any tracks, just the area where the snow was packed down.  I suppose otters might nibble on muskrats too.  Next year the beavers should add a few more sand tubes. 

Heading back from the outlet north.  The peninsula to the right is where the inlet delta builds. 

The turtle raft gets a rest for the winter.  I saw only deer tracks around the pond, nothing else.  The snow is crunchy and probably too hard for smaller animals to leave tracks. 

I was struck by the patterns in the ice.  Wonder how this happens.  When we spent Christmas in the cabin at the lake while visitors "up north" on cold nights the lake ice cracked and boomed with sounds that have to be heard rather than described.  Almost like whales calling in the night.  

I took the same photos and enhanced the contrast to show more detail.  

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and Happy Holidays to all of you.  If you are interested in the daily update from the farm, you can check it out on facebook at