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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

It’s been a quiet day down here, reflecting the mood set by dull skies and a stiff breeze, with just an occasional glimpse of sun visible through a veil of grey. Pity about the clouds, because tonight there’s a fat full moon hidden away there somewhere and we shan’t see it.

Mostly I’ve busied myself with domestic stuff, going down into the basement to crank up the washing machine, cooking a leek and potato soup, and further preparing my vegetable garden for sowing, which I should be able to do any day now. I salvaged various bits of newly felled timber, a few abandoned poles, and threw up these defences against any critturs that want to try their luck with a former destroyer of vermin.

But there’s no doubt about it: spring is dragging its feet, and looking around you see conflicting signs. This photograph shows just how green it’s getting along the river – and indeed on the hills in places.  And then you look at the broad-leaved trees that surround the red house and see such a lot of grey, bare branches. Those big old cottonwoods are particularly reluctant to come into leaf.

The only time I ventured up onto the range today was to hunch behind a sheltering cedar tree and send a couple of texts home before taking a short walk along the top of the hills. There I came across what I take to be a turkey’s nest in a blow-out, a patch of bare sand enlarged by the action of the wind. These eggs were stone cold, and there was no way of knowing what kind of condition they were in, other than breaking them.

I was reminded of the time one of my bantam hens got out of the run. By the time I found it, under a hedge on the roadside, it was sitting on nineteen eggs. Were they fresh? Fertilised? Addled? I took them home, broke the lot, found them all in perfect condition – and that night the family shared the biggest omelette I’ve ever made.

Despite the cold, new flowers are starting to emerge – like this little phlox, for example. 

And here I’m going to cheat a little and throw in a picture I took on Sunday, when we were down along the river. I have to come clean and admit that I thought this was just some exotic species of fungus.

Actually it is, but it was one of the trail-riders who told me it was edible, very highly prized, and retails at around $30 a pound. It’s called a morel.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned a number of times the serpentine course the river takes around here, so I thought it would be useful to reproduce an aerial photograph which Matt & Kitty have displayed in the kitchen.

 It was taken back in `88 and it’s low on detail – only the circle irrigated by the center pivot stands out as a feature of the ranch – but you get a clear sense of how the river meanders as it progresses from left to right, or east to west. Each sharp bend marks a place where the water meets one of the bluffs and is diverted along the face of it. In several places it actually flows west. Having canoed this stretch last year, I can report that it is very confusing - and a lot of fun.

But back to the picture. The ranch house is just to the north and east of the circle, about the position. To find the red house you need to follow the faint trail that runs west from the circle. It’s tucked away in that C shaped curl of the river.

This weather is threatening our plans for the week. So long as it stays cool neither of us fancies a river trip. You always spend longer than expected in the water and it just isn’t warm enough to be pulling canoes off sand-bars, negotiating the occasional barbed-wire fence or portage. As for flying, we need the wind to drop. It was a steady 25 mph today, gusting towards 40 and whipping up the dirt. That would not be comfortable.

So we await developments, acutely aware that we have to get to town sometime soon: we’re down to our last four beers.

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