January 8, 1999 (Home school nature notebook)

Friday, 9 Celcius, 2:15 pm. Wind from the southeast, gentle breeze. Cumulus clouds, no direct sun.

Peter, Wendy, and I started an observation today. In the backyard we chose 2 branches of our highbush cranberry and marked them at the base of the outermost buds. We measured the length of the branches and the buds. We noticed that the outermost bud on the longer branch had fresh green growth on the end. We will keep checking these branches to see how the weather affects the bush’s growth.

Lots of ravens were feeding at the northwest end of Dogwood Crescent where the grass is dug up following the removal of playground equipment. Wendy and Peter suggest that the dug-up turf makes it easier for the ravens to find budgs, seeds, and worms. The ravens are also enthusiastically digging at the mossy spots.

We walk through the muddy, boggy clearning which has been cut — slashed — through the woods to make way for new water mains. On the right is heaped-up high ground, on the left water-filled dugouts. Everywhere prints lead to the waterholes: raccoon, dog, deer prints (one set of tiny prints following closely beside adult-size deer prints suggest that the bambi season has begun already). Little holes tunnel into the muskeggy soil, suggesting that mice or other small creatures are already accomodating themselves to man’s rough raping of their environment. Suddenly we notice much larger prints, following after the deer tracks — and we are sure they are bear prints. Has the bear come down to drink, we wonder, or is he looking for his supper?

The muskeggy soil is soft, red, mucky. We try to tread on the crushed remains of branches, for stepping on bare soil threatens to suck us in. The smell of crushed, decaying cedar rises around us as we tread on the crushed limbs. The water in the ponds is dark brown, muddy, reflecting their new origin — water draining from the muskegy forest soil to the low open pits no doubt dug for that very purpose. A cedar tree on the very edge of a pond leans precariously over the water, its water-logged roots clinging desperately to what little soil they can still clutch at. Sandy, grey spots stand out in the boggy soil, patches of sand and clay, solid stepping-stones in a sea of mud.

Half-way through the slash in the forest, a tall lone cedar tree, topped by a tall barren widow-maker, stands alone. A few feet from its base is an old hole, hand-hewn long ago with rough tools. Lined with moss and green algal growth witnessing to its age, it still bears signs of the burning done as part of the hole-digging process. This is a culturally modified tree — a CMT — the hole cut perhaps a hundred or more years ago by Haida canoe-builders testing it for soundness. Why was it left standing? A narrow hollow core and the widow-maker crowning the forest giant suggest that perhaps it did not pass the test for soundness — or was it yet another tree that never had a chance to fulfill its purpose, as its human testers succumbed perhaps to the smallpox epidemic, or to the “progress” introduced by the yaahts haadaa — the white man — which made the giant cedar dugout canoes somehow obsolete? Whatever the reason, the tree still stands, a memorial to another age, to a strong and proud seafaring people — and even new water mains must humble themselves and take a detour path around this forest king.

As we reach the southern end of the slash through the forest, we are greeted by a tangle of wild rose bushes in the sudden open space between the forest on one side, and the highway following the inlet shoreline on the other. There has been just enough frost recently to make the rosehips perfect for tea-making, and the children joyfully gather a baggie full for a pot of hot, vitamin-C laden tea upon our return home.

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