Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Winter Routine in November

The purebred Sorraia stallion, Altamiro, looking content and handsome as he comes into his third winter on Manitoulin Island.

How curious it feels to be experiencing the essence of January while it is yet November! I find though my mind is willing to experience the snow and cold already, my body is a bit resistant to the heaviness of insulated boots and the wearing of double mittens. Those folks in the far north have likely been wearing such winter clothing for a month already, so I ought not to seem like I am complaining.

At least for the past two days there has been little to no wind.

Little to no wind means the herd comes up before dawn and waits by the shed for breakfast. I cannot see them, but I can feel them, and it spurs me to bundle up and amble out to feed them while Ravenseyrie is still shrouded in darkness.

We have a mercury vapor light atop Kevin's workshop/shed--virtually unused except for mornings like this. We don't find it necessary to have a light perpetually on, disrupting the quiet of the color of nighttime and taking away from viewing the starlit sky. Unfortunately, many other folks feel differently, perhaps taking comfort in the ever-glow of these yard lights, and never give consideration of the light pollution created by their illumination. One home, up the road from us has this type of light which is left on all the time, even though no one lives there now, and the hunters who own the land come up only rarely. I guess they just don't think about the waste of electricity and the unnecessary lighting of a vacant dwelling. We prefer to keep ours off, unless a brief period of use is necessary.

Because of the quiet darkness, the herd is mellow at this time of morning (shortly past 6am) making it a pleasure to go about readying each pan of oats at my own rushing and no sense of being overrun by a mule or horse when I do get out among them to distribute the pans.

And also, after oats are distributed, I can meditatively put out the many separate piles of hay nearby, sometimes arranging them in parallel rows, or in a spiral, ever-widening, or maybe in a curvaceous wave or just randomly dropped where there is a favorable looking section of unsullied snow. When the moon is out, even the least little bit, no auxiliary light is necessary and the arrangement of hay piles takes on a transportive, zen quality.

Such simple, slow pleasures can be had, when there is no wind.

But we do live up on the bluff and these mellow days are rare in winter. Yet, the wickedly-windy days have their own excitement, and I am happy to be a part of that as well, even if (or because of) there is extra effort involved with pulling the toboggan out to the forest. I'll surely be sharing photos of such days, and you will be thankful to be viewing them from the warmth of your homes (yet maybe with a bit of excitement too, and a desire to strap on snowshoes and smell the Ravenseyrie winter air, if only vicariously).

It has been a week of restricted hikes with the pups, because last Monday through sundown today is the "hallowed" annual firearms deer hunt on Manitoulin Island. Statistics show that typically around 3000 Whitetail Deer are "harvested", with many of them being taken by off-island folks that come specifically to Manitoulin because of its abundance of deer. It's safe to say that the human population swells immensely during this week and the landscape is often dotted with fluorescent orange and the frightful sounds of gunshot echo through the air. Large pickup trucks, pulling trailers with those obnoxious "four wheelers", (quad ATV, all terrain vehicles) add their own "ambient" qualities to things.

No longer our usual nearly-deserted bluff, the upper regions of Gore Bay's East Bluff takes on an entirely different personality. Ravenseyrie represents a sort of buffer zone because Kevin and I don't have the blood-lust for such things as killing animals for food or sport. We've heard some of the guys refer to us as "those tree-hugging vegans", but mostly such commentary is delivered in a playful manner. We do our thing and they do theirs.

During the third week of November, the wilderness surrounding Ravenseyrie swells with hunters, many of whom have "camps" tucked back in the "bush", some more elaborate than others. Since guys with guns surround us, we must refrain from our usual walks, lest the dogs catch the scent of blood on the wind and they run off onto unsafe territory. We trust in the idea of goodness prevailing and expect that these camouflaged gentlemen never aim their weapons towards our property, knowing our horses and mules have free roam of the territory. There was one time when I found an arrow on our side, apparently shot over from the group to the west that are bow-hunter types. I was surprised how angry I became, and marched the dreadful thing over to their cabin with strong, admonishing words--a story which Kevin never tires of telling. I can seem rather imposing, in my woolen split skirt, layers of sweaters, large boots, Mad-Bomber hat and stout walking stick. I'm guessing you can form your own mental picture!

The dogs, this year, seem to know and accept the hunt season routine, as we make a truncated circuit of the open grassland just to the north of the house, and they haven't once run off to investigate their usual favorite spots in the woods. During the week of the big hunt, we have to wait until full daylight before we head out for the walk, and instead of sharing leadership in a big way and allowing them to chose which sector of the property we'll go to visit, the best I can do during hunt season is make the large circle beginning from the left or from the right. This morning Tobacco said we should make it beginning from the right.

When we came back, I took some photos of the horses while they were finishing up breakfast hay.
Ganja has taken the lead as we head back to the house.

After an hour or so into breakfast it's nice to see there is still plenty of hay for everyone.

This one is for the little one Fada or Interessado?

A closer look reveals the answer with out a doubt. Her mother, Belina shares breakfast with her.

Dark clouds to the northwest, a ribbon of the evergreen tree line and the white form of Mistral vertically uniting it all to the horizontal lines of the snow and his hay...what a striking natural composition, don't you think?

This photo didn't turn out as well as I had hoped it would, but I wanted to show how thick Interessado's hair me it is like that of an arctic buffalo!

I have heard that things are going to warm up here in the next few days, with rain predicted. Perhaps it will seem more like November and less like January--either way, whatever the weather, we think its just the way it ought to be here at Ravenseyrie.


Annemiek said...


I wanted to ask you about the hunters. I think I would be terrified that one of them accidently shot one of the horses or dogs. Are they allowed on your property anyway?

What a contrast, your peaceful mornings feeding the horses against the invasion of those hunters.

I always love those thick winter coats of the horses. The photo of Mistral in contrast with the dark sky is wonderful. Would make a nice painting don’t you think? :-)

Lynne Gerard said...

No there are no hunters on our property, but on the neighboring parcels to the east and to the west as well as everywhere else on the bluff where they have permission from the landowners, there are many, many hunters.

The season of guys with guns in the woods is behind us now. Yippie!