Little Owl

White Owl Flies Into and Out of The Field

Coming down out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel, or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful, and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings — five feet apart —
and the grabbing thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys of the snow —
and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there, like a little lighthouse,

in the blue shadows —
so I thought:
maybe death isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light wrapping itself around us —

as soft as feathers —
that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking,
and shut our eyes, not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light — scalding, aortal light —
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.

-Mary Oliver

Forest horses

Annie and Sally, the darling forest horses, were two of the sweetest creatures I have ever met. They tolerated, and maybe even liked Douggie’s puppy energy, never lifted a foot as he nipped and pulled and begged them to play… They wandered the forest, visited me often with their big hearts, and gentle nature, and they will be deeply missed. Their spirits are home.

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Elk Land

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The elk is a majestic forest ghost. They are always there, but rarely seen. I can wake up in the morning and see fresh droppings 10 feet away from my door. There are always fresh prints in the mud and sand. They have carved trails through our woods, and have utilized, and I imagine probably greatly appreciated the trails that we have carved as well.

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A few summers ago while hiking with a friend in the Olympic National Park’s Hoh rainforest, I received a sign that the elk was my spirit animal. Ever since then I have held onto the wisdom of the elk medicine, and wear an elk tooth around my neck. Actually, I suppose I used to wear it….in the city. These days, practicality is winning and the only thing I put around my neck in the woods is a whistle.

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So when we came to Robinwood, and I recognized that it was thoroughly inhabited by elk, I knew it was my home. When I tell people about it, I get a lot of comments about hunting, and how people try their whole lives to win the elk ticket lottery. But Robinwood is a haven. It is a sanctuary for all the creatures of the forest, especially the elk. The Roosevelt elk, the biggest elk in the world, exist only in this part of the world. I’ve read that there are approximately 4500 of the species left today, and of these over 3000 live on Vancouver Island, mostly up here in the north island.IMGP3638

The Roosevelt elk are huge and the males can reach up to 500 kg ( just over 1000 lbs). Their antlers are massive. They live for about 12-15 years.

They travel in herds for the most part, although this summer I noticed a lone female residing in our forest which is rare. Neighbours said she may either be sick or pregnant, but the the best of my observation, she appeared to be neither. (But I’m rookie.)

On rainy days I see the herds come out to the meadow to graze when I’m tucked away in the bus. I’ve seen them hanging out with the horses, and any tiny noise or movement I seem to make is always noticed.

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Hanging out with the horses!

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Of course, each time I travel into the woods is like a treasure hunt for bones. I found an entire well preserved skeleton of a female elk, and several bones here and there on my walks in the woods. Each one is remnant of the story of life and struggle, beauty and pain, and the connectedness of all things enveloped by moss.

Toads

One of the biggest treats for me living down by the river is being around so many toads. I love these little critters!! You can hear them croaking constantly, and lumbering/hopping through the grass at night, and outsmarting the toad hunters down by the river…

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One day,  I noticed a funny string in the pond at the edge of the river. This little pond had been cut off from the main flow and was warming up quite nicely. The toddlers had fun playing in it, and apparently, it was a good spot for the toads as well. Anyhow, I found this funny string, which had to have been over 50 ft long. I had no idea what it was! IMG_4120IMG_4119

As you can see, it was a clear jelly like line, full of these little black dots. eggs? Alien eggs?

I kept going back to check on the string, and in a few days the shape had turned from round, to more of a… let’s say “mouse poop” shape. The string became weaker over time, and in a few more days it was obvious that these were little tadpoles! I felt like a proud toad mama!

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It was crazy how they would huddle together in these big clouds!IMG_5486

Everett and Brynn had fun catching them, (not too challenging) and they even found a crayfish!IMG_4225

I left for a few weeks in the summer to run my camps in Victoria, and missed the moment we’d all been waiting for when they emerge from the water. When I got back I search and searched for the tiny baby toads that must have been hopping around in the thousands, but it took a few days to spot one. And then, once you see one, you see more….IMG_7141IMG_7151

I have done a little research, and toads can live up to 10-15 years. They reach full maturity in about 2-3 years but less than one percent of the baby “toadlets” make it. Their warty skin apparently tastes bad, and it is not just good camouflage.

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Everyone loves the toads!IMG_5397

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So, it’s now October, and the toads have migrated up to higher ground, and I’ve noticed that on sunny days, they all come out from under our pallet deck outside the bus/outdoor kitchen. This is the winter home, I guess! Perhaps I can “accidentally” drop my babies some food? Here is a photo I took just the other day, can you spot all 4?

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More toad info! how exciting!