Sounds of Autumn

The sun warms my back, the wind cools my hair.

I photograph leaves that soon won’t be there.

Shushing and rustling cottonwood leaves,

Some cling to life in the stiffening breeze.

Others have flown, for the chilly night air

Has sent them a warning. “Oh trees, do beware.

The harsh days are coming; it’s time to prepare.

Your fluttering whispering dresses of gold

Must leave you alone now to suffer the cold.

But fear not, for soon you will warm up again.

New dresses will grow in the coming spring’s rain.”

 

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The video clip is of ten seconds in Montana. The wind is rumbling a bit in the microphone and the Captain is calling Ruby with his whistle, but the main thing I love about the clip is the sound of the wind in the leaves. It’s best if you make it full screen and you can almost feel as if you are there under the trees. Be sure to turn on the sound. That’s what it’s all about.

 

 

 

The Calico Cat

When the Captain and ten-year-old Ruby went for a pheasant walk through the fields, the first thing they scared up was a beautiful calico cat who was also hunting by the side of the road. Ruby was startled and made a few leaps in the cat’s direction but the Captain called her back. I was surprised to see that Ruby was so quick to obey when the chase instinct must have been strong.dscn6774a

The cat was taking no chances and leaped up into the safety of a nearby cottonwood, and there she stayed, long enough for me to get some pictures anyway.  dscn6790a

As I zoomed the camera in, I noticed what a pretty cat this was. Not just your run-of-the-mill stray hunter.dscn6789a

And what gorgeous green eyes she had! I wanted to ask her to move her head so that twig wasn’t in front of her face but she wasn’t budging. She was safe in the tree and that’s where she would stay until all danger was past.dscn6788aI didn’t want to think about the baby birds she might have killed this spring. I preferred to think about the mice she catches so the prairies won’t be overrun with them.

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The calico cat

Is not getting fat

But she’s keeping the prairies clean.

Oh mouse, you should run.

For the kitty, it’s fun

Though I’m sure you would think she is mean.

The calico cat

Has no cozy mat

By the fireplace, safe in a house.

She still needs to eat

And she’s quick on her feet,

So run for your life, little mouse.

Flooded Farms

Another shot of the Milk River very high and overflowing its banks.

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It pours into the nearby fields.

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I felt sorry for the cottonwoods sitting in so much water.

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The ditch must be fairly deep here. I wouldn’t want to accidentally drive off the road here.

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But here is the saddest part of the story. Much of the work of the season’s grain harvest was a waste of time. The hay is soaking and will likely not dry out before the cold weather comes.

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Some of the hay that was stacked high might be salvageable but the loss is still devastating to the farmers who worked so hard. The flood waters almost look like snow but it is definitely water – this week, anyway. Soon the fields will be covered with snow too.

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Some of the buildings in this area were also flooded but as we were driving I couldn’t get the photos taken in time. News reports say it is the worst flooding in this area, from Hinsdale to Glasgow, in 30 years. I feel very sorry for the people affected.

Water, Water Everywhere

As we got near the town of Hinsdale, Montana, I got my camera ready to take pictures of the Milk River, the tiny creek that flows under the highway there. It’s always such a picturesque sight and perhaps  I felt some affection for this coffee-with-cream coloured river because I’ve seen its northern reaches in Alberta.  But what a surprise to see the Milk River looking like one of our Great Lakes.dscn6647a

Past the bridge, the ditches were filled with water and the black cottonwoods that I love so much were soaking their feet in the muddy floodwaters.

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Fields were flooded so high that the water nearly threatened to cross the highway at one point.

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In the higher elevations the precipitation stuck to the hills as snow. Even this was unusual for early October, but I would rather see the moisture up there than flooding the fields.

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In my next post I will show some of the devastation the flooding has caused.

Life Abounds on the Prairie

After a particularly windy night in Montana, I step out of my travel trailer and admire the morning sky. The air is  chilly, but fresh and clean. I fill my lungs and marvel at the invigorating purity of the air. As the sun’s rays break over the horizon with the promise of a new day, they cast a pink glow on the clouds and blend them into a marvel of lavender.DSCN4211

I walk at the edges of the harvested fields, not wanting to disturb the land. It seems though, that the deer and coyotes didn’t mind leaving their  tracks behind. Whitetailed deer and mule deer both inhabit this part of the state. I’m not an expert tracker so I couldn’t tell  what kind of deer it might have been. I only know that at one time, a small deer and a large one walked there. A coyote also passed that way. I wonder if it was close to the same time and what the coyote was  after.  The bigger deer must have been running, because his tracks were deeper and gouged up more of the soil. If only we could know the story.DSCN4214

Crossing the fields, I come across many interesting sights. Sage grows wild here. I pick up a stem of it and breathe in the medicinal sagey scent. Flowers bloomed over great expanses earlier in the season. A few remain, but most have gone to seed. Some of these seed pods are nasty burrs that stick to the dogs’ coats. I know what I’ll be doing when I get back “home” to the trailer. Picking burrs! Poor dogs.

The cottonwood trees look rich in their autumn dress. Black and gold! What could be classier? The leaves shiver in the breeze, making a continuous and soothing “shh-shh-shh” sound.These majestic trees are like sentinels watching over the prairie.

As I walk towards a marshy area, an owl glides past me, having given up its hiding place in the shrubbery. It isn’t too far away from this collection of pheasant droppings. Perhaps it is aware that this is where the pheasant was spending the night and he was hoping to close in on him. Or maybe he was after something smaller, like the rabbit I saw bolting over the hill a few minutes earlier, or the sharptail grouse that cackled as if someone had told a joke as it flew to another gully.

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I am surprised to find a turtle shell nearly a foot long, near the cattail (bullrush) marsh. But more surprising is the number of pheasants that fly up from the cover of the cattails when Emma (English cocker spaniel) goes tearing through there. I suppose the pheasants felt safe there, knowing they could hear danger approaching. Cattails rustle noisily when an animal passes between them. I would bet that in last night’s wind, many animals found cover in this marsh. It must have been a scary night for them out here, but what a beautiful scene to wake up to in the morning.

Trees, Trees, and More Trees

I suppose one of the reasons I’m so drawn to the trees in eastern Montana is because most of the land is treeless prairie or grain farms, so trees become pretty special.

The morning sun made the golden leaves on this black cottonwood (If that’s what these trees are) even more impressive.

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The trees below are like tall characters with many arms, having animated discussions, gesticulating wildly, talking with their hands.

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The tree in the photo below is growing in the side of the riverbank. Probably it was far from the river’s edge at one time, but as the river has flooded and eroded the banks, the tree found itself closer and closer to the water’s edge.

DSCN2613Many a gallon of water has swished past the tree’s roots, taking more and more soil away. Seems like some part of the tree has already succumbed to nature, as you can see from the broken piece lying beside it, and more parts of the trunk, if not the whole tree, are in imminent danger of being washed away if the river comes up high next spring.

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Another tree had chicken wire wrapped around the lower part of the trunk. I wonder which chewing, gnawing beastie was meant to be deprived of a meal of bark. A porcupine? A rabbit?

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 This tree was not so lucky. If only it could talk and tell us its story.
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But those who remain healthy certainly provide a beautiful canopy of protection for us as well as for the vegetation that lives beneath its shelter.

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Tree Survival

In the harsh winter conditions of eastern Montana, it must be hard for any living thing to survive out in nature. The trees in this region are so beautiful, especially in the fall when the leaves change colour, and so I paid particular attention to them on my walks through the fields with my camera.

One type of tree that is prevalent here is a huge poplar type whose name I’m not sure of. It might be a cottonwood type. Perhaps there are readers out there who can tell me what the proper name of these trees is.

I stood under this tree and listened to the wind rustling its leaves. It was such a beautiful sound that I did a very short video of it just to record the wind in its leaves. Unfortunately I can’t load the video here, but I can show you the tree and you can imagine the sound.

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Nearby, another of its type  showed signs of a history of major trauma. Was it wind, or snow, or bitter cold, or a combination of these conditions that broke the tree so badly? But look at its survival instinct! A new shoot is growing from the old broken trunk.

DSCN2517Yet another damaged tree is clinging to life in a few small branches. The broken branches on the ground tell of the terrible winds and possibly blizzards that worked the tree over.

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The same is true of the tree below. It clings to life desperately but appears to be losing the battle.

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There must be strength in numbers. Here they are like a little city of trees in a park along the Missouri River.

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There is something noble and grand about a tree. These survivors beautifying the river’s edge are a treat to see.