Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Very Old Man and the Sea

Yes, it rains in Indiana in the summertime. Here are a couple of pictures from June of 2007. We had been asked to put Treasure Island on the homes tour for the Lake Manitou Association, to raise money for the Lake Fund. As no good deed goes unpunished, above is yours truly at the ready to help the boats to the front pier. It was gratifying to see the many visitors on such a wet day.

As an aside. A boat hook is a great thing when trying to bring a pontoon to a dock against the wind (that's what I'm holding).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Devil Lake?

May 15, 2008
A rough history. Back around 1827 the U.S. Calvary signed a treaty with the local Pottawattamie Indian tribe. The treaty called for a mill to grind flour for the indians. Our soldiers were allowed to build a dam at the north side of the lake area which raised the water level high enough to convert five lakes and surrounding marsh into one large lake of approximately 1 by 1 ½ miles. A mill was constructed and the cavalry and indians ate much better for the flour it provided.

The Pottawattamie had their own trail of tears some years later. You can find a plaque outside the Fulton County Courthouse which tells the story more accurately. The short and rough summary is that they were marched from their beloved lake to the prairies of Kansas with much loss of life. Manitou is their word for the lake. It can mean either friendly spirit or devil spirit (much as the Hawaiian uses Aloha for hello and goodbye). I have seen both in this lake in the form of thunderstorms and balmy summer days—so I vote “both.”

Monday, May 5, 2008

The First Week

May 5, 2008
No getting around it, the first week is quite simply drudgery. Lots of hard work clearing a winter’s worth of leaves, and all the housekeeping that goes with bringing a place to life after a long winter’s sleep.

We went to power equipment with the first year on the island, and it does clear some of the drudgery. The blower can move most of the leaves to the holding area on the south side of the island, where, after the passage of three years, we find lots of rich topsoil to replace the oak, maple, and elm leaves. Still there is some old fashioned raking to be done around the hedges.

All is not grim, however, as there is a permanent sense of wonder at this ever changing place. Each year brings something new. This year, it was the absence of geese. We had a call from the DNR this winter, asking permission to come on the island to oil the goose eggs—as there has been a great overabundance of geese in the area. When we arrived—instead of the usual mounds of goose poop, we had a fairly pristine run of sea wall and island. No tip toeing!

We had some newcomers in their stead. Lots of yellow warblers to add their color to those of the goldfinches. Also, the first nesting pair of Orioles I’ve seen in many years.

A sidebar about goose birth control: Why oil the eggs—why not just take them? Because, in the absence of eggs, they will just lay more!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Nature's Woodsman -- Not!

May 3, 2008
I don’t know about this nature’s woodsmen talk. I have to say, if a person behaved in the woods like a beaver did, he’d be doing hard time or at least would be getting picketed by the Sierra Club.

These little furry guys gnaw away at any tree in their territory, at random, killing just about all of them by girdling the bark. Then, they will have a lucky tree fall (maybe one in twenty) where they can actually use it to impound some water and make a lodge.

If I sound a little bitter, maybe it’s because of the many thousands of dollars spent on the island eleven years ago, right after purchase—bringing in a real woodsman to climb and fell the ten trees that were long dead from our friend, the beaver. Happily the woodsman was also a man who loved and observed the natural world and he gave some good advice.

“Wrap a metal fence around your remaining trees, and don’t forget to make the fence tall enough to allow for snow drifts in winter. Nothing like having a beaver girdle a tree above the fence to drive you crazy.”

So that’s what we’ve done, and now the beaver and I are in an uneasy friendship. I get a real kick out of kayaking to their lodges off the edge of the lake and up rain creek. The slap of a beaver tail right behind your boat will make you jump every time—and it reminds me of how precious our neighborhood is.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Opening Day 2008

May 1, 2008

Another season begins on Treasure Island. Though there are non-stops from San Francisco to Indianapolis, we arrived by way of a one hopper, and elected to spend the night by the airport. That made for a leisurely two hour drive the next morning with a stop for a junk food lunch before arriving at shoreside.

We had arranged for Steve Kruger to install the shoreside pier and lift before arrival, so we came to find the row boat snug in the lift, with oars and life jackets in readiness.

As I rowed across the lake, I once again looked forward to installing the ten horse outboard on the boat—it was now in hibernation in the basement, along with nearly everything else on the island (outdoor furniture, the barbecue, mower, garbage cans, to name a few).

We keep the house at a steady 65 degrees over the winter. It makes for higher utility bills, but we have never had a hint of mold or mildew in the basement or on the floors above.

We arrived on the island to find everything in as good a shape as one might hope for. There were leaves everywhere from the winter, and lots of sticks—but all in all the winter of 2008 seems to have passed quietly.