Friday, August 26, 2005

Floating The River

Island Park is a wonderful place to live. The recreational opportunities are fantastic. This week Mike and I partook of one of the popular pastimes known as floating the river. We put our two little one-person pontoon boats into the Henry's Lake Outlet and went downstream into the Henry's Fork of the Snake River and got out at the bridge at Mack's Inn. This took us three hours, though we had to do a fair bit of rowing to make that time.

Henry's Lake Outlet is a very narrow, slow moving stream, choked with willows on both banks. It is also very twisty and curvy so that one can never stop steering and rowing. The banks full of willows prevented us from seeing very far in any direction, but it also made for a very quiet, peaceful float, far from the noise of civilization. Henry's Fork was much broader with a smidge more current. The water was much colder, coming from its source at Big Springs. Towards the end of our journey, we passed many vacation homes, each with its own dock, and some form of boat. We saw many blue herons, and a black cormorant swam ahead of us for quite some distance. Just as we came in sight of the bridge, we looked back and saw a moose standing in the river. This area is prime moose habitat.

The wonderful thing about where we live is that the put-in and pull-out spots for our float are both less than five miles from our house. We also intend to explore other sections of the river if the nice weather continues.

Friday, August 19, 2005


It continued to rain and hail at intervals all night long. The rain is actually welcome because it helps to keep our little trees alive. Coming from a property that had no trees, I am very excited to actually own my own trees now! All the trees here were planted in a previously treeless grassland, so they need human intervention in the form of watering in order to thrive. The little ones are especially vulnerable, and we have found a number of dead aspens still being watered by the automatic sprinkler line. Whether they were not rooted well enough, or lacked water in a previous year, or never revived after the winter, we will never know. I counted the survivors, and we have eleven living aspen trees on the property. There are a lot more evergreens, so I have not counted all of them yet. I am looking forward to seeing the aspens change color this fall.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Rain, Thunder, and Hail

I have a litter of two-year-old dogs that I named for different types of weather that were common at my kennel. The three males in the litter are Rain, Thunder, and Hail. These guys are exceptionally big and furry and have a total zest for life. They are very affectionate and enthusiastic about everything.

At my new kennel, we are getting a lot of rain, thunder, and hail. Our position, which is much closer to the mountains than our former property, gives us a close view of storms from every direction. We are in sight of more than one mountain range, and there are no less than three passes (over the continental divide) near us. This causes wind to come from all directions of the compass, and storms may also be visible in any direction you care to look. The lightning and thunder can be quite spectacular.

Today we had a big hailstorm. Hail is quite common in the month of August. This is the third or fourth one we have had this month. It was above 50 degrees F, yet the deck turned white with a half inch of hail, which took a couple hours to melt. The heavy rain made puddles in the dogyard for the first time. This indicates that the dogs have compacted the soil to the point that water does not drain readily. Oh well, the grass was nice while it lasted, and I know the dogs enjoyed the change from the old yard full of dirt and mudholes.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Bats and Mice

Last week our cat, Eggnog, stopped sleeping on our bed at night. She would only come up at dawn and sleep until I got up for the day. I decided to see why, so I went looking for her one night. I discovered her in the downstairs bedroom and soon understood why she was staying there all night. Flying round and round the room was a bat. As soon as I turned on the light, it headed for one end of the room and disappeared up a crack between the ceiling and the outer wall logs. Soon afterwards, Eggnog joined us on the bed for the rest of the night.

The mice have finally discovered the dog food in the shed. Luckily, they only tore into a single bag, and the mess they made was easily swept up. I locked Eggnog in the shed for one night in the hopes that she would catch the mice and avert a much bigger problem. It seems the mice were entering the shed at night and vacating it during the day. Of course, Eggnog left no evidence of whether she caught a mouse or not, but so far the kibble pilfering seems to have stopped, so I am hopeful that the marauding mouse has been destroyed.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Flat Ranch

Flat Ranch is owned by the Nature Conservancy and is a large tract of land about two miles north of our place. Like us, they are in the region known as Henry's Lake Flats. Henry's Lake is a high mountain lake which is nestled up against the mountains that form the continental divide. Stretching south of the lake for five or ten miles is a broad flat valley which is largely treeless and mostly devoid of houses. Most of the acreage is owned by cattle ranchers.

Flat Ranch is a chunk of land about three miles long which is being maintained for conservation purposes. The Henry's Lake Outlet runs through the Flat Ranch and can be traversed by canoe. Mike and I are hoping to float it with our little pontoon rowboats. Throughout the summer, Flat Ranch hosts a series of educational talks twice a week. Last week's talks were on forest fires and protecting your home, and on noxious weeds. Our house is fairly safe from forest fires because our trees are separated from the forest by many acres of treeless rangeland. We are not so well protected from the noxious weeds, however.

Our nearest neighbor has a profusion of yellow sweet clover growing near our property, and we have discovered Canadian thistle growing in a patch where our well had been drilled. We surmise that it may have been brought in by the drilling rig. These are both classed as noxious weeds because they were introduced from another continent (despite the name), and they can displace native species. The Canadian thistle is not as pretty as other thistle species that I have known, and it is excessively thorny, even for a thistle. Since it has already flowered, we were advised to pull up the plants and bag them to prevent the seeds from being distributed. I suggested burning them (after pulling them up), but apparently, noxious weeds are normally just hauled to the dump.

Friday, August 05, 2005

New Chains

Yippeee! The cold shuts have arrived. Now I can finish making up the new chains and get all the dogs arranged exactly how I want them in the dogyard. Even though the number of dogs getting loose has dropped to only one every couple of days, it will still be a huge relief to have them all fastened with brand new hardware. I will be busy over the next couple days getting all the new chains made up. I still have about 20 or 30 to go.

On another note, I saw the red fox again, and this time he was in my own backyard, not twenty feet from the deck. He was jumping over our fire pit, hunting in the tall grass, and trotting back and forth through the line of trees that outlines the back edge of our property. One thing I have not seen has been rabbits. We had oodles of the prettiest little cottontails in Montana, but there do not appear to be any rabbits at our place here in Idaho.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Trouble in Paradise

Our special little paradise on earth is being threatened. Karen Lords, an officious person in the Fremont County Planning and Building department has decided that she does not want us to have our dogs here. We received a threatening letter from Kathy Thompson, the Compliance Officer, claiming that we were running a commercial sled dog operation on property that is zoned non-commercial in an area that is mapped as visually sensitive. Explaining over the phone that we were not a commercial operation and that we were not violating any of the rules for a visually sensitive area got us nowhere. Karen Lords was extremely rude to both my husband and myself and insisted that we had to come in to her office and fill out paperwork and get on the schedule to appear before the zoning commission.

We drove the 50 miles down to the county seat at St Anthony. Not exactly what we wanted to do that day, but it seemed important. Turns out they were even more rude in person. Karen told us that she had already determined that we were commercial because "most people do not have 30 to 50 dogs; therefore it is not a residential activity." That is the most bizarre definition of commercial that I have ever heard. Of course, it has no basis in the law. Fremont County has no rule limiting the number of dogs on any property, and for that matter, neither does the town of Island Park although we are not actually within the city limits.

Karen had told me over the phone that there were "LOTS" of complaints about the dogs, and she told my husband that there were "dozens" of complaints. When pressed for the exact number and nature of the complaints, she said that it was the sheriff and the county attorney who had the complaints. We stopped by the sheriff's office, and they had nothing at all except for a single complaint about the dogs not having shade and water. We already knew about that one because a sheriff's deputy had stopped by our place to check it out as is required when they receive a complaint. He told us at that time that he saw nothing at all wrong with anything he saw, and he was not very complimentary about the complainer. The county attorney likewise had received no complaints except for the one that the sheriff's office had. So, Karen Lords made up a bald-faced lie, and we are pretty steamed about it.