When I woke this morning it appeared overcast, as it has on other mornings. I staggered out to the toilet and was met with an unusual, although not unpleasant, smell; it seemed rather familiar but I struggled to place it. I could identify something resembling eucalyptus but I was on the wrong continent. Perhaps it was euthanol which, dredging my aromatherapy memory banks, I vaguely recollected was in some pine oils as well so thought no more of it. Bailey arrived at her normal time and informed us that a forest fire in Jasper, 40km away, was in full flow. What we could smell and the accompanying ‘mist’ was from that. Ray explained that this was the fire which had started a few days ago, probably from when we were subjected to a thunder storm which didn’t actually get all that close to us here. The wind had changed direction overnight so it was blowing towards us, not that we were in any danger. The fire wasn’t actually in Jasper park but the south end of Willmore Wilderness Park, ours, the other end of which we had been in at Eaton Falls, 3 days ago.
The destructive power of fire makes it one of the most high risk occurrences around. In normal circumstances the probability is so low, even though the potential severity of injury is maximal, that we can almost disregard the risk on a daily basis, provided sensible precautions have been taken. In this environment, fires are natural, some would argue necessary. Permits have to be obtained for anything beyond a camp-fire. I’m not clear yet what actually defines this. These assessments take into account the dryness of the area, (very dry at present) the current and immediate weather forecast which usually relates to wind strength but also includes the human factor. If all the fire-fighters are engaged in other parts of the state or even locally but busy, then permits will not be issued. There is an aged argument to say that fire is a natural part of the countryside evolution and can be constructive after complete destruction. Even the Native Americans used to purposely start fires to clear areas both for regeneration but also to establish pastures. Ray can remember clear areas which have been completely and spontaneously forested in his lifetime (and he isn’t that old!) Fires have to be put out now to protect property (and life but the warning systems are pretty comprehensive). It seems incongruous to think that the apparently totally natural environment of acres and acres of tree strewn hillside are the work of man’s interference. This does take some getting your head round. In the meantime it is far enough away for us to not worry.
Our tasks for today included sawing up a tree which fell over in the winds of 2 days ago whilst Ray watched on dismayed. It broke 2 fences but no animals were hurt. It needed to be cut up to get out of the chorale (still not sure of the correct spelling!). These logs can then be added to the massive piles of wood around the ranch which will be used for heating but none of which has been obtained deliberately. Using the chainsaw in this chorale assisted us with one of our designated tasks, to desensitise Arizona and Pebbles. They are Shiny’s babies from the past 2 years and need to become accustomed to people and being handled. Can’t beat a chainsaw for that then! Whenever it was switched off they mustered some courage to come over, very tentatively, to speak to us before charging away when the motor started up again. Arizona is the year older and braver but Pebbles is quite calm in her shadow.
I have started sorting out the floor of the 2nd cabin, I swept away the season’s debris a few days ago and was ready to wash it today in preparation for its first coat of varnish. However on entering it I was met with a mass of bodies of ‘lemmings over a cliff’ proportions. I don’t know if it was the hot weather or the wind but there were almost more than I’d swept up initially. They enter through the open doorway and are then attracted to the light provided by the white tarpaulin roof which is brighter than the doorway so never find their way out again. When I was treating the floor in the previous cabin the continual bumping and clipping onto the ceiling sounded like the incessant pitter patter of rain. It was only when I emerged outside I found that it actually was raining, it sounded little different today so I had to keep checking the skies. Whilst I’m not upset to witness the demise of some of the less savoury characters it is very sad to find the dead butterflies. The only slight consolation is to be able to observe their stunning colours and markings close up.
Between weed-killing and log-sawing we managed a significant amount of weed-whacking (strimming). I was in 2 minds whether to resist my natural urge to try to preserve some of the wild flower clumps or risk looking like I’d only carried out half a job. Fortunately Brenda is of a similar mind to me and was pleased that I hadn’t desecrated the butterfly gardens. Our efforts were further endorsed by the collapse of the strimmer which gave up after a mere 3 refuels and 4 hours of continual use.
This afternoon we took a couple of mounts into the arena again. I chose Sonny, a mustang from southern USA, who had led the trail the other day. I hadn’t realised that he was unused to schooling, pretty much as I was, but we muddled through between us and were reasonably respectable although I was relieved that Roger and Bailey were the only witnesses to my incompetence. He needed the exercise! Roger rode Meg, when she eventually deigned to be caught! She was giving me the brush off for quite sometime, staying tantalisingly out of reach until finally taking pity on me and allowing me to put on the halter…until I realised that I’d picked up one of the baby’s which was far too small. With a huge sigh and a significant amount of long-suffering she allowed me to keep hold of her whilst Roger collected the appropriate article. She had been a show reining horse so had been very highly trained. Roger revelled in her responsiveness, having been more used to bored and reluctant school ponies. It wasn’t long before he had her cantering/loping around the arena. I tried to show Sonny what he could do but as he kept getting spooked by the poo bucket and shadows thrown by the sunlight under the main door each time we passed them, we weren’t quite in the same league although we did manage a couple of spurts.