"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape — the loneliness of it — the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it — the whole story doesn’t show."

— Andrew Wyeth

Creek House notes

It has only been about eight months since we discovered the presence of beaver in our stretch of Crum Creek.

A neighbor alerted us about fallen trees in his yard with the telltale marks of beaver chewing. We scouted along the edges of the creek and found an established den.

It was only a matter of time until our as yet unseen furry visitor attacked some of the young native trees that we have planted in the wetland behind our house. Sure enough, even though we tried to protect their trunks, an episode of flooding waters displaced the wire cages. The beaver stripped off their bark, then chewed their trunks until they fell over. We were devastated to lose the lovely nyssa and willow.

However, as upset as I was, I still was excited about the presence of such an significant creature in our yard. Resident beavers increases the diversity of wildlife that makes a healthy environment.

I mourn for our trees but respect the beaver.

Beaver assets

The challenge in our yards, as in our nation, is to find ways to create, restore and guard natural areas so to protect wildlife and all the services and benefits each species provides to promote a healthy environment for all.

My experience with the beaver has motivated me to learn more about this impressive animal. Once fiercely hunted for its pelts, beavers were nearly eliminated in parts of the West. Belatedly, folks there and elsewhere have learned that beaver dams save valuable water.

While not particularly welcome in our yard, elsewhere a typical beaver dam is capable of storing 3.26 million gallons of water. Dams recharge groundwater, prevent downstream flooding and create habitat for nesting water fowl, migrating birds and fish. Dry and cozy inside, beaver dams shelter several local animal species over the winter. Dams last a long time too, up to 150 years.

Mid-winter to-do

1. Remove all leaves and debris that settle onto the lawn and damage the grass.

2. Check your trees. Broken branches, split trunks, fungus, spotted lantern fly eggs and other problems are much more visible now.

3. Make an appointment with a certified arborist if you spot tree problems. They are not so busy now.

4. Check mulch coverings over planted areas to be sure they are undisturbed.

5. Evaluate the location of indoor plants for access to good light. The angle of the sun changes as the weeks go by.

6. Bring budded branches of spring blooming shrubs such as forsythia, witchhazel or cherry to put into a vase of water to force premature bloom.

Do you know?

• Beavers can stay under water for as long as 15 minutes without surfacing to take a breath.

• There may be deer ticks in your yard even if deer never visit. Certain mice that are alternate hosts to deer ticks bring them when they shelter in your yard.

• Slower growing trees live longer than faster growing species.

• Plants in your home or office reduce background noise levels and soften harsh sound in rooms with poor acoustics.

• According to a study done in 2005, the United States was losing 4,000 acres of open space daily. Between 2007 and 2010, agricultural land was developed at the rate of 50 acres per hour.

• Birds actively hunt insects for protein, especially in breeding season to feed their nestlings. Worldwide, insect-eating birds eat 400 million to 500 million metric tons of prey yearly.

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