MARCH 2001

Thursday -- March 1, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 43

Fisherpersons take note: The first fish of the year have been sighted at the Captain's float. Now, it is true these are only minnows... but no fish of any kind have been seen since November. This calls to mind the question of when the last herons were seen... which is at about the same time. Actually, this happened yesterday, and the fish were almost hugging the sand in the shallows, so it was easy to imagine them trying to soak up warmth from the sun from both above and below. Today none could be found to be tempted with bread, despite the same strong sun. You will note the water temperature has dropped a degree, bit it is hard to believe that 44 degrees is a magical threshold for cold-blooded swimmers. Still... stay tuned.

Friday -- March 2, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 43

The clear vistas of winter are already giving way to the haziness of spring, as the once sharp outlines of trees and branches are fuzzy with the knobs and extrusions of new buds and swollen tips. The squirrels are eating the tree buds... but only those interior on the branches. One might think there was a danger that the squirrels would eat too many buds and harm the new growth of the trees, but they cannot reach those buds at the end of the branches because of the slenderness and suppleness of those smallest of branches. Those buds they can reach without falling off... they do. Upon reflection, this might seem to act as a natural pruning symbiosis, as those interior buds are more likely in any event to be shaded out by the younger buds at the tips of the branches. Thus, the squirrels can dine only on what they can reach, and the tree's growth energies are channelled to the extremities where it is most needed to grow and compete with neighbors for available light.

Saturday -- March 3, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.6     Water Temperature: 44

Sitting in the big room... waiting for Members to ring the bell on such a beautiful day... forlornly... gazing out through the trees... it was only by the merest chance the Caretaker saw the young squirrel disappear into the Sycamore. The hole was actually at the end of a large limb where the branch had fallen off, and would have been undetectable from the ground by any roving human eye. The squirrel did not reappear, so there was a certain smugness of the "now I know where you live" category. Yet also there was a certain aspect of being one of fortune's favorites at being so lucky a witness... as though being initiated into one of "The Mysteries." Just another lesson in how we are surrounded by so much that we do not even see... and how seldom we take the time or have the wit to look.

Sunday -- March 4, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 45

Today's second shift substitute caretakers did not report for duty. When they were called before the morning caretaker left, there was no answer. The regular caretaker was left to answer the ferry bell on his day off, and should get a comp day.

This usually occurs about three times a year, but it is noteworthy that it should happen so early in the year. There are those at the Monthly Meetings who say Members who are substitute caretakers can not be expected to take their duty as seriously as the paid staff... but I submit that owners should always take things more seriously than employees. Not doing so suggests that the Member does not take the responsibility of Club Membership very seriously... with all that this implies. Of course, since there is no penalty for not showing up....

Monday -- March 5, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 43

It was that time of the morning when the friendly universe is reduced to the area beneath the comforter when the sound woke him... out of place as it was in the normal background consciousness. It was the sound of serious slurping!!! Wait a moment... slurping??? Wakefulness did not come all at once... only as the mental list of possibilities lengthened without conclusion. The cats had never been known to make such a noise... and it was clearly coming from their water bowl in the kitchen. He stole from bed softly, reluctant to wake the Caretaker's Wife. When the kitchen light came on, he was more surprised than Petey, the possum, who seemed to quit slurping from the water bowl grudgingly before turning to the wall where the built in cat door was. Alas, Petey seemed unable to distinguish where the flap was in the wall for the cat door, seemed clearly more tranquil than bright, and finally ambled over to hide behind the small garbage can. You may ask where were the Island watch-cats during this event. In fact Miss T came in the cat door at about this time... walked over to Petey so that they were nose to nose at six inches where they seemed to acknowledge each other with familiarity and without so much as a raised hair on either side... and then Miss T went about her business. A chair was brought up so that the Caretaker could sit and use a stick to open the cat door flap from some (small) distance, the intervening garbage can removed, and words in a comforting tone were used to encourage him towards the now apparent hole in the wall. Petey seemed not at all alarmed, but very confused about what to do next. Finally he stuck his nose in the corner as though to hide, although the image of an ostrich is less useful than that of a child turning to hide his face in his mother's dress. Who would have thought that such an ugly animal could look endearing? When the Caretaker's Wife finally roused at the commotion, husbandly instincts caused him to use reassuring words, although he later suffered harsh comments for "luring" her into the kitchen by using misleading words such as "small" and "cute". However, as Petey huddled in the corner, even she had to agree with "endearing"... only... how to get him outside? Eventually Petey was coaxed into a cat carrier and taken outside.

Tuesday -- March 6, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 42

A high wind warning is issued for today... so forgive the Caretaker if he hopes no one requires ferrying to the Island.

Wednesday -- March 7, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 39

Last night at 2200 hrs there were flashlights at the towpath ferry landing. The temperature was in the upper 20's but the wind was howling... literally... so one can only imagine the wind chill. What one cannot imagine is who or why.

It has now been a week since we have been able to upload the log entries to the web site, as the FTP connection could not be made. The Webmaster has made inquiries, but as yet the problem has not been fixed.

Thursday -- March 8, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 40

The absent geese have returned, having been gone during this cold spell associated with the "storm that wasn't." Most of them flew in after dark... and it sounded as though others arrived well into the wee hours. There was an almost full moon and thus plenty of light... and surely some goose expert would confirm that they are active flyers in such circumstances. Certainly they are active squabblers... it was difficult to sleep with all their carrying on... you have heard us comment before on how obnoxiously loud they can be... which is why we can confirm the interesting observation of how they quieted as soon as the moon set in the early morning hours.

Friday -- March 9 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 43

Yesterday was cold and raw because of the wind... thus it was a pleasant surprise to see a small flock of the first robins visit the Island. Despite the late winter chill, there are too many signs of the coming of spring. Think ahead... clear your calendars... get ready... and make your plans to be on the Island in the coming days so that you do not miss it.

Saturday -- March 10 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 42

A meeting to plan the orientation process for new Members and those on the waiting list was called for today on the Island by Jeff Komerow, Membership Secretary. Tryon Wells, Tove Elfstrom, Jane Winer, George Malusky, and the Caretaker attended. Plans were made for the activities and program to be presented when the orientation will be held on Saturday, 31 March. Newer Members who have never had the benefit of such a comprehensive indoctrination may also be interested in attending, and certainly the goal is that it will be a fun event. Before the meeting adjourned, 200 invitations to the waiting list were addressed and stamped.

Monday -- March 12 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 42

With the stirring of the spring bulbs we also get the stirring of our own Island mole to feed upon them. Although there is not so much of it yet, the telltale tunnelling can be seen all over the Island. We have decided to name the mole after whoever wins this round of the Survivor TV program, because with at least three black snakes on the Island, the moniker is deserved. Not only that, but where does Mr. mole hang out when the Island is under water??

Some of you may recall last summer when Blackie, our resident black snake patriarch, one sunny Saturday gave many Members an all afternoon lesson on black snake courting and mating while he and his lady hung upside down from the big tree near the swimming area. It was clear to all from whence came the concept of the caduceus used in medical insignia. Anyway, with hungry little ones on the Island this spring, and with mole the preferred item on the menu for Blackie and his family second only to egg of goose, the smart money is that Mr. mole will not be around long this year.

Tuesday-- March 13 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 45

Today we are expecting our first day with air temps in the 60's... and while the fish have not been seen at the Captain's float since that one day when the water temp was 44 degrees... we have nonetheless seen the first blue heron of the year. A few cormorants are also back for the first time since that one sighting during a warm spell, but one suspects these waterfowl probably hang out in the tidewater and are seen here this early only when they probe the northern perimeter of a warm air mass. The ducks are constant... and the gulls... but only our two goose couples are ensconced on the Island, although small gaggles come and go. The real inspiration is in the small flock of robins that have hung on and the increasing bird song heard on the Island.

Wednesday -- March 14 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature: 45

Let the record show that this is the first day we have been able to upload the log to our web page since. The problem has been a glitch in the Club accounting department.

Let the record also show that today we have seen the first forsythia blooms. There are also the first bluebell buds showing... but it will be several weeks before the main show begins. Other plants making an appearance are the violets, trout lilies, and bleeding heart. Grounds Supervisor Trip Reid was down for a spring inspection and noted our daylilies are much more developed than his. The grass is greening and making a spurt... there are only 4 geese to crop it... and it is heartening to see how much survived. Yesterday the up Island paths were raked and sown.

It is that time of year when everything is coming on quickly... with many wondrous changes day to day. Do not miss it!!

Thursday -- March 15, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.0     Water Temperature: 47

We have now the first daffodil blooming... and with the forsythia this means we are now entering our "yellow" season. Every day a new excitement! The serviceberry is putting out new green, and when it blooms in the next couple of weeks it will be known as the "shad bush," and the fisher-people will be beside themselves in the hope that the shad will be running above the new fish ladder below the Island.

Notice that a week ago the water temps were in the 30's... and how much the water temperature can change.

Friday -- March 16, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 46

Today the Island's medical supplies have been upgraded. Previously, a hodgepodge first aid kit was kept in an old fruitcake can on the screened porch. Three professional outdoor first aid kits have been purchased and one will be kept upstairs in the Clubroom, one downstairs on the screened porch, and one will be attached to the tree near the swimming area. Additionally, a more extensive medical field kit will be kept in the Caretaker's quarters for use by the Caretaker's Wife, a Registered Nurse. Any incident requiring use of a first aid kit by Members should be reported to the Caretaker so that we may keep track of the need to replace medical supplies.

Monday -- March 19, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 46

For days we have been seeking the first signs of the appearance of the Dutchman's breeches plants the Island has in abundance... and then this morning great mats of them were in place as though they had sprung up overnight. Solomon's seal is now pushing up in great quantities and the trout lilies are making vast tracts off limits to footfall.

We have our first insects... but only the occasional flyer or crawlie, with the exception of the ants who are starting their year with their ritual trekking everywhere and on everything as they map the world with their feet. The fish have not reappeared at the Captain's float since that one sighting several weeks ago, and as many insect larvae and eggs winter over at the bottom of bodies of water, it's a good bet that insects and fish will appear for good at the same time.

Tuesday -- March 20, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.2     Water Temperature: 47

Things are happening so fast... only yesterday we saw the first Dutchman's breeches... and today we have the first Dutchman's breeches blossoms! Pick any square meter of Island and it will be dramatically changed from day to day. During the planet's swing through the equinoxes we have the greatest incremental daily changes, as during March we will add 74 minutes of daylight and during June only 14 minutes.

Wednesday -- March 21, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.4     Water Temperature: 46

The last two springs have followed or presaged drought years in the river basin. The current rainy conditions are forecast to raise river levels to 7 feet at the Little falls gauge... which has happened only once since 1998. The Island will likely be closed Thursday through Saturday. Stay tuned!

Thursday -- March 22, 2001 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.2     Water Temperature: 45

The river continues to rise and the Island looks to be closed through the weekend. Stages are forecast to be 6.3 on Friday morning and 7.3 on Saturday morning, and thus it is unlikely the island will be open Sunday. Stay tuned.

Friday -- March 23, 2001 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 7.85     Water Temperature: 45

The river is already at 7.85 and continues to rise. Even at the 7 foot level the up Island paths are under water, waves are lapping at the base of the big tree at the swimming area, the river is up to the top step of the bottom set of steps at the towpath, and the Island is much smaller.

Hearing what sounded like a soprano owl in the daylight at midday, we went outside to see that the morning doves have returned. Of course, it is not possible to confirm that all the returnees this season are the same neighbors from last year... but we like to think so... and in the case of the goose now nesting again in the great tree root ball near the Captain's float, it is a pretty good guess.

Saturday -- March 24, 2001 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.9     Water Temperature: 44

This morning a couple came down to the towpath landing, looked at the flooding river, read the lengthy note posted at the towpath landing that explained why the Island was closed because of high water, and rang the ferry bell. Sighting the Caretaker on the Island, they called out to him by name and asked to know why he was not coming to get them on the ferry. Now seriously folks, when the river is at almost 7 feet one can see clearly that a lot of Island is under water and that the current is fast and dangerous. It is not as though there wasn't a posted note explaining the obvious. Situations like this are why rules have to be written for the lowest common denominator.

Monday -- March 26, 2001 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.4     Water Temperature: 44

Earlier this morning this log reported:

The river is still officially hazardous for recreational use, being above 5 feet at Little Falls, but as it is falling slowly below 5.5 feet and the ferry landing on the Island is now dry... the Island is open.

However, attempting to cross the river to clean the steps on the towpath side of the sediment deposited by the falling river... the combination of high water and strong wind blowing downriver made it almost impossible to hold the ferry in the teeth of the wind... so the Island is again closed.

Tuesday -- March 27, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.1     Water Temperature: 43

It is windy and raw and the temperature not expected to be out of the 30's but all things green on the island continue to flourish... this despite the fact that the temp on the Island last night went down to 26 and the mud was icy this morning. Oh... the joy of having a min/max thermometer that will record the day's minimum and maximum temps.

The National Weather Service predicts that the river will fall below hazardous levels at Little Falls tonight.

Wednesday -- March 28, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.9     Water Temperature: 42

The Log should note that we enter a season of stunning and incredible wildflower displays on the Island. Of course... the Caretaker is guiltily and secretly and selfishly gleeful that the Log is seldom read and that Members remain generally clueless of the official exhortations to Members to come to beauty... else surely there would be a queue at the towpath ferry landing during the month of April.

Thursday -- March 29, 2001 -- The Club is OPEN
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.6     Water Temperature: 45

The runes were cast... the bones were thrown... the Oracle consulted... and most importantly, the noon weather program watched for the 7 day forecast... and as the signs were propitious... the water has been turned on in the Clubhouse with the expectation that the night time temps will not drop below 40 degrees for the next 7 days. Rejoice... the toilets upstairs are back on line and the sink in the kitchen works. No longer will you have to bring your own drinking water.

This afternoon the National Weather Service issued an alert that river stages could reach three quarters bank full as a result of the rain we are now having. This would put the river over the bottom set of steps on the towpath and, of course, close the Island again. Stay tuned!

Friday -- March 30, 2001 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.5     Water Temperature: 43

Closed... closed... closed... and with off and on rain expected the next three days, who knows when we will be open. What is worse... this means :

The Club Orientation is postponed until 21 April.

All waiting list Members who have given their e-mail address to the Club will know this by now. Web Master Tryon Wells deserves mention in the dispatches for his heroic effort at combining data and technology so there should be minimal inconvenience. Signs will be posted at the top of the hill for those without e-mail in the event Jeff Komarow's secretary did not reach them by phone, and they will at least receive some training and orientation regarding the iffy and seasonal nature of belonging to a Club on a wild and un-dammed river.

Saturday -- March 31, 2001 -- The Club is CLOSED
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.3     Water Temperature: 43

Signs concerning the orientation cancellation were posted on the paths exiting both parking lots and staff made a point to be at the parking lots at the appropriate time. The fact that no one came is a tribute to the efforts of Jeff Komarow and Tryon Wells. Nay Sayers might wonder if anyone were going to come at all, but there were appreciative e-mail responders... some of which mentioned they had even rescheduled trips abroad in order to attend.

Yesterday afternoon there was a great crisis when our big white Czech kitty, Barney, walked up to the Caretaker's Wife, lifted his leg, and urinated bloody urine. Does our "little" guy know how to communicate his need for attention... or what? Let me tell you... it was "all hands on deck" around here... especially as the river was rising to that point where the ferry in unmanageable and the canoe the only logical transport. And we certainly did not want to transport Barney across the river in fast water while he was locked inside his cat carrier. What is that law that says things go wrong only at the worst moment they can? But it all worked out... the Vet reached before closing... the antibiotics administered... the safe harbor returned to.

It was in fact this morning that the "ferry incident" happened. A log with a highly arching branch became caught on the ferry pull rope... despite the rope having been raised appropriately. There was nothing to do but to try to take the ferry out, as the log itself was quickly surrounded by flotsam and unapproachable by canoe. The log pulled on the rope making it like a cocked bowstring, and when the log was released the line snapped out of the Caretaker's hands and ferry became a captive of the current and raced to the furthest extension of the safety chain. Then the ferry was stuck in the middle of the river... horizontal to the current and thus moving neither left or right... and the current so strong the Caretaker was unable to get back to the ferry rope by pulling the safety chain at either end because the force of the river was too great. The Caretaker could do naught but sit in the middle of the raging river... cursing his dumbness and lack of foresight... for you see... the Caretaker has been in this sad situation before and had learned to shorten one of the ferry safety chains so that if the pull rope were lost the ferry would be at an angle to the current and go zooming back to the shore on the side of the shortened cable. But the river has been so quiet and so low for so long... a couple of years... that the safety chains had been lengthened to the max. As you are reading this you know he was able to pull the chains a little... a few moments at a time... and thus by shortening them the tiniest bit able to move the ferry sideways the tiniest bit and eventually... it would be embarrassing to say how long this took...returned to shore.

And this is why it can be dangerous to be on the ferry and the Island is closed when the river gets to 6 feet.