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Larry Weber: Larry Weber takes a walk to the beaver pond

Once we reach mid November, we enter the time of change: it is during these weeks in the second half of the month that we see landscape alterations that will persist for the coming winter.

Once we reach mid November, we enter the time of change: it is during these weeks in the second half of the month that we see landscape alterations that will persist for the coming winter.

During the last six weeks, we have been in a scene where the ground is covered by the fallen leaves. Scattered sporadic snowfalls have given a white dusting, but usually these early snows come and go.

It is as we exit the month that the blanket of white is more likely to continue, thanks to the frozen ground.

Similarly, the wetlands show variations. As temperatures regularly dip below the freezing point, more of the ponds get covered with ice. They are joined by the shallow swamps and finally, usually after the 20th of November, lakes also freeze; from smallest to largest.

This year, November began mildly, but we felt the usual chill by mid-month. Many area lakes were covered by ice on the 18th, compared to the 23rd for 2007.

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It is always interesting to watch the local wildlife dealing with the cold. Those that lay eggs and die -- such as insects, or hibernators, like frogs -- are no longer with us. Even most of the migrants are gone. The ones we see now are likely to stay throughout the cold and remain active. Probably most notable are the birds and squirrels of our yards, but these are only a few. Others cope with winter in their territory, not ours, and we need to go to their places to see them. As the cold moves in each year, I like to visit a nearby beaver pond.

I find the pond looking much like the other ones near here. It is coated with ice and a little snow around the bank. The ice is strong enough to support me and I walk around the entire pond, but stay along the edge. I break through only once during my journey.

The beaver lodge stands as large and strong as it was when I came here before the freeze up. All is silent now. I see none of the family that lives in this dwelling. But I do see several signs of the presence of these big rodents and their preparation for winter.

On the shore are several downed trees with telltale tooth marks of the beavers. Branches have been dragged off to the water; many have bark removed. New branches and sticks from these trees are on the lodge, adding more strength and insulation to the wooden frame.

Out in the water near the lodge is a large gathering of sticks and twigs. This seemingly random arrangement will provide the winter food supply. Much of the cache is frozen in the ice, but enough is available for the beavers to reach under water to carry them through the cold times.

Near the house, I see a site where the ice has been kept open. Apparently, the beavers push through the frozen cover for some movement above before the ice becomes too thick.

I'll be back once snow blankets the entire scene, but for now, it looks as though the beavers are settled into the den with a nearby stash of food for the impending winter.

Retired teacher Larry Weber is author of several books that are available now He lives in Carlton County. E-mail questions or comments c/o budgeteer@duluthbudgeteer.com .

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