Posts Tagged ‘koi’


"Spring's" first-elk sighting, from the deck on a February afternoon. Photo by Adam Sherman.

ELK. We’ve had two elk sightings this week. The first glimpse of elk this time of year is rather like seeing the first Christmas tree lit up in someone’s window in November: Full of promise. If the cows (female elk) are moving back into their traditional calving areas, well, spring can’t be too far off, we tell ourselves.

My son, Adam, spotted the elk in our “backyard” and ran for his camera. He pointed out two very large elk seemingly having a siesta on the edge of the meadow that butts up to a Bureau of Land management (BLM) forest. Powdered in snow, the elk were perfectly camouflaged in the snowed-over grass and trees. They’d placed themselves with their heads and bodies turned due south. We live in grape country, and it’s common knowledge that pinot noir varieties thrive on south facing slopes, because of the warmth that location affords. Elk apparently know that trick, too.

Right before a fresh bank of clouds blotted out the momentary sun, Adam spotted a few smaller, younger-looking elk several paces up the hill: yearlings perhaps; siblings, or as one friend described the elk in Adam’s photo, “young lovebirds.”

The first time I saw elk out here in the “sticks of the sticks,” they were causing a bit of a traffic jam. A  herd of Roosevelt Elk was following a lead cow across the seldom-traveled gravel country road I was driving. The elk were not in single file, but they were in no hurry either. I counted 33. Quite possibly more members of the larger, loose herd (reputed by neighbors to be more than 50) were hidden in the trees.

With any luck, we’ll catch a glimpse of the more elusive bull elk, too. Throughout April and May, the bulls will shed their antlers, which can weigh up to 40 pounds: The blood flow to them stops, and before long, they drop off. Antlers are made up of one of the fastest-growing living tissues. Over the summer, each bull grows a new,  fuller set of antlers – just in time for mating season in the fall. He with the biggest antlers often gets the girl.

Koi, a type of carp, are as colorful as many tropical fish yet able to survive chilling winters. http://www.scenicreflections.com

FISH. Tales of the biggest-fish-ever that got away abound. That wasn’t the kind of story I had in mind when including Fish as a blog category. I was, well, dreaming of something larger than life, along the lines of  Moby Dick or Flipper.  A colorful fish story works, too. Here’s one about a tamer variety of fish, but fish big in their own right.

Very cold weather in recent weeks has in-town (well, as in-town as you can get in a burg that numbers maybe 1,600) folks concerned about the survival of the colorful koi residing in their frozen garden ponds. Mostly orange-red and white, koi resemble shoe-box-size goldfish; however, they are by no means giant goldfish.

Koi, called nishi kigoi by the Japanese, are descended from 200-year-old black carp, or magoi. The flashy varieties we know today can survive beneath frozen water, because they’ve retained the tough constitution of their ancestors – and their smarts.

As the top of their liquid world freezes or turns to ice,  koi sink to the bottom of a pond where it’s warmer, and remain motionless. If I understand the science right, the frozen top layers insulate the water below, giving the koi a place of refuge.

Some koi experts say koi ponds should be at least four-feet deep, a depth that nearly always allows the pond’s “basement” to remain liquid. If the spell of freezing temperatures lasts, koi owners suggest making a sauce-pan-size hole in the ice so the build-up of gases can escape before harming the flashy fish.

Koi can grow two to six inches a year, reach three feet in length and live 25 to 30 years. In the world of koi breeding, competing for top prizes can mean big dollars: A champion might be worth $100,000 or more! And that’s not a fish tale.

Sources: Christian Science Monitor and http://www.pond-doctor.co.uk

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