Fern Bank on the North Castor (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.)

26 September finds us at the North Castor River looking downstream from the bridge of the Ottawa Carleton 9th Line Rd. As I set up to paint the first loop of the river downstream from the bridge, arranging small flat stones to keep the feet of my stool from sinking into the clay on the only flat spot along this side, our dog Marigold perches uncomfortably between soft sinking clay and steep grassy bank. A Robin sings its fall song for a while, and I begin to paint the exposed roots of Manitoba Maple and the rusty fringe of frost-killed Ostrich Ferns draping the shoulder of the far bank.
The the river parallels the road in a deep clean clay channel and then loops away. In this dead-flat agricultural landscape, where Corn & Soy Beans are being harvested today, the only wooded area is a wide swath along the meandering river - woods which it doubtless defends each year by spring flooding. Manitoba Maple are turning yellow on some trees and curling up brown-edged on others. The water is low and clear with streaming Pondweed Potomogeton natans.  On the clay bank across from me the leaves of a sparse patch of Pickerel-weed have been left high by the low water.

Procyon lotor (Raccoon) tracks continuous all over the mud under the bridge span, as there has been at all three bridges. The air is full of the lovely sharp scent of Champlain Sea clay, as Fred pushes his way through dead twigs, grass and Wood Nettles down the steep trackless bank and into the stream. The clay stream bed supports his weight, perhaps aided by numerous embedded rotten sticks. Clay takes the place of bedrock here, even eroding out into smooth firm pebble in mid-channel. He picks up a few Elliptio complanata (Eastern Elliptio) shells and observed 5 living clams notched into the hard clay bottom. Each movement sets up clouds of clay, which billow downstream. A single small pale Orconectes Crayfish escaped capture in clouds of clay.

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