Saturday, November 27, 2010

Winter Has Come to the Valley

Winter has arrived in the valley. A 'Storm Warning' and 'Snowsquall Warning' the weather forecast said, and the snow arrived, about 6 inches of it, turning the ground white, while the strong wind howled around the cabin.

The Valley - Talisman Ski Resort lower left.

Some people retreat from winter, or head south, but we enjoy it. Winter walks, snowshoeing, and skiing all let you get outside. Others jump on their snowmobiles at the earliest opportunity, and organized, clearly marked snowmobile trails run for miles through the countryside.

The Valley - Cliffs of Old Baldy upper right

Skiing is important to the valley, with two downhill ski clubs bringing dozens of seasonal and full-time jobs. More than a few local farmers have supplemented their income with winter work on the ski hills while snow closes down work on the farm. The ski hills will soon turn on their snowmaking, once the temperature stays below freezing, and soon the skiers will be back.

The countryside is wrapped in its first blanket of white for the year, covering the fields, the fencerows and the woodlots. We have the snowshoes and snowblower ready, and in the meantime, just hunker down and prepare for indoor hobbies, quilting and writing, and over the next few weeks several Christmas dinners.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Apple-Stashing Squirrels and Milkweed Seeds

Lots of little things happen as the seasons pass, and November is no exception. The red squirrels have been busy in the old apple trees along the fencerow, stashing apples in the crotches of the branches, presumably to keep them high and dry for later. Who knows if they actually return and eat them!

Elsewhere I've seen squirrels do the same thing with mushrooms - creating a mushroom tree, decorated with white mushrooms drying in the open air.

At the same time, November is a major time of seed dispersal. Returning from a walk you (and the dog) are decorated with burrs of several different kinds; even the tiny goldenrod seeds stick to your clothes briefly to get carried away from the parent plant.
But milkweed seeds are the most obvious, bursting out of the cocoons that have held them, and blowing away in the wind. Each small round brown seed is held aloft for awhile by a white parachute of silk. .

Mysteriously, I've noticed that different patches of milkweed seem to disperse their seeds at different times, even though all the plants in any one patch release their seeds at the same time. A patch near our garage was exploding in tiny white parachutes in September, but a patch 100 yards away just released its seeds now.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Brilliant November Days!

A week of brilliant, blue-sky, warm days in November, a big bonus at this time of year, especially after last week's snow! Trees are standing stark against the sky, their leaves gone, trunks and branches black and grey against the blue, the ridges and patterns of the bark more obvious. The grass, weeds and shrubs are 40 shades of brown.

November is an in-between month for many, too cold to be comfortable outside, but no snow for winter sports yet. But for others it is a great time to be outside - the soybean harvest is just being finished, wild turkeys in big groups are picking up spilled beans in the fields (we saw probably 150 today). Hunting season is here, a great week outdoors for many - venison in the freezer for winter. And if you didn't get those October chores done, a week like this lets you catch up before snow flies.

I like November because you can see so well through the trees. Buildings hidden all summer show up on the slopes of the valley, among the forest. Rock formations, the rocks of the Niagara Escarpment, are more visible. Old stone fencerows emerge from the undergrowth reminding you of the folks who cleared this land 150 years ago. The landscape is laid bare so to speak, visible to all for awhile until snow flies.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The First Snow of Winter

The first real snow of winter, turning the world white. A wet snow, clinging to trees and twigs and grass, but melting on contact with the driveway or the boulders in the old fencerow.
It's notoriously hard to take a picture that captures the bright whiteness of a snowy day. By 4 p.m. at this time of year the sky is already starting to darken, and the bright whiteness is gone. But snow on the twigs give some sense of the beauty. Even the hawthorn meadow looks pretty in this weather.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tamaracks are Gold

About 2 or 3 weeks after all the maples, ash and oaks have turned colour and then lost their leaves, the tamarack turn their needles to gold, a last sign of summer before winter snow arrives.

Tamarack are the only coniferous trees here that lose their needles every fall. Growing in a small bunch, the needles turn yellow-gold and fall off, leaving the tree as stark as deciduous trees over the winter. I've always seen this as a last burst of the glory of summer, and I've planted a small patch of tamarack at the back of our own property, just to look at at this time of year.