Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winter in the Valley

After yesterday's storm and this morning's streamers off Georgian Bay, winter has come to the valley. Trees are covered, the fields are white, and the ski clubs are open, snow making at full blast. There's still a haze of snow in the air, the hills of the valley looming faintly in the distance. And over it all loom the rocks of Old Baldy, as always.

It's harder to capture with a camera than you think, but here are a few shots -scroll down to see winter in the valley.


Serious winter has finally arrived!

We got even more snow overnight than I expected. The storm ended by midnight, but after the low pressure system had passed by with it's fine wet snow, the temperatures plunged, the winds shifted to the northwest, and we now have strong breezes off Georgian Bay bringing snow streamers southeast. It's mostly over Collingwood and Barrie, but we're getting the west edge of the streamers, so it's been snowing gently all morning. This is light fluffy stuff, accumulating on top of the heavier snow from yesterday.

Got the snowblower out for the first serious time cleaning the driveway; it's about 8 inches deep, or 20 cm. now. The snow has clung to everything, so I must get out with my camera later on. On days like this I feel sorry for people who don't like winter.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Still snowing!

The storm has gone all day, and it's been snowing now for 12 hours, though never very heavily. But we've accumulated a good 12-15 cm. of heavy wet snow on the ground, and it has stuck to all the branches in heavy white lines. I won't be surprised if some evergreen branches break under the weight of this snow, and I expect it will truly be a winter wonderland tomorrow.

The temperature is supposed to plunge tonight though, so I went out and cleaned off the cars, opening and shutting all the doors, in the hopes they won't freeze shut overnight. There'll be some work to be done in the morning! And maybe some photos to take.

Snow, but not enough yet

Well, the snowfall gradually increased as the day passed, and the world is white again. It's very fine, wet snow, so it's stuck to all the trees; tomorrow will be a winter wonderland. But because it's fine, it's packed pretty densely, not that light fluffy stuff that piles up deeply.

Judging by the radar, a lot of other places south and east of us got a good deal more snow than we have. Here it's only maybe 5 cm., but at least it has kept on snowing, and looks like it will keep snowing for quite a while yet. Not the deep snowfall I'd like, but a respectable snowfall, especially if the temperature drops as forecast, and it doesn't melt away like the past 4 snowfalls in December!

Here's hoping for lots more over the next week or two. Will there be enough for the first snowshoe hike of the year on Jan. 1st?

So Far, It's Disappointing

Two and a half hours later, and so far, this storm is disappointing. While the radar showed rain, then snow all around us, nothing has actually happened outside til now. Now, if you watch really really closely, you can see some fine snowflakes drifting down. The snow is so fine and falling so gently, you really have to concentrate even to see it, while the radar still shows this great big swirling storm, now overhead. Bah humbug! I want some real winter!

Before the Storm

I love watching a passing storm, both on the radar and out the window. It's been almost a no-snow Christmas, which I expect has disappointed a lot of people, but the forecast suggests we're now finally going to get some serious white stuff.

The radar shows a huge swirling storm centered over the eastern U.S., with the leading edge moving up from Michigan across Lake Huron. It should reach us within an hour or so. Looks like it will be rain at first, and then as temperature drops, it will turn to snow. When and how much we'll get remains a question.

For me, the bigger this storm is the better.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Crazy Weather for December!

Well, it's winter again this morning, -10, and a light dusting of snow, so at least things look white everywhere. But that's after another two days of cold rain, and all the earlier snow disappeared. A lot of people who plan to spend the winter skiing and snowshoeing will be disappointed if we don't get some serious snow soon!

And the ski clubs are already struggling. Just a poor thin bit of white on one or two slopes of each club when we drove to Collingwood the other day. They'll have the snowblowers going like mad today and tomorrow with the cold temperatures, in hopes of Christmas holiday skiing.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Finally, it's Cold!

It did snow yesterday, wet and sticky snow that covered everything, though the temperature was hovering close to zero. But then overnight the temperature plunged and we woke up to a bit more snow, and minus 15! All the wet sticky snow had turned to crunchy popcorn ice, and the cars were totally frozen shut.

Today has been a beautiful, if cold, winter day. Sunshine, blue skies, and snow on every tree trunk, every hawthorn twig, every weed and blade of grass in the field. Walked through the woods and around the trails on the old farm west of us, and it was absolutely beautiful in the late afternoon sun. Should have taken the camera.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Where is Winter?

The late fall season drags on, postponing the skiing and snowshoeing. We've just finished two long days of cold December rain, leaving us with no snow at all. And the whole landscape is saturated.

Today the snow is back, but only a little. Though we were under a streamer off the lake for a few minutes earlier, there's still only an inch or two of white stuff. The world looks pretty, but not enough snow for any serious winter stuff. Sooner we get a foot or two the better for me!

........... wait! We must be under the shifting streamer again; it's snowing. Here's hoping for more!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Snowing all Day

It's been snowing all day, starting overnight, and continuing just as light snow that was supposed to amount to a cm. or two. It was lake effect snow, brought by the strong westerly winds that covered all of southern Ontario, and by dark it amounted to nearly 4 or 5 inches.

Lake effect snow flurries look very different on the radar than low pressure systems, like the last storm to go through. Low pressure systems usually show up as a long curving band of rain, moving up from the U.S., often all the way from the Gulf. They move north or northeast and gradually out to the Atlantic, either via Quebec and Labrador or further south, by the U.S. Atlantic coast, New England and the Maritimes.

Lake effect snow just comes from the Great Lakes, emerging 'on-the-spot' on the radar, and moving east, but in a continuous pattern where more snow is always emerging in the air being carried over the lakes, and blowing east. Our snow tends to come from Lake Huron, while winds over Lake Erie dump snow on Niagara Region and Buffalo, and winds over Georgian Bay dump the white stuff on the area from Collingwood to Parry Sound.

In late afternoon the clouds that had been overhead all day dispersed, and briefly we had clear blue sky, until it faded to dusk, with a huge full moon looming over the trees in the east. Until we get snow cover, evenings in late fall are very dark, but once the landscape is covered in snow, a full moon can make it very easy to see outside just because of the reflection.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winter seems to finally be here

Woke up to 6" of snow this morning, after a long day of rain yesterday. It was a typical low pressure system moving through, the warm front coming first, with the all day rain. The winds changed a lot over the day, starting from the east before the warm front, and moving around to come from the south after the front went through. As the low moved northeast, the winds gradually moved to come from the southeast, bringing yet more rain all evening. Meanwhile, the entire system was moving up from the southwest, on its way from Mississippi to Labrador.

But overnight the low moved off to the east, and the cold front behind it arrived from the arctic, with winds totally shifting 180' to come from the northwest. It was supposed to bring a cm or 3 of snow, but it brought a full measured 15 cm. The world was white.

By noon the sun was out though, and the snow was starting to slide off the steep garage roof. We get heavy piles on the driveway when this happens, the fallen piles of snow packing hard, just as happens in an avalanche. So it seemed a good idea to blow it out of the way before the piles froze, and I got the snowblower out of the garage for the first time this season. It promptly rode up over the pile of snow, twisted, and starting scraping metal and blowing blue smoke instead of blowing snow! Didn't even finish the driveway and it's off to get repaired.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fall Berries

Most of November is dark browns and greys, but here are there are still flashes of colour like these berry-bearing shrubs.

This is barberry, a thorny shrub about 3-4 feet high and 5-6 feet across, with both berries and small leaves that turn bright red or orange. It flashes its colour from a fencerow, the brightest spot around.

These two photos are highbush cranberry, with leaves that remind you of maple leaves. Both the leaves and the berries turn bright red, though the picture was taken a couple of weeks ago.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lichens Revealed

At first glance November is a dark month, the grey and black trees and the brown meadows and fields, usually with no flowers left in bloom and few birds braving the cooler weather. It's a challenge to get photographs that portray the season. But if you look closely, many things are revealed. One of my favourites is the lichen on the big boulders of the fencerow.

Almost everywhere I go exploring I find old stone fencerows, now lost in the woods, the boundaries of some long forgotten fields. This one is right in our own yard, where we have a stone fencerow providing background for the garden.

Lichens are one of the plant groups I've never learned to identify, but maybe I'll make it a new project. They are actually two plants, a fungus and an algae, living in a co-operative or 'symbiotic' relationship where the algal partner brings the ability to photosynthesize, helping the fungus survive.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Winter has Arrived!

Winter arrived with a surprising white blanket of snow this morning. The forecast predicted possibly 1 mm of 'mixed' precipitation, but we woke to a good 10-15 cm of white, a thick blanket that was clinging to everything, all the tree trunks, branches and twigs coated.

Getting pictures that do justice to the winter scene, in the bright white light, is one of the notorious photographic challenges. I'm learning slowly though, experimenting with exposure compensation, so all these photos were slightly over-exposed, but they reflect the actual light well.

The dog loved it, rolling in the snow on her back, and then taking off running, pulling and tugging. The colder weather gives her an energy boost.

I've worked hard to expand our garden this fall, spreading 16 yards of soil, triple mix and manure, then covering it all with leaf mulch. At times it seemed like the work would never finish, but the weather held off and I did finish, on Monday - just in time for it all to be covered with snow today.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Valley from Old Baldy

Literally hundreds of people flock to the short section of the Bruce Trail leading in to the cliffs of Old Baldy, or Kimberly Rock, over the Thanksgiving weekend. But not many come later in the season, when the bright colours of the valley are mostly gone, and only the golden aspen brighten the landscape. We walked the trail on the last Saturday of October, and got a very different view of the valley.

This photo is a view south from the highest lookout, with the Beaver Valley Ski Club in the middle of the distant west slope. Only one obvious hayfield remains being harvested in the bottom of the valley, while most slopes are reverting to forest rapidly, after former farms sell to rural non-farm residents.

And this photo looks north, the long west slope toward Epping in dark shadow. The farm below the cliffs is one of many that is no longer, and the fields are coming up in weeds as nature starts its natural succession back to forest.

In 50 years, I wonder how many of these views will be left.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Tamarck are Gold

One of the small highlights of fall is when the tamarack needles turn golden. They stand out like a beacon down in the swamps, and I've planted a small cluster of them just to enjoy two weeks of their gold colour at this time of year.

Tamarack are the only native evergreen which loses its needles every year (not counting those pines that I noticed several weeks ago, that lose their needles after 16 months, when next year's needles are already grown). Tamarack needles occur in large but tiny bunches - only an inch and a bit long, but in bunches of up to 20 needles, and they have tiny little cones, only about 1/2 an inch long.

Every year I watch for the time, at the end of October and into November, when the needles turn gold. It marks a time of year when a lot else changes too, as the sunny warm days are just about over, and we have the preparations for winter well in hand.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Heavy Frost

Heavy frost the other morning (and far too much rain recently). I watch the weather network and radar constantly while I hope for sunny days so I can do a little more in the garden before snow flies. And sunny days are often preceded by morning frost after a clear night.

Frost patterns fascinate me, and they are so much more obvious on some things than others. On the mown lawn they etch the grass and clover in white, but in the long grass of the meadow they hardly show up. Out in the middle of the lawn the frost may be quite heavy, but under the trees of the fencerow there is no frost at all - all a function of air flow under the clear night sky. And in the morning the white landscape melts and vanishes in a matter of an hour or two as the sun rises; you can watch the melt cross the lawn as different areas emerge from shade into the sun. Frost is another of nature's very ephemeral changes.

Even the fallen leaves and piles of weeds from the garden end up tinged in white.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Buzzing Bees

The bees, wasps and other nectar-loving insects haven't wanted to quit in the garden.

Though most of the garden has lost its colour, and the flowers have now gone, two weeks ago we still had two purple mums at the edge of the flower bed. Walking past them you could literally hear the buzzing of the bees, perhaps a dozen or two, working away visiting as many blossoms as they could.

If you looked closely there were several different kinds of bees and wasps just humming over the plants, presumably trying to get some final nourishment before the winter hibernation. I tried getting some close-up pictures, but the bees were buzzing so constantly that it was a challenge to get any of them in focus. Now they've vanished, and the flowers are fading after the first frost. It will be late summer next year before we see many of them again.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Late Fall has Suddenly Arrived

Thanks in large part to a four-day wet and windy weekend only one week after Thanksgiving, the leaves have mostly fallen, and the trees are looking stark against the sky, just like mid-November.

I flip through my pictures of 10 days ago, and they are brilliant in red, orange, and bright yellows. This morning's shots are black or grey against a stark blue sky. One of the big changes in the seasons over the year has just occurred.

You can pick out the trees easily by their branching and twig patterns, the sharp spikes of the young white ash trees reaching for the sky close together, the coarse branches of the older ash trees, the occasional poplar that still has some yellow leaves. I shudder to think what will happen if we get the Emerald Ash Borer up here; 80% of the younger trees in this landscape are white ash saplings I think.

Along one of the fencerows are a cluster of big symmetrical maples that were covered in orange only a week ago; it's the maples that add the most colour to the fall landscape - for a fleeting 2 or 3 weeks.

Even down in the swamp, the leaves are all gone, the red and silver maple standing in a sea of green duckweed. Time to get the fall chores done before the first snow comes!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend was Brilliant!

Well, it's been far too nice weather to be huddled over a computer indoors. Been just too busy enjoying being outside to think of blogging! Thanksgiving weekend was brilliant, brilliant colours, and brilliant weather. The colours seemed to be just at their peak, and the weather let people get out and enjoy them.

Maple and oak leaves turned bright red and orange, while the sumach just turned brilliant red. Seeing them early in the morning with the sun shining through them shows off the colour best - that magic hour of early morning sun for outdoor photography.

Got lots of work done outdoors too, while the weather was so good. Went hiking, and ate lots of turkey. Now the sun has ended, and we're into several days of cooler wet weather, a much better time to be indoors. And most of the leaves have suddenly fallen in the rain; the bright Thanksgiving colours were just one of those ephemeral beauties of nature.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Praying Mantis

Before we had this crazy weekend of cold, windy and then rainy wet weather for 3 days, I spotted a praying mantis in the garden. It's always been one of my favourite insects - perhaps because it's one that as a young child I could actually catch in my fingers.
It was crawling through the garden, and as I chased it with my camera lens it climbed up a bush, where it hung upside down on the reddish leaves for awhile before moving on to sit on a big rock. It's a predator of other insects, so its a beneficial one to have in your garden. I was glad to see it around.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

White Pines and their Needles

This is the time of year that the white pines lose their inner needles - the needles that grew last year. While the pines have looked green all summer, now they're green on the outside and golden yellow on the inner branches. In a few weeks the inner golden needles will fall off, and the pines will be back to green.

I was once asked by a worried homeowner who saw the golden needles in the fall what disease his white pines had, and what could he do about it. Before that I hadn't been aware myself that the needles of white pine trees are held on the branches for about 18 months. All the needles now turning colour are the needles on branches that started growing a year and a half ago.

Just one of the many interesting patterns you can see in nature.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall Colours are Suddenly Here

Suddenly, after a few cold nights, and noticeably shorter days, fall colours are appearing in the trees. Young silver and sugar maples are one of the earliest to turn, and among the brightest orange or red. This is a young silver maple that we planted in our meadow.

One of my favourites is the sumach. Growing in dense large clumps that shade out anything else, it forms bright red masses of compound leaves like this one. A few branches will turn red first, and then slowly the rest of the sumachs turn til they're a bright red feature in the landscape for a week or two.

The large round heart-shaped leaves of the basswood turn yellow. Young saplings, like this one, turn before the mature trees do. Together all these leaves paint the trees in a burst of colour before the leaves finally drop and summer ends.

Friday, September 23, 2011

It's Fall in the Garden

It's fall in the garden, and the last few bright plants from the summer are rapidly disappearing. With the colder temperatures (and a very long rain all day today), the garden will soon be going to sleep, while we look forward for 6 long months to next spring.

This rather weird looking flower has huge leaves, with a slight tinge of purple to them, and sports these bedraggled looked but bright orange-yellow blossoms at the end of the summer. It's called Ligularia, and it does add some interesting colour and texture to the garden.

These are the bright red blossoms of scarlet runner beans no less! They're steadily being replaced with the beans themselves now, 8" or more long, and nearly 1" wide.

And the best remaining flowers in the garden are the brown-eyed susans, a large circle of them around a great big limestone boulder that sits in the middle of our yard.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Canoeing in the North

Well, it's not the Beaver Valley, but it is a sign of the seasons, at least for me - time for the annual canoe trip. This year we went to The Massassauga Provincial Park, an amazing canoeing area just sound of Parry Sound, on the east side of Georgian Bay. Since the scenery was so spectacular, I thought I'd just share a few photos.

Northern Lakes -White Pine and the Precambrian Shield

Beautiful September Days

Exploring the corners

Rattler - A Massassauga

The Giant Snapper Comes to Visit

Dawn on Clear Lake

Last Morning - Spider Lake