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.