Friday, November 29, 2013

Winter Sunset and Sunrise

It's been a beautiful two cold winter days, starting out about -20, but warming up by mid-afternoon as the sun and blue skies lasted all day.  But a dentist trip yesterday and errands today meant that all I photographed were the sunset yesterday, and the sunrise today - so here's 16 hours of two cold winter days, the sunset shot on the neighbouring farm, the sunrise from our balcony

Walking yesterday, the sun was setting behind the fencerow of old maple trees.




This morning the sun rose into a line of dark gray clouds before reaching the blue sky for the day.

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Spectacular Winter Day!

It was a great winter day when I awoke early this morning.  We found nearly a foot of fresh powder snow from last night, covering everything in white, and the sun rising into a clear blue sky.  Mind you it was 20 below on the thermometer (that's about -4 Fahrenheit for those of you who aren't metric).  Unfortunately I had an early dentist appointment, so couldn't get any morning pictures, but the snowblower did get a good workout.

As evening was drawing near though I did get out, again through the farm next door, and this time the snowshoes were really useful.   The sky was still really beautiful, with a lot of linear cloud patterns.

We entered the woods along the old tractor trail as usual, and passed the big trees at the end of the fencerow.  There were no fresh tracks to see today, but lots of deep snow.

This big sugar maple marks the entrance to the woods, and today had captured a line of snow all the way up.  Before long I also came upon the young beech saplings I can count on seeing.

These are one of my favourites in the woods in the winter.  They're the only tree in the woods that tends to retain their leaves through the season and I will likely try several times to get a picture which does them justice.

Looking through the woods all the young dogwoods and ash saplings in the understory had captured little snowballs of snow in their branches.
Out across the fields we picked our way through the corn stubble, and headed up the old farm lane.  It's bordered on both side by those old stone fences I mentioned before, here heavily snow-covered.  You can see it's high enough to cut off my view to the west.

Eventually we crossed the last field and headed out through a vacant lot back to the road, trudging through well over a foot of snow (trudging on my part; leaping on the dog's part).

That's Roxie, our dog on the left.  She looks like a coyote except for her white collar, and she loves the snow, plunging her face right down into it after the smell of mice and voles, or putting her nose down and running along the deer tracks.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Late Fall Patterns

In my wanderings round the valley over the past few weeks with my camera, I've noticed a number of interesting patterns, so I've put some of these together to illustrate the late fall season from a somewhat different perspective.  Tonight it's snowing heavily, so perhaps I'll have some early winter shots in a few days, but these were taken over the past six weeks.

Maple leaves, mid October

Pebble beach, late October

Barberry shrub, late October

Larch needles, early November

 Light snowfall on pine needles, mid-November

Maple leaves in the rain, mid-November

Ice in the puddles, mid November

Ice in the puddles #2, mid November

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Turkey Scratchings

We headed into the woods at the back of the neighbouring farm today for the first time this season.  I usually only walk here in the winter, when I can let the dog run free and tire her out!  I put on the small snowshoes to help pack the trail, though I didn't really need them.  And immediately we started finding fresh tracks - not as obvious wildlife as yesterday's porcupine sitting photogenically on the trail, but the much more typical evidence you find of wildlife you rarely see.  We also found turkey scratchings!

These are what I interpreted to be turkey scratchings.  I don't think I've ever seen this before, but turkeys are becoming more and more common around here.  A group of them had obviously scratched away at the snow, uprooted the leaves below, in search of food.  Another pattern I can watch for in the woods.  Presumably they do this all fall, but of course you don't notice it until we have a snowfall.

The first tracks we saw appeared to be a pack of coyotes, and they appeared to be following the group of turkeys.  First time I've seen turkey tracks in this woods, let alone turkey scratchings!.

There were certainly lots of deer tracks, a small group of them following each other along the trail.  You can easily recognize the cloven-hoofed footprints with the two large front toes.

There were snowshoe hare tracks, though I didnt' get a picture, and these tiny squirrel tracks, ending appropriately at a hollow tree.  That's five different species of unseen wildlife passing by when I wasn't around.

Then we came out the cornfield, and I was glad to see it had been harvested, so we'll be able to walk here this winter.  It's a great, convenient place to snowshoe, and the owners welcome us to the trails. They're now mostly winter weekenders, although it is their old family farm.

Three weeks ago when I walked here to check it out I was met by this 8 foot high wall of corn at the spot where the above picture was taken. These fields have been hay as long as I've walked here, but with the price of corn this year, the hay was plowed up and corn planted in every corner.

There will be several visits here over the winter.  The most interesting feature of this farm is the group of old stone fencerows - not jumbled piles of rocks gathered from the fields, but actual dry stone walls, in some places five feet high and four feet thick.  These are the most beautiful stone walls I've ever seen on a farm in Ontario. 

But at this point my camera battery ran out, so those will have to wait.

By the way, yesterday I passed 30,000 pageviews, 60% of them in the last 6 months, and today I hit 233 in one day, the highest ever.  So thanks for visiting!!  See you next time.

Monday, November 25, 2013


There he was, right on the trail.  I was scouting out a proposed cross-country skiing route in Kimberley Forest.  I came around a corner out of the larch plantation, past some sumachs and onto the Bruce Trail, and he was sitting directly ahead of me on the trail.

Porcupines are pretty common animals in the wild around here.  They particularly like the bark of pine trees, and often do a lot of damage in pine plantations.  But generally they're harmless and slow - unless you have a dog off a leash!  This one certainly didn't seem inclined to move out of my way.

He was munching on a wild apple, and didn't even seem to look up as I stepped toward him and took a moment to get the camera ready.

 But perhaps he was watching me out of the corner of his eye.

He looked up briefly, though his eyes are so black that they're hard to pick out among the fur.  Then he went back to munching.

Finally he decided I was perhaps a threat as I stepped closer.  He turned from the apple, raised his quills in the usual 'watch out - don't come closer' posture, and started to amble off.  At this point I backed off so he could go back to his apple, which he did.

This was 10 days ago, before the 6+ inches of white stuff and -15 temperatures we have out there now!

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Winter is Here!

Winter is here, I expect to stay!  It was 16 below this morning, and we got a fresh 6" of snow yesterday.  And the forecast is for below freezing for the next two weeks.  Luckily we missed the nearby streamers off the lake, or we might have had much more.  Still the world was white today, and the snowblower got its first workout.

This is the bench we never sit in...but it looks nice!  Personally, I'm one who enjoys winter, or at least, since it's inevitable, have learned to enjoy it.  And I would much rather have temperatures a bit below freezing and some snow than cold November rains! 

Snow Streamers

And this is the radar I now check out regularly, though the colour turned out a little dark.  This storm was preceded by a cold front moving down from western Canada and the arctic, pushing the warmer air of last week out of the way.  Following the cold front the winds shifted and strengthened, blowing southeast off Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.

You can see here what I refer to as the 'streamers' of snow coming off the lakes. You can see here that they're stronger this time off Georgian Bay than off Lake Huron.  And this time we're in the gap between them.  (On the radar they're constantly moving southeast).  The same phenomenon happens at the east end of Lake Erie over Buffalo, on the east side of Lake Michigan, and the east side of Lake Superior.  It fascinates me to watch the changing weather patterns and try to understand them.

But I didn't have time to get out to the woods today, so I just took these in the yard.  Somehow pictures never do justice to winter, because they aren't accompanied by the cold feeling you have while out taking them!  These are a few of the big boulders in the old fencerow.

The yellow plastic chair - these are the indestructible recycled plastic chairs that can be left out all winter.  They're my favourite because here under the apple tree is where I sit while resting from gardening all summer long.

The bird bath is old and never has water, but I thought it looked nice with the snow cap and some seed heads of some coneflowers waving over it.

The evergreens always catch the most snow, and provide shelter for the birds at the winter feeders.

Now the meadow is white and will probably stay that way.  Only the tough goldenrod stems remain upright; all the grass is flattened and buried under the snow.

Another view - I rarely bother with photos of the meadow, 'cause I can never avoid the hydro lines or that obvious hydro pole!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Exploring the November Woods

During November the world inside the woods opens up and you notice things you pass by in the summer when the leaves are so dominant.  At this time of year some of the hidden messages of the forest become apparent, and there are many if you know how to read the signs in the woods.

In the valley here we often have signs of former farmland in the woods.  Valley slopes are long and steep, but pioneer farmers bravely cleared the slopes and pastured them.  As early mixed farming became uneconomic though, the fields were abandoned and trees started to regrow.  But the signs of farm fields, like this old 'snake' rail fence built of split cedar rails with no fence posts, are still there to see.

In the Kimberley Forest where I walked the other day, cross-country ski trails were cut 40 years ago.  Wide and easy to walk, they provide numerous easy trails to walk today - though some are now badly eroded and need some rehab.

This was one of the old ski trail bridges I came across.  There were four of them across this little stream, providing trails back and forth across the slopes.  Only one remains in usable condition today.

But the stream itself tumbles down the slope, originating in a year-round spring higher up, just at the base of the steepest slopes.  The sound of its bubbling over rocks was with me for quite awhile as I climbed up the slope beside it.

Eventually the slope became gentler, as the underlying geological formations changed (that's another story), so much so that the stream formed 2 or 3 different channels in places, as here.  It was certainly a nice day to be wandering in the woods.  With temperatures just below freezing and a skiff of snow, walking was easy.

And then there were deer beds, where their body heat had melted the snow overnight.  I saw several deer, but certainly not close enough nor standing still long enough for a picture.

One of many deer trails through the woods - more easily visible in November with the thin layer of snow on the ground.

In other places there were more signs of earlier civilization, like this now heavily overgrown apple tree.  The slopes of the valley are still used for apple growing, because the slopes provide cold air drainage lessening the danger of late spring frost.

Another sign of a former farm now a rural retreat, this old farm lane high on the slope, lined with large maple trees.  The former field on one side is filled with young ash saplings and on the other with planted pine trees.

And several more remnants of old 'snake' cedar rail fences sit in different parts of the forest, this one marking an old boundary between two farms.

Now and then there was a view out of the forest too, here with the familiar landmark of 'Old Baldy' or 'Kimberley Rock' in the distance, a photo taken when walking out the old concession road on the flats down by the river.

Hope you too get out to enjoy the woods in November.

Note: I've been playing around with photo editing in 'Lightroom', and adjusted the lighting in these pictures more than I usually do, and I think I'm pleased with the results.  As you can see I've also learned how to put a copyright on them, though I've tried to keep it inconspicuous (lower right hand corner of each photo).

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