Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thank You All!

With a new year about to arrive, it seems an appropriate time to give thanks.  I'll celebrate the end of 2013 with a few favourite pictures from the year, but more important I want to thank all of you who visit this blog and thereby encourage and inspire me.

Queen Anne's Lace

It was only a few short months ago in June when I first started exploring the world of other blogs featuring nature and the outdoors.  I've been astonished at what I have found, and at the many of you who started visiting my blog after I checked out yours.  Now 100 or more of you care to check out what I've written, or the pictures I've taken on any given day.  You can't imagine the confidence that builds for someone who wants to do more writing and photography!

The comments you take the time to leave are even more amazing.  I know I'm not very good at doing that, but rest assured that I'm visiting and enjoying your many blogs.  I usually do that with my ipad in the morning in a comfy chair with my coffee, but I have to admit I still find it a nuisance to write long comments on an ipad.  But I appreciate each and every comment I receive.

Young Osprey on the Nest

While a few people did read my blog before, now I'm approaching 35,000 pageviews, and 400 posts.   Instead of posting once a week or so, I now try for 5-6 times a week.  And I use the blog to try out all kinds of ideas for other things I'm writing - I've written several articles for local newsletters here based on stories I first posted on the blog.  And of course having to post something nearly every day pushes me out the door with my camera.  I've never taken as many pictures in my life as the last six months, and the more you take the more you learn.  So thanks for pushing me by your visits and comments.

Georgian Bay west of Collingwood

But that's only the beginning, because I'm also inspired by your blogs.  I won't name names, but let me thank you for all the inspiration!

Thanks to those of you who blog about setting explicit goals, and your challenges in working toward them; you've set a good example for me.

Thanks to those of you who tell us about your daily life and its various struggles and blessings; it helps keep us all grounded.

Thanks to those of you who have the courage to share your personal loss; it makes my problems seem trivial, and pushes me to care.

Thanks to those of you who are writers, self-publishing books and other writings; you push me in the right direction for what I want to do.

Thanks to those of you who post beautiful photography; your photos are an inspiration to keep taking pictures and learning more.

Thanks to those of you who use your blog to report on your various hikes, travels, gardens, and expeditions; you've influenced my daily life more than you will ever know.

So Happy New Year to everyone, and thanks for an amazing few months of personal growth this year!

Day Lily in our Garden

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Favourite Big Old Sugar Maple

I snowshoed in along the 10th Sideroad the other day, one of my favourite winter walks, a fencerow of big old maples in front of fields on one side, and a large maple forest on the other.  There are numerous big trees, but today I'm just going to share pictures of one.

It's about 4' thick at the base, with numerous branches reaching out over the snow- covered stone fencerow into the adjoining field, now planted with young white pine.  Several of the individual branches are big enough to be old trees in their own right.

But I was fascinated by the wrinkly, cracked and crinkled bark twisted in curves, and wrapping itself around the base of branches. 

There was a big knot on the side of the trunk, probably where an old smaller branch had fallen off, but now completely covered over with bark scar-tissue.

In spite of its old age, it looked very healthy to me.  Horizontal branches were extending out nearly 20 feet over the fields.  Have you ever tried to hold something, even just a little piece of wood like a garden rake, out horizontally at the end of your arm?  I couldn't do it for long, but this tree has been doing it for 150+ years!

This big old giant just looks so dignified to me, its scarred and knot-ridden trunk strong enough to support a huge 60 foot wide canopy.  there are several big round knots up the trunk where other branches have fallen off in the past.

And this is the entire tree (well most of it), in case you're interested.  All the close-ups above were taken on a small area of trunk at my own eye height.  I think the big old trees around the Beaver Valley are one of my favourite things.  Happy New Year everyone!

In the interests of getting more of you to look at bark up close, I'm linking to:

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Yesterday the dog and I headed into the woods on the farm next door on snowshoes.  It was a challenge because of the crusty ice layer in the snow, but beautiful with 3" of fresh powder snow on top of the icy crust, and all over the dogwoods.

You can see the low layer of dogwood shrubs that grow beneath the trees throughout the east end of the woods in this picture, but before I show you the white wizardry of the dogwoods, let me tell you about the snowshoes.

I have 4 pair to choose from when I go snowshoeing - 2 old style larger ones (these are the 40 year old, 4 foot beaver tail snowshoes), and two modern pair, one of which is much smaller.  With the icy crust under the surface of the snow the larger snowshoes let me just walk across the snow easily, so those were the ones I chose - but I got to the point where I took the picture above, and the old leather harness broke.  I was forced to go back to the car and put on the smaller modern pair.

These are great for walking on a packed trail behind other snowshoers, but not so good for breaking trail.  With them on I sank through the crusty snow making only slow and arduous progress - except where I was following other snowshoe tracks part of the way.  And it's easy when you sink through for the toe to catch the icy crust and trip you into the deep snow just when you least expect it!

But  let's pretend that didn't happen.  These are the dogwoods.  They tend to hold their branches horizontally, and have small twigs that catch the snow, so walking through them is like being inside a world of powdery lace.

Snow was caught on every branch, in all directions, leaving the woods looking like a wizard had created a new world of fine white icing on every black twig, almost like being inside a blizzard.

It was late afternoon, the sun was starting to set, and the light was gentle in the woods, silhouetting these branches.

We did make it out to the open fields (this was where the corn was planted this summer), before tripping in the deep snow.  Slow going until I found another set of tracks I could follow back.

We looped through the swamp, now mostly frozen and buried in white.These fine branches had caught a lot of snow puffs.  I could just feel the snow drifting down the back of my neck if I tried to go through that!

Last year the trail went underneath this pile of deadfall.  At that time it was still leaning high enough in the air that you could walk under it only ducking your head a little.  It must have crunched to the ground over the summer.  We detoured around it and headed out to the trail home.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Snow Just Keeps Accumulating

It's been a cold and snowy December, with no thaw to reduce the snow.  And we just keep getting a little more almost every day, sometimes quite a bit, last night just a couple of inches of white fluff.  The snow we have compacts, but more is added, so it stays 18" - 24" deep.  And with the little bit of freezing rain last weekend, still coating twigs with ice, the snow is sticking to the trees.

One of the old apple trees along the fencerow.

 What are usually large moss-covered boulders, now scarcely visible under the snow.

A wild apple in the overgrown meadow next door, 
their many short twigs seem to hold the snow in bunches.

 Another old apple tree along the fencerow, this one with a few frozen apples still onboard.

 The old trail through a patch of woods across the road.

Snow-covered maples.

And some of the snow-draped spruce on yesterday's ski trails.

Hope you're all enjoying winter!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

New Nordic Ski Trails!

I've been anxiously awaiting the chance to try out the new 'Beaver Valley Nordic Ski Club' trails opened a few days ago at the top of the Beaver Valley Ski Club.  They've been developed by a team of volunteers, with support from staff of the downhill ski club, and cross both public and private land, through a variety of habitats.  So today, with the Christmas rush over, I strapped on the skis and headed out.

First time this year, and a two-hour ski - I'll have a few new aching muscles tonight.  Mind you I did go slowly and stop to take lots of pictures.

The first part of the trail goes along the edge of a large low-lying wetland containing the Lower Wodehouse Creek, the one that usually drops into a sinkhole, but on rare occasions forms an ephemeral waterfall over the cliff at the ski club.

A good deal of the trail goes through plantations of European Larch, planted about 30 years ago.  They hold the snow very easily, so it usually looks like a winter wonderland in here.

The lower branches of the larch, where there is little wind, really tend to hold large globs of snow, and we've had a lot, with no warmer weather to melt it, plus a bit of freezing rain to help it stick to the trees, so it's really snowy now.

Under one larch I stopped when I saw the ground was covered in little brown seeds and cone scales.  Obviously a red squirrel had been sitting up in this larch chewing the cones for dinner!

The ski trail through the trees crosses the old concession road part way along.  The surveyors who laid out townships in southwestern Ontario 160 years ago stuck stubbornly to their right-angled grid of lines, even when they hit the Niagara Escarpment cliffs.  This road goes downhill by way of a very long dog's-leg bend or two before emerging at the bottom.  Long impassible by vehicles, it's now only used by snowmobiles or ATVs.

Half-way north you climb gradually up onto the Banks Moraine, a ridge of land running along the top of the escarpment in this area.  It's what hems in Wodehouse Creek (flowing north to south from right to left in the middle of the picture), leaving it to seek sinkholes in the limestone instead of running straight to the edge of the escarpment and tumbling downhill.

Half the loop at the end of the trail runs through spruce plantation, where the trees were even more heavily laden with snow.  By this time it was also snowing heavily.

Altogether it was a good two-hour ski for me, only about two minutes from home.  I think I'm going to enjoy these trails quite a lot this winter!  You can find further info at: Beaver Valley Nordic.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

It's been a cold winter's day with a little fresh snow, and now Christmas has come and (mostly) gone.  These pictures were experiments in light painting, an assignment from the camera club I attend.  Hope you enjoy our Christmas tree!

The last was my favourite - Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Church of Our Lady, Interior

To continue the celebration, here are some pictures of inside the Church of Our Lady.  All the stained glass windows except the large rose window (1st below) have been cleaned in the last two years, but interior repainting is still to be done.  This church will be filled with people tonight for midnight mass.  I felt very welcome admiring the beauty of this church interior - see my story below.

 The giant east-facing great rose window over the entrance to the church.

 The view from the very back of the church, a majestic church to have built for 
a small town in 19th Century rural Ontario!

The second of five large stained glass windows down each side of the church, 
the sunlight glimmering off one of the pillars on the left.

The fourth of the five side windows, each sparkling in the sun the day I took these.

The smaller pair of side windows and high rose window in the south side entrance.

And finally, the front of the church, with the apse alcoves at the bottom and a ring of tall narrow windows at the top, under the domed roof, above the altar.

I had the nicest experience on entering the church with my camera - you couldn't enter this church the week before Christmas without sitting for a moment and whispering a small prayer for peace in the world.  I was the only person in the church.  Then an older woman walked in from a door in the sacristy at the front of the church, and came over and sat right beside me - now the only two people in the whole huge church!  I thought she was going to tell me 'No Pictures!'

But she was a sacristan for the church, and had been for 56 years, ever since coming to Guelph from Venice in Italy, in the early 1950s.  My wife is Italian too, and also immigrated in the 1950s, so we immediately had some common ground.  She told me her story in a quiet voice and we had a pleasant chat about her work for the church, and the ongoing restoration.  She hoped I was appreciating the beauty of the windows and would return after the interior repainting had been done.  I was left feeling very welcome, and I think I likely will return.  We parted wishing each other a Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Linking to:

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Church of Our Lady Immaculate, Guelph

The Church of our Lady is one of the landmarks of Guelph, built on the highest hill in the city (which was built on a drumlin field).  The site was given to the church by John Galt, the founder of Guelph, in 1827, but construction of the present church didn't start until 1877.  It is a simply glorious church!

The twin towers of the front are known all over Guelph, visible from a number of roads when you head into town because it's so high.  I've seen the towers from a favourite hike we used to do about 10 miles south of town.  They've undertaken a major restoration of the church over the past several years, slowing repairing stonework, cleaning the stained glass windows and repainting.

My dentist's office (the reason for the trip to Guelph) sits across the street, so when I arrived early and it was such a beautiful sunny, blue-sky day, I couldn't help taking a few pictures.  All these stained glass windows look amazing from the inside!

I particularly like the architecture of the apse at the back, with it's numerous alcoves and more glorious windows.

 Tomorrow, the night before Christmas, a look inside.

Linking to: