Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pixie Cups

Another warm spell arrived overnight, and the temperature soared to +10°C, taking away the little bit of snow we had decorating the grass and garden.  So I headed out along our old stone fencerow again, to hunt for different kinds of lichens.

All of these are Pixie Cup lichens.  There are actually several species in this group, but they are virtually identical visually.  Exact species must be determined by their chemistry.  Pixie Cups is good enough for me!

This time I took my tripod, a kneeling pad, and my macro lens and took my time, paying attention to shutter speed and depth of fields to try and get sharper pictures.  I'm pleased with the results, though I've been very lazy about doing this the past summer.

They're mostly just about 1/2 an inch tall, and the 'cups' are 1/8 of an inch across or less.  I really had to bend down low and hunt to find these among the mossy boulders.

This group was growing on the vertical face of one boulder, curving and growing upwards.

So we end November with almost no snow, and very little in the forecast, but probably colder temperatures coming.  On Saturday we visited the Christmas Market in Flesherton, an important event in the season for those in the know around here - and we got all our Christmas baking done in 1/2 an hour!

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Chickadees and Goldfinch

Our bird feeding efforts in the winter are pretty limited.  We rarely see anything other than Chickadees and Goldfinch.  I think it's because we don't have a lot of trees or shrubs nearby for them to seek shelter in, or use as a sheltered stopping point on the way to the feeder.  But we have had at least a few of these visit the feeders.

However, getting good pictures of them is another story!  Even with my telephoto, these pictures pale in comparison to the bird pictures I see on many other blogs.  I am increasingly impressed whenever I do see great close pictures of birds, 'cause I know what a challenge that is!

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sunny Skies - Briefly!

For a brief hour or two we had half-sunny skies this morning, the second time in 2 weeks of grey November weather.  Walked to the end of the road and got at least a few pictures.

The entire winter storm of last week has gone, and now we just have a bit of white stuff between the brown grasses - well below freezing though.

Tree silhouettes seem to be prevalent in all the sky photos you take for the next six months of the year!

Around the corner, looking down the loop road where we live.  The distant dark horizon is the far side of the valley.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all my American readers!  We enjoyed ours with family six weeks ago.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fall Fences

Well, I'm running out of things to photograph around the yard under these grey November skies, especially while I can't yet drive to go exploring.  I'm going to have to dip into the archives to see what I can find.  These fences were photographed about 6 weeks ago in mid-October.

In lots of places along the Bruce Trail there's a stile to allow hikers to cross fences - although there are no longer any cattle in this field.

Just down the road I spotted this overgrown abandoned shed, with a bit of old snow-fencing blocking it off.

And around the corner was this board fence, originally intended to keep horses in I expect.

Here's another stile on the Bruce Trail.  You can see the white blaze on the old maple tree to the right.  The blue sign indicates the beginning of a side trail that goes down into the valley from here.

Over and over I see these fences with the fenceposts so close together.

And while out driving around I really liked this open view all the way down into the valley and up the other side, on one of our steepest sideroads.  Once the leaves are down, you can see the entire road.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lichens in the Fencerow

With the snow all suddenly gone after a day of warm winds, the fencerow was transformed back from huge marshmallows of white to its usual November appearance, dark, green and mossy.  And on some of the big boulders, one of my favourite plants became visible again, the lichens.

Lichens are not actually 'plants'; they are a combination of an algae and a fungus, living in a 'mutually beneficial relationship' known as 'symbiosis'.  They're a very obvious and interesting part of our old stone fencerow, especially in early spring and late fall, when other leaves aren't around to hide them.

This is the old fencerow, filled with boulders painstakingly dragged off the fields by teams of horses 130 years ago or so.  They're quite a mixture of limestone boulders, and granite 'glacial erratics', brought here by the glaciers.  My impression is that the limestone boulders tend to attract the moss, while lichens are more often found on the granite boulders.  By the end of the day all the snow in the background was gone.

Personally, many of these boulders are so big I simply don't know how they moved them.  This is one of the best example of a really lichen-covered boulder.

This type of lichen seems to typically, but not always, form a circle, and as it gets larger, the fruiting bodies become apparent in the centre, while the foliose 'leaves' reach ever outwards.

A close look at the centre is fascinating!

In any case, the lichens and moss provide some interesting patterns all along our bouldery fencerow.

I did manage to find one small book on lichens, 'Lichens of the North Woods', and even though it's for areas a little north of here, judging by the pictures I'd say this is one of the Rock Shield lichens.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Racing Clouds

The clouds were absolutely racing across the sky today, bringing scattered rain, but more important bringing warm temperatures - over 10°C a good part of the day.  The snow has just evaporated!  The yard below had over 2 feet of snow on Friday morning!

I sat in my favourite chair by the window and took this series of pictures over just about 10 minutes.  The sky was constantly changing as the winds blew the clouds out of the southwest.

You have to picture the clouds racing across, and the wind howling in the trees.  No damage here, but it certainly was a windy day.

There were even little patches of blue among the clouds occasionally.

Notice I didn't say that the snow 'melted', which in my mind implies a change from a solid to a liquid.  No, virtually all the snow just evaporated, drawn away into thin air by the warm temperatures, and helped by the constant wind.

I don't ever recall a week of such weather changes, from normal November, to deep snow, and back to well above freezing and almost no snow left at all.  Strange weather patterns.

A great visit from my sister today, 'cause she stopped in at a bakery on the way and came laden with gifts of cookies, squares, and pie.  I'm all set for a month or more!

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Weather Sequences and Timing

The big patterns of weather are what create the seasons here in the valley as elsewhere, from summer heat to winter cold and snow.  But after the past six days I've been thinking more about how the details of weather events day-by-day make a very big difference.

We're now in the middle of a big melt, with heavy rain forecast tonight, after two days last week of heavy snow.  From 2 feet plus of light powder snow we've dropped to a few inches of heavy wet packing snow as the snow subsides in on itself.  The driveway and the roads are now bare.  And it's not going to snow again anytime soon.

But it's the sequence, in this case from cold to warm, that determines what we actually see and cope with out there - deep snow, sloppy slush, ice, or bare ground.  The melt also means that the snow avalanches off our roof with a big 'whoosh', and forms a lumpy ridge where it falls.

If the warmer weather continues for a day or two, these snow ridges melt away, but if it turns cold again quickly, the snow ridges turn  to virtual ice, and the snowblower is useless, just riding up over them.  I need to get the steel shovel out and chop them into pieces!

Likewise the driveway.  A day of melting leaves a thin coating of soft ice all across the drive.  If it turns cold and freezes again at this point, we're in big trouble (our driveway goes up a gentle hill).  I have to get out the 'pickled' sand (with salt added) and scatter a track for the car to get out on.  But if it stays warm another day, the soft ice disappears entirely, and we're back to a gravel driveway.

So the sequence and timing of these specific weather events like heavy snowfalls and sudden thaws makes all the difference in our actual experience of the seasons around here.  Luckily, today the melt is continuing so the drive is now back to gravel, and the snow ridges will melt - but I don't know about the big ridge where the snow crashed onto our deck.  If it freezes it won't likely get moved all winter!

Not getting out to do much photography, so I've dug into the archives.  These tree pix were taken a year ago today, at our neighbours across the road.

Friday, November 21, 2014

An Hour of Sunshine!

The morning started out with an almost cloudless blue sky, and the sun rose to shed it's brilliant light across the white world outside.  I hurried outside to snap a few shots before the clouds blew back in.

The sunrise was promising, but not much to see with no clouds - just a refreshing difference from the past two days!

Soon the sun was up and pouring across the yard, catching the snow laden trees across the road.

Stepping outside the birch tree was outlined against a blue sky for a change!

I'm always impressed with how the snow accumulates on the spruce and pine trees.

And that view out back that some of you may start to recognize, with the big elm tree across the road.  The snow in the foreground is 2 feet deep on the level, and the lumps on the left are where the big snowblower piled some of it.

Headed  the other direction down to the garden, I liked how the light was shining in on my favourite summer lunch and reading spot under the big old apple tree.

As always, Roxie was enjoying the snow, but we didn't go far, slogging through the snow up over my knees.

And for interest, compare this shot to the same shot I posted on Tuesday, the boxwood hedge in front now completely buried in snow.  How do you refer readers to a particular photo in an earlier post anyway?  Is that possible?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stuck Under the Snow Streamers

The snow continues to accumulate here.  We're stuck under those snow streamers bringing 'lake effect snow' straight east from Lake Huron.  It's been snowing extremely heavily at times, reducing visibility to near zero.  Another good day to just settle down inside.  Our road and drive didn't get plowed until mid-afternoon.

The snow is now up just above my knees on the level, and it's pretty slow going to walk a loop with the dog in the back yard - but she has to get out!

Snow has accumulated over everything.  I think this is the most snow we've seen arrive in a single 48 hour period since we moved here.  The snow storm of mid-November '14 is going to be memorable.  (Much moreso if you live in Buffalo!)

What was an interesting stone fencerow just days ago is now just big lumps of white.

The spruce tree in the garden looked like this Tuesday...

like this on Wednesday ... and today it's just a big lump of white.

I do like how the snow accumulates on even the tiniest branches of the old hawthorn, wild apple trees and the dogwoods - an interesting black and white pattern on the mostly horizontal branches.

Looking out back around the corner of the house you can see the snow falling.  I edited this picture so at least a shadow of the little greenhouse and the shed would show up.  No trees in the background though!  They've vanished in the snow.

Meanwhile, Roxie loves it.  It's up well above the height of her legs now, and she has to leap through the snow to get anywhere, which she does with wild abandon, burying her whole head in the snow to chase smells all along the way.  Rozie is a Grey County mutt, about the size and style of a thin German Shepherd, but with a lot of white markings like an Australian Shepherd.  Neither of her parents looked like this!

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