Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wintry Day

Every now and then I like to post a more typical winter's day, just to remind you of what the seasons are really like in the valley.  Not every day is sunny; in fact often relatively few are, even though those are the days I hurry out with my camera to get pictures.

Yesterday was a good example.  It wasn't actually snowing, but we'd had 3 or 4" of fresh snow overnight and today the wind was blowing it around, creating a distant haze that kept receding as you drove.  The clouds were thin and every now and then the sun would actually show through.

The roads were snow-covered, and there was a little ground drifting, so I took a little more care driving than usual, stopping in lots of time for the corners.  This wasn't really a 'whiteout', as it wasn't snowing.  In a real whiteout you wouldn't see any of those trees in the picture.

Off in the distance you could see the landscape, barns and houses, woodlots and trees, but the blowing snow made for a hazy view.

 These are days when, if a car approaches, you definitely slow down and pull over to go past each other slowly - without pulling over far enough to get caught in the drifts along the edge.

Still, the winter landscape has a certain beauty all its own.  This was the 'scenery' around here yesterday!

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Hairy Woodpeckers

I drove over to the top of the ski hill one evening to catch the late afternoon view over the valley as the sun started to set.  As I stood at the top of Avalanche ski run taking pictures, I heard a tapping on a tree.  Waiting and watching I spotted a Hairy Woodpecker up in a nearby maple.

Skiing was over for the day, and the shadows had crept across the ski runs.

It took me a few minutes to spot it among all the branches, but it completely ignored me while I got a few shots that were actually in focus!

These were definitely large enough to be the Hairy Woodpecker rather than the smaller Downy.

Then I heard some sharp squeaking as another woodpecker arrived.  They appeared to be a pair.

But I'm not sure if there's some red on top of this bird's head as well; perhaps they were just two males.

Somehow I'd ignored it til then, but then I spotted the moon shining down from behind the tree branches.

We don't get many bird sightings here in deep winter, and our feeders haven't worked well this year since the snow avalanched off the roof and created a large glacier on the deck!  So it was particularly nice to spot these two, and in their natural habitat.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Melancthon Wind Farm

Half an hour south of us here in the valley, there's a large wind farm, in fact one of the first and largest in Canada, with 133 of those huge windmills dominating the skyline around you.  It's an area of somewhat less than average productive farmland, and when farmers started being offered money for allowing windmills they spread quickly.

The windmills were silhouetted against the developing sunset as we drove home from a trip to a certain fabric store, but I had to wait for a safe place to pull over to take pictures.  And the exposure on these was tricky with the strong light of the sun!

The dark gray skies were advancing rapidly, changing the picture every mile we drove.  It is really something to see, and it's even spookier at night when all you see are flashing red lights at the top of every tower in the dark.

There is a lot of conflict over windmills like these.  Although the province has promoted renewable energy, and given companies guaranteed prices to encourage investment, many people argue against them.  To be honest, I'm not sure where I stand because I'm in favour of renewable energy, and I find them rather attractive - but then I don't live there.

I think a lot of the conflict is based on misunderstanding the nature of science, both by citizens and by politicians.  Consultants can do a survey and 'prove' there is no health risk to living near these windmills, but science typically uses a 95% statistical significance rule, not 100%.  So if you survey 100 people and find only 4 who say they are suffering ill health because of these, you have in effect 'proven' that there are no health effects - 95 time out of 100 there is no health effect.

That does not mean the other 4 are not suffering ill health.  It makes perfect sense to me that there is a small proportion of the population who are sensitive either to the vibration or noise of these windmills, and their concerns should not be dismissed.  I have no easy answer, but in the meantime, these are a growing feature of our rural landscape.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

C.C.G.C. Westfort in Meaford

Just onshore by the Meaford harbour, the C.C.G.C. Westfort is on permanent display, set off by a very interesting heavy-duty chain fence.  Obviously an old anchor chain from a big Great Lakes ship.

It's a former Great Lakes Coast Guard ship that was based on Lake Superior, sent here on retirement to be on display.  It's quite a local landmark.

The old anchor chain forms an attractive fence for the display, though it's open at both ends so you can walk right under the boat.

On the other side the ground is at a higher level, as if you're at a dock, with another smaller chain used for fencing.  Here it means something, because there's a 4 foot drop beyond it.

You can get quite a close look at the fittings of the ship, which I find interesting, not knowing anything about them.  And there's a small information plaque off to the left.

I was surprised once I read about 'self-righting' vessels to learn that most smaller boats like this on the Great Lakes are probably self-righting.  It depends on being able to seal all the hatches in a storm, and having some ballast at the bottom of the boat, but it would (in theory) turn right-side up again by itself.  Wouldn't want to be the one to test it!

And I managed one nore shot of the light tower on the outer breakwall, just as the light flashed.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Boats on the Docks

A very big difference in the small harbours of Georgian Bay compared to many others across the southern U.S. or up the west coast of the continent is that the boats here have to be lifted out of the water for the winter so that they won't be damaged by ice.  So you see lots of boats sitting on the docks instead of in the water.

The Ray Loe was the largest boat I saw sitting up on the dock for the winter.  It's used as a cruise boat running out of the harbour during the summer, offering small local cruises.

Behind it the big gantry they use for lifting the boats out (and launching them again in the spring) was sitting.  It's sitting on a boat slip built for the task, so boats can sail right in to the lowered support belts and be lifted up.  The gantry then drives slowly to place the boat down while it is supported so it doesn't fall over.

These sailboats were sitting on the far dock where they were waiting out the winter with their cables snapping in the wind.  You can see how they sit upright, but only do so with the supports underneath.  Otherwise they would be standing on their keel and keel right over!

There were piles of floating docks sitting waiting for spring.  Docks can get damaged by ice just as boats do.

But one owner is leaving his ship in the water.  I'm guessing that the W.H.Wheeler is a fishing tug, though there aren't many of them left on Georgian Bay.  You can see behind it that they've left the docks in this area in the water too.

And I managed to snap another picture of that small light tower across his bow.

Here's a closer look.  This time I definitely did catch the red light as it flashed.

And of course there was still at least one life ring hanging out, just in case.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Calm Day on Georgian Bay

I enjoyed a cold couple of hours to put in two weeks ago taking pictures of Georgian Bay along the shoreline in Meaford while the chief fabric artist in the family was attending a local quilting gathering.  The bay was calm and looked more grey than blue, but it's always nice to be there.

I shot quite a few photos just trying to capture the flashing red light on the small light tower out on the breakwater.  I think I actually got it on this one.

This is the view I was shooting, the light tower on the right, and a smaller warning light on the left.

There was a shiny surface of ice in places, and lots of ice on the end of the breakwater, but most of the bay is open water, a dark grey today.  It's the warning light that's crooked, not the picture.

I've photographed this view to the west before, with bright blue water and waves rolling in along the boulder-lined shore..

A shrub covered in wave-splashed ice, built up in thin layers over time.

I had to be careful not to go too close to the shore as the first six feet or so were treacherous with a surface of ice over the boulders that line this shore.  I kept seeing that breakwater in the background though..

In places the ice was built up thickly on the boulders - you can see how it's splashed up on some of the trees to the right - but it didn't appear that we'd had any serious storms here to create bigger ice sculptures.

It remains too bitterly cold here, though today was sunny.  By the time it hits -23°C (-10°F), I'm ready to stay inside, and when there's a stiff breeze out of the north making it effectively -25 or -30, you're at risk of frostbit walking outdoors.  So I'm crossing my fingers for some nice -5° weather and sunshine!

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

More Barns in the Sun

I'm continuing my series of barns around the neighbourhood here, and again managed to get some pictures in the sun.  The more I look at all these barns, the more questions I get.  Are the barns still in use?  What would I find inside?  How interesting is the construction?  This could become a life-long interest!

This isn't really a red barn, but a reddish-brown, but it looks nice across the field, and it seems to be still in use.

This is a large horse barn, the original bank barn visible behind the tree, but a large riding arena on the right.  It also is not red, but brown.

I can always count on seeing a small group of black Aberdeen Angus out in front of this barn, usually clustered around the bale of hay.

This is the largest barn I drive by regularly, appearing to be a large extension built on a smaller original bank barn.  Unfortunately I've seen no evidence of it still being used.

And to finish, here's a bright red barn.  I usually take photos as close as I can, to show the details, like below, but I'm finding more and more that I like the more distant shots like this one which show the context (and can show more blue sky).

Which do you prefer?

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Shadows in the Sun

Well, it's been a grey dreary, at times a little drizzly day here, just a little below freezing, but I did find some photos of shadows in the sun to share from the past 2 or 3 weeks.

Even on a day when we get no fresh snow there can be drifting across the roads if there's a wind.  I liked the swirls I caught in the snow here one day when I was out photographing barns and fences.

These are very minor drifts, but if they get larger they can grab your wheels and make for some tricky driving.  Here they just create a few nice shadows.

One of the main snowmobile trails through our area where it comes closest to our house, the shadows pronounced in the late afternoon sun.  Snowmobilers are very well organized around here, with many miles of approved trails, and they stick to those trails because of the permit system they have.  I don't snowmobile, but I like the fact that it gets others outdoors on days like this one was.

And I always find the tree shadows straight across the roads make an interesting pattern.  Much of our landscape is open farm fields, but there are plenty of places where a patch of woodland borders the road.

And on a day like today it does remind me that we do sometimes get sunny winter days!

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