Thursday, December 31, 2015


A selection of favourite images from the past year:

Jan. - A farm around the corner.

Feb. - Sun pillar at sunset over Peninsula Lake. 

Mar. - The amazing frozen Indian Falls.

Apr. - Aconite, the first spring flowers. 

May - Trillium on Old Baldy. 

June - White Admiral. 

July - Field of Canola. 

Aug. - Georgian Bay from Big Tub Lighthouse. 

Sept. - Best moon shot of the year. 

Oct. - The mountains near Jasper. 

Nov. - The Valley. 

Dec. - The big tree.

Wishing all my blog readers a very Happy New Year, not just the evening, but the whole year to come.   May it be kind to you.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Dry Stone Fences

I've been walking the dog through our neighbour's farm, seeking to get my hour of walking a day.  And I've been planning the best time to go back and get pictures of the amazing dry stone fences that line part of the old farm lane.

The best time was earlier this week, with just a light dusting of snow that outlined all the rocks, but not so much as to cover them.  And of course all summer the leaves get in the way, while without any snow there's not enough contrast to really show off the stones.  Roxie enjoys our walks on the farm because I can let her off her leash to run.

The walk takes us first in through the woods off our cul-de-sac, down the old tractor trail.  I've taken lots of pictures of moss and ferns and fallen logs down this trail this fall.

Then we come out to the farm field and cut across to head up the old farm lane in the middle of the farm.  Soon we're seeing the stone fences along the edge.

These are not just your average old stone fencerows, of which there are lots on farms around here.  These are actual dry stone walls, with nearly vertical sides, about four feet high.  An incredible lot of work 150 years ago or so, and still standing!

And if you look along the top they're at least four feet thick as well, which helps explain how they've lasted.  Somebody a long time ago certainly new how to build stone fences!

They extend along the farm lane for quite a distance.  They make this route a really interesting walk for us at this time of year.

And there are a few other similar stretches on the farm as well.  This fence is along the eastern boundary, against the woods that backs our subdivision.

I can easily get in an hour of walking following this route, and with stops for photographs it takes longer.  Here we head back down the farm lane, across the field, and into the woods to head home.


This was a good example of learning over several years when the best photographs of a place should be taken.  I've photographed these stone fencerows several times over the past five years, and shared them previously, but I've come to realize when I've looked at the results exactly what conditions would be best.  I was already thinking of this when the day dawned with just a trace of snow, and realized that this would be a good time to come and try.  The light was so flat that the photos look almost black and white, but the snow on the stones did outline the fences the way I wanted.  Tonight we're getting more snow, and these conditions will be gaone.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Along the Stream

On our Christmas Day Walk, which I wrote a bit about earlier, we hiked a section of the Bruce Trail that ends up following a beautiful tumbling stream down a ravine.  In fact, there are two streams, which come together near the bottom of a long slope, and with the streams, two waterfalls.

The upper waterfall is quite striking.  Pouring over the upper Amabel Dolomite cliff, the stream emerges beneath a chalet, and then tumbles down the slope over ledges of bedrock.  At any other season it would be partially hidden (and the chalet would not be allowed under today's tighter planning rules).

I always think it's a remarkable series of bedrock ledges that forms the waterfall.

It levels out somewhat, and starts carving a deeper ravine through the shale, the next layer of bedrock - while still tumbling over some stepping-stone ledges.  The adventurous, energetic five-year old with us had to be watched pretty closely here!

Its course downstream is interrupted by another geological layer, the Manitoulin Formation, that creates the second waterfall, almost entirely covered in moss.  I like this photo, which I managed on shutter-priority, for a 1/3 second exposure at 100 ISO, but just hand held.

The trail twists around, goes back uphill a minute, and then crosses the smaller stream on a series of stepping stones.  Then it follows the steep slope downhill on the slopes of the ravine formed by this stream.

At this point both streams are carving through the Queenston Shale Formation, leaving these typical steep slopes.

With more bedrock ledges forming steps for the stream.

Near the bottom the streams join, and the trail follows along above them on the slope.  Trying hard here for one of those 'slow' water shots.

We crossed the stream on a bridge, and followed it further til the trail turned uphill and out to a small parking lot.  The stream tumbles further down the lower slopes until it joins the Beaver River.  It was a great hike with my son, my son-in-law, and our 5 year old grandson.


It was the big storm that never amounted to much here!  We sat in the evening listening to the ice pellets bounce off the windows for several hours, while the wind howled around the cabin, seemingly coming from all sides.  At any moment I thought a branch will break somewhere, and the lights will go out.  But they didn't, and I didn't read of any major outages in the news this morning.  There were lots of fender-benders in Toronto of course, but that's more about stupid drivers than the weather!  We only got an inch or two of icy snow.

Here the temperature rose to above freezing, and the slippery layer of ice on the deck and the car (I forgot to put it in the garage...) this morning melted away.  I waited for a break in the rain before walking the dog, and managed a good hour walking through to the farm next door.  I'm walking there a lot these days; tomorrow I'll share some pictures of their amazing stone fences.  But I did find out that crunching through 2 inches of semi-frozen slush makes for hard work.  I could have worn my lighter fall jacket.  My coat stayed open, and my gloves came off half-way.  But we got in our hour of cardio.
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Monday, December 28, 2015

Winter has Arrived

Winter seemed to finally arrive on Saturday night with freezing rain that gradually changed to snow, and we woke up to ice droplets and a fine dusting of snow where it stuck to the ice.  The temperature plunged to well below freezing, and it has stayed that way.  As I write this, the newest storm, brought by that damaging Texas low, has begun outside and I'm starting to hear that tinkling sound that highlights the freezing rain again.

It wasn't a heavy freezing rain, but ice droplets decorate all the branches, and they're still there today.

The ice came first, and then a very light bit of snow got stuck on top.

Some of the dead plant stalks in the garden created some interesting patterns!

The pine branches on the other side of the house were so weighed down that they blocked the path our grandson had been chasing me down just the day before.

These two pictures are an interesting contrast, photographically.  The one above was taken with the brightest part of the sky behind me, and the one below looking into the brighter side of the sky.  The camera did all the rest, trying to close down the bright light below so it almost becomes black and white, even though it isn't.  I don't think I even moved, I just turned around.

The snow stuck to the grass in interesting patterns.

And really highlighted our iron sunny face sitting on the big boulder out the window.


The temperature stayed down about -8°C all day, but there was a strong easterly breeze that made the windchill considerably worse.  I find I adjust the winter clothes to cope with the temperature and wind.  Amy, from Australia, asked in yesterday's comments,how cold does it get here.  Well, it will get a lot colder than this.  With several years living here I've now become accustomed to the changes.  Shorts and T-shirts are long gone, likewise the long sleeves of fall, and the light fall jackets.  I bought a warmer fall jacket that will do to about freezing, but it's in the closet now too.  With below freezing out comes the serious winter coat.  I expect it will be about -10 or -15C (5 to 15F) most of the winter, but it typically gets down to below -30°C (- 22°F) for at least a week.

I've got a range of gloves and mitts (and hats) to use as the temperature goes down - from lightweight cloth gloves (now put away), through 'normal' gloves and then warm fluffy inside deer hide gloves (new this Christmas) which will do for most conditions.  But then there are the big ski gloves, and if really necessary the moosehide mitts that come out on the really cold days.  The pants change too, from ordinary to lined (several weeks ago), and then covered in outer wind breakers, and finally the longies underneath.  My challenge is always keeping my face from freezing - since I wear glasses, covering my face at all means my glasses steam up and I can't see where I'm going!  So at least a few square inches of bare skin stays out in the cold stoically, and I try to forget how cold it is!

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

December Barns

A few days before Christmas, I went for a drive to photograph some barns.  Lighting was terrible; we get these dark days and I end up shooting into the light in mid-afternoon, but they're still such an appealing part of the valley landscape here.

This nicely maintained barn is just around the corner.  As you can probably tell, it's on a rural resident's property, no longer in use for farming.

I like this big barn close to the edge of the valley a few concessions north of here.

A closer view suggests its age.  I know the owner here, so maybe I'll go and see if I can get some more close views sometime.

I drive by this barn frequently on the way to Meaford, and I've shown shots of it before where you can see right through that space under the roofline.

But now the leaves are off the trees, unfortunately I've had a much clearer view.  The roof on the right hand portion has fallen in at some point this year, and the back part of the main old barn is looking partially fallen and ready to collapse.  I fear it will soon end up like its neighbour, below.

Sadly, I don't think any of the barns above are still in use for farming, and more and more end up like this.  Time to drive around and document more before they disappear.


Well, it's been a hectic Christmas here, with a five-year old and a 4-month old to entertain us and keep us busy.  Junior Scrabble was a big hit for the five-year old and his Nana.  Our son from the far north was here too, so we all had a good visit.  And I just 'facetimed' my sister and all her families, and my cousin and hers - even though I can't get used to 'facetime' as a verb!  Looking forward to resuming my walking and exploring now.  You may have noticed that I passed 200,000 'pageviews' very early this morning, so my enormous thanks to those of you who visit, give me reason to do this, and thereby contribute so much to my enjoyment of the retired life!

The temperature has finally fallen to freezing, and we're finally expecting some actual snow later this week.  There's a storm warning, and it's one of those 'Texas lows', which come up the Mississippi valley from Texas, and usually bend to the east when they hit the lower Great Lakes.  It's that storm which spawned the tornadoes in Texas.  As a result, Lake Erie and Ontario (and Buffalo) get the heaviest snow.  Even though we're further north we'll probably get quite a bit less - latitude seems to have little to do with how much snow you get.  I can't believe reading about record snow falls in New Mexico for heaven's sake, especially when we don't have any here, though we're so much further north!!

The Barn Collective

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Will's Memorial Bench

If you've read this blog for long, you'll know this is our first Christmas without Will, our oldest son, the water bomber pilot.  But in spite of the intense sorrow we feel at times, in between there are things we are thankful for.  Above all we are thankful for Will's big gang of very good friends.

One of the gangs, a large group centred in Prince Rupert, B.C. where Will lived and worked for 10 or so years, has commissioned this memorial bench, made by an artist in Lac La Biche, Alberta, Karin Wipfli.  They plan to place the bench looking over the harbour in Rupert, where Will flew float plans.

If you take a close look at one end, the stainless steel design features the western pine forest, and a small water bomber like Will flew.  The white back of the bench is constructed out of part of a 'Fireboss' plane.

The other end of the bench features a moose and (less obvious because it's a cutout), a leaping salmon in the lower right hand corner.  These reflect Will's love of hunting and fishing - what could possibly be more suitable!

At the moment the bench is sitting at the artist's place in Lac La Biche, northern Alberta (where William also worked for two summers).  The friends plan to add a plaque in memory of Will to the back of the bench, and hopefully they will get permission to place it in the harbour next spring.

We are incredibly grateful to Will's friends for something so special.  And we are more than grateful for the support all his friends have shown us, including several who we will probably be friends with ourselves for life now.  We hadn't seen the gang of high school friends for most of 20 years, and we had never met the group in B.C.  But they have reached out to us in so many ways, and it's been an enormous support.  Karin, the artist, has a website under the name 'Wip Custom Signs' if you're interested.

If you haven't read Will's story, you can read it here.