Thursday, March 31, 2016


We certainly haven't had many clear skies recently, and today has been rain all day - again!  With two heavy-duty rainstorms in 4 days, local flooding is becoming a problem.  But about 2 weeks ago there was a beautiful clear evening when the moon rose high and full.  I think I'm getting a teeny bit better at these.

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Snake Rail Fence

I see lots of fences around here, many of them old ones, no longer serving any purpose.  But it's not often that I come across a genuine old snake rail fence - that is, a cedar rail fence built without fenceposts, held up simply by the zig-zagging rails sitting on top of each other.

And while I'm at it, how's this for an old fence remnant?!  Three broken off cedar rails held firmly where a tree has grown around them.  There was no trace of the rest of this fence, must have been removed years ago.

I was walking with a friend on one of his favourite walks over the fields, along the fencerows, and through the woods.  He had never been to the far end of the woods, so we went to investigate.

This is what we found, an old cedar rail fence that started out along the edge of the field, and extended a long distance into the woods.  In places someone has added some extra high fenceposts for support.

But most of the fence was like this, just the rails zig-zagging along, resting on top of one another.

An interesting remnant of the pioneers who farmed this land 140 years ago.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Canada Geese

Canada Geese often get a bad rap.  I've even been known to be fairly critical of the species myself.  But they have a lot going for themselves, and perhaps we should pay them more respect.  I was checking out the harbour in Meaford last week, and quickly realized that the geese were pairing up for nesting season.

We've lived near populations of Canada Geese for some years, and the sudden break down of the flock that spent the winter together, into pairs who go off to find nesting sites, is one of the marks of spring arriving.  Canada Geese pairs mate for life, start breeding in their second year, and can live for over 20 years.

They're also very territorial, and the males defend their territory noisily.  This is aftermath of the little drama I witnessed in the harbour, but I was just too late to get a photo of the confrontation when this annoyed male flew across to chase away the pair above.  They can be quite aggressive!

He then swam rapidly back to his mate on the far side of the docks, by the stone breakwall.  I can't believe they would nest among these rocks, 50 feet from the sailboats, but Canada Geese have adapted well to urban areas and the presence of people.  And of course we create excellent goose habitat, like urban parks and golf courses.  Why blame the goose?

Meanwhile, the first pair swam happily on to another corner, peace momentarily restored.   Geese are herbivorous, so grass they can graze, preferably right beside the water, is ideal for them.  And of course we humans do get annoyed at the droppings they leave behind.  Often, just a narrow barrier of taller vegetation at the edge of the water would be enough to keep them off the grass, because they lose their flight feathers in the annual molt during nesting season, and have to be able to walk to the water to escape predators.

And behind the geese I spotted another interesting bird, a Horned Grebe in winter plumage.

It looked downright bedraggled, but then it dives for food, so its feathers are not light and fluffy.  I was surprised at how clearly the red eye stood out.

The little Grebe swimming by did not bother the geese at all, but let it be another goose and then there's trouble!  Male geese help guard the nest during incubation, and will attack people who come too close, again with lots of noise.  And families of geese will gather their goslings together to raise them after they are hatched.  Meanwhile, the 'teenager' geese who haven't mated yet, form separate flocks, and just make a lot of noise.

 Here a group that looked like unmated 'teenagers were resting on one of the docks.

Outside the breakwall you certainly wouldn't find geese nesting!  The waves were rolling in steadily on that day.  But perhaps inside the protected harbour they do nest successfully in spite of all the boats and people.  I'll have to watch for that later in the season.

But on that day the harbour was deserted; no boats in the water yet except the one lonely fishing tug.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Wild Easter Weather!

I can't remember a wilder series of changes in the weather over 5 days - ever!  On Thursday we didn't get the big snowstorm that was forecast, but we did get a little, and then the freezing rain, giving us a genuine ice storm.  Then Easter Weekend arrived, and we had two beautiful sunny days, and all the ice and snow melted away; the temperature hit 17°C here!  Then we had heavy rainfall overnight - very heavy rainfall, for 12 hours, and now we're back to snow!  What a rollercoaster over 5 days!

First, I should report the faithful ressurection of the Pasque Flowers, covered in ice and snow 24 hours before (see the contrast at the end of Friday's post).  A fitting symbol of Easter Sunday here, which we spent with visiting family, including our wonderful grandchildren.

It all started with the ice storm on Thursday, when the ice just kept accumulating.  We suffered no serious damage here, but friends nearby were without power for two and a half days!

The evergreens suffered the worst, accumulating ice on every needle.

But these tiny Silver Maple buds, already bursting into flower, got pretty well covered!

Then on Saturday morning the sun came out.  I failed to get a picture of the sunny skies, too busy with family, but for a short while all the ice on the trees was magically sparkling in the sun.

The sparkle didn't last long, and the entire evidence of the ice storm melted away, but it was pretty while it lasted..

After a beautiful warm sunny Sunday, we woke today to a saturated landscape after nearly 12 hours of heavy rain overnight.  I couldn't get a picture showing the rain itself, but about 10 a.m. it suddenly changed to snow.  Here the snowflakes begin!

Sorry this is so blurry; did a poor job on this one.  But I have never seen such a large intense rainstorm approaching us from the west, and most of it is already past and moving east toward Quebec!  We're just beyond the northeast end of the yellow on this radar image, and it looked like it was all moving toward us!  Luckily, at this point it changed to snow.

I couldn't get a picture of the rain falling, but I did notice that there was some water pooling at the far edge of the yard.  I walked outside, looked around the shed, and there it was - all the rain, forming a flood in the low part of our yard.

In fact, it had formed a good sized lake - never in all the years we've been here have we had any flooded pool of water like this, and this was from just one overnight storm.   It'll be a long time til I'm mowing the path that crosses the picture straight toward us!

We do have a drainage challenge here, as our house was built with a depression outside the back door, in order to give us walk-out basement doors.  So we had an underground drain installed from here out to the low point in the yard.  When they put in the new patio, they extended the drain all around the semi-circular edge.  I feared that it wouldn't be enough to take away all the water from this storm!

But it worked fine.  This is the ditch where the drain exits (right at my feet).  This saves the water from flooding our basement; it harmlessly floods a corner ot the yard instead.

And in this storm it flooded beyond the ditch to cover quite a large corner of our yard, as well as part of the neighbour's.   We'll probably never see it this high again.

And to top off the wild weather rollercoaster, the snow continued for several hours.  The landscape is white again.  Except for the extremes this year, actually pretty typical late March weather here.  March is definitely going out like a lion!

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

A New Barn

You may remember that I posted two pictures of this new barn under construction about 3 weeks ago, with the comment that: "I'm increasingly getting interested in the stories of these barns, not merely the pictures of the barns themselves."  Well, today I'm pleased to say that I have the story of this new barn to share with you.

This was the barn on Mar. 6th, 3 weeks ago.  Imagine my surprise when I finished a meeting in town and was handed the building specs for this barn.  At first I didn't know what they were, but apparently the secretary in this office reads my blog, and recognized the barn.  So I got to talk to the farm owner!

This is the barn last week on Mar. 21st; the siding has almost all been installed, and part of the barn is already in use.  A company from further south, near Ayton, is building it, Domm Construction.

This farm operation is partly a cash crop operation, growing corn, soybeans, barley and wheat, with some corn and barley kept as cattle feed.  So this part of the barn will be used for equipment storage - as the farmer said to me, to keep the machinery out of the sun and the snow.  High transparent wall panels provide lighting.

The doors are huge, to allow for the huge equipment farmers use today.  They're both 20 feet high, while one is 20 feet wide and the other 24 feet wide.  They had been using this lift to install the siding, so it was just parked here.

The northern third of the barn will have two large open bays, and will be used for a combination of feed storage (hay bales), and bedding area for the cattle.  You can see they've used some temporary fencing and straw to provide extra bedding area already.

This is the outside view of the north side of the barn.  This is part of a large farm operation that farms nearly 800 acres, with 235 of those in hay, 100 in pasture, and the rest in the cash crops.

Directly opposite the north side of the new barn is the open south side of the smaller old barn, so the paddock/feeding/calving area will be the big space between the barns, when the cattle aren't out in the pasture.

As you can see, this is a cow/calf operation, and all of the cattle are Simmental.  They come in a range from black to reddish brown colours, and are raised for beef production.  Clearly, this is the season when all the calves are born.  The pen was full of mothers and their calves.

While I was in the office, the secretary was able to pull up one of the farm's webcams on her computer, and show me a live view of the calving pen, right from the office!  Talk about hi-tech farming!  

With thanks to my anonymous farmer friend who was happy to talk about his farm operation.  And I was pleased to learn about it!

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Few Common Birds

Not many unusual bird sightings this spring, and certainly no good photographs.  The cold has held on and migrants haven't returned as quickly as they usually do.  But that doesn't stop me getting out there to see what I can see.  A friends reports a pair of Bald Eagles at lake Eugenia which they've seen more than once, so I go back hoping I'll see them too, but no luck so far.

But the lake has filled suddenly and quickly, nearly to its full level.

I had to use the binoculars to spot the Tundra Swans on the far side of the lake, just little white spots.

Zooming in with the camera I could actually pick out individual Swans, but they'll probably leave on their way to the Arctic soon.

This pair of Mute Swans may hang around on the lake all summer though.

I often see flocks of Ring-billed Gulls in flooded fields at this time of year; these were a long way away.

Here's a closer picture.

I don't know what it's got a hold of, but I thought this was a neat picture.

And one of a Mallard pair on another small wetland.  Probably the most common ducks in this area.

But then we had another critter too, right outside the back window, a Groundhog, probably the one that raids our veggie garden.

It was obviously gathering dried grasses for its nest.  We really like to find a way of persuading them to move elsewhere!

Hope you're all having a Happy Easter!

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