Sunday, December 31, 2017

Favourite Adventures of 2017

Happy New Year Everyone!  I like to look back at the year and reassure myself that we have got out to enjoy some adventures, so here are a few of my favourites of 2017.

In February we heard reports of Snowy Owls over near Chesley.  It took two trips and a lot of spotting with binoculars, but we found the Snowy Owls, distant as they were across the fields.  By the time we were finished we had counted over 20 of them.

In April we headed west for two weeks, mainly visiting our daughter and her family, but also taking off on a little trip down into Washington State, to see the tulip fields in the Skagit Valley.  Amazing!

Back home in May, one of my favourite local adventures every year is to walk the trails at Old Baldy to see the spring wildflowers.  This is Dutchman's Breeches, one of many in the woods there.  The three weeks when the world is turning green, but before the bugs come out is one of the most beautiful times of the year.

In June we managed a short trip in our camper van up to Tobermory, and visited Flowerpot Island, part of the Bruce Peninsula National Park there.  Getting a picture without people in it was a challenge, but we had a beautiful day for our visit.

Later in July, a friend and I paddled past the claybanks east of Meaford, something I've been wanting to see for several years.  We had to wait for a calm day on the bay!

One of my personal adventures this year was to follow a number of crop fields over the season, watching crops from early spring until harvest.  I learned a lot actually, and enjoyed it.  These are bales of wheat straw after the wheat harvest in August.

Then in September I got to join my canoeing buddies for the first time in several years as we travelled to the French River in northern Ontario - but stayed in a lodge and avoided portaging.  A wonderful adventure - these are the famous Dalles Rapids, site of log drives in days gone by, and challenging canoeing today.

We got out west again for a week in November, and though it was a rainy week, my son-in-law, grandson and I went in search of the Giant Douglas Fir in Cultus Lake Provincial Park.  Probably the biggest living tree I have ever seen!

Finally, in December I got out locally to explore the Woodford Crevice, a narrow crevice in the limestone cliffs on the Bruce Trail east of Woodford.  They warn you not to use it if you're claustrophobic, but we made it through fine.

I'm hoping for a better 2018 in our own lives, because we devoted so much of our time and effort in 2017 to moving, and then I had surgery which I'm still recovering from.  May 2018 be a more relaxed and more adventurous year for everyone.  And may peace find its way to the planet!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Owen Sound Harbour

We drove over to Owen Sound yesterday running errands - especially to get me an updated phone.  Now I have no excuses about becoming smartphone literate!  It was a beautiful sunny day and we stopped down at the harbour to see if any ships were in.

A few Ring-billed Gulls were huddled on the ice in the distance, looking very cold.

But the only ship in the harbour was the good old Chi-Cheemaun, the ferry that plies the gap between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island, with it's spectacular paint job!  It spends every winter here.

The designs on the ship are in the native 'Woodland' art style, a style now popular among First Nations artists in Ontario.  They were applied to the ship as decals, installed like wallpaper.  On the curved bow of the ship, that was quite a challenge apparently, but it worked.

The Woodland art style was founded by Norval Morrisseau, a native Ojibway artist from northwestern Ontario, and is considered to be a revolution in native art.  Morrisseau was dubbed the "Picasso of the North", and is considered one of the most innovative artists of all time for his depiction of native legends in colourful form - originally going against the elders in his own community.  It is one of three major traditions of native art in Canada, along with westcoast art and Inuit art.  Yet another thing I'd like to learn more about.

The last winter I was here checking out ships, there would have been three in this picture, but this year neither the grain elevator on the far side nor the cement dock nearby hosted any ships at all.

But as you can tell, a beautiful sunny winter day.

Ice patterns where the winter has broken up the thin floes and pushed them back together.

All the way home it was sunny - until we came over the last hill before Meaford.  Then a clear lengthy bank of grey clouds ran from horizon to horizon out over the bay.  That cloudbank over the still-warmer-than-the-air water of the bay seems to be a regular feature here.  Stopped downtown to get a picture for you.

Lots of snow and ice piled up around the bay too.

Meanwhile, back at home the snow is a little deeper than we're used to, all light fluffy snow that has not collapsed because of the continuing cold temperatures.

The snow hangs over the eastern eave of the house like a thick white blanket.  People are talking about the 'brutal cold weather' here, but it seems pretty normal to me.  Every year we get a week or two of bitterly cold temperatures, usually accompanied by blizzard-like blowing snow and zero visibility.  You have to be sensible enough to stay home!  And mostly stay inside.  As long as you have snow tires, and know how to let your car slide around the corners, driving is fine.


Good friends of ours, Gord and Cathie (I can tell you their names because it's in the title of their blog), have constructed a blog 'in retrospect' documenting their travels in camper trailers and now a camper van over the past several years.  So far they've posted their journals from six trips, from the east coast of Canada to Alaska in the west, and Arizona in the south.  I've read them all now, and it's really interesting to sit and read about one trip at a time, from start to finish.  Especially if you're planning similar trips, I think it would be useful reading.  Gord has a straight-forward friendly writing style, and illustrates their travels well with pictures.  Check it out - Travels with Gord and Cathie.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Goldfinch and Squirrels

Goldfinch and Gray Squirrels seem to be the only critters entertaining us these days.  The Goldfinch I understand, hungry for food in the middle of this deep freeze, but I thought squirrels hibernated, at least during the coldest snowiest part of the winter.  They're more active than I expected.

A few of the Goldfinch are there even in the early morning dusk when I wake up, most of them on the ground while a few fight for spots on the feeder.

They do give the back yard an air of busy-ness, because something is actually going on out there in the typically -20°C early morning temperatures.

There's a constant coming and going, constant movement, which still pictures like this don't really capture.

Several times I have spotted a single House Finch in with the Goldfinch flock.  Can you see the hint of a red breast on the bird closest to the feeder pole?

Here's a short video to show the constant movement and coming and going of those Goldfinch.  It's a much busier spot in the yard than a static picture reveals.  No sound, shot from inside.

The other critters are this pair of Gray Squirrels.  Now I must admit I have allowed myself to have an all too human bias against the aggressive Gray and Black Squirrels (colour phases of the same species) in comparison to the cheeky little Red Squirrel who visited at our last house.

But I think I may have to change my tune and just enjoy observing the antics of these two.  So far they're not disturbing the feeders themselves, which are so far 'squirrel-proof', just feeding on the ground in between scampers up the trees.

But I didn't expect to find them out in snow like this.  It was snowing so thickly the camera couldn't even focus on this one.

Linking to:

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Winter Skies

You'll be glad to hear that we are getting some actual sunny breaks in between the almost-continuous snow flurries.  And when the sun comes out on this white landscape, it is beautiful.

It was late afternoon and the sun did come out for awhile.  I thought I might even catch a sunset, so I dug out the big snowshoes and headed out back onto the field.

It was getting close to 5, and dusk was beginning, but there was some nice blue sky overhead.

The sun had ideas of its own though and just plunged abruptly behind a distant cloud bank.

Meanwhile it was bitterly cold, so I quickly followed my trail back home.  After getting inside I checked the temperature and found it was -24°C with the wind chill - no wonder I was cold!

Today I stopped by the bay briefly, and found it in yet another of its moods.  Slushy ice is beginning to form in the sheltered cove at the shore as the water gets closer to the freezing level.

Meanwhile, out on the bay the classic winter fog bank has formed.  The water is still at 4-6°C, while the air is much colder.  The cold air picks up that (relatively) warmer moisture and a layer of cloud just sits there, with blue sky above.  If there were a steady directional wind, it would be bringing snow toward us.  About another week of these frigid temperatures to go and some record-breaking lows forecast!


A number of houses on the street have a snow-blowing service come by and clear their driveways.  We looked out early this morning to see that the snowplow had left a 3 foot high bank of packed snow across the front of the driveway, and shortly after one of those tractors was clearing our neighbour's drive.  I raced to finish dressing, pulled on my coat, and headed out to nab him while it was still early morning dusk.  Safe to say we now have a regular passing tractor to blow out the drive.  At least for this winter, that's a big relief.

Linking to:

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

It's Still Snowing

We woke to find that the snow squalls had left another 5-6" on the driveway.  We headed out to start cleaning up, but before we got started, another neighbour appeared with his big snowblower and did the work for us!  This neighbours here are ready and willing to help each other!

The Goldfinch were around much of the morning until eventually I put on the little snowshoes and slogged out to fill the feeders again.  The snowshoes just disappeared in the white fluff as I walked; it's at least 2 feet deep on the level now.

The neighbour's cedar hedge is covered, 

as are the next neighbour's trees.

Eventually I made a snowy expedition downtown to the drugstore.  The town is snowed in, as if it's frozen in place.  Snowbanks everywhere are 3-4' high; the downtown sidewalks are only half their normal width.  Even our own front snowbank extends 5' out into the street.  Not sure where they're going to put all the white stuff!  But the waves just keep on rolling in relentlessly.

I did stop at the shore for a few pictures, and sensibly had put on my mukluks.  Never-the-less they disappeared as the snow rose above my knees while I struggled 50' to the shoreline.  Dark grey ominous waves were rolling in, with no horizon in sight out in the bay, just a blurred change from grey waves to grey sky.

The boulders closest to the water were covered in ice.  Don't want to get too close to that waterline!

An arctic wind was blowing, so I didn't stay long to take pictures, but I got a few more photos to add to my collection on the moods of Georgian Bay.  The forecast is for more of the same for another entire week, while temperatures hover between -20 and -10°C.  The polar vortex has arrived.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Sunny Breaks

We seem to get a lot of grey days in November and December, but after Christmas morning dumped our 15" of fresh snow, the snow squalls did blow east, and the sun came out, at least briefly.  Nothing like fresh snow, bright sun and blue skies!

It didn't last long, but the view out back sure looked nice for awhile with those blue skies.

The snow had accumulated heavily on the big spruce trees.

And blowing from the west, it had stuck to the trees down the old fencerow.

I even dug out my trusty smallest snowshoes and the mukluks, and headed out to refill the bird feeders.  I'm beginning to get tired of grey squirrels though!

Our Celtic fish kept an eye on me as I went by.

This place is such a change from our last home, but it's growing on us, and the view out back, as well as the community of friends, is a highlight.


Feeling like a blogging celebrity tonight.  Went for my short little walk around the cul-de-sac, getting a bit of fresh air and at least stretching my legs, even if not getting any exercise.  Out came a tall gentleman a lot younger than myself, a complete stranger, from a home that obviously had guests for Christmas, and introduced himself - he knew who I was!  He'd recognized me walking by.  In fact he introduced himself as 'my biggest fan'.  Apparently he discovered my blog sometime, and now finds it keeps him in touch with home here, while he's actually living in Tennessee!  His wife came over to see who I was, and when she was introduced, I think she was the one who said 'Oh, you're a celebrity!'.  First time I've ever been stopped in the street and met a new blog reader, so welcome Jason and Laura-Beth, hope you continue to enjoy it and perhaps we'll meet again when you're home visiting.