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Posts Tagged ‘canada’

snowy apparition

In the early morning light, seemingly white glowing forms consult with one another on the front lawn.  Are they extra-terrestrial beings, come to gather information about life here around Flandrum Hill?  Or are they displaced apparitions, caught between dimensions due to an anomaly in the space-time continuum?

snow remnants

Upon closer inspection, their true nature is revealed.  Who would have thought the remains of snow could have appeared so other-worldly?

remains of snow

While most of the snow from last week’s snowstorm has melted, the remnants of a large snow tower built on the front lawn have survived.   Warm temperatures weren’t enough to melt such a large heap of snow, especially one placed in the  shadow of the house for most of the day.  Up close, the snow reveals debris acquired both from the lawn when large snowballs were rolled to create it, and from a windstorm days later.

debris in snow

Haunting silhouettes formed in the negative spaces make these ruins more interesting in their decaying form than they ever were as a tower of snow.

negative silhouette in snow

Once the sun rises on Sunday, the ruins will be covered with a fresh layer of snow along with the rest of the lawn.  They’ll no longer stand out in the landscape.  One of snow’s most magical qualities is that it is so ephemeral.  Except of course when you’re shoveling it!

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

 

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windshield in winter

Like most Canadians, I dread being faced with an icy windshield to scrape off before heading out to work in the morning.  That’s after clearing the driveway of course.

driveway cleared after snowfallThe longer your driveway, the less excitement you’re likely to feel at the first big dump of snow.   Though you might approach it as a good exercise workout the first time you shovel the driveway, that can wear a little thin after the third time in as many days.  And absolutely nothing is more irritating at this time of year than the sound of the street snowplow driving by and filling the end of your driveway with even more snow after you thought you had lifted your last shovelful.

snow on lichensHowever, there is a bright side to snow.  I especially like the way it trims the trees and lichens in the forest…

snow in woods

… And the way it tastes.  Blended with cream and sugar, fresh fallen snow makes a snow-cream that’s more refreshing than ice-cream.

Fresh snow, cream and sugar make delicious snow-cream.

Fresh snow, cream and sugar make delicious snow-cream.

Note:  it’s not a good idea to use snow from the season’s first snowfall as this may contain too many impurities. Give it a try. You can always burn the calories while shoveling the driveway ;)

Fresh snow-cream

Fresh snow-cream

This blog post was created in response to Views Infinitum’s Assignment 23:  Winter.   Scott has asked participants to show what winter means to us.  The assignment is open to all.  Deadline for submissions is Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 at midnight (your local time).

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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New red maple leaves slowly open on a small tree.  Although these red maples are a symbol of Canada, in nature, we usually associate them with the fall season, not the summer.   On a warm morning in July, they stand out in bright contrast to the cool green foliage surrounding them in the forest.

Similarly, red elderberries are easy to see against the backdrop of green.  There are lots of them this year for the birds to enjoy.  It’s unusual to see such a deep red in the woods in the summertime.  Even more unusual to see it in the salt marsh…

In the dawn’s early light, this bright red poppy stands waiting to greet the sun.  Why are poppies growing on this section of the trail between the Bald Eagle and Canada Goose Bridges?  Could this be a clue?

Captain Jefferson Clifford Francis memorial bench

It’s easy to forget what’s important as we go about our busy lives.  Regardless of the season, Nature remembers, even if we don’t.

For more on our connection with poppies see The Earth Remembers.

Captain Jefferson Francis’ memorial page at Military Mom at Home.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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It might look all pretty on the surface, but don’t be deceived.  There’s a fierce and brutal competition going on in local gardens these days.  Many plants depend on insects for cross-pollination in order to ensure the survival of their species.  With such high stakes, it’s inevitable that some are going to be more successful than others at attracting pollinators to their blooms.  Take rhododendrons for example.  Locally, it’s difficult to find a residential street where these showy non-native ornamental shrubs are not in bloom this week.

What does a plant have to do to get some attention from flying insects?  Look bright and beautiful for starters.  And this is something rhododendrons do especially well.  So well in fact that they distract many pollinators from visiting our less showy native species.  Canadian bees probably haven’t heard about the poisonous ‘mad honey’ that’s created with the nectar of rhododendrons.   (See more in Wikipedia’s entry on Grayanotoxin).  They simply target the most spectacular blooms and tuck in.

Many gardeners too likely don’t know that the petals and leaves of common rhododendrons are poisonous and can prove deadly to livestock and children if ingested.

While attracting a good share of pollinators during the daytime, white flowers also catch the attention of night-flying moths with their subtle scent.  What wonderful flying creatures are drawn to these alluring blooms under the moonlight?

In many countries around the globe, common rhododendrons are now considered an invasive species as they’ve taken over the natural understory in some forests.  (See the Wikipedia entry on Rhododendron ponticum).  In the past year, I’ve found two invasive rhododendrons growing in otherwise wild areas on my property.  If they start crowding out the native plants, will I become a rhodi-basher in the years to come?  I hope not, but it can be a jungle out there.

Invasive rhododendrons

June 18th to the 24th 2012 is International Pollinator Week.  Do you know what’s going on in your garden? For more information, see Pollination Canada.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012.

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porcupine quills

We all know about porcupine quills, but what about this creature’s other parts?  Like humans, there’s a lot more to porcupines than first meets the eye.

Their lovely coat for example…  Due to the odd quill embedded with the fur, bristles and hair, it doesn’t necessarily invite petting, but certainly appears quite thick and warm.  Porcupines don’t hibernate, so this heavy coat would make our cold winters more tolerable.

porcupine coat

Look at those shiny black claws.  They’d come in handy for climbing and digging up roots.  And see that soft underbelly?  This is the tender, vulnerable part of porcupines that predators such as coyotes and fishers try to expose by flipping them over.  No wonder they keep it hidden.

porcupine claws

A quick whack of a porcupine’s tail will embed quills into an unwary predator.  The quills are barbed and a likely death sentence to an animal that gets a mouthful of them and becomes unable to eat.  Yikes!

porcupine tail

Though its orange teeth may leave something to be desired by the whitestrips crowd, this is a winning smile if ever there was one.  Like the beaver, a porcupine’s ever-growing rodent teeth are kept sharp and short by constant chewing on trees.

porcupine smile showing orange teeth

Who knew there was so much more to porcupines than just their quills?  This porcupine was more than generous with its willingness to pose before 6 am, especially while doing chin-ups for its early morning exercise routine.  Oops!  Since porcupines are nocturnal, better make that a late night exercise routine.

porcupine doing chin-ups

For more on porcupines, see:
Bark Nibblers
Porcupines in Apple Trees
Porcupines Along the Salt Marsh Trail

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Light grayish green lichens known as Old Man’s Beard hang from the trees in the forests.  Sometimes blown onto the ground on windy days, to the touch, these lichens are usually soft but sometimes stiff in dry weather.   A few are streaked with brown.

Old Man’s Beard is frequently found in clean, moist environments such as boggy woods.  Though it prefers to cling to coniferous trees in old growth forests, it also hangs from the younger birches in my backyard.  Sensitive to air pollution, it’s often found with other types of lichens, such as the foliose lichens shown below.

  

Canada’s native people harvested Old Man’s Beard long ago and added it to their diet.  It can be steamed or dried and pummeled into a powder.   A strong antibiotic, it was also used to prevent infection and gangrene from setting into external wounds.   A thousand years ago, Old Man’s Beard was already being used as a medicine to treat lung cancer.  It’s still used today as a treatment for tuberculosis in China as it contains usnic acid.

La barbe de nain illustration by Elisabeth Ivanovsky

The antibiotic properties of Old Man’s Beard make it an effective treatment for fish infections in ponds and aquariums.  Yellow warblers seek forests where the Beard is present as they consider it an indispensable construction material in building their nests. 

A french fairy tale, LA BARBE DE NAIN by Marcelle Vérité, explains that the beards once belonged to elves.  Long ago, it was customary for these kind, cheerful creatures to arrange bundles of deadwood on the forest floor as a gift for mankind.   But when men greedily began to cut down live trees, the elves hastily fled to remote mountain peaks, snagging their beards on branches in the process.  The lost beards can be found in forests to this day.

Considering the wonderful medicinal properties of these beards, their elvish origins are no surprise to me.

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