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Posts Tagged ‘snow’

 

ravaged partridge berry bush

Who’s been nibbling all the leaves off the partridge berry bush?  Have the snowshoe hares been at it again?  I’m sure its evergreen leaves are tempting, especially in early spring, after yet another snowfall has covered the ground.

browsed euonymus

And who ate all those leaves off the euonymus branches right next to the house?  Despite a long, harsh winter, this plant was still lush green and thriving until… this morning.

ravaged euonymus branch

As if the tracks weren’t enough of a tell-tale sign…

deer tracks on snow

Further evidence was waiting to be discovered along the trail in the backyard…

deer droppings on snow

Oh deer!  (Maybe they’ll be back!!)

White-tailed deer photographed in Eastern Passage by Linda Hulme

White-tailed deer photographed in Eastern Passage by Linda Hulme

Update April 15th, 2014

Early this morning around 1:30 am, I was able to see half a dozen white-tailed deer moving slowly around the open area in the front yard.  They looked so calm.  Two were much smaller than the rest.  Three approached the house and began ‘pruning’ what’s left of the evergreen leaves on the  euonymus.  They were just a foot away from my vantage point on the other side of the living-room window. 

Guessing they’d soon be moving to the backyard, I slowly opened the back door.  The last one to leave flashed his white tail as he entered the path into the deeper woods.  Suddenly he stopped and turned back.  As I stood there at the half-open back door, I watched him walk around the deck for a few minutes and then just quietly go into the deeper woods by an alternate path.  It seemed like a dream.  I’ve waited all these years to finally see one deer in my yard, and then I see half a dozen all at once!

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

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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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tree shadows on snow

Even in Canada where winter is so much a part of our lives, it seems like we seldom have anything good to say about our cold climate.  Everyone was complaining of record-breaking cold this week, the harshest in recent memory.  Even the squirrel in the yard seemed to be jumping farther and faster than usual in an attempt to spend as little time as possible out on the snow.

red squirrel jumping across snow

Surprisingly, there are actually some benefits to living in a cold climate.  Our air is fresh, and long cold spells prevent too many insects from surviving through to the next summer, benefits we usually don’t consider until our kitchens are bombarded with ants in the middle of a sticky summer heat wave.  Snow’s insulating properties also keep small rodents dreaming beneath the drifts at this time of year, instead of trying to find shelter in our homes.

A cold climate also has a positive impact on our intelligence, especially our ability to delay gratification. The mental functions required to store food, dress warmly and create adequate shelter are crucial to survival in harsh environments.

mint in winter

Inedible, dried brown mint in winter

It’s no wonder the Vikings were the first Europeans to make a settlement on this side of the Atlantic.  Habitually doing hard things in a harsh environment gave these cold climate dwellers an edge over other cultures.  Their ability to shrug off the cold and wholeheartedly embrace winter survives to this day.  Though polar dipping may not be to everyone’s liking, at the very least, cold winters incite us to practice hope and patience as we wait for the warmer days ahead.

Last year's pussywillows

Last year’s pussy willows

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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The art gallery that is The Great Outdoors is featuring a show of hexagonal plate and stellar dentrite crystals by my favorite artist.  The contrast of fire and ice was especially stunning at sunrise this morning as the sun rose through snow covered trees in the woods, but there’s still time to take in the show.  

Though all snow crystals start out as specs of dust or salt that attract moisture, you’d never suspect such plain and simple origins by looking at the end result.  Like us, each snowflake is a unique work of art.  But besides being beautiful itself, snow has the marvelous ability to enhance the beauty of whatever it touches.  Like love, it is a covering for all imperfection.  

All nature is but art unknown to thee.

~  Alexander Pope

It’s easy for Canadians to take snow for granted.  Because we are a people forever on the move, we tend to only see it as something that will slow us down unless it’s removed from our roads and pathways.  We forget about its insulating properties and how it camouflages certain wild creatures so that they have a better chance of survival during the winter months…

But mostly we forget about how perfectly beautiful it is. 

We aren’t here to make things perfect.  The snowflakes are perfect.  The stars are perfect.  Not us.  Not us!
~  Ronny Cammareri  in Moonstruck

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Sparkles on this morning’s fresh layer of snow hint at the magic concealed beneath the white covering. Hidden under is a fantastical network of tunnels, best revealed in photos taken prior to this latest snowfall…

Look just below the pheasant tracks in the photo above.  Do you see those lines beneath the snow?  Although they look snake-like, these tunnels were made by voles, little rodents with tiny ears and short tails, also known as field mice.

Meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) are active year round and make tunnels in tall grass or under the snow as they travel from one part of their territory to another.  These super highways make for speedier trips, even in unclement weather.  They also allow voles to travel undetected by predators such as foxes, coyotes, bobcats and birds of prey.

Because a thin layer of snow has melted since the tunnels were made,  it’s possible to either see through their thin top layer or, where the top layer has melted completely, see straight down through to the tunnel itself.   

Voles are mostly nocturnal herbivores that supplement their grass diet with bark and seeds in the winter months.  Although one female vole may give birth to as many as 25 pups in one year, their life expectancy is quite short .  Most voles live for less than a year due to high predation.  Their population density can range from 14 to 500 per acre.

If you’re a foodie who’s keen on wild edibles and you’ve noticed some of these tunnels in your backyard, you might be inspired to try something new by reading my previous post on Vole Holes and Recipes.

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A fresh cover of snow on the ground usually reveals where snowshoe hares have been travelling.  Their numerous tracks often overlap in the woods where ‘bunny trails’ lead to and from favorite resting and feeding areas.  But not this year.  There isn’t a snowshoe hare track to be found. 

Snowshoe Hares

It’s been several months since I’ve caught sight of a single hare in the yard or along the Salt Marsh Trail.  Up until this past summer, it seemed like their numbers were growing.  They were visible on lawns and in the woods and parks.  However, snowshoe hare populations are known to rise and fall, usually every ten years or so.  This phenomenon takes place all across Canada.  In northern regions, their cycle coincides with that of the lynx.

Over the past year, bobcats have been sighted in Cow Bay.  Like the lynx,  they too prey on snowshoe hares, as do coyotes, foxes and eagles.  With so many predators in the area, as well as loss of habitat due to deforestation, it’s no wonder that hare numbers are low.  

Another factor that may have affected hare populations is that we didn’t have snow until recently, making any hares sporting winter coats easy targets for predators.  Hare coloring becomes whiter as daylight hours decrease in number.  

Next month, February 3rd will mark the first day of the Chinese New Year.  The 12 year cycle of animal years makes this coming year one of the rabbit.  Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be seeing many bunnies this year.   At least not in Cow Bay.

Each thing is of like form from everlasting and comes round again in its cycle.
~  Marcus Aurelius

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Never mind pleasure.  Search out joy.  Pleasure is its shadow.  But joy is real, a secret splendor running through all creation.
~ Fae Malania

For as far back as I can remember, I have always felt happiest outdoors.  Regardless of the season or the weather, being outside in the landscape has worked wonders at setting things right inside me. 

As a child, I would delay coming indoors for as long as possible… denying hunger or tiredness, or that my feet were cold in the winter. 

I didn’t do anything extraordinary, just run among the trees and explore every nook and cranny of the yard.  In summer, I’d follow ants and caterpillars in their travels and check out every new bloom in the garden.  I was always on the move, and usually running from one activity to another.  In winter, I’d spend hours on end playing with the snow, skating on outdoor rinks or sliding.   

What I remember most from those times was how very happy I was, and how easy it was for me to be in the moment, undistracted by present concerns or thoughts of the past or the future.  I still feel this way when I’m outdoors:  all of my attention is focused on my natural surroundings.  As worry is lifted,  I feel lighter and more at peace.

It is impossible to walk rapidly and be unhappy.
~ Mother Teresa

Endorphin-releasing exercise, fresh air and natural light all contribute to creating feelings of well being while outdoors.  These have the same effect whether you’re four, fifty or ninety.  I also like the way me and my day-to-day concerns seem to shrink whenever I find myself in the vastness of the landscape.  It’s both comforting and joyful to feel small in the great outdoors.

Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars… and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful.  Everything is simply happy. 
~Osho

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A fresh covering of white clothes the woods in perfection.  Snow drifts in the forest have created hiding places for snowshoe hares.  Low balsam fir branches  even provide nutritious snacks to be enjoyed while they’re snuggling.  Snow is an excellent insulator, as air is trapped between the snowflakes.

Higher up, even the rough contours of dead branches are decorated with filigree.  The drifts on branches make it difficult to spot the well camouflaged black-capped chickadees. 

The layers of snow are so thick on some branches that it’s a wonder they don’t break under the weight.

Even the delicate lichens don’t escape an icing of snow.  These are home to tiny arthropods, eaten year-round by the chickadees.

The old man’s beard lichens look especially ethereal.  It’s all beautiful.

I’ve always regarded nature as the clothing of God.
~ Alan Hovhaness

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You wake up to visions of loveliness with snow magically falling on the trees.  The blowing flakes sparkle in the soft morning light and everything in the forest looks stunning in its covering in white.  You wonder for a moment about the birds and the mammals in the woods.  Are they okay?  Of course they are.  Snow is an excellent insulator against the cold.

Over a foot of snow has already fallen as you happily realize that you might just be able to make use of those snowshoes yet this year.  But all your winter wonderland dreams get thrown into a snowbank when you realize that the driveway will be in need of shoveling.

It doesn’t matter how much you shovel snow, the task never gets easier.  Here in Nova Scotia, the snow often feels heavier than the snow I shoveled back in Ontario.  Am I just getting older or is the snow actually heavier here?  It’s often followed by ice pellets that make it seem even more weighty if you let it sit for too long.

The job must be done and so you tackle it.  Each shovelfull seems heavier than the last, but you press on.  Shoveling is great exercise, but you have to pace yourself.

Once the job is finished, a freshly shoveled driveway is something to be proud of.  There’s time for just a short break until the dreaded snowplow comes by to fill the end of the driveway.  Well, speak of the devil.  Just as I’m writing this, he’s made his first pass…

For more information on how snow affects animal life, see Snow Blankets 

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2010

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What does white bring to mind?  If you live in Nova Scotia, and it happens to be January, it will most likely be snow.  We watch it fall, shovel it, plow it, use it to make snowballs, snow forts and snowmen.  It’s pretty versatile.  Impressions in the snow are also useful in allowing us to track the movement of elusive creatures in our surroundings.

This past week, Scott at Views Infinitum asked his readers to use *white* as a starting point for a photography post.  My images of white all show tracks in snow that I was able to find in my yard:  Snowshoe Hare tracks at top; Bobcat tracks above; and below, some as yet unidentified five-toed tracks.

This last image is the most beautiful impression I was able to find.  It looked especially glorious as it sparkled in the sunshine.   

If it wasn’t for the tracks they leave in the snow, how else would we know that Seraphim had visited?

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.
~ George Eliot

If you’re interested in accepting Scott’s invitation to post on the subject of white, you have until February 3rd to do so.  All are welcome to participate.

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There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance.
~ William Sharp

With each snowfall, the forest acquires a new wardrobe.  Each branch of tree and blade of grass is covered with a new garment of white.  These evergreen branches seem to have fingers that are now gloved in snow. 

The air is cool and the snow is sparkling clean. Who would have thought that January’s white clad woods could be as refreshing to the spirit as June’s green ones? 

The positive effect isn’t just a visual one.  Snowfalls actually help clear the air of pollution.  This is especially helpful for people suffering from airborne allergens. 

Fresh fallen snow also traps sound waves between its snowflakes.  Even a light layer of snow on the landscape will absorb some of the ambient noise.  It’s no wonder that a newly snow-dressed forest seems so peaceful and quiet.

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

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