Posts Tagged ‘Canada – Nova Scotia’

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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The tamaracks that were barely noticeable in the forest all year long now take centre stage. 

small color wheelTheir soft, burnt orange needles provide a bright contrast to the clear blue sky.  Being complementary colours  (set opposite one another on the colour wheel), orange and blue look especially vibrant together in the autumn landscape.

Tamaracks don’t mind wet, boggy soil.  Their Ojibway name, muckigwatig, means ‘swamp tree.’  They thrive in Cow Bay wherever there is little competition for sunshine with other trees.  These deciduous conifers are tolerant of extreme cold.  Their delicate appearance often enhances residential landscapes in northern regions.

tamarack needles in fall

The inner bark of tamaracks is edible and has many medicinal uses among Native Americans, among them, treating burns, wounds, inflammations and headaches.   It’s also a favourite of porcupines. 

Along Bissett Road, which has extensive stands of tamaracks on both sides, it’s no wonder that porcupines are a frequent item on the roadkill café menu.  I’ve crossed paths with them twice in as many weeks, but both times managed to see these slow walkers in time to yield. 

bissett road

It won’t be long before the tamaracks shed their needles for the winter and once again fade into the background of the forest.  But for now, it’s tamarack time.

For more information about tamarack trees, see The Last of Autumn’s Leaves and Needles

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moss 1

Moss brings an enchanted appearance to forests.  Several varieties grow around Flandrum Hill, on the ground, on stones and more than just the north side of tree trunks. 

moss on tree

In recent years, some innovative horticulturalists have suggested that it might be ecologically beneficial for homeowners to consider growing lawns of moss instead of grass.   Here are some reasons why:

  • It grows fast,
  • prevents erosion,
  • repels weeds,
  • doesn’t require fertilizer,
  • doesn’t require watering and 
  • doesn’t require mowing.

That last reason should be enough by itself to convince people to look into the moss option.  Imagine all the labour that would be saved in lawn maintenance!

moss 5

Though mosses thrive in moist, acidic soil, all they really need is a bit of shade.  They’re able to absorb enough moisture from rainfall to allow them to survive without extra watering.



The sphagnum moss shown above is a marvel of nature.  It can absorb several times its own weight in water or oil.  It has many uses in gardening, ie. as a seed starter, and dried, is an excellent insulator, firestarter and dressing for wounds.  

Mosses are often used by scientists as bioindicators, species used to monitor the health of an environment, to identify the presence of heavy metals and other pollutants in an ecosystem.  Their presence here doesn’t just make the woods seem more magical, they reveal the good health of the environment as well.

For more information on moss lawns, see

Moss Makes a Lush, No-care Lawn

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This week marks a year of living vicariouly… through Nature.  What she’s experienced, I’ve experienced.  Her springtime has meant hope and wonder, delight and new discoveries for me.  Her fall has brought colour to my life in ways I barely noticed or thought possible before.


This is what happens when you keep a nature journal.  Although you might experience the same natural events year after year, you see everything in a clearer light when you take the time to reflect on what you’ve seen.  Once you learn the name of a common weed, it becomes more difficult to ignore it the next time you see it in bloom on the lawn.  You think twice about mowing it down. 


Over the past year I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors and taken more photographs than at at any other time in my life.  Field guides have become regular reading material and I’ve drawn numerous images of wildlife in an effort to illustrate what I couldn’t capture in a photograph.

salt marsh strip

My favorite posts are those that surrounded the theme of shapes in nature and the natural elements during our Midsummer Scavenger Hunt.  Thank you again to everyone who participated.  The whole was definitely greater than the sum of the parts.

The Midsummer Scavenger Hunt Series


Despite all the page views I received last week while on WordPress’ front page (just under a thousand in one day!) it’s the feedback from regular visitors from around the world through comments and email that make the process all the more worthwhile.  My goal has not just been to share what beauty is here in my neck of the woods, but to encourage readers to take a closer look at the wonders waiting to be discovered in your own backyard.  Living vicariously through Nature is a way of life that’s all the more enjoyable when it’s shared.

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geese between the lines

It’s never easy to stay in line or keep it between the lines. Those who look on from the sidelines might take for granted the effort that’s required. Things done well often look like they come naturally to the doer. Yet this is seldom so.

In his book Outliers about super achievers, Malcolm Gladwell notes that success in our endeavours depends more on effort and practice than natural ability, intelligence or education.  He strongly advocates the need for 10,000 hours of practice at any skill in order to master it.

geese in flight

There’s no denying the amount of work required to flap your wings from Canada to the warmer places south of the border.  Some days must be easier than others.  Weather is seldom perfect.  Yet despite all the hard work, geese may know something we humans don’t yet realize about achieving our goals. 


Geese take turns at the lead. Depending on who’s strongest on a given day, the leader facing the most powerful winds may be one goose one day and another the next.  If one goose falls ill or is injured, a couple stay back to care for it until they can all continue their journey together.  The code geese live by ensures that getting everyone in the air and on their way will always take priority over any goose getting to the destination first.

Gladwell also noticed that super achievers had a remarkable amount of support from others in their journey to success.  Sharing strengths with others and daily support and encouragement from family and friends is crucial in order for all of us to achieve our goals and dreams.  Geese already seem to know how to do this.  We can all learn much from their example.

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october vines

Overnight winds have pulled many of the leaves off the trees and beaten the vine leaves repeatedly against the bricks.  Many are now on the lawn.  It won’t be long before November’s bareness sets in.  But not yet.  There’s still time for one last look at October’s stunning palette of colours.

vine palette

I’ve taken squares of colour from the photo of vines above to create a palette of hues representational of this time of year.

colour wheelIn art theory, red and green are considered opposite one another on the colour wheel.  These are known as complementary colours.

Some of the vine reds appear purplish and there is also some yellow present.  Purple and yellow is another complementary combination, as is the combination of orange and blue.

blueorangeblueWhether it’s a light or bright blue,  October’s sky contrasts beautifully with orange tinged leaves.  Their warm and fiery hue manages to balance the crisp coolness of the clear blue sky, making autumn seem less chilling.

complementary pairs

When unmuted complementary colours are placed next to each other in a painting, the line between them may appear to vibrate.   Despite the mutedness of some of October’s colours, the juxtaposition of pairs of complementary leaf and sky colours in the landscape still produces a visually vibrant liveliness that exudes warmth and excitement.  No wonder this time of year can inspire so much awe among onlookers.

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