Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘january’

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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Mid-January can feel so bare.  The warmth and sparkle of the holidays are already a distant memory.  The days are still short and the nights long and cold.  New Year’s resolutions made just a couple of weeks ago seem more difficult to keep with every passing day.  It seems that winter has a frozen grip around not just the landscape but our souls as well.

I wonder about the animals hibernating in their cosy holes beneath the ground.  Why don’t we possess the same instinct to withdraw at this time of year?  In centuries past, northern folk refrained from activities after the harvest, huddled together to conserve warmth and waited out the darker days by sleeping more and eating less. 

In contrast we seem to expect more of ourselves at this time of year.  January is a productive time in homes, schools and workplaces as we attempt to meet the challenges we’ve set for ourselves.   If we feel tired and find it difficult to start the day or week, perhaps it should come as no surprise. 

In the winter forest, lichens take advantage of the sunlight that’s blocked by the canopy of leaves during the other seasons.  They cover tree trunks and hang from the bare branches.  Despite seasonal interruptions in light, they carry on, eventually covering entire trees with their delicate ornament.  Their growth may seem slow to us, but it is growth nonetheless.   

In January, instead of expecting amazing strides in growth like leaves in springtime, we might be wiser to adjust our expectations.  Renewed patience for our tasks and our ability to do them might be just what we need.  The year is still new, and there’s plenty of time ahead to make fresh beginnings.

In our journey through life it does not matter whether we achieve all the goals we have set ourselves, but that we should show patience when we do not succeed in something and then make a new start.
~ Ambrose Tinsley OSB

Read Full Post »

What would happen if I ate a slug? Is eating slugs dangerous? Are slugs nutritious? Enquiring minds want to know. And so, several times a day for the past 18 months, visitors have arrived at Flandrum Hill in search of answers.

Back in July of 2009, I wrote a post about Eating Slugs and Snails.  To date it’s received more views than any other post on this site. 

I’d wondered if slugs were edible ever since I marvelled at the sight of 6 inch long ones in British Columbia decades ago.  Even the smaller ones in Nova Scotia looked meaty and boneless, and I wondered why nobody seemed interested in cooking them up for nutritious fare. Well, apparently there’s a good reason for this.

Slugs harbor a host of parasites. You can contract meningitis by consuming them.  Not to mention death.  So there you have it. I hope all those folks who visited my post found the answers they were looking for and had their sluggish apetites curtailed.

Still, if you aren’t yet convinced that there are better things than slugs with which to satisfy your apetite, at least cook them well before you eat them.  In order to kill any bacteria, it’s recommended that turkey be roasted to an internal temperature of at least 165ºF.  I’d go with at least that (and then some) if roasting slugs. 

Even in January, slugs can be found curled up under rocks in my backyard.  You’re welcome to come and pick your own.  Just remember to put the rocks back in place when you’re done.

Read Full Post »

Hey, what are you doing awake?  Aren’t you supposed to be hibernating?  

It was so warm that I decided to come out and see if it was spring yet. 

Weren’t you just out last month during a warm spell?

Yes, but this mating business is so important to us salamanders that I can’t let spring pass me by.  I have to check out every possibility.

Where do you usually spend your winters?

We yellow-spotted salamanders ideally hibernate about six inches underground.  However, I’ve just been buried beneath some leaves that are heaped on a concrete floor.  Maybe that’s why I keep waking up.  I need to find some deeper digs.

Once you really  know for sure that it’s spring, where will you go?

In very early spring, we salamanders return to pools of water to mate.  Females will lay up to a couple hundred eggs.  Temporary vernal pools created by melting snow and spring rains are our favorite places because they aren’t home to the predators found in more established watering holes.  We have to get there quickly so that the eggs have a chance to go through all the phases of growth before the pools dry up.

Good luck finding deeper digs.  Hope to see you again, but no sooner than  spring 🙂

Waking up throughout the winter takes up a lot of the precious energy I need for mating in the spring.  I’m going to find myself a spot where I won’t be disturbed.  See ya!

This yellow-spotted salamander was found wandering about  on January 1st.  It was previously seen on December 6th

 

Read Full Post »

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.

Receive by email or subscribe in a reader

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: