Saturday 28 April 2018

A Late Spring this Year

It is a late spring here in Ontario. Everyone knows it. But when I consult our journal it is interesting to see that on this day in 2002 we woke up to wet snow falling. And then on April 28 in 2003 the thermometer hit 21C. In 2006 we and some helping friends planted 250 trees in the field to the accompaniment of bright sun, swarming black flies and blooming daffodils. All to say that weather in this shoulder season can be anything from snow to blazing sunshine. And there's no point in making plans in advance or having any expectations.

With the prediction of rain later today and the possibility of snow tomorrow, Scylla and I decided to do a walkabout of the property. Railway Creek as it flows under Cooper Road is swollen and running fast.
The culvert on the east side of the road

The west side, where there are still remnants of a beaver dam Grant and his son dismantled last fall

Railway Creek as it runs past our field, swollen and submerging the trembling aspens in water
In the garden there are just a few signs of colour; the earliest bulbs, the perennial vegetables and members of the Allium family - bulbs themselves.
A small clump of winter aconite which I am so happy to see since it comes from my mother's garden

Scilla Siberica and its more modest cousin with the exotic name, Scilla Mischtschenkoana

Emerging rhubarb

French sorrel

Spring onions
We decided to continue our walk further afield heading for the woods.

Crossing the old cedar split rail fence into our neighbour's field

Water pooling in low lying areas
Continuing on our usual route we meet our first obstacle at the second fence. On the other side the path is completely submerged - another low-lying area, although it always felt more like the top of an incline to we continue along the fence looking for a drier part of the field
Our usual crossing place would land us in a pool of water

Despite its dull appearance this dry pasture is clearly greener!
At this time of year it can feel like little is happening and there is not much to see. But when I bring a camera it seems to encourage me to look a little closer. That keener eye is always rewarded.

As we continued through the field I saw a tree which appeared to have its bark gouged out by huge, or at least determined, claws. A sabre toothed tiger?? Or perhaps one of these creatures
The trunk genuinely looks gouged - with great enthusiasm if not a lot of skill - reminiscent of my well intended but ultimately ill-fated attempts at making a wooden spoon in a wood carving course I took with my friend Nancy....
Wood chips at the base of the trunk

The ragged stripping of the trunk

And as I walked past it on the way home I saw the crown had broken off
In the hemlock and birch woods I see a birch tree which is growing atop a stump - its roots, like the claws of a diamond ring, reaching around the stump to the humusy earth below. Having seen that first tree it seems there are innumerable examples of the same phenomenon.
The birch seedling almost looks suspended above the ground

Here's one whose rather tenuous roots were wrenched out of the ground
A matching pair on the bank of a little creek
A much better anchored yellow birch with its peeling bark and white birches in the background
There are big voluptuously coloured fungi,

dead trees being reinvented as apartment towers

and tree stumps festooned with moss and fungi and peeling bark that look sculptural.

In addition to just having a look around generally, Scylla and I are interested in finding signs of ramps and spring ephemerals so we carry on.

The path in the woods is very mucky and there are even a few areas where the track is still filled with ice.

Forging ahead bravely we are soon rewarded with hillsides of ramps. They look so healthy this year - dark green leaves and wine red sheafs covering the base of the stems. And they're so plentiful! In a week or two when the bulbs have plumped up a little there will be some great foraging.
A beautiful clump of ramps (or wild leeks)

Ramps always grow in clumps and particularly enjoy snuggling in rock outcroppings 

The outer skin that gets peeled off in food preparation is a lovely complementary red
Yes I am happy. Last year there were so few ramps that I missed spotting them and had to spend hours feeding myself to the black flies while I found a few to reward my troubles
As for spring ephemerals they, like us, know it is a late spring. No sign of any except a few newly emerging yellow adder's tongue. They like areas of the path that are open to the sun. Known more formally as Erythronium americanum, they are also called trout lily or yellow dog toothed violet. But I will always use my mother's name for them - yellow adder's tongue- so much more exciting.
 Yellow adder's tongue just pushing through the leaf litter

The speckled leaves inspire their other name - yellow trout lily

Having completed our fact finding mission we decide to head back. Scylla, ever the homebody, always takes the lead, stopping every twenty feet or so to make sure her errant mistress is still following.
"Water, water everywhere and nary a drop to drink" says Scylla, who is fond of paraphrasing Coleridge

A surreptitious glance behind before continuing on

This part of Railway Creek, upstream from our property, seems to be draining a little as it sends all the water down our way.

Once back on our property we see a tamarack, planted in that burst of enthusiasm in 2006, seems to be under a similar siege as the tree we saw earlier. Except from an animal smaller than a sabre-soother tiger - say an armadillo or even a bird....

The poor tamarack with so much of its bark stripped away

Again the tell tale chips at the base of the tree

This gouging seems much more methodical, less frenzied. I bet this culprit could make a great wooden spoon...
Back on safer territory we see that Christopher's civilizing paths are looking good, bringing order to a somewhat wild and chaotic spring awakening.

Saturday 31 March 2018

Spring Actually

This morning the sun was out, contrary to the weather prediction, and so Scylla and I decided to walk the trail across a couple of fields and through the woods that we usually ski on. There were great cross country skiing conditions this December and walking the trail today I was reminded of Christmas and my favourite seasonal film, Love Actually. A highlight is the Bill Nighy character's reworking of Love is All Around.
And so yet another rendition.. 

Spring is All Around

I feel it in my fingers
I feel it in my toes 
Spring is all around me
And so the feeling grows

It's written in the wind
It's everywhere I go
So if you really love Springtime
C'mon and let the wind blow.

Unlike in Toronto, where all the snow has been gone for quite awhile, there are significant patches on the ground here in the country; on north facing slopes, under coniferous trees, on compacted trails and ponds. In the photo below the snow is just starting to melt.
Soon this low lying area will be a substantial vernal pool.
Here on this south facing slope virtually all the snow has melted creating a small vernal pool.
While it is mainly a sepia-toned landscape there are spots of bright green; the mosses, grasses, ferns and hemlocks.
Bright green moss
 A broad-leafed carex
Two grasses basking in the sun
Fern fronds lie prostrate but will soon become erect.
A healthy woods with lots of hemlocks at various ages
In exposed areas you can always tell the direction because moss grows on the north side. But exposed to full sun or in deep shade moss, being opportunistic, will grow wherever it can.
A symmetrical "ball" of moss on the north side of this tree trunk

A completely moss covered rock
At this time of year when the deciduous forests enjoy temporary full and direct sun, certain trees seem to glow.
A beautiful white birch
These beech leaves shine in the sun
Not many people frequent these woods. I don't even know who owns them. In the quite distant past there was a sugar shack whose remains become harder and harder to find each year. In the winter, as well as me and my friends skiing the trails, they are also enjoyed by snowmobilers. I count on them to do their chainsaw magic and keep the trail clear. 
A old cast iron door used in boiling down maple sap
This fallen tree was recently sawn and moved out of the way to keep the trail clear

This tree trunk has fallen since the last time I was on the trail

After a few seasons these sawn fallen trees seem to become part of the landscape 
There are many low areas with streams that range from trickles in the summer to raging torrents or small ponds during spring fun-off. Scylla and I made our way through or around many of these waterways until we were finally defeated by one that was too fast and too wide. 
Scylla assesses this swollen creek and decides it is just too big to ford or walk around

Scylla love these walks. But, always a homebody, she takes the enthusiastic lead when it is time to turn around and head back home.
So it's off and running home!
As we make our way home you can see water everywhere making it's way to Railway Creek.
A new creek forms at the low point of these two slopes. It is making its way down to Railway Creek.
Railway Creek itself is still frozen but the edges have started to melt

An old beaver lodge separates the upper level of the Creek from the lower 

Scylla marvels at the fast flowing water cascading down the rocks 
Railway Creek at the south end of our property downstream from the woods