Sunday Snapshots – February snow

Snowy landscape

While it seems like every few days this winter our friends down in New England and the midwest were being hammered by yet another snowstorm, up here in Ontario our winter has been exceptionally dry. We had a big storm come through right around Christmas, and then for the last two months there’s been very little, just the odd sprinkling here and there. We got our first big snowfall since Christmas this week, with about 8 inches (20 cm) coming down in a day or so. When I put Raven out that night before bedtime the snow came up to her belly.

Snowy landscape

These photos were taken from our front porch, late in the day. When I went to bed that night, the lilac bush you see on the left in the bottom photo was completely flopped over, so weighted down by snow was it. And then, overnight, the wind picked up, the trees shook free of their burdens, and by the time I got up the next day the world was back to normal, the magical whiteness gone till the next storm. In my hiking around in the couple of days since, I have seen hardly any damage to the trees.

Snowy landscape

Our snowplowing service came by this morning to clean out our driveway. The last couple of days have been mild, and the snow was heavy and wet. It packed up at the sides of the driveway in giant snowballs bigger than my car’s tires. I had to go out today to pick up a couple of groceries. The road was wet and deep with slush, I couldn’t travel very quickly without it grabbing the tires and tugging at the car. So I had hardly any momentum when I got back to our driveway, and as a result I got the car stuck halfway up, immobilized on a tiny rise by an inch of slush. I left it there today but have to go up to Ottawa on Tuesday, so Dan and I will be out tomorrow afternoon to push it free. Or rather, Dan will push. I’ll do what women do best and sit in the car and give directions. ;)

Sunday Snapshots – Snow and sky and ravens

snow and blue sky

I’m away this weekend, back in the Toronto area to visit a friend for Christmas, and then spending a day with my sister. As usual, I’m trying to madly wade through my pre-departure to-do list and still make it out of the house on time. I wanted to schedule a post to go up this weekend, but in the interest of expediency, I’m just going to do a Sunday Snapshots. Perhaps today will be the day I actually hit the road when I plan to!

Lots of lovely snowy scenery around here these days, with gorgeous blue skies. And of course, what would a hike be without a Raven sighting, or two.

sunflower head against blue sky

snow and setting sun

snow

snow and blue sky

snow and blue sky

Raven

sunset and snow

Raven and snow

Christmas sunset
(This last one was taken at my parents’ house while I was there for Christmas.)

Signs of holiday visitors

Field in winter

If you’ve noticed a slight sparseness to the posts here over the last week or so, it’s because I’ve been spending a lot of time on various holiday projects. For whatever reason, maybe because I’ve finally got a space where I can do so, I’ve decided to do a few home-made projects as Christmas gifts this year. Last weekend was my mom’s birthday (because it’s less than two weeks before Christmas, it kind of gets rolled in to the same gift-prep boat), which I made her a horse-head hat for. From there I’ve carried on to other gifts, and the poor sewing machine has barely had a rest. I’ll be doing some Christmas baking tomorrow, and then it’s off to get together with the family for a few days of holidays. My youngest sister took her holidays in the week preceding Christmas, rather than the week after – you really need that extra time to get everything done!

I’ve made a bit of time to take Raven out for her walk, which she really needs to get or otherwise we have a very restless dog pestering us to play ball in the evening. I buckle up the snowshoes and hike off back into our fields along the trails we’ve made, which are quickly becoming well-packed. The several inches of snow we received a couple of weeks ago has stuck around (and shows no signs of leaving now until March – it seemed like an unusually abrupt transition from November browns to winter whites this year). Raven has a blast tearing around in it, and I have to admit the landscape looks quite lovely, especially at dusk, with the setting sun casting an orange-pink glow on the western side of the snow hummocks, their eastern side shaded with pastel blues.

Deer track

One of the neat things about snow cover is that it reveals the movements of the local wildlife, normally hidden from view during the warmer months. You get a chance to see what pathways are traversed by which animals; suddenly you’re aware of rabbit highways and squirrel burrows and the foraging routes of mice. Deer make especially large and noticeable tracks, and when out a few days ago I discovered a set of them leading out of the woods and down to our now-frozen pond, using the trail that Dan and I had packed down with the snowshoes. The next day I found some more – many also following our snowshoe paths – heading into the cedar groves at the back of the fields. In the summer, would we be aware of these beautiful creatures following silently in our steps? But in the winter we can have a small peek into their world.

There seemed to be three sizes of deer tracks following our trails; a rather large set, at slightly smaller set, and a quite petite set. I really hope that at least one of them happens to be young Joe Buck, who I haven’t seen since before hunting season when he happened to wander by while Raven was outside and she chased him off the property. The little tracks are so tiny my first thought would have been doe with fawn, except it’s quite the wrong season for dependent fawns. The mating season usually occurs around the end of November.

Deer track

It’s interesting how variable deer tracks are. Their hooves are actually two separate pieces on the ends of toe-like digits, rather than the single hoof of horses. The separate toes given them greater traction and the ability of the toes to separate also creates a broader surface area in softer substrates.

Deer track

I like that in this one you can see the dew claws (why they’re still called claws in ungulates who don’t really have claw-like nails, I don’t know), which belong to reduced toes and don’t serve much function (though in soft conditions, such as here, or in wet mud, they may touch the ground and could potentially help with grip, I suppose).

Deer tracks in snow

Raven checks out the tracks as they head back into the forest. I haven’t seen any deer around here in many weeks, but clearly they’re about, and just staying well back of the house and its crazy black dog. It’s nice to know they’re here still, even if they never come say hello.

The world in white

snow8

More snow photos, forgive me. I just couldn’t help myself. When I got up this morning there was a lovely white fluffy blanket of a couple of inches of the stuff spread across the ground and just about everything else. The first snow we got was just a sprinkling, a hint of what was to come. Today’s snowfall was our first significant accumulation. Since everything looked so lovely, and the sun was out and shining brightly, I decided to walk to my usual header-photo-taking spot halfway along the field immediately behind the house and get a new seasonally-appropriate image for the blog. This will be the blog’s header image until winter really settles in and we’ve accumulated enough snow that you can’t see much of the grasses anymore – late January, perhaps.

snow17

A photo of the front yard, with a smooth white frosting, as taken from the living room windows. Dan’s poor boat, with nowhere to float these days, sits overturned in the same place it’s been since we moved in in July, tucked against the foot of a spruce. I really like that we’re surrounded by so many evergreens. This photo looks down toward the road, not that you can see it. The owners, many years ago, planted the spruces (and, farther beyond, the pines) as a privacy screen when the neighbours started building their house. They do a great job. They also look stunning draped in snow. Snow on spruce boughs has to be one of my favourite winter sights. Snow on pine boughs runs a close second.

snow9

It was too pretty to just walk back for the house photo, so I decided to take Raven and hike to the back field, and admire the snow. Raven was up for that. She’s always up for a hike. You comin’, slowpoke?

snow7

She has great fun in the snow. Her favourite thing is snowbanks, which she loves to roll around in like those playful ravens, her namesakes. (We didn’t really name her after the playful ravens, just ravens in general.) But just dashing around, snuffling at footprints, that’ll suit her, too.

snow10

snow12

The sky was such an incredible, rich blue. There’s something about winter that really brings out the blue of the sky. Is it simply that it has no other colours to compete against?

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Midway back, a group of cedars. Number three is snow on cedar boughs. Actually, I think this little grove has a little bit of everything in it.

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And then we reach the back of our fields. At the very back there’s a large section of wet ground, almost bog-like, filled with cedars and sphagnum moss and a few tamarack. The cedars form dense groves through the wet bits.

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Led on, perhaps, by the beautiful scenery? I had planned only to go as far as the last field, but when I got there, I decided to push further, to the back fenceline. The wet areas would be frozen, which was my main deterrent for going through there in the warmer months. It would be nice to have a little boardwalk to cross through without stepping on vegetation or getting your feet wet. The evergreens through here all look so pretty with the snow adorning their branches.

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Very tall cedars where the ground dries out a bit more. It’s funny how even though the trees are the same species, the grove can have a completely different feel. Despite the closed canopy, the ground still has a layer of snow.

I get to the fenceline, just beyond. And… I’m not ready to turn around and go back to the house just yet, despite that I didn’t wear my longjohns. Perhaps just a short ways down the rail trail that abuts the back end of the property? Yes, I think so. Maybe I’ll walk down to the stream and come back… Raven thinks this is a great idea.

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To be continued…