I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
John Burroughs

Friday, January 15, 2021

I love trees.....

 I have a thing for trees. The bigger and older, the better. I love the bush on our property, as there are lots of large, old trees. There are two stands of mature hemlock, one on the west side, and one on the east side.

There are lovely big, straight cedars in the wetter areas, their lowest branches high above the deer nibbling range. They must have grown up before the deer became as plentiful as they are now, as there are no cedar seedlings anywhere. There are also lots of gnarly cedars, with a lot of character.

Here and there, interspersed in the bush, are some big white pine that must have been too small at the time, to fall to the logger's axes and saws.

Our bush has a lot of beech trees, some quite large in girth, but sadly, this year they are really succumbing to 'beech bark disease'. The disease becomes very evident as the trees reach a certain size. Last summer, we started to notice the leaves browning and dropping long before they should, in the natural scheme of things. There will still be young beech trees growing, but they will never reach the size of the huge grey trunks we are seeing around us now.

On the east side of the pond, there is an huge black ash tree. We created a little walking trail to go past the base of this behemoth, and on around the pond, crossing over a split log bridge at the exit stream.

In past years, we have traveled and paddled many miles to see the remaining stands of virgin white pine in Ontario. In Algonquin Park, we visited the pines at Dividing Lake on a long, August weekend, portaging up the Golden Staircase from Livingstone and Kimball Lakes to set up camp on Rockaway Lake, where the following day, we paddled over to the portage into Minky and Dividing Lakes, and walked in to see the trees, some apparently over 400 years old. One of my favorite pictures is of our son, quite young at the time, leaning against the bole of a Dividing Lake white pine.

Another year, we did a 10 day trip in Algonquin, starting at Magnetawan Lake, paddling, portaging and camping down the upper Petawawa River, to Big Trout Lake, then across through Lake La Muir to Hogan Lake. There, we set up camp for two nights, and on the next day took a day pack and the canoe, portaging down to Big Crow Lake to paddle down the Crow river to visit the stand of virgin white pine along the Crow river. That was the trip that we lost track of counting the moose we saw, as there were so many!

Another Algonquin trip took us into Dickson Lake, where we paddled and portaged to see the stand of 350 year old red pine. That was an experience to stand beneath the giants. “It was calm as we detoured into the shore at the red pine peninsula and walked around among the trees. Of the bigger ones, I could encircle the trunk with my arms, leaving a 10 inch gap between my fingertips. There were a few impressive white pine there as well, much bigger around than the red pines and also a few large hemlock. The red pine tower over the surrounding bush, letting lots of light down through their comparably sparse needles. Despite the light, the undergrowth is very thin, just the odd baby red pine. The ground is padded thickly with brown needles, and there are quite a few, fallen entangled dead limbs from far above. Huge toadstools stand out whitely here and there.”

Another summer trip, we traveled N and W beyond Lake Superior, to the stand of 300 year old white pine at Greenwood Lake in western Ontario. That involved a long drive along dusty logging roads, through acres of barren clear-cuts, to finally crest a hill and find the stand of white pine. Our Jeep, pulled over on the side of the road looked toy-like among the towering trees. It was an almost spiritual experience to stand among those giants. “There was total silence except for the constant 'shush' through the needles, even though there was no wind. It was a calm, warm, sunny day. We followed a barely discernible trail through the bush, over dead logs to stand among the giants. It was awe inspiring to stand beside those grey trunks which reached toward the heaven.”

I try to imagine what history a big tree has seen. If they could only speak.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

A new, yet to be named, trail....

We have a trail that circumnavigates the perimeter of our acreage. It weaves and winds around, in far enough from the edges that while walking it, we are invisible from the road which borders the south and west side. The exception to this perimeter trail, is a section on the NE quadrant, where our property abuts our N and E neighbour's properties. 

This is a wet area, where the water seeps out below a spring, that never freezes over. Especially in the spring, one can see where the water bubbles up, fine pebbles of white sand dance in its flume. In winter, the water shimmers over the boils.

Hubby built a cedar box and put it over one of the biggest up-wellings


The little stream just below the pool flows out between a couple of mossy rocks, a small gurgling flush of water.

Mitten for size comparison

Just below that, a lovely mat of water cress grows, it's leaves now submerged, but a sure sign of spring is when they begin to grow up above the water's surface. 

Water cress beneath the 'frost creations'


The water spreads out from there, a much less defined water course, seeping into the soil that has been built up from eons of fallen trees and dead vegetation. 

This out flow area is pinioned between two ridges, running more or less, E - W, which guide the moisture off to the east,  on down the hill through the bush to join the creek at the bottom, many acreages away. The area is V-shaped, the apex being the pool where the water bubbles up, the valley widening out as it continues E.

This has created a wet, boggy area, the wettest part inhabited by some magnificent eastern white cedars.

An Eastern White Cedar bole

On the dryer bumps and knolls, there are yellow birch, hemlock, some iron wood and a few white pine. The wettest, lowest areas are a labyrinth of criss-crossed roots, old, moss covered logs, and leaning trees, their roots not so firmly rooted in the wet soil.

In the spring and summer, it is a fairy land of ferns and mosses, goldthread, wood sorrel and other plants I want to ID.

One of this winter's projects is to create the outline of a trail through this area. The trail begins as an offshoot of the path through to our N neighbour's property, continues down through a mixed hardwood bush, mostly beech, past the spring, into and through the swamp, finally going up the side of the bordering S ridge to connect to our existing trail along that ridge.

heading up toward the south ridge

 We have bushwhacked through here in all seasons of the year, in fact one of the first exploratory trips we had up here in the spring of 2017, was to walk the N property line which involved stepping from hummock to root, grasping any handy  tree to try and  keep our feet out of the boot miring black muck. The previous owners invited us up and we stayed for a weekend in the little cabin on the property and did some extensive exploration.

We have snowshoed through many times in the winter and have a good idea of the best route to follow that will involve the least brush cutting and the driest footing. There will still be some bridging involved to avoid the boot sucking black holes. 

This trail has been on the planning table for quite a while. We have marked out the route, weaving through the boles of the big cedars, easy going now, with a good pad of snow. There are a few flat spots, places where the water has pooled out and frozen. They will need to be bridged somehow. I'm sure the trail will not be exactly where we have marked it now. Its route will change slightly, depending on what is revealed when the snow melts.

Cutting out an obstruction on the upland region

The swamp is a magical, fascinating place to me, full of a diverse array of plants. It is a place the critters like as well, as there are martin, fisher, deer and many other small animal tracks in the snow. A clearly defined trail will make it so much easier to explore. There is a lot of work to be done yet, especially once the snow melts and the spring flush of moisture subsides.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Back up.....Happy New Year

January 2....Good morning...Its -4C, a lovely, soft morning with a fine sift of snow falling. Downstairs, in the warm darkness, I turn on the Christmas tree, to enjoy it's glow for a few more days before dismantling it and taking down all the other decorations for another year. Its always good to get things packed away and the decks cleared to get on with the new year and all the possibilities it holds.

The fire is next.

There is a good bed of coals that woof the fire back to vigorous life, once the draft is opened and a stick of good hardwood is laid in on them.

I've just been out to sweep the steps and clear the walkway to the door. Its early, just after 4AM, but that is normal, as my body ignores fall's time roll back on the clock.

The light, shining through the falling snow, glints off of the facets of each flake, creating a curtain of falling sparkles, a magical world. Even when we lived in town, on a morning like this, I'd be out clearing the drive, and watching the flakes fall through the halo of light below the streetlights. A quiet time before the dawn and before the world around us came to life. Up here, there are no other lights to break the darkness beyond our light halo, and silence surrounds us. Another layer of beautiful white stuff to pad the snowshoe trails, and reveal the overnight doin's of the critters.

These long dark mornings are good crafting time. Another pair of socks are growing on my needles.

The shawl I put aside leading up to Christmas, is beside me in it's bag, available to pick up for a row or two a few times a day.

On the trail cameras, the deer are definitely moving to their yard in the big cedar swamp to the south of us. There are grooves cut into the snow where they travel their ancient trails. 

Following the deer, come the wolves.

Data is expensive up here. We are connected to the internet via 'line of sight' to the nearest cell tower. The 'techno wizard' I am married to, has the 'Bell Hub' limited so the data shuts down just before we hit the 15 GB mark causing what we call 'Bell's blue screen of death' to pop up on our computers. Data gets very expensive after 15GB, when Bell starts charging per MB. Extra data use leading up to Christmas shut us down on the 26th, and our data plan renews on the 4th of each month. I am looking forward to reading everyone's blogs and getting caught up on all your lives. Happy New Year to everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Peace to all...

Christmas 2019.... A perfect, beautiful, Christmas day.... Cold and crisp with fresh snow....

This year, it is RAINING..... Absolutely YUCK!! We still have lots of snow, but when it freezes again, which is forecast for tomorrow, we will need skates to get around on cleared surfaces.

Bringing in the tree.....

A little decorating.....

Peace and good wishes to everyone....

Monday, December 14, 2020

Weather, seeds, planting and critters.....

Technically, it isn't winter yet, not until the solstice on December 21, but cold and snow have been advancing, retreating, then advancing again. We've had a long period of miserable, sleety, icy, rainy weather, sparsely interspersed with lovely snowfalls of big, fluffy flakes.

The crisp, sunny days have been few and far between, and each one is relished.

The temperature, hovering around the freezing mark and just below, makes the footing rather dicey if one wants to walk on any of the ploughed surfaces, and the snow is not deep enough yet for snowshoes. Thankfully, our township keeps the road in good shape and well sanded, so we can get up and down the hill, in a vehicle, or on foot, easily. A daily walk down the hill and back up provides a good cardio workout!

Today, the temperature is holding about -4C, and it is supposed to drop down into double digits tonight, so hopefully, we are heading into some nice winter weather.

The seed catalogues have been showing up in the mail. Is it just me, or are they coming earlier and earlier every year?

I retrieved my seed jar from the cool, dark recess of the cupboard under the stairs, and did an inventory so I'll be ready to order any I need to fill in my garden plans.

 My ginger plant is about 6 inches high, with two leaves out, and another shoot is rising from the rhizome. I just planted a pot of oats for a friend's cat, and they should be just about right for nibbling at Christmas.

Slowly, I've been filling the cookie tins with Christmas baking, and planning a menu of meals and treats for over the Christmas holiday days. We will be interacting with folks in our 'bubble', and our son will be able to come for a few days, as he is able to work from home the few weeks left until Christmas. We are blessed to be living in an area of very low Covid cases, and the cases that do exist are quite a distance away from us. There have been none in the small villages and towns closer to home. 

The deer haven't 'yarded up' yet, as the snow is not deep enough to get them on the move. They are still visiting the mineral block in front of the trail camera. 

A Fisher is checking out the area as well.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Wandering and cooking....

Its been a dreary week with very little sunshine. The temperature has been hovering just around the freezing mark, but today has dropped a few degrees below freezing, and is staying there. Its much nicer out with a bit of a nip in the air and is less slippery underfoot.

We've had snow, then freezing rain, then rain, then pellets of snow, then snow....

The snowplough put a ridge of snow across the driveway entrance that needed to be cleared.

 Midweek, late one afternoon, the sky cleared and the sun sparkled through the ice and snow on the tree branches just before setting, but the next morning we were back to overcast skies.

Every day we get out and check out who has been about. The deer are dragging their feet through the snow, which is getting a few inches deep.

A nest from last summer, that had been concealed in the raspberry canes, but is now visible.

The morning sun just cresting the tree-tops to light up a beech sapling midst the hemlocks.

  Snow, outlining the stone fences.

The snow is not deep enough yet to get out the snowshoes and skis, but soon, we hope.

I've steamed our Christmas pudding. This year it is a carrot-potato pudding, with raisins and candied fruit.

Planning a grocery list for the next shopping excursion is in the works, as I want to do some Christmas baking. The day is creeping closer, and tis time to get serious about preparations as we only go to town every two to three weeks.

Just perusing the offerings!


Saturday, November 28, 2020

English muffins and Exotic plants....

Well, at least they are exotic to this neck of the woods!

Back at Christmas time of 2018, visitors brought a friend some fresh dates from California. She saved some of the pits and gave me one. By March, it had sprouted, and I grew it under lights until all danger of frost was past, then put it out to spend the summer gracing the picnic table by the back door.

It over-winters in a south-facing window now. I've had to up-size it's pot twice. I don't know how long I can keep it growing, as we don't have much room for plants indoors. (my one regret about our small log house) It's leaves are very stiff and the ends are sharp, quite the conversation piece for visitors.
October 2020

Back in October, I bought a ginger root, and it was showing a bit of a yellowish nodule, so I cut that off and planted it. Yesterday, this is what I found in it's pot!

I have grown ginger before. One needs a lot of patience as it is very slow-growing. Just brushing the grass-like foliage releases a lovely ginger aroma. I did harvest tubers from the one I grew before. 

It's been gloomy and grey, and drippy and yucky the last few days. The sun teased us this AM, but now its back to gloomy and grey. I spent a bit of time sorting through some recipe clippings I'd saved, and was struck by the whim to make English muffins. I did some looking on the internet, but followed a recipe I'd clipped. You make a sponge with all the ingredients plus 2 cups of the flour called for, stir it up and let it ferment for a couple of hours, then add the rest of the flour, knead it and let it rest another couple of hours before shaping the muffins and letting them rise again. I decided to let the second rise happen overnight in the fridge, then pinned out the dough and cut the muffins this morning. After letting them rise, I cooked them in cast iron skillets on the wood stove, and had to keep adjusting the height of the pans with trivets, as the stove was a little warm!

The muffins are very nice, all full of air pockets to hold melted butter and jam. I finished them with 6 minutes in a 350 degree oven to be sure they were cooked through.
Perhaps Eggs Benedict will be on the menu tomorrow!!