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

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Cooking, crafting and critters.....

 Winter is ticking along according to schedule. The days are getting longer.  Its still daylight, sort of, at supper time. The dark mornings still seem to be very long though. Perhaps that is because we are up before 5AM. We have had very few days of sunshine, but are presently heading into a nice cold week of more normal winter temperatures and clearer skies. Today started out with the rising sun peeking through the trees, perceptibly further to the north.

We had a good 4 inches of light fluffy snow that started falling yesterday afternoon and continued on into the night, when the sky cleared and the almost full moon, high in the western sky was shining brightly and casting shadows across the unmarked canvas of pristine whiteness.

The deer are all gone from the hill now. We've pulled in quite a few of the cameras, to save on batteries. There is just the odd fisher, the resident foxes, grouse, mice and squirrels, all leaving their tracks in the snow. The wolves go through periodically, to and from the deer yard to the south.





We've been hiking our trails everyday, repacking them after the almost daily skiffs of snow that have been accumulating. Its always interesting to see that some of the critters use the packed trails to walk on, particularly the foxes. 

 My butternut squash and pumpkins are starting to show some sign of going off, so I've been busy baking, steaming, bagging and freezing them. The woodstove is on all the time, so I am cooking them off on it, as well as using it for other cooking whenever I can. It saves on propane.

Butternut squash makes quite a delicious pie. We are debating if we prefer it to pumpkin. It doesn't need as much sugar, that is for sure.

I've been working away at several knitting projects, and finally had enough of my old light which has snapped, the lamp part breaking away from the pole. I bit the bullet and ordered an Ott light.

It is very good. It dims or brightens, if you just hold your finger over the on/off switch. I researched it, and was led to believe it was made in North America....when the box came...bold print declares it is Made in China.....

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!