Equinox

2 junco snowingTypical of the Equinox – the weather doesn’t know what it wants to do.  A lot of the time, the ground is pretty much bare around the house, but it keeps snowing.  We’ve had several skiffs, and two bigger falls.  When the ground is open, the birds mostly seek food elsewhere.  When it snows, they flock to the feeder.  Juncos have very long feet.

3 junco printsBut the stars of the performance are the redwing blackbirds.

5 blackbird fruit jpgThere are now about 30 (still all male), and their testosterone level is climbing, so they fight!

6 blackbird fight 1

7 blackbird fight 1a

8 blackbird fight 2

9 blackbird fight 3I must have a sadistic streak, because I enjoy this!  Other birds are tumbling in on the warmer days. Flicker, savannah sparrow, crows (only ravens around in the winter) and hawks.  Robins and varied thrushes appeared a few days before they started to sing.

49b robinAnd in the trees was a ruffed grouse.  In winter sometimes I see spruce grouse, but the ruffed grouse arrive with the spring.

9a ruffed grouseA few days ago, I thought I’d better check when the time change was going to be.  I found out that it had happened nearly two weeks before!  The battery in the watch I keep around, without really looking at it much, had died.  If I want to know the time, I have to switch on the computer.

The mountains play peek-a-boo with the clouds,

12a bit of middle mtDespite this somewhat cooler weather, the snow is going.

10 goat barnThaw patterns are happening.

11 thaw patternThe river is filling and turning brown.

12 riverOn cloudy, moonless mornings, the bare ground around my house makes the world seem very dark.  Only the frozen pond and the slab of snow under the spruces across the wetland gleam faintly, like the Cheshire cat’s grin.

However, spring is definitely on its way.  On the sunniest banks, new leaves are poking through the winter debris. (This is jacob’s ladder.)

12b jacobs ladderAnd the biggest prize of all, on the very warmest spot – Dandelions!

12c dandelionsMy very first wild salad!

Then, one morning, it was sparkling clear.  This has been a rarity for weeks.

14 sunriseIf I wanted to walk easily, I would have to leave early while the frost made the snow hard.

The creek flowing into the pond was full.

15 blue creekSpring open water always looks so beautiful against the ice.

16 open creek

One group of willows always turns marvelously red.

16b red willows

The forest still has quite a bit of snow in it, and in places it is still a foot deep.

18 deep snow in bushI want to put a trail through here, and thought I’d better flag it while I could still find my snowshoe tracks.  Along the route, there is a viewpoint.

18a my house through treesI don’t know if you can see it, but my house is in the middle distance, almost completely hidden by pines.  If you look at the second aspen from the left, you will see 3 short, parallel branches near the bottom on its right hand side.  My house is half way between the third branch and the fourth.

The trail comes onto my neighbour’s road.  The ploughed areas are drying up pretty well.

19 road

Then I turn up onto the south bluffs.

19 river and mtsA little further on, I can look down onto my other neighbours’ house.  (In the middle distance, close to the river.)  It is also for sale.

20 neighbours' houseBut that was the end of the really good weather.  Cloud built up by the end of the day, and this morning, it was raining.

13 rainbow

 

 

 

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Megathaw!

It first turned cold for a few days cold.  We had good frosts and a couple of inches of snow, which made the road very drivable.  I even brought my van home.

1 fresh snow on road

The fresh snow and colder temperatures meant that hiking was suddenly much easier, although it was necessary to leave early in the morning when the frost was hard.

2 icy pussy willowThe bushes in the swamp were starting to emerge from their winter blanket.

3 patchy snow in swampIt was a race against the sun.  As soon as it broke through the clouds, the going would get soggy.  I climbed onto the south bluffs.

4 FP from bluffThe slopes facing the sun were now bare of snow.

5 bare bluffThe river sparkled in the sun.

5a riverThe lake across the road had lost the loose snow on top and was turing blue-grey.

6 ClearwaterThat night, the sunset was visible again (very unusual all winter) and it almost cleared Nogwon – When it climbs over the summit, it will be the equinox.

7 sunset NogwonThe full moon was buried in cloud – I have not seen a full moon set for 6 months.  I had to be content with a waning moon.

8 moon surniseThe cold spell lasted only a few days.  Then we were promised a megathaw – daytime temps up to +13C, strong warm winds, and even a bit of rain.  A good time to sprinkle a winters’ worth of ash on the garden in the sunniest spot, to get it to thaw quickly there.

10  ash on garden 1Within 3 days, the ground was bare.

12 garden 2The big snowbank in front of the house finally dropped enough to reveal the rocks in the rock garden.

11 rock garden appearingThe first junco appeared.

10 JuncoIt is usually a toss-up as to whether the juncos or the redwing blackbirds arrive first.  This year the blackbirds won by about 3 weeks.  Juncos are ground feeders so I guess they were waiting for the thaw.

Yesterday I drove the road again.

13 yesterday puddlesI was amazed how much bare ground there was, and how firm these patches were.  Usually, the mud is slop for a while.  But I guess, like last year, the ground was so dry before the winter came, that the frost did not go deep into the ground.

Winter, however, is just reminding us not to get too complacent.  This morning we had a few lazy flakes of snow.

14 ffresh falling snowBut once the sun came out, they soon melted.  There’s still a lot of snow in the bush, but now the ground in front of the cabin is open.

15 snow nearly gone

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Spring Is Just Around The Corner

1 pussy willowSpring is just around the corner – but which corner?  Seems like we are living in an octagon these days.

Even before I left for Galiano Island to take part in the Literary Festival, the first pussy willows were poking out.  There are two bushes within my orbit that always open long before any of the others.  The first redwing blackbirds had arrived.  (These are immature males so a bit spotty.)

2 rwbbsThey are a little smaller than the grey jays, but they beat them up!

3 rwbb and whiskeyjackIMG_2329The pine grosbeaks continue to do their thing.

4 pine grosbeakWhile I was away, My dog-sitter enjoyed mild, mostly sunny weather, just as we had had at the coast, so I was surprised to find that, in the open space in front of the house, in full sun, 14″ (35cm) snow still lay on the ground.  The minute I got home, the weather deteriorated, and we had a week of winter.  The temperature dropped to -22C at night and sometimes did not climb above freezing during the day, fresh snow fell a couple of times…

5 fresh snowAnd I was reduced to sweeping off the solar panels once again.

6 panelsReluctantly, it cleared a little.

7 finger peakI walked down to the river and found it wide open.

8 riverThen one night we finally got to view the sunset point – something I have rarely seen all winter.  (On the shortest day, the sun sets to the left of Finger Peak.)

9 sunset

During the night, the sky cleared completely.  A pregnant moon lit the snow, and in the morning, the mountains were displayed in a way I have hardly seen for months.

10 clear sunriseThat was a day I was not going to spend inside.  Off I went to the North Bluffs.

11 harryWorn trails could be walked on without snowshoes, but open snow was still a bit traitorous for me, although the dogs ran around on it OK.

13 on bluff

Shade temperature was still below freezing, but the sun was hot.  Badger feels the heat!

15 badger and viewTiny bits of bare ground were starting to show.

16 twisted rootAnd on to the spider tree!

17 spider tree 1

18 spider tree 2I ended where the biggest cliff of all swoops down to the river.

19 top of bluffAt some point the snow had avalanched off it.  It must have blocked the river.

20 avalancheThere are a lot of moose around this year – there always are in a big snow winter.  You can see their tracks on the above photo.  On the way home, we saw one.  It has just heard the dogs barking way up on top of the cliff, and is lifting his foot ready to run.

21 moose

That was our only really good day.  That evening, the next front was already swallowing the mountains.  It stayed cold for over a week.  We had some sun, but a lot of gloom.  Then last night, the wind changed, and the temperature rose dramatically.  The coldest it became last night was -4C.  Now, mid afternoon, it is +8C!  Supposed to get even warmer in a few days.  There is a strong gusty wind and patchy sun; if this keeps up, we should see a few changes around here soon.

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A Post of Links

Several interesting blogs and websites have come my way recently and I thought I’d put them all together in a post of links.

1.  Tatlayoki Think Tank

Before I left for the Galiano Writers Festival (see previous post), we had a benefit at the Tatla Lake Hall to raise money for medical equipment.  The Tatla Clinic falls between two stools regarding government funding so the community got together, under the auspices of our “retired,” very hard-working Dr Mike, and managed to raise $20,000 towards much needed equipment.  We did this with the usual potluck supper and auction.  Our little hall was Jammed!  Entertainment was mainly in the form of a Video that John Kerr, creator of Tatlayoko Think Tank, had put together about a Chilcotin nurse (who is based further east at Alexis Creek) who volunteered to help fight Ebola.  Here is the video.   We may not have a lot of facilities on the Chilcotin, but we have a lot of skilled and dedicated people living among us.

2. Nicole Lishewski’s Book

BlockhausCoverSmall

 

Those of you who have been following Nicole’s blog will know about this, her latest post.  (Nicole’s blog is on my blogroll.) She lives much the same way I used to do at Nuk Tessli – access is long and difficult overland and water, but flyable if necessary.   She originated from Germany but writes an English version of her blog – unfortunately the book is only in German so far.   We have not yet met as her home is far to the north, but we’ll get there one day.  We often correspond in the morning dark and I think it is amazing that the two of us, vastly separated by distance, very wild country, and difficult weather, can link our night-bound, monk-like cells so easily via the Internet.

3.  Terra (Punky) Hatch

A rancher, teacher, outfitter, parent, Terra (known as Punky for most of her life) was born into local ranch and outfitting life, as were her parents.  For many years the family have owned and operated Six Mile Ranch, the base for both the ranching and outfitting operations.  They will take people on horseback trips, and also horse-supported walking trips.  They are one of 3 outfitters in the area, all of whom give wonderful experiences. Punky has been going along since she was an infant, Now she, her husband, and her own children, take a much more active part.

Recently, Terra started her own blog: Mountains Beyond the Cows. It is an “in” joke referring to the Chilcotin classic about the area, Grass  Beyond the Mountains  by Rich Hobson.  I will put a link on my sidebar to her blog.

4. Natural Homes by Inspiring Women

Not much I can add to this except to tell you to look at the link.  Truly amazing constructions.

5. Nuk Tessli

Just a note to say It has now been confirmed that I will be guiding 3 separate trips at Nuk Tessli this year.  The first will be July 16 – 19, the second, July 19 – 22nd, and the third, July 22 – 25.  There are two spaces left on the middle trip and 4 on each of the others.  I will be puttering along slowly and looking at flowers; if people want faster trips, Doron, one of the two current owners of Nuk Tessli, will take them.  Doron is an excellent guide and fun to be with.

 

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2015 Galiano Literary Festival

1 dogs IMG_2152There was a great deal to organize before I could leave home for the 2015 Galiano Literary Festival, not the least of which was organizing a dogsitter.  “Could she bring her dog?” she asked before she came.  She arrived with four, and two days later drove 2 hours to her home to fetch a fifth.  So she spent the whole week juggling 7 dogs!  (I’m glad I wasn’t there!)  (In the picture, Harry is visiting with 3-legged Bear.)

I left early the following morning.  -15C, and there was ice on the truck windshield.  About the time I got to the highway, the truck was warm.  But the truck was going to sit at the end of my ice road with its chains on, and I loaded the last items into the van – then had to scrape the van’s windshield and start driving in another cold vehicle.  All this in the dark.

First light happened in less than an hour, and the morning was gorgeous with the sun peeping in and out of layers of mist.

2 sunrise to Ws Lk IMG_2156A bit of business in town, and then south to the interior desert country near Ashcroft.  I had left the snow far behind and was marvelling at all that bare ground – and green grass!

3 AshcroftMy host lived above a little lake that was still frozen.  The willows were a lovely pink colour against the bluey-grey ice.

4 pondA walk by the pond revealed a rock thickly plastered with lichen.

5 lichens IMG_2169and two old cottonwood trees.

6 cottonwoods IMG_2174The next day started dull but the sun came out in the Fraser canyon.

7 Canyon IMG_2181A few spits of rain later, but mostly it was dry.  The lower mainland was redolent of dairy farms – it must have been manure-spreading season.  The gardens were already in flower.

8 cr0cusesIMG_2183

9 cherry blossomA day of shopping – new glasses, computer accessories, miso – and on Friday morning I caught the ferry to Galiano.  It is a very old boat that putters between the islands.  It is due to be scrapped very soon.  I hope the bell is saved.

10 ferry bellI was met by hosts Terry and Irene Trueman.

10a. Terry and IreneTerry had been a client at Nuk Tessli; when he had seen my name on the author list he invited me to stay.  That afternoon, he and Irene took me on a short walk.  I love to visit the Coast (but couldn’t stand to live there!) The arbutus trees are always stunning.

11 arbutusSomeone had made this interesting driftwood sculpture beside the trail.

12 deerWe saw a lot of birds.  Black oyster catchers.

13 oyster catchersIMG_2207Hooded mergansers

14 hooded mergansersIMG_2215And Barrows Goldeneyes waiting to go up north and breed in my neighbouring mountains.

15 barrows goldeneyes IMG_2224The next day I had to work!  The festival was held at the Galiano Inn with its dramatic view of Mt Baker behind the ferry dock,

16. Baker view IMG_2238and its beautifully landscaped gardens.

17 flowering almondFirst I was supposed to join a panel discussion about writing and the environment with 3 very politically motivated writers, Andrew Nikiforuk, Arno Kopecky, And the Green Party’s Leader, Elizabeth May.  I am definitely not politically-minded.  I gave a little speech about solar power and how people should not take such luxuries for granted.  Towards the end, the discussion veered towards the idea that the only way to save the world is to wipe out people.  I was asked what I thought. I had no idea what to say!  (In the 30 seconds that was left.)  So I said: “Well… I am a spinster and I’m too old to have kids so I’ve done my bit.” At least everyone had a laugh.

I gave my slide show later that day.

19 MeJust before I left for Galiano, I got a couple of books out of the Tatla Lake library.  They were by John Vaillant, who wrote The Golden Spruce, which I have and love.  This was creative non-fiction and won lots of awards.  He recently had a novel published, and it and a book called the Tiger, about an amazing ecosystem in the far east of Russia, were my companions for the journey.  I had been so busy organizing my place to get away that I had not bothered to research who was speaking.  The first person I saw was John Vaillant!

18 John VallientAnother excellent speaker was Ian McAllister.  He is practically a neighbour, living on a small island on the other side of Bella Coola.  We have heard of each other for years but never actually met.  His main subject is the ecosystem of forest and sea that has become known as the Great Bear Rainforest.  Ian of course is concerned about the terrible threat to the ecosystem should the pipeline from the Alberta tar sands go through.  Up to 3,000 tankers per year are proposed to ply these remote and very difficult to navigate waters: many animals rely on sound communication in the deeps – their ability to communicate would be severely compromised, and of course, one spill would be an absolute disaster.  I cannot believe that our Prime Minister, Steven Harper, would even consider selling this absolutely priceless ecosystem just to put a few figures on paper.   He belongs to a narrow religion that allows him to manipulate a natural world that he knows very little about.  Ian’s books and talks, however, are not heavily laden with politics – he just wants to show what is there.  The audience was rolling with laughter over the story told by his fantastic photography.  Do try and see his talks.

Saturday afternoon Terry and I fitted in another hike.  The cedar forests have wonderful shapes.

20 curley cedars

This is all second growth.  Several of the old stumps have the notches cut into them for the springboards that the old hand-loggers stood on.

21 stumpsA precious gleam of sun highlighted a bit of moss.

22 sun and mossWe walked up to a lookout.  That is the Sunshine Coast on the mainland in the background.

23 eagleThe ferry left at 5.00:pm, and for the whole hour crossing, we had a spectacular sunset.  First Mt Baker turned pink!

24 baker sunsetAs we drew into the channel, we could see the sun setting behind us.

25 sun setting on ferryThe changing colours were wonderful.  I was still snapping pictures when they told us to go back to our vehicles.

26 sunset IMG_2289

27 sunset IMG_2290

28 sunset IMG_2291Off early the next morning, I drove back up the canyon.  The weather, again, was wonderful.

29 tunnel IMG_2299

Soon I was back in the dry country.

30  dry countryAfter Clinton, the land climbs considerably, and soon I was seeing patches of snow on the shady side of the road.

31 cariboo snowI spent the night near Lone Butte, which is not far from 100 Mile.  My host was a self-published author who writes detective fiction.  Her character is Hunter Rayne, a truck driver.  Her first book is Slow Curve on the Coquihalla.  She is now working on her forth.  If you like mysteries, these are good ones.  A bonus to the stay was meeting her partner, Gilbert Roy.  An ex-Quebecois horse trainer, he had wonderful stories about his life and his horses.  I wish I could have stayed longer, but my dogsitter had to leave so I had to go home.

So yesterday I drove back into the snow country of the Chilcotin.

32 ChilcotinThis was an amazing trip.  Only 8 days from start to finish, and the first shopping trip since early December.  I planned a great many meetings not mentioned in this blog post.  And everything went like clockwork!  I even found my way from Burnaby to the ferry and back, without a hitch either way, something I have never done before.  I also made MONEY!

When I left home, I wore longjohns, and winter boots with ice grippers on the bottom.  I shed the ice grippers when I started my van.  I shed the boots in Williams Lake, and the longjohns in Ashcroft.  Now of course, I had to put all these things on again in stages.  The last were the ice grippers when I reached my road. I had hoped to take the van home as there was a great deal of stuff in it, but I decided not to risk it.  So everything had to be loaded into the truck.

33 ice road IMG_2313Who needs to go to Hawaii?  Just going down to the Coast at this time of year is like travelling to a different planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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