Spring Solstice 2017

It continues to be cold at Ginty Creek.  Today it is more or less sunny, but as has been the case for many days, storms hide the more distant mountains.  It is the 2016 Spring Solstice tomorrow, and the snow is beginning to go, but everything is very late.

During the winter, I have had a young Swiss couple for neighbours.  They were caretaking the Terra Nostra Guest Ranch.  In return for me giving Anika a ride to yoga every week, she organized a horse ride for me.  I hadn’t been on a horse for at least 20 years!Note the little Shetland pony, called Sparkle, by the horse shed.  What she lacks in size she has in attitude.  She is small enough to walk into the shed and she knows how to bump the lid off the feed bin so constantly has to be watched.I let Anika do all the preparations as I didn’t trust myself to saddle up properly.While I stood around, several of the horses were hoping that my camera was a treat.I visualized taking lots of pictures, but I was so unused to being in the saddle I did little more than hang on.   The snow was crusted on top and the horses floundered quite a bit.  We came to a lookout opposite the North dunes where I often hike on my side of Highway 20.  The small building to the left  of the horse’s nose is the post office.  Anika took this snap.  (The dog is not Harry – he and Badger chase livestock so they stayed home.)Up and down we continued through the forest, and came back along Clearwater Lake.

A cold ride but for me a memorable one.  I could barely stand when I got off!  If I had been a beginner I would not have felt so sore.  But using muscles that I haven’t operated for 20 years (in a cold wind) meant that it took me several hours to recover.  Unfortunately, Anika and Sam are now back in Switzerland so I may not use the muscles again for another 20 years.For the first week of March the temperatures were in the minus 20Cs again at night, and, despite the sun, well below zero during the day.  The river has a lot more ice on it than at the same time last year. This channels stays open even during the coldest spells. It was recently dammed by a new slip off the bank.The winter snowfall had been light and mostly powdery – many of the weed stalks were not damaged.Then it warmed up a bit and we had more snow.It was back to brushing off the solar panels.When the sun shone again, everything was fresh and sparkly.  For quite a while, Harry had been working very hard with his editor, but that part of the process has been completed so he can enjoy a bit more freedom.

Conditions like this make for perfect snow shadow abstracts.

The first migrant birds were here in February last year, but by mid March this year there was no sign of them and the predators are hungry.  We have red foxes on the Chilcotin, too, but this colour phase is also quite common here.The northern hawk owl likes his perch at downtown Kleena Kleene.  In wetter springs, mouse homes are flooded out but this year the little rodents are still happy beneath the snow.During the second week of March I made my first trip to town this year.  Last time I went was to pick up my ATV in December.  The recent snow had packed to ice on Highway 20 at my end, but further east it was clear, and with the longer day, the drive was not too difficult.  I was even able to come home mostly in daylight.  The Chilko River was very blue between it’s icy banks.Near Tatla, however, the weather grew threatening.This was because it was warming up again – the following day, it thawed.My road is now a disastrous mess.  Icy in the morning and a mess of mud and ice and slush in the afternoon.  I drove out early with my van and walked home, and have put chains on my truck to drive back and forth the 4 km to the highway.  The ground is frozen so water cannot drain away.Finally, on the 16th March, the first spring migrant arrived.  A redwing blackbird.  I checked last year’s posts, and these birds were already common by the 6th March.  This year they are three weeks late.  Juncos, those other common early birds, were also in residence by 6th March last year, but there is no sign of them so far in 2017.

I took this picture through the window.  It is is dirty; I blame the Clarke’s Nutcracker who is still beating himself up on the attic windows.  (He’s been doing it for nearly 2 months now: fortunately, although he still starts early and quits late, there are gaps during the day when he is absent.) He likes suet so he gets a greasy beak, then smears the fat on the glass as he pounds away.  (Note the early hour!)Although it is still quite cold, afternoons are thawing now, so hikes are better done in the morning.Today I noticed that, at last, a few more pussy willow buds are showing.  Spring is slow, but it’s coming.


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February at Ginty Creek

February at Ginty Creek has been mostly cold this year.  We’ve had a fair amount of sun, though – certainly more than last year.

I had intended to write earlier, but was extremely busy for the last two weeks, all because of this guy.HarryI have been helping Harry work with his first editor.  She has read the MS, corrected a bit of spelling and grammar, and made suggestions to pull the book together.  She had not read any of my other books, which was great because there were areas that needed explaining to the uninitiated. Another editor will take over now – she will be really picky about punctuation and grammar (I can’t spell either) and will make sure I have not said anything that might offend someone. I enjoy the editing process as a whole – I learn a lot and don’t have to pay for it!  I have had two unedited books published and I feel they did not have the spark of the others.

We used a tracking program.  This is really neat as both the writer and the editor can make alterations or comments and they are all recorded, with the date and time listed as well.  Each of our comments are in a different colour.Since I last wrote, there were a couple of days when the temperature climbed above freezing in the afternoon, but then it got cold again.  Night temps were often into the -20Cs with highs of -5C to -8C during the day.  Sun occurred on most days, but there was quite a bit of cloud as well.  The full moon heralded a big change, though.The temperature began to rise.Warm weather often means storms.  The snow became too rotten to go into the bush and the road turned slippery.Then the days turned black and we had a mega thaw.It created a horrible mess in the yard.  It rained for two days.Then the sun shone and it was like spring.  The yard turned to mud.I could hang the laundry out on the line.When the wind got up, the blowing snow on the mountains was spectacular.Basically, when there is cloud, the temperature is moderated; when the sky is clear at night, it is cold.  Often cloud starts only at first light so a clear night might end up with a cloudy day.  Here, the cloud stayed over the mountains and did not cover Ginty Creek.

Because of the wet, everything was rimmed with frost.

The yard froze solid and then we had a little more snow.When my neighbour is away overnight, his dog sometimes wanders the 4 km to my place.  It is a weird looking dog with one brown eye and one blue eye.  He caught a rabbit, adding to the weirdness of this photo.  He is called Gilbert!With fresh snow now covering the re-frozen yard, I didn’t see the trail I had made using sawdust.  Thoughtlessly I stepped away from it to call Gilbert – and crashed on my back on the ice, splitting my head open.  Blood everywhere!  I phoned the nurse at the clinic – she has been there for years and knows far more than most doctors.  It was the weekend but she kindly agreed to phone me every few hours to make sure I was OK!  And apart from a big shock and an enormous lump, I had no lasting effects. But I now don’t take a step anywhere without ice grippers on my boots.

The moon finished it’s cycle,and the weather turned cold again.  It got down to -26C one morning (that’s about -15 American)  I’ve been going to yoga every Monday, and on this occasion the hall was so cold we had to start our exercises in down coats!To get to the yoga class at Tatla Lake, I must drive through downtown Kleena Kleene.  The two signs bracketing the place are only a few hundred metres apart and there is not much in between except fields and an old log building that used to be the store.  The signs have different spellings.  The easternmost one is as I have written it above, and this is correct.  Whoever made the westernmost one ran out of space and missed off the final E.  On both signs,  the word “unincorporated” is written underneath the name.  However somebody has decided to improve the western sign by adding an F. (And no, it wasn’t me!)Despite the cold, there are signs of spring.  The river is breaking up in places – I love the colour of the ice that sinks into the water.And the very first pussy willows are showing.  Much later than last year, but things are definitely moving now.

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Nutcracker Wars Continue

warring nutcrackerThe Clarke’s Nutcracker wars continue.  There are two wars: I am warring with him, and he is warring with himself.

After the last post a couple of people wrote, and a website  said, that such territorial behaviour by birds can be diverted from a window by providing a mirror.  So I stapled a black garbage bag behind an old window and hung his favourite food, the suet feeder, in front of it.He eventually pecked at it a bit, but still preferred the windows of my house.He became extremely annoying.  Every time he banged, Badger was frightened and he went into the unheated outer room and hid under the attic stairs.  As the bird started before sunrise and continued to after sundown, this meant the poor dog was hardly ever in the warm room – and it was mostly pretty cold this month.Mosquito screening on the skylight of the bay window helped (see previous post) and I eventually hung it on all his favourite windows – fortunately, I had a big roll of screening.The nutcracker noise was muted, but it didn’t stop him.  Now he was able to grip the screening with his feet.

His favourite activity was to sit on the bird feeder then launch himself at the nearest greenhouse window.  He thumped against it with monotonous regularity, a hit every 3 seconds.  Thump.  Thump.  Thump.  I was working a lot on the computer at the time and it was driving me crazy.  (Now I know why they are called nutcrackers.  They are crackers and they drive me nuts!)

I was reluctant to put thicker coverings over these windows as I did not want to drive the bird onto the few windows still unscreened, and I wanted to be able to look out of the window and get light in.  I wouldn’t have had enough screen for that anyway.  But finally I couldn’t stand it any longer and I hung a blanket up over his favourite target.He was annoyed about that.  He did try a few uncovered windows but finally he found the attic.  In the above photo you can just make out him and his reflection at the glass beside the satellite internet dish.

The noise is certainly reduced so I guess I can live with that.  His attacks are also more scattered now and there are gaps in the day when he quits.  He has been doing this for a month.

His love affair with the attic window meant he did not hog the feeder and the chickadees were able to come back.Chickadees hang about together – they are either all in the vicinity of the feeder or all away – but they are not good buddies.  Rarely do you see two birds at once on the tray.  Instead they dart in, take a seed, and dart away. They eat the seed on a nearby branch.  The next in line whizzes in and gets his treat.mountain chickadeeThe little downy woodpecker still visits frequently, too.  I have seen only one – I suspect it is a male as the colour behind his head is very bright.downy woodpeckerOther regular visitors are three grey jays or whiskeyjacks.  This one spent a frosty night somewhere.  He must have got wet before he went to bed.grey jay or whiskeyjackI kept two panels of the bay window free of netting but it was still not always easy to get a good line of sight at what was on the feeder.  One morning there was an unidentifiable lump made even more mysterious as I photographed it through the screen.  It was barely light, and difficult to see what it was.  It was too small for a squirrel, and it would in any case have been very unusual for a squirrel to be about this early in the day when it was so cold.  (It was -25C that morning.)Adjusting the camera for the very poor light, I crept onto the deck.  sawwhet owlIt’s a sawwhet owl.  I wondered if it had hit the window and was dazed, but I hadn’t heard it collide and it was too early for the nutcracker to be banging.  Then a dog followed me onto the deck.  At once the owl became alert – and flew away.sawwhet owl

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The Days Are Getting Longer

Funnily enough, the days seem to get longer only in the evening at first.  There was almost an hour extra daylight in the afternoon before I noticed much difference in the morning.  The above picture was taken mid January – already the sunset point has moved quite a bit from the shortest day (when it sets to the left of the bare cottonwood tree.)

Most of us felt we could not leave our houses for long when the temp was in the -30Cs, and several events were scheduled for the last half of January – we all wandered if we were going to be able to attend. Fortunately, the weather warmed just in time – not above freezing, thank goodness, but much easier to deal with. No bringing the generator inside to warm it up so I could run it to heat the vehicles’ blocks. No stuffing the stove and banking it down before I left. No splitting twice as much wood as we had been doing. However, the warmer weather did bring more unsettled weather.

Tsilchgot’in Language Lessons

The first event was a lesson in the local language, Tsilchgot’in (anglicized to Chilcotin.).  The lesson was held 2 hours’ drive away at the bottom of the Tatlayoko Valley, south of Tatla Lake. That morning was foggy at home but sunny at Tatla.  When you can see the Niuts, the drive down there is spectacular.It is much warmer down there and there was hardly any snow.The lesson was held at the Lincoln Creek Ranch, now owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.  I watched the bird banding down there a couple of years ago.Our Teacher was Linda Jack from the Tsi Deldel (Redstone: literally Rock Red)  reserve.All of us found the language extremely difficult, not only to understand, but also to pronounce.  At some point, missionaries had attempted to write the language with the Latin alphabet and a few extra symbols, but this did not help most of us very much.

For example.This means: I am learning Tsilhgot’in  (You can see that I am unable to type the cap above the “s”, which is why I have hand-written these examples.)

My attempts at pronunciation is in brackets underneath.  However, I still can’t transcribe the sounds accurately.  The “got” in Tsilhgot’in is not quite goat and not quite cot, but somewhere in between.  The thing that looks like an apostrophe isn’t – it is a hook and denotes a tiny pause before the next syllable.This is:  Good Morning (literally, Morning, Good.)  The thing that looks like a question mark isn’t.  Note it has no dot at the bottom.  It is written in front of a vowel, usually at the beginning of a word but sometimes in the middle.  Guzun, or Good, has another difficult pronunciation to transcribe.  The “z” there is like the “gn” in lasagna.  The “n” is like a soft ng.

Here is another tricky one.  I have made two attempts to transpose hizun.  It means ; My Heart is Happy, and is the nearest thing in the language to Thank you.

Words and phrases that are connected in English are not necessarily connected here.  Yes is snow.  Najas is It is Snowing.  ?inkwell is Mum, se ban is My Mum.Sa is Sun.  Sa Tildin is The Sun is Shining.  Lha sa gulih is The Sun is not shining.  (The Lha sound does not happen in English.  The nearest I can describe it is the Welsh double “ll”, which is the way I have written it.  Something like the German “ch” followed by la.
So you can see we are having lots of fun!

The Thaw

The weather warmed even more until we had a few days where the temperature peeked above zero in the afternoon.  Our first thaw of the year. It even rained a bit at Ginty Creek.  Down at Tatlayoko, it poured and the remains of the snow turned to ice.  There was no sign of the mountains, but in low lying areas, fog made hoar frost.  This is downtown Kleena Kleene.  I remember when the building used to operate as a store.

Northern Hawk Owl

One time when I was driving through there (yoga classes have started as well) an owl sat on a tree.It seemed quite small and was silhouetted against the sky so difficult to identify.  But when I got home and could blow up the picture on the computer, I saw it was a northern hawk owl.  They hunt in daylight but are actually quite rare.  I have seen one only once before, and that above the treeline at Nuk Tessli.

Clarke’s Nutcracker

I am having fun with the clarke’s nutcrackers as well.  They were shy around the feeder at first, and I welcomed them because they were common at Nuk Tessli and very much part of my life there.  But now I am not so sure….

One of them took to walking up and down the skylight over the bay window, whacking at the glass with his powerful beak.  It is breeding season for these birds and I assumed he was attacking his reflection.This was not only irritating, but it was quite worrying.  Not content with hammering at the glass, he also tried to rip up the caulking.  I did not, of course, want to lose the light through there, so I stapled mosquito screening over the glass.  He certainly didn’t like it as much, but he still goes up there sometimes.  In a week I have repaired the screening twice.

It has not stopped him staking his territory, though, for now he is attacking his reflection in the glass walls of the greenhouse.  I don’t want to cover them up, because then he’ll concentrate on the verticals of the bay window itself  (he already pecks at some parts.)  This means that before the sun has hit the house, he is whacking away and he does so periodically until after the sun has gone.  It is highly annoying but, unless I want to live in the dark, there is nothing I can do.  If I am working inside (such as writing this post) I keep a munitions dump of rolled up socks by the laptop and throw them at him when he gets onto the bay window.

Pharis and Jason Romero

The next major event was a fantastic concert.  Principal entertainers were Pharis and Jason Romero.  They were excellent.  They live on the far side of Williams Lake (about 5 hours away) – I have known Pharis since she was a young teen.  I knew she was musical but had no idea how wonderful this couple were.Starting the program, however, were our own local Thompson Family.  They never cease to amaze.(Teo had to have a box to stand on to reach the mic.)

Snowshoe on the Dunes

I had been trying to arrange a snowshoe event at my place, but at first the weather was too cold, then it was too warm!  Finally we had a day of not-too-bad weather, and up onto the dunes we went.It was doggy heaven!  (Five canines altogether.)Most of my friends live east and south.  For them to come west to my place is quite an expedition for them!

The weather was warming as we finished out hike.  Snow was clogging onto the snowshoes.  And now we had a real thaw – a couple of days of warm winds and temps up to +5C.  Fortunately, my snow remained much the same and when my neighbours had rain and sleet, I had more snow.The above picture was taken as I set off for the third Tsilhgot’in lesson.  Down at the Lincoln Creek Ranch in Tatlayoko, there was no snow at all.  It seemed very weird to see this.  Instant spring.Climbing out of the valley on the way home, we ran into a guy moving hundreds of cows.  He probably chose a Sunday thinking there would be no traffic; instead he met a dozen vehicles all heading up onto the plateau at once!

Into February

And now we are into February. The weather continues mixed, but we have on the whole had a lot more sun this year than for many months. The days are certainly getting longer and both the sunrise and sunset points are suddenly travelling quickly along their horizons.  I love to watch this – I never saw it at all last year as there was too much cloud.(On the shortest day the sun rises to the right of the trees.)

And just to make sure we are not too complacent, the temperature was down to -30C again this morning!



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New Year at Ginty Creek

sunrise by the bird feeder, ginty creek

Weather at Ginty Creek

winter morningWhat else should we talk about for the New Year at Ginty Creek? We were promised cold sunshine. They were half right. We got cold, but very little sun. Temperatures were usually in the mid -20s at night but never got above the mid minus teens in the day.  Often the mountains were hidden; sometimes there was a glimpse of them above the fog.

fog hiding Finger PeakOnce in a while the sky cleared.middle mountain

chickadee and Middle Mountain

mountain chickadeeand we once had a colourful sunset.sunset over Finger PeakTwo days later we had a bit more sun although it started foggy.  A gleam hit the cottonwoods beside the river.
sun gleam and fogAnd the mountains behind the internet tower almost appeared.internet towerThen it snowed.bird feeder in snowBadger in snowEach fall we’ve had has been about 4 inches.  Because it is so cold, the flakes are pure fluff.  After each fall  I must start the ATV (with difficulty – it doesn’t like cold starts) and plough the road.  I cannot let the snow accumulate too much.  It is a pretty chilly job that takes 2 and half to 3 hours.

I still need to charge the solar batteries with the generator every 3 or 4 days.  When I went to town before Christmas, to buy the ATV, I also took the generator in to have the gas leak fixed.  So now, when I want to heat it up, I can bring it closer to the stove.

After the snow we had another partial clearing of the skies.  The snow is too fluffy to stick well on the branches of the trees.stormy light middle mountainIt was sunny enough to entice me on a snowshoe trip.  Although it has remained cold, the river has opened up a bit.  It rarely freezes solid and can never be trusted.river partially openTatla Ski Trails

A friend, Renata, was driving from Prince Rupert to Bella Coola and I met her at Tatla Lake.  The community maintains a really great network of cross country ski trails.  Tatla Lake ski trailsI am a terrible skier and in fact prefer to snowshoe – I fall less and it is easier to get up again!  So we didn’t stick to the trails but headed down the middle of a big shallow lake behind the gymkhana grounds.  It was chilly, but gorgeous.Martin LakeI have not walked on a frozen lake since I left Nuk Tessli and it was a wonderful feeling.  Renata took this picture of me.Me on Martin LakeAnd this really great shot of Harry.Harry on Martin LakeThe next day we hiked on the dunes near Ginty Creek but it was cold and grey again.renata on dunesA light snow started to fall.  It was the kind where every flake is a jewel and I took these shots on Renata’s dark jacket.snowflakes #1

snowflakes # 2The following day we had another 4″ snow.  There is a bit over a foot on the ground now.  It is so fluffy that it will sink down a lot, even before it thaws.  We really need at least twice this amount, although because 2016 was so wet, we might get away with a low snow winter.

Cold Again at Ginty Creek

After the snow, the sky cleared completely, and the temperature dropped into the -30s again at night.  It has not been rising above -18C during the day, but this time we have glorious sun.morning -30CI re-broke the trail to the viewpoint on the south bluff.south bluffIt is harder to take interesting pictures when the sky is cloudless (but I’m not complaining!)  The snow, however, blocks out the background and reveals tiny vignettes.Although it was not windy at my elevation, it must have been blowing a hurricane on the high ridges.blowing snowAs the sun set, the mountains were rimmed with fire.mountains rimmed with fireThis is what dawn looks like at -33C.-33C dawnThe afternoon was quite pleasant, though, and off I went up the dunes, where Renata and I had been a few days before.  But it was very different.river from north bluffnorth bluffThe sun still has a low trajectory.sun from north bluffDespite the forecast’s Extreme Cold Warning, with threat of frostbite in minutes, there was no wind and we could enjoy the sun.  It was cool enough, though, that Badger did not have to seek the shade!Harry and Badger enjoying the sunDaylight is still very short, and the sun was getting low as I headed for home.forest winter eveningAnd there is my house to welcome me.  (The green tree is the now defunct Solstice tree – I stick it by the bird feeder to give the little guys extra cover.)my houseThere has been no thawing, even on a warm afternoon, since early December.  In Williams Lake on the 20th December, the snow was a big, slushy, muddy mess, but as I drove west the temperature rapidly dropped ten degrees, and it had obviously stayed below freezing at Ginty Creek.  We are supposed to get another night in the minus thirties but then it is finally slated to warm up.  Everything takes longer to do when it’s cold. Any trip outside, to the woodshed, outhouse or bird feeder, necessitates piling on the clothes.  There are extra chores, like bringing the dogs’ metal food dishes into the warm room before I can give them their dinner.  I think all of us are looking forward to easier temperatures – I just hope it doesn’t thaw.

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