25 February 2010

Photo opportunities

As the snow has been so thin on the ground* this year, the scenery offers views that aren't always available in the winter. I stopped to take this picture of pleasing stripes in a ploughed field yesterday.

The camera is a huge help in identifying birds. To my eyes, this bunch of birds were black silhouettes against a grey sky. Later on, looking at the photos I took of them and my invaluable Birds of Ontario book I could see that they are cedar waxwings: the yellow stripe at the end of the tail and the yellow breasts are quite clearly visible to the camera's eye.

This morning we have snow. Usually by the end of February I'd be bored of taking photos of snowy trees. With so little snow this year (and today's is likely to turn to rain) I seized the opportunity of an early walk with the dog in a snow-weighted world.


15 February 2010

Frozen falls

I had to stop the car again on my journey home tonight. The ice formations on this rock cut(ting) were too intriguing to drive past:

Here's a close-up of one section. It reminds me of those long-exposure pictures of waterfalls that people take.

It has definitely been more of an ice-winter than a snow-winter. So far, anyway. (Probably just typing those words will guarantee us a major snowstorm later in the week!) Our well has even run dry a few times, which is the first time that has happened to us in winter-time.

13 February 2010

Winter comforts

The very first of this year's vegetable seedlings has emerged today:

It's so tiny that my camera can't focus on it, even on the macro setting. This is not the first seedling to appear in this seed tray: I proudly took a photograph of another tiny plant on Thursday, which turned out to have two cotyledon leaves. So whatever it is, it isn't a leek! I've left it there for now - there is so little green in my life at the moment that I'm even reluctant to pull up a weed.

I made a rice pudding the other night, to keep out the winter cold. Doesn't it look billowingly beautiful?

The first recipe I found online called for 20 ounces of rice for six people. That can't be right, can it? Instead, I went with a Delia Smith recipe, which sounded a bit more sensible (although I did increase the quantity of rice to six ounces, which worked fine).

08 February 2010

Punks make my day

Sorry, yes, yet another picture of these cattails/bulrushes. In fact, if my digital camera files outlive me, I'm beginning to worry that my descendants will think that I'm suffering from an unhealthy obsession, as I've taken so many photographs of them. I love the way the seed heads unravel. With everything else in a winter stasis, these are one of the few things in my landscape that are changing every day. And just look at the colour of that sky.

What I didn't know until recently was that most parts of these plants are edible. The seeds themselves were used as stuffing for pillows and for lining moccasins, according to the mine of information at this site, while the brown heads burn slowly, so were used as fuses (known as candlewicks or punks) and are also effective at keeping mosquitoes away.

Another reason I'm intrigued by this particular stand of cattails is that they are fairly new. I dug out a photo of the pond from November 2007 and you can see that there are no reeds in the foreground.

The photo below, taken on 30 January this year, from roughly the same place, shows how much they've grown since them. The seeds are so light that they are easily distributed by the wind. The plants also spread underwater through their rhizomes.

They are an invasive species but they also perform a valuable role in filtering impurities from water, so I'm not too worried about them taking over. I'm looking forward to tasting the shoots in early summer: they're supposed to be like cucumber and can even be made into pickles!

03 February 2010

Snakes and sparkles

I've only seen today's weather conditions a few times since we've lived here. It was a sunny day but there was a very fine snow falling. This filled the morning air with glorious sparkles of light. I tried making a short video of it against our neighbour's dark blue garage wall. I'm not sure how well this shows the effect, but it might give at least some idea of what I'm on about:

I had to stop the car on my way to work to take this photo of a cedar fence. I've been admiring it for years and meaning to take a photo of it for some time. Today the light and the dusting of snow combined to make the perfect moment. The zig-zag style is known as a snake fence. Good for shallow soils, apparently, which are certainly not hard to find in these parts.

02 February 2010


I like the contrast between the dark, twisting roots of the tree-stump fence reaching upwards and the bright, straight fingers of sunlight stretching down.