All posts filed under: Nature

First Big Snow – It’s a Home Day!

There is a reason why we talk about the weather so much here in rural Alberta… Early October, and it is the first big snow of the 2017-2018 Winter. The good news is: the UV and Pollen Counts are really low. The not so good news is that the tractor is still set up for mowing grass, not plowing snow.  More snow is in the forecast – possibly 20-30 cm (7-12in) in total. The Car Guy is doing an effort/time/temp/risk/reward ‘put blade on tractor’ analysis as I write this. I think he is going to take the optimistic approach – Mother Nature will remove the white burden for him by the end of this week. The photo above shows most of our ‘fleet’ docked on the driveway. None of them will be going anywhere until the snow melts and they can be moved into the garage for the winter. Hey car buffs – can you identify them with their snow coats on? A few days ago, it was still fall, though the temperatures were more …

Playing with Snow

Not enough snow to play IN! Just enough snow to play WITH! Photo filters are courtesy the program Topaz Studio. Any interesting weather in your part of the world today? When was the last time you had a snowball fight or built a snowman?

Great Horned Owl Update

We haven’t seen the Great Horned Owl Family very often this past month, but I now have a permanent set of Owlet triplets to remind me of how special it was to watch the Owls. I crocheted my own owls from a pattern at Jacquie’s Website. Jacquie says “If you are proficient at crochet you will be able to make one of these sweet little owls in no time at all.” Proficient is the operative word. My crochet skills were rusty, and apparently my counting skills were too. ‘No time at all’ took several weeks. There are many fiddly bits to the project. The hardest part, however, was getting a decent photo of them. Their light weight little bodies didn’t want to sit on the branches of the trees. I finally had to wedge them between branches or skewer them a bit with the poky thorns. As for real owls, two of the owlets were hunting here on July 19. There were several other owls too, but they didn’t land. The original un-retouched photos are …

The Robin Welcome Wagon

Two years ago, a pair of American Robins built a nest on top of the electric meter box near our front door. (See this post: The Endless Quest for Food.) Yesterday, a pair of robins were checking out the same location, but almost immediately afterward, a magpie landed on the meter. This seemed to dampen the enthusiasm of the robins. They haven’t returned. The Car Guy and I remembered, though, that the previous robins had a great deal of difficulty building a nest on the narrow, smooth surface of the box. It seemed to us that it might be a good idea to mount a platform on top of the box that would make it easier for the robins to anchor their nest. This is what The Car Guy came up with. Just to make it very clear to the magpie that this was for the robins, The Car Guy added the name of the intended occupants. A wall, an electrical meter box, the robin platform – do you see anything else in this photo? …

Right Place, Right Time

Every now and then (but not if I’m in a line-up at the store) I’m in the Right Place at the Right Time! Here are three photos to illustrate what I mean. In 2011, I wrote a post titled Lady’s Slipper Orchids – Surprise in the Ditch. At that time, the orchids were growing in a ditch – about a 5 minute walk from us. Not a great distance, but they were easy to overlook in the tall weeds and their blooming season was short. I only saw them once again after that. A few days ago, I was very surprised to find the pretty yellow orchids again growing in the ditch –  but this time right at the end of our driveway! It would have been easy to miss their yellow flowers, surrounded as they were by clumps of yellow dandelions. But, they must have whispered to me… “It’s your lucky day – we’re your  neighbours now!” I’m a Canadian ‘Snowbird’ who spends part of the winter in the USA. Last winter I went …

Springtime Blooms – Arizona and Alberta

My Place in the World is in the Garden with my camera! The best part about living part time in Arizona is that I get to experience spring twice! In April, when Alberta might still be experiencing snow storms, our Arizona home is at the height of spring blooming! We have a large old Ironwood tree on our property. It is estimated that these trees can live for hundreds and hundreds of years. It sheds its leaves annually just before it blooms. The flowers are pea like (because it is a member of that family) and the entire tree becomes a dusky pink colour during full bloom. The Ironwood often serves as a backdrop to the giant Saguaro cactus. The Saguaro can live for 150 to 200 years and it can grow 40 to 60 ft tall (12 to 18 meters). It is very slow growing and can be decades old before it sprouts arms or blooms. The Prickly Pear cactus is the ‘rat’ of the neighbourhood for the simple reason that the resident rodents …

A Line Up of Sunrises

We have a roof top patio in Arizona – a perfect place for watching sunrises, sunsets, and star gazing. The science behind contrails is fascinating. Contrails should never be a cause for alarm; after all, folks don’t flip out on chilly days when their breath forms a cloud. If it’s cold enough and the air is still, you might even notice a cloud hanging behind you for several meters. – What really comes out of an airplane? Contrails, not chemtrails, The Washington Post – Are you on a flight path? Are the planes loud and noisy, or so high you don’t even notice them? This week’s WordPress.com photo Challenge is Lines.

Recipe for a Dramatic Sunrise or Sunset

Are the sunrises and sunsets in your part of the world ho-hum? If they are, then you could follow this recipe to make them spectacular! – start with clean air, preferably in the fall or winter season. (You might have to travel somewhere to find these conditions.) – marvel at the blue of the daytime sky, which is caused by the selective scattering of sunlight by air molecules. This scattering favours the shorter wavelengths of violet to blue. – consider the much longer path through the atmosphere that sunlight has to travel in the morning and evening. It scatters more violet and blue, which creates the opportunity for reds and oranges to reach our eyes. – finally, add some clouds to catch the red-orange rays and reflect this light to the ground. It wasn’t until I investigated the science of the colour of sunrises that I realized that not everyone gets to see such a thing regularly! Now I know how fortunate I am to live in two parts of the world where this frequently …

Arizona

Rosemary, Rabbits and Rattlers

This story starts with a large clump of Rosemary. It has apparently become the home of an Arizona Cottontail Rabbit – or I think that is so, since I have seen it (the rabbit) bolt from there on a number of occasions. It is a very handsome rabbit and except for it’s fondness for the leaves of my Torch Glow Bougainvillea, it isn’t what I’d call a pest. I would have thought the Rabbit would eat the rosemary leaves too, but if it is so inclined, it isn’t making much of dent in the rapidly spreading foliage! Yesterday, a new dessert occupant appeared on our patio. At first, I thought it was another non-venomous gopher snake. We see them relatively frequently in our yard. However, when the snake finally decided to slither away, I realized that the pointed end of its 3 foot body was suspiciously rattler-like. I have to admit that I was startled when The Car Guy pointed out that the snake had chosen to come within 15 feet of where I was …

I’d Rather Be… Here than There

March is a strange month. It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations – I’d rather be here where it is warm: Than there where it is cold: This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is I’d Rather Be… Where would you rather be?

Grass, Bees, Thistles – Half a World Away in Belchen Germany

When the Internet publicity began, I remember being struck by how much the world was not the way we thought it was, that there was infinite variation in how people viewed the world. – Eric Schmidt – The Belchen (35 Km south of Freiburg) is a mountain in the Black Forest of Germany. The Belchen Cableway takes you up to scenic viewpoints and hiking trails. If you do a web search for The Belchen, you will find lots of photos of the scenery, but no photos of a bee and some thistles on the grassy slopes of the flanks of the mountain. You also won’t find very many moderately funny or interesting quotations about variations. Until now… I’ve been getting a lot of science fiction scripts which contained variations on my Star Trek character and I’ve been turning them down. I strongly feel that the next role I do, I should not be wearing spandex. – Marina Sirtis – Creativity varies inversely with the number of cooks involved in the broth. – Bernice Fitz-Gibbon – …

Frozen

It was very cold here in Alberta in late December 2017 and early January 2018. The overnight low temperatures were below -20C (-4F) for 7 days straight during the holiday season. The lowest temperature was -31C (-24F). January 2018 was briefly milder before sinking into another 4 day stretch of extreme cold. When it finally warmed up to a balmy -8C we packed the Jeep and made a dash to warmer climates for a while! As Alberta was plunged into extreme cold warnings on Boxing Day…  Alberta was about as cold as Mars’ Gale Crater, the home of the Curiosity rover. Mars is subject to pretty violent temperatures shifts, and Curiosity regularly encounters temperatures below -80 C. But this week, the highest temperature experienced by the rover were -23 C. A Calgary Boxing Day shopper, therefore, might have found themselves getting into a car that was literally colder than a Martian spacecraft. – Tristin Hopper, National Post, Dec 27, 2017 – We spent a lot of time indoors in December and January. Inconveniently, it snowed …

Crabapple

If you have a Crabapple Tree in your yard, you know there can be such a thing as too many crabapples. If you offer your crabapples to the local wildlife –  deer, rabbits, squirrels, foxes, bears, raccoons or coyotes for instance –  you won’t ever have to deal with too many crabapples. You might end up with wild life problems, however… I planted six Purple Spire Columnar Crabapple trees a few years ago. This year we harvested the three crabapples you see in this photo. Too many crabapples might not be a problem for some time. Plant Profile Common Name: Purple Spire Columnar Crabapple Scientific Name: Malus x ‘Jefspire’ Hardiness: to Zone 3 Growth: Purple foliage; full sun; 10 to 20 feet tall (8 meters); 5-10 feet wide (2.5 meters); columnar form; slow growing Blooms: Sparse pink flowers in spring. Fruit: Flavorful but often very tart Origin: A seedling from the controlled cross ‘Thunderchild’ and ‘Wijcik made by Dr. David Lane of the Summerland Research Station in British Columbia If you plant crabapples, don’t count …

Mountain Ash Berries

The Mountain Ash tree is a member of the Sorbus genus. The fruit is not only safe for humans to eat, it is a favorite of many types of birds. Mountain ash berries hang on the tree well into the winter, making it a good source of cold-weather bird nutrition. In Celtic and Norse folklore, the Mountain Ash was called a Rowan or Witchwood tree because it was believed they had magical properties. If you have read the Harry Potter books, you might remember that Rowan Wood was prized for making wands. It is commonly stated that no dark witch or wizard ever owned a rowan wand, and I cannot recall a single instance where one of my own rowan wands has gone on to do evil in the world. – Mr. Ollivander, Harry Potter books – This site about Wand Woods was of particular interest to me because the Red House woods not only have a Mountain Ash tree, they have numerous other trees that are good for making wands: several apple trees, many …

Moon Shots

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees, The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, And the highwayman came riding— Riding—riding— The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door. – The Highwayman, Alfred Noyes (1880-1958) – If I was going to choose an illustration for ‘The Highwayman”, I’d choose this photo…

In the Woods

Everything in the country, animate and inanimate, seems to whisper, be serene, be kind, be happy. We grow tolerant there unconsciously. – Fanny Fern – The only people I am aware of who don’t have troubles are gathered in peaceful, little neighborhoods. There is never a care, never a moment of stress and never an obstacle to ruin a day. All is calm. All is serene. Most towns have at least one such worry-free zone. We call them cemeteries. – Steve Goodier – This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Serene.

Snow Scenes

A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water. ― Carl Reiner – There’s one good thing about snow, it makes your lawn look as nice as your neighbor’s. – Clyde Moore

On a Scale of Carousel to Roller Coaster, How Scary is this?

Sunrise this morning. It was quite spectacular and changing rapidly. I quickly took a picture, then retreated back into the warmth of my house. When I uploaded the photo and enhanced it with a light touch of HDR in Topaz Studio, I realized that I had captured something much more sinister than a typical Alberta sunrise. It was a winged creature, with a skull like head and sunken eye sockets. It was covered with woolly dreads. It rode on bolts of fire… Without HDR, it looked more like a poodle, I suppose… Do you see a safe ‘carousel’ sky, or a scary ‘roller coaster’ sky? ‘On a scale of’ usually has a range of one to ten – but here are some other ‘Scales’ to think about: On a scale of Voldemort to Pinocchio, how Nosy are you? On a scale of Mother Teresa to Adolf Hitler, how evil is your President? On a scale of Under the Porch Mat to Osama Bin Laden how good was my hiding spot? On a scale of Pennies …