It’s been a while since I posted anything here. This metaphorical drought is partly due to a physical drought. Until two weeks ago, we have only one rain shower since early May. My garden was a complete failure. After initial attempts at watering from the creek, I couldn’t keep up. Because our “soil” is mostly sand, the water just disappeared within hours under the sun and 30ºC heat so it would have taken all my time to keep it watered.
I’ve figured out a plan for irrigating next year, but it was too late once I realized it was needed, so got almost no vegetables this year. Luckily, I was too lazy to plant all my new perennials so they were safe in the greenhouse and I’ve started planting them so they can flower next year. Most will be safe enough once established, though I lost quite a few established perennials and even small bushes this year.
A few days after we finally got some rain, by way of torrential downpours, the forest floor sprouted many fungus fruiting bodies.
I’m not that great at identifying fungi, so you’ll just have to enjoy the pictures without knowing exactly what they are.
This is just a quick gallery of the pictures I have taken since early February, mostly birds with some ice, lichen and a snowdrop.
I have posted over half of these pictures on Twitter but, since I do a print version of this blog for a few people who don’t use the Internet, I thought I’d better get caught up. I haven’t been doing as many pictures over the winter as things don’t change much in the garden, although this year has been weird, with not much snow and very wild temperature swings from -20ºC to +15 in a single week. Not having the snow makes it worse as the snow insulation takes the edge of the swings. We’re having May weather in March.
On one of the -20ºs swings it got cold enough for fur hats, but only for one day. It’s from Russia, thanks to my sister-in-law, Lily; warm at -40º.
It’s Charlie’s birthday party in mid-February, so we went to Toronto. He seems to know almost everyone in Toronto, there was at least one floor of the bar full of his friends.
Next are some of the birds that stay around for the winter,
One day, we had a huge flock of American Goldfinches, around 200. All our trees and bushes were full of them.
Mourning doves are regulars, but we hadn’t seen quite this many in the one tree at once, they’re usually only a few. These are not peace doves, they’re quite aggressive with other birds. Even the blue jays keep a careful eye on them when they’re within beak range.
We had an ice storm and lost power for a few hours. It came back just as the house was getting cold and I was downstairs getting ready to light the wood stove which we keep for emergencies and to start the generator for a few lights and recharge batteries. We should look into getting it set up to run the furnace fan.
Next are the same trees, slightly out of focus so you can see the rainbows. I can’t capture how they were with the naked eye, because it took a little bit of motion to make them sparkle. I should have shot some video.
The next wasn’t the one that took our power out because ours was back on by the time we ventured out.
The sharp-shinned hawk sat here spreading its wings and shaking them. It was still hunting through the ice rain falling.
The next one is from my home brewing. The sanitizing fluid made large bubbles in the carboy I use for fermenting .
These pixie cup lichen are very pretty. Almost a garden by themselves. On my high-resolution original, you can zoom in to see tiny cups within these larger ones. Fractal.
The next is a tree branch that had fallen but not touched the ground, so these fungi look like they’re cascading off the end. The green is from algae that live within the fungus. I don’t know if the fungus gets energy from the photosynthesis or not. Since lichen are fungus with algal partners, these are part way there but not with the same species.
Finally, a much-magnified (4mm=0.15″) flower from summer savory, which I had growing this winter in my plant case. But didn’t get enough leaves to use as herbs.
OK, It’s December but still looks like late fall. Today it was raining lightly; too wet for gardening as handling soil gets dirty and cold, but too warm to stay indoors when there won’t be many more days left before freeze-up, so I went downstream a few miles from my home to the Pigeon River Headwaters conservation area. I don’t go all that often because it is very similar to just out the door from the house, except there are more wetlands there as the slope is less.
I grew up by the Lancashire Moors so I call this stuff “bog”. I spent so much time around water that my mum called my friend that I often went with “Willy Webfeet” because we always got wet feet and she wasn’t going to call me that while I was listening.
Some of the wet parts are caused by water oozing slowly into the river, but also from river flooding caused by beaver dams, which interrupt my canoeing activities.
The surrounding forest has decked itself out in seasonal colours.
Though the dogwood doesn’t need any
The lichen is ready to feed any reindeer that happen along – no need for cookies and milk here.
Lichen are a community of fungi and algae. These fungi are up to the same trick to some extent.
A change of subject. This area is all on the Oak Ridges Moraine. You may wonder why all that water doesn’t disappear through the sand and gravel that makes up much of the landscape. Some of the answer is the underlying rock but also there is a lot of clay, which are the finer ground particles, impervious to water.
The sand and gravel were left in random piles that got weathered, leaving these rolling hills. In fact the local school is even called Rolling Hills School. That’s part of the reason I prefer the landscape to the prairies where I lived for quite a while, as I grew up in the English Pennines and spent lots of time in the Lake District.
An a propos of nothing, I liked this spiral vine growing up a birch sapling.
Here are a few pictures from the back woods – mostly cedar as you can see from the litter – showing the various fungi I found in the space of about 20 minutes. It was a few days after heavy rainfall so they had fruited. As you probably know, the parts we see are just the tip of the iceberg so to speak, the major mass being the underground feeding threads, or hyphae. And as you also probably know, especially if you’ve seen my fungus pictures before, fungus are more closely related to people than to plants.
This first set you could think at first glance was a coral reef, but a closer look shows it is a moss-covered rock with a coral fungus.
The next one is very shiny, excreting a type of slime. Many of the fungi I found had slugs on them, eating large holes, so I wonder if the slime encourages them or is a deterrent. There was no sign of bite marks.
The next one I thought might be a caterpillar, like the one in Alice in Wonderland, but closer inspection shows it is more likely to be a beetle larva than moth/butterfly larva.
Finally it is warm enough to go for a walk in the back woods and safe enough to cross the river. Here are a few pictures, starting just as I reach the Pigeon River about 100 m/yds from the house where I see the first wildflower of the year, just emerging.
Our bridge keeps getting washed out so I haven’t bothered putting boards across as we used to have. The angle of the river means it is undermining the bank and the bridge keeps falling in. In a few more years the curve will be further upstream and it will be more stable for another decade, so I’ll fix it properly then (unless I find another excuse for procrastination).
The generation of white birch that preceded the Eastern Red Cedar is mostly dead now. This one has a good crop of bracket fungus – older at the top and newer lower down.
This one has had a one-bird woodmill at it; the pileated woodpecker I photographed for my last entry.
There have been plenty deer around. Probably the same ones that ate all the ends off my apple tree.
As you can see below, the river here is too small for canoeing and too many branches for fishing. There are trout but they would easily find something to wrap your line around if you decided to try to catch them. We are only 1km from the source, in a swamp. I have to go about 5km downstream before it is deep enough to put the canoe in.
I managed to go through the icy snow cover in a couple of places. My new-ish walking shoes breathe, which keeps my feet cool during the summer but I guess I should have put on my leather hiking boots as there are small water courses under the snow so I got cold, wet and muddy when I broke through. Otherwise, I much prefer these lighter shoes which have good Vibram soles. I don’t recommend many products but these, my hiking boots and even my sandals all have Vibram as have their precursors for a few decades. I like to stay upright even when the footing is not good. We bipedal mammals can easily get damaged as several of my family can testify.
It was just a short walk, for an hour, as I had left a nice Moroccan Lamb Tajini in the oven for when I got back. In the garden there were more flowers. You can tell it’s early spring when I can still count them. 41 snow drops, 4 crocus and one Johnny-jump-up.
Did you know that saffron is just crocus stamens? The little threads in the picture. No wonder it is expensive, it must be very labour-intensive to pick.
Finally, I’m betting that most of you do not have a zombie gnome in your garden. No? Well, having a son who is into horror movies helps. What else do you get for the Dad who has everything?