Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Road Through the Woods

SLOWLY, the leaves are unfolding, but this is the latest spring I can remember.  It's as if spring has been on hold for 3 weeks, and now it's finally arriving.

We have a favourite road we drive down on our way to places further south; it goes through the woods for almost the entire concession.  These first three photos were taken May 2nd, when the leaves were still just yellow-green opening buds.

There was a bit of green showing, but certainly no leaves in the canopy.

These next five  photos were taken yesterday.  It's a LOT greener, and the Sugar Maple canopy is filling in fast.

There are no homes along this concession, so it's not plowed in the winter, and the trees are not cut back to make room for snow banks.  So we drive right through the woods at the edge of the road.

The canopy certainly isn't out entirely yet, but there's definitely a lot of green now.

Spring is slow, but it's finally coming along.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hike with Students

Back near the beginning of May I led a hike with some students from the University of Guelph, along one of my favourite sections of the Bruce Trail.  It was mostly through the woods, and early spring was just underway.  And it was mostly downhill, my own choice!

It was a cool morning, with rain threatening, but it held off for our hike.  These students are on a course that takes them off campus doing practical things and learning on their own for two weeks.  It's a course I invented originally 20 years ago, and has no final exam.  It's entirely up to the students how much they learn - but consistently they say they've learned more in this course than any other.  I like to think that once you hand them responsibility for their own learning, they step up and it works.

The trail went past one of the largest dry sinkholes in this area,

and past my favourite stand of big old Sugar Maples.

The Wild Leek were bright green,

the Red Trilliums were in bloom, and

the White Trilliums were just coming out.

Perhaps a bit hard to make out, but these are about a billion tiny Sugar Maple seedlings carpeting the forest floor.

And a nice waterfall tumbling down a mossy slope.

We found these tiny tracks, and wondered what they were.  The larger track in the upper left appeared to be a Raccoon track, but what are those two tiny tracks?  This is one we didn't figure out.

The students all posed on the trail bridge for me.  A great morning; helps keep me young at heart!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Late April Walk

I've been on several walks in the woods over the past nearly a month since we arrived home from B.C.  This one was back at the end of April, when the woods was still largely bare, but the first spring flowers were starting to bloom.

The occasion was the annual spring refresher workshop for volunteer Land Stewards with the Bruce Trail.  We met in this tiny community centre in the hamlet of Woodford, halfway between Meaford and Owen Sound.

After the morning talks, there was an afternoon walk.  There was a great turnout of enthusiastic volunteers, learning a lot of botany this year.  Training focuses on different topics each year.

As we started on the walk, we passed this old lime kiln built into the edge of the short cliff.  I'm standing on the Bruce Trail to take the picture.

And along the trail we started seeing the wildflowers.  The Red Trillium comes out quite early, long before the White Trillium, our only other common trillium species.

Nearby was a patch of Blue Cohosh, still that somewhat purple colour it is when it comes out of the ground, but changing to green fast.

The tiny Sugar Maple leaves were just starting.  With the cold weather, they stayed this size for nearly three weeks!

There were a few patches of Wild Leek, easily recognized at this time of year by its bright green colour.  It doesn't bloom til later in the summer.

The Dogtooth Violet or Trout Lily wasn't open, as it was quite a cool day, but they were in bloom.

There were lots of White and Blue Violets in bloom.

And a few of last year's fern fronds, like this Maidenhair Fern, provide the promise of fresh new fronds to unfurl soon.

As for today, I was looking forward to working outside, but we've had rain on and off all day!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

It's Dandelion Season!

Yes, I'm one of those rebellious sorts who likes Dandelions in my lawn!  They're such a beautiful yellow colour, and they feed the bees.  My great aunts made dandelion wine, and its leaves can be added to salad.  Children make Dandelion necklaces and crowns.  As a herb it has a number of medical benefits.

Some blooms seem very dense with petals; on others the petals seem sparse.  Checking my trusty 'Google', I find the name comes from the French 'dent-de-lion', or 'lion's-teeth', for the jagged outer ends of the petals.

In any case, they carpet some hayfields here for a brief period in late May, making the entire landscape look yellow.  As Kathleen Carlson wrote in "Ode to a Dandelion", "A golden frenzy greets the spring...".

I only found a few yet that have fulfilled their purpose in growing - producing lots of seeds for the next generation.  It's no wonder they spread in our lawn, with all those tiny little seeds carried by white parachutes in the slightest breeze.

In any case, they make a big difference to our rural landscape for a brief period in spring, here spreading over a hayfield beyond a small pond we drive by on the way into town.

We even grow a fair crop of them here in the yard, although I'm not so protective of them that I avoid mowing them to let them grow.  Here they're disappearing as I mow round the edge of the lawn, but others take their place fast.

My favourite among several poems about Dandelions is this one, by an unknown author, found on the website 'Dandelion "Daze"' (along with several other tributes):

I kept a yellow dandelion,
For I liked to watch it grow,
And I could never understand
Why people hate them so!
I cared for my dandelion 
Until he was old and gray,
And along came a puff of wind
And blew his hair away.

Here's to the humble Dandelion!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sunset, Sunrise

Spring must be in the air, because I've been waking up early enough to see the sunrise, and we even had one interesting sunset - another of those unusual sunsets in the east, while the western sky was grey.  Don't know how that happens!

These first three are the 'sunset in the east'.  I think this is the most extensive and brightest eastern sunset I've seen.  Really unusual patterns in those clouds!

And these three are the same view, but a sunrise.  The first two show the sky before the sun actually breaks the horizon; the last shows where the sun actually rises about 15 minutes later.

I haven't linked to any memes for awhile, so here is:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Back in the Valley

It's hard to believe that we've been back from out west for 3 weeks.  (And I kept you busy with 3 weeks worth of western pictures on the blog!)  Real spring has been very late here, but with yesterday and today actually being warm, even hot, the season will catch up fast.

The beautiful light yellow-greens of the Sugar Maples (you're actually looking at their flowers more than their leaves here), give us two or three weeks of spring colour in the valley.

The hard maples coat all the upper and steeper slopes of the valley where the native deciduous forest has never been cleared.  The dark green of Eastern White Cedar colours the very steep slopes.

Down the slope from those mature Sugar Maple forests are extensive patches of young White Ash.  These are old fields that were cleared, pastured, abandoned, and are now growing up fast in trees.  But ash leaves are about the latest to unfold in the spring, so those patches all just look grey in these photos.

These are young White Ash in our own yard, not an unfolding leaf to be seen.  The buds are barely opening.

Elsewhere as I drive around the valley I spot the white blooms of Pin Cherry and Serviceberry trees.  They stand out brightly against everything else for two or three weeks.

Right here in the yard, the Silver Maple leaves are growing fast,

but the Sugar Maple buds are just starting to unfold.

The Basswood leaves are still tiny, half an inch across.

The White Birch leaves are not much bigger, and the catkins still hanging on the tree.  Based on my own observations, this is the latest that tree leaves have emerged here that I can remember.

A few flowers starting to brighten up the garden, the yellow Primrose which spread so easily, and the deep red buds of the Fernleaf Peony, about to open up.  Lots more to show you over the next few days.