Jack’s Walk

It seems that the normal weather for the month of March has arrived early in Southwestern Ontario. Overnight our temps climbed from -10ºC to +4ºC  and with the warming came lots and lots of rain. Overnight it was freezing rain, but by morning it was just a steady, cold downpour. All our snow is melting into compacted sheets of ice and the rain is just laying on top making everything slick and slippery. At least the ice isn’t coating the trees, for now anyway. The temp is expected to drop below freezing by early evening and we can only hope that the rain will stop before then. It grieves me to see the big, mature trees heavy with ice and the saplings and dainty birches bending like contortionists desperate to save limb and life.

After a careful assessment, Jack and I decided that the back yard was as far as we would venture today. Even explorers and voyageurs need a day off now and then. So, sorry, no photo for today. Just kidding…here’s a fascinating tree I found at our local park last week. It’s dying, maybe already dead, but it’s decay is beautiful. I apologize for the bad light, but it was a gloomy January day. I wanted to take an initial photo with the intention to return and perhaps make a study of it. You can click for full-size to see some of the patterns on the bleached and barkless areas. The next photo is a piece of fallen bark that lay at the base of the tree. I moved it to a rock to take the photo.

©voyager, all rights reserved

©voyager, all rights reserved

Jack’s Walk

Jack is not ready to go home. ©voyager, all rights reserved.

Here are some things I’ve learned from Jack.

  1. Winter is the most wonderful time of the year, especially if there’s lots of snow.
  2. Cold weather gives you energy and calls for prancing and pouncing.
  3. Chasing invisible mice through the snow is great fun.
  4. Smells are more interesting in the snow.
  5. Yellow snow is especially interesting and requires long and careful sniffing.
  6. You need to leave p-mail in more places when there’s snow, so tank up.
  7. A walk around the neighbourhood will take 50% longer because of all the above.
  8. Scooting in the snow feels nice and is a great way to wipe your bum.
  9. Lying down in the snow is fun and makes your belly go bright red.
  10. Lying down in the snow is also a great way to make your walk last even longer, so stop and drop often.

Surrounded by Rocks: An Exploration Series, Chapter 8

Calling all rockhounds…Here’s Nightjar with the exciting next chapter in her series.

Chapter 8 – West Hill: Phyllite rocks!

It’s not only the vegetation that is different here, the rocks are very different too. We left sedimentary rocks behind and we are now in the domain of metamorphic rocks. Mostly phyllites. Phyllite is a metamorphic rock originating from shale sediments, it’s soft and highly foliated, easy to split into sheets, and it smells of clay. The most wonderful characteristics? The colours and the sheen! You can’t mistake that sheen for anything else. Phyllites here are really pretty.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

[Read more…]

Tree Tuesday

Trees in the News: According to Vox, the trees at Joshua Tree National Park in California are now one step closer to extinction thanks to the current US government shutdown.

According to National Parks Traveler, visitors are creating illegal roads and driving into some of the park’s most fragile areas. They are also chopping down trees, setting illegal fires, and graffitiing rocks. With Joshua Tree being roughly the size of Delaware, the eight on-duty law enforcement rangers had no way to stop all the prohibited activity.

Joshua trees are already facing possible extinction, with scientists claiming that the Joshua Tree habitat will be lost to climate change by 2100. Smith told National Geographic in October, “We’re just in crisis mode right now.” Twenty days into the government shutdown, vandals are accelerating the trees’ demise.

Why? Why must people be so short-sighted and destructive? The article at National Parks Traveler notes that Joshua trees were cut down so that 4 wheelers could go around entrance gates. Once inside the trespassers continued their destruction, tearing up virgin desert, running over plants, camping in off-limits areas, leaving behind heaps of trash and generally behaving like 3 year olds high on sugar and let loose in a toy store with no supervision. It’s one more thing we can add to the list of things that Trump is destroying.

Jack’s Walk

The River Thames, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Finally, it’s proper winter in my part of Canada. On Saturday we had an old-fashioned snow storm with lots of blowing and drifting and when it was over we had an accumulation of about 15 cm of snow ready to be shoveled.  On Sunday, though, the sun broke through and everything sparkled and glimmered and the world was so bright that I needed shades. Today the sun is back again and its glow on my face felt warm even though the temp was only about -12 C. Jack is as happy as a tick and spent our entire walk snorfling in the snow chasing imaginary mice and pouncing like a cat on the tracks left by rabbits. I  may be a bit giddy from all this light, but it’s a glorious day and walking with Jack felt like a treat.

Mt. Lofty

Some beautiful night shots from Lofty,

Well it was too hot to sleep well this morning, so I got up at 4:30am and rode my bicycle across the top of our little mountain, Mt Lofty. The city lights sparkled below while the Flinders Column kept watch with the planet Venus looking over its shoulder. The restaurant lights allowed the local magpies to forage for moths and stuff. After a quiet moment I swoosh back home at 60km/h for a cup of tea and breakfast. The forecast top for the city today is for 41°C. Some places in the deserts north of us reached 47-48°C yesterday.

 

©Lofty, all rights reserved

©Lofty, all rights reserved

©Lofty, all rights reserved

I hope you’re finding ways to stay cool, Lofty. Thanks for sharing.

Surrounded by Rocks: An Exploration Series, Chapter 7

Here is Nightjar with the next chapter in her series.

Chapter 7 – West Hill: Going Up

We are now at the southern base of the West Hill and the entrance looks inviting. We are in a totally different environment, the soils here are obviously more fertile and can sustain denser vegetation. Let’s go up.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

[Read more…]

Jack’s Walk

Millenial Trail, ©voyager, all rights reserved

I’m sorry that Jack’s Walk didn’t get posted yesterday. It was one of those days. The day began suddenly when a painter, painting in my friend V’s living room, fell 5 feet from a ladder while holding a gallon of white paint. V and I were both still sleeping soundly when it happened, but the sudden crash and cries of pain woke us both bolt upright right away. The fellow was already up and trying to mop up, but his forearm was lacerated and there was blood. And paint. Everywhere. My first thought was actually “Wow! That’s just like in cartoons!” and I had to stifle a nervous giggle. My next thought was “Oh, shit. Where’s the cat?” and finally, when I’d taken in the whole scene, it occurred to me that I’m trained in first aid and should be doing something more useful than standing there gaping. It was just so spectacular to see. Probably a once in a lifetime thing to see. I wish I  had pictures, but it didn’t even occur to me to take one. We sent the painter home with an icepack and encouragement to see a Dr. and then began the tedious chore of wiping up white paint spots from literally every surface in the room. The small spots dried quickly and required some scraping and the large spots just schmeared and made more of a mess. By the time I looked at my watch it was 12 o’clock and I had a 12:30 train to catch. The rest of the story is familiar to every weary traveler; hurry-up and wait. It’s about missed connections and not having a chance to eat. It’s about feeling grubby and irritable and wasted, but then finally it’s about being home. A Very Good Place to be.

Surrounded by Rocks: An Exploration Series, Chapter 6

It’s time for the next chapter by Nightjar and today we’re looking up to see the vast landscape around us.

Chapter 6 – East Hill: The Views

 

I’m always searching for rocks, fossils, flowers and insects, and often I have to remind myself to look up at the views. But let’s look up from the ground now. The first thing we see are some windmills in ruins. There are several here and they were made with limestone, of course.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

Looking down south we can see the vineyards in their full autumn display and some green fields. The round trees in the foreground and among the vineyards are olive trees. There are still many people here that produce wine and olive oil for their own consumption and to share with family. My family’s vineyard is a little bit more to the right and not shown in the photo.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

On the foothill there is the village’s soccer field. A match was about to start!

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

Let’s look west now. Those houses are the northern part of the village and in the background we can see the West Hill. It looks very different in terms of vegetation density, doesn’t it? Can you guess what those trees are?

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

In the next chapter we will explore the West Hill and see this one from the other side!

Thanks, Nightjar.

Surrounded by Rocks: An Exploration Series, Chapter 5

Nightjar is here to share the next chapter of her series.

Chapter 5 – East Hill: Flora

There is quite a lot of biodiversity on the top but what you see will of course depend on the time of the year you visit. Spring would be more interesting, and we would be looking for wild orchids, wild peonies (Paeonia broteri) and honeysuckles. In November we must content ourselves with the late crocus (Crocus serotinus)

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

… and the autumn buttercup (Ranunculus bullatus).

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

Some plants have berries now, like the wild jasmine (Jasminum fruticans)

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

… or the hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

And seedcases of the grey-leaved cistus (Cistus albidus) make me want to come back in Spring for their pink flowers with yellow centers.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

The next chapter will be the last here and we will just enjoy the views and see the hill we will explore next, on the other side of the village.

Jack’s Walk

Properly tucked, ©voyager, all rights reserved

I’m away from home for the next few days staying with a friend whose mother just died. The funeral is tomorrow and I likely won’t be home until Friday so for the rest of the week Jack and I will be taking separate walks. That means that Jack’s Walk is a bit of a crap shoot this week. We’ll be here, but who knows what you’ll see. For today, I’ll give you a glimpse at how Jack relaxes after his evening walk. When he was young Jack was always hot, but this winter for the first time the boy has decided he likes blankets and the cozier the better. This is the blanket that Jack got for Christmas and he loves it. He makes a great big fuss trying to cover himself with it in the hope that mommy or daddy will come along and tuck him in properly. This is what properly tucked looks like.