It’s winter in January again. That warm spring nonsense has gone back to its hiding place under the snow, and I hope it stays there for a while. Over the weekend, we had snow, rain, ice, and finally, more snow that decided to stay. Jack loves this weather, and we took a walk in the woods to celebrate. The air was cold (-12°c ), but the day was sunny, the sky was a soft turquoise blue, and the path had been nicely trodden by many sets of feet that came before us. There were also signs of life in the forest. We saw lots of squirrels out and about doing squirrel things, and since Jack can’t run in deep snow any more, he glowered at them all. There was also a small, but vocal murder of crows to keep us company and they cawed and howled at us from the trees as we made our way around. Jack barked once or twice at them in reply, and I’m not sure what he said, but it wasn’t very polite. It was a simply beautiful winter’s day, and walking among expanses of virgin snow instead of the slush and ice of city sidewalks and streets made it good for Jack’s feet and great for my mood.
Winter has returned! It’s properly cold (-6°c) and the forecast is predicting snowfall of about 15 cm. over the next 2 days. Then, next week the temp is supposed to rise a few degrees above zero again. Great, it’s another round of snow – shovel – melt – mud, but I’m not going to complain today.
Instead, I’m going to tell you that’s it’s been a wonderful day here. I awoke to a bright cornflower blue sky full of sunshine, and it made the getting out of bed ever so much easier. I made coffee and drank 2 cups while getting dressed and coifed, then Jack and I took a slow stroll around the neighbourhood. I could see that the sun was sitting higher on the horizon, a sure sign that the days are finally getting longer, and I could feel my mood brighten. The glittering rays of the sun warmed my cheeks and my nose and the bite of cold air couldn’t compete. Neither Jack nor I, wanted to go back inside so we lingered a bit longer at electrical poles and trees. We talked of this and that, as we meandered past the school and towards the park, and we even stopped to sing our song* as a train droned past in the background. When we arrived back home, Jack found a sunbeam in the living room and chose the spot to stretch out and nap. When he awoke a few hours later, we went for another walk, just to enjoy the wonder of the day. Tomorrow will come in its own time and there’s no sense worrying about it. Today, Jack and I lived in the moment and it was grand. I hope your day was just as pleasant.
*This is Jack’s favourite song
We had a few flurries of snow today, but it didn’t amount to much, and it won’t stick around. The ground isn’t frozen yet, and the temp doesn’t want to stay below zero this winter. We’ll get a few relatively cold days at -4°c, which is warmish for here in January, then it swings up to a few degrees above zero and stays there for a few days. I know I’ve been talking a lot about the unseasonable weather this week, but I have one more observation that I want to share. It’s about the grass. I think it’s been growing.
I know that sounds ridiculous, but I can see it with my own eyes. Yesterday when Jack and I were at the park, I noticed that the grass looked green. Not the dull brownish-green of winter, but rather the bright Kelly green of late summer or early autumn. It was shaggy, too, and looked ready for a cut, but maybe that’s the way the parks department left it in the fall. I wasn’t really paying attention, so who knows. I do remember how my own grass was left in the fall, though, and it was a lot shorter than it is now. Our grass cutting service came by on Halloween and did the last cut for the year, and it was left nicely short and snipped. Then November got cold and nasty and I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the grass anymore.
Until today, when I checked it with a critical eye. It is definitely looking shaggier than it did in November. I can’t prove it. I didn’t think to take measurements at the time, and it wouldn’t make sense to take measurements now, but it looks like it could use a cut. Maybe there’s another piece of evidence, though – Jack. More specifically, Jack’s feet. My Bubba is allergic to grass, and he takes a mild steroid combined with an antihistamine in the summer. We usually stop giving it to him around the end of October, and he’s good until spring without it. It’s called a drug holiday, and it’s better for Jack’s overall health. This winter, we’ve tried several times to discontinue the drug, but within a few days, Jack starts to gnaw and fuss with his feet again, and we have to restart the drug. I thought it might have something to do with road salt because he has less hair this winter, including around his foot pads, but it’s probably the grass. It’s growing.
The lake in our town was created with the installation of a dam in the early ’60s. It acts as a reservoir for flood management of the downstream Thames River, which runs through many small towns and eventually into the big city of London (Ontario.) Yesterday when I was out driving, I noticed that the river looked full and close to spilling its banks, which is odd because that’s what the dam is supposed to prevent, so this morning I threw a few dog towels in the car and took Jack up to the lake to have a look-see. Before I show you what we found, though, I want you to see what nearly normal looks like. That’s it up there in the first photo, which was taken at the canoe launch on the last day of December 2018, so about a year ago. In summer, the water level reaches all the way to the feet of the big trees in the photo, but in winter they keep it much lower. In fact, the water level is often so low that you can walk out nearly to the centre of the lake and not get your shoes wet. Here’s Mr. V and Jack doing just that.
Except for the open water instead of ice, that’s how the lake usually looks in the winter. You can walk on it. (It’s a local haha joke)
Well, today you cannot walk on it. Not even with Jesus’ magical shoes, could you walk on it.
It’s hard not to like a milder winter, but it comes at a pretty high cost.
See that sign up there on the left post? It’s a warning that the water has bacterial contamination and is unsafe for bathing. Which means that Jack couldn’t go swimming today, because our winters aren’t cold enough for long enough to kill germs anymore.
Jack and I have seen this sign before, but never in January, and it makes me think about a few things.
My girlfriend, Janet, came by today and helped me to reorganize my closet, which turned out to be a much bigger job than I’d imagined. Jack loves his Aunt Janet, and he happily spent the afternoon lounging on the bed supervising, and asking for love and cookies. The love was lavishly showered upon him, but the cookies were harder to come by. Jack knows which pocket carries the cookies, and he shamelessly reaches out to take a sniff and give Janet his “I am a poor starving puppy. Won’t you please take pity and share the cookie in your pocket with me?” look. Janet was a Special Education teacher for many years, and she’s mostly immune to pleading, though, which confuses Jack a bit. He calls her ” Aunt hardass” sometimes, but in a sweet, I really, really love her kind of way. She really, really loves him, too, and always gives him one or two cookies so he shouldn’t complain.
Jack and I did also get out for a walk this morning and we were dismayed to see the creek has flooded its banks in the park and at the adjacent golf course. We’ve had a lot of rain recently, and flooding isn’t unusual here, but it is at this time of year. I’m used to seeing this in the early spring, not the dead of winter, but maybe this is the new normal. Thankfully, the ground isn’t frozen, or the flooding would be worse. Not so thankfully, a friend with apple trees noted that some of his trees had early buds, which could be disastrous for the many orchards in our area. I don’t like this new normal, nor does Jack. He prefers to wade in the ankle-deep creek when it’s still. This chest-deep swiftly flowing water is for young dogs and ducks in a hurry, not for Jacks and voyagers.
Jack is not happy today. Not happy at all. We put a new shelf in my closet this afternoon, and poor Bubba was greatly inconvenienced by the whole affair. It started out badly when I emptied the closet onto my bed, which happens to be Jack’s favourite place to rest in the afternoon. He paced up and down the side of the bed, looking up at the heap and making little crying noises, asking for help. So I cleared an area and gave him a boost because he’s old and I’m soft. Jack finally settled with his head on my pillow while we got down to measuring and marking. That’s when things went south again, for Jack, because next came the whine of the electric drill. It woke him with a start and then it droned on and off unpredictably. Jack isn’t one to complain, but I could see by the set of his ears that he was annoyed. His eyes were grimly shut, and they flinched at the inner canthus with each kick of the drill. Then peace for a few minutes, and I could see Jack’s features soften until the heavy, dull thud, thud, thud of the hammer and finally a bit of swearing when the humans among us concluded that the custom cut coated metal shelf was a smidge too long. Just a smidge, but too long is too long. So then the party took a break while more tools were gathered and more swearing was said, and then the humans moved into the kitchen to use the angle grinder (FUN!) That was a new noise to Jack, and his curiosity got the best of him, and he meandered down the hallway to see what we were up to. Well, his eyes got wide at the sight of sparks flying all around us, but he didn’t utter a sound as he calmly turned right and walked into the living room. Whatever we were up to, Jack wanted no more part of it, and he flicked his tail at us as he ambled out of sight. He spent the rest of the afternoon on the carpet in front of the fire as we wrestled the shelf into place, and it must have been a real hardship for him because this evening, he is still out of sorts. Sheesh, Bubba. You didn’t even do any work.
On our Saturday walk I saw an ermine, which was a first for me.
Yeeeees, I know the quality sucks. I only had my mobile and the camera is rubbish. I’m getting a new one (because the screen is broken beyond reasonable. I’m also getting some heavy duty cover) and this time the camera was a criterion, so hopefully the next time I stumble across interesting wildlife it will be a better quality.
The meadow is part of the cemetery. I guess that’s the part where the anonymous graves are, in that case wave hello to my grandparents. If a small animal burrowing among his ashes cannot raise grandpa from the dead then Jesus stands no chance whatsoever.
It’s melting! Rapidly melting! It’s +6°c today (-6°c yesterday), and we’re saying bye, bye to all the snow again. That would be the snow that I’ve shovelled twice and will no doubt shovel a third time because it’s going to be warm and rainy for a couple of days with snow expected again by Sunday night and then more melting next week. Sheesh! Snow… Shovel… Melt… Mud. Snow, shovel, melt, mud. I’m trapped in the back aching, snow moving, muddy, messy, messed-up Canadian version of the Groundhog Day of Climate Change. Since it’s still January, it will, of course, get cold again after that and I can only hope it will stay that way.
There. I’ve said it. I want January to be cold. It’s supposed to be cold. The lakes should be covered in ice, the ground should be frozen solid, Jack should have more hair than this and I should be bitching about how fucking cold it is, not about this crap.*
*Sorry, Australia. I know this crap is so much better than what you’re dealing with, but Father Weather won’t let me share. Be safe.
Nightjar has sent us photos of her Guinea Pigs and they are totally adorable.
I’ve had these three guinea pigs for three years now and I’m not sure why I never thought of sharing them before. They are three females, Grace is the mom and shortly after Isis and Luna were born I decided to give away their dad to a friend/neighbour for, uh, reasons that I don’t think I have to explain. Oh, did I say “shortly after”? It was enough for Luna to get pregnant, and then I had to find a home for her babies too. They are adorable, but it’s the kind of adorable that multiplies exponentially. (Bonus points to whoever can guess where their names come from – they are thematically related, but I admit the references are probably a bit too obscure.)
It sifts from Leaden Sieves –
It powders all the Wood.
It fills with Alabaster Wool
The Wrinkles of the Road –
It makes an even Face
Of Mountain, and of Plain –
Unbroken Forehead from the East
Unto the East again –
It reaches to the Fence –
It wraps it Rail by Rail
Till it is lost in Fleeces –
It deals Celestial Vail
To Stump, and Stack – and Stem –
A Summer’s empty Room –
Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,
Recordless, but for them –
It Ruffles Wrists of Posts
As Ankles of a Queen –
Then stills it’s Artisans – like Ghosts –
Denying they have been –
by Emily Dickinson
Considering the climate crises in other parts of the world, I have nothing to complain about, but I’m going to anyway. Things just aren’t normal around here. Seriously, enough with the ping-pong weather already. On Friday, we arrived home from Montreal to 4°c weather and mostly bare lawns. I was feeling a bit smug after all the snow I shovelled while we were in Montreal, but then, on Saturday and Sunday, it snowed here, about 15 cm worth, and I remembered that this is Canada in January and snow is normal, so I just got on with it and shovelled. I figured that the previous few above zero days here in Ontario was only part of a regular January melt. Then on Monday and Tuesday, the temp was up to 3 or 4 degrees again, and a lot of the new snow melted. This morning, though, the temp plummeted to -6°, and it snowed, about 12 cm worth this time, so I shovelled again – a bit less enthusiastically this time, though, because it felt like I was shovelling the same snow twice. Now, I see that the forecast is calling for another melt starting Friday with the temperature due to get all the way up to +11°c over the weekend. The temp will drop below that next week but is still set to stay above zero by 3 or 4 degrees. This is not an ordinary January melt.
I remember January melts from when I was a kid in the ’60s. They were a few days of slightly above-freezing temps when the snow melted a bit, making it heavy and ideal for forts and snowballs. Our winter cranky moms kicked us outside, and we’d congregate to play, all of us energized silly by the warmer air. Then it would get cold again and stay that way for 3 more months and often longer. There was none of this up and down cold or fully bare lawns in January. It was still winter. In Canada. And it was snowy, long and bloody cold.
This unpredictably warmer weather has implications for Jack, too. Possibly serious ones. Jack and I like to walk in the woods and in wildish areas, so tick prevention is a must. We’ve always used it on the advice of our vet from the first of June to the first of November. About 2 years ago, our vet added a second tic preventative that Jack takes from the first of March to the first of November. Apparently, ticks are active at temps just slightly above zero, and we have enough of those degree days now in early spring that ticks have become a concern. How much longer before ticks are a concern all year round and then what? Mosquitos in March?
Jack has had a very lazy day today. He usually gets up with me in the morning around 8 or 8:30 and has his breakfast while I make coffee. This morning, Jack didn’t get out of bed until 11:30. I awoke with him asleep and snoring under the blankets and curled into my knees. I tried to wake him up, but he wasn’t having any of it. Poke, poke, poke…” Jack, it’s time to get up… Jack,… Bubba.” Nope, that didn’t work. So I upped the ante a bit. “Jack, it’s time for breakfast.” Poke, poke, poke.
“Is Jack a hungry boy?” Still nothing! So now I’m trapped, and I’ve realized that I need to pee, so I straighten my legs and push. Jack didn’t like that at all and he pushed back, digging in his hind feet and arching his back. Did I ever mention that one of Jack’s nicknames is Mr. Heavy Bum? Well, this morning, he used all of that bum against me, and he actually gained ground! Now I’m annoyed and I really, really have to pee, so I scootch up and around him which isn’t an easy thing to do first thing in the morning, but I make it out and to the bathroom on time (yeah!) On my way to the kitchen, I look back to see Jack stretched out to the size of a Great Dane and snoring again, which makes me feel tender, so I pull the blankets up around him, and go make the coffee, expecting the boy to wander into the kitchen in a few minutes. Nope, it got to be 9 o’clock, then 10 o’clock and finally at 11, I scooped out his kibble and called his name. Still, no Bubba, who I might add, has not peed since 10 last night. That’s 13 hours without a pee. He’s obviously got a better bladder than I do. So I went to rouse him again and this time he sluggishly stretched and oozed off the bed. When his wobbly legs hit the floor, he trod to his food bowl and sleepily bowed his head and inhaled his breakfast. Then he lay down beside his station and his head hit the floor with a bit of a thunk. Sheesh, Bubba, were you out partying while I was asleep? I hitched him up and took him out, figuring he must have to pee by now and he did – right away. On my rose bush. Well, Damn. Anyway, It was a beautiful day outside, and Jack soon picked up and asked to go for a real walk, which we did in the sunshine, under the blue sky, while the snow melted around us. After a few minutes, I commented on Jack’s lazy morning, and he told me that he couldn’t sleep well around Angus and that he’s been extra tired since he got home. I feel the same way, Bubba. I feel the same way.