Jack’s Walk

In the space of a week, we’ve gone from this,

Flooding at Pittock Lake ©voyager, all rights reserved

to this,

 It’s winter again, and Jack approves ©voyager, all rights reserved

to this.

Oh No, green grass. Winter is melting again, and Jack does not approve/ ©voyager, all rights reserved

Today marks the third time in January that winter has come and gone. It’s expected to rain all weekend, and the creeks and rivers are already running high and fast. They’ve issued flood warnings. In January. In Canada.


Questionable Beauty of a Snowless Winter – Part 1

Freezing temperatures have finally arrived in central Europe, we had -6°C a few days ago. Unfortunately, it was not accompanied by any snow whatsoever, not a single flake. However the rapid onset of frost after relatively warm weather has covered every stone, every piece of plastic or metal and every blade of grass and tree twig with ice crystals, so I took my camera and made a few quick pictures.

When I was a kid, usually there were at least twenty cm of snow outside at this time.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full

Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved

It was a splendid day here, so Jack and I decided to spend it going for a slow walk in the woods. Lately, Jack’s been walking beside me on the path because of all snow, but today he was off in the woods almost all the way around. He caught up with me at the last bench before the car park, and he seemed a bit out of sorts, so I asked him why the sad face on such a lovely day.

“I can’t tell you. Well, I shouldn’t tell you” he replied.

“Shouldn’t tell me what, Bubbs”

“It’s about the little folk. They don’t like for people to know their business.”

“I see,” I said. “But, it’s ok for dogs to know their business?”

“Silly Mummy, of course, dogs know their business. We can hear and smell everything they do. They’d prefer most dogs didn’t know about them, but they trust some of us.”

I was getting very curious, but I know that if you ask Jack too many questions, he wanders away, so I let a few quiet moments pass when Jack spoke up again.

“Mummy, what would you do if your home wasn’t safe anymore?”

“Well, I’d fix it if I could, and if I couldn’t fix it, I guess I’d move to a new place.” I let a beat pass, “Does one of the little people have a problem where they live?”

“Oh, Mummy, they all do. It’s terrible!” Jack had a catch in his voice, and I saw worry in his eyes.

“Can you tell me what the problem is, Bubbs?”

“It’s the ground, Mummy. It isn’t staying frozen long enough for them to go to sleep.”

I had to think about that for a bit, then I asked, ” Why can’t they go to sleep if the ground isn’t frozen?”

“They can, but this year the snow keeps melting, and it’s been raining, and everyone is worried that their tunnels will collapse. Usually, the meltwater comes in the spring when the flowers and trees can help drink it, but the trees don’t drink much in the winter, and so the ground gets soggy, and their tunnels get mouldy, and their food spoils faster and then sometimes the tunnels cave in.” Jack stopped and looked around before adding, “that’s why they can’t do their winter sleep.”

“That’s awful, Jack. What are they going to do?” I asked, but I could see him wander off the path and knew that to be a sure sign, he didn’t want to talk anymore.

“They have a few ideas, but not everyone agrees.” Jack said, before adding “Can we be quiet now, Mummy.”

“Sure Bubbs,” I said, but I was brimming over with questions. Who are these little folk, and how many of them are there? How big is their tunnel system, and where do they hide the entrances? Do they live there all year, or only in the winter? Do they all bunk together like at camp or do they have proper rooms with furniture and books. What sort of food do they eat, and what do they store down there? How long is a ‘winter sleep,’ and is that like hibernating? What ideas do they have to deal with their soggy tunnels and is there anything we could do to help?

I could see that Jack wasn’t going to say anything more about it, though, so I let the questions lay silent for today. Hopefully, he’ll tell me more, and if he does, I’ll be sure to pass it on to you.

Jack’s Walk

What do you see? ©voyager, all rights reserved

Sometimes Jack and I amuse ourselves by playing a game called “Tree See.” We invented the game, and the rules are simple. You look around the forest until you find an image hidden in the branches or on a fallen log and then you point and ask the other person what they see.  If you both see the same thing, the point goes to the person who found the sculpture. If you both see something different, the point goes to the second person who was asked for their opinion. It’s a silly game, really, but it helps pass the time, especially on a winter’s walk when there isn’t much to look at. Jack is better at the game than I am. I think it’s because he’s lower to the ground, but today Jack tells me that it’s because I’m a slow-witted human who lacks imagination. Ouch, Bubba, that stings.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ,

Jack’s Walk

My Bubba in his happy place ©voyager, all rights reserved

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.


(Spring?) Flowers

Nightjar has sent us flowers. Mondays are always better with flowers. Thanks, Nightjar.

Today I bring you another wildflower, I think it is Verbascum virgatum, also known as twiggy mullein or wand mullein. According to my field guide it should bloom from April to July, which last time I checked doesn’t include January, but I suspect that such information is no longer useful so I’m standing by this ID anyway. The photo was taken with my telephoto lens while I was looking for birds (with limited success).

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

Jack’s Walk

H is for happy. ©voyager, all rights reserved

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

Jack’s Walk

Jack in the yard today, ©voyager, all rights reserved

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.

Baby Eastern Spinebills

Something special from Lofty today.

I thought that it’s about time I added some spring cheer into the blog. Attached are pictures of the Eastern Spinebill chicks nearly ready to leave the nest. I first noticed them as I brushed under our snowball tree and they made a thin piping noise. Carefully pulling down the branch to see into the foliage must have made the babies think that a parent with a meal had arrived. The first picture includes the parent that was too quick to catch in a second photo. The next day the chicks were looking much readier and a couple of days later they were gone, leaving only a pile of baby feathers on the ground below.


©Lofty, all rights reserved

©Lofty, all rights reserved

©Lofty, all rights reserved

©Lofty, all rights reserved

Jack’s Walk

New Year’s Eve, 2018

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.

©voyager, all rights reserved

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.

©voyager, all rights reserved

©voyager, all rights reserve

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.

  1. 1) Climate change is happening so fast that I can see it from year to year.
  2. 2) Are we too late to fix it? and
  3. 3) Is humanity doomed?
  4. 4) Why isn’t there a dog depicted on the sign?

Jack’s Walk

An early spring flood. ©voyager, all rights reserved

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.

Tree Tuesday

Photo by Biosphoto/Almay from Atlas Obscura

Meet Big Lonely Doug, one of the last old-growth trees left in Canada.

Big Lonely Doug—named after its species, the Douglas fir—stands tall among a clearing, a solitary specimen surrounded by stumps and logging debris. It soars about 230 feet high and its trunk is as big as a living room. Local conservationists estimate it to be between 750 and 1,200 years old.
Despite the region’s booming logging industry (a staggering 99 percent of the old-growth Douglas firs in British Colombia have been cut down) a logger spared Big Lonely Doug from being felled in 2012. No one is quite sure why this particular mature tree was saved. It turns out it is the second-largest Douglas fir in Canada.
Big Lonely Doug still stands tall, now a sad but majestic symbol of the disappearing old-growth forests of British Colombia, and the ongoing fight to save them.

You can visit Big lonely Doug, but you’ll have to hike the last 1.5 km to the site. He lives near Port Renfrew, B.C., and perhaps he’d like a bit of company, as long as you’re polite and respectful of his age and his home. There are more photos at the link below.


Story via: Atlas Obscura