Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Waterfall Adventures

It was another beautiful sunny spring day (well, once the fog burned off by late morning).  It was actually hot outside by mid-afternoon!  And I headed out for some waterfall adventures, chasing photographs of both Jones and Inglis Falls in Owen Sound.

The new side trail off the Bruce Trail provides unique access right to the very base of Jones Falls on the north side.  I thought there might still be a little ice, but these few days of warmth meant the falls was running high and fast, just like spring.

Of course I like trying both some 'fast' and 'slow' pictures of the water.  The above three shots were taken with a higher ISO, giving me a fast speed to try to 'stop' the water.  I like the effect, which is very much like what my human eyes are picking out.

Then there are the 'slow' shots.  I was pleased with these.  I took my tripod and in the late afternoon light was able to get the speed down to a 1/8 sec. exposure.  The tripod was also handy as a walking stick as I struggled down the trail.

I like this series of steps down the side of the waterfall that you can see so clearly when you're down in the valley. You don't see them at all from the usual viewpoint on the south side.

This huge mass of ice did still cover a boulder in mid-stream right at the base of the falls, heavily undercut by the flowing water.  I wonder how long it will last til it collapses?

To get there you do have to follow the side trail down this crevice in the limestone, and with the warm temperatures but shaded crevice it was very icy.  You can see the water dripping off the cliff from the snow up above, so the limestone was all wet.  I worked my way down slowly and carefully and was grateful for the sharp feet on my tripod walking stick!


More pictures to come once I edit them, and more waterfalls to visit.  Today was my adventure on William's behalf, for his birthday.  He would have been 40 today.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sap is Flowing!

I can't believe that the maple sap is flowing already after our warm 3 or 4 days.  I'm sure this is the earliest ever; the Maple Syrup Tour we usually go on isn't held until mid-April!  But syrup season does come and go with the weather, cold nights and warm sunny days are best, which is what we're having right now.

I actually ran into the farmer and his grandson when they were out tapping some trees down the road and we chatted for awhile.  This is just a fun family project for them, not by any means a commercial operation - perhaps an activity to share with their grandchildren.  They were only tapping about half a dozen of the big roadside Sugar Maples.

But those old roadside maples with a big crown do generate a lot of sap compared to maples in a woodlot.  I know because we've tapped trees ourselves in some past lives.  The taste of the syrup is what makes it fun!

These big old trees are plenty large enough to carry three taps, maybe even four.  So with 2-3 buckets per tree on 6 trees they should make their family supply for the year easily.

These are the traditional older style metal buckets and spiles.  Most people use blue plastic buckets with lids now, and plastic spiles.   Many commercial operations use plastic tubing.

I tried my best to get a picture of a drop of sap falling, but failed.  You can see the drop about to fall here though.  So the sap was actually running!

Linking to:

Monday, February 20, 2017

Creeks are Opening Up

When we get warm weather at this time of year all the streams start opening up.  What was an expanse of white becomes broken with the dark channels of streams draining all that meltwater.  It's barely started, but it's rapidly becoming obvious in this early spring week!

The springs that feed Wodehouse Creek are just at the back of this picture, between us and that barn.

It flows under the road and east into a large marsh.  The enormous flow of spring water helps keep the stream open almost year round.

At the end of the marsh, it flows through a large beaver pond that I've described before.  The pond is still frozen (in the background), but the stream below is now partly open.

I've taken pictures of this view over many seasons, and I'll be back to show you how the water rises over the next few weeks.

The creek flows through a long forested section that's a difficult walk to get into, through the former mill pond and Wodehouse, and out here into a pasture.  In a few weeks the water level here will be considerably higher.

The views I check most, to see if the water level is rising, are these two.  And because I photographed them only 4 days ago, I've got comparison pictures.

This was a snowy day 4 days ago, before our current warm spell.

And across the road is where the ephemeral spring lake forms when the water level gets really high and can't all drain down the sinkholes of the karst.  More than once we've put canoes in here and paddled the flooded lake that results.

Good comparison, don't you think?  Lucked out on lining those two pairs of shots up almost identically.  And I'll be getting more shots here as the water rises.  Because the snow will stay a long time yet, and the leaves won't be out until mid-May, the opening of streams like this is one of the main visible features of spring taking over the landscape in the valley.

 Time to get back to a few of those memes I favour too.
Linking to:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Signs of Spring!

Suddenly it's feeling like spring here, far too early!  In spite of my complaints that warm temperatures will leave us with ice from the overnight cold, we really have had two beautiful warm sunny spring days, with temperatures reaching about 10°C (50°F).  They reminded me of the beautiful blue sky days we usually get in March after the grey skies of winter.

The beautiful blue skies of early March normally represent spring to me, but they've come a little early this year.  Heard a Chickadee calling its spring mating song this morning too - 'ham-bur-burg'.

The moving sun and the longer days are the biggest signs of spring, though we tend to take them for granted.  The sun here is coming up much further north in the morning.  Back on the solstice in December it would be rising in the centre of this picture.

The willows are turning yellow and the Red Osier Dogwood are turning pink.  They'll eventually be red.  But right now the yellow willow twigs are really standing out.

Right here at home both the buds on the Silver Maple and the catkins on the White Birch are swollen and ready for spring.  Though I hope they wait awhile yet!

Tiny spring fed streams are opening up, and this permanent spring that stays open all year is at its highest level.  Soon the landscape will be saturated with spring run-off.

Even the snowy woods in the distance looks like spring to me.  Though you can't see them, all kinds of spring wildflower bulbs are biding their time under that blanket of snow, ready to bloom later in May.

So even though I had a frozen icy driveway this morning, I had sensibly driven up and down yesterday when it was warm and chewed it up a bit.  Now it's half bare gravel.

In the third week of February?
Unheard of!

Thanks for following along while I couldn't get out to take pictures, 
and joining me on a brief European detour from last summer.
Time to get back to 'Seasons in the Valley' now.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Hortus Botanicus Part II

The Amsterdam Botanical Garden, Hortus Botanicus, has two large greenhouses, one the 100 year old Palm House, and one a much more recent glasshouse with tropical, sub-tropical and desert climates.  Many of the more unusual plants at the gardens are located in these greenhouses.

In the early days of plant collecting in other parts of the world, it was the plants of those other climates that had never been seen before that were most interesting.  And of course to keep them growing in the European climate, some of them needed to be grown under glass.  This big Palm House is high enough to have trees growing inside.

And there were a number of palms and other tropics species.   I just like the shape of the big leaves.

The architecture of these older glasshouses is remarkable, all dependent on production of reasonably priced glass, and the ironwork frame.

I've seen pictures of a 'Wardian Case', but I had never seen an actual example until now.  when plants were being collected all over the world, they were brought home in the form of seeds or rhizones, but some plants did not survive the trip.  Dr. Nathaniel Ward of London invented this small portable glass house so that living plants (at least smaller ones) could be brought back to Europe over long voyages.  It worked well and many additional plants survived that could not be transported successfully as seeds.

This is the small desert greenhouse, with a number of interesting cactus species.

The rugged bark of a Cork Tree, and a tree with sharp thorns growing directly out of the trunk.  I stopped for a picture before I grabbed the tree trunk.

The new sub-tropical greenhouse had a canopy-level walkway which gave you a very different perspective.

Perhaps the most interesting story in the botanical garden is the story of this Coffee plant.  Coffee originally came from Ethiopia, and spread through the Arabian Peninsula to Turkey.  During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent in the late 1500's it became a popular drink.  It gradually spread into Europe over the next two centuries, as coffee houses became popular.  But the price was high and the Dutch East Indies Company decided to try and establish their own source for trade.  They were successful in Java, and plants were brought home and planted in this garden.  Later one of these was given to the King of France, Louis XIV, in 1714.  Ten years later a sailor successfully smuggled a seedling of this plant to Martinique, a French colony in the eastern Caribbean.  From this single plant are descended all the millions and millions of Coffee Trees in all of the Caribbean, Central and South America!


We had that beautiful spring day here, with the temperature approaching 10°C and snow melting off the roof fast.  A glorious but very unseasonable early spring day.  But I fear we'll pay the price with ice and water in basements.  Hard to miss enjoying the warm temperatures though!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Hortus Botanicus, Part I

The Amsterdam Botanical Garden, Hortus Botanicus, is one of the oldest in the world, established originally as a garden of medicinal plants for doctors and apothecaries in 1638.  It was started in the terrible years of the plague, when doctors were searching desperately for anything that could provide a cure.  I write this blog as a record of our travels in part, and I find I have enough pictures I want to include that this is going to take two days to cover.  We really enjoyed our visit.

It's no secret that we love gardens, and we've visited many on our travels.  This is the Gunnera, looking like giant 8 foot tall Rhubarb leaves.  I could stand underneath them and look up!

The giant Victoria lily pads were also a familiar friend, found in a number of botanical gardens, but the other lily pads here were what caught my eye, as it had been raining.

The surface of all these lily pads were decorated with drops, or even small lakes of water.  These leaves tend to have a depression in the centre, so that`s where the bigger `lakes`collect.

The core of this botanical garden is a systematic collection of plants by genus and family.  Many of the original plants were collected by the traders of the Dutch East Indies Company, sailing the world in search of commerce, so they accumulated a lot of unknown plants in the early years.

Those unusual plants included trees, and the garden now has quite a collection of large mature trees, even though it`s on a small crowded location in downtown Amsterdam.  This is the largest Gingko tree we`ve ever seen.

I`m always intrigued by finding plants that are common here in North America growing in European gardens.  This is the common Royal Fern which I see here at home.

And this is Flowering Dogwood, one of the most beautiful small trees over eastern North America.  It doesn`t grow as far north as we live, but it sparkles in the understory of the Great Smoky Mountains in April.

For the first time we visited a small butterfly house.  though the butterflies were unfamiliar, it was a remarkable experience having them flying around your head.


Meanwhile, we`re facing one of those nasty warm spells over the coming week.  I can`t imagine why people think a warm week at this time of year here in the snowbelt is a good thing!  It just means that the temperature starts melting the snow during the day, but every night it turns back to ice.  Our driveway becomes a skating rink, and the roads become unsafe for walking.  I finally bought myself a new pair of yaktrax so I can keep walking regardless.  But I`d far rather have snow.