Thursday, September 29, 2022

Hurricane Fiona

Here in Atlantic Canada, we recently experienced Hurricane Fiona. This historically significant hurricane event was even bigger and stronger than previous Hurricane Dorian in 2019, which brought a tree down on my house, and also bigger than Hurricane Juan in 2003, which hit the Atlantic provinces quite hard.  There are countless stories of tragic losses of life and homes, some of which were simply swept into the sea.  My experience was mild in comparison to those experiences, and my heart goes out to all of those who have suffered losses great and small during this time.  

I thought I'd share some pictures and words about the impact Fiona had for me, in particular to remind everybody of how dangerous these storms can be, and how it's important to take the warnings seriously.  

On Friday evening, I'd been reading for several days about the potential impact of the strengthening storm and where it was anticipated to make landfall.  I knew that New Brunswick was likely to be less severely impacted than Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador, but I still knew we were going to be at the mercy of some incredible winds.  I did some yard tidying, trying to put things away that might blow around and become projectiles during the storm.  

The storm raged all through Friday night and much of Saturday.  The winds were absolutely ferocious, and several times during the night I got up to peer out the window into the inky blackness, but I only saw vague tree-shaped blobs waving back and forth.  I could tell that they were moving far more than they ever normally would, but otherwise, I couldn't really see much.  

The power went out shortly before midnight on Friday.  It wasn't restored until 67 hours later, on Monday evening.  There are still over 140,000 homes without power in the Atlantic provinces, and I can imagine how frustrated most of those people are at this point.  I do not have a generator, but I've never had the power out for more than about 24 hours before, if that, so I've never really needed one.  However, I'm thinking it might be time to get a small one for future events.  Hurricanes and other extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent and more impactful in future. I am definitely a believer in climate change, and I firmly trust the data that shows such trends.  

On Saturday morning, the yard was a bit of a mess.  There were small pieces of shredded leaves everywhere, and loads of small branches and twigs littered the ground. But, our street wasn't blocked, which was great!

The driveway was blocked, but not by a very major tree.

I was able to address that tree with my small Japanese pull saw which my father gifted to me some years ago.  It is very handy saw for all kinds of situations, especially post-hurricane situations!

In total, about 15 trees on the property either snapped in half or fell over after being pulled out at the roots.  We'd had quite a bit of rain in the week beforehand, and I think the ground was quite saturated in some areas, meaning that the roots would be more easily pulled up.  Some trees are leaning at crazy angles and might come down in future storms.  If they're deeper into the woods, that's OK, but anything on the edge or near buildings needs to be addressed.

On Friday evening, I took a few shots of the 'normal' skyline view from the little balcony off my bedroom.  I thought it would be interesting to compare before-and-after shots in case any trees came down in the hurricane, as they did in Hurricane Dorian 3 years ago.  Well, they certainly did come down, even more than expected! You can see in the picture on the right, I have far fewer trees on my skyline view in comparison to the picture on the left from the night before.  The tall aspen on the right is still up, but a whole clump of spruce have just snapped or uprooted, making a significant change to the appearance.

The gate to Twilight and Lucky Nickel's enclosure was completely blocked.  You can hardly see the gate in this picture.

It took time to do some manual sawing and pruning to get past the tree that had fallen across that pathway before I could reach the gate.  Marc was able to help me with that task.

Finally, the gate was accessible!

Fortunately, their little barn and the attached chicken coop didn't suffer any damage.  

There is a tree in the chicken area that is pulled up and leaning at a crazy angle that I will need to have addressed. 

 Meanwhile, the chickens enjoy digging around under the roots.

My little greenhouse was, amazingly, spared of any damage, even though trees fell and snapped all around it.  I felt very lucky when I saw it undamaged and still standing.  It must have just been the wind direction and the way the trees fell that kept it out of harm's way!  Right about in the middle of this photo, behind several tree trunks, is my large compost pile.  I cannot presently access it, and until I have someone come out with a chain saw for some cleanup, it will remain unaccessible!  

There are still tomatoes in progress!

The main chicken coop and chicken run were also undamaged.  There were some branches that fell onto the top of the coop, but they were fairly easy to remove.

The maple that was badly damaged in Hurricane Dorian in 2019 was also damaged again.  One limb was actually hanging on our power line to the house.  We removed that right away, while the power was out, since we would not have risked doing so with the power on.  Another broken limb has yet to be removed.  I need to have that tree assessed to determine if it should be taken down.  With two rounds of damage, it may be a risk for further damage, and if it fell, it could come down on the kitchen.

My variegated willow developed a significant lean, but I have now righted it and supported it with a couple of stakes, which I can remove in the spring when it has re-established some strong roots.

Despite the damage, there is still beauty in the fall garden. 



As for indoors, before the hurricane arrived, I used a little freezer power outage tip that I remembered reading about some years ago on Facebook. I filled two small cups with water on Thursday, and froze them.  On Friday, I put one cup in the door of each of the two deep freezers (mine are upright models, but you could also do this with chest freezers). On the top of the ice, I put a coin.  The idea is that after a prolonged power outage, even if you are asleep or away from home when the power comes back on, you will be able to see how much thawing occurred by the position of the coin in the ice.  If it's on top of the ice, all good!  If it's at the bottom of the cup, then the ice thawed.  If the coin is on top of the ice but the ice is floating in a cup of water, then obviously that's a potential issue as well.  This was a good tip, because at the end of 67 hours, both of my coin cups had the coin still on the top of the ice with no melting!  

I was amazed at how well the freezers retained their temperature even after such a long time.  My normal temperature setting on both freezers is -3 °F.  Admittedly one freezer is in the basement where the air temperature is generally cooler, but the other is in the garage.  Even the small freezer on the bottom of the kitchen fridge was mostly fine.  Everything in all the freezers was still solid/firm except for a couple of bags of chopped red pepper, which I can easily use in a tomato sauce and which are not a dangerous risk like thawed meats.  Even those pepper pieces were not fully thawed - just softened.  One of my freezers has a display that showed that the temperature inside got to 17 °F (-8 °C) after 67 hours without power.  I thought that was interesting because the majority of online sources I consulted said that a full freezer would hold a "safe temperature" for approximately 48 hours.  They also say that food can be safely refrozen if it "still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below."  Given that after that length of time, it only rose to 17 °F, it would have taken some time to reach 40 °F.  Perhaps the fact that they are both fairly modern freezers maintained in good condition is also a factor.  In general though, I was tremendously relieved that I had no food losses.  I also think that one must use some common sense with regard to the published guidelines.  Maybe a full freezer that is in warm temperatures will only keep things frozen for 48 hours, but my experience showed that even one at moderate temperatures kept things fully frozen for much longer than that.

All things considered, my hurricane experience was pretty mild compared to that of many people in the Atlantic provinces, and my heart goes out to those who are still struggling with no power, family members killed or hurt, lost and damaged homes, vehicles, barns, pets, livestock and spoiled food. It is a very difficult time for many and will take a long time for recovery.  Meanwhile, I've learned some tricks for next time and will consider purchasing a generator and perhaps chain saw as well.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Golden Crowned Kinglet Rescue

This morning I had the surprising honour of rescuing a golden crowned kinglet from a spider web.  Who would have guessed that would happen?!  

I had put out a couple of handfuls of seed for my usual chickadee and nuthatch friends, and enjoyed watching them have their breakfast seeds.  I went back to the kitchen and heard a small thud, which sounded like a window bump from a bird.  I have yet to put up the bird-repelling dots on 3 of my windows.  I went back out to see if I could help a bird, and was shocked to see not a bird on the ground, but instead a tiny bird hanging in front of the window, dangling from a thick spiderweb strand.  I did not take a picture of that.  I immediately reached up and gently took the bird out of the web.

It was very clear that the bird was a golden crowned kinglet. It was so very tiny in my hand.  I could see the spider web stretching across it, so at that point I went inside with it, grabbed a box, a towel, and the camera, and went back into the porch. You can see the web strands in the image above - they look minor, but they were so sticky! 

I very carefully detached the thick web strands from the bird's feathers.  It was amazing to me how thick the webbing was, and how delicate the wings were.  The web was really impacting the poor bird's ability to use its wings.  It was also gaping, which they tend to do when stressed, so I wanted to handle it as little as possible and just get the web off so it could sit and recover.

Fortunately, once I removed the web material, the kinglet began to perk up, and I ended up not needing the towel and the box.  My little friend took off fairly quickly and I hope it had a much better day after this morning's adventure.  I thought it was quite fitting that the day after the queen's funeral, I would have a visit from a "crowned" bird.  

So glad I heard the bump and was able to help this tiny friend.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Where did the summer go?

Goodness me, I haven't written a blog post since February.  And now here we are at the end of summer.  Where did it go, and why does summer always have to go so quickly, compared to our interminable winter and not-really-spring-because-it's-too-cold-and-wet seasons.  I've been busy with work all summer, of course, and it's good to have work, but sometimes it's too much.  As always, difficult when one is running one's own business trying to ensure that contracts keep on coming in but also wishing that sometimes there would be more of a break!

As usual, I didn't do any traveling this summer.  I still have significant concerns about covid.  We both had it in April, despite having had 3 shots and wearing masks all the time.  Marc got it at work and brought it home and that was that.  It honestly wasn't that bad for me, but I don't want it again.  In addition, it's difficult to travel when one has livestock - especially chickens that need to be let out and let in every day, and closed for the night to keep them safe. 

I hatched 9 chicks this year and ended up with 6 roosters and 3 hens.  Not a great ratio!  One of the hens had some kind of predator incident despite being in a secure coop.  I think she may have gotten her wing stuck between cage bars, which made it stick out of the pen.  Unfortunately, something (cat?  fox?) came along and took most of her wing off.  I didn't think she would survive, but she has beaten the odds and now she has one normal wing

 and one mini-wing.  

You wouldn't necessarily know to look at her though, and she does well except for flying up onto the roosts.  I will have to make her a ramp.  She might be Winifred, or Wilhelmina.  Or maybe Wren.

I also ended up with a funny-looking bantam rooster, and I can't quite bring myself to send him to freezer camp, so he might get to stick around.

Some things in the veggie garden are doing well, and some are a disaster.  Carrots were dreadful - I did two seedings and the germination was awful, even though I kept them moist and did all the things you're supposed to do.  The parsnips, on the other hand, are doing very well.  I have lots of zucchini and cucumbers to harvest right now.

I've also been trying to get more walks into my week, and have been enjoying time at two local parks.  If it's raining, I don't go, but otherwise, I try to go at least 3 times a week.

That's about all I have.  I really should try to write more often.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Winter Carries On

Winter keeps chugging on, as one expects in this part of the world.  Sometimes, we get a day of reprieve that reminds us that eventually, spring will come.  This past Saturday was one of those days.  The temperature reached 12 °C (54 °F for all you folks south of the border), which is very unusual for mid February.  The temperature rarely rises above freezing at this time of year, so it was a delight to be able to spend a part of Saturday outside.  Marc helped me clean out the chicken coop, which was very much needed.  It's hard to clean it out in winter when the chicken poop freezes solid!  We had a couple of days of just above freezing toward the end of the week, and coupled with the Saturday temperature, that was enough to allow for clean out.  Usually we do that job with the wheelbarrow, but you can't really do that when there's as much snow on the ground as there is now.  So, it was bucket brigade - four buckets pressed into service and I filled them while Marc took them to the compost heap across the yard.  The chickens are happy, as am I.  

I was also easily able to clean and refill the duck's "pond" because the hose was working.  

Often in winter I have to use buckets for that task, so on a day when I can use the hose, I take advantage!  The duck was likewise very happy.  I couldn't resist taking pictures of him doing his duck aerobics in the fresh pool.

He gets very energetic about it.

I see an orange foot!

The recent heavy snows had actually encased the edge of the pond until the warmer temperatures, so I couldn't dump the contents of it without damaging it.  The brief thaw allowed for a proper clean-out. 

Here's what they mean about 'water off a duck's back' - it just slides right off!

He was a very happy duck.

The robins were also continuing to visit the mountain ash (rowan) tree out front.  I was delighted to see them although I worry about their ability to survive this year, given the depth of the snow cover, which is over the top of many plants they might otherwise eat dried berries from.  They stayed busy with the tree for about a week or 10 days, and then just like that, they were gone.  I took some more pictures of them as well as a short video, because I was so entranced by their visit in such large numbers.  At one point I counted nearly 40.

Also on the warm day, I went looking for winter insects.  I know, that doesn't sound intuitive, but there are some species that will emerge on warmer days, so I wanted to see what I could find.  Of course, there were vast numbers of Hypogastrura species springtails (also known as snow fleas, but they are not fleas, and thus that's a horrible common name for them).  They can be mistaken for 'dirt' on snow, but they are actually very dark blue.  See the 'dirt' on the snow?

Here's a close up of the 'dirt' - tiny springtails!

I also found another species of springtail that was new to me - an Isotoma species (probably Isotoma viridis). This one is about 3 times the size of the ones in the picture above.

In addition, I found a winter crane fly (Trichocera spp.) and a wolf spider.

Of course, the next day, it was back to freezing, and today it was a chilly -12 °C (10 °F), but I managed to get out for a good ski - 7 km in total on my local trails.  It was a great day for it. The trails were freshly groomed.  The snow is very deep - we have a good 3+ foot base of snow under that trail.

Lovely to be out on a sunny day enjoying the exercise and fresh air in the woods.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

This snow is ridiculous

I don't think I've seen this much snow in years.  We've had 4 major storms in a row, every Friday or Saturday for the past 4 weeks.  Each storm has been more than a foot of snow.  Friday's was 2 feet.  Here's the state of my world!

Marc's car after he made a pass around it with the snowblower, but before I began to clear it off.

Uncovering the car.

In an area without drifting, I measured the snow depth.  The driveway was clear-ish (ground level) before it began on Friday).  We had 25 inches, or 64 cm, from Friday morning through to Saturday morning.

Because we just keep getting storm after storm, it's difficult to find places to put the snow now.  Here's the front door area before I got around to shoveling it.

Here's my path to the bird feeders.  Some of the feeders were actually partly under the snow.  The heated bird bath stays clear, for obvious reasons!

Here's Marc after doing some of the snowblowing work!

And me, on the front step.  Look at that snow pile!  Crazy!

And here I am on the back deck.  Very little light is getting in to the dining room window on the left due to the height of the snow pile.

Unfortunately, Marc had a bit of an "oops" with the chicken wire on the rabbit enclosure (they're not in the outer area at this time of year of course).

And here I am in the backyard on the path to the compost pile behind the greenhouse. We add the litter from the rabbit cages to the pile throughout the winter months so Marc snowblows the path to the pile for easier access.  You can see how high the snow is - approaching shoulder height on me, and in my winter boots, I'm at least 5'10".

One unexpected sight was the enormous flock of robins in my mountain ash tree.  I do not normally see robins in the winter.  A few do stick around, but most migrate.  I have occasionally seen one or two in the winter, but usually don't see them until April sometime.  Well, today, there were about 20 in my tree, all eating the berries left on it from last fall.  I was stunned.  I've read that others are also seeing flocks of robins here this year. they do look really pretty against the snow, and with their feathers matching the orange berries.

I have had enough of the snow now.  There is plenty for me to ski on and plenty to replenish the ground moisture (not that we were lacking that after last summer, which was awfully wet).  I would really like a few weekends without snowstorms. At this rate, we'll still have snow in July!