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!

Monday, January 17, 2022

What is that thing in the barn?!

I've had trouble with predators lately, having lost a few roosters, and I've been monitoring carefully for signs of them lately. This morning when I went out to do my morning feedings and check-ins with the critters, I had a bit of a surprise.   What....the THAT?  The box structure was used for housing one of the free ranging roosters to keep it safe from raccoons at night, since it would not roost with the others in the coop.  But under the box....there was a fuzzy thing...

I don't usually do videos.  Today is an exception.

After that, I went back to the house to find a broom to see if I could encourage my visitor to depart. Apologies for my poor video skills.  

Next steps!

Success....somebody needed to be relocated.  Not very far....just out of the barn!

Even though it was very little, it was quite intimidating, and I didn't want to mess with the spines.  You can see how it likes to hide its head and just display the spiny back end.

But it did have a super cute little face!

I carried the crate around to the front of the house where I could easily access some trees in spite of our heavy snow at the moment.

And we're off!

As soon as I released it, it had a mind about where to go.

Across the driveway...

Eventually, it went up the tree to relax after its adventure.

We have so much snow right now.  It's a bit ridiculous.  I think the porcupine just got into the sheep and goat area and didn't know how to get out, and was just trying to rest for the day.

I went out to check a little while later and it was still in the tree.

I hope it finds a good place to get some food and rest.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Winter Weather

 After a relatively mild December, January has now reminded us that it is definitely winter.  The first major snowstorm for my area came on Friday morning, and lasted until sometime overnight on Friday, leaving a considerable snowfall total in my yard.  I used a measuring stick in several spots and the average was 46 cm, or about 18 inches of snow, which is quite a bit for a single storm.  Here's how things looked on the driveway this morning.

And here's the view out the back porch door towards the rabbit palace.

It is definitely enough snow for me to try out my new cross country skis soon.  But I didn't go today, because I figured everybody would be out there today, since we haven't had enough snow to ski on yet this winter.  

Fortunately, I have a reliable snowplowing service that came to do the driveway. It didn't take him very long to get most of it cleared, although I still spent a long time cleaning off Marc's car while he used our little snowblower to make paths in the backyard.

It is so much easier to access all the animals when there are paths in the yard.

I'll have to make a few paths of my own to get to the bird feeders though!

Twilight wisely stayed in the barn eating hay.

Lucky Nickel came out to eat the pieces of pine tree that broke during the driveway plowing - it's difficult for the plowing guy not to damage any trees when the boughs are so heavy with snow, so I brought all the pieces over to her for snacking.

It's a good thing I don't have any chickens living in the Eglu right now!

The duck house was well covered in snow.

Sir Francis was happy in his kiddie pool though!  The immersion heater keeps it from freezing.

I definitely need to do some major pruning of the yew shrubs this spring.  I'm thinking about trying to do the pom-pom style topiary with them.

The chickens were content staying inside the coop.

I don't blame them!  It will be a long time now before they will want to go out into the side yard.  They don't really like standing around in the snow.  I wouldn't want to do so in bare feet either!