Wednesday, April 17, 2019

iNaturalist ... YOU naturalist ?

For me, a dog walk is never just about walking the dogs.  It's about looking at strange mosses and admiring the many varieties of fungi on trees.  It's about turning over rotted logs to see if the Salamanders have awoken yet.   

Because spring is so very late here in Nova Scotia each new bit of growth is cause for joy.


April 26-29 I'll be taking part in the Halifax entry in the iNaturalist World-wide Bio Blitz where participants take a  geo-tagged photo of anything in nature and upload to iNaturalist.  The immediate goal is for Halifax to have the highest number of observations; the longer term goal is to add to general knowledge of nature.   Anyone in the Halifax Regional Municipality can take part.  Calgary is also taking part.  Not sure why there aren't more Canadian cities.  Last year's winner was San Francisco !

Imagine if we did this every year.  We'd be able to compare observations year over year and those observations over time would help us to track the effects of climate change.

Now imagine that someone already did this 100 years ago.

In 1896 Alexander MacKay, a superintendent of education in Nova Scotia, began a program where students in 1400 schools were asked to watch for the "first appearances" of plants in spring as they walked to and from school.  The children reported things like animal migrations and thunderstorms.  Classroom teachers were responsible for writing down what students reported and sending the data to MacKay at the end of each school year.  MacKay collected the data, summarized it and published the results in a Dalhousie University scientific journal every year for 23 years.

In the 1917 edition of his published data, MacKay wrote that he left the records to the Museum of Natural History in Halifax  so they could be used in the future by "students of climate".

That data -- now more than 100 years old -- is helping reveal to modern researchers more about climate change today and is showing some of its tangible effects in the Maritime region.

Recently researchers reviewing MacKay's observations looked at five species: mayflowers, strawberries, apples, lilacs and blackberries.  Those species are now flowering between two and six days sooner than in MacKay's time.

MacKay's school children and the ordinary folk who will be making observations on next weekend's "Bio Blitz"  are "citizen scientists"; their contributions to observing changing patterns over period of time are invaluable.

iNaturalist is free to join and exists not just for this one weekend.  It was created so that ordinary folk like you 'n me all over the world could post photos of things we see.  Over the years these observations are going to be very useful.  BTW local "experts" in your area will identify the images you post if you aren't sure what you're looking at.  It works particularly well with modern cell phones.

Special thanks to Dexter and Sooki who wait patiently while I stare at things they could care less about.

Note:  I cribbed some of the text in this post from this CBC news article written by Shaina Luck.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Dreaming of Spring

Here in Canada there are two seasons; Gardening season and wishing-it-was-Gardening season.

We fool ourselves in February with thoughts that spring will soon be here.  Unless you live on our West coast that is not the case.  Tender annuals and many veggie plants cannot be planted till all danger of frost is past.  Do you know when THAT is ?  Late frikkin' May !

Prior to that magical time  and after the ground has finally unfrozen I console myself with digging up and moving unsuspecting perennials and planting peas and other things that can handle the cold.  Toward the end of April I may start some seeds indoors but I often start seedlings too soon and they end up very leggy and sickly.

February is a good time to sit inside staring moodily out the window at the frozen ground and sigh over the lush photos in garden magazines...or search my computer hard drive for past garden photos.

I talk a lot these days about my lack of pictures in my mind but I wonder in this case if spring holds a greater magic for me than it might for you.    I know that things grow and look marvellous but each spring when leaves sprout forth on trees I feel like I am seeing them for the first time.  

Just as in summer I cannot visualize what the trees would look like without their leaves, so too in winter I cannot imagine them crowned in green.

Most trailer park lots are small.  Houses have minuscule front yards and side yards into which their neighbours back door and windows face.  I specifically chose a corner lot with a large front yard and a back door facing onto a modest rear yard which I promptly had fenced for the dogs and cats enjoyment.

I worried the sloped back would be very sloppy in spring so I decided to build a stone retaining wall and plant some shrubs and make s stone path ...

The small bushes and trees along the fence now are as high as the fence.

The front yard has been and still is a work in progress.

It was all lawn when I started.  Raised bed gardens were added.

Each year another bed.

My dream was for the front yard in front of my picture window to be a bit of a wild woodland area that would provide a natural environment for critters and privacy for me.  It started with an end of season sale of scraggly plants at Canadian Tire.

After a couple of years that area was well established with the addition of wildflowers.

And then each year the flower garden was extended across the lawn.  Did I mention I'm not a fan of lawns ?

As the garden grew, a windy path came into existence meandering past the flowers, around the wild garden and back.

As the new beds were created my wild garden provided an environment for frogs and salamanders.

And became home to a hidden seat and a three-part dragon sculpture my dear old da' had made years ago.

Right now the lawn is covered in snow but a small heater is keeping the pond open and six goldfish peer out at the frozen world over their heads.

Should I tell them that I'm dreaming of expanding their pond and perhaps adding a waterfall ?

Are you dreaming of spring time ?

Thursday, February 7, 2019

A brief walk on the shore ...

Today I introduced Dexter to my old stomping ground along the shore near Hartlen Point.  

The air had that wonderful salty, rotting seaweed scent that I remember.  I love that smell !

And look, there is Devil's Island with it's weathered old lighthouse.

I'd love to go back and collect this lobster trap 'cept like many of them it was weighed down with cement !  Amazing to think how far up the shore this heavy trap had been pushed by the waves.

I still wore my grippers and they proved helpful on small patches of ice I encountered and on the huge piles of seaweed.

Everywhere below my feet were different wonders to see.

Of particular interest to Sooki in the past has been the stems of kelp plants.

Dexter quickly discovered that they are particularly yummy.  He'd find pieces and then have to play "keep away" as Sooki tried to snatch it from him.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Get a grip !

Winter so far has been a roller coaster of thaw and freeze,  rain and freeze; resulting in most trails being almost unwalkable.

I hauled out my ski pole that I use as a hiking pole but my "grippers" just weren't up to snuff.

For those of you who are lucky enough to not encounter these gawd awful hiking conditions, grippers (also called icers) attach to your boots to allow you to walk on slippery surfaces.  The ones I used to have pulled on over the front of my shoe and then pulled over the heel.  Sadly they have a tendency to flip off the boot and hence get shed in the woods.  Sometimes they can be found hanging from trees.  Other times the trail is decorated with the yellow or orange cleats that have popped out of their rubber.

Two days ago tramping through the woods I looked down and realized I had only one gripper on.

The most common conversations after those about dogs are about grippers.  "Where did you get your grippers?"  "Do those grippers work?"  "Can I ask how much your grippers cost?"

The answer to the last question can range from $10 to $80 !

My grippers were the low end ones and after a while I came to realize it was time to step up and get better ones.

Exhibit A  -- new grippers

With taxes they were around $60.  And after my first walk with them today I quickly realized they were worth every penny.

One of our favourite destinations is the small waterfall in the woods.


The waterfall is different each time we visit it.  And so are the trails leading there.

Without my grippers I would miss all this ...

Me and my buddies would miss all this ...

And today's foggy mild day is going to give way to frigid temperatures tomorrow which will lead to even more ice ... sigh.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Wendy is gone !

I know that you all know that dear ol' Wendy died early last summer.   But I realized yesterday how very "gone" she is.   Wendy isn't just gone from my life, she's gone from my mind.

As someone with SDAM (Severely deficient autobiographical memory - yes, that's a thing) I have no pictures in my head and no memories to replay.

While walking with Sooki and Dexter the other day I realized that I couldn't visualize Wendy.  I couldn't imagine her walking behind me.  I could not "see" her face.  I didn't really miss her.  

I've owned Mini Schnauzers before; Chandler and Fletcher.   When I thought HARD I realized I had NO memories of either of them.  Nothing.   Nada.   Zippo.   Zilch.   

I liked life better before I realized all this.  

Being retired I'm not busy as I was when life was a frantic juggle of work and child care and getting home at lunch to let the dogs out and rushing home after work to make dinner and walk the dogs.  There was little time for reflection.  

But now there is.

I realized on that recent walk that one day I will not be able to bring Sooki to mind.  I won't remember her habits.  I won't remember how she tries to climb onto my lap as if she is a tiny thing who can curl up there without crushing my legs under her weight.  I won't recall how she loves to burrow under the blankets with me a night.  Her sweet nature and her kind heart and wiggly bum will be lost to me.

I want to remember good times with my parents and family ... I know I had them ... but I recall none of them.

Today FaceBook posted a video from three years ago of Trey chasing a toy in a field near me.  Trey died two months after that video was made.  I was furious at FB for inflicting that memory on me!    
Is that what it is like in your head ?

You cannot choose to have just the good memories flooding back but the traumatic and sad ones pour in too ?   Unbidden ?   How do you cope ?

I look through photos and remember things I did but those things only exist in the photos.  I cannot expand on them in my head.

I would love to see my parents in my mind's eye but would it hurt ?   Would I miss them far more than I do ?   Are the memories worth the remembered loss ?

When Wendy's death was still fresh I made memorial stones for her and put them in places where we walked to help me remember.  I remember that I loved her and she was a super good dog.   But in my heart of hearts, I do not remember Wendy.

And I think that makes me sad; but I wonder if I'd be even sadder if I did ?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

My version of "forest bathing" ...

My woodland walks are my sanity savers.   Like many folk I struggle with the winter blues and the gloom  that comes with feelings of being trapped inside.

In the non-winter months I spend my days outside gardening,

and walking with the dogs.

And now with the onset of the frozen months I am left only with the latter.

Over the past few months Dexter has turned from a fluffy puppy to a gangly 
adolescent 6 month old.

Since our walks tend to be my only outside time, I have been challenging myself to walk at least 4 km a day; but sometimes it's hard to haul my sorry ass out the door when it's raining, or bitter cold let alone cover 4 km.

Today was crazy mild for late December.    Early on, the sun was out and shone through the mist in the woods.    

There was some snow on the trails making for some greasy walking on the trail to the waterfall.  

The waterfall isn't very big but it's different every time we visit.

Anticipating treats...

and a well earned rest back at home.