Tag Archives: Seasons

How can you tell it’s cold?

When the temperature hits -20s, it’s cold for this part of BC. Add a little wind (it doesn’t take much) and the wind chill value makes it feel more like the prairies (I remember that well!). So we bundle up with extra layers, scarves, hoods and courage to take a daily walk. Don’t stay out as long as usual, head back for a hot cup of tea. Curl up with a good book and light the gas fireplace. Admire the snow that decorates the cedars, piling up on the patio bench …and what’s that?

It’s a song sparrow that hangs out here all winter, spending most of its time on the deck cleaning up sunflower seed that chickadees and others drop from the feeder. Not sure where it sleeps, but it’s a tough character. Looking more like a small brown puffball with a long handle, it has enough insulating feathers to survive. We gave it extra helpings of seed for Christmas.

The birds can inflate their feathered layers. What can plants do to show us it’s c-c-c-cold? Of course the maples, hawthorn, mountain ash and other deciduous trees lost their leaves long ago, so they simply stand fast within their tough bark. But what of those that hold onto leaves all winter? The rhododendron in the flower bed caught my attention recently. It’s an evergreen shrub, and after the recent cold snap moved in, I noticed its leaves had rolled up tightly, lengthwise. They drooped, looked dead. But next year’s buds appeared firm and healthy. What was going on?

Some suggest that this leaf droop and curl in some species of rhodos is an attempt to reduce the amount of light falling on the leaves. With no summer shade, light intensity is high in winter; could it damage the leaves? Interesting idea. Apparently, the more accepted thought is that once rhodo leaves freeze at about -8 Celsius, they are safer from damage during freeze/thaw cycles if they stay curled up (curling up was one of my winter defence mechanisms, too). Wise rhodos!

So just as the return of robins has always been a good indicator that spring is on the way, watch those rhodo leaves. When they flatten out, they must be dreaming of balmy summer days ahead, and their chance to show off glorious blooms once again.

Signs of the Season

It has been a tough winter around here. Oh sure, I suppose compared to those living under the threat of a polar vortex, that may sound wimpy. But the snow came earlier, heavier and has lasted longer than I remember during our 20 years living here in BC. Finally, this week, melting has begun. At last, the 2-foot high covering on my roof is shrinking.

View from the back deck

I’m hearing more bird songs—chickadees calling in their spring voices, juncos trilling, robins chuckling… and a couple of woodpecker species are becoming more active.

Northern Flickers are around all year, but lately they’ve begun drumming on metal chimneys to loudly announce their presence to other flickers (it’s a territorial thing, as well as the way to attract a mate).


Flickers might enjoy the noise, but residents of the houses they choose…not so much. However, these birds eagerly dine on ants, so they’re welcome in my yard.

Another woodpecker, the Pileated, is a large black bird with black and white facial markings and a red crest. This one’s loud voice echoes around the neighborhood, and I often see it hammering on utility poles. While they may not find much of their favorite food—carpenter ants—on those treated wooden poles,  the noise resonates nicely as a communication tool. What a terrific low-tech ‘social media’ device!


The Deep Midwinter

It’s winter solstice. Here’s how the dictionary defines this shortest day of the year:

mid.win.ter  n.

1. the middle of winter

2. the period of the winter solstice, on or about December 22 in the Northern Hemisphere

The December solstice marks the ‘turning of the sun’, the signal for the days to slowly get longer. From this mid-winter day, the season begins to move toward its end.

The haunting poem\hymn, In the Bleak Midwinter, by Christina Rosetti, always comes to mind at this time.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

I prefer to think of midwinter as ‘deep’ instead, because it isn’t all ‘bleak’, as in ‘cold and unfriendly with no pleasant features, no hope’. I found these bright and peaceful spots in my yard at this pivotal point in the winter. They seem to promise the hope for the New Year that we all long for!

Raspberry cane

Raspberry cane

Mountain ash berries waiting for waxwings

Mountain ash berries waiting for waxwings

Snow on cedar

Snow on cedar

Burning bush berries

Burning bush berries

Snow-capped Echinacea

Snow-capped Echinacea

Recycle those cards!

I started sending E-cards mainly because I was disgruntled by the ever-rising cost of postage. Then I became quite captivated with the animation and music as an enchanting way to share a holiday message. But a few of my friends don’t use the computer much, so we still exchange paper cards. I’ve saved many of them over the years—can’t bear to toss those delightful images.

But what to do with the cards? Stored in the drawer or a box, they’re forgotten and rarely enjoyed again. I decided years ago to recycle them when I came across a great craft idea as a teacher. This placemat used most of each year’s cards, and after a few years I had enough mats to use on my holiday table. The placemats are easy to make, wipe clean and will last forever. Below are directions for this craft if you want to try it too.


And one thing led to the next…..when I had enough placemats, I made a round table centerpiece in a similar manner and a large square under-the-tree collage/mat (waterproof in case the tree stand leaked!).


This year, I used more leftover cards to make a couple of door hangings. Now that people are sending fewer paper cards, I’m glad I’ve recycled so many to enjoy over and over.










Holiday Placemats

Material for each placemat:

27 cards, 9 cm diameter round template, plain or patterned MacTac, clear or frosted MacTac. Teachers: give your class advance notice to collect old cards from relatives for a pre-holiday (any holiday!) craft.


  1. Cut out a 9 cm diameter round template. Use that circle to trace around your favorite part of each card’s image.
  2. Cut out the 27 circles.
  3. Lay out a piece of MacTac (50 cm x 35 cm, plain or with a design) sticky-side up.
  4. To form the bottom edge, arrange 6 circles on the sticky MacTac, overlapping them slightly (the finished mat will be oval shaped, about 44 cm by 30 cm). Don’t press down too hard yet so you can easily peel/rearrange the circles to get a pleasing design of colors or pictures.
  5. Overlap 6 circles to form the top edge of the oval.
  6. Inside the bottom edge, place another row of 4 circles, overlapping the bottom row slightly. Repeat this row inside the top edge.
  7. Working from outside in, across the middle, place 3 circles left to right, then 3 more right to left.
  8. Save a favorite circle for the centerpiece.


9. Once you are happy with the design, place clear or frosted MacTac   over the placemat. Tip: Before covering, write the year on the placemat if you want to remember when you received those cards.

10. Trim around placemat following the scalloped edge, leaving a .5 cm border of plain MacTac showing.



♫♫♫ Oh Christmas tree…. ♫♫♫♫

Merry Christmas from Canada!

Merry Christmas from Canada!

Nature decorated the blue spruce in the back garden with this red maple leaf. My indoor tree is trimmed with many collectibles. All of them have stories, of course.

Santa on skis dates back 41 years; a honeymoon purchase near Boston, MA.



Owl enjoying a book is a perfect symbol for me….reader and birder.



Pukeko  is a member of the rail family, and indigenous to New Zealand. It was one of the first ‘new’ birds I spotted on our trip there in 2009, wandering around a park in Auckland. Later, we were greeted by one – the mascot — at an RV Holiday Park.

Pukeko...aka purple swamp hen

Pukeko…aka purple swamp hen

Snowman and tree, and the red ball with silver tree silhouettes were bought in Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, Frankenmuth, MI. It’s billed as the world’s largest Christmas store at 27 acres filled to overflowing with dazzling ornaments and all things ‘holiday’ from all over the world. How did I manage to limit my choices to only two items? This place is definitely worth a return visit.

DSC_0481 DSC_0479










Good neighbors in Saskatchewan gave us hand-painted balls showing a grain elevator and barn.  Neat what you can do with a bit of wheat, too. These ornaments help us recall our prairie years each time we hang them on the tree








Life is made of memories….. and each of us has a unique collection.

Winter Solstice

December 21 — Winter Solstice has arrived once again. Not the ‘end of the world’ as some chose to believe, but rather a turning point. I looked outside this morning and saw this picture of the overnight snowfall added to several earlier ones this week. Yep, the world is still here alright.

Summer weeds transformed

Summer weeds transformed

Winter Solstice is interpreted in various ways across the globe, though. Do you feel it’s the first day of winter? Or do you agree with my preference for logic and symmetry, and see this turning point as midwinter? Seems logical for Canada, with its four seasons. I like the anticipation of varying temperatures and hours of daylight and darkness, colorful changes in plants and the migration of birds, all of which give the calendar year its predictable parts. With spring and fall as
transition seasons, it leaves a bigger chunk of time to allot to summer and

It breaks down fairly evenly, really: March and April bring the longer
days and warmer spring weather. Summer arrives with hot days even in May, then continues through June, July, August…but by September, there’s a distinct
change in the air. Come October, there’s no doubt it’s fall! After the leaves
have turned, fallen, and there are hints of snow, the days grow shorter,
cloudier…downright dull, quite often. November. My least favorite month (but a
good one to dig into writing!). In many parts of this country, overnight
temperatures are below freezing meaning snow will begin to stick on the ground
long before Winter Solstice. It makes sense to me that winter begins with
November, and continues through February.

DSCN4833That makes Winter Solstice,
‘the deep midwinter’. Logically, it is the shortest day and the pivotal point
when things begin to turn around. That sounds like ‘middle’ to me. It’s the
same for summer solstice: June 21, the longest day. Another point of change.
Surely it’s what Shakespeare had in mind for ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

DSCN4832Every year at this time, folks grumble about huge dumps of snow in some parts of the country, ‘when it isn’t even winter, yet’. But if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck…..? To the folks shoveling it, it’s winter. And think about it this way: if this is only the beginning of winter, it means Canada only has a little over two months of winter, until spring comes in March. Who’s gonna believe that? On the other hand (for those who will tire of it soon and begin wishing for spring) if this is midwinter, the cold season is half over. You’re a winner either way, since March is only two months away.