Here’s the gang, Teddy, Louis and Czarina, watching what I’m up to. They still have their woolly winter coats. The donkeys keep their long hair well into the spring, but Czarina is losing her winter coat by the handful. Soon she’ll be summer-sleek again.


Evening on the Spring River


Here’s a view of the garden taken from an upstairs window. We have enjoyed a few mild days this week and much of our two feet of snowcover has melted away. It’s amazing how quickly so much snow can disappear after weeks of feeling that it would never go! Even more amazing is how quickly the garden begins to return to life.


Of course, you expect spring bulbs to be pushing up. These are daffodils. But many other plants are already greening up. Here is a sampling from a walk around the newly-released flower beds.


Morningstar Sedge (Carex grayi)


Hart’s Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)


Red Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale)


Angelina Sedum (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’)


Columbine sp.


Mountain Lover (Paxistima canbyi )


Tansy (Tanacetum niveum ‘Jackpot’)

Nice as it is to see some greenery, flower buds are even more exciting. Check out the adorable fuzzy buds on this Pasque flower. I hope it will be blooming, as its name suggests it should, for Easter next week.


Pasque flower ( Pulsatilla vulgaris )

The first flower to bloom will be this pink hellabore. A garden blogger who enjoys the milder climate of the west coast once wrote that he couldn’t see the big deal about hellabores. It was clear that he had never waited out several feet of snow for that first bloom! It’s pretty exciting.


Hellebore or Lenten Rose (Helleborus sp.)


The road to Willow House crosses our little river before turning sharply left and following the riverbank to the house. The river, the headwaters of the South Nation River, is usually little more than a creek, but it responds rapidly to increased inflow from rain or snowmelt. The year before we moved to Willow House, the culverts that carry the stream beneath the road were all replaced with larger and more numberous culverts. The new culverts have always been sufficient to contain the stream’s most active flow.

That all changed on Tuesday. With a few mild days, our extensive snow cover has been melting rapidly, and on Monday night a heavy rain supplemented the snowmelt. The engorged river overwhelmed the culverts and began creeping across the road.


RailGuy moved a vehicle to the far side of the bridge so that we wouldn’t be trapped, and then we watched with fascination as the river continued to rise across the day. The water never exceeded 6 or 8 inches in depth over the road, and we were able to walk to the other side, but the power of the flow was impressive. The current soon began to erode the gravel on the roadway. The line of rills along the road mark the edge of excavations in the gravel.


Whirlpools marked the spots where water was being sucked into the culverts below the surface.


By Wednesday morning, the flow over the road had fallen to a trickle and we were able to survey the damage the water had done.


Viewing the effects of just a few inches of water flowing over 24 hours gave me a much more visceral understanding of the forces that must have created the Grand Canyon! Here’s Pookie, looking over the main channel the flood grooved into the road, about a foot deep.


On Thursday morning, workers from the Township arrived with several loads of gravel and a tractor to repair the damage.


It didn’t take them long to tidy things up and we were able to drive over the bridge again.


This Friday morning, the river is still flowing strongly, and is higher than the culverts, where whirlpools are still swirling. But it’s well below road level, and ice-free.


Here’s a short video of the river in full flood on Tuesday afternoon.

On the Move


Each spring, I await the arrival of the first Red-winged Blackbird with great anticipation. From there, spring is a series of birdy firsts. First robin! First grackle! First cowbird! First Song Sparrow! First pair of Hooded Mergansers on the river! First Turkey Vultures! First Great Blue Heron! First woodcock!

And then there are the geese. As they travel north, hundreds stop to forage in the stubble of the many corn fields hereabouts. Mostly, there are huge flocks of Canada geese on the move. But some years, there are Snow geese as well. This year, there have been many Snow geese travelling with the Canada geese.


These Snow geese in flight are easy to identify, with their black-tipped wings. However, Snow geese come in two morphs, or color patterns. White adults have black wing tips and pink bills, with a blackish ‘grin’ patch. Their feet and legs are pink. Blue-morph adults have a white head and upper neck while their bodies are dark bluish-grey. They may have white tail feathers and varying amounts of white on their belly.

While the Canada geese will nest in Southern Ontario, the Snow geese will carry on far to the north, where they will nest along the shores of Hudson Bay and James Bay.




April Fool


All summer long, the old man of the birdhouse looks down on me from his six foot perch. But on April Fool’s Day, I’m looking down on him. The warm sun melts the surface of the snow during the day, and the moisture freezes into a crust at night. In the morning, I can walk on water…in snow form.

The pathway to the barn, shovelled clear all winter, is bare ground now. The rest of the yard is still buried beneath nearly two feet of snow. Here’s Pookie, ignoring me as I laugh down at her from the snowy heights.



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