Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Little Bit of Winter is a Beautiful Thing

Winter at Crofton Marina

There's something to be said for an unexpected dump of snow in a community where I haven't needed to bring out the snow shovel since moving to the island five years ago. For one thing, it keeps us humble.  We islanders are known to gloat about our mild winters, early springs, and almost year round flowers.  We chortle with glee from November to March while the rest of Canada battles blizzards, moans about flight delays and traffic chaos, and digs through several feet of snow.   But not us.  Oh no, not us.  And so every five years or so, Mother Nature decides to teach us a lesson.  For just a day or two, she lets us experience what the rest of Canada experiences for several months every year.

The first couple of hours of snowfall

Of course, our initial response is panic.  A few flakes of snow and we are closing the schools and the stores, cancelling engagements, and spinning our summer tires as we slip into ditches and slide through intersections. The rest of Canada, with Mother Nature cheering them on, shouts "BAZINGA!"

But snowfalls here aren't just humbling, they are also uplifting.  The community puts its best foot forward and displays the spirit that keeps me loving this place.  One neighbour pulls out his little bobcat and putters around town clearing sidewalks without being asked;  others come out and shovel the driveways of their neighbours who are elderly, disabled, or simply busy. We gather, we talk, we laugh, we work. Together we can.

Spotless driveway

Entreprenurial kids run around raking in the money at $5 a driveway, while the laughter of other children echoes through the air as whole families build snowforts and snowpeople at the local park and in front yards everywhere.  The community is out in force - after all, we know that snow will be gone within days, if not hours.
Melting snow in back lane

And so it was.  In less than 24 hours we received about 15" of snow;  and then the sun came out, the town was pristine white and sparkling for a day, and now the snow is melting fast. Already there are large green patches in my lawn, slush on the streets, and the once brilliant blanket of white is dirty and dull. By the end of tomorrow, the snow should be gone.

But yesterday?  Yesterday was amazing.  Yesterday was magic.  Yesterday my camera, my dogs and I couldn't stay indoors.  Yesterday, that little bit of winter was a beautiful thing:

Snow clusters on bare boughs
like apple blossoms in spring

New spring growth on the photinia
temporarily shivers in a gown of white

Snow covered barge,
with North Shore Mountains in background

Snowy Marina

Looking towards Maple Mountain
from Crofton Marina

Reflections of a ferry dock

Osborne Bay

Ferry dock and public dock

And my two favourite shots of the day:

Rising sun lights a neighbour's garage
(c) Jean Ballard 2014

A crystal veil of snow
hangs from the clothesline

(c) Jean Ballard 2014

So much for being humble.  This IS the best place on earth to live.  Even when it snows. 

All photos (c) Jean Ballard 2014. Do not copy without permission.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What season is this anyway?

A couple of days ago, I was snapping sunny photos to do a post on the arrival of spring.  After all, the daffodils were filling out, getting ready to show their cheerful yellow faces:

And the fish were flipping in the bay, followed by otters and seals  looking for lunch:

The seagulls were sunning, the heron was fishing, the boats were sailing, and the sky was blue.

Spring usually arrives by mid February on the island.  The annual flower count in Victoria, an hour south of here, starts Tuesday.

Then this morning, we awoke to this:

Old Woman Winter
Walks through Crofton

and this:

Shiloh didn't care - she'll go for a walk in any weather.

And Eddie didn't care - at least, not once I persuaded him to come out of his crate to put his coat on:

Mitzi was another story - she took one look at the white stuff and raced back to the armchair:

Are you friggin' kidding me?
Do I look like a Bernese Mountain Dog to you?

So I had to pretend she was outside playing with us:

Snow dog 

But never mind, Mitzi, spring is just around the corner still:

Those flowers will be blooming in no time. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

That Darn Cat!

Just as I took the lid off the cat treat jar to get her a little snack, the three dogs barrelled into the kitchen in eager anticipation of their own treats.  Exuberant Eddie accidently knocked over Sweet Shiloh, which started Mitzi's frantic "Look Out Look Out Look Out" bark.  As I directed my attention to righting Shiloh, shushing Mitzi, and removing Eddie, Allie took full advantage of the situation:

Or maybe that was the plan all along - one species creates a diversion so the other can capitalize on the situation.  Fortunately, the dogs can't jump up on the counter to access their own treat jar.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentine's gifts from Mother Nature

I knew it was going to be a good day yesterday when the first thing I saw as I let the dogs out in the morning was an eagle greeting the morning sunrise:

Hey! Get up!  It's Valentine's Day!
I took Shiloh for her walk on the beach, then Mitzi.  And shortly thereafter, Bonnie and I took Eddie and Keaghan to Grace Road Park.  On the way, we had to stop while a large family of peahens crossed our path, likely from this same family that I saw a year or two ago:

Pea hens enroute to Grace Road Park

One large peahen had difficulty deciding whether to cross or wait, bringing a smile to my face.

A few minutes later a large, beautiful rainbow appeared to the north - our destination was  near the rainbow's end.  And while we didn't find a pot of gold, we certainly found scenes worth just as much.  Though we've had very little snow or rain, there must have been a lot more up high in the mountains for suddenly there wasn't just one waterfall in Grace Road Park, but several  cascading down the cliffs of Copper Canyon.

A new waterfall at Grace Road Park
It appears to come straight out of the cliff.
A new culvert under a logging  road, perhaps?

Water cascades down the cliffs

An outcrop of copper-coloured rock diverts the fall

Banon Falls is a torrent this time

And a golden prism of colour cut across
this sheet of water.

The dogs didn't seem perturbed by the higher-and-faster-than-usual river or falling water, though we took care to call them away from it.  Still, they were more interested in pee-mail and other interesting smells.

Gazehound Keaghan might have fancied he saw something in the distance, or maybe he was just enjoying the beautiful view.

I liked the shadow of a tall skinny tree against the sandy-surfaced canyon wall,

particularly near the top where the curve of the tree's shadow followed the curve of the rock:

On the hike back up to the cars, repeated gunshots across the canyon  unnerved us, and especially Anxious Eddie, but we made it safely to our cars and back towards home, accompanied by yet another large and colourful rainbow.

While Eddie and I were out, the other critters apparently amused themselves by making Valentine's cards for you:

Then Mother Nature gave us all one last Valentine's gift as we looked out the back door just as dusk fell - a rosy-red sunset reflected in puffy clouds above the ocean, islands and North Shore mountains.

Reflections of sunset
From my back yard

You don't have to be part of a couple to have a good Valentine's Day.  Sometimes loving life is the best kind of love of all.  Especially when that life is shared with a family of critters and Mother Nature.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Two hikes to Crofton lake

A chill in the air late last week culminated in a few flakes of snow as Bonnie and I headed up the escarpment for a Sunday afternoon hike - not enough to end the hike, but enough to be aware of time passing lest the road back home be slippery.  A slight dusting was all we got here in Crofton, and by Monday afternoon the roads were bare and the temperature moderate.  And so on Tuesday, we headed up to Crofton Lake.

"Up" is the operative word here - though not a particularly steep hike, the change in elevation in the ten or so blocks from shore to trailhead is sufficient to change the landscape.  We had barely started along the trail, when we ran into some white stuff.

Hey, what's that stuff on the ground?

S N O W!
Zoomie time for Keaghan!

And those few days of sub-zero temperatures had once again frozen the lake solid.  Telltale footprints tracked across the surface, and the remains of someone's campfire skated on the ice.

Keaghan is a smart dog - though he loves to play in the water, he stayed off the ice and opted to check out the view from a safer perch.

It was a grey day, with the feeling of rain in the air, so we didn't linger for long and soon headed back down the trail.

Eddie found an ice-covered pond on the return trip and the-dog-who-won't-walk-on-frosty-seawalks and who has an iffy cruciate decided to test the strength of his mama's heart by trotting right out on the ice as if it was nothing different from a living room rug.  Eddie don't do that to me!

Hey Mom, lookit me skating!!

No sooner had we returned home than the heavens opened and the rain spilled out.  And poured and poured and poured.

So it was with great surprise that I awoke to glorious blue skies and light-jacket weather this morning.  I immediately contacted Liz and Sasha to invite them to join Eddie and me on a walk back up to the lake so I could photograph the melting ice under warm blue skies.

I think I got Sasha out of bed.  At least, she looked a little like I do before my morning coffee.

Don't you dare put that
photo on your blog, Auntie Jean! 

But it was worth it.  The ice was still solid under a coating of slush, and the light played with the stark leafless trees and strawlike rushes, while snow-dusted peaks could be seen in the distance.

Sasha could wait no longer for her coffee and decided a good mudpuddle would have to suffice.


Such beautiful hikes, beautiful climate here on the east coast of Vancouver Island.
Have I mentioned that I live in the best place on earth?