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Friday 31 January 2020

Winter trail

It was -13C and sunny without a breath of wind. We’d heard the Rotary Trail had been groomed so we headed out with Georgie, the golden grand-dog who was visiting for a few days. The weather had kept us in recently and we missed the fresh air and the time in nature. It did not disappoint.

The coniferous trees were laden with snow as we entered the trail system. 

The trail was well groomed and the walking was easy in the cold temperatures. The sunny sky made the shadowed areas look blue. Solitary trees, laden with the fluffy white looked frozen in time.

The song of a Downy woodpecker was unusual. The only sound we normally here from the tiny birds is the tap tap along the tree trunks. 

The snow piles up on the remnants of tree trunks and on the windward side of the trunks. 

It can be harsh here when the wind blows.

Further along a Red squirrel demanded attention.

Georgie was particularly interested in the squirrel.

She enjoyed the trail and we allowed her off lead to run between us. Georgie stayed on the groomed trail where she stopped periodically to nip the ice from between her toes. 

She groomed herself in the snow.

Before long we had walked to the Confederation Trail which is used by snowmobilers this time of year. 

Some snow machine enthusiasts were on the fields which are parallel to the trails.

We walked back the way we came, savouring each minute in nature this time of year.

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Weather and status report

Winter has a firm grip on eastern Canada. We’ve come through weeks of snow every day, to sunny days, to milder temperatures and rain. The weather continues to surprise us. However nothing compares to what happened recently in the province of our birth, Newfoundland.

Hurricane force winds combined with a heavy snowfall, dumped 93 centimetres, 36 inches, on the community where I grew up. You can imagine the height of the snowbanks after the drifting. They already had lots of snow prior to the blizzard. The result was a State of Emergency in effect for 8 days as the capital city cleaned up the snow from the narrow streets of St. John’s. Prince Edward Island has had an easy winter by comparison.

I prefer to stay inside rather than fight the elements this time of year. Reading, writing and genealogy fill my days. Walking outside is preferable to the treadmill but those excursions are limited by the elements. I have no desire to venture forth on a sunny day when the temperature feels like it is in the -20s C. While I am warm enough when I’m walking, it can take the remainder of the day to alleviate the chill that seeps into my bones when the temperatures are so low.

My husband and I attempt to embrace winter but usually it embraces us.

Questions and answers:

Hootin’ Anni at  asked if it was saltwater in my last blog post From the shore.

It was frozen saltwater in the photos. The cargo vessel and the icebreaker were in Summerside Harbour in Prince Edward Island. The port is in the Northumberland Strait between the island and mainland Canada. The sea around the island freezes every winter.

Joanne at asked about the same post:

Was that a regular route for Trinityborg and Cornwallis on regular duty seeing her through? 

Cargo vessels, such as Trinityborg, make regular visits to the port at Summerside during the other three seasons. There was such a vessel in port over Christmas and while the harbour had loose ice, the vessel could get out of port when the wind took the ice out to sea. Trinityborg came into port before the harbour froze which was later this year than it has been for a number of years.

The home port for Cornwallis is Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She comes to the aid of any vessel which needs her assistance. 

This time of year, icebreakers on the east coast of Canada spend much of their time in the Gulf of St. Lawrence between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. They provide a path through the icy Gulf for the ferries to and from Newfoundland. The bridge to the mainland from Prince Edward Island means sea traffic is nil here when ice encases the island.

The following article has satellite photos of the ice around PEI in February and April 2015. 

The photos are here.

Monday 27 January 2020

From the shore

Frozen. The vast white plain stretches as far as the eye can see except this one undulates with the tide. Now the only blue is overhead on a clear day. Boat traffic has long since ceased, until today. The cargo vessel, Trinityborg is trapped in place at the wharf in Summerside and the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, the Edward Cornwallis is in port to release her from the icy grip.

My husband and I watched the progress of the vessels as we walked the boardwalk. The icebreaker led the way with the cargo vessel following.

When the Cornwallis cleared the harbour, she stopped and waited for the larger vessel. 

When the Trinityborg cleared the harbour, she blew the horn.

Then the Cornwallis proceeded into the Northumberland Strait followed by the larger ship. They became part of that vast white plain.

The Trinityborg has a website where one can follow her progress. She was headed to Belledune in northern New Brunswick, through the icy Strait. I imagine the Cornwallis saw her safely there.

It was an interesting diversion to watch the two vessels as we walked the boardwalk.

Thursday 23 January 2020

Reminder of spring

It snows most days now. The tight grip of winter is exhausting. The layers of clothes required for every outing, the biting wind requiring face coverage, ice under foot and the need for ice grips are always a consideration now if my husband and I attempt a walk. We have resorted to time on the treadmill, a poor and disliked alternative.

Around the house, the snow piles up and along the driveway where banks of snow have begun their annual visit. We are fortunate to have a plow do most of the work but walkways and patio must be cleared too. Meanwhile inside, the fireplace is for more than ambience these days.

But there it sits on the window ledge above the kitchen sink. 

A splash of colour and its spaghetti roots swaying in the water when I move it to close the blind for the night. The vase my friend, Lucy, gave me a few years ago holds a hyacinth bulb she gave me for Christmas. Just add water to kiss the bottom of the bulb and roots sprout and grow. Eventually a touch of spring arrives on the window ledge, a scent of hyacinth and a splash of colour to distract from what is happening outside. 


Tuesday 21 January 2020

Lunch with friends

My friend Lucy invited me to lunch at her home in the central part of Prince Edward Island. The rural setting amid rolling hills is one of the rare areas on the island which isn’t flat. 

The snow-covered fields insulate the rich red soil from winter’s grip and brighten the landscape.

Lucy’s home has huge windows on the main floor which give a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. Outside her windows Lucy has several bird feeders, so we sat and enjoyed her delicious sour dough bread and seafood chowder as the birds enjoyed their lunch too.

There were blue jays, chickadees, mourning doves 

and goldfinch flitting around the feeders. I wasn’t quick enough to get photos of the first two but the goldfinch in particular were co-operative. The markings formed when the feathers furl are a natural beauty.

I don’t see any goldfinch along the boardwalk this time of year. It was a real treat to experience them at all and from the comfort of Lucy’s home was a double treat.

Her feeders attract many birds and work well for the little birds.

I will replace the one we have with some of these feeders which are more friendly to the smaller species. Our feeder attracts the neighbourhood crows now. I know crows have to eat too but they keep away the smaller birds. 


A few weeks later I dropped Lucy home and as we drove up the driveway, a bald eagle flew overhead. Juncos were feeding from the seeds at the base of the feeders that day. 

The goldfinch 

were around of course as were the bluejays and chickadees. I fear I’d never get anything done if I lived at Lucy’s house.

Sunday 19 January 2020

Range lights

It looks like a small lighthouse but it is actually a range light. Two range lights together aid vessels with navigation. This one is a front range light. It works with a rear range light at higher elevation a few hundred meters behind it.

                                               Front range light in the setting sun

Prince Edward Island has shifting sandbars along its shoreline. The channel through Summerside harbour requires careful navigation due to the red sand which fills the bay. The range lights help vessels navigate the harbour.

At night, the lights align one on top of the other if the vessel is on the right bearing. During the day, the lights are less visible, so the red stripes align one on top of the other. 

                                                     Rear range light

Do we need the range lights and their bigger sister, the lighthouses today with the Global Positioning Systems readily available to every mariner? Many would argue against their maintenance. However, if technology should fail, we would need these traditional structures, the old reliables which stand their ground in all weather and under all new forms of attack.

                                         Shoreside view of the front range light

Besides who would want to lose these beauties from the coastline around the world?

Friday 17 January 2020

Wild things

They stand up to the wind with a strength which is admirable because this time of year only skeletons remain. These remnants of wildflowers which grace the boardwalk in warmer weather, stand tall as the snow accumulates around them.

Buried beneath the fluffy blanket, the seeds for another bloom wait for the earth to warm after the snow melts. Now the stems and a few basket-like tops of St. Anne’s lace are all that remain of last summer’s wild beauty.

Goldenrod is not so pretty now but its stoicism is admirable. Along the shoreline, it survives the worst of the elements as it is battered by the salty spray from the icy water until the harbour freezes. They will welcome the ice when it finally covers the harbour this year. 

It is easy to overlook the brown wild things along the shoreline since the  elements require your full attention much of the time. 

The details of the environment are not usually the focus of attention. However, if you pause and look, you may be inspired by their skyward reach, defying the odds, holding on in a harsh world. Besides, who of us keeps the beauty of our prime?

Tuesday 14 January 2020

After the snowfall

You couldn’t call it a storm. We’d had 10-15 centimetres of snow but without significant wind. Many of the conifers were snow laden. 

When I arrived at the boardwalk, the parking lot was empty. I felt safe in the area although I was alone so I grabbed the camera and headed to the trail for the hour during my granddaughter’s dance class. It was a great opportunity to get some fresh air after a day indoors.

It was cold but I was dressed for it. I started at the gazebo as I often did. The view out the harbour was always a great place to begin, looking out to sea in the Northumberland Strait. The sea was frozen in places but the stream and the saltwater marsh were completely frozen. An animal, possible a fox, had crossed the snow covered ice. 

As I headed out from the gazebo, I heard a woodpecker. I followed the sound to a feeder which was new to the area and the woodpecker was busy pecking at the feeder. Then he found the suet. 

A plow clears the bike trail alongside the boardwalk in the winter and early going, among the trees, was perfect. Further along, in an open area, the snow had drifted so the walk was more of a challenge.

Among the trees again, the path was perfect but the bench at the end of the trail didn’t have many guests.

As I walked back, the trail plow/salter made its way towards the drifted areas. The trail was cleared for the evening.

On my way to collect my granddaughter, I stopped along Water Street to take in the setting sun. It was a perfect outing.

Sunday 12 January 2020

Fences and benches

A fence is another way to say

“Why don’t you just go away?

You surely are not welcome here,

You just have to stay out there.” 

On the farm the fences keep

In or out the cows and sheep.

Old and rustic, wire or new

A fence can be a pretty view. 

A bench, it has a different look

An invite to sit and read a book,

Or chat with one who sits beside,

Or if alone then one can bide.

Time on a bench is time well shared

With one you love or one who cared.

Next time you see one, stop and sit, 

A bench can be the perfect fit.


Thursday 9 January 2020

At the wharf

On a weekend in the middle of December when the wind was particularly high, the dredge boat, tow boat and barge which had been working in the harbour at Summerside, were tied up at the wharf. They left the next week, their work completed.

It was difficult to take photos of the vessels since they were in a secure area but I took a few photos from the shore. The tow boat, Atlantic Tamarack, was small compared to the barge and the dredger.

This area is home to the marina as well, which sits between a popular tourist area known as Spinnaker’s Landing and a breakwater. 

The colourful shops of Spinnaker’s Landing are always busy in the summer. 

The marina is empty, the boats all ashore for the winter. 

However, every summer, the area is alive with marine activity when the recreational boaters tie up there. 

Ice was forming in the marina in December, though into the second week of January, the harbour has yet to freeze. 

Tuesday 7 January 2020

In the harbour

The harbour at Summerside hasn’t been dredged for a number of years and the process began this past November. There isn’t much boat traffic before the harbour freezes every year, so the dredge boat was an unusual sight. The dredger worked at different locations and when my husband and I photographed it one day, it was positioned near the Indian Head Lighthouse.

We took the first photos in the harbour looking out towards the lighthouse. The sun on the structure highlighted the repair work done over this past summer. 

From the inner harbour, you could see the dredge work on the channel wasn’t far from the lighthouse. 

Zooming in on the activity off-shore in the Northumberland Strait revealed what I thought to be a tug boat with a barge.

One of my favourite images of the two has a crow or raven in the shot as well.

I learned later a barge is pushed into place by a tow boat not a tug. The bow of the tow boat is constructed to allow it to make contact with the barge to manoeuvre it. Below you can see the tow boat pushing the barge.

The barge works in tandem with the dredger. Once the barge is manoeuvred in place, the crane on the dredge boat lifts the soil into the barge. Later it is towed off shore to be dumped.

The harbour will be able to accommodate small cruise ships following this work.