colours

CRW_0042Red on the mountains. The melting snow causing streaks.

Every season’s has it’s own colours. Ones that only show up once a year. Ones that can’t be photographed no matter how hard you try. They happen near the edge of mountains at sun up. Or the way the ice turns deep blue before it turns over and sinks to the bottom in spring.

CRW_00092.jpgKingfishers on dried Mullein. The female, left, is more colourful than the male.

It seemed the winter was a long one. We had an early fall snow and then nothing much until February. Still we had it all. Just not spread out. Some cold temperatures dipping to -30°c and staying there. Snow, mostly in February, but not much overall.

CRW_0002Storms depending on where you stand.

The frost is coming out of the ground. There’s still patches of snow in perpetual shade. That comes with mountains.

CRW_0046March full moon on the rise clearing the ridge.

The garlic should be popping up soon, along with self seeded lettuce and spinach. They arrive at the same time as thousands of weeds. It takes a discerning gardener to pick them apart.

CRW_0031Hunting on ice edge.

The days run longer. Summer with heat, smoke and fire is on it’s way. But for now the mountains are ever present, jagged and comforting, the sky deep cobalt, waiting on stars, in the east.

CRW_0037Mallards on ice edge being hunted. A Raven (middle), dips his beak, unnoticed, waiting for leftovers.

ever-present mountains

CRW_0009Wilmer

The March winds are starting to blow. It won’t be long the ice and snow will break up, turning every patch of standing earth wet and muddy.

The birds have been singing and I even saw a few young Bighorn rams clacking heads. It’s good to practice the the fight and fuck so when they get older they’ll be good at it. It’s the same for humans whether we think so or not!

Show off

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There mornings are brilliant but a chilly -28°. The afternoons warm to about -3. These are fantastic days when spring is trying to bust through.

This male Northern Flicker knows the score. He is banging on the top of the pole getting the metal parts singing with vibration. He is a real show off, securing the first of the sunshine, trying to attract a mate.

When I was a kid we used to have a Flicker that rapped on our metal chimney cap. It made a heck of a racket throughout the house.

To all of our delight my father used to sing:

The woodpecker pecked
on the school house door.
He pecked and he pecked
till his pecker was sore.

 

early march

_LME9788A meteor pierces Orion.

Willow and I set out to try and spot zodiacal light. False dusk as it is sometimes referred to. We sat on an eastern ridge. Unfortunately, the light from the valley bottom interfered. We did the only logical thing, headed higher and around, trying to put a range of mountains between us and the light of town. It can be tricky in the snow. Willow was happy with our new perch looking towards Orion. She caught a whiff or sound earlier that made her uneasy, started her barking and tighten the perimeter. In a world that shifts it is lucky to have such a trustworthy companion. Perhaps she was only barking at Orion’s dog Sirius, warning, ‘You are not so big.’

CRW_0023Female Red Crossbill

Earlier in the day I took some lovely pictures of a Hairy Woodpecker beating on a rotten birch. It was pounding the bark off and getting at the frozen bugs hiding in the punky wood. I would have posted a picture or two here if I hadn’t forgot to put a memory card in the camera.

CRW_0025Winter Starlings ducking the chill

The last week we have had snow, cold temperatures and also brilliant days that stay cold but feel warm from the sun higher in the sky. It feels good to be getting some shovelling and plowing in. I took a selfie of myself (strange indeed) with my cell phone. From sweating and breathing deep my hair and beard was covered in frost and my nose had a perfect icicle hanging off it. I thought it was hilarious! Lisa and my daughters said it was gross. Still it seemed only proper that I share it, so I sent it to my grandson Cooper via his mom’s phone. He thought it was very funny and asks his Mom regularly to see the photo over and over again.

CRW_0011Facing skyward

March brings spring. The other day I saw my first spider of the year and it was a dandy! I got home from work after a long shift of shovelling and sweating and headed for the shower. I shed my toque, glasses, boots and clothes. Before I stepped into the soothing shower, there on the bathroom floor was a spider at least an inch across. Luckily it wasn’t moving fast, probably from having just woken up, but it was moving, each leg stretching, it was only a matter of time before it regained it’s strength and ran down the drain or up my leg! Naked, and feeling it, I grabbed my glasses and a boot to protect myself. Once my glasses were on and I could see clearly I realized the spider was only a ball of black lint, it’s movement caused from a draft under the door. I felt doubly foolish coming to the realization the lint that looked like a giant spider had fallen from my belly button while undressing.

It seems like the entire winter was packed into February. March brings spring.

_LME9793Fir, Spruce, Tamarack, Cancer and the Beehive

Turkey Soup

RCE_1698Willow surveys the sticks on shore, carefully picking one to fetch. 

It is a long standing tradition of rotating hosting Christmas dinner among our family. This year it was Lisa’s brother Brent’s family’s turn. There was plenty of great food and wine and lots of good conversation and laughs.

RCE_1679Grey December beside the Columbia.

Brent generously gives me the turkey carcass as he knows I like to make broth from the bones. He always leaves some meat on the bones so I can add it to the soup the next day. Even at this late hour the soup is boiling. I will wait as long as I can before straining the broth. It will be put outside to cool.

Tomorrow I will sauté onions, carrots and onions, add the broth, the left over turkey and a handful of barley. That’s it, supper taken care of.  The kids always loved that soup. Sometimes they would argue over whether I should add barley or pasta noodles. Barley usually won out.

RCE_1689An American Dipper holds down the ice beside the river.

My Mom and Dad used to make the same soup, from turkeys, but also wild chickens we shot. They called it mulligan. It was thick and gamey. They said it was soup that stuck to your ribs. I used to wonder what that saying meant. I thought, maybe the barley acted as glue and stuck to your insides. Later, when I understood a person could go hungry, I realized it could keep hunger away longer than many other foods, some much more expensive.

We are lucky to have so much.

RCE_1660My old path to the fish holes.

Early December

_LME9439-Pano-smThe sky above Lake Windermere. Pleiades directly above Taurus. The lights of Windermere and Fairmont. A satellite streaks at the top of the frame.

The snow still hasn’t started to fly in earnest. It’s coming, it always does. Meanwhile, I’m still getting used to the cold. My toque goes on in the morning and doesn’t come off until bed. Lisa even wore hers through the weekend. She looks cute in a toque.

_LME9441.segComet 46P/Wirtanen can be seen in the leading photo. This is it enlarged. It looks like a green smudge. Throughout December it will rise in the eastern sky towards Pleiades. 

Our house can be chilly. We believe in putting on a sweater before turning up the heat. The woodpile is holding up. It has some good wood in it. Fir, tamarack, pine and even juniper. It’s good to mix it up. If you are cold and need it warm quick, pine is the way to go. If you want it slow and hot, fir. If you are going to bed and want some embers in the morning, then tamarack. If you are staying up, maybe you’ve had some wine or smoke, juniper will set the mood with it’s wonderful smell and light.

Every know and again I’ll get a few blocks of spruce. It’s light put hard to split due to it’s twisted grain. If it freezes hard in November the trees crack like gunshots. When splitting, it is not uncommon to come across a worm, pale white, as big as a finger, hiding in the wood. It always crosses my mind maybe someday I’ll be happy to come across this protein.

Speaking of protein. I made mincemeat on the weekend. Currents, raisins, apple, brown sugar, sherry, suet, orange and lemon peel and every spice in the cabinet. I think those old-timers knew how to cook.

Lisa makes wonderful pastry and has promised me tarts.

Winter is looking better all the time.

ghosts

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There are ghosts everywhere. In the trees and clouds, between mountains, deep in the holler, along the coolies beside the creek, overgrown tangled in willow, littered with deadfalls: each and every overhead cliff, an ancient snag ready and able to hang the guilty.

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Not that I believe in them. Ghosts I mean.

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Most are wondering around. Possibly lost. They don’t say much. Nor me back to them. A courteous nod is about it. Most of the times they are surprised, as I, to have run into each other.

Long ago they’d nudge me awake. My mother used to want to know what they were wearing. I used to be afraid at first. I’d listen to the radio until I was asleep. She would ask, was he wearing an army uniform, a plaid shirt, a tam? Don’t be afraid she’d say. They’re not here to hurt you.

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They’re here to tell you something, she’d say.

I didn’t believe.

The ghosts kept appearing, in the creek bottoms. At night they were among the stars. I’d feel them go through me, in a rush, taking my breath into the sky above the crags.

We got used to each other. They don’t talk, but sometimes I will. I tell them I don’t believe. Then tell them the creek is low, the snow will be early, there is a moose in the upper basin that comes out in the morning to walk the slough, it better keep it’s head down until the end of hunting season.

Animals curve where they shouldn’t. Same as people. Ghosts blend in. Once you see them you will always see them. 

If you believe in that stuff.

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