nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for the ‘strategies for winter’ Category

Snow days!

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We have had lots of snow in central New Brunswick. So, just a few photos to show you my day on Friday and all the piles of snow!

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Our driveway, partly plowed …

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The impressive piles of snow in the box store parking lot …

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My husband and his tractor, clearing snow …

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Copyright 2017 Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

February 13, 2017 at 7:16 am

flutter song

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A well-known space can be transformed in an instant.

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Every day I walk the path from our front door. Our bird feeders are right there, beside the path. Usually the opening door sends the birds scattering. They fly into the trees around our yard and twitter and chirp until I go.

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But last week, just after a new fall of snow, I had a magical experience of being in the midst of the feeding birds. And for whatever reason, they paid no attention to me at all.

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The birds, mostly chickadees and goldfinches, whistle and tweet as they feed. But the prevailing sound as I stood among them was the fluttering and whirring of wings all around me.

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We have other visitors at the feeders, mostly a couple of cat-sized grey squirrels and a family of red squirrels, the descendants of the squirrels that moved in to take advantage of the feeders when we first moved here 37 years ago. The spaces around the feeder vary, depending on whether birds or squirrels are the dominant visitors. It was fun, just for a moment, being part of all the activity!

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Copyright 2017 Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

January 27, 2017 at 10:27 pm

ready for the next snow date

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When I talk about my retirement, the conversation always seems to go to how busy we are.

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My days are filled with activity. I spend most mornings writing and reading. In the afternoon, I spend a smaller-than-necessary time on keeping house, making supper or going into town on errands. Evenings are divided between time with my husband and writing, attending meetings or working at some of my volunteer work.

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snowbanks in our turn-about last year

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The weather can change all of this. My husband has a 40 horsepower tractor equipped with a front end loader and a snow-blower. On snow days, he plows or blows snow from his customer’s driveways. On these days, I am the ‘support worker’. I answer the phones, keep track of where my husband is blowing snow, deliver diesel when he runs low on fuel and take him his dinner.

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my husband’s tractor, a L4060 Kubota

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Our day starts at about four in the morning. First, the ruler, to measure the fallen snow. Then, the first customer … us! … two passes to make sure I can get the truck out when the time comes. By the time the first refuelling call comes, the truck is cleared of snow, the bird feeders are filled and I have already finished my daily writing objectives.

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the snowman is our snow ruler … after some storms you can’t see the measurement

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When people complain about bad driving in winter, I can say that I have driven in the worst of the worst. Since most of our 25 or so customers are in the local subdivisions, we are often out removing snow before the side roads are plowed. I am lucky to have a four-wheel drive since this winter, snow over ice has been the norm.

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the first tractor we had, a great work-horse, but less comfortable for long days of work

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You might think that writing takes a back-seat to my duties when it snows. But not so. I do a lot of my writing in my head as I go about my work. In the evenings, when I drive out with my husband to collect from his customers, I am gathering writing ideas. For example, a few nights ago, as I waited in the truck, a drone lifted from a neighbourhood yard and tracked overhead … a scene for the novel I am working on was born!

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the scene where we sometimes eat our lunch


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Our lives are busy, but I love variety. I love being part of my husband’s day as he goes about his work. When I take his lunch to him, we talk and watch the falling snow and listen to the radio. And wonder where 37 years of winters have gone!

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Copyright Jane Tims 2017

Written by jane tims

January 23, 2017 at 7:10 am

apple orchard after the ice storm

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On Saturday, we went for a drive to see the results of last week’s freezing rain storm. Every tree sparkled with its layer of frozen water. When we stopped by the roadside to take some photos, the sound of cracking ice made a continuous stippling noise in the forest.

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I was amazed at the odd miniaturized appearance of the ice-covered apple trees in an orchard not far from our cabin. The trees are normal sized but there is a lack of scale and weirdness of light in the photos that miniaturizes the entire scene. The third photo, including the ploughed side road, looks more normal.

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I think this will be our last winter storm of the season. We still have snow on the ground but next week’s warming should take it all away!

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Copyright 2016 Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

March 28, 2016 at 7:00 am

Who ate the sunflower seeds???

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First week of spring! Cold and snowy!

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I woke this morning to find my newly-filled sunflower seed feeders all empty. Three pine siskins and a goldfinch were clinging to the finch seed feeder but the other birds are out of seed. A look at the yard will tell you who was slurping up the sunflower seeds in the night!

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Copyright Jane Tims 2016

Written by jane tims

March 22, 2016 at 9:32 am

edible wild – spruce gum

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In my part of North America, we have freezing temperatures and snow on the ground from December to March. With a few exceptions, most plants go into sleep mode during these months and foraging for edible plants is difficult. You can dig beneath the snow to find a few evergreens, but most of the edible wild is above ground.

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When I am in the woods, even in winter, I am always on the look-out for spruce gum, a natural sugar-free treat from the forest.  Spruce gum is found, as the name suggests, on spruce tree bark. We have a large stand of spruce in our grey woods, but the tree below grows, conveniently, beside our driveway. For a map of our woods, see the right hand column ‘map of the grey woods’.

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When a branch is broken or the bark is wounded in some way, the spruce oozes a sticky resin that eventually dries to a hard amber-coloured nodule.  These nodules can be harvested and chewed like gum. My mom taught me about spruce gum, how to identify the spruce tree and to look for the sticky dark lumps where resin is hardening.

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It is possible to collect a quantity of spruce resin, pulverize, melt and strain the substance, and solidify it, cracking it into bite-sized pieces. I chew the nodules right from the tree, with a little scraping to get rid of any rough bits. At first the gum is hard and crumbly, sticky and intensely aromatic, a little risky for dental work and made interesting by the accidental inclusion of bark bits. After a few minutes of chewing, the gum becomes pliable, woodsy-tasting and orange to pink in colour!

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photos of chewed gum are a bit disgusting, but I want to show what normal-looking gum a two-minute chew produces.  A rough nodule is shown above the chewed gum for comparison.

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People of the First Nations have always known about this woodland edible and used it for medicinal purposes. In the nineteenth century, spruce gum was harvested with long handled spruce scrapers and sold commercially. Woods-workers made small carved boxes with sliding tops (gum books) to carry and store the resin nodules.

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Robert Frost, wonderful poet of all things rural, wrote about spruce gum (‘The Gum Gatherer’. Mountain Interval. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1916):

 

He showed me lumps of the scented stuff

Like uncut jewels, dull and rough …

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You can find the rest of the poem at Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29345/29345-h/29345-h.htm

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My upcoming book of poetry  within easy reach includes a poem about spruce gum.  The poem begins:

 

Black Spruce weeps if wounded

oozes to heal, embeds

pain in amber …

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As I wait for spring, I intend to ration my small store of spruce gum and use it as a kind of countdown toward the end of our winter weather.

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some very clean seeps of resin – these will harden eventually and make great spruce gum !

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Copyright  2016 Jane Tims

warming winter – my finished quilt

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Last week I began making a small quilt for my guest room. The fabrics are printed with lavender, morning glory, violet and primrose, perfect for a room themed with purple flowers! To see my method for this quilt, see my post for January 11, 2016.

https://janetims.com/2016/01/11/warming-winter/

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I promised a look at the finished quilt. Here it is, back and front and front again!

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I tried something different with this quilt. I used some drawstring details from the blouses I cut up for fabric and made the quilt so it could be rolled and tied. Now it can be stored neatly on the corner of the bed and unrolled when needed!

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I have plans for a few more quilts this winter. Lots of cold evenings with needle and thread …

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Copyright Jane Tims 2016

Written by jane tims

January 15, 2016 at 2:46 pm

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