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Archive for the ‘vegetation’ Category

Dreaming of Coastal Walks … but Lake Ones Are Awesome Too

It seems like forever since I’ve been on a true coastal walk on a remote wild, windy, salty beach. But … if I can’t fulfill that dream, with Covid-19 still hanging on, a fun walk along Skaha Lake beach in Penticton on a breezy late winter day, with my good friend Merle, is a great alternative.

Wild grasses on sand dunes (or at least on stretches of sandy beach),

floats washed up on the beach (even if one is a marker for the swimming area and the other is a tiny fishing float for lake trout),

driftwood (well, okay, trees falled for beach campfires),

a shipwreck (or at least an old wooden boat abandoned on the sand),

and waves on the shoreline.

All these remind me of ocean beaches. Now if only there was the amazing scent of the salty ocean winds, it would be perfect!

Still, lakeshores are beautiful, too. Instead of seeing misty islands off in the distance, there is a misty view—enjoyed by geese and swans—of lovely mountains in the distance.

Branches cut down by beavers have intriguing teeth marks.

Waves may be small, but they still provide amazing reflections and patterns.

Speaking of patterns, check out these old gnarly trees, windblown and hanging onto the sand for dear life, and sheltering tiny creatures in their bark.

And last but not least, an amazing bush with brilliant scarlet flowers (even when other plant life is in the grey depths of winter sleep) … with its branches covered with soft tiny hairs reflecting the sun.

Yes, I would love a walk along a wild coastal beach, but there’s special beauty here, too, in our lovely Okanagan Valley.

My Garden Says Spring has Sprung!

Most garden centres and farmers’ markets have been closed for a while this spring, though the garden centres are opening now and farmers are making their seedlings and early veggies available via delivery or pickup orders.

Meanwhile, without access to others’ efforts, I’ve been enjoying gardening the old-fashioned way: planting my own seeds (including ones I’ve saved from past seasons’ crops) and spending more time working on my composting and other soil enrichment. We’ve had some nice warm days, in the high teens and even low-twenties Celsius, but a lot of frosty nights. However, last night the temperature only dropped to 7 C., so I moved my seedlings out of the house and into the mini-greenhouse (which I can bring inside on frosty nights) to harden off.

When I dug the finished compost out of the bottom of the composter the other day, I had to laugh at all the bits of eggshells. Hubby has been sneaking them into the composter, on the theory that they’re good for the soil. Well, they do add calcium, and I’m told they help prevent blossom end rot on tomatoes, peppers, and squash, and discourage slugs and snails. So all good—except he’s been sticking them the composter without crushing them, and consequently my compost looks more like a shell midden than garden soil. Ah well, I remember how well the wild strawberries grew in the sandy beach soil on the shores of Haida Gwaii, soil which was richly mixed with aeons worth of seashells. So maybe this will be a good thing for my garden soil after all.

My mom would have loved to see my little garden, I’m sure. And both my grand-dads, too. I am grateful to have had family who taught me to garden—even if I wasn’t very fond of weeding and digging and canning and such when I was young! My mom passed away on April 23, 2008 (12 years and 2 days ago)–and on that day, in the early morning, the last snowflakes of that late spring floated down—bits of downy, angel-wing feathers, I like to think. And the beginning of an eternal gardening season for her, perhaps, as she joined family gardeners who had gone on before.

Spring has sprung!

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Gallery

Spring Close Up April 15 2020

Spring April 3 2020

Another week has passed, and even though we’ve had night-time temperatures as low as -6C, daytime temperatures in the single digits C, April showers, and … yes, even some snow yesterday! … spring is still springing. A week ago I took some plants from indoors to the greenhouse, thinking night-time freezes were finished. Wishful thinking, I’m afraid. Despite that, the plants are doing well–and the temperature in the greenhouse today got up to 30C (check out that thermometer!) though it was only 7C outside. The smell in the greenhouse was lovely … warm, moist soil and fresh new plants. The garden plants are doing well, too–wild strawberries, chives, green onions, rhubarb, and more. Flowers and bushes … and early fruit blossoms … are in bloom around our complex, too!

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Then off for another solitary walk through the neighbourhood oxbows. As usual, I didn’t meet a soul during my trek … at least not humans … but lots of flying creatures (check out the ducks taking off from the pond and the robin looking for worms), beautiful skyscapes (including the man in the moon peering down), and, of course, plants springing forth to welcome the spring!  When I was just about home, a man came out of his house and demanded, in a cranky voice, what I was taking pictures of. “Spring!” I announced joyfully … and a smile broke out on his face. “Yes, it is!” he agreed.

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Spring Break March 27 2020

Is Spring springing? Well, take a look at these photos, and tell me what you think!

The last set of photos I posted were taken March 15–the beginning of Spring Break here in Penticton. Since then we had a lot of beautiful sunny days, clear blue skies, daytime temperatures around 7 or 8 C. and night time as low as -6 C. In the past few days the clouds have moved in … and temperatures have risen as high as 14 C in the daytime and usually – 1 or -2 C at night — except for last night when the temperature only dropped to +3 C! That must mean spring is springing, right? So how does that explain the weather predictions for tonight for heavy snow in all the highway passes (but rain here in the valley)? Oh right, it still is March for a few more days … and you know what they say about March weather: “Comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb” … Hmm… A bit more “lamb” would be nice, don’t you think?

The photos in this slide show have been taken over the past few days, and it does look kind of hopeful that spring is springing 🙂 Check them out 🙂

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Spring Break March 15 2020

It’s been a long while since I’ve walked around my neighbourhood and our Okanagan River Oxbows to snap some Penticton Pedestrian photos. But it’s the beginning of Spring Break, the sun is shining gloriously, it’s warmed up to 3 C (that’s 37 F for you folks south of the border), and despite Covid19 social distancing, it’s still okay to get out and enjoy nature. Lots of snow still up on the hilltops and a forecast of -7 C (19 F) tonight–but still, plenty of signs of spring popping up here and there 🙂

Update on the Brandon Street Oxbow

In the past, I have posted photos and commentary on the Okanagan River oxbow at the foot of Brandon Avenue. Much of the oxbow was extremely overgrown with bulrushes, and filled with silt from street runoff. Fortunately, the City of Penticton, working with the Friends of the Oxbows society and other concerned citizen groups, has placed a filter in the run-off collector at the foot of Brandon, to prevent more silt buildup. Once that was done, this oxbow underwent a major reconstruction, bringing it back to much the way the Okanagan River oxbows must have looked prior to being cut off when the “channel parkway” was put through from Okanagan Lake to Skaha Lake, with the highway running along beside it.

As Friends of the Oxbows member, Randy Manuel, explains: The City of Penticton and the Penticton Indian Band cooperated in the removal of 360+ cubic meters of debris, sand from street runoff, and overgrown bulrushes. Now we have a very vibrant oxbow at the foot of Brandon Avenue, with nature returning. Where machines had to access the oxbow from the west (reserve) side, their intrusion has been replanted with riparian plants.

I took a walk down to this oxbow today and took some snapshots. In the following photos, you will see the amazing difference from just 7 months ago, with before (April 2016) and after (November 2016) photos! (You can see other posts about this oxbow at “Perfect Time to See the Oxbows,” “Oxbows or Progress?” and “Penticton Oxbows Tour“). To get a really clear view of the photos, click on the first one, and then you can click through them with larger and brighter views. You will also notice that in the “barren” area where the machinery had to come in, there are wire containers, each of which has a riparian plant native to this area. The final photo shows a view of the new container growth from above.

Green Okanagan Summer

This summer of 2016 is the greenest Okanagan summer I have ever seen … and I’ve lived in the Okanagan, or visited it in the summer, for most of my 61 years. The weather has been pleasant, but it hasn’t had the usual Okanagan heat. Oh yes, it did start off with a hot spell, mid to high 30s Celcius, in early May, and folks were predicting a long dry summer, drought, and probably wildfires.

But ever since then, we’ve had mostly pleasant mid-20s days, with summer showers often enough to keep the hillsides green–hillsides that are normally brown by early June. Now we are into August and they are just starting to brown. Every so often we have a few days in the low 30s, but even then, they’ve often been accompanied by thunderstorms with downpours just strong enough to prevent any major fires from lightning strikes. Most summers here in Penticton we’re under strict water regulations by early July, but this summer we’ve hardly needed to water our lawns and gardens.

What’s really amazing is the changes in the natural vegetation. Trees and bushes have sprung up. creating green oases where normally one night find thin, scraggly vegetation. The oxbows are coated in thick algae in any places–so thick that the usual ducks, turtles, and other wildlife have moved away. Even in more open water in the oxbows, there is far more floating vegetation than usual, and the bulrushes are tall and thick. The branches of berry bushes are hanging low, with heavy and very early crops such as I’ve not seen here before. The deer and bears are going to be plenty fat before winter comes.Even tree trunks have unusual growth of moss.

Gardens are amazing, too. Everywhere you look, there are amazing tall, thick-stemmed sunflowers. The fruit crops gave been thick and heavy-laden–and far earlier than usual. Despite very little watering, compared to normal summers, strawberries and vegetables are amazing. Along fence lines, flowers and crops are escaping their bounds.

What do you think? Is this just an unusual summer, or is this part of climate change? The thing is, the past few summers have been drier and drier, and the Okanagan has experienced some pretty devastating wildfires … yet now we’ve had a summer that, while pleasant, has definitely not reflected our semi-desert reputation!

Perfect Crispy Autumn Morning

I love autumn.  I love living in a place where we truly have 4 seasons.  And every time a new season rolls around, I find myself exclaiming, “This is my favourite season of all!”  Truly though, there is something very special about autumn.

I awoke this morning to amazing sunshine streaming through the window.  I couldn’t help but run downstairs and fling open the front door–and be stopped in my tracks by a blast of ultra-chilly air! So back inside I went, and for the first time this fall, got out my wool jacket, snuggly scarf, and hat and gloves.  Then I picked up my camera and set off for a lovely morning jaunt through my neighborhood, delighting in the crunch of dry autumn leaves and crispy frosted grass beneath my feet. I knew it was chillier than usual, but was still surprised when I stopped by the oxbow across the street, and discovered it had a thin sheet of ice over much of its surface.  Still, the warmth of the sun wrapped itself around me, and the fresh air was invigorating. As always at this time of year, the colours of the vegetation, ranging from the deep greens of coniferous branches, through the multi-hued tones of reds, oranges, yellows, brasses, and browns, splashed the world with a thousand tints from the Artist’s brush.  What glory!

I hope you will take a moment to wander my neighborhood with me through my camera’s eye in this slide show. Enjoy!

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Autumn changes

It truly is autumn today.  Early November and the snow line creeps lower down the hillsides morning by morning. Skies are gray, mostly, though the sun bravely pokes through when it gets the chance. It rains most nights, and creek beds dried up in summer are filling with small ponds in low-lying spots. Trees have shed their leaves and their branches are skeletal against the sky. Birds’ nests, hidden all summer, are suddenly clearly seen, as barren and empty as the branches that support them, the chicks grown and departed. On the ground, however, is a glorious riot of oranges, reds, yellows, and shiny browns, crunching underfoot and letting loose the damp-autumn-leaf scents that awaken happy memories of autumns past.

In the wild woods on the east end of Lion’s Park, someone has been hacking away at the underbrush. Daylight rushes into places that have been dark and tangled for a long time. Dead brush lies scattered on the ground; hopefully whoever chopped it down will have the foresight to return and remove it before summer dryness returns and a carelessly tossed spark from a cigarette, or from a transient’s campfire, starts a wildfire. Perhaps a letter to the public works department is in order.