Posts Tagged ‘snow’

Winter Has Arrived

So, this is what my Saturday looked like…saturday

…and this was Sunday:


That optimistic little violet is now located under several centimeters of snow. Winter has arrived!

What good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?
― John Steinbeck

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For today’s installment of #ThingsILike, I give you maple syrup. (Honestly, is there anyone out there who does not enjoy this delicious treat from the northern woods?) Lucky me, it looks like this year’s wacky weather patterns have resulted in a veritable tsunami of syrup!

For those of you not intimately familiar with the process of maple syrup production, it goes like this:

[Maple] trees store starch in their trunks and roots before the winter; the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in late winter and early spring. Maple trees can be tapped by drilling holes into their trunks and collecting the exuded sap, which is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup.

Here’s a video to showing a basic tap and bucket assembly, but I’ve seen outfits with setups running what look like miles of bright blue tubing directly from the trees to the sugar shack.

Even with modern improvements, this isn’t the sort of agricultural process that can be exported to alternate climes. The trees require cold winters and sap production levels depend on spring temperatures finely balanced between colder nights and warmer days.

It turns out that the weather this March has been pretty near perfect, at least if you are a sugar maple. Waking trees drink up groundwater during the day, convert the stored starches in their roots to sugar, and pump the resulting sap up their trunks and into waiting sap buckets.

Collect, boil, repeat, at least until the sap stops running.

Making syrup requires a lot of work and patience. The old fashioned way involves big black kettles and a steady supply of wood to keep the fire going. Even with new, more efficient boilers, reducing sap to syrup takes hours.

My mother took us to a friend’s sugaring party when I was a child. My brother and I ran from tree to tree, hauling half-full buckets through the snowy woods to the kettle and back. The fresh sap tasted like the Entish draughts of my imagination, its clear cool taste instantly refreshing. We also poured hot syrup onto plates of snow to make maple taffy. Freaking amazing.

As luck (or clever planning?) would have it, I am located in the heart of maple syrup country. Quebec and Ontario are the largest maple syrup producers in Canada.

If you happen to be in Ontario this weekend and you love maple syrup as much as I do, you’re in luck. It’s Maple Weekend and I plan to stock up for the year. Because delicious!

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Well, kids, I’ve officially got nothing today. Sure, I wrote and got my exercise in and worked on a couple of projects, but deep thoughtful thoughts? Sorry, nada.

I do have wonderful memories of childhood snow storms, though, so in honor of the fact that is snowing here, I give you a snow angel.


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Here’s a cat’s eye view of the snow from yesterday’s storm.

We’ve had record-breaking amounts of snow (50cm, or almost 20 inches!), stuck buses, cars in the ditch and people snowshoeing in the streets. The aforementioned kitties decided to sleep through it by the fire.

Smart kitties:)

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This is the first real snowfall of the season and it’s still coming down. Yesterday I could pretend that winter was a thing that happened to other people but, alas, no longer!

I say alas but I’m actually coming around on the subject of winter. I ran across an article at Fast Company featuring Kari Leibowitz, a Stanford Ph.D. student who asked a fundamental question: Why don’t people in far northern Norway, a place where the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon between late November and late January, have more seasonal depression? So she went up there and asked.

The answer might surprise you. I know it surprised me, and got me thinking about winter from a different perspective.

“Why would we?”

They see winter as an opportunity, not just to take part in the snowy sports I generally don’t do, but to enjoy the indoor and outdoor beauty of the season. It’s strikingly pretty in the land of practically eternal sunset, but they also focus on what I think of as all the good bits of cold weather. Warm fires, hot chocolate, a good book, good company, cozy blankets. In fact:

Norwegians also have a word, koselig, that means a sense of coziness. It’s like the best parts of Christmas, without all the stress. People light candles, light fires, drink warm beverages, and sit under fuzzy blankets.

That sounds pretty good to me. So sure, winter is coming. Welcome!*
* My Canadian overlords are happy to report that my brainwashing appears to be complete;)

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I’ve got inches of thick wet snow on my porch and the last of the red maple leaves have finally fallen. It is officially winter.

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.
― John Steinbeck

And really, what better weather for novel writing? Time to get back to it!

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Goodbye, Wreath

Sometime after Christmas I decided to leave our holiday wreath up until the snow melted. Not just road snow or even sidewalk snow, but the snow that lurks by the cedar hedge, sheltered in the shadows of the house.

How long could it take? I wondered. (Oh, the naiveté of one new to the North.).

This long:p The snow is finally gone, and the wreath is coming down:)

My next goal is to spot a flower. Outside. Growing!

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My holiday wreath remains on the door because there’s still a little pile of snow out in the front yard. Impressively, the snow survived yesterday’s 70F weather. The house shades that section of the yard from sun most of the day, and layers of traction control sand provide the snow with a bit of a buffer, a turtle-like defense against Spring. I’m almost rooting for the little guy, persistent as it is.

Almost:) Happy Spring!

^ Not my front yard, but oh so pretty all the same.

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Geese! The first skein of spring just flew overhead in V formation, calling as they angled toward the river. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. Perhaps this interminable winter will end after all.

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It’s snowing, it’s too cold for the cat to go out, and my front steps are covered in a slurry of slush and ice but! I don’t care because today is the Spring Equinox!

March Equinox in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada was on
Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 12:57 PM EDT

That’s right, Google has a doodle, it’s the first day of Spring and day is (basically) as long as night. After a cold dark winter, that’s good news!

Look, kids, that big ball in the sky. Now do you believe in the Sun?


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