Hail – An Abrupt End to the Veggie Garden

I’ve planted a vegetable garden just about every year of my adult life.  Some years the produce is bountiful. I get so many zucchini that people who come to visit lock their car doors – they don’t want to end up with the zucchini stowaways that I slip onto the front seat when they are not looking.

Some years, though, parts of the garden go missing. The white tail deer are especially fond of beans, lettuce and carrots.  One year an underground rodent of some description ate many of the potatoes.

The most destruction, however, comes from a hail storm.

Hail! We could hear the distinctive plonk sound on the roof as each white pellet fell from the sky.  Within minutes the ground was littered with battered leaves and drifts of hail stones.

Hail stones – pea to ‘mothballs on steroids’ size.
The hail created ice dams at the bottom of each downspout.

The damage to everything green was extensive.

Shredded sunflower leaves.
hail damage
The remnants of a white lily.
Hail stones caught in the branches of the spruce trees.

And the Vegetable Garden – the photos are too gruesome to publish…

I can’t remember ever having two hail storms in one day, but four hours after the first storm, another rolled in. The sound of the hail on the roof warned us that these hailstones were even larger than the ones from the earlier storm.

Hail stones 3.175 cm (1.25 inches) across.

Hail this size is scary.  It was a relief once it finally stopped! By then it was too late in the day to go outside to assess the damage,  so we contented ourselves with merely mopping up the few spots inside the house where the driving rain/hail had entered through a leak in the roof and under one door.

The next morning we surveyed the damage. Plants with big green leaves don’t have big leaves any more. Plants with little green leaves have fewer leaves. Plants with narrow green leaves – less damage. Thistles – seemingly unscathed.

The mosquito population seems undiminished…

Our roofer will arrive eventually to fix the leak and check the shingles and eavestrough – but we are far from being the first in line. Other homes were hit even harder than us.

Storms come, and are so personal, they seem to know your address and have the key to your house.
– Reverend Jesse Jackson –

Do you ever ask yourself why you live where you do? What roots keep you tethered to a place that seems so determined to make you want to leave it!?

We are Canada – We Are Winter – Explaining Canada to Americans (Video)

Many places in Canada have more than 80 days a year when the temperature never rises above freezing – day after day after day. Here at the Red House in Alberta, the coldest month of 2013 was December. We had an average daily low temperature of -17°C (1.4°F). It is no wonder, then, that Canada kicked off their 2014 Olympics campaign with this video called ‘We are Winter’!

It has been a very successful Olympics for Canada. When the ‘snow’ cleared, we were third in gold medals and fourth in total medals. The most hyped  event was Hockey, and Canada won both the Women’s and Men’s events.

Then there is Curling. For many Canadians (like me) the Olympics didn’t really start until we were parked in front of the TV with our red Maple Leaf mitts on, watching the first stones thrown down the curling rink. To our utter delight, the Canadian rinks of Jennifer Jones and Brad Jacobs took both the Women’s and Men’s Gold in this quirky sport.

The best story of the Sochi Olympics, however, was this: The Russian cross-country skier, Anton Gafarov, was an early medal favourite in the men’s cross-country skiing, but he crashed after one of his skis broke. He tried to limp  into the grandstands with his damaged ski. Suddenly, Canadian cross-country skiing head coach Justin Wadsworth rushed up onto the course with one of his team’s spare skis. Justin quickly removed the Russian’s broken ski and slid the new ski into place. Anton was then able to finish the race.

Helping others get through winter – it is how Anton and Justin and all the rest of us survive cold weather – We are all Winter.

All sounds are sharper in winter; the air transmits better. At night I hear more distinctly the steady roar of the North Mountain. In summer it is a sort of complacent purr, as the breezes stroke down its sides; but in winter always the same low, sullen growl.
– John Burroughs, “The Snow-Walkers,” 1866 –

Tom Brokaw explains Canada to Americans during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Canada:



Hail – Weapons of Mass Destruction

I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.
Percy Bysshe Shelley – ‘The Cloud’ –

The Weapons

The Targets – Front Yard

Back Yard

The Damage: Pink Peony

Yellow Iris

I’m getting rather paranoid whenever I see a rain cloud, what with the Cabin Flooding, and this rather horrendous hail storm that hammered my home and garden.

Now and then simple country raindrops are tempted by a dark cloud full of icy sirens to stay aloft for a while.

Frosty, Foggy Morning

A thin grey fog hung over the city, and the streets were very cold; for summer was in England.
– Rudyard Kipling, The Light That Failed –


Sunbeams cut through the morning fog.


As the fog starts to lift, frost steals across the ground.

Water drops freeze onto the tips of the grass blades.

Reflecting on Raindrops and Bird Poop

Before the frost made the last of my fall flowers fold up their leaves and admit the growing season was over, we had a snowy-rain day. The hollyhocks, still with buds that hadn’t opened,  held little ponds of water in every nook and cranny – perfect little worlds to photograph.


Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.
– John Ruskin –

What do you see in this mirror like raindrop? Doesn’t it remind you of one of those snow globes?

This drop contains part of my house, complete with a folded umbrella on the deck. Of course, the reflection is upside down and reversed left to right, because that is what raindrops do.

I wish I could tell you that I took this photo after reading these directions for taking raindrop photos: Capturing reflections in raindrop macros. But no, I didn’t even know I had captured my house until I looked at the photo on my computer. Then I was curious about what was going on, and some quick research told me that the raindrop acts like a wide angle concave lens with a field of view of about 165 degrees – sort of like a fish eye lens.

With a good part of my house appearing to be inside a single raindrop, I wondered what would happen if a single raindrop the size of my yard fell onto my house. This line of questioning led me to a website called What If? which proceeded to explain a similar, but far more devastating scenario What if a rainstorm dropped all of its water in a single giant drop?

You just have to go to this website – it also answers the age old question – If you went outside and lay down on your back with your mouth open, how long would you have to wait until a bird pooped in it?

It has taken me most of the morning to write this post, what with contemplating how many things I miss seeing when they are right before my eyes (you probably remember the wolf I didn’t see in the  jigsaw puzzle: Looking but not Seeing; and how many things mankind has invented after observing nature at work; and how disgusting it is when a bird poops in your full glass of wine, or on the back of your shirt when you are working in the garden.

What about you – can you stay on task and turn out a post in less time than it takes me to decide what the title is going to be, or do you find yourself mentally wandering off to the store for a new box of crayons so that you can colour every thought in your post differently?

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is: Mirror

Fall Hoarfrost – A Lens Full of Crystals

Our first ‘winter storm’ of the season was night before last. It didn’t drop that much snow, and the temperature didn’t get all that much below freezing. It wasn’t a big deal, unless you were one of the unfortunate ones who had to drive to work the next morning. People seem to forget how to drive on slippery roads, so the first commute of the winter is a nightmare.

I wouldn’t normally venture out in a car until well after the morning traffic had got to where they were going. Rush hour, darkness, and icy roads aren’t my thing. But The Car Guy had an appointment at a Doctor’s Office at 8:30 AM, and I’m still the designated driver, so at 7:30 in the morning we ventured onto the freeway for a trip that would normally take about 40 minutes. At 8:45 I breathed a sigh of relief that we had arrived at our destination, safe and sound and only 15 minutes late!

After the appointment, I faced another task I don’t enjoy – paying for the parking. (You probably remember my post called Give Me the Good Old Parking Meter, Please!)  At the entrance to the Parkade was a sentinel – an electronic ticket machine – daring me to figure out how to use it. Fortunately, The Car Guy speaks their language and all I had to do was remember on which floor I had parked.

Not all wintery days are so harrowing. Last week we had a Hoarfrost morning. I spent almost an hour taking pictures of a world filled with tiny crystals. It was magic.
Frost covered blades of grass.

A very close up view of a leaf.

Grass seed, with this year’s hay bales in the distance.

The Canadian Nature Photographer website has some excellent Hoarfrost pictures.

Winter of 2011-2012: Last Snow Day?

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we’ve no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
– Lyricist Sammy Cahn, composer Jule Styne – 1945

Calendar – May 4, 2012 – The Car Guy mowed the lawn for the first time this year.
Calendar – May 5, 2012 – 4 inches of snow.

Also on May 5, the Hibiscus bloomed. It is an indoor plant with brilliant red flowers.

Green grass, Red flower, White snow – felt very Christmasy!

Cold Alberta Morning – What Minus 20°C Looks Like

American: We get an awful lot of cold waves from Canada. Can’t we weatherstrip the border?
– Author Unknown –

In Canada, 0° C is the freezing point of water (and exposed skin). So what is -20° C like? If you live south of me, you may soon find out, because that is what the temperature is here this morning and when the wind picks up it will probably head your way!! (And that merits two exclamation marks.)  I, plucky Canadian that I am, braved the cold to take some pictures for you. Then I tracked down some quotations that will explain what winter means to me.

The bird bath and the solar lights – they are all starting to list as the frost heaves them one way or another.

A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.
– Carl Reiner –

allium AlbertaEverything was coated with frost this morning and that was the only reason I went outside to take pictures!

Winter is the season in which people try to keep the house as warm as it was in the summer, when they complained about the heat.
– Author Unknown –

ice crystal macroIf it hadn’t been so cold, I would have set up the tripod to take photos of these spruce needles.

Antisthenes says that in a certain faraway land the cold is so intense that words freeze as soon as they are uttered, and after some time then thaw and become audible, so that words spoken in winter go unheard until the next summer.
– Plutarch, Moralia –

These are my tracks in the snow as I darted to and fro snapping photos. In any other circumstances, wouldn’t you say that  the maker of these tracks had had one drink too many!?

Skipping Stones across the Ice – When The River Freezes

I had no idea that Stone Skipping was a competitive sport. If you doubt this claim,  then head on over to the Mackinac Island Stone Skipping and Gerplunking Website!

Most people know what Stone Skipping is, but may not have heard about Gerplunking. “Gerplunk” – the sound a that a rock makes when it hits a body of water!

children fall ice

In 2009, winter weather arrived before we could close up the cabin. The water lines froze, making the shut down a challenge.  But a wonderful thing had happened at the lake and on the side channels of the river. A fairly thick layer of ice formed on the water, but there was also a large air pocket separating the ice from the water. Nature had created a drum, of sorts. We all spent a few hours skipping rocks over the ice. They made such an interesting series of sounds  as they bounced along the surface – “pock, tickety tock, tock, tock, tock, tock…” We counted the tock sounds, just as we would have counted the skips if they had been on water.

Of course, the grandchildren had to try to break the ice by heaving larger and larger rocks! Now and then they were rewarded with a satisfying “gerplunk”!

frozenElsewhere in the resort, immense icicles had formed on the trees from the spray of the water from the fountains.

frozenEvery little puddle of water had frozen into wonderful lacy creations, some so fragile they shattered with the least pressure.

It was a magical week-end – pock, tickety tock, tock, tock, tock…