Deep Freeze: Book about Winter 2015

This new book, Deep Freeze Winter 2015: A Photographic Memory of Storm, Survival and Triumph will make you feel like a hero for having survived the winter of 2015 in the Maritimes.

Having been in the thick of it, I had forgotten a lot of the details. Reading how the weather evolved from month to month, from a green Christmas to the repeated onslaughts of March that left us feeling post-traumatic well into summer, brings back a lot of memories.

It’s a real tribute to the Maritime spirit of good humour and making the best of the weather. Stephanie Domet gets a cameo for coining the word – and hashtag – #stormchips. Collections of photos featuring drifted-in doorways, prospecting for cars, and sunbathers in shorts with beer against a snowy background, highlight some themes of that record-breaking winter.

There are serious photos, too: of buckled barns, stuck ships and the plane that slid on its belly when landing in Halifax on March 29.

shoveller on roof with snow in the air against a blue sky
My photo in the book: shovelling off the roof in March 2015

The pages are filled with full-colour photos taken by Maritimers from all over. I had seen some of them on Facebook or in the newspaper.  One of the photos is mine, thanks to this very website. A researcher for the book contacted me and I sent him a high-resolution version. In return, a copy of the book arrived in the mail last month.

Now that summer is over, and the next winter is lurking just around the corner, it’s good to remind ourselves of what stuff we are made, while we brace for hurricane season and the unknown adventures to be had just by living here.

Deep Freeze Winter 2015: A Photographic Memory of Storm, Survival and Triumph by John MacIntyre, forward by Cindy Day, MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc., 2015.

The Legendary Winter that Was

The Maritimes had a winter like no other. Prince Edward Island had a record-breaking total snowfall of 549.6 cm, which works out to about 18 ft of snow (to date). Fortunately it didn’t fall all at once. Thanks to social media, images of people tunnelling through snowbanks to look for their cars, and Good Samaritans sculpting Grand Canyons so that neighbours could leave their homes, became etched into the popular consciousness.

backhoe
March 20, moving a lot of fluffy white stuff.

The volume of snow we got here on the South Shore of Nova Scotia wouldn’t faze Northern New Brunswick, but the fact is that we don’t have enough of the heavy equipment needed to handle it around here, as the amount was highly unusual. The usual driveway-clearing equipment, trucks with plows bolted on, were breaking down, and the big backhoes required to liberate some homes were charging $175 per driveway two days after the big storm of March 18. If I were in the snow clearing business, I’d be wondering whether this winter was a harbinger of more climate chaos and if I should invest in heavier equipment.

Many barns around the province caved in, and nurseries lost greenhouses, which are usually uninsurable.

As well as financially and physically, the winter was hard on many people psychologically. The storms came twice a week during a period that some called March Madness, and at times it felt like being bludgeoned repeatedly with a pool noodle reinforced with a hockey stick. There was Snowmageddon and Snowpocalypse and many unnamed storms which continued well into April.

I emerged from the winter with newfound upper body and core strength, and was grateful for my teenaged son who is looking buff these days.

Here are some photos from the winter that was.

 

Snow Cream, or The Winter Harvest

bowl full of snow cream
Making snow cream outdoors

It’s an old recipe: Mix cream, sugar and flavouring with fresh snow and stir it up to make a yummy dessert.

We have lots of the main ingredient since Snowmageddon hit Nova Scotia on March 18. It tickles me pink to have some of the stuff in the freezer, waiting for the day when I can give summer visitors a literal taste of this winter.

Today, before rain turns the fluffy snow to slush, I made a couple of batches. I chose a drifted snowbank on the shady side of the house and removed the top crust that has formed since last week’s big snowfall in order to get at the fine-grained powder beneath. I filled a big bowl with it. I had already combined the other ingredients, and stayed outdoors to mix them with the snow so it would stay cold.

For freezing, I made a light fluffy product, not creamy like ice cream. In a  previous batch, I used more cream and less snow. It was more ice cream-like at the time, but after being in the freezer it froze hard and wasn’t very scoopable.  It would be fine if you eat it right away. I think we’ll be very happy to eat fluffy sweet snow in the heat of July. If we really want ice cream, we can always buy some!

Recipe below photos.

Snow Cream Recipe

All measurements are approximate. You really can’t go wrong.

Ingredients

1 cup cream
1/2 cup sugar or honey
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1 large mixing bowl full of fresh, fine-grained snow

Combine everything except the snow until smooth. Drizzle over the snow, then mix it all together gently. If possible, do this outdoors so the snow crystals don’t melt.

Serve immediately, or put in plastic containers to stay frozen until summer.

Variations

Maple: omit vanilla and use 1/2 c real maple syrup instead of sugar. If you can get amber (dark) maple syrup, with its rich flavour, use it! Incredible.

Chocolate: Add 1/4 cup chocolate syrup.

Mocha: Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon instant coffee.

Strawberry: Add 1/2 cup frozen strawberries and blend well with the milk before adding to the snow.

Get creative! The possibilities are endless.

You can use milk substitutes: soy milk, almond milk etc.

Use sweetened condensed milk and omit sugar.

The big storm

The February 15-16 storm that completely buried cars in Prince Edward Island continues to make life difficult for Nova Scotians more than a week later. Tall snowbanks make driving and walking difficult and dangerous, especially in the towns. Elsewhere, snowshoes are the vehicle of choice. Clogged or hidden storm sewers result in flooding when it’s warm(ish) and thick ice when it’s cold, especially in Halifax.  Around Mahone Bay, people have been removing snow from roofs and decks to mitigate damage and leaks, especially whenever rain threatens. What a winter!

After the storm

Ice pellets
Ice pellets

We had a whopper of a nor’easter last night. Schools closed early yesterday and it was a foregone conclusion that they’d be closed today. Many offices in the Maritimes are closed today.

Here close to the Atlantic coast, we had little rain though it was forecast. It came down as ice pellets. The top couple of inches are made of ice pellets, averaging about 1 mm in diameter.

We I don’t often get to ski on our road before it’s plowed, but at time of writing it still is covered, though it seems that 4-wheel drive trucks can get through.

As you can see, the snow drifts around to collect on the sheltered, south-facing side of my swingset greenhouse.

Spring at last, and salad

It was getting hard to believe that spring would ever come. There is a collective weariness of snowstorm after snowstorm. Finally, however, the force of the entire planet tilting on its axis, turning the north pole toward the sun, will overcome all obstacles and we will really have spring! Crocuses have been sighted. The spinach I planted in a coldframe last month has sprouted. The first salad of spring, culled from coldframes and a mini hoop tunnel, appeared on our supper table yesterday. The snow is almost gone from the yard.

Don’t visit Nova Scotia in March and April. Go to Europe or Vancouver instead, where the daffodils have long faded and the grass is green. Come here in May! You may fall in love.

salad in bowl
From the coldframes: lettuce, green onion, chervil, claytonia (miners lettuce) and fresh dandelion greens

The Juan-a-be Storm of the Year

8 years after Hurricane Juan, Point Pleasant Park still looked ragged.
8 years after Hurricane Juan, Point Pleasant Park still looked ragged in 2011.

In September 2003, Hurricane Juan swept through Nova Scotia like a giant chainsaw, wreaking havoc from Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park, inland across the province, all the way to PEI.

White-Juan_0083
After White Juan in Kentville. We had a lot of fun digging out.

Five months later, in February 2004, a “weather bomb” dumped a metre of snow on Nova Scotia and was unofficially named White Juan after the previous season’s hurricane. It paralyzed much of the province for several days as citizens dug out.

Rendering of the storm at 6 pm on March 26, showing wind direction and barometric pressure, from http://earth.nullschool.net/
Rendering of the storm off Nova Scotia at 6 pm on March 26, showing wind direction and barometric pressure, from http://earth.nullschool.net/

Today’s nor’easter has been unofficially dubbed “Juan-a-be”. Meteorologists apparently learned a lot from White Juan, and had this storm pegged to be a similarly serious weather event far in advance. Apparently all their computer models were pointing to the same story; that a low pressure system would form off Cape Hatteras and move up the coast, walloping Nova Scotia with wind, snow, rain and then more snow.

And so it has come to pass. One can only marvel at the science that can predict such things. Everyone was talking about the storm for days. We took it for granted that school would be cancelled. The bread shelves in the grocery store were emptied by shoppers preparing for power outages. All day, my Facebook feed was mostly about the storm, with people staying connected to each other even while isolated by impassible drifts.

The snow came sideways, starting this morning and continuing all day. It continues to blow even harder, having backed to the north, though less snow is falling.

The joke is that most of our winter storms this year have happened on Wednesdays!
Most of our winter storms this year have happened on Wednesdays!

In the late afternoon, at high tide, I made an excursion down the road to see what damage the storm surge might cause. The snow stung my face and the wind bent me over as I trudged along. In sections sheltered by evergreens on both sides of the road, the snow lay quiet and even, untouched by blade of plough or rubber tire. Elsewhere, the wind had swept the road bare.

Approaching the Oak Island causeway, I saw that the storm surge would not damage the road, even though the water level was high, because there was still ice along the shore which buffered the energy of the waves. The northeast winds did not travel far across water and did not raise high enough waves to do damage here.

But I can only imagine what is happening on the Northumberland shore.

Breaking the Back of Winter

It has been a long, cold, tough winter in Nova Scotia.

But now it’s time to Break the Back of Winter – a warrior’s act of vengeance and liberation. An epic tale of perseverance and cunning.

winter1

Our enemy: a treacherous layer of ice up to 2″ (5 cm) thick that invaded everything a couple of months ago, malingering on this shady slope long after fleeing from sunnier areas.  If we wait for it to melt, slipping tires and feet will continue to result in casualties on our side. So we must attack.

winter2

Our weapons: shovels, scrapers and a teenage warrior wielding a crowbar. Our key ally: the strengthening March sun, as it heats up the black asphalt even when the air temperature remains below freezing. Our strategy: observe and hold back until alternating melts and freezes have detached the ice from the surface. Then study the enemy’s weaknesses and reclaim swaths of territory, chunk by chunk.

Victory is finally ours when our beachheads join and we reclaim safe passage for our troops. Hurrah!

winter3

Winter lockdown, winter gardening

Icy inlet
Dawn on January 24, 2014, near Western Shore

It has been a cold winter, except when it thawed of course, as it usually does once in January before the snow locks us in again.

garden in January
Jan. 15: Coldframes, hardy strawberry plants toughing it out, and double-covered greens

The snow we had in December, which made us happy at Christmas, had melted completely by January 15, exposing the coldframes and mini hoop houses in my garden.

lettuce in January
Lettuce  ‘Merveille de quatre saisons’

Peeling off the layers of plastic and row cover on the mini hoop house showed that there was lettuce within, still looking perky after the deep freeze.

No wonder; its name is “Merveille de quatre saisons” – which you could translate as “Four-Season Wonder”.

If you pick your plants well, plant them at the right time, and shelter them adequately, you can indeed eat from the garden year round.

Niki Jabbour, who lives and gardens not far from me, and also has a radio show on gardening, has written a wonderful guide to year-round gardening (left). It is inspiring many people like me to expect more from our gardens.

When the hoops are iced up, however, and the coldframes piled high with snow, I yearn for a greenhouse.

 

 

Helicopter Blows Deer to Safety on Ice-Covered Antigonish Harbour

The ice was thin and very slippery. Retired biologist Ian Waugh spotted the deer in trouble. He called the Department of Natural Resources.

There was no chance of anyone going out on the thin ice to help the deer. So DNR sent a helicopter. Look how close to the deer the pilot is flying to give it the maximum downdraft effect from the propeller blades.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ccqfe7vrGuA

An informative news report on the story is here on CTV.ca.