Storm surge near Oak Island, October 30, 2011

Storms don’t always coincide with high tides, but today’s nor’easter did.

Tide was 2.2m (7.2 ft) late this morning (see this link for tide chart), and near the causeway to Oak Island the road was covered with several inches of water. In 8 years of watching storms here, this was the highest storm surge we’ve seen, with water flowing completely over the road.

Staghorn Sumac Trees

I always thought of Staghorn Sumac as a bush, not a tree – until we moved to our present house, where two gorgeous Staghorn Sumac trees grace our yard. They are particularly beautiful in autumn.

The house is about 23 years old, and I presume the sumacs are around the same age.

Sumacs generally sucker like crazy: shoots come up from their roots and will grow as big as competition allows. But apparently, if you mow around the tree, allowing only one sumac stem to grow, it will grow to the height of a small tree, about 18′ (5.5m) tall. These trees still grow suckers, but they tend to appear some distance from the tree. Presumably they don’t grow as readily on older roots.

The leaves form an umbrella to catch the light. We have to prune them regularly along the driveway on their southeast side where the branches have grown too low.  Branches on the inside of the umbrella die off and break off easily.

The root system must be fairly weak, as both trees lean away from the direction of the strongest winds. One of them (not the one in the picture) reportedly toppled over in Hurricane Juan. The previous owner pulled it upright with his ATV. It still stands, but since it is getting harder to mow under it on one side, it must be gradually leaning more and more, like the Tower of Pisa before they fixed it.

I have successfully removed two other sumacs on the property by sawing them down and removing any shoots that appeared for a couple of years. So they are not too persistent.

Our sumacs are great climbing trees for young children, as the branches are low. Birds are also drawn to them for the seeds that grow in attractive fuzzy red spikes. The spikes stay on the tree all winter, making the sumac a most attractive tree year-round.

Nova Scotia Summers

In the rain, because that's what you do.

My friend grew up in Ontario, but has lived in Nova Scotia for 10 years.

“I miss summer!” she said. “Where’s the heat?”

I thought about it, then laughed.

“I grew up in Nova Scotia,” I said, “and to me, summer is when you don’t have to put a coat on to go outside. When you aren’t fighting the temperature. When you don’t have to hide indoors. When you can embrace nature and it embraces you.”

It was her turn to laugh. “For you, summer is just when it isn’t winter!”

Summer Days at Hirtles Beach

It’s one of the South Shore’s favourite beaches, and it was a hit with our visitors from Ontario.

Playing in the waves at Hirtles Beach

The water was cold – but no matter. We had great fun body surfing.

In August, the sand is deep enough to bury a treasure.

A big kid digging at Hirtles with a big kid's shovel, August 2011

But come back in October, and you’ll find just rocks where there had been sand.

Hirtles Beach in October 2010. Not much sand.

Make play while the sun shines.

Flying a kite on sandy Hirtles Beach, August 2011

The end of winter, Annapolis Valley

Annapolis Valley view, March 14
Looking from Lower Canard towards the Canard River and the South Mountain, March 14, 2011

Before the official end of winter yesterday, the snow in the Annapolis Valley and the South Shore had mostly melted. A layer of ice, the remnant of sunny days and cold nights, was the last thing to leave our lawn; it took days to melt.

We enjoyed a March Break trip to the Valley, and waking up to these expansive views.

Vinyard in Lower Canard
Vinyard in Lower Canard, March 14, 2011

An impressionist’s view of winter in Martins Point

Late February: the best part of winter. The sun is shining straight through my office window in the semi-basement. How pleasant. Meanwhile, outside, all is white, hard and frozen. Last weekend, a couple of anglers walked about three hundred meters over the frozen sea in front of our house, carrying two chairs, a pack of beer and their fishing rods. They sat there motionless for hours, looking at the hole in the ice they had made for fishing, while drinking beer and having a good chat, I bet. Way to go!

Winter ice at Martins Point

After the snowstorm

Two snow days in a row! The kids are happy. We have about 35cm/14″ of fluffy stuff on the ground. We’re glad we stayed on top of it yesterday during the storm, plowing the driveway twice, clearing the entrance after the snowplow went by, and keeping the car near the road and shoveled out, ready to go.

Scraping the car
A bit of scraping this morning after the storm.

After the snowstorm

The storm predicted by the red sunrise in my last post has passed, leaving the world cleansed and transformed.

And so the shoveling begins.  We have about 3-4 inches of very dense snow here near Western Shore on the shore of Mahone Bay.  A friend near New Germany, inland, reports at least a foot and a half of “thick heavy snow”.  Meanwhile, someone in Kingsburg, which juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, has no snow at all!  This pattern is typical: rain near the coast, snow inland.

Here’s how a tidal inlet on Mahone Bay looked this morning:

Tidal inlet with snow
Jan. 13, 2011, after a snowstorm. Taken with a Fujifilm FinePix S1800 at the widest angle setting, equivalent to 28mm.

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning

Sunrise this morning. Taken with a Fujifilm FinePix F1800 on a tripod.

Another storm is on its way.  This one is the kind of blizzard you’d expect in January, with 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) of snow.

Atlantic Canada has been in the news lately with a series of storms in December, one week after another.  If you just watched the weather channel you might think that we’re living in a disaster area and maybe that’s why I haven’t been posting frequently.

But where we live, we haven’t lost power for more than a minute, and we’ve escaped the brunt of the storms. The worst damage tends to be localized, and even though Nova Scotia is small, one side of the province often has very different weather than the other. Some weather systems track up the Bay of Fundy, for example, while others are phenomena of the Atlantic Ocean.  And the Margaree Valley has received a lot of rain which seems to get trapped by the surrounding mountains.

The Annapolis Valley was hard hit by one storm which downed many trees, knocking out so many power lines that it took days to restore full service.  Berwick United Church Camp, with its 500-year-old towering hemlocks, was badly hit, as was the Kentville Ravine which also has a stand of old growth hemlock.  I’ve seen photos of damage in both places on Facebook.  It is evident that some of the trees that came down were hollow and perhaps were near the end of their natural life.  Thus the storm did what storms do:  fell trees so that they can return to the soil and nurture new growth that will flourish in the sunlit openings they leave in their wake.  Much as it feels tragic to those who love those trees – and I speak as one who grew up attending Berwick Camp every summer and loved its cool, shaded grounds and majestic trees – this is Nature’s way of renewing itself.

So we’ll take what comes – what else can we do? – and hope the power stays on.

Damage from Hurricane Earl

Grey birch on a neighbour's lawn

Many people were without power for a day or two due to trees and branches falling on power lines.

Damaged roller-reefing jib in Mahone Bay harbour
Floating cabin
One of the two floating cabins in Mahone Bay harbour dragged its mooring inland.
Battered spider's web
Who's the strongest of us all? This spider's web is battered but not broken.