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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
Apple blossoms were blooming in Lunenburg last Thursday, which means they’re past their prime in the Annapolis Valley already. The Apple Blossom Festival will apparently be blossom-less. Usually the organizers hit the blossoms right on with their timing, but this year it is generally agreed that spring is 2 to 3 weeks ahead of schedule.
Not that we’re complaining … this is my favourite time of year, when the leaves burst forth. If it’s part of a long-term trend, however, it could be very disruptive to the natural balance of blooming and birthing, migration and munching, which governs the ongoing survival of many animals and plants.
Spring is early across Canada, not just in Nova Scotia, or so I hear. Is spring early where you live? Leave a comment below.