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

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.

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

Walking on thick ice

Making landfal
Making landfall on the island

Across from the tidal inlet near our house is a small island which is a symbolic destination for us, depending on the time of year. We celebrate spring, and the ice breaking up, by canoeing to it. In winter, if the ice is thick enough, we walk or skate to it. Today the ice was over 6 inches thick, the required minimum, and we walked there.

23 Things to Love about Winter in Nova Scotia

Snowy road
Snowy road
With thanks to my Facebook friends for their contributions.

  1. The smooth, quiet brush of fresh snow under your skis.
  2. The way ice breaks and cracks over rocks as the tide falls.
  3. Empty beaches with shimmering vistas.
  4. Sea ice and rock
    Sea ice and rock, low tide
    The mildness, softness and peace a snowfall brings.
  5. Like the folks here, a winter is softness and gentility: quite well mannered, and departs when the welcome is worn.
  6. Snow days!
  7. A crackling fire in a woodstove making heat that penetrates to your bones.
  8. Walking past a buoy
    A boy and a buoy

    Walking ON the bay in places we usually row, paddle or sail.

  9. Sunlight sparkling off snow-laden branches.
  10. Minas Basin ice shifting, buckling, making strange sculptures on the shore.
  11. Magnificent bald eagles.
  12. Watching the days get longer in the coldest part of the winter.
  13. Snow on Victorian house
    Icing on the cake
    Shovelling the driveway with a helper who will clear up the last little bits: the sun.
  14. NO mosquitoes, NO blackflies, NO no-see-ums!
  15. The weather changes frequently: it’s fairly mild, and cold snaps are short, warm periods are also short.  There’s something for everyone and no time to get bored!
  16. The province is small but has a variety of microclimates.  Want more snow?  Ski hills are not so far away.  Want less snow?  Go walk a deserted South Shore beach.
  17. Ice floes
    Ice floes
  18. Memories of crazy winter antics performed when we were young and immortal: descending hills at great speed, jumping from one ice floe to another as the frozen ocean broke up (some have memories of being rescued in these situations!), “getting towed on a sled behind my dad’s car on a snow-covered gravel road, riding my bike through the streets of Halifax when the snow wasn’t too bad,” ice boating, skating on thin ice….
  19. Maple syrup made in the woods.
  20. Car in a drift
    Alone in a drift

    Patterns made by drifting snow.

  21. Winter skies unlike anything you see in the summer.
  22. Eating fresh snow.
  23. Cardinals and purple finches at the feeder.
  24. Getting insight into the life of rabbits from their tracks in the woods.

Oak leaf shape in ice
Oak leaf shape in ice
So there are some of the things we love about winter in Nova Scotia.  What are yours?  Leave a comment below.

Frosty mornings bring ice to sheltered waters

Ice breaks over rocks as the tide recedes
Ice breaks over rocks as the tide recedes

I’m fascinated by the formation of ice and how it interplays with the tides. And it has started again with cold morning temperatures which leave a layer of ice which plays with rocks as the tide goes down. You can hear the cracking as you walk along the shore – just little crick-clicks now, but bigger booms when the ice is thicker.

I made a video called Frosty Morning last year which you can see here.

Video: Frosty Morning – Winter Ice on Mahone Bay

Hot off the press: our first Nova Scotia Photo Album video. It won’t be the last!

This one shows how tide and temperature create an ever-changing landscape on Mahone Bay’s shoreline, from first frost to spring breakup.

The music is an Appalachian tune called Frosty Morning, played by Dennis Robinson on fiddle and Heather Holm (that’s me) on accordion.

First time in a canoe this year

We did it because we could. The ice is gone, the tide was high. My son and I dipped the canoe in the ocean and paddled out to a nearby island. He hiked around it and then we paddled back again.

Ashore on a small island near home
Ashore on a small island near home