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.


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!


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

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.

The boater’s spring ritual

A busy spring day in the marina
A busy spring day in the marina

It’s a laborious but joyful spring chore for boaters in Nova Scotia: taking off the winter cover, cleaning her, fixing her up, painting her bottom, waxing her sides perhaps, and getting her ready to launch.

Owning a boat means using a lot of elbow grease, unless you’re wealthy enough to hire someone to do it all for you.  And contrary to what you may think, boat owners aren’t all wealthy – partly because their boats keep them so.  But the ability to get out on the water provides richness to their lives, whatever their bank balance may be.

Imagine being a sailboat and spending the winter looking at this view. Wouldn't you be saying, "Let's go already!" come spring?
Imagine being a sailboat and spending the winter looking at this view. Wouldn't you be saying, "Let's go already!" come spring?

Spring has surely sprung

Enjoying the tender green grass
Enjoying the tender green grass

Sunny weather is forecast for the next week, with no temperatures below freezing. Time to plant some lettuce.  Not for this bunny to eat, however (I hope).

Only a few weeks ago the rabbits I saw were quite white.  This little fellow has his summer coat on now.  He (or she?) looks quite delighted with the newly greening grass, or perhaps some delectible weed he has found. He was so busy, he didn’t notice me softly walking up the driveway.

Blue jay flies across the lawn
Blue jay flies across the lawn

How quickly comes spring, when it finally comes.  Perhaps even the word “spring” comes from the same root as the kind of spring found in a mattress.  All that life energy is compressed, cowering under winter’s weight, until winter rolls away off the bed and, suddenly released, Spring bursts forth to exuberantly express itself …  Boing … like a rabbit’s hop when it realizes you’re there.

Ice leaves, buffleheads take over

The ice that yesterday filled the cove has floated out to sea.
The ice that yesterday filled the cove has floated out to sea. The Oak Island Inn (which is not on Oak Island, but overlooks it) is in the distance.
As soon as the ice had melted, the bufflehead ducks that had all winter occupied the other side of the causeway, the side that didn't freeze, gleefully (I imagine) took possession of the newly open water.

Watching the sea ice float away

Great sheets of ice have broken away and are ready to float out of the cove with the wind and tide.
Great sheets of ice have broken away and are ready to float out of the cove with the wind and tide.

The powerful north winds of the storm earlier in the week pinned the ice to the shore, even while driving cracks into it. Now there is no wind, and much of the ice that we walked on in January seems poised to float out to sea.  What will it take for it to leave?  A south wind?  Repeated tides?

The sea ice nearby is keeping the temperature down in our yard.  Much of it is still covered with snow and ice, while up the road, further away from the water, the ground is bare.  It has been a hard, icy winter.  So I’ll be glad to see the sea ice go.

Lunenburg in the glorious winter sunshine

I had to go to Lunenburg today to see a client, and afterwords I walked around and took pictures.  Twas the kind of day that puts smiles on people’s faces.

I’ve just added several of today’s photos to the Lunenburg page of the Photo Album.  I love Lunenburg – the steep hills overlooking the harbour, its history, the generations who have lived there.  It’s special.

St. John's Anglican Church and Lunenburg harbour beyond
St. John's Anglican Church and Lunenburg harbour beyond