From Loon Lake Road – Of mice and MOTI and the approach of Spring

Barbara Hendricks' monthly column of community news and events from Loon Lake.

I believe nearly everyone in the area has appreciated the unseasonably warm weather this past month. I can see that the newborn calves sure do. As the snow was melting in my garden a very complex network of under the snow tunnels, about 2 cm wide was revealed as a series of lines running all over the place.

What were they? They were mouse tunnels built so the mice could run freely about the garden below the snow crust and in safety from owls, hawks and four legged predators. Kind of like a mouse subway? I do wonder just how much damage the mice also did to roots and stems in the garden as they moved about.

 

Loon Creek never even began to freeze over this winter, that’s how mild it has been. One other unusual thing this winter was that there has been a lot more water flowing out of Loon Lake than usual during the winter season.

As the snow receded and the ground became more exposed I began to think about the garden books advice on mulching. Many say if the winter will be hard one should mulch heavily in the fall. I have always wondered about that advice, as how is one to know if the winter will be a hard one before it is winter? So I have always acted as if the winter will be a hard one. But what is a hard winter for plants? Here at Loon Lake, with an elevation of 850 meters above sea level, it can be a period of cold without snow cover and that is exactly what we have these days now that the snow has melted. The warm weather has tempted many plants into starting to grow and now with temperatures forecast to be back in the minus mid teens, this new growth is in danger of being killed. I have been piling even more straw and mulch on everything to keep the ground around from thawing out so the plants won’t even think about growing for another three weeks or so. Within the past five years I have recorded -17 degrees on April 15 so a couple weeks of warm in February mustn’t be taken as evidence that spring has arrived.

 

I have learned a new word. It is one invented in the UK – and it is Hibernot. It refers to a person who gets out and enjoys the cold winter weather; here I think the appropriate word for such a person is “Canadian” but I guess Hibernot works for the British. This is a movement to get people out doors, enjoying the winter countryside including starting up a charcoal grill and having a barbeque out in the cold sunny air. And what a good idea that is, not only is the air fresh but the smells and tastes of charcoal cooked food in the cold weather are really very appealing. There are advantages to living in the countryside, including being able to enjoy hot dogs grilled over an open fire.

 

Mid February is the usual time for the return of some of our summer birds who winter not so far away, especially the red winged blackbird and the varied thrush. This year they returned a few days earlier than last year and a number of immature bald eagles have just flown in and are sitting on the trees along the creek looking hungrily for fish. The spring sounds of bird songs are gradually replacing the winter sounds.

I participated again in the Great Backyard Bird Count and submitted my observations of 15 different species with black cap and mountain chickadees by far the most numerous bird species and Steller’s Jays also making a good showing in numbers. Lower down along Loon Lake Road Snow Buntings have been observed but I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing them this high up.

 

Daylight savings time is back. While I do like the extra daylight in the evening I do feel it is time to drop this clock forward in the spring and clock back in the fall program. BC is no longer a predominantly agrarian economy nor does the time changing contribute to significant savings in electricity. What it does do is confuse people and create havoc with some of the wildlife that graze near roads – as heavy traffic periods shift to a time they are out grazing.

 

Several months ago I wrote to the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (MOTI) about the increasing number and spread of noxious weeds along the Loon Lake Road on Ministry lands and adjacent crown land and pointed out that practises by the Ministry and its contractors were actually furthering their spread. I received a response just recently and it seems that everything is fine. According to the Ministry, there is a great deal of money set aside for managing the control of weeds on Ministry property ($1.3 million) and their contractors use best practises in sanding and roadside maintenance to ensure that their lands are free of noxious weeds.

So, in the new “real world” of the bureaucrats those noxious weeds you see along the roadside really aren’t there. MOTI staff, sitting at a computer in Kamloops, are doing everything right and therefore there aren’t any weeds along the road.

Barbara Hendricks

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