From Loon Lake Road – Passing time with Winter, planning for Spring

Barbara Hendricks' monthly column about community new, events and insights in Loon Lake.

Not a bad Winter this year

This January at Loon Lake has been a model winter month with snow, snow and more snow along with coolish temperatures but not too cold and not so warm as to make everything icy. It has brought about ideal conditions for enjoying winter outdoors and there have been many people out on the lake ice as well as enjoying snowmobiling and snowshoeing in the hills.

At my feeder stations there have been erratic flocks of redpolls and I can see large flocks of siskins in the alder trees along the creek. The redpolls also spend a lot of time on the seed heads of the potentilla, which is another good reason for leaving dead seed heads on plants until the spring cleanup.

Mostly my feeders are visited by the regular winter birds, no exotic blue tails here, but that is fine as I would worry about the survival ability of any unusual bird trying to get through the winter here.

The snow has been accumulating on the tree branches, especially the evergreens, which now have heavy mats of snow on them. These ‘snow bombs’ have a tendency let go without notice and plop down on the ground – making quite a noise and you wouldn’t want to get one on your head.

One day, one of my cats was sitting near one of the feeders avidly watching the birds, his tail was twitching like he was going to do something and I was about to move to stop him when one of these snow bombs let loose from the branch above him. The cat was immediately engulfed in snow and then he took off in a great hurry. He hasn’t been near he feeder since.

A Gardener makes plans

Throughout the month of January seed catalogues have been arriving in my mail box. It is amazing to me the new varieties that are on offer.

There is colour all over the vegetable garden with pink pumpkins and purple cauliflower, black hollyhocks and red sunflowers. Mint chocolate geraniums sounded too good to resist as I am very fond of scented plants, so they were added to the seed order.

Looking more closely it turns out that many of these so called new varieties are in fact heirloom varieties that hard working, concerned people have been growing for years to ensure the continuity of valuable varieties that the commercial seed companies choose to ignore. One of these is the Amish Deer Tongue lettuce that is said to hold up well in summer heat which is a characteristic we all want in this area.

This year I have also checked out some of the smaller seed sources such as Solana Seeds in Quebec which has an absolutely amazing selection of tomato seeds. Closer to home, the Planting Seeds Project in Lytton, also offers seeds for plants that will do well in this area; they are worth checking out.

Every year I try out some new vegetable or herb that I haven’t grown before. This year my choice is Shiso Purple, a type of Japanese Basil. Last year I grew Burgundy Grain amaranth and it was very eye catching in amongst the green lettuce and chard.

Reading through the literature I also came upon some interesting information on the changes in varieties as gardening fashions change. In 1907 for example an English seed catalogue listed 461 varieties of sweet peas, while today most catalogues list no more than 10.

The large number of varieties of tomatoes on offer in every catalogue indicates the popularity of home grown tomatoes in Canada. Thanks to seed savers we have a wide choice of tomato seeds and I always look for those tomatoes that will set fruit in colder weather.

Great Backyard Bird Count

Coming up is the annual Great Backyard Bird Count which is fun to do with the family. Last year a total of 104,151 counts were submitted from across North America.

This year the count is open to everyone around the world. The count period is Feb. 15-18.

For more information go to www.birdsource.org/gbbc  and click on How to Participate. I look forward to this every year and to see my dot appear on the map of Canada when I submit my count.

Permanent vs. Part Time

As winter progresses, even though the days are now noticeably longer, some people here at Loon Lake find the cold and snow affecting their humour.

Some packed up and headed for the USA months ago and more are making plans for “heading south”. Others are arriving to enjoy the winter.

With all this coming and going I have great difficulty following the labelling regularly used by some residents, who divide Loon Lake Roaders into two groups – a) permanent residents and b) summer people.

The division is a silly one and I do wonder just how many days each year one must spend at Loon Lake to qualify as a permanent resident as so few of us are here all the time. When I lived in Denmark the rules were quite clear, if you resided in Denmark 185 days or more each year you were a resident.

It seems to me we are all summer people and also all permanent residents. Certainly the economy of Loon Lake Road is very dependent on the “summer people”. Others are so busy working they haven’t time to worry about it.

Local ranchers are busy gearing up for calving and lambing season and all the new life coming in surely brings a whiff of spring and green pastures. Just watching the antics of the newborn is a cure for the winter blues.

Barbara Hendricks

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