Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cheerful

What a difference a little sunshine makes. Just take a look at the pictures below. With only a few hours in between, they're both taken at the same spot.

It's ten o'clock in the morning when I take the first picture. It's overcast and misty.


I take the second picture at around three in the afternoon. The overcast is gone and thanks to the sunlight there's much more colour and contrast. The dim grey feeling the first picture arouses is gone. Instead, it's almost impossible not to be cheerful.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Slippery

For six days in a row, it has been warm, with, during the day, temperatures of well above the freezing point. As a result of this, a huge amount of snow has melted. And while a small percentage of the melt water has evaporated, most of it had - the ground still frozen solid - nowhere to go. During the nights, the temperature dropped below zero, causing all this water to freeze again. So snow turned into ice, and at this moment all the roads, paths and yards are covered with a thick layer of that extremely slippery stuff.

This means that the most difficult and dangerous part of winter has arrived. When walking outside, we must be very cautious not to fall and bruise ourselves. Or even worse, break a bone. Our dog Jeanny is only slightly better off. Having four legs instead of two, seems to be an advantage under these circumstances, but for her it's difficult, too.

And what about moving around on four wheels? When driving with spiked tyres - as most people around here do - just keeping your speed down, is all there is to it, if you want to stay in the right track. But some people are too stupid to understand even such a simple thing. They drive like crazy and end up beside the road, sadly enough, exactly at the place where our mailbox stands - er... stood. Yesterday morning, I found the remains of what, at least until before the weekend, had been our mailbox stand. And if only the perpetrator had left a little note saying 'sorry' or, even better, stating his or her intention to pay for the damage he or she caused... But alas, that would have been way to decent.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Birds at the feeder

Just a selection of birds which visit our feeders every day.

Bullfinch - Pyrrhula pyrrhula

Blue Tit - Cyanistes caeruleus

Crested Tit - Lophopanus cristatus

Common Redpoll - Carduelis flammea

Great Tit - Parus major

Coal Tit - Periparus ater

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Our place in the woods

Recently, I took some pictures of our - new - place in the woods.


On the left, the old house, and on the right, the new house.


The old house, built about 1895. People have lived here until the late fifties of the last century. The was no indoor plumbing. The only sanitary facilities consisted of a well some fifty metres away in the forest and an outhouse behind the shed.


The new house, front.


The new house, back.


Shed and woodshed.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Three-toed Woodpecker

Last Friday during our end-of-the-morning walk, Nicôle got so impressed by the frost covered world around us, that, after lunch, she took the camera and went out to take some pictures. This turned out to be a good idea. Not because she came back with the pictures she had intended to take, but because of an unexpected meeting with a - in this area - rather rare species of bird. And it got even better, because the bird did all it could to let Nicôle take some nice pictures.


It was a Tree-toed Woodpecker - Picoides tridactilys. Until that moment, neither of us had ever seen this species.


Contrary to most other woodpeckers, the Tree-toed Woodpecker has - as its name already says - three instead of four toes. Furthermore it lacks the - for many other woodpeckers characteristic - colour red in its plumage. The male bird has a yellow cap and both genders have a wide white stripe running down their back.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thaw

It's a grey day. A heavy overcast is blocking the daylight. The wind is blowing - some times strong. Since early this morning, rain and wet snow are falling from the leaden sky. The snow sticking out over the edge of the roof is giving birth to countless drops of water. You can hear water running down the drainpipes. And that's not only because of the precipitation. All day long, it has been above freezing.

Passing the time

What can you do to pass the time, during the long and dark winter evenings? A lot of things, but sooner or later you'll be repeating yourself and then you'll find yourself looking for something new. Recently, Nicôle bought a pair of knitting needles and some knitting wool in order to make herself a scarf. She came up with the idea when, a few weeks ago, a friend showed her a nice scarf she had knitted herself. With the knitting project, Nicôle killed two birds with one stone. To start with, she did something new, because never before had she knitted anything. In addition to this she provided herself with a beautiful warm scarf, something she can really use these cold winter days.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Snow tornado

After lunch, I decided to go for a walk and enjoy the beautiful weather. For hours I dwelled through the woods, most of the time wading knee-deep through the snow. It was tough walking, but it felt great being out there all alone. Or should I say almost alone? For during the entire hike, I was accompanied by the roaring wind and the sun rays shining through the trees.


On my way home, I passed through a big open field where the wind was blowing fiercely, the most powerful gales blowing big clouds of powder snow from the ground into the air. When I had crossed the field and was about to go into the forest again, I turned around for a last peek, just in time to see a snow tornado literally following in my footsteps. What a sight!

Almost home, I passed an old farm where I stood for a while watching the snow being blown of the roof of one of the barns.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shovelling snow

For two consecutive nights, it snowed, so both yesterday and today, the first thing to do after breakfast was shovelling snow. We had to clear the yard and the driveway to the main road - a distance of well over hundred meters. Lucky for us, beside a pair of snow shovels, we have a big snösläde - does somebody know the English word for that?

Friday, February 10, 2012

A little miracle

About a week before we made the video, the roe deer showed themselves for the first time at our property. At first, they stayed cautiously between the trees, but, after a while, one of them ventured closer to the house.


The two animals are mother and son. A couple that has been roaming the vicinity for a year and a half, but, being extremely timid and shy, seldom showing their selves. The male was born in the spring of 2010. Strangely enough he's still with his mother, maybe because this female didn't give birth to a fawn last spring.


Seeing the couple again made us feel joyful and relieved. Since the winter of 2010/2011, they're the last two roe deer living in the woods around here. And the fact that they're still among us is, considering the predator pressure and the efforts of some - how shall I put it - over enthusiastic hunters, at the very least a little miracle.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beautiful

Yesterday morning, we woke up, opened the bedroom window curtains, and this is what we saw. Is there a more beautiful way to start the day?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sensible and loyal

Today, I took my human for a walk. While out in the woods, I left the trail - one of the many we usually take - and plunged into the deep snow. Now I'll show him something new, I thought, and started breaking trail.

My human must have appreciated my efforts, because where ever I went, he followed obediently. It felt great to be allowed to lead the way and I was full of energy. I ploughed through the snow, crawled under trees and jumped over ditches. Not at random, but all the time following my gut instinct - and a faint scent far below the snow cover. One time, I wasn't sure. I looked up to my human as if asking for his help. But he made it clear to me that I had to figure it out by myself. So I did. I went around in circles untill I knew which way to go, and we were off again. Finally, the scent became overwhelming and there it was: the entrance to a fox den.


I could easily smell that there was nobody home, but nevertheless I examined the den's entrance thoroughly.

Then it was time for us to go home. No problem, I knew exactly in which direction to go. If it hadn't been for my human, I would have been there in no time. But because he can't run as fast as I do, I had to wait for him several times. No problem with that either, because I'm a sensible and loyal dog.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cold

Yesterday evening the temperature started to drop and when we woke up this morning, the outside thermometer read almost 25 degrees below zero. It was the first time this winter, that it was really cold - or should I say that it was as cold as it should be? The morning walk with Jeanny was a chilly affair. After breakfast, in order to warm up a little bit, we lighted a fire in wood stove.


You'll probably understand that we spent the greater part of the day indoors. Cosy and warm by the wood stove.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Peanut butter

About three weeks ago, two friends from The Netherlands brought us a present: a bird feeder giving place to a jar of peanut butter. It seemed like a great idea. The sticky brown stuff is not only tasty, but fat and rich in calories, too. A good addition to the winter diet of our feathered friends. Well, that's what we thought.

The birds were less enthusiastic. Every now and then, a bird sat in front of the jar to take a look. But not a single one of them dared to try the strange food.

We had nearly lost all hope, when, a few days ago, I saw a Nuthatch pecking at the peanut butter. And the next day, this pioneer got company of a Great Tit. Now, the two gourmets drop by every day for their daily ration of sticky calories. So there's hope, after all.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Firewood

Now that it's already February, it's high time to start working on a supply of firewood for next winter. Before you know it, spring will be here, the water flow in the trees will start and it will take a whole lot longer to dry the harvested wood.

The first tree we'll transform into firewood is a blown down spruce which is lying in the edge of the forest behind our house.


To start with, I remove the branches from the trunk, using a heavy short handled axe.


After that, it's time to fire up the chain saw. But not before having put on protective clothing - trousers, boots and gloves - and a hearing protector.


In a jiffy, the fifteen metre trunk is cut into 25 centimetre pieces.


Then, the pieces of wood have to be carried from the forest to the wood shed. As long as you don't hurry too much, that's a nice job which warms you well. So despite the minus ten degrees Celsius, my coat stays off.


We've made a start, but aren't there by a long shot. A lot of work remains to be done. So guess what we'll be doing the next few days...