Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Those Happy Holidays

I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season. I know we are! Let me catch you up on what has been happening:

These little children have been packed full-to-bursting with energy.

 On Christmas Eve, we enjoyed our traditional meat pie dinner and then the annual "Happy Birthday Baby Jesus" cake that we have been making since I was a child. This year I took inspiration from Mr. Bean's Christmas skit for the cake decorating (check out the 2:30 mark to see what I'm talking about).
 Christmas Eve to me is the most magical part of Christmas. It is the magic of anticipation. We went downtown to get a few groceries and to check the mail and everyone was smiling and hugging and wishing each other Merry Christmas. And then it started to snow and that added to the excitement of the day.
 Pictures in front of the tree the night before!
 And a snowy walk to see the Christmas lights.
 The stockings are looking full!
 And the tree is buried in presents!
 Kesten took his time opening his presents. He played with each one for awhile before we could convince him to open another one.
 Cedar just tried to eat every present we gave her.

 These Cozy Classics books are so awesome! One word a page to sum up some literary classics with beautiful needle-felted illustrations. And all Cedar wants to do is eat it. hahaha
 The debris!
Christmas dinner was delicious! Since it was only the four of us, I cooked a turkey breast roast in the crockpot instead of a full turkey. It was yummy!
 Cedar enjoyed squishing the mashed potatoes in her hand and spreading them over every available surface.
There was no rest after Christmas day! The next day we headed an hour up the North Road to visit our friends who live in the research forest. 

 We spent the day sledding, enjoying the bonfire, eating good food, and having good conversations. I was having too much fun to remember to take pictures!
 Aaaaand, we finally got a little dump of snow! Still nowhere near our usual winter levels, but we'll take it!
 Today, after a spell of mild weather, the temperature has dipped right down to -25c. A little too cold to play outside with the kids. So it was time to come up with an indoor activity this morning. Last fall, I had dug out a bit of clay from the lake and saved it in a bag. We brought it out this morning and set up some plastic on the table.
 I didn't bring out any tools yet. I wanted Kesten to get a good feel for the clay and to work it with his hands. We had fun rolling it around, squishing it, poking it, stacking it, and slamming it down on the table. I watched Kesten as he played creatively with the clay. He made a sled with lights that had to 'plug in' and then he would drive it around the table. He made a tower, and a 'brown garden' and a train. All the while he was playing with the clay he kept a little narrative going, describing out loud what he was doing.
 He was so absorbed in the play that he still didn't want to pack it up after more than an hour. But we needed the table back for lunch. This is definitely something that we will be bringing out in the future!
Whew! And that should catch you up on our goings-on. I'd love to hear from you! Do you have any special or cheesy Christmas traditions that you do?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Beavers, Skating, and Snowshoe Hares

 I am very excited to say that after almost a year of looking around to find a beaver to observe, I have discovered a beaver living a 5 minute walk from my house! I first noticed some trees that had fallen over on my regular walking rote and upon closer inspection, it looked to me as though a beaver had chewed them. The next day I did some more exploring and found a whole lot of evidence of beaver activity.
Here are drag marks made by the beaver as he dragged trees that he cut down.
 And here are some stumps left by the beaver.
 Here are the beaver's footprints in the snow.
 They are surprisingly big!
 This looks like a text book example of a beaver-felled tree.

 It looks as though the beaver is working at cutting this thick log into sections.
 I haven't discovered a lodge yet. It is somewhat unusual to see such a burst in activity this late into winter. I've been talking with a man who studies beavers in New York state and we agree that it is possible that this is a young beaver who has been searching for a new territory to make a home in. It is likely that he has just recently come to the area and has no larder of branches in the water under the ice for his winter food and therefore has to come out to cut down trees for food. He may also be living in a hole in the creek bank, instead of a lodge. The man I have been talking with says that usually beavers will build a lodge after they find a mate, and a big lodge when kits are on the way. Most of the behaviours that we associate with beavers happen when the beavers have kits- bachelor beavers may behave in ways that we don't typically think of when we think of beavers. I look forward to observing this beaver's activity and hopefully I'll spot the beaver himself one of these days!

 The weather has been strange this winter. We have had some very cold snaps, and some very warm spells with very little snow. Currently there is hardly any snow left on the ground. Not enough for skiing or snowshoeing, but the lake is just right for skating. There is no snow over the frozen expanse of the lake, making a perfect 66km ice rink.  We went out yesterday and Kesten tried skating for the first time on real skates. He loves it! He keeps begging us to go back. It looks like we'll have at least another week of snow-free weather to enjoy the lake for skating. After that we'll move to the outdoor oval that they make at the high school.

Yesterday I also went for my weekly ramble in the woods. As I was heading up the trail, I caught sight of a snowshoe hare bounding ahead of me. I walked a little further and then plopped down into the snow to sit quietly and watch. At first the forest is silent as it cautiously observes me but after a few minutes of stillness on my part, the forest accepts my presence. The quiet gives way to the noise of the chickadees chirping and the squirrels scolding. Twigs snap in the forest, as unseen animals move about. I sat still and quiet for about twenty minutes. Finally, growing tired of being still and frozen in the butt, I turned my head to look behind me. There on the edge of the trail I saw a snowshoe hare, quietly watching me. He froze when I moved, hoping that his camouflage would keep him safe and I snapped a quick picture (too bad it didn't focus on him!).
As I shifted my body around to get into a better position, he took one hop, back into the cover of the bushes, but keeping one eye on me. I took another picture and then he disappeared from sight. 
I went for a little walk down the trail and returned to my spot. I stood quietly and again the snowshoe hare emerged from the forest and dashed across the trail to a spot below. I later realized that I was standing between the snowshoe hare and a delicious smorgasbord. Someone had previously felled some trees for firewood and the branches on the ground made for an irresistible snack. As I was leaving the forest I walked past this site and again observed the snowshoe hare bounding away from me. The temptation for that tasty bark must have been competing against his fear of me. It was a treat to see this wonderful wild creature.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Season

The Christmas season is in full swing! Fun events and busy weeks are the norm these days. Last week we headed out to our friends' farm for some visiting and a tour of the animals. Kesten and Cedar rode around in style!
 And the annual Heritage Christmas event and the National Historic Site was a blast on Sunday. Check out this gingerbread house someone made for the competition:
 We went for a hay ride pulled by a tractor. Kesten was a little apprehensive at first but claimed it was fun by the end.

 There was fresh churned ice cream (in -10c!).
 And the highlight for Kesten was the trains. We had a hard time prying him away at the end of the day.

 And I always love to see the old buildings all done up in festive decorations.

 One last Christmas craft! I made Kesten's moose doll a bed with a quilt and pillow.
 I glued the twigs together and used twine to secure them.

 Now Moose can be cozy for Christmas!
Currently it feels more like March than December. The snow is almost all melted and it is raining and +7c! I hope it cools down and snows some more. What strange weather this year!
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