Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Moon and Jupiter

It is an amazing night out there.  The 4 degrees C is a little crisp, but with no wind it is just perfect for a walk.  For the past half hour or so I've been walking under the brilliant moon.  If you're out there tonight or in the next couple of days look for Jupiter.  It is the really bright object sitting just below and to the left of the moon. 

Fall is a great time for star-gazing.  The Sky and Telescope website will allow you to check out the sky and find many planets.  Happy Walking!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dogberries and Winter

When September rolls into October in Newfoundland and leaves begin to fall some colours jump out. Few are as dramatic as dogberries. The brilliant red berries are left hanging in bunches through the fall/winter and provide continued snacking for the birds that hang around.  It seems they are reserved for those lean winter days and tend not to disappear in fall.

Dogberry an alternate name for these small decidous trees or shrubs. They are actually called Showy Mountain Ash and American Mountain Ash; both are native to Newfoundland.  They look so similar that people tend to call both Dogberry, in Newfoundland and beyond.  There is much variability about whether the berries are edible. Some say no.  They are, in fact, quite useful for jams and jellies, even for dogberry wine. Eating them raw is not recommended; they are very acidic and not enjoyable to eat straight from the tree.

How about as a predicter for a bad winter?  When dogberries ripen people tend to consider the severity of winter based on the amount of fruit. More fruit = a rough, cold winter because more fruit is made available for birds. This has been the subject of much consideration. Who knows?  My non-scientific monitoring over the past 20 years has shown no correlation.  :)

Let's hope for a good one!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Goldenrod and Fireweed

If you get a moment to walk in the woods in fall - take it.  Newfoundland falls are so amazing.  The colour changes are dramatic and the smells are so different than any other time of the year.  If mosquitos and blackflies have kept you away, fall is your opportunity to reclaim outdoor spaces. 

Two native Newfoundland plants that you will see on roadsides and throughout the landscape is Goldenrod and Fireweed. They have been around all summer but seem to stand out in September when other plants are diminshed.

Goldenrod has a green top for much of the summer so blends in with the backdrop of all green. In late August and September they pop with tons of yellow blossoms. They provide a great source of nectar for bees and wasps trying to wrap up their seasons. Goldenrod grows to a metre tall or a bit less in Newfoundland.  It's such a outstanding plant that it's the state flower of Kentucky and Nebraska.

Fireweed is one of our province's coolest plants. It too grows along roadsides and is especially abundant on cut-overs and open spaces.  The name comes from its ability to quickly establish itself on burnt places.  Like Goldenrod, Fireweed can be easy to miss for much of the summer.  In August and through September the purple-pink flowers emerge. Into the fall a nice transition happens. The plant appears fuzzy and it's feathery parts detach to spread seeds.  Fireweed tends to grow more than a metre tall in Newfoundland.   

Get out there and check them out!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Deer Ticks and Lyme Disease

In Newfoundland we are fortunate to be insulated from the spread of some insects commonly found on the mainland.  We don't hear much about Deer Ticks or Lyme Disease here.  There is actually a small population of Deer Ticks (aka Black-Legged Ticks) in the province.  In fact, I just read a note out of Clarenville that a dog there tested positive for Lyme Disease and Deer Ticks have been found in the area.

Though deer is the desirable host for Deer Ticks, our moose and caribou populations may offer an adequate host to enable to population to grow.  You can provide protection for your pets. A community vet will have the appropriate collars.  People do get Lyme Disease - it comes following a bite (i.e. sucking blood) by a infected tick.  Not all ticks will have been infected by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.  If you are bitten and it was by a tick - expect a rash which expands outwards over several days, aches, chills, fever and other symptoms. Have this checked out by your doctor and get treated.

If you plan to hike in summer and will be travelling through long grass or brush, wearing pants would be a preventative measure. If you think you've found a tick bring it to a local or provincial government vet.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yarrow...little bouquets

It's good to be back, returning from 35 C temperatures to a more comfortable 20 C or so.  The weather here has been no-so-good for much of the summer.  However, if you like doing things outside and can appreciate breathing fresh, salty air without being overwhelmed with heat, Newfoundland is the place to be.

While on a walk today I saw so many native plants now in bloom.  One which can easily be missed is Yarrow.  It grows throughout the province and is common in drier areas.  They are usually easy to spot on roadsides. The flowers are white and if pulled from the plant in small bunches they resemble tiny bouquets of flowers. Kids are fasinated by this. The leaves are almost feathery.  

The plant has been used for varying purposes over the centuries. Thousands of years ago it was used to staunch the flow of blood from wounds. So glad we've evolved from that.  I've read that in rare cases it can cause an allergic skin reaction.

When you are out and about take notice of this common plant.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The June Bug has its own month too.

With June drawing to a close, it's timely to give a shout out to the June Bug.  It's actually called a June Beetle, but they are know as bugs most everywhere.  The June Bug is found in Newfoundland but it isn't common. It you see it or come into contact you will remember it.  June Bugs are about as large as we see and they are quite stout.  They are about an inch long and are brown in colour.  The body segments are compact so it appears as one solid nugget with three pairs of legs.

June Bugs emerge in late June to early July in Newfoundland. I've seen them mostly on the western part of the province and have not seen any on the east coast. If something bounces heavy near your porch light it could very well be the June Bug. Its interest is in biting leaves, not people.  :)

I'm heading out on a two-week journey and will post again when I return.  Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Collecting Mussels in Newfoundland

If you travel around Newfoundland this summer most restaurants will have Mussels on the menu as an appetizer or as part of a seafood dish. They are delicious.  The Mussel is a member of the clam family and are found throughout Newfoundland. Here the 3-4 inch shells are mostly dark blue with some light blue sections. When boiled/steamed the insides turn either a pale or brilliant orange. Mussels picked during a full moon seem to offer the biggest yield.  Those in restaurants come from Mussel farms where thousands are suspended on lines in small isolated coves.

If you decide to collect Mussels visit small coves away from settlements. Wait for low tide and if they are present many will be accessible attached to the shoreline. Collecting is a common practice locally and some people travel to beaches ready for a cook-up.  It just takes a small fire, a large pot and you'd boil them in sea water. When the shells open they are cooked.  The downside of collecting Mussels is that some will have tiny black pearls which are crunchy.  Don't collect them when the surf is up; no need to fall into the ocean.

Enjoy getting out in Newfoundland. The thousands of miles of coastline offers much adventure.