Monday, January 31, 2011

Awesome Smith Sound

This is a quick and simple post.  The view while driving through Clarenville today was just amazing.  Smith Sound lies at the bottom of Trinity Bay.  The pic below has Random Island to the right and Shoal Harbour to the left.

What an amazing day in Newfoundland!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Nature and Mental Health

Very recently I saw a very well-done and complex video about mental illness. I've posted it below. It may seem on the surface that the connection between nature and mental health is distant. In reality it is essentially linked. When we get 'out there' - outside of the norm and especially out in nature we easily pick up on the physical rewards. Our arms and legs tingle from exercise and our lungs respond well to a day of crisp, cold winter air. So too, we notice the mental health benefits - contentment, sense of getting out of a rut, appreciation of beautiful surroundings. In the process of doing things we enjoy, we also boost our mental health.

Mental illness is complex. It will affect one in five of us in our lifetime. More than likely we will know someone struggling with a mental illness. This video points our quite nicely that our response and support goes far in helping someone to recover.

If nature is your thing, get out there. You have one time on the planet; find things which bring you joy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Some Winter Green...Lacewing

Given that we are cruising into late January and Newfoundland finally has a taste of winter, maybe we can look to what lies ahead.  The land will be green again some day!

There are numerous bugs which live among us each summer and go without notice.  This is especially true for those who mind their own business, don't bite or crawl through our houses. 

The Green Lacewing is such a fellow.  I first saw one on the west coast of Newfoundland in the 1980s.  Now they are spread throughout but are still easy to miss.  As the name implies, the wings are very fine works of lace. The eyes can be golden in colour.  If they are resting on plants they are near invisible - about an inch long.  Lacewings are rarely inside your house. Sometimes they give off an unpleasant odour when handled.  I tend to leave them alone - the wings are just too easily damaged. 

Lacewings, both as larvae and adults, are very beneficial in the garden - they feed on aphids.  They pose no threat to people.  Next summer enjoy these little pieces of lace, and let them go their way untouched!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Get Kids Outside.

There is no shortage of writing and discussion about the need to get children playing in the way previous generations did. There is significant concern about obestity and inactivity amongst today's children. Yet, for the most part, we follow the path of popular culture and set up our lives to promote more indoor activity: video games, computers and home theatres.

I'm a technology fan but seek to find balance. If parents wish to connect with their children this can be accomplished at home with a cool game night. At the same time, a day hiking, snow-shoeing or simply having a campfire promotes exercise but also some amazing experiences with nature.

If today's children are going to change the amount of time inside/outside and develop a love for nature it will be because we have changed their routines. Get outside with your children. They will love it and so will you!

This cool video trailer says it well.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cup of Labrador Tea

In mid-January a cup of tea in the woods is lovely and peaceful.  If you have ventured into the woods of Newfoundland and Labrador more than likely you have walked over or through Labrador Tea. It grows in a variety of places, often near and within wooded, damp areas.  Labrador Tea grows to over a foot tall and is woody-stemmed.  It is commonly known as goowiddy: a name which refers to several like plants. The toxic Sheep Laurel often grows within a patch of Labrador Tea.  If you plan on harvesting make sure to identify one from the other.

Labrador Tea has green leaves with distinct characteristics. They are thick and and wrap around to the underside, protecting a furry orange interior. The leaves are barely more than an inch long. The stem is woody and will likely snap when you bend it too far.  The plant typically blooms in June with numerous white flowers.

How about Labrador Tea in your cup?  I've not sampled any but it has been a drink for many over the years; it has a fir or jasmine taste.  Labrador Tea is said to have sedative effects and has been marketed in other parts of Canada as a natural healing product. The fresh shoots reportedly have a better taste than older leaves. However, the product should be only consumed in moderation. The plant's toxins will cause headaches, cramps and intestinal problems if used routinely.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Imploding Iceberg

Newfoundland has so many natural gifts that for those of us living here, we tend to take them for granted.  Growing up near the ocean, and being the son of a fisherman, seeing icebergs was a near daily occurance. Over the years I've seen many different shapes and sizes, both up close and far away. In some ways there is little left to write about regarding icebergs.  A cool thing is when icebergs 'founder' - when they flip over or break apart.  It tends to happen in seconds and shows the amazing power of when something so big moves. I recently found an incredible YouTube video.

Twillingate provides an excellent place to see icebergs. The high cliffs there sometimes allow you to look down on whlales and icebergs from above. The video links below are taken at Twillingate: both of the same iceberg, the same time, but taken from at different angles. They show an iceberg taken from a high cliff and the scene really shows off the beauty of Newfoundland.

The transformation is sudden and dramatic.  Enjoy the imploding iceberg!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Earwig

Here's an insect which is common in most areas of the province.  It's also one which people universally can't stand to have around: the Earwig!

With their thin bodies and stealth they seem to easily make their way into our homes.  We don't like to pick them up because of the scary-looking pinchers.  The actual name for those things is cerci.  Earwigs use them for defense against other insects.  However, they will give you a pinch if you place your finger close enough - they are basically harmless. 

How about your ears?  The name earwig comes from the old superstition that they crawl in to people's ears.  Fortunately, this is untrue.  Earwigs like to spend their days around dead vegetation and are usually on the move at night.  They are plant eaters and scavengers.

Earwigs inside the house are common in fall, but also turn up at times in winter - especially when it's mild. The cold weather is coming and your house is a warm safe place.  The good news is that they will not cause any damage inside. Cutting down on the numbers of Earwigs in your house should be accomplished by cleaning up old outside vegetation and making sure there are no gaps under your doors.

Yeah, they are creepy!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Do You Know Your Silver Maple?

It seems like the most simple question to those who might have a Silver Maple growing in their yard. 'Of course, planted it myself' one might say.  If you are generally fond of trees but haven't zeroed in on exactly what they are - here's one to discover.

In my years of travelling back and forth across Newfoundland I have been introduced to many Silver Maples growing in people's yards.  By the way, it isn't native to the province. It seems easy to identify - leaves with that characteristic maple shape and white or silver underside. When caught by a breeze it creates a flourish of green and white.  There is a catch: in many cases what people believe to be a Silver Maple is really a White Poplar.

Here are White Poplar leaves; it really is a nice tree and sure looks like a maple.  If you are  resident or visitor to the province you know it's family member very well.  White Poplars are in the same tree family as Trembling Aspens (Aps).  Neither are linked to the maple family.  Don't try to convince someone otherwise who knows this as a Silver Maple; they will not believe you!  :)

Now for the real thing. The Silver Maple does have the green/silver colouring.  It's real difference is dramatic: It has a classic maple leaf shape but with extreme deep valleys creating three distinct sections to the leaf.  It is a beautiful leaf and an amazing tree. 

Here it is:

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A New Blog and Pounding Seas

Thanks for visiting.  The social media journey is much about writing, reflecting and adapting to what is available. This blog  is a new step from my previous one 'Newfoundland Bugs'.  I will still feature common bugs from our great outdoors, but will expand the blog to include many aspects of nature.

To begin, here's a post from my former blog:  The Pounding Waves at Twillingate.

My recent visit to Twillingate, on Newfoundland's northeast coast, inspires this departure from my usual bug postings.  On December 26 I was in the community for a visit.  The province had experienced a few weeks of strong winds and high tides. Normally at this time of year the snow has arrived making hiking trails inaccessible. Not this year.  The trails are wet but there is no snow.

I left Durrell and hiked towards the expansive and beautiful French Beach.  From there I followed the relatively new trail to French Head. The area marks kilometers of high cliffs, forming right angles with the Atlantic Ocean  The winds were howling but the trail is set safely back from the cliff edge.  The reward?  An amazing display of high, fast waves crashing in the cliffs, a sea of boiling white foam and the air filled with a salty mist.  The soundtrack was the incredible roar of the ocean.  I regret that I had no pics or video - left my camera home.  :(   It was a real treat going to bed that night in Durrell - falling asleep with the dull roar of the pounding seas in the background.

My most recent had been in July when Twillingate and French Head are the opposite of the above. Warm breezes, a jewel of a blue ocean, wild berries every where and the occasionally Humpback whale passing by.  The pic below is taken from French Head and shows Spiller's Rock.

The area is well worth a visit - whether it be July or December!