Friday, May 27, 2011

Red Maple or Reddish Maple?

It has been a beautiful day in Newfoundland.  The trees have begun to flush and things are looking great.  When it comes to plants and trees sometimes the logical name for something is nearly correct, but not quite so. The Red Maple frequently comes up when my friends ask about tree identification. It seems a no-brainer. The Red Maple is native to Newfoundland and the leaf has that perfect maple leave shape.  In fact, the maple leaf on the Canadian flag is modelled after the Red Maple.

Through most of its leaf season the Red Maple has green leaves. It's true brilliance emerges in fall when the leaves are dramatically red.  The occasional Red Maple among evergreens makes for an awesome contrast.

The debate comes from a reddish maple which is not native, but is quite frequent in gardens throughout the province. It's the Crimson Maple and has a reddish-burgandy colour.  The Crimson Maple begins red and stays red throughout the season. Naturally, people refer to these beautiful trees as red maples because that's exactly what they look like! 

It's all in the name...and colour!

Crimson Maple

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


The hiccup of living in a climate like Newfoundland's is while we wait for winter to merge into spring and summer, we too accept the company of insects.  Most simply mind their own business but the Black Fly needs your blood.  :)   Blackflies have begun to emerge in Newfoundland, though they were not-so-bad this past weekend. Temperature plays a role in hatching so numbers varied across the province. June tends to be a very difficult month for blackflies.  Many campers/hikers question their choices around that time.  I have been in the deep woods in June when they are simply a cloud - on every skin surface and in my mouth.  Not fun.  The Lure of the Labrador Wild vividly described just how bad blackflies can get.

You'll notice in Newfoundland that blackflies are around from spring through to early fall.  They vary in size and aggressiveness. This is because we have about 12 different blackfly species emerging at differing times.  There is a die-off during the hot days of July, making July to August tolerable days in the woods. Blackflies are small, 1-5 mm long.  Both males and females use nectar for energy.  The males do not bite.  Females have biting mouth parts made for cutting skin and they use your blood for egg development. 

Staying near the ocean - with open spaces and winds - is probably best if you do not wish to tolerate blackflies.  Some believe that light clothing and few scented products reduce contact...but, they seem to like some people more than others!  Bug lotions are effective to varying degrees. Some people develop allergic reactions to fly bites.
Enjoy the great outdoors!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Camping Weekend

This is the Victoria Day long weekend in Canada and marks the official start to camping season in Newfoundland.  It tends to be a roll-of-the-dice weather wise and this weekend we rolled mostly rain once again.  At the moment it's about 6 degrees C outside and the rain is off and on until sometime Sunday afternoon. The bright side?  The black flies have not emerged in huge numbers yet so hopefully people will enjoy the outside, though damp and chilly.

Newfoundlanders are a hardly bunch and will get outside today. Have a grand time and be safe.
I'm packing up in a few minutes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tip of the Burin Peninsula

If you live in Newfoundland or have even seen the map you'll know of many very cool distinguishing features.  One of those is the Burin Peninsula.  It is our boot-like shape. Very different from Italy but there it is - geography which looks like a boot!  If you travel within Newfoundland I'd recommend a visit to the Burin Peninsula.  It is about 150 km from main highway to the first large communities, Marystown and Burin, and the drive is quite something.  Large, open vistas - beautiful.

Just last summer we drove around the tip of the Burin Peninsula. We left our nice B&B at Marystown and spent most of the day driving and stopping before making our way back to Marystown. The landscape was amazing and differed from many other parts of the province. We stopped at St. Lawrence, where the U.S.S. Truxton and Pollux went ashore in 1942.  Sailors were rescued by local miners. The route takes you past the ferry to Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, the French (yes, France) islands 25 km from Newfoundland. Lovely place.

Not far from St. Lawrence stands a little but very cool forest of windmills.  Very impressive.

Friday, May 13, 2011

This Wasp is a Yellowjacket

When it comes to wasps, people who don't like them don't like them a lot!  A Yellowjacket is a type of wasp. With its potential to be nasty and dangerous, they make us avoid them at all costs.  Even though we can logically say that it's a small insect and its sting are no big deal - the irrational fear of wasps can make one react dramatically.

Yellowjackets are common throughout Newfoundland in summer, though not enough to impede most folks.  They will be most noticed in early summer when searching for a place to build or late summer when searching frantically for rare nectar.  If you camp or sit outside with food they will be attracted to sweet things.  Wasps will mostly not bother you - but sometimes whether you wave your arms wildly or stand still, one will make you a target.  They can sting as a many times as they like and do not die from the act of stinging.  Your best bet - move slowly and gain some space from them.  If you react to the sting get help immediately.

You'll find wasp nests in dry, undisturbed places.  Before you move the overturned boat in mid-summer take a quick peek inside. Some are also built into the ground.  If you find one it's best to have pest control remove it.  If you're adventurous the small beginning ones (baseball sized) can be destroyed at a safe distance with a water hose. If it's football sized - danger!

Wasps are excellent pollenators and we need them.  Take care to avoid contact this summer.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Dandelions are about to emerge on my lawn and those of the neighbourhood. In some parts of Newfoundland today the temperature hit 15 degrees C.  Yellow blossoms are soon to follow!  Beauty is everywhere and it's all about how you see things. A perfectly sculptured green lawn is beautiful.  Without the framework of what a good lawn should or should not look like, none could find fault with amazing yellow flowers spread across a green background.  Without dandelions we'd be tempted to plant them and would only hope our green thumb was good enough to produce such hardy, maintenance-free flowers!

I accept dandelions as natural part of summer and mow them down about once per week. I don't use herbicides and alas, the lawn police have not come for me yet.  Each of us will live and die usually without any tributes to the state of our lawns. However, there is a full planet just asking for us to think greener. 

You might replace weed with herb.  Dandelions have been ingested for many years and herbalists consider it a valuable source of vitamins. Please read about quantities and preparation - that's not my forte.  The good news - if you ever get lost hiking this easily recognized plant will provide a nutritious snack!  Stick with the greens and they are most tasty in spring.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Campfires and Forest Fire Season

The season has arrived when we all strive to get the most of the great Newfoundland outdoors. This is perhaps my favourite time for campfires. The trails and places to sit are mostly dry, as are the sticks and twigs which make campfire fuel. Spring also keeps some of that chilly bite in the air so the heat of a fire is most welcomed. Finally, in early May the biting insects are yet to emerge. This gives even the low bug-tolerant person a great opportunity to enjoy the woods.

This great time for campfires aligns with the beginning of Forest Fire season.  Many people are unaware of the regulations pertaining to campfires and, in doing so, place the natural environment at risk of a forest fire.  The 2011 Forest Fire season began in Newfoundland on May 1st, and starts in Labrador on May 15th. You are permitted to have a campfire during Forest Fire season, you just have to do so in line with the regulations. Doing otherwise may make you responsible for a larger fire.

I've pasted in a portion of the Regulations below which show the exceptions. So, get out there and enjoy but be careful.

3. A person shall not light a fire on forest land or within 300 metres of forest land during the forest fire season unless that person lights the fire under the authority of a permit to burn issued by the minister or the minister's designate under the Forestry Act.
48/95 s3; 31/99 s1
4. Notwithstanding section 3, a person may light a fire on forest land or within 300 metres of forest land without a permit:
(a)  in a prepared location in a provincial, national, municipal or private park that has facilities to contain open pit fires when permission to light those fires is granted by a park attendant who is responsible for supervision in the park during the period the park is open to the public and every park shall have fully functional back tank pumps of a type approved by the forest service each with a 20 litre tank filled with water and located at a central point in the park where open pit fires are permitted and provided that there are at least 2 pumps for every 10 prepared sites in a park;
(b)  on a sand or gravel beach or quarry if:
 (i)  the fire is located at a distance of not less than 15 metres from the nearest woods, brush or other flammable material,
(ii)  the fire does not exceed a surface area of 0.4 square metres,
(iii)  the fire is located at a distance of not more than 1.25 metres from a body of water whose surface area exceeds 10 square metres;
(b.1)  in an outdoor wood burning unit if:
(i)  the unit is made entirely of non-combustible materials,
(ii)  the unit completely contains the fire,
(iii)  the unit is screened to prevent the escape of sparks or other burning material,
(iv)  the unit rests on legs or supports and is placed on mineral soil or non-combustible material having a surface area a minimum of 1.5 square metres, and
(v)  the unit is located a minimum of 3.5 metres from the nearest woods, brush or other flammable material;

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mayfly: an insect with its own month.

It is entirely possible that you have been near ponds and streams throughout your life without ever noticing the Mayfly. They are very common in Newfoundland and throughout the world.  Because they emerge in spring when so many other flying, and often annoying, insects are in the air - they easily mix in with the crowd. Mayflies are very distinctive and extremely valuable to the habitant in which they live.

Why are they so easy to miss? The lifespan is super short.  The adult Mayfly (with wings) will live for about two days - some species only last a few hours. The job of the adult is simply to mate and get the eggs deposited back in the water.  Adults don't even stop to eat.  Most of the Mayfly's life is in the nymph stage - living and feeding under water.  They are a great food source for fish and the body type is copied for some fishing flies.

Watch in May and usually in early fall for clouds of Mayflies dancing at the surface of water where they are finding mates. They do not bite or sting so enjoy their short lives without squirming.


Mayfly Nymph

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A tune for May

This may seem a totally random post...but besides being a lover of nature, I'm a huge fan of new tunes. This song by Mumford & Sons not only has messages of hope but also sounds very cool.

So, enjoy this tune and kick off May with a smile!