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Posts Tagged ‘Winter’

I hope you’re in a nice warm place while reading this because this post is full of ice like that in the photo above, and you might feel a little chilly by the time you’ve reached the end.

Last Sunday, about a month since my last visit, I decided to visit the deep cut rail trail up in Westmoreland where the “big ice” grows each winter. The walls of the manmade canyon are 50 feet high in places and groundwater running through the stone creates ice columns as big as tree trunks. I wanted to see how much the ice had grown in a month.

It had grown quite a lot; enough to climb, in fact and by chance the Appalachian Mountain Club were training here today. They come here as soon as the ice is safe to train people in ice climbing. On this day the 25 degree temperature and 10 mile per hour wind made this place feel like an icebox, and that’s exactly what the climbers call it.

I was here for ice too; not to climb but to photograph, and I saw plenty.

There was an entire canyon full of it.

Some of the ice is colored various colors, I believe according to the minerals that happen to be in the groundwater.

There are plenty of mineral stains to be seen on the stones where groundwater has seeped out of cracks and it makes sense that mineral rich water would color the ice.

This slab of ice is huge and if it ever lets go of the rock it grows on I hope I’m nowhere near it.

I speak about “rotten ice” a lot when I come here so I thought I’d show you the difference between good, solid ice like that in the above photo and the rotten ice in the following photo. This ice is clear and very hard and will ring sharply if you tap on it. It has very few air bubbles and other impurities trapped inside it.

Rotten ice on the other hand is opaque, weak and full of impurities. Ice becomes rotten when water, air bubbles, and/or dirt get in between the grains of ice and cause it to honeycomb and lose its strength. When you tap on ice that looks like this you hear a dull thud. The grayish white color and matte finish are a sure sign that you should stay away from it when it’s hanging over your head like it can do here.  

Falling ice is a real danger here; most of these pieces were big enough to have killed someone. This doesn’t usually happen until the weather warms in March though, so I was surprised to see it.

Then there are the falling stones. These fell very recently because they were on the ice of the frozen drainage channel. This always concerns me because I walk in or over the drainage channels to get to the canyon walls. That’s where interesting mosses and liverworts grow. If I had been hit by any one of those stones it would have been all over.

But speaking of the drainage channels, the ice growing on them was beautiful.

The opening photo of this post also shows ice that formed on the drainage channel, just like that in the above shot.

Here was something I’ve never seen; an icicle fell and stabbed through the ice on the drainage channel, and then froze standing up.

Last year’s leaves were trapped under the ice in places.

In other places the drainage channel hadn’t frozen at all. Here the sun was reflected in the water of the channel. I thought the colors were very beautiful. Like molten sunshine.

This spirogyra algae dripping off the stones was something I’ve seen but have never seen here. Spirogyra has common names that include water silk and mermaid’s tresses. It is described as a “filamentous charophyte green algae of the order Zygnematales.” I’ve read that they grow in nutrient rich places. They’re always interesting and I wanted to take a closer look but I didn’t have my rubber boots on so I couldn’t walk through the drainage channel.

Here is some spirogyra algae that I found last year. The strange thing that looks like a vacuum cleaner hose is a chloroplast, and its spiral growth habit is what gives these algae their name. There are more than 400 species of Spirogyra in the world, almost always found in fresh water situations. According to what I’ve read, when used medicinally spirogyra are known as an important source of “natural bioactive compounds for antibiotic, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cytotoxic purposes.” As I said; they’re always interesting.

NOTE: A botanist friend has written in to say that chloroplasts are microscopic so the hose like thing is not one of those, but neither one of us can figure out exactly what it is. It’s a very strange thing to be seen under algae, that’s for sure. I wish we had studied algae in the botany classes that I had!

The orange red color in this shot is iron oxide, washed from the soil by groundwater. I thought the colors in this scene were amazing; otherworldly and beautiful. There was much beauty to be seen here on this day and it reminded me why I come here again and again.

As I always do I stopped at what is left of the old lineman’s shack. It was easy to imagine a group of workers huddled around an old potbellied stove in there on a day like this, but it would have had walls and a roof then. It was very well built and simply refuses to fall. They actually used railroad ties for the sills.

Here is a look at the inside of the shack. It’s too bad people feel the need to tear things apart, but it has probably been abandoned for close to 50 years now, since the Boston and Maine Railroad stopped running in the 1970s.

If you aren’t cold yet you must be a real trooper, but I thought I’d end with a warm shot of sunshine and blue sky just in case. With the wind chill the temperature was about 10 degrees F, and I was thankful that my cameras hadn’t stopped working. I was also thankful to be back in a warm car again even though I discovered that wearing a cloth mask is a good way to keep your face warm. Hopefully spring isn’t too far off.

It’s getting cold. Some of you will put on jackets from the last season. Check your pockets. You might  well find a forgotten, unfulfilled wish.
~ Ljupka Cvetanova

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1. First Snow

I’ve been working on a difficult post that needs a lot of research and I knew I wouldn’t have it done in time to post today, so I thought I’d do another to show you what winter is doing here in New Hampshire. So far we’ve had plenty of cold but only a dusting of snow, as the above photo shows.

2. Foliage on First Snow Day

This photo was taken on the same day that the first one was. That was how fast the snow melted.

3. Puddle Ice

But as I’ve said, we’ve had plenty of cold so winter is creeping rather than howling in this year. This photo is of the kind of puddle ice that is paper thin and full of oxygen and makes tinkling sounds when you break it. This example had the silhouette of a flying eagle in it, and I’ve circled it so you could see it. All I have to do is hear this kind of ice breaking and I’m immediately transported back to when I was 9 or 10 years old. I used to love riding my bike through puddles with this kind of ice on them in the spring. It was always a sign that, before too long, school would be letting out for the summer.

 4. Stream

Streams freeze from the banks in toward the middle and this one has started doing just that.

5. Icicles in Stream

Anywhere water splashes, ice will form.

 6. Ice Formations

Rising and falling water levels decorate the edges of stones with ice baubles.  When you see this happening you know it won’t be long before the stream has frozen over. The stones have lost any heat they might have had stored from the sun.

7. River Ice

It’s no different along the Ashuelot River; anything that water splashes on is coated in ice.

8. Ice Needles

Ice needles are poking up out of the soil. A lot has to happen for ice needles to form. When the air temperature is below 32 degrees F right at the soil surface and the soil and groundwater remain thawed, hydrostatic pressure can force the groundwater, sometimes super cooled, out of the soil where it freezes instantly into a “needle.” As more water is forced out of the soil the process is repeated over and over, and each needle grows in length because of more water freezing at its base. Often these needles freeze together to form ribbons, and that is what this photo shows.

9. Deep Cut

One of my favorite places to find winter is in this man made canyon, hacked out of the rock when the Cheshire railroad was built in the 1800s. It’s an endless source of fascination and wonder for me because of the unusual plants that grow there. Winter had already started before I got there.

 10. Icicles

The sun doesn’t reach down beyond the tops of these 40-50 foot high walls in very many places but even where it did it didn’t throw enough heat to melt the ice.  The ice here can be very beautiful and is often colored in shades of blue, green and yellow, stained by minerals and vegetation.

11. Icicles

When you walk through here in summer you hear the constant drip of groundwater, and in winter you see as well as hear it.

12. Ice Formations With Spider

I’ve put a red circle around the spider who found his own Everest. He’s just to the lower right of center. As often happens I didn’t see him until I saw the photo.

 13. Icy Liverworts

There are thousands of liverworts living here and many are slowly being entombed in the ice. There’s a good chance that they won’t be seen again until spring.

14. Ice Covered Moss

Mosses too, are being encased in ice. Life on these walls is tough, but these plants can take it.

15. Fallen Tree

For those who might be thinking big deal-a few icicles, this photo from last year shows what those few icicles will have become by February. They grow as big as tree trunks, and people come here to learn how to climb them. For me it’s interesting to see how they start, and then how they grow.

What a severe yet master artist old Winter is…. No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel. ~John Burroughs

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We haven’t had any measurable snow yet, but our mornings have been frosty.

Ice coats everything on some mornings. 

Ice needles will only grow when the temperature at the soil surface is below freezing and hydrostatic pressure forces cooled, unfrozen water to the surface. Though they often grow in bundles like those in the photo, each individual needle can be as thin as a human hair. If you’d like to learn more about them, just click here

Ice crystals are forming on my windshield each morning, and I wondered if I could get pictures of them.

Like snowflakes, each one is different. Our ponds are freezing and staying frozen during the daytime, so we won’t see much open water here until spring. This pond is called Perkin’s Pond and the mountain is Mt. Monadnock, a well-known local landmark.

Alongside the river, ice forms on anything that comes into contact with its water. 

Even tree sap froze as it dripped from a wound. 

Our sunsets are colorful but deceiving; any heat they hold lies only in our imagination.

Frost grows on the window glass, forming whorl patterns of lovely translucent geometry.
Breathe on the glass, and you give frost more ammunition.
Now it can build castles and cities and whole ice continents with your breath’s vapor.
In a few blinks you can almost see the winter fairies moving in . . .
But first, you hear the crackle of their wings ~Vera Nazarian

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Since we’ve had the fourth least snowiest December of all time, I’ve had an easy time getting into the woods. It’s amazing how much variety and color can be found in winter.

 American winterberry, or native holly, (Ilex verticillata) is one of a handful of shrubs that will survive growing in standing water for part of the year. This one was in deep and I couldn’t get any closer to it without getting wet feet. I found it growing in a local cemetery where they have quite extensive wetlands that are being taken over by the invasive purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria.) Local college students have been digging out the loosestrife and encouraging natives like winterberry. This one attracted me from quite far off because it was ablaze with red berries. Since it takes both a male and female to produce berries I know that there is a male lurking somewhere nearby, but until he grows leaves he’ll be hard to find.

 

 In the early spring red wing blackbirds will return and perch on cattails (Typha) like this one. Females will use cattail leaves to weave their nests among the stalks. Once the cup shaped nest has been plastered with mud inside she will line it with soft, cottony cattail seeds and grasses. Red wing blackbirds eat a lot of harmful insects, so having plenty of marshland to attract them is a good thing. Muskrats use cattails to build their lodges, which look similar to a beaver’s, and other animals like deer and raccoons use them for cover. The inside of a cattail stalk contains a sticky juice that is an excellent emergency antiseptic, and the boiled roots can be dried, ground, and used as very nutritious flour. 

This dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) growing in a sunny spot didn’t seem to know or care that it was December 22nd. Is it any wonder they appear so early in spring? All parts of the dandelion are edible, and it is one of the most nutritious plants known. It is being grown in gardens more and more, and can now be found for sale in farmer’s markets and health food stores. Native Americans used dandelion to treat kidney disease, skin problems, heartburn, and upset stomach, and many herbalists still use it medicinally today.

  This mossy log also made this day seem more like spring than winter. I don’t have much experience identifying mosses, but I like the colors of these. It’s interesting to me that such delicate looking plants can stand up to the ravages of winter snow and cold. They are really much tougher than they look; moss can grow in temperatures just above zero degrees. Reindeer eat them because they contain a chemical that keeps their blood warm-much like the anti-freeze we use in our cars.

 

Winter can be found if one looks closely. See-there it is in the ice on this pond.

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