Cows & Conifers

Puts cows and spruce trees together for any length of time and this is what you get — trunks pruned of branches and bark rubbed smooth.

In pastures with few trees the damage is even greater for it’s here the cattle gather when sun beats down, when rain and hail pelt them, when snow falls thick and fast.

The earth also suffers as their hooves churn the soil to dust or mud holes or frozen lumps, depending on the season. Little can grow under such a pounding.

All part of the price of hamburger and steaks.


Rime and Reason

Rime — tiny ice crystals that form when supercooled water vapour freezes on contact with solid objects

Storms that pummelled the West Coast a few days ago sent moisture-laden clouds scudding over the rocks and into Alberta. When the water vapour landed here it grew into fog. Then freezing temperatures worked their magic, turning windward surfaces white with rime.

A misty grey fairyland …

Balsam poplar   Populus balsamifera
Canada thistle   Cirsium arvense
White spruce   Picea gluaca

Owed to Winter

Rosy cheeks
Runny nose
Chilly fingers
Frost-nipped toes.

Yup. Winter has launched a shot across autumn’s bow. The faint drizzle yesterday turned into several centimetres of the white stuff by morning.

But the temps will rise later this week and the panic to install snow tires, replace the weather stripping and buy new gloves will wane. After all, winter is months way.


Wild rose hip   Rosa acicularis


Where Is Your Nearest Tree?

Most of us
Most of the time
Live in a manufactured world.

We need to reconnect
With what w
e left behind
Or never knew at all.

To touch not plywood or two-by-four but living tree
Crush needles between fingers, inhale the pine-y perfume
Trace raindrops on an aspen leaf.

We need to rub urban skin over untamed bark
Sit against the trunk
Feel the wind sway us both.

Where is your nearest tree?
Go and say hello.

Aspen poplar   Populus tremuloides


Pitch Perfect

Hurt happens, even to trees. Bear claws and antlers. Carpenter ants and woodpeckers. Axes, chainsaws, unwary drivers.

But how do you bandage a tree?

Ma Nature’s first aid kit has the answer. It’s the sticky goo that oozes from wounds in the bark. That sticks to your fingers, your jeans, your hair. Your dog.

You might call it sap or pitch. Maybe resin. To a botanist those terms mean different things. Most of us probably just call it pitch.

It does what needs doing — seals the wound and keeps out germs. As the liquid evaporates it hardens, like honey as it crystallizes.

Take a gander the next time you pass a tree (especially one with needles rather than leaves). Small wound? Large one? Sticky or not? Old or new? Lots of answers if you ask some questions.

P.S. Sticky fingers? Rubbing alcohol is a good pitch-remover.

White spruce   Picea glauca