One Hail of a Storm

July 12th was a typical hot summer day. Until late afternoon. Then black clouds billowed out of the northwest wiping out the sun and trailing thunder so loud it hurt the ears.

It was fury unleashed as the storm pounded the house and turned deck and driveway white with hail.

When the cacophony finally stopped about half an hour later we ventured outside. Nearly 4 cm of water — more than 1.5 inches — sat in the rain gauge. Flower and vegetable gardens resembled huge tossed salads.

In the woods we found the remains of a recently opened wood lily, one petal still clinging to the stem. Pockets of moss held handfuls of white stones (that were still there two days later).

A mossy bed of hailstones

In spite of the damage much of the gardens will recover. That’s the nature of plants.

As for the woods? They were transformed — filled suddenly with light, branches sparkling crystal-like with rain, mist floating in the air …

After the storm

… the wonder of a storm.

Shady Ladies

A walk up a wooded hill on a recent sunny day brought beauty — pale blue clematis, twining around the base of an aspen.

Trailing through the woods

They love shaded woods, trailing along the ground or winding gently up a tree trunk, each flower upright on a tall stalk. The four-pointed blossom is pale blue verging on mauve.

A four-pointed blossom

Clematis belongs to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) which includes many familiar flowers, among them anemones, columbines, larkspurs, crocuses and, of course, buttercups.

Blossoms about to open

Blossoms and three-part leaves

Sun-dappled blooms

Even when clematis go to seed they are lovely, forming silvery plume-like clusters. Another walk up the hill is warranted soon.

Blue clematis   Clematis verticellaris var. columbiana

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



Over the years numerous red squirrels have staked their claim to this large stump and the midden that surrounds it. Middens and squirrels are common in our woods but this arrangement is different from most.

I spotted the cone pile first, right on top. An odd choice as cones are usually stored underground.

Alongside the cones was another surprise — a nest of dried grass and moss. And sitting in the nest, the current owner, with a great view of the neighbourhood.

On rainy days, the owner is absent so perhaps he (or she) is tucked down in the midden, safe and dry.

Red squirrel   Tamiasciuris hudsonicus
White spruce   Picea glauca

A Fluorish of Fungi

It is a phenomenal summer for mushrooms. Warm temperatures and near-daily rain have produced more fungi than I’ve ever seen.

These are not your white fairy-ring-in-the-lawn mushrooms. The woods are filled with a stunning display of colours, shapes and sizes — and each trip among the trees reveals new ones I hadn’t seen earlier.

Spectacular? Indeed!


I was walking on moss between the trees. Especially quiet I guess. Suddenly the air exploded — I’d surprised a red squirrel who let off a torrent of verbal abuse.

I stood still and spoke softly. It took a few moments of one-sided conversation but curiousity got the better of the young squirrel. He (or  she?) came closer. And closer.

Finally, figuring I posed no threat, he went back to what he was doing before I’d interrupted. But the “what” puzzled me.

After several minutes I realized he was chewing off all the twigs and sharp branch ends along the fallen spruce, making a path the length of the tree. You need a clear get-away if danger is chasing you.

Clever fellow, that squirrel.

Red squirrel   Tamiasciuris hudsonicus
White spruce   Picea glauca

In Search of Fungi

Just Add Water featured mushrooms that sprang up following our recent heavy rains.

Before the woods dried out I sought them out again. I was not disappointed.

I found them growing along animal trails, in thick feather moss, on rotting wood, in squirrel middens — tall, short, thin, thick, solitary and bunched together. Such an array.

These intriguing fungi spend their lives underground. For brief moments they pop up into the world of light, produce spores, then retreat again to darkness. If we’re lucky we catch a glimpse of this wonder.

P.S. The fungi in the featured image were growing on a rotting branch. I turned it upwards to take this photo — then carefully replaced it back in its original position. Let’s walk lightly with as little disruption as possible.

Lady of the Woods

The woods held several surprises yesterday. It saved the best for last.

Trudging home in gumboots and rain gear I ambled along a deer trail. Battery almost gone on the camera. Eyes on the trail for trip-me-ups. Then a flash of bright orange.

In speckled sunlight, between two trees, a single western wood lily.

Sources say this is the most widespread native lily in North America, but they are few and far between in our woods. Each sighting is special.

I squeezed enough juice out of the battery to capture several images. Happy day!

The western wood lily is endangered or threatened in many areas, often through over-picking — it dies since the bulb often comes up with the flower.

Western wood lily   Lilium philadelphicum