Snowy day.

My hubby and I went out for a drive yesterday morning in advance of the blizzard that forecasters were predicting (and which is currently raging – oh boy I am not looking forward to walking to work in it this morning!).  We don’t get out very often for a Sunday drive anymore, as I’m usually working that day, so this was a nice treat.  We headed east of the city – I had heard reports that there were snowy owls hanging out that way, so we were on a mission to find one.  (We’ve only seen a snowy once before, a couple of years ago while on an ice fishing trip in the southern part of the province).

The sky was a weird colour yesterday morning.  There was an inversion and the sky was steel grey, barely any sunlight breaking through.  Combined with the skiff of snow on the fields, my hubby and I wondered if looking for snowys on such a day was akin to searching for Waldo (I’m not dating myself at all with that reference, am I?).   😉  We may have driven past several dozen of them and never known.

Despite the dearth of snowys, we found some beautiful, craggy trees that had been planted as a windbreak alongside a very large farm.  There were huge nests in every other tree, it seemed.  We saw dozens of black-billed magpies all over the fields and in the ditches, so perhaps the nests belonged to them – I will have to find out what types of nests they make.

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My hubby spotted a speedy bunch of partridges that bolted across the snow when he stopped the truck to photograph them.   We also flushed out a beautiful male pheasant, but didn’t get a photo.

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I had to laugh when we came over a rise and spotted this irrigation unit sprawled across the field – doesn’t it look a bit like a gigantic mechanical caterpillar hunched over the snow?

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I hope you have a wonderful start to your week!  If you’re in one of the areas being affected by bad weather, please be careful out there!

Check out these amazing photos of snowys from south of the border:  Snowy Owls in Delaware (Hoof Beats and Foot Prints)

And here are some good laughs about our Canadian weather:  Canadian Snow Humour!  (Funny and Interesting Stuff People Have Sent Me)

Wolf willow.

Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend wolf willow as a worthy addition to most* gardens, you can’t deny its good looks. Especially against a stormy sky:

 

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Elaeagnus commutata (also known as silverberry) isn’t actually a willow at all – it’s a member of the Oleaster family and is related to buffaloberry (Shepherdia). While a beauty, it’s not an ideal ornamental in small gardens due to its invasive spreading root system, but if you have a large area with poor, infertile soil or a need for erosion control*, wolf willow may be very useful.  Proper siting is key!

You’ll find wolf willow all over southern Alberta, often in open prairie. There are quite a few of them on the hillsides high above the riverbanks in Bowmont Natural Area here in Calgary‘s northwest, and several “groves” of them in Nose Hill Park.  Bloomtime is mid-June, and boy, are they ever making a show (and smell) of it this year!  (Might have something to do with the extra rainwater).  Wolf willow flowers have a sweet scent that can be rather overpowering in large doses.

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While rooting around the ‘net for some historical info about wolf willow, I came across several references to the shrub being used as decoration, food, and medicine by Native Americans.  Apparently, the berries were collected in the fall, boiled, and peeled to reveal the beautiful nutlets inside, dark brown seeds striped with bright yellow bands.  The seeds were pierced and used to make pretty necklaces often used as trade items, and they were often sewn onto garments.   (I will have to do some foraging later in the season and get my craft on!).  The berries were also mixed with animal fat and stored in a cool place to congeal, later enjoyed as a sweet.  Alternatively, the berries were cooked together with animal blood and eaten, which leads me to wonder what the berries taste like without the unappetizing additions.  (Apparently, my palate is picky).  Wolf willow bark was used to fashion baskets for transport and storage, and it was also made into a tonic to combat the symptoms of frostbite.¹

Wolf willow

Does wolf willow grow in your part of the world? Have you planted it in your garden?

¹http://plantwatch.naturealberta.ca/plant-information/wolf-willow