It’s always a bit of a wild card, travelling 3,400km back to the family farm in southwest Ontario, in the heart of Canada’s winter. You just never know what the weather has in store for you… and whether you’ll be able to get to the airport on the day of your scheduled departure.
With the “Lake Effect” from Lake Huron and Georgian Bay (one of Canada’s “Great Lakes”) hurling its most powerful and damaging storms your way, there are a few days each winter when you are snowed in. Nothing can get through on the roads. So you put more wood in the furnace and fireplace, hunker down with a few games or a good book, concoct some yummy food from the stores in the pantry and freezer, and nestle in for a good, relaxing time. (This might be where I get my squirrelling tendencies from!).
But if you’re me… you ALSO haul your family out for a storm-filled tromp to the bush. (I’m pretty sure they love me in spite of this ordeal!)
I was fortunate enough to grow up, spending weekdays in Toronto, and travelling every weekend to our farm as a child. I was a strange hybrid: a city slicker, for sure, but a farm girl too, loving my chores weeding and harvesting in the garden, the hard labour involved in splitting, hauling and stacking wood, and the times I had to help a friend down the road with her barn chores before we could play. I had my feet firmly planted in both worlds and relished that strange, double existence.
It was there, on that piece of land, imprinted on my heart and soul, that I developed my love of the outdoors, a keen desire to explore BIG landscapes and my spirit of adventure. Admittedly, it was a different time then, but my favourite days happened when mom packed me a lunch and said, “See you at dinner!” And off I’d go, back to the forest and to the river to build forts, swim, catch salamanders, muck about, climb and scramble, exploring to my heart’s content.
We went back this year for Christmas, having a wonderful time visiting with family. With our children now adults and about to launch into their own lives and careers, we felt this might just be that last time we could all do it together, so we took the plunge and headed back. As luck would have it, we DID get snowed in. So of course, I dragged my adventure-buddy husband and our grown children off to the woods.
The snow was coming down heavily and the winds were up, so we hugged the shelter of the trees along the fence line of the corn field as we headed back to the forest.
The snow was quite deep, so my parents’ dog had a fun time bounding through the field. It was almost like she was swimming, with the snow parting in waves before her, pushed by her chest. She’s a big, shepherd-sized dog, so that’s some deep snow we were trudging through!
As we entered the forest, the branches of the pines were covered in tall layers of snow, creating such beautiful patterns in the landscape.
All was quiet. It’s amazing the shelter the trees give you from a good storm, and the sense of hush that descends over the woods as the snowflakes fall and the snow lies deep on the ground in a thick, sound-absorbing carpet.
The tall, hardwood forests are very different from our forests out west, full of maples, elms and cherry trees, with pines and cedars and hawthornes thrown in for good measure. They stand virtually straight, tall and elegant as they reach ever upward for the sun.
The forested section of my parents’s land is bordered on two sides by the Saugeen River. There had been some rain and melting, followed by a huge dump of snow, and that left the flood plain of the river full of water and snowy mounds. In the summer and fall, this area is pretty much dried up, and in the spring it is thick with ferns.
Huge chunks of ice had been lifted up and deposited throughout the flood plain by the river (the river flows on the far side of these trees, straight ahead and out of sight in this photo).
It was really quite fun traipsing about the bush, following animal tracks, playing fetch, exploring…. and if you’re our son, playing the avalanche game with small trees and snow laden tree branches on unsuspecting family members…
Branches in the small forest clearings were so heavy with snow and my parent’s dog had a blast tearing aorund, hot on the scent of deer and wild turkey tracks. It was such a great place to romp about and explore… see these quick timelapse videos.
As we headed back to the farmhouse, leaving the forest behind, the sun broke through the storm clouds for a few moments, bathing the scene, and our track to the woods, in a soft light.