Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Chill Is In The Air

Winter is practically knocking at the door. It has been lurking nearby for a while now - dropping little white hints (or in some areas of Southern Manitoba BIG white hints) of what will be covering the landscape all too soon.

With the exception of the last couple of weeks, we'd actually been having a lovely Autumn. The temps had been mostly seasonal or a bit higher. Not a lot of rain and winds more or less behaved, Many of the leaves tried to stay on the trees till our Canadian Thanksgiving on October 14 - then promptly began to fall en mass.

The weather had been so nice, that I'd only had to pull out my mid season jacket a couple weeks ago. Until then, I'd been layering with a hooded fleece and a lightly lined wind breaker. Granted, there were a couple mornings that I did add a very light pair of stretchy gloves but only because it was a long wait at the bus stop! This past week, I had to pull out my heavy autumn jacket and slightly warmer gloves.

I know that these chillier days will seem downright balmy compared to the temps we will be experiencing in a month or so, but at the moment, it feels darn cold! Adjusting to the cooler temps sure doesn't get any easier as we age!

On the plus side, the nights have been cool and perfect for sleeping with the window open. Okay, I admit I sleep with the window open at least a little bit almost year round - even in the dead of winter unless there is a really brutal north wind. On those nights, I close the window and turn on the ceiling fan so the air keeps moving.

Over the last few years, I've been leaving my down blanket on the bed later into fall and saving the warmer down duvet for the real dips in temp. I'd rather throw a light fleece blanket on top than pull out the duvet sooner than necessary. That way, if I get too warm in the night I can throw one layer off.

This year, I'd also been able to resist turning on the heat in my apartment far later than usual. Even though the cost of heating is included in my rent, I tend to leave it off until I really need it. I'll put on a sweater or better yet, bake something or cook an oven meal! The warmth of the oven heats up my little apartment quite nicely!

Until about 10 days ago, I'd actually been able to leave my windows open 24/7. That may sound like a lot of cool air coming in, but in reality the air flow is somewhat limited as our windows are the crank style that only open a few inches. Not nearly as much "fresh" as I'd prefer!

A week ago Friday night was cool and even with the down blanket and the fleece throw, I wasn't as cozy as I'd like. Sure I could have gotten up and closed the window, but I knew I wouldn't have slept nearly as well.

When I got up on the Saturday morning (October 19), the apartment felt almost nippy. Perfect for my morning workout but the high for the day was only 6C and even with the windows shut, I knew I'd feel the chill after a shower. So, after my workout was done, I switched the heat from off to low and raised the thermostat from its lowest setting up to 65F. I heard the heat click on as I hit about 60F so the place hadn't been too bad.

I haven't actually kept a written record of how late I've turned on the heat over the years, but I suspect this is the latest I've ever waited! If memory serves, I think I usually give in around the first week of October!

I also relented to the down duvet last weekend, though I suspect I may have switched to the duvet a bit prematurely. I've thrown off the duvet and grabbed a fleece throw to cover me a coupe nights since! I'll leave the duvet on but I may have to turn the ceiling fan on some nights even with the window open!

The summer clothes have been moved to the back of the closet and the warmer winter clothes are now at the front. I haven't pulled out the winter coat and boots but have a sinking feeling those may be needed sooner rather than later.

My annual "squirreling" of various supplies to fill my pantry, freezer and household needs over the coming wintery months is more or less complete. I've defrosted the deep freezer and reorganized its contents. The Christmas baking is already in progress.

So, the cycle of preparing for changing seasonscontinues. Some of us are being dragged reluctantly towards it and its limitations to our lives while others are anxiously dreaming of what is to come.

A close friend continues to try and lure me to the wintery side of life but their zest for winter is bordering on the White Witch love of the snowy season. Admittedly, a promise of making a snow person (a la "Calvin and Hobbs" style), mirth and hot cocoa does sound tempting. I may take them up on that offer depending on the weather conditions of the day. I certainly won't be hibernating all winter - though a part of me would love to! I will still be running errands, doing some grocery shopping and hopefully some walking for pleasure if the sidewalks aren't too icy and I don't have to traverse snow-banks at intersections and bus stops.

We all know that winter "officially" begins on December 21, but those of us here in Manitoba know all too well that winter tends to arrive much sooner! As it is now, we are currently in what I like to call "Post Leaf - Pre-Snowbank Season". Snow will be arriving before we know it. When the snow stays on the ground for more than a few days, you might as well accept that it will be there till spring!

CBC Manitoba weather forecaster John Sauder has generously passed this information along to me. The data was gathered by Environment Canada. As you can see from #4 in the info below, the first autumn snowfall of 2 cm (almost 1 inch) or more which stays on ground for 7 days or more is roughly defined as the start of the snow-cover season.
Oh joy! Given how long and never-ending this past winter was, let's hope that Mother Nature will go gently on us this year. If we are really lucky, this will be one of those later years for our first real snow-covers! Yeah, yeah, I know - but I can dream!    


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Thankful For Autumn

The season of Autumn may last three months on the calendar, but in reality it's true duration is much shorter - especially here on the Canadian prairies.

Our first frost may come in late August and there is often snow on the ground before Halloween. The frost and the inevitable advent of snow make the season all too short.

So with that in mind. we should appreciate and partake in as many of the traditions of Autumn as we can while we are able.

Autumn isn't just harvesting crops, cleaning up the garden, raking the leaves and stocking the pantry for winter.

It is also about the tastes, the scents and the beauty of the fleeting season.

The seemingly endless possibilities for preparing and serving squash, pumpkins and apples. The sumptuous tastes of fresh tomatoes. Fresh potatoes, carrots and onions just waiting to add flavour to so many recipes!

Fragrant aromas and flavours emerging from kitchens as breads and baked goods come out of hot ovens!

The cool crisp air, accentuated by a wood burning fire - if not from your own home, then hopefully the scent of a neighbours wood fireplace wafting nearby!

Even shorter, is the beauty of the fall colours!

Some of our leaves were starting to turn in early September. By late September, the changing colours of the leaves was switching into high gear.

I wanted to go for at least one long fall walk in my tree lined neighbourhood and a nearby park!

There were a few days that I had other commitments and couldn't go for more than a short walk. The weather wasn't exactly cooperating for a picture taking walk either. It seemed to be cloudy, windy or both most of the week. Then there was the day of rain on Saturday (Sept 28). I thought about going on the Sunday, but after all of the rain and fallen leaves, I was concerned that the ground may be slippery in places and I really didn't want to take a fall in the fall. (or anytime for that matter!)

So, I waited till Monday morning (Sept 30). A few clouds to start, but skies were clearing. The sun was shining, temp was about 16C and the wind was light. The battery in the camera was charged and I was heading out the door a little before 10AM. I headed towards a nearby park on Wellington Crescent - taking pics along the way.

There is something about Munson Park that just draws me in - especially in the fall.

Munson Park is a long narrow strip of land that runs east/west between Wellington Crescent to the south and the Assiniboine River to the north. The park was named after J H Munson, a lawyer, who was the first to build a home on that strip of land.
Wellington can be quite busy and noisy, but the many trees and bushes along the street side of the park help to reduce the sound greatly. Yes, you can still hear some traffic sounds - especially the buses and any horns or sirens - but for the most part, I am able to block them from my senses and imagine that I am walking in a country wood. I try to focus on the natural sounds. The leaves fluttering in the breeze. The water lapping the shore. The birds singing - and yes, the sounds of the Canada Geese as they make their long journey south.

It isn't a large park as far as parks go. And it isn't as manicured or landscaped as many of our city parks. That may well be a large part of what draws me there - especially in autumn. As beautiful and picturesque as the stately homes in the area can be, the beauty within the park is more reminiscent of a walk in the country or through wooded grounds of a rustic estate.

Various packed dirt paths meander along the riverbank and occasionally veer off to meet the paved paths nearer to the Crescent.

The paved paths are okay, but my favourite ones are the packed dirt trails near the river. They are slightly uneven, but if I - as a legally blind gal with no depth perception - can navigate them, then most other people can as well. Admittedly, I haven't tried to do it in the winter or when they are wet and slippery, but in decent weather they are pretty easy to navigate! The dirt paths are also more likely to be semi covered with fallen leaves so you really get to hear that "crunch" under your feet as you walk!

I walk slowly through the park, surveying my surroundings. Admiring the beauty of the colourful foliage. I stop frequently to take pictures from various angles - trying to frame the vast contrasts in colours of the trees, shrubs, bushes, plants and grasses.

I allow myself to get lost in its' beauty, its' sounds and the scent of fall. I breath in the autumn air. My surroundings draw me into its embrace and takes me back to the days growing up on the farm or going for walks in the woods at my favourite camp of youth. Sweet memories from the past merge with the present as I roam the park.

A temporary escape from the hustle of a hurried city.

I took many photos in my 2 1/4 hour walk. Most were taken in duplicate but that way I am assured of getting the shot I wanted. I was so glad that I went when I did, because the next day (Tuesday, October 1), we had incredibly strong winds that blew a great many leaves off the trees.

Thankfully, I have my memories and my pictures of a September Morning.
I returned to the park this past Wednesday morning (Oct 9). Many more leaves had changed colours and fallen but there was still so much beauty to behold! I just had to put another slideshow/montage together to showcase the Beauty Of Autumn!
Alas, the weather is changing with cooler weather, strong winds and rain.

Mother Nature's colourful landscape is quickly fading from our outdoor surroundings now as only the heartiest of leaves remain aloft. If we are lucky, we have taken a few moments to commit the scenic views to our cameras - or at least to our memory.

Yes, the external beauty may be all but gone, but there is still much to be thankful for as we savour the scents, aromas and flavours of all this short but bountiful season has to offer.

Happy Thanksgiving!