The Long Melt – 2015

It seems like forever since the snow was here, but I wanted to add my visual chronicle of “the long melt” for the 3rd year in a row: you can see 2013 and 2014 if you want to compare

Although this winter was less snowy than previous winters (really, check out 2013 to see some snow), the snow did linger as March was cool as was April and the winter had been cold, and really this is Ottawa, we are just ready for spring when it comes, and it never seems to come fast enough. And we never seem to remember that it just takes as long as it takes for the snow to all melt.  As usual I’ll start the photos on March 21, the last day of winter/first day of spring and continue until all the snow in the back yard was gone.  This year was pretty typical of the last 3 yrs with the snow all melted by about April 19th.

March 21, 2015 - !st Day of Spring - When will the snow melt? (Deck)

March 21, 2015 – !st Day of Spring – When will the snow melt? (Deck)

March 30, 2105

March 30, 2105

April 3, 2015

April 3, 2015

April 4, 2015

April 4, 2015 (snowfall! a small setback)

IMG_6874

April 7, 2015

April 8, 2015

April 8, 2015

April 11, 2015

April 11, 2015

April 12, 2015

April 12, 2015

April 13, 2105 - SNOW FREE ON THE DECK!

April 13, 2105 – SNOW FREE ON THE DECK!

Now for the Garden Melt.. it takes a little bit longer to finish.

April 21, 2015 - 1st Day of Spring - Garden

April 21, 2015 – 1st Day of Spring – Garden

April 30, 2015

April 27, 2015

April 30, 2015

April 30, 2015

April 3, 2015

April 3, 2015

April 4, 2015

April 4, 2015 (snowfall! a small setback)

April 7, 2015

April 7, 2015

April 8, 2015

April 8, 2015

April 11, 2015

April 11, 2015

April 12, 2015

April 12, 2015

April 13, 2015

April 13, 2015

April 17, 2015

April 17, 2015

April 19, 2015.  Snow free day in 2013, but not quite in 2015.

April 19, 2015. Snow free day in 2013, but not quite in 2015.

April 21, 2015.  All the snow is finally gone from the back yard.  exactly one month after spring started.

April 21, 2015. All the snow is finally gone from the back yard. exactly one month after spring started.

February Photo Challenge : Faceless Portrait

I have always liked taking photos of people from behind and walking away.  Most of my photos from this month are variations on that theme. I like how the photos of Adrian and his two friends portray a sense of their friendships.  They aren’t aware that I’m taking their photo, so the pictures are quite natural.

Can I reach it?  Fraser learns to walk and gets into everything.

Can I reach it? Fraser learns to walk and gets into everything.

Reading with Uncle Paul

Reading with Uncle Paul

Looking at the ice sculptures

Looking at the ice sculptures

Winter makes for many faceless portraits.

Winter makes for many faceless portraits.

Friendship (I think this is my favourite of the bunch)

Friendship (I think this is my favourite of the bunch)

And the moment is done...

And the moment is done…

January Photo Challenge: Up Close and Far Away

January was my month to choose a theme, and I wanted to make sure it was something very broad that could be photographed indoors as well as out, since I find that in January I often don’t get outside with my camera because it’s too cold.  That being said, I did get out on the Rideau Canal one afternoon when it was just below zero and possible to take off my mittens long enough to snap a few shots.  The rest of my month’s work took place around our “Lego World” that is constantly in a state of construction and flux in the attic.  Much of the building is still completed by Mommy and Daddy and other adults who happen to be around, but it’s an activity that we all enjoy and Adrian loves to play with all of the machines and buildings that we create.  I also discovered that it’s very hard to get good close-ups of Lego, at least using the lens that I have.  I never quite got the lighting and the focus just right…  (and for the record, whoever says that modern Lego is not creative has not been to our house!)

What's going on in Lego World?  Let's take a closer look...

What’s going on in Lego World? Let’s take a closer look…

Looks like the paramendics are out for a date.

Looks like the paramedics are out for a date.

Santa? is that you?  What are you doing on the roof of the blacksmith's shop?

Santa? is that you? What are you doing on the roof of the blacksmith’s shop?  Oh, just chasing that bad guy?  Ok, go get him…

There was a disaster and an earthquake flattened the city.  But the people rebuilt... newer and better coffee shops, bigger hat shops and more spaceships.

There was a disaster and an earthquake flattened the city. But the people rebuilt… newer and better coffee shops, bigger hat shops and more spaceships.

Let's have a cup of tea.

Let’s have a cup of tea.

And now for something completely different: Here are my photos from the Canal. I was relatively pleased with these.

Close Up

Up close…

Close Up

…up close…

And Far Away

…and far away (the Bridge into Patterson Creek)

Close Up

Up close…

and far away

…and far away

close up

Up close (Looking at the Chateau, under the Somerset Bridge)…

and far away.

…and far away (Looking down the Canal at the Somerset Bridge and the Chateau)

And a little bit of HDR for the last few shots: It’s always fun to play around with HDR to try to make mediocre images a little bit exciting.

close up

Up close (University of Ottawa)…

and far away (University of Ottawa)

…and far away (University of Ottawa)

Close up (Bank Street Bridge)

Up close (Bank Street Bridge)…

and far away (Bank Street Bridge)

…and far away (Bank Street Bridge)

And two more, that I just remembered from the beginning of January, we had an ice storm to start off 2015.

Far away... (after the ice storm)

Far away… (after the ice storm)

...up close (after the ice storm)

…up close (after the ice storm)

Snowbank Removal!

When these signs go up, we know that our snowbanks are going to be removed.

When these signs go up, we know that our snowbanks are going to be removed.  I used to have one of these signs on my wall during university, I picked it up the first time I lived in Ottawa, in 1997.

Look how narrow the street gets after a few snowfalls.

Look how narrow the street gets after a few snowfalls.

I have a small obsession with the snowbanks in this town and the process by which, when they get too big, they are removed.  I think it’s because I have never lived in a place where snowbank removal was necessary on the same scale.  I grew up in a small town in Ontario, and we got a lot of snow, but I guess because it was a small town, the houses were farther apart and there was always lots of room for the snow to be plowed. I’m pretty sure they didn’t take the snowbanks away in that town.  In Waterloo, where I lived in University the city didn’t even plow the sidewalks, let along take the snow banks away, again, I don’t recall this ever being a problem.  In Vancouver, well, they didn’t even plow the streets, let along the sidewalks and no, there was obviously no need to remove snowbanks.  (you may (or may not) be surprised to know that it snows in Vancouver. I’m pretty sure it snowed at least once, if not twice, every year that I lived there… but if it lasted three days, that was a long time and most of the snow was left on the roads with the thought that the cars driving over it, would get rid of it if the rain didn’t).

then we moved to Ottawa, and more specifically, to downtown Ottawa.  It’s quite urban here, with the houses close together.  We live on a one way street and when it is plowed, the city only does one lane. The front yards are small, and most people don’t really have anywhere to put all the snow from their driveways, so it ends up on the road too, and so the snowbanks grow.  Before the banks were removed last night, we had to execute a 3 to 5 point turn just to get the car out of the driveway.

I kind of like the big snowbanks.  I find it amazing how high some of them can get.  It feels sort of cozy with the street made narrower than normal.  Our street is much wider than it needs to be, it’s a one way street with parking only on one side, but the street is about three lanes wide.  So in when the snowbanks come along, it’s made more narrow, and feels pretty cozy.

Often the snowbanks are removed in the middle of the night.  We hear the trucks at around 3 or 5 a.m.  but last night they came at 9:30 p.m. – so I could endulge my inner two year old boy and watch all the big trucks and snow ploughs and snow blowers coming down the street and taking away all the snow.  I took a whole lot of terrible photos on my ipod which I am going to share with you now!

After the big storm, the banks start to fill up the street again.

After the big storm, the banks start to fill up the street again.

Here comes the big snow plow, blowing the snow into a dump truck.

Here comes the big snow plow, blowing the snow into a dump truck.

Almost to our house.

Almost to our house.

Here's before....

Here’s before….

... and here's after.

… and here’s after.

And the dump truck rumbles down the street.

And the dump truck rumbles down the street.

One side done, and the other side getting prepped.

One side done, and the other side getting prepped.

Where does it all go?

Where does it all go? – to a snow dump, of course.

The street is wide again.

The street is wide again.

It took three passes on the other side of the street to get all of the snow picked up and carted away.  Last year we had an easy winter, so the banks only got removed once, this year it was twice for our street, and a few more times for the more major routes in the city.  Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the snow removal in this city.  I can’t imagine what a job it is to coordinate it for the entire city.  When it snows, everyone wants their street done first. I don’t really mind if our street is not the first priority – I know that within a day it will be done.

Here’s what the city has to say about snow banks: Snow banks: Snow banks are removed or reduced in size when they begin to restrict sightlines, travel widths, and pedestrian and cycling traffic; to relieve trapped water on the road or sidewalk; and to create storage space for future snowfalls. Banks that restrict sightlines at intersections and at pedestrian, school and railway crossings are removed within 24 hours after crews are made aware of the situation. If the number of locations exceeds available resources, they will be addressed on a priority basis. When dealing with snow banks, crews push back, blow or place the snow within boulevards, which are part of the city’s road allowance. This is the most economical method, while snow removal and haulage is costly and time-consuming.  http://ottawa.ca/en/residents/transportation-and-parking/road-and-sidewalk-maintenance/snow-removal-and-disposal

Skiing at Mooney’s Bay

I had a free morning because the boys decided to go out to play with some other friends.  I knew I had to get out of the house because it was sunny and because it was -5.  There might not be that much -5 left this year  (we’ll see if I’m right or wrong about this).  Initially I thought I might go to the war museum… but then I decided that outside was the place to be.  Now that the canal is closed I was wondering what outside thing I could do that was close to home and didn’t involve walking (not that I don’t like walking, but I didn’t want to just walk for the sake of it).  Then I remembered that I could go skiing at Mooney’s bay. I’d never been – but figured this was a perfect chance.  I was not disappointed.  It’s certainly not the same as going skiing in Gatineau Park – but it is a fraction of the cost ($2.65) and is right in town. On a Sunday morning it didn’t take any time at all to drive out there.  There is a relatively flat 5 KM loop of trails that go through the orchard and along the beach.  For the outing I wanted it was perfect.  I got some fresh air, I got some exercise, it was close to home and I felt completely comfortable going by myself.  There was no chance I was going to get lost.

I recommend a ski at Mooney’s Bay for some quick fresh air and a little winter re-boot. It’s certainly not the wilderness – but it is still pretty and has the advantage of being cheap and close.

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Winter Willow Tree

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I wasn’t expecting to see this! This guy was learning how to paraglide – his instructor was yelling instructions from the bottom of the hill.

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Mooney’s Bay Ski Trail – they have separate trails for skate skiing as well.

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A view through the trees

For more info:

http://ottawa.ca/en/residents/parks-and-recreation/drop-activities/mooneys-bay-ski-centre

the Mooney’s Bay ski centre is run by the City of Ottawa and also offers Cross Country Ski Lessons and rentals throughout the winter.

Skating on the Canal.

Looking over to the Dow's Lake portion of the canal.

Looking over to the Dow’s Lake portion of the canal.

People have a lot to say about Ottawa, and it’s not always nice. Sometimes I say things about Ottawa that aren’t nice.  But in general, I like it here.  I’m pretty convinced that there are many worse places that I could live (I won’t list any by name… chances are you live there and then you’ll tell me that I’m wrong and your city is not so bad and mine is, and we’ll get in a big fight, and that’s NOT what I’m after).

One of the things I want to use this blog for, is to write about things I like about Ottawa.  And in my opinion, one of the very best things about Ottawa is the Rideau Canal Skateway – which is open during the winter for a couple months – weather permitting.  It’s 7.8 km long. That means that if you go all the way to one end and then all the way back you’ve skated for 15.6 km.  I wonder how many times you’d have to go around a hockey arena to skate that far?  The skateway is fleeting.  In order to take advantage of it you need to seize the moment and get outside, in winter, when it’s COLD (but of course, that’s the point)!  This year it was open for 38 days.  I skated 5 times – which I was pretty pleased with.  5 weekends in a row of skating.

It’s hard to describe why I love the canal so much.  I’m not a great skater (I can’t even stop).  I can count on one hand the number of times I went skating during the 10 years I lived in Vancouver (not that many – and always outdoors). It’s not something that I seek out for the sake of doing it (in an arena say).  But I find that there is an amazing feeling of freedom skating outside on the canal. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s easy to move and in general in winter it’s hard to move.  There’s snow in the way, sidewalks are slushy, the walk has to be shovelled before you can take the car out, pushing a stroller is a major workout… all of these obstacles are gone when you skate on the canal.  Some people here even skate to work,  just because they can!   Skating is like walking, but just a little bit faster, so there’s that feeling like you’re cheating somehow.  I think there’s also something about being on ice.  Most of the year, most of us only experience the canal (and most other bodies of water) from the sidelines.  We look down on it and walk beside it, but don’t go on it.  But in the winter we can see the city from an entirely different angle.  In places you can almost forget you’re in a city.

I love the feeling of being a part of the community in a greater sense than I get every day. According to the official skateway website there were 835 000 visits to the canal while it was open this year! I like the idea of this shared experience with so many people from my city.  But  I also love the canal because it’s unique. It’s an experience that’s only available in Ottawa – it can’t be franchised.  They can’t recreate it in Vancouver or St. John’s or Toronto.  If you want to do it, you have to come here.  And people do come (as the numbers above show).  Me,  I can walk out of my house and go for a skate for an hour in an afternoon.  It’s a privilege I get because I live here and I’d be silly not to take advantage of it.  

And finally  – there’s just something wonderful about getting outside in winter.  Winter in cold places is largely spent indoors.  Excuses to get outside need to be taken, especially when they highlight the unique and special aspects of winter and can, at least for a little while, help you to forget that it’s cold, dark and hard to get around.   When I’m skating on the canal I don’t want winter to end, I don’t mind the cold and I feel extremely lucky to live in Ottawa.

The boys and Dor (the lion) go for a skate.

The boys and Dor (the lion) out for a family skate.

Somerset West

Somerset West on a very busy Sunday

Looking towards downtown from the Corktown Bridge

Looking towards downtown from the Corktown Bridge

Doesn't this photo just LOOK cold.

Cold and Sunny!

I was out for a skate on the first weekend.  The ice was terrible - but it was nice to be outside on the canal.

I was out for a skate on the first weekend. The ice was terrible – but I didn’t care.

For more information about the canal – you can check out the “official” website.

http://www.canadascapital.gc.ca/places-to-visit/rideau-canal-skateway