You’ll find it saved as a page at the top of the column to the right of this post.  Please forward your reports as comments to that page.  I’ll sort out a title for it which places it high on the alphabetical list.

Here’s a URL for cross posting:

For those of you who like to use meta data in formulating your ice-out predictions, here is a bit of climate geography courtesy of Tom Stutzman.

As the snow has retreated it’s been muddy for the last week in Eastern Ontario.

Over the years I have taught the various spaniels the “Wash your paws!” command, leading the dog of the day through the patch of clean snow nearest the door to clean her paws for drying inside the house. This morning for the first time in recent memory there was no snow for the procedure. On the other hand the dog had avoided the small puddle in the driveway and her paws weren’t all that bad when we arrived at the mat inside the front door.

Things are drying up a bit, at least temporarily. At this stage I truly dread the next big dump of snow.


With the sap refusing to run without another freeze I decided to prune trees to fill in the time. Four acres of walnuts planted from seed in 2005 were first for the annual trim, then a row of thirty blight-resistant butternut hybrids planted in 2008, then a hundred butternuts from 2006. Twig borers regularly attack the butternuts, killing the leaders. The trees respond by shooting out lots of lateral branches and even suckers, effectively turning the butternut into a shrub, unless pruned.

Because the hybrids are a test plot owned by someone else I’ve been reluctant to prune them, but finally Rose gave permission last year and I had at the suckers and extra leaders. They look much better now and I fervently hope they don’t contact blight from the wounds, as so far I haven’t seen any blight on any of the planted butternuts.

Mind you, half of the 2007 butternut planting next to the woodlot are routinely stripped of their early leaves by a convocation of insects ranging from caterpillars to twig borers, but they simply grow new leaves and carry on. What’s more, every rutting buck who braves the wolves to explore the property stops to beat up on a butternut tree or two, tearing the fragile bark and snapping branches. Something about butternuts just seems to challenge bucks. Maybe the thick terminals on the branches look like antlers.

Speaking of things which look like antlers, (Wandering much this morning?) the handle-bar ends on a mountain bike can also provoke a buck. Back in my salad years I was racing a spaniel down the Clear Lake Road and turned at speed onto the Cataraqui Trail only to encounter head-on a large buck. Instantly he dropped his antlers for a fight. As I reluctantly closed the distance between us he thought better of it and abruptly sat down on the trail before leaping into the swamp and making his escape. By the time I had clawed the bike to a stop he was long gone. That was one very large buck, likely the twelve pointer who lived for years in the area.

If I have wandered this far I might as well go all of the way. The buck encounter wasn’t a patch on my friend Les’s session one Sunday morning on the Marina Road. Cell phone coverage at the Indian Lake Marina is spotty for some carriers so Les got into the habit of driving a golf cart out towards the county road when he needed to call Ottawa. His favourite calling spot was on a flat stretch adjoining a swamp, halfway between the lake and the road.

Les had likely picked up the paper at the mailboxes and stopped on the return trip this fine morning. He had no sooner shut off and taken out his phone when he heard a rapid series of slurps crossing the swamp. A doe raced out of the mud and across in front of his cart. Then he heard more slurps and a very large cat tore across the road after the deer!

The wide-eyed report of this sighting led to some skepticism at the marina and suggestions it was probably a wolf or fisher, so owner Wayne Wilson jumped into his Kubota and drove out to look for tracks. He returned assuring us that there were both deer tracks and very large cat tracks in the mud exactly where Les had said.

It’s time to move this post to a page accessible from the index at the side of your page. You should find it there identified as

    A New Ice Report, December, 2012 to April, 2013




23 December, 2012

Today I drilled a couple of holes out slightly from the launch ramp at the foot of Bay Street in Newboro. The rather soggy ice in this location measured 4″ in thickness. I wouldn’t walk any distance on it yet.

15 December, 2012

The Newboro end of Newboro Lake had about an inch of ice at the shore today, with coverage as far as we could see. The Little Rideau was frozen at the canal entrance to Newboro, but showed plenty of ripples a bit past the buoys.

Yesterday a trip across the bridge to Wellesley Island on the St. Lawrence showed a bit of ice in the usual bays, but nothing substantial yet.

13 December, 2012

While walking the dog in early evening last night I was struck by two very bright patches of light on the horizon in the general direction of Newboro. The intensity of the light put one in mind of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. One was nearly in line with a communications tower, the other maybe five degrees to the east of it. Nothing else on the horizon (we can see a lot of it from Young’s Hill) showed strong illumination. This morning at 5:00 the one light was gone, and the other was back to the normal glow from Westport.

A look at Google Earth revealed that two solar fields currently under construction lie in the directions I noted. Maybe they’re working overtime to get things closed in before winter sets in.

UPDATE: After a few more night-time looks, I think the lights I saw were indeed those of Newboro and Westport, seen in freakishly clear air. What struck me was how obscure the lights of Elgin, Phillipsville, and Athens had been on the same night, so it must have been a localized thing.

12 December, 2012

A drive north this morning revealed that Mississippi Lake appears to be covered with ice, as is Clayton Lake. On the return trip I noticed that at Rideau Ferry the Lower Rideau is covered, but the Upper Rideau is frozen only about a quarter mile west of the bridge, and there are cracks all over the sheet. This ice may break up again with a breeze. At Portland on the Big Rideau the bay is frozen, but only out to the first island.

Please feel free to report ice conditions when and where you observe them. Just post a comment and I’ll do the rest. You may send photos to me for possible inclusion at . Rod

11 December, 2012

The Weather Network often displays contributions from viewers. This morning I ran across a shot of Bedford Mills which from a quick look appeared to be an image painted during the Romantic era. On closer examination it turned out to be a remarkable shot posted by R Couper on November 10, 2012. (I asked my son Charlie, a professional photographer, to comment on the photo. He suggested it had been altered through aggressive use of Photoshop.)

My attachment to the Mill goes back several generations. My grandfather Charlie Croskery walked across the hills from his farm on MacAndrews Road to work at the Mill in winter. Much later in life he laid out the Cataraqui Trail through this area. You see the triangular marker on the tree in the foreground of the attached photo. For a couple of years my mother hiked across the hills to her students at Bedford Mills Public School. When I came along, Marjorie Bedore babysat me in their apartment on the second floor of the Mill. I dimly remember the night Ken and Marjorie’s firstborn arrived. Mom was first on the scene and had Clay pretty well delivered before Dr. Goodfellow arrived from Westport. It was on February 9th, my birthday (and Ken’s as well), though I do not recall the year. Most likely it was about 1954.

Bedford Mill

A break from winter

February 17, 2011

I think we’ve crested the hill of this winter, because this morning was achingly beautiful on Young’s Hill, the kind of ache which needs some time along moving water to calm. So in I went to the spillway in Chaffey’s beside the Old Mill. There’s a well-established track through the deep snow down to the end of the point. Apparently I’m not the only winter fisherman.

I tossed a lure into the moderate current while watching a large bird swim out past the little islands. It was the size of a Trumpeter swan, but dark in colour, and mercifully quiet. Ice cover is half-way out the 48 hour dock from the lock, so I tossed to the edge of the ice a couple of times. Thought I saw a flash behind the lure once, but it was likely a combination of sun and clouds. It seemed like a splake at the time, though.

I parked near Dorothy’s, decided against snowshoes to get to the water’s edge, and walked up the road under the railroad bridge instead. Vehicles have had a wicked time getting up that little hill lately, to judge by the tracks. One car took out some sumacs when it went between the driveway and the turn, and the whole hill was pock-marked with holes created by spinning wheels. Glad I walked.

A visit to the Isthmus separating Indian and Clear Lakes seemed indicated, so I tried a few casts there and saw a pair of Trumpeters living around the bubbler on the boathouse just to the north of the Ferry. The open water from this bubbler would be a factor for anyone trying to get to the Island on the ice, so be warned.

The ice isn’t open all that far out either way. The navigation markers on Indian are iced in. While standing on the Ferry I could see a couple of vehicles (ATV-sized) and a few people out on Indian, obviously fishing splake.

It was a pleasant outing and I was able to return home in time for lunch. That’s freedom of a sort.

A few years ago Tom and Kate came up for a mid-February expedition to their beloved cottage, ostensibly to see if the roof was all right after the heavy snowfalls, but really because they were homesick for Scott Island.

We unloaded the snowmobiles near the Isthmus, drove them down the road to the ferry landing, then ducked out onto Clear Lake over a snowmobile trail which avoided the questionable ice near the current.  All went well until we hit the deep snow of the Island.  On eBay Tom had bought a new drive pulley for his pristine 1970 Skeeter, but he had expressed some worry about the rust on the polished steel where it met the belt.  I had assured him it would soon wear smooth with use.  What did I know, eh?

The first deep snowdrift left Tom and Kate straddling a smoking, roaring snowmobile which clearly wasn’t going anywhere.  A look under the hood showed a lot of fragments of belt, and big holes worn in the sides from the rusty drive pulley.  O.K., I guess they don’t polish themselves.

Determined to carry on, we left Bet and Kate with the crippled Skeeter and pressed on with the Alpine.  The biggest Skidoo is a brutal machine to control, but its one saving grace is that it can plough through deep snow.  It picked its way through the island snowdrifts without difficulty.  Trouble only came when we got off the thing and tried to snowshoe down the hill to the cottage.  In the deep, wet snow it was a cursory check of the property before exhaustion drove us back to the Alpine.

Out the trail we went to where we had left Bet and Kate.  Tom reversed the Skeeter out of the snowdrift, looked ruefully at his frayed drive belt, and gingerly set off in the lead on the return course. Halfway across the Clear Lake stretch, the Skeeter abruptly disappeared into a cloud of gray smoke and came to a halt in front of me.  The eyes of Tom and Kate grew wide as they gazed at the water oozing up around their stalled machine. I wasn’t going to stop the Alpine in a pool of slush, so I moved it and Bet to shore before I let off the throttle.

Then we walked back to the Skeeter.  Yep, the slush had gotten it all right.  The Alpine had had enough power to blast through, but the Skeeter’s wonky pulley had torn up the weakened drive belt when stressed.  Now the machine sat up to its running boards in slush.  The footing was too questionable to work around, so we retreated to Smiths Falls to recover and plan.

Sunday morning rose clear and very cold.  No problem with the footing on the ice this day, so Tom and I headed out with ropes, axes, and an ice spud, not to mention an auger and a ratchet winch.  On a whim I threw in a couple of 5” walnut boards I found in the shop, as well.

What followed was a four-hour session of chopping a heavy snowmobile out of six inches of ice.  Tom and I  emphatically do not recommend this activity.

We discovered that a large snowmobile encased in a block of ice is very heavy, too heavy to move even after we had chopped the ice free around it.

I drilled a hole, stuck the two walnut boards down it, then anchored the come-along to them to stretch the Skeeter enough to pry it forward when we lifted up with the axes and the ice spud.  This actually worked, though it was brutally hard work.  With two hundred yards to go to shore, we’d be worn out long before we got there.

So I took a hundred-foot 3/4″ yellow tow rope out of the Alpine and tied it to the front of the Skeeter, did a bowline around the trailer hitch on the Alpine, and headed for shore.

There’s quite a bit of spring in nylon rope, so it brought the straining Alpine to a halt with the Skeeter unmoved.  Next time I backed up beside the Skeeter and took a running start at the rope.  That worked.  I heard the loud “SPROING!” even over the roar of the engine, but the ice block and its snowmobile were ten feet closer to shore.  Now if we could get it moving again before it froze down…

I tried again, full throttle.  Another ten feet.  It became a matter of momentum:  the Alpine with me on it weighed about nine hundred pounds; the Skeeter with a full load of ice around it weighed anywhere from 1000 pounds to a ton.  How can you tell?  The rope did not snap and decapitate anybody and Tom kept it from tangling, but it was a long, rough tow as we bungee-corded the Skeeter to safety.

It took a month for all of the ice to melt out of the flooded running gear.  Then one sunny day in March I started the derelict up and loaded it onto its trailer.

Tom and Kate got their vintage Evinrude back, but somehow they had lost the urge to cross onto Scott Island with it.  Last I heard the Skeeter’s for sale.