Thursday, October 22, 2015

Frosty Fantasy

October 18th, 2015

Our first VERY hard frost (-7 C). Friends Owen and Janet arranged to show me an area they have explored, and which has been on my list for some time: The Carp Barrens portion of the Huntley Highlands.  Previously, this blog has featured travels through the South March Highlands, which are also part of the Carp Ridge, which stretches from the Ottawa River near Fitzroy Harbour to the north through to North Kanata to the south.

Before moving onwards to nature`s glories, there was a second reason for visiting Janet: Kombucha!

Introduced to me by friends Daniel and Martha in Guelph, Kombucha is a traditional Asian ``Bio-tea`` made by mixing a black (or green) tea with sugar and then adding a SCOBY (an acronym for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). The SCOBY may be seen at the top of my first home brew SCOBY below.  The yeast produce alcohol, and the bacteria further break the alcohol down into Acetic and other acids, and, to tickle the nose and palate, a moderate level of carbonation (bubbles!).

There are various claims of health benefits and warnings about toxicity from various research.  The most recent research on the PubMed site at the US National Institutes of Health is promising (though far from conclusive):

``Bio-tea showed a higher preventive effect against myocardial infarction when compared to tea, as was observed by the significant reduction in heart weight, and blood glucose and increase in plasma albumin levels. Bio-tea significantly decreased cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and VLDL while simultaneously increasing the levels of HDL. Similarly a decrease in leakage of cardiac markers from the myocardium was also observed. ``

2015 Jul;52(7):4491-8. doi: 10.1007/s13197-014-1492-6. Epub 2014 Aug 2.

Myocardial potency of Bio-tea against Isoproterenol induced myocardial damage in rats.

In case you don`t know the term ``myocardial infarction``, it refers to one of the more common forms of heart attack.

We left Janet`s, and the Kombucha, and proceeded to Thomas Dolan Parkway.  We parked beside a known trail, and walked in. The weather was cold, with variable cloudiness. We could see some flurries in the distance from our high vantage point on the granite-gneiss ridge, which is an outlier of the Canadian Shield.  There are, nearby, marble, sandstone and limestone formations which do affect the soil and water chemistry in spots on the ridge. The overnight burst of cold air caused flash freezing of many plants and their flowers, painting leaves with frosty artistry.  The two photos below illustrate this on the Leatherleaf, Chamaedaphne calyculata a heath plant found in boggy (acidic) conditions. This was a very large grouping of the plant.

The mid-fall colours are always best, especially so in a mixed geological natural area like the ridge, with marshes, bogs, and ponds, and their water plants, close to a mix of trees and other forest plants.  Our maples supply a lot of the colour...but many other plants add to it....

Bristly Sarsapirilla, Aralia hispida,  for example, adds the crimson-purple colours (above).

Red maples, Acer rubrum, usually the male trees, add all this red to the landscape.  The leaves were showering down, as the frost and breeze cut the leaves from their branches.

This Paper Birch, Betula papyrifera above, had the longest strips of peeling bark! and the maples in the background, provided the right contrast for a most artistic bit of nature.

Near the end of the walk, I noticed this bird impatiently watching us, as it flitted down to the Junipers to eat the berries.  From afar I dismissed it as "just another Cedar Waxwing". I did stick with it, and as it got closer I noticed these much more exquisite statements of bird fashion, the different call, and the larger size of the Bohemian Waxwing, Bombycilla garrulus, the northern relative of the Cedar Waxwing, which sometimes visits, in winter,  our southern Canadian berry-bearing shrubs. This is a very early sighting. In fact, this bird (and I could hear one other calling nearby) turned out to be the first Bohemian Waxwing seen in eastern Ontario this fall. Get a load of those colours and features! What a splendid bird.

Thank you Janet and Owen.