What is it we really need to live?

Gray days seem to make it easier to write. The outside isn’t calling me quite as strongly as a beautiful sunshine filled one. Spring seems late this year but the small hepatica flowers tells me it is about to explode in a wave of freshly unrolled leaves and black flies! ha! Where is the face net that goes over my hat?

I’ve been exploring my youth, as I’ve said and writing, with the help of my daily diaries I kept for over a decade while we were sailing around the world, about our adventures and misadventures. We are just about to arrive in Tahiti and I stopped today to proof read the Galapagos, the Pacific crossing, the Marquesas and Tuamotu Islands. Something has been nagging at me all week and it just won’t leave me in peace. How much we have in our current world, and how little of it we need to survive and be happy.

To the many local people we met along our travels we must have seemed quite wealthy, sailboat equaled money to many but we had no home to go home to, that sailboat was our home. We had minimal conveniences, no television, just a radio. Most nights we had no lights other than a kerosene lantern to read by as our batteries were always in need of charging, or water, or replacing. The radio took us places, sometimes as far away as the West coast of Oregon to listen to a nightly music show, that was a treat when you were in rough anchorage in the Marquesas with the wind howling outside.

No devices, no phones, no computers, no GPS, no Google maps! HOW did we survive? Hahahahaha! We DID have typewriter (!) and pens, and paper and we wrote. To myself in the diary and to the many people we met along the way and kept in touch with. We did have a calculator! ha! We were happy. We met people who had little but everyone shared what they could. In Hanaiapa Bay on the island of Hiva’Oa we helped clear a field for planting and went hunting with a local farmer for wild pig and goat. We shared meals, laughs, gaffs in languages we didn’t understand, we played the guitar and ukelele and danced. No one had a phone at any meal, no one needed that badly to talk to anyone that wasn’t seated near them, we were independent of all of that “convenience”. Maybe it isn’t all that convenient after all?

My mother didn’t call her mother or father in California. She would write them, as we did. In an emergency, a telegram was sent, anything else would seem extravagant! Have we become a society of instant gratification? I think so. In doing this we have lost our tolerance to slow down to enjoy some of the finer things in life that take time. Everything must be faster, speedier, arrive more quickly. That equates good, slow seems to equate bad. You understand my ill at ease feeling now?

I might add we had no shower or bath, our running water was from a foot pump in the kitchen, only used for cooking and drinking, and no hot water as well. We bathed on deck with a bucket of sea water or if the opportunity arose and a squall came by we all had a fresh water shower! So yes, we were in the tropics and some folks shouldn’t try this at home in January!

Is it every generation looks back and wonders how the current generation would survive if it all went away? A family member once couldn’t figure out why they could not fill the gas tank of their car at the gas station when the power was out. What happens when there is huge solar coronal mass ejection? It will happen one day, not if, just when and we will kiss our satellite systems goodbye along with communications, navigation, banking, internet (ye gads! NO internet!).

The largest known solar flare took place on August 28, 1859. It was observed and recorded by Richard C. Carrington, and so it’s sometimes called the Carrington Event. The accompanying coronal mass ejection traveled to Earth in only 17 hours, rather than the usual three or four days. The largest recorded geomagnetic storm occurred. Aurorae, or northern lights, were seen in many parts of the world. Telegraph systems throughout Europe and North America failed.

I know who will survive all this, people who slow down. People who understand that there are so many things you don’t actually need to survive and be happy. Do you need a new phone every year? A new car? A huge closet full of new clothes because a magazine dictates what looks right and what doesn’t? Do you need your Siri or Netflix that transfix you in front of a screen day and night? Do you really need access to shopping 24 hours a day and get irritated when it doesn’t show up in 48 hours delivered by a guy earning a $1 a package to do so? Ok, take away my computer you haters! I can still write, and it might still be here in another hundred years. Will this digitally recorded work be? The photos? The words? I don’t think so. The technology will be obsolete…

I was raised without “marketing” other than what I saw in stores or on signs. I never knew I was supposed to “buy” this cereal because I saw it on TV or look a certain way because a women in a magazine did selling products you were supposed to apply to your face to be beautiful, then just wash off? Where was the sense in that? The ladies pictures in National Geographic seemed just fine to me, maybe topless sometimes, but I guess I was used to that! ha!

It’s not the lawyers we have to kill Mr. Shakespeare but the marketers! hahahahaha!

I think of all the mediums of music and film I have seen in the last 50 years than now languish in peoples garages and in boxes in storage, or in dumps and landfills. Imagine the pile of this stuff you have tossed out if it was all in one place, film, 16mm and 35 mm, records, cassette tapes, eight track tapes, Beta, VHS, CD’s, DVD’s, Bluerays. That’s just the pictures and music, where does it stop? It seems we are gluttons for the latest invention, supposed to be better, quicker (yup that again) finer, more “convenient” damn I hate that word.

I’ve had friends tell me their kids don’t want their stuff, or their grandparents stuff, they want NEW stuff. More marketing at work? Why did I treasure what once belonged to my family? I’m not sure, why would I throw it away or sell it if I needed a couch, or dinnerware, a rug, or a bookcase? Am I a pragmatist?

You know what really got us excited as kids. Food. Butter, jam, peanut butter, flour, things we could make cookies out of…and sharks. Well yes! Sharks were always exciting!

and wrecks to explore, tikis to find in the jungle and moray eels were always a cool find. I was more worried about them than sharks. A local man once told me they could hold you down with their incredibly strong jaws until you drowned, you stood a better chance if you were just bitten by a shark.

I wrote down every meal we were invited to and exactly what it was. From our first goat stew, then dog stew (yup! Yikes! Why ya running away Spot?) to fried breadfruit, poisson cru (ceviche made with coconut milk) all the fruit. We ate so many mangoes we developed rashes around our mouths from the urushiol in them! Did you know: mangoes are part of the Anacardiaceae, or sumac/cashew family, which produces a liquid called urushiol when the skin of the tree, or the fruit rind, is broken. Contact with urushiol can cause contact dermatitis! We still ate them, just more carefully, not shoving them in our mouths and letting the juicy juicy mango run everywhere but careful nibbles!

Was my childhood idyllic? No, it was often stressful, full of calamity, stupid ideas, like letting your kids swim with shark researchers while they are chumming for sharks in ten feet of water? OK, that was really cool. It was full of problem solving, it made you aware of how and why things worked. It made you think and question many things, often the so called “grown ups” decisions! ha! It made us think. Not book think, memorizing things for a good grade think but actual think. Does that make sense? Reasoning maybe is a better word.

My husband hates it when I reason…hahahahaha!

I just blame my upbringing on how things should make sense:) In the last few weeks I have wondered what have become of the three guys that sailed from Panama to Tahiti with us. We did look up to them, fought with them, were comforted by them. To my brother and me they WERE family! I have kept in contact with quite a few who graced our decks but the first three, well, maybe one day I’ll find them. Dave was in Hawaii, Tim was from Santa Monica and the last I heard of Lindsay he was working in the oil industry in Canada, his family were from Fergus, Ontario.

So, food and people, that is what is the most important. Not a clean house (add cats and dogs, it’s solves both those things! Really want a lot of hair around, add horses as well) not a new phone, or car, a new experience maybe! A shared meal, a glass of wine, or several;) ha!

Remember, we really have no one to impress except ourselves. There are no Jones to keep up with, and even if there were, why would you even care to? If your friends judge you solely by what you have, find new friends. We have a finite amount of time here on this gorgeous amazing planet with so many kind, interesting, caring people, and of course…the marketers. Avoid them, eat well, live long and prosper. I have to tackle the Tahiti diaries starting tomorrow which involves a tremendous amount of change and of course, lots more irresponsible adults…stay tuned!

Where did April go? Has time sped up?

I think we were so busy battling the remains of Winter we just never saw it slip by! Funny how that is. We go from freezing, snowing, howling winds to 22° Celsius, how IS that possible. The cats fought for window seats to smell the smell of Spring and feel the sunshine on their fur. I had to go to town, somehow back in January I forgot to register the truck for 2022. I’d heard our premier Doug Ford had called for refunds for all vehicle fees this year, I just didn’t ever see the fine print, light trucks and cars only, thanks for nothing Doug. A refund really can cheer a girl up…arse. Ha!

Better to be like a cat and simply enjoy every day, registered or not! Windows were open for the first time this morning-always a delectable moment for the felines! They get to go out on their leashes and escorted but this, is window time, salivating over little birdies they now can smell, watching bugs! Yes bugs! Ah, the simple pleasures in life are often the most enjoyable!

We go from snow storms, to tonight, a weather watch for thunder storms, we do need a good rinse still! The one thing about the less than stellar weather has been the down time to write, just not the blog! I had to sit and catch up today! The book is coming along. A month has gotten me as far as the Galapagos, and about to make the Pacific crossing…we have stopped running aground every day and now just are doing it weekly, or trying to run over other boats as neither our motor or generator ever seemed to function as we slowly learned the fine art of maintenance…battery water must be checked and refilled periodically, the engine overheats if the radiator is dry and two anchors keep one from colliding with rocks at times! It has me thinking about the wonderful crew we had over the years and what they are doing now. So far my searches have been futile for the first bunch but we’ll keep looking!

The writing has gone well, the picture and slide cleaning and restoration has been the most time consuming. They were stored where pipes broke in San Diego, in a century old barn and surrounded by herds of cats after being sent in from half way across the globe by mail, hand carried by cruise ship passengers we cornered and anyone we could cajole into saving us postage. It has been a wild ride the recollections, both good and bad but I am approaching everything with a sense of humor given the fact we did somehow manage to survive! Ha! Am I getting it all right? Not sure, these are a twelve year old recollections so far, although written down daily, they were from a unique child’s perspective. Stay tuned…it will one day be published! All I can say is good thing no one told my mother you could eat sea lions because we did eat about everything else out there swimming around, except penguins, there were no BBQed penguins! I promise!

Spring here is a combination of watching the ice melt and depart, at times quite quickly, to seeing the amazing return of reflections in the water to not being able to see the water at all for the snow flurries…ah, Spring in Canada! At least no plowing bills! February was brutal, beautiful, but brutal:)

We’ve lost our Winter visitors, no I didn’t bury anyone, the birds! The Northern Redpolls have left for their Arctic breeding grounds, the Blue Jays have become very quiet and the Red Winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles have invaded. The bruisers are back in town. Even the squirrels are intimidated!

I need to buy stock in a sunflower seed company…these guys can eat! Between the birds and the squirrels they are eating me out of house and home! They are on half rations, time to forage in the forest kids! Looks like we have baby red squirrels already. Mama is looking like Dolly Parton right now, she, the squirrel, not Dolly, was NOT impressed by our latest snow squall. We went to bed, it was nice, we woke up in the morning to 4″ of snow…not nice at all!

Just when it was going so nicely! ha! The wonderful thing was that by 6pm it had all melted and we were back to thinking, Spring really has arrived! The little resident porcupine has been out and sunning in it’s favorite tree and mother deer and baby have been keeping the compost well cleaned, she really loves the cantaloupe rinds! No more signs of the fisher marten on the wildlife camera but we have picked up a small mink down at the dock as well as several raccoons, one had no tail…I’ll be on the eye out for stumpy! Check out Mom and baby munching the cantaloupe here: Deer who love cantaloupe rinds!

Here is a quick one of stumpy and his buddy: Raccoon with no tail

As the ice was going the otter was taking full advantage of all the new holes to pop up in and the numerous icy shelves upon which to sit and devour the perch he had so handily caught! Those hands! He thoroughly enjoyed chomping on this Bluegill as he attempted on multiple occasions to swallow it whole before deciding it needed to be tenderized a bit first.

We even had some socializing this month! Un milagro! Mike’s cousin and wonderful family visiting from Germany got us off our tushes, away from the lake to do some sight seeing, I mean, eat pancakes, as well as enjoy several delicious meals together. We have not quite forgotten the art of talking to other people…in person!

We enjoyed a lovely pancake lunch at Wheelers Pancake House, explored a road creche, that is an experiment in building with reeds and rushes, suffering from a biblical flood at the moment, visited the horses and donkeys, started cooking a turkey, lost power in the howling winds (for almost 24 hours) and cooked it on a BBQ. All in one long run on sentence! ha! Also, if we do much canoe paddling in the early spring a dry suit might be a good idea;)

Grammar is a dirty word I am learning, after not having perhaps learned as much as I should of as a child. It seems I was prone to run on sentences, or maybe just the use of commas and periods wasn’t always necessary I thought as a child. I’ve spent the last three days rereading the 80 or so pages of my young life sailing around the globe, correcting the glaringly bad grammar, glossing past the less than perfect syntax, and thinking…this sounds like a twelve year old wrote it…sigh…it was written by a twelve year old, until we get as far as Tahiti, then it will be written by a thirteen year old! A teenager! It is simply being translated by myself right now!

I may be wishing for some more gloomy weather to batten down and tackle the next leg of the journey! Sunshine always screams “Please go outside and look for wildflowers and garter snakes eating little frogs!” Right?

So, I did that, went outside, I couldn’t stay in yesterday. I didn’t find any cool snakes eating frogs, but our first Hepatica wildflowers and Redshank, which is the coolest moss ever! The forest is tinged red with all the maple blossoms and we have seen our first mushrooms already as well! Now warmth, and rain…it is going to explode, the bug population anyway! I did get to chase a few butterflies and I could have sworn I saw a dragonfly…will go look again tomorrow! One more reason to put off vacuuming…again….I could build a spare cat out of the fur on the carpet alone!

So April, almost gone but oh so beautiful! From the last of the lake ice and otters perched eating their supper to rainbows and reflections. Time to sit and watch the world go by, it does indeed seem to be speeding up. Today I count my lucky stars and am thankful for friends and family, food on my table and several cats, one that just stole my shoe, what a rat! Bring it back! Love them all! Saludos amigos and Happy Spring!

Somedays you just feel prickly;)

Some days people can just bristle at everything;)

I am fascinated by these creatures. This youngster hung out on the same branch for about 36 hours, mostly basking in the sun with an occasional yawn and nod and gnaw on the branch. Who doesn’t love a rodent with spines, it would make a great superhero! More often than not in this area they end up with a bullet through them sadly. I think they are often misunderstood. Just because they are vegan is not an excuse to hate on them guys! Do they eat trees, yes, the bark, will they strip a forest clean, no. They eat leaves, herbs, twigs, and green plants such as clover. In the winter, it may eat bark as well. They are mostly nocturnal but I’ve seen them waddling about in the daylight as well, and they can move, we’re not talking cheetah speed here but I have seen them stride out at a good pace as I was trying to photograph one late in the day.

Baby Porcupine! Actually a  porcupette!

….and who could resist a baby? Adults can reach up tp 35 lbs. and no, they can’t throw their quills at people or animals when threatened. You have to come in contact with the porcupine quills to have them stick you. If only they could…Take that you farmer with a gun! I’ve been told they eat tires and outhouse seats looking for salt but so far we have had no gnawing porcupines in our driveway touting the benefits of rubber or wooden toilet seats.

Would they break into a cottage for your salt shaker? Not sure there but I will ask this fellow next time I see him if he is prone to illegal acts in the name of salt. If you see wood-handled tools or canoe paddles knawed on, it just might be a porcupine though.

Did you know a porcupine group is called a prickle? How apropos! Also, their quills are hollow which enable them to swim and float! I haven’t ever seen one taking a dip but I’m sure many a swamp has been crossed in that way!

We as humans, thinking somehow we have this higher intellect (not really appearing that way recently, anyway) forget sometimes that everything has it’s place in nature, including us weird bipedal mammals. When the wolves were almost killed off by farmers blaming them for their livestock losses (ye gads, or I’ve been told by the fearful many moons ago “They’ll take your children!” What rubbish!) raccoons and porcupines lost a natural enemy, we upset the balance of nature that we seem to be so very good at. Remember that next time you hate on something living, anything living, in this natural world with us. We must coexist if we are to survive….word for the day:) Saludos y abrazos amigos.

Spring, theoretically it arrived at 11:33 am….

Will it ever arrive I have been saying to myself the last few weeks. Maybe I was getting ahead of Mother Nature, but today, we could see the gravel all the way out the laneway. A stark contrast to a week ago when it felt we might be mired in Winter forever! And while I appreciate the beauty of that snow covered lane and the banks of clean white snow, well, I’m very over it;) ha! Come on Spring!

I decided it was the time to peer back through my old diaries I had kept from the age of 11, right into my 20’s. This is the time we spent sailing around the globe with mother, siblings and a wide and varied cast of marvelous, colorful crew. It’s the first time I have sat down and seriously put pen to paper so to speak, fingers to the keys, and it has taken it’s toll in a way I hadn’t expected. Today I gave myself the day off to relax, visit some lovely friends for lunch (isn’t that a treat we can do that now) and deliver a birthday coconut cream pie. It has been weirdly stressful reliving the angst and chaos as we started the sailing trip. We were not prepared in any way to start this trip, what my mother thought might be her skills at sailinh and navigating turned out to be woefully naïve. So many things forgotten, memories jogged by these very detailed writings of how an eleven year old saw the world, astonishing actually that we survived, and…turned out OK, at least one friend of our mother’s family thought so anyway…see we are OK! Ha! I won’t ask my sibling what he thinks…

My letters back to my grandmother must have been quite colorful, if I wrote them in the same way my diary was scripted. I learned she had tea, or maybe something a bit stronger, invited her lady friends over and read them aloud…if only I’d known…ha! Maybe better I only found out many decades later.

The photos also need going through, they are scattered in many books, some need to be tossed, the aroma of mildew and cat urine from the decades of my mother’s hoarding isn’t something I need to live with anymore. It would be nice to have some chronological order to them all, for me anyway. We have no kids, they will probably go to the dump when I am gone but for the time being, it is my life. But enough of the past, today was supposed to be my day off from that, seems I’ve been clenching my teeth reliving it, so far, just to Panama, so I’ll leave it there but I will keep you updated as I get along with the adventures.

The squirrels are out in full force, their snow tunnels are rapidly melting and it has been exciting for the Traveling Mewberries to stalk them, no casualties yet, and even an esteemed chipmunk has been seen, out from it’s long Winter’s sleep poking about in the grass! Gamora has come off the deck as the snow has receded, it is now fit for princess paws:) I may even be able to see the dock and canoe in the morning!

Walking is now a treat. No ice in which to slip and slide on, and no snowshoes needed! I check our mail every day, it’s a kilometer walk out and another back, sometimes I wander down the Long Lake Road for a few kilometers, watching what is emerging from the banks of snow. The tiny birds nests have me wondering just who they belonged to and the spent American Bittersweet husks a colorful reminder of what will grow back. Every Paper Birch along the road is a unique individual, like us.

I was sad to find out a younger barn friend from our past had unfriended us, and blocked us as we disagreed on the current events it seems, truck convoys, school closures and who knows what else. Perhaps this pandemic has made us all a bit more thin skinned than we might have been. I respect others opinions, ideology, religion or whatever groove it is that you choose to follow. It doesn’t mean I won’t add what I believe though, silence is not something that sits well with me;) It seems to be happening the world over, instead of agreeing to disagree, families are torn apart by ideologies that differ. Will humans ever be able to coexist peacefully? I’m not sure they can some days, when it becomes too dark a cloud, I try to remind myself of the amazing gracious people I have encountered in my life and I am always thankful for getting to share a bit of their life, or a place and a time because our lives are not infinite.

All this walking gives you too much time to think! Ha!

Better to sit and photograph the birds:) Things are starting to change! The Grackles and Red Winged Blackbirds have arrived and what the symphony they create in the morning! Squeaks and grunts and well, grackling, like raucous cymbals in the hands of a two year old, well, let’s call it bird jazz! Hahahahaha!

It’s a welcome noise, a sign the land is waking up, so far no ladies, but the gentleman birds know they’ll eventually show up, this is the dress rehearsal!

If we all stopped to smell the rich earthy odor that is the ground emerging from it’s cover of snow, we’d all be a bit better off most days. Slow down, listen more, less me, more us, this world would certainly be an even more spectacular place to live than it currently is. Saludos y abrazos amigos, I’ll post a picture of the canoe and dock when I can recognize it! For now, just the joyous reflection of the sky on the surface water as all that ice below slowly melts, maybe it is Spring after all:)

Only 16 days left until Spring…oh joy!

I am not making any predictions…So far in the week we have had temperatures ranging from -22° Celsius to a predicted plus 13°…snow, rain, freezing rain and yes, some sun. We don’t want another plowing bill like Februarys please! So, occasionally you have to laugh out loud. Never knew Maya was a comedian but those ears had us all rolling, she was the only one, with snow covered ears after a wild snow squall that dumped multiple inches in less than an hour…no donkeys with snow on them, or any of the others felt it was necessary to stick their heads out into the squall from the run in shed to see what was going on, but she’s a nosy mare, and there might, just might have been some carrots to dole out she figured;) This time of year we need laughs. I’ve had a beak full, nose full, snoot full, whatever, of Winter. We were deceived last year! Sunday will be a challenge, freezing rain warnings, we won’t be going anywhere, thankfully there is still sand and salt in our barrels if we have to venture out in some emergency…not likely, hopefully:) but then, hey, it’s supposed to snow more on top of it Monday….

Driving down to the visit the horses takes us across the Narrows Lock. There is always some open water in places and sometimes we get to see something special. This beautiful Mute swan for one. I stopped to take a picture of a Mallard pair that flew off, saw a piece of floating ice and was quite surprised when it moved! Holy cow, er, holy swan! This is a LARGE bird, they weigh up to 26 lbs…I’m thinking ginormous turkey in comparison:) The next week I was excited to see two, so had Mike stop the truck and pull over in the howling wind (it was snow squall Maya snow ears day) I could barely get the truck door open as the wind was blowing down the lake but these lovely birds had found some peace and quiet in the lee of the rock wall that supports the road…and they weren’t the same swan either! Trumpeter swans!

I didn’t stay long in the wind but maybe they’ll be here next week as well:) Always a beautiful drive and something new. The Snow Buntings were gathering in the almost clear corn fields feasting as well. Such amazing aerial acrobatics as their flock soars and dives, everyone in perfect precision:) The almost clear corn fields…that was last week. We’ve had some amazing days that made you smile and think…Spring may just arrive, ah Mother Natures cruel sense of humour;)

A bit of rain leveled the rather large pile of snow on the lake so much you could casually walk across it! I’m sure the deer were overjoyed after trudging through the drifts. Mom was out front, waited for baby to get near before picking up canter all the way to the other side. I went down to poke about, and yes, there were parts of the red canoe emerging and the most beautiful ice feathers had formed on the bare surface areas. They are a delicate structure of crystals of ice that build on the windward side of objects. Lots of air moisture helped out with temperatures, gasp…above freezing!

And such happy cats! The steps and stairs to the lake were bare and hallelujah! It was time to practice for the “Winter Catolympics!” Stair rail balancing beam is always a tricky act! The mounts and dismounts can be quite spectacular;)

The descending stairway to the lake can be a tricky event! Especially when one is interrupted by the current champion Rocket!

of course they made up and went back down for a good sniff under the mysterious recesses of the dock! Who knows what strange beats wander under there?!

They do keep us amused these three Traveling Mewberries:) Gamora trots down occasionally but usually races back up, her favourite ploy is to take off down the driveway with one of us following, we have learned, if we don’t run after her, she usually turns around and comes back, it took a few tries of following her all the way to our neighbours porch before we figured this out…who owns who here I ask?;)

No wonder I need to sit outside and watch/photograph the birds to catch my breath! Raising head strong young cats is a full time job;) Actually cleaning up after them is more like it;)

We have a few newcomers at the bird feeders. Pine Siskins showed up and even a few more Common Redpolls from the great White North! Such bright splashes of colour!

Our usual cast of characters have been excellent models! Even in the snow, which is always a challenge but so pretty when you get it right!

They have their routines, as we all seem to. Certain birds show up at the feeders at certain times. Everyone leaves when the Jays descend, or when the mafia (squirrels) show up:)

We certainly have a large flock of Goldfinches, they seem so cheerful. There is the occasional bicker with the Nuthatches but everyone seems to share and share alike. It’s nice to watch. We are living in troubled times. Now that the Freedom Convoy were routed out of Ottawa, that was satisfying, our world is experiencing a huge bully. Seems they like to get their way regardless of the cost, but at what point is the cost too much, that is the question we are asking ourselves. I only hope that if we plan of destroying one another, we leave some of this glorious planet to rebuild without us, we are the infestation sadly, once saw a great comic-Earth has a thermometer in her mouth and Saturn tells her “I’m afraid you have humans”….I’m not sure if we can, or will involve, but I can hope…Springs eternal…ha! Just like waiting for it! Hold your friends and loved ones close, tell them you love them. Our time here is but a blink in the eye of the universe, use it wisely:) Now can someone tell me where my view went? 16 days until Spring…Let’s hope I don’t see it like this anytime again soon…am I jinxing us? Saludos y abrazos amigos! I need to go pet donkeys tomorrow…it’s therapy!

February, where art thou oh thaw?

Well, it wasn’t much of a February thaw yet…we always get one, it’s natures way of gently reminding you Spring will eventually arrive, but she has a wicked sense of humour and then throws in a few -23° nights to keep you on your toes. Cats didn’t last long outside this morning. While I filled the bird feeders they wandered about for a few minutes before deciding the front of the fireplace was where they really wanted to be;)…smart cookies:) Yesterdays brief snow squalls were enough to remind them about that cold white stuff!

That’s two doozy mornings in a row;) Yesterday we had snow squalls and high winds but warm temperatures, now today sunny and “freeze your ass off” temperatures…we did have a very very brief thaw…ha! Just enough for some nice ice patches, I’m laughing with you mother nature…not;) Gamora had the good sense yesterday morning to poke her head out the door 6″…then abruptly turn around and run back inside…the girl has smarts! The boys…still searching for the elusive brain cell;)

“What snow Groot?” we are beginning to think Rocket lacks any form of sensors in his body;) he IS a mutant!

But , hey, we’re halfway through the month and I couldn’t wish nicer weather on the protesters in our neck of the woods:) How many of us are a bit ashamed to be Canadian right now…the majority. Why is it that there is a generation that can’t seem to grasp what a democracy is, or what is an elected government by the majority, and wah, fucking, wah, you don’t always get your way, stomp your little tantrum feet and go the f@ck home arses. 🙂 There…off my chest:)

I nearly ran into the Hydro truck coming down the laneway last we week. We don’t exactly have any passing lanes so it would have been ugly, I would have made them back up;) They were actually very kind as I was just running down the road for a few minutes and they waited for me to come back before heading in with this behemoth! I like that word-

“a huge or monstrous creature. “behemoths like the brontosaurus” or giant tractor with lift bucket and chains:)

Rocket was convinced the devils in orange wielding loud chainsaws and flying through the air in the bucket were cat demons designed to attack him for being so mean to his sister…he hid under the bed covers until they had finished their limb cleaning and moved on…”Whew!” he said ” I’ve evaded certain death again!” Never a dull moment around here;)

The cold temperatures have kept our deer family close by snacking on the leftover bird seed and cracked corn I leave out for them. You know they are hungry when you can walk out the door, and they just look at you from 15′ away, open the truck door, start the diesel, and drive away…and they don’t budge….:) The fawn drains the heated dog water bowl I keep out on the picnic table for the birds on a daily basis…nice yummy warm water!

Mother deer keeps an eye on baby but no longer stamps her feet at us. We have deep philosophical conversations about humanity today and how it relates to the world in general, they are excellent listeners;) The bribery of corn seems to have worked! It is fascinating watching these two interact and when they are done wander down the hill to other snack stands no doubt:)

Yesterdays snow squalls and large snowflakes were too good an opportunity to pass up at photographing birds and snow. I try to find a protected spot to try to sit quietly but the wind couldn’t make up it’s mind and the snow was going in every which way. I didn’t last more than 20 minutes but enjoyed every bit of it! It’s tricky, I keep a towel to cover the long lens from too much moisture and then watch the settings to try to capture the snow flakes. Too slow, 1/200th sec. and they are streaks like rain and the birds are often blurred, too fast and they disappear. I stuck with 1/400 sec at F6.3 ISO 400. The lack of light on cloudy days is a challenge as well. I didn’t stop to look at the shots too much other than to check for exposure with the snow covering me!

The squalls didn’t last, the sun came out, the flash freeze warning was appropriate as the the temperatures dropped to -6° in the period of an hour or so. The Blue jays came back to scavenge peanuts from the table. Greedy little guys, one stayed for an extended period of time trying to stuff two in his mouth, he could have flown back and forth several times in the time he spent wrangling the nuts!

I tend to make up little dialogues with these guys when I’m out shooting. Everyone of them is a comic! Just look at this Dark eyed Junco’s neck! ha! The Robin’s bum (YES! We have 5 Robins hanging about digging through the grass where the plow cleared the snow!) and I watched a Hairy Woodpecker trying to reach an itch for a good five minutes…it was not pretty;) ha!

We had a day last week of several inches of very light fluffy snow. It truly turns into a Winter Wonderland when that happens. The plow guys were right on it! Thank you All-Weather! I walked out the road and marveled at the layers on every branch. As much as I wish an end to Winter there are moments you just have to give in to it:)

I should make a catalog of animal tracks we see. The deer are easy to distinguish, squirrels as well. The fox prints I have come to know, as well as the coyotes on the road out as we walk to check the mail but we had a new one in the laneway last week and the cats puffed up their tails and growled and decided to head back to the house after a sniff…it looked like a large kitty track! I do know what those look like and this was a supersized version! cats are an inch across, this one was three inches across…time to invest in a wildlife camera I think to determine our mystery visitor!

The squirrel union is protesting…no large cats allowed they say! It’s enough work running away from the fox and those ginger cats! We’ll keep you posted! A large, very short tailed visitor was spotted crossing the lake last week:)

The wonderful thing of being up on a hill is the view, not just for spying animals! These interesting holes have opened up all along a path down the lake. They are called ice spider holes. Sounds like something I would make up right? “They are usually in bays, but they can be found anywhere on the lake. Having a central hole with irregular fingers radiating outward, they look like a wet area surrounded by snow. The irregular fingers serve as drainage channels through which water on the surface drains back into the hole. Perhaps they are created when warmer lake water is pushed upward through a crack in the ice and floods the lake surface. The initial flaw in the ice could be a small crack, an animal access point likely used by an otter, or even trapped air bubbles that weaken the ice in that spot. Regardless of how they form, spider holes are dangerous and should be avoided. They are sometimes formed by the weight of the snow actually pushing the ice down!”…google can be very helpful:) I won’t be walking out too close to examine them until another -20° night. The snow should be packed down from this weeks light rain and crisp enough to walk on top of. Thrashing through 2′ of snow is not on my itinerary. I may have to invest in some snow shoes!

Now that we are halfway through the month I hope we can start to see a few more inklings of Spring:) In the meantime, there are bird species to document, ebird lists to fill out and wondering when we will see some our snow birds return:) We had two days with a Common Redpoll before he disappeared, probably wasn’t cold enough here;) they ARE from the tundra after all, along with the Pine Grosbeaks. Two juvenile males were busy under one of the feeders, they are pokey birds, spending time looking for food on the ground. These two were like a pair of teenagers at an “all you can eat” buffet. They were not bothered by me getting a few feet from them to marvel at their intricate feather patterns.. Priceless.

So today is going to be an inside day…our high is going to be -17°. I’ll take a cue from the cats and maybe sit in front of the fire for a bit with them! Another day of this and we are back to another heatwave;) It might even rise above zero again! Ojalá mis amigos! Stay warm and let’s keep try to avoid the pitfalls of being ashamed of the Nationalist flag waving and wearing Canadians right now honking their horns because they have nothing better to do as the pandemic slowly wanes….as George Carlin once said “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups” Abrazos friends.

Like George Carlin said Vern “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups!”

A Real Canadian Winter…

It won’t be so bad we thought, we’re not working outside on a daily basis…what were we thinking? ha! We were treated with kid gloves last Winter, this one, we’re getting the feel, literally of a an old fashioned cold snowy Winter. So far we’ve hit -34° Celsius 4 times, in three weeks…damn that’s cold. Glad we invested this year in some solid winter boots! Such whimps…yes sir! It’s when those daytime highs don’t break -20° though…

The 21″ of snow we weren’t quite expecting:) We managed to shovel around the truck, a path to the bird feeders and eventually a cat race course around the house before All Weather and their very large tractor and blade got to our cottage road and created an escape path for us a few days after the snow! They had their hands full, the pickup and blade couldn’t make a dent in it they said.

The cats were quite appalled before their race track was created, Rocket had to be fetched out of several snow holes he found himself in after leaping into the drifts and off the porch railing…”Mom! I can’t see out!” ha! The cold has taken it’s toll too, a few minutes outside for Groot and Gamora is enough, Rocket seems to be lacking nerve sensors;) I keep him out a bit longer to wear off that excess energy! Mike has kept the woodstove going full tilt except for quick clean outs, everyone has enjoyed that;)

So here we are, three quarters of the way through January…how much longer does Winter go on for they ask? They have spent a great deal of time looking out the windows. We have had quite a few visitors as well, not the human variety but the lovely forest type:) Gamora running back and forth from window to window usually alerts me to something going on out there, she is a daytime girl while the other two loafs sleep. The local fox has been active at the compost pile, I try to separate the good bits for him/her, so fluffy, hard to tell! The cats smelled her in the alcove yesterday and Groot spent the morning growling at everything he came upon outside…his territory, no foxes he says!

She was stalking a black squirrel half heartedly, not much effort on the stalking bit but she may have filled up earlier! Last week Rocket saw her sunbathing on some rocks after she had wandered by in the morning and he gave chase…little sh*t…what was he thinking? He probably outweighs her by a few pounds but had my heart racing as I crashed through the bush down to the lake following him, following her, her legs are much longer, lost him by the neighbours…I got my exercise. Rocket looked quite pleased with himself chasing away the other red head, or he simply wanted to chat her up, no raccoons around to befriend:) Some people have dogs, I have an attack cat;) He’s pretty sure he could take down the fawn as well….

At least that is what he keeps telling me, he did run into them outside the other day as they approached the feeder and his neck grew like a giraffes…he wasn’t so sure then, I had no idea his neck could get that long! Ha! When we start hitting these horrible lows of -30’s° I don’t mind giving these two a bit of corn to keep them warm. After hunting season they are the only two regulars about, a mother and this years fawn. Those fluffy ears and long eyelashes are so beautiful! They were pretty hungry, the bolder they are, the more their stomachs are growling, they would stand their ground this week, or only move off 30 feet if we went out, even when we started the truck so the corn is there for them!

The energy they use just getting through the deep snow would be significant. I see baby jumped across the lake, couldn’t walk, you could see their prints coming from the other side. Now THAT is work!

The best CTV ( Cat TV) is simply looking out the sliding glass door. I always leave an offering to the squirrel gods there;) It’s been frozen shut most of the week but I managed to get it open yesterday with liberal application of the hair dryer on full…ah, Canada:) Hair dryers should come with defrost times printed on the box!

♫♪♫ I want my CTV! ♪♫♪

I swear this gang of black squirrels are the local mafia, there are about nine of them, shaking down chipmunks and red squirrels for seed. Terrorizing the chickadees, this morning they took the threat to a new level and pushed my blue pitcher off the outside picnic table, breaking it, “Fill it up or else lady!”…I get the hint! I did feel bad in that snow storm for them, they all reappeared the next morning looking as confused as the cats as why they couldn’t just march across the snow!

We’ve kept the feeders full, especially in the cold, it is amazing how the level of consumption is correlated with the cold! Feeders I fill every few days, or once a week are being emptied during the daylight hours. We have our cast of regulars, and some newbies showed up a few days ago-Pine Grosbeaks- we are on the southern tip of their range! Such beautiful delicate colours!

I’ve tried to keep the woodpeckers in the fashion to which they have become accustomed, homemade suet in several feeders:) They are by far the crankiest birds right now. I see a lot of territorial displays between both male and females, maybe last years kids are being told to get a job and move out!

Mrs. Red-Bellied has been quite scarce since the record lows hit, still no sign of the Mr. Maybe he will appear later in the Spring perhaps he’s a long distance Woodpecker, flying the trade routes;) The Pileated has made a few brief appearances but not like last year, I think that one was a juvenile male making it alone in the wide wide world with the help of the suet feeder!

Mr. Pileated Woodpecker

Then there are the bazillion Goldfinches, I swear it’s true, I gave up counting yesterday….Between them and the Black Capped Chickadees they rule here in sheer numbers! They are very co-operative models but it’s been so cold, after about 15 minutes I’m ready to head back inside! They have been pretty puffed up as well! They truly have great down coats, I may need an upgrade next year…if we’re here;) I’ve heard more Baja rumblings as Mike has battled keeping the stove going, kind of like A Christmas Story’s father battling the furnace in the basement, the new level and the configuration of swear words and obscenities in multiple languages has been astonishing (The old man fights a never-ending battle with the malfunctioning furnace in the Parker home. His frustrations cause him to swear quite often, including one profanity-laden rant (heard as gibberish) that the adult Ralphie says “is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.) some of you will know what I mean;) I want to cover the cat’s ears at times;)

After the black squirrel mafia tipped my pretty blue pitcher off the table and smashing it into many pieces in a fit of rage for it being empty, I got the hint, keeping a different one full now, and I have invested a whole $2 in some newly acquired heart mugs and dishes to spice up our January/February season! Does it keep me out of trouble? Mostly;)

“Come here often?”…and other awkward interspecies questions…😉
“Ya know Verne, she puts on a pretty good spread for a human!”
“Try a dried mealworm dear! They are delicious!”

It’s nice when they all get along, sometimes though three IS a crowd;)

“Three can be a crowd!”

Between these guys, a few days helping at the barn (that kind of cold calls for help! Remembering frozen water buckets that soak you when you try to bash the ice out? Ha!) and shoveling it has been a mostly inside kind of time. Another good dump of snow and the canoe and bench will disappear altogether! Let’s hope we don’t get that. One record snow fall in a season is sufficient thank you! Not to mention those temperatures….Just not something you want to see on the thermometer every morning:)

I am beginning to believe Weather Canada’s “extreme cold” warnings! In the meantime, we have cats to amuse us, food to eat, wine to drink…good company all the way round and we’ll wait with some patience, ok, impatiently for the cold to break when we can go outside and not think “this sucks”….:) and hopefully no more -50,000° weather as a friend put…it was a perfect way to describe how I felt! And just one last thing, bacteria farts…it’s a thing…before the snow covered up the lake there were large white bubbles in the ice everywhere. They are created in lakes and ponds when water-dwelling bacteria feed on decaying organic matter and expel methane gas. When the water freezes, the bubbles are suspended in the ice. Methane Bubbles! Bacteria farts! Need to work on a 3D version of this, it looks flat here but looking through the many inches of ice are so many different layers of bubbles! Very cool!

I’ve had a lot of time to google things;) Not just any farts;) Stay warm my friends! Saludos y abrazos!

Way back when we could SEE the little red canoe! 10 days ago…..

Almost time to bid 2021 Goodbye!

I have to admit, even -16° can’t stop me with this kind of colour! I missed the peak by the time my brain got revving up and I donned several layers of clothing over my pyjamas and the winter boots hats and gloves….absolutely magical:) The shiny ice was reflecting the pinks, like a psychedelic cotton candy dream;) ha!…the otters looked like they had a wild drunken otter party on the dock, footprints, er, otterprints and snow pushed all about and rolled in…guys really! What about my pristine snow shots! C’mon! And when I came back to the house this was my greeter…he doesn’t ever look pleased when I go out alone…not that he ever gets to come with me this early but I sense disapproval here! ha!

I do not approve! Come inside immediately and bribe me with treats!

As we watch December slip away, Omicron is starting to make headway into our little part of the world. Numbers as high as they have ever been, friends and their family in contact with ones who are sick, then worried and not wanting to pass it on, to anybody! Strange times we live in. I don’t think we can allow ourselves to live in fear, but we don’t have to be dumb asses about it either…limit your gatherings, wear a mask, get your booster, live long and prosper people! Our neighbouring Airbnb clients weren’t too worried this morning, an entire family was cavorting out on the ice, it was water 10 days ago. Was wondering if I was going to have to call 911 at any point, now they…are being dumb asses…..;) Don’t be a dumb ass;)

The reason Rocket has his leash on…he’s a dumbass;) at least if he goes out on the ice I can reel him in like floppy fish if he falls through! These shots were 10 days ago…lots of open water, and some ice on our shallow bay. He changed his mind, then the ice cracked and he’s sure it’s a cthulhu cat killer out there groaning;)

He might be a dumb ass but hey, would you want to face a groaning ice demon wearing a snazzy plaid suit…I thought not;) It was breakfast time anyway:)

We have continued our yoyo weather pattern, from -16° to well above freezing, from snow to freezing rain…just lovely…not;) We’ve salt and sanded the icy spots on the hills but you aren’t going to go tearing around the corners at any speed, anytime soon;) It’s a wee bit slippy out there, love my new strap ons, ha! Rubber boot bottoms with spikes, get your mind out of the gutter! Makes for some carefree walking on otherwise treacherous roads! They said Winter would be fun…the jury is still out!

I have had some fun with my sole martini glass and Bond, Blue Jay Bond. He is quite co-operative, very handsome, I think we have the next Bond for the films;) The Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Mrs, only, has been around a fair bit as well Mr. Pileated. Always impressive seeing him:) and we have had flocks of beautiful American Goldfinches! I posted a picture of them on one of our wonderful Brome Bird Feeders that I had won in a contest a few years ago, and a wonderful person from Brome sent me one for free! It is a beautiful feeder! If you are looking for bird feeders I really recommend them, they are well built, they stand behind their products and are wonderful to work with, check out their great bird photography contests as well! We packed them around for four years in the 5th wheel and the only mishap was when I left my favourite one at a New Mexico State Park! I called them and they said they would use it in their bird feeder area! It lives on!

We have had our usual cast of characters at the feeders. No sign of any Redpolls yet. I did wake up one morning squinting out the window, what are all those white heads? Three Bald eagles were on the edge of the ice, two adults and a juvenile. When I slipped out to take a picture two flew away but one stayed and finished eating it’s breakfast. Always amazing to see these huge birds. We had a quiet morning a few days ago, looked up and saw why, a Sharp Shinned Hawk was waiting for the buffet to open;) Not a squirrel to be seen;)

The Pileated Woodpecker has put in a few appearances. Too bad they don’t eat squirrels;) Am I mean? They are porculas of their weird rat like race. They have become quite large! It has been my mandate to put them all on a diet this coming year. Rerigging bird feeders and creating areas they can not access…mwahahahahaha! Now they can clean up everything they have tossed about! Clean up your room!

We caught glimpse of the fox the other evening. Gamora the cat, was racing from window to window, very excited, tail very big, and there was the beautiful fluffy tailed fox when I turned on the outside lights helping itself to the remnants of the chicken carcass I put in the compost. Nothing wasted here! It was great CAT TV. The porcupine is back as well, I haven’t seen him/her in person but the chewed on white pine branches lying on the gravel road are a good indication it has been up there snacking!

When your tail becomes a snow shelter!

…and there is that ever changing lake. From open water, to thin ice, to snow and back to ice, it never ceases to take my breath away:)

Every morning is a different view, well it was dumb asses this morning, hopefully they might think twice before they leave and stick to the shore, or they can check the water temperature for me;) Just after they got off the ice it went through a serious lake ice singing and groaning as the sun hit it…impressive audio!

I’ll leave you with a shot of the full moon rising last week. Damn it was cold, that wet, damp, cold cold;) The reflections were just too beautiful not to go out, even if I didn’t last too long!

Saludos and abrazos amigos, stay warm and remember…don’t be dumb asses;) See you next year…or maybe sooner;)

Riding the Ontario weather yoyo!

Never did get that last paddle in, had to pull the little red canoe out of the ice and flip it over on the dock for a nice wipe down! Whew, just in time! Where has half of December gone? Holy guacamole batman….! The muscrats have been busy under the floating dock, stuffing the cracks with weeds and grasses…making themselves a winter home. Rocket and Groot have had fun sniffing the entire dock until the lake ice started groaning a few days ago…”Them theres monsters out in that lake now!” says Rocket and he is not going near it…”Cat eaters for sure!” he says!

It does change the whole dynamic of the lake that ice. It grows, and recedes with the temperatures, rain and snow, or all of the above! Howling winds this week as well, no tornadoes like our Southern neighbours but it was a wild ride none the less. Takes care of the those weak and dead trees-one travels our road with the chainsaw! it feels like we’ve been riding a weather yoyo!

Ah, that first white fluffy snow…the cats all come to a skidding stop in the alcove…and look…that stuff again! Both Groot and Gamora, a cause of their wise age and experience let Rocket shoot out into the snow and gambol around while they watch….”Fool of a Took” I can hear the whispering under their breath! Ah, youth and energy…:) Rocket modeled his new coat, we didn’t tell him it was a hand-me-down from a D-O-G….can’t spoil the fun. He thought it was a bit uptown for his tough guy act but we know better…big soft boy:)

The snow was the perfect backdrop to my collection of fancy pants bird feeders and it gave it a wonderful Holiday feel:) The Jays are shameless! Anything for a peanut! The Chickadees are so much more polite…The Woodpeckers have their pecking order, no pun intended;) Hairys at the top, followed by the Downy woodpeckers and last but not least the Nuthatches swoop in for a bite…