Colour in our lives

Whenever one of these rather large Woodpeckers lands close by, or flies over, their size is what usually surprises me. We have been graced with the presence of a male Pileated Woodpecker for the last few days. I’m hoping he is going to stay and have high hopes as I see a rather large new nest cavity being excavated in a fabulous large dead tree very close by. “What does Pileated mean?” I asked Mike, he’s my go-to Buddha for all questions;) “I dunno!” was the reply, so off to the dictionary. “Did you know?”. It means crested…makes sense, especially when you see him/ and or a her head on! In French, I think I like it better, Pic Grand, or Large Peak, or is that beak? I like that, in Spanish Pájaro carpintero, Carpenter bird:)

I can’t help but hear the Woody Woodpecker voice in my head whenever I see one of these guys! Listen hear if you are not familiar with it: Woody.

According to Wikipedia, the inspiration for the character came during the producer’s honeymoon with his wife, Grace, in California in 1941. A noisy Acorn Woodpecker outside their cabin kept the couple awake at night, and when a heavy rain started, they learned that the bird had bored holes in their cabin’s roof. As both Walter and Gracie told Dallas attorney Rod Phelps during a visit, Walter wanted to shoot the bird, but Gracie suggested that her husband make a cartoon about the bird, and thus Woody was born. Woody shares many characteristics in common with the Pileated Woodpecker in terms of both physical appearance as well as his characteristic laugh, which resembles the call of the pileated woodpecker…..That’s all Folks!

Check out their actual calls: here! These are non-migratory birds. They range all over North America from Central California to British Columbia, all across Canada and the Northern States to the East coast, down to Florida and into Eastern Texas.

Map is from Cornell Lab-All about birds, my go to ID and information site.

We had a pair here this Summer with one youngster, maybe this is him!

The yellow feathers around his beak are beautiful! Groot said that dagger he had on his face was impressive and he’d look from afar, but didn’t actually want to get very close thank you…smart cat:) This fellow seems to be very very fond of the suet block I put out. I make them, rendering pork fat in the slow cooker in the outside entrance (it can be quite odiferous!) then adding peanut butter and safflower/and or sunflower seeds. He says it is very tasty, along with the dozen or more Hairy’s and Downy Woodpeckers we have about, as well as our lady Red-Bellied and the mob of Blue Jays;)

We had a fabulous burst of sunshine this morning, welcome light in an otherwise gloomy week, tonight the snow is supposed to start and not stop until Sunday. I can’t complain, my thinned Mexican blood was expecting a January from hell, -30° Celsius, howling winds…but no…last few days have been above zero, practically unheard of here where the average temperature in January is -10°…a sign of our times? or are the weather Gods being generous and breaking us in slowly…we still have February! Ha…we’ll see!

Some new visitors to our feeders have been a flock of Common Redpolls, now these birds do Winter! About the size of a small finch their bright red poll and streaky red chest (males) make them a standout in the white snow.

These small birds can withstand temperatures to -65°, they tunnel into the snow to stay warm during the night. Tunnels may be more than a foot long and 4 inches under the insulating snow. They breed around the world in the lands that ring the Arctic Ocean and can eat 42% of their body mass a day! They would need it in those temperatures! and they are SMART! Animal behaviorists commonly test an animal’s intelligence by seeing if it can pull in a string to get at a hanging piece of food. Common Redpolls pass this test with no trouble. They are a delight to have around in such large numbers, I’ll miss them when they head North! They seem to interact quite amicably with the Goldfinches and Black-capped Chickadees as well.

It seems the Redpolls are wanderers like us! A few banding records have shown that some Common Redpolls are incredibly wide ranging. Among them, a bird banded in Michigan was recovered in Siberia; others in Alaska have been recovered in the eastern U.S., and a redpoll banded in Belgium was found 2 years later in China. Although I think I’ll stick to below the 49th parallel in Winter!

It hasn’t been much of a landscape photography time for me, the gray skies, they can be beautiful, but a certain melancholy sets in, must kick myself and get out to photograph something other than birds! This morning it was foggy, mists rising with the above zero temperatures. Last week the deer dashed across the lake on the ice and snow and some rather foolhardy snowmobilers as well, there are open spots now in front, like portholes, the deer walk around them, I stick close to the shore, if it breaks, I can hit bottom, not about to wander out there where it is deep! I’d like to continue exploring this amazing planet of ours:) We’ll be digging out tomorrow no doubt, the forecast is for up to 25cm, almost 10″ of snow, may it be light and fluffy:) (my South Westerly and Mexican friends are now rolling with laughter holding their bellies, shoveling? what’s that? I can hardly wait for the comments…)

Saludos y abrazos amigos, stay warm and watch those backs shoveling tomorrow my local friends!

The miracle of Mother Nature

It was a year that we needed a few miracles, some have happened, some perhaps will, but all around us Mother Nature performs these on a daily basis. These flowering bodies of lichen for example. These are the sporophytes, or reproductive bodies of the moss. -16° Celsius. no problem, how do they do that?….

From the newly flowered lichen popping up like small cauliflower heads to the bright orange Witches butter, yup….there aren’t that many mushrooms you can forage year-round, but this orange “witches butter” will pop out of softwood logs any day of the year. That includes -20° days or nights! While it may not taste like much, it is edible (think survival;) hahahahaha!). Tremella mesenterica (common names include yellow brain, golden jelly fungus, yellow trembler, and witches’ butter, it is a common jelly fungus in the family Tremellaceae of the Agaricomycotina, and wait, it comes in different colours! If that is not a freaking miracle what is;)

A short walk through the woods is a journey to another land. With the small amount of snow cover, different living things pop out of the once busy brown and gray foliage. Trees come to life with lichen and mushrooms, fungus with very odd names, and a plethora of life sometimes we don’t stop to see. We often fixate on the large, the landscape, the tall trees and looming cliffs, sometimes it is good to sit and look for the minute, or more:)

The small stream beside the road offers a marvel of sights. The icicles come and go, change shape, reconfigure themselves to the current temperature, snow and currents in an ever moving, changing world. We are in constant motion, our earth rotates at 1000 miles (1600 kilometers) per hour, our orbital speed around the sun is about 67,000 mph, good thing for gravity or we would be holding on for our lives;) We are in constant motion, nothing stays the same. As nostalgic as we can get as humans, looking forward if far more beneficial that looking back. So, Goodbye 2020, no looking back;) Hello 2021!

The last full moon of 2020

Feliz año neuvo amigos

Happy holidays to all!

To peace, love and health for all!

Por la paz, el amor y la salud para todos!

Pour la paix, l’amour et la santé pour tous!

Zu Frieden, Liebe und Gesundheit für alle:)

Peace on Earth

-16°celcius is damn cold….yeah, yeah, I am part Mexican now, gimme a break! hahahaha!

How does it always seem to change so quickly, a few nights of this…is now…

THIS!

I can walk on water, actually tried today around the dock, I have now performed a miracle, that’s enough for now! I’m now working on turning the water into wine, if I can keep it unfrozen! The good news is the fireplace insert is working like a charm, the insulation in the basement is keeping all those areas warm and we can stare at the thermostat in disbelief in the early mornings for giggles;) We have had some lovely donations of winter vests and jackets as well! We are READY for Winter!

Cats ARE not amused. The snow was bad enough but this!?!

You expect me to WALK in this?

I’m going to miss my lake reflections for awhile. Right now the snow has blown off most of the ice at this end, leaving trails and cracks as the Northern part of the lake is still open. Yesterday it was gurgling and humming as a strong wind, yup, on top of the -16°, was pushing the water under the ice, at one point it sounded like low sub sonics from helicopter blades, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh (acoustic dispersion Mike just told me! Think Blaster sound, Star Wars, my wonderful geek friends!)…weird enough for Rocket to head down to the dock, only to come racing back up on the handrail chased off by some weird lake monster groaning down there…he wanted in, “Thanks” he said, “none of this monster noise stuff for me! There is a fireplace waiting!” Groot agreed, shivering, in his luxurious fur coat…”Really” I said? After a bald eagle flew over I let him in as well, no use in tempting the eagle with a warm furry meal:)

The birds are always happy to see us! Peanuts for all, refill the feeders and suet, and even sit and try not to freeze and take a few pictures…true madness, it was SUNNY! A rare Ontario phenomenon! Ha! The telephoto gets very slow and stiff at these temperatures! I must have lost my mind, love photographing these amazing flying creatures, OK, huddled, perched cold, can you please move away from the feeder, creatures;)

Slowed the creek and waterfall right down! It is still running all along the road, the swamps are still draining into the lake, just at a much slower rate, and it’s not even Winter, December 21st yet! ha! Who made up these arbitrary dates like solstice anyway? According to Scientific American: “In ancient times, Dec. 25 was the date of the lavish Roman festival of Saturnalia, a sort of bacchanalian ( bac·cha·na·li·an/ˌbäkəˈnālēən,ˌbakəˈnālēən/ adjective characterized by or given to drunken revelry; riotously drunken)….(Oh yeah!) Thanksgiving. Saturnalia was celebrated around the time of the winter solstice. And in 275 A.D., the Roman Emperor Aurelian commemorated a feast day coinciding with the winter solstice: Die Natalis Invicti Solis (“The birthday of the Unconquered Sun”). The ancient sky watchers had no understanding of the sun’s migration; they thought this celestial machinery might break down someday, and the sun would continue southward, never to return. As such, the lowering of the sun was cause for fear and wonder.” ( I get that!) Doesn’t that beat a baby in the manger, frankincense and myrrh?…yup:) Speaking of Saturnalia, on December 21, Jupiter and Saturn will meet in a “great conjunction,” the closest they could be seen in the sky together for nearly 800 years. Not a Jesus star, just two planets hanging out, no social distancing, shame on them;) Hoping for some clear skies in the next few days to see this! I’ll try to take some shots, our view here from the cottage is too treed in so we’ll drive out on down the road a bit.

In the mean time, we’ll be keeping warm! Finding a sunny branch to hang out on;) Rocket says send more cats treats by the way, he thinks he might be able to take over the photo editing in the future….Stay safe amigos! We thank our lucky stars everyday.

“Where is the “eat and delete ” button?” Rocket asks….

♪♫♪ Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow ♫♪♫

For me, it is preferable to rain, but ask me again in April and I may have changed my mind! Ha! The rain today is currently pitter-pattering on the metal roof. A wonderful muffled silence comes across the land with that layer of snow, the first, a few days ago was heavy and wet, but what followed was a lovely fluffy layer that carpeted everything for a day or two. The sun came out in all it’s glory, the clouds sailed across the lake making beautiful reflections in the still morning air. Perfect Winter picture postcard…

The cats, well, were not amused at all. The look of horror on Groot’s face when he stepped into the white stuff was priceless, Rocket zoomed off through the snow and Gamora, part snow leopard went over to stalk her birds. Each morning we go to the basement crawlspace to check our mouse traps, 12 deer mice so far, they are awarded to the cats (dead) based on seniority, Rocket usually manages to steal someone’s, after they have lost interest or are distracted, but the other day he went off into the grass, and came back with his own…live one, that turned out to be amazing said the others, strangely, theirs didn’t move they said….sigh…hope that is the end of the mice boom, last few days have been very sad for the three as they wait for Mike to go into the basement, get all excited, then nothing….

I would turn the traveling Mewberries into the basement/crawlspace but I’m not sure if I have cleaned up all the rat and insect poison that I have found there, so safer not to let them wander down. Next year we can perhaps pull up all the plastic currently covering the rock we live on, that is on the ground and replace it before they get the run of that area! Another item on the list!

Our lovely snowplow man came with the first snow, he wanted a trial run as he has not plowed this road before! It was like a grader had gone over it! No more bumps. The 2nd light snow we told him not to bother and we did a test run out with the 5″ or so, not sure if we could make it up the first steep hill but it did not prove to be a problem for Hagrid, the truck, 4 wheel drive and 10,000 lbs. of truck helps as well;) Good to know these things! We spent a day last week shoveling out the back of the truck filled with salt and sand and filling barrels at strategic points (hills) along the kilometer road in case things ever get (when they get, what am I thinking!) icy.

We try to walk out and get the mail now that deer hunting season is over, there are still a few booms as ducks are being blown to bits somewhere but not near the road, we hope? Country life. It is pretty quiet our little corner of the lake with the other two cottages closed for the Winter. A Muskrat has been swimming by the dock. Rocket goes down to sniff where he climbs ashore, and a beaver has been busily crossing the lake to his lodge in the swampy area dragging reeds and small branches with him/her. The otter was sitting on a horizontally growing tree by the lake with a fish in hand and chirped his way across the lake as he swam away quickly, complaining of my presence no doubt in his/her private domain;) I had no idea they made a sound like that! It was nice to see them here still! The Mergansers are busy herding fish around the lake, the bald eagle has taken advantage, as well as the seagulls, as the Mergansers chase the small minnows up towards the surface, there is a smorgasbord for all!

The bird feeders are getting cleaned out quickly with the cold and snow, the greedy Blue Jays wait patiently for their peanuts each morning then scarf them down! The Red-Bellied Woodpecker seemed to go into hiding when it snowed, but reappeared after a few days, hiding in a nice nest hole I can imagine:) The goldfinches also made an appearance as the sun came out. The large family of Hairy Woodpeckers were bickering over the suet perches, the Downy’s sweep in when they are distracted for a crumb or two, as well as the White and Red Breasted Nuthatches.

I have been busy experimenting with suet, making it from scratch. Sunflower seeds, oats and corn thrown into a pot with melted peanut butter and pig fat….they say it is delicious! I am so pleased we have such a wonderful variety of bird life as it seemed so quiet when we first came! If you feed them, they will come! Yeah!

The red canoe had to be bailed/scraped out to avoid sinking! But what a sight after the gray days of November it all seems so clean and bright again! I had some practice with snow flakes and with a few wonderful hints from fellow photographers we’ll see what I can capture next snowfall:)

There truly is beauty everywhere, from the streets of Perth with the holiday décor, the shop windows and homes and out to the snow covered fields. I had Mike stop at a bridge so I could take a picture of the Tay River, flat calm, and the reflection of the red Rainbow Bridge was so lovely. I never seemed to notice these things when the horse barn consumed our days and nights, I loved the work we did, but I can take the time to explore just a little but more now, and if I don’t want to go out, I don’t have to! ha! That will be novel!

Stay safe, stay warm amigos.

Next project I think may have to be miniature donkeys, in the snow, with red ribbons and other surprises! Stay tuned!

…and now back to warm…and cold…who bribed the weather Gods last week?? hahaha!

Ok, it is November 9th and I really should not be able to wander around at dawn in my bathrobe and slippers down to the dock, no frost, no snow, not even a freezing night (THAT will change soon!) but hey, I’m taking it as a sign to get out and enjoy, sorry Mike, that means staining the telescope building, cleaning out the eavestroughs, now what else is on my warm weather list to do again? Funny, he just ran off screaming “NOOO!!!!” 😉

…and now November 15th-it is snowing/ freezing rain/ raining…all of the above…welcome to November;) Ha! We did get that shed stained! What a difference a week makes;)

Last day of hunting season today, glad our neighbour farmer is not shooting up the landscape this week. He scared the crap out of the cats firing off the ridge beside the house, about 250′ feet away from us, and drove off in a huff when we said we weren’t really comfortable with that, “He wasn’t going to shoot us!” he said…so, he can barely hear, I wonder what his eye sight is like? Rocket decided the dryer provided an armored vehicle just in case, and Gamora has stuck near the house all week, not wanting to venture where the gunshots roam…ah, country life. The good old boys probably are not happy we are here fulltime, before they had the run of the property to themselves with the cottages closed down, hey, life is all about change:) I don’t think the property owners would have been happy with them shooting in their backyard if they had been here either, last day today, halle-fucking-lujah, pardon my French;)

A beautiful family of Otters graced us for a few days in the bay before moving on. They would fish and cavort, the two siblings stayed close together as mother went off in her own direction at times! Lots of food here to go around! When they left a squadron of Mergansers moved in like Tie-fighters ( Star Wars fans will get this;) in formation, followed closely by the seagulls picking off little fish that got too close to the surface:)

So, as you can guess, no hiking this week, or walking out to get the mail. Stuck close to home and watched the birds. A beautiful Mrs. Northern Cardinal showed up to add some colour to the lovely Red-Bellied Woodpecker Mrs…where are the guys I want to know? Maybe just as well, these ladies are so polite!

A swarm of Hairy Woodpeckers have arrived much to the chagrin of the local male who is doing his best to keep order but he has not been successful;) Lots of racket from the maple as the newcomers barge in for seed and suet! The Downy family is far more reserved, there is enough for everyone they must think:) A family of Red Breasted Nuthatches that were quite quiet all Fall have also descended, the White Breasted guys are like “Whoa, dudes you move even faster than we do!” Great cat window TV;)

They have been very excited by the quantity of feather balls flying about. The Chickadees get quite bold, Gamora caught one, then let it go, i.e lost it, unharmed save for a a bit of down…ha! She is now a Goddess in the boys eyes! “How she do that?” she is not sharing her secrets to the louts she said;)

When Rocket isn’t racing both down, and up the railing to the stairs to the lake he has discovered a tiny hole under the deck, in which he climbed into…sigh…took two boards off this morning to get him out…we won’t be playing that game tomorrow;)…bad kitty! We should have named him Dennis the menace…;) Looks like we have a new Fall project, fixing all the very small cat squeezable holes to under the deck! He gleefully ran straight there this morning, and laughed, as we had covered up one hole with a large rock, he dashed under the stairs, where he had found a new one…

We’ve had a beautiful Bald Eagle doing flybys in the morning. I’m wondering when they all head South, is there a timetable? Are they WATCHING the weather Canada app? ha! The Great Blue Heron is still fishing in the swamp, and I heard the Kingfisher as well. I’m sure they know when to leave, maybe the squadron of Mergansers will be the telling tale:) In the meantime, I’ve fixed the canoe seat finally:) We have had some stunning mornings and a couple of moonrises on the lake early this week that were spectacular. I may have to name the old red canoe, radio flyer, a friend suggested, like the old wooden hand carts we played with as kids…could work, now to brush up on my fine painting skills, wait! I have a madly talented painting cousin! Maybe we can talk her into a visit next Summer:) it might look better than my wildly third grade handwriting /painting skills;) How does that look? hahahaha!

Maybe I should consider vinyl stick on letters;)…Mrs. Red Canoe is not the final name choice, we’re working on it;) la canoa roja sounds nicer:) I’ll leave you with another glassy look at the lake, my it is a stunning sight for early morning eyes, a long as it goes along with a steaming cup of dark roast coffee…saludos amigos, stay safe, wear your mask, change, it is a coming our dear South of the border friends, it is a coming!!

From warm to cold….

♪♫♪ Clouds in my coffee ♫♪♫

There will be upcoming days I will stare at this for strength and resilience if we are battered by bad weather and cold, which we will be. 13 years of being Mexican and avoiding truly Canadian North weather has turned me into a cold whimp, I’m not sure I will be taking off my fleecy long underwear anytime soon;) November is a month of climate extremes. Two nights ago the thermometer sat at -6° Celcius (21.2F) the frost covering the trees on the other side of the lake in a swampy spot behind the small island was beautiful. It’s hard to tell it is an island without paddling around it. Mike said he tried to rouse me earlier when it was even frostier, but I think I just mumbled go away, I’m warm;) FYI…the shame of my wretched canoe seat did finally spur me into fixing it;) ha!

I did get up, eventually, and with my coffee watched a flock of Common Mergansers arrive on the flat calm lake. It makes such a difference that wind at times, it can make it brutal when it’s howling, even if the thermometer isn’t below zero!

The leaves are almost all gone, a few stragglers hanging onto the trees here and there. Is it soil, or genetics that dictates how long those leaves hang on? Something to ponder:) In a matter of a week…almost all gone…

Each ensuing rain and wind storm steals a few more leaves. Now we see where the evergreens reside, and that there are hills and rock cuts, previously hidden from view by the trees in the woods. Somewhere in there a bear is entering hibernation. He/she was walking up the driveway towards me last week as I walked out the front door. I must have scared the poor creature half to death judging from the rate of speed it galloped down the driveway and up the hill behind the house, never even turning back to look at me. Cats had great fun sniffing the depressions it made in the driveway gravel as it spun and ran…Groot’s tail even got big;) Makes you realize you could NEVER outrun one;) Food for thought:)

Not sure if the cats are enjoying the temperature change either;) When it is windy they are like wild thoroughbreds on a racetrack, ripping about, pouncing on falling leaves, but when the raindrops start they make a beeline for the door, or any vehicle sound. Rocket is terrified of the neighbour’s 4 wheeler that drives around checking on the other two three season cottages. The bogeyman no doubt of his small cat world. I am wondering how they will react to the snow. There is a small sled in the basement/crawlspace that no doubt will come in handy for pulling cats around in the snow, or sending them shooshing down the driveway hill…ha! Fun times to come! For me anyway;)

We have a few new visitors as well. A beautiful female Red-Bellied Woodpecker showed up this week and seems to come for breakfast and dinner every day. She holds her own with the squadron of of Blue Jays that descend upon the flat feeder, even taking a peck at them, so she’s a tough one! Absolutely spectacular colour, sometimes it looks deep red, at other times a fluorescent orange. Fingers crossed she wants to spend the winter here! I made a suet feeder out of a piece of paper birch, drilling holes for suet and then smaller ones, I used sticks for small perches. It has been popular already!

The range of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker is slowly creeping Northward but they are not that common. The Juncos have shown up as well in the last week, will try to get a picture on a nice sunny day! These small ground pecking birds are a delight. Amazing how they are found all across North America. The Goldfinches are slowly losing their bright yellow colour, the drab olive maybe protects them in the Winter for camouflage (?) or the bright yellow is simply there to attract a lady friend;) and only a handful of Purple Finches remain…I have my fingers crossed a Cardinal may stumble across us. We have some pines nearby so maybe?

The Woodpeckers, Downy and Hairy are very busy stashing seeds this time of year, I keep telling them the feeders will be full, as well as homemade suet on the menu;) No sign of the Pileated but I have heard them from far. The remains of a small male downy tells me we have owls, the Barred for sure, but maybe something smaller nearby, not sure if a raccoon would get a sleeping bird (?) Hope to see the owls! I look for trees with guano to find perches but nothing yet. We’ve heard the Barred Owls all Summer, sometimes right outside our window in the large maples. We had another visitor early in the morning that attracted the cats attention.

Something tells me I will have to fence in our vegetable garden next Spring;) Right now they are welcome to what is left after a few hard frosts! In the mean time a few flowers seem to be holding their own against the weather. It always amazes me what can survive the frosts. The catmint is still in bloom! Must to the delight of our feline friends:) Time to cut some to dry. I think I may try to plant every variety I can find! It is hardy, and, hey, the deer don’t like it, yet;) When the temperature pops up a bit, even a few bugs appear. A wasp was crammed into the basement doorway trying to stay warm!

As the rain pours down today, the forcast for later in the week in sun and warmth…but that can change;) Weather person…Only job you get to keep when you are consistently wrong at it;) hahahahaha! The clouds and intermittent sun have given us some beautiful skies! Mike says this is an Orca eating a lamb…yup…ah Mother Nature:)

Did I mention we have a waterfall now as well? It is going to be pretty amazing come Spring thaw! The recent rain has filled the many swamps between us and the main road and the small cascade beside the cottage road is a lovely trickle that can be heard from quite far away:) Running water is magical!

We may have a few large puddles to drive out in come early Spring;) Oh well, not that we haven’t faced some bad roads in our past;) hahahaha! People remark about “How we are going to survive winter on this kilometer long gravel road?”…hahahaha…go to Baja for 13 years, there are not many roads that shock us, our current one feels like a wonderful super highway here! We still have to place our sand and salt barrels near the hills, they are ready to go, and with all honesty, if there is a storm coming, you prepare…and stay home once it hits! It is not like we do not get weather warnings here!

And how is there are still mushrooms? Bright orange ones! Pycnoporus cinnabarinus, also known as the cinnabar polypore, is a saprophytic, white-rot decomposer. Its fruit body is a bright orange shelf fungus. It is inedible. It produces cinnabarinic acid to protect itself from bacteria and it’s said is quite rare! Also very medicinal for several types of cancer! In the backyard…who knew? The purple striped ones I still don’t know what they are, and the oysters and wood ear mushrooms I brought in on branch were eaten, overnight, by? a raccoon? a deer? It maybe time for a wildlife camera!! Getting correct ID’s is always a challenge-I upload shots to inaturalist-it gives clues to ID’s, as well as others found near you which is helpful. Also some lovely groups on Facebook: for mushrooms and fungi: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ONTARIOMUSHROOMHUNTERSANDFORAGERS and Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Ontario.Reptile.and.Amphibian.Atlas/?multi_permalinks=10158753667065751

There is always someone out there that can help!

I hope to keep making discoveries of the weird and wonderful even through Winter, even if it just the hilarious cats! Cats with hats, cats on sleds, cats on their backs, yes, the harbinger of things to come….hahahaha…the fireplace insert is going and I think I might share the sofa with a cup of tea and Rocket! Saludos amigos!

Time for a nap

♫♪♫ Take me home, country road…♪♫♪

You can see so much, if you slow down and look:) Not just the dazzling array of colours, those yellows, oranges, rusts and reds, but the lingering greens, trees that are hanging on, not willing to give up their leaf cloaks just yet! Just look up! The colours against the blue sky today were mesmorizing!

The reds are slowing receding to burgundies and the rusts and yellows have started to take over the colour canopy. It is as if all the colours of an artists palette have come to life blowing in the breeze:)

I wasn’t prepared for all the flowers blooming! At the edges of the road the bright purple Asters are still in full swing. Bright yellow Clouded Sulphur butterflies were flitting about, had you not heard? Winter is coming! A few Mulleins were making a brave stand next to their shriveled and dead neighbours and a beautiful Queen Anne’s Lace bloom was thriving, with other flower buds about to open. The majority of them are now dried up brown seed heads so these glorious blooms were a welcome surprise! Some red berries I’ve yet to discover their name were also is different states of being, some had leaves on the plants, others were bare. Fascinating how Mother Nature works;)

Most of the mushrooms turned to goo after the frosts but we came across these beautiful little golden brown mushrooms growing on a dying hardwood tree, Flamelina Velutipes/Ennokitake Mushroom-Velvet Foot Mushroom, I think! There are ones that resemble this that are quite poisonous so we won’t eat these little guys, just watch them grow! They are only about 4″ tall in total!

I thought the frogs and bugs had gone into hiding as well but not quite! “She turned me into a Newt!…but I got better!” Mike said as he pointed out a tiny just over an inch long bright red-spotted newt, which did in fact turn out to be just that! ha! Don’t you love it when something resembles it’s name! Mike’s great astronomer eyes picked him out on a rock. We rescued a Woolly Bear caterpillar sauntering down the road, I didn’t want to see him squished like a small snake a few paces before so we moved it to the side:) A few Tussocks caterpillars have been seen wandering about the woods as well. So much life:)

I spent one sunny morning just watching our locals. The Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are quite cheeky! No fear! The Blue Jays hide and wait for me to leave to come in for the peanuts;) I hide in the shade to get them! The turkeys are safe, Thanksgiving is gone now, here in Canada anyway! I do love to photograph birds while it is sunny, the colours, especially with the leaves now creates such a beautiful backdrop. I keep trying to prepare myself for the gray days of November. One year I don’t think the sun shone the entire month…I can still shoot these glorious little birds, just higher ISO and shutter speeds! The Chickadees and Nuthatches always bring a smile to my face. The Goldfinches are back to their olive drab uniform of Winter, hardly recognizable from their bright yellow Summer feathers! I’m not sure if the Purple Finches stay or migrate, we’ll wait and see!

The traveling Mewberries have been having a blast in the leaves. Tearing about, chasing one another. Groot and Rocket stick close to us, crying if they can’t see us, Ms. Gamora on the other hand has a wild independent streak and we have discovered best to keep her leashed unless we want to go bush wacking after her! They enjoy their morning walks, especially if it’s windy, they are like a stable of thoroughbreds! 0_0…thoroughbred owners know what happens when it is windy and cool! ha!

We’ve had one quiet afternoon when the wind died down and we decided to go for a quick paddle before sunset. We didn’t get far, ran into our neighbour across from us, on the small island and introduced ourselves and chatted for quite a awhile. He knew many of the same people Mike had grown up with so it was an interesting conversation. He was closing up his cottage, taking the water in and said we might see him in the Winter. He’d walk down our road and cross over the lake once it froze! Hoping that is a ways off yet!

For now, I just want to soak in all this astounding colour and warmth on the days the sun is shining! A walk out to check the mail at the end of the Long Lake road is a real treasure of natures beauty. It keeps me grounded when the news of chaos and division is so great, all this works in some kind of harmony, why can’t we?

You may see me wandering down the road, humming a John Denver or James Taylor tune, wondering how beautiful this will look with snow, or ice, because in all reality, it is simply stunning no matter what the season, it’s just how we choose to look at it! Saludos amigos, stay safe, be kind and don’t forget to find that little bit of beauty in something, everyday!

Now where are those sunglasses? Those colours are blinding!

Where did September go? Suddenly we went from green to red and gold and yellows spattered about the forest. The mushrooms have mostly slunk back into the ground after a light frost early one morning grazed the grass tips. We have been busy in the basement layering rockwool boards against the cement and block walls. Stuffing batting into the rim joists and generally trying to make the house as airtight, draft less and warm as possible!

Why does Fall always seem to take me by surprise? In a normal year we’d be plotting our course South to Baja, wondering when the first snowflakes would fly, but today…we get the opportunity to sit and watch the season change to a golden hue. No thoughts of travel, or routes, State or Provincial parks or campgrounds. It has been nice in a way, not having that mad scramble South, ha! Ask me in February how I feel;)

Moving into a solid house that doesn’t have 4 wheels and wiggles when you walk has been a lovely change. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be itching to explore come Spring but having a place, to unpack all your childhood memories, photo books, treasures from a life lived all over has been very rewarding. Having a washing machine, and OMG, a dryer, hah, either I’ve turned simple or the ability to have these luxuries doesn’t escape me. They are luxuries many people simply take for granted. Having this amazing thing called a well and running water, clean running water, drinkable running water. Putting up the insulation I must have hit the power switch for the well in the basement on the beam above and that moment of terror when I turned on the faucet and nothing came out of the tap…weird, for a moment a second of panic before trying to rationalize why there was no water. Yet I have a billion gallons I’m sure in the lake in front of us! After living off grid, and being responsible for our own power, food at times and water brings a different set of priorities to your life that don’t change I think. As troubled times stretch across our world, and we watch families lose everything in a fire, or flood, or lose their loved ones to the virus rapidly moving across this earth it is necessary to take the time to savour every little thing. Smell, movement, bugs, the flash of a coloured feather on a new bird, the wonder of the sun rising through smoke that has traveled thousands of miles, and a moon that lights the lake, this beauty needs to be celebrated in a time of such ugliness and uncomfortable battles being fought between humans…

Smoke from the West coast fires drifts over Ontario

I don’t watch a lot of news, I take pictures, I explore, I try to focus on the goodness in our lives, the people, animals, and living things surrounding us. For everything else there is wine;) Ha! So much is out of our control, so much isn’t, we need to remember that and do what we can, perhaps not worry about what we can’t…maybe we should adopt another kitten:) Ha! Can barely keep up to the three wild cats!

We can hear the geese as they start to fly South. A few have landed in the bay, what great webbed feet they have to brake their splash landing! An occasional cry of a Loon breaks the quiet lake, and even the Whip-poor-wills have started South. The Barred owls call from here, to others across the lake. I’ll see one eventually! A Bald Eagle has been doing flybys, occasionally swooping and splashing down for a fish. We’ll have the company of the Woodpeckers, small and large and in between, the Bluejays and Finches, and hopefully others will show up at the feeders! Our baby racoons come to clean up the seeds but have turned quite nocturnal now, not venturing out in the light.

The colours I have been told this year are exceptionally bright. Temperatures, light, and water supply have an influence on the degree and the duration of fall color. Low temperatures above freezing will favor “anthocyanin” formation producing bright reds in maples. Autumn leaves turn fiery-red in an attempt to store up as much goodness as possible from leaves and soil before the winter. The poorer the quality of soil, the more effort a tree will put in to recovering nutrients from its leaves, and the redder they get. Isn’t mother nature astounding!

Are we at the peak? of colours, I’m not sure, many leaves have fallen in the last few days with rain and wind, a few, still green, are hanging on. It is early this year, but then, maybe Spring will come earlier as well;) ha! That will be wishful thinking in April:) For now, I simply am enjoying the progress into Fall. Cooler nights, not many bugs, lots of frogs! Beautiful green frogs! One jumped onto my hand as I was coiling the hose to put away. The gray treefrog can have green, brown or grey skin with large darker blotches on the back. We have a gray one around the corner by the BBQ:) They overwinter under leaf litter and snow cover. They are freeze tolerant, that is, they freeze solid over the winter and appear completely lifeless, but when they thaw out in spring they become active once again. Wow!!! That is pretty cool! Cryogenic frogs!

Fall means we are also at the last of the outdoor markets. In Crosby on Saturdays, last chance until Thanksgiving to get delicious potatoes, tomatoes and honey and those candles! Too pretty to burn! Support a local farmer!

I’m back off to outside now, the sun has come out, some experimenting with long exposures is needed and wow, that is just too pretty not to go take pictures of! Saludos amigos, stay safe, be kind, if not drink wine;) Actually, just go ahead and drink wine, kind or not! Ha! Support your local winery!

Where ARE my sunglasses! That is bright! Long Lake

There are fungus amongus;)

What springs from the ground never ceases to amaze me! With the rains the forest floor has come alive with the fruits of the mycelium. A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus. There are many amongus;) ha! I always liked that! Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus or fungus-like bacterial colony. They can spread for kilometres underground and usually tell you that it is a healthy forest.

I try and get some id’s from iNaturalist. I upload photos and they provide possible id’s and whether others have found the same nearby. It is certainly not foolproof but it gives you a start where you can read from there! The ONTARIO MUSHROOM HUNTERS AND FORAGERS on facebook also is a great guide to what can be, or not eaten! We’ve harvested our fair share of Morels over the years but now are curious about the many other edible ones. We are looking into inoculating several tree trunks that are down to grow chantrelles! Very exciting!

We have a whole new set of families down at the dock as well. They are facing eviction, sorry guys, but I want to use the canoe, but for a few days they can stay and scatter hopefully, arachnophobs avert your eyes! These ladies are quite large, about 3″ across and with all those kids…I sense a few Aragog nightmares coming on;) Maybe Hagrid could come by and collect them;)

I usually think of Fall as things winding down but life seems to be springing up wherever we look. The mosses are putting out new shoots of glorious green, brand new baby frogs leap out of the way of the cats and we are still keeping an eye on our snapping turtle nest, finger crossed, they will hatch and nothing has already feasted on them!

The last of the hummingbirds have headed South, the feeders are still up in case a straggler happens by but it has become quiet after the raucous roar of tiny wings protecting the feeders has ceased. I’m sure I’ll get used to this, I feel I should be preparing to head South, but instead, I will have to prepare for Winter. Wood has been cut, split ( thank goodness for rental splitters!) and the shed is filling for next year as well. The Loons are still chatting and yesterday, the first call of Canadian Geese heading South echoed across the still lake. Winter is coming, but not yet. I plan to thoroughly enjoy Fall, from the most tiny minuscule thing to that which is larger than life!

The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.
~Henry Miller~

Well hellooo there!!!

Hello baby newborn snake! I was expecting turtles!

Keep reading unless you suffer from Ophidiophobia-The word comes from the Greek words “ophis” (ὄφις), snake, and “phobia” (φοβία) meaning fear:) Other wise, read on! Who knew what inhabits your compost bin! Ours is constructed of 4 old pallets, filled with leaves last year/or this Spring from the previous owners. Mike was loading the compost into the wheelbarrow when this fellow, and three of his litter mates popped up in the wheel barrow along with their eggs attached, they were just hatching out! Oh MY! What a beauty! This is an Ontario Gray Rat snake, Pantherophis spiloides. We had a large specimen this Spring in the driveway, mama maybe? They can reach over 2.5 meters long, they get big, but look at this little guy! One of his litter mates was shaking his tail like a rattler and rearing up:) muy bravo, very brave/angry. I guess when you are this small you have to look out for yourself!

These are non-venomous snakes I might add:) It seems they favour hardwood forests near water…bingo! Right here!

The Gray Rat snake is a constrictor and feeds mostly on small mammals and birds. Since it spends some of its time in trees, it is an efficient predator of bird nests….no….look out little hummingbirds next year! During the breeding season, females will mate with multiple males and produce a clutch of eggs sired by different fathers. Females reach sexual maturity at 7–9 years of age and females typically only reproduce every two or three years and they can live for 25–30 years. Gray rat snakes breed in spring, the females laying their eggs, as many as 12 to 16, in rotting logs, under rocks and warm compost bins are a favourite! Multiple females will use the same nest sight as well. The hatchlings, which are 30 to 40 centimetres long ( 11-12 inches), emerge in late summer or early fall. Juveniles prefer a diet of frogs and lizards. In eastern Ontario, they can hibernate communally in rocky outcrops called hibernacula! We could have colonies here!

The species has also been designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

The size of an average mature Gray Rat snake home rang is approximately 18.5 ha, or 45 acres. Predators include Red-Tailed Hawks as well as Fishers and Raccoons. Juveniles fall prey to Crows and even Turkeys. Glad these eggs didn’t fall into the hands of our Raccoon family! Three more hatched today, we’d unearthed them yesterday and then put them back, covering them carefully, this morning all that was left were the egg shells!

Isn’t Mother Nature amazing! Still waiting for the turtle babies!

Saludos amigos!

Gone fishin’…..

Groot is the spotter!

♫♪♫ Gone fishin’ ♪♫♪ Nobody sings that better than Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby:) Yeah, I’m not that old but I ended with my grandparents 45’s! It’s been awhile since Groot has had the chance to catch his favourite meal. “Fish! Don’t cook it, master ruin it when he cooks it!” I swear he is half Gollum;) He had to wear his gifted lifejacket, thanks Joanne, on his first trip out into the lake for awhile. He wasn’t too sure about it but when he heard the fishing reel whirl, he was happy enough! He is a wonderful cat! He only goes out when it is calm, no waves he says, no splashing with the paddle…keep up the good work human and get me some dinner!

Great bass fishing, both small and large mouth here. We see the small fishing boats slowly putting around the edges of the lake, stopping, fishing, and moving on, you can hear the laughter and glee when one gets reeled in:) They are very tasty fried in butter:)

The bay out front has a beautiful sandy bottom on the far side. It is full of very small fish as well, minnows, rock bass and yellow perch. The Loon family has been busy stuffing baby Loon with fish. As MANY as he/she can eat! Constant movement of diving, delivering, eating and starting again. Baby is getting BIG!

The eagles seems to have moved on to new fishing, baby loon hunting grounds. They still perch on the big white pine across the lake, watching, but not every day all day. It was a stressful time for Ma and Pa Loon. Lot’s of wailing and carrying on anytime the Eagle did a flyby. Glad that has calmed down! The Osprey is back now fishing as well, I imagine the eagle was protective about it’s territory!

Baby Loon is doing a lot of wing stretching, practice dives and following his/her parents around:) Papa Loon gets protective, I can hear him wailing if a boat or kayak approaches too closely. I always keep my distance, great to have the telephoto, shooting from an unstable watercraft/canoe is a whole new experience! Señor Loon only got excited when Mike reeled in a big bass! “Mine!” I’m sure he was thinking! ha!

Just to sit dead still in the water and watch these birds behavior is such a treat. They are such stunning creatures! The colours in their feathers and the patterns are spectacular. The way the water droplets bead on their feathers after a dive…gorgeous!

I’m not sure when the youngster will attempt to fly. I haven’t seen anything like that yet. It still amazes me how much of a water runway they need to take flight. They always takeoff upwind, just like airplanes try to, at times needing up anywhere form 30 meters to a quarter of a mile to get airborne! That is a lot of flapping and paddling! We’ll see how long it takes and when Ma and Pa go, do they take junior? or is he on his own…we’ll see!

In the meantime, we’ll keep watching the sunrise, taking pictures and do a lot of “Gone fishin” like our Loon family! Be kind, wear a mask and stay safe! Saludos amigos! Hoping for baby snapping turtles this coming week according to my calendar!

Did I just BLINK and Summer is gone?

Ha! Mother Nature has thrown all kinds of wicked weather our way this week, torrential rain, thunder that had me, and Rocket jumping and lightning I was using as a night light it was so constant, but who turned off the heat? Hello??? hahahaha!

Inquiring minds want to know;) Ha! At least we got to try out the new fireplace insert last night…very nice, that warm tile to sit a cold bottom on is lovely, the cats concur…it will be a very popular place this winter I think, and yes, I am a total whimp, cold being 10­° celcius, or 50° flintstone scale…I am really going to be whiney this Winter!!!

With the cooler morning temperatures mists have been rising off the warmer water creating an otherworldly effects with the dance of light. Where the sun rises is steadily moving South, a reminder that the days are getting shorter…

August seems to me to be the month of weird extremes. A week or so ago it was sweltering, over 30° Celsius ( 86°F) with an oppressive humidity. I woke up sweating before even exerting myself;) Mind you, the cats seemed to enjoy that heat a bit;) Makes it hard to get motivated but we do:)

The thunder storms have dropped a significant amount of rain, no watering needed on the new perennials that have started to bloom like crazy. Mushrooms have been sprouting from every possible crevice, all over the lawn and poking up through piles of leaves and out of tree trunks. Stunning variety and colours!