Sunday 30 December 2007

Busy day on the home front!

Another snowy day today. While it wasn't fun going out in the blowing snow the cats did venture forth, shaking off a paw now and then. When they came in they wanted me to make them a fire.

Lots went on today. I did some school work in anticipation of my new course.

The cats helped me repot plants; the avocado plant was potbound. Cyril (my grandplant) has some new growth and buds and we repotted his little friend who has yet to be named.

Sady stole Oliver's tuna can treat. (Sady is on a special diet and is on hypoallergenic food) But we didn't want to interfere with the cat hierarchy. She growled at liver and he promptly removed himself to the kitchen carpet and away from the bowl.

The cats checked out lots of birds and squirrels at the feeder.
They supervised (safely indoors) as I shovelled off their deck. (You don't own cats. They let you look after them!)

The turkey vultures came to check out the food under the deck (spillover from the bird feeders!).

A lone wolf came loping by around dusk.

Monday 24 December 2007

squirrels and raccoons

It appears to me that the battle with raccoons is only analogous to that of the squirrel debate. Our squirrels are quick learners, and have gotten into every bird feeder I have bought over the years. I have fashioned baffle, bought real baffles and still they get through around or under them. The Squirrel Be Gone II feeders gave the least resistance. They hung from the roof of that one and fed to their hearts content. I refuse to buy them anymore. With the Squirrel Be Gone I style: theoretically the weight of the squirrel brings a door to close over the food opening. They ate the perches and then the plastic to get into it. The little tree rats gnaw anything plastic and have destroyed many bird feeder perches.

We have read about various means to keep squirrels from our precious garden bulbs: put in chicken wire over the planting and under the soil, plant double in each hole, and so on.
I have given up my squirrel war. I now embrace God’s creatures. I have three bird feeders: finches, large birds (sunflower seeds) and one on the ground for the mourning doves with cracked corn. There is a squirrel feeder with peanuts and sunflower seeds.

I usually feed them all in the morning, and only enough so that they finish by dusk (when my little masked, rig-tailed friends come to visit). When is precious about the winter is that here in the north the raccoons are now hibernating. We haven’t seen one for a month or so. I keep the seeds outside in a metal can I inherited from my parent’s estate. Most of the time (spring and fall) I keep a big rock on it to keep the critters out. I learned that lesson last year as they gnawed off the bungie cords and dove into the large can. In the morning I found the can upended, with seeds EVERYWHERE.

I have taken the rock off of the seed can with the varmints asleep. The squirrels, while getting fat on food, do not yet have the strength of opposable thumbs necessary to pry off the lid. The mice find nooks and crannies and I found one in the bottom of the can once. It’s little friend did not survive the cold. I keep the lid on much more tightly these days.

We love feeding the birds and have accepted all the critters for the beauty of nature and the cycle of life that they embody. What we haven’t seen in our little paradise are groundhogs! I do not miss them navigating new dens in my garden. We learn to get along with all the wildlife. The turkey vulture I felt badly about. I haven’t seen it back. It has a job to do, though, keeping the road kill cleaned up. I wonder what it subsists on now?

Rain & Snow

It appears that the weather is quite changeable. From rain, and melting snow, a beautiful sunset, to freezing rain, to blowing snow in 24 hours. The ice is still quite thin with all the rain and above zero temperatures. In two days we go from this:

to this:
The sunsets are gorgeous.

Saturday 22 December 2007

shovelling the cottage roof

Anticipating rain or freezing rain on a roof that dates from 1962, covered in a layer of thigh-deep snow, I decided I had to get the snow off. This is a Muskoka ritual, methinks. The wind was beginning to pick up. It was pretty grey in the distance. The clouds from the west usually bring precipitation. It was a fresh smell in the air. Good to get out and do something useful.

Unfortunately, I really don't know the best way to do do a roof. know many hire themselves out, stronger men with little fear of heights. With an aging back, I tried the big shovel that would push it off the roof, but since there was a knee-deep layer of snow on top of 5 cm of solid ice, the tool was useless. I didn't have the strength. I had moved 4 m piles of dirt in the summer, but it had been a while since I had done such labour.

I had to go at it a layer at a time.
I managed to shovel it off on one side, making myself a soft landing pad in case it got too slippery or I lost my footing.

After an hour of work, I sought help. Hubby, with two wonky disks in his back was not a candidate.

How about the cat? She was happy to supervise, but not inclined to pick up a shovel. She checked out the balcony, making sure she could get up there. All was well, but she disappeared under the cottage to look for mice.

The blue jays and mourning doves, while quite content to eat the bird seed I put out on a daily basis, were too busy to help. "Not mine! Nothing to do with me!" they all chorused.

"I have to eat and keep up my figure." mourned the dove.

I was on my own. Two hours later, after special delivery of water, removing a layer of clothes, wearing only my Long Lake fleece I had given my dad two Christmases ago. Feeling the wind pick up, evaporating the sweat off my back, and feeling quite damp and cold, I quit. Most of it is done, but I konked out. After a hot bath, and a hot toddy, I felt much better. It was time for a silly Christmas movie, lounging in the easy chair, then I opened an early Christmas present: a beautifully wrapped box of Belgian chocolates and felt even better.

Wednesday 28 November 2007

fire in the sky

The sunset that followed the big blizzard (fire in the sky)

can be compared to the ice on the water.

Friday 23 November 2007

Slow Eddy

There was a snow squall. In a moment, the lake disappeared behind a wall of snow. We felt as insulated as the plants, happy, I am sure, with a blanket of snow to protect them from the cold.
The squirrels were absent but for one brave soul who was carefully clearing out the squirrel feeder from under its snow cover.

Brian thought that this little guy had been elected to go out and shovel.

“Who wants to go out and dig out the feeder?”

“Let’s send out slow Eddy!”, he heard them say. “He’ll go out and shovel the feeder for us!” The poor squirrel had to shake the snow off his face as he used his nose to smell for hidden peanuts. We have to feed the squirrels to keep them from worrying the bird feeders. It is a compromise with nature we are content to make.

This squirrel kept sniffing and looking for fresh, unfrozen seeds, raising his head to shake it off doggy-style, several times more. He sits in the small, brass dish - an upside down shell-shape. It was really a bird bath; a gift from my daughter one Mother’s Day. It serves as a great feeder. We give them peanuts, too. The squirrel is buried as the wind picks up and blows several centimeters of snow off of branches above.

We wonder if the new line of cloud across the horizon forecasts another blizzard. The squall passed in an hour. The snow broke out and warmed the house. It streamed in the windows. The house was cozy. The indoor plants basked in the warmth, the cat stretched in yoga-like fashion in the sunbeams. Life is good.

Hey there!

He eyes the two raven-feathered birds on the feeder. They seem aloof, cold and metal in their demeanour. Unconcerned, he looks them up and down, back and forth he looks at one then the other, until he choses the one that refused eye contact. He likes a challenge.

Delivering his line, smooth-talking jay that we know is: "So, you come here often?

Tired of the irksome one-line pick ups, she ignores him. He takes a couple of sunflower seeds in his gullet and flies off, undaunted.

The squirrel snickers on the other feeder.
She has heard all the lines before in her wild youth. Her back to the trio, hidden behind her bushy tail, she peeks back at them over her shoulders that shake in mirth. She has settled into a great relationship, glad to find a partner who respects her as the nicely groomed tree rat she has turned out to be. She is glad she doesn't need to talk to creeps like this anymore.

Wednesday 21 November 2007

A blanket of snow

I woke today to a blanket of snow. The blue jays fight madly over the last peanuts in the feeder. Mourning doves hover nearby in the trees, much like dead leaves they sit on branches mourning summer. Hopeful of a feed on the deck, they cluster waiting until the cat goes back into the house. Chickadees continue to feed.

The sound of dripping snow water punctuates the sounds of traffic, much louder without the forest's leaves blanketing its sound.

The mergansers are down in the lake, still fishing in colder and colder water. I wonder when they will head south?

Thursday 15 November 2007

Hunting Season

The guns fire in Muskoka. Once, at dusk, I heard 4 shots in a row. It breaks my heart and causes me to fear. Hunting season began a month ago. This month they are firing in earnest. I fear for my fellow creatures. Brian’s experience on the farm included that with firearms. The farm animals have to be protected. I can see the hunters in their bright orange jackets travelling by boat across the lake. Hunting, Brian tells me, is good on the railway tracks that run on the other side and parallel to our lake. The hunters travel in a small motor boat. Too small to bring back a carcass, I think. I wonder what motivates them as I really do not understand how they might find sport in this exercise. They do not hunt out of a necessity for food, not if they own or rent a property by a Muskoka lake. The run at about $400,000. Rentals can be $1000 per week.

The sound of the rifle, my husband says, is a crack. A shotgun, which they use for moose, is more of a boom. In my own way I try to analyse the noise as it separates me from the knowledge that the three shots I heard this morning means that one of the men has missed something and shot again. A letter to the editor of our paper suggested that since her father hunted she knew their motivation but had two thoughts for them: that their first shot be true so that the animal feels no pain, and that they cover up the evidence of their prey, dumped in the back of their pick-up trucks. The bleeding carcass, with the heads lolling in the back, make her feel sick.

Wednesday 14 November 2007

Tuesday 13 November 2007

Feeding Frenzy

After days of cloudy, rainy days the sun shines brightly. A breeze came up and the sunlight sparkles off the small waves; diamonds glinting in the sun. I fed the critters, the cat eyes me from inside. She is anxious to help! Yesterday she snuck up under the railing and sucker punched a blue jays. The startled bird, or the cat, knocked over the heavy metal bird feeder. I heard a big CLUNK. All the bird lost was its dignity and a few tail feathers.

The blue jays and squirrels fight for the peanuts. One bird will fly in, having waited semi-politely for the squirrel to take off, grab a peanut, then grab another, decide that that one is too small, large, old, young, the wrong colour or shape, and then finally taking its prize flies off to a nearby tree. If it is early in the feeding frenzy it eats the prize right away. You can hear them in the trees crunching the shell of the peanut. Later in the process they hide the peanut in a nook or cranny - to be recovered later.

The peculiar thing is that the squirrels, once the bird feeder is exhausted of peanuts, knows the Blue Jays trick and scurries all over the denuded canopy of trees looking for the food to recover it and bury it elsewhere. They chase each other around tree trunks not giving up a cm of territory. The squirrels bury the prize down below. Once someone wins the game, the squirrels, who can identify the smell of recently overturned soil, frantically dig up the treasure to eat or rebury it. Sometimes they discover my newly planted bulbs, but I digress.

Wednesday 7 November 2007


When I rose this morning, at 7:00 a.m., I ran to check outdoors for the snowfall, anticipating the beauty. I was disappointed that all I could see were the frozen, shrivelled leaves. Perverse, I know, but I love the changing wheel of the seasons. The sunrise was beautiful.

There is frost. The weather forecasters blew it. The "Lake Effect" rains were predicted to change to snow. Orillia was to have 5 - 15 cm of snow, once the temperature shifted in the afternoon. The weather front was to bring 5 - 10 cm to Muskoka. All we had was rain as it stayed at 3 degrees above zero. I rather anticipated the change in weather.

A cloudy, cold day. The thermometer registers just below zero. Today I had to dig ice, as well as spent seed hulls, out of the bird and squirrel feeders. I could hear the blue jays in the trees. They were cheering me on - or trying to rush me. It is a peaceful beginning to the day. I had my morning work out and then popped on a coat to do the chore. Not a chore, but a ritual. The squirrels, lower on the pecking order, dig the seeds out of the frozen chunk of water. The woodpecker -I never remember the difference between the downy or hairy - got scared when I opened the door to take the photo.

It flew to a tree in the background, where it quickly took off. The squirrels were chasing one another around and around that tree, perhaps singing Ring Around the Rosy, determined to keep the other away from the squirrel feeder.

The blue jays bravely land on the feeder, eating a peanut, then squirreling it away (excuse the pun) more in the nooks and crannies of tree trunks. Then the fun begins. It is similar to one of those party games where the first person opens a gift, then the next person can either open the gift or take someone else's gift. The critters all run around trying to find the hidden treasure. It is better than cartoons.

Monday 5 November 2007

November Rains

The winds howled today. They were nothing like the winds and rain in the Maritimes, but they are still blow and are colder now. There is a change in the wind direction. There is a chill in the air. The birds all feed a bit more frantically. The raccoon, stuffing its rotund body with delicate fingers that seem too small for its size, checks for leftovers. It doggy diggs in the hulls from the sunflower seeds. It haughtily sends to the small finch seed flying, knocking over the bird feeders in the process. While sitting on top of the squirrel feeder it must have become unbalanced and caused a huge commotion as it fell 20' over the side onto the ground below. We chose not to go outside and check for damage. It likely bounced.

The deck glistens with frost in the early morning. I feed the voracious squirrels to keep them off of the bird feeders. It seems to work, except the blue jays steal the peanuts before you can say hibernate.

This morning we heard two ducks fighting. Matrimonial Bliss that could use some counselling on issues. Brian could hear her telling him off,
"If you'd only let me get tickets on the early flight we'd be out of here by now. Oh No. You wanted to take the economy flight and here we are stuck in this sappy rain with only the low-lifes hanging around. Next year we leave early and go with the civilized folks, with the full meal service. I told you so. But you wouldn't listen. Now we're stuck with this lot, with nothing but dead pond weeds and no tourists left to feed us crap. I should have stayed with my mother."

Wednesday 31 October 2007

Sady trees a Fisher or Pine Marten

It seems there is a cat, who regularly walks her daddy every morning, who thinks she is a dog. Today she treed a fisher, some think it is a pine marten - perhaps she is part Wolverine. I thought cat owners needed to fear these wicked things, but our little kitty told it where to go!

I heard crittes rushing through the leaves. Sady bounced across the yard while a fisher balanced in the tree. With cute, round teddy bear ears it looked down wondering what went after it. Crawling higher up the tree it stayed there an hour.I called Brian to get Sady. Down below she was fighting him.She'd treed him and it was her critter.He watched as Sady bit Brian's thumb in his attempt to pick her up and take her indoors. Finally, I suggested Brian try to walk her into the basement.
Eventually it came down carefully. Sady won the battle.