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.