Saturday, 19 December 2015

Two Days To Go

This morning, with only two days to go before the North Pole reaches it's furthest tilt from the sun, we finally got our first snow fall. For me, it was a welcome sight. This pristine blanket brightens an otherwise dark and dismal landscape. It completes our familiar seasonal rhythm and as the poem, Desiderata reminds us, "... no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should".

A male cardinal strikes a greeting card pose.


A gold finch looks plump and prepared for the cold months ahead,



I'm experimenting with a couple of new beehive winterizing strategies. Firstly, there is the addition of slatted racks above the insulated bottom boards. These will elevate the honeycombs from the cold and drafty bottom entrances. And secondly, I've added small, three sided boxes which fit over the top entrances to deflect wind from the interiors. Luckily the hives are only a short walk from the house as I'll need to monitor all entrances to make sure they are frost/snow free and allowing carbon dioxide and moisture to escape. Anyway, I like to visit the hives regularly, press my ear over each entrance and listen for that reassuring hum from within -- my own personal 'Message From The Queen'.

Each of these boxes house a honey bee queen born in 2015.


These two dwellings enclose honey bee queens born in 2014.



Thursday, 10 December 2015

Home Invasion

I've had a home invasion. Thankfully, not by the two legged sort that would involve the police department but the four legged, rodent variety.

So far this season, I've trapped twenty-three mice and one mole in areas of the house not considered my living quarters. But in the past couple of weeks I've heard loud gnawing sounds coming from between the walls. Then I heard thumps and the sound of running feet -- and not tiny feet either. Rats have invaded the  house in the past and I suspected this was again the case. Yesterday I came face to face with the culprit in an upstairs room. It was one of the red squirrels.

Two red squirrels reside on the grounds around my house. One has a short tail and never ventures north of the house. The other one has his original long tail and never goes south of the house. They are both territorial and stay out of each other's established domain. The one that is entering my house is the South-sider with the short tail. It must learn that the house is my domain. Here it is not welcome. Steps will be taken, etc. .... (scowl, hands on hips).

Today I received a cute little rodent that is very welcome in my home. It was a gift from my sister who is an expert sewer and quilter. She took one look at the crude eyeglasses case I had made out of an old sock and presented me with one of her much more 'up market' creations. I love it!


My spiffy new eyeglasses case which my sister made.


It replaces this one that I had made from the toe of an old sock.


Goldfinches frolic on this December 10th record high of 11.2 degrees Celsius.


My winter gardening -- mung bean sprouts. Very tasty!


Ellie Mae stakes her claim to the centre of the couch.



Wednesday, 2 December 2015

December Notes

The season for a retired person, such as myself, to enjoy indoor hobbies is definitely here. Outside work is on hold until Spring and indoor entertainment can enjoy full blown indulgence. Tomorrow my friend Willis (the family's 1929 Willis upright piano) should be playing a sweeter tune after it's session with Tom the piano tuner. Reading, bird watching, long telephone chats with friends and dabbling with water colours while listening to podcasts are at hand. And of course there is the delight of touring favourite blogs from around the world. Trips without leaving the farm, so to speak.

On the practical side, now that summer chores are suspended, I know that I've promised myself to tackle the boring task of de-cluttering shelves, tables, cupboards and closets. This battle against my inter pack rat is always a challenge. Too often 'stuff' accumulated over decades only gets shifted from pile A to pile B. Nostalgia and sentimentality are the enemy of my good intentions and items long past their employment (like my reference books, largely ignored for the more convenient resource of the internet) get to live and collect dust for another day/week/month/year/decade. But, it's all too daunting for now. Time to gaze out the window and see what's more interesting outside!


The plumes of my Siberian bamboo indicate wind direction.


A northern cardinal snacking on a wild cucumber vine seed.


Chubs, the cotton tail rabbit hopping over my garden's frosty lawn.


Thomas, a local tomcat, sneaking into my garage to check on the handout dish.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Reddy Is Prepared

This area has had plenty of frost but we have yet to receive a covering of snow. I'm ready for it now. In fact, I'm looking forward to it. I've replaced my car's summer tires with winter ones and made sure my snow blower is ready for action. I've even purchased a new set of footwear ice creepers to replace the ones I wore out last season.

Also winter prepared is my very cute red squirrel neighbour, Reddy. He's plump beneath his thick fur coat and he has been busy.

Between the house and the honey bee yard is a stand of evergreen trees, planted by my parents about seventy years ago. I've noticed the little squirrel hanging out on the ground there recently. Now I see what it was up to. Spruce cones -- piles of them now placed neatly in little caches for seed meals needed in the frigid months ahead.

Spruce cones stuff an old log. Reddy has been busy!


Dozens of these cone middens lie scattered about the area.


These soft maples are considered weed trees but Reddy loves their key seeds.


Apples are peeled to help them dry faster before being stored away.


What other squirrely grocery treasures lay stashed inside that box?

Friday, 6 November 2015

November Picnic

Although it's the time of year I usually install my car's snow tires, the past few days have been quite balmy. In fact, yesterday the temperature was 21 degrees Celsius.

My honeybees were flying about looking for something in bloom. They searched in vain. Many frigid months lie ahead so extending their pantry reserves would be ideal. The hives are now wearing their snow suits and the top box in which I would normally place syrup feeders are full of wood chips for moisture control and for insulation. An outdoor picnic would have to do.


A party of fourteen lapping sugar syrup from a container lid.


I scored grooves on a piece of scrap lumber with the table saw.


Having plugged the ends with beeswax (of course), it made a handy nectar feeder.


The start of a slightly 'up market'  feeder.


Two jar feeder contraptions ready for action.


The bee above the wire support appears to be pretty full and slightly tipsy.


Thursday, 29 October 2015

Morning Hike

The past several days have been cold and wet and windy. I've been denning up and spending way too much time on the comfortable old couch. So when I went outside early this morning to dispose of yet another mouse trap victim, I was surprised to find warmish and only slightly breezy conditions. The air, freshly washed from twenty-four hours of almost continuous rain, smelled wonderful. My nose begged for more. Nothing but a hike would do!


Flocks of Canada geese selecting newly harvested fields to rest and forage on.


The drainage ditches are filled from recent and heavy rain.


Our bush lot has the marvelous spicy Autumn fragrance of fallen hardwood leaves.


There is a bumper crop of hickory nuts this year.


A burr oak adds a splash of lime green colour.


This variety of leaves gives testimony to a biodiverse woodlot.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Surprise Visit

Weeks ago, my resident robins flew south. But in the last few days the largest flock of robins I've ever seen have checked in to my yard and are focusing on the berries of my mountain ash tree. There are at least a dozen of these migrating birds who are making a stopover here. They chatter among themselves and make frequent forays to the bird bath. I can't help but wonder how far north they've come from and if they will perhaps be back in Spring with a view to nesting here. How I wish I could interview them.

This morning's sunrise paints a dramatic textured scene.


A large flock of migrating robins enliven the branches of my mountain ash tree.


Viewing me with suspicion, this robin seems unused to people.


A drink to wash down the berries and a quick dip before more feasting.


A goldfinch enjoys a tranquil moment in the shelter of a shedding cedar.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Catering Business

The business of backyard catering gets complicated when half a dozen smash-and-grab artists in blue hoodies are involved. I'm talking about bluejays. They have strong instincts to store food for harder times and in only minutes they strip the feeders before smaller birds and my red squirrels get much of a chance at the grub.  Counter measures are called for!


Five of a family of six bluejays have their way at the feeders.


This container foils bluejays but not flexible little squirrels.


A redpoll enjoys a feeder cage designed to keep out bigger birds.


A white-throated sparrow pauses before foraging on the ground.


Not chatting with the weathervane, this warbler is watching for cluster flies.


On offer to chipmunks, unsalted peanuts are munched by the quirky Ellie Mae.


Sunday, 18 October 2015

Change Over

Last night we had our first hard frost. Minus 6 Celsius over night and this morning. My lovely cosmos flowers are history. The sun now rises hours after I've awakened. What I used to consider late afternoon now has the dark feel of evening. Yesterday I drained and put away my garden hoses and this week the deck furniture will be stored in the barn until Spring. My lawn mower is in storage already. It seems that a dial has been turned from the setting marked 'summer' to the one marked 'autumn' -- in fact, a little past autumn and pointing partway towards winter. Like my friend Jimmy Skunk, I'll be spending more time in my comfortable den.


This morning's frosty garden view from the kitchen window. No more cosmos blooms.


My amur maple tree has changed from it's green dress into a yellow one.


This morning the grass had a thick coating of frost.


By mid-morning the frost had melted. Ash trees are among the first to disrobe.


Our bush lot flaunts a final burst of colours before losing it's foliage.


A revealed nest. I expect the family has flown south for a warm vacation.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

A Day In The Life ...

The day starts with the honking of Canada geese as they wing southward in "V" like formations. I rise, pour myself a cup of coffee, turn on the radio and retire to my couch to sip and listen to the latest broadcast. Next, I check my mouse traps in the basement and workshop -- areas not accessible to the prowling feline, Ellie Mae. Three mice were caught yesterday -- none this morning. At this time of year they find their way into my dwelling, seeking a winter shelter. Can't blame them for that but it's wise to catch them early before they get a chance to reproduce. Their bodies will be quickly consumed by crows, skunks or other scavengers.

I check my night cam to see who enjoyed the community dish meal of table scraps I set out last night. On offer was chicken skins and fat cut from lamb chops. The plastic container was licked clean and ready for the recycle bin. As usual, Jimmy Skunk was the lucky diner and I notice he is making good progress on layering his body with fat to tide him over the oncoming winter months.

At my bird feeders, small birds try to grab a meal before the half dozen local bluejays haul away the goods. I laughed yesterday to see one of the young squirrels dash into a feeder to startle away one of those greedy blue feathered pilferers. My strategy has now switched to restocking the feeders with lesser amounts but more often.

I've got errands to run -- groceries and furnace filters to buy. But I'm reluctant to leave this little paradise even for just an hour or two.

A family of Canada Geese winging south in the early morning.


A gold finch checking the contents of a hanging feeder.


This nut hatch is in luck to find a fresh stock of peanuts and sunflower seeds.


A warbler watches for cluster flies which it will feed on before heading south.


This cardinal seems to be looking for the waitress to refill the feeder.


One of the young red squirrels has somehow lost the tip of it's tail.


Bees foraging on blossoms as yet untouched by frost.


Lucky for some, having a nap while others have to graft for a living.


Jimmy Skunk enjoying a meal of meat scraps.