Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Who Goes There?

When I set out the recycle bin for pickup this morning, I noticed a fox's prints in the snow. I thought there was a chance I'd see the animal among my trail camera photos.

Overnight, the camera had taken 937 photos. Their time stamps indicated that the first skunk arrived at the community supper dish at 5:35 pm. These chaps are learning that it's first come, first served. At 8:05 pm (long after the dish was empty) the fox made a brief appearance. Then at 3:08 am a rabbit hopped by. At 5:30 am, cat roomy Ellie Mae asked out. A good sniffing over the dish let her know details of the nightlife she had missed seeing.

Thanks to many little footprints and a deeply worn trail in the snow, I know where this family of skunks are denning. In daytime, they stay under an upturned speed boat that one of my nephews intended to turn into a fish trawling boat. You could say that it actually repurposed into a house boat (of sorts).

Nothing brightens a winter feeder like a male cardinal.
A red squirrel enjoys the spiffy feeder my cousin-in-law crafted.

In a previous life, this ground feeder was a honey comb frame.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Jimmy Scores A Meal

I've a soft spot for skunks. Aside from the cute factor (in my view, their babies are as darling as any kitten), they help keep rodent populations and insect grubs in check. You have to admire their natural ability to use 'bear spray' if threatened. Unbullied, they are shy and peaceable. Skunks and I have shared many walkabouts and I must say, they have been nothing but polite to me. My cat, Ellie Mae, prefers them to other cats.

As children, we thoroughly enjoyed the series of fictional animal adventure books by Thornton W. Burgess. One of these was titled 'The Adventures Of Jimmy Skunk'. Consequently, we tend to refer to every skunk we see as 'Jimmy'.

Last night I opened the back porch door to let Ellie Mae in for the night. There, staring back at me from the garage, was a surprised little skunk. I asked him if he was hungry. He only silently stared back and remained perfectly still.

"Just wait there, Jimmy, and I'll bring you something."  When I returned with some dog food and a slice of bread, the shy fellow was nowhere to be seen. So I left the meal in a little wooden trough. About half an hour later he was back. Concentrating on the food, he never even looked up as I snapped this picture.

Enjoy your meal, Jimmy! Your tail could certainly use a good brushing. Just sayin'.

One of the Thornton W. Burgess books we enjoyed as children.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

The Usual Crowd

I must say, I'm enjoying this early stage of winter. The cold air is refreshing and I rather enjoy the productive exercise of clearing snow from my smallish driveway. On very cold days, the snow squeaks pleasingly underfoot. Also, I take pleasure in the feeder birds, the rabbits and reading tracks in the snow. The prints (or lack thereof) tell me that the raccoons and skunks are spending more time in their dens and that every few days a fox trots by. Sometimes I see two rabbits of about equal size, peacefully sharing a feeder together.  They especially enjoy the occasional peanut butter treat. I may have overdone it here with the bunny pics, but they are just so irresistibly cute!

Peter or Petra Cotton Tail and I focus on each other.

No sign of danger from the road.

All looks clear from the backyard.

It's safe to chow down.

Ellie Mae enjoys the live theatre from her window seat.
My little screech owl is now using the boxes I made for winter roosting and for storing prey items safely away from crows, etc. It's fun to think that while I have my pantry, it also keeps a larder.

The Eastern Screech Owl has resumed winter roosting in it's rustic old box.

Bluejays feel duty-bound to report it's whereabouts.

So far, only the usual crowd has shown up at my feeders. There is still plenty of natural forage about. As winter progresses, I expect surprise bird species to appear and always expect the unexpected. No doubt my yard must compete with those of bird loving neighbours who also keep well-stocked feeders.

The usual crowd of gold finches feeding near my kitchen window.

Ellie Mae reminded me of an arctic fox as she lay curled, nose to tail.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

October Buzz

Although it's quickly melting, we had our first snowfall overnight.

I have not yet completed all of my winterizing chores but at least my honey bee hives are wrapped. Most of the drones have been given their pink slips and expelled by their worker sisters. This year I left the screened bottom boards on instead of switching to solid ones. I did insulate under the screens and closed in the front entrance with a little porch support to keep snow off the landing board. But most importantly, to improve colony chances for winter survival, I treated for varroa mites in July instead of leaving it to later. 

The hive on the right is taller than the one on the left not because it's stronger, but because I was too tardy in removing a box of extracted frames I had given them to lick clean. The bees had partially refilled them with fresh nectar so I simply let them have it.

Swaddled in bubble wrap, my hives are ready for the cold ahead.

An expelled drone honey bee looks in vain to be taken back into the hive. 

On this dreary day, the workers are all inside chatting amongst themselves.

My two resident flocks of wild turkeys have now combined. Owing to the presence of coyotes, it seems a wise move to have more pairs of eyes on the lookout.

My two flocks of wild turkey have now combined.

This American Goldfinch has partly changed into winter plumage.

Having emptied the open feeders this bluejay raids a caged station.

As daylight shortened, I became a bit obsessed with a dark corner in my living room. It begged for a lamp!  After weeks of deliberating possible choices I finally settled on a table lamp from Canadian Tire. This style is called "Vintage Industrial". I think it goes rather well in the space and casts a lovely warm glow.

Cat friend, Ellie Mae, seems indifferent to my choice of new lamp.

Is that a Nike logo on your right paw, Ellie Mae?

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

September Notes

The days are getting shorter. Crickets are in full chorus with their soothing but slightly melancholy songs and monarch butterflys are everywhere. Goldenrod is in full bloom, offering bees one of their last chances for this year's nectar harvest.

  A Monarch sunning on dew-drenched asparagus fronds.

A banquet of goldenrod beckons nectar loving insects.

A young (witness the fuzzy thorax) honey bee on a goldenrod spire.

I'm enjoying watching two wild turkey families here. A large flock of two adults and twelve poults hang out near the bush lot and another family of two adults and six poults hang out near the barn. Sometimes they take a stroll across the lawn. I suppose the shorter grass helps them spot insects.

My back lawn is a shady and inviting spot ...

... for all kinds of folk ...

... and their families. The smallest poult leads off behind their mum.

Our old barn invites turkeys of the vulturey kind.

"The better to see and smell you, my dear."

These very hot and humid days compel me to spend more time indoors where it's cooler. I've been playing piano, gabbing on the phone and watching 'Better Call Saul' on Netflix. Beside being cleverly written, the episodes are peppered with wonderful, energizing soundtracks by Chuy Flores. This piece is called 'Methadone' from episode 6 of series 3. (You may want to look away from the dizzying filler graphic.)

I've also been doing a little sewing. My new, darker kitchen floor left the room in need of brightening. So I covered the kitchen chairs with off-white painter's cotton drop-cloth material. It does help brighten the area.

I used painter's drop cloth material to cover my kitchen chairs.

A geometric black/white/yellow throw livens up the easy chair.

Oh, and I recently took a big step towards modernity. Following my brother's example, I've now severed ties with the Bell landline in favour of my very first cell phone service. The new plan (from Rogers) allows unlimited long distance calls within Canada for only one dollar a month more than the land line that had no free long distance calls at all. I do keep my old phone number and if problems arise, well it's only a month to month agreement. Of course I'll continue to ignore all those pesky telemarketers.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Summer Harvest

For the most part, it's been a hot and dry summer, providing my honey bees with more foraging days than was the case last year. And they certainly have been making hay, I mean honey, while the sun shone. I'm now in the process of harvesting these burgeoning hives. Yes, it's hot, sticky and heavy work but the rewards are sweet!

Freshly bottled July honey. Pretty and delicious!

This year a handcart helped me transport the heavy honey supers.

As I get older and less robust, all conveniences are appreciated.

These colonies are remarkably docile and forgiving -- even as I steal their treasure.

Thank you girls! I do appreciate all your labours! Buttered toast awaits!

My old kitchen floor tiles were installed two decades ago. I had picked out white ones so that any mishaps by dog, cat or myself would be easy to see and deal with. Over the years, some of them had cracked and were turning up at the edges, especially in the winter. A potential tripping hazard, I thought. So I hired a local flooring company to install a new floor. In the show room, the faux wood sample appeared much lighter in colour while held in my hands than when finally installed on my kitchen floor. Light can be tricky that way and hind-sight is twenty-twenty. Disappointing, but I'm sure that in time I'll get used to my now much darker floor. It took cat house-mate, Ellie Mae, a couple of days before she considered it safe to walk on but then she is a tad paranoid. The 7 inch wide by 4 foot long vinyl planks have a cork backing which should make them more comfortable. Also, maybe the next time I drop a dish, it won't shatter to smithereens.

My old kitchen floor tiles were installed two decades ago.

The new LVP floor is darker than I'd expected. The pattern is called 'Chai Latte'.

Every couple of days I need to replenish my grape jam feeder. It's a big hit not only with Baltimore Orioles but also Red Breasted Grossbeaks, Northern Cardinals, Gray Catbirds, occasional honey bees and even a Ruby-throated hummingbird. I've gotten very partial to a pat of the grape jam and a slice of cheese on a cracker, myself.

Of a morning or evening I often see this doe strolling through my yards.

To encourage clover blossoms, I use my lawn mower sparingly. A wild turkey approves.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day (previously known as Dominion Day), fellow Canuks! I hope you are all managing to keep cool in this heat wave.

Since I enjoy visiting other blogs so much, I thought it was time to contribute a few words from my patch.

In the last week of May, I picked up two honey bee nucs from our local supplier. I gave one a top feeder containing 50/50 sugar water and the other reclaimed honey. Both seemed equally acceptable to the bees.

My newly housed honey bee nucs on May 28th.

The right hand hive's top feeder contained 50/50 sugar water.

The left hand hive's top feeder contained reclaimed honey.

My lawns are now awash with the white blooms of Dutch clover. At first glance, it looks like patches of snow. One would expect to see honey bees all over these blooms, but raspberry flowers are currently receiving most of their attention.

Raspberry blossoms are high on their favourites list.

This morning I noticed that the bees weren't foraging at all, but were instead concentrating on cooling their hives. They were fanning like mad and clearly in need of better ventilation. So I removed the trays on the screened bottom boards, reversed the vent boxes under the roofs to expose screened openings, opened box ports and widened the bottom board entrances. Whew! The fanning bee beards shrunk immediately. When I checked on their progress I was surprised to see that these industrious little ladies had filled all of their frames with honey, pollen and brood. Emergency! In the relative cool of tomorrow morning, I'll reopen their hives and give them each of box of empty frames. So many blossoms, so little time!

Our heat wave is causing the bees to stay at home and fan their wings.

Much better ventilation after I opened some hive vents!

Yikes! I should have given them another box of frames before now.

Even the inner cover was crowded. Help is on the way, girls!