Saturday, 21 March 2020

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Another Spring is here along with yet another attempt to rent the bird house on the old Manitoba Maple tree. Many years ago, I built two oversized boxes in the hope that Eastern Screech owls would nest in them. No dice! Each winter the owls do use them for roosting and as a larder but they are not satisfied with the location for raising a family. Too public, perhaps? 

Anyway, White-Breasted Nuthatches always show a keen interest in one box in particular. Unfortunately, every year they are out-competed by squirrels and/or European Starlings. This Spring I decided to lend the nuthatches a hand by customizing the box just for them. I made a new front with a smaller box to fit inside the larger box. All of the books and websites I consulted said that the entrance hole should be 1 1/4 inches wide for White-Breasted Nuthatches. So I drilled to this measurement and attached a squirrel proof metal guard, which was also 1 1/4 inches wide.

Custom built for my White-Breasted Nuthatch friends.

Up the fourteen foot ladder and installation completed.

The metal guard means "Squirrels Need Not Apply".

The small opening means "Starlings Need Not Apply".

The faux-bark is a bit cheesy, but the interior is brand new! Do have a look!

Days went by and I only saw one nuthatch, after much struggle, enter the refurbished box. Shortly after, it struggled equally hard to exit. I took a video of another nuthatch trying and failing to enter. Obviously, my resident 'McNutties' are too large for that diameter.

The following video clearly shows that the recommended entrance size is just too small!

So, up the ladder again, and down with the box for alteration. I enlarged the hole a little and added a 1 1/2 inch center metal guard. I also removed the perch. Bingo! The McNutties love it! I expect they will be moving their furniture (bits of bark) in soon.

Enlarged the entrance to 1 3/8 inch diameter. The guard's center is 1 1/2 inch wide.

A prospective tenant checks the alteration.

Hm-m-m, it does seems roomier!

A flash of chestnut coloured nickers shows he's fitting in.

After a few minutes of inspecting the interior, he emerges.

"I love it! Of course, the missus will have the final say."

Friday, 6 March 2020

Hospitality Withdrawn!!

Surprise was in store a couple of mornings ago when I stepped out of the back porch. This enclosed little room is attached to the house and part of the garage. Pink insulation was all over the steps. I keep my birdseed in a metal bin within the porch. Besides leaving stinky heaps of raccoon poo on the porch roof, the little bandit had also tried to rip it's way into the porch. Enough already!!

I don't want the expense or inconvenience of having a big roll-up garage door installed just to keep the raccoons out. So I'm trying another method. I've heard that raccoons don't like noise nor the smell of household ammonia. Before dark each evening, I turn on a radio in the garage and let it play all night long. The station tuned to is entirely talk shows. I also draw a rope across the garage entrance on which two pieces of ammonia-drenched rags hang. 

So far, the deterrents seem to be working. On yesterday's hike to our bush lot, raccoon tracks led away from the house, back the lane and into the woods. Yay-y-y!! Of course, I've removed all raccoon-accessible bird feeders as well.

A raccoon had shredded the pink insulation on the back porch's roof.

I hope the radio and the ammonia soaked rags deter raccoons from the garage.

Raccoon tracks heading for our bush lot.

Floods Up! The Dalgleish drain emptying into the Allan drain.

My Eastern Screech Owl awaits his evening hunt.

Did a rival tom cat connect with your nose, Romeo?

*  *  *  *  *

The grocery store in the village of Osgoode was out of portobello mushrooms so I paid a visit to local grower, Carleton Mushroom Farms. I asked for a flat of portobellos and a worker harvested them while I waited. As soon as I got home, I sliced and cooked them all. I had a feast, then wrapped and froze single portions for later. That was my first but definitely not my last visit to that source!

Nineteen freshly picked portobello mushrooms. Yummers!

Also, I made a batch of Banana Walnut Ice Cream. Completely plant-based and absolutely delicious.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Splashes of Red

In honour of St. Valentine's Day, I thought I'd post some pictures containing the colour red. This proved to be a bit of a challenge as I naturally gravitate towards greens, yellows, blues and grays.

So, scraping the barrel, here are some 'reddish' containing photos.

Cold enough for ya? Yes, but it's a 'dry' cold.

This Red-Bellied Woodpecker's belly has more of an orangish smudge.

The tint of his feathers depends very much on light conditions.

A female Piliated Woodpecker wears an eye-catching hat.

Stuffed by a house-wren, the box was made and painted by my brother.

My trusty old snow shovel/exercise tool.

Red Ribbons on my snow boots.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Best Result Yet!

This morning was quite overcast but mild and windless. Perfect for a snow-shoe hike to our bush lot. Each step sunk a couple of inches into the fresh, fluffy snow. The result was a good cardio workout.

Starting out on the morning's trek to the back of our property.

A lonely bird box awaits Spring and returning tree swallows.

I see that a neighbour enjoyed a snow mobile ride here.

Stopping for a breather near the edge of our bush lot.

Heading for home. Enjoying the soft blue winter stillness.

After this hike and following a fifteen minute rest, my blood pressure monitor showed my best reading yet! In decades! The little arrow was well into the green zone. Lovely! Mind you, I'm still taking half of my prescribed beta blocker pill (much to the consternation of the pharmacist) but if my diet/exercise regime continues to show good results, I plan to discontinue the medication entirely. 

Now that's more like it! Dad and his horse power also look pleased.

The results are clear. Take a hike old girl! At least once a day!

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Unrequited Love

No, not mine (this time).

Ellie Mae has a suitor hanging around the property. I've named him 'Romeo'. Sometimes he sings love songs to her and regularly squirts his cologne around the back steps. Since Ellie was spayed more than six years ago, he's wasting courting time here. He most likely comes from one of the nearby farms.

Scruffy and love-sick, Romeo waits in vain for the lovely Ellie Mae.

Untouched by PhotoShop, this really is Ellie Mae's eye-liner colouration.

Captured mid-yawn, she looks like she's laughing at Romeo's intentions.

Viewed from my couch, this bit of snow quite resembled a cat woman's face.

Both crows and ravens live in my area. Cleaning out my refrigerator, I put out phyllo pastry and pats of butter for them. The offerings were quickly accepted!

Alert to possible danger, a pair of crows dig through snow for food.

Half again the size of a crow, a raven gathers up discarded phyllo pastry.

Atop my large-bird excluder contraption, McNutty asks that I replenish his peanuts.

I love Reddy's cute little hooked nose profile as he nibbles down a peanut.

In my previous post, I mentioned my experiment with a whole foods, plant-based diet, excluding meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Well, after almost three weeks of this, my blood pressure did not reduce enough to stop taking my beta blocker prescription. (sigh) On the plus side, however, my energy levels have improved as well as my mood and sleep. Also, not a meat lover anyway, I do love the delicious soups, stews, chili dishes and smoothies.

A trick I picked up is 'apple pie without the pie': Slice and core an apple. Microwave for two minutes, then sprinkle on a little cinnamon. So flavourful and satisfying!!

Micro-waved apple slices with cinnamon and walnuts. Yummy!

Soon after my parents were married, they bought a Findlay Oval wood burning cook stove. It was locally manufactured in Carleton Place, Ontario. Years later, an electric stove was added to the kitchen. The electric ones wore out and were replaced a few times. The original wood stove is still here and working perfectly. Not long before the turn of this present century, my parents passed away. They had enjoyed a long and happy partnership. Their youngest offspring (yours truly) is the present occupant of their farmhouse.

The Findlay Oval stove is a bit of a time capsule. With a fire going, it's sounds transport me back to childhood. When the fire is young, it crackles and snaps. When it gets quieter, it might need another stick of wood or two. Sometimes, perhaps owing to draft or humidity, it groans. I love the simmering sound a kettle makes on the stove top. Just like an electric stove, the wood burning one has different temperature settings. The two lids on the left (over the fire box) have the highest heat. The two lids in the middle produce a medium heat and the far right lids are perfect for keeping food warm. Up top, there is a warming closet. There is even a hot water reservoir on the right hand side. Mom used to bake in the stove's oven. And of course, in the event of a power outage, I can still have a warm room, perk coffee, cook food and even make pop popcorn!

Almost a century old, our Findlay Oval cook stove still works perfectly.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Cracking Down ...

... on myself, that is.

For months now, my systolic blood pressure has been steadily creeping upwards. My energy levels are disappointing and I've had episodes of unwarranted anxiety. Coincidentally - OR NOT -- I've been indulging in salty snacks and sugary, buttery treats.

So I've decided to experiment. For two weeks I will consume only foods that are plant-based, unprocessed and with no added salt or sugar. Also, I'm going to exercise for at least half an hour a day, be it on my elliptical exercise machine or shovelling snow, hiking or swimming at my favourite public pool in Ottawa.

I'm not even going to touch my blood pressure monitoring machine until the two weeks are up. Then, all will be revealed. If the results are as I expect, my new life style change will be a keeper!

*  *  *  *  *

For two mornings in a row, I just happened to be looking out of my kitchen window to witness a screech owl being routed by jays from it's hideout in a big, bushy spruce tree. The fleeing little owl bolted into the roost box for cover. It got me thinking about those jays and their roll as birdy neighbourhood watch. I've also noticed that very often, smaller birds don't even appear at my feeders until the bluejays arrive first. The jays are definitely bossy and even at times bullies but they also provide a kind of security service as first responders to hawk or owl dangers. And they even wear blue uniforms.

This blue jay has driven a fugitive to ground.

Under house arrest!

The blue uniform seems appropriate.