Sunday, June 24, 2007

Happy Quebec Day!

Or St. Jean Baptiste Day, or the Fête nationale du Québec if you prefer! I may celebrate with poutine. Other than that, it's a slow news day and I need to get out of my pajamas and into the shower.

I notice I don't get as many comments when I upload cute and cuddly animal photos, so today I bring you weirdness from our cross-Canada drive last year (the quasi-epic move from BC to QC, which was not quite as epic as the move from NS to BC in 2003!)

Here is my interesting portrait of my long-suffering husband, known in French as "Pauvre Gordon" ("poor Gordon"):

Here is my foot, resplendent yet in need of a manicure (which I got when we finally arrived at the Four Points Sheraton in Gatineau, Quebec), on the dashboard as we entered Cypress County, Alberta:

And here is what we saw a LOT of last August: bugs meeting their messy and sudden end on our not only our windshield, but every portion of our car:

Excuse me, there is a cuppa tea out there with my name on it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A dozen ducklings

Mama and her ducklings have been visiting for a couple of weeks now, and they are growing fast. Previously I had thought there were nine ducklings, but in fact there are TWELVE, and they are growing fast. Their mother keeps a close watch on what's going on around them, so this isn't the best picture as I didn't want to get too close to the window and scare them off.

They are adorable!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A quotable quote

I love this one. It's so me: constantly distracted from work by what's going on outside. I figure that when we get the farm I'll be doing at least half my work outside. Better!

I meant to do my work today,
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,

And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were
calling me.

-Richard Le Gallienne (1866-1947)

My version:

I meant to do my work today,

But three raccoons were screeching over who got to plonk his big butt down in the middle of the platform birdfeeder,

And a flock of wild turkeys flitted across the lawn, then started clawing it to pieces, looking for corn that the raccoons had missed,

And all the birds were calling me, telling me to get my ass out there and fill up the feeders the raccoons had emptied, because damn it, they were hungry!

Knatolee, 1964 - ?

Here's your nature pic, from the night of Monday the 18th. That's the moon, with Venus to the lower right. Saturn is in this pic too but you can't see it (no really, it's there. I swear!) It soon appeared in the upper left. My photos would have been better had I bothered to get out the tripod. Handheld camera plus slow shutter speed equals mostly blurry photos! We did haul out our 8" Dobsonian and oooohed and aaaaahed over Saturn, Venus and the moon! I will never get over the thrill of seeing planets through the telescope (yes, I know the moon isn't a planet but it's still pretty cool.) Saturn remains my favourite.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Turtle eggs in the septic field!

Much as I am looking forward to moving to the farm we have bought, I am really going to miss this place when we go. Every night now, the garden is filled with hundreds of fireflies. I have never seen so many all at once. Apparently they like swampy places, and our lot sure fits the bill! I love to stand outside and watch them. Occasionally they even land on me. They are using their flashing lights to attract each other for some mutual loving.

And the raccoons... well, let's just say there are more than two. We saw three at once last night. As far as I can tell, it's a mother and her kids from last year. I have been reading about raccoons, and this seems the most likely scenario. Hubster and I ate supper outside last night. Our table is on the lawn. Two of the raccoons came out while we were eating and had their own dinner of birdseed. The largest one kept getting whiffs of our barbecued lamb chops and looked a bit envious, but kept her distance. It was quite funny eating supper with the raccoons (they were a safe distance from our table.)

There are also an amazing number of dragonflies here. My maternal grandmother evidently had a phobia about them, but I think they are beautiful. Here's a picture of one that landed on our porch:

When we paddle on the river behind us, the dragonflies like to land on our kayaks when they need a break. Yesterday one landed on my arm. My favourites are the ones with emerald-green bodies and black wings, which they hold upright more like a butterfly than a dragonfly.

And Saturday morning we woke up to this:

Mama snapping turtle laying her eggs on our septic field, and also in my flower planter box! In the top photo, the turtle is towards the lower left, and her eggs were buried in the grass-free area just behind her. She buried some others in the top-most flower box. Then she crawled slowly back to her marsh.

I read that snapping turtle eggs take 12 - 16 weeks to hatch, so we will probably have moved when the babies emerge, which is a shame. But we're honoured Mama Turtle chose to nest on our lawn.

Next, hummingbird time. Here is a male ruby-throated hummingbird:

Sitting in a nearby tree:

And here's a female, after I cleaned the bird poop off the window (which you can see in the photo of the male!!):

Wolf Lover Girl mentioned that she wasn't having much luck attracting hummingbirds to her garden. Sometimes it can take a while. Here are some sites that might help:

And a note to anyone feeding hummingbirds: make sure you keep those feeders scrupulously clean! Mould and other nasties can kill the little birds. You are better off not feeding them if you don't have the time to clean your feeders regularly. But really, it's well worth the effort. Hummingbirds are amazing little things, not to mention fierce. I have several feeders on the go so that there is enough for everybody, and they still come along and knock each other off the feeders!

So there you go. The only picture of poop to day is the bird doo on the window next to the male ruby-throated. I'm being good.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Much ado about not a hell of a lot!

We have a variety of topics today. This could have something to do with the fact that I am avoiding teaching myself the finer points of Dreamweaver, the learning of which would enable me to finish the website I promised to do for my husband an embarrassingly long time ago. Slacker, slacker, lame-ass slacker.

First off, THIS MEANS WAR! (Gross-out alert: more animal poop! My Mum is no doubt rolling in her grave, with me posting shots of animal feces all over my blog. --Sorry Mum!-- She did actually try to teach me manners. It's not her fault!)...

Some raccoon came up on the back porch last night and LEFT HIS CALLING CARD! Am I impressed? No! Am I somewhat amused? Yes! I guess he was annoyed that we'd taken away "his" recycle bin, and he felt compelled to express himself with fecal matter. Either that, or he is marking his territory. Hmm... Now, I read something about using human urine to keep deer and other critters away from your garden. Should I perhaps send my long-suffering husband out to pee around the perimeter of our house?

Speaking of the Long-suffering One, I dug these photos up today. It's the pair of us many years ago. I know I was just starting grade 2, and it was the fall of 1971. But Hubster was still in diapers then, so I think his picture dates from approximately 1975. Don't you love my glasses (yes, I was born blonde)? Don't you love his polyester shirt? I like our matching impish smiles.

I just remember that I wore that dress in September when the temps were still high, and I was incredibly hot because it was made of wool! But I always wanted to wear my new fall clothes asap, weather be damned.

Next, we have the remnants of a most delicious dessert from Fidélice, the best patisserie in the Outaouais. Hell, it's the best patisserie I've ever been to! Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the complete cake (much more attractive than half-eaten slice), which is one of my very favourites: chocolate puff pastry (how do they do that?!), creamy stuff, chocolate mousse stuff, beautiful fresh fruit (cherries, grapes, pineapple, kiwi, apple, orange, blackberry, strawberry) and chocolate shavings. Worth every last calorie and then some! Fidélice rocks, and the staff are great.

The photo on my desk is my Mum and Dad in Toronto sometime before I was even a glimmer in their eyes... maybe 1961? They came to Canada from England in 1958. Note the very old TV just peeking out behind my Dad. And my Mum was an exquisite dressmaker, so I am pretty sure that's one of her creations she's wearing. I recognize her handiwork. She also made my beautiful wedding and bridesmaid dresses. She had a lot of style, did my Mum. My Dad was a snazzy dresser himself. I've never lived up to their wardrobes!

Speaking of glimmers in eyes, when I was born my Dad was out getting hammered with his buddies to celebrate my imminent birth. He stumbled in sometime soon after, more than a tad inebriated, but happy.

My mother had a 30-hour labour, as she frequently pointed out to me. She also noted the she herself had been a breech birth at home, and her mother almost split in half and never forgave her for it (my maternal grandmother had various issues that made her a not-so-hot mother.) Mum also enjoyed reminding me of the night when I was a baby and cried for sixteen hours straight. Evidently her father finally gave me a tipple of something alcoholic, which did the trick. Interestingly, I have never been much of a drinker. Tea is my poison. Tea and being a smartass.

ANYWAY, when my Hubster was born via Caesarian, his Dad was hard at work. (This was back in the 60s, when men weren't in the delivery room, never mind in the delivery room videotaping the entire event!) My father-in-law received a genteel phone call from my mother-in-law, summoning him to the hospital to meet the new son.

I think the behaviour of our respective fathers might hint at why I am the one in this marriage who posts pictures of animal poo on her blog, whereas my darling Hubster is more likely to be found reading The Guardian Weekly (great paper!) 'nuff said.

Back to the garden! We have a pair of Baltimore orioles hanging around our garden. They are gorgeous and I love their song. For a while there, they renamed Baltimore orioles "Northern orioles", but now the old name is back again. This isn't a great pic but it'll do. Lucky I have that 70-210 mm zoom lens.

Orange splotch in tree.

Later this week: the joy of hummingbirds. But no more animal poop for a while, I promise.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Knatolee's Wild Kingdom

Welcome to my wild, wild world....

On Saturday, I picked up my knitting bag and thought "Why is there a tarantula on my knitting bag?" But of course there are no wild tarantulas in Canada, and besides that I know exactly what a tarantula looks like. Indeed, I held one in my hand in Guatemala back in 2001. What WAS on my knitting bag was the biggest frigging spider I personally have ever seen in Canada:

Hubby's hand is there for size comparison. The photo doesn't do it justice. I don't know what type of spider this is, other than that it's a very large version of the usual spiders I see around the house (fishing spider, maybe? Enlighten me!) I need a spider field guide.

Now I love spiders. They are fascinating, beneficial insects and I never kill them. I did, however, rehome Miss Pseudo-Tarantula to our back porch. I had visions of one of the cats playing with her in the house and getting bitten. I also didn't want the cats to murder such a fine specimen of spidery-ness!

"You kill what we fear and you fear what we don't understand." (Sort of non-sequitur: That's a line from my favourite Genesis album, Duke. My love of that band says something about how middle-aged I am! They are actually doing REMAKES of Genesis songs now. I feel ancient.)

Educate yourself about spiders and you won't go around squashing them, or God forbid, spraying them with Raid or other toxic substances that are just bad for the planet. I'm not asking you to cozy up to a Black Widow. Just don't mindlessly kill spiders!

And next we have the Masked Acrobat:

I had put the orange out for the Baltimore oriole couple frequenting our yard, but the yellow-bellied sapsucker devoured it instead! :)

We have two young holy terror raccoons in our yard. I am honestly not trying to encourage them. The smaller one is very bold (or stupid) and comes right up on our back porch and doesn't run away when I open the door! Even shooing it off has little effect. In fact, he usually looks like he wants to come inside for a cup of tea; no aggression, just a curious look on his face. We took our recycle bin off the back porch to remove temptation, and our garbage cans are locked in the garage. But the raccoons amuse me so much that I don't begrudge them their daily birdseed. I just make sure we do nothing to acclimatize them to humans (apart from feeding the birds, which I don't plan to stop doing.) That said, raccoons are doing REALLY well in Canada. They are one of the few animals that have adapted to city life and thrived.

Yesterday I did take issue with the fact that my nice Droll Yankee peanut feeder had completely disappeared. I knew exactly (raccoon) who the culprit (raccoon) was (raccoon.) Fortunately I finally found it in the middle of the yard. The Masked Hoodlum hadn't even figured out how to get the lid off! The other night the pair of them were squabbling outside our bedroom window over who was going to get to climb up the birdfeeder post first. The sound of it totally freaked out the cats.

And now, the moment you've waited for, more photos of Cape Breton Buddy, enjoying his post-pound life. I love this guy!

"I love to feel the wind in my fur!"

"Helloooo? Are we going or WHAT?"

"Hey, I'm the best present of all. And I must be a special dog to be allowed to sleep on a white couch!"

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Your morning cuteness

This is my Cape Breton friend Susan's dog Buddy. What a lovely boy he is, a beautiful "pound puppy" of dubious lineage. Just the kind of dog I'd like when I get one this fall. I have some other pics of him that I will post later, but for now, enjoy! What a sweetie.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Fun with an eraser

Happily, I finished the last of my children's book illustrations on Friday. This project started TWO YEARS ago, and I have been working on the final colour drawings for six months. I can't believe I'm done. Now I just need to get them scanned and sent to the publisher.

But I did get a bit bored one day last week, and starting doing what I used to do waaaaaay back in my college years, when I got bored in class: playing with the kneadable eraser:

Not sure what it is. Maybe an Anaheim Duck about to throw itself on the sword of an Ottawa Senator! Bwahahaha! GO SENS GO!

Meanwhile, back at the birdfeeder someone is getting a LITTLE TOO COMFY:

I do believe that's the first time I've seen a squirrel fully reclined in one of my feeders.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Don't get me started

Last year in Toronto, while street-racing their Mommy and Daddy's expensive vehicles, two rich kids (although I hesitate to call 18-year-olds "kids") managed to kill a hard-working taxi driver, Tahir Khan, who was the sole support of his family back in Pakistan. He had been all set to receive his Canadian citizenship, and was planning on bringing his wife and children to Canada thereafter.

The two rich boys pled guilty (which I do commend them for) and received what amounts to the proverbial slap on the wrist: 12 months house arrest, two years probation, 150 hours of community service and a four-year suspension of their driver's licences.

Now, my hubster used to be a crown prosecutor in Toronto. I know a fair a bit about sentencing and what goes on in the courts and prisons. My mentality is not one of "Lock them up and throw away the key!", particularly with a pair of men like this, who might possibly rehabilitate themselves and make something of their lives. I talk to hubster about this stuff often and we debate rehabilitation, jail time, and even Aboriginal sentencing circles. So much of it doesn't seem to work, from what he has seen in his work. And no, I don't believe in capital punishment, which is not an option in the country anyway.

Regardless, I am less than impressed with the sentences the rich boys received. Actually, I am quite angry. While I am pleased that the Attorney General of Ontario is looking into the sentences, I really doubt he will allow them to be appealed.

What really pisses me off is that I know full well that if two kids who were immigrants from Pakistan killed some nice rich white Torontonian, they sure as hell wouldn't be getting 12 months house arrest.

It is unfortunate that street racing is not taken as seriously here as drunk-driving is, but I am pleased to note that Ontario just stiffened its fines and licence suspensions for street racing:

Meanwhile, spare a thought for the guy who was needlessly killed by these two idiots, Tahir Khan. And please take driving seriously. That thing you're driving can be a deadly weapon.