Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Disclaimer: the orange cat, he is not fat!

Poor JULIUS!! I have been getting lots of comments (here and behind the scenes) on his size. The poor boy, he is literally all fur!! That catnip photo in a previous post was taken when he was a lean BABY, believe it or not. He has the most amazing coat, and for some reason, he really didn't shed much of his winter coat this year (and this was the coldest winter he'd ever experienced in his life, so his fur was veeery thick.)

He was born in Nova Scotia and we call him our “Maine Coonesque” cat, because we like to think he has some Maine Coone in him. He is very doglike, and his fur never mats. He is totally mellow, except when it comes to annihilating squirrels that wander into his outdoor palace.

So, Julius, believe it or not, is NOT fat. Zoë, otoh, is another story...

“I am fluffy, not fat.”

“Not fat!”

“Cold and fluffy, but so not fat.”

“Relaxed and fluffy, but not fat.”

“Content and fluffy, but not fat.”

“Extremely handsome and a mighty hunter and ever-so-fluffy, but not fat.”

“I'm fat. So sue me!”

Moving: almost as much fun as a colonoscopy!

I would much rather be looking at this:

Beach at Five Islands Provincial Park in Nova Scotia

or this:

Martinique Beach on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia

or this:

My friend Phyllis' sister's sheep

or FOR SURE this:

Phyllis' cute little pooch Ginger, aka WHINGER

or this:

Squid stinking up my kitchen sink

than this:

The first of many rolls of packing tape in my future over the next 23 days.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Moving on, yet again

Yep, next month we are moving again. For me, it's the 10th move in 17 years, which is not so hot for someone who hates moving. Put another way, we will soon be living in our fourth province in four years. That's worse than being in the military!

This was our house in Prospect, Nova Scotia, where "normal" people can afford to buy oceanfront homes (so we did!) It had been a cottage, but the former owners renovated and added on:

No, it wasn't always that snowy. And yes, I picked that yellow. Benjamin Moore "York Harbour Yellow", with dark blue doors. Colourful houses are the norm in Atlantic Canada.

This was our backyard in summer. The wharf was ours, the boat on the water was not:

My veggie garden! You can probably see why I was heartbroken to leave. But I did eventually recover. Mostly.

Next we moved to Clayburn Village in Abbotsford, British Columbia (after driving across Canada literally from coast to coast. We bought a brick "cottage" built in 1924 for someone employed at the brick factory that existed in the village at the time:

It was a really cute house with a beautiful garden, and a fish pond adored by the local raccoons and badgers, and one barred owl. (Goldfish, yummy!) And unlike in Atlantic Canada, all the houses in BC (save for the brick ones) seem to be white, beige or grey. But especially beige!

A bit over two years later, we left Clayburn and moved to Quebec (not far from Ottawa), where we have been living in this rented house (cottage, really) on a lovely little lake:

And next month, we are moving to this 86-acre farm we have bought near Cornwall, Ontario. It has a beautiful barn and granary, and a great two-car garage. Having never owned a garage before, we are quite pleased about that, especially given the winters around here:

Typical 100-year-old Ontario farmhouse, with the original metal roof. But it's all in great shape. It has been in the family since it was built in 1901. We promised the current owners we will love and look after it. I've been dreaming of a farm for decades, and I'm finally getting one. And I plan to stay there for a loooong time. I hope to start getting some animals next year. And one day I'll have my studio in the granary.

In the past four years, we have also lost three wonderful pets, essentially to old age.

This is the beautiful Chelsea, my heart dog, who was almost 16 when she left us in 2003.

She was a lab-collie-pointer mix I adopted from the shelter when she was seven weeks old. She was the first dog I could say was really mine. I grew up with a string of my Mum's English Setters.

I still miss that girl. She was a devoted friend.

Then in the summer of 2006, we lost Tara, who was 14-1/2. She had been my Mum's last English Setter, and I inherited her when my mother died in 1997. Tara was quite the character, a very loving and affectionate goof.

I swear she channelled my mother. Sometimes she drove me around the bend, but how could you stay mad at such a cutie?

Then last December, we lost our sweet Mashka, who was at least 15 but probably older. She was really Gordon's little sweetie. He picked her out on his own at a Toronto shelter back in 1994. She was also a character, and a wonderful cat with a really funny voice. Here she is in one of her favourite sleeping spots:

Fortunately these two cats are still going strong. Back in 2002, Julius (left) and Zoe (right) got stoned on catnip on the kitchen counter:

They still enjoy getting high on 'nip. Long may they live.

Someone asked me last week where I thought was the best place to live in Canada, given all our moving around over the years. You know, I don't think there is one best place to live. So much depends on who you are and what you want, and there are so many great places in Canada. Much as I tired of moving around, I don't regret having lived in four different provinces. It taught me a lot about my country, much as our world travelling has taught me a lot about life.

For me, I think the farm will be the best place to live. I was born in Toronto, and when I last left there, I swore I would never go back. Lots of people love Toronto (and lots of people hate it), but it's just not my bag anymore, and I definitely can't live in a city now. Somewhere along the line, not wanting to live in Toronto turned into not wanting to live in Ontario, which I think was a mistake on my part. I used to think Nova Scotia was where I belonged, and who knows, maybe I will go back there one day. Never say never! But I was wrong about belonging in NS, and I was wrong about BC, and as it turns out, I don't belong in Quebec either. Now I think I belong in Ontario; not in Toronto, but yes, in Ontario. Sometimes you have to leave a place for a while to realize that it's really where you're meant to be.

Oh yeah, and as soon as I get back from my trip to Scotland/England in October, I am GETTING ANOTHER DOG!!!!


Miners have been on my mind lately, what with the Utah disaster, and the fact that last week I was in Springhill, Nova Scotia, visiting a Miners' Museum (and being very glad, as we went down a shaft, that neither of us ever had to work in a coal mine.) It reminded me of this song my Irish grandmother used to sing to me when I was little. There is a long, sad tradition of disasters in coal mines. Interestingly, the two old miners I have met both said they would do it all again, they loved the camaraderie so much.

Don't go down in the mine, Dad

by Robert Donelly and Will Geddes, 1910

A miner was leaving his home for his work,
When he heard his little child scream;
He went to his bedside, his little white face,
"Oh, Daddy, I've had such a dream;
I dreamt that I saw the pit all afire,
And men struggled hard for their lives;
The scene it then changed, and the top of the mine
Was surrounded by sweethearts and wives."

CHORUS: "Don't go down in the mine, Dad,
Dreams very often come true;
Daddy, you know it would break my heart
If anything happened to you;
Just go and tell my dream to your mates,
And as true as the stars that shine,
Something is going to happen today,
Dear Daddy, don't go down the mine!"

The miner, a man with a heart good and kind,
Stood by the side of his son;
He said, "It's my living, I can't stay away,
For duty, my lad, must be done."
The little one look'd up, and sadly he said,
"Oh, please stay today with me, Dad!"
But as the brave miner went forth, to his work,
He heard this appeal from his lad:


Whilst waiting his turn with the mates to descend,
He could not banish his fears,
He return'd home again to his wife and his child,
Those words seem'd to ring through his ears,
And, ere the day ended, the pit was on fire,
When a score of brave men lost their lives;
He thank'd God above for the dream his child had,
As once more the little one cries:


Uh, those aren't groundhog food

This is what Graziella Groundhog SHOULD be eating:

Broadleaf weeds from our pathetic excuse for a lawn.

This is what she was eating Thursday:


Caught in the act, the little devil!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I left my heart... in Nova Scotiaaaaaa

As a refreshing alternative to my recent rant, I offer you some photos from our trip to Nova Scotia last week.

My favourite beach, Martinique Beach on the eastern shore. All but deserted the day we went.

Gordon and my foot on Martinique Beach. (Note stoopid tan lines on my foot from constant wearing of Birkenstocks.)

Me on my favourite beach. Me not wanting to leave favourite beach. Ever.

Gordon in our silly-but-fun rental Mustang. We rented so late that it was just about the only rental car left in Halifax! The weather was perfect for driving with the top down.

Halifax Harbour from the Dartmouth condo we were staying in, early in the morning.

Me and one of my favourite dogs, Graycee the Australian Cattle Dog. She belongs to my friends Mike and Clarissa, who live in Prospect Village (where we used to live.)

The beach at Five Islands Provincial Park, on the Bay of Fundy near Parrsboro. Yes, there are five islands!

More of the beach at Five Islands Provincial Park.

Gordon getting ready to go down a mine shaft at the Springhill Miners' Museum. For fans, Anne Murray is from Springhill and there is a big centre there devoted to her. Me, I am not so much a fan, but I don't deny her talent!
The Miners' Museum was excellent, but man, what a job. No way could I have been a coal miner. Those guys had/have GUTS!

Me, oustanding in my field. Or more like, out standing in our farmer friend Andrew's organic grain field in Parrsboro. I learned much from Andrew and can now tell the difference between barley, rye, wheat, oats, and canola. I had a delicious bowl of oatmeal this morning made from Andrew's organic oats!

Some of his grains. Let's see, from left to right I THINK it's oats, barley, rye, and two types of wheat.

Gordon dreams the impossible dream in front of Andrew's combine harvester. (Honey, we'll start with a garden tractor when we move to the 86-acre farm in four weeks.)

And finally, we visited a nearby alpaca farm. We're still pondering what animals we are going to have on our farm. The alpacas had just been shorn, and they were very cute, but I am partial to llamas. Don't tell my friend Phyllis that I liked the alpacas. She thinks they are mutants. Don't tell my friend Sarah that I like llamas. She thinks alpacas are way cuter than llamas!

There you go! A brief look at our holiday, and not a rant in sight. See, I can be pleasant.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Shut UP!

Satan lives here, except I didn't know it until Saturday night. Prepare for a rant.

Ah yes. Having returned home from our Nova Scotia trip Saturday, I was quite tired. I had just drifted off to blissful sleep at 10:00 pm when I was shocked awake by the loudest music I have heard in quite some time, complete with pounding bass lines emanating from the world's largest sub-woofer. Mr. Dump-Truck Driver, who lives across the water from us, was having a party, which was fine. What was not fine was that at 10:00 pm, his LIVE BAND started to play. And let's just say, they weren't ACOUSTIC. In fact, they were so loud that none of the charming guests were seated anywhere near the giant speakers, which were aimed directly across the water at our house. You could see all this clearly because Mr. Dump-Truck Driver, henceforth to be known as Satan, was burning wooden pallets for a bonfire, and because the flames were a good FIFTEEN FEET high, the scene was well-illuminated.

Let me just say that I don't do well with excessive noise, particularly at bedtime. Let's just say it's not good for my mental health. Let's just say I was getting reeeeally angry on Saturday night, and feeling quite helpless to do anything about the situation. I grew up with neighbours who did this sort of thing almost every weekend during the summers, and my mother actually did call the cops on them more than once. It was the only way to get them to shut up before 3 am. So this sort of noise is historically a real issue for me.

As well, let me add that if someone were having a wedding reception in their yard, and had perhaps warned all the neighbours beforehand that there would be a live band late into the night, hey, no problem! We could have checked into a hotel. Or even if Satan had come around and said, "Look, I'm going to have a really loud party on Saturday night and I wanted to warn you!" (which would have been said in French, because in this instance, Satan is French), we could have coped. We would have had the OPTION of perhaps sleeping ELSEWHERE.

Instead, Satan starts up with the LIVE BAND in his backyard on the WATER (water carries noise exceptionally well, don't you know) at TEN P.M. Do you sense my anger yet? Could they perhaps not have had the LIVE BAND entertain between, say, the hours of 6:00 - 9:00 pm?

We tried to drown out the sound by watching TV. Impossible. Earplugs were useless. By 11:15 pm we were considering calling the cops, which we decided not to do for a few reasons: (a) I think Satan is involved with bikers. (b) I think Satan has a pot grow-op in his basement. (c) The nearest police station is a half-hour from here and we figured they'd just laugh at us. And finally, (d) we are moving in four weeks, so best not to start a war. I don't need our house burned down in an "accidental" fire.

Nonetheless, I was at the breaking point by this time and ready to boil over. It was now midnight, and the really BAD live band (God, they sucked; Satan has no taste in music) was still going strong. Gordon had suggested going over to talk to them, but no way was I going to let him. I know he would have ended up with a beer bottle broken over his delicate head, or worse. And they were drinking crap beer, too. No Guinness or Kilkenny Cream Ale or Quebec micro-brewery delights over at Satan's joint. (I know this because I saw the leftover cans on Sunday while out kayaking.) Drink to get drunk as fast as possible, baby.

I just cannot take the sort of pounding, inescapable noise that was being generated by Satan's LIVE BAND. It's a huge irritation for me. If I am ever taken prisoner by CIA operatives and they want to torture me, they should just sit me next to a large speaker and fire up some bad music at maximum volume, with a penetrating bass line. I will confess to anything immediately. Just thinking of it makes me want to confess! Yes, I did steal crayons in grade two. I'm sorry!

So, at the point of shooting someone (and I don't own a gun and never will), we got out of our pajamas and into the car, drove a couple of miles down the road, parked, and fell asleep on our flattened seats until 1:15 pm, when we were awakened by the lights of a passing pick-up truck. I was initially thinking that maybe some cops saw us and thought were making out, in which case I would have led them dirctly to Satan's house, but no. So we started the engine and left our peaceful little nook, along with the one mosquito who got in the car before we shut the windows and passed out.

When we got home, the music had blissfully stopped and we were able to go to bed. The bonfire was still going strong and I was rather hoping some sparks would jump to Satan's roof, but decided that that was just too plain nasty to think.

In the meantime, I had been busy formulating elaborate revenge fantasies, some of which are still quite tempting. However, among other things it would be very passive-aggressive (and likely illegal) to carry them out, so I will resist and merely let off steam by letting my imagination run wild. I have come up with a few options that I'd like to share:

(a) leaving a nice pile of steaming raccoon poo (laced with my birdseed) in his mailbox
(b) spray-painting "SHUT THE F*CK UP" on the side of his precious dump truck
(c) inscribing the same phrase on the side of his precious dump truck with my car keys
(d) playing opera at full blast cross the water at 5 am Sunday morning
(e) calling Crimestoppers and telling there is a biker growing pot in his basement at *** Avenue Buckingham.
(f) getting rid of the stale eggs in the fridge by tossing them at the aforementioned truck
(g) playing "Ride of the Valkyries" at full volume across the water next Saturday morning

Feel free to suggest others so that I may fantasize further.

Nobody stirred at Satan's place until 6 pm yesterday, when he and his girlfriend, Satanette, came up to sweep up the carpet of beer cans, and burn some more pallets just for the hell of it. I showed excellent restraint in not giving him the finger as I kayaked past. I'm not bitter. I'm not bitter at all!

One other thing I have against Satan is that he had a lovely husky that was constantly tied up alone outside. (Note the past tense, "had"). That poor dog was always howling from loneliness. Well, the husky has suddenly disappeared (who knows why?) and now these quality dog owners (Satan and his girlfriend, Satanette) have themselves a new husky puppy to neglect. Enough said. Send me your revenge fantasies. I promise not to carry them out!

And while I'm complaining, may I just add that I am getting really tired of seeing another neighbour in his Speedo all the time? Let's just say that his physique is past wearing a Speedo with any decency, especially when he bends over and points his behind at me when I'm out trying to garden.

Done now!

Friday, August 10, 2007

The sand between my toes

Yesterday we did make it up to Martinique Beach, which is a pretty hilarious name when you consider that the water is so cold there in August that it caused pain to my feet to walk in it. A few brave children were swimming, and the surfers were there in their wetsuits. The real Martinique it ain't.

But it's a lovely beach to walk along and I have missed it! The surf was up and the osprey were diving into the water. Nothing makes me happier than walking on a beach and feeling the sand between my toes while breathing in the sea air. That's the worst thing about living inland: no ocean smell! As soon as you step off the plane in Halifax, you can smell the salt water. Oh my, I do miss that.

Last night we had excellent sushi at Doraku, my FAVOURITE sushi restaurant in Canada. I know people will disagree, as every has their own favourite sushi place (that is, if sushi doesn't make them run screaming from the room), but I never did have any sushi in Vancouver that was as good as the stuff at Doraku. No doubt somewhere in that city there is an excellent sushi emporium, but I never found it. So Doraku has remained in my heart all these years and I was so happy to be back. I also deeply love their salad. Deeply. And please, feed me Doraku rolls as I lay dying.

After supper, we walked down to the harbour, where this was in port:

I can't upload pics right now, so you will have to click on the link. My God, what a fancy-schmancy yacht! Apparently it is currently owned by Martha Stewart's ex-husband, and is for sale for a mere $29 million, should you wish to buy it. It is quite the impressive beast. There are more pictures of it here, mostly taken in Halifax Harbour by someone else who was interested in the Scheherazade:

Well, I suppose I could buy her and sail her home down the St. Lawrence, but you know, I'm not sure I like the colour. HAHAHAHA!

Today we are going down to Prospect Village, our old home, to hook up with friends. The knobs who bought our house put on a frigging brown roof which clashes with the lovely yellow paint I chose (York Harbour Yellow by Benjamin Moore), although they did keep the yellow when they repainted. The front door is dark blue. The roof used to be dark grey, which worked much better. Knobs! I'm an artist, damn it, I know these things.

And now the cup of tea calls me. Tomorrow it's back to Quebec.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Lobster roll, anyone?

Still enjoying our week in Nova Scotia! I am not doing as well with my seafood-ingesting as I'd hoped, but I have thus far managed a very good lobster roll, excellent fish and chips (with haddock) and also some fried clams. For those not in the know, when lobster is in season, lobster rolls are popular in Atlantic Canada (although last month I saw them available at a Subway restaurant in Alexandria, Ontario, of all places!) No doubt it's the same in Maine; can anyone confirm for me that they have the lobster roll tradition as well?

The fish and chips we enjoyed were at the famous Shillelagh House restaurant in Truro, NS. YUM! And the aforementioned clams were fresh and delicious in Parrsboro. I've decided that this week, deep-fried is healthy! I'll just keep telling myself that until we get home.

Good lobster rolls consist of nice big chunks of lobster meat mixed with mayo and served cold on thoroughly bland and unhealthy white rolls (or even hot dog buns.) But you need a soft bland roll so that the full lobster taste comes shining through. I had mine with French fries. In fact, in one span of 24 hours this week, I managed three separate servings of French fries, which was quite exceptional for Ms. Multi-grain-Organic-Free range-"Baked not fried" here! But potatoes are my great love (it's my Irish blood), especially in the form of homemade chips (or French fries, as the non-British insist on calling them.) If I were stranded on a desert island and could only have two foods, they would be potatoes and cheese. I suppose I'd need something to cook the potatoes with, though. And some malt vinegar for my chips.

In case you haven't heard me whine about it previously, we lived in Nova Scotia from 1998 to 2003. It broke my heart to move away from here, but my poor hubby really needed to move out of province to get the hell out of a job he had come to loathe, so I suggested British Columbia, which is a beautiful place. That didn't work out as intended; among other things, I am not good with six weeks of rain in winter, and the average slob can't afford an oceanfront home there, which is what we had living in Nova Scotia. So we headed back east again to Quebec, but soon to return to Ontario, province of my birth. I still miss living here in NS and I suppose I always will.

But it's great to be having a vacation here, and our various friends are feeding us extremely well. We rented a car and because we did this so late, we ended up with a Mustang convertible! (Usually we just get the cheapest sub-compact on offer.) We keep making fun of the car but really, we're both enjoying it a lot. We've even had some great weather that has allowed us to put the top down. Gordon keeps saying that it's the first time he's ever had a car that people stare at. What, you don't want to stare at a black Mazda Protege 5 with a bash in the rear door from a hit-and-run in an Abbotsford, BC parking lot?

Today we are going up the eastern shore to see our friend Willie. Willie is originally from Germany and is a superb baker. He used to run a great bakery in Musquodoboit (pronounced a bit like "mosquito bite": muska-DAW-bit), but now he's more or less retired. We are also going to visit Martinique Beach while we are there. It is Nova Scotia's longest beach and very lovely. You can read more about it and the eastern shore here:

And I plan to get me more seafood before this trip is over! I need some Digby scallops, bad. As the locals would say, they are SOME GOOD!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Oh my...

I am in Nova Scotia right now, and yesterday I visited a sheep farm AND an alpaca farm!!!! Too much cuteness. I can see that I will need several of EVERYTHING for our farm. I'll post adorable photos when I get home.

Right now I am listening to the fog horns in Halifax Harbour, and yes, it IS foggy...

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Jim and Not Jim

At last, some photos of my "pet" chipmunks, Jim and Not Jim. (Feel free to suggest a better name for Not Jim.)

"Not Jim": Young and sleek, with complete tail, pristine ears and no bald spots. Not as brave as Jim, which probably explains the complete tail and ears.

I got a new camera yesterday because I stupidly lost my old Canon Powershot a few weeks back. I do have a very lovely Nikon digital SLR, but I need a wee portable camera. Annnnyway, my red Canon Powershot A460 arrived yesterday. Although it was incredibly cheap compared to the one I bought five years ago (and feels cheap in the hand!) it is tiny and takes really great pictures! So far I am impressed. And it does NOT frighten chipmunks, so I was able to feed them with one hand while taking photos with the other.

My beloved Jim.

I'm just pretending that bald spot is benign. Not ringworm, not ringworm... I caught ringworm from my kitten Zoe back in 1997. She was an adorable wreck when I got her. She had a hard start on the streets of Seattle. How she ended up in Canada with me is a story for another day. I got the nickname "Krusty" because of Zoe's ringworm. If you look elsewhere in this blog, there are plenty of pictures of the fully-recovered Zoe, who turns TEN this year.

Jim has no fear of me!

One of Jim's ears is slit, like it was torn in a fight, but is now completely healed. I also think his fur looks like it is greying, particularly compared to Not Jim's fur. I think Jim is a survivor. He is the old fart chipmunk of the garden, and fortunately has not wandered into the Cat Den of Death (outdoor cat cage), which now has boards around the bottom to prevent just such an occurrence.

Note the suspiciously shortened tail (in comparison to the tails of the other chipmunks in our garden.)

Impressive cheeks, my man! He takes three peanuts in the shell: one in each cheek, and one carried horizontally between his teeth. Then off he goes! (Or maybe Jim is a "she"... I have no idea!)

Not Jim samples the goods on offer.

Not Jim is less brave than Jim, but he made strides yesterday. I think he was watching Jim and realized that I am not a threat. I sat on the back step and fed them for an hour yesterday (because I was too tired to do anything else) and by the end of it, Not Jim was sitting under my legs as he ate his peanuts. I've noticed that Jim likes to take whole peanuts and hide them, whereas Not Jim tends to crack his open and eat them. Buddy there better start hoarding nuts or he ain't gonna make it through the hellacious winter.

Jim and Not Jim also got territorial over my hand, and chased each other off a few times. But at one point, I had a chipmunk eating out of each hand. The key to getting chippies to eat out of your hand is PATIENCE and staying still, particularly while they are figuring you out. They really are very tame and easy to feed by hand.

Around here, a chipmunk is called a "suisse": a "Swiss"!

Thus ends today's nature installment.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ask and ye shall receive...

Awwwww! I have gotten eight comments since last night, and none of them were profane. You people are just the best. I am just going to ignore the fact that three of them came from one friend in Mexico who was pretending to be three different people in order to pump up my (not) fragile ego. :)

KP, you are not intruding at all, nor is anyone else who reads this (unless they are a serial killer or some other sort of psychopath). It's nice to think that someone is reading your daily dose of drivel. And the British touch to my rants is no doubt due to having been brought up by a pair of ranting Brits!

And L is right too... I don't think I could keep up with a readership like Aunt Purl's or Yarn Harlot's. HOWEVER, I will take 10%. How's that?

I hope you are all enjoying the animal photos, because they will no doubt be changing somewhat in six weeks when we move to the 86-acre "hobby" farm we bought. While there are plenty of wild birds and animals around the farm, I know it's not going to be quite like this little nature paradise we currently live in. But on the plus side, you will eventually get some cute chicken, lamb, duck, geese, llama, donkey and who-knows-what-else pictures. Not to mention the fact that I am getting a DOG this fall!!! I have been dogless for a year and it's killing me.

To reward (?) you all for your kindness and faithful reading, I bring to you:

"Red Squirrel on CRAP hose that cost a lot of money and was purported to be no kink, even though it kinks more than any hose I have owned"

Nice lawn, eh? Oh well, we don't own it!

I admit, I like these squirrels, even though we have owned two houses where we have had to have them humanely trapped and removed from our attic, which was not a particularly cheap process. They install one-way exits in your roof afterwards. Red squirrels are smarter than grey squirrels, and more persistent. (But I'm not convinced they are smarter than chipmunks. Chipmunks can take THREE peanuts in the shell from me and run off the hide them, whereas the red squirrels, lacking those super-expandable cheeks, can only take one and thus must make a couple more trips for every one a chipmunk makes.)

Living in Nova Scotia, I once literally ran into a red squirrel as it was coming up our basement steps. Somehow it had made its way down from the attic to the basement, through the walls! A wild chase around our living room ensued, but I managed to get the squirrel outside without damage to either rodent or household objects. The cats were enthralled by it all.

I blame my father for this squirrel thing I have. Although he was quite a manly man, my Dad had this huge soft spot he kept hidden as much as possible. He used to get ticked if I cried, but it wasn't until I was in my 20s that I realized that this was because my crying was capable of making HIM cry, and he couldn't have that! Anyway, he loved taking me to feed the squirrels and chipmunks and ducks (and even the seagulls and pigeons) at the parks in Toronto. I sometimes think he just used me as an excuse, he enjoyed feeding the animals so much. Certainly it's something we did together until the end of his life, and in fact, five days after he died, on what would have been Dad's 62nd birthday, I went to the park and fed chipmunks and squirrels in his honour.

Okay, I have been verbose enough for one 24-hour period. I gotta go get a haircut now.