Friday, April 25, 2008

Of stars and birds

Okay, stars first. For our tenth anniversary, we bought ourselves a very nice telescope that we really enjoy using. For 15th anniversary, which is next month (how did THAT happen?), we have bought ourselves a Meade My Sky, which helps lazy-ass amateur astronomers such as ourselves learn about the objects in the sky by pointing this device at them. We're looking forward to trying it out!

And here's a challenge for Happy Wombat Boy. What is this bird?...

Whenever I don't know what kind of raptor/raptoresque thing I'm seeing, my standard guess is red-tailed hawk (and I did see one yesterday, and it was making its characteristic cry.) This is the best photo I have of the mystery bird, which was flying over our field. Fire away (with suggestions, not buckshot.) I have faith in your bird knowledge, HWB. Oh, and when do you think I should put up my hummingbird feeders here?

Last night we went out after dark and heard owls hooting to each other! Oooh, I do love owls, even the barred owl that systematically ate our pond goldfish in BC. I'm pretty sure, from listening to mpegs of owl calls, that it was a pair of Great Horned owls calling to each other last night. You can listen here. HWB, what are the odds of getting a barn owl to live in our barn? Slim to none? Remotely possible? Doesn't the barn have to have things going on in it, so there are rodents for the owls to eat?

I may have posted these before, but this is the goldfish-eating barred owl of December 2004 (unless I have misidentified it. HWB?)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Is this a deer I see before me?

The other evening, there were deer in the cornfield next to us (not an unusual event):

There were also bazillions of Canada geese, which you can see in the foreground of these photos.

And then upon this pastoral scene appeared a dufous dog:

The deer were already fleeing before Tristan noticed them. A mighty hunter he is not.

More geese in front of the early-evening moon:

And the usual gratuitous dog shots...

Happy spring, everyone!

Friday, April 18, 2008

A present from Sophie

Welllll, I hadn't received any "presents" from Sophie in quite a while, so I'd let my guard down. Then, while we were walking around the fields the other evening, I saw this (I was out taking photos so my camera was right at hand):

“Uh oh... that doesn't look right.”

“Uh oh... Sophie has something. A piece of wood? A clump of dirt?” Deny, deny, deny.

“Oh my. She's looking awfully proud and determined, and she's coming to me!” (she had to go around a stone wall) “I don't think that's a clump of dirt, or a piece of wood, or some animal's poop...”

Sophie only ever brings me on thing, besides her ball...


“Look, Mummy, LOOK what I brought for you! I am so PROUD! I am such a MIGHTY huntress!”

”Wait, if you're going to take photos, THIS is my best side.”

Ah yes, she'd brought the remains of yet another poor little creature. At first I thought "muskrat bits" bit I'm pretty sure it was a meadow vole. I found a dead onw in the fields a few weeks back and it had exactly the same fur. Plus, muskrats are quite a bit bigger than meadow voles!

Much as I treasured Sophie's gift, I really didn't need or want it. Still, I did not want to offend her by refusing such generosity. So I gingerly picked the... thing ...up by my fingertips, and when Sophie ran on ahead, I tossed it into the creek.

However, I neglected to take into account the fact that the creek was flowing fairly quickly downstream... towards the dogs.

The blotch in the water is poor deceased Mr. Meadow Vole:

And at about the time I spotted it, so did Sophie. And she sure as hell wasn't going to let THAT treasure just float on by...

Oooooh dear, I could see where this was going.

She is a Labrador RETRIEVER, after all...

And out the other side. Success!

Once again, ever so proud. And WET.

And this time, she wasn't going to be foolish enough to drop it at Mummy's feet.

It's going to be a long spring.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More gratuitous dog shots

What can I say? Tristan and Sophie: I love them! This is what they were up to before and during my "duck photo shoot" yesterday.

Tristan is half Vizsla, which you can see in his colour and very deep chest. Both dogs love to run and run and run...

His bitchy sister has the ball yet again, but Tristan doesn't mind too much!

Sophie and Tristan were in a "stay" when I took these, waiting for me to finish photographing pintails! That's one of the three Sacred Balls ("Good Cuz" and "Bad Cuz") to the right. One of the Sacred Balls, the blue one the dogs came with, had been missing for months now, but I expect it to reappear in the thaw.

Just enjoying the sun on his face, and a spring breeze:

A noble profile...

Some bird action

Well, first off, the spring thaw is picking up! The creek (officially a municipal drain) broke its banks last week and is now receding like Donald Trump's hairline. The birds love it, especially the Canada geese.

As you can see, there's a lot less snow than there was a week ago today! And there are bazillions of Canada geese in them thar fields, should you wish to click on the photo to enlarge and see some of them:

But the best thing is, I saw a pair of Northern Pintail ducks yesterday, a first for me, and I even managed to get some not-so-hot photos with my long lens. Not easy with a couple of dogs jumping around you, wanting to play ball. Ducks are not really keen on Labrador retriever types.

I looked at the pintails through binoculars as well. Very beautiful, and yes, the male does have a long "pintail":

A mallard joined in the fun:

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, er, farmhouse... I was sitting in my office when an explosion of birds flew past my window, the sort of thing that tells me somebody is hunting at my birdfeeders. I looked out my window and wondered why a common grackle was sitting quietly in the hedge:

And finally I said to myself, "Duh! Grackles don't have tails with bars across them! Matter of fact, grackles aren't shaped like that at all. That thing would have to be a grackle on 'roids in heavy make-up!" What I spied through my dirty window (hence the bad picture) was the perpetrator of the birdfeeder attack, a sharp-shinned hawk (correct me if I'm wrong, Happy Wombat Boy! For sure it wasn't a Cooper's hawk -- too small!) The picture is (obviously) NOT great:

I also saw an American Kestrel on my walk yesterday. No pictures of that one, alas. I'm always seeing them around here, sitting on the power lines overlooking the fields; very attractive small killers, formerly known as sparrowhawks.

And here's one of my perennial favourites, the hairy woodpecker, on our suet feeder:

If you want to learn more about birds, check out Happy Wombat Boy's blog! He is extremely knowledgeable about all things avian.

And to show you how spring is slowly progressing in my garden, this is the latest state of affairs in one of the flower beds:

Daffodils, tulips, lilies and others are doing their best to grow!

This is the bed that had the metal roof from the granary on it all winter. My manly-man husband got out his reciprocating saw on Sunday, cutting up the roof and hauling it away. Much, much better..

We spent Saturday looking at zero-turn lawnmower beasts to cut the acres of grass on this farm... sigh. Right now we own a pushmower, and I like that. I hate wasting gas on grass, but we'll see what we can do in the future.

By the end of this week, it is supposed to hit almost 70F. Do you think spring may finally be sprunging? Spranging? Springulating?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Spring thaw

It's trying, it's really trying. The temps have been above freezing every day, but we have the snowpack from hell. Walking in our fields, the snow is still above the tops of my boots. But the grass is starting to show through, the creek is swollen, and I am imaging a farm without snow in May. We first saw this place on April 1st last year, and there was not a speck of snow on the ground! So different from this year...

The dogs are finding all sorts of good things to smell as the snow melts:

If you look carefully (click on the pic to enlarge) there is a pair of Canada geese in the middle of the creek. All the birds are pairing up and getting it on! ;)

Yes, my friends, that brown stuff is grass, blessed grass!

Meanwhile, back in the barn basement... this is where the last owners kept meat chickens some years back. Gordon is trying to figure out how to turn it into a pleasant, well-lit, draft-free, predator-safe coop for our future laying hens:

And the rodents and who knows what else have been very busy tearing up the barn insulation all winter! We are pulling it all out anyway. What a mess! There is a sort of office above this area, which Bill insulated. But the animals have wrecked that and we won't use that area as any kind of office anyway, so we're renting a small dumpster and pulling out all the torn, animal-pee-scented insulation. What a fun job that will be!

The other night, we were woken up by a pack of coyotes making ungodly noises rather close to the house. When we get sheep, we are going to need several guard animals!

Spring is springing... bring it on!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sweet kitties

We went back to the Cornwall SPCA to brush cats again yesterday. This is becoming addictive! We chatted with two of the staff there who remembered we had adopted Alex, the three-legged cat, back in October. We took them in a bag of puppy food; they give charitable receipts for donations like that! You should check out the wish list of your local shelter and see what you can take in. Sometimes their needs are quite modest: laser paper, stamps, blankets... things you might already have lying around your house.

Hope, the cat missing the tops of her ears, seems to have been adopted, but Taffy is still there, bless her. Naturally I would have brought her home with me were it not for my sensible husband, who is the only thing standing between me and life as a crazy cat lady. But we both brushed and cuddled her, so she got a good dose of attention yesterday. She's very pretty and sweet, and I hope someone falls in love with her soon. When you pick her up, she goes limp in your arms, closes her eyes, and turns on the purr-engine.

I tell you, my hat is off to the shelter workers. I could not do any of their jobs, and I'm so glad that they are there to care for the abandoned, abused and neglected animals. We were talking with one nice girl (sorry, woman, but she's probably young enough to be my daughter!) at the counter yesterday. She clearly loves her job, but I don't know how she can hold her tongue dealing with some of the (human) idiots that go into that place. I admire her. And the cruelty investigators, I can't even imagine how they do their jobs. Fantastic people.

There are four bunnies out in the lobby awaiting homes, and I wish someone would adopt them, too. Fortunately the dogs in this shelter have a good adoption rate; only one of them was still there from our last visit.

The Cornwall SPCA needs a new roof and is fund-raising for that. I wish I knew a roofer who owed me a big favour! :) If you have spare pop cans and live in the Cornwall area, be sure to drop them off at the shelter. Every little bit helps.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Welcome to Reno World!

Vince, our drywall/plaster professional, started work this week. Yesterday he tore down my hideous, crooked, dark and dank plywood closet. He is building me a proper one with drywall on it instead of WALLPAPER OVER PLYWOOD! Here is how it looked at the end of yesterday. The last one was not parallel with the ceiling. This one is, although you can't tell from this photo:

Gordon took the closet in his office as his own. I was happy to share this closet with him, but he generously gave me our whole bedroom closet. Clearly I am not one of those women who walk into a house and decide to buy it based on closet space. :) I don't have a zillion outfits, and I hate buying shoes. Call me a freak of womanhood!

Here is what was behind that 8-foot piece of plywood nailed to the wall. Actually, the hole was smaller than this; Vince has enlarged it to facilitate repairs:

What a gripping blog entry, eh? I am mainly doing this for my friends (Hi NK! Hi SS!) living vicariously through our renos.

A view towards the windows. Vince has taped many, many cracks in the plaster.

A view to the other end of the room:

My faithful helper and design consultant:

"I think you should carpet the floor with plush shag, and put balls and hanf stuffed toys everywhere, and leave out silver bowls of dog food!"

That blue floor has got to go.

And now for something completely different. On Saturday, Gordon made us Crunchy French toast with crême anglaise, with sauteed apples, courtesy of Ricardo Larrivee, author of Weekend Cooking:

Yeah, I think I'll keep Gordon around for a while yet. ;)