Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Springtime at the farm

Yeah, I know, this blog is becoming a little too dog-centric...

Here is Sophie, tired and happy. As you can see, the grass is riz! And I know where all the birdies iz: nesting around my house! Barn swallows over the back light, robin in the front bush, and on and on and on. Maternal vibes everywhere.

What a difference six weeks makes, eh? The path through the woodlot to the back pasture. You'll note the lack of snow.

This is our spring-fed mucky pond that needs an aerator (windmill-powered.) It's full of all sorts of frogs and who-knows-what-else, and leeches. I know that cuz Tristan jumped in and came out with a leech hanging onto his chest. Ick!

This is the river that runs across the back of our property. The dogs adore swimming in it, running along the banks, snd harrassing the muskrats that live there.

Tristan and Sophie swim towards each other, bridging the great divide.

And back towards home, the "creek" or drainage ditch, and four Canada geese.

A storm was rolling in the day I took these photos. The farmer who currently rents our fields has planted them with soybeans destined for Japan. Eventually we plan to reclaim everything and turn it organic. Period.

The storm clouds gather over the farm. Four lightning rods on the barn, not to worry!

And my still-expanding veggie patch. We took back about 1/2 acre of land behind the barn. This weekend we are tilling all of it except the part for the veggies. The weeds are getting out of hand. We had to rent a tiller but that's okay. Then we are planting it with meadow mix. One day in the not-so-distant future, we hope to see a few sheep here. I hoed the whole damn veggie patch by hand. You may not be able to tell by the photos, but it is huge. My arm and shoulder muscles are now very strong!

Last fall I planted a ton of garlic, and I have since added 400 onions (red, Spanish, yellow and white), 60 potatoes (Red Cloud, Yukon Gold, and some blue potatoes), arugula, spinach, Swiss chard, scallions, and sunflowers. I am behind on my seed planting and have a lot that I will add this week, plus I have six flats of various veggie seedlings hardening off, to be planted by about June 1st. Gordon's jobs this summer are to build me a cold cellar and a chicken coop. We'll see how he does!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Taunting Chipmunk

Poor Alex. Like it's not bad enough he only has three legs. Like it's not bad enough he can't jump up on the windowsills without assistance. Like it's not bad enough he can no longer run free in the wilds like the tiny jungle tiger he believes himself to be. Alas, now the poor cat has to endure a taunting chipmunk (with no fear of felines) mere inches away on the other side of a pane of glass!

"Is this a chipmunk I see before me?"

"Me thinkest thou must shuffle off this mortal coil, O stri-ped beast! Oh happy dagger... this is thy sheath! There rest, and let the chipmunk... DIE!"

"What ho? Dost thou MOCKETH me, small carrier of fleas? Thinkest thou not that I can puncture thy velvety hide with one swipe of my sharp claws?"

"Ah HA! I unsheath my five blades of glorious doom! I striketh at thou withest the death hammer of my noble paw!"

"What? Thou doth turn thy BACK to my weapon of destruction? What? What? Alas! Woe is me! .... &@#&!?$*^$%@# GLASS!!"

Meanwhile, in another time and dimension...

There was a way cuter photo than this that never got taken, because Tristan moved while I got my camera (naturally). He and Alex were sitting together at the patio doors, watching a red squirrel scamper back and forth (all of the creatures around here enjoy taunting our pets!) Tristan and Alex's heads were moving back and forth in unison and it was very cute.

After Tristan left, Alex continued to squirrel-watch from his cozy bed. The pink arrows shows the squirrel dashing across the deck.

Those squirrels and chipmunks better hope Alex never learns to open doors. He has been an absolute mouse-killing machine in our basement. We saw two mice last fall, then two dead mice, then no more mice, period. No mice droppings, no evidence at all of rodents in the house, other than two fat happy cats!

Meanwhile, Alex dreams of bigger things... like chipmunks.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Some might say TOO sensitive...

Haven't done one of these for a while!

Guys Like That You're Sensitive

And not in that "cry at a drop of a hat" sort of way

You just get most guys - even if you're not trying to

Guys find it is easy to confide in you and tell you their secrets

No wonder you tend to get close quickly in relationships!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Just ducky!

It never ends around here...

The other day, I found a duck egg, still warm, sitting in the grass by our creek. I saw some mallards fly off just before we got there, so I don't know if I scared an egg out of someone or what, but there it was. I figured I would just leave it in the grass. Sophie had other ideas. We walked along for a bit before I realized she had something hidden in her mouth, as per usual. I made her stop and she dropped it daintily at her feet. Yup, the duck egg.

"Leave it!" I commanded, foolishly turning my back to her. Walked a bit more, turned around and saw that yet again, she had something in her mouth.

"Drop it!"

Duck egg.

"Good grief, woman! Leave the damn egg!"

Walked a few more feet. Felt suspicious. Turned around.

Egg in Sophie's mouth.


Thunk. My, duck eggs are strong!

"Come on, Sophie."

Walked a few more feet. Suspicion returns. Turned around.

"Oh for the love of... forget it! Keep the damn egg!" And you could see that she was happy for the permission. She carried it a bit further, set it down, cracked it open and ate the whole thing, shell and all. Fortunately it was just yolk inside and not embryonic duckling. :(

It did occur to me that normal people probably wouldn't stand around photographing this whole process, but then I never claimed to be "normal."

Do you like the lovely day-glo orange collar? Each of the dogs has two new collars now, the "farm" collar and the "out on the town" collar. These hideous orange ones are waterproof, with waterproof tags. Not sure yet how they would do if they are rubbed in dead animal lard, but I have no doubt that Sophie will test that out for me at some point. Perhaps I can let the manufacturer know, so that they can add it to their sales pitch: "Sophie-tested and proven to withstand wretched stinking dead animal parts being rubbed all over it! Washes right off with boiling acid!"

By the way, last week's dead-animal stink has finally faded from Sophie and Tristan's coats. I am ever-so-grateful for that. I have also stopped complaining when they roll in mere goose poop or turkey droppings.

The day-glo orange collars look especially nauseating paired with Sophie's PINK leash and Tristan's YELLOW one. My burning designer eyes!! Eeeyuw!

Lord love a duck...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The sparrow challenge

I somehow doubt this will be much of a challenge for Happy Wombat Boy, however...

Is this a Savannah sparrow? The tail is notched!

And I've lost track of how many sparrows I photographed... is this a Savannah sparrow too?

What about this one? Or is it a song sparrow?

I *think* I may have heard a grasshopper sparrow in the front field yesterday but further research is required. I have been listening to their call on the Cornell site.

Thanks, HWB!

Happy anniversary to us!

Today is our 15th wedding anniversary and yes, the years have flown by. But there's no one I'd rather spend my years with than you, G. Here's to 10 x 15 more... je t'aime!

PS: My Mum made my wedding gown (and the bridesmaid dresses.) She was a talented dressmaker. And Gordon wore a kilt.


A couple more photos for those who haven't seen them. I blotted out Scott's (L) eyes, to preserve his decency. Snerk! Happy Wombat Boy (R) gets no such service. That's Gordon in the centre, before I turned his beard grey.

Oh my, we looked so young. I guess on our 25th anniversary (knock wood), we'll think we looked young on our 15th anniversary. I do believe that our wedding day was the last time I wore heels. My Mum did a nice job on my dress though, don'tcha think? We had a fun day but our poor friend Kate, who played trumpet at our wedding, had her trumpet stolen out of our other friends' car while we were all at the wedding reception (enjoying the free bar, among other things!)

Which reminds me: some of my friends toilet-papered me at the reception. I should scan the pictures of THAT! I love my friends. :)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Last week I was walking the dogs in the fields when I just about stepped on a nest! It contained one newly-hatched baby, and two as-yet-to-be hatched eggs. I thought I'd seen some sort of sparrow fly off it, so I was trying to figure out what was nesting in the ground up there. I was also freaking out because our fields are being sown on May 15 and I don't want squashed babies. I'm sure there are lots of other nests in the fields but now that I have found this one, I want to protect it.

Last night, I found the nest again, and today I went back to take pictures. I put a few rocks around it so I can find it again, but now I think I should move them back so it's not so damn obvious there's something there. I just want to make sure the babies fledge before the soybeans get planted. Can you see why I nearly stepped on the nest?

Do you see them now?

Fuzzy little baaaaaaabies!

Okay, I'm sorry, but they're so cute it pains me. If the guy who rents our land comes before the fledging, I'll just have to lie down in front of his tractor.

Can you see their mother (or father, but I presume mother)?

Ta daaaa! Horned lark!

Out in the field, I thought it was a killdeer, but when I looked at my photos, I realized I had been wrong.

And now for something completely different. Name that frog! (My field guide isn't handy) I thought all the spotty frogs I was seeing around here were leopard frogs, but evidently not.
And yesterday I saw two massive bullfrogs in our pond.

And here's the creek. Things are greening up!

By the way, I had my long lens on my camera and stayed as far back from the nest as possible, and didn't stay long, period. I really don't want to disturb them, and I really don't want them ploughed under, so I will have to keep an eye on them.

Coming up for Happy Wombat Boy, I have sparrow pics for you to I.D. I think they are Savannah sparrows, but I need your ultimate opinion!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


I love spring, but oooooh, the mud! The dogs are now getting hosed down once or twice or even thrice daily. Initially I was feeling guilty, spraying them with cold water, but then I realized that they have been swimming in the creek since, what, March? Early April? If they can tolerate water that has just thawed from ice, a gentle little spray of well water ain't gonna kill them. They both stand still while I rinse them off, which makes me think they are used to this.

Sophie just adores sticking her head in muskrat holes on the creek and river banks, as you can tell:

But they are both pretty good at getting mud all over themselves, not that this photo shows the worst of their efforts:

Until about a week ago, there was still snow in the woods to roll in , to get that nice clean feeling after a mudbath:

These are the woods at the back of our property. The water has almost completely receded now. but the dogs are in their element when they can splash around in water:

Gordon in our back pasture. He often has this bemused look when I am talking to him, particularly when I say something rude:

I, of course, am completely innocent and demure. Completely.

And just to prove it's spring:

And look! Green grass around the farm!

Meanwhile, Sophie trees one of the red squirrels that love to taunt her. "Pleeease, oh pleeeeese fall out of that tree!"

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Bell Canada kinda sucks

And the "kinda" is just because I'm feeling polite this morning.

On Monday, our phone line went out a couple of times, then developed a horrendous buzz, with intermittent crackling, that made it almost impossible to have a phone conversation. And you do realized what happens to dial-up internet access when you have interference on your phone line, don't you? That's right... it drops from a blazing (it is to laugh) max of 44000 BPS to at best a limping 9000 BPS or, even worse, a speed so slow your modem can't detect it. And to make matters worse, your modem hangs up constantly. So I effectively was without internet access for a few days. It's hard to believe this is 2008. At one point I was able to receive emails, albeit at a glacial pace, but not send them. Please 'splain to me why Gordon can get Crackberry access here, but we can't get anything better than dial-up, or a satellite service that everyone hates? (See Xplornet Sucks) Oh right, it's all about money. I forgot.

So why "days" without internet access, rather than hours or minutes? Because Bell took its own sweet time sending a repairman out here. I guess they figure everyone has a cell phone these days, so why rush? It's not like you NEED a phone, right? Well, BELL, because I can only get cell phone reception here IN THE COUNTRY if I'm lucky, and even then it's OUTSIDE, maybe standing on the septic field. And the weather turned cold this week, so I was not really enjoying having my phone conversations out in the bitter wind. But hey, what does Bell care if I freeze off my tender hiney in a cold spring breeze? And what does Bell care if I can't use my dial-up, since they don't care enough and are too cheap to bring high-speed out this far in rural Ontario?

It was quite the comedy act when Gordon called Bell Monday to request service (yes, I know BELL, you might have to look up "service" in the dictionary. It's a word you used to understand a few decades ago.) Of course when he dialed 611, he got the damn automated system. I listened for the longest time as he struggled to get a real human being. The machine was asking many questions, and Gordon was giving many answers: "Yes." "No." "Yes." "NO!" "Today." "NO!" "YES!" "555-2342!" "YESSSS!" I sensed some irritation on his part.

And on it went, for several minutes. In the background, I started helpfully shouting out response words for him to try: "Breast!" "Doughnut!" "Hawaiian vacation!" "Fire in the hole!!" "Bite me!" Things did not improve when Gordon started laughing into the receiver. Apparently automated answering systems don't get humour.

Finally I could tell that the system was asking the nature of his problem: "Noise on the line." Nope, machine couldn't understand that. Too much noise on the line! "Noise on the line!" Nada. "NOISE. ON. THE. LINE!" exclaimed Gordon. It was at this point, several minutes on, that an actual human being came on the phone. Goooordon broke the computer, Gooooordon broke the computer! La la la la laaa la!

I continued to listen to half the conversation. Gordon had to repeat everything he had just spent several minutes sharing with the automated system. Then the hard sell started. Gordon was starting to sound exasperated. "No. I DON'T want a service plan. YES, I understand you will charge me $72 if the problem is inside the house."

"Yes, I have unplugged and replugged the phones. Yes yes yes. Yes, the phone is plugged back in." At this point I chimed in helpfully from the kitchen, "JUST SEND THE DAMN REPAIRMAN!" But of course what Bell really wanted was to sell us a stupid service plan, which we did NOT want because of course the problem is almost never inside the house. They just want you to think it will be so that they can sell you a damn service plan. I am old enough to remember the days when Bell just came and repaired things, inside or out, without a big hassle, hard sell, and several minutes spent yammering at a computer. Of course we had rotary dial phones back then as well. I'm feeling all nostalgic... ah, rotary phones... ah, Bell, a company that offered decent customer service. Those were the days!

"Wednesday between 8 and 5?" My ears perked up. WHAT? I had to wait until WEDNESDAY, 48 hours on, for a repair?! Gordon covered the receiver with his hand and asked me, "Would you prefer between 8 and 12, or 12 and 5?"

"Well, I'd PREFER they fix the phone RIGHT NOW but how about between 8 and 12?" I loathe early-morning service calls but wanted my internet back, not to mention the ability to speak on the phone without getting a headache from the loud noises on the line.

So the appointment was set, after far too much hassle. One should be able to call Bell for repairs to ITS phone line without being verbally strip-searched, interrogated and anally probed. I mean, HONESTLY! Hello, I am the CUSTOMER. Do you WANT my business? Do you really WONDER why we switched our long-distance to Primus?

I got dressed early yesterday and was all set for anything to happen from 8 am on. Of course, Bell Dude (a very nice guy, I might add. It's only the management that sucks at Bell; I always like the repair guys. Oh, why do I know this about repair guys? Because this is the third house we've lived in that has developed a loud buzz on the line, the third time we've had the service plan hard sell, and the third time the problem has been with BELL!!!!) shows up at 11:45 am, within the window but hell, I could have slept in a bit longer had I only known.

I could see him checking the boxes at either side of the end of our laneway. Then a pick-up truck stopped next to him. A guy got out and started chatting up Bell Dude; I figured he probably wasn't asking for a date; maybe it was his supervisor or something. Then our neighbour Steve showed up on his golf cart. Another 15 minutes of chatting ensued before Bell Dude finally drove up the laneway and rang the bell.

"Your neighbours are all asking me when they're going to get high-speed!" he told me. Not surprising; they are installing the lines for it a couple of kilometres down the road from us, but we have been told it will not reach our house. So close, and yet so far. I mentioned this to Bell Dude, who told me not to rush out and sign up for satellite just yet, as we may very well be able to get a signal (or whatever the technical term is). Apparently Bell is handing out modems for the locals to try out a week Friday. We'll see.

Turns out that the problems with our phone were mostly related to the installation of said high-speed lines going on down the street! What an insult... first Bell won't give us high-speed, then while providing it for everyone but us, they screw up our phone line so that we can't use our suckacious dial-up or have an intelligible conversation!

An hour later, Bell Dude, bless him, had fixed everything up. No charge, of course. My modem, while not connecting at its top rate of 44000 BPS, is at least chugging along at the respectable speed of 33,000 BPS. For this pleasure I waited two days and blew off a morning.

So I say to you, yes, Bell sucks (and this is just plain amusing.) Just like Air Canada sucks, and Xplornet sucks. Customer service is dead and buried in this country. Somebody bring me high-speed!!