Tuesday, 23 June 2015

June Bugs, and other Facile Observations

 This is a Luna Moth that I found clinging to the wall of the house on Friday afternoon. It was in deep shadow, causing the colour in this photo to be a bit exaggerated. We scooped it into a strawberry basket and stashed it on the screen porch until Saturday so that Miss G could see it in all its glory. She released it after admiring it a lot (the grandkid loves bugs of any sort) and it sort of shook itself and flapped off into a tree, muttering imprecations, I am sure. The adults live about a week, I read, meaning that we took a big bite out of its fun time.

This are European Skippers. They are smaller than the size of a quarter and so what you see here is a crop of a photo I took at the extreme of my telephoto, straight down. They are sitting on a clover head, surrounded by clover leaves. Note the eye patch on the top moth. What is interesting about these is that there are hundreds fluttering around our lawn the last few days and piling up in many hundreds on the dirt roads where there is a trace, I believe, of calcium for them. They eat and breed on grass and have only one hatch a year, but the eggs overwinter. We have never seen so many of them at once. Good thing we have lots of grass. They are landing on the YD's dog, who is spending a month with us, and it is funny to watch her try to fend them off. At least, funny to me.

We have too much grass. It has been warm and rainy, interspersed with beautiful sun, and the grass is growing so fast JG is mowing like a mad man and still not keeping up. This weather has also caused the flowers to come ahead fast and we already have orange lilies in bloom, along with the late iris and all sorts of wild flowers. My white lilac was loaded, early.

We also have the YD's cat and I sadly watched her tormenting a chipmunk the other day. Cats do this, and if the chipmunk had not dived for a hole beside the house, I think I would have had to go out, restrain the cat and kill the poor thing quickly. When I stayed with my grandparents as a small girl, there was a barn cat that brought her offspring to a spot below the summer kitchen porch (my grandmother always said she was leaving them for my grandmother to babysit) when they could walk. She would then go and trap a mouse or some other poor wee mite and let it loose, crippled, among the kittens. My grandparents said she did this to teach them to hunt and that we could not interfere as they had to learn to earn their living in the barn. But, soft city kid that I was, I hated the whole exercise. Even while I loved the kitties.I have two in this photo. And the dress is my Brownie uniform for summer camp.

The YD is off canoeing down the Nahanni with a group of fellow maniacs. She did the logistics for this trip and has been preparing for months. One of the trippers has a Spot and they are posting their location regularly. At present they seem to be moving down the river at horrific speed, covering big chunks of territory every few hours. I guess the water must be at a perfect level. It is reassuring to see the distance they are covering as it means they have not had to stop for any kind of mess-up. No one has had to swim, they have not dropped a boat, they are just rolling along. I love the modern equipment that allows me to look in on them like this. The daughter has done this trip twice before, once as an adjunct guide, so she does know what she is doing. (See mama reassuring herself. See mama pretending she is not worrying. Do not laugh at mama!)

JG turned out the boat yesterday and found it full of mouse droppings, nests made of chewed up charts, and other horrors. We do not know how the little monsters got in. Now if the cat wants to torment one of these wretched beasts, I may encourage her. JG certainly would.

Watching another series of thunderheads whisk in. We do not need more rain! Ah well, the flowers love it.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Just after the Ides of May

I drove in to my shopping town a few days ago on a beautiful sunny day. The woods and bushes along the county roads showed every shade of green imaginable, every bush that could manage was in bloom, every roadside was lined with spring flowers. It was a day to be glad to be alive, even with a list of errands and the prospect of lugging bags and bundles of groceries and supplies into the car and out of it again.

Here ‘in the bush’ there are the usual spring insects to dampen one’s enthusiasm for filling in the burned spots on the lawn with newly purchased patching seed. Blackflies in the sun, mosquitoes in the shade, more than the darting dragonflies can handle, worse luck. The hummingbirds are back and swarming the feeder. We have bird song, both spring courting song and exasperated clucking. We have three colours of squirrel and lots of rotten, nasty, hole digging chipmunks. We have had a bear through, necessitating two daily trips for me to take in the bird feeders at night and rehang them in the morning. And JG has just done his second cut of the lawn and field. In the process of this cut, he blew a lot of grass clippings into my laundry basket as I prepared to hang out the laundry. But I have forgiven him; had to if I wanted him to barbeque the steaks.

Spring in Lanark, much as usual except for low rainfall, although we have rain forecast for today. Having typed that, I looked out the office window and saw rain falling. And I meant to get the seed patches in before it started. Ah, well. 

It is Victoria Day here in Canada. We celebrate the Queen’s birthday on the first Monday before the 24th of May, even though that date is not the birthday of either Victoria or our present Queen. It is the long weekend dedicated to opening up the cottage, getting the annuals into the flowerbeds (our frost-free date here is the 24th of May), and getting the salt stains out of the car and a coat of wax onto it. It may also be the first big barbeque of the summer (who cares about a little rain), and it is a fine time for fireworks, weather notwithstanding. Lots of bangs and whistles last night, luckily a good way away.

JG has been out hunting porcupines, with a view to keeping the YD’s dog out of the hands of the vet.
She (the dog) had her second mouthful of quills earlier this spring. Three porkies are the score so far. And JG dug a deep hole and buried them. A bear has been by once and so we are not feeding the deer at all and are, as mentioned, being very cautious with the bird feeders.W e hope to have seen the last of him as we are going to be doing a lot of dog sitting over the next two months and while a mouthful of quills is annoying and expensive, a run-in with a bear could be a lot worse. Just ask one of my neighbours who found one in her kitchen a few years ago. Mostly the black bears are shy and seeing one is a rarity. But there is the occasional ‘garbage bear’ that has learned about human trash pails and food, and that requires sterner measures.

I love taking the paper (or iPad) and my coffee out to the screened porch these days. It is on the second floor of our home and surrounded by trees – it is like being in a tree-house, only furnished with comfortable chairs and tables. On the porch I am in the middle of the bird song with a  view all across the lawn and back field but only steps from a coffee refill. There is a wind chime and usually a breeze to swing it. It does collect every grain of pollen that blows by, but it is fairly easy to clear that away. If I remember. I had a guest in a long knit navy skirt last June, right in the middle of the worst of the evergreen pollen dump, and she was not as easy to clean. 

We have more guests in prospect and so I am finally going to have to bite the bullet and finish the hems on the guest bedroom curtains. And it is raining, a perfect day to stay inside and sew. 

Maybe after a few minutes on the porch.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Obligation Day

As I wait for my next load of wash to finish and be ready to hang on the line, I cannot help remembering my mother’s intense interest in the weather prospects for washing. She studied the forecasts (even then they were much less precise back then) with a view to planning her housework around her prospects for drying the clothes on the line. She categorized weather, her highest praise for a fine day being to label it as a ‘blanket day’; that is, a sunny and low humidity day with a good stiff breeze, perfect for bringing in soft and fluffy blankets from the line. Today is not a real blanket day: it is hot, but humid and with only a faint breeze. My sheets are out on the line, however, and a load of whites is almost ready to go.

When I do laundry I remember my mother. When I pick up one of her treasured books from my office bookshelves, plant annuals in the flower beds, find a grammar error ( my own as well as others), spread tomato relish on something, put cold water on  my wrists on a hot day, go to a play, all these actions are something my mother taught me or bequeathed me. I do not remember her illness and final decline but rather cherish the vital woman who raised me, but also did so much more with her life. And I do not need Mother’s Day to do this.

As a matter of fact, the celebration somewhat grates on me. We have sent flowers and a card to JG’s 98 year old mother who is not enjoying the twilight years of her life very much. She does still enjoy flowers. And we get them to her fairly often. Mother’s Day is just another chance to do that. And send a card. I find myself thinking that the card makers, florists and restaurants must have created this event. And many retailers jump on the bandwagon. (Give your mother perfume; here are lots of photos of the bottles so that you can choose. Right!) I guess the day is a reminder. But it can also be a burden to daughters, two of whom, my frantically busy ‘girls’, are heading off on the hour+ drive to here, bringing dinner. Because it is The Day.

Not that I don’t appreciate having dinner catered, or catching up with the flying daughters. I really do. But it might be nice for them to be able to fit this sort of thing into their schedules instead of feeling they have to do it right now in the middle of the end of the academic year and a pretty hectic time at the YD’s government department.

In my case, on the next beautiful sunny and breezy day, I will hang the blankets out on the line and feel thankful. In both cases, I will feel loved. What more can you ask.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Not totally a Rant about the Weather

Many a reader who wanted to read a tale through was not able to do it because of delays on account of the weather. Nothing breaks up an author's progress like having to stop every few pages to fuss-up the weather. Thus it is plain that persistent intrusions of weather are bad for both reader and author.
Mark Twain, The American Claimant

This has been a winter when there has been little to write about except the weather, and that little often modified by weather delays. In fact, it has been the coldest February ever recorded here in eastern Ontario, and January wasn’t much better. So, as Mark Twain points out, persistent intrusions of weather are just plain annoying. In real life, as well as in art, hmm?

Not entirely. Some of us have been having a small competition on Facebook as to whose piles of snow were the highest, whose photographing fingers the coldest, whose woodpile depleting the fastest. Fun. I think everyone I read has had a win in at least one category. I also think enough is enough and if I don’t see at least an icicle within the next few days, I am emigrating. To the equator, or close by.

It has been a short and sobering month, February as well as icy cold. There have been the deaths of a cousin I knew well in our school days, of a good and long time friend and of the husband of a wonderful neighbour, all within the last few weeks, plus the funeral of the father of a fine man with whom I worked for some years. At the beginning of the month JG caught norovirus in his mother’s nursing home and ended up so sick that I called an ambulance to haul him into the Emergency Room to get rehydrated. He was not happy with this, but he is now fine and back to chopping down trees, so I feel justified. Scary call to have to make.

In more quiet hours I have spent a lot of time sorting photographs, both from our Hawaii trip and of the land around here, I have not done the mending (stop laughing!) and I have refilled and rescattered bird feeders and deer food on at least a daily basis. The birds have shown themselves as fluffy balls of appetite and the deer stand  at the edge of the field waiting for the sound of the tops coming off the corn and deer feed containers, surging in toward the feeding station often before I have walked out of sight.

Lately we also have a huge solo male turkey hanging around the feeding station tempting fate. Easter is coming and so is the hunting season for Tom turkeys. This one is safe from me, though. I had a turkey that size to cook at Christmas and it is only just lately,  praise be, that it is finally finished. I hauled the last container of turkey pie makings out of the freezer on the weekend and made two pies, the remnant of one leaving my kitchen with remarkable speed in the hands of my YD, and the other providing a meal for a neighbour and her cat. And the turkey soup was a success at a Hall card party. If I do Christmas next year, it is going to feature a small turkey. A very small turkey. I am too old to be haunted by leftovers.

It is a gorgeous blue-skied day today. I squint when I look out my office window, and if my clothesline were not sagging into the snow piled underneath it, I think I would have hung out the wash. Soon now, quite soon, I will be able to do that, the roads will turn to muddy mush, the birds will start courting and the sap will run. Tomorrow would have been my grandmother’s birthday and should have been the ED’s birthday had she not arrived so very, very late. Would we have called her Irene if she had? It certainly would have been a distinctive name in the ‘60’s.

I note, having had a lot of time to read silly stuff this last chilly while, that my name, Mary, reached it’s top in popularity in the ‘50’s and has dropped away off the bottom of popular names in North America since then. I once worked a summer at a small residential art school where, of the seven of us on staff, three were named Mary. It meant a good response when the cook yelled. And that all of us ended up with double names for that summer. I became Mary Pat, but was able to lose it as soon as the summer was over, thank goodness. I was fifteen that summer and I remember much of it clearly and with nostalgia. Was it also Mark Twain who said, famously, that youth is wasted on the young?

And I think I have just spotted a baby icicle starting to grow. Maybe the snow is shrinking under the clothes line as well.