Red dogwood, a burrowing river, good news from afar, and a peek inside the mother mould

1-P1250427Red dogwood now brightens the left foreground.  Snow-bonnetted teasels bend on their tawny stems.  (Shadows will be added later after the snow has dried.  Whoever heard of snow drying?)

Milder temperatures have freed up some of the river, but not all, as it burrows beneath its icy coverlet.

I’m looking forward to painting the snow-daubed brush on the right knoll and bank in the  coming week.

Does the fluffy snow almost make you feel like sticking out your tongue . . . waiting for a snowflake or two to fall on it?  Only those who have lived in or visited colder climes could possibly feel this way.

Good news from a far country !  Addo’s Bookstore on Bonaire in the Caribbean Netherlands emailed me proofs of Colour the ABCs this week, a colouring book which I created about the tiny island.  It is being printed in Holland, and should be available in his store in another month.  Hopefully, tourists will pick it up, bringing tons of fun to little people in North America and Europe as they colour iguanas, goats and flamingos, and  learn about the unique semi-desert island off the north coast of Venezuela, South America . . . the island I never heard about in school.  Did you?   Its captions are in four languages:  Papiamentu, Dutch, English, Spanish.  The queen angel fish on the cover, John’s favourite fish on the reef, glides gracefully above the coral, wearing her jewelled crown.

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Let’s head downstairs and see what Lloyd has been up to.

He has removed one section of the mother mould, revealing the rubber mould it supports.

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It was a nerve-wracking procedure to cut the rubber mould open without marring the plasticene original inside!

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This is the stand Lloyd built to support the mother mould, which securely cradles the rubber mould inside of it.  Lloyd is ready to cast the first reproduction of “Forty Winks.”

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Mother Mould and Cedar Clump

As you saw in the last blog, layers of liquid rubber were applied in alternating colours of blue and white so Lloyd could tell where he left off when brushing on each new layer.  After the last coat of liquid rubber, he left it to cure overnight.

Now it was time to study its contours carefully in order to determine the location of the sections of the supporting mother mould that must be made.  Each piece would be a solid, unbending plaster cast about half an inch thick which must be able to be removed without locking in the rubber mould beneath. Lloyd marked lines on the rubber, to delineate the boundaries of the three mother mould sections.

Lloyd prepares the final third section of the mother mould, inserting fibreglass strips to provide additional strength.

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The completed mother mould is left to dry.  The third section is at the back.
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Meanwhile, up in the studio, the three sticks on the right side of the arch have donned their robes of fragrant cedar, ornamented with sticky snow.
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Wild redwood bushes and weeds will soon appear in the left foreground.  The river has only been washed in, but will have to wait for more attention until after the redwood has arrived.  Snow-laden brush will sprout on the right, gloried here and there by sunbeams.  Please don’t shiver . . . but mix up a cup of hot chocolate instead, and dream of sleigh bells in the snow.

Musical chairs with paintings, and a new sculpture

The original of Brown Wings (in Wildlife category) is now available on our website.

Two of the Newfoundland originals may be purchased through Westmount Gallery, Toronto:  Gros Morne and Splashing Thru the Crags (see the Seascapes section).  Note that there are a total of five paintings in the Newfoundland series.

Lloyd has completed his sculpture of a hunter sleeping by a stump with a black and tan coon dog at his side.  He is in the process of making a rubber mould and then will fashion its mother mould in order to reproduce it.

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I believe Lloyd is going to title it, “Forty Winks.”   It will soon be available in three different versions:

As a base for a lamp

As book ends

As a centrepiece to enjoy.

First of the cedars to arrive! – September 17, 2014

A lot has happened since I last blogged after the wrens fledged and left Cedar Hollow.

Threatening to do so for a few months, my old computer finally died. Its new replacement kicked the bucket in just two weeks!  What a shock!  Back to Best Buy again.  I am presently struggling with the frustrations of Windows 8.1, so enrolled in a brief computer course.

On the brighter side of things, it is rejuvenating to retreat into the studio, enjoying the wonderful light that comes in through the skylight.  Notice the cedar tree on the left side of the arch.  Hopefully the sticks on the other side will become elegant cedars by the end of the week.

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Stay tuned!

He, she, they got their wings! – August 15, 2014

All was quiet around Cedar Hollow today, too quiet.  When I did some weeding and dead-heading, there was no action around the Swiss Chalet.  I turned off the falls to listen.  No cheeping for food.

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The winds chased white clouds across the blue sky, and waved the black walnut tree’s boughs back and forth.

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There was no use asking the tired little fisher boy if he knew where the wrens were.  He was fast asleep.

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During an afternoon break on the swing, the garden clock’s hands moved along ten minutes, 15, 20, with still no flash of brown wings to be seen.

After supper, Mr. McD and I spent some time on the swing, with the camera at the ready.  Judging by the fairly wide beak of little Duke Wren the 1st, I thought it would be another whole week before their departure.

The previous overnight temperatures were so low that Mr. McD and I hauled out our winter sleepwear and turned on the furnace.  Did the little wrens perhaps die of pneumonia? Did a cat catch their parents?  Oh such dreadful thoughts.

But then, remembering back to the baby cardinals last year, they left the nest just wearing blue pin feathers!   We couldn’t believe they were ready, but leave it they did.

Let’s think positively now.  Last night, both Lord and Lady Wren were making trips to the nest at an accelerated pace – it seemed to be every few minutes.  They must have been preparing the youngsters for flight tests they planned to hold at the crack of dawn.    

Bounce the Hummer came by and sat on the clothesline for several minutes, which was most unusual for him to do.

P1250201 I think he tried to tell me not to worry . . . that the young wrens got their wings this morning . . . and flew off into the wide, wonderful world!

Why didn’t I ask him how many there were?  Was it he, she, or they who graduated from Cedar Hollow’s flight school?  Just look at its impeccable runways!

P1250210 If he, she, they swing by to show me his, her, their diplomas, I’ll try my best to get their photograph.  That’s a promise!

And so concludes the tale of . . . A Summer at Cedar Hollow.

(Hopefully, in the future, this little tale will be available in e-book form and paperback.  Now I’ll go back to what I was supposed to be doing in the first place . . . blog on the progress of my current painting, THE BLAIR STONE ARCH.  Stay tuned.)

You keep the covers on! – August 14, 2014

The song sparrow says it all as she tests the water with her toe.  “It’s too cold for me!” 

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I took her picture while sitting on the lawn swing wearing a hooded jacket and sipping on a cup of hot chocolate!  Br-r-r-r!  The temperature only reached  16, and the winds gusted up to 50 kph, swinging the Swiss Chalet up and down and rocking it from side to side.  It truly was a Rock-a-bye baby in the treetops kind of day! 

But family duties must be taken care of no matter how abnormal the weather is.  Father Wren delivers some hot oatmeal porridge to little Duke Wren the 1st.  That should warm him up!

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“Now, you keep the covers on,” reminds Lady Wren before she exits.  “I don’t want you catching a cold.  Remember, Mrs. McD personally knit these afghans for you darlings.”

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Well, I mustn’t take that much credit . . . but I did plant the flowers and hostas around Cedar Hollow.  Lady Wren found a wilted hosta leaf or two that were just the right size to use as soft coverlets for her babies.  You know, of course, that there’s no fireplace in the Swiss Chalet, so layering is the thing to do.

The prairie-sunset-false-sunflowers were playing peekaboo today by the Cedar Shake birdhouse on Black Pole Lane!

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Buzz the Bumblebee doesn’t let a chill wind stop him.  No, Sir!  He’ll work the cone flowers until the backpacks on his legs are full and running over!

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After supper, who should visit Cedar Hollow but Bar Code, the Red headed Woodpecker!  He managed to squeeze into the front-yard bird feeder far enough to get a toothsome black-oil sunflower seed.  He prefers to unwrap his meal on the tree trunk. 

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A young female cardinal, a nuthatch, and a pair of goldfinches also came in to pick up their bedtime snacks!

Introducing you to little Duke Wren the 1st – August 13, 2014

Top o’ the morning from the tiger lily quintet! 

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Cedar Hollow received an abundance of rain last night, warm rain.  Drippity-splashity-sploosh!

By noon, the flowers had pretty much dried their frocks.  The two young start-ups in the prairie-sunset-false sunflower family have opened their first-ever blooms.  Below is a close-up of one of their happy parents:

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I turned off the waterfalls near noon to listen to the chatter coming from the Swiss Chalet.  This youngster answered the door when I climbed the knoll and knocked. His parents were out foraging, or else I would have been torpedoed!

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Compare Duke Wren the 1st’s wide beak with that of his parent below.

Aug.12-14-Adult wren's pointed beak

Never mind.  The fresh, organic diet he gobbles up will bring about major changes to it in a very short time!  Remember how quickly the baby robin’s big rubbery beak changed?

I wonder if the little duke is remembering to flutter his wings?

Larger portions are simply contagious! August 11, 2014

Who should venture into Cedar Hollow but a Yellow Swallowtail – a guest we have been anticipating for some time!

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Yellow is my favourite colour!  I have never seen a baby goldfinch before, have you?  He doesn’t have his black chapeau yet, but that will come.

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Lord and Lady Wren have been working their wings off!  The nestlings’ appetites are hard to satisfy!   Can you see the big larva Lord Wren has brought to the dinner table?  Looks like the youngsters have caught onto the larger portions all the restaurants are advertising these days.  It’s contagious, that’s what!

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“Keep your bibs on,” Father Wren says.  “I’ll be back in a jiffy!” 

Aug.11-14-Lord Wren

The song sparrow seems to have her eye on the Cedar Shake on Black Pole Lane.  She certainly has her nerve, as the wrens have scolded her repeatedly, but she knows a good piece of real estate when she sees it.

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She has tried out the view from the hoop lookout . . .

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. . . as well tested the waters in the bird bath.  Every convenience at Cedar Hollow! 

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Before supper, she was in the pan below the bird feeder in the front yard, nibbling on some broken bits of sunflower seeds.  Excellent  cafeteria!

Mr. McD actually saw an airplane accident this morning!  Lord and Lady Wren crashed into each other as they came in for a landing at the Swiss Chalet.  As I said before, we could sure use an air traffic controller at Cedar Hollow!  But . . . we didn’t have to call 911.  They revved their engines in opposite directions, and were soon back, taxying in fast food, and emptying the potty chamber in between runs.  I wonder if they’d like a bit of Tiger Balm to rub on their aching joints?

Lately when the parents arrive on the front porch of the Swiss Chalet, they quiver their wings and tail.  What’s this all about?  Are they encouraging their youngsters to try flying?  Is it Flight School’s Take-off 101 or something?

Out with the old, in with the new – August 9, 2014

Cedar Hollow had the last of its cedar hedging trimmed this morning.  After John severed the cord . . . we hauled out another extension cord and soldiered on.  When Mr. McD connects the end on again, we won’t miss the few feet of length we lost.  I made myself more useful by holding the cord out and away from the electric hedge clippers as John worked.  He has a good eye for getting things as  straight as an arrow.

You wanted to see the seeds of the tiger lily, didn’t you?  Now, why didn’t you just say so?  One can’t help but feel sorry, looking at the tiger lily’s brave leaves riddled by mean, selfish, disrespectful old bugs.  They should be hauled up on the carpet and charged with vandalism and defacement of property, that’s what!     

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The song sparrow is thirsty.  “Mind if I have a drink?” she seems to say.

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How could we say no?  She had better clear out of here fast, though.  Lord Wren has seen this trespasser.

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He signalled for backup.  In another instant, he and Lady Wren swooped full speed after the sparrow like a pair of fighter jets!!

But everyone isn’t on high alert at Cedar Hollow. 

The bumblebee patiently gathered nectar and pollen from the feathery spikes of astilbe.  I do love the little hum he makes.  See him on the right-hand stalk?

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Where is his home anyway?  Years ago, I stumbled upon pollen pots of a bumble bee in the grass beside a post – beautiful, soft, cream-coloured little crocks. 

In the late afternoon, a bird in the woods was making a one-syllable call repeatedly, somewhat like a robin does at times.  Nextdoor, the Rottweiler hurried up the knoll expectantly.  Did he think it was little Pipinka calling him?

Around supper time, we got a phone call to say that my new computer was ready for pickup.  As we headed home with it stowed in the cargo area of the Smart car (barely got it in), I commented to Mr. McD that it felt kind of similar to when we brought a newborn baby home from the hospital – the scary reality of caring for it from that moment on begins to set in with each mile.  

Why do computer companies have to keep changing things anyway?  Are they a cantankerous bunch, or what?  You just get comfortable with the system you have, and then they come out with a new-fangled next model.  You hang onto your old one like a favourite slipper with a hole in the toe . . . and then it conks out on you!  It’s not fair, I tell you.  Well, I’d be driving a Model-T with a mindset like this now, wouldn’t I?  

Cedar Hollow needs an air traffic controller! – August 8, 2014

There was tidying up going on in Cedar Hollow on the inside and on the outside!  Mr. McD Moved the old computer monitor out of the office, and removed a shelf that had held the big Dell tower.  That led to rearranging other things, installing hooks to hang some of them on, doing some rewiring to make power bars more accessible. 

He got a kick out of phoning John and asking how many monitors he had.  When he answered “Two,” his Dad replied:  “Oh you poor thing.  I don’t know how I could live with less than three!”  (He had just hooked up my old monitor to his network, and is also able to switch over to the flat-screen TV as a monitor.)  John realized his Dad had relished preparing this arrogant question all afternoon . . . hardly able to wait for him to get home from work to spring it on him.

Meanwhile, I was busy trying to find the top of my desk, getting ready for the wireless computer.  All sorts of pieces of paper stashed here and there had to be filed appropriately or in the round file.  The old scanner was given a spot high up in a storage area where it could be brought back if a  slide needed to be preserved —   not one of those things that make you squeal out loud when you slip down it, no.  I mean the 35mm kind of of a thing.  Maybe you are too young to make sense out of what I’m saying.  Never mind.  Just check it out on Google.

With technology ever changing, how do we keep up with it?  What do you do with cassettes that were treasured not very long ago, and now just collect dust?  That BIG SORTING JOB will have to be done later.  Ever catch yourself saying something like that?  I’ve got good intentions.  You wouldn’t doubt that for a minute now, would you? 

Outdoors, Lord and Lady Wren were going at quite a pace, and doing some tidying up of their own.  They came and went so fast, they were practically a blur!

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Several times I saw one of them fly out of the Swiss Chalet with a potty chamber filled to the brim!  They wouldn’t think of just tossing its contents out the door.  No way!  They winged the white cargo into the neighbour’s yard.  Free fertilizer!  Well, I think it’s free.  I couldn’t see from the swing whether they pecked at the neighbour’s door and handed them a bill or not, but that’s none of my business.

What the two of them really need is an air traffic controller.  It looked like they collided several times, arriving at the same instant, pushing in behind the other, or madly reversing and sitting on the clothesline while the other fed the demanding nestlings.  Why don’t they ease up on the throttle a bit when they see their mate heading for the entrance?  There doesn’t seem to be a YIELD SIGN anywhere in the walnut’s boughs!  What a state of affairs!

Around four o’clock, the nestlings had settled down for a nap.  All was quiet, beautifully quiet.  We turned off the falls to listen to the quietness.  Lady Wren spent some time preening on the wooden rail by the Prairie Sunset False Sunflowers.  She was partly hidden from view by its big leaves. 

Aug. 8-14-PSFSunflowers

Close by, the tiger lilies are splashing their namesake’s colours about.  I love their brown velvet slippers!  Have you seen the shiny black balls attached to their stem?  Plant one, and you’ll have tigers in your garden, too! 

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The cucumber vine, whose leaves are as rough as sandpaper on their underside, furnished us with delicious sandwiches yesterday.  Can you see a little cuc in the making?

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The crickets have begun singing, but sort of pianissimo so far.  Somehow they immediately remind us that mellow fall is just around the corner.  The sounds won’t be pianissimo in Fergus this week-end.  The Scottish Highland Games are on with the skirl of the bagpipes . . . the very music that sends chills down Mr. McD’s spine!  Yes, Sir!

But he wasn’t digging for worms – August 7, 2014

Whenever we go out to the lawn swing, the camera comes along.

Click!

I thought Mr. B was digging worms for Pipinka by his back fence.

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 As he began heading toward his house, he saw us, and broke the bad news.

“Pipinka died at two this morning.”

I could not believe my ears!

“He started to go downhill in the early afternoon.  Didn’t want to eat; just kind of flopped around; didn’t go to the perch in his box.  Then the dysentery began and never stopped.” 

“He seemed to be doing so well yesterday morning,”  I said. 

“It might have been some toxins on the worms I bought,” Mr. B said.  “My dog  felt bad, too.  She groaned.”

I expressed my admiration for the excellent care he had taken of Pipinka, both he and his mother.  I just couldn’t believe how quickly the dysentery took him.  The robin-like chirps he made yesterday would never mature into heavenly robin rhapsodies.  He would never arrive from the southlands to herald the beginning of Canadian spring.  We would never know if Pipinka would come back to his adopted family after a sojourn in Florida.

Good bye, little Pipinka.  I’ll treasure the memory of seeing you fall asleep, cradled in our neighbour’s hands.  You certainly were a good judge of people.

On a happier note, other sounds were increasing in volume in Cedar Hollow, coming from the vicinity of the Swiss Chalet.  The wrens’ youngsters are becoming more boisterous each day, and their appetites have increased as well.

Aug. 8-14-Wren on porch

But the morning was to bring us more bad news . . . . . . 

My faithful old computer conked out, and simply could not be revived.  Like the little robin, it just flopped around.  It was so impossibly slow . . . that I resorted to darning socks while waiting for it to do the next thing!   Why, I was so desperate, I even vacuumed out the dust clogging up some vents in the computer!

Our son dropped over right after work. He said that the all-blue screen I saw yesterday is often referred to as “blue death,” indicating  that the computer’s demise is imminent.  

The three of us headed over to Best Buy.  Fortunately, we were served by an older, experienced salesman.  Rare experience.  John and his Dad reviewed and compared specs on different models,  and I ended up with a 23-inch touch-screen wireless by Hewlett Packard.   When I paint in the studio now, I won’t have to drag a large cable along to view photos on the monitor.  

Somewhat like Apple, the Hewlett Packard’s computer is embedded around the edges of the monitor, so there is no need for a large tower.  The Geeks (that’s what they call themselves; I’m not being rude), will transfer data into the new machine.  John recommended that I purchase a HELP SERVICE for a year, one with 24-hour staff.  He knows all too well how awfully impatient his mother is when it comes to technical things.

When they were talking about how fast the new computer would be, Mr. McD asked, “How will I get my socks darned now?”  Do you have any idea?

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This blog has come to you courtesy of Mr. McD’s computer.  

 

Whose afraid of the big bad . . . ? August 6, 2014

Opening this old shed is giving me the heebeejeebies, the double heebeejeebies! 

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Note the bi-coloured stockings this prankster wears.  The latest fashion!

I didn’t close the doors completely as I was planning on doing some yard work.  A few minutes later, I took out the hoe, and . . . PLOP!  A grey tree frog had been sleeping on top of the blade of the hoe!  How was I to know he’d pick such a crazy place for a bed?

Help!  It’s raining tree frogs in Cedar Hollow, and it wasn’t even in the forecast!  I’ll be a wreck if they don’t soon find a more sensible place  to spend the night! 

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While weeding near the bird bath, I heard the baby wrens cheeping for more breakfast.  Lord and Lady Wren were quick on the wing, let me tell you, filling their youngsters’ orders as fast as they could.

“Now where is Lord Wren?  I could have sworn he was right behind in my tailwind.”

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Our neighbour’s son brought out Pipinka to show me his progress.  Mr. B is as good at caring for him as his mother, who is now in Europe on vacation.  I’m sure the first thing she asks whenever she phones is . . . How is Pipinka doing? 

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I would say Pipinka’s tail is only about an inch long, wouldn’t you?  How quickly his wing and back feathers are growing.  You don’t see much fuzz sticking out between them anywhere.  The former rubbery, wide beak looks quite proper now.  And what long toe nails!  Pipinka was chirping very robin-like as he sat in Mr. B’s hand while we chatted over the fence.   When he dozed, it was the bottom eyelids that moved up to shut his eyes! 

The Rottweiler wanted to see Pipinka, too.  Mr. B lowered his hand.  The huge black dog took a  sniff.  That’s all he wanted was a sniff . . . and his nose told him everything he wanted to know.    “Yes, the speckled bird, the tiny member of my family, is doing just fine!”

I asked Mr. B if he had thought of banding Pipinka. 

“If he comes back and comes to us, we’ll know it’s Pipinka.  No other robin would do that.” 

Sensible Mr. B.

In the afternoon, Mr. McD took this photo of an adult robin bathing.  How many days do you think it will be before Pipinka looks like this?

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Three torpedoes were fired in Cedar Hollow – August 5, 2014

Mystery solved! 

The alien from outer space has been identified, and we won’t be carried off by little green men after all!

A friend who reads the blogs said it was a hummingbird moth.  I went to the Internet, and, sure enough, she was right.  Let me share a small picture I found that will give you a better look at the moth than I was able to photograph for you yesterday when he was halfway inside the dark petunia.  This photo also shows his long tongue.

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The hummingbird moth returned to the petunia patch after supper.  Funny, but just knowing who he was made me unafraid of him.  And doesn’t he resemble a hummingbird in many ways? 

Thankfully, the rainy morning gave way to sun in mid-afternoon.  A black squirrel began to eat a walnut on top of the branch holding the Swiss Chalet, and he was perched only a few feet from it. 

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Lord Wren torpedoed him not once but three times! !  He dove right down at him, cuffing him on the ear!  I saw it!  The squirrel almost dropped his walnut . . . but hung onto it.  Talk about a David and Goliath situation! 

The squirrel ambled as far down the limb as he could, and sat down to continue his repast, not  flustered in the least. 

Aug. 5-14-sq. on left,1024- further away

I had read that wrens were feisty, and this was proof!  

It’s one thing to chase off someone who is too close to your home for comfort, like the black squirrel, but I’ll have to check out the Landlord and Tenant Act.  When we leased the Swiss Chalet to Lord and Lady Wren, we thought it was understood that the Agreement included the entire canopy of the Black Walnut tree, and nothing more.  Now they think they own the whole knoll below it!  

Now, tell me, have you ever asked a wren why he didn’t read the fine print before signing a Rental Agreement? Ve get too soon oldt undt too late schmart!

I was returning from putting the wheelbarrow behind the garden shed, and had to pass beneath the Swiss Chalet as I headed toward the steps.  Lord Wren lit into me full blast.  He was practically cussing me!  Imagine scolding your landlord!!  What’s this world coming to?  And what’s the good of filing a complaint with the Small Claims Court?  By the time it gets on the docket, the wren family will have moved out, and no one will be able to serve the summons!

Old Home Week – August 4, 2014

Opening the shed door . . . and I don’t have to finish the sentence.  You’ve already guessed who was hiding inside its inner edge.  Isn’t he wearing a handsome jacket?  If you look closely, you can see the suction cup on the bottom of one of his left toes!

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It wasn’t quite eight o’clock when I greeted my neighbour in her back yard.

“Do you want to see the bird?” she asked.  I high-tailed it into the house for the camera. 

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But this wasn’t Pipinka’s first meal of the day.  Oh no.  He chirps for breakfast at 5:00 a.m., and he expects to get it!  Mrs. B cuts her hand-dug fish worms into 1” pieces, which he prefers more than the scrambled eggs.

Aug. 4-14-Pipinks's second meal-1024-of the day, 8 a.m

With Pipinka on her sweatered forearm, Mrs. B showed me how she lowers her arm, and coaxes softly, “Fly.  Fly.”  Each time, Pipinka flutters his wings, but hangs on with his feet.  “His wings are getting stronger,” she observed.

“I was sitting with him in my hand yesterday, and he began singing to me,” she said.  “He really did.  I think he was thanking me for rescuing him.  Tears began falling down my cheeks, would you believe it?”

Mr. McD and I took all of our breaks and lunch out on the lawn swing, not wanting to miss the sight of Lord and Lady Wren launching their prized babies on their maiden flight.  Maybe this would be the day.  Twice I saw one of them carrying a white blob out of the nest, removing waste.  A few times, they were both inside the nest.  There was no dawdling on the front porch before or after any of their entries, which they often used to do. Not today.  It was Zoom!  Off to fetch more grub!  Zoom!  In to serve it up!  Well, we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

From seemingly outer space, an alien creature cruised silently into the petunia patch and filled his sizeable tank from several gas pumps!  If he had flown in my direction, I would have screamed!!!

What in the world is he?  (I lightened the photo quite a bit so you could see the creature inside the dark-purple petunia, so the creature itself would not actually be this light in colour.)

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Now, who should come back to pay us a visit but Old Dag the Dragonfly?  Wherever has he been?  This was truly becoming an Old Home Week day!  Old Dag loves to land on a sunny step,  turn on his rotors, go straight up for a few feet, and back down again.  He repeats these manoeuvres a few times.   With so many aviation crashes happening all over the world, no doubt Old Dag is carrying out the instructions in his Preventive Maintenance Manual, endeavouring to avoid any unpleasant or unplanned landings or demerit points.  Mr. McD did not hear the control tower’s ”All clear for take-off!,” but Old Dag did, and zoomed off into the blue.

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Sunday Brunch – August 3, 2014

Catchy slogans work! 

Why would a restaurant advertise their noon menu when they can use a catchy slogan to do several things at once?  They can subtly indicate that it’s all right to lay in bed on a Sunday . . . it’s all right not to bother getting up for breakfast . . . or to go to church.  Just show up around noon at their leisurely dining establishment, and they’ll offer you roast beef right along with bacon and eggs – whatever your little heart fancies!  It’s called Sunday Brunch!

One thing for sure, though, you won’t catch the hummingbirds sleeping in, and they won’t miss breakfast either – wouldn’t think of it!  And as to where they attend church, I’m not quite sure, but they will not forget their Maker, the One Who guides them all the way from Costa Rica each summer to sip on Canadian nectar, the finest energy drinks in the whole world! 

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You’ve heard of steel workers who can climb girders so high during construction of sky scrapers that an ordinary person would become dizzy if he attempted it.  Most of these skilled workers are North American Indians, admirably equipped to handle such work with sure-footedness and agility. 

A tiny creature with nerves of steel has been working at Cedar Hollow.  The funny thing is – I don’t recall interviewing or hiring him, or checking out a hard hat or steel-toed work-boots for him.  He has set to work anyway, fastening girders in place in a most dangerous location!  I’ve been given to understand that the strength of these girders is many times that of steel.  While I don’t have a photo of him in our employee file to show you, here is what he has constructed:

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What criteria does the person who cuts the lawn at your place use to decide when that chore should be done?  A dear Scottish lady in a seniors’ complex once told me that her father always said it was time to cut the lawn when it was high enough for a sparrow to hide in!

Do you think a recent visitor to Cedar Hollow, a white-throated sparrow, is trying to tell us something? 

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I don’t know about you, but I’m wondering when the young wrens will fly the coop???  It’s got to be soon.  It seems I’ve been clicking pictures forever of the tenants who leased the Swiss Chalet !  Sure hope I don’t miss that exciting event.  Surely they won’t leave Cedar Hollow without bidding us adieu.  In spite of their mother scolding me recently for being too close to her home, I’m hoping her southern manners will carry the day, and that she will instruct her little ones to at least give us a little curtsy before they head off for points unknown.

Break the fast! – August 2, 2014

Six evening primroses bloomed at different spots around the pond last night.  I believe this is a better close-up picture than I have been able to get before.  Its four-pronged, light green stigma in the centre is the motor that pushes the petals open . . . while you watch!   

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Mr. McD and I headed outdoors after we had broken our fast  (had breakfast), coffee mugs and newspaper in hand.  Who knew whether we would be able to get out again, given how unsettled the weather looked?

The baby wrens certainly enjoyed a hearty breakfast, judging by the frequent trips made by their parents around the eight o’clock hour.   Sometimes they shopped in our neighbour’s yard . . .

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 . . . and sometimes they flew silently and swiftly into one of our flowerbeds.  The truth is, they’re so busy now, they scarcely sing a note – so very different from the song-filled days before their family arrived.  

Come to think of it, how much singing did we do when we were diapering and feeding our kids?  With our firstborn, I was so pie-eyed from lack of sleep, I would have perished if my mother hadn’t arrived to help out for a week – a veritable angel on my doorstep with a suitcase in her hand!  

Well, at Cedar Hollow, it’s Bugs Ahoy! !  However, I wish the wrens had an appetite for the tiny red beetles that chew holes in the lilies, or the copper-coloured larger beetles that make lace out of whatever leaves they choose.  Hey!  Maybe we should team up.  When they get done with a leaf and it looks like a bit of netting, I should dip it in some metallic liquid and transform it into a piece of jewellery, like you find in booths at the fall fair! 

Around eleven, Mrs. B emailed me some pictures of Pipinka which her son took. 

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In one of them, he was almost falling asleep in her hand.  Can you imagine that level of trust?  My hat’s off to our good neighbour, Mrs. B.  I’m too squeamish to pick up fishworms . . . yikes! . . . let alone hand-feed them, but she is not, and seems to know just what to do for the little bird.

 Before supper, we experienced a regular downpour of rain!   Hail danced and pinged about on the shed roof and patio!  Thankfully, the hail wasn’t very large, so I do hope the fruit orchards didn’t suffer damage.   Why did it hail?  Usually that only happens when the heat has been oppressive.

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During a heavy rain like this, I sometimes think back to a poem we learned in public school:

The woodpecker pecked out a little round hole

And made him a home in the telephone pole.

The lightning flashed, the thunder rolled,

But he was safe in his little round hole.

 

 

Hold on, girls. We can do it! – August 1, 2014

We were seeing double, double wrens, that is! 

Lord Wren was waiting on Swiss Chalet’s front porch with a juicy tidbit for the young ones.  Well, maybe it was crunchy.  I’m not sure.  Lady Wren began to exit from the birdhouse, which sent him flying off to the left as she flew off to the right, all at the same time, as though it was choreographed!  Somewhat rattled, he was back in no time, popping into the nursery to deliver his goodies.  That will teach him to stop saying, “Hurry up” all the time.

 Patience is a virtue. 

Possess it if you can. 

Often found in women. 

Seldom found in man.   (I couldn’t resist.)

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Do you have plants without names?  It took a bit of searching on the Internet, but I believe this is Prairie Sunset False Sunflower.   It was obtained at a plant exchange a few years ago. I transplanted two of its offspring to the side fence this spring.  They had popped up of their own accord.  Once they reach their height, they make good use of their amazing stature (these are 8’2″  tall) by blooming for a long time, brightening the whole garden with their sunny flowers.

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Their sturdy stems are perfectly square in shape, not round. Their large leaves form an attractive dimple, surrounding the stem.  Sometimes the dimple becomes a miniature pond after a rain.

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Humidity came and went today, as did the sun and rain. 

“I can’t get up the steps,” John complained yesterday as he headed to the forsythia to trim it.  Well, yes, he could, but the prickly yellow barberry was certainly hogging a good part of the steps.  It was time to trim it back this morning.  Its thanks was to plant a short barb in my little finger, even though I was armed with garden gloves.  

One of the cucumbers was trying to copy Jack in the Beanstalk!  It had grabbed onto the wire trellis covering the downspout and began its heavenward climb.  Not wanting to miss out on any of its cucs, I gently tugged its fingers off . . . and made it do an about turn, securing it to a bush with some Velcro in a lower position.  There.  Now I won’t have to drag a step ladder out to harvest its crisp produce!

The cucumbers were actually living dangerously.  Mr. McD attached a green, plastic thingamajig to the end of the downspout.  When it rains, it rolls out, right over the cucumbers and onto the lawn!  And why did I plant them there?  Because it is one of the sunniest spots in our back yard!  Never mind.  I found a wonderful wire plant stake in the shed.  It had a fork on one end to push it into the ground with, and a round 2” loop at its  top end, some 12” above.  The very thing!  I gently threaded the ends of three cucumber vines through the loop, well above the slithering roll-out thing.  It was as though one of the vines said, “Hold on, girls.  We can do it!” and snagged the bush close by with its eerie, long tendril. 

Are there eyes in those spooky tendrils?  How do they know where there is something to grab hold of?

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I must admit that I’m fond of a crunchy cucumber sandwich with mayonnaise slathered on the bread and a dash of black pepper added!  However, it always surprises me when I read about fancy teas in some formal garden setting . . . and they serve cucumber sandwiches – not expensive sockeye salmon or time-consuming egg salad sandwiches!  That was actually my experience at an afternoon tea in the sprawling gardens of Woodside a few summers ago, the boyhood home of Canada’s longest serving prime minister, William Lyon McKenzie King. 

 

No time for a break – July 31, 2014

My husband and I have enjoyed the unusually cool weather July gave us.  We can’t remember one like it!  When it rained, which happened often, it wasn’t a whole day of overcast gloom, but often changed between sun and rain several times in one day.  Mind you, you had to put the deck cushions away whenever you used them or you might find them water-logged the next time you went outdoors.

Do you imagine retirement to be a laidback affair?   Think again.  I announced to Mr. McD that I wasn’t taking a morning break; no time.  How easily the day can slip away with this and that chore, and I was determined to get some time in the studio. 

The winter scene has been barely washed in.  I slipped trees and tree tops into much of the background this morning.  They will be mostly hidden from view as the painting progresses, but a branch or trunk here and there in the distance will give it reality and depth.

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When Lloyd came back in from the deck, he told me what I had missed!  Lady Wren alighted on the railing of the lighthouse, of all places!  Of course, when something like that happens, one doesn’t have the camera.  And if you did, by the time you could half aim, she would have flitted elsewhere.  There isn’t a lazy bone in her!  

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Apparently, she hopped onto other rocks in the garden and scuttled through the flowers, searching here and there for bugs and beetles and all things deee-licious!

Living at Cedar Hollow means several hedge-clipping sessions, and what a fragrant scent one enjoys in the process.  John trimmed the arch to the back yard, the forsythia by the back gate, and the cedar hedge between us and our neighbours to the north – the “parents” of a baby robin named Pipinka, who is growing by leaps and bounds.

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When we were kids, someone told us that a sky like this meant that the sun was drawing up water.   Is it?

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Now, scram! Beat it! Be off with you! – July 30, 2014

Heading out to fill up the hummingbird feeder, who should sail by but Bounce the Hummer!  He had evidently been breakfasting on nectar from the climbing beans.

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So many gardening books suggest that the purple coneflower is sure to attract hummingbirds to your garden.  So far,  Bounce hasn’t shown the slightest interest in them.  A hardworking bumblebee is just as well pleased, though, as he has them all to himself!

July 30-14-bumblebee on cone flower Mrs. B brought Pipinka outdoors and set him down on her patio.  From my office window, I enjoyed the antics of the little robin.  With a hop and a flutter, he quickly mounted a six-inch high step, and hopped down again.

“I dug worms for him this morning,” Mrs. B confided.  “So far, Pipinka does not pick up anything from the ground, but waits for me to feed him.”

When Pipinka has the run of the house, Mrs. B puts the Rottweiler outside just in case he might get too excited by the robin’s fast movements.  Mrs. B’s son returns from Czechoslovakia tomorrow.  He has already been introduced to Pipinka by the  magical means of Skype!  He, too, is a lover of all creatures great and small, and I’m sure will slip into his role as guardian of this treasured guest when his mother leaves in a few days for a vacation in Europe.

Mr. McD had a suggestion:

“Why not take Pipinka with you?  Just tell the airlines that Pipinka is a frequent flyer!”  

The morning rain kept me indoors.  After lunch, I went up the knoll and STOPPED, LOOKED and LISTENED beneath the Swiss Chalet.  Not a sound.  However, I got the distinct impression that my presence was not wanted.  Keeping the camera aimed toward the front door of the Swiss Chalet, Lady Wren refused to enter, but flitted from one spot to another.

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She began to make a nattering noise, but I didn’t take the hint.  

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She went to her favourite places within the walnut tree’s cool canopy.

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But this shot takes the cake!

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 Lady Wren fastened her gaze on me and clearly said,

“Sorry, Mrs. McD, but you are a real pain in the neck!

Just go back to the swing so I can feed my babies in peace. 

You and that black thing with the big glass eye make me nervous, that’s what!”

 

Baby Pictures – July 29, 2014

Such a cool morning.  Lord Wren was out and about, serving in his many roles as co-provider for his little family, and as their loyal protector.  The clothesline provides him with a good vantage point.

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Whatever or whoever was on the ground below Swiss Chalet?  Lord Wren peered down from his post for a good five minutes – the longest he’s been in one spot since he arrived at Cedar Hollow.  You can just see the intelligence in those little eyes, can’t you, and his intense concentration. 

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Bounce the Hummer seemed to prefer the feeder this morning over flying amongst drenched flowers, no matter what flavour of nectar they might offer him.

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This afternoon, my neighbour called at the side door.  She brought someone with her that Mr. McD and I were delighted to see!!

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“Look.  He walks all around,” said his proud adopted mother, as she set him down on the patio.

Hop.  Hop.  Hop.  Soon he was at the edge of the flowerbed.  Mrs. B. gently scooped him up before he disappeared beneath a sprawling evergreen. 

“Sometimes he flaps his wings,” she added, beaming.

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Mrs. B’s natural and relaxed way of handling the little songster was truly amazing to behold!  She looked like she had done this all her life.  I was surprised that she didn’t bring him over in his crib but simply held  him cupped in her hands.

 And to think . . . all this joy just fell out of a tree! 

Maybe you’d better scoot over to your hairdresser right away quick and see if she has a baby bird for you to nurture!