Test Flight

Yesterday afternoon when I let Sparkle out of the front door, she bounded toward a chair beneath the tree. Up fluttered a fledgeling robin! With a great deal of flapping, he skimmed above the rose bed before his engine conked out and he crash-landed in the cedar hedge.

In a trice, his handsome mother and father appeared, loudly voicing their concern from atop the shepherd’s crook that holds the bird feeders.

Where was junior?

Oh, there he is just outside the rose bed.

Mother Robin flew down and gave him an energy bar of some kind.

Testing out the wonders of being independent, he hopped about the lawn, almost hidden in the tall grass

Now, where was I before that barking blast of white came charging toward me?”

Ah, yes. I was checking out the McDonalds’ new chaise.

“I think this whole episode started when my parents tried to introduce me and my siblings to the birdbaths at McDonalds’. Our beaks were agape in this wicked heatwave and we were all for it. But stay back! My father is a splash-o-maniac . . . and I want to be just like him!

Time’s flying!

Spring has felt more like winter this year, but the calendar insists that June will be here in just six more days. Father Wren arrived a few weeks ago, and the good news is that Cedar Hollow is ringing with joyful rhapsodies—nothing in the minor key, no way.

Cedar Hollow is offering three possible nurseries, two of which are spanking new.  The venerable old Cedar Shake Cottage on the right has been spruced up with a new front entrance.

Unlike previous years, so far, there are no twigs sticking out of any of the houses. Maybe he is going green—using fewer materials this time around.  Less is more.

I wonder if Mrs. Wren will like this nifty model, the Black Diamond?   Clean lines.

But I’m rather fond of all of the greenery near the old Cedar Shake Cottage.

I’d better get back to prepping the nurseries, but I’m just not sure whether I should search for an entirely different bassinette for the gourd house. It’s got me stumped!

Off limits—the rhubarb patch!

It seems that I can’t turn around these days without the camera clicking.

I hate to tell you, but my outdoor potty training has been delayed, and it’s rather embarrassing at my age—almost six months—to have to use a puppy pad.

The problem is, I overheard my folks talking about what they found out this morning when they asked Google to list the names of plants that would be poisonous to me. Rhubarb leaves is one of them. I don’t want to be rushed to the vet to have my stomach pumped out.  And besides, you all know how I hate riding in the car. It makes me gag!

I saw my folks outside this morning with a measuring tape, figuring how much fencing they need to keep me out of the rhubarb and asparagus patch.  As soon the fence is up, my doghouse will go outside, of course.  They seemed to enjoy putting a treat up on the roof and watching me climb the stairs to get it.

You can see from the picture that I’m no longer wearing that stupid looking funnel. It certainly was no Easter bonnet! It scraped along the tile floor whenever I tried to pick up something or stretch out for a couple of winks. Worst of all, it interfered when I needed my paw to hold down a bone. Now, I’m not bragging, but I guess they were pretty proud of me because I didn’t complain about that old plastic thing. Just between you and me, though, it bothered my master to see it on my head.

It’s really too bad that they have to build more fence. Before they chose me for their very own and drove halfway around Lake Ontario to get me, they built fencing and a gate, dug post holes, mixed cement—imagine—just to keep me safe in the backyard!

When Mrs. McD comes downstairs in the morning, she picks me up and carries me to the living room to pull the drapes open and see what the new day looks like. This afternoon, the dove and yellow goldfinch arrived at Cedar Hollow from the south lands!

My folks love it that my breed size is “toy.”  And they really love it that I’m small enough to sit on their lap and keep them company when they have a snooze on the sofa. BTW, I’m a Papillon/Dachshund/Jack Russell mix.

Davi, our special guest from Brazil, is very good at taking me out for a walk around the block, and he protects me from picking up cigarette butts or other stuff I shouldn’t. The problem is, I have to be on a leash. As soon as the rhubarb patch is safely off limits, I’ll be able to stretch my legs and run like a deer in the backyard!  I can’t wait!

Woof! Woof!

Sparkle

 

Gone! 100 feet of skyline loveliness

Working in the flowerbeds at the side of our house, the sunny solitude of Cedar Hollow was broken by the noise of a buzz saw.  Alas!  Two men were on an aerial platform cutting down the beloved white birch tree behind the neighbour’s house across from us.

The nursery the white birch held for baby squirrels would have been abandoned weeks earlier, but what fun it had been when we occasionally saw the black squirrel ascend or descend from its leafy abode!

The beautiful design of the birch’s bare branches was sometimes lit up by the morning sun. Frost, too, added its touch of charm to every twig.

Will we miss this elegant tree?  You bet!

Here is the modified skyline now viewed from Cedar Hollow.

 

 

 

Springtime Blush

Spring seemed to delay its arrival in southern Ontario this year.  However, it only took a few warm days before the buds on the magnolia tree down the crescent began to swell, and soon treated us to a magnificent display of its fragile beauty!

 John and I took pictures from different angles.

This shot is similar to a branch of magnolias in Waterloo that I saw some years back and attempted to capture its loveliness in watercolour.

Take a peek:  http://mcdonaldart.com/florals/magnolias

 

 

 

 

White queen of the woodlands!

Here is one of the patches of trilliums in our garden that you saw in their bud stage in the previous blog.

As lovely as these are, there is nothing like seeing them blooming in their natural habitat.  After a roast chicken dinner together, John set out with us to carry on a Mother’s Day tradition, one I had enjoyed as a child.  Into the woods we headed, the Homer Watson woods, entering from a pull-off on Old Mill Drive, a few minutes from our home.

Before us, reigned the white queen of the woodlands, trilliums—our provincial floral emblem!

One never tires of beholding their pristine beauty―but―such beauty can actually be hung on a wall:

http://mcdonaldart.com/prints/florals/comelyComrades.htm

Partway down the trail, John found a chair with a back on it.

Lloyd and I also enjoyed a pause.

Of course, other spring flowers were discovered―blue, yellow and white violets, dogtooth violets, may apple umbrellas, bloodroots―and my favourite, jack-in-the-pulpit.

 

We didn’t try to dig up any leeks as we had transplanted some last spring into our garden.

More perfect weather, you could not have ordered.

Thanks, Mom, for starting this wondrous Mother’s Day tradition!

 

A 4-day pop-up wonder!

Last fall, I divided a clump of trilliums that was spreading toward the asparagus and started a fresh patch.  Four days ago, I checked the spot where they had been planted.  Bare ground.  Perhaps they didn’t survive the transplant.

The last day of April, the temperature struggled up to 18 degrees. May decided to make her arrival something to celebrate and cranked up the heat to 27!

Checking the same garden patch today, the trilliums had not only poked through, but were in bud!  How is this possible? Two weeks ago, our region was shivering under a 4-5” hard blanket of white stuff—bestowed during a 3-day ice storm of freezing rain, ice pellets, snow, what have you!

The day following that storm, when we were rounding a corner, driving into Cambridge, a frightening loud sound screamed overhead! The load of rock-hard snow on top of the car slid off and careened to the ground!  Thankfully, there was no vehicle to our right.

And now, here in a quiet corner of the garden, a welcome white miracle is happening—a 4-day pop-up wonder!

 

 

 

Scottish sky over Waterloo

 

Have you ever seen the same sky twice?

Sure, you have―whenever the heavenly dome is clear blue and there’s not a cloud in sight. And this can happen any time of year.

On the first warm day of April, the 23rd, there were still large mounds of snow lining the streets of Kitchener, left over from a prolonged ice-and-everything-white siege that beset us the weekend before. But on this day, the temperature soared to 22 degrees, causing us to shed our sweaters when sitting on the back deck.

Driving to Waterloo, I was amazed to see a white and blue Scottish tartan high above us―woven from two vertical jet trails and three horizontal ones.  Spectacular!

Ice Storm’s Tiny Café

Checking on the icy conditions during the three-day ice storm, Lloyd saw a robin leave our front step and scurry along the sleet-covered cobblestones.  I scurried, too, camera in hand, to photograph his footprints through the front window.

Not long afterwards, Lloyd spied the robin back on the porch. In a small patch of grass that had been uprooted by a skunk or some other critter, exposing black soil at the edge of the porch―Robin Redbreast was busy pecking away at his ‘dinner plate!’ The birdfeeder nearby didn’t offer the right menu, thank you very much.

Snow-dusted,  plump Robin Redbreast paused for a moment . . . before heading down the path.  I have a hunch, don’t you, that he won’t forget the tiny café at Cedar Hollow.

Safe Places to Sip

 

A few days ago while reading in the living room, movement caught my eye.  A hummingbird was sipping from the throats of the blue streptocarpus flowers dangling from a wall planter by the front door.  In and out of the funnel-shaped flowers he went, evidently enjoying each sip.

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The last day of July, we spent the evening on the back deck by the pond with our son, John, enjoying the moderate temperature.  As dusk began, a hummingbird tanked up for the night, sipping its way around the mophead of scarlet bee-balm flowers, one tubular petal after another.  In the daytime, he usually takes only a sip or two . . . and then flies off.  Not last night.  Apparently, hummingbirds need to store enough energy to see them through the night when they remain in an almost stupor state.

2016-08-01-taken July 26-1hummer at bee balm

This morning, we finished our coffee on the back swing, reading one more chapter together in the book “Called Out” by Janet Boynes.  Lloyd saw a chickadee high up in the clump of false prairie sunflowers, safely sipping water from a chalice. If only I had the camera with me!  The large leaves enfold each other where they join onto the square stalk, forming a deep dimple or chalice.

At Cedar Hollow, the chickadees and other birds have several spots to drink from: a stone bird bath in both the front and back yards,  a rock basin in the back yard on the ground next to the steps, and, of course, the pond.  Loveliest of all, though, are the living chalices high up on the green flower stalks.  Can you see the water line near the base of the leaves on the stalk at the right?

2016-08-01-Chalice in false prairie sunflowers

2016-08-01-best close-up from top of chalice

Where do you slake your thirst these days?  With the horrendous, violent events occurring in rapid succession around the globe militarily, environmentally, and politically, have you felt the need of a fortifying drink in some safe place?

Years ago, when a Samaritan woman went for water at a well in Sychar, a Man at the well said He could give her living water.  In the conversation that followed, the identity of the Man became evident. She went back to the city and invited her people to come hear Him themselves. They came. Have you said what they said in John 4:40-42?

 

 

 

Hip, Hip, Hooray!!

When hanging up the freshly filled hummingbird feeder after breakfast, I saw two wrens flying around the Cedar Shake birdhouse on Black Pole Lane.  Does this mean that the dead wren found a few days ago may have been an intruder and not Lord Wren’s partner?  Let’s hope so.

Do you remember when we purchased a Smart car a few years ago that every chipmunk in the neighbourhood had to have a ride in it?  They didn’t exactly ask for one, but that summer, we caught 22 chipmunks in a cage, and taxied them out to their new country digs.

Last year, after Lloyd’s knee replacement, we didn’t resume our limo service.  And guess what?  We didn’t have to!

This morning, shortly after I saw this chipmunk . . . . .

2016-06-20-Chipmunk ready to eat something

. . . . . he was in hot pursuit of a trespassing chipmunk!  Ka-poosh!!  Did he chase him off in a hurry!  There won’t be 22 chipmunks around here this summer!  High-tailer, that’s his name,  has established his home somewhere under the Dutch windmill.  Woe betide any chipmunk who steps his foot inside of Cedar Hollow!  After securing the premises, High-tailer was as thirsty as a camel!

2016-06-20-chipmunk-3 drinks from rock basinHe must have been napping in his burrow when the resident Song Sparrow decided to take a bath in his rock basin, High-tailer’s basin, mind you.

2016-06-18-song Sparrow takes abath in rock basinNot everyone around Cedar Hollow gets all worked up, though.  Often as not, you’ll find Jeremy taking a snooze, dangling his fishing line in the pond.

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Deadly Terrorist Attack at Cedar Hollow

At 5:45 this morning, I was awakened by the melodious singing of one of our wrens.  A bit later, I heard a red squirrel chattering in its high, squeaky voice, and at the same time, a wren’s low, staccato chut-chut-chut-chut . . . the kind of scolding sound it makes if you walk too close to its home.

I went out right after breakfast to get some cultivating done in the flowerbeds surrounding the pond before the day got too hot.  On the gravel, I made a gruesome discovery.  Lying motionless . . .  dead . . . face down . . .  was a little brown wren!

Did I actually hear the terrorist attack taking place?  Was it the red squirrel?  Or was it one of those wretched trespassing cats???

When Lloyd buried its tiny body in the woods, he noted that one leg was missing.

We heard wren song now and then throughout the day, wondering how he/she could sing after such a tragic loss.  Or was he/she singing–going on line, so to speak–because that is its only way to attract another mate?

Well, the gangplank is up at Cedar Shake on Black Pole Lane, and the nursery is furnished . . .  waiting.

2016-06-20-gangplank up & waiting

Question:  Is a wren more valuable than a sparrow?

Jesus speaks in Matthew 10:29-31 – “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.”

Stupendous reality.  I wasn’t the only one who saw the little wren on the ground.  God saw it!

And while you try to comprehend that, Jesus continues with these words, which reveal His omniscient mindfulness of you and me:

“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear ye not therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

 

Sold!

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That is definitely the wren’s motto.Try as he might, some pieces of lumber just refused to go into his building project, and fell to the ground.

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 Some choice bits of material were hand picked from beside the steps leading to the pond.

2016-06-10-foraging for twigs

After adding each plank to the gangplank or fetching a pillow or two for the nursery, Lord Wren paused on top of the house to sing!  Now, what would our world be like if construction workers paused frequently to belt out a song?  What if a policeman sang an aria while on the beat?  Mind you, if it was classical music, the streets might be cleared of ne’er do wells.

Lord Wren’s contracting efforts were not in vain.  On Saturday, June 11, Lady Wren arrived at Cedar Hollow.  She inspected the white house nearby, Chateau de la Gourde, but let him know at once that Cedar Shake on Black Pole Lane was definitely her choice of residence this year.  See her on the fence?  Lord Wren quickly tacked up the SOLD sign!

2016-06-11-Lady Wren has chosen home

Today was the kind of windy, cold day when a bowl of chili would taste awfully good.  All kinds of birds thought so, too, and took their supper at the front yard feeder:  chickadees, a flock of gold finches, a rose-breasted grosbeak, a mourning dove, song sparrows, cardinals, and a nuthatch.  They are a congenial bunch.  You don’t hear any of them saying nasty things like, “Get your elbows off the table, buddy!”  They just share the diner with whoever flies in.  The wrens don’t join them, however.  They’re not interested in sitting in a pan to eat. They couldn’t sit still long enough, if they tried!  Supper must be FRESH, and caught on the wing!  Oh yes.
2016-06-13-Trio-gold finch, rose-breasted grosbeak, doveThe chipmunk ferrets out any seeds that chickadees accidentally drop as they carry their dinner to a branch on the nearby pear tree to hammer out the nutmeat.

2016-06-13-chipmunk

Housing Market is Hot!

The spring of 2016 see-sawed back and forth here at Cedar Hollow.  Winter itself had been reluctant to put in an appearance.  However, after all the white stuff had vanished, and the goldfinches had donned their summer jackets, winter decided to give it one last blast.  Whether they looked silly or not, the goldfinches were determined to dine at the snow mounded feeder in their summer apparel.

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Rose-breasted grosbeaks paid us a one-week visit during the third week of May.  It was hard to believe that their outfits had no resemblance to one another – certainly not that his and her look.  Their song is similar to that of the robin:  https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Rose-breasted_Grosbeak/sounds

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The real estate market in Kitchener this spring is the hottest it’s been in years!  Ordinary houses, some obviously in need of repair, receive multiple offers, and sell almost immediately at prices exceeding the seller’s asking price.

Cedar Hollow is no exception.  This afternoon, Lord Wren looked like he would be putting offers in on two houses at the same time.

He is a funny little fellow.  He first put in an appearance on May 29th, but just long enough to warble, “I’m back!”  Like the last two summers, he spends the morning singing here and there in the neighbourhood, sometimes far away, sometimes nearby.  It’s enough to give one the jitters, hoping he won’t be coaxed into residing elsewhere.

And then, after four o’clock, Lord Wren shows up at Cedar Hollow.  Here he is sprucing up Cedar Shake on Black Pole Lane:

P1270065After each installation, he renders a brief chorus.

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Now, where on earth did that piece of railing go?

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“Say!  I wonder if Madam Wren might like the Château de la Gourde?  There’s no telling what tickles a lady’s fancy.  I better work on that, too.”

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“And if you think preparing multiple houses for my lady love’s inspection and her final selection is a breeze, you’ve got another think coming, buddy!

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At the end of the day, Lord Wren let the whole world know that he was definitely interested in Château de la Gourde, nailing his offer to its front door for all to see:

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Strange.  Lord Wren has completely ignored the Swiss Chalet on Walnut Avenue. For the past two summers, that is where he and Madam Wren raised their young ones.  Maybe they thought the red squirrel didn’t comply with the neighbourhood’s noise bylaw.

If Madam Wren chooses Château de la Gourde, it is closer to the deck swing, and will be easier to photograph.

(Over ten years ago, we planted bird gourd seeds in the back corner of the yard.  Lloyd built a wall trellis for them to climb on.  As their white flowers are pollinated by night-flying moths and insects, Lloyd went out by the light of the moon with a Q-tip and dutifully smudged pollen from one blossom to another, which resulted in several beautiful gourds.)

The song sparrow has witnessed the wren’s antics before at Cedar Hollow.  She nonchalantly prepared to refresh herself with an invigorating bath – not just once, mind you, but twice!

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Click below to hear her songs:

htps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdaE7eaayKM

 

 

 

Peeping Through

Two days ago, Lloyd and I sat on the back deck licking ice cream cones.  The ice had melted from the edges of the pond, and the thin layer in the middle grew a bit thinner as the sun warmed our shoulders.  It was only March 9th!  Unheard of!

A pink knob of rhubarb took her first gulp of spring air today.

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Delphiniums planted from seed last spring near the wall by the sidewalk garden are eager to get going.  They’re determined to beat last year’s production of tall flower stocks.

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Before Mrs. Coon gets too busy with spring house cleaning, we hope to catch her in the wire cage I took out of the upper shed this afternoon.  It seems she evicted the skunk, and hung up her own shingle above the hole dug under the front corner of the shed.  As soon as we can relocate her, we’ll fill the cavern with rocks.  Hopefully Mr. Skunk will realize he’s not welcome at Cedar Hollow.  Sorry, old chap.

Winter at Last!  Arctic Blast!  Won’t last!

Factoring in the wind chill, tomorrow will feel like minus 32!  Lloyd and I will not be venturing out.  We’ll put the fireplace on and listen to Pastor Doug Searle on Bonaire.  www.bonaireibc.org.   Have you heard anyone with such a listenable style and original content?   John thoroughly enjoys attending this church.  He and the pastor often go scuba diving together.

Here in Kitchener, Ontario, November through January was practically winterless.  Without snow, the camera simply had nothing to do—only leafless trees and bare ground outside.  In fact, it sulked in the rocking chair by the window so long that its batteries ran down.

However, I scooped it up pretty fast this afternoon when I saw this:

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The hawk must surely have been hungry, as the next thing he did was hide in a low branch of the pear tree.   How he thought he could get out quickly enough from the thicket of branches to catch anything is beyond me.

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Maybe he also decided it wouldn’t work.  Soon he flew out and soared away.  I hope his GPS gets a short circuit!  I hope that he completely forgets how he got to this bit of bird sanctuary, don’t you?

Mr. Cardinal is a frequent visitor, brightening up Cedar Hollow whenever he comes by for lunch.  Normally a ground feeder, he has found the pan catches delicious sunflower seeds, and he doesn’t have to go about foraging.  Fast food at McDonalds!  Of course!

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3rd Winter on Bonaire.  Who’s Counting?

John’s car is once again parked in our driveway.  If winter decides to get serious during his February-March sojourn in the Caribbean Netherlands, we won’t have half as much driveway to clear! 

Jasmine, his social Tonkinese, is the cat in residence on the 11th floor of Queen’s Place, getting requests to go here and there for a visit by folks other than the two parties on that floor who volunteered to care for her during his absence. 

With the Canadian dollar dragging its boots, John realized he wouldn’t be eating in many restaurants this time around, but would have to resort to cooking.  I made up a booklet titled Bachelor’s Cookbook, with easy-to-fix recipes, many of which are family-sized, so he won’t have to cook every day. 

Friends found John a modern ground-floor unit at Stay and Dive.  It has a kitchenette, air conditioning, barbecue, small outdoor pool, and private front porch, and is located close to other dive shops and friends at TWR.  (John’s unit is the middle one.)

2016-01-31-Stay and Dive

His dive tanks awaited him, which were stored on the island . . . along with thrilling adventures in the incredibly beautiful waters of Bonaire!  Thrilling adventures also await those who dive vicariously with him. . .  by means of his blogs:

www.facebook.com/sirjohnamcdonald
or
www.twitter.com/johnapollos

Do ’em Proud!

Early December, I picked up two gift boxes of amaryllis bulbs.  Photos on the boxes promised luscious tropical blooms.  I could picture them already!

Before Christmas, I decided to pot them up.  Inside the first box, a grotesque stem of amaryllis stared back at me, scrunched inside its dark tomb.  White as chalk, the stem, of normal thickness, kinked sidewise as far as the box allowed, bud and all.  Carefully, I put the bulb in its pot, and tamped the packaged earth around, letting its shoulders stand free.  The disappointing sight was placed on the wide kitchen windowsill.

It was too late to change the stem’s horizontal posture into an upright one.  It would simply break.  In a few days, its bud began to open.  Sunlight soon brought pink colour to its cheeks!  It bravely continued on, opening three other buds, which now matched the beauty of the pink blooms on the box!  I’ll call this bulb Ama.

The bulb in the second box appeared normal, with a hopeful tip of green showing on its crown.  It caused no concern, and was duly potted up and watered, and set beside its deformed cousin. I’ll call this one Ryllis.

What was surprising was the energy and determination Ama displayed!  Shortly after being planted, she began to produce another stem.  Yes, she would uphold the pride of the amaryllis family, and, this time, she would not be pitied by anyone who saw her!  She would do ‘em proud! 

Meanwhile, the normal bulb, Ryllis, sent up healthy looking leaves, long, tapered green ones.

Daily, I rotated both flower pots.

Altogether, Ama displayed five full-sized blossoms atop her second stem!

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Ryllis has been a flop, literally.  Twice, some of her gangly leaves flopped over, and had to be cut off, leaving her now with one leaf and no flower stem. She’ll end up in the green bin, that’s what.

POST-IT notes

Through the archway to the back yard, you’ll notice the clusters of orange berries on the fire thorn shrub.  Although it has grown steadily over the years, hiding the ugly gas pipe and meter, this is the first decent display of berries it has been able to hang onto.  The chipmunk must be slipping, or perhaps he has developed an allergy to them!

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Leaves from neighbouring maples and from the English walnut behind us float serenely on the pond’s surface in contrast to the water beetles skating along like beginners in their jerky stop-and-go fashion.

-

But look!  What are these maple Post-it notes on our neighbour’s fence?  What are their messages?

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  • Have you got the snow tires on?
  • Who is going to help get the lawn furniture into the storage shed?
  • Do you have the gas-oil mixture ready for the snow thrower?
  • Where is the de-icer for the sidewalk and driveway?
  • Got the snow shovels out?
  • Have you found your winter boots yet? You know you put them somewhere.
  • It’s time to bring out the warm, long-sleeved clothes and coats and to pack the summer things away.

Ah, such Post-it notes only land on Canadian fences, or where non-tropical climates prevail.  The changing seasons do make a lot of work, but never mind.  We can ball up sheets of newspaper onto the fireplace grate, add some kindling, and lay on two or three logs.  The mere scrape of a match lights it, bringing forth its crackling, scented companionship on the first snowy night, radiating a cozy warmth like nothing else as ever-changing tongues of orange flames curl upward, flickering and dancing about, some with sapphire blue at their base, some with white tips.

Waning Winter

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Remember when our popsicles were icicles?

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Lloyd shot the cedar falls outside of our bedroom window.  Why, we could go into business with all of these popsicles!

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While John is on Bonaire for a 9-week vacation, we are taking care of Jasmine.  Our appointment with a vet happened on a day Jasmine would rather forget.  Bundled up in my mother’s soft afghan, it was snowing ‘cats and dogs’ when we left the house.  Can’t you just hear Jasmine singing “O what a beautiful morning . . . everything’s going my way!”

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The vet gave her a thorough checkup, and prescribed drops to clear up what may have been an allergy that caused matter to form in her eyes.  Heading out of the Doon Hospital, hail was pounding down fast and furiously!

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This whole week has been ideal for the flow of maple sap.  Each night the temperature dips below zero, and then climbs up into the plus range during the day.  It’s wondrous to realize that the tall, bare maples are busy working on their two-month preparations for their spring fashion show.  They usually aim to flaunt their green finery before the 24th of May.

I was busy all day in the studio, painting the background of the stallions.  With the window open a bit, sounds of the outdoors came in. Crows flapped out of the woods, announcing that it was high time they picked up twigs and got started on their nests.  Cardinals whistled, not full throttle, mind you.  They don’t want anyone to know that they might be slightly off key, not having whistled a single note during the long Arctic-like winter.