The Annual Cycling Summary

The Cycling season is definitely over. Outside, there is over a foot of snow, and the chance of another ride this year seems pretty remote. The road bike is now attached to the trainer in the basement.

The Santa in Ireland

The Santa in Ireland

This year the new tandem got the most use with the majority of those kilometers done on the narrow roads of western Ireland. Somehow,  for the rest of the spring, summer and early fall, we had a hard time finding the opportunities to get out on long rides. There were lots of short ones, but they really don’t add up quickly.

The final tally then:

Santa Tandem: 1670km

Canondale R600: 568km

Opus Legato: 48km (all while camping)

Total: 2286km, just slightly less than last year.

The Battle with the Leech

We recently returned from a week canoeing in Algonquin Park with our good friends M and S. While we have lots of stories to tell of long portages and pouring rain along with the quiet evenings and the call of the loons, we did bring home one piece of memorable video footage. We unfortunately cannot claim that no leeches were injured in the making of this video. The use of a Raid mosquito coil as a leech removal device is, I think, unique, and therefore worth publishing. 

 

 

For the Birds

We, or maybe it’s I, have become bird feeders. This is not really a brand new thing. One of the first items I built when we moved to this property in 2005 was a bird feeder. It was hung in a big old maple tree just off the corner of our house. We hadn’t had one before because the house we lived in  didn’t lend itself well to putting up a feeder. The trees were too far away from the house, and besides, we had all sorts of critters to take care of and watch in the barn. Here, the house is very near a cedar bush and the big tree provided a spot with great visibility from the dining room window.

But the tree was dying.  In 2009 we cut it down and planted a couple of replacements which were really not strong enough to carry the feeder. For a while we hung the feeder off of a post I installed on the back deck, but, the seeds in bird feed are quite viable and make a big mess when they sprout and grow in the flower beds.

This year, the young tree is big enough and our feeder is very busy. We get all of the regular birds, juncos, sparrows and chickadees. A small finch feeder draws both gold and house finches, always in packs (or flocks) with up to fifteen birds hanging on the feeder at a time. We have a suet feeder that is mostly of interest to the chickadees but from time to time will attract a downy woodpecker.

Image

Not the best picture. It’s snowing, dim, and I can’t get any closer ot this timid bird., But you can see the red!!!

The exciting change for this year is the cardinals. We have never had cardinals at our feeder before. In fact, I don’t think I had ever seen one in this area  and we suddenly have two pairs. They seem really shy, at first anyway, and may have been put off by the feeder mounted on the deck, but now they actually work away at the suet feeder which is mounted to the underside of the porch roof right outside our window as well as making frequent trips to the bird feeder in the tree.

The wonderful thing about the cardinals is their colour, bright red in a black and white world. Its as if God was giving us a gift in the middle of our snowy, dull, February world; a bright bit of crimson to remind us the whole world would again burst with beauty. It’s as if colours of a season yet to come are anticipated in this beautiful bird;  beauty both now and not yet.

Mother Earth is Having Mood Swings

This is the picture J sent her boss to validate not going in to work today.

This is the picture J sent her boss to validate not going in to work today.

You would almost wonder if Mother Earth isn’t throwing a bit of a temper tantrum these past days. Yesterday we had record high temperatures. It poured rain all day. Some places had thunder storms. Overnight, the wind came up. Temperatures dropped steeply and it started to snow.

We’ve spent the day at home, again. Highway 86 was closed for part of the day. It snowed and snowed and is still snowing now. Yesterday everything was brown, wet and muddy. Today the mud is frozen and covered with over a foot of snow.

We’ve not seen the neighbour’s house almost all day. J had to stay home from work and I had to miss my evening class. We blew off the gym this morning as well.

So…its been a quiet day beside the wood stove. I’m not sure we are totally happy with it. Does it sound like I’m whining? What did we do to make M.E. mad?

Hummingbirds

We have a hummingbird feeder.

Its been out the whole season, but, for some reason the birds did not pay any attention to it. I actually thought  maybe the hummingbirds had all died on their way back from wherever they spend the winter. Just the other day though, I heard the distinctive whirr and chirp as a hummingbird harvested whatever it is they harvest from our Rose of Sharon. They were here all along.

It’s hard to catch these speedsters with a point and shoot digital camera that seems to have a shutter delay. Here I got three!!!

I decided to clean out the feeder, refill it with the tried and true sugar and water mix rather than the “attracts hummingbirds” mix that came with the feeder and hang it in a different place. Less than ten minutes later, they were there. Not just one, but two, three, sometimes four at a time. Hummingbirds don’t like to share, so it’s a regular Quiditch match outside our window. One bird tries to guard the feeder, chasing off all comers. While he’s chasing, others come and enjoy. There is a lot of buzzing and swooping, vertical flying and angry chirping.

I find these birds to be so amazing. They are so incredibly small, so wonderfully agile. Earlier today, one found its way into our garage. Over and over again it examined the ceiling looking for a way out, not recognizing the open door just a foot below. It was getting tired and finally rested on a broom that I had extended to the ceiling. It took a couple of tries, but finally, I got bird and broom out the door.

There are likely some metaphors in all of this, but today, I think I’ll just enjoy the birds for what they are, wonders.

Our Garden

This year we have a garden. To most people this may not seem so unusual. We are a couple of a certain age. We live out in the country on a large property. Both of us grew up with gardens. So, it would seem obvious that we would have a garden.

For us, however, this is unusual. J and I did have small gardens in the first years that we were married and had a rather large one on the first farm that we rented. We tried gardening on the farm where we spent many years, but the busyness of the farm, and life with small children, put the garden at such a low priority that weeding was sometimes accomplished with the lawn mower. I was content to see the fields as my garden and got my “growing things” fix there.

We’ve lived on this property for seven years now. We’ve built decks, put in flower beds, planted hundreds of trees, cut a walking trail though the bush, but until this year we have not had a garden. The property itself does not lend itself to a garden. The only flat spot in the yard is on top of the septic bed and everywhere else the soil is very shallow, dry, and sloping. We had not had a garden for over twenty years and didn’t realize we were missing it.

I’m not sure why this year was different. It might have to do with Nettie’s gardening exploits in her backyard. It may have been a desire to try something new. I don’t know, but, one day, J said she was keen to grow a garden. Not just any kind of garden though, it needed to be low maintenance, and there needed to be no pressure to can, freeze, or preserve anything from it.

Our garden. Being next to the barn wall has helped it to grow faster. It also shows how much iron is in our water.

So we built a garden. It’s a raised bed, square foot kind of garden with automatic watering and well over a foot of a mixture of screened topsoil, purchased topsoil, compost and peat moss. Off to one side we planted English cucumbers in a landscape barrel. We’ve spent way more on the project than we will ever harvest, but isn’t that the case with lots of backyard gardens?

There has been a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction. I love pushing dry seeds and little onions into the ground and watching them grow. I enjoy figuring out what we might have for supper and then going out and pulling up potatoes, cutting salad greens, picking tomatoes and peppers to make that meal. Most of all, I think, I enjoy watching something come from almost nothing. It’s sort of like a miracle in my own back yard.

 

Forsythia

We are having a really crazy spring, and I guess winter, in terms of weather. Today is March the 24th and we have just come through a week where temperatures went over 26 degrees Celcius. It’s been warm for two weeks now, and we never really had winter. The snowblower didn’t get much work. The maple syrup producers in the area had a less than stellar crop with about 80% for their normal flow.

Its not that this has never happened before. In the early eighties, I can remember a year when spring grains were planted in March as they have been this year. There was a winter in the nineties when we didn’t put the snowblower on the tractor at all. But, this year seems to be warmer, and weirder than those were.

There are side benefits. We can laugh at those folks who went south to get away from winter, although going away would have been nice. Driving has been a breeze and the wood pile is holding out well.

March 24 2012

And, the forsythia is blooming. We have a huge forsythia bush just across the driveway from the house. In years when spring comes on too hot and too fast the flowers seem pale and short lived. this spring its wonderful. It is the first major colour of the spring flowering at the same time as the crocuses and before the early daffodils.