Thursday, October 13, 2011

Time to clip those claws ...

Just our luck that despite being a less than stellar tree-climber, 
he's a complete master when it comes to scaling a screen.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Youngsters are always biting off more than they can chew ...

Our intrepid adventurer finds that getting down isn't
quite as straightforward as getting up ...

... much to the amusement of more seasoned aerialists.

Might take a bit to live this one down.

Karma isn't the most graceful feline in the pride, 
but what he lacks in technique he makes up for in personality.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Garden Update.

Yup, here I am ... still alive and kicking despite the long absence.
   I'm sure that it would be much more interesting if I could report that my silence has been the result of an adventure-packed couple of months spent trekking the highways and byways of strange and exotic locales, but the truth, sadly, is far more mundane. This summer ( what little we've actually had ), has been spent in pragmatic pursuits ... topping off our firewood for the coming winter, poking away at various projects on our property, clearing the ever-advancing salmonberries and salal, gardening, etc., etc., etc ... yes, I know, the excitement is overwhelming.
   So ... Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? Grudgingly, if you're a West Coast Canadian like myself. To be blunt, it's been a crappy season. Coldest spring in decades, a summer that didn't seem to get off the ground until August, grumpy gardeners grieving over less than stellar plots everywhere.
Ah well. Guess I should be grateful for whatever my poor beleaguered garden manages to produce - and in all fairness we have been eating well from a few crops ... beans, peas, swiss chard, beets, radishes ( after resowing in a different spot - the first crop was riddled with cut worms, but after nestling them in beside the garlic our second harvest was much improved ). Our cucumbers went into a protracted snit due to the unseasonably cold conditions, but they're finally relenting and actually producing cukes that seem to be doubling in size daily. Desperately trying to make up for lost time, I guess. Hopefully the warm weather that we've been enjoying for the last couple of weeks ( better late than never ) will hold for a while longer!

The "Mystery Squash" is a self-seeded interloper that grew from our kitchen
compost. All organic scraps are tossed between two of the garden rows and
allowed to break down ( messy but effective ). This particular veggie decided to reincarnate.

But not to worry ... I kept the pusses in mind ...

Furthermore, our spoiled kitties have not just one catnip patch, 
but TWO ...

Yes. It shames me to admit it, but I'm an enabler.
Moving on ...

Hubby's tomatoes are finally starting to ripen.
We were beginning to despair, but it appears that there's hope yet.

However, since snapping and captioning this shot, we've
discovered a few hardy cukes hiding beneath the leaves.
Come on, little guys, you're in the home stretch now!

 Blackberries - destined for jam! Yum ...

Granny Smiths ... more applesauce sessions on the horizon.
We dry them as well - Chris loves the chewy slices as finger-food, but they're also
 lovely chopped and added to curries.

So, all in all, despite the uncooperative weather we've been fairly lucky. It''s always fun at this time of year to make the daily rounds - checking out the progress of the various crops, eagerly anticipating the sumptuous meals to come ... it's a very satisfying thing to raise your own fruits and vegetables; somehow you appreciate your produce more when you've invested your time and effort in its growth, familiarizing yourself with the individual plants' needs and temperaments ( and yes, I swear they have personalities ... some seem to have more "attitude" than others! ) By the time your crop makes it to the table you've developed a healthy respect for the food in front of you, and each mouthful is correspondingly sweeter.
I wish you all a glorious and mouthwatering bounty - happy eating!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How to Bug your Cat ( Part 1 ).


                                                    Follow them around with a camera ...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Rapture has been canceled until further notice ...

Huh - look at that ... we're still here.
Mr. Camping must be feeling pretty sheepish right about now.
The Cosmic Cancellation must mean God has decided to leave us to our own devices. Can't say that I blame Him - would you want us crashing the Pearly Gates?!
But, never fear, all you Dooms-Day addicts ... there's always the looming possibility that the scientists at the Large Hadron Collider may succeed in creating a Black Hole stable enough to make Saturday's disappointment moot.
There are all kinds of ways the world could end, and frankly I think we're doing a pretty competent job of this without Divine Intervention. ( Cynical? Yup ).
Stay tuned ...

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Garden Chronicles.

Last fall I decided to put in a garden plot. We've always grown tomatoes and a variety of herbs, but I felt that it was time to expand our 'home-grown' horizons, so we picked up the necessary poles and deer fencing and rolled up our sleeves. Hubby sank the first few poles while I tackled our wood pile. Afterwards I helped with a few more, then completed the last couple myself. From this point onwards the project became my baby ( I tend to become very territorial about such things - evidence of an independent streak that Chris often shakes his head at. Nonetheless, he humours me ).
Over the next little while I took my Stihl ( we have his 'n hers chainsaws ) out to an old logging road and cut down three young alders to use as support poles for the netting our peas and pole beans would need, limbed them, sunk them, put up the deer fencing on the exterior poles, and began to prepare the beds for Spring.
A book called Lasagna Gardening had fired my enthusiasm ... it outlines a system of raised-bed plantings incorporating layers of alternating organic materials such as kitchen waste ( no meats, dairy or fats ), leaves, lawn trimmings, seaweed, hay, peat moss, etc., along with newspaper and cardboard. A relatively no-fuss, no-till method of building a fertile organic garden using materials that otherwise would go to waste. We'd been recycling our kitchen scraps for years by dumping them at the base of our fruit trees, and the method had proven itself with phenomenal yields. However, there's only so much kitchen compost that two people can generate, so we arranged with one of the two island grocery stores to save their no-longer-saleable produce for us. This gives us enough material to supplement both the garden and the fruit trees. Win-win.
A dozen or so wheel-barrow loads of soil dug from behind our workshop went into the beds as well: I wanted to introduce a healthy population of worms and active soil bacteria to help things along.
To my satisfaction, by this spring, although the beds had reduced considerably, what remained was rich and well-composted - an invitingly fertile bed ready for planting. Yay!
With the help of a couple of pusses who like to supervise all activities indoors and out ( and who thoughtfully attempted to add their own contributions in terms of fertilizer ... which, while I appreciated the gesture, I nonetheless discouraged ) I got the seeds in. Next step was covering the entire garden - sides and top - with almost invisible bird netting. There’s a wide variety of bird species that live on our land ... we keep a bird-feeder stocked year-round, and with the multitude of salmonberry bushes, blackberries and assorted fruit trees, we’ve accumulated a truly impressive avian population. We enjoy them immensely, but I’d prefer not to have to wage constant war in the garden. It was amusing to watch the particularly determined ones repeatedly bouncing off the overhead barrier during their foiled scavenging attempts. You could almost see the gears turning in their little minds - after the first ricochet they’d perch atop a post while they considered the problem. They’d cock their heads and eye the netting, flutter feathers as if trying to recapture lost dignity, begin to question the veracity of the experience, and gamely try again. Boing. Another confused and indignant bird flies off to more productive hunting grounds.
The predations aren’t limited to deer and birds though ... in B.C. we have Banana Slugs to contend with as well. These are the second largest terrestrial slugs in the world, capable of growing to a length of 9.8 inches ( we grow ‘em big here in the coastal rain-forest! ). They serve a critical role in the ecosystem, breaking down the detritus on the forest floor, but you can imagine what kind of havoc these monsters could wreak in a garden. In defence I've lawn-stapled copper foil onto the ground around the exterior of the plot. The copper is said to repel slugs by jolting them with a mild electrical current, and while I’ve never experimented with this before, I’m hoping that this will be an effective deterrent to our local Garden Godzillas. Fingers crossed.
The remains of a hail-storm dusting the garden. Sigh.

Okay, whew. A virtual Fort Knox. So, after all this prep I sat back in anticipation and waited for the first signs of life. I had a mental time-lapse camera sequence unfolding in my mind ... an unrealistic, albeit thrilling, vision of exuberant growth springing forth with explosive vitality - a vibrant upwelling of vigorous green, shouldering aside the fertile earth and stretching for the sun. T’was a heady dream. I marked the days and waited.
And waited, and waited, and waited ...

As luck would have it, this has been one of the coldest springs on record; according to the newscasts, the worst the local farmers have seen in thirty years. To give you an idea, we had snow on April 28th, and regular hail-storms until just a week or so ago. Just another indication, I guess, of fluctuating global weather patterns. Adventures in climatology. Ah well, despite the unseasonably chilly spring, just about everything is up. The peas - naturally cold-tolerant plants - are doing the best so far, followed by the radishes and lettuce. Spinach and swiss chard have their first leaves, but you have to look carefully to pick them out. The beets are bashful, but I see hopeful signs. The cucumbers have graduated to full exposure after spending their first couple of weeks under cover, and a bold party-crasher ( a squash, I think, germinated from the seeds of our kitchen waste ) has earned itself a spot as well.
One of these days the mercury will rise. The plants and I will bide our time till the sun decides to shine.
Here are some pics of the fledgling garden and assorted critters... 

Part of the extended family ...

... the HUNGRY family.

Karma inspects the tomato bed.

A swallow checks out some prime real-estate.
I'd intended for the birdhouse to be whimsical
decoration only, but someone seems to have
other ideas.

The furry garden gnome.

Chives, chocolate marjoram, peppermint, and
a pretty shrub whose name I can't remember.
At least something is growing!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lovely, but Lethal.

 My husband Chris is a real sweetheart, and one of the many little ways he demonstrates his love is to occasionally bring home bouquets for no other reason than to make me smile. He’s definitely a keeper - no trade-ins in my future!
However, this last time he selected a floral arrangement with lilies, which, although lovely, are deadly to cats. We share our household with four little characters who, like the average two-year-old, will stick even the most unlikely objects in their mouths. One of them in particular, Katie, has a definite oral fetish, even to the point of trying to strip the paint from walls. In any case, all cats will munch on plants that look appealing, so it’s a good idea to steer clear of the ones whose toxins are particularly nasty, such as lilies. The entire plant is poisonous and if even a small amount is ingested it can lead to kidney failure and death.
Thankfully my hubby is as fond of the furballs as I am, so he understood when I consigned the lily element of the arrangement to the fireplace. Too bad - they were so pretty. At least I got a couple of photos before the “cremation”, and if Katie tries to chew on the print the worst she’ll suffer is indigestion.
Check out this list of some common plants that are hazardous to pets. Some of them are surprising.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Genetically Modified Animals.

In recent years, as the science of bio-engineering expands, there have been an increasing number of questionable and disturbing projects involving genetically modified animals ( and plants, of course, although for the purpose of this entry I’ll focus on the critters ).

In 2007, scientists created human-sheep chimeras - sheep that have 15% human cells and 85% sheep cells. The modified sheep are, ultimately, to be re-purposed as organ donors.
This, in my opinion, is wrong on so many ethical and moral levels.
Then we have the eerie glow-in-the-dark mice, who have had bioluminescent jellyfish genes spliced into their DNA so that their skin glows green under ultraviolet light. If you’re one of those emotionally fragile females who swoon at the sight of wee rodents, this should give you plenty of fodder for some truly epic nightmares...

... and recently it’s been discovered that spotted salamanders have algae living symbiotically within their cells, which has sparked the interest of scientists who posit the possibility of a future version of our species that may be able to breathe underwater if they can figure out how to Frankenstein a photosynthetic Homo Sapiens.
It’s a strange new world.
However, despite my many misgivings about the advisability of messing with nature, there IS one genetically modified beast that I would welcome with open arms. THE TRANSPARENT CAT. Think of it ... no more issues when you want to read a newspaper or book, an end to irritating interruptions at the computer ... truly an idea whose time is overdue!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring ... FINALLY.

This winter has been uncharacteristically harsh in our usually fairly benign locale. Started off with just a couple of minor snowfalls that drifted in, then melted away almost immediately. We were lulled into a sense of complacency ... everything was green, the temps were mild, and we began pulling together all the tools we'd need to do some pretty aggressive pruning on our apple and cherry trees. Naturally it began to rain, so we decided to hold off until the morrow. Next morn ( as Murphy's Law would have it ) the gentle precipitation we saw as we fell into bed that night morphed into a raging snowstorm as the temperatures plummeted, and we awoke the next morning to a landscape buried in snow. Our poor inukshuk looked like it was struggling to escape rising white quicksand ( quick snow? ), and as the day progressed the snow quickly reclaimed any lingering green patches, until within a couple of days of the same we were buried under three feet of frozen H2O.
We have a driveway just short of a quarter-mile long, all uphill, and soon we couldn't even get up in our four-wheel drive truck with chains, which meant carrying supplies up from the base on toboggans and in backpacks, walking like splay-footed ducks to prevent sliding downhill on the ice. Our husky ( who one would think might be predisposed to have a toboggan hitched up to her to share the burden, looked at us as if we were imposing some diabolical brand of abuse upon her, and promptly went on strike. Lazy mutt. )
This lasted a few weeks, until recently Chris and I went out with picks and shovels and spent a couple of hours waging war with  the ice in the tracks, raising a few impressive blisters along the way as well. Finally we're able to get the vehicles up and down again, though not before sliding off into a ditch and having to impose on a neighbbour to pry us out again. Sigh. Winter starts seeming very old at this point.
However, on a brighter note: the last few days have been warm enough to banish 95% of the nasty stuff ( I refuse to say the "S" word out loud anymore for fear of tempting fate. Shhh ... ), so we're keeping our fingers crossed that the worst is over. Yesterday I was even able to dig up a few wheel-barrow loads of earth to supplement the garden beds. Bring on the green! Bring on the Vitamin D too - my poor, pale, winter-battered body could use it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side.

Good grief. No posts since the 'New Year's Resolutions'. How pathetic is that? Good thing I didn't resolve to blog daily.
Oh well. Moving on ...
I've been doing a lot of walking lately, in an attempt to burn off the eight-or-so pounds that set up housekeeping on my thighs and butt ( eat, drink and be merry, but be prepared for a reality check after the holidays! ). So far I've managed to whittle a couple, and perhaps tone a bit of muscle at the same time. Our pooch, Ayla, is all in favour of the new regime, and despite the fact that 'heel' isn't part of her vocabulary, she provides companionship on our hikes.
I thought I'd share some photos of the areas we've been covering... the first few were taken during a day-hike up an old road nearby that crosses a mountain and continues on down to a bay where there used to be a fish-processing plant. The road isn't used for anything other than the occasional hiker or biker now, and is largely overgrown in spots. Lovely scenery, however, and a very quiet and peaceful area for a meditative walk. 

                                                Above and below: views from the old road ...

Below is a print I came across at the base of the mountain. It's a wolf track, partially melted and expanded, giving it the appearance of being far larger than it in actuality is. 

The two pics below show the tracks of a healthy pack of wolves. These were taken much farther up, and the prints were still frozen and crisply outlined, providing an accurate measure of their size in relation to my size seven men's boot ( I prefer buying my hiking shoes and boots in men's sizes to accomodate my rather wide feet. ) Ayla is a sixty pound husky-cross, but her tracks ( not shown ) looked diminutive next to the wolves'. Another accurate hint to their size lay in their longer stride distance in comparison to Ayla's.
The pooch was a bit discomfitted by the scent-tracks left behind, and stayed uncharacteristically close to me - usually she's way ahead of me on the trail, but this day she decided that a bit of company wasn't a bad thing. Wimp.

The photo below was taken on the same trail, showing a corridor of alders that have grown up on the old roadbed. While it doesn't translate very well on film, this aisle of trees was completed encased in frost, suggesting a scene out of a fairy tale, a shimmering glimpse into some alternate, magical dimension...

On another day we took a far shorter walk down to our local bay,

and were fortunate enough to glimpse a family of river otters frolicking on some partially submerged rocks.
River otters don't reach the size of their sea otter cousins, but are nonetheless impressive beasts, and very entertaining to watch. One straggler joined the family a couple of minutes after we arrived, and was greeted with such enthusiasm that all I could see for a minute or so was a rolling pile of sleek bodies with an occasional snout or tail thrashing the air. Now there's a family with no issues or personal space boundaries!

It never ceases to amaze me how much beauty lies right outside our door - it's a gift that I'll never take for granted. With a 'neighbourhood' as lovely as this to explore, motivation to get out and move a few muscles is never a problem. Certainly it's far more pleasant than doing laps around a city block.
Happy Trails!