Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The green-headed "mallard" looked very ragged and scarred and its partner...well, your guess is as good as mine. They were an obvious pair and spent a fair bit of time grooming their feathers together before they swam down the river again.
I was walking on a trail in London, Ontario along the Thames River a couple of weeks ago and saw far too many Canada Geese. The lone variation was this odd goose, which I cannot find in any of my books.
Here is the backside of the same bird, which seemed to be getting along famously with all the other geese.
Birds aren't the only things that can show up in unusual outfits. This fisherman caught my eye a little ways down the Thames River.
I wonder if the ducks and geese looked at him and said, "What an odd human. I don't see his likeness in our guide book."
Does anyone have any idea what these birds may be?
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
The event is famous for its quilt auction and each year hundreds of donated quilts are sold to the highest bidder. I admired the displays during the Friday night preview and there is no doubt that quilting is an art form.
The amount of work that goes into the design, piecing, embroidery and bindings of each quilt would seldom be adequately reimbursed at a minimum hourly rate at the time of sale. The featured quilt sold for $11,100.00 this year, and the total quilt auction sales were $187,285.00.
Quilting is still a common social activity in the Mennonite community. Church and community groups meet together throughout the year to work on a large project, and the women share a friendship and camaraderie that is becoming a thing of the past.
The Relief Sale featured plenty of other interesting venues. Crafts from around the world were sold in the Ten Thousand Villages tent. We have a number of these stores in South Western Ontario that sell fair trade items, from crafts, jewellery and gifts to coffee, tea and sugar.
No Mennonite sale would be complete without homemade foods. One of my husband's young co-workers described how he had worked with the group who made 1500 pie crusts that morning. On Saturday these crusts were made into fresh strawberry pies, constructed in assembly line fashion by many volunteers. There were ethnic foods as well as the usual Pennsylvania-Dutch fare. The line up for tea balls was soooo long;- they must have been really good. Jars of dandelion jelly were sold along with local honey, elderberry jam and other delicious preserves.
The Mennonites and Brethren in Christ are peace churches, spiritual descendants of the Anabaptists of Europe. While they will not carry arms, they work in areas of conflict as peacemakers. This song from their hymnal describes the mission they feel is their calling in the world. Without a doubt, their labours of love and compassion were evident on this occasion.
Brothers and sisters of ours are the hungry
Who sigh in their sorrow and weep in their pain.
Sisters and brothers of ours are the homeless
Who wait without shelter from wind and from rain.
People are they, men and women and children
And each has a heart keeping time with our own
People are they, persons made in God's image
So what shall we offer them, bread or a stone?
Lord of all living, we make our confession
Too long we have wasted the wealth of our lands
Lord of all loving, renew our compassion
And open our hearts while we reach out our hands.
Monday, May 28, 2007
I saw the first Grey Catbirds in our neighbourhood and around the hospital at the end of last week, but did not hear their distinctive call. While walking the trail on Saturday, I saw four Orioles, two Yellow Warblers, heard one Warbling Vireo, and saw an abundance of Catbirds. They were "mewing" in the low shrubs and bushes and it took only a couple of minutes waiting to see them move around the higher branches, still vocalizing in their unique way. The Catbird is an imitator like the Mockingbird and Brown Thrasher, but it has a squeakier voice and imitates a song only once. They do not always make cat-like sounds, but that is what I heard on this day.
While this bird is not uncommon, it is on the "Conservation Priority" list for this river shed area.
These species have been identified by Bird Studies Canada to help planning authorities set priorities for conservation efforts. In this way, bird species and habitat that are significant within the Grand River Watershed are targeted for conservation efforts. A total of 120 species in our watershed have this status. (Source)
I have identified fifty-three bird species along this trail so far this year. There are 292 birds on sighting list for the Grand River watershed, so I have a lot more to find. Who knows what the next bird of the week will be??
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Friday, May 25, 2007
Enid Blyton wrote a number of stories about mythical forest creatures such as fairies, goblins and elves. I loved to imagine that these little people really existed under the leaves and flowers outdoors. Whenever I saw dust particles floating in a sunbeam, I believed they were fairies. (Maybe that explains my ongoing aversion to dusting.) When I was older, I enjoyed the symbolic fantasies of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and the descriptions of mythical creatures in their books.
Upon a slender stalk.
Lily of the valley
deck my garden walk.
Oh, don’t you wish
that you could hear them ring.
That will happen only
when the fairies sing.
A "long time ago", in the 1970's, hippies were turning into environmentalists. Jean skirts, long hair and tie dyed shirts were the rage and we shopped at the first health food stores and made homemade yogurt and granola. My friends and I used to visit a quaint local village to shop for antiques and have lunch.
We drank Earl Grey tea in a little cafe that always had bouquets of lily-of-the-valley and forget-me-nots on the tables in the spring. I still love these flowers together in a little container. The fragrance of lily-of-the-valley rivals lilac for beauty. When they are done blooming in my garden this spring, I will have to do some serious uprooting of their spreading ways.
I enjoy the back corner of my garden where the ferns, trillium, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Solomon's Seal, and other wildflowers grow. The toads love the moist shade, and perhaps some other little fanciful forest visitors come by as well...
I had written the draft for this post a while ago and then Jennifer wrote about Fairy Spies on her blog. She has a fine scientific mind, and a great imagination too!
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Asks nothing but release --
Ascension that for which it was,
Its soaring Residence.
The spirit looks upon the Dust
That fastened it so long
As a Bird
Defrauded of its song.
Have you been in a hot air balloon, riding in the domain of the birds?
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Dad took this terrific picture of two Barn Swallows at their home near Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico. He said the birds were "harmonizing" as they sang to each other. Well, it looks like a domestic dispute to me, or else they are rehearsing for the musical Annie Get Your Gun, in particular, the song that goes like this...
I can sing anything
Higher than you.
No, you can't. (High) Yes, I can. (Higher)
No, you can't. (Higher) Yes, I can. (Higher)
No, you can't. (Higher) Yes, I can. (Higher)
No, you can't. (Higher) Yes, I can. (Higher)
No, you can't. (Higher) Yes, I CAN! (Highest).....
Any note you can hold I can hold longer.
I can hold any note
Longer than you.
No, you can't. Yes, I can
No, you can't. Yes, I can
No, you can't. Yes, I can Yes, I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I
No, you C-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-N'T--
CA-A-A-A-N! (Cough, cough!) Yes, you ca-a-a-an!
The bird above is a Violet-crowned hummingbird and the bird below is a Blue-throated hummingbird. Both species are found only in the south-west of the continent, mainly in Mexico.
The last bird is a Cattle Egret in mating plummage. This picture was taken near Houston Texas when my parents were driving back to Mexico. This Old World bird likely flew from Africa to South America in the 1880's, where it has naturalized and spread northward. Breeding birds were found in Florida in 1953 and in Ontario in 1968. It will ride on the backs of cattle and other game, particularly in Asia and Africa, to feed on ticks and other insects.
I hope this post will encourage Dad to take more pictures of their many feathered guests. Feel free to correct me if I have made any ID errors!
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The bird did its dramatic broken wing act with lots of noisy overtures and after we were a safe distance away, it returned to the nesting area.
The following day, I went to the field by myself and found the nest easily. Four specked eggs lay in a small depression in the ground. I did not get too close and used the zoom on the camera to take the pictures.
It seemed improbable that these eggs would stay undiscovered until hatching, and that the nestlings could be safe from predators out in an open field. The brave actions of the parent were the main protection for the eggs as the bird offered itself as bait to a predator. I will not let the dog roam free in the area for a while until I am sure the nesting period is over.
On another walk last week, this time near the hospital, my walking partner found this tiny egg on the sidewalk. It was intact, but had a small hole started on the one side. The shell broke easily and this fully formed bird was dead inside. It looked as if it had started to break out of the shell, but had fallen from the nest.
I think this is a Nuthatch according to the size and colour of the egg. Perhaps it had fallen from the nest with the movement that comes with hatching, or with the wind.
It would seem that a nest in a tree would be safer than one on the ground, but either way, there are many risks to overcome before a bird comes to maturity. I wonder what percentage of nest eggs this spring will end up as healthy, adult birds?
The Kildeer's field is to be transformed into two soccer fields and a parking lot in the next year;- another habitat lost because of the biggest predator...man.
Monday, May 21, 2007
of the Daughters of the Empire
Princess of Wales Charter
Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1819 and reigned from 1837 until her death in 1901. The Industrial Revolution was at its peak during her rule and Britian was the global power of the time. Her birthday was a national holiday and has remained so in Canada to this day. Victoria Day is celebrated on the Monday before May 25th and is the unofficial start of our summer season. It is the weekend that gardens can be planted as the risk of frost is supposed to be low. (We have had a few night time frosts this week though!) Our provincial parks open for the season for the many campers who wish to brave the usually cool night time temperatures.
We enjoy our beautiful downtown park. In past generations it was the gathering place of the community, with ice skating in the winter, live bands and dancing in the bandshell in the summer and canoe rentals on the small lake. Stately old homes surround the park and the style is definitely Victorian.
My mother's ancestors were Empire Loyalists who moved to Canada during the American Revolution, and the family has remained royalist. Mom was a few years younger than Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth, and shared her name, growing up with her as a role model. The Royal Family has always had a scandalous side, but they are a long-lived institution that has provided a common link for members of the British Commonwealth.
So Hoorah for Queen Victoria, who has given us a holiday today.
Long live the Queen!
Sunday, May 20, 2007
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
Saturday, May 19, 2007
I am really enjoying Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that I mentioned in a post earlier this week. Today is a beautiful day, so I went to one of our four large farmers' markets to see what local produce was available. It is my goal to make one meal a week with all ingredients from known and local sources.
My brother Philip has a large property in Mexico that has his home, my parent's home and a school on the premises. He also has at least a hundred fruit trees, from oranges to olives, that he has planted. He is never without seasonal fruit. He has ducks who eat the food scraps from the the two households, and he used to have milk cows as well. To round out their food choices, he takes his motorcycle to the Abastos Market for more local fruit and produce. I wish I had that kind of year-round local availability of fresh food.
Today, I purchased the scant amount of locally grown food that was available. The market had fresh asparagus and fiddleheads and I picked lettuce and rhubarb from the garden. We have lake trout that my husband caught on Manitoulin Island last month. Local dinner #1.
I bought some heirloom beefsteak tomato plants grown from seeds kept over from last year's crop. The vendor has maintained these plants for the past 40 years and states that they are disease and crack resistant.
The lovely Mennonite girls were selling flowers, jam and maple syrup. I bought a Jack in the Pulpit, Wild Iris, and Solomon's Seal from them for my wildflower garden.
The Becka came eagerly to the door to help me bring in my market purchases. She wasn't too impressed with the prospects for dinner. We are off to the supermarket to round out the food choices for the week, but will do so with a little more thought and consideration.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Becka was in Mexico from March to June last year and missed the lilac blooms in our garden. Yesterday, she was on the deck on a cold, damp day, admiring the beauty and smell of our new blossoms and said, "I haven't seen these for two years!" Last year I emailed her pictures of the flowers that were opening, but no one has yet invented a "smell file" for the computer that would capture their lovely scent.
We had planted a small, potted lilac bush beside the deck when we moved here in 1987. Becka was a little baby and she has grown with the lilac. It is now 5 or 6 metres high and provides shade and protection for the birds and for people sitting outdoors. The rose-breasted grosbeaks that visited recently would retreat to this bush when they were startled from the feeders.
I was surprised to find that these are not native plants. The Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is a member of the olive family, and grows wild in the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. Driving in the country around here, it is not uncommon to see large lilac bushes with mauve or white flowers growing along the roadside. Unlike other non-native species, these have not spread to the detriment of other native shrubs. It is the state flower of New Hampshire.
The lilac blossoms last only a few days, especially if the weather turns warm. This Monday is Victoria Day in Canada, our first long weekend of the summer season. The weather is supposed to be a little cool, so I will be able to sit out and enjoy the lilacs at their peak in my garden.
Post Script ~ I added this for Laura from Somewhere in NJ. She commented on her white lilac bush that fragrances her garden inspite of having few blooms. These were planted along the river within the city. There were purple, mauve and white lilacs in mass plantings together. Beautiful!
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Think…to reason about or reflect on; ponder
to call to mind, to remember
to conceive ideas, draw inferences, use judgment
to use imagination, to invent
I write about many topics and am an expert on few, if any of them. There are great birding and nature bloggers who are the best of teachers. Others have a gift for literature, poetry and writing and can express themselves beautifully with words. There are exceptional photography blogs and compassionate medical blogs that I enjoy as well. I avoid political and religious rantings and whiny, self-centred bloggers. All the blogs I read make me think, or I would not return to them again. It is interesting to see ideas passed around and how one person’s post will inspire someone else to think in a new direction.
We all share common, ordinary experiences and this is what keeps us reading what others write. People like Mary celebrate the little things of life that bring us joy and pleasure.
When my daughter was in nursing school, she had to write a “reflection” after each clinical session and hand it in to her instructor. While she found it a chore, it did help consolidate the learning and emotional experiences of the day. The blogs I enjoy do that well. They share a new discovery, some beauty, some emotion and humanity that I can relate to, perhaps with laughter or with tears.
I have struggled to try and nominate five new thinkers. All the blogs in my sidebar are thinking blogs and I will pass on the tagging for now. (Mary said that was OK!) My Google Reader is my first stop when I turn on my computer. I look forward to reading what each of you write. You are all far more interesting and informative than the news!
I would like to introduce a newer member of the the blogosphere, Ruth Johnson (RuthieJ) of Rochester, MN who writes about her life, dogs, birds and her 5 acre backyard in Nature Knitter. I enjoyed discovering and reading her blog this week. She drinks tea and thinks rhubarb cake a la mode is a good breakfast. I can identify with that, even if this Ruth does not share her tatooed biker woman status!
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
I grow a little lettuce and arugula, a few herbs and have a raspberry and rhubarb patch. The spring lettuce is always good, but the little bunnies have enjoyed most of it so far this year. My rhubarb patch was ready for its first harvest this week and today I made a rhubarb custard pie, rhubarb coffee cake and stewed rhubarb with raspberries. The recipes for the cake and pie are in my recipe blog, Come Home for Supper.
Earlier this year I wrote a post about the Buy Local, Buy Fresh initiative in our community, which encourages individuals and restaurants to buy and prepare local foods. Last week I purchased a book by Barbara Kingsolver (author of The Poisonwood Bible) called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. This non-fiction volume chronicles a year in which the author and her family made every attempt to eat local foods. They did all they could to avoid the "industrial food pipeline". I have not yet finished it, but so far it is an interesting read, with a sprinkling of recipes and plenty of personal stories.
My youngest daughter has never liked meat. As a baby, she refused the pureed meats and always loved legumes, vegetables, cheese and eggs. Friends would be surprised to see this toddler happily stuffing brussel sprouts in her mouth. Becka has asked me to help her prepare healthy ovo-lactovegetarian meals. She and I have been doing this for the past month or so, and feel very healthy and energetic. (My husband will always be a meat eater and loves his BBQ, but is not thrilled about grilled zucchini) Personally, I have decided to keep eating fish occasionally, especially the fresh lake trout and pickerel from recent spring fishing trips. The only substitute I need to work on is a replacement for the lard I use in my pie crusts. Lard makes the best pie crust and I refuse to use hydrogenated shortening. We do not eat very many pies in a year.
It is time for me to start planning a week (or two or three) of local food menus, both vegetarian and meat based. Rhubarb and asparagus mark the beginning of our seasonal crops and they are now available. We have several excellent farmer's markets within a short drive from our home. I don't regret buying a pricey Ataulfo mango this week to make a mango curry, but I would like to start a habit of buying more local fresh foods and becoming more aware of the environmental impact of my food choices.