Friday, November 30, 2007

Say Hi ! Day

Today is the first annual Say Hi Day which was implemented by the Community Safety & Crime Prevention Council of Waterloo Region. I have noticed Say Hi signs along roads in our area and on the back of our city buses but didn't know what it was about until today. The program was started in 2004 as part of the Get Connected campaign to encourage increased community engagement, especially among youth.

Making eye contact with strangers and greeting them can be intimidating for many people. I remember the halls of high school and the dread I sometimes felt when I had to pass a group of people I didn't know hanging around in the corridor. There was seldom any basis for my fear other than my own self consciousness and insecurity. These days, I often walk the streets and trails in our community alone and make a point of giving everyone I pass a smile, nod or greeting. And nearly everyone reciprocates graciously.

The Say Hi website gives these reasons for the campaign.

By reaching out to neighbours and friends - you can help build a strong community.

  • You'll get connected with your community
  • You'll remove barriers that separate people
  • You'll nurture a sense of belonging & inclusion
  • You'll start a dialogue about community safety
I know few of my neighbours well as most people work and sitting on the porch is a rare past time these days. And our cold winter days keep people indoors for months. Our community includes our workplace, schools, recreational, social and spiritual centres. We need to teach children to be street smart without making them fearful of everyone they don't know.

So Hi there! Welcome to my community!

Photos from the Say Hi website

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bald Eagles and more

Bald Eagle from The Record

Last week a local photographer, David Bebee, captured this image of a Bald Eagle flying near the Grand River along a trail that I frequently walk. The eagles have arrived for the winter and there have been a number of sighting by birders in the area. I have never seen a Bald Eagle in the wild and hope to see one this season.
Last weekend I walked a trail where eagles are frequently reported. I was there shortly after dawn, which isn't too early any more. I was also looking for some different woodpeckers as a Red-headed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker and a Pileated Woodpecker had also been recently reported in our local birding forum.

Common Mergansers with Canada Geese

The river was full of birds and at first glance they all seemed to be Mallards and Canada Geese and gulls. But a careful second look revealed two pair of Common Mergansers in the mix. The interesting birds are usually just out of my camera's range for a good picture.

Common Goldeneye

A number of small diving ducks travelled in larger groups of about twenty birds, including these Common Goldeneyes. There were also quite a few Buffleheads around.
There were many Robins and Cedar Waxwings around the berry bushes in a sheltered area below the high river bank. I did see one Hairy Woodpecker and while some dead leaves blocked a clear camera view, I did get an adequate look at the tail feathers to make certain that this was not a Downy Woodpecker.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpeckers are noisy and large in comparison to their Downy cousins and lack the black spots on their outer tail feathers.
I saw a large brown raptor in a willow tree upstream from where I stood. When it flew away, there was an enormous, noisy bird scatter. Another birder who had a scope said it was a juvenile Bald Eagle, one that he had seen several times recently. I do believe him, but I won't count it as my sighting until I can ID it myself.

American Coot

There are some excellent photographs posted on our birding forum by avid birders with expensive cameras. Many of them have been visiting the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, braving very cold winds to get pictures of wintering birds. I took the picture of these American Coots in the Hamilton harbour a couple of weeks ago. Here are a few links to pictures worth viewing of less common birds being seen in SW Ontario.

Long Tailed Ducks, Rusty Blackbird, Bohemian Waxwings, Scoter, Common Redpoll

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Backs and Bones

This is the view I see too often as I work with patients who are trying to regain their mobility and independence. In the past ten years I have kept a database of my adult Home Care patients including the reason for their referral to physiotherapy services. I have seen nearly 3000 patients in this decade and the most frequent diagnosis is a fractured hip. After that, general frailty, falls and an assortment of other fractures including spinal compression fractures, shoulder and pelvic fractures compose the majority of my caseload. This pattern is also seen in the admissions to the geriatric rehabilitation hospital where I work. In fact, I see many of the same patients repeatedly in the hospital and community.

This lady's kyphotic spine is typical of many like her who have advanced osteoporosis (not to be confused with osteoarthritis). Women in her age group have often been under treated for this condition. There are improved diagnostic and treatment options available now and osteoporosis does not have to lead to disability. One in four women over 50 and one in eight men have osteoporosis. The Ontario Osteoporosis Strategy is working to improve education, identification and treatment of this condition. By identifying people at risk, particularly younger, ambulatory patients with low impact fractures, providing educational materials starting in elementary schools, and improving the use and accuracy of BMD testing, the goal is to decrease the cost of osteoporosis to individuals and the health care system.

Early detection of this condition is very important. Here is a list of risk factors from the website of Osteoporosis Canada. It is important to note changes in height as the loss of 2 or more inches during adulthood is a strong predictor of osteoporosis. Femail Doc of Doc of Ages wrote a post this week about the class of antidepressants known as SSRI's and the increased incidence bone fragility and falls in people who use them. It is important to be informed and proactive about our health and the health of our loved ones. My husband's mother had a height loss of several inches, a shoulder fracture and hip fracture before she was started on medication to improve her bone density. There is no need for this to happen any more.
Here is an interactive bone health tool from the USA National Institute of Health called Check up on your Bones. Or follow any of the other links above for plenty of useful information.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Packing Snow!

We receive a good amount of snow in our area each winter, but very seldom is it good packing snow. Packing snow is essential for snowballs and snowmen and the temperatures must be close to freezing for it to be heavy and sticky. This is what fell around evening rush hour yesterday making a slippery commute for drivers and a very pretty decoration for the trees.

The Becka and I went out to clear some snow before my husband got home and it was very heavy to push and lift the shovel. We decided it would be much easier to clear the driveway and sidewalks by making giant snowballs for a snow man. We have a corner lot and a double driveway so in no time we had our snow man made.

The shoveling was much easier after this. Dakota loves the snow and tried to catch snowballs we threw his way. Snow has come much earlier than last year when we never had snow that stayed until mid-January. The local ski club has been making extra snow for its slopes since the weekend. The white ground does brighten the grey, short November days and snow is preferable to freezing rain. More is on the way today, but the temperatures have dropped and we will have dry, blowing snow. Maybe we will have a white Christmas this year.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fish for Breakfast

I took a very chilly walk along the river early in the morning this weekend. At the confluence of the Grand and Speed Rivers, the water was full of ducks, geese and gulls. Our over-wintering birds have arrived from the north and the sections of the river that stay open due to strong currents attract large number of birds. The temperature was -10C which is cold for this time of year. I watched this gull for some time as it tried to deal with a fish that was a little too big to handle. The gull was fishing from an ice-covered rock that was surrounded by shallow water.

The fish kept falling back into the water and the gull would retrieve it and return to the slippery rock. The fish would be placed on the rock and then the gull would try to eat it. But the ice provided no traction and the gull would slip off the rock and lose the fish again. The cycle would begin again.

If only the gull could have heard my advice! "Fly over to the river bank and have your breakfast on the shore where the grasses and ground would make a eating surface." Another birder was watching the river too and said the birds would stay as long as the food supply remained good and the water stayed open. The river is still very low for this time of year. Time will tell if nature will be kind to the winter residents that rely on its delicate balance to survive.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'll be Home for Christmas

God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.

Hebrews 13: 5,6

I was walking along the river on Saturday and passed this bench that was decorated with a seasonal wreath. The bench is inscribed and was placed along the river trail in memory of a woman I knew from our community who died an untimely death from cancer. Someone who cares for her memory put the wreath here instead of at a cemetery as the woman loved the outdoors. While the Christmas season is a happy one for many people, there are those who will be separated from family by distance, illness and death. Grandma kept a Christmas scrapbook for many years and I remember a pasted clipping on one of the pages with the words of the song below. The illustration depicted a WW 2 serviceman overseas as he was trying to decorate a palm tree with Christmas lights.

m dreaming tonight
Of a place I love
Even more than I usually do.
And although I know
It's a long road back
I promise you

I'll be home for Christmas.
You can count on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents under the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love-light gleams.
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams.

I am separated by distance from most of my own family every Christmas. The memories of others who have passed on come to mind at special times of the year. This bench reminds me to seek out someone who needs a special gift of friendship this Christmas season.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Buy Nothing Day 2007

Vancouver's Adbusters says: buy nothing tomorrow

Emma Gilchrist
November 22, 2007

This has to be the easiest call to action of all time: do nothing.

Well, you still have to wake up, go to work, walk the dog and feed your kids, but you can leave your shopping list at home. Today is the day to take a break from the Christmas madness that's beginning to creep into your life.

Instead, for the 15th annual Buy Nothing Day, make a conscious effort to participate by, well, not participating.

Environmentalists, social activists and concerned citizens in 65 countries will hit the streets for a 24-hour consumer fast today (in North America) and Saturday (internationally), marking a global cultural phenomenon that originated in Vancouver and has now gained attention worldwide.

The day is timed to coincide with the Friday after American Thanksgiving - one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

The brainchild of Adbusters magazine, Buy Nothing Day has picked up speed alongside concern for the environment, as average folks seek greener alternatives to unrestrained consumption…

Lasn, the Buy Nothing boss, says the message is bigger than a single day.

"It's about finding out how addicted you are to consumption," he says. "Everyone has their own way of waking up to the fact that 'my lifestyle really stinks' . . . It's about having that epiphany."

Lasn insists there really aren't any rules. What's really important is a mind shift - and not just a personal one, but a cultural one, too.

"It's really not enough anymore to change your light bulbs. You need to change your lifestyle, not your light bulbs," he says, pointing out that the richest one-fifth of the world's population consumes four-fifths of the world's resources.

"The real message is to take it seriously. You are one of the lucky one billion people on the planet. What part can you play, besides changing your light bulb? In that spirit of seriousness, go on a fast. Really go deep that day and come out of it transformed," says Lasn.

"What I'm really hoping is that millions of people participating in Buy Nothing Day will have a spiritual awakening."

"Buy Nothing Day isn't just about changing your routine for one day. It's about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment."

Buy Nothing Day survival plan

Here are five things to do today instead of buying stuff.

1. Pack a lunch. Put yourself to the test and see what you can come up with. And don't forget coffee. We don't want you heading to the mall for food, and then breaking your Buy Nothing promise.

2. Get outside. Explore somewhere you've never been before.

3. Catch up with friends and family. Stay in and call some people you should've called long ago, or invite a bunch of friends over for a Buy Nothing party.

4. The other three Rs: Read, relax, reflect. Take this day as an opportunity to take stock of your life and consider your consumption, and then make it an annual tradition.

5. If you find yourself in a stitch, thinking: "Oh no, I really need to buy this," take a second to think about what the word 'need' means. Could you get by without it? Re-evaluate what you require. You just might find abstaining from your consumer craving a liberating experience.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

First Snow Fall

The sun that dim November day
Had failed to kiss the clouds away
From quiet Nature's furrowed face,
Where autumn tears had left their trace.

And, by and by, on fields of brown
The feathered flakes came floating down
From Heaven to this world of ours,
Like spirits of departed flowers.

And fast and faster through the night,
Till Morn arose on meadows white,
And o'er the landscape lightly stepped
Where tired Nature, smiling, slept.

Albert Bigelow Paine

These shots were taken in the same park where I took pictures for the Pooh Sticks post last week. What a difference a few days can make!

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Comparing Prices at the Gas Pump

November 20, 2007

I filled up my vehicle with regular gasoline yesterday at our neighbourhood Sunoco station. This autumn, gas prices in our area have been over $1.00 a litre most days. A fill up for my 6 cylinder van costs about $60.00 so I try to lessen the shock by keeping the tank from getting completely empty. During the time of Hurricane Katrina, our gas prices peaked briefly at $1.20 a litre, but they dropped again quickly.

November 14, 2006

I took a picture of the sign at the same gas station last November (see post here). The gas price one year ago... $0.788 a litre. Considering the fact that our dollar is now valued above the US dollar, we are paying at least 25% more for gas this November. Oil was between $55-60 a barrel last November and is now above $90 a barrel. One year ago the Canadian dollar was worth $0.87 US and yesterday it closed at $1.02 US.
I am not an economist, but this winter we will be experiencing higher prices for all transported goods (which is pretty much everything). Have we become indifferent to the impact of our gas-dependent ways? How high do prices have to go before we take energy conservation seriously?

How much are you paying for gas?
I would be interested in hearing from readers in other continents too.

1 US gallon = 3.7854118 litres
Assuming the CDN and US currency is at par, we are paying $3.86 per US gallon for gas in our area. Many areas of Canada, particularly in the north, have significantly higher prices.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Yard Projects

We have three large Norway Maples on our property that always drop their leaves suddenly on November 2-3 each year. We have lived here 20 years now, and that is the way it has always been...until this year when they all dropped their leaves on November 17-18. This exceptionally warm, dry fall has delayed the leaf fall for the first time in my memory. We do not have a leaf blower (like everyone on Cathy's street does!). Our daughters always liked to rake leaves after they had finished playing in their leaf houses, but now that two of them are gone, our outdoor work force is significantly diminished. My husband and I are both nursing aching backs and shoulders after the raking workout. It was also time to clean out the flowerbeds and put away the last of the outdoor pots for the season. The light dusting of snow was a reminder of shoveling we will be doing soon.

Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches

While I worked, the birds visited the feeders without much hesitation. Four Nuthatches were steady customers and were the most fearless birds of all, especially for peanut rewards. At one point there were seven different bird species and two squirrels on the deck at the same time. Becka thought it looked like a scene from Disney's Snow White with all the forest creatures gathered around. (no deer though!)

Female Downy Woodpecker

Our latest feeder visitor, another first for me, is a hawk. It has been doing regular fly-overs and sat in a nearby tree yesterday for several minutes. The sun back lit the bird so I could not identify it for sure, but it was the size and shape of a Cooper's Hawk. It is welcome to have as many House Sparrows as it can eat.

My next yard project is at the hospital. This is the view out the window of our therapy office, a small room shared by seven people. We are temporarily on ground level due to renovations on our usual floor, so I got permission from the grounds keeper to feed the birds for the winter. I took this picture today of a scavenger squirrel and a very hard to see Red-breasted Nuthatch on top of the suet feeder. I will be changing things around tomorrow to discourage the greedy squirrels. There is a wooded area here at the back of the hospital that is full of birds and perhaps I can attract a few less common ones to the window. None of us sit at our desks much during the day, but at least I will see the feeders occasionally during our shortening daylight hours.
I will never be bored as long as I have a little patch of ground to look after and a new project to plan.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

All I want for Christmas is...

I spent time yesterday tidying up the house, vacuuming, dusting and organizing things. This is the most fruitless chore of my week. No matter how clean things are, they will get dirty again and the task has to be repeated and repeated. There are too many "things" in our home, souvenirs, knick knacks, decorations, etcetera that we have accumulated in the last half-century.

With Christmas coming, the question is asked, "What do you want for Christmas?"

Nothing please!

But that answer does not satisfy most askers. Buying out of obligation is such a stressful trap. At work, gift exchanges are popular and as I work in several areas, I could be involved in a number of $10.00 gift exchanges for gifts that will be re-gifted or thrown out.

Last November I wrote a post on this same topic called Christmas Frenzy. And I wrote about a gift I received from my sister-in-law that was very meaningful. I received a catalogue in the mail this week called Gifts of Hope from Plan Canada. This charity has a number of projects that a person can donate to that would make a difference in the life of someone in a third world country. Here are few of the many options available...

$40 for goats in Nepal provides milk and income for a family
$300 for cows in Zambia and Ghana provide the same benefits
$30 buys school books for one child in Sierra Leone
$30 buys equipment for a physiotherapy unit in Uganda

None of us would want to donate to a poorly run charity so it is important to investigate how the organization is run and what percentage of the funds raised actually go to the project. Some projects sound good, but are not culturally sensitive.
Here are a couple of investigative links.

Charities and Giving, A Revenue Canada site with information on assessing charities.
Charity Navigator, an American site with many interesting links.

Happy Shopping! Now you know what I really want.

Here are a few more links from people who commented on this post.
Heifer International
Farm Africa
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Flowers: Wild Cucumber

I found some interesting seed case skeletons while walking along the Grand River in March and was curious about the plant they came from. Jennifer, from a Passion for Nature identified them for me and I have watched as the wild cucumbers have grown over the past few months.
The scientific name of this native species is Echinocystis lobata and the plant belongs to the cucumber family. (Greek echinos for "hedgehog" and cystis for "bladder," lobata is Latin for "lobed") In our area it is an annual and the vine reseeds itself in the wild. There are other types of wild cucumbers in warmer climates that are perennial plants.

The plant is inedible and all parts of it are very bitter. Historically, it has some medicinal uses.

The pulverized root is used as a poultice for headaches. A very bitter tea brewed from the roots is analgesic and is also used as a love potion. It is used as a bitter tonic for alleviating stomach troubles, kidney ailments, rheumatism, chills, fevers (source).

I read one account of a man who tasted the fruit and then went on to develop a latent poison oak type rash around his mouth that was very painful.

My mother told me she used to collect the dried seed pods during the war and along with the seed pods of the Common Milkweed, they were used for military equipment. The pods can be used in dried flower arrangements and the seeds have been used in native jewellery.

I really wasn't too concerned about finding a use for the plant and just enjoyed watching it develop. The tiny, six-petalled flowers bloomed in August and they looked like white lace along the sides of the trails. A couple of weeks ago, I took the picture of the prickly green fruit. It had already burst open at the distal end and some of the pods had started to dry out.

The vines are now dying back with the recent frosts and these green pods will dry to become interesting skeletons you can pick up next spring when the snows have melted. And the big black seeds will grow again by the river starting a new cycle of flower and fruit production.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Birds and Branches

Most of the leaves have now fallen from our trees and bushes and the grasses at the edges of the trails have started to decay. It is easier to see little birds in the brush, although getting a picture amidst the jumble can be a challenge with an auto focus camera. I have been startled by a few birds at very close range as they have blended in with the leafless vegetation very well.
What do you see in the first picture?

I saw nothing until it moved in response to my approach. This is likely one of the last Great Blue Herons around this year. This lone straggler at the swamp was still around last week.

On a noon hour walk below the hospital grounds, I looked up in a tree by the river and noticed some eyes peering down at me. I took the picture below with my little pocket point and click camera and the Red-tailed Hawk still appears close. The bird was barely noticeable in the bare tree as it sat there without moving.

A couple of days later I saw another Red-tailed hawk sitting on top of a dead tree in the river's flood plain. Once again, I nearly walked by as from the back, the hawk looked like an extension of the stump. I have seen many hawks this month. I don't know if that is because they are migrating or if they are just more visible at this time of year.

The gulls have their winter plumage now with speckled heads, necks and chests. This one was resting on a fallen branch in the lake. I thought I may have found a Thayer's Gull but on closer inspection found it to be a winter Herring Gull. The Thayer's gull would have a brown eye instead of the yellow eye and the head would be more rounded. (like Hercule Poirot!)

I have made a list of birds that winter in Southern Ontario and will be checking the bare trees and shrubs closely on my winter walks. Perhaps I will even find an owl peering from its perch...I wish!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pooh Sticks

Today was a beautiful, cloudless day with temperatures above normal for mid-November. The past few days have been damp, drizzly and miserable so the sun today had to be enjoyed in such a way that its warmth would last through the grey days that are sure to follow.

Fortunately, I was doing community visits in our city core and had some extra time before lunch to walk through our downtown park. When our daughters were little, I brought them here every Wednesday when the weather was decent. We would go to the market and then walk over to the park for a picnic lunch.

A creek runs through the park, divides around an island, forms a small lake and is crossed by several bridges. I remember the girls standing on the bridges to play Pooh Sticks.

The original Winnie the Pooh stories by A. A. Milne were very popular at our house and were great for stimulating imaginative play. The official 'Pooh Corner Rules for Playing Pooh Sticks' was written in 1996 by Mike Ridley to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the publication of 'Winnie-the-Pooh'. These important rules are copied below.

'The official Pooh Corner Rules for Playing Poohsticks'

Getting Ready...

1. Find a Friend (The more friends-the more fun).
2. Find a Bridge over a stream (To find a bridge you may need a map)
3. Find some Sticks (You must do this before you arrive at the bridge).
4. Find a supply of Food. (Ask everyone to bring some along).

The Game...
1. Select a stick and show it to your competitor and make sure you are clear which stick is whose.
2. Check which way the stream is flowing and face the stream upstream.
3. Choose someone to start the game, he is the Starter.
4. All competitors stand side by side facing 'upstream'.
5. Each one hold his/her stick at arms length over the stream.
6. Starter must call "Ready-Steady-Go!" and all competitors drop (and not throw) their sticks in the water simultaneously.
7. At this point all the players must cross to the downstream side of the stream
8. Look over the edge for the sticks to emerge.
9. The owner of the first stick to emerge from under the bridge is the winner!

I had no one to play Pooh Sticks with me today, in fact, the park had very few people about enjoying the nice day. Tonight I looked on the shelf and pulled out the A. A. Milne books and re-read the adventures of Pooh, Christopher Robin, Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit, Tigger, Kanga and Roo for old times sake. The stories were written by a father for his son, Christopher Robin, but in truth I think A. A. Milne wrote them for himself.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mister Postman

Wait, oh yes wait a minute mister postman
Wait, wait mister postman

Mister postman look and see
If there's a letter in your bag for me...

The mailbox gets emptied after work every day and I usually sort through an uninspiring pile of advertising flyers, bills, and bank statements. Imagine my delight in finding this personally addressed envelope covered with interesting stamps in my mail a few days ago!

Thanks Ruthie J!

When we lived in South Africa it was a big event to receive mail from Canada. I remember the blue paper aerograms we received from family members back home. My grandmother wrote in neat, tiny lines so she could squeeze as much news as possible into the limited space. I started collecting stamps when we lived in Africa and still have my first album of stamps from many places in the world. My Uncle Bill has an enormous stamp collection and he always said it taught him a lot about history and geography.

As an adolescent, I was an avid pen pal letter writer. I kept in touch with friends from summer camps and we corresponded on a regular basis. At school we could sign up to have pen pals from a number of different countries. We learnt the proper way to address and write a friendly letter as well as a business letter. How things have changed! I use email almost exclusively for correspondence and have even given in to the regular use of e-cards. I rarely use a stamp these days.

But it still is fun to get a letter, a personal letter hand delivered to your door.
Do you still write letters, or has the keyboard replaced your pen, paper and stamps?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembrance Day 2007: Lest We Forget

They shall not grow old as we
That are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them nor
The years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning,
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon
from "For the Fallen"

Every year on November 11, Canadians pause in a silent moment of remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace. We honour those who fought for Canada in the First World War (1914-1918), the Second World War (1939-1945), and the Korean War (1950-1953), as well as those who have served since then. More than 1,500,000 Canadians have served our country in this way, and more than 100,000 have died. They gave their lives and their futures so that we may live in peace. (source)

We attended the Remembrance Day service in downtown Cambridge (Galt) Ontario this morning. I put some of my pictures together into a video collage in honour of those who fought to keep our great country of Canada free.

A platoon of the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada is stationed in Cambridge ON. They attended the service in their ceremonial dress with kilts and bagpipes. It was a very moving to hear the bands, sing the hymns and anthems, listen to poems and stories and watch the laying of many wreaths in honour of fallen soldiers. Everyone, from babes in arms and frail old veterans in wheelchairs was silent for two minutes at eleven o'clock in remembrance.

O Canada we stand on guard for thee!

(I posted this video on YouTube and the pictures are larger and easier to see.)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

New Feeder

I am so enthusiastic about my new feeder birds! I went to a garden centre today to see what else was available for encouraging the birds to stay around my yard for the winter. I bought a peanut feeder, and as I was hanging it up, the Red-breasted Nuthatch attacked it fearlessly. He was six inches from my face and pecked at the peanuts with plenty of gusto. This is one way to keep a nuthatch in one place for thirty to sixty seconds! I think I will have this bird tamed before the Chickadees! You may need to pause the video clip while it buffers, depending on the speed of your internet connection.

My daughter started Christmas baking this weekend, accompanied by Christmas music and movies. The recipes are in
Come Home for Supper.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Fruits: Rose Hips

I walked a trail this week that had many wild rose bushes growing on either side of the dirt path. They were covered in bright red rose hips and a group of robins was huddled beneath them to get protection from the strong, cold wind off the lake. Cedar Waxwings and Thrushes do eat these wild fruits so perhaps the robins were feeding on them as they continued their southward migration. Cultivated roses are usually dead-headed by gardeners so the fruit does not have a chance to develop. Old fashioned shrub roses like rugosas bear rose hips abundantly.

Rose hips are a superb source of vitamin C, having a much higher content than citrus fruit. During World War II when imports of citrus products were limited, rose hips became especially popular in Great Britain. Volunteers spent many hours gathering hips from hedge rows for making rose hip syrup for the Ministry of Health to distribute. They were also used by Native Americans as food in the winter months in teas, stews and soups.

Rose hips must have the seeds and tiny inner hairs removed before they are completely dried. They can then be kept in a cool place or in the freezer. To make a tea, add 4-6 rose hips to 2 cups of water and boil for 30 minutes. (Pouring boiling water over the dried hips is not good enough.) Strain and sweeten to taste.

While black teas are my favourite, I do enjoy a cup of rose hip tea from time to time. The health benefits have been known for centuries even if few of us enjoy them today.

Here is a site that gives more information on rose hips.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Time Flies By

I captured this blurred shot of three Bufflehead ducks taking off from the water this week. They represent my week, which is "flying by" quickly. I attended a conference yesterday in Hamilton, Ontario called Managing Vertebral Fractures. There are many treatment options for osteoporosis, two of which are proper diet and exercise. But who has the time! I liked this verse that was on a magnetized fridge reminder from Healthy Living Hamilton.

I have a special wish for you,
a wish that lasts the whole year through.
A daily dose of time for yourself,
time for leisure,
your fitness and health.
Your health is
very important to me,
your joy, your love,
your energy.
You spend your time caring
and giving; now it's
'Your turn Your time'
for healthy living

Colleen Stahlbrand

The My turn My time My plan project of Hamilton Public Health offers women very realistic support about how they can take their turn in the family, so that they can prioritize themselves, their health, and physical activity.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Breakfast Guests

I am always looking for the perfect bird feeder, one that attracts only birds and can be seen easily from indoors. I have two ineffective "squirrel-proof" feeders that were quite pricey. I also have a 2 litre pop bottle that has a screwed on red plastic perch. This low-tech feeder is too wobbly for squirrels and it attracted Rose-breasted Grosbeaks to my yard in the spring. It cost all of 99 cents.
My cousins came for Thanksgiving dinner in October and Samuel presented me with a little clear plastic window feeder. He told me to put some cooking oil on the suction cups to make sure the feeder would be secure. I have had it filled with nyger seed for a month and haven't noticed much action at all. On the weekend I topped it with sunflower seeds and the birds have been lining up for a turn to perch in it. I was having breakfast yesterday and was looking eye to eye through the window at the Red-breasted Nuthatch. Hi there! (The pair have been hanging around for three days now)

Pine Siskin Sideview

Next in line was a dainty bird with a heavily streak breast. A Pine Siskin! This is the clearest shot I got in the little time I had. A White-breasted Nuthatch was around as well as the Chickadees and Goldfinches and House Finches. What fine breakfast company.
My sister-in-law who lives near Toronto posted some pictures of a new feeder she bought at Costco. I asked her if it was squirrel-proof and she assured me it was.

Cage feeder beside my old feeder

I went there at noon and bought this huge, brass monstrosity called a cage feeder that has been "endorsed" by Cornell University. It wasn't too expensive but it sure dwarfs my old feeder. I hung it just before dark and within five minutes had a number of bird guests figure out how to get at the seeds. I will have to see what the squirrels do in the next few days. I am sure Samuel's window feeder is squirrel-proof and I suspect it will attract the best birds.

The wind is blowing hard off the Great Lakes and we are getting our first snowfall of the year. Our yard is surrounded by several mature trees and dense shrubs which I hope will protect our over-wintering birds in the coming harsh weather. I will keep a number of feeders filled and leave something for the squirrels and chipmunks too. And we will see who joins me for breakfast at the window.

What type of feeder do you find to be best for your backyard birds?