Poison Ivy

 

It loves me. It stalks me. It finds me. Every single year. No matter how careful I am to avoid it, Poison Ivy hunts me down and infects me. “Leaves of three, let them be”. Ya, right……

I wear long sleeves and gloves and try to stay away from this monstrous plant which resides under the cedars out front. Poison Ivy releases Urushiol oil which is so potent that only one nanogram (billionth of a gram) is needed to cause a rash. The problem is that I sweat a lot when I work, especially with long sleeves and pants, so my open pores absorb the resin deeply into my skin. I’m aware that poison ivy is out to get me so I’m careful about removing my outer clothing in the mudroom before I come in the house.

poison ivy
I wash my exposed face and neck with Sunlight laundry bar soap as soon as a get in the house to get off any Poison Ivy residue. But it LOVES me too much to let me go! I saw two plants this week while I was mulching and I didn’t touch them but covered them with about 6″ of mulch. TWO PLANTS!! Two lousy plants!
The ‘blisters’ started to come out the next day. First below my lower lip then beside my right eye. Then my forearms had tons of little spots that started to itch. Two years ago, the poison ivy was so bad on my face that my eyes were swollen shut – it was time for medical intervention. My daughter drove me to the doctors and I was prescribed Prednisone. I hated to take it but I was desperate – and it worked like a charm.
I’ve tried many remedies to reduce the itching: Calamine lotion; rubbing alcohol; hydrocortisone cream; letting Sunlight laundry soap bar dry on my skin; taking mega doses of garlic and vitamin C; you name it! But nothing really works for me – it just has to run it’s course which takes about 3-4 weeks. This year, when my right eye started to swell shut and the itchy blisters covered my forearms, I had to resign to a 5 day course of Prednisone and benadryl. ūüė¶

WM

Two years ago my eyes swelled shut

I made some forearm ‘sleeves’ from old socks to cover the oozing blisters and prevent me from scratching. I’m trying to avoid scratching which can be a real test.
I have tried, in the past, to eradicate each plant – vinegar; covering it with a jar or can (hopefully it would suffocate); leaving it alone and hoping it would go away. One year I was SO desperate that I even bought RoundUp to kill it. Then I couldn’t bear to use it on all of them (maybe I should have…..) because I’m a supporter of a healthy ecosystem.
Maybe all I have to do is simply stay away from that part of my garden and let the whole area run wild! I’m just a sucker for punishment I guess.

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Sunrise

Early morning is my favourite time of the day. I love getting up early to watch the daylight nudge away the darkness. Today was no exception. It was pretty cool at 1C degree. In fact, the water in the river was warmer because there was steam or mist rising from it. I felt the urge to go outside in my rubber boots and walk throught the moist, long grass down to the river and take some pictures to share with you …… it was quite cool standing there waiting for the sun to slowly, very slowly, show itself from over the eastern treeline. But I couldn’t resist the temptation to take pictures to show how lucky I am to see this every day.

Mist over the water and dew on the anchor

Mist over the water and dew on the anchor – waiting for the warm sun

Mallard ducks in the water and Canada Geese flying overhead waiting for the sun

Mallard ducks in the water and Canada Geese flying overhead waiting for the sun

Here comes the sun!

Here comes the sun!

second by second rising slowly

second by second rising slowly

from the dock

from the dock

Ahhh, it felt so toasty on my cold face

Ahhh, it felt so toasty on my cold face

Double sun reflecting off the water

Double sun reflecting off the water

View from the dock

View from the dock – we call this ‘Primetime’

View from back up at the house where it's shady

View from back up at the house where it’s shady

Bird Watching

 

Most of my family knows that I love watching wild birds. My favourite vantage point is from right inside my house. I currently have 6 birdfeeders on the go, down from sixteen I used to have. I only use black oiled sunflower seeds to fill my four birdseed feeders because commercial mixed wild bird seed is wasted: the birds pick out the sunflower seeds and brush the leftover millet and corn onto the ground.

Northern Cardinal - Marty

Northern Cardinal – Marty

The variety of birds that come to eat include Nuthatches, Black capped Chickadees, Bluejays, Northern Cardinals, Mouring Doves, Sparrows, and Juncos. I used to get loads of Evening Grosbeaks, but sadly I haven’t seen any for over 15 years now. I also have several suet feeders hanging off the eaves of the house. I buy beef fat from my butcher and cut it to size when I get home, then freeze for use in my suet feeders. The Hairy Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers especially love it. The local Pileated Woodpeckers stay clear of the house and find their sustenance from local trees.

Owl in our yard - Marty

Owl in our yard – Marty

There are lots of other birds that I have the pleasure of observing who don’t visit my birdfeeders. Last winter, we had a beautiful owl perch himself on a tree 25 feet from our house one afternoon. And of course, every spring we have a flood of Robins, Red Winged Black Birds, Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, Cedar Waxwings, Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, and Northern Orioles.

This year, the ‘piece de resistance’ is the appearance of the Snowy Owl in my neck of the woods. There is a tremendous influx of Snowy Owls here this year because of a population explosion in their natural habitat which has forced them to come south. So the search was on to spot one of these beautiful rare birds!
Yesterday, my granddaughter Livi telephoned me to come with her and her Daddy to feed some wild birds along a nature trail. On our way there, we spotted a Snowy Owl sitting atop a telephone pole along the road! We stopped to observe and take a picture – check one thing off my 8 year old Granddaughter’s “bucket list” lol. It was the only snowy owl we saw all day…….

Livi feeding Chickadee

Livi feeding Chickadee

When we arrived and walked along the hiking trail a bit, we filled our hands with seeds for the birds and we weren’t disappointed! The little chickadees landed on our hands and picked out the sunflower seeds sometimes two at a time! We stopped many times along the several kilometer trail and filled our hand with seeds and the birds would come out of nowhere to feed from us. It was awesome! The only time I ever had a bird land on my hand was when we went for a hike on Mount Washington, Vancouver Island, British Columbia in Strathcona Provincial Park and the birds just landed on our outstretched hands – no seeds required. We hope to try the same thing on our front porch where the birds are already familiar with us and eating.

2014-01-18 14.58.16

 

 

 

Apple Crisp

100_2967Fall is here and apples are ripe. The apple tree outside my bedroom window has dropped it’s apples months ago. They usually land with a big thud (that increases as they get bigger and riper) on my metal roof and roll down then off into the garden. Another apple tree by the mudroom door was full of ripe apples, most of which we picked – these Empire Apples are my favourite. I have one more apple tree in the middle of the front yard which I leave for the other inhabitants of this land: birds, squirrels, deer, etc.
To celebrate the season, I want to share one of my favourite recipes. I love to make this Apple Crisp in the fall when the apples from my trees are ripe and juicy. It’s the perfect dessert for those cooler autumn days.

Apple Crisp
6-8 Apples                                                   1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup raisins                                            1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup water                                             1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats                                        2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup whole wheat flour

French Vanilla Ice Cream

Place sliced apples in a buttered 9″x13″ pan. Sprinkle with raisins and water. Combine the rest of the ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the apples/raisins. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until the apples are soft.
Serve warm with French Vanilla Ice Cream.

Kalia picking apples

Kalia picking apples

 

Co-Parenting with Nature

 

The other day I found a baby robin in my driveway under the overhanging apple tree.¬† I suspect it fell out of the¬† nest which was 20 feet above.¬† I guessed that this wee bird was about 3 or 4 weeks old since it had some feathers as well as downy looking feathers and it was trying to hop (mostly flop) away from me.¬† I left it in the driveway for awhile and I thought I noticed the parent bird feeding it.¬† I tried to move it over to the side of the driveway out of the way of cars coming and going but it just ‘flhopped’ back near the middle.¬† When dusk approached, it was still there.¬† I was concerned about leaving the poor thing on the ground where it would be vulnerable to predators like the dozen feral cats in our neighbourhood (one of which I had seen at the end of our driveway only a few days ago).¬†¬† Climbing up the apple tree and putting him back in the nest (if it really was the one he fell from) was out of the question.¬† So I decided to give him a better chance of surviving the night and put him in a cardboard box in the garage.¬† I even added the empty robin’s nest that I had¬† recently removed from my eaves trough and a little lid with water in it.¬† At this stage in life, the 3 week old babies usually are so big that they spend their time in the nest while the parents sleep on a nearby branch.¬† So I figured that this little bird would be warm enough by himself.¬† I crossed my fingers as I covered the box with a sheet to help the poor frightened thing settle down for the night.

Baby robin in its temporary home

Baby robin in its temporary home

I understand that this is not ideal.¬† I realize that in some areas, normal citizens aren’t supposed to rescue fallen baby birds but rather take them to a ‘specialist’ rescue center.¬†¬† BUT with no options, I decided that the best thing would be for the Momma bird to resume feeding her baby during the daytime when she would be doing it if the fledgling bird was still in the nest.

I got up bright and early the next morning, fully expecting to find the little bird dead.¬† Much to my surprise, it was alive and well, with it’s mouth wide open waiting for breakfast!¬† I rushed out to the garden and dug a few small worms and dropped one into its mouth.¬† I think that it preferred chewed up worms because it didn’t quite know what to do with a wiggling worm half hanging out of it’s mouth.¬† Sorry little one, but I wasn’t going to accomodate you!¬†¬† I knew that this was likely not sustainable because they require feeding every 45-60 minutes and I couldn’t see me doing that for the next few weeks.¬† Meanwhile, my daughter Nellie was researching on the internet what we should do:¬† we could feed it canned cat food, cut up worms and commercial ‘baby cereal’ (okay, why would I feed a different species, human commercial baby cereal when I wouldn’t even feed that stuff to my own babies…..!).¬†¬† I went with my first inclination and put the box back out in the driveway where the bird was found.¬† I left him inside the box since I thought he’d be more protected and hoped that his Momma might find him.¬† Sure enough, Momma bird came right away and fed him!¬† I was totally amazed at the bond that had been established between this mother-baby dyad !¬†¬† I know human mothers and babies have a strong bond but birds are much lower on the evolutionary scale and it’s instinct that kicks in!¬†¬† (maybe more Mothers should follow their own instincts too)

When it began to pour rain, I moved the box up onto our covered porch.¬† Now I wasn’t sure how comfortable Momma bird was going to be here especially with our indoor cat sitting on the window sill watching everything.

Momma robin arrives!

Momma robin arrives!

......and she jumps right in and feeds her baby!

……and she jumps right in and feeds her baby!

But her instinct to feed her baby was far stronger than her fear.¬† The primal ‘unconditional love’ that this Momma bird showed her baby is incredible.¬† Despite the serious adversity of losing her baby from the nest, she overcame the obstacles and continues to feed her little fledgling every hour or so.¬† We also keep an eye on what’s going on discreetly through a window,¬† just in case there is any undesirable company.

Peeking through the window

Peeking through the window

Two nights (inside the garage) and two days have gone by and so far, so good.¬† Momma robin is waiting for us in the morning!¬† The cardboard box is big enough for the little bird to hop around, get some exercise, flap its wings – getting stronger every day.¬† Hopefully in the next week or so, it will be strong enough to fly to the top of the box and follow it’s Mom away.

So I guess you could say that I’m co-parenting this baby robin………. and I get the night shift.¬† So wish me luck on my journey in avian co-parenting!

 

Enough Rain!

 

It’s been raining here for several days now – torrential downpours, thunder and lightening, light rain………. the whole gamut.¬† This morning when I woke up it was 0 degrees celsius (32F) outside.¬† If fact, not too far away, it snowed!!¬† So I’m feeling pretty lucky that I was too busy last weekend to get my tender vegetable seedlings planted in the garden or move my few dozen inside plants to their summer home on the back deck.

Squash seedlings

Squash seedlings

 

Fragrant Basil waiting to be planted outside with the Tomatoes

Fragrant Basil waiting to be planted outside with the Tomatoes

I just hope that some of my parsnip seeds don’t wash away in the rain or the Purple Bean seeds don’t rot.¬† Some weather reports had predicted that it was going to be ‘sunny with cloudy periods’ on several days this week but that never materialized.

Leaf Lettuce in the Kitchen Garden raised bed

Leaf Lettuce in the Kitchen Garden raised bed

A week ago we had a 5.2 earthquake (which surprisingly, I barely felt) but the thunder the other night rocked our house inside and out scaring the dog and the cat.¬†¬† Right now, my pond is overflowing – and considering the water level was down about 25 cms (10 inches) because we hadn’t had ANY rain up till now, I’m very happy.¬† My rain barrels were overflowing days ago……..¬†¬† Those previous record low river levels are a thing of the past – last week I could barely see the dock past the bull rushes and now it’s bobbing nice and high clearly visible from sitting here in my chair in the living room.¬† On the other hand, the front ditch is full of water and seems to be draining very slow or not at all……¬†¬† The ostrich ferns are loving this wet weather and they’ve grown several feet tall.¬†¬† Hostas as well are thriving in the rain.¬† Luckily, the apple blossoms had a normal spring in full bloom with bees busily going from blossom to blossom.

I’m ready for the rain to stop now.¬†¬† Just a break.¬†¬† It can rain again next week, overnight, to water the plants.¬†¬†¬† Last year we had a drought during the summer so I guess I shouldn’t complain.¬† And this rain is the tail end of that Oklahoma tornado weather so I really have to be grateful.¬† I could visualize that I live on the west coast during rainy season like 3 of my sons or my sister Betty…..¬† But I’ll just continue to get some ‘inside’ work done even although I’d rather be outside.

Here are a few pictures I took in the rain this morning:

I love Bleeding Hearts.¬†¬† This little bush is a faithful specimen in the traditional¬†‘cottage garden’ which boast these lovely heart shaped flowers.¬† Unfortunately, the flowers don’t last long but the leaves are nice.

Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts

Japanese Maple trees are one of my favourites!¬† They are supposed to be ‘sensitive’ to harsh winter conditions but all of my 7 different ones do just fine without a lot of fuss.

Japanese Maple tree raindrops

Japanese Maple tree raindrops

Common orange day lillies love any kind of conditions but especially lots of rain at this time in their growth.  I have an large circle around my chimnea wood fireplace (where we used to have our 18 foot pool).

Raindrops on Daylilly

Raindrops on Daylilly

These outside planter impatiens are tucked under the eves next to the window and are spared the worst of the cold rain.  I like the reflection off the window of my back porch and back yard.

Impatiens in outside planter

Impatiens in outside planter

 

May Day

 

Today¬†is May 1st, May Day.¬† Today I celebrate spring in all it’s glory.¬† For the next 6 months, I look forward to warm weather, no snow, gardening, my pond………….everything that goes with spring and summer.

While I was working outside today, I took some pictures to share with you:

The daffodils are finally blooming!

Daffodils are blooming

Daffodils are blooming

And the ostrich fern ‘fiddleheads’ are beginning to unfurl.

Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads

Pond stream

Pond stream

I managed to get the leaf net off the pond and the pump in and running.¬† It’s nice to see it going with the anticipation of adding the fish, which have overwintered in my cold-room.¬† There are already some inhabitants who have made a home there:

Bullfrog in the pond

Bullfrog in the pond

The wild ginger is up along the pond’s edge and I noticed some of the hostas have started to poke through the ground.

Wild ginger

Wild ginger

Of course, flies have awakened from their winter slumber. 

Fly

Fly

Yeah, the rhubarb is up!!¬†¬† That’s a sure sign of spring!

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

And the cheerful forsythia is in full bloom.  I bought a cutting of this bush at a local school plant sale several years ago and it has thrived beautifully, faithfully blooming first thing every spring.

Forsythia

Forsythia

A few days ago, I moved the flagpole to the riverside and put up a new Canadian flag.  It helps me see which way the wind is blowing for hanging laundry while being patriotic.  I now have a spring list of chores to do which I hope to accomplish in due time. 

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