The Channel

It was the geese that I heard first. A few days ago, I could hear the Canada geese after dark ……. somewhere close. Lots of them, probably hundreds of them. And I knew that the middle channel of the river would soon be open!

It always starts upstream when small creeks and tributary rivers melt and the water current flows wildly towards the larger Rideau River. About a month ago or so, I noticed the Kemptville Creek, a.k.a. the South Branch of the Rideau River, completely melted and rushing through town towards the Rideau River. The temperatures spiked slightly above normal ~ around 5 degrees celsius (41F) ~ about three weeks ago and that started the big melt. Then it got colder, much colder, below normal colder and stayed that way for a couple of weeks – actually until now – slowing down the melt quite a bit.

When I drove to town, I noticed that the middle of the river ~ the Channel ~ was open at the bridge at Beckett’s Landing!  Hurray!!  I knew it would only be a matter of time before I saw that little sliver of water at my place. Each time that I went into town, the channel was open further and further towards my place. A few days ago, I noticed that it was within eyesight of my house! Yeah!  The anticipation of this ‘right of spring’ was so exciting!

Channel

 

This morning when I awoke to the sounds of hundreds of Geese and other spring birds, I was delighted to see the open water, even through the fog and rain! Canada Geese rested along the edges of the ice after their long journey from the south. Some of them were swimming delightfully in the water.

The Channel being open is THE sign that spring has REALLY arrived! It’s the promise that winter is behind us even if we do get more snow. It means that the ice at the edges of the river are melting and letting go and embracing spring. Buds on the trees are waiting to burst; spring tulips, daffodils, and crocuses are poking their leaves out from under the slushy snow. Red-winged Blackbirds are arriving back to their homeland and Bluejays are coming out of the forests.  Yesterday, Nellie thought she heard a bullfrog.

Today, it’s only a sliver of water that’s open. But within a few days, the rest of the ice will let go and my Lake of Shining Waters (read about it here) will be exposed until the end of the year!

My 'Lake of Shining Waters' , Rideau River

Ahhhh, spring!

 

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Kittens

When our kids were growing up, we seemed to have kittens around every few years. It all started because our neighbour Ed’s cat had kittens and we obligingly said we’d take the cute furry, white one who we named Princess (as in Princess Leia from Star Wars > she also had a brother named Chewy, who my other neighbour Nicky adopted).
Princess was a lovely, cuddly, furry lap cat. Soon, she became a mother to Obi and Rainbow, both pure white, furry male kittens. We became a family. Before we could get Princess spayed, she gave birth to 4 more pure white, furry kittens! Sadly, Princess got hit by a car when the kittens were 4 weeks old so we started them on softened kitten food. We found homes for three of the kittens but decided to keep the ‘runt’ called Dali, who had a rough start. Life went on and soon some of our white cats began to disappear and we were left with just Obi who lived until he was 12.

Nellie&Rainbow&DaddyWM

Daddy reading Nellie and Rainbow a story 1994

 

Fast forward to this past January. A feral cat who has lived in our neighbourhood for a number of years showed up in our backyard……. with 3 kittens in tow. I figured the kitties were about 6 weeks old. They were SO cute and it was SO cold outside (January!)…….. so I couldn’t resist feeding them to give them sustenance in order to survive a brutal winter. Wouldn’t you? I couldn’t be so heartless as to turn my back on them.
Nellie gave them all names: Mother Cat, Mochi (a cute ginger cat), Mandu (striped tabby), and Dimsum (striped/slightly mottled tabby) – we called the latter two, the twins. They remained alive and feral all winter.
One day in the spring, I made a discovery: Mother Cat was a mother again to a litter of 4 more kittens who lived in the woodpile at the side of the garage! These kittens seem to be about 4-6 weeks old.  That very same day, I accidentally left the garage door open and found out the Mochi was a mother to newborn kittens when I caught her bringing several kittens into the garage! She was real fast and had two of them behind all the junk before I could stop her. I left the door open that night as she’d never been inside before and I didn’t want her freaking out – and I didn’t know how many kittens there were. But I had my car parked in there and I had to figure out another plan for her.

Mochi's babiesWM

Our ‘little sausages’

 

The wood shed. I wasn’t using the wood shed at this time of year so I hoped she would move them there (she was moving them from place to place in the garage). I opened up the back doors to the wood shed and left them open, giving her a chance to bring them inside – I even put down a little piece of foam and tiny hunk of carpet. I wasn’t disappointed because the next morning after I fed the ‘outside cats’ I snuck into the wood shed and found 4 little baby kittens who looked like sausages all lined up in a row: 2 ginger and two blackish coloured.

pettingWM

 

Mother Cat’s kittens remained beside the garage and were spooked every time we went over there to try to civilize them. They remained ‘untouchable’ and feral. But we didn’t want that to happen to these new kittens. We knew we had to get them used to humans in order to catch them to get them all spayed/neutered when the time comes. So every time Mochi was eating, we’d go into the woodshed and ‘handle’ them, getting them used to us. And, of course, we gave them names: the two ginger males are Haru and Gogooma; and the two mottled black females and Jin and Min. Slowly, they became friendly and were unafraid of us. When they began to venture outside, they would come up to us for petting. But Mochi was still staying far away from us. Mandu ran like hell any time we went outside and Dimsum had gone to live somewhere else (we’ve only seen him once since the spring). Mother Cat must have figured it was getting crowded around here so one evening she led her 4 new kittens trotting down the driveway and left! She’d come around to eat every day at first but hasn’t shown up lately.

outside playingWM

 

The worse thing is that Mochi brings home dead moles for the kittens to snack on almost every morinng! They are getting plenty of cat food but she insists on providing for her young with fresh kill. It’s disgusting to have to pick up these dead rodents with a plastic bag over my hand, put them in another plastic bag, and take them across the road and throw them into the forest. I don’t want them to eat them because it will likely give them worms or something else.
Now that we’re on the other side of summer, we knew that we’d have to make inside accommodations for these ‘outside’ kittens especially if we’re going to get them fixed in a few months. We already have an inside cat, Dante, and I’m not interested in a houseful of new cats. But they are welcome to stay in the mudroom where they will be safe from winter storms and predators. We began this week leaving the back screen door propped open and moved their food inside. They spent one day going in but mostly out and since then are quite comfortable with being indoors. Nellie even bought them a couple of kitty beds and a litter box – which they now know how to use (important for their post surgery recovery). They’ve even spent the past few nights in there quite comfortably! Even Mochi! We tease her inside with kitty-treats because we know she would freak out and rip the screen door to shreds if she was separated and left outside.

MudroomWM

 

And this morning I found scaredy-cat Mandu inside the mudroom eating too.
So now we have a whole bunch of kitties! We love watching them play and wrestle with each other then suddenly flop down for a nap. They especially love to play ‘jungle kitty’ around my spider plants out on the deck.

nappingWM
Nellie has claimed responsibility for their care, food, and vet bills.
They ARE adorable though 😉

cutiesWM

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. 😦

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.

Shoreline Naturalization

I’ve lived along the shores of the Rideau River for almost 35 years.  I’m grateful that nature has shared it with me and others.  This river and the canal system that’s part of it, is a National Historic Site, Canadian Heritage River, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it remains the most extensive, well preserved and significant example of a continuous working canal/river in North America.  Most sections of the river remain in their natural state, even rugged wilderness, while other areas support farms, homes, small towns, two big cities, and historic lock stations.

Our local conservation association is helping waterfront homeowners to restore their shoreline to a natural state to encourage a more positive ecosystem for flora and fauna through their Shoreline Naturalization Program.  I first heard about this program a few years ago and even talked to someone at the local Ecofair last year.   I read up on it and even found the guidebook On the Living Edge Handbook: Your Handbook to Waterfront Living at last fall’s book fair.  I believe I already follow sustainable waterfront living, as mentioned in the book, like using clean recycled 45 gallon plastic drums (we were told they used to hold Coca-cola syrup) for our docks. But I was also guilty of a few things like making a beach 33 years ago with trucks of sand for the kids to play in.  In the last few years, I’ve let the cattails and natural plants grow back in along the beach.

Siberian Iris among the cattails

Siberian Iris among the cattails

This spring, I contacted the conservation authority to say that I was interested.  I was too late for this spring’s projects but I had an on-site shoreline consultation about my vision.   Luckily, I agreed to receive the ‘surplus stock’ from this years’ plantings:  a variety of 106 native trees and bushes including White Pine; Red Maple; Sugar Maple; White Birch; Bur Oak; Tamarack; Cedar; Sweet Gale; and Pagoda Dogwood.  They came as bare-rooted seedlings from 12-36” (less than a meter) tall.  I planted them in 3 days.

Most of the tree seedlings were planted along the sides of the property – sugar maples closer to the house for easier accessibility for tapping in the spring when there might still be snow on the ground.  The lower growing bushes, Sweet Gale and Pagoda Dogwood, were planted down along the river and up along the sides.  I’ve saved a few for my ditch project.

Daisy

Daisy

Along with these plantings, I’m practicing natural management of my grass cutting along the river.  I’ve left a wavy swath 5-15 feet wide along the river’s edge this year with a path to the dock.  I’m so thrilled that I have my own wee meadow!  There are all kinds of native plants already growing like Daisies, Siberian Iris, native Irises, ferns, Joe Pye Weed, orange Daylillies, and wild Morning Glories.  I’ve transplanted some ostrich ferns and other plants that love wet areas.  I also have some Rue Meadow growing prolifically on the path by my pond that I’m going to transplant down by the river.  Yesterday I noticed places where snapping turtles have probably laid their eggs.  And I think we have a resident muskrat under the old dock.

I’m looking forward to watching nature do her thing down by the river.

"Flags" wild Iris

“Flags” wild Iris

Sure Signs of Spring

Spring has arrived late this year but there are some sure signs of Spring.  The temperature started climbing above 0 degrees celsius last week and FINALLY the snow started to melt!  In a matter of a couple of days, most of the snow in the front and back yards has melted leaving puddles.  There is still a big drift down by the shed but it’s much smaller now.  I can even walk down to the river even though most of the ground isn’t frozen any longer but more like a sponge.  It’s rubber boots time!
In my excitement, I decided that it was time to change my winter-ravaged, torn and shredded Canadian flag down at the beach, now that I could get to it.  I happened to choose a very windy day but I got the job done and now my new flag stands as a sentry along the water…….. and I can tell which way the wind is blowing.

River
And the river started to break up!  Most years, the ice has already broken up and floated down river by now but this year it’s taken until now to begin.  I noticed first that the channel in the middle of the river had a small slit of glittering water – this is the first to melt with the flow of water.  Then the next day, their was a sliver of water along the edge of the riverbank which was open.  During the windy days, the whole ice floe completely moved away from our riverbank to near the channel leaving a substantial stretch of water.  Best of all, my ‘lake of shining waters’ is back!  This is the sparkly, glittering water reflecting the sunrise.  I love it.
The Canada Geese and other migratory birds started arriving back last week.  Thankfully the Robins can now find food since most of the snow has melted.  The Geese, Loons, and Seagulls can land in the water and even stand on the ice floe.  I’ve also seen my ‘friend’ the Great Blue Heron flying down along the water, Pterodactyl-looking.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

On my way back up the yard, I noticed the rhubarb starting to poke through the ground.  The daylillies too! The grass is even greening up under all those leaves I left on the ground.  This year, I’m beginning my ‘shoreline restoration project’ where I will start to let the river’s edge go back to it’s original state rather than cutting most of my grass right to the water’s edge.  It will be better for the environment, plants, and animals who live here too.

Another important yet unpleasant job is scooping the dog poop in the back yard.  My elderly dog Yukon died in mid-February but there was still a season of his poo under all the snow.  I almost got the whole job done while reminiscing about Yukon’s years here but I found tears in my eyes near the end.

The maple sap has been flowing from my tapped maple trees for nearly two weeks now.  It did slow down to a near stop when the weather turned very cold but it’s now flowing steadily.  I’ve been boiling the sap on my wood cookstove to make maple syrup – not much because it takes about 6 litres of sap to make about half a cup of pure maple syrup.  But since I’ve been making a fire anyway, there’s no harm in boiling the sap down on my cookstove.
One important sure sign of Spring is the sound of my sump pump.  It’s strange, but I certainly like hearing that on-and-off again humming noise because it means that the ground water around and under my house is being pumped away so I don’t flood.
What better way to welcome the warm spring winds than hanging laundry outside!  There’s nothing that soothes my visual soul more than the sight of laundry drying on my clothesline.  This week the temperatures are supposed to be above normal so all the comforters and blankets on the beds and floor mats will get washed and hung outside to dry.  Nature’s sweet, fresh smell lasts for days.

Sunning
Most days, our cat is sunning himself whenever he’s not ‘chasing’ squirrels at the windows from inside the house.  I find myself instinctively cleaning out closets these days.  I can’t understand why I’ve kept papers from 20+ years ago so some of them were recycled and others are in a burn pile.  Bookshelves are not immune either so any of my children who have left their books still on Mom’s shelves, let me know if you want any of them or they’re off to the book re-sellers.
As spring slowly gives way to the warmer temperatures near summer, another Canadian tradition begins: National Hockey League hockey play-offs.  There have been times when we’ve watched NHL play-offs on a TV outside on the deck while basking in temperatures in the 30C degrees.  Let the play-offs begin because this year my team is in the play-offs!  Go Sens Go!!

My Lake of Shining Waters

My Lake of Shining Waters

Garden of Eatin’

 

Today I picked my first garden produce: rhubarb. My daughter Nellie and I enjoyed a stick of rhubarb dipped in sugar just like when I was a youngster. Eating that sweetened sour rhubarb reminded me of what heavenly delights I have to look forward to in the next few months from my garden of eatin’ :

Fresh rhubarb and sugar

Fresh rhubarb and sugar

I received my first clump of rhubarb from my elderly neighbour when I moved here 33 years ago.  I went on to give clumps to other new neighbours over the years as well.  My friend Farmgal gifted me a new clump of rhubarb a few years ago and I planted it up by my kitchen garden close to the house – today’s rhubarb was from this plant.

Mint

Mint

Who can resist mint!  In teas or just about anything else, mint is wonderful.  Drying mint for storing and winter use is easy-peasy.

Day Lillie

Day Lillie

Just days after the snow melts, day lillies begin to poke through the ground.  Within a few weeks they grow a foot tall adding lime green colour to the yard.  These bright orange flowers can be added to salads or even stir-fried.

Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger

I dug this wild ginger from the forest near my house.  I just adore the velvety green leaves and the delicate little flowers.  I’m sure I could eat the root if they weren’t too pretty to dig up.

Bee Balm

Bee Balm

Isn’t the flower beautiful?  At one time, I had six different colours but red is my favourite – my sister Faye gave me the original plant years ago.  Bee Balm or Bergamot is is that flowery smell of Earl Grey Tea.  It’s nice to just rub the leaves and smell it for hours.

Ginko Biloba

Ginko Biloba

I planted my ‘Ginko’ tree in honour of my first grandchild Kalia’s birth 10 years ago.   Ginko is reported to have memory-enhancing properties so I’d better start drying and using for a tea any time now.

Creeping Thyme

Creeping Thyme

I planted this creeping thyme in the pathway under the arbour.  Every time I walk through that arbour, I smell that sweet smell of thyme.  I use this thyme in my soups and other recipes, even when I have to brush the new-fallen snow off.

Hops

Hops

I have several areas where Hops vines grow.  They are versatile and forgiving and create wonderful shade.  Last year, I clipped all the ripe hops off, dried them, and mailed them to my son Robin who used them in his beer making.

Apple

Apple

One of the first things I planted when we moved to this place were apple trees.   I have three remaining apple trees but only one produces apples that I love.  They make great Apple Crisp.

It’s hard to believe that only a few short weeks ago, the ground was covered in 2 feet of snow followed by 3 feet of flood water.  I can’t wait to be eating from my garden of eatin’.

 

*most pictures were taken last year

 

Yin Yang Weather

It’s cold and rainy today.  For the second day in a row, I’ve had to make a fire in the wood cookstove because it felt so cold and damp in the house.  It was about 5 degrees celsius (41 F) outside when I woke up today and yesterday PLUS ‘wind chill’ factored in to make it feel even colder!  It was a cool, sweater-wearing 15C (59F) in the house.   I don’t EVER remember making a fire inside in June!

 Cookstove

Cookstove

In fact, a week ago we had record breaking hot temperatures of 40C (104F) with the humidex.  The Weatherman said that when it’s hot and damp it feels even hotter (humidex factor)  but when it cold and damp it feels colder (wind chill factor).  I waited to put my indoor plants outside on the back deck until last week when the weather warmed up and the cool May temperatures left making it feel more like summer.  But alas, it was just temporary I guess.  I’m not too worried though since I leave these spider plants out until frost at the end of September.  In my garden, I haven’t seen any of my bean plants sprouting so I’m wondering if it’s too damp and cool for them and they’ve rotted – I may have to replant……… again.  And my poor tomato plants………. they are a sad looking lot.  I started them inside from seed in April so I might have to break down and buy a few more replacement plants.  My Sweet Potatoes sprouts have rooted and are still indoors waiting for the ground to warm up.  This is my ‘experiment’ plant this year as it’s the first time I’m attempting to grow it.  My reference is my favourite gardening book The All You Can Eat Gardening Handbook by Cam Mather from http://www.aztext.com/gardening_book.html

My favourite gardening book

My favourite gardening book

Yesterday I made soup since I just felt it matched with the cold, rainy day.  The recipe can be found here https://grammomsblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/chicken-vegetable-soup/ .  It is comfort food at this time of year……

Today my two granddaughters (9 and 7 years old) are here but we won’t be doing any outdoor activities in this cold rain.  On a brighter day, we could have fed the Koi in the pond or gone fishing in the river or gone for a walk.  But today we’ll spend the day reading Harry Potter, watching movies, or playing with their stuffed animals that they brought over with them.  My daughter Nellie crochets – http://www.etsy.com/shop/theBlackLory?page=2  and she made them a little mermaid  which they are playing with while they watch The Little Mermaid ll movie.

So I guess I’ll just have to go with the flow since there’s not much I can do about the weather anyway……

Bundle of Herbs

Bundle of Herbs for Soup

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