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Archive for April, 2011

peterborough1

I’ve had a lazy week, blog-wise anyway. On the Easter long weekend, I made a trip back to the Toronto area to visit relatives. Our immediate family got together for Ponygirl’s birthday at the beginning of April. In most years, her birthday corresponds pretty closely with the Easter long weekend, but Easter was unusually late this year. We have another batch of birthdays coming up around Mother’s Day, so that will be our next family get-together. Anyway, as we had no plans for a turkey dinner here, I took advantage of the long weekend to travel.

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The rainfall for the month of April has already set a record in the Ottawa area, and the month isn’t over yet. Environment Canada reported that the 16.6 mm of rain that fell at the Ottawa International Airport on Wednesday, the 27th of April, pushed the monthly total to 160.8 mm, well beyond the previous record of 143.8 mm. Ottawa usually receives an average of 60.5 mm in April.

As it turned out, the day I left was cool but beautiful and sunny, so I had a very pleasant drive.

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It’s about a five-hour drive back to the Toronto area. The fastest route is to take the 401 express highway, which parallels the St. Lawrence river and Lake Ontario, but it sure makes for a mind-numbing drive. If our schedules can be coordinated, I like to break the trip with a stop at Fiddlegirl’s Peterborough home. I much prefer to enjoy some of the country roads along the way, and the side trip to Peterborough offers some lovely scenery. Unlike the uniformly flat farmland around here, the countryside features low rolling hills. At this time of year, they are just beginning to come alive with shades of green, and were set off by a gorgeous blue sky. I couldn’t resist making a few roadside photo stops and am sharing a few views of the rural Peterborough scenery here.

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cat

Oliver

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agri4

On the first pleasant day that we’ve had since, well, seems like forever, a fleet of massive machinery arrived on the neighbouring corn and soy fields. They’re spreading fertilizer, sludge from the city of Ottawa. We had been notified that this would be taking place, but I was amazed by the scale of the operation.

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The sludge was delivered and dumped by huge trucks. A giant yellow…(I would call it a steam shovel. This is obviously wrong and there is no steam involved, but I don’t seem to have moved on from my Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel days)…back hoe (possibly named Mary Anne) shoveled the sludge into a giant spreader behind a giant tractor.

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This went on all day, with a steady stream of trucks keeping the tractors supplied. To the best of my limited knowledge, the main concern with sludge is the possible presence of potentially poisonous heavy metals. The sludge has purportedly been processed and inspected etc etc to approved standards. I’d like to think they know what they are doing because the ground water from this field drains into the little river and it is spawning season. On the whole, I don’t have a lot of confidence in they.

Looking at the awesome scale of this operation, and noting the price of gas right now, it is hardly surprising that food prices follow the cost of fuel. And gas prices have nowhere to go but up.

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mural1

This winter, a new mural appeared on a wall in the town of Prescott. From a distance, it has a pixellated look.

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As you move closer, the pixels begin to resolve into separate images until, as you draw close to the mural, you can see that they are actually individual photographs! The mural is composed of over 3000 photographs.

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The photos are of the people of Prescott, involved in all manner of activities: celebrating birthdays, riding horses, sitting with pets, playing baseball. The mural is titled The Prescott People’s Place and was unveiled on December 18th, 2010. It commemorates the 200th anniversary of the town of Prescott.

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Some of the photographs are of historical significance. Several rows feature past mayors of Prescott. The historic buildings illustrated by the mural are Victoria Hall and St. John’s Market. The cornerstone for the Old Town Hall was laid on August 15, 1874 and the market building was constructed in 1876. Both buildings were demolished in 1960. They’ve been gone for over 50 years now. I don’t know why they were demolished, but it seems like a terrible loss. The space they once occupied is now a parking lot.

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The sign post, which from a distance appears to be freestanding, is actually incorporated right into the mural. The People’s Place is a wonderful commemoration of the town’s anniversary.

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Showers and Flowers

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This weekend, it rained and it rained. After it had finished raining, it rained some more. The temperature was cool enough that every now and then, the rain became flakes of snow, and we even had a bit of hail thrown in for good measure. Yeah, yeah, April showers bring May flowers, but we want warmth and sun and we want it now! Still, we don’t have to wait till May for at least a few flowers. The snowdrops, above, have been out for a while, and the scilla and crocus will be open soon. Other flowers that bloom from bulbs are well on their way too.

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They’re not the first flowers though. The violas, above have been blooming for several weeks. I’ve really enjoyed their brilliant petals, which stand out against the drab earth. The classiest flowers blooming right now, and arguably the stars of the early spring garden are the hellebores.

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I have several varieties that feature these deep rosy wine flowers, very pretty. Just yesterday, though, I noticed that a white variety I planted last year has put forth a lovely display of sweet, gently speckled blooms with attractive green throats.

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How brave they are! Nestled amongst a bed of last year’s leaves, they let one hope that the rain will pass and sunny days lie waiting just around the bend.

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Three on a Log

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When I was making supper, a movement outside the window caught my eye. I stopped and took a closer look and was startled to see a duck walking up and down on the newly fallen tree trunk in the yard. I rushed to get my camera and took a few photos of her. Unfortunately, the photographs, shot through the window screen, aren’t very clear, but I was pleased to get a record.

It’s a female Wood Duck (Aix sponsa). Wood Ducks are so named because they prefer flooded forests or swamps and nest in trees. Until 1800, Wood Ducks were among the most abundant waterfowl in eastern North America. The arrival of colonists changed all that and the slaughter of unregulated hunting, deforestation, and wetland drainage decimated the population, reducing numbers to the verge of extinction. Legal protection, enacted in 1916, reversed the trend and Wood Ducks began a long, slow recovery. Now, nearly 100 years later, Wood Ducks are once again common.

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It was clear that the duck was checking out the log as a possible nesting site. I was charmed to think of her sharp eyes catching sight of the newly fallen log as she and her mate cruised the little river that flows by the house. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be a suitable spot, so close to the house and driveway. No privacy! She quickly came to this conclusion and returned to her exceedingly handsome mate, who was waiting patiently on the river while she did her househunting. Maybe next year, I’ll try to have a nest box ready.

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swallow4

Spring is such a wonderful time of the year. Every day seems to bring another new sight, another reassurance that winter is well and truly over and the season of rebirth has begun. Last Saturday, April 9th, the Tree Swallows arrived. They were dipping and weaving over the meadow, chirring to each other, checking out the bird boxes.

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On Sunday evening, thundershowers and heavy rainstorms passed through, and on Monday we had powerful winds blowing. I thought of the swallows. I wonder where they sat out the bad weather? Today they were conspicuous once again, returning to their power struggles, each pair trying to claim their preferred nesting box. Surely they are the most beautiful of flyers. I’m so glad they made their long migration journey safely.

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ivory1

Seeing a horse lying in a field flat out on its side is unsettling. Negative images spring immediately and unprompted to the mind of the horse owner. Well, to my mind, anyway. Horses are, in nature, prey animals, and as such, always alert for predators. A little thing like a sheet of paper blowing in the wind can be enough to spook some horses and send them fleeing. Even lying down, horses often rest with their feet tucked under them, keeping an eye on things. So when I glanced out to the field the other day and saw Ivory lying flat on her side, I felt uneasy. Was everything okay?

I walked down to the edge of the field. Ivory didn’t stir, though I could see her ear twitch. I called out her name and her head immediately popped up. She was fine. Apparently she had been far away in dreamland, a green pasture maybe, with heaps of carrots and orchards of apples. Sweet dreams, beautiful dreamer!

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A Mighty Wind

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At the edge of the driveway stands a row of lovely old maple trees. Unfortunately, the one nearest the house door has a hollow trunk. We considered having the tree taken down by a professional last fall, but decided to leave it for one more year because the tree crown was still leafing out well.

Yesterday, the decision to remove the tree was taken out of our hands. The thunderstorms of Sunday night were followed by a powerful wind on Monday afternoon. As I was standing in the kitchen, just starting work on some baking, I heard a loud crack and made it to the kitchen window just in time to see the huge branch rip from the tree and crash to the ground. Fortunately, it missed the house with the exception of a small amount of damage to the roof. I was relieved both that the branch missed the house and that I no longer have to be responsible for taking down this majestic old monarch. The removal of the branch will open up the canopy for an oak sapling that has been waiting in the shadows. Now it will have its day in the sun.

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