Archive for February, 2011


Charlie and Puppy


Wrestling Match


Tug of War

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I have been so enchanted with the native grasses that I have introduced to my garden over the last couple of years that I wanted to try starting a few new varieties from seed. I purchased seed for Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepsis), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) and Sideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) from the Wildflower Farm. They carry a great selection of native wildflower and grass seed.

I haven’t done a lot of seed starting and don’t have any fancy equipment such as grow lights. Last year I had good success with an inexpensive pellet greenhouse kit and thought I’d try my grass seeds in a similar kit.


The packaging states that this is an environmentally friendly product because it is 100% peat free. Facts on the back of the cover point out some of the issues related to using peat products. It takes about 220 years to replace the peat stripped from the land in one year. Harvesting peat releases carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas. Peat bogs have the amazing ability to remove harmful impurities from water. Peat bogs hold 10% of the world’s fresh water. More information is available at their website, Saveourpeatbogs.com.

I can’t vouch for the precise accuracy of their figures, but I certainly doubt the claims of peat bog harvesters, who would have you believe this is a sustainable industry. Peat does not happen in any timeframe that relates to an average human lifetime. The planet is way, way past the point where we can continue destroying vital natural habitats for unnecessary or frivolous uses.

Anyway, I got my little grass seeds settled into their peat-free starter medium. I don’t know how long they will take to germinate, but look forward to little tufts of green in my foreseeable future.


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The Kids Are Alright


It was just over a week ago that I was worrying about turkeys coping with the snow. I needn’t have been concerned. Last Friday, we had an unseasonably warm day. The temperature soared to 10°C. I spent much of that day on the road, and was in the Toronto area for the weekend. When I returned, I was amazed at how much the snow melted during that brief warm spell. Even thought the temperature quickly plummeted back to the -10°C range, the blanket of white has been rolled back.

When I was out on the road yesterday, I saw this small flock of turkeys, but what a difference! Now the field where they were foraging was nearly bare. Flurries are predicted for this afternoon and the weekend, but no major accumulation is expected. With the end of February in sight, it looks like these kids will be alright.


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A Song in His Heart


Long before the first robin returns from his winter down south, birds are getting the spring season underway. For the past week or so, I have noticed a cardinal singing each morning when I head out to look after the horses. I stopped and took a photograph of the singer this morning. He was perched high up in an ash tree, enjoying the bright morning sun that was setting off his red feather coat. He was singing a short version of his song, Cheer! Cheer! Cheer!

Cardinals are talented singers with a good repertoire. Their songs variously sound to me like Birdie! Birdie! Birdie! or Breaker! Breaker! or Whit! Whit! Whit! The crows, who are quiet over the winter, are becoming more raucous too. They generally stay at some remove from the house, but I can hear them conversing down near the woods now. Below the cardinal, a blue jay was waiting in the same tree. He was more interested in the peanuts I was stocking the feeder with than any early spring love song.


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Family Day


The third Monday in February is Family Day in Ontario. This statutory holiday was established just a few years ago, with the first Family Day being observed on 18 February 2008. Some argue that a name commemorating a local figure or event would be more appropriate, but I have to say that I think Family Day is a perfect name. In keeping with the holiday, I travelled back to the Toronto area this weekend to visit relatives. On my way home, I made a detour to Birdgirl’s house to meet the newest member of the family.

Seabrooke had just picked up the new puppy on Sunday, and the little guy was still settling in on Monday afternoon, but doing fine. What a cutie! Although Raven and two of the cats were still a bit bemused by this new addition, I’m sure he will soon be one of the household. He’s hard to resist.


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winter sunset

Winter Sunset

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The warmer temperatures make you believe that spring is just around the corner. I have been thinking of my summer garden and browsing through my photographs from last July, when the daylilies were in full bloom. What glorious colours! Above is a close up of Cameroons, while below is the aptly named Big Smile.

Big Smile

Check out the little crab spider on one of these Eggplant Escapade blooms. Can you see it?

Eggplant Escapade

And here is the brilliant face of Scarlet Poppy.

Scarlet Poppy

This week, I slipped a couple of orders for daylilies in the mail. Canada has a number of excellent daylily suppliers. One of my orders went to Nottawasaga Daylilies, near Creemore, Ontario. I hope to see the pretty pink face of Banned in Boston blooming in my garden this summer. This photograph is from the Nottawasaga photo gallery.


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Warming Trend


On Tuesday, it was -18°C. Yesterday, it warmed up to -10°C, and today it is above freezing, a balmy 3°C. It is supposed to rain later in the day, but at the moment, the sun is shining. I left tender Mousie’s blanket on, just in case it got wet, but Czarina was pleased to go naked for the first time in weeks. The little boys, Teddy and Louis, have dense, fuzzy coats, and haven’t worn blankets this winter. Since they are in the barn every night, they are safe from the worst winter weather.

The warm weather is supposed to continue into tomorrow. Showers are expected to continue overnight and into tomorrow, with colder air returning by Saturday. It’s likely to get messy, but hopefully, a bit of our snow will be washed away before we settle in for the last few weeks of winter. Like the horses, I’m happy to enjoy a few days of warmth.


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I haven’t seen many flocks of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) this winter, but at the end of last week, I noticed a large flock in a field when I was out driving. There were quite a number of birds, perhaps a hundred or so, spread out in groups across the far side of the field. I stopped and took a couple of photographs.


The turkeys were far enough away that they didn’t pay too much attention to me. Turkeys are cautious birds, and don’t generally allow curious spectators to approach them. They have good cause to be nervous. Prior to European settlement, turkeys were common in the mixed and temperate forests of southern Ontario. Habitat loss and hunting resulted in such population declines that the species was extirpated from Ontario by 1909. A reintroduction program, begun in 1984 has been amazingly successful, and there is now a spring and fall hunting season for turkeys here. Having grown up in a turkeyless Ontario, it still surprises me to see the big birds. It surprises me and gives me a moment of pleasure to spot them.


It’s been a difficult winter for turkeys. Deep snow interferes with the ability of turkeys to forage on the ground. The snow in my yard is over a foot deep. According to information in the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario 2000-2005, localized starvation may occur when snow depth exceeds 25 cm for more than seven consecutive weeks. However, we had milder temperatures on the weekend, and on Monday, it was above freezing, so the snow is melting back a bit.

It seems odd, somehow, to think of these large, strutting birds sitting in trees, but that’s how they spend their nights. Recently, my friend Tony noticed a flock of roosting turkeys and took the photograph below, which he kindly shared with me. We’re halfway through February, so hopefully the snow will be disappearing before too long. Good luck, you turkeys!


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When we knew Shane the Blacksmith would be coming Valentine’s Day morning, Mousie and I put our heads together and came up with a plan. We’d bake him a special Valentine cookie! Here’s Mousie, posing with her favorite blacksmith. The photographer kind of let down the team, catching Shane in a blink, but he was pleased with his cookie.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!


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