Archive for January, 2012


Although we have no dogs of our own, we’ve had lots of canine visitors over the past few weeks. The weekend before last, we looked after Seabrooke’s dogs for her while she was involved with a wedding. Here are Raven and Jack enjoying the sun with RailGuy. Unfortunately, it was cold, cold, cold on the days that Jack and Raven were here. Raven is pretty tough but Jack, with his beautiful glossy fine coat, is not built for -20 degree C temperatures. Here he is, all bundled up to go outside.


I’m pretty sure he’s looking forward to spring! This weekend just past, we played host to the corgis, Remy and Pookie. They live more close by, so are used to visiting and settle in easily. The corgis are little powerhouses. Weighing in at about 45 pounds and decked out in dense coats, the pair are indefatigable hikers, no matter what the weather brings. Today was their last day at Willow House, and I took them out for a walk in the woods.




Pookie looks back to see what’s keeping me. What a slowpoke I am! Fortunately, their noses bring them interesting information that they have to stop to investigate, so I easily keep up.


The woods are quiet at this time of year, with just the occasional chickadee breaking the calm. There’s always something to see though. In the photo above is a neat tree stump that has been receiving some attention from a pileated woodpecker.


And here are some mystery tracks in the snow. I have my own personal nature consultant, The Marvelous in Nature writer, my daughter Seabrooke. We conferred on this and other photos. She leaned towards a fox as the mystery passer-by, while I thought it might have been a skunk, called out of hibernation on one of the mild days we’ve had.


And check out the shredded, peeled bark on this branch, evidence of a red squirrel at work.


It wasn’t very cold, minus 5 C or so, but there was a cold breeze and by the time we got back to the house, I was chilled. Not so Remy. When he saw I was headed back inside, he sat down by the birdfeeder and pretended he couldn’t hear my pleas for him to come inside. He sat there for about 10 minutes before he finally concluded I couldn’t be coaxed back outside and relented.


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Happy Robbie Burns Day! In honour of the famous bard, I am revisiting a post from a couple of years ago, with best wishes to everyone for a good day, even if you’re not lucky enough to be Scottish. If you are interested in Burns, you could do worse than look up Andrew O’Hagan’s book:
A Night Out With Robert Burns: The Greatest Poems arranged by Andrew O’Hagan. McClelland & Stewart, 2008.

Great Scot! It’s Robert Burns Day! Rabbie Burns, Scotland’s favorite son, the Bard of Ayrshire, was born on January 25, 1759. Now, people of Scottish descent all around the world celebrate the great poet on this, his birthday. In Canada, where many Scots settled in the early days of the country, Burns is remembered by memorials across the country. Halifax, Fredericton, Montreal, Toronto, Winsor, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria all have Burns monuments.

Unveiling of the Burns Monument in Toronto's Allan Gardens, 1902. Photo Wikipedia.

Even if, sadly, you don’t have a drop of Scottish blood, nor any interest in poetry, you likely are familiar with some of Burns’ works. Every New Year’s Eve, people around the world sing Auld Lang Syne, a Burns poem that is set to the tune of a traditional folksong, Can Ye Labour Lea.

Perhaps in high school you read John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel, Of Mice and Men. The title is taken from a line in Burns poem To a Mouse on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough 1785: The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley.

Or perhaps you’ve heard a snippet from A Red, Red Rose:

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune–

Andrew O’Hagan’s book offers up the most popular of Burns’ poems. Each is introduced with a bit of personal commentary or background information, and there is a glossary at the end of the book to help with deciphering some of the old Scottish words. Even so, it can be hard to interpret some of the language. It helps to have Google on hand! For those willing to make the effort, there are rewards to reap. Below is a nice side-by-side interpretation of To a Mouse, courtesy of Wikipedia. Closing this post is a photo (Wikipedia) of Burns Cottage, his birthplace, located a few miles south of Ayr. For many years, a small souvenir-style ceramic replica of Burns Cottage stood on a shelf in my Scottish grandparent’s dining room, my grandmother having grown up in Ayr. It’s what I always think of when I think of Burns.

Burns Cottage

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I just took down my Christmas tree this week. I know, I know, Martha had her tree down on January 2nd. It’s right there on her January calendar in the Living magazine my aunt passes along to me. Monday 2nd: Take down Christmas Tree. But no one is ever likely to confuse me with Martha Stewart. We thoroughly enjoyed this year’s tree, standing straight and slim, neatly fitted into a corner of the room, brightening the winter evenings with its cheerful display of lights. But even I felt it was time to move on now that we are past the half way mark of January.


I packed away the decorations and moved the tree outside where it can offer up its branches as perches for the birds. I suppose I could call it my Solstice tree, as I am more Gaian than Christian these days. The Christmas holidays hark back to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice in December.

We thought we would miss the little lights twinkling in the corner, so after Christmas I picked up three boxes of clear lights. They had been marked down to 94 cents in the January sales. Railguy brought me in a few branches and I strung the lights over them yesterday. As the sun set and daylight faded, I plugged in the branch lights and was quite pleased with the effect.


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On a warmer note, here’s the little afghan I’ve been working on during quiet post-Christmas evenings of TV viewing. Thank goodness for the new January schedule! Yay for new episodes of Republic of Doyle! Hurray for Doc Martin and Downton Abbey, our favorite Brit imports at the moment. We’re not big TV watchers, but in the winter, working on some crocheting while keeping an eye on the TV is a pleasant way to pass the cold evenings.

This simple classic ripple pattern doesn’t require much concentration, but makes a pleasing design. Afghans based on versions of granny squares are great for portability, but when the squares are done, I find the task of joining them a nuisance. That’s the advantage of a pattern worked all in one piece. No joining!

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Except for a few little spats, Winter has been gentle so far this year, with many unseasonably mild days and little snow. On Thursday, he decided it was time to get tough, and our first real storm of the season settled in. Freezing rain began to fall in the wee hours of the morning, and by mid-day, everything had a coating of ice.


Over the course of the afternoon, the freezing rain turned to snow. I kept the feeders filled and the blue jays and chickadees took full advantage of the handout. Birds would just as soon do their own foraging, and with the mild winter weather we’ve had to date, business has been slow at the feeders, but with a storm underway, the birds were anxious to stock up.



Even Little Red dropped by, once those pesky blue jays cleared out.


The snow continued through Friday, far exceeding the 4 inches predicted by the weatherman. By Saturday morning, the ground had a blanket of more than a foot of snow. The storm had moved on, and Saturday was sunny and clear. Wow! What a winter wonderland! Everywhere you looked, the world was postcard perfect. It sure felt like winter too, with the temperature plunging. On Sunday, another beautiful day, we woke to the mercury crouching low in the thermometer, -30°. A gardener is grateful for a good blanket of snow when the temperature dips so low.





When the snow slipped from branches, it exposed the initial layer of ice, sparkling in the sun.


As the sun set on Saturday evening, it bathed the snowy landscape in a warm glow, a beautiful ending to the day.



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Winter Tree

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There’s no better activity for a cold winter’s day that sitting in front of the fire, watching the flickering flames and dozing, waiting for spring. Certainly the household felines, connoisseurs of comfort, agree. At the first indications of a fire being prepared in the grate, the kitty crowd assembles expectantly. Above, Tonka and Moey are pictured enjoyed the flow of heat.

When Remy, one of the grandogs, visits, he sometimes enjoys lying before the fire too. (The cats frown on this.) On one recent occasion, something startled him, perhaps the settling of a log, and Remy felt compelled to warn the fire: Behave!

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December Sunset

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One of the nice things about keeping a blog is that it gives you a substantial archive of memories you can look back on and enjoy. I therefore wanted to record my last handiwork project of 2011, this lap-sized afghan of many colours that I completed as a Christmas gift for my Dad. He lives in a long-term care facility and I thought these bright shades might help to brighten his days just a little.


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