Archive for February, 2012


The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary by Andrew Westoll. Hapercollins 2011.

The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary tells the story of Andrew Westoll’s experiences with the chimpanzees at Fauna Sanctuary over a summer that he spent as a volunteer living and working with the chimps. Along the way, Andrew details the background of the Sanctuary chimps and lets the reader get to know each chimp as an individual. Background information about chimp experimentation brings the reader up to date on the state of chimp research in the United States. The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary is also the story of Gloria Grow, who established the sanctuary in 1997. The trailer below, by Andrew Westoll gives you a look at the Sanctuary and its chimpanzee residents. For more about the sanctuary and chimps, visit Willow Books linked here.

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I got a phone call yesterday morning, a flower delivery service asking if I would be home to accept a delivery. Flowers? For me? Who would be sending me flowers?

When the arrangement arrived, I was surprised to find that it was sent by the furnace installation company that had recently installed our new furnace. Wow! I am totally impressed.

We are very satisfied with our new furnace, a high efficiency model that is working perfectly. But flowers as well? Whoa, I certainly recommend Atel Air to anyone in their Eastern Ontario service range.

Now I am enjoying both the new furnace and the cheerful bouquet. Thanks guys!

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Late Winter Afternoon

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We’ve been treated to another chorus of winter’s song. A snow storm blustered through on Friday afternoon, leaving about 8 inches of wet, heavy snow in its wake. It does make things tidier, with everything dressed once again in a frosty white coating. The temperature this afternoon is around minus 8 C (about 18 F), so the snow will be around for a little while. Still, we’re just a week away from March now. Winter won’t last much longer.

The storm was still blowing itself out this morning, so I kept the horses in their stalls and gave them their breakfast hay indoors. The horses object to this. They’re all about routine and don’t like changes. They say: “Hey! This isn’t right! We’ve got to go out! We can’t eat hay inside in the morning! Let us out! Open the door! Out! It’s morning!” The donkeys, on the other hand have a much more laid back point of view. The donkeys embrace whatever comes their way with a positive attitude. The two little boys said: “Wow! Breakfast in bed! Fabulous!” They wasted no time fussing and moved right on to chowing down.

By noon, the sun was trying to peak out through the partly cloudy sky and I turned everyone out into their field, where the horses dashed about, kicking up their heels in glee. The donkeys said: “Oh, snow! Nice.”


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This winter has been incredibly mild and largely snowfree. We sure can’t complain. Still, the damp, the grey, the boots and coats, it all gets a little wearing, even so. For a break from the February Blahs, a trip to a greenhouse works wonders. So this week, RailGuy and I journeyed out to the Montreal Botanical Gardens for some leafy therapy. Although we have visited the gardens in summer, we have never toured the greenhouses before. We thoroughly enjoyed the visit from the moment we stepped inside and got that first whiff of warm soil. The greenhouses are linked in a series of themed gardens. Here are some of the tropical plants.


I love the Spanish Moss, dripping from these branches. Spanish Moss is native to the southeastern United States and south to Argentina. It hangs from trees in dense masses, sometimes several metres long. It’s an epiphytic plant, which means it is rootless. Its stems are covered in greyish scales called trichomes, which allow the plant to absorb water and minerals and protect it from excess evaporation.


Check out this adorable croc, situated by one of the many water features. His covering of leaves really does impart a scaly appearance.


These two big heron-like birds were stunning, standing before a tall waterfall and wreathed in mist rising from the water.


Here’s a selection of bromeliads. The Bromeliaceae family is diverse and includes plants as different as Spanish Moss and pineapples. Some bromeliads are adapted to store rainwater and dew. Their tightly overlapping leaves form a reservoir known as a tank. The water, plant litter and decomposing animal waste captured in the tank provide a complete diet for the plant. Some amphibians lay their eggs in the bromeliad tank. The hatchlings have a food supply of mosquito larvae and other goodies.


One greenhouse is devoted to bonsai plantings. The tree in the photo below is a 70-year-old Chinese Sweetplum (Sageretia thea).


Here’s a view of the cactus display. Cactus are mostly succulents, and are xerophytes, adapted to living in hot, dry environments. The variety of forms includes everything from the weird to the wonderful.


I especially liked these Golden Barrel cactus.


Another interesting collection featured the Begoniaceae and Gesneriacaea families, which share similar tropical and subtropical habitats. The latter includes a common houseplant, the African Violet. The former includes begonias. I didn’t realize that begonias can be epiphytes, climbers and even shrubs. They are all characterized by asymmetrical leaves.


Some of the begonias had eye-catching foliage. Here’s an Iron-Cross begonia, above, and the aptly named Begonia Rex-cultorum ‘Escargot’ below.


That’s just a smattering of the interesting sights. We also enjoyed the orchid display, the fruit and spice plants, and of course, the butterflies that fly free in the winter. I’ll save them for another post.


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It’s here! Finally, after many months of hard work and anticipation, our daughter Seabrooke received her advance copy of her new book, the Peterson Field Guide to Moths. How exciting! We, her doting parents, rushed over to take a look at the long-awaited book. It’s even more beautiful than expected! You can get a peek at the interior and read the author’s comments over at Seab’s blog, linked here. The guide is scheduled to arrive in bookstores April 17th. Congratulations, Seabrooke!

P.S. Thanks to Ellen for bringing up autographed copies. They’re available through Seab’s website, link above.

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Farm Animals


As you tour our rural region, it’s not unusual to see cows and horses in the fields you pass by. That’s as you might expect. Although not so numerous as cows and horses, llamas are also quite common. There are a few farms in the area that devote themselves exclusively to llamas, and others that just keep one or two. Llamas are reputed to be good watch-animals who are often included with flocks of sheep to keep a protective eye out for coyotes and other would-be predators of their smaller fleecy flockmates.

My favorite field residents are a bit more out of the ordinary. Ostriches! I sometimes see this trio on my way up to visit Ponygirl. They were nervous and suspicious when I stopped my car to snap this photo of them, even though I was quite a distance away.


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February Full Moon

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Icy Field

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Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis. W.W. Norton & Co, 2011.

Have you ever had the feeling that you’ve been going about your daily life, paying the phone bill, making dinner, and one day you look up and find all hell has broken loose? The U.S. government is bailing out banks, people are losing their homes, Iceland is bankrupt, Ireland is in crisis…. Really? Don’t they fish in Iceland? Wasn’t Ireland booming just the other day? If you have felt a bit dazed by it all, Boomerang is the book for you.

For a full review of Boomerang, visit Willow Books here.

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