Archive for the ‘Storyline’ Category


I hope you had an enjoyable holiday season. Our three daughters all visited on Christmas day and two stayed over for Boxing Day. It’s truly a pleasure to have everyone together. It seems to happen so rarely, these days, with everyone busy with their own full lives. When the girls were youngsters, there was much excitement about gifts and stockings. Now, just being together is the most wonderful thing. That’s not to say there weren’t lots of presents though, as everyone does their best to find just the right thing for each of the persons on their list.

It’s nice to be able to make your own gifts. This year, I finished an afghan for Ponygirl. It’s a double-weight geometric pattern crocheted with aran-fleck yarn, warm and cozy for cool winter evenings. I also finished knitting a scarf, an abandoned project that I finally got completed. The scarf has now been united with its matching hat!

The best handmade gifts were made by Birdgirl, who surprised us all with custom clocks that she constructed with papier-mache and a lot of imagination. My clock features a gleeful Mousie. The artwork captures perfectly the delight Mousie displays as she gallops gaily about her paddock. A wonderful present.


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Happy Horse Hat

It was my birthday on the weekend. That makes me a Sagittarius, an archer whose aim is heavenly bent, will not stoop to low or evil intent. Sagittarius the centaur.

It’s funny, the staying power astrology has had. Googling your sign will turn up countless hits. Many of these offer advice for the lovelorn based on the compatibility of your signs. If only life were that simple! I like being a Sagittarius though. We’re often described as lovers of animals. “You treat your pets as individuals in their own right. An independent cat that has plenty of character will suit you. But you really come into your own with horses. These are your native animal being the symbol, or at least half the symbol, of your zodiac sign. Many Sagittarians are keen riders.”

The best gift is always spending time with loved ones, and I had a very nice birthday with the family. However, Birdgirl surprised me with a handmade gift, a hat and matching mittens, a soft, brown hat to warm any (slightly eccentric) horselover’s heart and head, complete with a woolly horse mane and 2 perky ears! Perfect.

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Frosty Morning


When I went out to the barn on Monday morning, I was greeted by a sparkling world. It was a beautiful start to the day. The sun, of which we have seen precious little of late, was shining for all it was worth. The wind was nowhere to be found, and in spite of the frost coating every blade of grass, the day felt comfortable and inviting.


My first stop is at the barn, where I dole out the morning ration of grain, just a handful, to Mousie and Czarina and Louis. It’s such a small amount, it’s little more than a token treat, but they wait anxiously for this little goodie each morning. Lately, I’ve been able to supplement their usual tidbit with an apple or two, windfalls purchased in bulk for the animals from the local orchard. Apples are Mousie’s favorite treat.


Apples, carrots, a bit of grain, it’s all good with Czarina. She seems very content these days, less fractious than her old self. Maybe old age, or at least maturity, is mellowing her.


Louis much prefers corn, but corn season is done for another year. He likes apples better than carrots, if that’s all that’s on offer. Soon everyone has finished their little treat and they have settled down to a pleasant morning nibbling on their hay.


I leave the horses to their breakfast and walk out to the field to admire the frost. Already the sun is melting it away.


For just a little while longer, though, every stem of goldenrod, every patch of clover, is daintily etched with frost.


Down by the pond, the morning is still, quiet and calm, and peaceful.


Finally, I head back inside for my own breakfast. Momcat is stretched out on the windowsill, enjoying the sunny morning too.


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At the beginning of the week, we had some much-needed rain. Actually, we had a LOT of rain, with a heavy downpour on Wednesday. Consequently, I welcomed the sunny weather on Thursday, an absolutely beautiful fall day, and I couldn’t resist idling away part of the afternoon with a tour around the property. Here are some of the sights I saw.


Behind the house, the maple leaves are beginning to turning bright colours, although there is still a lot of green. Farther down the drive, the touch of red is provided by a Virginia Creeper vine that has entwined itself high in a tree.


I walked down the lane to the bridge over the little river. Today the flow was much more impressive than it was just a few days ago. Agricultural land along the river has drainage and trenching systems that mean rainwater is diverted into the river rapidly following a storm. As a result, the river flow swells quickly in response to wet weather. Presumably, this also contributes to the muddy appearance of the water.


Down by the water’s edge, there were a number of blue darners zipping about. Those darn darners! They never hold still to get their picture taken. I was lucky even to catch this guy in the photo frame. It is likely a Mosaic Darner, a member of the genus Aeshna, possibly a Canada Darner (Aeshna canadensis). That would be appropriate.


Along the bank of the river, I noticed these mullein (Verbascum thapsus) rosettes. The fuzzy, felt leaves are the first-year growth of the biennial plant. Next year, they’ll put up a flower spike.


Across from the river and beside our property is a field planted in soybeans. They’ll be ready to harvest soon. Their summer green is gone and the field is a golden brown. Look at those clouds! One of the nice things about a flat, open landscape are the frequent displays of breathtaking skies. It’s like living in a seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting. Only without the windmills.


This majestic Crimson King maple is beautiful in every season.


Hi Mousie! Hi Czarina! Hi Louis!


The field behind the barn is beautiful now as the long grass fades to a soft sandy brown and the seed heads catch the sunlight.


I didn’t notice the spider until I downloaded the photographs and spotted it, perhaps an Argiope species.


Down by the pond, it is much quieter than it was in the spring and summer. After I had stood by the water for a few minutes, however, I noticed a number of reddish dragonflies. One landed on my pants-leg, facing up towards me, and I noticed it had a white face. Then I saw that along the water there were a few dozen red dragonflies, all in pairs. They were dipping down to the water surface, rising up a foot or so, and then dipping down again. It appeared to be females laying eggs in the water with the males in tandem, contact guarding their mate. I was quite sure the dragonflies were White-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum obtrusum) until I got back to the house and checked my guide. Hmm. Problem. Both the males and females appeared red, while the females of meadowhawks are usually a dull olive-brown. It’s a mystery.


As I returned to the house I noticed a butterfly land on the arm of a lawn chair. There was a fair breeze, and it struggled mightily to get its sail-like wings under control.



Finally, it managed to settle on the chair arm with its wings flat and out of the wind. A Viceroy (Limenitis archippus).
Not without regret, I returned to the house to tackle more prosaic tasks.

Jan van Goyen: View of Rhenen, 1646

Jan van Goyen: View of Rhenen, 1646

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A special “Welcome to the Blogosphere!” to Historygirl and SpongeDeb.

In addition to indulging an interest in history, international traveler Historygirl is a student of current culture as manifested in popular media. You can visit her new blog at Girl with Remote.

SpongeDeb, aka Grammarian, has a long-standing interest in the proper use of grammar. Read her hilarious and imaginative takes on some common faux pas at Grammar Tales.

Happy blogging, Historygirl and Grammarian!

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Handyman Special

butter tarts

Perhaps it was the talk of Canadian tarts that inspired Railguy to do some baking. Butter tarts! Awesome!

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Historic recipe

Historic recipe

I present this historic recipe as a sort of long-distance welcome home offering for Turtle, who recently shuffled off to New Brunswick.

I have had this recipe, as you can tell from its appearance, for many years, nigh on half a century. It dates back to the days when all the girls studied Home Economics once a week, while the boys took Industrial Arts. Home Economics was never one of my strong subjects. On the contrary, it was the only subject I recall getting a D in. Some would testify that nothing has changed in the intervening years. This recipe for Carnation 5-minute Fudge was one of the handouts we received from the teacher. I’m not sure why I’ve held on to it all these years because, although I love chocolate, fudge is not my favorite form to enjoy it in. Perhaps it is because I faintly recall my Mom, who wasn’t much into baking, making it for me a few times. It is also very useful when you want to produce something quick but impressive to contribute to a bake sale! I never bother with the marshmallows if I don’t have them on hand. Here it is:

Carnation “Can’t Fail – 5 Minute Fudge”

2/3 cup (small can) evaporated milk
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups diced marshmallows
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Mix milk, sugar and salt together in saucepan over low heat. Bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Add marshmallows, chocolate chips, vanilla and nuts. Stir 1 or 2 minutes until marshmallows melt. Pour into buttered 9-inch square pan. Allow to cool and then cut into squares. Enjoy!

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One of the nice things about the trees losing their leaves in the winter is the way that the activity of the bird community is revealed.
Nests hidden in the summer suddenly become conspicuous. There are quite a few nests to be seen in the trees around here, including the Baltimore Oriole’s nest (Icterus galbula) pictured above. There are also some nests in unexpected places, such as this nest I noticed in the hoophouse. Can you see it?


The hoophouse was once one of three that were used by a former owner as part of a nursery operation. The last owners of the property had 2 of the houses removed and allowed the third to deteriorate, its equipment unmaintained, and it was full of junk and garbage when we first viewed it. The wood for the garden monster is stored in here now. I noticed that high up on an old bit of machinery, there was a nest.


I climbed up to take a closer look at the nest. It was clearly that of an American Robin (Turdus migratorius), readily identifiable by the mud cementing the structure. Robins and swallows are the main employers of mud in nest construction, and the cup-like shape points to the former as the builder of this nest. When I reached my fingers over the edge of the nest, I could feel that there were still eggs in the nest. I removed it from its perch for closer inspection.


Obviously, something disrupted the robin parents after their eggs were laid. It could have been simply that someone closed the door to the hoophouse, cutting off their access. Four lovely eggs remain, sadly, never to hatch.

Normally, the female robin would incubate the eggs for 12 to 14 days. Like the young of most songbirds, robin hatchlings have closed eyes, are naked, and require feeding by their parents. Such hatchlings are termed altricial. These babies are very different from the hatchlings of birds like ducks and geese, who have open eyes and down when they hatch and are able to leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching. Those hatchlings are termed precocial.

The baby robins would have grown quickly. In just over 2 weeks, they would have been close to the size of their parents, would be fully-feathered, and ready to leave the nest and fly. The fledglings would continue to be fed and cared for by the male until they could manage on their own. Meanwhile, Mom would begin to incubate a second clutch of eggs. Robins raise 2 or 3 broods, or families, each summer.


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Roots and Wings


My grandparents immigrated to Canada when my mother was a toddler. When I was growing up, they would refer to “The Old Country”. We received a letter from The Old Country. Back in The Old Country…. It was quite a while before I realized that The Old Country was Scotland. My grandparents never spoke a great deal about their younger years. I knew that my grandfather had grown up in Busby, in the Glasgow area, and that his father Adam had been a minister. Adam and his wife Jane had a large family. My grandfather was one of 11. After moving to Canada, contact with most of those relatives was lost. Recently, my sister and I were contacted by a cousin who is assembling a family tree and doing a great job of rediscovering our lost ancestry. He kindly shared photos of the ancestral home south of Dunbeath, on the northeast coast of Scotland. Pictured above are the remains of Rhian Croft, where my great-great-great-grandparents raised their family. Below is the graveyard where my great-great-grandfather and other long-ago kin are buried.


I was raised to think of myself as Canadian. Not Scottish, not Scottish-Canadian. I don’t play the bagpipes or do Scottish dancing. I can’t even roll my Rrrrrrrrrrrr’s, which really even a Canadian should be able to do for Roll Up the Rim! Still, that Scottish heritage feels important. I would like to travel to Dunbeath to see this place for myself.

In the coming week, my niece will be traveling to Ireland. While studying at the University of Toronto, she fell under the thrall of history. She studied Irish history, and as her father’s family is of Irish descent, she is excited about exploring both historical landmarks and her own roots. What a wonderful journey of discovery. I’m sure this will be a great experience to preface her post-student life. Good luck and Bon Voyage, Historygirl!


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It is said that firewood warms the user several times over as you cut it, split it, stack it, and finally burn it. It is certainly true that feeding Garden Monster warms me several times over. One of those occasions is when a truckload of wood is delivered. The mountain of wood needs to be moved to the shelter of the covered hoophouse, close to the wood burner.


I move the pile one wheelbarrow load at a time. It is a rather monotonous undertaking.









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