Go wild for wildlife

Moose in a pool

Last week, I blogged about the abundance of birds who have made this spring a delight. It’s only fair that I give the same air time to the animals who have reclaimed the land during COVID-19.

There have been many news stories about foxes, raccoons and other animals being seen more frequently in urban areas. Just this past Friday, a moose decided to take a dip in a south Ottawa pool. It was a hot and muggy day, so who would blame him. I heard a deer wandered in front of one of our local radio stations here in Kingston last week too.

For those of us who live in the country, run ins with wildlife are a regular occurrence. But even at our house, we had three interesting wildlife encounters in this past week alone.

Last Saturday, I was woken up by a strange screeching sound around 4:30 or 5 in the morning. I went back to bed, but in the morning, the ruckus continued and we discovered two porcupines screaming at each other in the tree down our path. I’ve seen and heard a baby porcupine cry when it went too far on a branch and couldn’t get back to its mother. They make the weirdest sound, something between a screech and a squawk. Well, the first porcupine at the top of the tree was squawking at the other one to get out—it was his tree. Finally, the second one climbed down the tree and loped down the path in defeat. Watch this video to see what they sound like.

The next day, Clare and I were sitting on the dock when we heard rustling in the underbrush on the hill between the lake and our deck. The last time we heard this, our neighbour’s dog Buddy was chasing a baby fox across our property. This time, it wasn’t Buddy, or a fox, but a fast moving brownish animal with a bear like face and a stubby tail. He went up the hill toward the house, but then came down the path and stopped behind the canoe, only about 10 feet away from us. It was a fisher.

Now I don’t know how much you know about fishers, but you definitely don’t want one on your property. They are vicious and one of the only animals that will kill a porcupine (I thought of our prickly friends from the day before and hoped they made a clean getaway). Fishers have rapier like claws and will kill cats, small dogs, and any small animals.

There was even a story in the Whig-Standard a few years ago of a fisher that dropped from the trees on a local hunter (a relative of my friend Karen who took the black-necked swan photos from last week). He said the only thing that helped him not be seriously injured was he was wearing a hood.

I was surprised at how fast this particular fisher could move. After hiding behind the canoe, he went back up the hill. Clare said she saw him as she was walking up the path, his brown face peering out between a crevice in the rock face only about twenty yards away. We’re still a little freaked out every time we pass the cliff on the way to the lake.

Our final wildlife adventure came two nights ago when we heard something moving on our front porch. We have a bad habit of throwing our recycling on the porch, then taking it to the barn the next morning. I had tossed out a coffee cake container, and there was a very handsome raccoon helping himself to the crumbs. Raccoons can be nasty too (we’ve lost several chickens to raccoons) and last winter, we had one big fat fellow eating our bird seed every night on the back deck, but at least this guy was kind of cute.

This week’s #HappyAct is to go wild for the wildlife. What encounters have you had in the wild?

It’s for the birds

Birdhouse and wren
Our little house wren on the post beside her new home

There have been several interesting and unexpected phenomenon that have come out of COVID-19. One is how the animal world has reclaimed territory as humans have retreated. Nowhere more can this be seen than in the abundance of migratory birds in Eastern Ontario this spring.

While I wouldn’t exactly call myself a birder, I have enjoyed watching and identifying all the species that we’ve seen on our property in the past few weeks as the weather has gotten warm.

We’ve had all the usual suspects: blue jays and eastern kingbirds, goldfinches, woodpeckers and robins. The herons, loons, barn swallows, kingfishers and red-winged blackbirds have all returned to the marshes and lakes.

But I can’t recall seeing so many different types of birds like we have this year. We’ve seen flickers, cowbirds, bobolinks, baltimore orioles, rose-breasted and black-headed grosbeaks, yellow-rumped warblers and blackburnian warblers. We’ve even had two wood ducks show up several mornings in the trees watching us eat our breakfast.

And the songs, oh the songs. This morning, as I was planting my annuals and perennials, I was serenaded by a beautiful brown house wren who has taken up residence in one of our birdhouses, while a rose-breasted grosbeak tried to drown her out with his own magnificent melody. If you look up the song of a grosbeak in the bird book, it says, “rising and falling passages, like a Robin who has taken voice lessons.

My friend Karen sent me a picture of two black-necked swans that flew over their boat at their hunting camp near Tamworth. They are considered “exotic” so you would normally never see them in this region.

Yes, it’s been a banner year for the birds. This week’s #HappyAct is to get out and make a new fine feathered friend. Happy birding.

Black-necked swans flying over a lake
Rare sighting of two black-necked swans

Where will you be in 2030?

man looking into future

Read any online news site at this time of year, and inevitably you will find an article on why new year’s resolutions fail.

New year’s resolutions are destined to fail because after one transgression, the mind will say, “oh well, I tried” and we fall back into old habits.

A more powerful and interesting exercise is to try visioning instead. Instead of saying what one thing will I do different this month or year, picture where you want to be a decade from now.

Where do you want to be in 2030? For most of us, I suspect the answer doesn’t involve significant life changes, just small changes and pivots to help us focus on what’s important in our life and what we want to do to be happy.

Here’s my answer.

I will be living in my same house on my beautiful lake that I adore and that has become a source of peace, happiness and solitude. Dave and I will be empty-nesters, but we’ll be OK. We’ll rejoice in our individual pursuits and cherish the time we spend together hiking, travelling and enjoying our lake.

I will be thinner and healthier (yes!) from being more active, instead of sitting at a desk all day.

I will write for 2-3 hours every morning, with the goal of being published.

I will continue to remain active in my community, volunteering, attending concerts with my friends, playing sports and doing things in the daytime (OMG, what a thought!)

I will take courses, either through the Queen’s Lifelong Learning seminars or through our local Seniors Association.

I will watch in wonder as my daughters discover who they are as adults, support their passions, and be there when they stumble.

I will be there for family and friends and be grateful for what each day brings.

This is my vision.

What’s yours?

Dear Santa: All I Want for Christmas

author on lake

Dear Santa. I started this note to you on Facebook the other day, but had to cut it short since I had to get to work.

I saw Rudolph on the ice this morning crossing the lake with Dancer and Prancer.  I think they were here on a recon mission. It’s a good thing our lakes are frozen, that way you can travel faster Christmas Eve. I messed up in the kitchen the other night so you may get store bought cookies left out. Hope that’s OK. By the way, the kids were hoping you could define naughty for them. I think they’re getting nervous.

I’m a little late sending you my Christmas wish, but most of the items on it are things you can work on year-round after you deliver toys to all the good girls and boys on Tuesday night. Here it is.

All I Want for Christmas

  • An electric vehicle that’s four wheel or all wheel drive with long driving ranges for people who live in the country who want to do their part to reduce greenhouse emissions
  • A new grocery retailer in Kingston that is environmentally friendly. Santa, since you travel a lot you probably have seen these new zero-waste food stores that have opened in Europe and around the world. Please help bring them to Canada and help us to do our part to reduce excess packaging.
  • An end to exorbitant bank fees—I think it’s highway robbery they charge $3 every time you take money out of a machine if it’s not your bank. I hope all the banks are on your naughty list this year
  • A new dryer that automatically sorts and matches socks (this one has been on my list before)
  • An end to homelessness; everyone deserves a warm, inviting place to call home
  • A hockey rink heater that actually works
  • Most of all, I want you to do what you can for a special group of people who are constantly in my heart and thoughts who are dealing with serious health issues right now; you know who they are. Please help them get better and bring them joy and happiness this Christmas season.

Sincerely,
Laurie

Autumn ablaze–a photo essay

creek with fall colours

This year the fall colours have been particularly spectacular. I tried reading up on why, but got lost in words like chlorophyll and carotenoids. I don’t care about the science. I’m just grateful for the beauty of the area we live in.

Here is a photo essay from my Thanksgiving weekend. Enjoy the colours while they last, and Happy Thanksgiving!

yellow and red treesseagulls on a dock in the fall

porch with fall decorations

clouds over water

high cranberry bush

fall trees and sky

deer in woods

 

Girl walking in fall leaves

sunburst through trees

A country mile

country fieldOne of the many things I’m thankful for is living in the country. While I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, I’m forever grateful we made the decision more than 20 years ago to get out of the city and move to rural roads where the air is fresh, the mosaic fields of fall spread before you like a harvest feast, and you can walk or drive for a country mile without seeing another car or person.

What I didn’t count on was how much the simplistic charm of the little hamlets and crossroads, and the people who inhabit them would grow on me.

For instance, I was driving to Tamworth the other night for a 4H meeting. The sign at the church in Croyden said, “Rhonda. Sunday. 6:30.”

It made me wonder who was Rhonda and what was she doing at the Croyden church on Sunday at 6:30? Was she getting married? Or was it an unhappy occasion—a memorial service for Rhonda? Was she young or old?

I did wonder if perhaps my friend Rhonda Nontell who has a cottage nearby was giving a gospel performance at 6:30 in Croyden, but then the sign would say “Rhonda. Sunday. 6:30. $5.” I mean most of us would pay at least $5 to see that performance.

These are the things that keep me up at night.

And then there is the country wave. When I first moved to this area 20 years ago, my best friend’s Mom Audrey educated me on the country wave. The country wave is different if you’re walking or driving.

When walking, the proper way to wave to people is a slight nod of the head or raise of the hand for a half-wave. No full-out wave, or Queen wave, just an acknowledgement you saw them driving by.

If driving, there are two approved country waves. There’s the two finger wave, where you just raise two fingers off the steering wheel or the four finger wave with your four index fingers extended. A slight nod of the head is acceptable.

Over the years, I’ve experienced everything from discovering a newborn fawn at the end of my driveway, to eating my breakfast cereal with an escaped cow staring at me through the kitchen window, to chickens on our hot tub. Yes, country living is definitely better by a country mile.

This week’s #HappyAct is to give thanks for where you live. Here are some pictures I took on my drive and walk on the country roads near Tamworth the other night.

horses

country sign
This is the first sign I’ve seen for turtles and snakes

barn silosunset over a field

The signature sound of August

cicada

August. Warm days, bugless nights and gentle breezes create a beautiful languor, as you submit to summer’s halcyon days.

The signature sound of August has to be the cicada. It starts as a slow whir and rises in pitch and intensity to a high-pitched buzz that engulfs the air. To me, it’s the signature sound of summer.

Cicadas are fascinating insects. Cicada comes from a latin word meaning tree cricket. The sound you hear is their mating call. Their shrill call can be as loud as 120 decibels, which one website claims is as loud as a rock concert or chainsaw.

Cicadas will actually gravitate to high pitched sounds, like lawnmowers. Apparently  female cicadas mistake them for singing males, and male cicadas will follow in order to continue wooing the females.

They are also quite beautiful when you look at them closely. Clare found one in the house the other day and we had a good look at him before we released him gently outside.

This week’s #HappyAct is to enjoy the sound of the cicadas and summer’s final days. Here’s a video clip of the cicadas at my lake.

The cottage life

I can’t imagine anything more Canadian than heading to the cottage for the long weekend.

Life is definitely sweeter at the cottage. It’s as if the kaleidoscope of life’s daily challenges stops turning the moment you turn off the paved highway onto the cottage laneway.

You roll down the window to drink in the fresh pine air, and slow down to a normal pace (and to avoid the potholes and washboard).

The moment you step out of the car, you leave the city and its troubles behind you. All that matters is whether you have enough wine, ice cream and bug spray for the weekend, whether it’s going to rain, and who the best Rummoli or Boggle player is.

I live on a lake but the lure of the cottage has never left me. I’ve been blessed over the years to have wonderful friends who have kindly shared their cottages with my family. They are always my most favourite weekends of the year.

Time stands still at the cottage. No one cares if you sleep in til 10, eat lunch at 2, nap at 3 and declare cocktail hour at 4. There is time to actually read…books of all things.

There’s more time outdoors, kayaking, swimming, boating, and playing horseshoes. And then there’s eat and drink (and lots of it).

But the thing I love the most about cottage weekends is the precious time spent with family and friends and the warmth and camaraderie of these gatherings that have created so many wonderful memories over the years.

This week’s #HappyAct is to experience the cottage life this summer. Here are some pictures from last weekend and our annual girls’ spring get-together at my best friend’s cottage north of Minden. It was the first time we invited Grace and Clare, “the next generation” to join us for a girls weekend.

Young girl on dock

Girls and dog at cottage

Girl in boatLake at sunset

Shut up and fish

Author with fish

I remember driving home years ago listening to the CBC, when this song came on the radio. It was about a guy whose wife gave him an ultimatum, saying if he went fishing that day, she’d pack up her bags and leave him. That was the first time I heard Brad Paisley’s The Fishing Song. The lyrics go something like this.

“Well, I’m gonna miss her,
When I get home.
But right now I’m on this lake shore,
And I’m sittin’ in the sun
I’m sure it’ll hit me
When I walk through that door tonight
That I’m gonna miss her
Well lookee there, I gotta bite…”

I mean really. Can you blame the guy? I would have went fishing too.

We went fishing tonight to cap off Father’s Day. Dave always said his favourite time to fish was Sunday nights, when the lake was quiet and he knew the cottagers were stuck in traffic on their commute back to the city.

It was a beautiful evening—still blissfully warm with blue skies and feathery clouds. A deer meandered down to the shore to drink in the cool lake water on our neighbour’s property as we cast in the weed beds. Owls serenaded us with their nightly calls in the distance.

Deer at lake

 

 

 

 

 

One of the many things I love about fishing is it is a time to be still and quiet. It’s great to talk and spend family time together, but sometimes it’s even better to just shut up and fish.

Clare and I each caught a rock bass; Dave had better luck the night before. Murphy sat on the dock and howled. It was a good night.

girl with fish

This week’s #HappyAct is to shut up and fish. Here is a video clips of Maddie and Tae’s Shut Up and Fish to get you in the mood.

Leave a legacy

willow trees
Trees I planted 30 years ago

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die.”

Ray Bradbury, author of Farhenheit 451

I’ve never thought much about what my legacy to this world will be. My children, perhaps. I live a small life so I highly doubt my name will appear in any history book or there will be a statue erected somewhere in my honour. I’m just one of a billion ordinary people in the world going about their ordinary lives.

Recently, I spent the afternoon in Mississauga strolling through JC Saddington Park by the lake. Many residents of Port Credit may not be aware that JC Saddington was actually a landfill site before it was converted to parkland.

I helped plant all the trees in that park as a summer student working for the City of Mississauga forestry department. The soil was clay and the conditions were terrible, but I marvelled as I strolled through the winding paths to see that the little wispy willow whips I planted more than 30 years ago had grown into beautiful graceful trees providing much-needed shade to the park goers on an unusually hot September day.

This week’s #HappyAct is to do something that will leave a mark on this world. As Mr. Bradbury said, “It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it.”

If you’re interested in planting a tree to leave a legacy, join the legions of volunteers who will be planting trees this week (September 27 is National Tree Day). In Kingston, there’s tree planting at Lemoine’s Point next Saturday, September 30th at 9 a.m. at the south entrance.