Author Archives: Thelma

A little help from my hens

Last week I found out just how much chickens LOVE hostas. For some reason they ignored them for the past four years, but this year have been nibbling the new shoots to the ground. I now have various pieces of chicken wire propped around what remains of the poor plants and will hope for the best.

Today while I was weeding and edging a flowerbed, older hens Anni-Frid and Agnetha stood by as ususal to eat any worms or insects I uncovered, but they also plucked the annoying black flies that encircled my head. I guess a few flat hostas in exchange for pest control is sort of worth it. Sort of.

Canadianing

Over the past month I found a stubby beer bottle and evidence of our neighbourhood beaver hard at work in our woods. Now there are black flies. The most Canadian of times.

Can you see it? It’s been there a while.
I now have now found about three dozen of these. Not bad for a bunch of teetotal Presbyterians.

Hair Done

My mother and I drove to our hairdresser’s house this morning at 8:30. The five minute drive takes us past almost all the places my mother has ever lived: her father’s house; the house she and my father built between her father’s house and their general store; her grandparents’ house at the corner of the Barlow and Murray roads. It was a gorgeous spring morning and our little EV slid along by farm fields and water.

We were our hairdresser’s first customers since mid-March. Mom and I donned our jaunty new cotton masks and waited in the car for Joy to wave us into her house. We sanitized our hands, ticked some boxes on a form saying we were not ill and hadn’t travelled outside the province, and descended the stairs into the salon. It’s always clean and tidy, but today it was absolutely sparkling! We had already washed our hair at home, as requested, so she just spritzed us with water and started cutting.

I’m not really that wrapped up in how I look – I am all about comfort, and my hair felt horrible and messy – but even I will admit it was great to look like myself again (Steven said my hair looked a bit like Jim Jarmusch’s earlier this week, so that needed to be fixed!). After we left, our hairdresser would have to clean all the surfaces we touched and get ready for the next customer, over and over all day. She is happy to be back to work, and we are grateful she has stayed in business.

Hummingbirds 2020

I saw the first ruby-throated hummingbird of the season at one of our feeders last evening at 8:10. He left Costa Rica or somewhere in that vicinity earlier this year, probably flew across the Gulf of Mexico, dodged predators, vehicles and storms, and then finally crossed the Northumberland Strait to find our yard, perhaps having been here last summer. It gives me such a thrill every time.

Snip and Sift

For all the new bakers and gardeners out there, two useful hints I’ve learned over my time dabbling in both pursuits:

  1. If you have planted more than one seed in a pot and only want one plant (think tomatoes and squash, not parsley or basil), snip the ones you don’t want with scissors rather than pulling them out. The roots of the little plants will often be intertwined and you’ll end up dislodging the one you want to keep as you tug out their potmates.
  2. Your recipe probably won’t tell you this, but always sift cocoa that is going into cakes or brownies. Even the freshest cocoa clumps together, and those clumps are hard to break up once you incorporate wet ingredients.
Bonus hint: make your own pots out of paper. There are ten billion online tutorials to help you figure it out. I roll mine around an old Keen’s mustard bottle. These are loofah seedlings because you should always try to grow something impossible to grow!

MiniDisc

Just found this promotional MiniDisc fridge magnet in the bottom of a box of historic detritus. It claims to be a non-functional sample, but perhaps it contains a secret code? Never got a MiniDisc player (not many did!), so I’ll never know. Can’t imagine where I got it or why. I have a vague memory of going to a theatre tech trade show in Toronto in the early 1990s, so I could have snapped it up there, or maybe Sony sponsored something at Roy Thomson Hall when I worked there around the same time. Rest in peace, MiniDisc, we hardly knew ye.

Confusing bees

Added a third bee to my list on Bumble Bee Watch. This one is Bombus perplexus, the confusing bumble bee. She is a queen, as are most, if not all, the first bumble bees you find in the spring.

The Bumble Bee Watch platform prompts you to identify what kind of bee you are submitting, and I guessed it was one I had seen last summer, Bombus vagans, but the verifier changed it to the confusing bumble bee. Well, that’s some expert, I thought. She’s not sure what kind of bee I’ve found? Nope, it’s me that’s confused – again!

Bombus perplexus.

Returning Friends

It is a happy coincidence that the return of seasonal garden and forest friends this year began at about the same time as spending time with human friends became more difficult. First to arrive just as “lock down” started were the grackles and red-winged blackbirds, loud and chatty as they announced their return and snacked at the feeder. Robins then started hopping across the few bare parts of our yard, and mallards, great blue herons, seagulls and now mergansers are all back on the river.

A pair of crows are building a nest across the creek, first plucking white pine branches off the lawn, and now gathering beakfuls of dead grass and moss for lining. They will be noisy neighbours as their fledglings are loud and constantly hungry, complaining that they are starving from dawn until dusk! I expect to find broken mussel shells on the lawn all summer as the parents sit in the trees, break the shells, extract the meat, give it to the young ones, and drop the shells. Crows and chicken keepers are good allies, though, as we are both afraid of the bald eagles and hawks that circle, and the crows will helpfully harass and chase them away.

Yesterday’s warm temperatures brought out the first bees of the year. Here’s a tricoloured bumblebee in a crocus, busy as a you-know-what.

Bombus ternarius