Citizen Science Notes

Hummingbird season here was May 12 to September 19. I still think of them making their way south after their first big task of crossing the Northumberland Strait in one go. I’ve read they end up in Mexico or Costa Rica for the winter, then make their way back here, year after year.

We used small feeders that stuck to our windows with suction cups for a few years, but switched to larger ones as the little ones needed daily refilling. The year after we switched, a couple of hummingbirds flew to each of the three locations where the smaller feeders had been the previous year, clearly showing that they were returning friends.

I joined Bumble Bee Watch in August after hearing Victoria MacPhail on CBC PEI encouraging Islanders to submit sightings. My guesses as to which bees I was seeing were way off, so I loved having my sightings confirmed by an expert (Victoria herself!). So far, I’ve recorded these two lovelies:

Bombus vagans – Half-black bumble bee (worker)
Bombus ternarius – Tri-colored bumble bee (worker)

I bought swamp milkweed seeds from Hope Seeds in 2016 and planted them in a few spots on our property. Last year they finally flowered, and this year we had our first monarch butterfly caterpillars!

I found one chrysalis, and it was fine for a few days, but I think a chicken also discovered it and gave it a peck, so that was that. Our milkweed patches are not large enough and that meant some caterpillars could’t get enough to eat, so I’ll plant more next year. Happily, I did see two monarchs, a male and a female, which is two more than I remember seeing in many years. I hope to register with Monarch Watch in the future.

Male monarch butterfly

In August, as I puttered in the garden, I heard what I thought was a hummingbird, and then this bizarre beast buzzed by. It’s a hummingbird moth, and it was hard to figure out at first if I was looking at an insect or a bird, which made it a bit creepy in a fascinating way! I’ve never seen one before, so perhaps my semi-wilding experiment is working…maybe too well!

Hummingbird moth briefly on some phlox, and forever in my nightmares!

Behold, the hummingbird moth in action!

Hummingbird moth, with the drone of crickets drowning out the moth wings.

So Enjoy Your Life

I made this fish biryani (every Thomasina Miers recipe seems to be golden!) for supper while listening to Enjoy Your Life by Marina more times than might seem appropriate for an old doll like me.

Stoic Week is going well (and Marina is half Greek, after all!), and maybe I’m not Stoic enough to sit back and enjoy my problems, as she suggests, but I’m working on it!

Sit back and enjoy your problems

You don’t always have to solve them

‘Cause your worst days they are over

So enjoy your life

Let The Sun Shine

Yesterday I turned 53. The universe and efficiencyPEI conspired to also make it the day that the cheerful crew from Renewable Lifestyles arrived to start installing our roof-top power plant.

For Greta, and her grandchildren.

The only time this feminist wants to hear “nice rack.”
And a one, and a two..
Kill switch, so no one gets killed.
Clemmie Churchill, naturally solar powered.

Stoic Week

Stoic Week 2019 begins tomorrow, and it’s not too late to sign up. It’s a free program and I’ve taken part for the last few years.

I enjoy all the readings and self-reflection that are built into the program, and I think I am generally happier because of it. I know that I like myself much more as I age, and this is due in no small part to not trying to control every situation, which is sort of Stoicism 101:

“One of the main strategies that runs through both Stoicism and this handbook is that of distinguishing between things that are under your control and things that are not. The Stoics believed that this takes training to do well but that it’s the key to self-discipline and overcoming emotional disturbances. Maintaining this distinction between what is and isn’t under your control requires continual attention to your own thoughts and judgements. We can describe this as a kind of ‘mindfulness’ practice. You’ll build upon this foundation by exploring different Stoic concepts and techniques each day throughout the course of the week.”
Excerpt From: Modern Stoicism. “Stoic Week 2019 Handbook”. Apple Books.

My life as a carer means I need to also take care of myself, but that’s not something I or most other carers do well. Stoic Week is a short burst of study and practice that helps me build resilience and critical thinking. Tell Seneca I sent you.


Just found notes I made while we waited for our power to be restored after Post-Tropical Storm Dorian (PTSD, which is what I had for a bit!). September flew by in a series of post-summer board meetings, keeping me from posting, so I shall post this post-haste!

  1. Power out from Saturday, September 7, 17:10 to Friday, September 13, 20:30.
  2. Internet outages: Saturday, September 7 ,17:10 to Tuesday, September 10 19:15, and Wednesday, September 11 09:00-20:00.
  3. I missed the Internet more than electricity.
  4. Our average electricity costs to this point in 2019 is $3.84/24-hour-day or 16 cents an hour. We ran our generator for a total 30 hours for those six days and we used 40 litres of gasoline, so that works out to .75 litres/hour. At a cost of $1.14/litre, our generator cost was about 85 cents/hour or (if we had run the generator 24 hours a day) $20.40 a day. Electricity is a really great deal!
  5. Plug-in carbon monoxide detectors with replaceable 9v battery backups are cheaper to purchase, but they eat batteries like crazy, so I will replace these units with a type with a 10-year non-replaceable battery.
  6. A chainsaw with a dull chain is almost worse that not having a chainsaw at all.
  7. After 15 years of faithfully putting on chainsaw chaps, even when I’m just doing a quick job, I found out they work incredibly well (see little white cut in photo below).
  8. Rainfall amounts Saturday, September 7 = 76 mm, Sunday, September 8 = 26 mm
  9. Asparagus ferns are the only wind-proof residents of my vegetable garden, even though they look the most fragile. Dahlias and sunflowers collapsed in the first hour of the high winds, even though they look the strongest. Lesson there to be more flexible in challenging conditions.
  10. It’s still very dark outside when all the orange and bright white street lights that have been plonked in the middle of the country are doused.
  11. A landline will not always work, despite the promises. This was a big surprise after hearing the message for years that retaining a landline in addition to a mobile telephone is important in case of emergencies as it will always work.
  12. Landline outage: Sunday, September 8 from approximately 09:30-14:00; Monday, September 9 from at least 05:30-14:30; Tuesday, September 10 from at least 05:00 – 10:45.
  13. Chicken eggs laid during outage = 24 (no electricity necessary!)
  14. Canadian Tire in Summerside sold an emergency order of 70 generators that arrived on the morning of September 9 by noon that day. Centennial Honda only had three chainsaws left on September 10, and were out of many parts. To make a fortune, corner the generator and chainsaw market before storms.
  15. CBC Maritime Noon should always be 2 hours, just like it used to be.
  16. Media people, including power company spokespeople, say “check our website for more information” a lot. It’s a reflex now, and one I don’t usually notice, except when I can’t access the Internet. Internet-connected devices and service are not affordable by everyone, nor can everyone navigate a computer, so they are left behind even when the power is on.
  17. Never seen before: round bale of straw floating down the river, bleach bottle that blew into our yard from somewhere.
  18. Injuries = 0. Trees on house = 0. Trees on power line to house = 1 huge spruce, still very much alive. Trees down in our forest = a lot more than at any other time in my lifetime, possibly because much of our forest grew up after the 1960 forest fire and isn’t that diverse (a lot of white spruce, poplar, and white birch). What looks to us like a big mess is the forest canopy opening up naturally to allow the next generation to thrive.
  19. I thought very little about the current US president, nor anything else, really. The world kept turning, I just worried about feeding my family, getting water, cleaning up the mess in the yard.
The colours of fall.

I’m Special

Dropped by the Elections Canada office at the County Fair Mall yesterday afternoon to find out how to arrange a mail-in ballot for my mother for the October 21 federal election. We did this for the spring provincial election and it eliminated a lot of stress for us like potentially having to travel to the polls in poor weather or standing in long lines.

Two extremely efficient and pleasant women greeted me. All I had to do was give them my mother’s name and mailing address and they would arrange for a voting package to be mailed to her. We were done in a couple of minutes and I stood up to leave.

The woman who took my mother’s information asked me if I would like to vote. I thought she was asking if I intended to vote, but she said she meant I could vote right then and there. I had time, there was no one else in the office, so I gave her my ID, she consulted a computer list, and handed me a ballot.

It was a blank ballot, with just a line on it, no names or little circles to mark. She directed me to the standard white cardboard screen voting booth. Taped to the inside was a list of the four confirmed candidates for my riding in alphabetical order. I was to write the name of my choice on the ballot with the little pencil that was in the booth.

I wrote in my choice, exited the booth, folded the ballot, placed it in an envelope, sealed that envelope with one of those wand-like water-filled sponge envelope sealers, placed that envelope into another envelope, which I signed, dated and sealed, and placed that envelope in a ballot box.

Interesting to note that nominations only close on Monday, September 30, so there is a possibility someone else will come forward before that date. As the four candidates on the list represented the main Canadian parties, I can’t imagine I would have changed my vote anyway, but it is too late to worry about that now.

I wondered afterwards if voting this way would be possible for someone who couldn’t write, for example, but it seems as though Elections Canada has addressed this and many other potential challenges already, and have developed excellent materials that can be shared to educate people on the many accessible voting options.

Steven voted as well, and as I waited for him to finish, the other woman showed me the ballot package she had prepared for my mother. Once the printed ballots were ready, it would be popped in the mail, my mother could vote, and we would either drop her envelope in the mail or take it into their office.

It kind of felt like an “only in PEI” type of thing, very loose and easy, but now that I look it up they were following Elections Canada guidelines for a special ballot.

While many people in the world face huge barriers to casting their vote, I was made to feel like my vote mattered, that accommodating me was the most important job those women had. How lucky we are.

Your Smith

The night after the 2016 presidential election, the world already seemed off-kilter. I had carved Hillary’s logo into our Halloween pumpkin that year, for cryin’ out loud, this wasn’t supposed to happen!

Jacked and hijacked.

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee that night saved me from descending into a chocolate coma. They had booked a young singer to perform in honour of the first female president of the US, but instead it became something else.

That singer was Lizzo. Watch her performance here (only 229,578 views as I write this? I’ve watched it at least ten times!). She was as joyful and proud and positive then as now when she is at the top of the charts. I sang “Good as Hell” all day every day for a few weeks, as my patient husband can attest. (Aside – “Good as Hell” was on Graham Norton’s Saturday show this morning as a pick from the Radio 2 New Music Playlist for this week, even though the song is from 2016. “Truth Hurts” was from 2017, but it just topped the Billboard Hot 100 list, so I bet Lizzo Inc. are hoping “Good As Hell” will have the same kind of luck second time round.

In getting to know and love Lizzo, I found a catchy song she did in 2014 with Caroline Smith,“Let ‘em Say”, a fundraiser for The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. Then I fell in love with Caroline Smith! Look closely at the video for Smith’s 2013 song Magazine and I think Lizzo might be dancing in there, too!

Caroline is now performing as Your Smith. Last year she released a couple of great singles, Bad Habit (“I’ve got a bad habit of living rich on minimum wage”) and the Sheryl Crow-y The Spot (this live version makes her look like a DJ, especially with the Stevie Wonder “Do I Do” sample mashed in there, but that’s a new side of her to me!).

Last week she released the Wild Wild Woman EP. I especially like “In Between Plans” (Joe Janiak’s guitar work reminds me of Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsay Buckingham) and “Man of Weakness” has a great Paul Simon vibe. The video for that one is a handheld one-take! 

I hope she can grab the same rocket that her old Minneapolis pal Lizzo caught and ride her way to the top…if that’s what she wants, of course. Now on tour with K. Flay, go go go!

Keynote Magic

One of the MacOS updates knocked out Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 a couple of years ago. Instead of paying for another MS product, and seeing as I seem to live in Apple world, I decided to try to figure out how to use Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

Except for never having figured out the keyboard shortcut to centre text in Pages (I don’t think there is one), these apps do all I need to do. It’s an MS world for most people, and I collaborate on a lot of documents by times, but “translating” to MS versions mostly goes pretty smoothly.

I gave a presentation at the Inspire Learning Centre in Summerside on Tuesday at the invitation of EPSI and wanted to up my game to match the neat A/V equipment they have in their Key Family Room. My last MacBook Pro had an IR function that allowed me to pair the remote from our AppleTV to use as a presentation remote, but my newer 2015 MacBook Pro does not have IR, so I’ve just always used the keyboard/trackpad.

I started to look for a third-party solution, but of course Apple makes it simple. I downloaded Keynote onto my husband’s iPad (my Gen 2 iPad won’t play this game!) and easily paired it through Bluetooth with Keynote on my MacBook so I didn’t have to worry about wifi passwords. I could preview the next slide, read the notes and prompts, click to the next slide, and it worked perfectly.

p.s. The Inspire Learning Centre has what looks like a self-serve online booking system if you are ever looking for a room to do something in Summerside. Library staff say high school students will book some of the smaller rooms for group study, and craft and community groups use them as well. The library staff are patient and helpful, and they even have a Thunderbolt-to-HDMI dongle!