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Archive for the ‘Candian Wild Life’ Category

Canadian flies are monstrous! South Africans would refer to them as ‘brommers!’ As the weather warms up their deep drone can be heard as they lurk at any open door or window. They wait patiently ready to dart into the delights of your home or office. Cooking in the kitchen or opening up your lunch sends shock waves out to all the local chommie brommers. Their over sensitive olfactory system zones into the aroma and draws them in like moths to a light at night. It is their way of getting onto their very own social media. Their status would read something like this………Grub’s up boys!

The Canadian Brommer

The Canadian ‘Brommer’

Once inside you are left with a few options to rid yourself of these domestic invaders. One being a quick flick of the wrist which would result in the demise of the noisy invertebrate. This does not go down too well with the Greenies and more squeamish amongst us. Trust me, squashed insect inners between your fingers does not do much for the appetite. But there is an advantage of using this method of capture…. namely it is easy to execute. The reason being is that these members of the Canuck insect clan are slow movers. It must have something to do with the adaptations to the threats that face them in Canada. They are not exactly fighting off Brown Bears! Now if they were anything like their South African brothers it would be a whole different story. Their acutely well-trained compound eyes would observe the said hand long before it reaches the target.
The second option is well known amongst our local fisherman where the salmon run free and wild. Catch and release is a piece of pie to implement with these lumbering locals. The brommers down south in Africa have trained us newbies well. It requires stealth and method to catch these ‘boytjies.’ You need to creep up on them with an open hand. The trick is to keep the hand level and low. Then raise your hands just above them to catch the buzzing invader in flight. Make your way to the door with your prize firmly clenched in your hand and release. The inner Greenie is left content with no fatalities.

Canadian mosquito

Canadian mosquito

Now when it comes to mosquitoes, don’t mess with these Canadian buzzers. They thrive on or near the 250 000 lakes that are part of the picturesque landscape here in Ontario. Their bite is painless. But wait for it, there is worse to come. This enables them to discreetly strike and suck your blood and then disappear like thieves into the darkness. Within hours red, itchy welts appear. Oh the itch drives one wild! There have been times, while suffering from the affliction of mosquito bites, I have wished for the ‘supplity’ of a dog. Ah…….to just be able to reach that spot. But that is not the worst thing about these little stripy devils. The burn and crawling skin continues for weeks. The memory of the weekend away at the cottage is long gone but the itch lingers.

Cottage Country

Cottage Country

So although this might seem trivial. It goes to show that comparisons are something we all do. As newcomers it is a way of absorbing change ….we observe the differences and similarities and process our new environment. Just wish the mozzies would lay off me as I earned my stripes with their African cousins!

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It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside…….

The snow has melted and left us with these feelings of expectation. Each day we look for the signs. We scrutinise the grass for sprouts of green and dig around the shrubs just in case new life might be hiding there. The temperatures are deceptive. We are teased with blasts from the polar vortex followed by the odd warm spring day. But we don’t mind as the warm days are such a reprieve. We have bravely packed away all the heavy coats right to the back of the closet. It is a point of no return!

Nature reminds us that new life is on its way. We spotted the sleek mink at the bottom of our garden. It dived excitedly into the clear river and inspected the bounty of food. Tiny minnows darted for cover. The graceful creature swam with purpose and was soon sunning himself on the rocks, content and delighted with his discovery. Not sure where Mrs Mink was hiding out as she was missing out on all the fun. Through the winter we would often see the tell-tale signs of tracks up from the river into our back garden. One of those was the Eastern Cottontail rabbit. It has been around throughout the winter and provided much amusement in an otherwise seemingly lifeless vista. According to Germanic myth Eostre, the goddess of spring, created a rabbit by transforming a bird. Ever since this unusual conception, all rabbits and hares have laid eggs during the week of Easter to thank Eostre and to celebrate their ancestry.

Our cheeky Easter bunny

Our cheeky Easter bunny

Our graceful mink

Our graceful mink

See I’ve forgotten if they’re green or blue….

Our regular pair of Mallard ducks are back and have been setting up a nest for the new arrivals. The handsome male with his luminescent green head is a sight to behold! His head catches the filtered light through the leafless trees. He waddles up and down gathering twigs unaware of the human appreciation. Every now and again he looks up as if to keep an eye out for Red Tailed Hawk. He is splendid with his large frame of about 60 centimeters. This king of the food chain reigns in our back yard and sends many shudders down the backs of our array of ‘kleinwild.’ The vocal and fearless Red Squirrel stamps his feet and flicks his tail. The hawk does not flinch as he knowingly takes in this tiny pile of cheek…..all of 250 grams of body weight. He gets away with it as the hawk realises that this little creature is but a mere aperitif!

The Mallard couple

The Mallard couple

A scrap of cheek....

A scrap of cheek….

King of all he surveys....

King of all he surveys….

And you can tell everybody this is your song
it may be quite simple, but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is now you’re in the world.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

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It is a new year and resolutions abound! You cannot get away from it at all. Bill boards offer special deals at local gyms and televisions scream at you to try their ‘fat reducing products.’ A few weeks ago they were encouraging us to partake of all the festive goodies now they are trying to get us to shed the excess. That’s marketing for you! It is obviously effective, as I have heard from a reliable source that you cannot move in our local ‘sweat room.’  It is crammed with ‘do gooders’ and the regulars wait for the rush to wear off…….as it usually does.

Our resident red squirrel

Our resident red squirrel

As the grey days of January chill us to the bone, it is refreshing to experience the spirit of hope and renewal. A few animals have begun to venture out again having been snowed in for weeks. I have moved my writing table to the front room where I watch the comings and goings in my front garden. My resident red squirrel has a skip in his gait. He enthusiastically scurries about collecting up his stashed summer loot. He has taken to sitting at the front door on one of my chairs……utterly at home. He peers in the windows and has noticed my new position. He cheekily makes eye contact and flicks his tail my way. Maybe he has noticed the red fox that has been lurking around. Apparently they are partial to a bit of squirrel meat!

Our red fox

Our red fox

But the little creature that enchanted me the most is our resident ladybird. She has set up home in the kitchen on our window sill. I first noticed her in October last year before it became cold. She came inside and stayed! I did try to coax her out through the window but she was having nothing of it. I say ‘she’ as I like to think that a female has joined me in this all male household! Apparently she is an exotic and is known as the Multicoloured Asian Ladybug. They were brought into the US and released in Washington in the 1920’s to control the aphid population. They made their way up the coast and many have set themselves up here in Ontario. What a resourceful and resilient creature. She disappears for weeks at a time and then pops up to renew her acquaintance with the household. The French champagne brought her out last time. This lady has taste!

Lydia the ladybug

Lydia the ladybug

So we navigate through another new year with resolutions, renewed enthusiasm and the anticipation of the year ahead. A holly branch from our garden surprised me the other day. I had picked the stem 2 weeks before Christmas and it stood in water in the kitchen over the festive season.Well, it is covered in tiny white flowers…..and it has no roots either! Surely this burst of new growth is indicative of the exciting times that lie ahead!

They appeared out of nowhere.....tiny white flowers.

They appeared out of nowhere…..tiny white flowers.

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It crept stealthily around the great elm tree at the bottom of the garden.  It stopped and its graceful form was silhouetted against the undergrowth. Slowly it moved closer and one leg hovered. It hesitated while it kept an eye out for any impending danger. Satisfied, the great blue heron trusted its surroundings enough to stay a while. It began to scout the blades of grass. This beautiful bird was so reminiscent of its familiar African cousins.  It had a different demeanour and was prepared to risk a closer look. It edged forward as it grabbed the sought after delectable grub.

 

Our graceful visitor

Our graceful visitor

 

There is something inside of me that just sings out loud when I venture into my garden. The inner child just wants to rush out! My garden is full of surprises and still taps into my sense of wonder. The joy of a spring bulb, the revival of an iced shrub and the scurrying visitors all keep me intrigued. It is a place where I can go to and remember who I am. It does not matter what country I live in. The joy and contentment it provides, remains the same.

 

The bastions lure you to explore further....

The bastions lure you to explore further….

 

 There are times in life when you have to dig deep, real deep to find that peace and contentment. Some find it in their chosen career path, others in the things they possess and some simply need to face a challenge. We focus on survival in our concrete jungles but in our gardens we can stop for respite. So I am fortunate that my garden provides that for me! There is something so honest and straight forward about tending a garden. As I wallow about with my plants, it puts all things that I ponder into perspective. It reminds me that there are no short cuts in life. As I begin to cut back the vigorous summer growth, I am also reminded that there is a time for everything in a garden. Each season brings hope and promise.

Some wise man once said: There is no paradise on this earth; it is up to us to create it. I just did!

 

Summer 2012 018

 

 

 

 

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You walk a lonely road; oh so far you are from home…….

 

The bustle of the airport was overpowering and I felt the nausea rise in my throat. My swollen arm ached and I cursed myself for my stupidity at my uncoordinated crash from the ski lift. These journeys back to South Africa are long and lonely. Mixed feelings and longings fill my head as I try to rise above my pounding head and sore body.

“Hello, I heard you speak, you must be South African!” A bright cheerful face looked down on me. Those kind words quickly washed away my self pity and wallowing. We chatted and connected with the similar threads that had been part of our lives. My new friend was further down the road of the ‘Trans- Atlantic Living’ and I valued the tips and similar experiences that we shared. Too soon it was time to board and the conversations would have to continue once we were back in Canada.

The view from Loonshadow.

Morning coffee on the deck at  Loonshadow

 

May it be that you journey on to light the day…..

 

Many months later we joined the weekend exodus of Canadians up to Cottage Country. We were to reconnect with our fellow South Africans. The spring colours burst forth as we travelled up east deep into the Kawartha Highlands. The name ‘Kawartha’ means “the Land of Reflections.’ The name did not disappoint as we indulged our eyes on the ice- melt rivers and the glistening dark waters.  You do know that there is more lake area in Canada than any other country in the world! I digested that thought while the road meandered on through the hills and dark forests. We had been on the road for almost 3 hours and a cup of coffee and a rusk would certainly would have gone down well! The car rounded one last corner and in the clearing, a cottage nestled amongst the trees. We were finally at “Loonshadow.’

 

A walk in the forest

A walk in the forest

Believe and you will find your way……..

 

The front door opened and our South African hosts were there to greet us. There was that same hospitality that I had experienced at Amsterdam Airport. The weekend had begun….

The men tried their hand at fishing but they could only tell us about ‘the one that got away.’ Besides, who needs fish when you have loads of steak and boerewors! The women ambled through the dense forest, while the boys ventured out on the quad bike. There was much to talk about and we covered a range of topics, like only women can. Everything from ‘what hair product works best in Canada’ to ‘the best places to shop.’ What can I say? I am sure that the men’s conversation was a far cry from this, especially being that their favourite rugby team had just been defeated! The sounds of our voices were like a whisper as the forest floor echoed under our feet. It was time to see to the evening meal.

 

There is nothing quite like staring into a fire.....

There is nothing quite like staring into a fire…..

May it be an evening star shines down upon you…..

 

A roaring fire was made and we gathered round as the light disappeared from the mirrored lake. The sad howl of the loon duck faded and the shrill call of the osprey broke the silence of the night. It was perfect and even the bite of the black flies could not spoil it for us. There is always a bit of pain with the pleasure…….

 

 

 

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(This song was written and first played by the Zombies in 1968. This rendition is by Dave Matthews, a South African, who now lives in Seattle.)

 

It is another day of temperatures below zero! I mumble as I sit down in the mudroom. (This is a room at the front of most Canadian houses and it has all the coats and winter garb.) I pull out my blue fur- trimmed coat and my thick boots. I am sick of this outfit!  I have forgotten what my feet look like as they have been all trussed up in heavy boots for months! Each morning we look out for any sign of some reprieve……..another day of rain and grey skies. Oh no!

Even the locals are ‘gatvol.’ Sometimes I have to resort to my local dialect as there is just no other word that best described this feeling.  I could think of a few other choice words which could best describe this k…k weather but I am sure that this blog would then be blocked!  But there is hope……. 

 

One of the joys of winter!

One of the joys of winter!

 

 

Spring is slow at gracing us with her presence. You have to look hard for it as it pours most days!  My tulip bulbs are sprouting and their glossy leaves have broken through the earth. Thank goodness! They survived the beady eyes of the squirrels during the fall. This was when all the delicately juicy specimens were gathered up as their stash for the winter.  Somehow the new bed that I had created in the garden was overlooked by the vigilant gatherers. The resident rabbit is the next threat. The new growth is just too much for him to resist. Luckily Josh keeps a watchful eye from the window. He performs a war dance whenever any livestock dare to trespass on our verge. So for the moment the bulbs are safe.

I resort to the indoor tulips!

I resort to the indoor tulips!

 

The morning greets us with an abundance of bird calls….robin, thrush and the splendid red cardinals. The woodpeckers often disrupt the melodious calls with their beating thuds against the bark. They busily make new homes for fussy females and the pending brood. The majestic birds of prey have made their weary journey back across the sea. They can be seen gliding overhead and filling up on local delicacies like squirrel and the odd mouse. Our resident red -tailed hawk has appeared. He was less noisy but probably still exhausted after his long commute. He is sure to be squawking away in the elm trees and creating havoc once he has regained his strength.

Our magnificent cardinals.

Our magnificent cardinals.

 

 

Spring is a time to renew, recover and replenish. Nature does it and it enthuses us winter-weary humans to do the same. The excitement is tangible. A mere glimpse of a ‘patch of blue’ draws people outside and into the street.  Enthusiastic neighbours gather round and wield their power hoses. The clean up has started! Driveways and front steps are washed and the residue salt and grime disappear down the drains. Sleek new road tyres are fitted to the family cars and the robust winter tyres packed away.  Our basements are bulging with all the winter paraphernalia! The mud room gets a facelift and all the heavy coats and skis make way for bathing costumes and sandals. Hoorah!

All this adds to the delight and realization that SPRING is almost here!


 

 

 

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The mushroom cloud of gas ascended the staircase. It grew in intensity as more particles were exuded by the culprit. The whole house was asleep. It was not surprising, as it was 5 am in the morning and the temperature gauge outside on the deck read minus 9 C. I stretched in my comfortable warm bed and waited for the familiar sound of tea cups. This was our morning ritual…….give mom a cup of tea on waking and she could face anything that might come her way! So the rustling, banging and pinging of the security bell continued downstairs as doors opened and closed. My mouth was dry and I wondered if I should relent and assist the tea maker.  I turned over and decided against it, my bed was just too cosy. I was about to doze off again when my comfort zone was disturbed…….

“That damn chimney stack is probably churning something foul out into the atmosphere,” I shouted down to the tea maker. There was no reply but the flurry of activity continued. I stumbled down the stairs suffering from the effects of my lack of ‘the morning cuppa.’ The tea maker was anxiously sitting at the table with his eyes glued to the iPad.

“What is going on?” I am not big ‘on the morning patience thing’ until my being has been gentle coaxed into consciousness. The magical powers of the ‘English Breakfast’ brew is a wonderful start to any morning. But this morning was going to be a challenge as I would have to face it cold turkey. It was soon to become apparent that I might need something a bit stronger than just tea. The tea maker looked up from the computer An antidote has to be here somewhere…………

Josh had been ‘skunked.’ The little bugger ran off when let out for his ablutions and got into a tussle with our resident skunk. Josh has been watching out for him for ages from the lounge window. He had stared out longingly with his jaws quivering and had built up quite an appetite for the little creature.. He was after all a true terrier! The sight and familiar scent of this ‘delectable morsel’ was just too much for him to bear.  He ran across and seized the moment. There was much hissing and growling. I don’t think he was expecting the retaliation that he received. The skunk furiously responded and did what a skunk does best……. Ready, aim, fire and the target was hit! Bull’s eye! The viscous yellow goop dripped off his head and down the side of his coat. Josh was suitably humiliated and ran back to the front door with his tail between his legs.

 

The look of shame......

The look of shame……

 

I was later to learn that this chemical is known as mercaptan.  It has a strong, sharp lingering smell and was vaguely familiar. My stomach turned as Josh was carried into the bathroom. A memory of a stench I had once endured came flooding back to me. We had lived near a paper mill in South Africa and had endured the ‘aroma.’ You never forget that especially if you combine it with ‘morning sickness!’ Josh hung his head in shame and despair. He knew he smelt awful. He could also hear from the tone of our voices and the odd cuss word that we were not pleased. We washed and scrubbed and still the odour lingered. Oh my, this was going to be a marathon.

Three days later we continue to wage the war against ‘the smell’ and wonder whether this is just another step in the direction of becoming Canadianised. Surely a really cold winter will suffice?

 

 

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