Posts Tagged ‘squirrels’

It is time. It is time to bid summer farewell. The trees at the bottom of the garden are changing colour. Iridescent green has given way to a hint of gold. Each day we notice a few more leaves have succumbed to the transformation. Some are further along the path and have curled up and fluttered across the deck. There they await the Fall clean up in the ever increasing pile.

The first signs of Fall...

The first signs of Fall…

I have always been fascinated by trees. In South Africa I could rattle off the names…..White Stinkwood, Ficus Ingens and Acacia to name but a few. But here in Canada I am a mere novice and a maturing brain does not permit me to commit so many of these names to memory! This does not deter me appreciating them. They stand tall and stately at the bottom of our garden and along our meandering creek. As I observe their changes, they prepare me for the different seasons.

There is a flurry of activity as the squirrels gather up their supplies in our garden for winter. They are strategic about their placing too. The larder is scattered around and some have even been dug into the pots at the front door. I do hope they are plotting the whereabouts of these nutritious nuts and that the position will be recalled after their long winter sleep. I find myself committing to memory some of their hideouts along with all the other irrelevant things that we mothers are required to memorise.  For example……where are my socks?

Josh squirrel hunting.

Josh is a keen observer of his environment too!

The animals are not the only ones who have read the signs. The builder next door is racing ahead to get the walls up and the roof tiled on his new dwelling. There is a bulldozer across the street digging a huge hole. Road works are being completed down the street and everyone is resurfacing their driveways.
Across the way a tree was felled…..a majestic maple tree. I heard the squeal of the saws all day as they worked at reducing this beautiful specimen to pile of logs. I felt sick as I looked across and decided to walk over once all the workmen were gone home. There was a huge sign FREE FIREWOOD. I wanted to pay homage to this gracious lady. I stood a while, moved closer and ran my fingers along where the blade had sawn through the golden wood. The moisture that had been drawn up by the roots clung onto the wood in vain. Amongst the pile was the largest of slices. My fingers traced the growth rings……..she had seen 50 Canadian winters! This maple syrup- producing grand dame  had once had a twin. Inside the tree were 2 separate crowns that later decided to collaborate and had become one enormous tree!
Need I say that I am partial to twins, as we have had a double feature in our family too.

Our wiggly twins....

Our wiggly twins….

As I gazed across at the sad pile I decided……this baby has to come home with me! I scurried off and fetched the wheelbarrow along with my long suffering male contingency. We loaded our slice of gold up and gently wheeled her back to the safety of our back garden. No fireplace for this beauty! She will be well cared for and is at present attending the Morkel Spa where she is being exfoliated and oiled.
She will rise again on her new legs and will grace the Morkel household in the Great Room with her beauty.

The Morkel Spa hard at work....

The Morkel Spa hard at work….


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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 warmth of summer……

This song had plagued me for days and seemed to turn up on the radio each time I switched it on. I sang out at the top of my voice as I made my way down to the shops. ‘Everything is going to be fine….fine…fine.’ What was the significance of these strange words where some of the opposites were totally unrelated? Is free the opposite of focused?

I have one hand in my pocket and the other one is giving a high five.

I sink my hand deeper into my pocket as I do my morning ritual of walking Josh. He jumps like an antelope through the piles of Fall leaves that have gathered on the sidewalks. I love watching his enthusiasm for his morning exercise. He is undeterred by the fact that it is the same route as yesterday and finds squirrels to chase and dark holes to investigate. The burnished maples are holding onto to their leaves as if to prolong their beauty. Maybe they are just not quite ready for their dormancy or the harshness of the cruel polar winds. I comfort myself that we have a way to go before I don my goose down coat each day.

I am sad but laughing……

How can I forget the pure exhilaration of chasing about on the snow on skiis? I fell and laughed and fell some more ……and screamed! I did more manipulation of my back then my chiropractor had done all year! Then we ventured out on huge tubes and reached hair raising speeds down the smooth slopes. We played like kids…. But when the ‘really bad weather’ sets in, you scurry indoors and lap up the warmth of a crackling fireplace.

The lack of sun in winter can play havoc with the demeanor. Preparation is made for all eventualities and the days that we are housebound. We are like the squirrels and eagerly prepare for our winter confinement. I peruse the book stores for exciting reads and have built up a pile on the coffee table. I have everything from romantic reads about the Russian nobility to a book that dares you to dream. Ha! Ha! There will be a long winter for that! Along with my basket of soft mohair wool that I hope to create into something devastatingly beautiful!

I have not got it all figured out just yet…….

There are days when I still get lost and resort to my GPS to get me home. There are no mountains or mine dumps to guide me! The Canadian monetary system is still a challenge and I have not got all the coinage waxed yet. Thank goodness the usage of a debit or credit card is universal! I still convert into South African rand when I am shopping and almost have a coronary every time! I use words that the locals do not understand and often I get a blank stare in return. But have not resorted to ‘voetsek’ or ‘donder’ as my permanent residence has not come through yet! I have not mastered the politics. I am trying to work from the known to the unknown. So I have got to enjoy the antics of our portly mayor of Toronto but am still vague about the central government. I know that Canada is ‘vrekgroot’ but I have yet to know where to place each town on the map.  And so the learning curve continues…. I drink my gingko biloba each day and hope that my menopausal brain will continue to keep absorbing all these new things……..


What it all comes down to my friends…

Is that everything is going to be quite alright…..

Braving the winter chill!


PS. Need I say that Alanis Morisette is Canadian. I found out that she has a show in Toronto next week. No wonder she was riding my head side sadle!




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Sandy…..the gracious old girl.

She sighed and heaved and she made her way up the stairs and into the house. Her back legs were in curved arthritic mode as she contemplated the distance between each rise. The tail wagged as her glossy coat caught the last few rays of the late afternoon sun. She confidently stepped into her temporary home as the familiar aromas greeted her at the door. Only then did she look up into our faces and give us the doggy grin. Sandy was joining us at Maison de Morkel for a sleepover!


Need I say that Josh was delighted and eagerly ran onto the deck to show her the squirrel status. This was important to Josh and he obviously thought that his cousin might need an update. Her old eyes gazed down into the garden but quickly focused her attention on discovering her new environment. There were definitely more important things on her agenda. She spied out the soft couches and rugs and tested the fabric on the cushions. She eventually settled on a Ralph Lauren in natural linen. I might add, that she does prefer a cushion filled with down and not those plebian synthetic ones that frequent so many of our shops. My goodness, this 13 year old lady has taste!


Supper was gobbled down without a moment to stop and savour and washed down with a long cool sip from Josh’s water bowl. It was time for a spot of exercise and we ventured out into the cool evening air.  Josh’s furious pace around the block was a bit too much for Sandy but once she was saddled up in her harness, she coped much better. She sniffed out the local Jocks and left ‘her messages’ on just about every pole and patch of green grass. We were determined to tire her out. As we hoped this would alleviate the pacing up and down and howling at the front door. This old lady came with a bit of ‘history’.


She settled on her exclusive choice on the couch and Josh kept looking over with a curious stare. He could not work out why he had not been allowed this freedom of choice. But as with us humans, you have to ‘walk the walk’ to qualify. When you have done your time and served others well, you are allowed certain privileges. So Sandy has the run of the house and does much as she pleases. Although she does not curl up with Josh, she is experiencing some Summer Loving amongst her Morkel family.


Josh ponders inequality……….


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Fall is upon us and the cold winds have begun to whistle across the deck. The back garden is a carpet of bronze and yellow with maple leaves and the gnarled boughs that stand out against the icy blue sky. We know that it is time to brace ourselves, these sunshine children from Africa, for the Big Freeze.


Josh braces himself for the Big Freeze.

A large group of migratory birds have been circling overhead for the last few days and regularly gather in our trees at the bottom of the garden and make a huge din as they squawk at each other. I presume this is to discuss the best route for the trip down south and have finally gathered up all their clan and the strength and set off on their long journey this weekend.


We rely on local knowledge to do all the necessary things around the house like draining the irrigation pipes, covering up outdoor furniture and carrying garden pots into the garage. We have acquired snow shovels, snow boots, thick coats and snow tyres for the car and have brought in books, puzzles and movies for those long, cold nights. The preparations are done and now we look forward to enjoying the last of the colours of Fall. There seems to be a definite time for everything here and nature gives us the clues. So if I cannot venture south then I need to just gather up my nuts and bed down!




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The first signs of autumn are beginning to show as a squirrel darts about in his pursuit of the plumpest acorn. He is one of the residents that frequent the woodland at the bottom of the garden along with the skunk and family of raccoons. As the squirrel scuttles about preparing for the eminent cold he often taunts Josh with a sideways glance which drives him wild but he confidently carries on with his business mindful of the canine warrior above him on the deck.The odd leaf flutters down from the forest of elms and maples which display their first hint of bronze. It is certainly a reminder from nature that we are about to experience our first Fall.

There have been so many firsts for us, as with any big change into another culture, some have been easy to adapt to and others quite frightening. Driving on the wrong side of the road has been one of my daunting experiences and now that I have reprogrammed the brain I have to pass the drivers license!Thirty years of driving has ensconced a few bad habits which have to be eradicated before I can pass yet again. When that day comes I am going to enjoy my independence as I have had to resort to flying down the road on my bicycle for the proverbial pint of milk and loaf of bread.

The nights are getting colder and we lit our first fire last night and even though it is a pseudo one with play- play logs and a gas flame, it was a heartening experience. It will certainly give off a warm glow when the big freeze hits us. Another bit of warmth was created outside on the patio over the weekend as we had our first braai in our new home. We stocked up with some boerewors from the local South African butcher and a bottle or two of Roodeberg and were joined by our new Canadian friends. We do not want to fall into the trap of being ‘when we s’ but man does a braai en ‘n glasie rooiwyn taste good!

So while the weather still holds we will be lighting up that fire and savouring the flavours and remembering our South African friends and family and trying to keep a smile on our faces as we endure the life of a newbie in Oakville, Canada.

The newcommers to the block



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