Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Oh piggies - 13 years old today!

The piglets who were in a large part the inspiration for starting this blog are THIRTEEN today!  THIRTEEN! How can that be? 

Oh piggies....I watched you being born and fostered you and your parents for the first two years of your life.  It's hard to believe you are thirteen now, and both your parents (Scotch and Soda) have passed on. 
Clockwise: Babies on their birthday;  Whisper with his blankie that he tore from a larger one and placed over his own back;  Blue-eyed baby;  Fizzy posing for the camera at about 3 months. 

Who knew that when the SPCA seized your parents from a life of neglect and abuse and asked Hearts on Noses Sanctuary to take them in (who in turn asked me to foster the TWO pigs), that there were all those babies waiting in the wings - or the belly - to be born just two or three weeks later.  What a ride that was!  You brought me so much laughter in so many ways.

Belle, one of my shelties at that time, watching over the piglets. 

Toddy and his magical tail having fun in a pool.

Fostering you was one of the best times of my life.  I've visited you whenever I could, and I hope to visit you again once Covid is less of a threat where you live. 

Treats for my babies, during a visit to Hearts on Noses a few years ago.

RobRoy hoping the door to the feedroom will open

Happy thirteenth birthday, Whisper, RobRoy, Tom, Lizzie, Derby, Toddy, Swizzle, Fizzy, Rickey, and Spritzer.  May you have many more happy and safe years ahead.

Feasting on watermelon during a visit to the sanctuary.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Maggie, Before and After

Ms Maggie usually goes to the groomer once a month - her multiple allergies in the environment (as well as food, though that is easier to control) cause her skin to break out in hives and sores.  Keeping it impeccably clean and bathing her with a special shampoo helps keep it under control - not to mention getting rid of some of her thick undercoat and helping her feel better.

But due to Covid, and complicated by her groomer's own non-Covid-related health issues, she hadn't been in three months.  Regular brushing at home helped, but she was looking pretty darn scruffy the past couple of months. 

Maggie, Before
"What?  I'z not dirty, mom, I'z just wet 'n sandy!"

Today, she finally got her spa day - bath, pedicure, trim, blow dry, brush, the whole nine yards.  Both of us feel a lot better now.  But what really made me smile?  Her reaction when she saw her groomer! 

As you know, Mags is a VERY timid dog.  She doesn't let others near her.  She has let a very small handful of people ever touch her - perhaps four or five - and those were very good and familiar friends of mine with food  - like my hiking buddies when we stop for lunch. But usually her anxiety around people is so high that she won't even look at food , let alone allow them to approach.  She doesn't initiate contact (except on those hiking lunches), and I'm the only one she lets cuddle her.

But today?  Her groomer was sitting on the floor and my timid don't-come-near-me sheltie walked straight over to her and practically climbed in her lap for pats and cuddles.  No treats involved.  A stranger in the room with us (a new helper Maggie hadn't met).  But my shy girl just barrels in and demands some loving!  What a milestone for Maggie - and what a thrill for me to see that she likes her groomer That Much! 

Maggie was all tired out once she got home, so didn't want to stand for a photo shoot, but did agree to pose near the geraniums as long as she could lie down. 

Maggie, After
"I'm too tired to smile."

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Sauntering in the Sanctuary

Most Fridays, my friend Pat and I go sauntering with our dogs.  Shorter and less demanding than my Monday hikes with another friend, and slower than my daily walks in my neighbourhood, we decided 'saunter' was the most appropriate term for what we do.  And most times, we meet at Morrell Nature Sanctuary, midway between our homes and a 45 minute drive for each of us.

It is by far our favourite place to saunter, and for the most part is kind to old knees and easily tired dogs - both the four legged furry dogs and the 'dogs' at the end of our human legs! Dirt trails of varying lengths and loops, gentle gradients, lots of benches, shady trees -  we never tire of this place.
Every time we go there, we see something new - a migrating bird, a baby duckling, an interesting flower, a wee croaking frog, a colourful leaf, a fascinating mushroom.  This past Friday was no exception.

Quit writing and show 'em the photos, Mom! 

As we started up the trail, we heard a racket in the trees - robins fluttering and squawking and fussing about.  It didn't take me long to figure out why - a lovely barred owl, likely looking for a baby bird snack - was sitting in a free a few metres from the trail.  Unfortunately, just as I was focusing the camera and waiting for him to rotate his head towards us, a volunteer came up behind us and spoke to us, which set Certain Dogs barking loudly and wildly (looking at you, Maggie and Parker), scaring the owl away.  However, this wasn't my first barred owl - this spring and summer have been exceptional, and I have seen at least four in the past couple of months.  So the first photo here is the one the dogs interrupted, and I've added a second photo of a barred owl, taken on one of  my hikes a couple of weeks ago.  Barred owls, unlike many others of their species, often seem to hunt in the daytime. 

We continued up the wide path towards the lake, where Maggie was disappointed to find no ducks this time - usually there are several, and the last few visits we have seen ducklings as well.  To help her overcome her disappointment, Auntie Pat pulled out the treats - and look what good dogs we have! 

I had to laugh at this second shot though - the look of astonishment on Parker's face when his mama dared to feed Maggie first is priceless! 

Continuing on, we took the Beaver Pond loop trail (we've never seen a beaver in the beaver pond, but maybe one day!), and then connected to Bob's Trail.  There I spotted something I'd not seen before - a gnome plant (hemitomes congestum, for those of you who prefer the scientific name)!   Gnome plants are listed in my Plants of Coastal British Columbia reference book (by Pojar and MacKinnon) as belonging to the "Oddball" category of plants 😁.  They are a waxy saprophytic herb having little or no chlorophyll, and live on dead and decaying vegetation rather than making their own food through photosynthesis. They are anomalies in the wintergreen family.

Throughout the park, we saw large clumps of another  plant from the 'oddball' group, monotropa uniflora.  When I was growing up, I knew it as 'Indian pipe', but it seems to be more commonly known now as Ghost Pipe, Ghost Plant, or Corpse Plant, at least here on the island. While I usually see one or two clumps every year, this year they are all over the place, their white or pinkish waxy shoots emerging from the dirt to become pipe-like shapes which sometimes turn pale blue, mauve or purple (I've seen some of each this year) before turning black with age. Monotropa uniflora  also lacks chlorophyll and therefore cannot make its own food.  Instead its roots are connected via fungi to the roots of conifers from which it obtains its nutritional needs.  

Volunteers  at the sanctuary have been busy building a few new benches along the trails, and Maggie decided to practice her 'two paws up' from this week's dog class (her current course includes some parkour work - moving through urban environments using benches, trees, statues, retaining walls etc. to practice skills of stretching, balancing, and negotiating scary obstacles).  Good thing the bench wasn't very high because wee little Parker decided  to copy his sheltie buddy!

Two paws up!

When we rejoined one of the wider paths at the foot of Bob's Trail, I noticed what looked like a light brown hardboiled egg in the grass, a bit of egg white splattered on the side.  Not an egg at all, but an amanita mushroom.  This one is, I think, amanita pantherina, commonly known as Panther Amanita.  It is not generally seen until fall according to my reference book, but with a cooler spring and summer and an amazing variety of mushrooms around, perhaps it has made its appearance early. Another first for me!

After returning to our starting point, we headed over to the Yew Loop and choose a lovely pair of benches to have our physically-distanced lunch - shared, of course, with the dogs.

And then it was time to head back to the cars and say goodbye until next week.  

Pull harder, guys! Yer mama's gettin' tired.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

My Canada, Our Canada, Oh Canada!

In keeping with tradition, here is my 10th annual Canada Day post - a tribute to my beloved country using some of my photos from the past twelve months. 
As I did not travel off island this year, all photos were taken here on the east coast of Vancouver Island. In no way do they represent all of Canada, just as I do not represent all Canadians, but I hope the emotions these photos and words evoke may mirror how many Canadians feel when looking at their own regions of our beautiful country. 
I also respectfully recognize and extend my hands in greeting to the peoples of the Coast Salish Nations, on whose traditional territory I live, hike, and photograph nature. 

My Canada, Our Canada, Oh Canada! 

Oh Canada,
Today we celebrate our love for you,
Though today's celebration across our thirteen provinces and territories will be like none before.

It is the year of Covid, when large gatherings are unwise, and for some even small gatherings unsafe. But we are Canadians,

and when our lives become unsettled

May we remember that you, Oh Canada, in all your beauty, can give us strength.

We find in your landscape moments of tranquility,

 and images of  caring and sharing.

Oh Canada, we look to nature to remind us of the circle of life:

That after darkness comes daylight,

That after rain comes sunshine,

That after fall and winter come spring and summer.

May you, Canada, always provide us with reminders that each of your citizens still needs time to rest,

 to act wisely,

to reflect deeply.

In your beautiful waters, Oh Canada, you evoke awe.

In the birds and animals of land and sea, you give us wonder.

In the grassy meadows and towering mountains, we find peace.

In the flowers that burst forth in spring, you give us hope

You provide for us with generosity

You demonstrate to us diversity

You show us beauty in commonplace items

and give us room to breathe with wide open spaces.

Oh Canada, in this year of Covid,  may we Canadians face our shared challenges together,
May we sing joyfully, rise above obstacles, look up to those we admire, and smile often.

And even if we stand alone,

Perhaps fragile and timid as we flit about our day

Or confident and stern, stomping firmly to claim our space, 

We need to know that turning our back on any part of you, Canada,

Will only bring us face to face with more of your beauty.

And that even things which seem black and white can be very complicated and complex.

May we honor you, Canada,
By being the best we can be.
Even in these difficult times,
Especially in these difficult times.

May those of us who live here always treat each other with kindness, respect, and compassion,

Caring for each other through pandemics and protests.

As the sun sets on this Celebration of you, Oh Canada,
May every Canadian be able to say
"I have done my best to protect you, Canada,
to protect and nurture your land,

to protect and nurture your rivers and lakes and oceans,

To protect and nurture your plants and animals,

And to protect and nurture your peoples - all your peoples - with equal respect, compassion, and justice. 

May we always, no matter what the circumstance, remember the words of BC's top doctor, Dr Bonnie Henry:

"Now is the time to be kind, to be calm, and to be safe".

And now is also the time to peacefully, respectfully, lovingly, and joyfully celebrate Canada.

Happy Canada Day!