Wednesday, July 28, 2010

And...the hat trick

Or is it a triple play? I think this is the first time I've written three blog entries on the same day, but I couldn't miss the opportunity to wish Scotch and Soda's ten little piggies, those adorable characters whom I fostered for nearly two years, a VERY HAPPY THIRD BIRTHDAY!

From the wee little monkeys who emerged at midnight in numbers far greater than anyone would have predicted:

To the sweet, adorable, social young piggies who still run to greet me when I show up at the sanctuary:

You never cease to amaze me, to make me laugh, to bring a huge smile to my face.

Happy birthday, Whisper, Toddy, Derby, Rickey, Swizzle, Spritzer, Rob Roy, Lizzie, Fizzy, and Tom. You are the bestest little pigs in the whole wide world!

[For those who weren't blog readers during the time I was fostering the piggies, you will find summaries of their stories and some of my favorite photos of them here and here and here. Or just click on the label "pigs" at the end of this entry for lots and lots of stories and photos of my time with them.]

Tunie gets her wings

Some time ago I wrote about the first pig to ever win my heart, a potbellied pig named Petunia, who came to live at the first sanctuary I volunteered at. You can read about my experience with Tunie here.

While catching up on my internet reading today, I learned that Tunie was euthanized yesterday after becoming seriously ill and weakened by a suspected cancer. My heartfelt condolences go out to all who have truly loved Tunie. The barn at the sanctuary will not be the same without her.

Tunie, thank you for teaching me the pleasures of sitting in solitude in a barn on a hot summer’s day. Thank you for showing me that piggies can laugh and that they have a great sense of humour. Thank you for taking delight in my offerings of spinach salad with strawberries. Thank you for the many times we sat side by side in the shavings on the barn floor, me singing, you crooning, as the sun streamed in through the open window. Thank you for accepting me as your caregiver – I wish our time together had been much longer.

Thank you for teaching me about piggies, which ultimately led to my fostering twelve more – one of the highlights of my life. Thank you for being a Pig with Personality. You were my first pig, and I loved you very much.

Fly free, Tunie. And every now and then, check on my twelve at Hearts on Noses, and maybe stop by to see me, too. I’ll be listening for your quiet ha-ha-ha laughter. And perhaps I’ll feel a soft little breeze as you prove that pigs really can fly. Luv ya, loony-tunes. Now you are truly free.

Don't Leave Home Without It!

I shall never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever go on the ferry without my camera again. Never. Ever.

Yesterday, I went to the mainland. Rather than my usual two or three day stay, I was just going over for the day to visit mom, who has been moved to the rehabilitation ward of the hospital, and to meet with the occupational therapist about her assessment for returning to independent/assisted living. I packed my book to read during the many hours I would be in the ferry lineup or on the ferry, a healthy lunch of fruits and veggies and a tasty ancient grains salad, a very large bottle of water to keep me hydrated in this hot weather, and my Visa to pay for the ferry and the outrageous parking fees at the hospital.

I did NOT pack my camera. Correction - I packed the camera and then decided not to take it. It was, after all, a trip I'd made a thousand times. And I was only going over there for the day so would not be wandering parks or beaches or visiting the piggies. And in such hot weather, I didn't want to leave the camera in the car nor pack it around with me. And so I left it at home.

As I put it back in my office, I argued with myself. "You never know, Jean, you might regret leaving it behind. What if you see dolphins or whales, like the ferry passengers did a couple of months ago?" "Nah....not likely to happen. I've sailed that route a thousand times and never seen so much as a seal. Besides, aren't whales most likely to be seen in spring and fall?

On the return trip early yesterday evening, just ten or fifteen minutes out of Tsawwassen, the captain made an annoucement:
For those who might be interested, there is a pod of killer whales heading towards us, just off the starboard side. They're currently about a kilometre ahead.

And there I was, camera-less, as at least a dozen or more beautiful killer whales leaped and rolled and breached and made water spouts and raised their flukes through the ocean waters on a clear summer day. And there I was, still, as two adults with a baby between them gracefully rolled through the waves right in front of me. And there I was without my camera.

I shall never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever go on the ferry without my camera again. Never. Ever.
My deepest apologies for this photo-less blog entry.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Early Bird Catches the.........


Now that I have shamefully desecrated our back lane (sorry, Liz!!!!!) by having the triffids destroyed, I have a little gap between the bottom of my fence and the ground. This morning I watched in amusement as the little (shhhhhh.....invasive species) house sparrow who lives in my birdhouse stealthily hopped along the fence line, seemingly stalking something.

Thinking the dirt, so recently stirred up by the Triffid Tamer, may be offering a breakfast buffet of worms and bugs, I crept closer to see what had so captured the sparrow's attention.

He was stalking THIS:

WHOA, little birdy, that may feed your whole family of newly hatched babies for a year, but I really don't think you want to wrestle with it. Your babies might end up orphaned!

After following the snake for a good 20 feet or more, the bird took a little nip at its tail (which, of course, my camera did not capture), and the snake slithered away at top speed.

Birdy, you have great courage to take on such a formidable foe. I shall call you David. Hopefully, Goliath has learned his lesson and will not be back.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Trashing of the Triffids

Subtitle: My Tax Dollars At Work

When I was a child, back lanes were used for accessing the carport or garage, for enabling kids to visit other kids without running on the road, and as a way for the trash collector to access garbage cans without residents having to drag cans to the curb.

There are back lanes in my little village. There is one right behind my house. It is used only rarely, mostly in summer when a few residents drag their tent trailers and motorhomes out of the back yard as they head off on vacation. It is not used by trash collectors, and most of the properties don't even have a gate in their back fence to enable them to access the lane.

It has, in fact, become overrun with....Triffids! Okay, most people would call them blackberries, but when I complained to Janice of Hearts on Noses that blackberry brambles were invading my property over and under the fence, snaking their way around and into my shed, entrapping my tools, and generally holding me captive, and that I fully expect someone to find me pinned down to the ground by blackberry vines in my backyard one day, she emailed back one horrifying word:


According to Wikipedia, "The triffid is a highly venomous fictional plant species, the titular antagonist from John Wyndham's 1951 novel The Day of the Triffids and Simon Clark's 2001 sequel The Night of the Triffids. Triffids were also featured in the 1957 BBC radio dramatization of Wyndham's book, a considerably altered film adaptation which was produced in 1962, a more faithful 1981 television serial produced by the BBC, and in a 2009 two-part TV series also produced by the BBC. Since 1951, when The Day of the Triffids was first published, the word "triffid" has become a popular British English term used to describe large or menacing looking plants."

Large and menacing indeed. They were showing up all over my yard. They were impossible to cut down, and any attempts to do so resulted in gigantic thorny jaws grabbing hold of my tender skin and chomping huge chunks out of it. Shaking off the tentacles was useless - I'd vigorously whip my arm to get it off, and it would hurtle itself at my leg. Shake the leg and it would creep up the back and grab my shirt with its relentless, grasping fingers. Aaarrghhhh!

And so I did what any sensible taxpayer would do. I phoned the municipality and asked them to clean up the lane. And the municipality did what any municipal worker trying to placate the taxpayers would do: they sent out a worker to trim back all of three inches from the bottom part of the bushes - just enough so it was no longer intruding on the ruts in the lane. Wonderful. We're looking at 10 feet of triffids, blackberries .....snaking over my seven foot fence, and they send out a kindergarten kid with some safety scissors.

I waited a couple of weeks, hoping the municipality would return, to finish the job, but nothing happened. So I called out the big guns. A neighbour. A male neighbour. Who was equally fed up with the condition of the lane, as he is one of the few people who tries to use it to access a garage. So he phoned them. And the very next day, the municipality sent out


Just after 7 AM I hear a roar behind the house. ROAR. ROAR. ROAR. and then I see this :

and this

and this

and this!

The fence shook and the dust flew and the little birds nesting in the birdhouse flapped around in alarm.

And before I can say "Death to all Triffids!", the triffids - er blackberry vines - are gone. The Triffid Tamer ate them all up and spit them into a big dump truck which hauled them away. Then it scraped the ground some more, and the workers told the neighbour they'd be back with gravel to fill in the ruts, and off they went. Never to be seen again.

I feel a bit sad, as I love blackberries. And they were just beginning to ripen. And they were big and plump and beautiful.

But there are tons of blackberries growing elsewhere in our area, in places where they won't be continually knocking at my door and grabbing my arms and legs and causing me grief. My tax dollars were well spent.

But as a footnote: the day they sent the Triffid Tamer, my other neighbour received a letter in the mail from the municipality ordering him to remove his seventeen birdhouses, or modify them so the entrance hole is smaller. Apparently he is encouraging Eurasian sparrows (commonly called house sparrows) which are an invasive species. According to some environmental bylaw, the public is required to destroy any nests or eggs we find to stop these "nuisance birds" from multiplying.

Does the municipality worry about the guy across the lane who is building a huge addition without a permit? Nooooo. Do they do anything about the people lighting campfires at the RV park despite a campfire ban? Nooooooo. Do they nail the person down the street who turns on the garden sprinkler every single night and lets it run and run and run, in violation of water restrictions? Nooooo. Do they even do anything about the idiots who don't clean up their dog poop? Uh uh. They nail a guy who looks after a few birds.

I didn't receive a letter about my one bird house. You know the one - under the roof of my shed. The one where I shot this photo a month or so ago:

The one where just this afternoon, another hatch of baby house sparrows was born.

Please don't report me to the municipality. They might bring back the triffids.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Oceanside Perspectives

Down by the shore this evening, I pondered the many uses of beaches. There are those who see them as a great place for tanning, others who like to swim or play in the surf. Some see them as a party venue, while others as a place to grab some time alone and blow away the cobwebs of the mind.

I fall more into the latter group - I like lonely stretches of sand, free from artificial sounds of canned music or noisy motors. I like to listen to the rhythm of the waves and the call of the gulls, and to watch the sunlight play on water and the little crabs play on sand.

Tonight, the contrast between my oceanside pleasures and someone else's was brought home very directly. As I wandered down the berm to the wharf, I passed three young men with a toddler in a stroller. The men were competing to see who could come closest to hitting a floating log with a rock. As I passed them, a seagull swooped by just a yard or two from us - with a lovely purple starfish in its beak! Immediately, I smiled with delight as I grabbed for my camera - what a gift to see such a symbol of biodiversity so close.

But did the young men even notice? No, not for a moment. The bird dropped to the ground just feet away, tossing the starfish to afford a better grip, swooped around us again as it tried to decide whether to eat its catch on the shore or take it further away from the two-leggeds so nearby.

I wanted to grab the toddler, who looked about two, and show him the bird and the starfish and talk to him about nature.....what a missed opportunity for the little child, though perhaps he learned other lessons from watching grown men having fun together.

When I was on the mainland last week, I found myself people-watching too. Wanting to escape hospital smells and traffic noise and construction dust, I took a walk at Blackie's Spit in Crescent Beach. It was a lovely evening, and there were just a handful of people enjoying the shoreline - each in different ways.

A woman reads:

A couple necks (and their friend, on the bench below them, is smoking whatever it is young people smoke from glass bowls with long pipe-like necks, though that is not visible in the photo):

A young woman text messages while her friend enjoys the view:

And some kayakers glide across the water:

To each his or her own - but for me the ocean shore will always be a place I go to unwind, to breathe deeply of the salty air, to watch nature, and to enjoy the sunrises and sunsets.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Happy Birthday, Charley

From a little puppy playing in the leaves :

To a wise old girl watching sunsets on the beach:

You bring joy to my life every day. Happy 13th birthday, Charley-girl.

Enjoy your outing to the park and your cottage-cheese and dog treat cake. (But please don't get the runs from the cake, because I'm off to the mainland again tomorrow morning, and poor Auntie Else will have to clean it up!)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunset walk and bird ballet

With early morning temperatures that are already too warm for black long-haired dogs, our daily walks now wait until the sun is putting itself to bed. After the extreme heat of the afternoon, the cooler night air brings out not only humans and canines, but the birds as well.

(These aren't the greatest photos - I seem to be having trouble with the settings on my camera, which continually tell me I have to use a tripod even when I am just taking ordinary photos in ordinary light. It never used to do that, so I'm not sure what settings I have changed to bring this about. You can see the photos better by clicking on them to enlarge, then using the back browser to return to the blog.)

Our stroll along the seawalk as the tide is on the turn provides some interesting shots - from humans and their dogs who appear to be walking a briny balance beam...

Walking on water seagulls who pull crabs and herring and seaweed from the shallow waters...

Bird and Boat a trio of herons doing aerial acrobatics in the cool night air:

Heron acrobatics

I watch the sun go down and manage to capture the heron in flight. In the second shot, the cargo ship behind him is being loaded at the mill, which is actually quite a distance away - I was surprised how close it appeared.

Heron silhouette

Heron and Cargo ship

I try to get Charley and Sadie to pose on the beach, but Sadie is much more interested in nosing around in the shells in the hopes of finding a tasty morsel of oyster or crab or prawn.

Nom nom nom

We watch the sun turn the sky to crimson, and slowly make our way back home as night falls.

Golden Sunset

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

Three days of heat, and I'm ready for summer to end. The dogs and I do not "do" heat well. Even on our walk this evening, with the temperature considerably more comfortable than last evening, the air felt like a smothering polar fleece blanket engulfing us. Both Charley and Sadie decided to take it out on a similar-breed dog who dared to walk the seawalk with his tourist owner in "OUR" town. I was quite embarrassed by my two hooligans. They did, however, act more courteously to the other dozen dogs and their humans who also shared the beach tonight.

The heat, tides, powerboats, and barges seem to have stirred up the water in the bay and the usually-clear surface is covered with slimy green stuff, logs and an interesting but ugly array of flotsam and jetsam. An old boat seat, a lone flip-flop, a few fish skeletons and a lot of muck litters the beach. The setting sun was hidden from view by clouds, and there is a noticeable absence of seabirds, scared off perhaps by the dozens of campers and their dogs and kids who crowd the RV park. I saw nothing to inspire me to take photos.

And on my trip to the mainland this week I didn't even take the camera out of the bag. My brain is sizzled - by heat, by hospitals, by travel. I hate being away from home (makes me rethink the post about how I'd like to go camping again!) - I miss my own bed, my own shower, my own food, my own chair, and of course my critters. The trip home yesterday took FOREVER due to ferry lineups, traffic, accidents, construction, fires..............I think I should just hibernate until fall.

Mom continues to hold her own though the situation is still precarious and the full implications may not be known for a while. My sibs and I are meeting with her doctor next week for a consult. Meanwhile, we take each day as it comes.

An' I'z just gonna stay heah rite in front a dis fan!!!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sunset Cruise

Sunset Cowboy

“Enjoy the sunset cruise!” said the attendant as I slipped away from the kiosk at the ferry terminal and headed for Lane 29.

“Sure,” I muttered under my breath, knowing full well I would stay in my van either reading, if sufficient light allowed me to do so, or catching a much needed nap on the reclining back seat.

The novelty of ferry travel has long worn off for me, beginning fifteen years ago when I made frequent trips to Victoria to visit my daughter who attended UVic. And, frankly, I’m much more comfortable in my vehicle - slippery vinyl ferry seats built to accommodate taller, larger frames are not compatible with back problems.

I was one of the first in line, having arrived nearly two hours early for the ferry. I anticipated being on the upper car deck, right at the front of the boat – a position I had enjoyed, with the advantage of both ocean view and good natural light, many a time before.

Instead, the few vehicles traveling the Tswassen-Duke Point route were directed to the lower deck, where my van was sandwiched between a windowless interior wall and a very large motorhome, midboat, giving me no view of ocean and no natural light. Additionally, I appeared to be right next to the innermost workings of the ferry engine, with huge fans and rumbling engines droning constantly and annoyingly like a swarm of giant killer bees.

Too noisy for sleep, too dark for reading, too stuffy (with windows closed to minimize noise and engine smells) for comfort; I finally grabbed my coat and my camera and headed for a stroll on the outside passenger decks.

And I was just in time to watch the sunset.

Child catching sunbeams

Sunset begins

Day is Done