Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lazy Day

My good friends, Ann and Ken, were planning to come to the island for a visit starting today, but phoned this morning to say they had developed bad colds and thought it wisest to postpone the visit. So....I had a clean house, a well-stocked fridge, laundry all done, and nothing written into the next four calendar days.

It was a beautifully sunny morning, so I did give some thought to taking off in the van to explore a couple of places I haven't been yet, but between the price of gas and Charley's health, I decided just to hang around home. Sort of.

I took each of the dogs for a short morning walk. And a short afternoon walk. And a short evening walk. And, as has been our custom lately, we may even go for a short late night walk. (There is something incredibly relaxing about walking around our small village after the sidewalks have been rolled up and the villagers are all fast asleep. Not a single car, not a sound to be heard except the barking of the sea lions out on the reef. Love it!)

In the back lane a block over, we kept encountering this cat, sentry of the back lane, watching us watching him. And just like the Guards at Buckingham Palace, he never moved a muscle or blinked an eye as we walked past.

Back lane sentry duty

Fruit is still plentiful in the backlanes of Crofton,with apples and plums, grapes and blackberries cascading over fences. One surprise was this cherry tree still loaded with fruit at the end of September!

And I was taken by surprise to see this very colourful shed peering over the brick wall - I swear it was brown last time I passed by. The owners of the house are summerfolks, only using the house for their summer vacations and the occasional long weekend, and I know they left just before Labour Day. When did they paint the shed? Surely I could not have missed anything THIS bright?

In between walks, I didn't do much of anything though somehow I seemed to be busy all day. I did play with the camera at dusk, trying to get interesting pictures on the macro setting with the flash and some background-softening settings.

Everbearing Strawberry continues to bloom

I took about a dozen photos of  one beautiful blossom. I found shadows were a bit problematic as the flash sometimes didn't light up the whole blossom:

I had better luck when I photographed the last blossom from below, but then didn't capture the full shape and beautiful colours of the centre:

When I widened the angle, to include other flowers, I had a bit more luck:

But my favourite photo of the day was this one:

La Belle Rose

It is Belle's rose. And I thought the bugs and mold this year had killed it. You can see the dead stems and leaves in the background. Yet sometime in the last couple of days, one solitary, perfect flower was born. Hi Belle, how're ya doing? Thanks for letting me know you're only a rosebud away!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Rainbow Day

We awoke to bright sunshine and the promise of a great day. There were low clouds on the horizon, and a few hovering over the hills, but nothing to alert us to the strange weather to come. Sadie and I trotted out for our first walk of the day - and half way through, the fine drops of rain began to fall from a seemingly blue sky. As I glanced to the west, I saw two beautiful rainbows appear, forming a double arc which seemed to dip its toes in Crofton Lake at one end and Chemainus Lake at the other.

Of course, my camera batteries were dead and I'd not brought the spare.

By the time we returned home, and I started out again with Charley - and fresh batteries for the camera - the rainbow had begun to fade:

No matter. For the rest of the day, the Cowichan Valley was treated to bright sunshine, refreshing rain, and brilliant rainbows everywhere. I saw rainbows over Quamichan Lake as I drove into Duncan to run some errands, rainbows over Somenos Marsh as I filled up my car with gas, rainbows over Mt. Prevost as I negotiated the winding country roads heading home.

And rainbows on the evening walks with the dogs:

Brilliant, long lasting, sometimes doubles and sometimes singles, sometimes full arcs stretching from the north end of Salt Spring Island to the hidden coves of Maple and Genoa Bays, sometimes short bursts of colour shooting down from the heavens.

On my last walk of the day, with Sadie by my side, I wandered the beach and watched with awe as rainbows faded and stormy skies turned orange with sunset and the Sea Walk turned silver from the moon.

Shortly after we returned home, Charley had another neurological episode, bumping into walls, losing control of her bowels, disoriented. It lasted only briefly, but each episode leaves her a bit more frail than the one before. I was up with her several times in the night, yet this morning she still managed a short morning walk, a light breakfast of homemade chicken broth and rice (she is having digestive problems once again), and a rousing duet with Sadie at the school kids who dared trespass on her road. And now she is sleeping.

I can't help but wonder -- were those rainbows for her? Were they showing her the Bridge?

Or were they just to remind me that it is a beautiful world, especially when shared with cherished old dogs?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Allie's present


Many moons ago, I lived in half-acre suburbia surrounded by agricultural land reserve,  in a large house on a shallow crawl space. Every fall, the mice from the surrounding fields would seek warm winter quarters in the crawl space, occasionally migrating into the living area of the house. As long as we had a cat, mice were not a problem. When our old mouse-catching cat, Goose,  died, it was only a matter of weeks before the mice tried to take over and  we were back at the SPCA to adopt another cat - enter Allie, stage right.

Allie quickly caught on to herding errant mice, batting them about, and meowing loudly for us to come lend a hand. Even Charley got in the act, with a signature bellyflop on top of the panicky creature, squishing poor mousey and holding it in place until I could retrieve it to quickly end its misery.  On the occasions that Allie played her cat-and-mouse game while I was not home, and either she or the dogs killed the mouse, I would come home to a cat meowing loudly beside a dead rodent, proud to show me her catch.

Cats showing off their catches to their owners is nothing new - I have had cats leave dead mice on my bed, bring me injured but still alive baby bunnies, and insist that I come watch them stalk out baby birds in the bushes. But Allie takes the art of stalking, killing and presenting one step further.

Allie is an indoor only cat. She has never minded this, and it keeps her safer and healthier (and keeps those little wild critters safer, too). But she obviously misses the thrill of the chase, as we don't have mice in this house built on a slab on a village lot. 

So, a cat has to do what a cat has to do. I was sitting in the living room quietly reading a book and listening to music when I heard great leaps and thumps and meows coming from the mud room. I glanced down the hallway to see Allie flying around from the top of the wardrobe to the top of the freezer, down to the window sill and back up to the cubbyhole unit. I went back to my book, only to hear, five minutes later, her very insistent MEOW COME HERE I HAZ SUMTHIN TO SHOW YOU!

And there she was, sitting tall and proud beside her catch, her gift to me (of course she scooted off when I ran for the camera, so part of this image has to be left to your imagination):

Allie's gift

She caught me a cranefly. What a clever girl! 

Friday, September 23, 2011

A bit of this, a bit of that

Small boats dot Osborne Bay

Like everything else in nature these past few months, it appears that jellyfish season is about a month or more behind times. I first wrote about the wondrously red jellyfish smacks that appear on our beaches in mid-August 2009 (you'll find that post here). Yesterday, I saw the first of this season's red jellyfish on the beach, well behind schedule unless I missed it in the few days I didn't make it to the beach. Last year's season continued into early October, so perhaps we still have several weeks of red translucent puddles on the beach. The days are grey again, so this photo doesn't show the lustrous red and copper colours that reflect from the jelly when the sun is bright:

Large red jellyfish land on shore

There's a serenity at the beach year round, but it is more noticeable in September when the families of young campers have left the RV park to the vacationing and residential retirement community. A few small boats dot the bay, and a couple with their dog go for a row on the placid evening tide.

A woman, a man and a dog heading out

A pleasant evening row in the bay

I was disapppointed to see that someone had sprayed graffiti on the Sea Walk - the first time I have seen this in the more than two years I've lived here. I hope it wasn't Crofton youth - they are generally a really good bunch of kids - and I hope the offender has now gone back to wherever he/she came from.

Graffiti on Crofton Sea Walk

The crows are very active right now, stuffing their beaks with hazelnuts and fruit. This photo was taken through my (*needs cleaning*) front window, but I loved the silhouette of crow with nut on a wire.

Crow with nut

Another of the crow on the road, still trying to crack open his not-quite-ripe hazelnut:

Crow with nut (2)

And this was taken from my (*needs cleaning*) back window, where the crows were raiding the neighbour's pear tree:

And a partridge crow in a pear tree

And one last crow one, in this tree of autumn colours:

Crow in autumn foliage

My dogs are looking particularly fuzzy these days from lots and lots of brushing and combing as I try to keep one step ahead of the fleas. I caught fuzzy-faced Sadie snoozing by the light of the lamp the other evening:

Fuzzy, sleepy Sadie

Not to be left out, here's Charley in her soft e-collar which she wears to keep her from chewing an itchy spot on her leg.
Charley, four-footed fashion model

She doesn't mind the collar at all; in fact, she rather likes her new built-in pillow!

Monday, September 19, 2011

In my next life....

In my next life, I'm going to adopt goldfish.  Not dogs.  Not old dogs.  Not furry old dogs.  Especially not double-coated, long haired, furry old dogs. 

They are both blowing their coats.  Even though they receive professional grooming every other week, I am still able to remove a grocery bag full of fur from them every day when it is coat-blowing time. 

To make matters worse, the recent spate of hot weather brought on a flea epidemic outdoors.  And fleas love dense-double-coated, long haired, furry old dogs.  So even though I have not had to use flea prevention for many years (a dog with a healthy immune system generally doesn't need it),  this month I have had to dose all the animals with a pharmaceutical preventative,  dust my house and yard with diatomaceous earth, spritz the dogs' fur with citrus, wash the bedding (theirs and mine, since Sadie and Allie sleep on my bed) daily, vacuum twice a day, and I'm beginning to think....GOLDFISH! 

I'm also wondering why the heck I have eight dog beds for two dogs.  That's a lot of laundry. Unfortunately they like all their beds and give me the big stink-eye if I dare to even think about removing any.

Just to make things even more exciting, both the dogs are sensitive to flea bites and won't stop nibbling and scratching even though there's no evidence of fleas on the spots they are nibbling and scratching.  But then they create hotspots.   So Charley is wearing a soft E-collar, and Sadie (who has quite the allergy to fleas, and a very strong chewing action) has managed to develop an abscess on her spine which is now bandaged up and her belly wrapped with purple vetwrap.  Quite the fashion statements, my two dogs!

Of course, Sadie's ouchies mean more vet visits and more vet dollars.  I swear these two cost more to look after than my two-legged child ever did!

Goldfish.  I'm gonna adopt goldfish next time round.  I just have to figure out a way to teach fish to walk on leash and cuddle on the bed. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Asleep at the switch - and a call for sponsors


The problem with acronyms is that they can stand for more than one thing. I put “FF” on my calendar on the second Friday of each month, to remind me to do a Fundraiser Friday post to alert readers to upcoming rescue events, or tell you about specific animals in need, and simply motivate you to think of little ways you, your friends, or your workplace could help even if time and money are tight.

Problem is, last week I was asleep at the switch.  I saw “FF” on the calendar for September 9th and thought – "Oh yes, Fall Fair !!!"

Ah well, story of my life, sooner or later the lightening bolt hits me and I slap my hand against my head and go “Gaggggggghhhh!” This time it was later rather than sooner – a week later. So today, one week late (and then just under the wire for Friday's date!), is my Fundraiser Friday for September.

This month,  I’m hoping that we can find four good people – or four good groups of friends, or four good workplaces, or four good community organizations - who might each be able to commit $25 a month to sponsor a little piggy at Hearts on Noses Sanctuary. Twenty five dollars a month provides financial security for one pig – pig feed and fruit and veggies, money for vet bills and bedding and pen maintenance. Twenty five dollars ensures happy, healthy pigs.

And there are four little pigs, from the twelve I fostered, who are still looking for sponsors. I'd love to find them sponsors through this blog.

Toddy, Swizzle, Rob Roy and Lizzie are the only ones in my bunch who still need sponsorship. They are four years old, spayed/neutered, healthy piggies.

Rob Roy and his brother, Whisper

Rob Roy is a bit of a Velcro pig, and loves attention; Swizzle is a bit less courageous around newcomers but will soon win your heart.

Swizzle checks out a new abode

Who can resist Toddy, who has a fascinating white tip on his tail which he swishes through the air, back and forth, like some porcine Picasso. He really needs a piece of canvas and a pot of paint to make full use of that tail! .

Toddy's Tail

Lizzie is the only girl in the herd, and she has her mama’s attitude and edgyness – a little Ms Piggy who knows what she wants and will tell you in no uncertain terms.

A young Lizzie chats with Mama Soda

If you, or a group you belong to, sponsor a piggy, you’ll get a photo of your sponsored pig, an official sponsorship certificate, and updates on the pig’s wellbeing. And you’ll get a warm feeling all the way to your toes.  Every time you look at the photo you’ll get a great big “happy” in your heart.

And – bonus - you’ll have fun watching your friends’ reaction when you flash the photo in front of them and proudly say “This is MY boy!” (or, in the case of Lizzie, “This is MY girl!”) .

Maybe a year’s piggy sponsorship would make a great gift for you to give that person who has everything, or for the person who insists they want nothing. Or maybe you and four friends could each pitch in $5/month to sponsor a pig as a joint project. Or might this be a great charity for your workplace to take on? One dollar a month for each of twenty five employees - fifty cents each if your employer will match it? You can even arrange to come out to meet your sponsored pig (and all the others), maybe make it a community service day and show off your bright yellow gumboots and Farmer Jones overalls as you  lend a hand around the place, entertained by happy, social, sponsored pigs.

The pigs will be sure to welcome you:

Piggies waiting to meet their sponsors!

Who can’t help but feel great when faced with a piggy snoutie or a piggy smile? Please help if you can.

Smiling, happy pig

Snouties up!
Smiling Papa Scotch

More snouties up!
(Photo by Red Dog Photography)

And another piggy smile for you!

Please sponsor us!

And bring icecweam tooooooo!

For further information contact Janice at Hearts on Noses, by emailing heartsonnoses (at) shaw (dot) ca. Put “I’d like to sponsor a pig” in the subject line! To learn more about the pigs I fostered, search for 'pigs' on this blog - there's 155 entries and dozens of photos of them! 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Day at the Fair - Part Three

Young riders prepare to strut their stuff

Part of what I love about country fairs is watching the 4H kids fussing over their animals, giggling together in the stalls, leading their animals around the ring as they nibble their lower lip in nervousness. I love seeing their gentleness and dedication as they wash and groomed and feed and cleanup after their charges. These kids will, for the most part, grow into solid citizens. They have parental support, adult leadership, peer groups engaged in healthy activity, and a passion that requires them to develop a skill set and to focus on a goal. But more about that later!

One of the sweetest sights this past weekend was that of a young man, perhaps 13 or 14, sitting on a bench outdoors with his rooster. He wanted the rooster to have some time outside the crate, and the rooster stood calmly between his knees watching people coming and going. He even took it for a walk, guiding it gently with a long thin stick and a soft hand. (My photo didn’t turn out, but you will see one here in which the same lad is crouched on the ground holding his bird.)

I had a wee camera problem with my pictures of the goats and llamas, alpacas and birds, rabbits and two sweet, sweet minature donkeys named Daisy and Shrek. But I figured it out by the time I got to this Berkshire piggy mama, who was at the fair with her 10 two-week-old piglets:

Social mama piggy

And, of course, I enjoyed looking at and photographing the horses. The 4H kids decorated the stalls with information about their horses, answered questions enthusiastically, and showed off their riding skills admirably despite the extremely hot weather and a ring inches deep in dust.

Decorated stall

"Um, excuse me?  If you're gonna disturb my dinner, at least get my name in the photo!"

"That's better!"

"Hey, everyone!  Head's up!  This woman wants to take yer photo!"

"Oh, hai!  Get my name, too, please!"

"Hmmm, I think this is my best side."

And now back to my initial topic - the kids. Watching the 4H kids may make me smile and give me confidence that not all the younger generation is racing down a path to self destruction, but watching them also never fails to raise questions in my mind and leave me a wee bit uneasy.

Kids in 4H are taught to treat their animals humanely, but at the same time both they and I know that most of the animals - the sheep, cows, goats, chickens, pigs - will be led to slaughter or slated for a life of constant breeding right after the fair. I wonder how much of what they learn through their relationships with their 4H "projects"  follows them life-long?

Will those children who take such good care of their sheep or chickens or calves in the club become, one day, just another cog in the huge wheel of mistreated for-market animals who are mass produced artificially, fed chemicals to force them into greater growth and/or greater breeding potential, hooked up to machines and/or denied access to the outdoors, sprayed with pesticides, slaughtered inhumanely? I am a meat eater – and not about to engage in debate about the human diet here - but I am also appalled at how so many commercial animals are treated.

My concern also extends to 4H Horse clubs. The reality is that many (most?) horses are viewed as disposable property, destined to be bought and sold and bought and sold and bought and sold until they are finally auctioned off to the highest bidder and trucked away to the slaughterhouse. I wonder if kids in 4H develop life long attachments to their horses and provide them with a forever home, seeing them as sentient beings instead of vehicles to be upgraded every few years, accessories to be changed with the season. I wonder how many of them are prepared to live with the financial costs of giving a horse a lifelong home even though their riding skills and interests may have progressed beyond the horse's abilities? I wonder how many former 4H-ers know exactly where every horse they've ever loved is today and how each horse fares?

In the 4H program, do the kids learn of the many abused, abandoned and neglected horses in rescue? Do they learn to consider that this horse they claim to love so much today may one day end up, several owners down the road, starving to death in a winter pasture, knee deep in mud, until someone calls the SPCA or until they die?

Maybe 4H does deal with this aspect of our responsibility to the animals we nurture. After all, is it any coincidence that most of those involved in both 4H and in animal rescue are female, while most of those involved in mass production and slaughter are male?

I hope 4H clubs today teach the kids about the other side of animal ‘ownership’ . I hope the kids are taught to consider the consequences of breeding; I hope they are exposed to the world of rescue and of animal control, I hope they are taken to auctions and to slaughter houses and to huge mega-conglomerate commercial farms. I hope so, because without that exposure, without being taught that side of the human/animal relationship, their education would be sadly lacking.

I’m currently reading Trauma Farm: A Rebel History of Rural Life, by Brian Brett (Greystone Books, © 2009), an enjoyable, thought provoking, and often funny book by a man who lives on Salt Spring Island just across the water from me. It is a Non-Fiction Prize Winner with the Writers Trust of Canada. It is about life on a small mixed farm run using humane, environmentally friendly practices, and is full of gems of wisdom, historical and botanical information, critical commentary of commercial production, and a wealth of beautifully written, poetic descriptions of the rich relationship between humans, animals, and the land.

I can’t say it is a quick read, because it compels the reader to pause frequently, to savor an exquisitely worded phrase or paragraph, to re-read a bit of shocking information, to digest an evocative statement, to reflect on a critical analysis. But it is a great read, a thought provoking read, a read for the animal lover and the gardener, for the animal activist and the meat eater, a read for the environmentalist, the wanna-be farmer, the aging hippy, the wordsmith, the book lover, the nature lover. Perhaps it should be required reading for 4H leaders and the teens they mentor.

(Comments are invited from those who have been involved in 4H, who are currently involved in 4H, and – of course – anyone else who would care to chime in!).