Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

Wasp-y behavior?

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Here’s the thing—Man-Wonder and I were sitting in our chairs out back, enjoying the evening and admiring the three garden beds busting with plants and humming with bees and small wasps when a neighbor comes around the corner of his mobile holding a yellow glass container high and almost prancing with glee.

“Look at this.” He holds out his wasp catching jar. It’s heaped with dead bodies. “Killing ’em like crazy.” He says. “Never seen them so bad.”

Man-Wonder and I looked at each other in surprise. We’ve seen yellow jackets in the flowers but they’d left us alone. And visa-versa. But, here’s this nice guy, living twenty feet away, telling us there’s a problem.

The very next day we hauled out our seldom used glass wasp-catching bottles.

Oiy!

Suddenly there was a zinging, buzzing party of wasps fighting each other to get inside the jars hung off the back-end of the sun porch. And these weren’t the little garden variety either. These were big honking black wasps. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see them arrive on Harleys!

For two days we snuck out before dawn to clean away the dead and rebottle for the live and firmly shut the porch’s back door since they were prone to zip inside, buzzing loud enough to give us nightmares, and getting in our faces with their, ‘This is a holdup, where’s the sugar?’ attitudes.

Escaping to our wee piece of heaven out back was no longer an option either. It seemed like we’d pissed off their little cousins—by feeding the big bullies. This led to more annoyed wasps in our faces. So, we retreated inside. And there we sat, fans to sweaty faces, while we watched the horror show outside the window.

By the third day the wasps had figured out how to escape from the inescapable trap and like idiots we rushed off to the hardware store for something better.

The new one lasted one day before they were whistling in and staggering out, OD’d to the gills.  So we tried adding a drop of oil to the sugar-water. Worked like magic.

They disappeared!

Not another single black wasp has shown up since. Not only that—out back the yellow jackets have stopped annoying us and gone back to the garden beds. We’re back to splitting our time between the sun porch and the back gardens, lesson learned.

Only . . . while, I haven’t said anything—I’m not entirely sure what the lesson was.

  • Leave nature alone?
  • Don’t muck with the big black wasps because it annoys their little striped cousins?
  • Just because the neighbor does something—doesn’t mean we have to.
  • Sugar kills?

That old ill wind

We’ve been most lucky here on the west coast of Canada; especially Vancouver Island. The wind doth blow most ill winds away and bringeth the rain so we islanders are naturally fresher and have fewer cobwebs in our heads.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit la-la landish—but I like it so I wrote it.

This week, those winds have failed us because of a high pressure ridge that’s been hanging around since May. Dry, dry days breaking out into a batch of wildfires. And, for the first time in a long time the smoke has not been blowing away.

When I woke Monday morning I had no idea of what was coming. It was still dark and the night air was pleasingly cool. The urge for a paddle had me cajoling Man-Wonder into action and within thirty minutes we were slipping the canoe into the refreshing cold water  of the harbor.

We paddled around the harbor’s edge, sliding between openings in the barnacle covered rocks and wove through the sleeping boats at anchor before heading toward the strait side of the smaller of the two islands fronting our harbor. Pretty brave of us considering we aren’t skilled paddlers and the waters beyond the islands can get darn choppy darn fast.

Hoo Hoo—another big-little adventure for these mobile home dwellers!

A big part of the adventure came when we realized, halfway around the island dawn wasn’t happening. It was like Day wasn’t planning on showing up! Sure, the night sky was lightening but only slightly and instead of the usual pale pink and blue, we were drifting under burnt orange and gray.

Freaky.

Freaky enough that it had our total focus and  we failed to notice the rollers coming at us from the first ferry heading past. We ended up taking them sideways instead of head on.

So, truth time here—we are pussy-pants about rough water. In fact I’m not sure who panics bigger.) Even worse yet—Man-Wonder suffers from motion sickness? Yep, my big tall hunky west-coaster is a regurgitator.

Trust me when I say, I know think we have the ‘paying attention’ part well memorized . . .

However, I’m still glad we did it, it was an experience and also because waking up Tuesday morning was kind of like waking up with your face hanging over a cold, damp, fire pit.

Today it’s a pale gray sky with holes where the sun is poking through.

Life is good and the clouds are moving.

Talk About a Bird’s Eye View

orange chair    blue chair    Our favorite relaxing spot is behind our mobile, on a little stone patio  where our view is a trio of 4’x8’raised garden beds (fruits, herbs, and veggies). Behind the row of garden beds rises a small hillside of grass. Halfway up the hillside, runs an overhead powerline.

Sounds ugly right?

But it’s not.

The garden beds are painted a lovely shade of soft quiet green. Nasturtiums and sweet peas climb wire frames backing two of the beds. Buttercups scatter over the grass. There are flowering shrubs above us and on all sides (thank you neighbors)and there are plenty of towering firs and cedars here, there and everywhere.

Bees and hummingbirds love the flowering plants. Robins and mosquitoes love the dewy grass and the swallows love the mosquitoes. Quite often, while sitting on the back patio, we’ve felt the breeze of wings as they zip just overhead looping and swooping for the little blood-sucking buzzers.

Doves, purple finches, sparrows, rufus towhees, cow birds, red-wing black birds all take turns sitting on the power lines and checking things out. Owls, resting unseen in nearby towering cedars and firs, hoot to each other.

Baby birds, just learning to fly, sway on the tips of branches or huddle on the wires and yell endlessly for food. And we’ve learned to weed carefully around the rhubarb leaves and lady’s mantle lest we get a face full of exploding feathers and squawk because we’ve scared the bejesus out a hiding chick who hasn’t quite got the hang of flying yet.

We see plenty of wood ducks, herons, Canada geese and eagles flying by coming, or going, from the marsh on one side of the park to the estuary on the other.

But, the bird show to end all bird shows happened yesterday during our drive home from the north side of town. Four lanes of traffic alongside a large lake came to a standstill. At first we thought it was an accident until we saw a man stepping over the cement meridian between traffic lanes followed by a large bird with wings a flapping. Then another person crossed going the other way and he too was followed by a wing-flapping bird.

Turns out there were a handful of people helping two Canada geese and their gaggle of goslings cross the four lane highway to reach the lake. And during that entire scene not a single horn blew. Not a single soul yelled out in frustration. There was only total accepting silence. It was eye-watering beautiful!

Afterwards, with the geese safely in the lake, there was a barrage of small toots and a sea of thumbs up for those kind souls.

I’m so glad we were there . . . getting a bird’s eye view.

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Lessons learned in the bushes

Things I have learned while walking, and wildcrafting, in the woods:

horsetail    fringecup    broadleaf star    american vetch

 

  • Just because I happily discover a patch of stinging nettles unexpectedly, I shouldn’t pat them like I would  a friendly puppy.

 

  • When coming across oodles of fresh new Oregon Grape Root leaves don’t be so amazed at their softness that I squat down to rub them on my cheeks (facial). People walking past don’t understand. . .

 

  • When I am hunting for Greater Plantain all I’m going to find is the Lesser Plantain. Learn to not be so fussy.

 

  • Cleavers is a happy plant. It likes to reach out and grab in a sticky Velcro way when saying hello—totally unlike the hops plant. When that baby reaches out to say hello—it’s often a nasty and painful greeting. . .

 

  • Feeling sad to find out the wonderfully cheerful buttercup of childhood actually contains an acrid juice that will blister the skin.

 

  • Trying not to do a happy dance upon finding out that the lowly-but-life-enriching dandelion not only spreads by parachuting puff heads but also by travelling tap-root. . . Three cheers for the dandelion—not that I’d ever say that out loud. . .

 

  • The bracken fern, also known as the weedy fern, has rootstock that when boiled down taste kind of like rootbeer. . . I can only assume ‘kind of’ actually means ‘very poor pitiful like’. . . and that’s not something I’m about to try. Especially since memory can still taste Mom’s homemade rootbeer.

 

  • To not get into such a daze of delight over being surrounded by graceful gatherings of fringecups flowers, horsetails fronds and broadleaf starflowers that Man-Wonder has time to sneak away. . .

 

 

gypsy face  Maybe next time I go out wildcrafting I’ll hang a dozen quilted bags off my arms, wrap my head in a bohemian head scarf, hang on some dangly earrings and drape a colorful shawl across my shoulders. . . yeah—really get in the moment!

 

 

 

 

Bushes and bikes. . . and bears maybe.

Bike riding has been the thing lately and we just finished biking along a part of the TransCanada Trail. It turned out to be a fairly decent, abet long, woodsy ride and, thank heavens—flat one.

The scenery was freaking impressive—with the Cowichan River on one side and deep forests rising into mountains on the other. Cowichan River is one of those rivers which refuses to be the same for long. One moment it is boiling and spraying through narrow gorges only to disappear from view behind a cluster of thick cedars and then reappear in long and wide sweeping curves. Turn a corner and it is skinny-ing down into bubbling cauldrons of frothy water pushing over the edges of worn stone to dump itself into deep green pools with swirling edges.

And that’s only one side of the show along the trail!

As we travelled over wooden bridges, creek-water culverts and skidded our way through giant muck puddles we were also awed by the deep forest on the other side. The filtering of sunlight was surreal enough to feel like we were peddling through the darkened aisles in a museum. Gawking as staged backlighting tricked its way through moss-draped trees to reach and highlight life on the forest floor. I half expected to see stuffed animals staged; their glassy eyes peering back at us.

A much better scenario than the live ones I was silently keeping a close ear out for. After all, it is the time of year when bears are emerging, dozy, cranky and hungry.

Three long hours after starting out, we made it back to the truck. Legs wobbly, throats parched and Man-Wonder standing to peddle the last third of the way because of his old hard bike seat and even older tender skin!

I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was planning a return trip real soon.

You see, three times I heard the siren call, and saw three thick vibrant groves of fresh stinging nettles scattered just beyond the edges of the trail. And three times I mentally smacked myself for not throwing gloves, bags and secateurs into a backpack.

Oh, yeah, we are going back as soon as Man-Wonder heals up.

Maybe even before he’s completely toughened up because I’ve been thinking about those snuffles and thrashes I thought I heard a couple of times and . . .

. . . Think about it—tender means slower on the bike and, well, it’d be easy for me to zip past him . . .

Survival of the fittest  fastest—right?

 

bear chase

Yoo Hoo, little worms. . .

th8MII0D6Y

Give me dirt. Lots of dirt. Deep lumpy clumps of dirt; hard dry glumps of peat moss; rich black heaps of manure and/or sea compost; bags bursting with vermiculite and/or perlite (and I do mean bursting) and a working hose, and I will happily make soil; And, then, give me the necessary ingredients and I will make fertilizer—food to feed the hungry. . .

Yep—it’s garden time again and this year I firmly told myself I was not going to garden without gloves. No. Nope. No way. Because nothing sucks the moisture out of hands like soil.

thMF8S81ON

Yeah, I don’t listen to myself any better than anyone else does. .

But mostly, because, as any lover of the earth’s loam knows, the act of plunging fingers deep into soil, of gently coaxing tender curly masses of roots loose before bedding them into the soil is an act of pure satisfaction. It’s also a way of learning.  Temperature, moisture levels and general health of the soil all need bare fingers.

I get the connection and I understand why many people spend hours playing and creating in their gardens.

However, my gardening does come in spurts thanks to a couple of arthritic joints puffing themselves into cranky knots when they’ve had enough bending kneeling, twisting and squatting. At first, they just give me a few pokes along with a whispering of the word ‘enough’.  If I fail to heed those soft nudges, the pokes morph into barbwire fences around the joints.

Which means, after cajoling Man-Wonder into doing most of the heavy grunt work, I’m learning to spend more time chatting with the worms and giving the plants a serious heads up on what’s expected from them.

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And, for the record, I want to say—there is nothing like watching a man work up a sweat—just for you!

 

Hike; to trek. Walk; to amble. Brain—to differentiate

The words walk and hike—for some reason I’ve allowed those two words to co-habitat the same brain cell, like twins, for much of my confused life.

Well—no more!

We survived our colds and the winter monsoons but needed a walk real bad, so when the latest version of ‘Hikes around Vancouver Island’ showed up I grabbed it.  (Notice how I casually and idiotically grouped those two words into one sentence?)

However, I’m not a complete idiot—I only marked out the hiking trails closest to home and then ignored anything not labeled at the beginning as ‘easy’.

In the end, it was the hike with the suspension bridge and picnic-friendly lake that won out. Fun stuff to the clogged brain.

So, with book firmly in hand, we hit the trail. The first 100 meters was as lovely as it claimed. The suspension bridge was as nerve-tingling as expected. Part way over an awful thought passed through my mind like an ill wind—if the bridge was ever going to weaken – wouldn’t it be the parts dead center—where most people walk?

I shifted both feet out so I was walking side to side.

Did you know if you walk off-center on a suspension bridge it really, really sways? And the person not creating the swaying will squawk like a chicken and begin hustling toward the end. And, did you know, that moving faster causes more swaying?

Suddenly there were two squawking, hustling idiots on a swaying bridge. . .Yeah, too cool for words right?

Thank heavens the next 300 meters were easy-peasy—as the book promised. And, it’s too bad I, before we started, glossed right over the part that warned the following 100 meters were steeply uphill.

Lying buggers!

I swear it was closer to 1000  2000 meters and I felt like a monkey grabbing at branches as we hauled ass over slimy mucky rocks half-buried under gushing rivulets of water. I imagine our heart-pounding, sweat-dripping, wind-sucking gasps for air (okay, mostly mine) scared off any wildlife lurking in the bushes.

Methinks the authors need to state just who the ‘easy’ is directed at. Couldn’t be for us poor sods bulging with fatty baggage and left over cold left-overs.

But we made it!  And that’s when Man-Wonder barked. (I swear he did)  “Holy Crap Honey—recognise this lake?”

“Uh, no.” I said, my memory being equal to that of a squashed bug.

He pointed, “The big, flat rock? We hiked up here on our first date.”

“Nope. No way, even twenty years ago, would I have forgotten that hill. But, yeah, that rock is familiar. . . ”

“We came from the other direction. It was an easy hike in. Even for you.” And then like a goober, he smirked!

All I can say is he’s lucky I wasn’t packing pockets stuffed with bear scare, mace, and rocks like I was twenty years ago. . .

 

Moving right along

The long, hot and dry days of summer are a memory now. They pull on the mind; like watching a sweet little fluff ball of a kitten scampering down the road. You want to reach out and pull in close, feel its cuddly warmth against your skin only you can’t because it keeps moving further away.

Yeah, I was doing a lot of sighing as I watched the rainy season blow summer off.

Then, fall took a nose-dive into winter and brought with it cold, crisp, sunny days. And Man-Wonder and I got the urge to get moving and so far we’ve kept the momentum up.

Yeah, I’ve been a wearing a surprised expression too!

We’ve even found a really cool walk in the middle of the city. It’s like a mini-forest, ringed with a single path around the exterior of it. That path is a city walk—traffic on all sides! But one you veer inside and start walking through the trail as it loops back and forth under a dense canopy of maples, firs and cedars you forget where you are. All city sounds disappear and you forget everything except the feeling that your toes want to reach up and kiss your face in joy and appreciation of the soft thick carpet of bark mulch and fallen needles beneath them.

The whole walk, around the woods and inside on one giant looping trail is only about 1 mile total but it’s not just a walk. No way! It’s also an exercise circuit—exercise stations are strategically placed along the trails; from monkey bars to pole climbs, from push up benches to posts for leap-frogging over.

chopped collage

I’m proud to say neither Man-Wonder, nor myself, hurt ourselves on any of the three times we’ve done this loopy walk so far. . .

. . . and I’ve taken pictures of every single exercise stop we’ve quickly walked past.

Walking Idiots . . . or. . . Idiots Walking?

Morrell Nov 8 2014 (10)

Man-wonder and I have been wandering in the bushes again. Okay, bushes within park boundaries.

We decided it was time to retry our luck in Morrell Sanctuary—a skookum inner-city walking park wrapped around a small lake. The last time we walked it we accidentally ended up on the highest peak in the park. Which is not a place I’d go willingly, since I grew up in a small town built on a steep hill.

And, yes, once again we wandered off onto a wrong path. Our big clue this time, after long passing Morrell Lake,  was seeing the sparkle of another lake through the trees—a much larger lake, and one that didn’t belong to our park.

Or should I say, the park we shoulda’ been in? After getting ourselves turned around the right way, we had a fun walk back; kicking and crunching our way along trails thick with  leaves and marveling at how quiet, aside from us,  the park was.

Eventually, we arrived back at our starting point—and because we were finally  in a ‘let’s pay attention to the signs’ mode we caught the two we’d missed going in:

One reported recent bear sightings.

The other listed a cougar sighting from that morning!

. .  . . . . So what did we learn?

That either we learn to read every freaking sign OR we take up running. Because, at our normal speed, where we are regularly passed by the elderly with their walkers—what’s our chances of outrunning a wild beastie . . . ?

bear

 

 

 

 

A squirrel but no licorice or good trees.

Man-wonder and I had been talking about getting back into camping after an absence of ten years plus.

We finally made it out last weekend.

The plan was to use our comfy double chair mattress in the back of the truck, but, at the eleventh hour, we stood there staring at the skinnier-by-the-minute space between the wheel wells (our truck is small) and zipped out to find a tent. camp site (4)Which we did. We also found a cool camp stove, two skookum (hefty) folding chairs

and a hammock, because who goes camping without one and we no longer had one.

As for the tent—They say ‘three person tent’ but what they really mean is three of those short stick people you see on decals on vehicles.

And heaven knows what we were, or weren’t, thinking about the chair mattress since it was the perfect size to fit between the wheel wells. Which meant the wheel wells would hold us on the mattress right? But since the tent was about two feet wider – if we didn’t keep a firm grip on each other  we’d be kissing the tent floor. . . I think we did more cuddling in one weekend than we have in the last ten years.

camp site day sights (1) I like camping!

We thought we’d reserved the ‘perfect’ campsite.  It had stunning views of the strait and there was a lovely winding river fifteen feet below our site.The launching area for canoes and kayaks was spitting distance away and hey—the bathrooms were even closer. And boy, were we impressed with the way the gravel covering the whole site was raked to perfection for us.

But have you ever tried to sneak out of a tent and walk across gravel at two in the morning for a pee-run?

If the unzippering/zippering of the tent flap doesn’t give you up, the tiptoeing-across-gravel and still sounding like dragging chains sure will. No worry about meeting up with a bear or a cougar—the gravel works better than any old bear whistle.

The most disappointing moment (other than realizing I’d forgotten to bring licorice) was when I realized there was nowhere to hang my hammock! The  only trees close enough together were three feet over the bank at edge of the campsite. Meaning, if we managed to hang the hammock I’d have to take a flying leap to get into it. . . Yeah-No. It’s still in its protective sealed bag.

Back on the good side of our adventure—we canoed up the river as far as we could and at one point we paddled over a school of circling salmon waiting for the rains to fill the river so they could swim upstream and spawn. We saw seals gobbling salmon while turkey vultures camp site day sights (4) hung out in the trees watching and waiting.

And we shared our campsite with what I thought was a hunched up jerky young squirrel (think of kittens who hunch up and skitter everywhere). The squirrel, when it wasn’t skittering around, liked to sprawl out in a patch of sunshine and snooze, ignoring people.

Turns out it was hunched up because it was old. It died, sprawled out in the sunshine, on our last morning there.

I didn’t take a picture of the squirrel, dead or alive, and I wasn’t fast enough to catch a shot of the salmon under the canoe but I did take did catch the stunning sunsets and sunrises

campsite - sunrise (5)

camp site - sunsets  (8)

and the mainland mountains across the strait.

campsite - sunrise (2)

But here’s the kicker of the whole camping weekend—the campgrounds are five  three one and a half minutes from our mobile home park.

No time to get restless and wish the never-ending ride home was over. . .and not enough time for our thick wood-smoke aroma to rub off into the truck upholstery. . .

Yeah, I like camping. . .

 

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