Old-time nature photography

I happened, by chance, onto the Facebook page of the Ottawa Camera Club, an exceedingly venerable group well past its centenary, where I found this delightful photograph of old-time nature photographers setting off for a ramble.

No lightweight digital cameras and high-tech weather proof clothing for them – hardy pioneers all.


Ice Storm time of year again

Overnight we finally had a decent amount of fresh snow falling but today the temperature has gone up to around plus 4C and there is freezing rain – tonight it is forecast to drop like a stone to minus 17C

Freezing rain is, cannot be denied, beautiful on the trees (so long as its weight doesn’t break them, which it can) but the roads are worse than the proverbial skating rink.  We really do need a decent snow dump without this mess so that the plants get a nice insulating blanket around them – sadly, I fear a lot of dead plants come the spring this year.

Climate change – ugh!

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Christmas Eve Disappointment

Squirrels are regulars in the garden of the Squirrelworks/Sparroworks HQ and at this time of the year they know there is food to be had if pnly they could get past the squirrel-baffles we have on the feeders. usually they cannot but right now we have one clever and athletic guy who has worked out that he can just make it with a big leap from the distant tree … made easier by the nearest feeder being this caged version with handy wires to grab hold of. So, this is where he wants to be …

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Where he wants to be


Sadly (if you are a squirrel) we are cleverer than he is and moved the various feeders around so that now he has to grab hold of a small, tubular metal niger-seed feeder if he is going to make the leap worthwhile and thus far he has failed.

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Approaching the launch-pad

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In flight

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Disappointment …. hah!


But he’ll be back, squirrels are good at perseverance if there is the possibility of food.




First signs of winter

Some flurries this morning put a bit os snow on the garden and the first ice is forming on the pond. Tie for some seasonally white photographs.

This snow will be gone shortly, just a foretaste of what lies ahead … at least, it had better be gone soon as we are having a new septic tank installed tomorrow !!

Euonymous berries next to the pond

Euonymous berries next to the pond


Garden bird feeding station - the year-round post on the left and the newly installed winter one on the right. Something for everybody.

Garden bird feeding station – the year-round post on the left and the newly installed winter one on the right. Something for everybody.

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Ice forming around the pond

Ice forming around the pond







White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

Modified Sourdough Bread Recipe

In England last week I happened across a book for sourdough bread bakers (“Do Sourdough – Slow Bread for Busy Lives” by Andrew Whitley who runs, quote, one of Britain’s leading organic bakeries). What’s nice about it is that the methods are born of real life commercial practice with a healthy leavening of serious science and plenty of explanations for why things happen. This is not always as common as one would like in the sourdough world.

I was pleased to find that the method I have evolved by myself – which I know makes terrific bread – is not far from the author’s proven techniques … however, I have been experimenting today with the book to hand to try and improve on what I have been doing for some years now and have come up with the following recipe. It’s a bit different but it does seem to have produced an excellent loaf. If you would like to try it you should note that it creates a high-hydration (ie: wet and sticky) dough that is better suited to making a tin loaf than a free-form cob. I would probably reduce the amount of water a bit if making cobs using a basket in which to prove them.

So … the following really easy method makes a standard 3lb weight loaf. The book, being European, uses weights rather than cups as a measure – somewhat more accurate anyway.

1. Mix together 200g of flour and 120g of water and leave to stand for half an hour.

2.  Add 150g of your sourdough starter, knead thoroughly and leave to work for 4 hours in a warm place

3. Add a further 500g of flour, 300g of water and 6g of salt. Knead very well. Put it into a bread tin of a suitable size – it should about half fill the tin – and leave to prove for some 3-5 hours depending on temperature of the room. As it is November I allowed my bread to rise in a hot box … my hot box being simply a large cooler chest with a jug of hot water alongside the bread tin to warm the air and the rise was completed in 4 hours.

4. Bake for 10 minutes (fan oven – add 25 degF if you have a non-fan oven) at 400degF and then reduce to 350degF for 20-25 minutes until baked.

And that’s all there is to it. Start the process at 8am and you have a loaf for the evening meal.

Keeping warm …

Yesterday was our town’s environment day during which residents could choose a free tree (we are having an Amelanchier arborea – Downy Serviceberry or Chokecherry – see http://dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/syllabus/factsheet.cfm?ID=9), visit the kiosks set out by a number of environmental organisations and listen to interesting talks. One of those talks was my well honed presentation of wildlife gardening but it was followed by a session given by a colleague on the town environment committee about winter composting.

Our traditional compost bin - works well in summer.

Our traditional compost bin – works well in summer.

The composter

The composter

Kitchen vegetable waste with wood pellets surrounded by thick leafy vegetation

Kitchen vegetable waste with wood pellets surrounded by thick leafy insulation

It was the winter part of that that attracted us, composting itself being something we have done for years. Turns out that given the right method you can have a compost heap working away at 50 degrees while the air temperature is more like -20. This is achieved either via an expensive Swedish device that we will probably get next spring (http://www.joracanada.ca/en/jk125.php) or by cunning use of leaves for insulation and tiny wood pellets. The theory of the system is explained in the link above but suffice it to say that my friend J was so enthused we rushed out yesterday to lay in a stock of wood pellets while I spent the morning raking up bags of leaves.

Then it was time to do some housekeeping around the garden which included cleaning leaves from the pond and erecting a critter-proof cage over the sunken pots of lilies that I half buried in the vegetable garden for overwintering. A good weekend all told.

The anti-squirrel et al pot protector

The anti-squirrel et al pot protector

Euonymous, just beside the waterfall

Euonymous, just beside the waterfall

Redbud tree and second dahlia bed ... still some flowers and colour

Redbud tree and second dahlia bed … still some flowers and colour

Clearing leaves from the pond

Clearing leaves from the pond (apologies for artistic focussing)

Morning light

The Katsura was looking especially golden and glowing in this morning’s low light … pity about the roaring of at least three powerful leafblowers in nearby gardens. Kinda breaks the harmony.

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The leafblower is a useful tool, we even have one ourselves, but you only need it once per year when all the leaves have fallen from the trees and need to be cleared in one big heap from the grass before the snows start. What we are getting at the moment is neat-nick Canadians shifting half a dozen leaves from their lawns just to be tidy – often it’s the grass-cutting contractors so many people use trying to justify their expensive charges for another few weeks. “Harrumph”.