Several short pieces this week – interesting, amusing or both …

Starting in the Garden

We are barely a couple of weeks days into the new year at the moment and apart form regular visits by the birds and the arrival of a little fresh snow there hasn’t been much happening … as you might expect in a Quebec January. The Christmas tree was taken down in the house and was about to be put out by the road for the council chipper to deal with when J had the bright idea of roping it to the corner of the deck beside the heated waterbath we keep for birds. The waterbath is visited by quite a few birds but they are clearly a bit nervous as it is right out in the open … the theory was that the “repurposed” tree would provide some shelter from the weather and from predators. Thus far we have seen American Goldfinches and Black-capped Chickadees perching on its branches and right at the tip while (joy!) a Carolina Wren checked out the sheltered deck below it looking for food. It is a particularly fine tree with wide and densely packed branches.

Bird visitors to the garden since the New Year have totalled 15 species in total, as follows …

Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Downy Woodpecker – Dryobates pubescens
Hairy Woodpecker – Picoides villosus
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
Black-capped Chickadee – Poecile atricapillus
Red-breasted Nuthatch – Sitta canadensis
White-breasted Nuthatch – Sitta carolinensis
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
House Finch – Haemorhous mexicanus
Pine Siskin – Spinus pinus
American Goldfinch – Spinus tristis
Dark-eyed Junco – Junco hyemalis
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis

On Friday morning, dutifully going down the garden in -17C temperature (-26C windchill) to replenish the array of bird feeders I was deafened, almost literally, by screaming birds led by very noisy Blue Jays that were clearly mobbing a raptor somewhere in the neighbouring trees. Despite nearly losing fingers to frostbite while trying to find what the offending bird was I was unsuccessful – probably in a neighbour’s garden – but I did get a couple of nice portraits of angry Jays.

One very cold morning the sun picked out the dry and opened milkweed seed cases … very “architectural” and visually intriguing …

… and in corners of the garden, some things have been abandoned for the duration

Hunting of the Snark

“There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,
Or would sit making lace in the bow:
And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
Though none of the sailors knew how.”

I have recently been reacquainted with the “Hunting of the Snark” by Lewis Carrol … a very strange and in some ways rather wonderful flight of fancy. How this reacquaintance happened by way of a book in which the sinking of the Admiral Belgrano during the Falklands fiasco 35 years ago is another sort altogether.

Anyway, I am particularly taken with the crew member who happened to be a beaver. A European beaver rather than a Canadian one, I imagine, as Carrol was English … though who knows, all gentlemen’s beaver fur hats of his day were made from Canadian pelts.

… but lace-making was not his sole skill. He was a scientific beaver with a fine brass microscope … after all, who knew how big a Snark was going to be?

Nice illustrations, you will agree … several artists have had a go at illustrating the poem over the years. One of the nicest perhaps being Helen Oxenbury who came up with this … I believe those are bottles of ink and not rum.

Gluten-free Antarctica

I happened upon a blog (by Polish-American) called “Idle Words – brevity is for the weak” (a statement I can totally relate to) which containing the following warning: “Threat – Please ask permission before reprinting full-text posts or I will crush you.” I might adopt that 😉

Anyway, the blog is rather entertaining and I commend it to you – try this very funny sample story: