Category Archives: wildlife

A whole new meaning to the word “foster”

“I’m not ashamed of what I did.  I just don’t understand how it happened.”

That was my husband, who after months of care, attention and making sure I didn’t inadvertently vacuum it up or knock it down, safe-guarded this hibernating creature from September 2013 through May 2014 on the stairs down to our basement.  In my husband’s defence (in his own words), it’s dark down there. IMG_0571

 Yesterday, he set it free.

Yes, it is a dried up maple key.

But I’ll bet that maple key never saw so much love and compassion.

Wildlife refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida

As we enjoyed the sun and heat of February in Florida, we were on a perpetual quest to find friendly places where we could bring Skye-dog and allow her to walk with us without the fear of poison ivy, sand burrs, crazy oblivious tourist drivers and those with dog phobias.

We, like many others before us, made our pilgrimage to Sanibel Island (off the coast from Fort Myers on Florida’s gulf side), which is known for unparalleled shelling, white beaches and being friendly to visiting dogs.

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Causeway to Sanibel Island (beware the afternoon rush hour!)

But we didn’t really care to spend much time on the beaches; temperatures in the 80s and all that made trekking in the hot sun brutal!  Especially with a black dog…

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Miles of sand on Captiva Island, just north of Sanibel – doggie prints with dragging leash…shhh!

…and with no shade, unless you owned one of the mega-homes on either island and could sit on your covered porch, sipping a gin and tonic, you were on your own.

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Come on in! Not.

Our destination ended up being the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which comprises over 6000 acres on the northern half of Sanibel Island.  Yes, the entire northern half of the island has remained free from builders!

This parcel of land, wetland, inlets, mud flats and mangrove was saved from development when conservationist, angler and hunter Jay Norwood Darling (who also happened to be a well-known political cartoonist) convinced President Harry Truman to ensure its protection.  Truman signed an executive order creating the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge in 1945 and in 1967, five years after Darling’s death, it was re-named the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge — ‘Ding’ was his ‘nom de plume’ (leaving off the ‘arl’ in his name).  Darling had twice won a Pulitzer Prize for his inspirational editorial cartoons (in 1924 and 1942) and in 1934, then president Franklin Roosevelt rewarded him by appointing him Director of the U.S. Biological Survey, the precursor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Darling designed the national symbol for the refuge system called the Blue Goose, which Rachel Carson (author of Silent Spring, conservationist, environmentalist and scientist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 1932 to 1952) referenced here:

“Wherever you meet this sign, respect it.  It means that the land behind the sign has been dedicated by the American people to preserving, for themselves and their children, as much of our native wildlife as can be retained along with our modern civilization.”

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Explore, discover and inspire!

The boardwalks here afford the visitor a view of the mangroves from above, a rare vantage point.  Entering the park, parking and walking along these peripheral trails is free — a bonus to entrance-fee weary travellers.

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Bird and beast watching

There are many birds to set your eyes on here:  pelicans, egret, ibis, herons and more…

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Handy identifier for folks like us, who haven’t a clue.

But what I really loved were the little suitcases placed along the handrails with what appeared to be life-like lumps of poo.

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“Excuse me. Someone pooped on your briefcase.”

Charming to both young and old, the handle beckons.  So you dutifully open and find this …

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AHA!  Scat.  Coyote poo.  This particular kind of thing will definitely come in handy.

And so you go along and make guesses.  What kind of poo is this?

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I’d guess it is something large…..

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Bingo!

What a wonderful interactive way of learning, for big and little kids.

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Random (somewhat maudlin) November thoughts

The temperature and light is shifting.  Strange winds blow and the grass starts to form weird wavy patterns as it begins to recline after a long summer.

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Animals slow down and think about finding a place to call home before the snow arrives.

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Our walks are faster and colder.  I’m often forgetting to wear anything on my hands but I have placed a wool blanket on the back seat of the car so Skye will not be chilled.

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We are stockpiling coffee logs for the fireplace.  Real wood snaps and crackles, making Skye run and hide.

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Gardens are being cut down, tidied up and let sleep for the winter.  Colds and sore throats are beginning to impact our state of mind.

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Melancholy is beginning to set in.

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Short days, cold nights.  Bundle up.  I’ll put on my happy hat next time ;c)

Labour Day weekend, 2013

The summer appears to be wrapping up and I have been finding wildlife on our walks that I might not otherwise see.

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Perhaps it’s me slowing down and taking in what will soon be covered in snow.  Or perhaps it’s because I walk now with an 11 year old dog rather than a springy puppy.

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I notice things like a summers worth of beaver trail, beaten down by wet fur and a flat tail .  It shows months of trundling back and forth with aspen branches…

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And then this cicada on the path at my feet which, as I believed it was an empty shell, reached down to pick up and it tumbled in somersaults, fluttering its papery wings until it finally flew away.

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The meadows are filled with colours that are beginning to suggest fall.

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And on it goes…

Emma Dibben: illustrator and allotment gardener extraordinaire!

These luscious figs, just enticingly juicy enough to make your mouth water and purple enough to evoke jewel-like baubles, are the work of English artist Emma Dibben.

If these images look at all familiar to you (like these delightful French Breakfast radishes), it might be that you’ve been lucky enough to acquire a re-usable Waitrose shopping bag.

Emma graduated from Falmouth College of Arts  with a degree in illustration in 2004 and makes her home in Bristol.  Today she has an impressive list of clients besides the mythic Waitrose …

… so you may have also seen her work in issues of House & Garden magazine, BBC Gardens Illustrated, Conde Nast Traveller, The English Garden and other print media.

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But fans of her work can also buy her originals or signed prints either from her own website or from the Bristol Contemporary Art website here.

Emma has an allotment garden which she has blogged about since 2010 and this is where she gets much of her visual inspiration.

I find the best illustration is done by those who have seen, felt and tasted their subject.

Emma clearly has a green thumb and exercises it regularly on this plot of verdant earth.

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Sometimes with company…

Winter on the allotment

She is a committed allotment-er and grows not simply veggies in the ground, but fruits and berries from trees and vines.  I think her allotment is not simply abundant but also beautiful.

Even in the winter –

 

Her artistry both on paper and in the garden has truly given me renewed inspiration for my own plot which, by the way, just experienced tomato devastation.  So at my virgin allotment in the ‘colonies’ –

– with tomatoes that I had grown from seed and planted thus-ly:

They now look like this one:

I have been told by Mary, a veteran allotment-er, that the culprits are field mice (our guesses had been giant cutworms, voracious earwigs, rabbits, groundhogs, etc…).  Well, live and let live I say so immediately went out to the Lansdowne Market the following day and purchased four new tomato plants: 2 Brandywine and 2 I can’t remember (another heirloom variety).

As you may remember from last year, I had high hopes for this allotment and my hopes have not been dashed.  This season we have grown and already harvested different varieties of greens as well as some Rainbow chard.

Here is Monet’s Garden mesclun from Renee’s Seeds.

In the last couple of weeks the plants have grown exponentially!  I have also snagged some blackberry, raspberry and haskap plants from certain death on a rack in a Loblaws garden centre as well as several shrubs that I received to trial as a result of my membership in the Garden Writers Association.  Lucky me!  So, although my allotment is several minutes from home and completely at the mercy of mice and men, I am hopeful that it can begin to flourish as a place of ornamental experimentation and tasty produce.  I may even buy some fruit trees!

I’ll be back again with more photos.  In the meantime, I will dream of Emma’s beautiful plot and devise ways to make mine half as lovely.