Easter Bunny Does it Again

I have always wondered why rabbits deliver Easter eggs. Let me backtrack on that – why rabbits paint Easter eggs. Of course they’ll deliver them once they’ve gone to all the trouble of painting them.  As a child I wondered more about that than I did about what Santa has to do with Christmas, but I learned to accept that the goodies each provided were worth putting up with the stories adults make up.

So each year I haul out the Easter eggs and wonder who painted them and how …and whether that rabbit would be any good in the pot, after eating all the vegetables out of my garden.

When I encountered this rabbit in my backyard, I asked him how he paints the eggs. Did he use a brush like I’ve seen in some of the children’s colouring books, or did he use a rag, or did he dip them?

He said:

“Oh … it’s simple. I dip my paw in the paint pot. Then I take an egg and I just rabbit on.

Happy Easter!”

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Fencing the Garden

A little over 30 years ago, I lived in a poor house with a rich garden. The soil had been worked for years with many natural additives from the small farmyard animals the former owners kept.

I rolled up my sleeves and worked the garden with gusto and energy. With the Captain away commercial fishing all summer, I built my own greenhouse (it does look a bit like a woman built it, but it was functional). I even had a little cold frame that you can see beside it on the left, and an old-fashioned compost bin at the back of the garden area. I had a great garden.

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Later that summer, everything had grown like crazy in that richly composted soil.

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Then we moved to a rich(er) house with poor soil. The place had no fence and deer were always around. I grew a deerproof herb garden, but couldn’t grow much else.  In time, the area became a popular dog walking destination  and people from the subdivisions would let their dogs off leash as soon as they saw a tree.

It was no longer possible to have an unfenced garden. Trying to grow anything in the poor soil was hard enough, but adding to my frustration, were many of these “born free” dogs coming from other neighbourhoods tearing through my garden. Their owners sauntered along the road and had no care where Fido had gone.

I gave up on my garden. But the dog situation got so bad that we couldn’t let our own dogs out for fear of confrontations with visiting “stray” dogs. We built a fence around the yard. The pheasants and quail that used to wander through were long gone anyway, and it was time to reclaim our privacy.

I tried to rebuild the garden, but we had new pests. It seems that one year, undeterred by the wide meshed fence around the yard, the Easter bunny came here (presumably with Mrs. Bunny in tow), and after he whispered sweet nothings in her ear, they “went forth and multiplied.”

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, ” the Easter bunny said to Mrs. Bunny, ” ’tis a veritable garden of Eden here.” (He must have gotten the wrong idea when he saw the name plate of the Captain’s fishing troller tacked on the workshop.)003a

A bit of lavender and rosemary still survive. But my garden was dismal. What I really wanted was a garden that would grow decent vegetables. Disheartened by the obstacles over the years, I had almost given up. Even without deer, stray dogs, and rabbits, I still had little more than pure sand to work with.  A waste of time and effort!

But then, the Captain came to the rescue. He built four raised beds and brought a load of garden mix soil from the composting yard. And see the promising-looking gate! He would build me a rabbit-proof fence.

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Corner posts went in and were braced.

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Three of the raised beds already had better soil in them.

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A narrow meshed wire was strung and pulled tight with the help of a come-along winch.

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Fencing done, now it was my turn to get the last bit of sod turned over and my garden planted.

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I have a few squash seeds already growing. Once they came up, they grew so fast, I had to put them into bigger pots (which I didn’t have).

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These “Lean Cuts” dogfood cans are all I had handy to use for temporary plants pots. I hope the squashes don’t end up tasting like dogfood. I’ll let you know.

Happy Easter

Why do rabbits paint Easter eggs? Where do they get them? Do they steal them from the chickens’ nesting boxes? I suppose it wouldn’t be impossible for them to come up with a paintbrush somewhere – maybe some feathers lost by a bird. They might make colours for painting by chewing different plants or their flowers and spitting out the juice onto a rock and dipping the “brush” in. Most of the painting party would have to take place at night – first to make it easier to steal the eggs, and second, to have the whole warren pitch in and work on the painting while the dogs (Emma and Ruby) are sleeping in the house.

I see that one of the eggs is of alabaster. It has been part of the collection for more than 40 years. An inexpensive little something bought at a shop in Vancouver. A quail has contributed an egg to the plate. One of its babies was not going to hatch, so its shell is like a commemorative to the little guy. The four faded eggs were painted by my friends Yana and Yosef when they were about 8 or 9 years old. They’re about 32 now. The more brightly coloured eggs, were done by professional rabbits in the Czech Republic more than 20 years ago. These eggs are all resting on an authentic Czech plate that has holes in it. You might be able to see the holes beside the quail egg or to the top right of the green egg. It’s part of the fancy design of the dish that we fondly refer to as a soup plate.

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I’m glad that the rabbits painted these Easter eggs. I don’t usually think of these fluffy critters in a kindly light. No gardener would!  I’ll forgive them this time because of the hard work they do at Easter time, but my goodwill won’t last long. Once in a while I have to get my revenge on them  by eating one of their chocolate cousins, just to teach them a lesson.

Happy Easter!

Things Take a Turn

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I love the quietness of the prairies, and yet, when I thought  back on the morning, it wasn’t all that quiet. On my approach, the sharptail grouse jumped up out of the grass and flew low over the land cackling with that laughing call they make. I scared up two sleek and well-furred rabbits – not at all feeble like ours at home on the coast. Could they ever run!  I could almost hear their thumping feet as they bounded away.
Twice, I almost walked on hen pheasants that held tightly to their hiding places in the grass, hoping I wouldn’t come their way. But when I was about six feet from them, the hens shot up into the air and flew away, leaving me with my heart pounding in my throat.
Hawks flew overhead shrieking and then diving down on coveys of sharptail grouse.
No … I guess it wasn’t quiet after all.
Almost done for the morning, my husband thought it would be good to check out a small copse of trees and bushes
and give Emma, our English cocker spaniel puppy, a chance to find out what a pheasant smells like. To get there, I assumed we would walk. After about six miles of walking, what’s another half mile?
But no. The man in charge thought he would show what his four-wheel-drive truck could do. Down into the dip he drove.
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 And there we stayed!
“But I went through here twice yesterday,” he said.
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It doesn’t look so bad, except the wheels just kept on spinning into the muck. We were going nowhere but lower into the ground.DSCN2474
  Notice how close to the muck the bottom of the door is.
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Mr Four Wheeler walked for help.
The farmer who kindly allowed us access to his land, was busy working on it elsewhere, so his very capable wife and daughter came out in their truck.
If you noticed in the second photo, there is a farm gate (an extra post with the barbed wire wrapped around it). This is where the smart farmer’s wife drove through, to go around the muck and tow us out on the other side of the mudhole. Mother and daughter got right into rescue mode and pulled the Man-no-longer-in-charge out of his predicament.
To his credit, the grateful man gave the farmer’s wife a very heartfelt thank-you-hug.
Then he and Emma went for one last walk. Notice Emma’s legs? None of them are touching the ground. She was one happy dog.
And I was happy to get out my Kindle and wait in the not-stuck-anymore truck.
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By the way, happy Thanksgiving to all Canadians. I almost forgot it was Thanksgiving weekend because of being in Montana where they have Thanksgiving in late November.
We really do have a lot to be thankful for, whether we live in Canada or the United States.

Surprise Visitor

Waiting, sitting in the truck, annoyed with myself for forgetting to bring a book or my Kindle, I studied my surroundings, far and near. I thought about how the prairies fool so many people (me too, at first) into thinking it’s a boring landscape. To pass the time, I tried to name some of the animals I`d seen in those fields that seem empty at first glance.

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Hiding in the thick clumps of bushes and trees, mule deer, coyotes, porcupine, pheasants, and owls hoped not to be discovered. In the grassy hills, I`ve seen ground squirrels, badgers, sharptail grouse, and meadowlarks. Not all in the same day or at the same time, of course!

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This field could easily hide pheasants, rabbits, and sharptail grouse. I’ve heard Canada geese fly over it and heard coyotes yipping and howling at night as they patrol along the distant trees that line the Missouri River.

In the midst of my daydreaming, a robin flew over to ask me why I looked bored when I had so much beauty all around me. It sat in the branches of a Russian olive tree just outside the truck window and said, “Did you know that pheasants like to eat these olives? Sometimes they’re one of the few food sources available in the winter when the snow covers everything else.”

030Seeing that robin so close was a little thrill for me. He obviously hadn’t expected a person to be right there when he found a perch beside the truck window. I fumbled stealthily for my camera and hoped for the best. I was so glad this bird came to cheer me up. Wouldn’t he be surprised to know he will now live on my blog?

Crossbill Acrobatics

This morning as the first rays of sunlight hit the firs beside my house, I sat on the deck and snapped some photos using the zoom lens but no tripod. Just my wiggling hands. I don’t claim to be an expert photographer. I only want to have fun with the camera. At least for now….

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Right now the birds are making me happy.

No big story in this post; just a series of photos from my birdfeeding station.

If you click on the photos to zoom in, you’ll get more out of these pictures. Check out the beaks and the crossbill’s parrot-like feet.

First Mr. Red Crossbill. If you click to enlarge the photo you’ll see that he has a sunflower seed in his beak.

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Then Mrs. Red Crossbill, who is actually yellow. You’ll notice that there’s a brush hanging beside the feeder. That’s for cleaning the green scunge out of the birdbath once in a while. If the brush is handy, I’m more likely to use it.

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Now Mr. Crossbill and his antics.

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And more of him where he’s not acting so goofy.

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See the tail feathers of birds on the far side of the feeder?

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The red breasted nuthatch joins our pair of red crossbills to make sure they don’t take all the sunflower seeds.

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In the wee hours of the morning (about five o’clock), as I was waiting for my pale mystery bird to appear (the strange bird I saw last week), an uninvited guest showed up under the feeders.

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At that point I gave up. I didn’t want to watch this guy digging holes and trying to help me with the weeding.

What’s New Out There?

This seems to have been the longest winter in history. At last the weather warms up. Early flowers pop up. Seasonal birds arrive. The first tough plants pop up in the garden.

Here are my  brave radishes. They peeked out of the poor soil and looked around. I know they shivered last night, but they toughed it out. Today was cool and breezy except for a few moments when the sun came out. I’m sure the radishes grew a few millimeters in that short sunny time.

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The potpourri of volunteer perennials was cheery this year. You can tell I’m not a regimented gardener. Things are allowed to grow pretty much wherever they want to. Do you see the evidence of a nocturnal visitor? He’s chewed the tops off many of the leaves and stems of the muscari (those blue flowers). Just think how many there would have been if the mysterious long-eared visitor would stick to eating carrots like he’s supposed to.

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Nearby is a birdbath – you can see its base in the top right corner of the above photo. A birdfeeder stands among the rhodos. It’s a perfect place for the birds, having all their requirements: food, water, and shelter. They can duck into the thick bushes easily to escape the odd hawk, eagle, or owl that hangs around here.

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The robins have been here for several weeks now, but they aren’t seed eaters so they won’t be wasting time at the feeder. What I do see there often are chestnut-backed chickadees, house finches, and pine siskins which, like the other finches, are light brown, but they have  yellow patches on their wings and tails.  The towhees scratch around on the ground – the place they like best, and that’s a good thing. Someone has to clean up the mess the others make.

The latest visitors, golden-crowned sparrows, don’t usually stay long. Maybe two weeks or so and then they’re gone. They stop here again on their way south at the end of the summer.  I love their song. They’re so patriotic, singing over and over again, “Sweet Cah-nah-duh.” In the next picture, three of them are each sitting on the tip of a mugo pine branch. The bright pink rhodo on the right is one my sister gave me about twenty years ago. It gets more beautiful every year.

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The last thing I want to post here today is my lovage. I love the name of it. In German it’s Liebstoeckl, which is also about love. This plant needs to be weeded, but it’s growing nicely in spite of me. Mainly it’s used for flavouring soups and gravies. It’s like the organic part of OXO flavouring.

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My mother gave me this lovage, dug up from her backyard on Vancouver Island. I was living in the Queen Charlotte Islands at the time and she felt sorry for me not having a nursery handy. She sent me all sorts of plants, which miraculously survived the week to ten days in a box in the postal service. When I moved back to Vancouver Island I dug up the plant and brought it with me, but first there were several friends who wanted a piece of the plant so I gave them chunks of it to start their own plants.

When I moved into my place on Vancouver Island, I again gave away pieces of the plant to friends who seemed interested in having some of it. I moved three times over the years and took that plant with me each time. The lovage offspring thrive in many gardens now.

My mother died 31 years ago, and still I have that lovage plant that she sent me 37 years ago. It has become a treasure over the years. I can’t  imagine being without it.