wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Be Careful What You Wish For

We waited all through the long cold, wet winter and spring for a few sunny days to come our way.

Since the middle of June, the heat and sun have been pretty much relentless. Now, in late August, I’ve learned to be careful what I wish for.

 

Grass is parched and plants have wilted,

Weather forecasts all sound stilted,

Every living thing has thirst,

How I’d love a good cloudburst.

 

Hanging baskets wilt and wail, 

“Give me water from that pail!”

Sun is great, but heat’s a pain,

Don’t you think it’s time for rain?

 

I no longer wish for sun

Too much heat is not such fun,

Sunshine scorches all I see,

Moderation is the key.

 

 


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The Easy Way

While Charlie and Chester the chickadees got their sunflower seeds from the sunflowers in the garden, Nathan the nuthatch found an easier way to get his share.

This jar of seeds is meant for the squirrels, but when they aren’t looking, Nathan zips in and steals a seed. He doesn’t linger at all, making it more of a Dine and Dash situation. At any time Jasper or Lincoln might come and put the run on him. It was hard to get a clear picture, zoomed in from the deck of the house, and needing to snap it quickly as Nathan only stays at this jar for a split second.

“Do you know who’s been into my stash?”

 

Nathan Nuthatch loves his seeds,

Not so much the work.

Squirrel food will meet his needs,

Though his theft might irk.

 

Jasper tries to guard the stash,

Lincoln also helps,

Nathan is afraid they’ll bash

In his skull, and yelps.

 

“Look how much you have to eat,

Yet you will not share,

Food laid out for you so neat,

This I just can’t bear.

 

“If the seeds you will not share,

I will have to steal,

Flying quickly I will dare,

But won’t stay to peel.

 

“In a pinch I’d get my own,

From the tall sunflowers,

But until my cover’s blown,

This will save me hours.”

 

 

 


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Beary Scary

Years ago, before I got a good camera, I took this photo of a grizzly. It’s not  very clear, but I really didn’t want to do a close-up.

This is the Orford River which flows into Bute Inlet on the west coast of British Columbia.

We had tied the fish boat to a small dock in a bay around the corner, and then took a ride up the river in our aluminum skiff. The area was known for grizzlies and we wanted to see one, but I hadn’t counted on two things:

that we would actually see one not too far away,

and that the mouth of the Orford has a lot of sandbars.

I’ve had nightmares about bears forever, but it would still be a big deal to see one. I knew if a bear actually came along and tried to chase us, we could just turn the skiff around, rev up the outboard, and roar out of there.

On the way upriver though, we were pushing the boat off one sandbar after another with the oars to keep in water deep enough to use the motor. These sandbars were spotty and just when you thought you were in the clear, up popped another one. So I was even more nervous than usual. And of course that’s when we saw him.

Even with his hind end in the water, as he swatted at salmon going by, I could tell he was huge. We watched for a moment or two, but when he saw us, we knew it.

His head came up and he stretched his neck up tall. Then as he sauntered in our direction along the fallen log that you see lying across the river, we thought it was time to get out of there.

There are some things you do in your life that seem okay at the time, and later you say to yourself, “What was I thinking?!”

This was one of those times.

It was a big thrill to see the bear, but what if he hadn’t been so agreeable? Didn’t I know how fast they can run for a short sprint? And what if we had gotten high-centered on one of those sandbars in our haste to get away.

Everything could have ended up differently.

And I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about it,

because bears don’t have Internet inside their bellies.

 


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Fish Foolery

No, we don’t eat bananas with our trout, but it’s there to show the relative size of the fish.

You’d think it’s easy to be smarter than a fish, but have you ever tried to catch one that didn’t want to be caught? You might be surprised how wary they are, and if you try to lure them to bite a hook, you’ll learn that they are choosy too.

Fish basically eat insects, and each other’s babies. Nasty little critters, aren’t they? And yet, when I’m lucky enough to get one onto my dinner plate, they don’t taste nasty at all. The trick is to get them there.

So I’ll defer to the Captain, who has been trying for a lifetime to outsmart a fish. He loves the art of tying “flies” (lures made with fur and feathers and other components), to suit the mood and appetite of the fish at any particular time. Appetites change with the season, the temperature, the weather, and a few other factors.

Assuming you have a fishing rod and a boat to get out onto the lake to try fishing, here are some things the trout might look for. What we are trying to do is to create a lure (a fly) that simulates something the trout might be attracted to. We need to be a little bit mean, and hide a sharp hook in this “fly” to catch our dinner.

When flying ants are hatching, the trout love to make a meal of them near the edge of the lake where the swarms of newly hatched ants are crawling on the overhanging branches and often drop into the water. The simulated ant below has wings made of window screen mesh.

Another favourite food of the trout is the nymph dragonfly. The eggs are laid near aquatic plants in the quiet waters near shore. Sometimes in as few as five days, the eggs hatch into the nymph stage of the dragonfly. This is when they are often picked off by trout. The nymphs who survive, split their skin up to twelve times on their way to adulthood (rather than sitting in a cocoon to wait for development to be completed), and this series of molting can take up to four years. Once adulthood is reached, the dragonflies mate and the female lays eggs. Both male and female dragonflies only live about four or five months after mating.

Below is a dragonfly lure simulating the nymph stage. The nickel is placed in the photos to show the relative size.

 

Below is a shrimp “fly.”

And of course there are leeches in many of the lakes. Not nice for swimmers, but lovely for a trout’s meal.

And this nasty little critter, below, is a bloodworm, the larval stage of the midge fly. It lives in the shallow lake bottoms and can give people or animals a venomous bite that hurts like a bee sting.

When the bloodworm changes to the pupa stage of the midge fly (Chironomidae) it floats up to the surface of the water, and then in the next stage it turns into a small fly.

In the above flies, the one on the left has a white bubble that floats the pupa to the surface where it rests for a while until its wings dry and it can fly away (if a trout doesn’t snap it up first).

 

Trout have no scruples when it comes to eating other fish’s babies.  Here are some of the lures made to look like minnows used to entice them to bite.

But now comes the lure that I find the most fun. It is made from a small piece of rabbit fur. Yes, rabbit fur!  Made to look like sculpins and bullheads, fish that stay near the bottom, these lures have an amazing action that simulates that of these bottomfish.

 

Here is a short video showing the action of one of these lures.


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Bald Eagles

I saw an eagle land in a tree below my house, so I went out onto the deck to take its picture.

Then I zoomed in on it and got a close up of it, but had no place to steady the camera and just took my chances.

In a second closeup, I saw that he had his beak open and I could see its tongue, but I see that the photo is quite small on the blog, so if you want to see the eagle’s tongue, you’ll have to click on the photo to make it bigger. Even so, it will be hard to see.

These birds are much bigger than they look. If you had one sitting beside you with its wings spread out, tip to tip those wings could span 8 feet. The bird might weigh about 14 lbs., the size of a small turkey. 

Anyone walking a small dog or worse yet, letting it run around in their backyard in eagle territory, had better watch out for it. They make a nice snack. Although eagles are not water birds, they will do what they have to do to procure food. I have seen an eagle with a loon in its beak, dragging it across the surface of the water as the eagle swims with one wing paddling like a lifeguard saving a drowning person, until it got to shore where it cold devour the bird. I have seen it do the same after swooping down to pick up a coho salmon just below the surface of the water. They are incredibly strong birds.

At this time of year, the herring come close to shore to spawn. This means a bounty of food for the eagles. You can see these birds showing up in the tall trees near the beaches in greater numbers to await the arrival of the herring. 

Eagles are not totally scavengers, but they are like a cleanup crew of a different kind. They are opportunists and will eat what is already dead, but they pick off sick or injured animals, whether they be land- or sea-birds, small mammals, or fish.  A crippled duck won’t suffer long with eagles around.

This is why you will often see eagles high up in a tree. They observe a large area, watching for stragglers in a flock of birds, or any weakness in animals small enough for them to pick up.

 

This raccoon may have been sick, injured, or dead, and became an eagle’s meal.

“Hmm…. There must be a little morsel left.”

 

“He’s messed up my nice white head feathers, but it’s worth it. What’s a bit of blood when you can fill your boots like this?”

“Just a few tidbits left. I hope I can still fly up into that tree with my stomach so full.”

 

Once when I was playing with Ruby, our late springer spaniel (then a small puppy), in the backyard, two eagles had been sitting unnoticed by me, in a nearby fir tree. They swooped down low across the yard, heading for tiny Ruby. I ran for Ruby and spread out my arms to provide an “umbrella” over her, and the eagles lifted up like two jets making an aborted landing. If I hadn’t been out there with her, she would have been eagle food that day.

 

So take care if you live in eagle country and have small dogs or cats. 

 


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More Bags

I wanted to share a project I’ve been working on while we are all housebound by the coronavirus.  A few years ago I made a tote bag at a workshop. That inspired me to start looking for some more ideas online and to take those ideas and adjust them to the materials I had to work with.

These bags are meant to carry almost anything you can fit inside them: books, gadgets, cosmetics bags, wallets, and small items you shop for and don’t need a plastic bag for (as long as you have the receipt).

The inside has two side pockets for carrying things you don’t want to lose in the deep dark bottom of the purse — maybe your house keys, cell phone, shopping list — anything you want to have handy access to.

I got confident enough to make two bags at once, like in an assembly line. I would not have done that with my first few bags. I would have ended up making the same mistakes twice.

You might notice that I have chosen to use Velcro fasteners to close the bag, rather than putting in a zipper. I would have liked the zipper, but I once had a very nice leather bag that I really liked, but when the zipper went, that was the end of the bag. I’ve been using Velcro as fasteners for some time now, and it works quite well. In the photo below, you can see the Velcro sewn into the top inside edge of the bag.

I might have to come up with a new plan for bags to keep from getting bored.


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Practical Project – Fly Rod Sleeve

When you go fly fishing, sometimes you have to walk through dense brush to get to the lake or river. Carrying a fly rod can be a challenge when shrubbery seems intent on grabbing at the rod and you walk by. If you have your rod ready to go, with the line through the guides and that special fly you tied already attached, you don’t want to get hooked up on every twig as you pass by.

Even if you have a clear launching place for a skiff and you plan to motor to your special spot on the beach some place farther along, what do you do with the rod? You don’t want your expensive Sage rod and your almost equally expensive Islander reel to smack against the aluminum sides of the skiff with every bump of the waves.

Have you ever tried to thread the fly line through the guides on the rod while you’re sitting in a boat? Not so easy. So it’s often better to have the rod ready to go. But then it is so long and unwieldy. Nine or ten feet long is not unusual.

So you separate the parts of the rod after you have it all “threaded” and now you are dealing with half the length. The reel is already fastened onto the end of the rod.

Now all you need is a safe way to carry your ready-to-go rod and reel.

That’s when you want a cloth sleeve to put your fly rod and reel in. I put my amateur sewing skills to work, looked at an old sleeve we had kicking around and made up some sleeves to fit two nine-foot rods and then, feeling encouraged, I made two more that were a bit longer to accommodate the ten-foot rods.

Now the Captain is all set to take the rods to “work.” He’s having so much fun, I may never see him again.

Photo courtesy of Ken Thorne.

If you haven’t checked out my second blog, why not give it a try. I do a lot of writing tips, but there are also stories from time to time. Today’s story is called “A Lousy Story.”

https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/


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House Finch

This little guy was waiting for his turn to have a bite of lunch at the birdfeeder. In the photo I managed to get, I saw that his eye looks good.

I hadn’t known about the eye disease that went through the finch population in the last thirty years or so, but after reading about it, I made sure to take care of my feeders, keeping them clean and raking up the ground under the feeders where mould might collect around dropped seeds and bird poop.

The bacteria that affect the finches appear to have originated in chicken feed. Possibly some finches helped themselves to it and then got sick, spreading the disease to each other.

Scientists found that when the population of finches went down, the disease seemed to spread less easily, and future populations were less affected. Social distancing? However, the problem has not been solved completely, and it was noted that even as surviving birds recovered, the bacteria mutated and got more virulent. The bacteria causing eye disease are still out there, stronger than before, so we have to be aware and clean those feeders.

By the way, does this house finch look like he has only one leg? He must have two, but where is the second one? Maybe he’s got it pulled in close to his body to warm his toes. It’s been cold out there.


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Valor

It’s good to have a hobby. In the case of the Captain, fly fishing is no longer just a hobby, it’s … well … to use his father’s words, “an obsession.”  But when you’re obsessed with something, and you do it a lot, you get to be good at it.  Fishing from the beach in the fall when the cohos are hovering nearby, is one of the big thrills of the Captain’s life.

Photo by Ken Thorne

Here is a coho, thumbing his nose at the Cap, just after the line has been laid. Chances are good that this very salmon might swim near where the Cap has gently landed a fly he has tied. The coho won’t be able to help himself. He’ll snap at the fly and then wonder why he is being  dragged slowly towards the shore, no matter how hard he fights to swim the other way.

Photo by Ken Thorne

But things are not always so easy. Sometimes the Cap arrives at his favourite beach to find that it is already occupied. It’s a family having a picnic. Mama Bear is near the shore, easily turning over 70+-pound rocks with one flick of her wrist, to expose little rock crabs that scurry for cover after they get over the shock of the sudden daylight. Mama Bear grunts for her two cubs to come have breakfast. See the second cub way over on the right, by the big log?

This day, the Cap putters on a little farther in his skiff to find another beach. Mama Bear can get a bit tetchy over unexpected company coming near her cubs.

This photo was taken by the Cap with his point-and-click Fuji. A bit blurry, but it’s the best that tiny camera can do.

The Cap gets up very early to take his place on the beach, but apparently bears get up even earlier, and since they are bigger than he is, he abides by the well-known saying, “Discretion is the better part of valor.”


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Saving Seeds

Five years ago when we were in Montana on our annual trip, Mick, a farmer friend gave us two buttercup squashes he’d grown. He suggested we could cook them in the microwave in our trailer. They were so good that I decided to save the seeds and bring them home. I’m glad I did. I am still growing Mick’s “Montana squashes” now, five years later, and they taste of good Montana memories.

I harvested a squash today and cut it in half. I scooped out the center and separated the soft tissue from the seeds.

Then I washed the seeds in cold water and scooped them out leaving much of the gooey protective mush behind. I dabbed them dry on a paper towel and set them outside in a warm place to dry off for a few hours before bringing them inside out of the damp night air.

I peeled the two halves of squash and cut them into wedges to pre-cook in the microwave for about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, I chopped a cooking onion and sauteed it in a frying pan.

I added the partially cooked squash pieces and cooked them slowly until they were golden brown on both sides. For spices I kept it simple: salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of some green herb (this time it was savoury, but I’ve tried others – like oregano or thyme – and found them to be quite nice too).

In the photo below the squash is not completely browned yet but one or two pieces in the center are starting to get brown and have been flipped over.  I use a generous amount of butter so the pieces don’t stick.

When the seeds are completely dry, I store them in a jar in a cool, dry place. I found out that these squashes like me a lot. When I am not diligent enough to do everything right, the bits that I’ve put into the compost over the winter will sprout in early spring if I throw shovelfuls of the composted soil around the garden.

These buttercup plants started to grow as soon as I threw the shovelful of composted soil onto the ground. It’s a bit late for them this year but I’ll keep it in mind to start some of the volunteer compost seeds early in the spring next year.

Meanwhile, today we enjoy buttercup squash and think of our generous friend, Mick, in Montana.

I save seeds from all kinds of plants and am extra happy when they grow for me. I think it could someday become a very useful bit of knowledge to be able to save seeds for future crops.

Do you save seeds? Which are your favourites?