wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Spider Hideouts

Spider Hideouts

With all the bad weather we’re having, I took a mental trip back to sunnier days when we were in Mexico for the winter about twenty years ago.

Camped at Chacala, 360 kms south of Mazatlan, we often bought our fruit and vegetables from the produce truck.  One day, I lugged home three big bags of fresh vegetables.

“Coming to the beach?” the Captain asked.

“You go ahead. I’ll be down right after I clean these veggies,” I grumbled, slapping at the tiny biting flies. I soon gave up trying to work at the table I had set up outside and brought the vegetables into the bug-free trailer to clean in my little kitchenette.

Done at last! Now for the beach and a cool swim. I hurried outside to bring in my bathing suit from the clothesline we had strung between two coconut palms. I was about to step into it, when I let out a shriek. A furry eight-legged critter about the size of a wolf spider was eyeing me from inside the bathing suit bra.

Anyone passing by must have gawked at the bathing suit flying out the doorway.

I was late getting to the beach that day, and although the water was refreshing, I couldn’t relax. Other swimmers must have wondered at the woman who kept pulling away the top of her bathing suit to look at her boobs.

That evening, we sat at the kitchen table in the trailer, playing cards and relaxing with an Oso Negro gin and peach juice. I tidied up the last few things before getting into bed.

The Captain had just finished brushing his teeth and as he came out of the bathroom he heard me GASP! His eyes followed my arm as I pointed to the corner of the trailer. There, clinging to the ceiling, sat the biggest spider I’d ever seen. The hairy dark brown visitor had a body the size of my thumb, and his legs could easily straddle a saucer. If I had been a screamer they would have heard me all the way to Mazatlan.

“And I’ve been sitting there playing cards all evening with that thing poised right above my head,” I wailed.

I handed the Captain the fly swatter, and, in a shaky voice, told him, “If it gets away, I’m not sleeping in here tonight and I’ll be on the plane tomorrow.”

“It must have come in with the vegetables,” he said, as he tossed its crumpled body outside.

And where had it been while I sat there cleaning them? I wondered. Hiding in the cauliflower leaves? How close had I come to touching it? Shivers ran down my back.

It seems spider experiences run in three’s.

The next day we visited an open air market in a nearby town. I admired the handmade wooden cutting boards and picked one up to study the grain. Something ran over my hand. I threw the board into the air and squealed, “Una araña!” The vendor laughed and seemed unperturbed as I pointed to the gigantic spider running in his direction.

I was having serious thoughts of home. But imagine missing all this fun.


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Apples – A to Z

Apple time is nearly over and each type of apple has its season. Our transparent apples, tart cooking apples, are the first to ripen, followed by the Gravenstein, a delicious eating apple. Then comes the MacIntosh, thinner skinned, but also a good eating apple, and finally the best winter apple I’ve ever tasted, the Wilmuta.

The apple trees were loaded this year, probably to make up for last year’s almost non-existent crop.

I’m guilty of not pruning the trees well (or at all) last winter and the trees were so weighed down with apples that a major branch threatened to break. I stuck a piece of wood under it to prop it up. I promise to prune the trees for next year.

I had never heard of Wilmuta until I bought this one, almost 30 years ago. My favourite apple is probably the Gravenstein, but Jonagold comes a close second. Wilmuta is a cross between these two varieties. The goal of apple biologists was to produce a large apple like Jonagold, but with the rosy colour of a Gravenstein. The result was a huge mouth-watering late season apple that is as sweet as it is hardy, well into late October.

October is nearly over and these apples are still on the tree, but I think it’s time to bring them in out of the cold soon. They are really good keepers, except for getting eaten eagerly once they are ripe.

If I were to buy another apple tree, Wilmuta would be my first choice.

*****

Apples keep the doctor away. Sorry, Doc.

Baking with apples

Crunchy fruit

Delicious, dripping sweetness

Eve tempts Adam

Festive

Gravenstein

Hardy

I love apples

Juicy Jonagold

Keepers

Lovely

MacIntosh

Nutritious

Over the top

Pippins

Quantities – never enough

Ripe

Sweet apple sauce

Tart transparents

Unbelievably good

Varieties abound

Wonderful Wilmuta

X-tra good

Yes, they’re the best

Zero calories … almost.


49 Comments

Finicky Finch

This female house finch has just had a bath and is now looking for a snack on my brussels sprouts plants.

These tasty sprouts are still so small,

That’s not much food for me at all,

To peck them isn’t worth the work,

I’ll have to find some other perk.

So many pairs of pears I see,

Too many hanging in one tree,

Too big for tiny little finches,

I’d get fat and put on inches.

The sunflower seeds will soon be ripe

And then I’ll have no cause to gripe,

They are my favourite snacking food,

To nibble them improves my mood.


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Slime Mold

No, it isn’t what the dog threw up, but it sure looks like it could be. It was growing in the bark mulch in my backyard. First time I’ve seen it.

Back in April, Pit from pitsfritztownnews posted a photo of slime mold (also called dog vomit slime mold), and I said that we don’t have it here. He’s in Texas; I’m on Vancouver Island. I’ve added a link to his post at the bottom of the page.

This slime mold is about the size of an adult hand with fingers spread out.

Apparently this fungus frequently comes in bark mulch and grows when the weather is humid. Hot dry weather usually dries it up and it dies. Meanwhile, although it is not meant to be eaten, it won’t kill you and it’s not toxic to pets. It is just to be tolerated and possibly admired for its uniqueness.

 

Here is Pit’s link:

https://pitsfritztownnews.wordpress.com/2020/04/10/this-here/

 


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Birds at Vernon Lake

We parked our trailer and unloaded the skiff to have it ready for use at the edge of Vernon Lake.

The campsite was visited by many birds. Here are only a few of them. Many stayed hidden though they sang their hearts out all day.

This is a hairy woodpecker. I thought at first it was a downy, which looks very similar, but the hairy woodpecker has a much heavier and longer beak than the downy.

One of the birds I heard a lot, was Swainson’s thrush. I love the song he sings, “You’re pretty, you’re pretty, oh really.” But he is very elusive and I couldn’t get a photo of him.

He’s a very plain version of an immature robin but without any hint of black or red. If you click on this link you’ll see a photo on the bird site: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Swainsons_Thrush/id

Next to visit, was a Steller’s jay, but I almost mistook him for something else. He is a bit pale and scruffy, and this has me wondering if it is an immature bird.

Below, we have the red-breasted sapsucker, probably the very one I took pictures of for a previous post. He was hanging around the campsite the whole time we were there.

And no wonder! He has already made quite an investment in this tree, sipping sap and nabbing insects.

But do you see what I see? Circling the tree just below the chipped bark is a nasty looking petrified snake. I think he’s guarding the dinner table for the sapsucker.

You won’t see me trying to get near him. He looks mean. Is that blood on his lips?


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Fish or Beans

Vernon Lake on northern Vancouver Island is a good-sized piece of water. Expect lots of gray days, with misty clouds, some moving around the lake, some hanging onto the hilltops nearby.

If you are in a small boat, watch for the many partially submerged logs, especially near the shores. The area around the lake was logged long ago, probably more than once, by the look of the different sizes of trees.

 

Some of the trees have been in the water for so long that the exposed stumps have decayed and supported new plant growth. Sorry for the blurry photo of that one. It was a quick afterthought photo on a drive-by in the skiff.

Some stumps had not had time to develop growth yet. Instead they took on the role of sea monsters guarding the passageway to the far end of the lake.

At that end where the river flows out, the lake narrows like a funnel. Along the sides of the ever narrowing passageway, stand snags of trees that were probably drowned years ago by the rise in the lake’s water level in the rainy season. It looked to me like Snag Alley.

 

The water was so clear you wondered if it was really there, except that it reflected the greenery from the shore.

 

The Captain did his best to catch a fish after scrambling to get all his ducks in a row.

Either our timing wasn’t right, or the Captain was hampered by having to set up the Admiral with her fishing rod, but by the time he was able to dabble, it was not a fishy time for him just then and there.

Or possibly the fish didn’t take him seriously because he wasn’t wearing all his top-of-the-line brand name fishing paraphernalia. (The Admiral didn’t care about that stuff as long as he had the bear spray along.)

Anyway, supper that day was not going to be fresh gourmet fish.

More like sausages and a can of beans.

It was time for one of my favourite sayings: Tomorrow is another day.

 


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The Chinwag

Sometimes it takes only a simple thing to feel like you’ve just had a shot of Vitamin B12.

Yesterday I sat on a bench looking at this scene. I took a picture and thought, “Somewhere over there is my house. If I didn’t know there was a river on the far side of this mud flat, I might try walking across Comox Bay.” When I got home and uploaded the photo, I zoomed in and could almost see my house. I could see the workshop in the backyard and the tree that is in the farthest corner of the yard. I drew an arrow in the photo to show where that tree is, right in a gap between the treed area.

Having a sandwich and a chinwag with a friend was a simple way to pass some time but it was great medicine after not seeing friends for a long time, and not having much of a social life except for calling to people at a distance. We sat on opposite ends of a bench and caught up on news of the past weeks. Then we both went home refreshed, having had a change of scene.

I realized then how much I had missed seeing my friends, and how much I still miss seeing some who can’t get out for a while like I did.

The effects of the pandemic are the same for all of us in some ways, but different for others.  What changes do you find most difficult at this time? How do you cope?


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Bark Mulch

I needed mulch to keep the weeds down between the shrubs in my yard.  A visit  to  the  local poleyard was in order.

The mulch is the chipped up bark of the mostly firs that are peeled to make nice smooth telephone poles.

All the peelings are sorted into mountains. Some are long strands of bark mulch, some are smaller chips of bark, and some are just ratty, junky pieces that aren’t good for much.

My garden needed the smaller chips so we parked the truck and utility trailer at the side of the road between the mulch mountains and waited for the loader to come and help us out.

Here he comes with his scoop in front.

One of those big scoops holds what they call a yard of mulch (we pay by the yard).

I’m always amazed at how little they drop on the way to the trailer.

Here comes our one yard of bark mulch.

When he drops it into the trailer and pats it down with the scoop, the truck shakes like in an earthquake.

It doesn’t seem like a lot until you start unloading it.

While I was waiting for the loader to come, I took a couple of short video clips to show how they take the raw logs and put them into the machine that scores the bark and flips the logs around and around. The power is awe-inspiring. Have you ever tried to juggle a log that size? Look at how the blades cut into the bark without cutting up the wood.

In the second video, you can see the bark mulch shooting out the long pipe to be piled up into those bark mulch mountains. Not much is wasted.

Next time you see bark mulch around a pretty shrub, think about how that log bounced around as it was stripped of its coat. It’s a good thing I can’t talk to the trees or hear what they’re saying, but if I had to guess, I’d bet they’re calling to each other, “Anybody got a coat they can lend me?”

“Naw, they took mine too!”

.

.


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Lupines

I hadn’t thought of these beautiful flowers as wolf plants, but the Collins Dictionary definition asserts that the word is 14th century in origin, from the Latin lupīnus, “wolfish,” as it was believed that the plant ravenously exhausted the soil (info from Wikipedia).

Seemingly contradictory is this edited quote, also from Wikipedia: Like other legumes, they are nitrogen fixing plants. This adaptation allows lupins to be tolerant of infertile soils and capable of pioneering change in barren and poor-quality soils.

My sister took these pics in her backyard. What a feast for the eyes.

I had no idea that the seeds of lupines are eaten in many parts of the world. However, when I read on, and learned about bitter tastes and that the seeds were often soaked and toasted or boiled and dried, I thought — too much work — I would probably enjoy them more just as a flower to be admired.

 


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Blackberries

Who doesn’t love blackberries? They’re sweet and tart and good for us. BUT, the plants are so thick they grow into a formidable barrier wherever they take root.

Blackberries grow wild in many places, especially on Vancouver Island. They are tough plants with fierce thorns for protection, and they have their prolific growth patterns perfected. The vines that come up from the roots each year will easily take root wherever the end (or middle or any other part) of the vine touches the ground.

It is listed as an invasive plant. No kidding!

The blackberries in front of our hedge had grown so much that they were pulling down our wire deer fence, squeezing through the cedars, and slurping up all the water we were giving the hedge.

I’d had enough.

You can see that locals had made us their dog walk. Why let your dog poop by your own property when you can bring it over to someone else’s and let them do their business there?

Unfortunately, many of the ones who picked up after their dogs then thought it was okay to fling the plastic poop bag into the blackberries. And while they were at it, why not fling any other garbage in there too? After all, out of sight, out of mind. I found a water bottle from a local coffee shop, beer cans, beer bottles, a ball point pen in two parts, candy wrappers,about six  poop bags, and even an umbrella.

And one conscientious person didn’t pick up their doggie’s “doo” but left it for nature to take care of. Actually I prefer that, but please, move it out of the way? Then again, when you get hundreds of people bringing their dogs to poop, how is it going to look and smell if no one takes care of that business?

I’m glad I don’t walk there, but it IS in front of my house.

It took me several weeks of cutting, hacking, pulling, cursing, and wincing to get the blackberry vines to let go and to pile them up in heaps.

 

The blackberries have been cut down,

But new ones come up from the ground,

The old vines have the hardest spikes,

They give a poke that no one likes.

 

The young vines wrap so easily,

Around my arm, around my knee,

They tangle right into my hair,

They scratch me, and they don’t care where.

 

I wonder if it’s worth the woe

To cut the vines so they won’t grow.

For every piece I cut away

I get another scratch and pay.

 

My arms and legs have red designs

They’re scratched with deep and angry lines

And even as the first pain fades

I run to get some more Band-aids.