Thursday 31 May 2018

The Library at the Edge of the World

    Today is the McBride Library’s Book Club meeting.  The theme for May was “Libraries or Librarians.”   I was not overly thrilled with the theme, but I missed last month’s meeting, so couldn’t give any input about what we were going to read next.  Being the good sport that I am, I picked The Library at the Edge of the World  by Felicity Hayes-McCoy, to read.  Here’s what I thought about the book:

               The main character in this novel is a middle aged woman named Hannah, who runs the public library in a smallish town located on a peninsula in Ireland in current times.  She comes off as being one of those stereotypical stern, civil, but rule-based librarians. 
      The library she runs is located in part of an old convent school building. Hannah has one employee who works a couple of days a week when she is off driving the bookmobile to isolated communities on the peninsula.  She is not happy in her life, she is a single mom with a 20 year old daughter who works as a flight attendant and so only comes home occasionally.  
       Hannah’s major problem is her argumentative and opinionated mother who she lives with.  She moved back to her mother with her daughter, after leaving her husband when she caught him in an affair.  Now after fifteen years of living in this situation, she has decided to fix up, then move, into a derelict cottage on a cliff overlooking the sea, that was willed to her by an eccentric aunt. 
        Hannah asks her library assistant if he knows any builders who can fix up the cottage and upon visiting it one day, she discovers a grizzled old man there already working on it.  His name is Fury, and although everyone says he is an excellent restorer, he is a law unto himself and does work on the cottage without her consent, which drives her crazy. 
       In the midst of this construction project, she discovers the library itself and her job are at jeopardy, as the regional government has plans to consolidate it and other community services to a larger, faraway city.  She and an old activist nun, who she happened to run into, then plot to save the library, and community services for the small town.
       There were just too many far-fetched events in the novel for me to like it very much. Fury, the gruff, excellent builder who was able to secure all sorts of amazing things for the Hannah’s cottage by trading his own possessions for them, did not come off as being realistic, and I couldn’t swallow the way all of the disjointed members of the community suddenly jelled into a unified force after someone found an old convent book about herbs in the library. 
        I did finish reading the novel, but without much enthusiasm.

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Wednesday 30 May 2018

New Home For Joan's Piano

     Thirty or so years ago, Joan wanted a piano and we bought the one you see in the photo, from the Monroe family, one of the pioneer families in the Robson Valley.  Joan took lessons and played it, but eventually, work and  other diversions, relegated the piano into becoming more of a piece of furniture, rather than a musical instrument.  Luckily we found a new home for it--McBride’s new library.
    I have helped move about four other pianos in my life, so I knew just how heavy and awkward they were.  Monday was the day set for moving the piano, so I did all I could to make the job easier.  I bought two pieces of 3/4 plywood to lay on the carpet so it could be rolled as much as possible.   I was glad I did, because it made the job so much easier for the six of us that moved it.
   When we got the piano off of one one piece of plywood, on to the next one, we moved the plywood that it had just gotten off of, in front of the current one, to continue the forward movement.  We got it outside, down the front porch, and finally, loaded into a trailer for the trip to the library.
    There we used the same method with the plywood, until we got the piano into it’s designated spot.  The photo below shows Naomi, our librarian, thrilled about getting the piano. 
    Last night was our music jam night at the library, and I was anxious to see the piano get its first public workout.  I meant to take a photo of the piano, and everybody playing, but once we started jamming, I got so totally engulfed in the music, I forgot to take a picture.
    I heard a very depressing piece on the radio a couple of years ago, about how so many pianos, once such a popular instrument in a home, are now ending up in dumps, because they no longer fit with modern life.  It seems like such a waste of wood and fine workmanship.   I realize that being such a massive and heavy piece of furniture that they are no longer wanted, but still it is sad to see them junked. 
    We are so happy to find a new home for our piano, in a place where it will be used.

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Tuesday 29 May 2018

Zero, This Morning

    This morning when we woke, the thermometer read zero Celsius (32F).  So far it looks like all my infant vegetable plants in my garden survived.  I did turn on the water sprayer just in case, supposedly that can help save the plants, if it is done before the direct sunlight hits them.
    The cold, and heavy dew did give me some interesting images to photograph as I walked around the pond.  The photo above shows all the dew on the horsetails, and below, shows the section of the path along the dam, with the fog that formed over the pond.

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Monday 28 May 2018


    Cowbirds get their name because they are commonly seen hanging around cows.  They sit on the cow’s back and as the cow wanders around, disturbing insects in the grass.  The cowbirds then swoop down and eat the insects.  Of course cowbirds are not exclusively found on cows, as you can see in the photo.
    Originally in North America cowbirds rode around on the back of bison, but as the bison were hunted to near extinction, they adapted by switching to cattle which were increasing in numbers.
As more forested land was cleared and more cattle introduced, the range of the cowbird spread eastward and northward.  
    Cowbirds have a bit of a unsavory reputation because of their nesting habits, or lack there of.  In fact they don’t even bother making a nest.  Instead they sneak their eggs into the nest of some other unsuspecting birds and let that other bird do all of the raising of their fledgelings.  
    I took this photo right before the rain started to come down.  You can see the dark clouds over the Cariboo Mountains.

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Sunday 27 May 2018

How High's the Water, Momma?

    This time of year the snow that accumulated all winter up on the mountains begins to melt.  As a result, the creeks and rivers begin to rise.  The Fraser River which meanders through the Robson Valley is the recipient of all that water, so we keep an eye on it, because a section of the road we live on, runs along the Fraser and if there was bigger than normal rise, it could block the only route we have to McBride and the rest of the world.
    We monitor the river level every time we drive to town by looking at this tree.  The water level usually stops rising when it gets to the level you see in the photo.  The elevation of our road is about two feet (60cm) higher.  For the forty years we have been watching the river, it has never flooded across our road, but further back in history it has.
    The river levels always depend on how much snow is on the mountaintops, and how the heat is distributed across the Spring.  A sudden, hot spell would cause a quick melt and real problems, but we have been getting cooler temperatures over the last couple days, so hopefully that will keep the river’s water level about where it is now.

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Saturday 26 May 2018

Lawren Harris, Trevor Jones, and Lyuba Milne

    Lawren Harris, who lived from the early 1900‘s into the 1960‘s, is one of Canada’s most treasured painters.  While relatively unknown outside of Canada, his works have recently become better known thanks to Steve Martin, comedian and author, who has championed Harris’s paintings in shows in the US.  Harris is mostly known for his paintings of smooth mountains in dullish colors (excuse the reflections of people at the bottom of the painting in the photo above).
    At any rate, Harris’s paintings are important in Canada, and so it was a big deal when the Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George landed a show of his works.  It was doubly important to people in the Robson Valley because the gallery created a mountain theme to the show, and included works by local painter, Trevor Jones, and sculptural clay pieces created by Lyuba Milne.  
    Because of our friendship with both Trevor and Lyuba, Joan and I went up to see the exhibition in Prince George and listen to the talk given by Ian Thom, Senior curator from the Vancouver Art Gallery about Lawren Harris.  It was an interesting evening of art, hearing about Harris, and enjoying the company of the Milnes and Norma Stromberg-Jones, Trevor’s wife, while doing so.  
    Below is a shot of Ian Thom discussing a Harris painting, and Lyuba Milne standing beside of two of her clay pieces, with a Trevor Jones painting in the background.  

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Thursday 24 May 2018

Library Drop Box

    I guess someone thought that a new library deserved a newly painted drop box, so they asked me if I would paint one of my cartoon characters on the side of the box.  The photo shows what I came up with.  Doing a cartoon at this scale, in color, and on metal was a new experience for me, but I got through it.  If I had more time I would have given some of the colors a second coat of paint, but it is what it is.   
   Hopefully it will bring a smile to those who see it.

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Wednesday 23 May 2018

This Nozzle Tastes Like Fish

    The other day when I grabbed the water hose to water the plants, I noticed that the nozzle at the end had been chewed up. 
    “That’s strange,” I thought to myself, then I realized the reason why.
    A few days before, I was fertilizing my newly planted garden using fish fertilizer.  I would pour a bit of the fertilizer into the sprinkling can, then fill the can up with water.
    The water would created a sudsy looking foam on top of the fish fertilizer water, and that got on the nozzle.
    I guess some animal noticed the fish smell and started chewing on the nozzle.

    I have been a bit worried that a bear would smell my big bottle of fish fertilizer and I didn’t want it breaking into the greenhouse to get it, so I now keep it in our outhouse.

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Monday 21 May 2018

Moving the Library

    Yesterday was a red letter day for our McBride community; finally we were able to transfer the McBride and District Library from its old building into its new home on Main Street.  It had been a struggle for many years to make it happen.  Money had to be raised, politicians had to be voted out of office, bureaucracies had to be dealt with, but finally the day had arrived and we were physically moving books into our new building.
    It was amazing how well the big move came off.  It was both quick and efficient, thanks to many volunteers and a well thought out and organized plan.   Sixty-five people in our small community had signed up to help, but more than that came to lend a hand with the move.
    We were organized into separate jobs.  I was in the old library, taking books off of the individual shelves, putting them in boxes with the label of the row and shelf from which they came.  Others carried the boxes of books out to load on the pickup trucks.  While this was going on, another crew was right behind us, dismantling the now empty bookcases which were also trucked to the new location.
    At the new library, another crew of volunteers were doing the reverse of the jobs we were doing at the old library; reconstructing the bookcases, carrying in the boxes of books, and re-shelving them on the designated book shelves.  At lunch we were treated to chili and buns.  
    It was so gratifying to finally see the new library take shape.  It was good to see so many dedicated people helping to make it happen.  I was saddened at the thought that some of the people that had worked so hard to get this project off of the ground had passed away and were not there to see the result of their work. 
    Yesterday, made me proud of our little village of McBride.
    The photo at the bottom shows the books in their fancy digs in the new library building

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Saturday 19 May 2018

Tree Pollen

    There is a tremendous amount of microscopic tree pollen floating around in the air right now.  Normally it is something people are not aware of unless they have allergies, or they can see it on the surface of something, like the photo of my truck hood, but there is a huge volume of the tiny stuff floating around out there.  In past years I have seen clouds of pollen, like billowy plumes of smoke, blowing off of the trees on the mountain slopes by gusts of wind.
    I have noticed a lot of it accumulating on the surface of the water in the calm parts of my pond.  When I see it there I am reminded of researchers investigating the ecology of the past by looking through the buried layers of mud for ancient pollen to determine what kind of plants grew in an area thousands of years before.

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Friday 18 May 2018

Morning Sparkles

    Now in the morning when Skye and I do our walk around the pond, the Sun has risen over the mountain and is shining in our face as we round the corner of the dam to walk toward the house.  The Horsetails are up and they capture the heavy dew on their needle-shaped leaves.  The drops of dew catch the sunlight and make it look like we are walking through a green field of diamonds.  These photos can’t really capture all of the sparkles.

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Thursday 17 May 2018

The Power of One (Mosquito)

    I can’t imagine what Spring would be like in the Robson Valley without mosquitoes.  They are always the bane of my life for a few weeks (hopefully that is all) this time of year.  Usually they are not bad during the morning, but later in the heat of the afternoon, and particularly in the evening, they become frustratingly intolerable.
    Normally we are protected from this scourge when we are in the house, but that safety is often compromised by Lucifer, our cat.  This time of year she loves to be outside, then inside, then outside, then inside.  She can open the carport door all by herself, by butting it with her head.  We often don’t hear her come in and so the door remains partially open.  The mosquitoes take advantage of this breach of security and sneak into the house.
    There were a few buzzing around inside last night before we went to bed.  We killed as many as we could find, but there are always a few that wait around until everyone is asleep before doing their dirty work.  I was in a deep sleep around 12:30 when I was awakened by the buzzing of a mosquito.
    I tried to get back to sleep, but every time it landed on my face, I tried to swat it (unsuccessfully).  Each time I was getting close to falling back to sleep, the mosquito came buzzing back.  Finally out of frustration, I turned on the light, got out of bed, and started digging around in the closet for the mosquito net that we bought at Ikea decades ago.
    I found it, and started to rig it up.  I couldn’t do a proper job of it, because the hook is no longer in the ceiling, but fortunately, the bed is a four-poster, so I was able just to drape it over the two posts on the headboard and spread it down over the mattress.  I then climbed inside and turned out the light.
    The mosquito was still around of course, I could hear it.  It gave me great pleasure to know that this time it was the mosquito, and not me, that was frustrated.  I lay there secure in the knowledge that it couldn’t get at me.  This  enabled me to relax and finally drift back to sleep.

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Wednesday 16 May 2018

Last Time in the Old Library

    For about four years our Tuesday Night Jam Session played in the McBride Library Annex building, then when the annex was sold, we had to move out, and we started playing our music in the library itself.   Last night we played for the last time there.
    After years of struggle and fund raising, the McBride Library is finally about move into its new home on Main Street, so once again our venue is about to change.   Since last night was our final gathering in the old library, we squeezed together for a group photo to record the event for posterity.
    You might notice the mountain of cardboard boxes on the far left side of the photo, those boxes will be filled with library books this weekend, when volunteers help the library make its big move to Main Street.

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Tuesday 15 May 2018


    I have always been partial to ferns because they seem so primordial.  They’ve been growing on Earth for 250 million years or so.  As a child I was very interested in fossils, and once was taken to a strip mine in Indiana where rocks were found that could be struck on the edge with a hammer and they would split open revealing a fern leaf inside.  It was magical.
    Now living in the Interior of BC, I have access to lots of areas where ferns grow.  I love these darkish lush patches of ferns.  In the spring I am always fascinated by the way fern leaves develop.  The stems emerge all curled up in a ball and slowly unwind to become the familiar frond we all recognize as a fern leaf.
    I spotted this “fiddlehead” yesterday.

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Monday 14 May 2018

Sleeping on a Hard Sidewalk

    I have written before about how many different soft beds and “nests” we have provided for our cat Lucifer.  Since she spends hours and hours snoozing, she makes good use of them, but yesterday we noticed her sleeping for about an hour on our hard cement and rock slab sidewalk.  You might ask yourself why.
    Well, here’s the answer.  It was a hot sunny day yesterday, and all day long the sun was shining on the sidewalk.  Late in the afternoon when the sun went around the house and the front of the house was in the shade, the sidewalk was still nice and warm from all of the sun’s heat that it had absorbed.  Lucifer loves heat, and that is why she chose to spent the hour sleeping on the hard sidewalk.

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Sunday 13 May 2018

Unclouded Sky

    One of the songs we sometimes play at our jam session is called “Unclouded Sky.”  That song came to mind this morning when Skye and I were taking our walk around the pond.  The sky above us was a beautiful unblemished deep blue.  
    The Robson Valley is sitting under a high pressure system and the forecast says we will be experiencing warm sunny weather for a whole week.  The daytime temperatures are to be around 24C (75F) with the nights dipping to 2C (35F), a bit chilly, but I’ll happily take it.

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Saturday 12 May 2018


(Wow, magically, I can post my blogs here again.)

    Back in the 1970’s when we bought our house in the Robson Valley, I was impressed at how much our friends knew about setting up and repairing household necessities like plumbing, electricity, water systems, and mechanics.   This was due to two things:  lack of money, and lack of building trade professionals in our far away and isolated location, so you had to do repairs yourself.
    It wasn’t long after buying our house that I was forced to become a jack of all trades.  I have learned a lot over the decades, but I am still filled with unease whenever I am confronted with a plumbing problem.  Plumbing is such a fickle thing, and I have run into so many unexpected complications when I do it, I just don’t have any faith that the problem can be solved easily without creating further problems.
    The other day, we got an error message on our washing machine.  The message indicated that there was a problem with our water intake.  This was not surprising since in the spring the creek where we get our water is running fast and carrying a lot of sediment.  I needed to undo the hose that connected to the washing machine and pull our the small screen inside and clean it off.
    So I crawled under the house to switch off the house water, then I turned off the faucet, undid the hose, took out the screen, cleaned it off with an old tooth brush, and put everything back in its place.  Easy, job done!
    Well, not exactly.
    When I turned the faucet back on to allow water back into the hose, I noticed that there was now a leak in the faucet itself.  How do these things happen?   All I did was turn it off, then turn it back on.
    When I realized that I would have to replace the faucet, the distress inside me began to build.  I started considering all the additional problems that that plumbing procedure might create.  I was afraid that in unscrewing the faucet, I might loosen the solder between the unit that held the faucet and the copper pipe that carried the water.
    I put off this plumbing problem for a couple of days so I could buy the new faucet, and build up my nerve to fix it.
    Yesterday I felt sufficiently brave to begin, and was gratified when I was able to unscrew the old faucet without breaking the holding unit.
    I find one of my biggest problems when plumbing is knowing just how tight to screw things on.  They have to be tight enough to prevent water from leaking out, but not so tight that you can never get the thing back off if you need to, some day.  When I turned the house water back on, I had a leak where the new faucet was screwed in, so had to crawl back under the house to turn the house water back off, tighten the faucet one more turn, and then I turned the house water back on.
    With an amazing amount of weight lifted from my shoulders, I noticed that this time the faucet didn’t leak, and I had completed this plumbing job.  What a relief.

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Wednesday 9 May 2018

Creeping Green

    One of the things I enjoy watching in May, is the opening of Aspen and Birch leaves slowly moving up the mountain slopes as the temperatures in the upper elevations begin to warm.  You can see by the gradation of green from bottom to the top in the photo, where the Robson Valley is right now.  I truly love the light green color of the leaves when they first open in the spring.  The combination of the light green leaves, the darker blue slopes of the mountains, topped off by the bright whiteness of the alpine snow, and blue skies are a joy to see. 

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Tuesday 8 May 2018

Greenhouse Repaired

    I spent yesterday repairing my greenhouse after I felled a tree on it.  It took all of the extra glass I had to re-glaze it, but it is back together.  
    The weather forecast sounded like we might get a storm in the afternoon, so I worked hard to try to get it done before that happened.  We never did get a storm, but did get a shower later in the afternoon.  Toward the end of my work, the mosquitoes started getting bad, so  I was happy when I finally got that last piece of glass on so could go into the house.
    You might notice that I left the tree is still laying there.  It is a cottonwood with leaves on it, and I thought I would let it sit for a while so that the leaves would continue to suck the water out of the trunk and help dry it out, before I cut it up for firewood.  

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Monday 7 May 2018


    Things didn’t go exactly to plan for me yesterday.  For years I have had the problem of tree roots growing profusely through the planting bed in my greenhouse.  I decided I should just take down four cottonwood trees that were growing close to my greenhouse, and the main suspects in the problem, so I got out the chainsaw and went to work. 
    I was able to fell the first three trees and have them fall where I wanted them (away from the greenhouse), but as you can see, the fourth one, despite the fact that I had tried to wench it in the other direction with a rope, fell right across my greenhouse, with a loud cracking and showering of glass.  Fortunately the wooden structure of the greenhouse was undamaged, but I had just hired a friend to take all the glass on the roof off, repaint the boards, clean the glass, and put it back on.  We just got done with the job Saturday, and now I have to redo a lot of that work we had just finished.
    I was able to get the tree off of the greenhouse roof with minimal additional glass breakage, amazingly enough.  I now have to replace 21 panes of glass, and fortunately have just enough glass in reserve to do it.  
    It was all an embarrassing and wasteful event, and now I have to spend more time repairing all the damage I did.  Life if full of unexpected setbacks.

I'm a better painter than logger.  You can see my paintings at:

Sunday 6 May 2018

Backlit Morning

    This morning on our walk, when Skye and I got to the far end of the pond, I looked back toward the house and was treated to the wonderful effect of having the newly leafed-out trees backlit against the dark slope of the mountain.  There was also some mist rising from the pond which added to the magic of the scene.

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Saturday 5 May 2018

Death by Window

    Yesterday afternoon I was in the house when I heard, “Thud,Thud...Thud”.  I knew instantly what had happened; some birds had flown into the window.  Never had I had three of them hit at once.  I went out to the porch and found the three corpses of the unfortunate White Crowned Sparrows.  Two were laying on top of each other in the cat nest, , where they had fallen, and the third was laying in the cement floor of our front porch.
    I walked back into the house to get my boots so I could move the bodies.  When I got back out to the scene of the carnage, I was shocked once again, because there was a fourth White Crown Sparrow, stunned, but still alive, standing beside the cat nest.  I took it out to the yard, then picked up the three corpses and took them out to the pasture so they could serve as food as they composted.  By the time I got back to the house, I was happy to see the stunned one had flown off.
    It is always such a tragedy to experience birds, full of spirit and springtime jubilance, instantly turned into lifeless detritus, because they flew into a window.  In the US alone 988 million birds are killed this way every year.
    In the past I have rigged up netting in front of the upper level windows in our house, but that eventually deteriorated and I haven’t done anything further since then.  I have had owls, hawks, hummingbirds, grouse, and other birds hit our windows.  Fortunately most birds just end up stunned, and recover, but it is always so hurtful to see so many of them die so uselessly after slamming into the windows.

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Friday 4 May 2018

Legacy Flowers

    The photo above shows the patch of hyacinths that have sprung up in our yard.  This patch of hyacinths was planted probably 50 years ago by the previous owners of our property, who had a little flower garden in that spot.  Every year they pop up to welcome spring. 
    In they past couple of years they have become more vigorous.  Partially because they were once under a a birch tree that has since died and been cut down.  Now that it is gone, they are getting more light, but also, I mow around them for a month after their blooms are gone, to allow their leaves get plenty of light so that they strengthen their bulbs which will make them strong enough to get throughout the winter.  If I would just mow them down right away, they would soon disappear.
    Often when I see these flowers that were planted long ago, I think about my family’s property in Indiana.  Long before my time, there was a cabin that stood at the end of a field  There is nothing left to suggest there had ever been a structure there, except for a few chunks of rock or concrete, but every spring some daffodils pop up in that now partially wooded area as a legacy of some long dead  person who took the time and trouble to plant them.
    I think it is a wonderful legacy.  

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Thursday 3 May 2018

Greenhouse Planted

    I have not been happy with the tomato and chili plants that I started in March.  A lot of them didn’t germinate, and those that did weren’t really thriving.  I am not sure why, maybe it was the grow lights, or perhaps the soil, but whatever it was, it effected them in a bad way.  
    Thinking the problem might be the grow lights, I started taking them out to the greenhouse during the day so that they could get real sunlight.  That helped, but I really felt like I needed just get them in the ground so they could have a more natural environment.  So yesterday, I planted then in the greenhouse.  
    My greenhouse isn’t heated, but when I built it, I did try to use a lot of concrete inside to absorb the heat during the day and hold it and help keep the place warm at night, but this time of year it still gets close to freezing inside, so I rigged up a small electric space heater inside which will keep my tomato and chili plants warm overnight.
    This morning’s temperature outside was 4C (39F), but inside the greenhouse the temperature was 10C (50F) a much friendlier temperature for my little plants.  
    I always plant about 5 or 6 different varieties of tomatoes and chilis, several  of the varieties failed to germinate, and I didn’t really notice until I started planting, that I have a more than I need of some varieties (particularly cherry tomatoes) and none or not enough of the bigger types I really wanted, so it is going to be a different collection of produce this year.  Oh well it is what it is.
    It is always feels like a major accomplishment to finally get them planted in the greenhouse instead of hauling them back and forth between the greenhouse to the house. 

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Wednesday 2 May 2018

Outside Cat

    With the warming days, Lucifer is content to spend more and more of her time snuggled up inside her bed outside on the porch bench.  She spends hours and hours out there either snoozing, or looking around in between her snoozes.   Cats know how to spend their time.

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Tuesday 1 May 2018

Hummingbirds in the Greenhouse

    For a month and a half I have  been desperately seeking out signs of spring.  Now we have reached the point that there are so many, I don’t know what to write about.  Lately I have been dragging my tiny tomato plants out to the greenhouse every day so that they begin to acclimatize to the conditions out there before I plant them.  I don’t have heat in the greenhouse, so I have to drag them back in to the house overnight.  
    Because it has been so warm during the day, I have been leaving the greenhouse door open to prevent overheating the greenhouse.  Late yesterday when I went out to the greenhouse, I found two hummingbirds banging around inside trying to get out.  This happens all the time, and I keep a hand net inside so I can catch them and let them loose outside.  That’s what I did yesterday.
    I went off to do something else, returning about 5 minutes later and found in that brief period of time, yet another hummingbird inside the greenhouse.  I caught it, took this blurry photo, and zoom, off it went.
    Joan noticed I had a bright red putty knife laying inside of the greenhouse close to the door.  I suspect that was what attracted the hummers to come inside.  I took it back to the shop, so hopefully I won’t be attracting so many hummingbirds inside the greenhouse in the future.  There will be some, but fewer, I hope.

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