Sunday 31 May 2020

Fields of Dandelions

    The Robson Valley is certainly “Dandelion Country”.  Dandelions always get a bad rap, mostly from lawn fanatics who hate to see their monocultured lawns disturbed with a bit of variation.  I admit it is frustrating to see all those lanky flowers and fluff balls sticking up in a lawn that was just mowed 3 days ago, but dandelions do help the bees and grazing animals because they are rich in nutrients.
    As someone who really enjoys color, I love to see the yellow of the Dandelion flowers added to the blues and greens of the landscape.  

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Saturday 30 May 2020

The Greenhouse Garter Snake is Back

    The other day when I was checking out my tomato plants in the greenhouse, out of the corner of my eye I noticed some unexpected color on the bedding straw I use for mulch.  It was my greenhouse garter snake.  After the initial instinctive panic of seeing a snake, I was filled with happiness, knowing that the garter snake was still around and was once again back in the greenhouse.
    I had seen the garter snake (the only species of snake native to the Robson Valley) for several Springs in a row, five or so years ago, but I hadn’t seen it since, but there it was once again, looking a bit older, but still alive.  It is about 2 ft. (60cm) in length.
    I am sure it is probably likes to be in the greenhouse because it is warm.  This morning it was laying on the cement floor which held the heat overnight.  It eats slugs and earthworms in the greenhouse.  It usually disappears from the greenhouse during the summer.

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Friday 29 May 2020

Community Garden Potato Planting

    For the past few years, McBride’s Community Garden group has been growing potatoes to sell as a fund raiser.  Last night, potato planting volunteers gathered at Vern’s to put the seed potatoes into the ground.  This is the second year Vern (that’s him on the left) has volunteered the use of his land for the potato growing.  Not only did he allow his land to be used, he also had taken the time to hoe out the trenches, so that all we had to do was to drop in the potatoes and cover them up.  It took less than an hour for the group to plant over 500 spuds.
    The planting was originally planned for last week end, but rain had caused a postponement, and we were called to say that the planting would happen on Weds. evening at 6:00.  So on Wednesday, I loaded up my hoe and rake and headed out to Vern’s, but when I arrived (ten minutes early) no one was there, not even Vern.
    Thinking maybe I had gotten the time wrong, I sat there in the truck until 6:30, and still no one showed up.  Rather peeved, I drove back home.  The next day, I learned that a message had been sent out again postponing the planting until Thursday evening.  Unfortunately, it hadn’t been sent out to me.
    At any rate, there was a good crowd on hand for the planting last night, and things went smoothly and quickly.

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Thursday 28 May 2020

Jeweled Horsetail

    Yesterday morning I walked over to an old spruce stump to see if the ferns I had planted there had survived the winter.  They had, and were fiddleheading up through the other growth.  While I was there, I noticed this young Horsetail covered with dew.  It was exquisite, decked out with all of the small droplets of dew.  The world is so full of beauty that is so rarely seen.

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Wednesday 27 May 2020


    I knew there was a possibility of frost last night, but being lazy, I just took faith in the weather report that said it would stay above freezing with a 1C (34F) temperature.  I gambled and lost.  
    Our thermometer showed  -1C (30F) this morning, and when I went out to check, sure enough frost had hit our garden.  (Photo of frosted strawberry leaves)   It’s too early yet to see if anything was killed in the garden, things like peas, cabbage, strawberries, and lettuce are pretty tough and can usually handle some frost, other things are safe because they are still underground (potatoes, and some bean seeds), but I worry about whether my zucchini, and pumpkin plants survived.  Luckily my unheated greenhouse with my tomatoes and peppers stayed above freezing.
    Our long winter had delayed my planting the garden for a couple of weeks, so I figured I was safe from a frost.
    Gardens are always a lot of work and it is often frustrating when something like a frost comes around and destroys much of it.  Keep your fingers crossed that there wasn’t too much damage.  

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Tuesday 26 May 2020

Rain Deer

    Yesterday I got up to a miserable looking day; dark, cloudy, and pouring rain.  After dressing, I was about to head downstairs when I happened to glance out of the balcony window.  I noticed an unexpected brown spot in the grass near the trees.  My half-asleep brain finally started firing on all cylinders, and I realized it was a deer sitting there in the rain.  Actually, there were two deer, but the one you see made the best photo.  
    I thought that the deer would have found a better place to shelter so that it would be out of the rain, but I guess it would have moved on to a new location if this rainy one was objectionable.

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Sunday 24 May 2020

Aspen Tree

    Here is a scene from the end of Horseshoe Lake Road.  I have looked at these trees hundreds of time, but yesterday the scared bark and color of  the Aspen leaves were so beautiful, I just had to take a photo.

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Saturday 23 May 2020

WiInter Kill

    I am just now starting to see the results of our hard winter.  It looks like a handful of my fruit trees were killed.  Above  is what used to be a prolific plum tree and below is one of our cherry trees, both laid low after our winter that got down to a sudden -40C (-40F) in January without much snow on the ground.  
    I lost two plum trees.  I think they were suffering after our unusually rainy summer and fall, and I guess the long winter was just two much for them.  The cherry trees were a surprise, because they were old enough to have gone through -40 temperatures back in the late 1970’s and early 80’s.
    I also have two tall Aspens in the yard that are dead, but like the plums, they didn’t seem all that healthy last summer.
    I had to wait this long, until I saw the other trees leaf out, before I felt safe in declaring these trees dead.   Fortunately my four apple trees appear to have survived.

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Friday 22 May 2020

Comfort Food

    I have been hearing a lot on the news about how so many of the people living in isolation are starting to discover the joy of baking their own bread and other goodies.  So much so, that some groceries have run out of yeast and flour.  Sourdough is suddenly a “thing”.  
    There is nothing quite so comforting as the smell of something delicious baking in the oven.  Yesterday I woke up to the tantalizing aroma of cinnamon rolls.  What a way to greet the day.
    I should weigh 400 pounds because I have shared most of my life together with an amazing cook and baker.  It didn’t take a pandemic for me to enjoy freshly baked bread or exquisite home cooked meals, because fortunately that has been my fare all along.
    Although it is not a new experience for me, in these bleak times, comfort food (no matter how sinful and unhealthy) is something that fills a void that has been created by all of the stress of these times.
    The cinnamon rolls didn’t last long; by the end of the day just the one in the middle was left.

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Thursday 21 May 2020

Free to Grow

    When I worked for the BC Forest Service one of my jobs was to keep the Forest Cover Maps up to date.  Those maps showed the species of trees, their age, and other information that grew everywhere in our district.  I updated the maps whenever an area was logged or burned, and when it was replanted.              
    Silviculture crews would go out every so many years to check on the progress of the new trees.  After many years, if the trees were still growing well, without problems, and needing no further work, the designation “Free to Grow” was given to it.
    I thought about that term yesterday was I was putting down the mulch around my tomato plants in my greenhouse.  They were in the ground and needed nothing but watering.

    Actually, that isn’t exactly true for my tomato plants, I still have to string them up for support and “sucker”  them (pinch off the small auxiliary branches that sprout in the crotch of the large branches) but other than that they are on their own and Free to Grow.

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Wednesday 20 May 2020

Lexi, We Miss You Terribly

    Yesterday was the day we have been dreading for months; the day we would loose our dog Lexi.  She had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer, so we knew the day would come, but it didn’t make it any easier.
    Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows just how much of our lives had been built around this little dog.  Most of the photos I have posted were taken on our dog walks.  She was a part of a hundred things we did each day, everything from feeding the birds in the morning to licking out the cat dish if Lucifer had left anything.  Every time we went into the kitchen, she suddenly appeared.
    We only had Lexi for less than a year.  She was a rescue dog who had come from an Indian reserve in Saskatchewan.  When the SPCA visited the reserve to pick up unwanted dogs, a man came out with Lexi, and said, “Here, take this one too.”
    We were surprised with Lexi.  She was estimated to be between 7-10 years old, but we figured an older dog would be better for us old people that a young dog.  To our amazement, she was the most energetic dog we have ever owned.  She had a wild heart and her nose would take her off, no matter how loud we yelled for her to stop, so we had to keep close tabs on her, and we soon learned to keep her on a leash for all of her walks.  Even then she would often take off running, which caused me running right beside her, and she was fast.
    She was not the most affectionate dog we have had; she would often flinch when you started to pet her head, so we learned to scratch her back instead, which she loved.  It was only in the last months of her life that she began to wag her tail when she saw us.
    I buried Lexi beside the rock which marked the grave of Skye our previous dog.
    We are left hollow and numb.

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Tuesday 19 May 2020

Cows on the Road

    Last evening as we were driving to Koeneman Park to give Lexi a walk, as we looked down from the hill at the Mennonite Church, we were surprised to see that the road below was full of cows.  We recognized them as belonging to Les who lives at the bottom of the hill, so I whipped into his driveway to tell them that their cows were out.  As I approached the house Carrie came out and I told her.  
    “Where are they?” she asked, and I replied that they were just on the road in front of her house.
    She explained that the cows had been missing for 2 hours and Les has been out looking for them unsuccessfully.  She was just about to call Les on the phone when I spotted his car coming down the road.  “He’s here.” I told Carrie.
    Les herded the cows to his driveway (photo) and once they were back in their paddock, he asked me,
“Were they up at your house?”  
    I told him, “No, just on the road in front of your house.”    
    If Les had been out looking for them for two hours, they must have been hiding in the bush all that time and then decided to come home.
    The whole situation was sort of a de vu for us.  One other time on another long weekend (this was our Victoria Day Weekend)  we were driving down the road and saw one of Les’s cows on the road, only that time no one was home, so I herded the cow onto their driveway and closed the gate behind it. 
    I hope Les finds the escape hole in his fence.

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Monday 18 May 2020

Green On Green

    Yesterday when I glanced out of our balcony door window, I saw these highlighted Aspen leaves against the darker background of Cottonwood leaves.  I do seem to have a fixation on light green.

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Sunday 17 May 2020

Our Ancient Spider Plants

    Yesterday I moved our spider plants out to the deck so they can spend their summer outside (they spend their winters inside on a rail beside my computer in my office).  While there is nothing particularly impressive about their looks, I am amazed at just how very old they are.
    We got them from my sister and brought them with us when we immigrated to Canada in the 1970’s--yes, they are over forty years old, and they are still alive.  They are certainly survivors.  We pretty much ignore them, except for watering, and the seasonal moves in and out of our house.  
    I don’t really know anything about the life span of house plants, no doubt there are some that have been around longer, but I do think 40 years of constant growing is remarkable.

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Saturday 16 May 2020


    “Isolation” is a word you hear a lot these days when the most dominate thing in the world is Covid-19 Pandemic.  I thought of that word the other day when I was going through the photos on my iPad.  I came across this screen shot from Google Earth that show the location of our little village of McBride, BC.  The size of the blue dot makes McBride seem larger than it actually is.  We are pretty isolated from the rest of the world.
    Of course with Hwy. 16 going through it, people from the “outside” do come through.  I remember hearing of villages during the Bubonic Plague that shut themselves off from everyone.  These days we are dependent on food and other supplies from the outside world, so cutting ourselves off is not an option, we just have to try to be careful in our habits.
    A few of us do where masks when we go into public, but most don’t.  There are no reported cases of Covid-19 that I have heard of, but it is pretty scary when you consider that a person could be infecting others for almost two weeks before they even know they have it.  
    That is the world we live in.

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Friday 15 May 2020

Rolled Over

    Every spring one of the things we have to do is to get the winter tires on our vehicle removed and replaced with the summer tires.  Yesterday was the day I had this done.  There is just enough room in the storage area behind the rear seats of our car to pack all four tires upright, so they can be hauled to and from the tire store. 
    When we returned from the tire store yesterday, we left the tires in the back of the car.  In the evening we were going to drive to Koeneman Park to walk Lexi, and as we started up the driveway, I could hear the tires, in unison, roll back to the tail gate then, make the return roll up against the rear of the back seats.  I didn’t want the tires to continue to roll back and forth in the car, so I stopped halfway up the drive so I could remove the tires.
    There was an unforeseen problem:  I had parked the car on a slight slope, and when I was standing in back of the car and pressed the button to open the back hatch, the door opened, and then to my surprise all of the tires, together like one giant cylinder, came rolling toward me, almost knocking me to the ground.  
    It was a surprisingly solid hit.  The tires all had rims, so they had a lot of weight.  I staggered to regain my balance, then chased after the tires, which after being deflected by my body, had all taken a different course, rolling down slope in four different directions.  
    No harm was done, but in the future I hope I remember to have the car parked on a level part of the driveway before I start to remove my extra tires.

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Thursday 14 May 2020

From Under the Bridge

    Yesterday evening we walked Lexi around Koeneman Park then down to the Fraser River so she could get her feet wet and take a drink.  We were right below the Hwy. 16 Fraser River Bridge and I liked the scene from down there. 
    As you can see from all of the tire tracks in the sand, the sandbar has been a popular place over the last couple of weeks, but as the alpine snow melts with the warmer spring temperatures, the river will continue rising and the “beach” will soon disappear under the water.

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Wednesday 13 May 2020

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir
       “I’m pretty much fucked,” thus is the assessment of astronaut Mark Watney and the first words in the log he began that is this book.  He began this log after being left behind by his fellow astronauts who had assumed him dead following an accident, immediately before they made the emergency blast off which began their return trip back to Earth.
    When Mark regained consciousness with his space suit still intact, he managed to make his way back to the Hab, the space shelter where the Mar’s Mission astronauts had lived. There, Mark begins to ponder being the only inhabitant on the planet and realizes just how seemingly hopeless his situation and future is. 
       Luckily Mark, who was a specialist in both equipment maintenance and botany, keeps his composure and immediately begins to take inventory of all the items around him, and starts to plan out what he must do to survive.   The communication equipment no longer works, his fellow astronauts are on their months-long return trip to Earth, and another Mars mission isn’t scheduled to return to Mars for another four years, so for Mark to survive, he would need food, warmth, and oxygen to last that long.  His inventory survey shows he has enough of everything except food. 
       There were plenty of vitamins and some types of food, but not enough carbohydrates to last four years, but he is able to formulate a possible solution:  He does have some live potatoes, and if he could continually grow more, they could supply the carbohydrates he would need to keep him alive.  
       In order to grow enough potatoes he would have to fill the Hab with soil, mostly Martian soil, fertilize it with his excrement and that left behind from the departed astronauts, then augment it with some Earth soil from a space experiment, which would enrich the sterile Martian soil with the bacteria and fungi needed to grow plants. 
       He calculated how much water he would need for growing potatoes and found there wasn’t enough.   Luckily Mark was enough of a scientist to know he could make water using some of the equipment at hand, some of the oxygen supply that was available, and hydrogen, that he figured he might be able to extract from a supply of unused rocket fuel.  He almost blew himself up by doing it, but he was able to slowly manufacture enough water for his potatoes. 
The novel continues with Mark using his scientific ingenuity to solve one crucial problem after another while maintaining a sense of humor to get through it all.
       While this sci-fi novel is full of seemingly impossible feats, it takes the time to explain all the technology and science behind each action to make it all sound plausible.   There is also a lot of humor in the storyline, like Mark’s comments in his log after repeatedly watching hours and hours of old TV sitcoms like “Three’s Company” or listening to the hated disco music that a fellow astronauts had left behind on a computer, because that was his only entertainment.
     In the “Author’s Notes” the end of the novel, Andy Weir speaks of the fan mail he has received about The Martian:  “My favorite email is one that starts:  ‘ I normally don’t read science fiction, but....’”.  
If I was writing him that’s exactly how I would have started my letter.   
      The Martian is an amazingly entertaining and rewarding novel to read no matter what the genre of literature you generally prefer. 

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Tuesday 12 May 2020

Blue-winged Teal

    I never really know what kinds of ducks my pond will attracted.  I saw a pair of ducks swimming around in it the other day and wasn’t sure what they were.  I took this photo so I could later download it onto my computer, then dig out some bird books in hopes of identifying them.  That’s what I did and concluded that they were Blue-winged Teals.  They get the “Blue-winged) part of their name from a  bluish strip along the wing, but that couldn’t be seen in the photo I took.  
    Their range occupies most of North America, but this is the first that I have seen them on my pond.  I am not sure if they are planning to take up residence around here for the summer, or whether they just stopped in for a rest during migration.  They are dabblers, feeding off things in the mud, usually in shallow areas of lakes and even puddles.
    I find it very rewarding to see unexpected guests on my pond.

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Monday 11 May 2020


    I don’t have much to say about this photo except that it really seems to capture part of the essence of Spring.   Everything seems fresh;  the leaves are still small and developing, the sun is bright and shining, and the sky is blue.

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Sunday 10 May 2020

Backlit Spring Aspen

    I love the color palette that nature uses this time of year.  The emerging Aspen leaves are a yellow-green and when backlit, they glow against the darker backgrounds of the mountain slopes.  Here are some photos I took of the effect yesterday.

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Saturday 9 May 2020

Can You See The Neighbor's Cat?

    I am always fascinated by animal camouflage and how well they are able to just disappear against the landscape.  The other day when we were walking the path around the pond, we came upon one of our neighbor’s cat strolling towards us.  (All of the neighborhood cats seem to spend a good part of their time hanging around our property)  Anyway it walked toward us, then passed us.  After we crossed the plank bridge, I glanced back to see where the cat had gone.  I couldn’t see it.
    Then I noticed some movement behind some Red Osier Dogwood branches, and suddenly I could discern the cat standing there.  All of those times I had seen this gray cat walking around in our yard, it never struck me how well camouflaged it was, but out there in the bush it really disappeared. 
    If it weren’t for it’s white legs I not sure I would have seen it.

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Friday 8 May 2020

"Fence Line" Re-visited

    Last night the sky was displaying some interesting light and so I went outside to take a look.  As I looked westward across the pasture toward the setting sun, I noticed the sun light filtering through the trees and immediately thought of my 2008 painting “Fence Line” that was based on a photo I had taken of the same scene on some long ago May evening.  I took the photo above to see how the scene had changed.
    The first thing I noticed was that the fence line from which the painting was named was now hidden behind some young trees.  The birch that was silhouetted in front of the sunlight was still there as were the aspen and cottonwoods that were in the painting.  
    Below is the painting.

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Thursday 7 May 2020

Soil Test

    I have been gardening for 40 years, and have tried to do everything in the right way, so it is embarrassing to admit that during all that time I have never done one of the most basic things needed for a successful garden:  a soil test.
    We are blessed with very rich soil in our garden, so things always did well, but if you is going to go to take all that time and trouble to grow their food, you might as well be a bit scientific about it and check your soil to see if it has everything a plant needs to thrive.  For years, we had a soil test kit kicking around, but I never got around to using it, and after all those years it got put away somewhere and was never seen again.  This year my wife ordered a new one, and I actually made myself use it.  
    I felt like a scientist, collecting soil samples, adding water, and then the powdered chemicals that came in little capsules.  The kit was all color-coded to make our new kit, both exciting to look at and the results easy to read.  In the photo you can see the results we got from the soil in our greenhouse.
    The green vial shows our soil PH which seems to be 6.5 (slightly acid) tomatoes like soil that is a bit alkaline, so I am going to add some agricultural lime to the soil.  
    The pink vial shows Nitrogen and as you can see by the deep reddish-pink color, my soil has plenty of that.  The orange vial is for potash, and again the color shows that element to be “Sufficient”.   What my soil really lacks is indicated in the blue vial.  It shows that the Phosphorus in my greenhouse is depleted.  Yikes, that’s not good.  Plants need Phosphorus to get the flowers that turn into fruit to grow.
    Yesterday after I did the soil test, I dropped into the hardware store and bought some bone meal.  That is one way you can add Phosphorus to the soil.  I sprinkled some bone meal into each hole before I planted the tomato plant.  I also added a bit of agricultural lime to make the soil more alkaline.     Hopefully I am going to see more and better tomatoes this year.

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Wednesday 6 May 2020

Aspen Leaves Begin to Appear

    As you can see in the photo some of the long naked Aspen trees are starting to be clothed in leaves of green.  Because Aspen trees are really one tree connected by the roots, clumps of green appear at the same time.   It’s a beautiful thing to see the yellow-green emerging young leaves contrasted against the deep blue of the mountain slopes.

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Tuesday 5 May 2020

I Hope That's Not Our Car

    One of the reasons we like to take our dog for a walk at Horseshoe Lake Road is that there is usually no one else there, but Sunday when we went, we were a bit dismayed to see two vehicles in the parking area; a white pickup truck and angled behind it, a RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) SUV. 
    There didn’t seem to be any dogs around, so we pulled in and parked beside the white pickup.  The RCMP officer was sitting in his SUV, and so we just said hello and began our walk down the road.  We didn’t know why he was there, but sometimes people sit in the parking area for a little peace and quiet.
    We walked down Horseshoe Lake Road then turned around to walk back.  We were still maybe 250 yards away, when I started feeling a bit chilled from the cold wind, and so I zipped up my jacket.  I keep the fob to start our car on a string hung around my neck, and when I zipped up my jacket, suddenly a horn from a vehicle started repeatedly blasting.  It sounded like what happens when we accidentally press the “panic” button on the fob. 
     “Oh no,” I thought, “I must have hit the panic button when I zipped up my coat.” and I immediately unzipped my coat and (in a panic) kept repeatedly pressing the panic but to make the horn stop.  It didn’t stop, and the irritating horn continued.
    Then I tried to think about the incessant horn honking more rationally.  We were still really far away from the car, so surely our panic button wouldn’t activate the horn from such a long distant, but still it did begin when I zipped up my jacket.  
    It was then we noticed that the RCMP officer had opened the door of the white pickup.  Another pickup from a local garage pulled up to the parking area and together, the driver and RCMP popped opened the hood of the white pickup and disconnected the battery which caused the honking to stop.
    All of our worries and embarrassment then dissipated when we finally realized the loud disturbance was not coming from our car and not caused by me.
    I don’t really know what the whole story was with the white pickup, but the police can deal with that.

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Monday 4 May 2020

The Hummingbirds Are Back

    Hummingbirds come to the Robson Valley every year to breed.  Every Spring we await their arrival.  In the past they have arrived as early as April 17th, but yesterday was the first day I have seen one this year, probably because it has been such a late arriving Spring.  Luckily I had just put the feeder out the day before. 
    The hummer that showed up seemed to be pretty hungry and spent a lot of time filling up with sugar water.  We have two varieties of hummingbirds here.  The green ones (photos) are Calliope Hummingbirds, they are the smallest hummers in North America.  We also have Rufus Hummingbirds that are just a bit bigger and a rust color.

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