Ups and Downs

The Eurasian collared dove brings out differing emotions in people. Some love them; others hate them. I happen to love them. They’re fun to watch and their call (the repetitiveness of which is mainly what drives some people nuts) reminds me of Mexico, so I feel like I’m on holidays without leaving home.

This fellow landed on my mildewy gutters the other day. (You’ll have to forgive the green stuff on the gutters because they’re too high to clean regularly.)  But on with what happened.

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Wow! What a view of the birdfeeder. But how to get down there, now that I’m up.

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Oh, who’s this? Company? Maybe it’s the fire department – here to help me get down off the roof. It is rather high up.

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You’re right! It IS a long way down.

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This requires some analytical thinking. Hmm….

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We could jump….

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“What do YOU think we should do?” “I think we should jump.” “Okay. Good idea. You first.”

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“Now where are you going?” “I’m going to look for another way down.”

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“No luck?” “Nope! Let’s just go for it.”

Proving once again that life has its “ups and downs.”

Fur Fashions

This gal didn’t mind wearing a fur coat in the heat.

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This sure isn’t as good a restaurant as Suzanne’s place, but it’s handy for now.

She scampered into my yard the other day and wasted no time finding the dinner table. Basically, all she wanted was some granola – a few millet seeds, some sunflower seeds, bits of cracked corn. What dainty fingers and pleasant table manners she has.

I know these red squirrels have a bad reputation for robbing birds’ nests, but they don’t have much of a lifespan themselves. The little guys are lucky if they make it through their first year. Seems they get smarter as their mortality rate drops after that. Still, eight years is about all they get. No wonder they scurry around so fast. With a life that short they have to pack as much living into it as they can.

Snack Time

When I told Emma to sit and have her picture taken, she didn’t argue. She was very obedient. That’s because I had just finished giving her the Dickens for going too far this time. For months, she has packed my shoes around in the house. Every shoe I tried to put on my feet, first involved a hunt through the house for the matching mate. It got so I taught her how to bring it to me by saying, “Go get the other one,” and she would proudly bring it from wherever she had last dropped it. There was never a mark on the shoes … until today.

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“Did I do good, Mom? Huh? Huh? Did I?”

I could have cried when I saw what she had done to my $125 Birkenstock sandal.

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She still doesn’t get it. She’s still smiling and you can tell from the blur in the photo that her tail is still wagging.

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“But you still love me, right? Come on, admit it. You know you do.”

Smoke gets in your eyes

It’s hard to see the neighbours’ trees clearly. Smoke from the forest fires was still thick yesterday, but today it seems to have lifted somewhat, even though the fires are still not contained. I guess the wind changed and the smoke is drifting around higher in the atmosphere. 005

Before I got Bulldog’s advice about how to set the camera to get the redness of the sun to show up, I had already taken this photo. The fennel plant insisted on getting in on the action. This picture was taken yesterday around 4 p.m. and the smoke was still thick at that time. That should be blue sky in the background, but the blue part was completely obscured.027aStill praying for rain! Tons of it.  It doesn’t mean I won’t complain about too much rain this winter.

Dog Days of Summer

We all know it is a hot and dry summer this year. My usually green backyard is yellow and brown. The grass breaks off as I walk on it and big patches of bare dirt are showing through. It will all come back in the fall with the first rains, but until then, there is no water to spare for an acre of grass. It’s more important to keep the trees, shrubs, and garden alive.

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Definitely the dogs days of summer.

This morning I looked out expecting yet another bluebird scorcher of a day to develop. Wow! I’ts foggy. Maybe we’ll get some rain at last! But then I saw the sun. It was blood red and easy to look at. I reminded myself not to do that, just as in an eclipse we shouldn’t look directly at the sun, lest we damage our vision. I tried to take a photo of the sun but the red colour wouldn’t come out right. Being an amateur photographer I still don’t know how to get the red  sky colours or the photos of eclipses to come out right. Here is the best I could do, but imagine the whole sun as red as the line around it.

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As it rose higher in the sky, it was just as red but that colour was even more difficult to capture with the camera.

005Then I realized that the last time I saw the sun looking like a red ball of fire was a few years ago when the smoke from a fire hundreds of miles north of us had covered our skies. Sure enough, I have learned that there are several large fires burning on Vancouver Island. Right now I feel as if I’m sitting on a bonfire ready to go up in flames at any time. I’m surrounded by tall trees that haven’t seen a drop of water for over two months and the dry grass around me is the best kindling you’ll ever find for starting a fire.

If I see a smoker walking through the nearby trails (and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen hikers going for a healthy walk while puffing on a cigarette),  I’m not sure how I’ll contain my fear and outrage.

The town of Port Hardy to the north of us is threatened by a wildfire as I write, while another fire is burning to the west of us near Port Alberni. It seems the whole province of British Columbia has fires burning. Saskatchewan has plenty of fires as well, and of course, we’ve been hearing of the fires in the States for weeks. It’s just too dry!

Yesterday, the view below was of bright blue sky and brighter blue sea with a few white caps puffed up from the breeze that brought us relief from the heat while, elsewhere, it fanned wildfire flames. Today everything is gray from the smoke of many fires.

007My garden has been getting water, but everything else, as you can see, is tinder dry.

008I’ve learned that “tinder” is a frightening word.

Bar’s Closed

Photo courtesy of Bjorn Larrson.

http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

An alternative to driving the long way around from Ancona, Italy to Patras, Greece, is to go by car ferry.  On the day we wanted to make the trip, many years ago, third-class tickets for the “Mediterranean Sea,” were sold out, so we had to buy first class. After waiting in line for hours, our VW van was crammed aboard into one of the last available spaces, a cubbyhole with a low ceiling and steel walls on three sides.

Three days later, when it was time to unload, this cubicle became an oven. Temperatures soaring over 100 F. and the chaos of impatient passengers and disorganized unloading practices had us nearly suffocating on the engine exhaust of cars started way too soon in the closed-in car deck. (In those days in Italy, there were no safety regulations such as we already had in Canada and still do.) An overeager passenger in dire need of driving lessons backed up his trailer at a weird angle behind us, making it impossible for us to move. Trapped in the scorching cubicle I felt like a chicken in a slow cooker.

But let me backtrack two days. Long before the unloading fiasco, we learned that paying first-class prices didn’t translate into first-class service.  Because of having first-class tickets, we had to take our meals in the first-class lounge. We put on the best of our jeans and T-shirts and took a seat at the end of one of the long empty tables in the middle of the room. The waiters leaned their shoulders together and muttered something to each other. Then one of them asked us to join a couple at a small corner table. We regretted spoiling their privacy at this secluded table, but it wasn’t our doing. We said hello. No response. Mrs. Ageing Princess dropped her eyelids, smoothed her long white silk gown, and stuck her nose in the air, up and away, presumably to draw fresh uncontaminated breath on her farther side.  Mr. Heir-to-the-Throne shot his cuffs from his tuxedo and patted her hand consolingly, making no effort to control the twitching of his upper lip and nostrils.

We directed our attention to the meal—served to their royal highnesses first—and watched the choicest morsels being loaded onto their plates. The swarthy waiter then came to our side of the table. I didn’t know whether to cry at the inadequate dinner of tired leftover bits he tried to serve us, or laugh at the way the tiniest remnants of French fries kept slipping from the fancy tongs he was obliged to use. So much for first class.

“I think you need to go refill the platter first,” my husband said. I watched as the waiter returned to the kitchen. At first I’d been annoyed that he tried to give us the dregs of the platter, but now that I saw him being jostled out of line at the kitchen pass-through window, I wondered if this explained his sparsely laden serving tray.

After that day, I watched the swarthy one at mealtimes. The other waiters scolded and bumped him, treated him abominably. On the second and last night of the trip, the grand finale after our meal was a surprise. The lights were suddenly shut off and the waiters filed out carrying plates of flaming Baked Alaska. Like soldiers on review, they stood, proudly displaying the Bombe Alaska. The diners applauded politely and the waiters extinguished their fiery platters, blowing out the last of the dying flames —all except our swarthy waiter. He blew on his flaming dessert in increasingly frantic puffs, eventually slapping at his scorching sleeves.

“Uh-oh,” I said. “He’ll be in the doghouse now.” And sure enough, the suave-looking head waiter grabbed the unfortunate’s burning plate, hissed something as he swept past him, and the two disappeared into the kitchen. “Poor guy! He’s getting an earful now.”

The next morning, before we had both eyes open, we were rousted out of our bed  to pack and get ready to disembark. No showers, no breakfast—grab suitcases, leave the cabin. Sure enough, land was in sight, but it would be a while before the tug could maneuver us into the harbour.

“I’ll get us a cup of coffee while we wait.” I found our swarthy waiter friend wiping down the bar in the lounge.

“Can I get a cup of coffee, please? I’ll pay.” Other meals had been included in the ticket price until now, but I could see that they wanted to clear us out and further meals would not be included in the fare.

The waiter snarled at me, “Bar’s closed!”

I took a step back. “Wow!” The cycle of mistreatment would perpetuate itself. He was getting ready to move up in the pecking order.

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*Note – Both of the ferries travelling between Italy and Greece (the Mediterranean Sea and the Mediterranean Sky) are no longer in service. The “Sea” (later renamed Mediterranean Sun)  was dismantled and the “Sky” was sinking at the wharf in Athens and so was towed across the bay to sink in a more private (out of the way) place.

You can see the “Mediterranean Sky” lying on its side in the waters of Eleusis Bay, near Athens behind the island of Salamis. Just click the link for a satellite view of it.

https://www.google.ca/maps/place/Eleusis,+Greece/@38.0242441,23.4880591,687m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x14a1ae4c9ab8d99f:0x400bd2ce2b97e50!6m1!1e1?hl=en

Patras, Greece

Ancona, Italy

Big and Black

In the spring of the year, I’m always a bit nervous of letting my dogs, Emma and Ruby, out into the backyard in the early hours of dawn. I like to wait a little longer until more of the neighbours are up and around. Why? Because this is the time of year when we sometimes have visitors in the yard. Black bears have wandered through here several times over the years, and two weeks ago a raccoon was wrestling with my birdfeeder at 1:30 a.m. Cougar sightings are also the topic of conversation from time to time. Although I’ve never seen one in our yard, I’ve heard reports of them being very close by.

So this morning when my usually quiet Emma barked, I ran to see what was up. She seemed afraid to go near the fence and as she backed up,  she did her “I’m not afraid of you” bark. But her tail told the tale. She was afraid.

She was barking at something in the same place where, a few years ago, I had called one of our previous spaniels away from a black bear who was sitting just on the other side of the fence.

I hurried to call both dogs into the house and then went out to investigate.

Later, I made her pose for this picture, but she still kept her eye on the fence.

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I scanned the woods on the other side of the fenceline, looking for raccoons, cougars, or black bears, and then I saw it. Sure enough it was a big black….

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At first I thought it was a tent, but on looking more closely, I assumed it must be a load of firewood, covered with a black tarp.

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Emma still isn’t convinced that it won’t do her harm.