Waning Winter


Remember when our popsicles were icicles?


Lloyd shot the cedar falls outside of our bedroom window.  Why, we could go into business with all of these popsicles!


While John is on Bonaire for a 9-week vacation, we are taking care of Jasmine.  Our appointment with a vet happened on a day Jasmine would rather forget.  Bundled up in my mother’s soft afghan, it was snowing ‘cats and dogs’ when we left the house.  Can’t you just hear Jasmine singing “O what a beautiful morning . . . everything’s going my way!”


The vet gave her a thorough checkup, and prescribed drops to clear up what may have been an allergy that caused matter to form in her eyes.  Heading out of the Doon Hospital, hail was pounding down fast and furiously!


This whole week has been ideal for the flow of maple sap.  Each night the temperature dips below zero, and then climbs up into the plus range during the day.  It’s wondrous to realize that the tall, bare maples are busy working on their two-month preparations for their spring fashion show.  They usually aim to flaunt their green finery before the 24th of May.

I was busy all day in the studio, painting the background of the stallions.  With the window open a bit, sounds of the outdoors came in. Crows flapped out of the woods, announcing that it was high time they picked up twigs and got started on their nests.  Cardinals whistled, not full throttle, mind you.  They don’t want anyone to know that they might be slightly off key, not having whistled a single note during the long Arctic-like winter.





Ever been encouraged by spooks? – 2014-11-03

Gentle rains seemed to come so easily this fall, almost daily, in fact.  On the last day of October, a robin rested momentarily in the pear tree where he had been showering in the rain, fluttering his wings about as if he were in a bird bath.  Refreshed, he was soon off to catch up with his kith and kin, headed for the distant  southlands.

Robin in pear tree

The previous Hallowe’en, I received my “tricks” at Cambridge Memorial Hospital, having my thyroid removed that morning.  Our porch light wasn’t turned on for the little trick-or- treaters as my husband and son were up visiting me in the hospital, making sure I had enough ice chips to suck on.

This year, our porch light was on once again, welcoming the neighbourhood children.  We took turns answering the doorbell.  As I handed out bags of potato chips and chocolate bars, a couple of boys around ten said, “We like your bushes!” (hedge circling the front yard).  “Happy Hallowe’en!” they chorused as they headed down the cobblestone walk.  On another of my turns at the door, a witch about twelve years old, said, “I like your wallpaper!”  Whoever heard of witches liking pretty things?

By 7:30, our stores of candy were depleted.   Off went the porch light, and on went a sense of gratitude for the unusual encouragement we had experienced.  I don’t think any of the trick-or-treaters, short or tall, forgot to say Thank you either.

The temperature went up to eleven this afternoon, making it an ideal time to bury some miracles around Cedar Hollow.  One thing is sure, they won’t stay buried.  Their hiding place will be exposed  come spring!

Bulbs of a dozen red tulips were pushed gently into a bed dug six inches deep beside the pond.  An inch of soil was sprinkled over their pointy noses, and then a piece of wire mesh was pressed carefully down before filling up their bed with soil.  Hopefully the wire mesh will put the wild moving company from the adjacent woods out of a job, and the tulips will bloom next spring . . .  where they were planted.  Don’t squirrels know that a clump of tulips is a lovely thing . . . but a single tulip popping up in the woods or in the middle of the lawn looks, well, kind of stupid?

White narcissus with pink trumpets and blue hyacinths were put into the sidewalk garden, all of them preparing to pull out of the black earth heavenly scents next May.  How?

Narcissus bulbs in hole

Five white snow drops were moved to a new location.  Their tiny heaters will baffle us once again as they melt their way through icy snow in early April.  Crocuses will unfurl soon after, splashing pure gold about, coaxing skinny bees to come get the energy drink they have prepared just for them.


He, she, they got their wings! – August 15, 2014

All was quiet around Cedar Hollow today, too quiet.  When I did some weeding and dead-heading, there was no action around the Swiss Chalet.  I turned off the falls to listen.  No cheeping for food.

Aug.15-14-Cedar Hollow

The winds chased white clouds across the blue sky, and waved the black walnut tree’s boughs back and forth.


There was no use asking the tired little fisher boy if he knew where the wrens were.  He was fast asleep.


During an afternoon break on the swing, the garden clock’s hands moved along ten minutes, 15, 20, with still no flash of brown wings to be seen.

After supper, Mr. McD and I spent some time on the swing, with the camera at the ready.  Judging by the fairly wide beak of little Duke Wren the 1st, I thought it would be another whole week before their departure.

The previous overnight temperatures were so low that Mr. McD and I hauled out our winter sleepwear and turned on the furnace.  Did the little wrens perhaps die of pneumonia? Did a cat catch their parents?  Oh such dreadful thoughts.

But then, remembering back to the baby cardinals last year, they left the nest just wearing blue pin feathers!   We couldn’t believe they were ready, but leave it they did.

Let’s think positively now.  Last night, both Lord and Lady Wren were making trips to the nest at an accelerated pace – it seemed to be every few minutes.  They must have been preparing the youngsters for flight tests they planned to hold at the crack of dawn.    

Bounce the Hummer came by and sat on the clothesline for several minutes, which was most unusual for him to do.

P1250201 I think he tried to tell me not to worry . . . that the young wrens got their wings this morning . . . and flew off into the wide, wonderful world!

Why didn’t I ask him how many there were?  Was it he, she, or they who graduated from Cedar Hollow’s flight school?  Just look at its impeccable runways!

P1250210 If he, she, they swing by to show me his, her, their diplomas, I’ll try my best to get their photograph.  That’s a promise!

And so concludes the tale of . . . A Summer at Cedar Hollow.

(Hopefully, in the future, this little tale will be available in e-book form and paperback.  Now I’ll go back to what I was supposed to be doing in the first place . . . blog on the progress of my current painting, THE BLAIR STONE ARCH.  Stay tuned.)

You keep the covers on! – August 14, 2014

The song sparrow says it all as she tests the water with her toe.  “It’s too cold for me!” 


I took her picture while sitting on the lawn swing wearing a hooded jacket and sipping on a cup of hot chocolate!  Br-r-r-r!  The temperature only reached  16, and the winds gusted up to 50 kph, swinging the Swiss Chalet up and down and rocking it from side to side.  It truly was a Rock-a-bye baby in the treetops kind of day! 

But family duties must be taken care of no matter how abnormal the weather is.  Father Wren delivers some hot oatmeal porridge to little Duke Wren the 1st.  That should warm him up!

Aug.14-14-Father to son

“Now, you keep the covers on,” reminds Lady Wren before she exits.  “I don’t want you catching a cold.  Remember, Mrs. McD personally knit these afghans for you darlings.”


Well, I mustn’t take that much credit . . . but I did plant the flowers and hostas around Cedar Hollow.  Lady Wren found a wilted hosta leaf or two that were just the right size to use as soft coverlets for her babies.  You know, of course, that there’s no fireplace in the Swiss Chalet, so layering is the thing to do.

The prairie-sunset-false-sunflowers were playing peekaboo today by the Cedar Shake birdhouse on Black Pole Lane!


Buzz the Bumblebee doesn’t let a chill wind stop him.  No, Sir!  He’ll work the cone flowers until the backpacks on his legs are full and running over!


After supper, who should visit Cedar Hollow but Bar Code, the Red headed Woodpecker!  He managed to squeeze into the front-yard bird feeder far enough to get a toothsome black-oil sunflower seed.  He prefers to unwrap his meal on the tree trunk. 


A young female cardinal, a nuthatch, and a pair of goldfinches also came in to pick up their bedtime snacks!

Introducing you to little Duke Wren the 1st – August 13, 2014

Top o’ the morning from the tiger lily quintet! 


Cedar Hollow received an abundance of rain last night, warm rain.  Drippity-splashity-sploosh!

By noon, the flowers had pretty much dried their frocks.  The two young start-ups in the prairie-sunset-false sunflower family have opened their first-ever blooms.  Below is a close-up of one of their happy parents:


I turned off the waterfalls near noon to listen to the chatter coming from the Swiss Chalet.  This youngster answered the door when I climbed the knoll and knocked. His parents were out foraging, or else I would have been torpedoed!

Aug.12-14-baby wren near entrance

Compare Duke Wren the 1st’s wide beak with that of his parent below.

Aug.12-14-Adult wren's pointed beak

Never mind.  The fresh, organic diet he gobbles up will bring about major changes to it in a very short time!  Remember how quickly the baby robin’s big rubbery beak changed?

I wonder if the little duke is remembering to flutter his wings?

Larger portions are simply contagious! August 11, 2014

Who should venture into Cedar Hollow but a Yellow Swallowtail – a guest we have been anticipating for some time!

Aug.11-14-Yellow Swallowtail

Yellow is my favourite colour!  I have never seen a baby goldfinch before, have you?  He doesn’t have his black chapeau yet, but that will come.

Aug.11-14-Goldfinch baby

Lord and Lady Wren have been working their wings off!  The nestlings’ appetites are hard to satisfy!   Can you see the big larva Lord Wren has brought to the dinner table?  Looks like the youngsters have caught onto the larger portions all the restaurants are advertising these days.  It’s contagious, that’s what!

Aug.11-14-Wren w. lg. worm

“Keep your bibs on,” Father Wren says.  “I’ll be back in a jiffy!” 

Aug.11-14-Lord Wren

The song sparrow seems to have her eye on the Cedar Shake on Black Pole Lane.  She certainly has her nerve, as the wrens have scolded her repeatedly, but she knows a good piece of real estate when she sees it.


She has tried out the view from the hoop lookout . . .


. . . as well tested the waters in the bird bath.  Every convenience at Cedar Hollow! 


Before supper, she was in the pan below the bird feeder in the front yard, nibbling on some broken bits of sunflower seeds.  Excellent  cafeteria!

Mr. McD actually saw an airplane accident this morning!  Lord and Lady Wren crashed into each other as they came in for a landing at the Swiss Chalet.  As I said before, we could sure use an air traffic controller at Cedar Hollow!  But . . . we didn’t have to call 911.  They revved their engines in opposite directions, and were soon back, taxying in fast food, and emptying the potty chamber in between runs.  I wonder if they’d like a bit of Tiger Balm to rub on their aching joints?

Lately when the parents arrive on the front porch of the Swiss Chalet, they quiver their wings and tail.  What’s this all about?  Are they encouraging their youngsters to try flying?  Is it Flight School’s Take-off 101 or something?

Out with the old, in with the new – August 9, 2014

Cedar Hollow had the last of its cedar hedging trimmed this morning.  After John severed the cord . . . we hauled out another extension cord and soldiered on.  When Mr. McD connects the end on again, we won’t miss the few feet of length we lost.  I made myself more useful by holding the cord out and away from the electric hedge clippers as John worked.  He has a good eye for getting things as  straight as an arrow.

You wanted to see the seeds of the tiger lily, didn’t you?  Now, why didn’t you just say so?  One can’t help but feel sorry, looking at the tiger lily’s brave leaves riddled by mean, selfish, disrespectful old bugs.  They should be hauled up on the carpet and charged with vandalism and defacement of property, that’s what!     


The song sparrow is thirsty.  “Mind if I have a drink?” she seems to say.


How could we say no?  She had better clear out of here fast, though.  Lord Wren has seen this trespasser.


He signalled for backup.  In another instant, he and Lady Wren swooped full speed after the sparrow like a pair of fighter jets!!

But everyone isn’t on high alert at Cedar Hollow. 

The bumblebee patiently gathered nectar and pollen from the feathery spikes of astilbe.  I do love the little hum he makes.  See him on the right-hand stalk?


Where is his home anyway?  Years ago, I stumbled upon pollen pots of a bumble bee in the grass beside a post – beautiful, soft, cream-coloured little crocks. 

In the late afternoon, a bird in the woods was making a one-syllable call repeatedly, somewhat like a robin does at times.  Nextdoor, the Rottweiler hurried up the knoll expectantly.  Did he think it was little Pipinka calling him?

Around supper time, we got a phone call to say that my new computer was ready for pickup.  As we headed home with it stowed in the cargo area of the Smart car (barely got it in), I commented to Mr. McD that it felt kind of similar to when we brought a newborn baby home from the hospital – the scary reality of caring for it from that moment on begins to set in with each mile.  

Why do computer companies have to keep changing things anyway?  Are they a cantankerous bunch, or what?  You just get comfortable with the system you have, and then they come out with a new-fangled next model.  You hang onto your old one like a favourite slipper with a hole in the toe . . . and then it conks out on you!  It’s not fair, I tell you.  Well, I’d be driving a Model-T with a mindset like this now, wouldn’t I?  

Cedar Hollow needs an air traffic controller! – August 8, 2014

There was tidying up going on in Cedar Hollow on the inside and on the outside!  Mr. McD Moved the old computer monitor out of the office, and removed a shelf that had held the big Dell tower.  That led to rearranging other things, installing hooks to hang some of them on, doing some rewiring to make power bars more accessible. 

He got a kick out of phoning John and asking how many monitors he had.  When he answered “Two,” his Dad replied:  “Oh you poor thing.  I don’t know how I could live with less than three!”  (He had just hooked up my old monitor to his network, and is also able to switch over to the flat-screen TV as a monitor.)  John realized his Dad had relished preparing this arrogant question all afternoon . . . hardly able to wait for him to get home from work to spring it on him.

Meanwhile, I was busy trying to find the top of my desk, getting ready for the wireless computer.  All sorts of pieces of paper stashed here and there had to be filed appropriately or in the round file.  The old scanner was given a spot high up in a storage area where it could be brought back if a  slide needed to be preserved —   not one of those things that make you squeal out loud when you slip down it, no.  I mean the 35mm kind of of a thing.  Maybe you are too young to make sense out of what I’m saying.  Never mind.  Just check it out on Google.

With technology ever changing, how do we keep up with it?  What do you do with cassettes that were treasured not very long ago, and now just collect dust?  That BIG SORTING JOB will have to be done later.  Ever catch yourself saying something like that?  I’ve got good intentions.  You wouldn’t doubt that for a minute now, would you? 

Outdoors, Lord and Lady Wren were going at quite a pace, and doing some tidying up of their own.  They came and went so fast, they were practically a blur!

Aug. 8-14-wren on way out

Several times I saw one of them fly out of the Swiss Chalet with a potty chamber filled to the brim!  They wouldn’t think of just tossing its contents out the door.  No way!  They winged the white cargo into the neighbour’s yard.  Free fertilizer!  Well, I think it’s free.  I couldn’t see from the swing whether they pecked at the neighbour’s door and handed them a bill or not, but that’s none of my business.

What the two of them really need is an air traffic controller.  It looked like they collided several times, arriving at the same instant, pushing in behind the other, or madly reversing and sitting on the clothesline while the other fed the demanding nestlings.  Why don’t they ease up on the throttle a bit when they see their mate heading for the entrance?  There doesn’t seem to be a YIELD SIGN anywhere in the walnut’s boughs!  What a state of affairs!

Around four o’clock, the nestlings had settled down for a nap.  All was quiet, beautifully quiet.  We turned off the falls to listen to the quietness.  Lady Wren spent some time preening on the wooden rail by the Prairie Sunset False Sunflowers.  She was partly hidden from view by its big leaves. 

Aug. 8-14-PSFSunflowers

Close by, the tiger lilies are splashing their namesake’s colours about.  I love their brown velvet slippers!  Have you seen the shiny black balls attached to their stem?  Plant one, and you’ll have tigers in your garden, too! 

Aug. 8-14-tiger lilies-3

The cucumber vine, whose leaves are as rough as sandpaper on their underside, furnished us with delicious sandwiches yesterday.  Can you see a little cuc in the making?


The crickets have begun singing, but sort of pianissimo so far.  Somehow they immediately remind us that mellow fall is just around the corner.  The sounds won’t be pianissimo in Fergus this week-end.  The Scottish Highland Games are on with the skirl of the bagpipes . . . the very music that sends chills down Mr. McD’s spine!  Yes, Sir!

But he wasn’t digging for worms – August 7, 2014

Whenever we go out to the lawn swing, the camera comes along.


I thought Mr. B was digging worms for Pipinka by his back fence.

Aug.7-14-Oto digs1024

 As he began heading toward his house, he saw us, and broke the bad news.

“Pipinka died at two this morning.”

I could not believe my ears!

“He started to go downhill in the early afternoon.  Didn’t want to eat; just kind of flopped around; didn’t go to the perch in his box.  Then the dysentery began and never stopped.” 

“He seemed to be doing so well yesterday morning,”  I said. 

“It might have been some toxins on the worms I bought,” Mr. B said.  “My dog  felt bad, too.  She groaned.”

I expressed my admiration for the excellent care he had taken of Pipinka, both he and his mother.  I just couldn’t believe how quickly the dysentery took him.  The robin-like chirps he made yesterday would never mature into heavenly robin rhapsodies.  He would never arrive from the southlands to herald the beginning of Canadian spring.  We would never know if Pipinka would come back to his adopted family after a sojourn in Florida.

Good bye, little Pipinka.  I’ll treasure the memory of seeing you fall asleep, cradled in our neighbour’s hands.  You certainly were a good judge of people.

On a happier note, other sounds were increasing in volume in Cedar Hollow, coming from the vicinity of the Swiss Chalet.  The wrens’ youngsters are becoming more boisterous each day, and their appetites have increased as well.

Aug. 8-14-Wren on porch

But the morning was to bring us more bad news . . . . . . 

My faithful old computer conked out, and simply could not be revived.  Like the little robin, it just flopped around.  It was so impossibly slow . . . that I resorted to darning socks while waiting for it to do the next thing!   Why, I was so desperate, I even vacuumed out the dust clogging up some vents in the computer!

Our son dropped over right after work. He said that the all-blue screen I saw yesterday is often referred to as “blue death,” indicating  that the computer’s demise is imminent.  

The three of us headed over to Best Buy.  Fortunately, we were served by an older, experienced salesman.  Rare experience.  John and his Dad reviewed and compared specs on different models,  and I ended up with a 23-inch touch-screen wireless by Hewlett Packard.   When I paint in the studio now, I won’t have to drag a large cable along to view photos on the monitor.  

Somewhat like Apple, the Hewlett Packard’s computer is embedded around the edges of the monitor, so there is no need for a large tower.  The Geeks (that’s what they call themselves; I’m not being rude), will transfer data into the new machine.  John recommended that I purchase a HELP SERVICE for a year, one with 24-hour staff.  He knows all too well how awfully impatient his mother is when it comes to technical things.

When they were talking about how fast the new computer would be, Mr. McD asked, “How will I get my socks darned now?”  Do you have any idea?

 – – – – – – –

This blog has come to you courtesy of Mr. McD’s computer.  


Whose afraid of the big bad . . . ? August 6, 2014

Opening this old shed is giving me the heebeejeebies, the double heebeejeebies! 

Aug. 6-14-tree frog, green-1024-yellow inside legs

Note the bi-coloured stockings this prankster wears.  The latest fashion!

I didn’t close the doors completely as I was planning on doing some yard work.  A few minutes later, I took out the hoe, and . . . PLOP!  A grey tree frog had been sleeping on top of the blade of the hoe!  How was I to know he’d pick such a crazy place for a bed?

Help!  It’s raining tree frogs in Cedar Hollow, and it wasn’t even in the forecast!  I’ll be a wreck if they don’t soon find a more sensible place  to spend the night! 

aug. 6-14-tree frog, grey

While weeding near the bird bath, I heard the baby wrens cheeping for more breakfast.  Lord and Lady Wren were quick on the wing, let me tell you, filling their youngsters’ orders as fast as they could.

“Now where is Lord Wren?  I could have sworn he was right behind in my tailwind.”

Aug. 6-14-wren looks over-1024-shoulder

Our neighbour’s son brought out Pipinka to show me his progress.  Mr. B is as good at caring for him as his mother, who is now in Europe on vacation.  I’m sure the first thing she asks whenever she phones is . . . How is Pipinka doing? 

Aug. 6-14-Pipinka-1024

I would say Pipinka’s tail is only about an inch long, wouldn’t you?  How quickly his wing and back feathers are growing.  You don’t see much fuzz sticking out between them anywhere.  The former rubbery, wide beak looks quite proper now.  And what long toe nails!  Pipinka was chirping very robin-like as he sat in Mr. B’s hand while we chatted over the fence.   When he dozed, it was the bottom eyelids that moved up to shut his eyes! 

The Rottweiler wanted to see Pipinka, too.  Mr. B lowered his hand.  The huge black dog took a  sniff.  That’s all he wanted was a sniff . . . and his nose told him everything he wanted to know.    “Yes, the speckled bird, the tiny member of my family, is doing just fine!”

I asked Mr. B if he had thought of banding Pipinka. 

“If he comes back and comes to us, we’ll know it’s Pipinka.  No other robin would do that.” 

Sensible Mr. B.

In the afternoon, Mr. McD took this photo of an adult robin bathing.  How many days do you think it will be before Pipinka looks like this?

Aug. 6-14-robin bath-1024


Three torpedoes were fired in Cedar Hollow – August 5, 2014

Mystery solved! 

The alien from outer space has been identified, and we won’t be carried off by little green men after all!

A friend who reads the blogs said it was a hummingbird moth.  I went to the Internet, and, sure enough, she was right.  Let me share a small picture I found that will give you a better look at the moth than I was able to photograph for you yesterday when he was halfway inside the dark petunia.  This photo also shows his long tongue.

Aug. 5-14-H.moth-back view

The hummingbird moth returned to the petunia patch after supper.  Funny, but just knowing who he was made me unafraid of him.  And doesn’t he resemble a hummingbird in many ways? 

Thankfully, the rainy morning gave way to sun in mid-afternoon.  A black squirrel began to eat a walnut on top of the branch holding the Swiss Chalet, and he was perched only a few feet from it. 

Aug. 5-14-bl.squirrel on right-1024

Lord Wren torpedoed him not once but three times! !  He dove right down at him, cuffing him on the ear!  I saw it!  The squirrel almost dropped his walnut . . . but hung onto it.  Talk about a David and Goliath situation! 

The squirrel ambled as far down the limb as he could, and sat down to continue his repast, not  flustered in the least. 

Aug. 5-14-sq. on left,1024- further away

I had read that wrens were feisty, and this was proof!  

It’s one thing to chase off someone who is too close to your home for comfort, like the black squirrel, but I’ll have to check out the Landlord and Tenant Act.  When we leased the Swiss Chalet to Lord and Lady Wren, we thought it was understood that the Agreement included the entire canopy of the Black Walnut tree, and nothing more.  Now they think they own the whole knoll below it!  

Now, tell me, have you ever asked a wren why he didn’t read the fine print before signing a Rental Agreement? Ve get too soon oldt undt too late schmart!

I was returning from putting the wheelbarrow behind the garden shed, and had to pass beneath the Swiss Chalet as I headed toward the steps.  Lord Wren lit into me full blast.  He was practically cussing me!  Imagine scolding your landlord!!  What’s this world coming to?  And what’s the good of filing a complaint with the Small Claims Court?  By the time it gets on the docket, the wren family will have moved out, and no one will be able to serve the summons!

Old Home Week – August 4, 2014

Opening the shed door . . . and I don’t have to finish the sentence.  You’ve already guessed who was hiding inside its inner edge.  Isn’t he wearing a handsome jacket?  If you look closely, you can see the suction cup on the bottom of one of his left toes!

Aug. 4-14-tree frog-1024

It wasn’t quite eight o’clock when I greeted my neighbour in her back yard.

“Do you want to see the bird?” she asked.  I high-tailed it into the house for the camera. 

Aug. 4-14-Pipinka on-1024-finger

But this wasn’t Pipinka’s first meal of the day.  Oh no.  He chirps for breakfast at 5:00 a.m., and he expects to get it!  Mrs. B cuts her hand-dug fish worms into 1” pieces, which he prefers more than the scrambled eggs.

Aug. 4-14-Pipinks's second meal-1024-of the day, 8 a.m

With Pipinka on her sweatered forearm, Mrs. B showed me how she lowers her arm, and coaxes softly, “Fly.  Fly.”  Each time, Pipinka flutters his wings, but hangs on with his feet.  “His wings are getting stronger,” she observed.

“I was sitting with him in my hand yesterday, and he began singing to me,” she said.  “He really did.  I think he was thanking me for rescuing him.  Tears began falling down my cheeks, would you believe it?”

Mr. McD and I took all of our breaks and lunch out on the lawn swing, not wanting to miss the sight of Lord and Lady Wren launching their prized babies on their maiden flight.  Maybe this would be the day.  Twice I saw one of them carrying a white blob out of the nest, removing waste.  A few times, they were both inside the nest.  There was no dawdling on the front porch before or after any of their entries, which they often used to do. Not today.  It was Zoom!  Off to fetch more grub!  Zoom!  In to serve it up!  Well, we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

From seemingly outer space, an alien creature cruised silently into the petunia patch and filled his sizeable tank from several gas pumps!  If he had flown in my direction, I would have screamed!!!

What in the world is he?  (I lightened the photo quite a bit so you could see the creature inside the dark-purple petunia, so the creature itself would not actually be this light in colour.)

Aug. 4-14-moth

Now, who should come back to pay us a visit but Old Dag the Dragonfly?  Wherever has he been?  This was truly becoming an Old Home Week day!  Old Dag loves to land on a sunny step,  turn on his rotors, go straight up for a few feet, and back down again.  He repeats these manoeuvres a few times.   With so many aviation crashes happening all over the world, no doubt Old Dag is carrying out the instructions in his Preventive Maintenance Manual, endeavouring to avoid any unpleasant or unplanned landings or demerit points.  Mr. McD did not hear the control tower’s ”All clear for take-off!,” but Old Dag did, and zoomed off into the blue.

Aug. 4-14-dragonfly-size-OK

Sunday Brunch – August 3, 2014

Catchy slogans work! 

Why would a restaurant advertise their noon menu when they can use a catchy slogan to do several things at once?  They can subtly indicate that it’s all right to lay in bed on a Sunday . . . it’s all right not to bother getting up for breakfast . . . or to go to church.  Just show up around noon at their leisurely dining establishment, and they’ll offer you roast beef right along with bacon and eggs – whatever your little heart fancies!  It’s called Sunday Brunch!

One thing for sure, though, you won’t catch the hummingbirds sleeping in, and they won’t miss breakfast either – wouldn’t think of it!  And as to where they attend church, I’m not quite sure, but they will not forget their Maker, the One Who guides them all the way from Costa Rica each summer to sip on Canadian nectar, the finest energy drinks in the whole world! 

Aug. 3-14-hummer at sun-1024-flower

You’ve heard of steel workers who can climb girders so high during construction of sky scrapers that an ordinary person would become dizzy if he attempted it.  Most of these skilled workers are North American Indians, admirably equipped to handle such work with sure-footedness and agility. 

A tiny creature with nerves of steel has been working at Cedar Hollow.  The funny thing is – I don’t recall interviewing or hiring him, or checking out a hard hat or steel-toed work-boots for him.  He has set to work anyway, fastening girders in place in a most dangerous location!  I’ve been given to understand that the strength of these girders is many times that of steel.  While I don’t have a photo of him in our employee file to show you, here is what he has constructed:

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What criteria does the person who cuts the lawn at your place use to decide when that chore should be done?  A dear Scottish lady in a seniors’ complex once told me that her father always said it was time to cut the lawn when it was high enough for a sparrow to hide in!

Do you think a recent visitor to Cedar Hollow, a white-throated sparrow, is trying to tell us something? 

Aug. 3-14-w. thr.sparrow-size OK-on lawn

I don’t know about you, but I’m wondering when the young wrens will fly the coop???  It’s got to be soon.  It seems I’ve been clicking pictures forever of the tenants who leased the Swiss Chalet !  Sure hope I don’t miss that exciting event.  Surely they won’t leave Cedar Hollow without bidding us adieu.  In spite of their mother scolding me recently for being too close to her home, I’m hoping her southern manners will carry the day, and that she will instruct her little ones to at least give us a little curtsy before they head off for points unknown.

Break the fast! – August 2, 2014

Six evening primroses bloomed at different spots around the pond last night.  I believe this is a better close-up picture than I have been able to get before.  Its four-pronged, light green stigma in the centre is the motor that pushes the petals open . . . while you watch!   

Aug. 2-14-ev.primrose close-up-1024

Mr. McD and I headed outdoors after we had broken our fast  (had breakfast), coffee mugs and newspaper in hand.  Who knew whether we would be able to get out again, given how unsettled the weather looked?

The baby wrens certainly enjoyed a hearty breakfast, judging by the frequent trips made by their parents around the eight o’clock hour.   Sometimes they shopped in our neighbour’s yard . . .

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 . . . and sometimes they flew silently and swiftly into one of our flowerbeds.  The truth is, they’re so busy now, they scarcely sing a note – so very different from the song-filled days before their family arrived.  

Come to think of it, how much singing did we do when we were diapering and feeding our kids?  With our firstborn, I was so pie-eyed from lack of sleep, I would have perished if my mother hadn’t arrived to help out for a week – a veritable angel on my doorstep with a suitcase in her hand!  

Well, at Cedar Hollow, it’s Bugs Ahoy! !  However, I wish the wrens had an appetite for the tiny red beetles that chew holes in the lilies, or the copper-coloured larger beetles that make lace out of whatever leaves they choose.  Hey!  Maybe we should team up.  When they get done with a leaf and it looks like a bit of netting, I should dip it in some metallic liquid and transform it into a piece of jewellery, like you find in booths at the fall fair! 

Around eleven, Mrs. B emailed me some pictures of Pipinka which her son took. 

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In one of them, he was almost falling asleep in her hand.  Can you imagine that level of trust?  My hat’s off to our good neighbour, Mrs. B.  I’m too squeamish to pick up fishworms . . . yikes! . . . let alone hand-feed them, but she is not, and seems to know just what to do for the little bird.

 Before supper, we experienced a regular downpour of rain!   Hail danced and pinged about on the shed roof and patio!  Thankfully, the hail wasn’t very large, so I do hope the fruit orchards didn’t suffer damage.   Why did it hail?  Usually that only happens when the heat has been oppressive.

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During a heavy rain like this, I sometimes think back to a poem we learned in public school:

The woodpecker pecked out a little round hole

And made him a home in the telephone pole.

The lightning flashed, the thunder rolled,

But he was safe in his little round hole.



Hold on, girls. We can do it! – August 1, 2014

We were seeing double, double wrens, that is! 

Lord Wren was waiting on Swiss Chalet’s front porch with a juicy tidbit for the young ones.  Well, maybe it was crunchy.  I’m not sure.  Lady Wren began to exit from the birdhouse, which sent him flying off to the left as she flew off to the right, all at the same time, as though it was choreographed!  Somewhat rattled, he was back in no time, popping into the nursery to deliver his goodies.  That will teach him to stop saying, “Hurry up” all the time.

 Patience is a virtue. 

Possess it if you can. 

Often found in women. 

Seldom found in man.   (I couldn’t resist.)

Aug. 1-14-Lord Wren waiting -1024-his turn

Do you have plants without names?  It took a bit of searching on the Internet, but I believe this is Prairie Sunset False Sunflower.   It was obtained at a plant exchange a few years ago. I transplanted two of its offspring to the side fence this spring.  They had popped up of their own accord.  Once they reach their height, they make good use of their amazing stature (these are 8’2″  tall) by blooming for a long time, brightening the whole garden with their sunny flowers.

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Their sturdy stems are perfectly square in shape, not round. Their large leaves form an attractive dimple, surrounding the stem.  Sometimes the dimple becomes a miniature pond after a rain.

Aug. 2-14-P.F.Sunflower leaf-1024-joints

Humidity came and went today, as did the sun and rain. 

“I can’t get up the steps,” John complained yesterday as he headed to the forsythia to trim it.  Well, yes, he could, but the prickly yellow barberry was certainly hogging a good part of the steps.  It was time to trim it back this morning.  Its thanks was to plant a short barb in my little finger, even though I was armed with garden gloves.  

One of the cucumbers was trying to copy Jack in the Beanstalk!  It had grabbed onto the wire trellis covering the downspout and began its heavenward climb.  Not wanting to miss out on any of its cucs, I gently tugged its fingers off . . . and made it do an about turn, securing it to a bush with some Velcro in a lower position.  There.  Now I won’t have to drag a step ladder out to harvest its crisp produce!

The cucumbers were actually living dangerously.  Mr. McD attached a green, plastic thingamajig to the end of the downspout.  When it rains, it rolls out, right over the cucumbers and onto the lawn!  And why did I plant them there?  Because it is one of the sunniest spots in our back yard!  Never mind.  I found a wonderful wire plant stake in the shed.  It had a fork on one end to push it into the ground with, and a round 2” loop at its  top end, some 12” above.  The very thing!  I gently threaded the ends of three cucumber vines through the loop, well above the slithering roll-out thing.  It was as though one of the vines said, “Hold on, girls.  We can do it!” and snagged the bush close by with its eerie, long tendril. 

Are there eyes in those spooky tendrils?  How do they know where there is something to grab hold of?

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I must admit that I’m fond of a crunchy cucumber sandwich with mayonnaise slathered on the bread and a dash of black pepper added!  However, it always surprises me when I read about fancy teas in some formal garden setting . . . and they serve cucumber sandwiches – not expensive sockeye salmon or time-consuming egg salad sandwiches!  That was actually my experience at an afternoon tea in the sprawling gardens of Woodside a few summers ago, the boyhood home of Canada’s longest serving prime minister, William Lyon McKenzie King. 


Now, scram! Beat it! Be off with you! – July 30, 2014

Heading out to fill up the hummingbird feeder, who should sail by but Bounce the Hummer!  He had evidently been breakfasting on nectar from the climbing beans.

July 30-14-climbing -1024-beans

So many gardening books suggest that the purple coneflower is sure to attract hummingbirds to your garden.  So far,  Bounce hasn’t shown the slightest interest in them.  A hardworking bumblebee is just as well pleased, though, as he has them all to himself!

July 30-14-bumblebee on cone flower Mrs. B brought Pipinka outdoors and set him down on her patio.  From my office window, I enjoyed the antics of the little robin.  With a hop and a flutter, he quickly mounted a six-inch high step, and hopped down again.

“I dug worms for him this morning,” Mrs. B confided.  “So far, Pipinka does not pick up anything from the ground, but waits for me to feed him.”

When Pipinka has the run of the house, Mrs. B puts the Rottweiler outside just in case he might get too excited by the robin’s fast movements.  Mrs. B’s son returns from Czechoslovakia tomorrow.  He has already been introduced to Pipinka by the  magical means of Skype!  He, too, is a lover of all creatures great and small, and I’m sure will slip into his role as guardian of this treasured guest when his mother leaves in a few days for a vacation in Europe.

Mr. McD had a suggestion:

“Why not take Pipinka with you?  Just tell the airlines that Pipinka is a frequent flyer!”  

The morning rain kept me indoors.  After lunch, I went up the knoll and STOPPED, LOOKED and LISTENED beneath the Swiss Chalet.  Not a sound.  However, I got the distinct impression that my presence was not wanted.  Keeping the camera aimed toward the front door of the Swiss Chalet, Lady Wren refused to enter, but flitted from one spot to another.

July 30-14-on mulberry tree.jpg-size OK

She began to make a nattering noise, but I didn’t take the hint.  

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She went to her favourite places within the walnut tree’s cool canopy.

July 30-14-good on branch

But this shot takes the cake!

July 30-14-Wren-pain in the neck

 Lady Wren fastened her gaze on me and clearly said,

“Sorry, Mrs. McD, but you are a real pain in the neck!

Just go back to the swing so I can feed my babies in peace. 

You and that black thing with the big glass eye make me nervous, that’s what!”


Eating in the rain! – July 28, 2014

The rain came down by the bucketful last night.  In fact, Kitchener received 71 cm of rainfall overnight. 

It’s amazing how flowers can be pummelled, and yet withstand the assault quite well.  The lily on the hosta was probably in bud form during the downpour, so suffered no damage to her star-dusted gown.  Do bend over and enjoy the hosta’s perfume whenever you are near one.  Would you believe that it is similar to lily of the valley?

July 28-14-Hosta lily-size OK

The rain continued until shortly before noon.  A goldfinch braved it over to her favourite take-out counter, and didn’t bother to bring an umbrella along!  If you look closely, you may be able to see the slant of the rain on the left.    

July 28-14-goldfinch eats in rain-1024

I put on a hooded jacket in order to fill up the hummingbird feeder, and chatted a moment with my neighbour who was also out and about in rubber boots.  She reported that baby robin was doing well.  He sleeps in his crib in her bedroom.  Hopefully the weather will be warmer tomorrow, and she will let me take a picture of him.  His name is Czechoslovakian:  Pipinka.  

While I was picking the green beans before supper, a pair of goldfinches spent some time around the pond while Mr. McD was taking a break.  He reported that Mrs. Goldfinch perched on the end of a rock,  leaned over so far that Mr. McD was sure she would fall in, and took a couple of drinks next to a lily pad. 

I hope she hasn’t been influenced by all the advertising hype about the big-sized drinks these days.  She could easily have drank from one of the two bird baths, but, no, she had to go to the BIG POND to drink . . . and it wasn’t even hot outside!   Mr. Goldfinch watched her from the top of the shepherd’s crook that holds the hummingbird feeder.   Before they left, Mrs. Goldfinch checked out the yellow daisies towering over the bird house called Cedar Shake on Black Pole Lane.  

Butterball, the Grey Squirrel, cut through Cedar Hollow on his way into the woods.

July 28-14-grey squirrel on gate-1024

The sun was out once more by mid afternoon.  A white butterfly that has been flitting around all summer, refusing to alight on anything long enough to click a picture, now tried out about every chair or soft lounge she could find in Cedar Hollow!  Whatever got into her?   Here she is putting her feet up on the blue ageratum:

July 28-14-w. butterfly on ageratum

Next, she tried out the lazyboy in the purple petunia patch.  M-m-m-m.  It felt like velvet!

And then her afternoon visitation really got daring.  She stopped in to say hello to one of the waterlilies!  Why, I doubt if she even had an invitation, but that didn’t stop her.  

July 28-14-w.butterfly on w-1024

Maybe she is thinking of going water skiing one of these days, and wanted to size up the pond for herself.  It’s hard to measure things when you’re zigzagging past everything and you don’t seem to have a straight gear.

“You know,”  she whispered,“I feel ever so much better now.  Tell the folks that it really does pay to slow down and smell the hostas . . . or the waterlilies.”


Fighter jet zooms into action at Cedar Hollow! – July 27, 2014

Have you ever felt like you were under attack?  I’m sure these golden lilies do.  Look carefully at a leaf between the middle lily and the one on the right.  I think you will see the tiny villain . . . the colour often associated with you know who . . . but you can’t see his pitchfork.  Nonetheless, the lilies are not going down without first bequeathing to the world what they have been preparing all winter:  a perfume of rarest loveliness.

July 27-14-yellow lilies-1024The Treefrog was up to his old tricks of scaring the wits out of me.  Opening the shed door, there he was inside its edge.  He needn’t think I wouldn’t recognize him just because he had changed into his jacket of light grey!  We were on our way to church.  Maybe I should have invited him to come along, seeing as he was all dressed up.

Cedar Hollow had many visitors this afternoon, including a white-throated sparrow! I do hope he sticks around.  He is such a beautiful singer!

July 27-14-white throated sparrow-1024

Most of the visitors were quite civil.  Most . . . but not all, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

 A pair of cardinals careened in and out of the yard, and a large butterfly wearing a plain orange gown paused to rest on a step near the pond.

Please excuse Father Robin’s back.  His manners are generally impeccable, but this afternoon he is intent on training his youngsters, and simply has no time for the camera.  

July 27-14-robin on fence-size OK

His offspring is almost as big as he is, but not half as handsome.  In fact, don’t you think he’s kind of gangly looking?

July 27-14-young robin-2

His messy, speckled vest looks like something he picked up at a flea market!  The poor chap is hungry, and is trying to follow his father’s instructions about how to find tube steaks!

Lord and Lady Wren are practically wearing out the hinges on the front door of the Swiss Chalet these days.  Their youngsters’ appetites are very demanding. 

And then, without warning, it happened!!  Fasten your seatbelts, folks!

A white-breasted nuthatch landed on the branch from which the Swiss Chalet is suspended. 

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He had the audacity to poke his face right into the front door of the Swiss Chalet!  Mr. McD and I gasped!! 

Lord Wren revved up the engine of his fighter-jet!

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Down ‘round the forsythia, through an opening in the gate’s lattice, out into the big forest Lord Wren chased him!  Who knows how far the feisty Wren tailed the nuthatch who never flew so fast in all his life.  The thin beak of Lord Wren is a fearsome sword.  I dare say the nuthatch is still having nightmares over that blunder.  

Snuggled in a blanket; snuggled in paper towel – July 25, 2014

One of the routine tasks around Cedar Hollow is making bread – an eight-loaf recipe made with one-third whole wheat flour, plus a heaping cup of ground flax seed.  A dear Polish lady who had fled two invasions in Europe before immigrating to Canada told me a secret about rising the dough:  After it is kneaded, place in into a large, greased bowl, cover it with a damp towel, put into a rocking chair with padded cushions (no other chair will do), and snuggle it round about with a blanket.  It never fails to rise in a short time.  Thank you, dear Linda!

By the way, she is also the lady who gave me some Evening Primrose plants – the ones with yellow flowers that pop open at dusk –  and also a Christmas Rose.   What delight these plants have brought to us and to friends who have received some of their offspring. 

Linda also gave me something else . . . a reminder . . . of how blessed we are to have been born in Canada.  Many times her eyes filled with tears and her voice broke as she would say, “I thank God every day that I am in Canada.”

I wonder how many of us have said those words or something similar?

While Mr. McD and I sat on the lawn swing for our morning break, Bounce the Hummer decided he would take a nectar break, and sat on a leaf in the bee balm patch!

July 25-14-Hummer sitting-1024-on bee balm leaf

John came over after work to help trim some of the hedging in Cedar Hollow that is more difficult to reach, requiring someone steady on a ladder on uneven ground. (Mr. McD’s knee replacement was only four months ago.)  Who should John spy on top of a shepherd’s crook but Mrs. Tree Frog!  Her jacket isn’t as lumpy-bumpy as the one that Mr. Tree Frog wears, and she isn’t quite as large.  I do believe she was trying to get a tan on her pale legs.

July 25-14-another tree frog-1024

As we were eying the side of the cedar hedge up and down to make sure it was vertically straight, our neighbour came out with a cardboard box in her hands.  Inside, snuggled on soft paper towelling, was her newest charge.  “What do you think it is?” she asked. 

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“A robin,” was my reply.  My neighbour said that after she rescued the cold wee bird, so weak it had only one eye open, a call to the Humane Society assured her that, yes, she should go ahead and try to save the little songbird.  Having successfully nurtured an orphaned chickadee when her son was a little boy, she cooked up some scrambled eggs for it. 

“Come now.  Open up,” she coaxed, touching its large beak.  We watched.  The beak opened WIDE . . . and she put in a bit of scrambled egg. 

“Oh, he needs a diaper,” she  apologized, as whitish excrement popped out.  “In and out”, she laughed.  And so it was.

My neighbour told me that her Rottweiler was interested in the household’s tiniest member.  She carefully let him sniff it.  He gave his approval immediately. Don’t you wonder how the friendship will develop between the pin-feathered mite and the powerful mutt?  Stay tuned.


And to all a good night – July 22, 2014

Up with the birds!  

When I looked into the back yard at 6:00 this morning, there was Lady Wren entering the Swiss Chalet with a breakfast tray.   She moved so fast that I wasn’t able to figure out what was on the menu for Tuesday.   

Later as Mr. McD opened the bench by some cedar hedging to fetch out cushions for the lawn swing, who should he see but Jumpy the Tree Frog!  How on earth did he get in there with the lid closed?  But there he was, and he didn’t so much as apologize for being in the way either. 

July 22-14-tree frog in bench

Keeping the bird baths filled and clean is a must on a day as hot as this – 29 degrees!

However, I spent part of the day dabbling in snow!  And I’m not pulling your leg!  Using a thin wash of oil paint, I brushed in the shapes on canvas of a winter painting that will be titled “Blair Stone Arch.”   Covered with mounds of fluffy snow, it is located about five minutes from our home.   Well, the snow isn’t . . . but it was when I photographed it.  The quaint arch spans the Bowman/Blair Creek.  Its very shape reveals the history of the area when Scottish settlers arrived in the year 1830.

As the sun sets, it bathes the trunks of the forest’s trees in an orange glow.  Lady Wren is on her way into Swiss Chalet for the night. 

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I have a hunch that she is about to sing this lullaby:

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the lake
From the hills
From the sky
All is well
God is nigh
Sweetly rest

As dusk settles down over Cedar Hollow, an evening primrose near the purple petunias pops open without a sound, ready to catch moonbeams in her golden cup.  The lighthouse on the rocky cliff sends forth shafts of light over the water. 

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  Good night all.