Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cats will be Cats

Kuroi (Pretty Kitty) has a fun game he plays every morning for about a half hour. He chases around a (imaginary or real) kibble that escaped the dogs' dish.  Perhaps at one point, there actually was a kibble that ended up underneath the old drip tray we use to protect the floor from the water bowl.  Now, who knows? But Kuroi is convinced it's there, and every morning, pokes randomly under the mat - it's quite hilarious. Today, Peepers watched in quiet awe while he did this, wondering what the heck he was doing. It's the first time one of the other cats has taken an interest in Kuroi's little hobby. 

God, cats are such spazzes.  :D

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cats in the Area

There must be some new cats to the area - I saw an adorable marmalade cat sleeping on our anthill, enjoying the sunshine the other day (reminds me of my kitty when I was little). But this, or another cat, knows how to hunt, and hunt well. 

We had a spate about 5 months ago of one shrew a night dead at the top of the hill, waiting for me and the girls when we went to play in the morning.  Then mercifully it stopped.  But last night must have been a banner night, for there were 3 dead shrews up there this morning.  Well, parts of them, anyway. One was complete, but dead from a side puncture wound. But the other two...only their heads remained!  *gack*  The girls (Casey and Lila) managed to find them all (whenever they look intently at something, I come to look in case it's a little froggy who needs help getting out of our yard). I took the shrews and shrew bits and put them into the forest beyond the fence, with a little prayer for their little furry souls.  Poor little guys, they do love our yard with all the tall grasses and such to hide under...but that makes it tempting hunting ground for the cats... :/

More disturbingly, I found a small cluster of male pheasant feathers - they're absolutely gorgeous, with a metallic sheen of blues and greens when you look at them moving in the light.  But while I'm worried a cat made a go for him, I don't see any blood, and no body to be seen, so I'm sure one swipe is all the cat got in before the pheasant made a getaway.

So, we'll hope the pheasant keeps his eyes open, and hopefully the little shrews will keep safe - but I will keep burying them if they don't.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Male Pheasant

Only got to see him for a moment, while we were scaring the crap out of the poor guy. He was up on our hill feeding (getting spillover from the bird feeder) and me and the girls came tearing up the hill to play Frisbee. Poor guy, hr ran around and around while the girls chased him, I'm yelling at them to stop, trying to grab at them - finally he takes off to the sky and flies away. He was beautiful, from what I could see, but quite small, so I think he's young - probably one of the ones I saw earlier this year in the yard. Poor guy, hope he's not too traumatized, and will come back. A short time later, I heard a few little noises from the woods nearby, I think he had a companion that was wondering what was going on - I'm sure they'll meet up again soon. 

He didn't get away too badly off, though - he picked apart one of only 2 chili peppers I managed to grow! At least he picked the unripened one. :) I've picked the other one, in case he comes back - it can finish ripening indoors.

I do hope he comes back - now that I know they're still in the area, I'll have to make sure I check outside before we go out!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Too Cool! Airshow Practice!

Once again, after a long absence, the air show is at Shearwater, AND I'm in the city. When I was a kid, the airshow was always at Shearwater, which is not (flying wise) very far from my house - we used to get on the roof and watch the show at a distance, or stand on street and watch down the road. They had to move the airshow around to different locales when I was an adult, and I lived out on the outskirts of the HRM for a long time, so it's been a while since I've seen it.  But now, they're back, and I'm back, and they're doing some practicing for the air show this weekend.  And they're practicing over our house! Very cool, nothing like a jet fighter trainer flying low and fast, rattling your windows!  They turned a couple of times directly over the house (COOL!), but mostly they've been going by, practicing doing that straight up climb, then straight down maneuver, turning, and a little spinning, too.

When I lived out on the Eastern shore, my parents still enjoyed watching the air show, and chose one year to go to the cliff behind our house to watch it.  Our Canadian aerial acrobatic team, the Snowbirds, come annually to the air show, and do an awesome performance.  When I was a kid, and still today, some of the Snowbirds perform their turn-arounds (to get back to Shearwater to do some more formations), right over our house. You can imagine how cool that was, and is!  So my folks were in a great position to watch the occasional Snowbird fly by very low, as in you-can-look-in-the-cockpit low.  Mom, being the silly goofball that she is (a trait she has passed on to me, I might add), would wave every time they went by. And on the last flyby, he flew extra low and waggled his wings back at her!  It happened to be her birthday too, and let me tell you, she was thrilled!  Something she'll always remember, and still talks about. (So, whoever you are out there, Mr. Pilot, you made Mom's day!).

All the performers will be showing up sometime today, likely, so we'll be hearing a lot of airplanes in the air as they fly by en route to Shearwater.  Don't know if I'll make it to the show, but I definitely will watch down the road, to see what I can see, at a distance. :)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

You're *sure* its local? An interesting way to be sure...

In Japan, convenience stores don't just sell pop and chips, as the often do here - they sell vegetables, and/or fresh food products.  In response to customers' requests for safety and quality, as well as avoid price fluxuations from suppliers, they've started their own farms.  By growing all their own veg, they can have start-to-finish quality control over locally produced vegetables.  You can read more about it on Mainichi today: (

So, that would be like Sobeys or Superstore/Loblaws actually owning and running local farms all over the country to sell exclusively to their own stores.  It's an interesting idea...I mean, certainly you could be sure of the "local"ness of your product.  It might be a way of saving a lot of small struggling farms - but I'd be worried that they'd turn into a vegetable version of those giant conglomerations that run meat processing, where animals are mistreated before slaughter. Not that I think the veggies would be mistreated :) but the land might be, by large-production methods (read: heavy pesticide use), etc.  But if people didn't want those methods used, they could directly hit the chain's bottom line by not buying from them.

Oh well, it's certainly an interesting thing they're trying out, and an idea worth at least playing with here in North America...

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Went out with the girls for their playtime a few minutes ago, and saw this in my Miracle-Gro bag garden (well, what's left of it...the peas are all finished for the year, so they're gone. I put an extra potato I had from my crop that needed a few more weeks, in, and there's my two pepper plants, which didn't do so well in the "generic soil", so I moved them over to see if Miracle Gro would help). ;)

So....where did these guys come from??  Mushrooms are strange critters....I flipped up the edge of one of them to see what the gills were like, now I gotta go figure out what kind of mushrooms they are.... :)

Saturday, September 04, 2010

We were lucky!

A *lot* of people lost power - even my parents, who live only a few streets away!  We were very lucky.

Right now my parents and their neighbour are moving a tree from the property line that fell right on my parent's vegetable garden - right on the tomatoes!  Oh no!  It damaged the yard fence, the garden fence, and tore the clothesline right off the post!  Yikes.  We didn't lose any trees, ourselves, we're lucky.

Dave's mom also lost power, but since she lost virtually all her trees to Juan a few years back, there probably won't be too much damage.

So, Earl did give us a pretty good punch!  But they hope to have the power back within a couple days, so it won't be another Juan, for sure. *phew*

Hurricane Earl

Well, not sure if it's a tropical storm or a hurricane, but Earl has definitely hit.  I took a short video in our backyard a few moments ago:

It's crazy!!  The wind is so strong, but the gusts are just nuts! The trees are whipping around, and the rain feels so cold, especially since we've had temperatures in the 30s all week, ugh.  Sorry for the quality of the video, my camera is rather old, but it gets the point across. :)

We have power for now, which I am grateful for.  They say it should finish blowing through by late this afternoon.  Glad all my plants are indoors!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Pre- and Post-Hurricane/Power Outage Survival Advice

Hurricane Juan was several years ago, but for anyone who lived through it, it was the worst storm in memory. It tore a swath through our province, and changed a lot of people's attitudes towards hurricanes. With all the climate change occurring, storms are not burning out on our cold waters as they used to - the water is warmer, and storms are hitting us harder. We've had a terrible heat spell just in advance of Earl, our upcoming hurricane, which will not help matters. So in honour of Earl, I thought I'd share some survival tips I learned from Juan, where our household went without water and power for 4 or 5 or 7 or more days (mercifully, I've forgotten which - it may not sound like a long time, but going through it, things deteriorated rapidly. We weren't adequately prepared).  These aren't simple things like "bring your pets indoors" or "buy a gas generator", these are some of the things that we either did, or wish we had done, to make things easier.

Get canned foods to eat, like Chef Boyardee spaghetti in cans (NOT the microwavables!). These you can heat up in the cans (take the lid off first, the can will be too hot to take it off after).  During Juan, we were able to heat these using just 3-5 tealights, and a few hours (see more below). If you have a better heat source, all the faster. Other foods to consider:

  • Cup Noodles (the kind that come in a cup you fill with boiling water)
  • Mr. Noodle (the kind that you have to boil for a few minutes)
  • instant coffee
  • instant rice
  • canned sandwich meat/fish, to make sandwiches; mustard and butter don't usually need refrigeration, so at least you'll have something to put on them.
  • bread
  • Peanut butter (unless you're allergic), a good source of protein
  • Canned beans in sauce (pork'n'beans, beans in molasses, etc.) - again, a good source of protein
  • instant oatmeal

After a couple of days, you don't feel like cooking or eating anything. It's very important to have these easy-to-make things on hand to keep your strength up.

Clean and fill the bathtub with water. Essential if you have a well (as we did), as you will need it for your water supply until power is restored. Good to have even if you do have city water, just in case. It costs nothing but a few minutes of your time, but when you've got a family stuck with a toilet that doesn't flush because there's no power for your water supply, you will be SO GLAD you filled that bathtub. Toilets will automatically flush once the liquid level inside reaches a certain amount, so use a bucket and pour in water, and bingo, you've got a flushed toilet. Before Juan, Dave at the last minute thought to half-fill the tub, and that lasted us a few days. We eventually ran out of toilet flushing water, but were lucky enough there was a runoff ditch nearby where we could get some. Nasty business overall.  

Bottled water, or at least containers large enough to hold several days worth of drinking & cooking water. Essential if you have a well, good idea even if you don't.

Before the storm, make sure your cell phone, music players, laptops and rechargeable batteries are fully charged. If the power's out for a few days, you will be cursing left and right when you realize your laptop only has an hour of power left on it. And you WILL want your laptop. I don't have one myself, but my music player was SUPER important to my sanity by day three.

Most power companies have a toll free line where they have a recording of power restoration updates, program it in your phone ahead of time, so you won't have to dig around for it in the phone book with a flashlight later.

Make sure you have some cash handy. By day four, if some local fast food places have power, you are going to want their food like you never have before. And there's a possibility that they might have intermittent issues with their debit and credit machines, so have some cash around for stuff like that. My parents had power long before we did, and God love them, they brought us some takeout on day four, and we ate that like we had never eaten food before. Four full days of a limited diet, where the can of Chef Boyardee split between two people was your big meal of the day, you get pretty hungry.

Get out your flashlights (at least one per level of your house), batteries for the flashlights, candles, oil lamps with oil, etc. before the storm. You don't want to have to be fumbling around in the dark looking for this stuff after.  I keep supplies like that all in a rubbermaid box in the basement, so I know where everything is (and check it yearly to make sure batteries are still good, etc.)  And remember, when its dark, it's DARK. There's no lights on the streets or anywhere nearby, it is blacker than you might expect. You should leave one flashlight in the bathroom, you'll need one there even during the day, unless you have a window.

Make sure you have your medicines, prescriptions, etc. with at least a weeks' worth, just in case.

First aid kits, with painkillers and such, should be handy.

Be sure you have enough pet food on hand to last at least a week. Cats and dogs especially react badly stomach-wise to an abrupt change in diet, and the last thing you want is your animals getting diarrhea during this time.

If you have an outdoor barbeque, be sure stock up on charcoal, matches/lighters and/or propane. You will be able to use this to cook food that will spoil otherwise in the rapidly defrosting fridge, or using it at its most basic, to boil water. You will need this for coffee, tea, and cup noodles. REMEMBER TO NOT USE CHARCOAL INDOORS! Every year people die of carbon monoxide asphyxiation because they think they can use charcoal indoors. You can't. Its not worth the risk, even if it's well ventilated.

Break out the board games! For the first couple of nights, this is a fun way to pass the time with family. After a couple of days, well...humor is pretty much lost, and you are just trying not to stab everyone to death, much less play board games with them. Do TRY and keep your humor though, its a rough situation for everyone involved, especially the kiddies.

Radios are excellent sources of info, and support. You can hear the latest on the cleanup, and feel a little better about your own situation when you hear the dj hasn't had a shower in three days either.

Baby Wipes. Invaluable if you don't get water for several days, just to give yourself a little freshness pick-me-up. You *will* feel dirty and skanky, these can help.

Just say no to joyriding and sight seeing. Yes, after a hurricane there will likely be a lot of cool-looking damage, but the last thing power and emergency crews need is people out and about clogging up the roads for no reason at all other than they're *bored*. Man up, put society's needs ahead of your own, and unless you have an emergency, don't leave the house until the crews have had a chance to do their work. It goes faster for everyone this way.

There will be frustration and DEFINITE resentment when you see power coming on near your home, but not on your street. This is normal, but try to keep in under control. The power company has its own way of doing things, certain grids need to get attention before others, and rest assured, in due time you will get your power back. Driving over and bitching at them while they work will do nothing to better your situation. They're not going to suddenly change their mind and go running over to fix your power. It will not happen. Leave them to their work.

Make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy - safety first!  You might have candles for lighting, be using them for cooking (see below), etc, and you should make sure you have it handy at all times. 

Don't knock tea lights! They're more powerful than you think! We used them to power our indoor cooking system, and they worked great. Our indoor cooking system consisted of a design I gleaned from my Girl Guiding days - an old metal coffee can, turned upside down, with vents poked in the top. In Guides, we had a heat source of, I believe, cardboard rolled inside an old tuna can, filled with hardened wax, then lit. We didn't have any wax, but we did have tealights, so we filled a tray with tealights (5 or more work great, if you can fit them in) put the can on top, and waited. We were able to boil water in a pot and heat our pasta dinners on this.  Remember, the can is HOT!  Patience is key - it is makeshift, but it does get the job done, and in the end, that's all you really need.

But, as an addition to the above - don't use scented candles!! The scent will wear out its welcome very quickly, and you will come to associate the smell with bad times.

Well, I've made all the preparations I can (it's 40 deg. Celcius right now, with the humidex, so I'm really limited in the running around I can do).  I hope this helps and gives you some ideas for preparations you can make for yourself should you ever find yourself in this situation.  Good luck!  And if you have any other hints or suggestions, post them in the comments field below.