A gift for the birds this Christmas

We checked up on the Schoolhouse this weekend and made sure that we left a little something for the birds.
Black-Capped Chickadee

We’ve left some feed out around the property. Provided the squirrels don’t get there first the birds should have a bit of a Christmas treat. It’s the least we can do until our new bird feeder is installed. Pat is working on something for the spring. And it is a good excuse to get up there more often.

If you feed them, they will come

Well it appears we have hummingbirds this summer and either fewer or weaker bears.

A few weeks ago I talked about how we had lost the old feeder to the bears. I’ve installed our new feeder and while it indicates we don’t have scores of these little guys, we do have a few.

This new feeder seems suitably sturdy and up to the task. I’ve spoken to the neighbours and the bears are definitely still in the neighbourhood but they have either been outdone by this or have another source of entertainment and candy this year.

Our country garden in July

Well the garden is in full swing even if I haven’t been.

It’s been a busy summer and we haven’t been able to do as much as we would like. Nature is starting to creep in. While the plants are well established, the weeds and crawling ground cover are starting to encroach on my plans.

However a few things are doing alright. The viburnum is in good shape. I think that is what it is called. We pruned it last year and the new growth is doing well. And it is a nice concealer between us and the road.

I have one lowly lily at this point. More are on their way by the looks. The ditches are full of orange lilies which seems early but this year is a bit of a weird one in terms of heat and weather.

These are looking a little sad this year. Last year’s were bountiful and lovely but they need a little TLC on our vacation I think. I think I will flesh them out a bit with some friends in the coming weeks. And you can surely see the wretched ground cover that I pulled out this year and that returned with a vengeance as it damned well does.

Well that is it for now. More to come soon.

Humming along

Last year saw the demise of our hummingbird feeder.


Apparently we were attracting that rare breed of hummingbird that looks a lot like more like a black bear. And they have a little more force behind them than their ruby-throated counterparts.

So I just bought myself a new hummingbird feeder. Stopped off at the Urban Nature Store in Etobicoke and saw this feeder. With a name like this, it has to be good right?

Best Number 1 Hummingbird Feeder

We have had a feeder for as long as I can remember. We would sit on the front porch and quietly wait for that unmistakable buzz and watch the hummers dive bomb each other. It is always so tough to tell if you have one or a family around because they all look alike. This feeder has a measurement down the side that states if you watch the use within a 24-hour period you can determine the number of birds you have. I am curious to find out how many might appear.

1/4000th of a second

I have always admired their desperate efficiency though I have admired it from my comfortable lawn chair, generally with a beverage in hand. Fuelled by sugar, they are much less annoying than a sugar-driven child or drunken stumbler who just won’t quit trying to get out of said lawn chair.

If you don’t know much about feeding hummingbirds, here is a nice little site with loads of information I could repeat ad nauseum but it is easier if you just visit them.


This site also has a nice list of plants that help attract hummingbirds. I can personally attest to the benefits of the butterfly bush. It is a humdinger!

I placed my feeders in the apple tree at the front of the house as it has always been there. Let’s hope my little friends return.

High on High Park

That’s High ON High Park, not in High Park.

Not that I judge. I’m just saying that anyone in Toronto that needs to get a whiff of some (clean) spring air and some grass knows to go to High Park. Take that as you will.

When we are in the city, this is where I go to run or walk or generally chill. You see a good cross-section of Torontonians here doing all sorts. I’ve seen cyclists, jogging groups, stoner kids hanging out and those armies of moms with strollers who refuse to walk anything less that five astride. I even saw a wedding last summer.

High Park

High Park has a zoo (until this year’s city budget kills it), a giant playground (which recently burned down), great trails (which need patching)…well despite all its issues, I still love to visit.

At this time of year everyone goes to the park to see the cherry blossoms. Well not generally at this time of year but when the weather is this nice, that is.

High Park cherry blossoms

Tourists flock here and lame joggers like me stop and attempt to take macro photos on their phones on windy days when they are out of breath. And then their batteries die. Which is why I have two lovely photos here from photographers who planned ahead and thought about what they were doing.

High Park Sakura Project.

Now a lot of people go for the cherry blossoms but I go for Grenadier Pond and the swans.

There are a few theories about why it is called Grenadier Pond but whatever the reason it is always this nice, calming place where you can walk, run or sit by to collect yourself after a long day.

whenever I head over on a run I start thinking about things like what plants to plant, how much work will I get done on the yard at the schoolhouse and all those things I don’t have time to think about during the day. My happy place? I guess so. In the city at least.

Jesus, what is with all this happy deep thought crap? It’s like Oprah is in town or some shit. Oh wait…

Back by popular demand

I finally remembered to buy bird seed.

And apparently it was appreciated. While our weekend plans got turned completely on their ear I did manage a few hours at the schoolhouse this weekend to check on things and make sure the mice have officially retreated (it appears they have).

I made sure to pick up some bird seed as well as a pre-formed bird bell. I’m not the biggest fan but it will tide my feathered friends over while we aren’t there to fill the regular feeds.

Well the grand re-opening of our little bird bistro was a chirping success. I wasn’t even finished filling the tray when the chickadees started to dive bomb. They and the blue jays were the first in line. I wonder who else will visit?

I flock to phlox

I’ve been going through my old files looking for some photos of our gardens to date.

We've got pink and white but most of our phlox are purple.

I’m not totally sure what type they are as they have been in our garden as long as I can remember. We have hot pink, white, a lighter pink but most of them are purple. While I am adding many other perennials to the side garden the phlox will always be the main theme.

We got rid of the vines as the swallows were building a small city but the phlox come back each year.

I’d love some suggestions as to other colours or companion plants for the phlox as well. Please let me know what you think.

Found a blue jay!

Ah ha!

I found a photo I forgot I had taken a couple of years ago. Here is a blue jay in our decrepid old bird feeder. They like to swoop down from the line of pine trees in the back and fight over who gets to rule the feeder.

Hello old friend. I'll be back soon and I hope you will too.

Perhaps I will head up to the schoolhouse soon and fill the feeder with seeds just to see if anyone comes to visit. And with the Superbowl coming up I do need to make myself scarce so that may be good timing!

Bye bye birdies

I have never known birds of different species to flock together. The very concept is unimaginable. Why, if that happened, we wouldn’t stand a chance! How could we possibly hope to fight them?

— Mrs. Bundy, elderly ornithologist, The Birds, 1963

Mrs. Bundy didn’t know her Woodcock from a Bearded Tit. Yeah those are real bird names. Look it up.

 Blue Jay

This past weekend while at the schoolhouse I realized I miss feeding the birds. It was a daily chore at our house to fill the metal bowl with sunflower and other seeds and head out to the bird feeder. It made for a pretty view in the winter, with Blue Jays and Chickadees flitting about and in the spring it was always nice to see the return of the Robins of course.

And while it was a constant battle to keep the squirrels at bay, we didn’t mind when this fat fellow stopped by and ate until he waddled off after a flying leap to the nearby picnic table.

We're not sure how he got up there but gravity helped with the descent.

Here in condo land there are strict rules against feeding the birds. Though there was that one time a wayward Canada Goose made its way to a third floor balcony in search of lunch. He left unrewarded.

And now it seems a bit of a tease to feed the birds on the few weekends we visit in the winter. Perhaps come spring we’ll get back into the habit.

When I do start again I’ve found some good information from the US-based National Wildlife Federation.

Create a bird-friendly habitat

All good ideas. And as for brush piles… we’ll let’s just say we have that one bullet item covered.