And the big brown bear came lollipin’ over the mountain….

So says grandpa from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Except it wasn’t a brown bear. It was black. And it wasn’t lollipin‘…it was running hell bent for leather across the hay meadow just opposite my driveway. I’d heard rumblings about bears in my neighbourhood for years. I’d either never fully believed them or thought, well closer to the river maybe. I mean, I’m sort of close to the river, maybe a mile as the crow flies, but this was right there!!! I had trouble recognizing it, thinking first a black pony, but no, it had no neck. Then a dog…a very big dog, like an Afghan hound. But do they come in black?? And then I realized it was a bear!!! I fumbled for my camera to video it but also wanted to watch it, so needless to say, it disappeared down the gully before I could find my phone.

The wildlife here is really amazing. We have had cougar sightings, all over my RM which extends on both sides of the river. They’ve been spotted right near the bridge into town eating a road killed deer. One attacked a farmers sheep and horse. The wildlife officers denied it was a cougar, not wanting to panic people and said, oh it must have been a large feral house cat!! But apparently someone shot one in the process of killing a calf–definitely not a house cat!!

I’ve seen and heard coyotes and foxes. One cheeky fox was yipping in my front lawn, right under my bedroom window. I yelled at him, and I swear he looked up at me as if to say, really!! Whatcha going to do about it? Then I caught him running thru my back pasture. I’ve had coyotes eat my lambs, taking over a dozen in just a few days before I figured out what was happening. They killed one of my goats and from my front door I could hear them crunching the bones down in the valley. Since I got my big dog, they haven’t been back for a meal but I hear them singing.

On the less violent side, there are lots of deer in my yard. Over the winter they ate all the tender ends off the raspberry canes in the garden. But mostly they are down in the meadow. Real masters of disguise–I don’t know if you can see them here. How about now? They turn such a lovely red in the summer. I’ve been impatiently waiting for my spruce trees to mature enough to attract squirrels and blue jays. I had a squirrel the other day, but before I could put out the peanuts he was gone. We call all our squirrels “Anthony” after the giant squirrel room-mate on Doc Martin. We had another one in the back in the grainery but he didn’t stick around either.

IMG_0483Sometimes I really wish I had a proper camera  with a telephoto lens. My cell camera is good for certain things but distance shots, not so much. However I did capture the detail in these beautiful moths my daughter found on the lawn. Everyone loves to eat chicken  This little hawk dive bombed the chicken yard twice, the second time knocking himself silly.  My daughter caught him and removed him before he hurt himself, but we had to take a few pictures before we “safely” released him.  Look at those eyes and feet!!IMG_0360IMG_0355IMG_0359And the snakes are starting to move now too–unfortunately they like to lay out on the road where its warm and many get run over by passing cars.  These are just little garter snakes.  They eat bugs and frogs, and some of the really big ones may eat mice or voles.  Amazing how they can winter in this cold cold country.IMG_0402This spring I’ve seen many antelope too, mostly on my bus run.  They are so different from deer, crawling under fences instead of gracefully leaping over them.IMG_9756And ever since I read about English badgers on another blog I follow, I’ve seen these guys everywhere.  They move so fast and are so well camouflaged that I can never get a picture, but this meme popped on my feed and it’s just so funny (cause it’s true!!)

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So those are my wildlife sightings and stories for this spring.  I’m so glad to know we are not alone!!

Country life

So this morning as I peered out my kitchen window I spotted half a dozen deer in the field just north of the house. Then I turned and looked out my south facing window–more deer in the valley. It reminded me of the song, jokers to the left of me, jokers to the right, stuck in the middle with you.

Living in the country certainly has its advantages. My taxes are less than a third of city taxes, and I have 40 acres. My closest neighbours are half a mile away and I love my solitude. But that gets me pretty well zero services. The grader down the road several times a month.

I’m on the hook for my own water, septic, and garbage.

When my mom was still alive I took advantage of her garbage bins in the city. I don’t really generate a lot of waste. I send all of the food scraps to the chickens or the big dog. I’ve been separating burnables for years, instead of recycling. It’s been revealed thru investigative reporting that most recyclables are rejected (for contamination issues) and are sent to the landfill anyway. I saw that firsthand during my last year of work, when I was exiled to the scale house at the dump. The burnables go on our New Years fire.

I have a real problem with plastics, especially kitchen type plastics. All that thin plastic meats and veggies come wrapped in. Cling film used to cover leftovers etc. But those are now going into the burnables pile. Burning destroys the plastics, (yes, while releasing undesirable noxious fumes) but unburnt they live for so long. Here on the prairies in the middle of Canada they don’t really get into the ocean, where most of the horrific wildlife/plastic interactions seem to happen, but I don’t believe they cause less problems when landlocked. We just don’t see it.

Now that mom is gone I’ve been taking a bag here and there to friends and family in town. But I’ve decided to take page out of my neighbours’ playbook and go with the old fashioned burning barrel. He’s been using one for years, burning everything.

Water costs are negligible except when something goes wrong. And when it goes wrong, it really goes wrong. Drilling the well was the biggest up front investment. But over the years I’ve had to replace a pump or two, and the pressure system, each time scaring hell out of a couple thousand dollars. Service calls are ridiculously expensive and if you are not handy enough to do the work yourself, you have to pay for someone to do it for you.

Same goes for the septic system. I’ve had to replace a pump and the last few winters have been cold enough to freeze the line to the pump-out. I had to get a service man out to replumb the pump-out this spring and run a surface line till the 9 feet of frost melts. And last fall I noticed the pump-out was flowing up alongside the pipe at the outflow so it will have to be dug up this summer to repair whatever is wrong, doubtless a split pipe.

But those are really minor inconveniences. You couldn’t pay me enough money to live in town. Walking out into the deck and seeing the stars, or listening to the gooney bird trumps everything else. Life is good.

So what month is this?? May or October??

So this was my morning drive – actually quite tame compared to my co-worker who said she drove thru a foot of snow.  It’s so sad really. I was just admiring a picture of a forest floor carpeted with ramp blossoms posted in another blog I follow.  It looks just like snow I thought.  Nope.  The above photos look just like snow… sigh…  At least it will sink into the ground as it melts.  We are so dry.

So I’ve been delinquent finishing up my last half day in Reykjavik.  We were to fly out mid afternoon and the only thing on our agenda was the flea market.  We spend an hour beach combing, passing the time till the market opened.  It was cool and a bit blustery but so nice on the beach.  I enjoyed it so much in fact, I took no pictures.

The flea market opened a few minutes early so we wandered before the crowds descended.  I spotted this sweater and took a few pictures of it.  I would like to make it for myself.  My problem is that I have so many UFO/UFP’s (unfinished objects/projects) that I have to finish first before I start something new.  It may be awhile but at least I have the template.

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I stopped at another stall where the lady made mittens.  I was intrigued by the tiny mitts, the smallest had no thumbs to snag tiny fingers, and the next size up was also adorable.

I asked permission to take pictures, which she gave me, but when she realized I wasn’t buying she shooed me away.  I feel bad – hand work is so labour intensive and you can never ask enough money to pay for your time and materials.  It’s really a labour of love.  I should have bought a pair.

We returned our car with no problems and got to the airport to check in.  I had really been hoping they would offer to check our bags (we were flying with carry on only).  On the way out they couldn’t check our bags fast enough but not on the return flight.  So they confiscated my jar of blueberry jam but left me with my TWO cigarette lighters.  I suppose I should be grateful they are so vigilant in protecting us from nasty jam while leaving me with absolutely safe combustion devices.  I don’t really understand how exactly they decide what can travel and what can’t.  For example, knitting needles are ok, but nail clippers are not.  And one person tries a shoe bomb – everyone has to take off their shoes and wander around on that filthy floor. And its not consistent.  At one security gate you practically have to strip and at the next, they are chatty and pleasant and just go thru Ma’am.  It’s a thankless job, poor pay and less training and dealing with the public must be crazy making!!  Ah well.

The flight home was spectacularly uneventful.  We overnighted in Edmonton and came home the next day.  It’s so nice to be home.