Sunday, December 01, 2019

Field guides

I have amassed a collection of bird books over the years.
My first ever book was  this one:
My dad had a copy of this book and I loved looking at the little thumbnail maps.  It showed if the bird was a year-round resident or a summer visitor.   I found it essential when looking for information.

When I no longer lived at home, it is one of the first books I bought.  I used it often.  

During one careless camping trip to Lake Superior, I left it out on the picnic table over night.  It got wet and the pages stuck together.  I cursed my thoughtlessness and tried to dry the book carefully.  Because the paper had a shiny finish, it made the pages stick together if they were not separated during the drying process.  I remember putting leaves of toilet paper between each page to prevent the book from becoming an unusable brick of paper.     In the end I think I bought a new copy.
I wish I had kept that damaged book, because I write notes in the margins.  I had kept a list of birds that I have seen.  I am sure that now I will have forgotten that I have seen some of those birds.  I have a few notes in the margins of this copy.  Maybe it was beyond help. 

My eldest son now lives in Portland, Oregon and he had a hummingbird at his feeder this week.  A hummingbird in November is worthy of looking up.  With minimum research, I discovered that there is a resident and year round population of Anna's hummingbirds living in Portland.  Dashing for my book of North American birds I discovered that my beloved book is only for Eastern birds.  Portland is firmly on the West coast.  Different bird populations and a completely different field guide is needed.  

Here's the thing. . . I don't live in Portland, Oregon in the Pacific NW of America.  I live here in Scotland.  Do I get myself a field guide for birds of Western Birds?  I'll only be there two weeks.  Of course I'll be visiting from time to time to spend time with my son and his family.  I may get one. . . . I can add it to the field guide section of my library.

These are my field guides to things (fish, coral, seashells, turtles etc) in the Red Sea.  I do actually  need both field guides.  There are some animals in one book that are not in the other.  I have discovered over the years that I use both.  

As you can see, I still write notes in the margins. Also obvious is the damage of one of the books. A rescue dog that we had here for a short time, ripped the book up.  It is still quite usable.  I am just going to tape it up and carry on.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Lovely June

Spring has been quite successful this year.
 This is the first year I will have my own peonies.  I have finally found the right spot in the garden for them to thrive.  This one has a little green caterpillar hiding in a petal.

 The UK name for these flowers is Hen and Chicks.  At my grandmother's house in Wisconsin, we called them Indian  Paintbrushes.  I always think of Elcho when I see them in my garden.
 The roses are doing well, but I see that I have to treat for blackspot again.
The foxgloves are looking particularly lovely.
 Purple early orchid
 Abundance of strawberries
 I finally have the lawn that I have always wanted.
No mole damage, very few weeds and it has been dry enough to keep it mowed properly.  All organic too!!
I found this bumblebee walking across the floor in the house. It looked as if it were struggling.  I gave it some sugar solution and took it outside.  I love seeing it's little tongue.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Discount shelves

If blueberries are on the discount shelf in the supermarket and you bring them home thinking, "What a great price on those fat blueberries! There was nothing wrong with them."

You get them home with visions of the delights that will be made with these super bargain blueberries. 

Then. . . . they sit there for days and days while you suffer with a dental abscess. . . .

Finally on a day that you feel halfway human again, you are braced to throw those blueberries out, thinking well if you don't USE them, they're no bargain at all, and they are still good!

A lemon blueberry cake is baking right now and should be done soon.  :-)
It is done.  The bargain blueberries are yummy and my mouth has healed enough to eat it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Where we walk the dog

This is a map of our regular dog walk. 

From start to finish the walk is about three kilometres. 

Starting from the house, we walk along the road.  Fenrir has to stay on his lead during this part of the walk.  He bolts toward cars and I am sure he would run in front of a car if he wasn't restrained.  

When we make the left off the road and start walking toward the gate we can unclip the dog and let him walk free.  A few times a year we will bump into a neighbour, but it's never a problem.

When we get to the gate, Fen is too big to go under the gate and far too heavy to lift over but we found a way to walk around. (smile)  

Until a couple of years ago the whole walk from the gate was completely forested.  It was a big piney walk in the woods.  It's now rough meadow and newly planted trees.

Every single walk follows the yellow line.  When we get to the end of the yellow line, we have a choices.

Taking another left toward The Pond leads us to a big gorse bush that smells of coconut in the spring.  There are sometimes deer up here.  If we have been loud, they will have bounced off  well in advance of us showing up.

The green path takes us to the Hidden Pond.  The hidden pond is off the track and a bit of a scramble to get to, but is very pretty and at this time of year is full of frogs.

I have indicated the two main turn around points in pink.  However, if you are feeling adventurous and the weather is good, you have the option of taking the wild path (purple) back to the gate. 

If you are quiet and observant during a walk, you can see loads of wildlife.  Look in the puddles, muddy bits and drainage ditches.. Look up at the sky and the tops of the trees, there is always something to see.  

Sunday, November 04, 2018


I don't like "stuff" . I hate having unnecessary stuff clog my house and my life. It is this hatred of stuff I don't need, along with budgetary constraints and an eagle eyed husband that I really don't shop as an activity on its own any more. In fact, the last time time I shopped for something I didn't need, I really didn't like the experience. I still like getting presents for people, but shopping because I have nothing better to do is out the window.

When I was living in Iowa, I used to patrol the aisles of the local fabric shops paying particular attention to the fabrics available for quilting. The colours and displays were really beautiful. I found myself buying fabrics for their beauty alone and not because I had a plan for a specific quilt. This lead to a rainbow of small amounts of quilting fabric that was folded neatly in colour order and looked at from time to time. Then, if I was planning to make an actual quilt, would I incorporate these beautiful scraps into it? No. All new fabric had to be purchased adding more and more remnants to my growing "stash".

There seems to be culture amongst quilters where having a large stash of fabric that will never be used is a good thing. Some women actually have a sewing room. A whole room dedicated to sewing! There is a little envy here as far as having a sewing room goes, but then these women have these sewing rooms filled to the rafters with sewing materials that will never be used in their lifetime! Naturally this varies from person to person but nobody seems to think that this is wrong. I don't want to give quilters a hard time, they are mostly wonderful, generous and kind hearted women. The desire to accumulate bleeds into other crafts and hobbies too.

Stuff can take over your life bit by insidious little bit. You'll wake one morning to discover that you need a bigger house to contain your growing piles of stuff. You've got a house that is bigger than you ever thought you could afford and you're

written in 2006 - another find in the drafts folder - this is still relevant.  I still hate stuff but we have more now.


One of the great levelers is that we all need to use the toilet.  We all poo.  Every single one of us.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have modern flush toilets have become accustomed to having the unpleasantness just go away with the touch of a button or the push of a lever.  Our human waste just goes away. But it doesn't.  We know that it goes into the sewer or septic tank.  What ever we throw down the toilet, goes there too.

When visiting the Greek islands we were confronted with a new rule.  The only thing that gets flushed is what comes out of our bodies. The paperwork that goes along with this bodily function goes in the little bin next to the toilet. So, you wipe yourself afterward and put the paper in the basket, not down the toilet.

My initial reaction was, "Ew!"  I'd rather it just get dropped after use into the darkness of the water and never be seen again.  I didn't want any further interaction.  But, as a good guest in somebody else's country, I did as custom dictated and disposed of the toilet paper in the bin rather than flushing it.  After a few days, I didn't even think about it.  I just complied.

The diameter of standard plumbing in Greece cannot handle paper.  Use the bin provided.  You get used to it.  Woe to the tourist who clogs the system by ignoring the custom.  I wouldn't want to be the cause of having to call the plumber out or the reason there is a back up of nastiness.

The benefit of this is that the seas the Greek islands I have been to have been fabulous!  So clean and unpolluted. I was able to contrast this with the water around Malta.  Same sea but different regulations.  The sea was much more polluted.

One of the benefits of only flushing what comes out of your bottom and not the paperwork afterward, is that very little else will be flushed.  No tampons will be made to disappear.  No condoms or ear swabs and certainly no moist towelettes.

See where I am headed with this?  The toilet is not this magical device that makes things disappear.  Flushed items do not just go away.  They go somewhere.  Biological waste will be managed.  It will be processed.  The other stuff won't.

A lot of the plastic will end up having to be scraped out of the sewers by actual people who are paid to do it.  Condoms, dental floss and disposable wipes are the big culprits in the sewer.  What doesn't get cleared out by those poor people, may end up on our oceans.

There are vast rafts or gyres of plastic in our oceans.   They are so large that they have names.

Please don't flush anything down the toilet that hasn't come out of your body or is actual toilet paper.

Written in 2010 and discovered in drafts this morning

Coptic Christians

My family and I have been regular visitors to Egypt for the last nine years.  We have managed to go almost every year since our first visit in 2006.  Sometimes we have even get to go twice!

In 2006 we visited Cairo and took a side trip.  The day we went was a special day.  I suspect it was first communion for little ones at the church.  I remember so clearly the beautiful voices of the children and the oily crosses on their foreheads as families tumbled out after the service.

During the past few years of turmoil in this part of the world there have been instances where churches and communities have been targets.  This week 21 Coptic Christians working in Libya were publicly executed by extremists.

These people were from a small community not far from where we have stayed while on holiday.

My first contact with a Egyptian Christian was in 2009 on a trip to Port Ghalib on the Red Sea coast.  We were staying in the Marina Lodge hotel.  We had a glorious time and made some great friends.  In the hotel there were a couple of small shops.  A dive shop, a shop selling papyrus, a perfume shop and a general souvenir and basic stuff shop.  If you need some gum, a postcard and a stamp this general shop was the shop to go to.  The shops only sold to the residents of the hotel and for the bulk of the time, they were empty.  I went in to buy postcards and stamps one evening after dinner.  I chatted to the young man running the shop.  He was very kind.  In his halting English we managed a conversation.  He told me that he was a Christian and showed me the discreet tattoo of a cross he had on his wrist.

When hearing about the young men who were beheaded, I shudder.  During the Arab Spring and the big revolution that they had in Egypt, all the tourists stopped coming.  The Marina Lodge closed its doors for a period of time.  I know because we were there again in 2011 and stayed across the harbour in the Crown Plaza Hotel.  We walked by the Marina Lodge and were really sad to see through the windows at the tables and chairs stacked up and covers over things to protect them from the harsh sun.  I wondered then about the young men who were running the quiet little shops inside the hotel.  They would have lost their jobs when the hotel closed.

I wrote this in 2009 - I found it in the drafts of the blog and have posted it today.  Still relevant

Friday, October 12, 2018

Growing fast

When I brought Fen home, he weighed 2.8 kilos. 

Yesterday when he went for his second set of injections, he had shot up to 6.7 kilos!  He has outgrown his first puppy collar.  It's like he has outgrown the newborn sized clothes.

He has a new red collar. 

He still fits in his crate. . . I expect that at some point, I'll have to get a larger crate for him.

This is him at 10 weeks!  Growing so fast!

He likes sleeping in his crate.  He takes himself off to it for naps.  He only woke up once last night to be let out for a pee.  It is exactly like having a baby in the house again. . . except this is a baby dog rather than a baby human.   We are all falling in love with this little cutie.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Near the house and the day before my birthday unbeknown to us, a litter of puppies was born.
We didn't know it then, but one of those puppies was destined to be ours.
I had been visiting Dull near Aberfeldy playing with my friends in a house rented by them.  While I was there, I made the acquaintance of Scout, a handsome black Labrador.
It was Scout that convinced me that I've been without a dog for long enough.

When I got home I searched the Kennel Club for Assured breeders.  Scout was healthy and active.  He had no hip, elbow or eye problems and none of the tell tale signs of a badly bred dog.  I wanted a healthy dog.  I knew that it was going to cost me a lot more than a dog off Gumtree but I wanted to avoid unscrupulous breeders.

It turned out that there was a gold star assured breeder near the house - seriously - less than 10 minutes drive away.  Not only was this breeder near, she had the above mentioned litter of puppies and we share the same vet!

The litter she had when I contacted her was larger than she had planned.  The breeder had a waiting list but because the bitch had produced 10 puppies instead of the expected four, everyone on her list was satisfied plus a couple extra puppies.  When I phone asking about puppies she had some that were available!  I went over to the breeder's house about an hour later and plunked a deposit down on one of the black male pups. His eyes were just opening so I couldn't really get a good fix on what he would be like. . . but I already had puppy on the brain.

A few weeks later The Man of the Place went with me to see the pup.  His eyes were open by then but he was still very small.

Yesterday was the big day. The pup whose pedigree name is Exelby Weaver and his pet name is Fenrir (Fen for short) came to to live with us.

He had a very big day yesterday.
A car journey that he didn't like much.  There is a new house with new smells and new routines.  His mum and litter mates aren't here but he seems to be settling in okay.

I am delighted with him. He is a beautiful dog.