My first visitor!

I was sitting on our new patio yesterday afternoon when I heard a BzzzzZZZzz…

My heart did a little skip. I looked over at my flower bed and saw…a bumblebee!


My first fuzzy-buzzy visitor to my little garden! And she chose some purple flowers that I had thought would catch the eyes/antennae of a bumblebee or two.

I’m not sure what those flowers are called, but the bee did indeed spend quite a bit of time on them. Then she moved on to my spray of catmint.


I was thrilled to finally see a bumblebee on my flowers! Not only just for the sake of having bees in my garden, but mainly because I’ve seen so few bumblebees in general this year. It’s rather alarming.

One thing we do know about bumblebees is if they find a good patch of flowers, they tend to return to it over and over again. Will I see this little cutie on another day?

Sure enough, this morning I looked out the kitchen window and spotted a speck hovering amongst the catmint. A bumblebee! The same one as yesterday? I went out to have a look and she looked similar, but I’m not certain. 

It still amazes me that as big as the world is compared to the size of a bumblebee, she was able to spot my flowers amongt everything else in the backyard. Are the purple blossoms like a bright, blinking beacon? Or was she reeled in by the scent, almost undetectable to the human nose? Or both?

Please come back, busy-buzzy bee! And bring your sisters and friends.

What is it about horses?

Yesterday our kids went to a birthday party at a horse farm, where they got to groom and ride horses and ponies.

My daughter grooming a horse named Henry. She insisted on wearing a ballet outfit.

The kids did such a good job brushing the horses that most of them almost fell asleep.

They rode the horses in circles in an arena for quite a while. On occasion the horses were instructed to go a bit faster, and it was a hoot to watch the semi-terrified-but-thrilled looks on the kids faces as their backsides bounced significantly up and down on the saddle as they sped up.

Henry woke up in time to give my daughter a tour.

As I watched the kids ride around and around (and around and around…), I noticed each one had a huge smile and were enjoying themselves immensely.

(I also noticed I had a slight twinge of envy, having never rode a horse myself.)

I couldn’t resist giving some of the horses a rub on the nose or a pet on the side. And to just stare at them for a while.

What the heck is it about horses?!

The attraction is different than that to dogs, cats, or other domesticated critters. It’s deeper down in the gut, more fundamental. More primitive. Or maybe more mystical, like there’s a part of my brain that’s still 5 years old and expects the horse to sprout a horn and/or wings and transform into My Little Pony. 

Or maybe there’s a cultural archetype burned into the female psyche of a princess and her loyal steed (I admit I’m rusty with my Jungian psychology…). That as soon as she mounts the horse she is no longer [insert name here] but is now Princess [insert a much more flowery name here]: Ruler of Lands and Fairest of them All. Forever and Ever.

Who knows. I’ll try to ride a horse one day and let you know if I channel my inner princess.

A horse named Honey. She was a bit grumpy but I liked her.

I’m glad I went for a run today

Bzzzzzzz… There goes the alarm on my Fitbit. 

It’s 6 a.m. Ouch. I promised myself yesterday that I would haul my butt out of bed early and go for a run. Before I could let my gloriously comfortable pillow convince me otherwise, I sat up, swung my legs over the side of the bed, and told myself this was a good thing.

There’s always a space of time when my feet first hit the pavement and I’m huffing and puffing before reaching a rhythm when I wonder why I do this to myself. But then I get into a groove and I reach the trails and I know it’s worth it.

Especially today. I rounded a corner and suddenly this came into view:

A gorgeous surprise on my run this morning. At what point did it hear me coming? It was pretty chill.

I’ve never seen a deer on those trails before. And I’ve never been so close to a deer before, either: it was about 10 feet away.

I thought it would bound away as I scrambled as calmly as I could for my camera, but it stayed and continued to munch.

And then it came closer.

Hello! Did you know you are totally making my day?

It was seriously about six feet away from me. It was surreal. I could see the velvety fuzz on its antlers. I could almost reach out and touch them. 

We gazed at each other for quite a while. What was going through that deer-brain? Why wasn’t I scared of me? Regardless, it was certainly a Moment.

I eventually turned and continued on my way. Later on my route when I circled back, it was gone.

So I’m glad I went for a run today. Had I decided to snooze for a few minutes longer, I might have missed the whole thing.

Will I get up early again tomorrow to see what I can see? Depends: I pulled a calf muscle on my way home (grrrr…). Plus, I have a feeling that deer doesn’t make many repeat appearances.

Starting from scratch

We had some landscaping done in our backyard recently that resulted in brand new gardening opportunities.

A completely blank canvas! Oh, the possibilities. For helping…bees! (And other pollinators too, of course.)

I did a little happy dance then headed straight to the nearest gardening centre.

Did I have a clue as to what to get? Um, nope! Well, whatever was on sale and looked bee-worthy.

The garden centre actually had little pre-made baskets from The Canadian Wildlife Federation with flowers that attract specific pollinators: bees, butterflies, hummingbirds… I bought one for bees (and I think I’ll go back to get the others).

With a big bag of dirt and a cart chocked full of baby plants, I hurried home to tuck them into their new home before the sun set.

Here are some of my new babies. Like a new mom, I’m not sure what I’m doing but I’ll do my best and hope that they thrive! (My grandmother was a stellar gardener and I’m hoping to channel some of her super-powers.)

Basil! One of my favourite herbs. I admit it’s more for me than the bees.

Russian sage. Never heard of it before…

Never heard of cat mint before, either. But all those little purple blooms are certainly bee-friendly.

More purple bee flowers! Although this one came from the 99 cent shelf and I have no idea what they are…

I don’t know what these flowers are, either, but I always thought they look pretty.

Four bits of magic

Cottages always hold such potential for little bits of magic. We went up to our cottage last weekend, kept our eyes open, and we were not disappointed.

1. If we leave peanuts out for the chipmunks, will they find them? The answer: yes! Well, at least something took them. We didn’t hang around to see who or what, since the mosquitoes were out in full force.

Lexi on her way to see if the peanuts had been taken.

2. Sitting in the sun, minding my own business, when this big blue friend stops for a visit. We hung out for quite a while. I wonder what it was about my knee that was so attractive? Regardless, it was a treat to marvel at this big beauty up close.

A big, friendly dragonfly. I don’t think I’ve ever had one land on me before.

3. What I think is a damselfly landed on my foot after I had gone for a swim. I transferred it to my hand and it stayed to visit for a while. It even let me put it on my son’s hand, too, before it decided to fly away.

I think this is some kind of damselfly… Whatever it is, it liked our hands!
Our (blurry) damselfly friend on my son’s finger.

4. “Mommy, can you find me some sea shells?” I searched and searched and found these snail shells in the water next to shore. I think my daughter kept them clutched in her fist for the rest of our trip.

Three “sea shells.” The long nails on my daughter’s hand are actually fake Canada Day-themed nails.

I wonder what bits of magic await us for the next time?

Cupcake, the Dock Spider

Hello. My name is Cupcake. 


You might not see me very well, but I’m hunched in the corner of this metal thing. A few seconds ago I was stretched out in all my hideous glory–a perfect photo opportunity–but the humans got too close. I high-tailed it to the closest, darkest corner I could find. Their yelps suggested they were shocked yet impressed by my speed.

The human boy gave me my name. Cupcake? I sense he was not intimidated by me.

I was successful in scaring away the smallest human. I could feel her trembles. I could also tell that the adult was putting on a brave front but was inwardly both disgusted and terrified.

Now they are gone. And so I wait. Wait in the shadows until the urge to swim hits the humans again. Then I will make another grand appearance, and imprint myself forever upon their summer memories.

Who knew I could throw an axe?

A friend of mine works as an event planner and she was asked by her supervisor to create a “bucket list”: a list of things you hope to experience before you, um, kick the bucket. The list has to be 100 items long. Since she was given this challenge my friend has also been trying to check off as many items on her list as possible (being an event planner, this helps). One item on her list is axe throwing. Last night we aimed to check it off.

The venue we went to was the Backyard Axe Throwing League (BATL). My husband and I were invited along with three other couples. I have to admit I was quite hestitant. Most of the time I feel like I have the upper body strength of a cooked noodle. Throwing an axe? I’ll either lodge it into my foot or kill/maim somebody! I signed the waiver as I prayed to a higher power.

Thank goodness we had an instructor with us the whole time and we were given a good warm-up period. And most importantly, the axe was small.

My first throws were hilarious. My axe bounced off the wall, missed the target completely, you name it. (But it did not impale anyone. YAY!) But then a little magic happened as my brain and eyes and arms and everything synchronized…and I hit the target! Then came the million dollar question: how do I do that again?! With a few more practice throws I actually started to show some consistency. And I actually…liked it.

After the warm-up period there was a round-robin tournament: pairs of players competed to see who could get the most points after 15 throws. A few times I was paired up with one of the guys, who were all were much bigger than me and all rather sporty.

But guess what? I came in third place!

Then came the second tournament where players were eliminated until the winner remained. Amazingly I eliminated one player, then another player…and before I knew it, I was battling for first place! Against my husband!

My husband won. He’s good at practically everything. But I came in second place! Who would have guessed? (Thank you, axe-throwing gods!)

 I took a brochure with information about their league. Who knows? I might just sign up.

And I might take a stab at creating my own bucket list.

An Arctic Bumblebee

It’s been a while since I posted about bees. My post about Costa Rican bumblebees gets quite a few reads, and apparently it’s pollinator week! So I thought I’d go to an extreme place to find bees this time and post about Bombus polaris, an Arctic bumblebee.

hunting-bombus-polaris-arctic-bumblebee-1475775610556-facebookJumbo-v2
Bombus polaris, courtesy of the New York Times.
northern-bumblebee-canada-stamp
What?! There was a postage stamp with Bombus polaris on it, and I missed it?! Image courtesy of Canadian Postage Stamps: https://www.canadianpostagestamps.ca/stamps/17734/northern-bumblebee
 

I had a hard time finding anything on this cutie. I’m guessing it’s at least partly because research in the Arctic is expensive and it’s hard to get up there. Plus, I’m sure the Arctic is not the first place people think of when it comes to bumblebees and pollination!

However, I did find one study done in the ’70s on pollination of Arctic flowers at Ellesmere Island, Canada. Bombus polaris was one of the main pollinators of a number of plants such as the Arctic willow (Salix arctica) and the Arctic lousewort (Pedicularis arctica). But the main pollinators of Arctic flora? Flies!

Bombus polaris lives in a unique area of the world where the growing season is very short, there’s 24-hour sunlight, and temperatures might only rise to 10 degrees Celsius in the summer. To adjust to this cooler climate, Bombus polaris is fuzzier than temperate bumblebees and as a higher body temperature.

Recently there was a New York Times story on Arctic bumblebees. Perhaps with increasing interest in pollinators and effects of climate change, there will be more to report on this fuzzy critter in the near future!
References

Heinrich, B., & Vogt, F. D. (1993). Abdominal temperature regulation by Arctic bumblebees. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 66(2), 257-269.

Kevan, P. G. (1972). Insect pollination of high arctic flowers. The Journal of Ecology, pp. 831-847.

Wikipedia. Bombus polaris. Retrieved 22 June 2017 from: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombus_polaris.

Wikipedia. Climate of the Arctic. Retrieved 22 June 2017 from: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_the_Arctic.

Bunnies, best friends, and birthday parties

So I’ve been woken up at around 5 a.m. the past couple mornings to a little voice beside my bed: “Momma, I want to go count the bunnies!” 

Two mornings ago when the four-year-old’s belly was sore, she was up at the crack of dawn and I suggested that we take the dog for a little walk. “It’s your job to count the bunnies we see,” I told her. 

Every morning now the four-year-old has been accompanying me on my dog walk and counting bunnies. I guess she believes in long-term employment.

She’s also been noticing little things along the way.
Like the two little pinecones that she picked up and carried home with her, “because they are best friends.”

(By now we are up to four bunnies. Seven is our record.)

Lexi said she picked these pine cones “because they are best friends.”
Or a bunch of ants swarming on the sidewalk. “Maybe they’re having a party,” suggested the four-year-old. “A big birthday party!”

(Eight bunnies! We passed our record!)

“Momma, the moon is following us.”

After about twenty minutes or so of walking, the four-year-old starts to lag behind. She has a trace of dark circles under her eyes thanks to her early morning risings. Oh, if only she would sleep in and get her rest! 

But then we’d miss the bunnies.

(Our new record is nine.)

Little bouquets 

“Momma, my belly is sore.”

And so the four-year-old lay down on the couch at 5:24 p.m. When I checked on her at 5:27 p.m., she was completely zonked out.

6:03 p.m.: A spaghetti dinner (one of the four-year-old’s favourites) is steaming away on plates at each place setting. I try to rouse the child. No success. I let her sleep.

6:43 p.m.: “Lexi, do you want something to eat?” Nothing. She rolls over.

At 7:23 p.m. I lift her off the couch and carry her up the stairs. I change her into her jammies and tuck her in. Maybe she’ll sleep in tomorrow morning, I muse.

Yeah, right.

12:17 a.m.: “Momma, my belly still hurts.” I open an eye to see the four-year-old standing beside my bed, three inches from my face. I ask, “Do you want something to eat?” I see her shadowy figure nod. “Want some toast?” Another nod. I drag myself out of bed.

Somewhat bleary-eyed with a slight I-should-be-sleeping headache, I pop a piece of bread into the toaster oven. While it toasts and the timer ticks away, the four-year-old and I sit at the table. She is resting her chin on crossed arms. Her eyes are bright and alarmingly awake. Oh-oh, I think. Here it comes…

“Momma, what’s six plus nine?”

“Why does the moon look like a watermelon?”

“Do you have a baby in your tummy?”

“What’s two plus nine?”

“Why do dogs have four legs but people have two legs?”

My brain hurts trying to keep up. DING! Oh good, the toast is ready.

The four-year-old starts sucking the butter off the toast, takes a few bites, and then is struck with an amazing dose of loquaciousness.

“Did you know, Momma, that Olivia wore flip-flops to daycare but you’re not allowed to wear flip-flops at daycare but Olivia did and I have flip-flops too but I don’t wear them at daycare and do you remember when by nose bleeded when I jumped off the couch?…”

Yes, sweetie. Just eat your toast, please.

12:34 a.m.: Child is tucked back into bed.

5:04 a.m.: “Momma, my belly doesn’t hurt anymore!”

Child is alarmingly awake. Again. Rather than negotiate that she go back to bed, I get up and suggest we take the dog for a walk. Both the child and the dog are thrilled at the idea.

The sun is just rising as we step out into the pre-heat morning coolness of mid-June. The calm and quiet is almost magical. I find myself thinking, The child has me all to herself–of course this is magical! “Let’s count how many bunnies we see on our walk,” I suggest. Child thinks this is a fantastic idea.

As we pass by a neighbour’s lawn filled with daisies, the four-year old crouches down and before I could yelp a protest, she plucks a big fat daisy from the bunch. “Look, Momma! I picked this for you because I know you love beautiful flowers!” She holds it up with a smile that could light up the sky.

I point out a plump rabbit hunched down by some bushes. The four-year-old gasps and holds up one finger. Soon we see another. She holds up two fingers. Then three, then four… “It’s your job to keep track,” I remind her. She falls a bit behind me and the dog as she peers at ants on the sidewalk, a leaf on a tree, and walks along a jaggedy crack. Rather than run she skips to catch up.

5:23 a.m.: We are up to six bunnies and two more flowers for Momma’s bouquet.

We see our last bunny as we make our way up our driveway. The child exclaims, “Seven!” The bunny high-tails it to the backyard.

Once inside I put the little bouquet in some water and place it in front of my place setting at the dining room table. It is there to remind me of midnight loquaciousness over buttered toast, and magical walks while most were still asleep.

5:42 a.m.: “Momma, let’s make PANCAKES!”

I need a cup of coffee…