Garden Gymnastics

The fascination of a treed private garden as we have here in our Calgary, Alberta, home is what comes to visit through the various seasons. We have what might be called a walled garden in that there’s a six-foot-high fence all the way around. This sorts out the large from the small as in deer cannot get in, but birds, squirrels, and even bobcats can. It is possible also that a skunk might intrude as well yet I dare not even entertain that idea.

Pine siskin readies for a drink

Birds and squirrels keep me intrigued at present as I work away here in my garden studio. I try and keep my focus on the keyboard and the ceiling (looking for stray ideas) avoiding the gymnastics at the bird feeder, the plays under and around the feeder and the gaiety at the birdbath.

The weather has a definite autumnal feel. Do I dare this thought? Good grief, schools do not return until Tuesday!

Back to gymnastics. Last week the sparrow population increased rapidly, and I think the rain has caused the pine siskin population to explode making it difficult for the more resident chickadees and nuthatches to get their nourishment at the sunflower seed-filled

Pine siskin crowd the feeder

feeder. We get the special chickadee and nuthatch mix from the Wild Bird Store. It works for these other fellows as well like today’s visit by a large flicker who hung by his boots and tried to peck his way into the portholes. Trouble is he was too heavy at the ports locked down. Last week a downy woodpecker got his fill and we’ve also been visited by a great cloud of grosbeaks. You can see, it’s a fun time.

It is the antics of the pine siskin

Waiting his turn

though that keep us amused, whether at the feeder or their splash pool. They duck and dive, challenge each other, perch on any available wire, twig or garden ornament to get what they want.

Underneath all this are the squirrels. I do not have a strong liking for the black and grey squirrels yet as I look out the window right now there are three blacks and three greys vying for the spillage from the feeder. Harrison, our resident red squirrel (at half their size) has all but given up chasing these interlopers from the yard. For several days he has chased them up the oak or cherry trees and across the house roof. They return five minutes later via the spruce trees and wooden section of fence. Acorns a ready for eating on the oak and we hear the blue jays raucous calls throughout the day. They have tried their luck at the feeder but hanging on and accessing the portholes is a bit of a challenge.

Harrison, guardian of the garden.



The last laugh

Two days ago I took the bold step of discouraging our resident red squirrel from his single-track connection between his house under the writing studio to the fallout area beneath the bird feeder.

Lois and I had tried several different combinations to divert young Harrison and encourage alternate routes to prevent the highway in the lawn. He was not persuaded and remained laser-like in his quest to stock the winter larder with maybe a hundred or more trips a day.

Yesterday I staked his pathway with bright yellow caution tape. He kept an eye on the whole operation from the nearby oak. Once I’d completed the rudimentary barrier, he bounced across the grass and inspected the new barrier to food. I sighed that smile of victory when I saw him take the long route, across a couple of gardens, patio stones and back again. He sure is busy. And all day long.

Digressing a second here, the blocked highway was the same one Henrietta (his mother, I presume) used over the past five years. Henrietta is not with us this year. I assume Harrison is male simply because there is no visible sign of motherhood — yet. I must say that our experience with these critters is for the most part positive. They aggressively banish the twice-the-size black and grey squirrels who dare to stop by for a free feed.

Back to my story. Imagine our surprise this afternoon as we note the faint beginnings of a parallel track forming one foot south from the caution tape.

Oh well.


I’ve emerged from a very long hibernation.

Man has it ever been a long sleep. With renewed effort and purpose, I re-establish myself here. The new drive results from a brain burp (subarachnoid haemorrhage) right at Christmas. This was scary and put the final edit of my new novel back a few months while extending our five-week holiday in New Zealand to almost five months. Now, we could think the downside to this was doctors, hospitals, pills, and headaches.Oops. Waking in hospital, December 23, 2018 Nah! The care and attention I received from lab to radiology, online reports, next day mail reports, and follow-up phone calls were the best I have ever experienced. In between all this, Lois and I enjoyed family and friends, sunshine, beaches, surf, parks, gardens, fresh fruit and direct from the garden vegetables. Not bad, eh? Idle time in the sun on the back lawn or on the hot sandy beaches gave me a great tan enhanced now with a second summer back in sunny (most days) Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Two weeks ago, I completed my third novel (see My Books), and the 112,000-word manuscript is now in the editorial section of my publisher Westbow Press. In about eight weeks, I’ll get to read what they think of it and what revisions it will need.

The website gained my full attention this week as I recreated it with a simple, clean look that I might stay abreast of my technical abilities and keep it interesting.

A wasp sting promoted the sad task of whacking two in-ground nests, one under the clothesline and one too close to the waste bins. This is sad work, as these busy fellows are useful allies in keeping the aphid population within reason. Foam spray did not do the trick. The City of Calgary website suggested soapy water and a dump of soil. Yep, that works, but on one nest it has taken three attempts to bomb these critters. It must have been a big nest.

My new novel is Beginnings At The End of The Road. Brandon Silverberry’s life changed forever as the result of an unexpected gift of startling proportions. He moves from his sheltered and stable life as a baker and discovers what this endowment puts on his life. His teenage years with polio provide him with an indomitable spirit he learns daily to share with others. It is a warm-hearted tale of characters stumbling upon that elusive sense of belonging.

And it is all because of a bicycle.