June 15, 2009

The Hummingbird Comes to Life

Saturday June 13th, 2009 - Sunday June 14th, 2009

Our weekend project was to install a real door on our bunky and paint the whole thing to protect it from the elements. We drove up Saturday morning and encountered a doe and her cute little fawn on Hadlington Road. Nice to see some wildlife for a change! This weekend actually turned out to be great for seeing wildlife. When we got to our property there was a blue jay at our feeder, and a chipmunk and red squirrel hanging out underneath it. When I started painting the cabin, my roller went up under a piece a roofing that was hanging over the side and a small brown bat flew out. He flew back again, didn't like the feel of the paint and then took off into the woods. Now there is a poor bat with grey paint on it somewhere! Jared had to go to Gooderham to get some wood to re-frame our door opening since we had originally left enough space for a door with a sidelight. When he came back, he told me he saw the doe and fawn again, a turkey, a huge snapping turtle and a grouse. At night, Jared heard a sound in the woods and caught a flicker of eyes in his flashlight beam. We think it may have been a fox. Exciting! Not long after that, we had a flying squirrel pigging out on our bird seed. Of course we also had our usual chickadees and nuthatches at our feeder as well, but they seem to be more interested in eating bugs at this time of year. The phoebe family is still incubating their eggs under our deck, and they really didn't like us doing so much work on our bunky this weekend. They would fly around, keeping a really good eye on us, waiting for us to leave so they could go back and sit on the nest. On our way home, we saw a turtle laying eggs on the side of the road. There were lots of hatched turtle eggs in the same spot too.

We bought our steel door at Lowe's because it was cheaper than Home Depot. Our door is fantastic! We were going to buy one with a working window for air flow, but since we are going to put a small window on the same wall we opted for a fixed window. The neat part of the window is there are tiny horizontal blinds between two panes of glass. We got a great set of door hardware, which I like to think of as the jewelry of the cabin. The door was hard to install correctly, but once we got it done it looked really great! Originally we were going to install the door with an out-swing to save room inside the cabin. We decided not to do this because it would have meant a little extra work and we felt we could live with the door taking up some of our valuable space. Jared took our old temporary door and turned it into a larger (safer) walkway which will be fine until we build some actual stairs up to our bunky.

Painting the cabin was really fun! I did most of it myself while Jared got supplies and worked on the door. Originally, when we had talked about what colour our cabin should be, Jared wanted it to be camoflauge print. That wasn't classy enough for me, but I did want it to blend in with the forest. So the inspiration for our bunky palette were the granite boulders that are all over the place. We bought Behr Premium Plus Ultra Exterior Paint, which was expensive but had the primer built right in so it saved us a lot of time. The colour of the bunky was 790D-4 Granite Boulder (how fitting is that?) and we did a flat finish. This is a really nice grey colour with a slight greenish-beige tint to it, and it picks up on the lightest colour of the granite boulders perfectly. The colour of the trim was originally supposed to be black, but we went instead with 790D-7 Black Bean in a semi-gloss finish. This is a very dark green with a tiny hint of brown in it. At first, I was thinking it didn't look right and clashed with our black roof, but after a couple of coats it grew on me and now I absolutely love it. It really picks up on the colour of the bark on some of our trees. The colour of the door is a gorgeous 420F-6 Egyptian Nile, which is a lovely shade of olive green. This was also done in a semi-gloss finish and it matches the colour of the moss that grows on our boulders.

We did two coats of paint overall, but the door will need another coat and we will have to re-paint the Black Bean when we get some real trim. Around the door we are planing on a thin border of Black Bean and then a border of white cedar. I think it will look really nice. The funny thing is that we can't remember what our bunky looked like before we did all this work, and when we look at the before pictures it is shocking how much of a difference it is. Before, our bunky looked like a shed but now it looks like a real cabin. Amazing!

April 13, 2009

Good Friday - Beer Saturday - Easter Sunday

Friday April 10th, 2009 - Sunday April 12th, 2009

We took off for the ridge on Friday night prepared to stay over for two nights. The nights were clear, starry and cold and the days were sunny and warm. A perfect weekend for working outside and huge bonfires at night. Friday night was really great. We had a huge roaring fire, a full moon lighting up the woods, and Caramilk smores. It was almost dark when we arrived, and we had to walk back in from the Woods' farm because the road is questionable and a culvert still needs work before we will attempt to drive over it.

Saturday was our work day, and we got up early and started digging out and improving the firepit Jared made for burning brush. It would have been a great spot for an outhouse, you could dig a huge hole without hitting bedrock. There aren't too many places on our property we have encountered like that. We dug out a massive tear-shaped pit, lined it with big rocks and spent most of the day cleaning up the woods and burning piles of brush. This firepit will also be our cooking pit because we don't have a lot of room in our campsite for the custom cooking rack my dad gave us. The BrownTowners came up for a day trip and hung out with us for a few hours. It was a gorgeous day. Jared made it a new holiday - called Beer Saturday - and we did drink beer!

My crocuses were blooming all over the place! In my original rock garden I had shiny violet Crocus vernus 'Flower Record' waiting to unfurl their petals, my second campsite rock garden had Crocus vernus 'Jeanne d'Arc' partially opening their white blooms by the afternoon, tiny Crocus chrysanthus 'Blue Pearl' and 'Snowbunting' glowing amongst the leaves of the forest floor like gems, Crocus tommasinianus 'Whitewell Purple' and my clump of Crocus vernus 'Vanguard' were fully open displaying their gorgeous flowers and taking my breath away. I am already making a shopping list for more crocus in the autumn. They are my favourite spring flowering plant. My snowdrops fell over on Sunday so I think they are pretty much done for the season and my daffodils are growing so fast, and each clump looks like it has multiplied a little compared to last year.

On Sunday we had to pack up our stuff and go because we were going to have Easter dinner with family. A red squirrel came around for a bit, but the chipmunk we saw briefly on Saturday never came back. We had 3 Dark-Eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis) hanging around pecking at the ground, a Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) climbing the trees looking for bugs in the bark, and a pretty male Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureaus) hogging all the sunflower seeds at our feeder. I have never seen these birds on our property before so it was exciting. We also had a male Downy Woodpecker visiting our feeder, plus all the usual Black-capped Chickadees, White and Red-breasted Nuthatches.

April 5, 2009

Spring Arrives

Jared and I took a day trip today to our property because we were both missing the place. Jared had taken a day trip on March 14th when there was still a lot of snow on the ground, but I hadn't been up since New Years. The huge rain storm on Friday combined with the warm temperatures melting all the snow created major flooding of the rivers on our drive up. We saw many houses flooded, and the Irondale River was so high in Gooderham that many people stopped to take pictures.

It was such a beautiful, perfect early spring day. The sun was shining with only a few cloudy patches, and the birds were really happy to see us fill up their feeder. Most of the snow is gone now in the woods, except for a few patches here and there, and on northern slopes. There were lots of huge wet areas in some parts of the woods that created islands in the middle of ponds, but for the most part our property was well drained. We walked around a lot in the woods to different spots to check out what was going on, and to search for any antler sheds. We didn't find any antlers, but we were relieved that no new trees had fallen over from the wind storm yesterday and happy that our cabin had no damage. The mouse trap we left over the winter still had food in it so that is a good sign. We saw moose, grouse, deer and what we think were wolf tracks. We also heard a small pack of wolves howling nearby.

I took the opportunity to check out my gardens, especially the spring flowering bulbs. Every year I plant a whole bunch of bulbs, and it never fails that I always miss the crocus. This year started out the same, tons of new green shoots and in some cases buds that will open sometime this week, but nothing in full bloom. Until I went around to the side of our cabin towards the pathway to BrownTown and saw a glorious sight - Crocus 'Vanguard' almost popping open and completely gorgeous. This is definitely my favourite crocus variety and it brought a huge smile to my face. One of the flower buds was almost open, so I sneaked a peak by carefully opening the petals for some beautiful photographs. This crocus has silvery outer petals and the inner petals contrast with a lavender colour. The stamens are a breathtaking bright orange. Anyone who wants that burst of early spring colour should plant this crocus, and I guarantee they wouldn't be disappointed. My single and double snowdrops were blooming as well, and I would also highly recommend the double snowdrop Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno' as another gorgeous early spring bulb.

I did a bit of a spring cleanup in the campsite gardens, cutting back the ornamental grasses and perennials, and removing all the leaves and debris from the beds. The daffodils are coming up nicely but no sign yet of all the hundreds of grape hyacinths I planted last autumn. I was even surprised to see that the delphiniums I planted last summer had big healthy buds coming out of the soil - surprised because I was doubtful if they would survive since they can be finicky. I was also very happy to see about 6 flower buds on my Viburnum juddii, which is supposedly a zone 5 shrub. I can't wait until later in the spring when it blooms because the scent will be incredible.

It was a really fun day and I can't wait until the next time we go up!

January 7, 2009

Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2009 - January 3rd, 2009
I can think of no better way to start off the year than taking a trip to the Ridge. So that is just what we did. We got there in the afternoon and it was a beautiful day. After setting up our 5-star suet feeder and refilling our seed feeder, a chickadee came to check it out and then tore off into the woods telling all his friends that there was food again, after grabbing a seed first of course! Even though there had been rain a couple of weeks before, there was still a substantial amount of snow. It wasn't all fluffy stuff either, but hard-packed with an crusty layer on top. Great for building forts! If we knew how to build an igloo we would have built one serious igloo. Since we spend most of our time outside, I got to work shovelling out an area around the firepit so we could have space for our chairs. Jared split a bunch of wood from the cave and we were ready to go. That night we had a sweet fire to keep us warm outside, but unfortunately we didn't have fuel for one of our heaters in the cabin. We had to spend the night huddled under the blankets to keep warm. You know it's bad when you can see your breath!

The next day started out with the sun shining into our cabin. It was so cold outside, but once we got our layers of clothing on and began moving around it turned into a great day. Jared decided to split all the logs in the cave. He grabbed our sled, loaded it up with wood and then pushed it down the hill towards the spot where he set up our wood holder. Even though he said it was work related, he did take quite a few turns riding the sled down the hill. I think he was having too much fun! Later in the morning, we decided to go to the back of the property to see if we had a skating rink on the pond. Sure enough, under a 2" layer of fluffy snow there was ice. We skated in our boots and had a tiny fire and hung out for a while enjoying the day. That afternoon, the Browntown crew showed up and we hung out with them for a bit. They let us borrow one of their propane heaters, so we were able to heat up our cabin pretty good. No more shivering under the blankets! It snowed for a bit at night but we ended a perfect day with stars and a pretty bonfire.

The next day we planned on leaving, so we packed up our stuff and hung out. Jared finished chopping up all the wood, and I spent most of my time watching the birds. Since Jared had so much fun the other day with the sled, I decided to make a kick-ass toboggan run for him to go down. I picked a perfect spot going down into the valley on the next property, with turns and even a jump off a fallen log. Jared mastered it, and called it "extreme sledding". I went down a couple times, crashed into some trees and laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. It was the most fun I've had in a really long time. Other than 3 white-breasted nuthatches, 1 red-breasted nuthatch, about 10 chickadees, a female red squirrel (we called her Blinky), and a male downy woodpecker, we didn't see any wildlife. I was really happy to see the woodpecker visit our seed feeder and then attempt to peck at the suet. We have never seen woodpeckers at our feeders before. I have to say that this was the most fun I think I've ever had at our property, but I can't wait for spring!