Bunkie Contest: Enter to Win One!

bunkie

Does your cottage or seasonal property need a bunkie to accommodate more guests? I know we could use one at our cottage. I came across this contest from Bunkie Life recently and entered their contest. Use this link to get your name and email into the contest. Draw date is January 29. You must be a Canadian citizen to enter.

bunkie

Red Tide Devastates Florida Gulf Beaches

red tide

Florida’s gulf beaches are (slowly) recovering from a devastating bloom of algae that both experts and locals refer to as red tide. Although this phenomenon has been around for years, rearing its ugly head in late summer or early fall, many insist it was more deadly than ever these past few months after hurricane Ian ravaged the same coastline.

What is Red Tide?

National Ocean Service refers to red tide as a harmful algal bloom (HAB). The problem arises when this microscopic, naturally occurring, algae called Karenia Brevis rages out of control, spewing toxins into the water and air, killing fish and other water inhabitants. The airborne toxins cause respiratory concerns in humans such as coughing, burning nose and eyes.

This particular algae bloom is red in colour, which, when combined with the blue-green of clean ocean water, creates a grotesque, purplish-brown, sludge-like appearance. (think red paint added to green or blue paint) The ugly colour of the water and the carnage of dead, stinky sea life on the shores made the typically beautiful gulf coast beaches not so beautiful.

What Causes Red Tide

There are several theories on what causes Karenia Brevis to bloom out of control. The most plausible (due to the fact that this is occurring on an increasingly regular basis) blames human-generated pollution. The Mississippi River runs from north to south through many of the united states, collecting garbage, sewage, pesticides, fertilizers, and more, dumping it all into the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf currents moving north along the Texas shore gather pollutants, sweeping them across the gulf and south up the Florida coast. The algae feeds on this pollution, causing the outbreaks. In turn, the fish killed by the toxins the algae blooms release are left to rot on the shorelines. The tide then carries the rotting fish back into the water to refuel the expanding algae bloom.

The severity of this recent red tide outbreak is being blamed by some on hurricane Ian that destroyed many communities along the Florida gulf with heavy winds and flooding a few months ago. Many of the resorts and homes along the coast use septic systems which overflow under such extensive flooding. As a result, sewage and other algae fueling debris ended up in the gulf.

Getting Red Tide Under Control

Mother Nature does her part attempting to get the situation under control. The ebb and flow of tides, huge waves, constant currents, storms, and human clean-up teams all help to break up the algae bloom. Vultures and smaller birds do their part too, congregating to feast on the rotting flesh of the dead fish and crabs.

Fortunately for my vacation plans, Mother Nature appears to be winning the battle. We had to turn back on our first beach walk when my burning nose and eyes felt like I was sniffing hot peppers! Every day since has been better and now I am happy to report that the pristine beauty of our favourite, swim-in-the ocean-in-December beach is back!

Melaleuca Products: The Power of Nature

tea tree oil

I was reminded recently of just why I love Melaleuca products so much. They are not the cheapest on the market, but they are natural, bio-degradable, non-toxic to the environment and the user, as well as allergy friendly. And they work. They work extremely well.

What are Melaleuca Products?

This video explains the evolution of Melaleuca products as well as how and why they work. It also touches on the business side of the company. If you are interested in becoming a preferred customer (PC) to ensure you get the best prices and other perks, contact me to help you with the process.

I started using them years ago when I finally noticed how my body reacted to other cleaning products and personal care products.

My Favourite Melaleuca Products

There are tons of products, from make-up to cleaning products with healthy food and drink items, vitamins and supplements too. Here are just a few of my favourites:

Cleaning Products

This post was inspired this morning when I was cleaning the top of my kitchen cupboards prior to decorating them for the Christmas season. Don’t judge me, but this is about the only time these cupboard tops get a good cleaning. I am always amazed at how dusty and dirty they get. For this specific task, I choose Melamagic, a heavy-duty cleaner. I also use this miraculous cleaner to wash floors at the cottage and home and even to get rid of the black gunky stuff in our pedal boat every spring. It comes in liquid form (just add a bit to your bucket of water) or in handy wipes.

Soluguard, concocted from thyme and lemon, is my go-to for spraying door handles, kitchen, and bathroom counters etc. It too comes in liquid or wipes. The wipes are great to keep in your purse for cleaning things you come in contact with outside your home. This was (still is) particularly helpful during our obsession with the Covid-19 virus.

I am also fond of Melaleuca dish soap, dishwasher pods, and laundry soap.

Make-Up and Personal Care Products

Although I don’t order the make-up products (I don’t use much) I do like their unscented, aluminum-free deodorant and their lip balm. There are many flavours of lip balm to choose from that include protection from the sun. These are perfect for outdoor sports and for those of us that work outdoors. I order lots for stocking stuffers as my whole family (including the men and grandkids) love them.

I’m also stuck on Renew Body Lotion as a moisturizer that I slather all over, especially after showering and before bedtime. It makes a great make-up remover too, safe for use all over your face, including around your eyes. Renew comes in a few sizes, from purse size (also great for stocking stuffers) to the largest, most economical pump bottle.

Essential Oils

Another category of Melaleuca products I love and order regularly are essential oils. I use them to make my own bug spray, air fresheners, skincare, and more.

Conclusion

If you too are interested in using natural and safe products in your home and on your body, leave me a comment!

Evergreen Identification: Pine, Spruce or Balsam?

evergreen identification

After the derecho ripped through Eastern Ontario this past summer, I learned lots about the evergreen trees on our cottage property. I must admit identification of trees is not something I spent much time on with my gardening business.

When we finally got a specialist to assess the tree damage on our lot, he mentioned that the balsams (AKA firs) are not as strong, hard, or healthy as spruce or pines. Firs are not suitable for lumber but are often used for pulp and plywood. Although balsams make pretty and aromatic Christmas trees, they are not as long-living as spruce or pines and are more susceptible to spruce budworm. After their needles are stripped by the insect larvae, the trees die and their bare branches then become fuel for forest fires.

I love and appreciate the evergreen population on our cottage property. While I could always pick out a cedar or pine tree, I did not know much about the difference between spruce and balsam. Now I do. They are differentiated by their bark, needles or leaves, and cones.

Spruce vs Balsam

SpruceBalsam
barkrough withsmooth with
vertical cracksresin filled blisters
needlespointyblunt, flat
woody attachmentsuction cup attachment
conesgrow/hang downwardgrow upwards, like candles

Pine Tree Facts

Pine trees can easily be identified by their needles which grow in clusters, although that distinction varies between red, yellow, and white pines. To be specific, red pines have two long needles in each cluster, yellow pines have three, and white pines have five. Needles grow up to 6 inches long.

White pine needle cluster

Western pines grow taller and wider than their eastern cousins.

Red pines are denser and harder than white pines and therefore considered stronger. Neither are resistant to rot though. Pinewood is considered softwood, best used for carving, construction, and millwork.

Red pine cones are shorter and more egg-shaped than longer, skinnier white pine cones.

Conclusions

Evergreens are beautiful with a backdrop of storm clouds or a sunset in summer, snow-covered in winter, in contrast to the colourful leaves on deciduous trees in fall or new growth in spring.

I now look at them a tad differently though, in terms of which ones will still continue to grace our properties.

There are lots more evergreen varieties around the world…I only researched the three discussed here for obvious reasons.

Fall Leaves: Rake, Blow or Mulch?

fall leaves

Fall leaves certainly are beautiful in this neck of the woods. At least they are while they are still on the trees. Not so much when they cover every inch of your lawn! If they don’t get removed from the lawn, they will smother the grass making it weaker in the spring.

So, should you rake them, blow them or mulch them?

When all the pretty leaves fall from the trees this fall, instead of bagging them to put out on garbage day, use them in your garden as free mulch.  Most leaves, with the exception of oak leaves, break down easily over the winter.  They add nutrients and humus to the soil in your gardens.

In the garden, worms from the soil will draw the decomposing leaves into the soil, improving the condition of your soil, which in turn benefits your plants.  Next spring you can bury the portions of leaves that have not decomposed in the garden, and marvel at how rich your soil is.

The leaves in the garden will also protect your perennials and shrubs, like a warm blanket, from the freezing and thawing cycles that do the most damage to garden plants.  Roses especially benefit from a blanket of leaves around their crowns at the soil level.

If they are small leaves, simply rake or blow them into your garden around your perennials and shrubs, taking care not to bury the smaller plants.  If the leaves are large, run them over with your lawn mower to shred them before adding them to your garden.  Oak leaves especially should be shredded, as they are slow to decompose.  You may have to spray the leaves with your hose once they are in the garden to keep them from blowing back onto your lawn.

Raking Fall Leaves

Raking is the old-fashioned way to rid your lawn of leaves. Some (my husband included) still swear by this method. We use plastic bags saved from new mattresses years ago to haul the raked leaves to a designated leaf (AKA compost) pile. This procedure works well if you have an area to store the leaves. (which we do at the cottage) I don’t mind raking but when we are talking about a huge property, a blower or mulcher is called for in my humble opinion.

The Advantages of Mulch

Mulched leaves are great for your garden.  They are an inexpensive way to amend your soil and protect tender perennials and shrubs from the wrath of Mother Nature over the winter months.  If your soil is really poor, add a layer of composted manure over top the mulched leaves.  The soil in my Kanata (Ottawa suburb) gardens was predominantly clay, so this fall treatment has really helped over the years.  Your reward will be visible next spring and summer when your gardens look gorgeous.

If you don’t have a blower or mulcher, you can run the leaves over several times with your lawn mower, then rake the crumbled pieces onto your gardens or into a compost bin.

Leaf Blowers with or without Mulcher Options

These contraptions also create great mulch for gardens and/or compost bins or piles. I first purchased a leaf blower several years ago, early on in my career of looking after peoples’ gardens and yards. I loved it so much I was collecting leaf-filled yard waste bags from my neighbours’ curbs to mulch. I love mulched leaves in my gardens. So much so that one of my neighbours gives me his mulch too.

As with any brand of leaf mulchers, you must wait until the leaves are dry before you attempt to vacuum and mulch them.  Wet leaves will just clog up the motor, resulting in a loud whining noise.  Wet or damp leaves also make for larger pieces of mulched leaves instead of the incredibly fine mulch. With low overnight temperatures and lots of rain keeping the leaves wet, perfectly mulched leaves were no easy feat these past few weeks.  I found the easiest way around this dilemma was to blow leaves into a single layer in a sunny spot to dry before mulching them.

Another thing to avoid while vacuuming and mulching is twigs or sticks.  They too will clog the motor, not to mention damage it.

Precautions

Most models are quite noisy so earplugs are recommended. The first time I used one without ear protection I wound up with a massive headache.

Although the models I’ve used have all been electric, there are battery-operated or gas-powered, cordless options available. If you are using a long extension cord or several combined (for large properties) be sure your extension cord is a heavy-duty one. According to Copper.org:

An improperly sized extension cord can cause a tool or appliance motor to burn out if allowed to run for too long. It can also cause a dangerous situation if it overheats.

Blower and Mulcher Brands

Toro Ultra Plus

I liked the Toro but found switching the blower to the mulcher tedious. You had to remove one attachment and trade it for the other. This switching back and forth was not only time-consuming but hard on my arthritic wrists.

The bag that held the mulched leaves had a zipper on the bottom to contain the leaves. This zipper was handy, but if you forgot to close it before you started the motor for the next batch, the leaves would fly all over. I did that a few times.

When I graduated to a fancier blower and mulcher, I donated my Toro to the hospice I volunteer at.

fall leaves
Toro Ultra Plus

Worx Leaf Blower and Mulcher

My next garden toy was made by Worx. I prefer it because you can switch from mulching to blowing leaves with a simple turn of a dial. Very convenient and much easier on my wrists. It too has a zippered mulch bag, so the “don’t forget the zipper” rule applies here too.

fall leaves

Black and Decker

The most recent blower and mulcher I’ve used is a black and decker model. It was given to me by the son of a client after she passed away. I took it to the cottage as I had one at home.

This model is quite impressive although it is now an older model. It seems more powerful than the others in both blower and mulcher mode. This is awesome while you are using it but it means the unit is heavier. I could feel the workout in my forearm muscles the next day. And the arthritic wrists well before that.

You do have to switch between the options by removing and installing the motor component but the process is so simple even I can do it without complaining. There is no zipper on the mulch bag. Instead, you insert the bag onto the mulcher head with a plastic latch. In theory, this works well but the latch seems flimsy, so after several batches of mulch it was getting loose. I’ve noticed the new models don’t have this latch.

Another downside to this model is that it has no shoulder strap on the mulch bag to distribute the weight of the tool as well as the bag of mulch. The other two models had a strap, perhaps that is why my forearm muscles and wrists felt the workout with this one.

fall leaves
Black and Decker

Conclusions

It doesn’t matter which method you use to remove the fall leaves from your lawn. Just be sure to do so, your lawn will thank you in the spring with a quick recovery from winter stress. So will your gardens and compost pile if you add the mulched leaves to them.

fall leaves
mulched leaves

Monarch Butterflies: Who Knew?

monarch butterflies

When I spied this beautiful butterfly enjoying my wildflower garden at our family cottage recently I realized I didn’t know much about this species. Now that I am better educated on the subject, I believe monarch butterflies are fascinating. I bet you don’t know much of this information.

Monarchs are Generational

This means one butterfly produces multiple generations, with each successive generation behaving differently. The last generation of monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico and then reproduce on their way back north when days lengthen and temperatures warm up. Referred to as summer, or first-generation monarchs, these offspring begin laying eggs at a few days old and only live for a month as adults. Each new generation produced from that original migrant travels farther north, taking three or four generations to get as far as the northern United States and Canada.

Monarchs born early in the summer do not move far using their energy instead to produce as many offspring as possible. However, those that emerge later, referred to as generation four, will migrate to and from Mexico. Unlike the other generations, they do not reproduce right after birth. Instead, when days become shorter and temperatures decrease at the end of the summer, they feast on nectar to prepare for their long journey to southern climates. The delayed maturity of their reproductive organs is called diapause, a condition that lasts until the following spring, after which they begin to mate close to the spot they overwintered down south. 

Monarch Joint Venture sums up the generations of monarch butterflies in this chart:

Migration Patterns and Practices

Monarchs cannot handle cold weather. As the only butterflies that navigate a complicated, two-way migration, when the temperatures dip, they know to head south. Not only do they migrate but they follow very specific routes to do so, traveling up to one hundred miles a day, and up to three thousand miles in total. Researchers currently believe that these incredible creatures use the position of the sun as well as the magnetic pull of the earth to navigate their routes and direct them. They also take advantage of air currents to ease their travel.

Monarchs living west of the Rocky Mountains migrate to southern California, while those living further east have several routes that merge in central Texas before heading to Mexico. Traveling only during daylight hours, monarch butterflies cluster together to roost at night to stay warm, sometimes as many as ten thousand in one tree! They prefer cedars, firs, and pines whose canopies offer comfortable temperature and humidity levels.


Male vs Female Monarchs

Male monarchs have two black dots on their lower wings while females do not. Males also have wider black stripes at the top than their female counterparts. Therefore, the monarch in my picture is a male.

Milkweed Plants are Necessary for Monarchs

Each generation of monarchs begins its life on a species of the milkweed plant. First generations depend on Asclepias oenotheroides, A. viridis and A. asperula in the south. The other generations rely on A. syriaca (common milkweed), A. incarnata (swamp milkweed), and A. tuberosa (butterfly milkweed). 

Conclusions About Monarch Butterflies

Well, have you learned anything? I sure did.

Although I have lots of milkweed planted in the two butterfly gardens I recently planted, I have no idea what kind of milkweed plants they are. I will investigate. Wherever you live, find and plant the appropriate species of milkweed to help the monarchs continue their cycles.

I now realize that the monarch I saw this week in my garden was a generation four. My camera and I followed its bloom-hopping trek as it competed with the bees for the nectar on the late-blooming asters.

Safe travels buddy!

Butterfly Garden Success

Last fall, after much pleading on my part (plan approval is a complicated process), I was granted permission to design and create a butterfly garden at the local hospice I volunteer at.  I have also referred to it as a wildflower garden to differentiate it from the more formal garden beds I have designed and planted there. This is my butterfly garden success story!

The very beginning

Although I posted an update this past spring, with details of the planting methods used, the final verdict on the success of my butterfly/wildflower garden was still out back then. These pictures were taken in early summer when things (not just weeds) finally started to grow…

Zinnias
Red flax
Poppies

This week, (late summer) I am thrilled to report that the experiment was a huge success!  The warm and wet weather (and our hard work of course) has created a riot of colourful blooms in the garden…

Butterflies, Birds, and Bees…oh my!

Although I have been calling this a butterfly garden, the goal is to attract hummingbirds and bees to our new garden as well. The variety of plant shapes and flower colours in this garden is akin to a smorgasbord of delectables to attract all of mother nature’s creatures in droves. This type of garden is also referred to as a pollinator garden for obvious reasons. The stepping stones are to permit strolling through the garden as well as maintenance in the form of weeding and watering.

Hospice Garden Team

There are lots of I’s so far in this post. To clarify and assign credit where it is due in spades, (pun intended) this project (and the landscaping at the hospice in general) would never have reached this level of success without the keenness and diligence of our garden team at Ruddy Shenkman Hospice in Kanata.

These dedicated team members are on-site lots more than I am. For example, we have a watering schedule that ensures all the containers, new gardens, and new additions to older, established garden beds get attended to daily. We also have team members (one wonder woman in particular) designated for lawn cutting. With the extensive RSH property, these are huge, behind-the-scene tasks. As a (semi-retired) professional landscaper, my main role on the team is to design and create new projects (garden beds) and identify chores that need to be done to keep the gardens looking as great as they do. I’m getting good at making lists, although I still love getting my hands dirty in the planting stage.

Successes in Butterfly Garden Planning

I learned lots through the experimental process of this butterfly garden and made a few mistakes but my vision prevailed.  Phew!

The mini greenhouses on my back deck all winter were definitely a success and something I would highly recommend! Those plastic clamshell containers from grocery stores come in handy for this purpose. They make for an inexpensive propagation method to sprout seeds, especially those that require cold stratification to germinate.

Also a huge success was the idea to plant seeds under clear plastic cups. On a whim, I did this in the early spring to fill in the blanks between the transplanted sprouts from the greenhouses. Using seeds of annuals from a big box store (poppies, asters, zinnias, cosmos, cleomes, and more) I simply put four or five seeds under each cup, pushed the cup into the soil to keep it from blowing in the wind, kept the soil wet around the cups, and waited for sprouts. I was amazed!

Mistakes Encountered

Sprinkling mixed seeds last fall was (relatively) a bust. These seeds were collected from plants in my gardens as well as from my clients’ gardens. I had a garden waste bag full of seeds. Although the thought was to provide a random dispersion of plants, the randomness was a little too excessive. Especially frustrating was trying to differentiate the weeds from the desired plants.

I also regret succumbing to the complaints about my “stick garden.” In doing so I removed the stakes that showed our team where the “keepers” (as opposed to weeds) were, making it frustrating for us all.

Convincing the Doubters

I think I also earned the respect of my fellow garden team members and hospice staff that were scratching their heads in disbelief throughout. Especially when the weeds were hard to differentiate from the wildflowers and butterfly attractors. I heard the term “stick garden” mumbled a few times when all that was visible was my stakes where the plants were supposed to be growing.

Conclusion

The good news? Everyone is enthusiastically on-board now. And, the most important critics of all, a few monarch butterflies and lots of bees were spotted enjoying the garden last week!

The beauty of self-seeding annuals is that they do just that, produce flower heads full of seeds that scatter randomly in the fall. Left in place, the seeds get buried in snow and pop up next spring as new plants.

I added butterfly-loving (brightly coloured) perennials, such as coneflowers, milkweed, Russian sage, blanket flowers, and many others to the bed to fill in the blanks between the annuals.

Ticks Do Not Jump

ticks

Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not jump. Only a few are found on maintained lawns. Instead, they tend to prefer shady areas where they wait for a host. Doug Tallamy of Bringing Nature Home says this:

Ticks do not run after us when we go into our yards. They climb up on vegetation and ‘quest.’ That is, they wait for us to walk by and then grab on when we do. So, one easy solution is to reduce your lawn to wide mowed paths, and then stay on those paths during periods of high tick infectivity (May and June in Southeast PA.) For me, staying out of the woods is not an option I choose to follow, so I remain vigilant. I (with a little help from my wife) check myself after I’ve been playing outside. Deer ticks like bare patches of skin near waste and sock bands or tight undies and with close inspection they can be easy to find. They also like to get between my toes. Fortunately, they avoid our hairy heads. When I find an embedded tick, I pull it off (sometimes I need tweezers for those tiny nymphs) and put Neosporin on the bite site. A Lyme researcher told me years ago that the Neosporin kills the Borrelia spirochete before it gets into the blood stream. I don’t know if that is true but I do know that I have never gotten Lyme disease when I follow this routine.

Doug Tallamy, 2020,

Deer or Blacklegged Ticks

The blacklegged (deer) tick is a notorious biting arachnid named for its dark legs. Blacklegged ticks are sometimes called deer ticks because their preferred adult host is the white-tailed deer. In the Midwest, blacklegged ticks are called the bear ticks. Deer ticks are found primarily in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, southeastern, and northcentral United States but extend into Mexico. This tick is of medical importance because of its ability to transmit Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, human babesiosis, Powassan encephalitis, and more.

pestworld

ticks

How to Make Your Yard Tick Resistant

There are several things you can do to deter ticks in your yards:

  • use natural plantings to encourage tick-eating creatures in your yard. These tick predators include frogs, spiders, birds etc.
  • ticks do not like dry, sunny gardens, so plan accordingly
  • ticks do like woodpiles, brush or leaf piles, and stone walls
  • choose deer-resistant plantings as deer are primary tick carriers. Other options include deer fences and repellents
  • Japanese Barberry has a higher incidence of ticks
  • discourage raccoons, skunks, and opossums (all tick carriers) with tight-fitting garbage can lids
  • keep your lawns cut low especially around features difficult to cut around. These include around trees, fence lines, play structures, sheds, shrubs, etc.

Personal Tick Protection

To decrease your risk of tick infection, you can try the following preventative methods:

  • spray clothing with DEET repellent
  • tuck pants into socks or boots in wooded areas
  • wear light coloured clothing to spot them easier
  • inspect children, pets, and yourself upon returning from wooded areas
  • remove any ticks with tweezers

photo credit

Cardinals: Attract Them to Your Yard

cardinals

Did you know that cardinals are predominantly monogamous? They mate for life until one is left alone upon the demise of the other. Only then do they seek another partner, typically in the non-breeding season. Sources say their typically tight bonds can be a bit looser in the winter months though.

What do They Eat?

As omnivores, cardinals may eat both plants and animals, including insects, seeds (sunflower and safflower are favourites) nuts, grains, fruit, and flower buds on plants and trees. Their strong beaks even permit them to enjoy shelled peanuts and corn.

When insects are scarce in the winter months, they supplement their protein with suet in feeders. You will often see them foraging for meals on the ground and the feeders they do frequent must have sturdy perches or trays so they can eat while facing forward.

Apparently, it is the carotenoids in their food that give cardinals their beautiful, characteristic red colouring. These carotenoids are sourced from bacteria, plants and fungi that cardinals consume. While the males are almost all red, including their beaks, females have orange beaks with light brown feathers, and can vary in the extent of the red patches on their chests.

These gorgeous red birds get their name from the fact that their feathers are similar in colour to the robes worn by Roman Catholic high officials…Cardinals.

Cardinals Stay Put in Winter

Considered non-migratory, cardinals stay put in winter, typically living their whole life within one mile of where they were born. They hang out in dense evergreen shrubs and tangled vines.

Help them out by leaving your garden cleanup to spring so they have twigs, leaves and such to forage for and hide in all year round.

Timid yet Territorial

Another fact is that cardinals are much more timid, shy and less aggressive than many other birds. Sudden movements will startle them. The yards and feeders they do grace with their beauty offer nearby protection and privacy in the form of evergreen shrubs, vines or trees. That way they can scope out the food sources and retreat quickly to protective coverage as needed.

Usually non-aggressive, they can be very aggressive when defending their territory. This is especially common during mating season when hormones are raging. Fights with intruders in their territory can last for days. They become so aggressive in fact that they often attack their own reflections seen in anything shiny such as mirrors and windows, even gazing balls.

Attract Them to Your Yard

To attract them to your yard, and ensure they stick around:

  • keep your feeders and water baths clean and full. Use mild dish soap or a 1:9 solution of bleach and hot water to clean both often. Dry the feeder well before filling.
  • keep their food and water feeders away from your outdoor pets and spots they may ambush the birds from
  • provide a water supply and don’t let it freeze in winter. Depending on where you live, this may simply be achieved by refreshing still water to avoid freezing. In my area however, it means using a heated birdbath or a submersible water heater to prevent freezing.
  • provide nesting shelves for them to cozy up in. Cardinals have several sets of offspring per year but don’t usually reuse any nests. This means they need lots of nesting material. Consider supplying them with lightweight materials like string or yarn, hair, dog fur, or unscented dryer lint to line the nests within the shrubs and vines they choose to build in.
  • provide a safe haven with lots of greenery in the form of ground cover, perennial flowers, small and large shrubs and trees.

My Experience with Cardinals

My husband and I love to watch the birds that visit our backyard. It would definitely be considered a safe haven for cardinals for the reasons above, especially the abundance of greenery within my gardens.

We have been speculating whether it is the same couple that has been visiting us for years. In researching information for this post, I think they are the same male and female pairing. They certainly repeat the same habits, moving from feeders to our trees, vines, shrubs, and ground cover throughout the day.

We have even witnessed a “fight” between two males that chased each other back and forth across the expanse of our yard numerous times.

Today I watched the male protectively watching the female at a feeder, then feed himself while she watched from nearby. Then in a blur (too fast for my cell phone camera) he flew away and she followed:

Pandemic Adventures at Mud Lake

pandemic takeaway, mud lake

A few months into the pandemic, when I was searching for outdoor activities to share with my grandchildren, a friend told me about Mud Lake. My (now) four-and-a-half-year-old grandson and I have since become regular visitors to this nature lover’s paradise in the middle of Ottawa. With so much to do and see there, our pandemic adventures never disappoint.

pandemic adventures

We are both nature lovers, preferring to spend as much time as possible in the great outdoors on “adventures” as he calls them. The picture of the geese approaching us like a parade was taken on our very first visit to Mud Lake. It felt much like a welcoming committee!

The next visit we discovered the Ottawa river side.

On the stinking hot days we spent our time on the shady river side. It was absolutely beautiful there with a cool breeze off the Ottawa river. On the cooler days we would wander the trails that circle around Mud Lake. This is a bit of a misnomer, a swampy, more of a large pond than a lake. We found lots of critters of all kinds.

My grandson categorizes the sides by what we saw where. The crayfish were in the pools of water (much like tide pools) created by low water levels. These were a result of the extreme drought we had been experiencing. The baby milk snake was discovered on that side too. We spotted an Eastern screech owl in a tree along the road dividing the river side from the pond side. We just happened to park in front of his roost one day. The family of wild turkeys followed us around the trails at Mud Lake a few times.

More recently we have received lots of rain. The water levels are much higher now and the water much faster. Grandma has to continually warn him not to get too close to the water’s edge. The rocks he loved to hop on and examine (flip over) are totally submerged now. You can identify these pics by the changing colour in the leaves on the trees.

These pictures are just a few of my favourites from our pandemic adventures. Rrom both sides:

Now that junior kindergarten is this grandson’s top priority, our visits are limited to after school hours before the sun goes down. The weather is changing too but there is still lots to see around Mud Lake in the fall and winter.