Care and Feeding of Your Compost Rat

December 13, 2010

Frankly, I was a little worried last Winter.

From our dining room window, I could watch a rat going about its business some 15 feet away. It had made a home for itself below the mixed-seed bird feeder, its burrow entrance jutting through the snow.

Fortunately, Barefootheart (who’s having a birthday today!!) allayed my fears. She predicted that the rat would move along come Spring, and wouldn’t try to enter our house. And, when Spring came, Barefootheart’s prediction was confirmed.

Barefootheart also referred to the rat as a “she”.

So this October, when Somebody moved into our fancy plastic compost bin, I decided to name her “Josephine”. The dogs know she’s there, but she’s safe from them. She’s also a whole lot further from our house than last year’s Winter Rat, who gave no trouble. Why not let her be, then?

Frost beside a hole -- I'm guessing this is Josephine's bedroom.

And guess what? Robbie Burns’s philosophy, “I’ll get a blessin’ with the lave”, is proving true, too.

In Composting 201, we all learned that the transformation of banana peels into garden soil is facilitated by:

– air circulation;

– a little extra soil;

– stirring;

– chopping of vegetable matter;

– warmth;

– moisture;

– nitrogen.

Josephine provides all this. She has formed tunnels, excavated underneath the bin, and mounded up the pile in the back left corner, to make a comfortable home. She eats the kitchen scraps that appeal to her, and buries the rest. Her wee body, the length of your hand and the girth of your fist, adds a little warmth to the otherwise stone-cold wintertime bin, and her breath adds moisture. And the nitrogen? Well…some of us refer to it more commonly as “piddle”.

When Spring comes, Josephine will move to the blackberry patch on the City land, and I will have the loveliest barrowloads of garden food.

These happy thoughts have led to increased consideration of the kitchen compost bucket’s contents. Will this cabbage core give her gas? Will she enjoy this nice squash rind? Should I “accidentally” add this bit of pork chop fat?

One day recently, I did contribute a nonfood item. I was trimming ends on some all-cotton dishcloths, and…

Clementine rinds, chamomile flowers, and cotton bedding bits.

Josephine has squirreled away every last thread.

(Wordless Wednesday) How He Knows If You’ve Been Bad or Good

December 8, 2010

Hint: check rollover tags.


Gulls have wings. Angels have wings. Coincidence?

December 2, 2010

Lily Lake

Rain was forecast for today. So before the sprinkle became a downpour, we took the dogs for a walk around Lily Lake in Rockwood Park. There it is in the photo above; on the left, you can see a Ring-billed Gull gliding over the water.

What is wrong with this picture?

Now I’m as superstitious as the next person, and I get the connection between white-feathered sea gulls and our culture’s version of angels (we’ll leave aside for now their origin as fiery snakes). But I had never before noted any ability of gulls to walk on water. See? There’s space between their bodies and their reflections. Let’s go to Camera Two, Bob:

Quick -- call the Scooby Squad!

It took a while before I solved the magic trick. Observe, if you will:


The oak leaf nearest my foot is floating in the water. The other two leaves are resting on the ice, which is still pretty thin at this time of year. Breezes make the lake water lap over the edges of the ice, and the rain has  coated the rest of it. Case closed.


Still and all, gulls put on a good show. Here is a snap of the Duck Pond that adjoins Lily Lake. While the Mallards and Black Ducks are scrambling towards a pair of hominids bearing breadcrusts, a Ring-bill — there, just below the foot of the staircase — goes sweeping up in the opposite direction, like the Paraclete flitting through her dorm window for a few hours of fun.

Yes, I like gulls.

Gulls belong to the order of birds known as Charadriiformes. While sitting in the car one day, I pulled a pad of paper and pen from the glove compartment and wrote this blue-ribbon word verticaly down the page. Then I made a poem. Duck Enjoy!


Cries of
Herring Gulls
Red eyes
Anchored in
Radiance, they

What I Saw

February 18, 2010

I woke up a bit sore yesterday.  Took me a while to understand why.

The lowest limb of the huge poplar in our backyard hung quite a ways over our forthcoming veggie patch, threatening to overshade it. Two days ago, standing on a ladder two metres up the poplar’s trunk, I sawed off the offending branch.

With my left hand. And our  pruning saw.

No, I’m not left-handed, but I’m some wicked with a pruning saw.

Ah, now we get it, your left arm was sore instead of the right one.

Well it was a bit, but that’s not what puzzled me.

Your feet then, from standing on the ladder?

Um, no, my feet were fine.

Parts of the Turtle that we’d rather not hear about?

No no, keep reading, you’re all right.

What then?

My quadriceps.

Your quadri-who?

My quadriceps. The front muscles of my thighs. Apparently, partly from full-body exertion to work the saw through a ten-inch-thick branch, and partly from fear of the branch kicking the wrong way (i.e., towards me), I tensed those legs tighter than a pair of suspension springs. And I wasn’t even aware of it.

Walking downstairs is still a little painful today. But, yes, of course I’m proud of my work.

Four legs and thirty feet.

(Wordless Wednesday) Soft Focus

January 20, 2010

The Wiccan’s Backyard

February 11, 2009



Post Cards from Durham, Part ii

February 8, 2009

Today we are looking at McGowan Falls.


“McGowan Falls. First dam and mill established 1847. Royal Can. Legion Br. 308 Durham dedicate lighting of McGowan Falls to the memory of Arthur McGowan 1st president of Durham Br. R.C.L.” In case you don’t have Legions in your country, those are places where veterans and their well-wishers get together to swap old stories and toast special occasions: wedding anniversaries; retirements; new grandchildren; Tuesday.


Pretty dam. Chilly! (I hope you’re not reading this aloud to anyone. ) You can walk right over the dam in good weather; there are gates at either end that shut for the winter.


And here is McGowan Falls itself. The far top right of this picture continues from the far middle left of the previous one. Hmm, ice cold, a nice head of foam on the yellow-tinted liquid. That sight would have me thinking about the Legion, that’s for sure.