Sunday, May 30, 2010

Update on Rat and Sticks

I haven't taken very many photos of our pet rat, Sam, recently, since when we have her out, she is usually moving very fast, getting into mischief, and is often climbing on me.  She is growing nicely, and I wish we could get a photo of her in our hands, for comparison with her photo in our hands when she was just itty-bitty.

I try to let her out in the evenings when I'm on the computer, and she runs freely on our desks.  She has an annoying habit of running across the keyboard, clicking keys randomly with each step, and she pees on my mouse EVERY time she passes by, which is very often.  I understand that it's a sign of affection, of comfort, perhaps of marking her familiar territory, but I find this just too annoying, so I hope she will grow out of this habit.

She has found herself a place to create a part-time nest, under some file folder racks.  She collects tissues (the ones I use to wipe up her pee, so I guess that's encouraging her habit too), and occasionally I see her running by with a paper clip or other small object, to carry under there with her.  She gets pretty cozy in there, and it is a challenge to lure her out when it's time to put her back in the cage.

We have bought her a larger cage, which is multilevel so she can climb.  We have come to realize that she would really benefit from having a friend.  I hope to contact the pet store soon.  When we bought Sam, who was a beautiful gold/beige colour, I was really attracted to a black and white curly-haired baby rat.  So I am hoping there is a chance a few more curly haired ones will be born, and if so, I would be happy to wait for one of those.  And yes, I'm not so naive that I don't know that most of the rats born there are destined to be a meal for a pet snake, but that's life, and I will still buy my curly-haired baby rat from them.
My friend Andrea, who has prior experience with rats, has been a wonderful help with Sam, and has provided a second home to Sam when we go on vacation.   She has posted photos of Sam on her blog, "Rats Make Great Pets", and since sadly it didn't work out with her 3 boy rats, I think we'll be seeing a lot more about Sam on Andrea's blog in future.

As for our stick bug colony, they are doing fine, and still multiplying.  I have no large egg-laying females at the moment, but some of the eggs stuck to the top and back of the cage must still be hatching, since I have all sizes of walking sticks, including some hatchlings.  I may have finally squished that spider that was hiding in the back corner of the cage, and taking an occasional stick bug.  At least I haven't seen him recently.

I did a thorough clean of the cage today (instead of just replacing individual blackberry branches, as I usually do), so I also performed a count while I was transferring the stick bugs back in.  I have 37.  Wow.  Here is a photo of the cage.  This time I also added a branch of salmonberry, and they took to it fine, just like the blackberry.  I guess that's an acceptable "bramble" for them.  Probably raspberries would work, too, but I don't plan to offer any of those - I don't have any to spare.

Click here for previous posts about the walking stick bugs.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Header : 2 x 6 Mosaic

I admire many blogs which have wonderful lush or creative images in their header, but it wasn't until very recently that I even realized that I have been blogging for more than 4 years now, and haven't yet added a header image.  So I have decided to correct that.

I have added a mosaic of some of my garden photos, as a starting point.  Although it does provide some "flavor" of my garden, and some of my favorites, I'm not particularly happy with it.  It is too busy, and the colors don't blend as well as they could.  I think ultimately I'll settle on a single image, but that may take another 3 or 4 years, at the rate I'm going.  :-)  Thanks to all of you for bearing with me, and providing encouragement, as I share this blog with you.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Slideshow : Garden Project

I enjoyed creating and watching my "Garden Through the Seasons" slideshows, that I decided to make one of my recent "garden project" (from October 2009 to today):

For more details of the project, see these posts.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Garden Through the Seasons

I've been trying to remember to take photos of the back yard every so often, so I can create a slideshow of the garden as it changes through the seasons. I am also trying to take them from the same place each time. With a bit of photo editing, they match up okay.

Here is what I have so far, 7 photos taken from last Spring (starting from a late snow fall in March) until this Spring, viewed from the upper balcony:

I hope to take photos more consistently this year, so it will become a longer slide show.

Here is another view, from the back deck, 5 photos taken from Spring 2008 to December 2009:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Blue Whale Skeleton Exhibit in Vancouver, BC - Live Webcast May 22

I am very excited to learn that the blue whale skeleton exhibit is now complete and on display in the atrium of the UBC's (University of British Columbia) new Beaty Biodiversity Museum.  I have been waiting with anticipation for probably two years now, since I first read about the plans for the new museum and blue whale exhibit.  Here is the latest on the whale exhibit:

The museum is offering 5 free summer previews of the museum, starting tomorrow, before the grand opening in the Fall.  I hope I will have a chance to join in the fun.  For those of you who read this post in time, there is a live webcast of the event tomorrow (Sat, May 22) for the International Day of Biodiversity, starting at 11:30am Pacific time.

If I've been waiting in ancipation for some while now, the folks at UBC have been waiting far longer.  This 26 meter (85 feet) long mature blue whale died and was washed ashore in PEI in 1987.  In order to preserve the skeleton, the whale was buried in PEI, and in 2007, UBC was granted permission to retrieve the remains, transport it some 6000 km (4000 miles), and clean and prepare the skeleton for display.  Read more details here and in the accompanying web pages.

Along with the blue whale skeleton, which is the first of its kind in Canada, and one of only 20 such exhibits in the world, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum will hold "more than 2 million specimens of birds, reptiles, fish, plants, shells, fossils, and insects for research and public display. Digital exhibits will showcase the cutting-edge research of the Biodiversity Research Centre's award-winning scientists. Through lecture series, guided tours, and public events, the Museum will aim to make biodiversity accessible and exciting."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mosaic Monday : Postcards of Alaska

My husband and I recently returned from our 7 night Alaska cruise for our anniversary, so I am pleased to post a few photos (click any mosaic for a larger image).

Here is a little mosaic from Skagway and Ketchican:
Alaska mosaic
We were able to enjoy two hikes, one from Juneau which climbed fairly high and had views of the Mendenhall Glacier.  The other from Skagway, up the Chilcoot Trail, and then a gentle river raft ride down.

The forest and plants looked very familiar, very similar to what we have on the Westcoast.  Clockwise from top right : 1) mossy trees 2) cup lichen 3) shelf fungus 4) sapsucker holes in a live tree 5) bark chewed by a porcupine 6) moss "man" in the tree which caught my imagination.

Alaska flora mosaic
We had soon pretty good views of glaciers and icebergs.  Clockwise from top left : 1) Closeup of Marjorie Glacier 2) Seagulls on iceberg 3) Smaller  4) Smallest 5) Mendenhall Glacier 6) Waterfall in Glacier Bay 7) Cruise ship in Glacier Bay 8) Mendenhall Glacier 9) Waterfall.

Alaska glacier mosaic
I'd highly recommend the Alaska cruise from Vancouver.

For more mosaics, see this week's collection for Mosaic Monday at Little Red House.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wasp and Garden Bench Mystery

I'm happy to say that I did finally manage to pack, and enjoyed a wonderful 7 night Alaska cruise with my husband.  Since we arrived back yesterday, I have pretty much caught up on laundry, planted in some more tomato and sunflower plants which my Mom brought for me (which she graciously has tended from seed for me on her windowsill), caught up on a good amount of weeding (wow, I had a lot of horsetails, many of them over 1 foot long!), watering the fruit trees, and made it through my 700+ emails.  So I think I'm in pretty good shape heading into a new week.

Before I left, I just had to solve the mystery of the wasps and their fascination with our wooden bench on the back patio.  I had noticed them for several days, visiting the bench.  I had looked underneath, and couldn't see any sign of a nest forming, so last Saturday, I spent some time watching them flying back and forth, and then on closer examination I realized what they were up to: they were stripping wood from the bench as building materials for their papery nest. I don't know if it shows up in the closeup, but there are tiny lines of brighter wood where the wasps had done their stripping.

We have 2 wooden benches on our patio, and as you see in the photo, the one which was under the protection of the balcony overhead, is still in good shape.  But the one which has survived the year in the sun and rain and even some snow, is quite bleached and weathered.  So the wasps decided that this was a good source of neglected wood for them.

I watched them, and at least they seemed to be flying off to a distant location, but I decided to whack a couple just in case, and left the dead ones there as a warning to the remainder of the hive.  I wouldn't mind to spare some wood, but as the weather gets better, we plan to do more sitting on those benches, and having wasps buzzing back and forth is not conducive to relaxation.

Today, which was a beautiful sunny day, I didn't see any sign of more wasps.  I will ask my son if he whacked any more during the week while I was away.  Or perhaps the couple which I left there served as a strong enough warning that they had better find a more neglected source of wood.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Should I Pack, or Wash the Driveway?

Do you ever start out to do some planting in the garden, and end up washing the driveway? Well, if you're like me, it happens more often than not.

Having just returned last weekend from our Whistler conference / vacation, with the suitcases still not fully unpacked, I need to focus on getting some things finished up so I can pack for a 7 night Alaska cruise which starts Saturday.

It has been a crazy week at work. Not that any week is not crazy anymore, but there were three sets of visitors to our office and a Board meeting, so my husband had not only long days, but also long evenings entertaining. I don't think he's been home before midnight yet this week. Myself, I am within a couple of weeks of a product release, trying to pull documentation together for it, and deep in planning stages for the next release.

I was blessed two weekend ago, to attend 3 plant sales, so I have been trying to get all those planted in, whenever I have the opportunity, which has so far been the occasional evening. Tonight was one of those opportunities, with good weather, and a bit of time after my daughter's piano and voice lessons, and dinner, before chasing them to bed.

Remember the gaps in the front yard, which I was looking to fill? I decided to plant the sunflowers, which my mom graciously allowed me to start on her windowsill, and which were already about 10" high. But before I did that, I needed to water that area, since it is under the porch overhang, so is completely dry.  But before that, I needed to pull some weeds, so I wouldn't be watering those.  And next thing I knew it, I had almost filled our gigantic yard waste bin (equivalent to about 2 1/2 regular garbage cans) with weeds and cuttings from the front yard.  Then I dug & watered the holes for about half an hour, and finally planted them in.

By that time, it was getting dark, and the mosquitos were biting.  But since I had the hose out (it is a beast to handle, even  though we have it on a nice hose reel), and I was a bit wet anyhow, I decided to wash down the driveway.  I do it every Spring, to clean out the lines in the concrete.  I learned from our builder that the lines are actually functional, allowing for some movement in the concrete, as well as drainage.  So every Spring, while there is still lots of water, more than the city can handle in its reservoirs, I wash down the driveway with a hose.  It seemed funny, though, thinking of how many things I have left on my list for work and around the home, which I am trying to get done in the remaining day before we leave.

I guess with work, I finally came to a place today of resignation (no, not that kind of resignation, but the one where I realize that my efforts are futile, and I instead need to lower my expectations to match reality).  That, and my email letting people know I would be gone after Friday, which has given me some sort of peace, that at least I've let people know not too expect too much in the one remaining day.

Then there's the blogging.  Filling an entire post with my musings about how I should be thinking of packing, or doing the laundry so I have something to pack, or adding to my list of what I should pack....  Anyone ever start out overwhelmed with how much is left to do, and end up blogging?  If you're like me, it happens more often than not.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Mosaic Monday : Whistler BC

Our family just returned from a 5 day escape to Whistler BC.  My husband attended a conference there, the kids enjoyed two days of snowboarding lessons, and I strolled about the Village, and spent the afternoons and evenings swimming in the beautiful indoor/outdoor pool of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.  Yes, it was hard to come back.

Here is a "postcard" mosaic : Lost Lake; view from our balcony of the pool with 3 hot tubs (1 more inside!), putting greens and Wizard Express chair up Blackcomb mountain; the family at the Blackcomb Gondola in the Village; and funky photo of my daughter, taken by my son.
Whistler BC mosaic
After the conference ended, we took the kids to try out the Monkido adventure course, which was a real blast.  I was somewhat relieved that my son was 1 inch short of the adult course, so he did the kids course, and then I needed to stay down with him and watch my husband and daughter show us how it's done on the adult course.  I don't think I'm in that kind of physical condition at the moment.
Monkido Whistler mosaic
On the way home, we stopped to look out at the beautiful Brandywine falls, and admire the mossy forest in the area.  This cheery yellow violet caught my eye.
Yellow violet mosaic
For more photo mosaics, be sure to visit Little Red House this week.
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