Posts tagged nature

The Pros and Cons – Reflecting on the Year

April 1st marks our first anniversary of moving to the Queendom. I still catch myself telling people that we just moved here but, like newly-weds, that status only lasts 365 days. In that mysterious way of time, this year feels like it has passed in both a blink of an eye and a lifetime. So long ago, we were staring wide-eyed at the immensity of it all – the pond, the acreage, the too-large house, the space, the wildlife, the quiet – and now we continue to stare widely at it but in a more understanding way. Now we have figured out what things need to be done regularly and we fall into step with our unwritten after-work chores and weekend tasks. When we look out across the pond or walk the property, we expect to find something new and exciting.

The point of this blog has been to help us remember the events of our new-found life. But, there have been more events than time permitted to sit at a computer and write. Here is the reader’s digest version of the pros and cons we discovered here:

Pros

unbelievable peace and quiet

we discover something new around here almost everyday

easy access to multiple trailheads

endless trail systems to explore (see alongapath)

short commutes to work

surrounded by trees – not a building in sight

easy access to delicious real farm food – veggies, fruit, meat, seafood, cheese, eggs, etc.

ducks, deer, birds, mink, bears, owls and frogs live here and are sighted often

new chicks and the hope of our own fresh eggs by summer’s end

a regular feeling of satisfaction from completing projects

the brewery is almost complete and the taps will be running soon

groceries, hardware and all other shopping is less than 10 minutes away

endless  possibilities for the Queendom – more so than we ever imagined

Cons

unpacking – it seems to go on and on! So much space and distractions have allowed us to be lazy on that front

the landscape project is huge, very long-term and often daunting

our landscaping crew from last summer did a merely passable job and charged too much money

invasive and unwanted plants are difficult to deal with and chronic, it seems

often a big effort results in a minuscule difference (such as digging out thistles and alders)

the property is wet, marshy, swampy and ugly in places

drainage issues have had us on high alarm a few times (not yet documented!)

our list of potential construction projects is long and very involved (deck, hot tub, garage, chicken coop, island bridge and pergola, etc.)

we are far, far away from our friends and we haven’t really connected with people here

time does not move slower out here.  We need more of it

Not surprisingly, the Pros out-count and out-weigh the Cons. There have been many things happen that we didn’t expect and a few true surprises, both positive and negative.  But we seem to have struck a balance with managing it all and are trying to keep our to-do list short and within reason. Neither of us would go back to our previous life. This smaller town/bigger space lifestyle suits us both so well and our only wish is that we had started on this rural path long, long ago.

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Romantic Spring Break Get-Away at the Queendom

I peeled myself away from the new chicks long enough to cast a glance out on our pond. What a treat this morning to find three sets of paired-up ducks of three differing species!

For about a month now, we have had a resident pair of mallards who fly in each morning and spend all day feeding, sleeping and floating around. The male mallard has done a pretty good job of keeping all other mallards away, chasing them off as soon as they land on the pond. But he has made exceptions for ducks of other species who often join them on their pond tours. (“Nice to meet you. Wanna flock?”) Accepted ducks are the diving variety so I guess sharing a food source is the main issue for him.

After weeks of seeing only one merganser, one bufflehead, one scaup or one ring-necked duck, today everyone brought a date.

Our resident Mallard pair. He stand guard 100% of the time while she nibbles, snoozes, preens and floats.  There has never been a more dedicated mate.

Our resident Mallard pair. He stand guard 100% of the time while she nibbles, snoozes, preens and floats. There has never been a more dedicated mate.

Although he has been a regular visitor to the Queendom, this was her first visit.  Welcome, M'Lady!

Ring-Necked Ducks.  Although he has been a regular visitor to the Queendom, this was her first visit. Welcome, M’Lady!

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Hooded Mergansers.  We have had a pair of female Mergansers who have frequently visited over the past year and, on one occasion before this, the male came and floated around in the pouring rain. Glad to see that he finally managed to nab one of the sisters!

I guess word got out that it is 2-for-1 admission at our pond. The atmosphere is romantic and the food is both delicious and plentiful (if you’re into choking down whole frogs and salamanders). Maybe I should inflate our little boat and ask FM to join me for Date Night!

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Wake Up! Your Dream is Gone!

A long time ago, when I my dreams of exploring the far corners of the world seemed attainable, I picked the Midway Islands as a destination. Its appeal was its remoteness and its geological placement in the centre of the Pacific Ocean, a little to the north of Hawaiian islands.

exact location of the Midway Islands

As a school project, we had to create a list of 10 essential items that we could have on a deserted island. I imagined Midway Island as my setting.

Thinking about a far-off place such as this, I imagined pristine beaches and untouched wilderness. Both flora and fauna would be resplendent, because of its distance from the dirty hand of mankind. I thought of pitching a tent on a high point of land and just sitting back to be entertained by the natural activities of birds and marine life.

And then this movie trailer arrived in my inbox, crushing my childhood dream and making me realize that, too often, we falsely believe that such a paradise truly exists. How could I have thought that an outpost like Midway Islands would sit untouched and unmolested, waiting for me to fulfil my childhood dream?

photographer and filmaker Chris Jordan

Unbelievable. Heartbreaking.

This clip is absolutely worth four minutes of your time – even if its only purpose is to crush your dreams and make you wake up.

Midway – a film

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Is It Easter Already?

Lookie here!  FM bought these eggs from a co-worker for $3.75/dozen.  They were collected this morning from happy farm chickens who have been fed a natural veggie, insect and grub diet. Look at those amazing colours!

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These beauties remind me of Multi-Colour Crayons – dark, pale, freckled, tan.

This batch even has the blues and greens of an Araucana hen

This batch even has the blues and greens of an Araucana hen

Sigh … everything is possible at the Queendom.

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Another Lesson from Nature

I went on wintery walk this morning to collect the mail and tour our little street. The neighbourhood consists of about 20 homes, set on 5-acres a piece. Some homes are set right on the street but others have long winding driveways disappearing into the forest with no sign of any building. The homes you can see seem to ooze character, with steeply slanting roofs and thin trails of smoke coming out of the chimneys. Many have quaint window boxes or raised beds covered in the snow blanket, with only the tips of kale sticking out the top.

I was struck (once again) by how raw our property seems to be. Although our house is set far back from the road, it is completely exposed from overlogging. How long will it take for the forest to reclaim our plot? Will we live long enough to see that picture?

A property only an owner could love

A property only an owner could love

As I wandered and wondered these things, I spotted a small nest in the low bare branches by the road. I got as close as possible without getting poked in the eye and took a couple of pictures. To my surprise, there was a tiny speckled egg inside. Being late December and barely one degree above freezing, this little egg must have been leftover from last spring. I will have to do a bit of research to see which bird laid and then abandoned this little treasure.

It was hardly noticeable

It was hardly noticeable

Is it a cluster of leaves or a nest?

Is it a cluster of leaves or a nest?

Is that what I think it is?

Is that what I think it is? (my fingers give reference to its size)

I'm pretty sure that it is a dark-eyed junco nest and egg.

I’m pretty sure that it is a dark-eyed junco nest and egg.

As I trudged on home, highly aware of the chittery juncos and warblers in the treetops, I decided that the birds don’t seem to mind the aesthetics of the Queendom so it must not be worth dwelling on.  Another lesson from nature.

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So Long, Stumpy

Blacktail Deer are a daily sighting out here at the Queendom. In fact, I would dare guess that the deer population of the Courtenay/Comox area is equal to the human population. Some people lament the damage that deer do to their flower and veggie gardens, spending exorbitant amounts of money on deer-fencing. But most people don’t mind the deer and even catch themselves smiling when they spot one in the woods or by the road.

The Queendom is a deer haven and we like it that way. Our property is an open clearing which allows our  hoofed buddies to roam around and graze. But if danger is sensed, the deer easily hop our 4 ft fence and are able to disappear in the thick forest that surrounds us on three sides.

On our first morning as new caretakers of the Queendom in April, we met three of the permanent residents. We deduced that this was a mama deer with two of last years fawns.

Mama Deer with her two yearling fawns in April

Stumpy and sister and mama

We could spot these three every morning at first light and every evening at twilight. They were initially frightened of us but, over the months, they became only slightly wary of our presence.

We play a daily game of Where’s Waldo with our deer

Soon we could see the personality of Stumpy emerging. He was definitely a young buck and he spent much of the early summer tormenting his sister and playing ‘king of the castle’ with the dirt piles during our excavation work. He would tirelessly chase and run and kick before collapsing for a snooze under his mama’s watchful eye.

Stumpy earns his name with his mismatched, two-prong antlers

Soon enough we could see his fuzzy antler buds and noticed that his left antler was stunted. The name Stumpy seemed fitting and it stuck. More and more throughout the summer, we saw Stumpy on his own, as his mama distanced herself and forced him into independence.

In September, things began to change. We spotted Stumpy standing at the edge of the pond, glassy-eyed and foaming at the mouth. He stood in the same spot, statue-like, for hours and his stance was awkward. His belly was bloated and his rear-end was tucked under. You could almost feel his abdominal pain just by watching. He had a racking cough. It was a wet, mucus cough that made his whole body convulse. It was terrible to watch.

Stumpy’s painful stance with his distended belly, glassy eyes, foamy mouth and heavy head. We have named this section of the pond ‘Stumpy’s Beach’.

For about two weeks, we surveyed him and the only change was for the worse. Soon, he began to bed down at the very edge of the pond so that he could drink without having to get up or move.

Not knowing what to do, I made some inquiries with the local animal rehabilitation centre  After describing his symptoms, a veterinarian wrote to me with a diagnosis of ‘high lungworm loads and pneumonia’. She said that there was no treatment for this and that he needed to be put down. She told me to contact the local Conservation Officer who would come and euthanize Stumpy.

Feeling absolutely sick, I called the Conservation Officer. When I described the situation and the diagnosis, he laughed at me. He told me that one sick deer was hardly a concern for him with a local population of +/- 50000 deer. He wasn’t going to come all the way out to the Queendom unless the animal was practically dead. “Call me when he can no longer get up and no longer has a fear of humans” he said. I asked him, if Stumpy dies, would his department come and collect a dead deer. “Nope,” he said.  “If he dies on your property, then you would be the proud owner of a dead deer”.

And so. Let nature run its course. We kept a daily watch on Stumpy and occasionally we would walk close to Stumpy’s Beach. Each time, Stumpy would slowly get up and hobble away from us, showing that his fear of humans and his will to live were both still strong. He even hopped (ungracefully) over the fence once when I got too close.

About a week later, I noticed that Stumpy had moved to a different area and he was grazing! He started to bed down in different areas and returned to his regular pattern of early morning/early evening visits. His body stance changed back to normal and he was far more alert. He had survived his illness and was on the mend!  I felt such relief, knowing that winter weather was around the corner and he needed to be strong to survive this first winter on his own.

Stumpy sightings became scarce. I always kept an eye out for him but only saw him once or twice over the past month.

Yesterday, FM told me that there was a deer lying on the side of the main road into town – about a kilometre from our place. As we returned from some errands in town, we stopped and had a look at the road-killed deer. It was Stumpy.

The two-pronged antler and the stumpy antler were enough proof for me. Recovering from a terminal illness doesn’t mean you’re invincible.

It is a sad day indeed. Stumpy has lived on the Queendom longer than we have. He was probably born there and spent much of his youth playing there. He could have waited out his sickness anywhere but he chose the Queendom as a safe place that had all he needed with no imminent dangers.

FM and I have never had pets together. Although we each had a dog when growing up, our spontaneous travel lifestyle and FM’s allergies have prevented us from jumping on board the pet owner train. This is the closest we have come to taking on a pet.

Peace Out, Good Buddy!

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