Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thoughts on a Sunny Autumn Day

The air feels much cooler these mornings, even when the sun is shining. And that sun seems to go to bed early!
Last evening, as I was drinking my tea after dinner, I heard a small "scruffle" on the Cat deck.
Expecting that this would be one of the resident Douglas Squirrels, I got up to peak out the window. Didn't seem to be anything there. And then I spotted him (her?). A small, black mouse, hiding behind the Hostas. I could also hear a crow in the trees in the ravine - perhaps that's what he was hiding from. This little guy is a new resident in my back 40, and certainly welcome (provided he stays on his side of the glass).
The scruffle birds are back. Haven't seen them all summer. These guys look like robins (same colouring), but they're bigger. They race around the ground, under the salal and ferns, scratching like crazy. Not sure what they eat, but they do not seem to disturb the plants, but they make an amazing amount of noise - sounding like a person running through the yard!
The big leaf maples have all turned "orangey", not very attractive trees but certainly tough. I'm looking forward to my vine maple leaves changing colour. One e small tree just lights up the whole yard.

Monday, September 27, 2010

That Noise in the Bush

Last evening, just after dark, my hubby remembered that he's left two pair of pliers on the walkway in the back yard. Didn't want those tools to get rusty (we were expecting rain), so he bundled up, put on his gardening boots and hat, and headed out the back door.
Just as he was turning the corner into the back 40, he hear a "snuffle" off in the bush. He'd had the foresight to take along his industrial size flashlight, so he's turned it on, and aimed it at the spot where the noise seemed to come from.
Two bright eyes!
As he waved the flashlight (trying to see what those eyes belonged to) the snuffling got very loud. The eyes disappeared, and loud crashing ensued from the bush behind our yard. Hubby backed up fast, right into the door.
He decided that those pliers could wait til daylight tomorrow, rain or not.

This morning, when we went out to retrieve the lost tools, we found garbage strewn through the side yard, big foot prints, and a wide swath of flattened ferns and shrubs leading out of the yard, down towards the creek.
Speaking with the neighbours this afternoon, the young student that lives in their basement confirmed our suspicions. Last evening, he'd come out his back door, and found that critter sitting on the sidewalk. Says he turned and "sprinted" back inside.
It was a very BIG bear.

Looks like we won't be hanging out the birdfeeders any time soon.

Friday, September 10, 2010

That Amazing Tree

Several weeks back, I had a chance to visit the back garden of a fellow gardener who lives in PoCo (next mountainside over).
This property, five acres long, stretched up a hill, crossed a small creek, and had many (many!) mature cedars, hemlocks and maples along the boundaries of the lot.
To my amazement and joy, the owner/gardener had looked at these trees, creeks and rocks when she and her hubby bought the place,and decided to "make lemonade" (remember that old proverb: when life hands you lemons...). Instead of flattening all those trees, and filling in the creek beds, she built a shady, fern-filled gully with bark-mulch trails along each side of the creek bed, and small bridges crossing back and forth.
I felt like an 8 year old again, climbing up the trails and stepping cautiously across the small plank bridges. The creek bed was dry after the long, summer drought, but I could imagine that same space in springtime, with the water racing over the rocks.

Near the top of the trail, looking across the creek, I spotted one amazing, tough old cedar. Its roots had grabbed onto a three foot wide boulder, keeping the tree from sliding down the slope. But the effect of those spring run-offs on the ends of the roots showed how tough this tree was, and how strong mere water could be!
I'm hoping to have a chance to re-visit this tree next March or April, during our regular rainy spring.
It will be good to see that this survivor is still hanging on, and to give it some encouragement!

Yeay Treee!
Hold on tight!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

We're Being Invaded!

But this invader is such a pretty little thing. It creeps along, never needs any care, flowers each Spring, doesn't get eaten by the deer. In short, a perfect woodland plant for difficult spaces.
This lovely little Lamium escaped from the neighbour's yard. It crept along the side of their hedge, then sprinted around the back of their Garden Shed and headed across my lot. At first,I paid no attention to it, as there were more urgent matters to deal with (alders, deer, bears, drought, rocks, crows), but now it's covering about 75 square feet of my back yard. It's pushing through my hedgerow, threatening the rhodos and covering up the little red huckleberry bushes that I planted in one of the few sunny patches in my yard.
I really don't want to tear out this whole patch of green, as I have nothing to replace it with. But it is listed as one of the Invasive species in our area, and I'm beginning to see it everywhere, especially in our parks and along the local streams.
So I'm going to compromise (the easy way out). I'll keep it chopped back, behind my hedgerow, and let it have that back corner.
But only until I find a new tenant.

This may take a while.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thank Heaven for Volunteers!

My woodland path that runs from one side of my yard around to the porch on the other side is a "work in progress".
Oh my, yes.
Much more progress needs to be made on this piece of construction.
It looks sort of lost - not really knowing where it's going, or just how to get there.

Perhaps some edging would keep that gravel going in the right direction.
Now if I can just find something easy to install, and cheap. It needs to fit in with the rest of the path and, most important, and to fit into a plastic bucket so that it can be carried from the front drive down to the back. This yard is NOT accessible by wheelbarrow.
I'll keep looking for that perfect solution, and in the meantime, the bracken ferns will cover a lot of unfinished business.

Yes, Thank Heavens for Volunteers!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

BUZZ, BUzz, buzz...

Thank heavens the wildlife in my front yard is much smaller!
They're busy working those azaleas and rhodos for all they're worth, but I'm not sure who they all are. I recognize the regulars - bumblebees, wasps, black flies. This year, however, there's a new guy in town. He (she?) looks the size of a bumblebee, is just as furry, but has different colours. The head is light brown, the thorax black, but end section of the abdomen is orangey-brown. I don't think he's a mason bee, though we did build a small hotel for the masons out back. So I'm calling him (her) my "orangey-bum bee" until I find a proper name.
This picture (you can just see him in the middle) doesn't show him well, as my little digital camera cannot get close enough without alarming him. I thought about trying to catch him in a jar, then cool him off in the fridge, as suggested on some sites as the best way to photograph small insects. Decided not to - after all, he is working.
If my drawing skills were better, I would try to sketch him. I greatly admire the skills of Valerie Littlewood, who shares her fantastic pictures of bees and flowers on her blog "Pencil & Leaf". I have been checking out her bees pics at
As she is based in Florida, I have not found a match for my little worker.
I also checked the Xerces Society site,, as they have lots of info about bees, but couldn't find a match.
I'll keep looking, and watching these little guys, and leaving them bee.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Three days ago, I was standing at the kitchen window, checking on those salmonberries and enjoying my morning coffee, when I spotted something odd on the ground by the dry creek.
"Who's been throwing pieces of wood in my yard?" I wondered. Surely my neighbours wouldn't have done this - they like our wild space. So after breakfast, I trekked back along the creek to see what was happening.

Looking up at the tree, just one side of my birdhouse was still attached. That pile of wood down on the ground was the rest of it, obviously pulled apart by some very strong animal with sharp claws who climbs well! Those scratches were six feet off the ground.
Looks like the local black bear has returned for the summer. We'd not seen any sign of him since early spring, and were hoping he'd moved to a neighbourhood with better garbage. No luck.
Those scratches were really deep. But we didn't hear him (I'm assuming it was a male, though three years ago the resident bear was a female with two cubs) when he took that birdhouse apart.
Not a sound.

There were no birds in the house, so I'm not sure why he destroyed it.
The winter berries have fed the birds, and the summer berries will be a while yet, so there's not much in the way of easy food here.

If it wasn't a bear, what creature made these deep gashes?

If it it Mr. Black Bear, I'm glad I left that hole in the hedge so that we can duck through and cross the neighbour's yard to get to the street.
Our evening 'glass on the patio' may be quite exciting this summer!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

How To Love A Stump

In the "Back 40", we have a section that lives under a building restriction. We cannot build anything in this space, nor change anything that's there. It's part a set-back for the creek that is at the bottom of the ravine behind our property. When we bought the lot, years ago, we knew there was a creek down there, but didn't realize that the set-back area crossed on to the back corner of our lot.
Last year, as I developed the landscape plan for the back, I went down to visit the city hall to check on the back boundary. That's when the fun began.
I spoke to a cute young engineer at the permits desk, and he looked more and more puzzled as he searched out the maps for this hill. Then he read off the restrictions on this set-back to me:
No sidewalks, sheds, fences or structures of any kind.
No planting of trees, shrubs or gardens.

So I started asking questions.
Can I plant a vegetable garden?.....No.
Can I clean out the weeds and blackberry vines?.....No.
Can I prune down the tall Salmonberry bushes to let some light into
my yard?.....No.
Can I dig out the stumps?.....No.

Now this young whipper-snapper had my back up!
Neither he, nor those silly rules were going to get in the way of my redesign of the back 40! So I thanked him politely for searching up all that information for me, and marched out of the building.

After some weeks working on the plans, and several conversations with a city planner in a neighbouring municipality, I decided that I would go "half-way", that is , I would not try to clear and plant this strip pf land, but quietly "manicure" it into a transition area between my garden and the wild forest along the ravine.
And so the fun started - pulling out the blackberry vine that strayed close to my garden (I have the scars to show you), and quietly chopping back the Salmonberry bushes, one by one, with my heavy duty loppers. I pulled weeds, and quietly relocated several 2-3 foot cedars to the back property line. I tidied up several nice sword ferns, and gave them some plant food. Now there's some sun getting into my yard, and the stumps, all 7 of them are partly visible above the green. Some of these are just ordinary short ends of the trees that have fallen in storms, but 2 of them are old. Really old for this area of Coquitlam , anyway. They're 3 - 4 feet across, and 5 or more feet high. I'm guessing at the exact height as I cannot get close enough to measure with a tape - the undergrowth is that thick. These guys must have been cut way back, when this area was first logged in the early 1900's. They are ragged and black, but have not rotted away. One has a red huckleberry bush growing from the top. The other old giant has a cedar tree growing from the side that has been pushed over, and which now grows upward in a gentle arc.

With a little care and a few lucky finds at the upcoming plants sales in my neighbourhood, perhaps My stumps will look as good as the one at the beginning of this post. That one is not mine, but lives in a provincial park just around the mountain from me, next to a cold little lake. Nature has planted it up wonderfully. It's going to take some work to match her!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bring on the Hummers!

Marion says her hummers always come on March 19th. So Bob put the feeder out in the second week of March, just to be ready for them. It was, after all, a very warm winter, and the Back Forty has stared to grow a couple a weeks earlier than usual. The red current bushes were in bloom (I was told hummers like these flowers), and the Pieris in the front yard were showing off long white plumes. So we waited, and watched. And finally - there he was. A tiny Rufus hummingbird on or about the 21st of March. We watched as he checked out the feeder, and the other birds that were close to his space. He was very nervous each time we approached the window, but he was drinking. Next day, no sign of him. Then bad weather - cold nights and blowing rain, not a pleasant welcome for the little guy. He's still here (the male), and very occasionally we see the female. But neither will stay long enough for one of us to get the camera, and sneak up to the window for a photo. We're still very happy to see them!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What To Do With A Fallen Hemlock?

At the very back of our lot, we have this fallen giant. It died shortly after we finished building, and we thought the cause was "Global Warming" - the 90's were hotter and drier in this area that the previous decade had been. After some research, and many conversations with local tree people, I have come to the conclusion that the sewer lines that were dug across the back of this lot (when the area was subdivided) were more likely to be the cause of its premature death, as that digging damaged its roots. Now that it has become a Nurse Log, I'm trying to find ways to work it into my landscape plan - if you live in my yard, you work!
It is growing neat mushrooms, and the squirrels love to use it as a highway to the wild, but I've come up with a different job for that giant (it was 45 ft.+). That log is going to hold up the back of my lasagna garden. There's lot of sticks , leaves, worn-out soil, shredded paper (tax time) and compost to build the layers, and then I can plant some sun loving perennials and shrubs to hide that neighbour's shed and deter those hungry deer. I'll post a picture of the finished bed, before it's planted. Right now, while it is in process, it looks disgusting.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Think It Might Be Spring!!

What a difference a year makes! I cannot believe the temperatures out there 9, or 10 degrees in the daytime.This is far too warm for January/February. The sedums are poking up their green sprouts, and the roses have tiny purple leaves on the tips of their branches. Now I must do something drastic about those deer!

Last August, my roses were just looking their best ( I had planted 3 new bushes in the Spring ), when those pesky deer found their little corner, and chomped off all the blooms and most of the leaves as well. I know that they're hungry - after all that doe was raising 2 fawns, but there's lots of other stuff that is just as tasty! I've never been able to understand why they don't eat all those lovely lawns on this cul-de-sac. The neighbours spend hours cutting, and watering them, and the deer just avoid them. Is it the stuff they spray on the grass? Or the variety of grass types used? Perhaps those pesky deer know something about REAL food.