Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Raptors (Not the Toronto NBA Team)

On the weekend there was another big horse show in Palgrave, including a World Cup qualifier Grand Prix on Sunday, but what had really caught my eye on the program was the Birds of Prey exhibition. I made sure I was there in plenty of time and I was NOT disappointed!! The show was really well done, very informative and since it was fairly quiet, lots of chance to see the birds up close. We also got to see two of the birds up very close and talk to their handlers, one was the Bald Eagle. These guys knew everything about their charges and were so interesting to talk to, we even got to see their scars! It was awesome to be so close to these magnificent birds and I was able to get some great pictures! (Click on the photos for a full screen view).

The Bald Eagle was a 4 year old male, this is quite young as these birds live to be 30-40 years old. The head and tail feathers of very young birds are totally brown, as they get older they go white. This young bird is still changing and that's why he has the brown streaks, his head will be all white as a fully mature adult.

Not what any rabbit wants to see in its rear view mirror!

This picture shows the relative size and the size of the talons. The wing span of this bird is 7 feet.

Notice the unique eyebrow over the eye which shades and protects it. I had never really noticed this little skin flap until I saw it in this picture.

And my very favourite shot of all:

What a majestic bird, I was thrilled when I saw this shot! Not enhanced in any way, straight from the camera. The National bird of the United States (good choice!!).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

One Hundred ~and~ One

This post marks my one hundredth post to my blog.

AND, today my blog is ONE YEAR old!

My first real introduction to blogs happened on a very sad note. I was contacted by a Sheltie acquaintance when her beloved and extremely talented young Sheltie was suffering from mushroom poisoning. She knew I had also experienced this, and sent me the link to her blog so I could read about what was going on, to see if I could offer any suggestions or if there was anything I thought they might have missed. Unfortunately I could suggest nothing to help. However, as I read through her blog, I became intrigued by the idea of a blog, and I read more blogs. I loved the personal nature of them, the chance to write about the things that were important or interesting to me or about whatever crossed my path. So, I jumped in and started my own blog. I even settled on the same template as that original blog, which suited the writing/photo combination I wanted my blog to achieve. I settled on its name because I didn't want it to be just about the dogs, I wanted it to be about anything and everything that interests ME, a tale of my own fork in the road.

Every blog is a very personal thing and there is no right or wrong way to set one up, just preferences. I set mine up a little differently than some, I'm very happy with it so far and how it has evolved. They say blog posts are like Seinfeld episodes, it's a show about "nothing". People blog about everyday, mundane things, what's going on, what's on their mind, what they see before them. I especially like reading the blog posts of people I know. It's a way to keep in touch, to get to know them better.

When I started blogging, a camera was something we dusted off when we needed dog pictures or we took vacations and, even then, I handed it to Terry. He did the chronicling. While originally thinking a blog is about the written content more than anything else, photos really do make it so much better. Sometimes, you don't even need much more than a good picture. So, since blogging, I now take pictures! Lots of pictures! Considering I use a point and shoot camera, not an SLR, no special lenses, I think my pictures are decent. Blogging accounts for my having taken more pictures in the past year than I have the whole rest of my life, probably times 10! And I think I've improved. And my blog posts too. It's all good!

What's the negative about blogging? I guess you're sort of "out there". Public. Exposed. That part really doesn't bother me, but I can understand that it would bother some people. The only other negative is that you end up spending more time on the computer, and it really does take time. Some posts come easily and some are difficult births. But, personally, I like it and I really like reading other people's blogs too. I even often open a blog of a complete stranger that I stumbled upon while surfing around, because she has music on her blog and I love her playlist, it's just to my taste. To me, a website is what you have when you have something to sell or promote, a blog is fun and personal and can cartwheel in different directions.

I've also developed a spin-off hobby via the blogging, which is an real interest in wild birds. It started with blogging about the Robin's nests this year, and my interest grew as I did reading and research to make sure what I said in my posts was accurate. I've learned a lot and I'm really enjoying it. So there's more birdy stuff to come! This is making me wonder if an even better camera is in my future, because the bird pictures are the fun and challenging pictures to take!

I love all the comments I've received on my blog, the reconnections I've made with friends lost (misplaced?), people who have bought puppies from us, everyone, even strangers!

As long as I'm still enjoying it, I'll continue to blog. I hope others will consider starting a blog as well.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Netta at 13 1/2

Ungroomed and untrimmed, a little scruffy, Ch. Shadypines Viennetta at 13 1/2 years old. Beautiful girl.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Turkeys Are Back!

The turkeys are finally back, showing off the results of their mating season. We usually start seeing them again around August, they were a little later this year. In 2008 they had two hunting seasons for them (spring and fall) instead of one, and apparently there will be two again this year. Whether they are just more wary or reclusive or there really is fewer of them, it's hard to tell. I love seeing them around though.

This picture was taken about a month ago, just down the road from us. These were the first young I had seen this year. It felt great to see them.

This mother with three young ones was on the lawn outside of our bedroom window. I had just spotted them when I noticed a CAT (!?) on the lawn as well, I have no idea where it came from. What will happen now? The cat sprinted towards the turkeys, the four turkeys turned as one and started to run away. Then, having second thoughts, the turkey hen and babies turn around and come back at the cat! This about-face by the turkeys seems to make the cat reconsider and it stops. Soon the turkey hen and cat are no more than a foot apart. So which will it be? Then, it was as if a truce had passed between them, and they agree to ignore each other, the situation diffused. Turkeys too much for a cat? Must be. Almost immediately, the cat's attention falls on something else....the bird feeder is right birds!! But no, I follow the cat's line of sight, straight to the chipmunk on the ground, under the bird feeder as usual, stuffing his face, oblivious to any possibility of a cat appearing from nowhere. CHIPPY!! Quick as lightening the cat shoots through the foliage, I close my eyes at the last second, not wanting to witness his demise. But I have to know, so I slowly open them to look, ready to quickly turn away, fully expecting to see him dangling from the cat's mouth. Minor miracle, he has made it to his nearest hole, the cat is sitting there, foiled. HA! Immense relief! The cat left and I haven't seen him since. It's very rare to see a cat around here, let alone at the same time as turkeys and chasing after my chipmunks, all in the space of less than 5 minutes! You just never know what might unfold before your eyes when you look out the window!

Safe and sound, although I'm sure his little rodent heart got quite the workout!

I thought I saw a puddy tat. I did! I did see a puddy tat!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


There was a 120 foot (yes, not a typo, 120 foot, that's 12 stories high) stand-alone TV antenna that "came with the house" when we bought it. We didn't think about it too much at the time, lots of other things to concentrate on and you don't spend a whole lot of time looking up when you're buying a house. Or at least we didn't (oops). It wasn't in use of course, having long ago been replaced by a tiny satellite dish that works great.

We've watched the tower during huge storms, and it never moved much. I'm sure it was up for at least 30 years, and most of the time, we just forgot about it. Most visitors didn't even notice it, but if you pointed it out, oh my God, that thing is HUGE. Yes, yes it is.

About six years ago, I made a half-hearted attempt to find someone to take it down, with no luck. Well, it's solid and not hurting anything, so we just forgot about it again. However, now we want to cut down some trees in the backyard, one of which is in front of one of the 3 poles for the guy wires for this monstrosity. So we'd be left with a big pole in the middle of the backyard. Plus, it just really needs to come down, because when we go to sell the house, it could be a problem, and who wants to scramble around then. So this time, it WILL come down no matter what it takes to find someone to do it, which, as it turned out, took most of the summer. I had even started to look into cranes, which one person suggested was the only way it would get gone.

How do you find someone who can handle this job? Which, if it falls the wrong way, could take out your whole house. We wanted someone who respected the difficulty, but felt they could do it safely. Many wouldn't even attempt it. Of those who would, they ran the gamut from "attaching one end of a rope to it and the other end to a pick up truck and just give 'er" ....(ummm, no), to "one guy will hold on to a guy wire over here, and one guy hanging on over there" (no..!! NEXT!!) until we called our "tree guy" to see if he knew of someone who could do it, and he said HE could. He went off and planned it all out, we liked the sound of his plan, and last week, it came down.

The antenna, right beside the kennel building, which is right beside the house. While it was sitting on a concrete pad, we we all a little shocked to discover it wasn't bolted down. We had to bolt it down before taking it down, because everyone was worried about the kick back, which would go right through the building.

Yes, that's our antenna reaching for the sky just left of middle. This picture was taken from 1.5 kilometres away. Kind of a landmark, every person in the area I phoned about removing it, were aware of it! Now planes can safely fly over our house once again (gg).

From the front, that's our garage. Everyone said the same thing, WHO puts up an antenna this big, and why? And how did they do it?! Both a mystery. We've cursed that "who" a few times!

One of the three poles around the property for the guy wires. There were 15 guy wires in total, 5 to a pole, all of six strand metal cable.

We took all the dog run panels down, just in case, and of course, moved all the dogs into the house. These ropes were some of the prep for the bottom of the antenna tower. They were attached to trees and trucks.

Roping up the top. Starting to cut some of the 15 guy wires.

In the end, instead of falling straight ahead as it was supposed to, it fell to the side into the trees (away from the buildings). All ended well, although it made it tricky for them to get it out of the trees, they had to cut it into pieces and keep pulling it downwards. They tried so hard to keep it away from the house that they overcompensated too much the other way.

How it came down, not quite as planned, but all good.

Getting it out of the trees, three large pieces and more to come. Huge, huge relief when the whole thing was finally on the ground.

This short video shows the beast coming down. We had set the video camera up on a tripod facing the direction it was "supposed" to fall in. Since it never did "fall" to the ground we didn't get the big bang and bounce we expected, but we didn't get the big scar in the ground, either. This camera is quite far away but the sound of the metal groaning as it fell was incredible and is captured here.

What a relief to have it GONE!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Labour Day Weekend already! We've been waiting for summer all summer, and it's just finally arrived in the last week. I hope we get a bit more of it before we're face to face with winter once again!

We rarely go away in the summer, leaving those trips for when the weather is bad here. Instead, during our summer weekends we try to do day trips to see and do things that we haven't done before, playing the tourist in our own area. We didn't get to do as much of that this summer because the weather was so bad, and the need to get other things done when the weather was decent. But, we did get to do a few things and since I didn't blog about any of them, I thought I'd cover them all in one "essay".

We'd heard about the Caledon Badlands and they'd even been featured on the front page of the Toronto Star, but we hadn't actually ventured out in that direction to see them. Also called the Cheltenham Badlands, this kind of geological formation is extremely rare in Ontario.

You can walk on the rock, that is someone's head and shoulders in the distance on the left.

In this picture the road and cars in the background and the people on the rock give an idea of the size of the area. It really feels like you have landed on Mars, and looks like nothing else around it.

We also visited St. Jacobs, which is in a Mennonite area and features a large Mennonite Farmers market. It has become extremely popular and was pretty crowded when we went, but the food to be had was AMAZING. Produce, meat, preserves and baked goods, all of which are significantly better than what you can buy anywhere else. The homemade summer sausage is heavenly!

We also visited a quilting centre where we watched Mennonite women stitching a quilt. Stretched out on a l-o-n-g table with chairs down it's length, the women sit together and make the tiny hand stitches. True works of art, the finished quilts on display for sale were gorgeous.

I was fascinated that the stores in the area had drive sheds for their customers to leave their horses and buggies while they shopped, just off the regular car parking lot. The below picture is a drive shed at the local TSC hardware store.

This picture was taken out of the car window as we left the St. Jacobs area, both vehicles are moving. What an interesting lifestyle. These people can do for themselves in a way that the rest of us couldn't if we had to. Good thing we likely won't ever have to!

Driving home after seeing all these horses and buggies and people dressed like a century ago, we pass an exotics farm and see two zebras in a field. Kind of a twilight zone-like contrast to the rest of our day! I had to stop and take pictures.

As soon as I started approaching the fence they came right up to me, making me feel a little nervous at first, because the fence had big squares they could stick half their heads through, but actually, they just seemed as placid as any run of the mill domestic equine! You have to love the coat pattern!

With the stiff, upright mane and the Eeyore-like tail (short coat halfway down the switch-like tail) and in size as well, they are more like donkeys than anything else. Clicking on the picture to enlarge it will show a lighter grey line on the white background between the black stripes. I had no idea what the point of raising these would be, and google says there is none, it's for the novelty of having them. Apparently they need a lot of space and by the looks of the size of this paddock for just two of them, these guys have that.

Right here in Palgrave we have the Caledon Equestrian Centre which is a gorgeous facility. This is where the Equestrian events would have been held if Toronto had won the 2008 Olympic bid, and will be held if Toronto gets the Pan-Am games in 2015. The facility is just a few kilometres down the road from us, there are horse shows there most weekends including some big shows with all the top riders. The Canadian Agility National was held there several years ago, and it was exciting to watch several Shelties of our breeding compete.

The Grand Prix ring gives the illusion of being a large oval with the ground dropping away all around it, with the gorgeous scenery and long views of the Caledon hills in the background. Riders are walking the course prior to the Summer Festival Grand Prix.

Canada's own Ian Millar on Redefin, owned by Susan Grange of Lothlorien Stables here in Caledon (Cheltenham) Ontario. I love this picture of this horse, everything is in the right place and he looks so athletic....beautiful! (Click to enlarge and appreciate)

Ian Millar on Redefin

For my birthday this year I chose to go to the Toronto Zoo. I've been several times before, but it had been a while and I had been wanting to go again. It was a Friday so Terry took the day off and we went together. It was one of the nicest days of the summer.

And finally, FedEx was involved with a charity event for ORBIS, called the "Pull for Sight" in which teams pulled a FedEx Boeing 727 in a timed contest. It was held at the Toronto airport sorting facility, which is huge. It was interesting to see the planes up close and the acres of FedEx trucks!

FedEx Boeing 727 cargo plane, at the Toronto ramp facility.

The rope is attached, ready, set ..... PULL!

There was a runway right behind where we were standing, here is a plane landing. Amazing how busy this airport is, one plane would land, you could see the lights of the next one coming in the distance.

There was something for all the kids! Big and small.

And that's how I spent my summer vacation.