The In-between

The In-between. We’ve all been there.  That phase where one project ends and the next has not yet begun, or as a writer, you finish a book and then wait for the final proof copy to arrive on the doorstep.  That’s where I am right now … waiting.  Morosa is done, available online already (you really should read it), but I have not yet held the print copy. I am not a good waiter (in the non-serving meal sense of the word, although I sucked at that too – more interested in eating food than serving it). The truth is, I lack patience.  I prefer to live in the now or more to the point, which is less viva la vie, namaste, ai carumba; I want everything now.  Some may call me impulsive, but I just stop talking to them if that’s the case. I don’t need nay sayers, or negative Nancys so to speak (not to be taken literally, Nancy).

Back to my current ‘in-between’. To pass the time, I have been studying my garden.  Well, that’s not entirely accurate either. I have been watching the gardeners, with coffee in hand, from the couch. We are just at the tail end of having our garden landscaped professionally.  There are still areas that will require my ‘special touch’ but I will wait for them to finish before I begin.  I don’t wish to show them up and I’ve been tired, no busy. I’ve been busy.

Some of the plants in the new gardens are small and fit nicely underneath my St. Bernard’s paw. But, if they are hardy they should survive. Only the strong flourish around this place. It’s like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom in these parts and the life of perennials is non-exempt.

In a similar vein, this week I discovered, while inbetweening, that red squirrels are the most carnivorous of the squirrel family.  Not to be confused with carniferous, which I erroneously called them when describing the critters to my husband. Carniferous would be more of a meat-eating, cone bearing tree. Something to think about for sure, but that’s for another day.

Anywho, I had no idea squirrels ate meat? I thought they just enjoyed nuts and seeds and chattered in high voices, but no, they also like bird eggs and baby birds. How did I discover this fact you might ask? Well, on a rainy day last week, when there were no landscapers to supervise, I took a walk to the barn. No, not really. I drove the golf cart to the barn. Either way, I went to check on the progress of the baby swallows nesting in the rafters of the barn. I like swallows. They eat a colossal amount of bugs and they swoop and dive at the neighbourhood cats, which I won’t deny amuses me immensely. Every year I try to talk to the swallows about the way they overcrowd their nests, but they don’t listen, they just swoop and swoop and swoop. Simple birds, swoop, swoop, bug, swoop, swoop, bug. Each year inevitably some of the babies fall out of the nest or learn to fly before they have wings (not literally – creates quite a cigar-like visual though doesn’t it?). 

A couple of young’uns had done some cement diving the day before but survived. We swept them into a safe place while the parents supervised from the rafters. In a regular less carnivorous time, this method of bird face plant, sweep and tuck would work out just fine. In time, they would learn to fly and the families would flourish and the poop in the barn would multiply ten-fold, but not this year, no, this year would be different.

I entered the barn slowly, carefully looking underfoot to make sure I didn’t inadvertently end the rescue with a flattening, when I noticed that there were no parental birds swooping at my head.  All was quiet, not a sound could be heard, except for a faint, crunch – crunch and then a swift scurrying of clawed feet. I gripped my coffee cup tighter, instantly regretting my decision to leave the house, and on tenterhooks flipped the light. Feathers were strewn from left to right and right to left and left to right. (Feeling faint, I soon stopped with the back and forth head thing.) Hand over mouth, I turned slowly, no, slower than that, towards the scurrying sound preparing for a beast of epic proportions, only to find a tiny red squirrel perched on the arm of the chair, flossing his gargantuan teeth with a bird feather. He was not pleased with my arrival.

This was no Disney Chip and Dale happily chattering away in a high-pitched sing song melody.This was a smaller version of Cujo, wrapped up in a red squirrel suit, and I was not convinced he would stop at small birds. After securing my coffee lid, I ran from the barn, jumped into my trusty ride and beelined for the house.  My mind turned to the many happy hours I’d enjoyed watching the red squirrels gleefully eating and drinking at my bird feeders and bird bath (I am just that busy). It was all a charade. They weren’t actually happy.  They were stuffing their chops with seed while secretly wishing I’d toss them a chicken leg. All this time, when I thought they were pleasantly co-existing with my feathered friends, they were eyeing them up like roasters.

I could never look at the little critters the same. I made a decision then, well after having another coffee and a small non-meat snack. I would stop feeding the birds for a time so these carnivores in red furry pants would take their vagabond lifestyle and move on.

Their eating regime didn’t mesh with my bird viewing. There is an organic farm next door, they could go there where the air is pure, the grub is free range and sans antibiotics. Probably more granola too. And cheetos, there’d definitely be cheetos.

All this to say, if you find yourself in the ‘inbetween’, you should read Morosa: Book Two of The Viridian Chronicles. It is available now ~ did I mention that? Best to keep busy. 😉





You Shall Not Pass!

Each Spring I am delighted, giddy in fact, when the ice melts, the grass turns green and the summer-time critters show themselves once again. The peeper frogs begin to peep, the birds flit about building nests, the neighbourhood ducks waddle down to my pond and the tom cats spray the fence posts, repeatedly.

It is only a matter of time before the peaceful interlude ends though, and chaos commences. Small featherless birds tumble from nests, misplaced baby bunnies land at the doorstep, injured fawns stumble into the riding ring (okay just once) and the occasional catfish parachutes into the barnyard. (I’ll save that one for another time.)

I pride myself on being somewhat Snow White – like. I have an affinity with nature, I sing-song my way through the woods while fairy-tale animals present me with daisy chains as I spin about in my long flowing dress. La la la…  and end scene. Let’s face it, the similarity ends with liking nature.  I sing like a bag pipe and my milky white complexion is littered with age spots and dammit, I really shouldn’t have scratched those chicken poxes. I do however feel the need to protect the animal kingdom, especially those in peril.

Twice now I have attempted and perhaps succeeded (hard to know, they don’t ever write) to rescue muskrats. A few rent space in our pond. They swim about chewing up the shoreline, drilling holes in the lawn and generally wreaking havoc but they are delightful to watch and Captain and Tennille sang a song about them so nothing more needs to be said. Muskrat Susie and Muskrat Sam can stay.  


My most memorable rescue was quite action packed and full of risk, for me, not the muskrat.  It was a late fall day, in fact, it was snowing for the first time.  Darken the skies a titch and add a little wind ~that’s right ~ now you are in the moment.  I was in the kitchen, washing dishes or more than likely pouring some wine, when I spotted a critter smack-down occurring in our front riding ring.  A small furry brown animal was carrying another small furry brown animal in its jaws while the latter flailed about. I did not have my “Furry Brown Animals of North America” book nearby so I quickly surmised, on my own – I am just that in tune with nature, that the perpetrator was a weasel and the flailing brown thing was a muskrat. Susie or Sam I could not tell but I donned my oven mitts, grabbed a recycling bin, and flew out the door. (after putting my wine down.)

The wind whipped against my face as I stumbled on the uneven ground, nearly falling but righting myself just in time.  I’ll concede it could have been the wine, but more than likely it was the sheer speed with which I travelled that caused me to stagger. I flailed my arms about making intimidating large hand gestures and yelled, “be gone weasel,” or something like that – in any event they were powerful words because the weasel looked at me in utter shock and, for a moment considered whether I was just picking up recycling, but he soon dropped his prey and ran forthwith to the protection of the pond.  Take that weasel!

The poor roughed up muskrat was stunned and unmoving when I arrived on scene – in his mind I am certain he saw a ray of light as I approached and felt comfort knowing help had arrived.  Before carefully manhandling it with my oven-mitted hand to see if it was alive, I checked over my shoulder to ensure the coast was still clear … it wasn’t. 

The weasel was careening toward me, prepared for a take down. Never come between a Nazgul and its prey. These wise words from the Lord of The Rings rang through my brain as I braced myself for a potential weasel mauling.  I quickly looked around, but imagine it was slow motion, to make sure no one was watching and then hurled … no … I didn’t just hurl, I hurled my recycling bin at the charging mustelid (you might need to look that up) and then, channeling my inner demonic weasel voice, I yelled, “You shall not pass!!”  No, that was Gandalf.  I didn’t yell that; that line was not mine.  I yelled, “ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”, which could have been interpreted as I am going to kick your weasel ass or Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I am about to die. Either way the weasel stopped and stood on his little hind legs and just stared at me, agog. I gently punted the unconscious muskrat into the bin and ran for my wine, I mean the house.

I left the bin to the side of my fortress, protected and reasonably safe.  I watched the slightly disoriented Sam or Susie leave when the coast was clear. (From the safety of my kitchen, wine glass in hand.)

Makes me wonder if the fox and weasel are in cahoots – collaborating in order to send me to a home for the bewildered. Can’t imagine what will come next… were they the ones behind the flying catfish debacle? Stay tuned my friends. Stay tuned.




Oh for fox sake!

Discovered an enormous egg in the horse field this morning.  (Much better than the day I discovered a headless chicken but that’s another story and best told after a few drinks.) One of our horses was pushing the immense oval with his nose but I am fairly certain he didn’t lay it. I’ll admit when it cracked I looked just to make sure it wasn’t a foal hatching, but it was just a giant yolk, no joke.

This picture does not accurately represent the moment, the egg was not chocolate (I’m off sugar so this is what I imagined), and I don’t own a horse that has hands instead of hooves, at least not that I am aware of. We’d have a heck of a time keeping gates closed if that were the case… and I would imagine they would be flipping the bird and tossing horse balls at me, often.


But back to my story, so the gargantuan egg, (it gets bigger every time I think about it), belonged to a duck. Granted I am no expert but there are ducks living next door and I put two and two together. I’m smart like that. This of course begs the question: how did the duck egg end up in the horse field? I really had no idea but am now wondering if one of my horses does have hands …

The egg discovery made me think back to when we had chickens on the farm.   I liked them, a lot. They were free range chickens of various colours and breeds all pecking and scratching around the gardens, eating out of the bird feeders and pooping and laying eggs freely throughout the barn and surrounding property.  For a couple of years, everything ran like cluck work. Feed chickens, poop and … eggs.

Our chickens all had names. We tucked them into their coop at night, lovingly counting each one. Frantic searches would ensue if one of our feathered friends was missing but it was usually found in a horse stall or behind the hay (most often not flat).  It wasn’t until Kevin was taken by a hawk and his partner Steve went missing that we realized we were sitting ducks. (see how I brought that around there?)  I guess I was a bit naive when it came to the small livestock. It hadn’t really occurred to me how many other species living nearby also “loved” chicken.

Our evening chicken count was lower each night, our feathered friends were disappearing daily and it wasn’t long before we met our new neighbours … why it was a fox family and they had a hankering for some Kentucky fried. I read somewhere that having a rooster would help to protect the hens but we had little confidence in our feathered fellow to protect the brood. Junior (as we called him) had misread the original job description. At the first sign of danger he would sound the alarm and then run for the hills.

“SAVE YOURSELVES!!”  he would bellow, and then cannon through the back yard, feathers flying and run to the safety of the pond shrubs, not giving the hens a second thought, and not emerging again til dark. We even got a call from a neighbour once to let us know that Junior had packed his little rooster bags and was heading down the road. Our rooster was in fact a ‘chicken’ and maybe not overly wise. It didn’t matter how many times I told him to lay low and stop standing on the top of the manure pile “cock-a-doodle-doing”, he did it anyway.

We trained our basset hound, Ellie Mae, to hunt fox. She was a hound and well, they do that kind of thing, right? However, “hunt” is not the right word. Whenever we yelled “fox” she would break into full cry and run, in most often the other direction, flipping on her ears and occasionally stopping to eat horse poo. This suited me fine, the foxes were just doing what foxes do and Ellie Mae was better suited hunting for the couch. The chickens needed to be cooped, the free-range days were over.

Despite the despair, chaos and ultimate bloodshed, I find myself thinking about getting more chickens. Maybe I could have one of those mobile rolling coops that could be wheeled around the property. I could attach it to my golf cart and in the case of an emergency, just drive ~ I probably wouldn’t even have to put my drink down. On other days, I think about getting one of these…

Spring has sprung and the grass is riz …

Spring has sprung and the grass is riz … I can’t remember how the rest of that goes but it’s not important. This weekend my daughter’s five-year-old horse will be coming back to the farm for the summer.  He spends his winters in a beautiful facility with an indoor arena because he’s young, needs to be ridden and is a bit of a jack… I will leave it at that.  For this reason, I jumped in the golf cart and decided to check out the fence lines to ensure the fortress was secure and he wouldn’t land at a neighbour’s unexpectedly.  I’ll admit I may have suggested a few times that we should ‘set him free’ but I wasn’t serious, at least not then.  Watch this space.

As any pretend farmer like myself learns, fences can be hard work.  Maintenance is constant and wood rots, especially when your property is littered with underground springs.  As I tore around the back 40, golf cart on high, travel mug in hand, wind whipping through my hair, I was reminded of the fence installation when we first moved to the farm.

Not me.      Me.

We were not flush for cash at the time, and we fancied ourselves to be quite the DIYers. It should be noted that over the years we have discovered that this is not the case.  We don’t DIY well.  But back in the day when knowledge was slim and egos were large, we paid to have the post holes dug but we put the cedar posts in the ground ourselves, well, with the help of some dear friends … some of whom I haven’t seen since. Odd.

Water filled every hole and needed to be bailed out before the posts went in. We had tiny buckets and little shovels.  We looked like a crew of morons but we were in the back for the most part and no one could see. At least that’s what I chose to believe.  After a weekend of burly fencing there was only the small section by the road that needed posts inserted.  Early Monday morning as everyone else went back to their real jobs, I went out solo. I planned to put the posts in myself. Why not?  I have skills dammit, I’m a writer for goodness sake.

It was a dewy morning, muddy grass sloshed under foot but other than the birds tweeting and a motionless heron at the pond, the perimeter was clear. My section of remaining post holes skirted the road and surrounded the water. I picked up my first cedar post, all strong-like, bending at the knees, wearing super-cool work gloves ~ I looked the part ~ I had that post on my shoulder in no time — well fairly fast, there may have been a bit of wobbling but whatever, just listen to the story. I positioned the enormous post over the hole and prepared to let ‘er fly when something caught my eye – I immediately dropped my post, creating quite a rut in the mud, it was just that big people, and peered into said hole. Squinting into the murky depths below, I focussed hard, wishing I had night vision (that only happens in books though – have you read The Viridian Chronicles?), but after returning to the house for a flashlight and a quick snack, what should my faux farmer eyes see?  Why it was a webbed footed friend of the frog family and he was not alone ~ he’d brought some kinfolk. Whatever would I do now?

Well, obviously like any other like-minded farm savvy person would do, I constructed a little froggy elevator and took them out one by one.  It took me all morning, face down, head practically inserted in each post hole, rescue apparatus in hand ~ frog saving is slow, they hop, clearly don’t understand English and the slimy f*ck&rs, sweethearts were in every hole.    E-v-e-r-y hole.

“GET – ON – THE – PLATFORM. I – AM – TRYING – TO – SAVE – YOU”, hissed the gargantuan lips from above. The obstructive amphibians did not find my words comforting. All resistance aside, I am proud to say by day’s end I was able to free all frogs and the posts were in the ground; some of them even straight. (well, not that one)  It was this day, when on display for all to see, that I am fairly certain I secured my village idiot status.  I still hold the title.

That’s about right. 

Outing my inner bird nerd.

So, anyone who knows me well, knows I am really into birds ~ and I mean really into birds.  A recent home renovation was inspired by my need for larger windows so I could watch the birds eating at the bird feeders and nesting in our many bird houses. I am proud to say I inherited my bird nerdiness from my late parents.  As a family we would all sit in front of our big windows during a winter storm, drinking coffee, just to see what kind of birds would blow in.  Braving the elements, we would fill the feeders over and over again, often in our pyjamas, so our feathered friends could stay nourished and find a safe haven from mother nature’s wrath.  Our go to book, “Field Guide to the Birds of North America,” was never out of arm’s reach in the event a speedy identification was needed.  “Ah yes, sparrow.” It was a family pastime which resulted in some quality time spent and now looking back, cherished. I try and instill the beauty of birds on my dear teenagers but no matter how often I endlessly rattle on, they still don’t remove their headphones.

With Spring slowly emerging and I should emphasize the slow bit there, I have been enjoying the flurry of activity in the back yard.  Grackles, red winged black birds, those elusive sparrows, robins all gathering dried grasses, small twigs and horse hair (which my shedding horses are more than happy to supply) to line their nests and fill their wee houses.  The bird bickering, pecking, stealing, shoving and general pandemonium at times can be a little less peaceful but nothing a bb gun doesn’t solve.  Just kidding. I only use that with the kids and the occasional spraying tom cat. Okay, I’ll stop. I have no firearms and probably for good reason. I digress.

Now back to nature … my mother-in-law gifted me with the most wonderful bird house this past Christmas and finally this weekend we found the perfect spot. It is now on the open winged market!  Positioned perfectly for viewing from the living room, I happily procrastinate from writing and wait for the first tenants to arrive.  The location is ideal, fairly private but close to town, you know, prime real estate. It will become more private and picturesque when the tri-coloured beech tree in front comes into leaf.  The horse shoe, positioned with the open side up to catch good luck and more than a few bird droppings, is an added bonus for any feathered friend who chooses to live there.  I may host an open house this weekend!

Follow me on Instagram @a.e.outerbridge to get the Friday updates of the geese nesting at our pond.  I am sure goslings are on the way … despite my best efforts, I don’t think mother goose likes me much?