A Season of New Things

Spring Has Sprung and So Have the Cats

Our cats are so happy to be released from their long winter’s confinement. We’ve had some lovely weather lately and they’re making the best of it. Other creatures, too, are popping out of hibernation.

Yesterday afternoon I looked out and saw Pookie sitting on his haunches on the lawn, with a magpie facing him about two metres away and another one standing about that far away on his right. Lying between the three of them was the limp body of a full-grown gopher. (Aka, thirteen-striped Richardson ground squirrel.) Whatever it was once known as, the dead critter had become the object of a property dispute.

Magpies are thieves; we see it all the time. If the cats catch something and haven’t eaten it yet, there’s usually a magpie peering hopefully from the garage roof or strutting in the grass nearby. And they often work in pairs. Like: “You distract the cat and I’ll grab the corpse.” Even if there’s no loot magpies often work in teams to torment cats.

So when I saw this standoff I opened the window and shooed the magpies away. With the birds gone Pook went back to playing with the thing awhile, even if it offered no exciting resistance. As soon as he got tired of the game and wandered off the magpie was back, snatching bites of the prize, which Pook didn’t tolerate. He rushed back to reclaim the gopher, then a few minutes later our black cat Angus sauntered up and began gnawing on it. Pook went back to wait beside the gopher hole for another one to pop out. Poor gophers. It’s a hard life at the bottom of the food chain.

Angus likely caught the thing in the first place. Pook is a bit of a thief himself. As I said in an earlier post, he’s an invasive species; he has this habit of pushing his nose into whatever interesting meal Angus is eating and slowly takes over the dish. Or mouse. Or whatever. Anyway, an hour later all trace of the victim was gone, so I imagine whatever remains remained when Angus left the magpies snatched.

Tuesday en route to the city we saw ducks in the ponds. This morning my husband opened the window and heard a meadowlark singing. Bliss! I went outside a bit later and heard the honking of a goose. I looked up and saw a line of snow geese headed by what looked like a Canada goose and he was the cheerleader. So spring has returned to our land.

A New Home for My Stuff

Since spring’s a time of beginning again, I’m going to catch that wave and move to a new blog home.

I’ve been contemplating this for awhile, wanting to bring all my writings under one roof but not quite sure how. I shut down Swallow in the Wind a few months back, but still have Christine Composes for my fiction, plus this site. Now I’m going to bring all my writing to Christine’s Collection’s new home. I contemplated a major renovation, but the categories and tags on my posts would all need reworking to fit the new plan. Easier to start from scratch, I decided.

I’ve had a “spare” private blog for a couple of years, using it to test out new themes before going to all the work of installing them on my public sites. Last week I enlisted the help of Bruce at WordPress Support and he’s been guiding me through this move, bless his heart.

Bruce says it’s no problem to switch the domain name for both active sites so that anyone who types in christinegoodnough.com or christine composes.com will land up there. All subscribers from both sites will be switched to the new one. And I will only have one better-organized blog to contend with. This sounds great to me now, given my health issues.

So I’ve been going back and forth for a few days now, carrying and unpacking a few files, scheduling future posts and generally preparing the site for visitors. I’m delighted with the new look, though I’m sticking with this basic layout. I’ve learned how to build Categories into the main menu, now my category “closets” are easily accessible and every genre will have its proper place in the grand scheme.

I thought I’d give you this heads-up a week or so before I do the final move and open the new site for public viewing. But the only difference you’ll find is that this current site will revert back to the pre-domain address of christinegoodnough.wordpress.com, so if you want to check out some post in these archives you’ll need to type in that address. Christine Composes will go back to christineevelynvance.wordpress.com.

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IT’S HOME

This is my response to today’s Word Press Daily prompt word: Abide. Long-time readers may have seen a lot of this, but it lets all you new readers know a bit more about the place where we abide.

Welcome vs Irksome

Though our mornings are usually frosty, the snow of late September is long forgotten here in Sask. November is starting out unseasonably mild for us; Saturday was not only warm and sunny, it was a record high for these parts, beating the high in 1948. I was happy to get at some neglected housekeeping and was outside on my ladder cleaning the kitchen windows. Seeing the weather is supposed to remain quite warm all week I hope to clean more windows.

Today our sunny afternoon was perfect for a walk, though the wind is cool. I made it to the railroad track and back — which isn’t so very far but I can always do this trek again. Every little bit counts toward getting my energy back after my chemo-therapy.

We’ve had a special treat this past month as three blue jays have made our woods their home. They come to check out the bird feeder every morning and several times during the day. Since our feeder is built for smaller birds, I spread seeds on the ground to accommodate them even further. They’re rather noisy at times but we love their colors brightening up the yard and they must realize they’re welcome, for they aren’t easily frightened away..

Today’s daily prompt word is irksome, which brings to mind thoughts of the gluttonous magpies that also show up whenever seeds are offered. One night I spread feed on the ground for the early morning arrival of the jays and the next morning saw 7 or 8 magpies polishing it off. Grrr… They make a big mess rooting through the hanging feeder, too. Seeking their favorite nuts and seeds, tossing everything else to the four winds, they can empty a feeder in short order. Grrr again! A blue jay’s call may be screechy, but magpies have a combination squeal/grunt/oink that sounds like a bunch of pigs are biting each others’ tails.

Cats find magpies irksome because magpies love to tease and torment cats, also to steal their catches. I’ve seen magpies prancing a couple of metres in front of a cat trying to lure it into a chase, especially if the cat’s just killed a mouse. The birds often work in a team; one magpie tries to distract or irritate the cat, inviting a chase so the other can gab the mouse.

One day some years back I saw two magpies teasing our big fluffy cat, Panda, in the back yard. I watched as one bird strutted a metre in front of her while the other snuck up behind and grabbed at her twitching tail. She whipped around to face that one and the bird in front edged closer, wanting to pull at her ears. And those brutes have pretty vicious beaks!

Magpies know people find them irksome. As soon as you show your face and make a few motions they’re off into the trees. Folks say the crafty birds can spot a gun barrel half a km away and they don’t stick around to see what you’re aiming at. I’ve many times threatened to get a rifle and learn how to shoot magpies, but I’m a timid sort and fear for my windows, car tires, etc.

On a cheerier note, I see this blog has its 500th follower. Ta-da! Welcome! I appreciate everyone who drops by to read my posts and to express a LIKE — and special I thanks to all 500 of you who FOLLOW my posts.

Wild Honks, Ferocious Edits

I’ve chosen a new Header photo, this one being very seasonally appropriate for us, since thousands of snow geese are passing through our area right now, loitering in the fields en route. Traveling in flocks of hundreds, the birds make cloud-like smudges in the sky as they approach.

Coming home from the city one day my husband and I noticed a grey, trailing cloud above the trees of a woods a couple of miles away. As we got closer we saw the constantly milling, shining forms of snow geese and guessed there must be close to a thousand birds in that one flock. Fifteen minutes later we passed a field with a big white patch — another few hundred snow geese. And our area is just one small stream among their many migration lanes through the prairies.

As most of us know by now, Nov 1st kicks off another NaNoWriMo. Seems so many bloggers mention the event, for better or for worse. Different sites like The Write Practice and Live Write Thrive are giving out advice, encouragement about how to stick with it, some are even offering plotting kits.

Are you joining the Nano writing frenzy this year? I’ve participated a couple of times but now I should rather dig out the rough draft I churned out in 2014 and edit it properly. Ferociously, even.

My husband recently joined the Jerry Jenkins Writing Guild, a course that offers a number of webinars on how to write and edit. I’ve watched several of the “How to become a ferocious editor” lessons where he takes a first page of a story — any member can submit their first page and he’ll pick one or two to use as examples. He shows you the original, then butchers abbreviates it. He’s merciless, but offers explanations all along as to what should be deleted and why. Part of me is very curious — and part of me shudders — to think what he might do with one of my compositions. I have much to learn!

The trouble is, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Once you learn something about editing you can’t help doing it as you read others’ books. Soon you’re saying, “This should have been cut…this should be reworded…this is telling…this is too repetitive,” etc. Why, I was even editing Agatha Christie yesterday! (I enjoy her Tommy & Tuppence mysteries.)

Have you ever taken a writing course you’d recommend? Do you find yourself doing a lot of editing as you read? Have you ever bought an e-book that IYO needed a major editorial overhaul?

Saturday Journal

Saturday Journal

Early this morning I was busing through the east side of Montreal. Trouble is, I needed to get to the northwest corner of the city which meant I needed to change buses and I had no clue. I asked a few drivers which bus I needed to take to get across the city and one said, “Follow me and I’ll take you to the right bus.” I was following along behind him when, for some reason, I stopped to talk to someone — and a moment later when I looked around the driver was nowhere in sight. I scurried around in a panic, but never found him again, nor the right bus.

However, by this point my conscious mind kicked in enough to tell me, “You’re being silly. No matter where you want to go, just take the bus to the nearest Metro, then the right subway line to the main thoroughfare closest to your destination, then get off at that stop and take the metro bus to where you want to go. Simple.” (One of the chief joys of living in Montreal was the efficient transportation system.)

And then I woke all the way up. With a headache. Have you ever noticed how a pain that starts in your sleep — be it a headache or tummy ache or a cramp, will often give you a weird dream? I’ve experienced this many times over the years.

I’m hoping for a nice walk after supper. Today started out as our second day of rain but the clouds seem to be traveling on now and the sun’s peeking through on the western edge. Hopefully there will be some good days ahead when I feel good enough to tackle cleaning the windows. Apart from meals and dishes, so far today I gave Panda a special grooming, washed & put away the laundry and changed our sheets on the bed.

We went into the city yesterday. We left here at 9:15 am and I said to Bob about ten minutes later, “My 9:30 alarm will soon be going off. I wonder if it shuts itself off after so long?” When we got home just before 3pm it was faithfully tinkling its little tune. Bob said, “There’s your answer. Pity the poor cats listening to that all day.”

Memo to self: If you’re going away before 9:30 am, SHUT OFF the computer.

On the way home from Saskatoon we saw our first bunch of snow geese browsing in a field. So we can’t deny that our autumn season is moving right along. The sandhill cranes seem to have gone.

Each day gets a little better for me, though I’m surprised at how long this sick feeling after eating is lingering. Now it’s more a problem when I eat certain (especially oily or greasy) foods. I had peanut butter & honey on my toast a couple of days ago and I won’t do that again for awhile! The Yucky taste/feeling hits me about ten minutes later, but it’s been easily enough controlled by antacids. I consume a LOT of Rolaids. 🙂

Pam, my very good friend and former Robin’s Donuts co-worker, called this afternoon just to chat. Knowing she was thinking of me really made my day. 🙂  She moved to Calgary fifteen years ago but we were such good friend when we worked together and have kept in touch all this time. One of those “Just pick up and carry on from where you left off last time,” friendships. The very best kind, right?

Have a nice “day of rest” tomorrow.

Daily prompt word: Panic

Welcome September!

To think the second day of September is almost gone! Not hard to tell fall’s coming when I look out and see the leaves on the lawn. The weather has held fair so far; today was quite warm in fact, but it’s supposed to cool of steadily during the next few days.

Some hummingbirds are still around. When I first stuck my nose out the door this morning, after I’d let Pookie in, I noticed a hummer peering down at me from the feeder just outside the door. And he stayed put as I shut the door and went past the hallway window and into the kitchen. I don’t know how long they’ll be with us, nor how many there are still around, but they were so frequent at the feeder today that I made fresh juice for them.

Swainson’s Hawk Drops In

Yesterday morning a hawk dropped into the yard and settled on the far side of our driveway not far from the garage. We had a young great-horned owl wander around our yard one morning a few years back, but have never seen a hawk land here before. In fact, when it first lit and strutted around a bit my first thought was “Turkey vulture.” It was dark and had a funny white “patch” on its nose, but I realized that no, this is nowhere near big enough to be a vulture and it has no red on its head.

I eyed it for a few minutes, picking up what particulars I could, then grabbed the binoculars. After a couple of minutes it caught sight of me peering at it through the hallway window — birds have amazing eyesight! — and decided it had a pressing engagement elsewhere.

For those who don’t know what a Swainson’s hawk looks like, here’s an article that describes it. The bird I saw was one of the dark phase, somewhat mottled but mostly dark brown, like the last two in the line of photos.

Our cats are bad for catching things, then leaving them around for other creatures to deal with. Yesterday Pookie must have caught a mother mouse (or shrew?) with a couple of wee babies with her, because he gnawed on the adult and left the little ones lying dead beside her. And left it all near our sidewalk. Yuck! I cleaned the mess up and tossed it, but it gave me a queer dream early this morning. (We were trying to raise a batch of baby gerbils and it was a frustrating with three cats ready to pounce on them. We’d try to find hiding places but it was a futile effort.) Silly how real life things work their way into your dreams.

This afternoon I noticed a couple more birds hopping around in the chokecherry bushes. Good luck to them if they’re hoping for a few berries; I think the robins cleaned every one up before they left. Haven’t seen a robin for about ten days now.

The birds I saw today were migrating warblers. The one could have been a fall blackpoll. They nest further north so we see a few of them coming through in spring when they’re black and white. In fall they are more yellow with distinct black & white wing bars, as this one had. Another warbler I saw today was more solid brown/olive, white tummy, and with a noticeable dot of yellow on its back end. And what fancy name does Audubon have for this one? A “yellow-rump warbler.” (Unless it’s a myrtle warbler. The thing wouldn’t sit still so identification was more guesswork than good vision.)

I also saw a hermit thrush sitting on a fence rail this evening. They are cute, plump little guys with grey coats and white fronts speckled at the throat. Again, we only see them passing through.

To change the subject entirely, I’ve recently gotten interested in an old book series: the Tommy & Tuppence mysteries written by Agatha Christie. I’ve read several; there are only about half a dozen — which is too bad. This series is much milder than her usual murder mysteries; in the one I’m reading now, titled N or M, the year is 1940 and T & T are trying to ferret out a German spy who’s plotting toward an invasion of England. Has anyone else read them?

Apart from that I’ve been working on sewing a dress — very slowly — and planning in my mind the party I’ve going to have at the end of the month to celebrate the end of my chemotherapy. Any suggestions what I should have written on my cake? Something like “THE END” or “It’s OVER!” or “SURVIVOR” or “It’s A Wonderful Life”?