discoveries   22 comments

Posted at 10:13 am in Uncategorized

Hyalophora cecropia moth

The past few weeks have been fairly uneventful. After the hectic effort to add new perennials and several rhododendrons to the garden, the next rush was getting vegetables seeds and plants in place. Frequent rains complicated the process, but also helped to keep the transplants well-watered until they settled in. With the garden somewhat set for the season, I switched gears and began clearing trails through the property. I work on that most days – usually for 4 to 6 hours – using various saws, weed-trimmers and lopping shears. My usual modus operandi is to go out in the cool of the morning and work hard until the afternoon sun makes me so hot and weary that I come stumbling back to the house to rest before returning to drag all of the tools home after briefly admiring that day’s handiwork. Sometime soon, I’ll put up a post with some photos and and perhaps even a grand video tour of the property.

Actias luna moth

After resting up after each morning’s trail building foray, I turn my attention to gardening, clean-up, maintenance, cooking, and laundry. About once a week, I do a supply run to Annapolis Royal for groceries. On the same outing, I also make a side trip to fill about twenty 1-gallon plastic jugs with water from a spring that, rather conveniently, emerges from a hillside next to a quiet country road. Spring water is used for drinking, cooking and washing up. Rain water is used for laundry and watering the garden. As mentioned in the past, clothes are washed in a tub using a canoe paddle. Most cooking is done in an electric frying pan – everything from simple fare for the dogs and me, to more elaborate offerings for visitors – of which we have not had too many thus far.

Saturday mornings, I make an effort to go to the Annapolis Royal farmers’ market to splurge a few dollars on fresh baked bread or pastries, jam, early vegetables, and sometimes a piece by a local artisan. I will try to post a few photos of these items sometime soon.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant – 100cm (about 40 inches) tall.

By night, I turn on the moth lamp for awhile. Thus far, it has been a very quiet spring with only 2 or 3 memorable evenings. On one of those nights, I had both a Hyalophora cecropia and an Actias luna come to the light (see photos above – click on images to see larger views).

As I work around the property by day, I watch for flora and fauna that I might otherwise miss if too preoccupied. As mentioned not long ago, I am participating in the Maritimes Butterfly Atlassing project, so usually bring my camera and a butterfly net along to hang on a branch near whatever spot I am working. From time to time, I toss down my saw and grab for a net or the camera to “capture” a specimen for my records. I don’t collect insect specimens, so most are released after being photographed, unless I have been asked to collect for someone else doing research.

One of my nicest discoveries in recent days was the tallest Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant that I have ever seen. It measured slightly more than 100 cm tall – about 40 inches. The above photo shows the plant next to a measuring tape which I walked back to the house to get as I just had to make a record of such an astounding find. It was growing with some less robust neighbours, in a boggy seep which was revealed in the course of my trail-building activities. For those unfamiliar with the Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant, here is a fuzzy shot of the spathe, the shape of which gives the plant its name.

Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) in kitchen

The most recent discovery has been the identity of the vandals who have been knocking things off the kitchen counter and table when I am outdoors or busy in some other part of the house. The intruders have been revealed to be Red Squirrels, of which there are many in this area. They have become so bold that the will enter the kitchen to grab food even when I am in the room. They are quite unafraid of the dogs to the point that, yesterday, One circled Sabrina while she lay sleeping on the kitchen floor. It sniffed at her toes and stopped to look at her face from mere inches away. Sage will rush up as they sit on the window sill, but is unsure of what action, if any, to take. They soon realized that they are in little danger from her and began exploring further into the house. Last night, I finally had enough after one ran in and out of my bedroom, so blocked off the kitchen windows with rabbit cage wire. This morning, they are glaring into the kitchen but have yet to try to get past the mesh. With any luck, they will give up and go elsewhere to search for food.

More photos and updates sometime soon.

Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) stealing pasta

Written by bev wigney on June 30th, 2011

22 Responses to 'discoveries'

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  1. Fantastic moths you have there, Bev. I’ve only seen a Ceanothus silk moth (a hylaphora) once, and that was so many years ago. Absolutely a stunning, memorable beauty, much like the hylaphora you have here, but in shades of pink. Our neighbors told us that there are some fine species of moth here but I haven’t ever tried a moth lamp.

    Glad you put up the rabbit cage wire on the windows. Squirrels are very bold little creatures.

    robin andrea

    30 Jun 11 at 10:31 am

  2. Beautiful photo of the cecropia moth. It’s been years since I’ve seen that species.

    Larry Ayers

    30 Jun 11 at 10:51 am

  3. cute visitors but better window peepers! the moths are beautiful.

    i would worry about snakes coming in.


    30 Jun 11 at 11:15 am

  4. brazen rodents. Thought of you last night – out here taking a property for a “trial run,” as it were – so many interesting creatures swarming the outside lights and resting on the window panes. I don’t know my moths, but I could certainly learn some out here. Today, for over an hour, crows and some other birds were screaming. Screaming. Like women or children. Never heard corvids do such things, but I saw one of the crows open its mouth as the sound came out, so I know some of the screaming was them. One flew by with something pink in its beak, chased by something else. It was an awful racket, actually. Maybe crows and other scavengers fighting over a carcass? Or birds nipping off each others’ young? An education awaits out here, clearly.


    30 Jun 11 at 1:04 pm

  5. robin – Yes, it was a lot more peaceful around the house today – nothing fallin from counters, and Sage rushing to the window to see what the squirrels are up to.

    Larry – Thanks! I never had cecropia come to the moth sheet back in Ontario. The only Cecropia caterpillars I found were badly parasitized, so I expect that had a lot to do with the scarcity. May not be as much of a problem here in Nova Scotia – luckily!

    Sky – Very few species of snakes here in Nova Scotia, and all are harmless, so not really a concern.

    Megan – Wow! I am imagining a little Eden as far as wildlife is concerned! sounds like the kind of place I would feel right at home. Do you think you might relocate? Regarding corvids. Yes, crows can make quite a range of bizarre calls that sound human at times. They are also into predation of nests of birds and squirrels, so that is likely what you glimpsed.

    bev wigney

    30 Jun 11 at 2:15 pm

  6. While Aleta was painting I told her the story of how the Red Squirrel got its nerve. First the squirrel invented the felt-tip marker, and drew a snazzy racing strip along its sides between the red and white fur. Feeling that if it looked that sharp, it ought to have accomplishments, it scouted out birds, and invented the raw-egg omelette. This achieved, it figured it had better get into land development, so it cut the cones off Black Spruces, producing a distinctively clumpy skyline that greatly increased real estate values, and then dug underground condominiums in the piles of resulting scales. Feeling the need to further control its environment, it leat onto the ears of passing Bears, and clung to their heads, shouting so loudly that they chose to hibernate for half the year, rather than going deaf by listening to Squirrels. Satisfied that this was just a start, it stood up on branches, telling everyone, except Martens, how invulnerable it was to predation.


    30 Jun 11 at 6:31 pm

  7. Ha! I can imagine a Red Squirrel doingbjust about any of those things. Back when I had the Ford Ranger 4×4, the squirrels packed so many pine cones and torn up pink fiberglass insulation around the throttle body that the linkage jammed and the engine revved until it sounded like it would blow up. Then there was the time the killer squirrel kept beating up the rabbit that came to eat spilled seeds under the bird feeder. Then there was the time the squirrel cached apples in the maple tree and chased any blue jay that landed on any branch….

    bev wigney

    30 Jun 11 at 6:59 pm

  8. Oh WOW….. a gorgeous cecropia, a species I have not seen in yonks. We do see lunas from time to time in the Lanark Highlands, but that cecropia is stunning. These are two of my favorite moths ever.


    1 Jul 11 at 7:03 am


    This is the place I’m considering. Belongs to friends of matt’s who are moving out of the country. He was here when they bought it to discuss some renovations, though he never got to do them. We weren’t out here together, so I don’t see him here. Lots of things to learn – birds, moths. Other things. I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing, or if I am doing anything. Bleh. I can have a ten year lease out here, if I want one, and have goats or pigs or whatever. Clearly, I am not committed.


    1 Jul 11 at 8:46 am

  10. Cate – Yes, how cool to have Acecropia showing up at the light here! (-:

    Megan – I am probably the wrong person to be offering an opinion, but damn… what are you waiting for!! However, I guess there are practical considerations – affordability, how much to heat the place in winter, would you feel too isolated from the rest of the world, is it far from there to the places you identify as home. Maybe some of those won’t matter to you. Boris looks right at home there. It has a real good feel to it from what I can see.

    bev wigney

    1 Jul 11 at 9:26 am

  11. That’s what I was thinking yesterday afternoon – wondering if it would be insane not to take it. It costs around what I’m paying now, but heat is a concern. They never lived here full time, so their heating costs aren’t accurate. It was heated minimally this last winter, and there is maybe a season’s worth of firewood in the basement. It’s an hour from our home area. It’s not too isolated, and there are other small farmers and artists around (goats, sheep, and geese .2 mi away, ducks, chickens, and some kind of metal sculptor .3 miles, and an herbalist half a mile away). It’s private, but not completely – cars go by at commuting times of day. No big logging trucks barreling by. I lived for a long time (pre-matt) in a wasteland-isolated area, an hour to an awful little depressed, conservative area, no one “like me” around anywhere. I always told matt I wanted to be within an hour of a good city, or so far out that you need a by-plane to get there.

    The place would need my energy built up in it, I think that is one of the things getting me right now – it isn’t home, we were never here together, I can’t look around and see his hand here anywhere. But there are changes coming where I live now, good, bad, or neutral – the house is for sale. I’m not ready to jump from what is left of our life, but I may be being jumped.

    The barn and studio don’t have water to them, but the studio is heated. There’s a kiln. Awesome.


    1 Jul 11 at 10:09 am

  12. Bi-plane.


    1 Jul 11 at 10:11 am

  13. it also puts me an hour from any population base for catering – that is in the decision-making mix as well.


    1 Jul 11 at 10:18 am

  14. megan – Yes, it does sound pretty awesome in a lot of ways. I hate to recommend anything based in my own coping strategies, but you night find that a place that requires a lot of yourself – garden maintenance, heating with wood in winter, looking after a few animals, might actually helo you to feel better. It does that for me. When I am too inactive, the sadness overwhelms me. I am best working on things. I did wonder how it might impact on a catering buisness like the one you have been contemplating. Then again – sometimes a change in venue can have a positive effect on a business plan – perhaps closer contact with organic food suppliers, or a different idea all together. Are there any farmers’ markets in the immediate or general area? If you could do something that you could sell from the house, do you think there is enough commuter traffic that you might be able to cash in on that. Years ago, I thought there might be a business in making food to go to sell to people who were already passing by our farm on their way home. The food would still be hot when they got to their house, unlike if they bought it in the city and took it home from there. You could make Better Food than what they would get at most take-outs. Another thought if you were there a bit longer term – a woman near where my husband lived – ran a very successful cut flower biz right from her garden with a little roadside kiosk. Unfortunately, tpher place was eventually expropriated when a new overpass was built. Anyhow, depending on zoning, the owner’s thoughts on the ideam etc.. perhaps you could even set-uo something that woud help to market stuff made by yourself and others in the area if they have no good venue at the moment. Not suggesting any of these things but just tossing some ideas out for consideration. I try to resist getting stuck on one plan as maybe something better is actually waiting to happen. Maybe the opportunity of being abke to rent this place at the same time that things are undecided with your preent place, will open different doors if you can think of something to do there. Anyhow, it sure looks like an insoiring place and also sounds like you might find yourself in the midst of a nice community of like-minded people.

    bev wigney

    1 Jul 11 at 10:34 am

  15. Physical work is what helps me, too. There is a lot to do here, and that part is great. It’s the fear of leaving where we lived that is getting me. It all happened, stopped, in that one instant, and I am loathe to make more of that life disappear. Out here – there are farmers’ markets about an hour in each direction. I think there is enough traffic to sell eggs and maybe flowers. I would build a wood burning pizza/bread oven outside, and I could time that right to sell still warm. I was thinking cut flowers, dairy goats, and honey as the fantasial business plan, and the owners are willing to let me do anything I want. I can put in fencing, build new structures – anything. They love matt, and they love this place, and they want to do whatever they can to care for me. That, and they want the place rented by someone they trust, and it helps them financially. The barn is small; half of it is studio space. Most of the acreage is in scrub brush now. The previous owners had it selectively logged (which they regretted), but I can’t really see that second growth part from here on the porch. It’s 11 acres. It really does make sense to be here – I mean, when does a place like this happen? Timed so well with changes at my house, changes at the farm where I’ve been. I move pretty slowly in myself these days, so if they’ll let me sit with it awhile, just wonder about it –

    They plan on leaving at the end of august. I wouldn’t move probably until after our birthdays in october, just to let myself ease into it, and to move the perennials at the right time, and move the bees.


    1 Jul 11 at 11:19 am

  16. megan – You know, this really does sound like an amazing opportunity. The idea of the pizza oven is awesome. I do think that if you thought of what you could sell – hen’s eggs, duck eggs, or whatever, flowers, honey, maybe sell the odd thing for other oeople too – maple syrup if there are people in the back country that might like to sell through you. An old friend had a roadside honey shop biz for many years – sold honey, beeswax candles, bird houses, health bars made using honey, and a few other things like that. Add in those extras and maybe you would have yourself a nice business. If you got a few goats, they would do a pretty quick job of brush clearing – my goats cleaned up our property in no time. I think there are other possibilities you might find yourself falling into in time – maybe a low key dog daycare for a dog or two each day -stuff like that – or garden art – I am thinking of getting into doing mosaic garden stuff next year if I get enough finished on this house by then. One thing, you are very lucky that this place is in nice shape and is so suited to doing many things – and that the owners feel as theiy do. I can well imagine that they would be very happy to have you there looking after their place as they know they can trust you and that you care. As for feeling that you might be losing more of the life that you had, I think you will find that won’t be as much of a problem as concerns you. I kind of thought that the first time I left the farm, but when I left, it was as though Don left with me. When I returned the next spring to sell the farm, I knew he was not there. You probably have enough of his belongings and shared objects, etc,, and your dog, that it will be as though all of you are moving to somewhere where you may be in a better position to do something interesting and build connections to a good communityl. JUst my opinion of course, but it sure sounds ideal.

    bev wigney

    1 Jul 11 at 11:37 am

  17. Hyalophora cecropia moth. Love the feathery headdress! Amazing that such color and beauty is part of the night. And fred’s story about the nature of the Red Squirrel in response to your photos (-:

    As you continue to work on your home in Nova Scotia, the words:

    “…work is love made visible,”

    come to my mind.


    2 Jul 11 at 11:46 am

  18. am – Yes, isn’t it interesting how so many night flying moths have such intricate or colorful patterns? Of course, something I have found over the years is that many of these moths become quite invisible when they are at rest on tree bark or leaves during the daylight hours. I enjoyed fred’s story too – and “…work is love made visible”. Yes, it is.

    bev wigney

    2 Jul 11 at 10:03 pm

  19. Hi Bev

    The moths are really impressive. I had to smile when I saw the red squirrel in the kitchen we have encountered some fairly aggressive individuals in our day. It is amazing how so much nerve fits in such a small package.



    4 Jul 11 at 8:24 pm

  20. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I haven’t been so tickled by a photo in a very great while. I’ve had red squirrels in my back yard for only a year now, but have NEVER had any knocking on my window panes 🙂

    I love your passion for bugs. What wonderful creatures. I had my first mantis fly this year . . . and Oh! the delightful caterpillar of the Imperial Moth:


    16 Sep 11 at 10:27 pm

  21. Cathy – Great photo fo the Imperial Moth caterpillar. I have never seen one, but some day. Neat that you got to see a mantis fly this summer. It seems that quite a few people were reporting them from Ohio, Michigan and other states south of the Great Lakes. I wonder if there was an unusual abundance of them this year?

    bev wigney

    17 Sep 11 at 4:14 pm

  22. “I wonder if there was an unusual abundance of them this year?”

    Good question!

    As I said. My first- ever. Now that’s really interesting that there seems to have been a ‘bloom’ of ’em.


    17 Sep 11 at 4:54 pm

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