Friday, April 18, 2014

Bird Nerds and Introducing our Nemesis Mr Squirrel

Our newest "semi" rural obsession, and bonus to moving out of the city, has been bird watching.

Now, this isn't much of a stretch for myself (or, reportedly Andrew) as I spent my summers at our cottage with a dad who was obsessed with birds. We had several different kinds of feeders, attract on average 15-20 hummingbirds, had several bird houses for swallows and my dad spent a few years destroying all evidence of any squirrels (yep... a fisherman does not mess around with squirrels).

Within days of setting up two feeders here at the house, Andrew and I were pumped to see chickadees. We were less excited to see that a family of squirrels also love the bird feed. Mr. Squirrel is now our nemesis and Andrew dreams of ways to kill him (hah, sounds creepy... and it is a bit crazy just how much Andrew hates Mr Squirrel).

(Mr Squirrel's handiwork)

Mr Squirrel (which we name ALL of them), has chewed a large hole in our front feeder, effectively spilling all the feed onto the ground. He likes to hang out at the feeder and intimidate the heck out of all our beautiful birds. Therefore, our plan to thwart Mr Squirrel is three-fold:

  1. We somehow find a feeder pole and baffle. Currently it would appear none of the stores have them and we'll probably have to order this off the internet. Yay.
  2. We place the finch feeder on the clothesline. This is actually working, since the current clothesline is made with crappy plastic covered wire that is too slippery for him to climb on. Mr Squirrels now squeak and chipper angrily at the feeder while attempting to climb all the nearest tall bushes and trees. In vain. Hah! Take that! Andrew and I laugh at their frustration.

3. We attract owls (we already heard one last week!) and snakes to eat the squirrels. Yeah!

Thankfully, Mr Squirrel hasn't completely scared away the local birds. Here's what we have seen at our feeders and in our yard to date:
- chickadees. They are ridiculously tame and the cutest little guys ever.
- song sparrows
- robins (I love their song)
- american goldfinches (yeah!)
- juncos
- a mating pair of Hairy Woodpeckers (woo!!!)
- a pair of northern flickers!
- grackles (I actually think they are pretty, with irredescent plumage)
- crows (again, I like them! They have so much personality. It's like have mafia thugs in our yard)
- Great Horned Owl (this we identified by it's call the other night. We actually sat in bed and listened to owl samples until we could match the right one. #nerds )
- morning doves
- American Bald Eagle (yeah! This one Andrew saw circling above the nearby lake)

What we're hoping for:
- Cardinals (I've been putting out cut fruit in the trees to try and attract some)
- hummingbirds (feeder purchased- waiting a few weeks before they migrate up to NS!)
- purple finches
- grosbeaks (big and bossy, but pretty nonetheless)
- Blue Jays (very common in NS, but haven't seen in our yard yet)
- Pileated Woodpecker- this would be amazing!
- scarlet tanager (another reason for the fruit)

Part of our plan to attract more birds (other than simply putting up more feeders, which will happen) is to make our own suet feed (we save our bacon fat for this purpose).

We also need a bird tracking book... and we'll keep a journal!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Anti-Vaccination Movement and Climate Change Deniers

With the bright sunshine outside my window (and our first ever batch of clothes hanging on our clothesline to dry) I wanted to write something positive. I truly did.

But I believe this post has been brewing and burbling up... and needs to be shared.

The anti-vaccination movement reminds me disturbingly of the climate change deniers.

Unless you've been living in a social media black hole (and I'm guessing if you're reading this blog, you haven't) there has been a recent burst in anti-vaccination articles floating around online, on green blogs and on Facebook feeds. It's beyond frustrating and disappointing.

I've thought long and hard about why a group of intelligent and health-conscientious people would completely disregard what scientific evidence is clearly showing and decide to actively distrust all medical professionals on a topic such as vaccines and health.

I think as a "green" movement we've gone a bit too far.

I understand. For the last ten years (and more) we, the green crusaders, have spent time, energy and raised our voices against corporate lies. No really- that sounds melodramatic, except that we've accustomed ourselves to no longer trusting companies to tell us what is "safe" in their products, disappointment in the lack of government action in carbon control and growing feeling that all points of authority have a hidden, corporate agenda.

As a whole medical professionals and Health Sciences are not corporate, corrupt and nor are they in it for the money. Anyone who thinks so has never counted the hours of extra work we (even SLPs) do for our patients- unpaid.

Oh I'm not naive- I do believe that western medicine could be more holistic and not all medical professionals are amazing saints. However, just like I choose to believe information from climatologists over an opinion article, I choose to find the statements and information coming from Health Sciences research and those medical professionals trained in understanding the results and ramifications over crunchy bloggers choosing a "toxic-free" lifestyle.

Up until recently Science has been held aloft, separate. We greenies have scoffed and railed against those choosing to ignore the obvious science behind climate change. It has frustrated us to no end that groups of individuals would be swayed by anti-climate change rhetoric.

But the anti-vaccination movement chooses to ignore the science of what our medical health professionals are telling us. Vaccines are safe, choosing to not vaccinate your child puts our society's (most vulnerable) health at risk with measurable effects of the anti-vaccination movement resulting in increased rates of preventable diseases.

This post isn't about providing links to science-y or opinion articles on the topic. There are plenty already out there and I am not pretending to be an expert in vaccines or disease prevention. What I am sharing is this message: As an environmentally conscious person I *know* critical thinking is essential. Please don't let "critical thinking" devolve into distrust of all. 

The questions I would request you ask yourself are the following:

1. Why is climate science more credible than health science?
2. Why would an entire group of medical professionals, trained to understand (as best we can) the intricacies of human health, lie to the very people they have sworn to help?
3. What do medical professionals stand to gain if you vaccinate your children?
4. What is the point of having "experts" in a field (ie medical professionals) if you are going to distrust their every word?
5. Do you honestly feel you can be an expert in all things?

Critical thinking does NOT mean a mass distrust of all things. Critical thinking means knowing what sources are credible and choosing, from an analytical perspective, which voices (ie experts) to believe.

Allowing our cynicism to spill over into all areas of our lives does not equal calm, informed choice making. I choose to trust in those experts who are trained to understand the subtleties and complexities of human health to help me make informed decisions. And that, is critical thinking.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

#StormCoffee: The Aeropress

As I sit at my impromptu kitchen island breakfast nook six days post spring, the winterpocolypse of Juanabe rages outside my window. In case you are a) not following me on twitter (why aren't you?) or b) reading from somewhere not Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia is being hit with a colossal spring Blizzard complete with hurricane force winds and between 30-40cm of snow.

Today is a Storm Day: laundry is done, #stormchips are purchased (and #stormbeer) along with some power outage supplies (Sent hubby to buy ready to eat foods... he bought apples and cereal...).

Storm Day means everything is special, you just have to tag "storm" in front and voila! Instant excuse for a special moment.

For example: #stormcoffee.

A few weeks ago our lovely friends who are currently living in Exeter, sent us an Aeropress espresso/coffee maker as a housewarming gift. I will admit, I am in love.

(if the pictures look sunny, it's because I took them a few weeks ago...)

It would appear that we are a bit behind the Aeropress bandwagon. A quick search on the internet and you see a whole host of hipster coffee fans drooling over this espresso making doodad. When it comes to coffee, I do want it to be tasty, but if it's too gadget-y than forget it.

Thankfully, the aeropress is easy peasy, low tech and low cleaning maintenance.

What is it:
A cylinder where you have your grinds, pour the almost boiling water (to the handy dandy measuring lines), slowly press the water through the filter and... that's it! You have your espresso.

(Pour the grinds with the handy little funnel deal-y to minimize grind spillage)
Why I like it:
It's a low tech ridiculously easy to use way to make espresso.
It is beyond easy to clean: afterwards you remove the filter and push out the puck of grinds into the compost and rinse out the components. Done.
It involves minimal energy (but then, so does a French press)
The resulting espresso and coffee is much much smoother than our French press.
(Pour the water up to 2 for a double espresso)

(Stir for 10 seconds- yes exactly 10)
Some drawbacks:
It comes with paper filters. Now, there are stainless steel filter options, however from my stainless steel coffee mug research days I am aware that steel products are MUCH more energy intensive and environment damaging than paper. Honestly I'm not sure how many times I'd have to use the aeropress in order to balance the damage done by the mining of the stainless steel vs paper. Also, you can reuse the paper filters several times... which we do.
(SLOWLY plunge for 20 seconds. Yes exactly 20)

Making two coffees in the morning does take more organizational skills since you have to rinse out and pop out the grinds puck after each. That said, no waiting 4 minutes while the water and coffee grinds set like in the French press...
The entire set up is made of plastic (our French press is glass and stainless steel).
mmmm espresso!

(The cute little "puck" at the end!)

Today was a special two #stormcoffee complete with melted dark chocolate icecream syrup. Yum!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Seed Regime: A Naturopathic Update

Why hello there. It would appear March took a break from blogging! New home ownership combined with a hectic work and volunteer life has left little energy for this little ole blog. No worries, I'm back in time for the ├╝ber storm!

I thought I'd take a minute to share an update on the Naturopathic front.

RECAP: due to biological circumstance beyond my control (damn you problem uterus!! *shakes fist*), for about 7 years I was the reluctant champion of the DivaCup. As in, 50-60% of my life was spent on my moontime and the DivaCup saved me loads of money in "feminine products" as well as my sanity.
Two years ago I finally browbeat convinced my (then) GP to send me on some painful testing, specialist appointments, to reveal that I did not have cancer on my ovaries (score!) nor a testosterone secreting tumour (double score!).
And that's where western medicine ended and Naturopathic medicine began. If you want to read about that End (Google Diagnosing Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding) and my latest post on Lying to HealthCare fill yer boots :)

Basically, the end of the middle part of this story is that the Naturopath fixed my DUB for about 80% of my life. Which means that 8 out of 10 months of regular cycle and no spotting equals Happy Dance and Happy Lisa. Cuz let's be real, as awesome as DivaCups are, wearing them at 10-14 day stretches sucks.

Enter "Beginning of Uterus Journey Two". I've decided after a full year of debating, that I will begin sharing about this journey only over at the Booth for a variety of reasons;
a) So I can stop feeling so alone in this path
b) The Booth allows me a measure of privacy that this blog no longer does

Ok those are the big reasons.

JourneyDUB2 has brought many Naturopathic suggestions that have been difficult to follow consistently. I'm terrible at changing.

Except, I seem to be rocking the seed diet!

(second part of the cycle: ground pumpkin and flax seeds)
I'm honestly a bit skeptical, but the Naturopath has put me on a "Seed Regime"... yep, I grind up two tablespoons of different kinds of seeds each night to ingest. It's supposed to help even out hormone levels. Of some sort. I'm kinda fuzzy on the "whys" at the moment (yay for trust in my Naturopathic Doctor!). She recommended ingesting it in yogourt (ick), which is crazy. Instead, I've been making delicious smoothies.

They are ridiculously easy to make, taste amazing and assure I'm getting a good amount of fruit in my diet. I have no idea why I've never done this before. I have a little "seed smoothie" cupboard filled with the finally useful Magic Bullet (hah, I *know* you thought of the "other" bullet, am I right??), a table spoon and bulk organic seeds. My plan over the course of this summer: go to as many u-picks as possible and freeze a shit ton of fruit for smoothies.

In case your like my hubby Andrew and prefer recipes, here's the general gist of my smoothies:
- half a banana (organic is best!)
- half cup of frozen blueberries
- a tablespoon of yogourt
- half cup (ish) of juice of some sort (or water might work)
- sometimes I add a half a pear for extra deliciousness

Since frozen blueberries taste like candy, it's an instant, filling dessert that I have pre-meal. I can't wait to see the Naturopath's surprise when I actually show up to an appointment with successfully following through on one of her recommendations re: diet!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Exploring Nova Scotia: Lawrencetown Beach and Cold Water Surfing

Andrew and I have often wondered how similarly aged friends, in similar (or worse) financial situations, can afford to "Go Down South" every year on vacations. Who has that kind of disposable income?

The Answer we have decided upon: No one. It's all credit card debt and not the smartest spending habits. Although this made us feel better, it didn't get rid of the travel bug.

That said, I've never really been a fan of travelling to a tourist, inauthentic resort to lounge on a beach for week while the citizens of the country I was visiting lounge in poverty, violence or under a dictatorship (Canadians get to travel to Cuba, since we don't care about communism...).

I'd like to be able to say I have visited my own country, my own province- since Canada is more than a bunch of snow (and people saying "eh"). Although right now we do have our fair share of snow....

In any case- last weekend we visited a relatively undiscovered beach: Lawrencetown Beach. It was gorgeous and by far my favourite Haligonian (and arguably Nova Scotian) beach. It's all smooth round rocky beaches with huge, powerful waves and raw unbridled Atlantic ocean. The beach is often quiet over the winter months, with only locals and hardcore cold water surfers.

Yep. Nova Scotia, specifically Lawrencetown Beach is the Mecca for cold water surfing. Surfers come from all over the world to discover the waves (and point breaks) around HRM. Surf boards and nondescript surfers can be seen all over the city. (Check out this fantastic video, ignore that it is by Red Bull, on Nova Scotia surfing...)

(Taken by Kevin R)

 (Taken by Kevin R)
(Two tiny dots just left of the outcrop in the water are the two surfers braving the cold water)