Thursday, February 26, 2015

Donkey Business

I think I may have fallen in love again. With donkeys!

Embedded image permalink
Hello there!
When is the last time you saw a donkey? Was it here in Canada or in the US? Or was it in some other far-away country? I don't think it's my imagination that we are not a donkey-loving or -employing society in Canada, probably just as well given our harsh winters. 

Embedded image permalink

I've always loved anything to do with horses, except recently, thoroughbred racing, which I now have trouble watching, having seen a couple of horses break down during or after a race. Too. Awful.

Recently in my Twitter Feed a photo was re-tweeted from The Donkey Sanctuary in the UK and now I'm learning more about these adorable creatures.

The Donkey Sanctuary, founded  in 1969, is located in Devon, in the south of England and consists of 7 different farms, several of them with a ton of property with barns and spacious fields for grazing and other donkey pursuits. With thousands of donkeys spread throughout the farms, this is a very large operation!

The Sanctuary is publicly-funded and for that reason is open to the public 365 days a year. In addition to caring for donkeys needing a home, the Sanctuary also looks after donkeys needing special or medical care, those who are elderly and mules too. The staff offers free courses to the public on donkey care, veterinary needs and behavior. The Sanctuary has enough acreage to provide its own hay and it recycles composted manure back onto the fields as well as using a willow grove to help with dirty water recycling. Wildlife is encouraged and all in all, it sounds like an equine paradise.

As if all this isn't enough, the Sanctuary supports international donkey initiatives (though not in North America), provides riding therapy for special needs children and adults in multiple cities, carries out non-invasive donkey research and maintains the wildlife habitat on the farms.

There are several web cams. If you'd like a peek inside the Main Barn, click here.
FAIR WARNING: animal and bird web cams are slightly addictive :D

Here are a few interesting things I've learned so far:
  • donkeys used to be considered small horses.
  • research shows that donkeys are NOT small horses and their needs are quite different. They are their own unique equine species and no assumptions should be made about their care and handling. Treating them like horses may even be harmful. They don't even have the same diet!
  • donkeys do not have waterproof coats like horses, so must have access to warm dry quarters during wet or cold weather. If outside on a cold wintry day, they need to wear a warm blanket.
Seonaid in the snow in Scotland

 If it's going to be cold overnight and you don't have a warm barn, you will need to bring your donkey(s) into your house for the night ;)

 Embedded image permalink
  • heat lamps in the barns at The Donkey Sanctuary help to keep the donkeys cozy during the colder months.
  • donkeys at the Sanctuary are free-range and can access the out- or in-doors at will.
  • donkeys are naturally friendly and curious. This is Whistle:
Embedded image permalink
  • donkeys smile a lot
Embedded image permalink
  • they like a good cuddle
  • donkeys like a good back scratch (who doesn't!)

and a good roll every now and again

Embedded image permalink
  • donkeys can be adopted.

  • donkeys are quite fragile and need to be monitored closely for changes in behavior. Because they are stoic creatures, they tend not to show pain, so their medical condition can become acute very quickly.
  • there is a Donkey Breed Society with its own standards and rules for showing donkeys at agricultural shows.
  • donkeys are gregarious and will not thrive if there is not a companion donkey.

  • donkeys and horses can be friends.
  •  donkeys also love human companionship, coming by often for hugs and kisses.

    Darcy Ball with Claire at Woods Farm

    • those big ears? Good for excellent hearing and a cooling mechanism in their native desert habitat.
    • donkeys enjoy lying down for a snooze

    • snoozing seems to happen early in the evening. When I check on them in the middle of the UK night, there are always a few dozing, either on their feet or lying down, but always many donkeys actively munching on the straw, a typical equine behavior.
    • donkeys love to play
    Embedded image permalink

    • donkeys do not neigh like horses. They have a lengthy bray: 

    • donkeys come in different types and sizes: jacks (male), jennets or jennys (female) ranging in size from miniature (36" and under) to Mammoth (54" for jennets and 56" for jacks)
    • at the Donkey Sanctuary gelded jacks wear red necklaces and jennets, yellow, all with names on them.
    • donkeys are gentle and thoughtful and make excellent companions for children, who should be taught equine handling for the safety of all concerned.
    Embedded image permalink

    • apparently Elton John has donkeys in his back garden and his barn is modeled after Windsor Castle.
    Embedded image permalinkEmbedded image permalink

    With all this looking around at donkeys, I at last discovered that there are indeed donkeys in Canada! There is not only a breed association for them, The Canadian Donkey and Mule Association, there is even a donkey sanctuary within a couple hours drive from where I live in Ontario: also called The Donkey Sanctuary, it is west of Toronto, near Guelph. This sanctuary, started in 1992, is modeled after the one in England and in consultation with them. To date 142 donkeys have found a lifelong home here.

    The Donkey Sanctuary (Ontario)  welcomes visits from the public from May to October on Wednesdays and Sundays. During a visit you may visit your donkey if you have sponsored one (minimum $50/year), brush a donkey, watch a donkey care demonstration, hike the nature trails, have a picnic and visit the boutique. While there is no admission fee, a donation on each visit is suggested (see their website)

    Here's a video tour of the Donkey Sanctuary in Guelph, Ontario.

    The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada has a YouTube Channel with more interesting (at least to me- smiley face) videos chock full of information. Click here. I particularly recommend "Donkey Talk by Kim Hayes".

    By the way, there are volunteer opportunities at The (Ontario) Donkey Sanctuary.

    Late News: Just a day before this post was to be published, I came across yet another Canadian donkey sanctuary, the PrimRose Donkey Sanctuary which is located in Roseneath, ON, just a ways north of Cobourg.. Here is a very nice video about the PrimRose Donkey Sanctuary.

    They are hoping to expand.

    Donkeys at Slade House Farm
    How sweet are these faces?!

    Tuesday, February 24, 2015

    It's Cold!

    Here in Southern Ontario we might be starting to whine....just a little.

    Extreme Cold Warning in effect for Ontario - South 

    Bare Walls

    Do you ever look at a bare wall on a building somewhere and wish somebody would plant something interesting in front? Or otherwise put colour and interest onto it?

    Embedded image permalink

    Saturday, February 21, 2015

    Winter Trees

    While looking around at tree-related things the other day I came across this interesting event which is coming up next Saturday.


    This event is sponsored by LEAF, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection and improvement of the urban forest.  They work to engage citizens in urban forest stewardship through planting, education and training programs.If I lived just a bit closer to downtown Toronto, this is just the sort of thing I'd go for! Suggested donation $5.

    Friday, February 20, 2015

    A Bird's Eye View

    Here's an interesting project. Do you remember Bill Lishman?

    Image result for bill lishman

    He's the Canadian inventor, artist and nature enthusiast from Ontario who, 30 to 40 years ago, used an ultralight aircraft to fly with migrating birds. There was even a movie in 1996 based on his unique life: Fly Away Home.

    He also built his own unique house, underground.

    Bill lives on part of the Oak Ridges Moraine, a geological landform of rolling hills just north of Toronto that stretches east to west from Rice Lake in the east to the Caledon Hills in the west.

     It's a place of great beauty and natural diversity, with many wild places among the man-made developments and a trail, the Oak Ridges Trail, extending from one end to the other.

    As a photog in addition to being an aviator, Bill has a collection of thousands of photographs of the Oak Ridges Moraine taken from his ultralight that he has decided should go into a book for others to enjoy. This book is being birthed by a modern publishing method: crowd-funding. So far, just over 3/4 of the goal of $10,000 has been raised, with the book is scheduled for release on April 22, Earth Day.

    Proceeds from sale of the book will support  Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM), a coalition of 25 citizen's groups and individuals dedicated to preserving the ecologically sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine in Ontario, Canada. Formed in 1989, its primary goal has been to lobby the Government of Ontario to create legislation to protect the moraine. (Wikipedia)

    The book looks like it will be full of  wonderful photographs. Here are a couple:

    This funding website is an interesting spot to visit, with more pictures and info about the funding.


    There was an article about this project in the Toronto Star on Wednesday, Feb.18 and when I checked that day, as mentioned above, the funding was at about 75% of the target $10,000. When I checked on Thursday morning, the target had been exceeded, so I expect that a lot of Toronto Star readers were quick to jump on board (including me!)

    Thursday, February 19, 2015

    The Maple Leaf Forever

    Pre-July 2013

    Post-July 2013

    The other day was Flag Day in Canada and it seems serendipitous that The Maple Leaf Forever popped up on the news at the same time. People of my generation remember with fondness The Maple Leaf Forever, an anthem written by Alexander Muir in 1867, the year of Confederation. He was supposedly inspired by a large Maple Tree in Toronto at the intersection of Memory Lane and Lang Street.

    The original lyrics had a definite pro-British ring about them.

    The Maple Leaf Forever Tree's photo.     The Maple Leaf Forever Tree's photo.

    In Days of yore, 
    From Britain's shore
    Wolfe the dauntless hero came
    And planted firm Britannia's flag
    On Canada's fair domain.
    Here may it wave,
    Our boast, our pride
    And joined in love together, 
    The thistle, shamrock, rose entwined,
    The Maple Leaf Forever.
    The Maple Leaf
    Our Emblem Dear,
    The Maple Leaf Forever.
    God save our Queen and heaven bless,
    The Maple Leaf Forever.
    At Queenston Heights and Lundy's Lane
    Our brave fathers side by side 
    For freedom's home and loved ones dear,
    Firmly stood and nobly died.
    And so their rights which they maintained,
    We swear to yeild them never.
    Our watchword ever more shall be
    The Maple Leaf Forever
    Our fair Dominion now extends
    From Cape Race to Nootka Sound
    May peace forever be our lot
    And plenty a store abound
    And may those ties of love be ours
    Which discord cannot sever
    And flourish green for freedom's home
    The Maple Leaf Forever

    It's easy to see why the song did not end up as the official Canadian anthem. Through the years alternative lyrics have been put forth, but never seemed to catch on. Pity, since the tune itself is very stirring.

    Here's Anne Murray in 2010 (just before she retired) lip-syncing the song at the very last hockey game held in Maple Leaf Gardens. She is using modified alternative lyrics written by Romanian immigrant Vladimir Radian, who won a CBC Radio contest to find new lyrics for the song in 1997.
    This version was also used by Michel Bublé during the closing ceremony of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, BC

    His lyrics are quite lovely I think:

    O, land of blue unending skies,
    Mountains strong and sparkling snow,
    A scent of freedom in the wind,
    O'er the emerald fields below.

    To thee we brought our hopes, our dreams,
    For thee we stand together,
    Our land of peace, where proudly flies,
    The Maple Leaf forever.

    Long may it wave, and grace our own,
    Blue skies and stormy weather,
    Within my heart, above my home,
    The Maple Leaf forever!

    O, Maple Leaf around the world,
    You speak as you rise high above,
    Of courage, peace and quiet strength,
    Of the Canada that I love.

    Remind us all, our union bound
    By ties we cannot sever,
    Bright flag revered on every ground,
    The Maple Leaf forever!


    Sadly in July 2013 during one of the many terrible storms in Toronto that summer, the iconic maple tree cracked and fell. It was reputedly 160-170 years old.

    People from all over came to visit the tree's remains, taking small mementos of it for themselves. 

    The City of Toronto made the wise decision to save the historic wood and has been offering it to artists and woodworkers for commemorative projects.

    A public Facebook page (the source of many of these photos) has been set up for the tree and there is also a website you can visit to view more pictures of both the large and small pieces of the tree, as well as a complete inventory of all the pieces, their condition and their dimensions. As you would expect in such an old tree, much of the wood was rotted/hollow (it had housed some raccoons)
    and it was probably just a matter of time/storm severity as to when it would fall. (Something to think about if you have large/old trees on or near your property) Even some of the sawdust and shavings were kept.

    Some of the commemorative items produced will be available to the public for purchase. A large piece is being carved into a totem by volunteers of the Ontario Woodcarvers' Association at the Ontario Science Centre where it will remain on permanent display. Council gavels for the City of Toronto have been made out of some of the wood and there are plans to make a new City Council Speaker's Podium. Toronto Zoo was the beneficiary of the wood shavings to use as animal bedding.

    There will be clocks,benches, plaques, paddles, spoons and walking sticks. A flagpole, a table for Canada House in London, UK, Maple Leaf Forever Pens for Canadian Peacekeepers, wig stands for cancer patients, a guitar and a baseball bat are a few of the other proposed projects. All, both public and private, are listed here.

    Finally, The City of Toronto is working with the Green Living Show, Ontario Wood and LEAF* on an exciting opportunity to promote urban wood designs and support urban forestry initiatives in Toronto. Designs using wood from the Maple Leaf Forever tree will be exhibited at the entrance of the Green Living Show. These pieces will be auctioned off during the show with the proceeds used to support LEAF's urban forestry initiatives in Toronto. March 27-29 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Click here for more information on the project.

    * LEAF is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection and improvement of the urban forest.  They work to engage citizens in urban forest stewardship through planting, education and training programs.

    Monday, February 16, 2015

    Pancake Tuesday

    Happy Pancake Tuesday!

    The most interesting part of this cooking demo starts about a third of the way through.

    Saturday, February 14, 2015

    Happy Flag Day Canada!

    50 years ago on Feb. 15 our iconic Maple Leaf Flag officially came into being. These days Canadians are still so proud of their flag and happy that it stands out and is easily spotted around the world. Sometimes looking at the flag while singing O Canada can cause us to cry.

    Embedded image permalink
    Wendy Tancock Design

    Friday, February 13, 2015

    More Valentine Cheer

    I planted this amaryllis in the first week of January and now it's blooming for Valentine's Day. It brings a lot of cheer to the inside when the outside is -17C.

    There are 2 flower stalks with 4 blooms on each stock.

    The second stalk has 2 blooms and 2 developing blooms.

     A cluster of joy.

    Thursday, February 12, 2015

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    Embedded image permalink


    And here's the latest from Gavin at Zen Pencils (Sorry it's so large - it was either that or get out your magnifying glass). Here's what he says,

    This is one of the most-requested quotes I get and I’ve been wanting to adapt it for awhile now. Besides being a wonderful message, the main reason I wanted to feature it was so I could give proper credit to the author. The entire internet seems to think this is a Dr Seuss quote, but it’s actually from Robert Fulgham, the best-selling author of All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten. The origin of the quote was researched by the fantastic Quote Investigator, with the real source being Fulgham’s book True Love. So hopefully this comic helps in giving Mr Fulgham his due. I previously adapted one of his quotes way back in June, 2012.

    And yes, I am super-excited about Episode VII and have watched the teaser countless times. December can’t come soon enough!

    RELATED COMIC: C.S. LEWIS – To Love at All

    - Thanks to everyone who submitted this quote. I hope you all have your own weirdo to spend Valentine’s Day with.

    I would encourage you to visit Zen Pencils to see all the other amazing quotes that Gavin has illustrated. He has them available for sale and if there's a quote that resonates for you but can't find, you can submit it to him. He really is an amazing Aussie.

    Monday, February 9, 2015

    Bluegrass Roots: Sleepy Man Banjo Boys

    These guys are up and comers - so much talent! Their bluegrass talent is all the more surprising since they live in New Jersey.

    The first video is from a couple of years ago. Jonny, the banjo player is 9 and his brothers, Robbie (fiddle) and Tommy (guitar) are 14 and 15.

    They have performed on several TV shows, the Grand Ole Opry and at two TED conferences. Here they are on David Letterman.

    In the third more recent video, Robbie and Tommy are singing a sweet harmony that brings joy to the heart.

    The Sleepy Man Banjo Boys have issued several CD's and music videos and perform live regularly.
    There are more videos on their website and their YouTube channel.

    Can you tell how much I like them? Here's a final bonus video where they're playing their version of Dueling Banjos (revenge of the guitar) Love the way Jonny is perched on the bed.

    Thursday, February 5, 2015


    Those Who Slide Down Must Also Climb Up

    Where do you love to go tobogganing? Click on the editable map below and mark your spot.

    This winter tobogganing and sledding, favourite Canadian wintertime activities, have hit the news headlines. In many towns and cities across Ontario sledding and tobogganing have been banned and so has skating on local ponds, The reason? Fear. Not fear of going downhill, but the fear of municipalities to incur the risk of an insurance claim in the event of an accident.

    Nobody wants injuries when there should be fun. But it seems that a few people have spoiled it for the many. What to do?

    Google to the rescue! The other day they came out with The Great Canadian Tobogganing Map.
    Just zoom into your area and bob(sled)'s your uncle!

    (I'm sorry, I had to delete this map because it was causing all sorts of nasty problems, but you can probably find it here: Great Canadian Tobogganing Map

    If, like me, your tobogganing days are mostly over, here's a video of a North Bay luge run to enjoy:

    And if you're still with me, here's Rick Mercer's take on the tobogganing ban fiasco.

    Finally, this is the 500th post since I started this blog in March 2011. Yay!

    Wednesday, February 4, 2015


    Four cases of measles reported in Toronto yesterday. All four are unrelated. Just shameful in a time when we can easily protect our kids and ourselves!

    Tuesday, February 3, 2015

    Eagle Update

    The Decorah eagles have been doing lots of nestorations in preparation for another season of parenthood. With the onset of longer days they are on schedule to lay the first egg in the latter half of February.

    This season, though, there is a slight hitch: a pair of Great Horned Owls, who generally do not construct their own nests, but use one already built, have set their sights on the current and planned nest of our Decorah Eagles. Mom and Pop Eagle have chased off the interlopers in the middle of the night at least once. As you can imagine, things are a bit tricky, with owls being nocturnal and eagles being diurnal. So it's up in the air :) who will lay claim to the nest by laying the first egg.

    It's fun to see the owls. Here's one of them on Feb. 1 nestling into the recent snow, getting comfortable.

    If you enjoy watching eagles on webcam, here's a link to the Southwest Florida Eagle webcams.

    Thanks to Judy for alerting me to this pair of eagle parents. Being in a more southerly location, breeding season started much earlier than in northeast Iowa and the pair laid 2 eggs just after Christmas. Both hatched, but then, for an unknown reason, one of the chicks died. The beauty of this site is that there are 2 cams so it's interesting to watch both.

    Here's  a screenshot of breakfast this morning.

    Sunday, February 1, 2015


    The Borough Press
    is a UK imprint name of HarperCollins Publishing for fiction. It has such authors as Nathan Filer, Alexander McCall Smith, Joanna Trollope, Va McDermid and Tracy Chevalier.

    Each February The Borough Press has a #bookadayUK challenge on Twitter whereby TBP suggests a catagory of book and readers tweet their suggestions. Here is the challenge for February 2015.

    Embedded image permalink

    The challenge is open to anybody, not just UK residents and if you are on Twitter and enjoy reading, it's worth following or at least looking it up by # on a day with a category that you find interesting. 

    #bookadayUK is a great way to look at books and reading. The conversations may serve to remind us of books not yet read or to reminisce about books read long ago that might deserve a second go.

    Good News: it's actually not necessary to have a twitter account to access #bookadayUK. Here's a link to get you started 

    Boxer Beauty

    Isn't this a handsome fellow?

    Embedded image permalink