Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city is hip and urban – and you can, too.

Tag: Redevelop (page 1 of 2)

Sugar ants aren’t pests – they’re harmless and helpful!

Photo caption: A legion (hah, get it  – not army, but part thereof!) of sugar ants committed mass suicide in my bottle of honey. In honour of those that might resurrect – I can see some of them will – I pooled it in the sink and gave them a chance to extract themselves (sugar ants are resilient to injury). A few less foolhardy brothers and sisters are supping from the edges.

People don’t know what to make of the teeny-tiny ants that march indoors like school children on spring and summer days (when they should be outside!). They can’t be mistaken for carpenter ants. But, like the many other species that aren’t carpenter ants, all searches end up on results about killing them. As if they were as dangerous as carpenter ants. Carpenter ants won’t hurt you, but their infestations are dangerous to your house – they devour wood.  

Common talk, mass media, and the extermination industry has effectively enabled people to think that insects are disgusting and undesirable. We know this is just flat-out wrongheadedness. All it takes to realize that bugs aren’t your enemy is to observe them objectively, and if that isn’t enough, it always helps to do a little research.

Of course, when you try to do some research, you have to get past the “get rid of” them websites. The truth takes lot more digging. So that’s what this blog post is about.

Tapinoma sessile is the name of this kind of ant. Here’s the path I took:

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How to plant rhubarb seeds

This March, I avoided planting my garden seeds until this past weekend. Though I knew I was blowing the schedule for many seeds, I hadn’t done any additional homework about them until last week. I’ve not even completed the list, but the image above shows you the crops that I should have started earlier, based on our May 3rd frost-free date. See, last year, I thought frost-free was three weeks later; no wonder I had such a paltry garden.

Even starting late, it’s still worthwhile planting your own seeds. I found out last week that a lot of greenhouse seedlings are treated with neonicotinoid pesticides at the seed/seedling stage, and I don’t want anything that will harm native pollinators in my garden. So I used seeds I’ve saved, and some I bought.

Here is a little pictorial of how to plant rhubarb seeds (complete description at this link), which I collected when I was in Ontario and saw a plant that had gone to seed.

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Saving electricity in winter

First, do this test for your electricity efficiency!

the reno-climat program

There’s a difficulty with most so-called economic behaviour in the world: it pays attention only to the first price tag, and rarely to the second. The first price tag is the sticker at the store. The second price tag is the cost of operation and maintenance. Then, there’s also the third – the price you don’t pay, but someone else does. It’s called an externality, and there’s a lot of that going on, and it usually falls to government to pay it – or no one at all.

Truly economic behaviour would consider all prices, including these externalities. For these, a mitigation fee could be paid. I’m going to talk about this now, but first, admire this rubber coaster:

Ontario has a Tire Stewardship Program;
this is one of two coasters I have of recycled rubber.

In Quebec, we pay the Electronic Waste fee when we buy electronics (such as an iPad). We also pay an environmental tax when we buy tires – at $3 per tire. Then, when you want to scrap your tires, you can bring them to any garage that does tire service, no questions asked. They go to a recycling plant. They used to be stockpiled – a good thing to do when recycling technology hasn’t kept pace with the supply – but then, someone accidentally set some ablaze in the early 1990’s. That kicked recycling into high gear! Last summer, Quebec announced that the last stockpiled tires from its various dumps have now all been recycled.

Now I’m going to bring this post back home, so to speak.
When you buy a home, it’s good to consider all the costs. After the purchase price, you first have to pay the mortgage and condo fees; second: annual tax; third and fourth: annual insurance and energy bills; fifth: initial repairs/renovations; sixth: excise/land transfer/”bienvenue” tax and other closing/selling costs. When I was shopping for a home, I created a spreadsheet to track these, along with square footage and features. It helped me consider the value of what I was looking at purchasing.

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Raccoons and other garden visitors

I love having garden visitors of any kind.

A few weeks ago, these two young raccoons spent the day in the tree overtop of my backyard. And then, a couple of nights ago, close to midnight, I heard a sound out back; another raccoon, of course. A young, healthy one had raided the eggshell supply that I keep to mix with the bird seed (or dig into the garden). He had also pulled the pet laundry folded on the park bench down. He seemed to like rubbing his paws all over the towel, that was fun!  Then, he ate some stuff in the garden – leaves, slugs, who knows.

As I started to eat my yogourt, watching him, he fixed his eyes on me in a dim, myopic way, and came up to the patio door to poke his nose into the screen: “Got some for me?” I told him I had a water gun and he better not mess with the screen. Then he picked up and “washed” the spilled eggshells. I turned the patio light off. He quietly retreated back to the park bench; I went to bed.


Squirrel on the shed roof garden

Now that Clyde and Rufus have raised their kids, we have a new squirrel visitor coming by to beg. This one (pictured) wasn’t begging, she was hanging out. The moment I opened the patio door, she scampered off. A favourite spot for the squirrels, they have scooped away the dirt on the shed roof, which has not helped the herbs there keep their moisture. Some play dead until the rain comes back.

Grackle visiting the pond waterfall

If you have a great tolerance for bad photography, you can see the grackle bathing here in the waterfall of the pond. The rocks are submerged below the surface, so bigger birds have confidence to get themselves wet. The pond is a mainstay for the house sparrows, but I have chickadees – I love hearing their arrival! – as well as grackles and starlings visit, and the occasional robin, cardinal, house finch, and rare downy woodpecker also come by.

Two keys to having wildlife enjoy your garden:

  1. have a source of running water, and
  2. have a “messy” garden, with brush piles and lots of wood for perching and shrubbery for hiding in.

The presence of nature in my immediate back yard gives me and my human guests a great feeling of peace – and of course, occasional excitement.

Older posts

Rewilding is about converting your lawn to groundcover (bit by bit!) to native species. This fosters biodiversity. It also creates habitat for urban wildlife. Finally, you'll only trim it 2-3 times per season rather than every 7-10 days!

The green driveway gallery shows you how you can DIY a driveway conversation using my first model as an example. There are other ways to do it, and things I learned in the process and afterward. Please call me at 514-815-5163 for my landscaping service, or to discuss upgrading your driveway.

The work season is April 1st through June 30th, but I install bird strike prevention (to stop birds from crashing into windows and glass balconies) whenever the temperature is above 5ºC. Call the number above or email. It's important to do this earlier rather than later,  in time for bird migrations in late April to end of May, and late August to mid-October.


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