Category Archives: Stories

Feed the Birds, Feed the Soul.

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Today I made a hummingbird feeder.

I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days now, so yesterday I shelled out a few pesos to google “homemade hummingbird feeders”. I got lots of websites, but they all required purchasing some special components then essentially assembling the feeder. When you live in a place that has ready access to such supplies, and when you have a bit of extra cash, it doesn’t even occur to you there are other options. But I am still recovering from the flu, so instead of continuing to ride north on the 1000 mile mule ride I am on, (La Mula Mil) I am staying at Trudi’s, my friend’s house in small town San Ignacio in Baja California Sur on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico and I am watching my pesos and my energy. And even if I wasn’t, there wouldn’t be anywhere for me to buy a “hummingbird feed tube attachment as illustrated.”. 

So, I kept looking. I knew there had to be away to make one from stuff I could find laying around. Once upon a time I could have figured the whole thing out myself, but in the busyness of life, I seemed to have shut off the creative side of my brain sometime in the last few years.

Sure enough I finally found a website. It had a hand-sketched plan for making a hummingbird feeder from found items. It did call for the use of a power drill, which I definitely didn’t have access to, but that’s ok, it was only for going through plastic, I knew I could hack that myself.

So, I rooted through a pile of bottles in the yard until I found a couple that had an indented ring near the bottom, (which will be the top really) so that it would be easier to securely hang it with string. I then found some string in a basket near the plates in the kitchen. (Isn’t that where everyone keeps their string?) I had previously stumbled across Trudi’s stash of plastic ware in the unused oven that serves as a support for the two burner propane stovetop (remember, this is small town Mexico-everything gets re-purposed here!) so I had a small clear plastic container with a tight fitting lid.

I was a bit stuck on the red required to attract hummingbirds. I didn’t have any food colouring, which shouldn’t ever be put in the nectar anyways, it’s bad for the birds. I didn’t have a red felt marker to draw designs, which is just as well as I do girly-girl drawings like flowers and hearts about as well as Charlie Brown flies a kite and is likely the real reason I didn’t become a teacher. Well, that and I didn’t go to university.

Then I remembered that I had a red plastic bag from goodness knows what purchase in what airport, but I figured I could cut it into strips with the little tiny thread scissors I have in my sewing kit.

Now all that was left to do was to come up with a drill substitute. No worries, I was working with plastic, so instead of using a keyhole spade to cut a hole in the container lid wide enough to accept the mouth of the drink bottle, I drew a circle the exact size of said mouth and used my knife to cut an X inside of it so I could work the mouth through then trim off the excess plastic. As you can see from the picture, I didn’t get it in the exact centre, so those of you who know me are already laughing at how barmy it is driving me that it is not perfectly balanced.

Now that I had the hardest part done I moved into the kitchen and heated up the awl on my pocket knife. Well, it’s not really an awl, but it is a Phillips screwdriver head, so close enough for this project. I stuck it in the flame of the propane stove then pushed it through from the top of the lid to the bottom. I wiggled it as it went to make the hole a little bigger. The awl gets really hot, you should avoid touching it with your thumb knuckle. As per usual, I learnt that the hard way, but luckily I was right next to the sink so I could stick my thumb under the cold water.

I made four holes in the container lid for the hummingbirds to sip through, that’s why I wanted the pointy bits pointing into the container so they couldn’t get caught up in them. Then I flipped the whole contraption upside down, so that I could make a hole in the drink lid for the nectar to get through to the clear container. You have to heat the awl even hotter to get through the heavy plastic of the drink lid. Make sure you are still near the sink so that when you accidentally put your finger on the awl you can quickly put it under the cold water to cool it down. Just saying… then again, you are likely not as clumsy as me and either didn’t repeat the earlier mistake or burn yourself the first time even.

Once all the melting of plastic (and burning of flesh) was done, I poured in half the nectar I made yesterday, screwed the drink lid on tight and poured the other half of the nectar in the clear container. Next was the trickiest part, flipping the bottle over so that the nectar would drip into the clear container and pressing the lid of the container on firmly so that when it is hung up it all stays together. I almost did it the other way, yep, almost picked up the container of nectar and turned it over to push it onto the feeder. Luckily I caught myself in time and avoided a “d’oh” moment and a big sugary, ant-attracting mess. I had considered putting all the nectar into the bottle then squeezing it into the container part when it was all assembled but thought that I had a pretty good chance of squeezing too hard and somehow blowing the lid off and making (say it with me!) a big, sugary, ant-attracting mess.

So, then all that was needed was to tie the hanging string around the bottle, add some red ribbons and voila! Hummingbird feeder!

I found a nail already in a beam in the palapa outside the kitchen and managed to hang it up without falling off the chair. Around the area I also added some “flowers” I made from the red bag to further increase my chances of attracting some beautiful flying jewels. 

Then I sat back and enjoyed the rest of my coffee. As I sat there, I ruminated on how much I have always enjoyed making crafty kinda things, and how little of it I have done in the last decade or so. Somehow the fun stuff in life slipped away, replaced by work stuff. Today I rediscovered that joy. Is my feeder “pretty”? No, not really, but I made it myself, it cost me an hour of time and a half cup of sugar. And it will give me hours and hours of pleasure while helping out my feathered friends.

 

 

 

My Father’s Daughter.

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I grew up mainly in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada. I am the oldest, so the first couple of years my mother and I followed my dad’s work in the backwoods of BC. He was a miner and a driller, my mom would sometimes cook for the camp or just take care of me. 

As my siblings came along we settled in Vancouver where my mom had grown up. Dad still worked out of town so we saw him for a couple of weeks every three months or so. Him being on the road was just part of our life. 

When you would ask him how the trip back was, his reply was simply stated as a number of hours. As in, how long it took him. “Hey dad-how was the drive down from Prince George?” His reply-”13 hours”. If he could shave some time off the trip, it was considered to have been a better trip, or so I assumed anyways. 

As the years went by and I got old enough to do my own travelling as a teenager, I too felt the compulsion to get places quickly. “Gotta get there, gotta get there” said the voice in my head. I knew there were things to see but I liked being out front and getting there. 

On bike tours I enjoyed swooping down the hill as fast as possible, although I did learn that if you are towing a bike trailer, that really needs to be a slower speed or you go sideways through the intersection. 

On hikes I enjoyed pushing myself to see how long I could go without a break. Sometimes I barely stopped at the summit to enjoy the view. “Gotta get there, gotta get there”. I often hiked alone and on those days I motored through viewpoints and lunchstops so that I could shave a bit of time off my previous best. “How was the hike Les?” “13 hours!” Ok, well, maybe it was five or eight or even two hours but you get my point I am sure. 

I had friends who hiked quickly, but my two best friends tended to be slower hikers, so I had to learn to move at their pace if I wanted to enjoy my time with them. But in my head I heard that voice, “gotta get there, gotta get there”. 

As I moved into young adulthood I took up photography. There is no way you can move quickly and do photography. You can take snapshots, but you can’t craft great photographs if you are in a hurry. Sometimes you need to get to a certain place by a certain time to get the shot you want, in those cases the “gotta get there” voice comes in handy, but for the most part you just can’t be in a hurry if you want to get the pictures you are aiming for. 

When I was raising my kids, there was always something else demanding my attention; work or later my own business, or my daughter’s therapy appointments or changing laundry loads or something. Still that voice, “gotta get there, gotta get there”. Always a drive to produce, to have things right. There were so many things I was chasing that I didn’t have a perfect house, I wasn’t wonder mom, I was just always chasing those ever-elusive next things on my list.

I knew that I was missing moments, but when I “got there”, when I had enough done, when enough projects were completed, when the paperwork was finished, when the Christmas baking was done, then there would be more time to enjoy the moments.

So many things I missed. The worst part was, even then, I knew that I was missing moments. But I could not stop moving. 

When I began to travel overseas and spend time in third world countries, I couldn’t help but notice, that once you left the cities, people had time to say hello. It didn’t matter if it was Mexico or Nepal or Tanzania, they had time to enjoy the view. I knew then and I know now that their lives are difficult, I hold no romantic notion that poverty allows for a generosity of spirit. But somehow there did seem to be time for at least a hello and a smile. 

I have travelled to Mexico many times. Not to all-inclusives, but to small towns mainly or rural areas. I don’t speak Spanish really, just enough to stumble along if the listener is able to glean intent from my mangling of grammar and pronunciation. I looked around me and saw that even when there were dirt floors and less than solid walls most houses were very clean. Most of the food was made from scratch. It was a lot of work to live like this. Many people back home would comment that “if they worked off the ranch, or harder, or more hours or something” that the folks in rural Mexico would be able to buy more, to have more stuff. Maybe, maybe not. I think that other people who aren’t as bogged down with stuff, look at us, and think that if we weren’t always working to pay for stuff we didn’t need, we would have time to say hello to each other and even enjoy a cup of tea. 

I think my whole culture is caught up with “gotta get there” thinking. The thing is though, we don’t know where “there” is. 

I for one, am learning to enjoy a cup of tea. 🙂