Sound of silence

It’s only mid-January, but do the math; we are now in what is colloquially known as the dead of winter. I can’t argue that point. No. Not since I moved away from a main street address situated three doors down from a Tim Hortons, with a queue of impatient commuter cars that stretched, often, well past my door as early as five in the morning.

To deaden the provoking dawn-shattering dinge I would play classical music quietly in the background. The fact is, I had forgotten completely how pleasant the sound of silence really is.

Not so up here in the western reaches of the Markdale area. Three kilometres beyond the urban fringe and a quarter mile south of the main road, with a foot of snow blanketing the ground, it is quiet. The only sound that can be heard is the occasional clank, clank of the county snowplow clearing the main roads and the insistent revving of the large farm tractors as they push aside the snow from the many hidden country lanes on the tree-lined township side roads.

It is nice to wander out in the morning just to breathe the smog free air and absorb the quietness of the snow-covered landscape, with beauty stretching fields beyond our boundaries. I am often greeted by the low recognition moo of Candy, the now fully grown premature calf that we rescued and bottle-fed the year previous. She has her own private shelter out in the newly fenced paddock.

I often roam through the stable an hour or so after chore time just to hear the contented grunts, bleats, and cackles of recognition from the well-fed livestock. The smell of the hay, straw, and concentrates emanating from the different feeding rations bring back a flood of childhood memories.

I, too, spend much of my time in my Canary Castle, as it is at this time of year that I extend the lighting and increase feeding to start their breeding cycle again. That is not as difficult as it might seem, since original domesticated canaries came from the Canary Islands, and, though bred in captivity for several hundred years, their nature-installed biological clock still ticks in sync with their ancestors’ homeland drive of procreation.

This is a fun time for me, as the males sing almost continually, showing off their prowess to the female of their choice. I let them pick their own mate by putting several females in the cage next to a single caged male. Then I watch which female he starts to feed through the wire; that assures that I have a compatible pair.

When properly paired, I put them in their own breeding compartment and hang a tiny screened basket on the inside, high up in the cage. The very next day I add cotton string cut up into two-inch lengths for them to build their own nest. This they usually start within hours, and I have often had them complete their nest and lay their first egg within a couple of days. This year I put them together two days post-Christmas, and the first egg arrived on Dec. 31. Young will be hatching in 14 days. Looks like we are going to be off to a good start in 2012.

By the way, Beta, my blue and gold macaw, enjoys the company of the other birds and continually breaks the silence by shouting “Hello, Hello, Hellooo” to me or anyone else that she spots passing the windows. She is definitely a fun bird and is developing an exceptional vocabulary. But that, in itself, is the makings of a future article. Stay tuned.

Take care, ‘cause we care.



Barrie Hopkins