Friday, November 16, 2018


I've been surprised that both White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches have been visiting out feeders.  They're such fun to watch because they walk upside down, down the tree trunks and the feeders.

We've often had at least one White-breasted Nuthatch visit our feeders, usually in a small flock of Chickadees.  They're a really distinctive grey and white bird and are usually seen upside down.  Their enlarged and reversed hind toe helps them hang upside down.

Like chickadees, they take individual sunflower seeds and hammer them open to eat the good part.

They also have a distinctive call which is easy to recognize - a nasal 'hank, hank'..  During summer you're more likely to hear them than see them.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a bit smaller, with a very distinctive eye stripe and rusty brown colour underneath.  We have seen them much less frequently, as they inhabit coniferous tree stands.  We do have numerous blocks of conifers within sight though, so maybe that's why they are visiting.

Like the White-breasted Nuthatch and the Chickadees, they carry seeds away and hammer them open.  We actually have a pair of each species visiting this winter, a highlight of the brd watching season so far.

Linking to:

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Beyond the Wheelchair III

I did get out for coffee today with a couple of friends.  We're training 2 or 3 friends to latch me safely into our wheelchair van, giving me more drivers to call on for outings.  The downtown sidewalk had been plowed, but that still leaves an inch of loose snow/ice to drive through.  No problem for the wheelchair, but guess what once I get home?

Sidewalks here are blown clear by a snowblower that can also scatter grit.  So yes, by the time I got home I was leaving a trail of melted snow and grit through the kitchen and into the living room!  The challenges of using a wheelchair in the winter.

Any suggestions for handling that one?

Some of you asked about the library aisles between the stacks in yesterday's post.  In fact Meaford is getting a new library next year, so a solution is in sight.  I've already expressed my concern, and been assured that all aisles in the new library will be wheelchair friendly.

There are numerous challenges of a more personal nature, which I'm not going to comment on, but life is far more complex than just the fact I now use a wheelchair.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Beyond the Wheelchair II

Disabled parking spaces are only one minor irritation for wheelchair users.  Let's acknowledge first that there are a lot of ways to be disabled, some of which are not visible.  There is a wide variety in mobility for different wheelchair users too, from those completely paralyzed to those who are elderly and need a cane to walk.  So someone might be using a disabled parking space for several different reasons.

Beyond parking though, there are the issues of steps, doorways, aisle widths, and so on.

Unless there are ramps, if a building has steps, a wheelchair user can't access it.  A helper may be able to pull a manual chair up one step at a time, though that can be dangerous for the rider if anything happens.  But an electric chair like mine weighs 300 lbs.  Add my own weight, and this chair isn't going up any steps!  This means you can't easily visit any friends who live in homes with outside steps.

You can't always put a ramp anyplace it's needed either. For example to get up to a front door with a 6" step, I would need a four foot ramp, but I'd also need four feet for the wheelchair to get started.  This is just too tight for safety.  So I'd like a 10 foot wide front porch.  Ours is only 6 feet.  On a related issue, I expect few people give any thought to a second exit in case of fire, but we put a ramp out onto our deck and from there to the grass.  (We have a very low deck, and we did have a house fire).

Once you head inside, doors need to be about 4" wider than the wheelchair, and that's a very narrow minimum.  Even doors that are wide enough may require an immediate sharp turn.  Ideally outside doors need to be 36"; ours are 31" - no wonder there are two big chunks out of the wooden door frame!

Door thresholds are a challenge too, because they can throw the wheels of the chair sideways.  We've had to put several mats down at the door I use to go outside in order to get a smooth passage.  Commercial door thresholds are usually better.

Once you get inside, you have to able to access things.  Our library has an excellent wheelchair entrance, but the stacks don't allow for wheelchair turns at the ends of the rows.  I had to back up 20 feet with only an inch or two to spare on each side.  You really feel trapped!  I've been in stores where you can only get down the main aisles, let alone reach clothes on hangers for example.

Restaurants are a special case.  We've been in several, and had no serious issues, but usually the aisles between tables are not wide enough if other tables are occupied.  And both the rear wheels and the headrest mount on my wheelchair stick out behind my chair, ready to trap any waitress who isn't watchful enough.  Hence my smiley face.

That gives you a rather disorganized taste of what I've been thinking about on our recent excursions.  Overall I've been pleasantly pleased by the access we've found, and by the helpfulness of strangers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Beyond the Wheelchair I

As we adjust to our new (disabled) life here in Meaford, I'm quickly learning all the things that are involved in living in a wheelchair.  Virtually all the friends we run into say something like:  "You're looking great!"  It's nice to have such a positive reaction, but in fact it's all very difficult, challenging and demanding.  I'll try not to sound too negative, but every now and then I'll point out a few of these challenges.

Disabled parking spaces are one issue, though a fairly minor one.  Many of them are not wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair and side-loading van, which requires about 8 feet of space beside the vehicle.

This is the truck beside us when we were out yesterday, about 3 feet short of the space I'd need to unload.  We end up backing out and blocking the aisle while I get loaded.  This says nothing about people who don't have the permits to use these spaces in the first place.
So next time you see one of these, think about those of us, like me, for whom it makes a difference.  This one is in Collingwood, ski runs in the distant background.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Northern Cardinal

A couple of days ago we finally saw a bright red Northern Cardinal outside the back window visiting the feeder for the first time.  With their bright red colour (for the males), cardinals have been an iconic winter bird to see here in southern Ontario for 2 or 3 decades as their population has expanded.

Cardinals are found throughout the eastern half of the United States, but their Canadian range only extends to southern Ontario and a corner of Quebec.  Among bird watchers, it's the bright red males that get the attention.  Their strong piercing whistle in the spring is easily recognizable.

They're  one of the birds that inhabits urban and settled landscapes, and they also do not migrate,  In my experience they like some dense evergreens for shelter like planted pine and spruce trees.  With those available (there are plenty around here), you see Northern Cardinals all year round.

I'm hoping the cardinal will visit us more often during the winter.

 And down around the corner the roof is now on the house, though I'm afraid the picture is blurred.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Veterans' Memorial at Parkwood

In addition to the indoor memorial I featured yesterday, there was a striking outdoor memorial to veterans on the grounds at Parkwood.  From my window it looked a long distance away, but in fact it was just on the far side of the gardens.

The memorial was a 6 column rotunda on the top of a small hill.  I was told it was a popular site for wedding pictures, but was unpopular among resident veterans because it was hard to get too.  (Most of them, like me, are in wheelchairs).

The distant view from my window.

There is a clear symmetrical design to this monument. with a semi-circle below featuring an inscription that reads:

           "This monument is dedicated to the veterans of World War I, II and Korea who
             received treatment and care on the grounds of Westminster Hospital."

Directly behind me when I took the above picture is this small fountain. I often sat here and enjoyed the sound of running water (and a spot in the shade).

The most surprising thing about this monument is that I could find out nothing more - when it was built, why, by who?  It was so striking as a memorial, but no information was available at all.

Here in Meaford, this is the memorial to veterans, today surrounded by wreaths laid this morning.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Remembrance Day

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day here in Canada and other Commonwealth countries.  in the United States it is Veterans Day.  This year I'm struck by the time I spent at Parkwood Institute, which is in part a veteran's hospital, especially for vets from the counties of southwestern Ontario.

Inside the main entrance serving the veterans' wing of the hospital is a long memorial display on one wall.  Central are the symbolic poppies, the cross, and the well known poem by Sargeant John McCrae, 'In Flanders Fields'.

Our children lived around the corner from John McCrae House, now a museum, and went to John McCrae School, so the poem and the person have a special place in our thoughts.  The poem was written during WWI, the end of which was 100 years ago.