Monday, July 28, 2008

Bike Tour Wrap

Here I am. What a great weekend for the bike tour. I did the entire course the first day and skipped a couple of legs the second day for a total of about 80 kilometres. We had a slight change in the course from last year so had a few added hills. Rather than recap, here's my next article for Atlantic Pedaler e-zine:

Another year, another MS Bike Tour. Wow.

Actually, I took part in two bike tours this summer. The first was in New Brunswick the first weekend in July, the second was the last weekend in July in Nova Scotia. I knew that I would only be riding the first day in the NB tour as I had only been back on the bike for a month at that point and didn't want to push too hard and risk injury. I was ready for two days of riding for the NS tour though. What a rush this event is, for two different reasons.

For years I have been a volunteer at this event, manning a rest stop, driving a support vehicle, working with the ham radio operators or MCing the banquet on Day One. Two years ago, when I began riding a bike to support my boyfriend's efforts at training for the ride, I never imagined I'd be riding, too. But I did last year and now two tours this summer. The idea that I'd be riding a bike for 50 kilometres two days in a row was absolutely unimaginable a couple of years ago. It still gives me a little thrill to think of myself as an athlete. In school I was usually picked last or close to last for team sports so to be able to say that I bike 100 k over two days is exciting.

The other rush comes from thinking about the sheer number of people who fundraise all year long and then give up at least a weekend in the summer to bike in whatever weather Mother Nature throws at them or the people who volunteer to man a rest stop or be a flagger at railroad tracks or fix broken bikes or or or....All those people who come together because they want to support the MS Society. I can't even begin to explain the warm fuzzies I get just thinking about it. It never fails to bring tears to my eyes at least once on the weekend.

And for those interested in numbers, we had around 500 riders registered for the NS ride, with over $475,000 turned in to the MS Society before the weekend. More will trickle in before summer's end.

I would like to thank Ken Trenholme for allowing me to tell you about my experiences with becoming a cyclist in my 40s and as a person with MS and of course for being able to promote the MS Bike Tour through Atlantic Pedaler. I hope that I've entertained, at the very least, and increased awareness about a wonderful event for a wonderful cause.

Enough sappiness. I'll leave you with my Top Ten Clues that you've been bitten by the cycling bug:

10. You start calling everyone close to you "Lance".
9. You experiment with a bicycle powered lawn mower.
8. You think your car looks naked without a bike on it.
7. You match your bike shoes to the colour of your bike.
6. You bring your bike with you when buying a new vehicle to test fit.
5. You sleep in your bike clothes.
4. And shoes.
3. You can't put anything in the trunk of your car because it's full of cycling gear or there's a bike rack on it.
2. You consider getting rid of furniture in your home to make room for bikes.
1. When someone asks how many bikes you need, the answer is always "One more".

Looking back after crossing Sangster's Bridge and halfway up a hill.

Looking in the other direction from Sangster's Bridge. Then on to the top of the hill and what did I find? A hammock. I went to the door of the house, which turns out to be a heritage property. Two lovely ladies were there and took the picture for me and invited me back anytime. I also invited them to join us on the bike tour next year. We just may see them.

This is Geoff Regan, my Member of Parliament in Ottawa. With Cranky Baby of course.
And here's the majority of my team getting ready to bike the last half kilometre to the finish line. We like to finish as a team when possible.
Of course I met a bunch of new people, ran into old friends, and even my neurologist and Member of Parliament were participating. Dr. Murray retired earlier this month, this was his first bike tour. I had sent a request for a donation from my MP as he had given one last year, but I never heard back from him. Imagine my surprise when I saw him at the lunch stop on the first day. He was participating as a rider. That explains why he didn't sponsor me; he was looking for his own sponsors.

The team the Wookie and I ride with are the Cycledelics. Every year we have a theme and this year were known as the Cycle-Dudes. Dressed as surfers with Bermuda shorts and loud shirts, pukka (sp?) shell and hemp necklaces and singing our cheer to the tune of Surfin' USA we were quite a sight - and sound. After the ride yesterday most of us congregated at the home of our captiain for a pool party and planning session for next year's theme. Yes, we get started early. And no, I can't reveal our theme as it's top secret until the Day One of next year's ride.

Today will be spent putting stuff away and writing thank you notes to my donors. And probably a nap.


Friday, July 25, 2008

NS Rona MS Bike Tour

Tonight, the Wookie and I went out to dinner for a little pasta before the big bike ride this weekend. I could have eaten the whole bowl, but I didn't. I'm having the other half of my dinner for breakfast

And I'm not quite cheating on my weight loss program, either. I ate a little more starches than I should have, but not a lot, and it will be burned off soon anyway. My God, it was good. I also had a spinach salad and two large glasses of lemon water. Oh, and a little piece of sponge cake.

My bag is packed, bike gear ready and waiting, Cranky Baby in tow, and off I go...found out today that my now retired neurologist is also riding the tour this weekend. It'll be his first, but I suspect he'll finish before I do.

I managed to secure more than $5,000 in donations and to those of you who have contributed: "Thank you!".

Check back in a couple of days for pics and details about the ride. Wheeeeeee!!!


Positive Reinforcement

I mentioned recently that I have begun a weight loss program. When I started I was about 20 pounds over what I think I should be. I'm down just over 7 pounds and 7 inches (!) in two months. The first week on this new eating plan was very difficult, but once I had the first week under my belt, so to speak, it got easier. And once I was able to get on my bike again, the results started to show.

I have never really tried to lose weight before this. In university, admittedly during the last Ice Age, I ate 4 meals a day, and more junk than you could carry in a bag. 20 some years later and my activity level has slowed down somewhat, but my eating didn't. Over the years I have tried a number of physical activities and sports to be more physically fit (though not to lose weight) and at one point just gave up on finding something I liked and could stick with. I never experienced a runner's high (even when I was running cross country back in school), I never felt that "good" tiredness after aerobics class, and I never looked forward to going to the gym to sit on a stationary bike. In essence I never had the positive reinforcement from my body's activities that most athletes and many people get from physical activity.

Once MS hit, I didn't think there would ever be some sort of physical activity that I would enjoy because of the overheating issue. After all, if you don't get the heart rate up (and a little sweat on your brow), you're not exercising enough to be of benefit to your cardiovascular system. What's a girl to do?

The boyfriend took up biking so he could participate in the MS Bike Tour. I offered to train with him which meant going to the gym for a couple of months to loosen up all those muscles that had been asleep for so long, then buy a bike, then get out on the trails. The gym was the hard part. Aside from feeling like Mork, a stranger in a strange land, it just wasn't fun. But when I got on the bike and did 13 kilometres on my first ride, I was elated! This was the fun I was looking for. I loved to ride my bike as a kid, but it never crossed my mind as a 40 year old that this would be something fun and beneficial. As an adult, I thought of biking as either a method some people used to get to work or I thought of it in terms of racing, like the Tour de France.

And there in lies the crux of the exercise/fun dilemma. If it's fun, you're more likely to do it. If you receive positive reinforcement in the form of a sense of accomplishment or just plain enjoyment, you'll do it. There is one trail in my town that I go on for short rides if time is not on my side. There is one small hill on this trail that the first few times had me stopping two or three times before getting to the top. The first time I made it to the top without stopping, I had such a feeling of elation, you'd think I'd just peaked Mt. Everest. And that's when I realized I could gauge my fitness progress by the landmarks I was biking on or by. First it was 5 k rides after work, then 10, then 15. On weekends or days off, we can easily do 20-25 k, and a couple of times, more. After my first 20 k ride I was ready to bike more. Last year, after riding 100k over two days at the Bike tour, we rode all week long on vacation. By the end of August I was in the best shape I'd been in since my twenties. I hadn't lost any weight, but I was physically fit.

This year, I had a 5 week hiatus from the bike. I was just itching to get back on it. And then the opportunity to take part in a weight loss program presented itself. I'm doing the LA Weight Loss program through work. (I'm also doing testimonials for the product, so keep that in mind.) The combination of a healthier diet and the exercise is what is getting me results.

There was a recent study out that showed that keeping a diary of what you eat is an effective method to lose weight. Simply being more cognizant of what you consume leads you to eat less. Learning what a serving size is is also important as we are not good judges of amounts. So the key is keeping track of what you eat, learning what is a true serving size, and physical activity. Simple, eh? Ha!

I have watched the reality based shows about weight loss from time to time and not thought too much about them or the people who participate. I have a new found respect for those people now. And a new found respect for the benefit of positive reinforcement, whether it comes from inside or outside, it's a big part of the reason you keep going.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cranky Baby and Busyness

Last week I had myself in stitches thinking about putting a tin foil hat on Cranky Baby. I wanted to photograph her in Mom's garden on Dad's alien landing pad. So we took the doll to my parents and my mom actually helped me with the hat. We covered her bicycle helmet with tin foil to achieve the look. I also told my dad that I wanted a picture of him and Cranky Baby wearing tin foil hats together. Unbelievably (to me, anyway) he was less than enthusiastic about the whole endeavor. I had to promise I'd take the picture from behind so people wouldn't be able to recognize him. Look for that in the next couple of weeks.
Here's my friend Ed in his store:
Ed really got into it. He suggested the popcorn bowl and the "fart factory" hat. This one is for PA (I said fart - heh).
What's a trip to the mall without a ride in a rocket or boat or spaceship.......

I actually took these last week but have been so busy I've barely had time to spit. The NS Bike Tour is this weekend, the apartment is starting to resemble a war zone, I'm trying to round up last minute donations, and I'm two months into the La Weight Loss program and shopping for fresh produce at least twice a week.

Oh, I didn't mention the weight loss thing, eh? Yeah, I've got a few pounds to lose. I'm down 7 pounds and 7 inches. Weekdays are good for me as I'm very regimented when I'm working as far as eating schedules go. Weekends are bad because I like to nap and go for longer bike rides(we did a 20 k ride Sunday) and that means my eating schedule is messed up. It's working for me anyway, albeit slowly. It'll pick up after this weekend once the bike tour is over.

I've been trying to keep caught up with the latest research studies and reports from various articles. Every day there's something new to report which supports my "perfect storm" theory about MS. OK, so it's not exactly "my" theory, but one I have adopted. And speaking of storms, we're bracing for the tail end of Tropical Storm Cristobal today so I must go batten down the hatches...


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mirror Neurons and Positive Thinking

(pyramidal neurons - picture from UC Regents Davis campus)

I've had a really good response to my post this week about my not happy/happy list. The very same day I made that post came across an article about how to be happier. Read the article, then come back. I'll wait.

In a nutshell, it's cognitive behaviour therapy. I've already written briefly about that subject and recommended a book about it but it's worth writing about again.

Cognitive behaviour is simply "thinking therapy". All the thoughts we have floating around our heads influence how we see the world. Instead of just letting those negative thoughts float around, we have to corral them, examine them, and "build a case against them". We have to think about what those negative thoughts mean to us and the people around us.

Some of us scoffed when a recent study came out about how positive events can have a positive influence on those of us with MS and depression. We (including myself) all said, "Well, d'uh!" because we know that instinctively. Just like all of us knew that stress can have a negative impact on our disease. But we actually need these types of studies to support continued research into MS and depression. We "know" that positivity can have a positive effect on our minds. The bigger questions are why? and how?

In the human brain it is believed that we have "mirror neurons". These are neurons that fire in the corresponding part of our brain when we observe someone else's behaviour or emotions. This is a very young theory about the mind and a lot of research is being done in this field right now. However, it makes a lot of sense to me. If you see someone else feeling sad, you feel sadness for them. When you see someone laughing, you feel happy and perhaps even laugh with them. Why? You feel these things because the right neurons are firing in your brain, telling you that sadness or happiness is appropriate. When we pin down these "mirror neurons", I believe a whole new method of treating depression will open up.

Many people are disabled by their thoughts rather than by MS. I have met a number of physically disabled people in the past 10 years who I honestly can't think of as disabled. Some are blind or are in a wheelchair because of MS or are struggling with ALS, but I don't think of them as disabled because they don't exhibit the physical side of their disability with their actions or their thoughts. They continue to participate in life as best they are able to. Those are positive thinkers.

On a personal note, I try to eliminate the negative stressors or negative people from my life. There are some people who just sap the energy from you. I simply will not tolerate them in my life. Avoidance of stressors sometimes is not possible, so we have to reduce the stress or find another way to deal with it. I can't change the colour of my eyes any more than I can change the fact that I have MS. So I do what I can to support research and education about MS.

Last weekend, I had set up an information booth about MS at a fairly large outdoor event. I talked to dozens of people about MS including a nursing student. It was a long, hot day but it was definitley worth it and I felt that I had done some good. Yesterday, I was visiting some co-workers at head office and they had a few questions for me about MS. There was another opportunity to educate that I jumped at. Having MS has given me a different sense of purpose than what I had before. Yeah, it makes me tired and gives me pain and weakness sometimes, but I have found some good in it as well. Let's not forget all the cool things I've learned, too.

Anyway, I will stress again the importance of cognitive behaviour therapy to anyone with a brain. It really does help if you're having problems with negative thinking. And you don't have to go to a therapist either. There's lots to read on the subject and if you're reading this then you have access to the internet and the ability to look things up. Or click on the links I highlighted above and this one, too. Call it self help. Now go learn something!


Thursday, July 17, 2008


Go check out the Carnival of MS Bloggers! It's up! Yay. And if you haven't contributed before, please consider doing so. I know it's hot, it's summer, there are other things you want to do...dig something out of your archives and send it to Lisa at Brass and Ivory.


Monday, July 14, 2008

What Makes Me Happy

In honour of the Carnival of MS Bloggers theme of moods I have decided to compile a list of things: Not Happy and Happy.

NH: waking an hour or so before the alarm clock goes off.
H: hearing the loons at a nearby lake at 5 AM.

NH: getting my boots filled with water at a river clean up
H: the river clean up

NH: paying bills
H: that I'm able to drive, work and shop

NH: the clothes I just bought a week ago are now too loose
H: I'm losing a little bit of weight

NH: neuropathic pain:
H: maybe it's continued re-myelination

And this is where I got stuck. I can't think of enough things that make me not happy to continue in this vein (which is something in itself to be happy about) so I'll instead list the things that make me happier.

A message on my answering machine from a co-worker wondering about a moth she found.

A call from a listener who just wanted to say hello and thanks for the great music.

Calls from listeners who say "Hi Shauna!" like they've known me for years but in reality have never actually met me.

Calls from people who have dialed the wrong number but stay on the phone to chat when I ask them who they were trying to reach (and what they wanted to talk about, too).

Catching sight of a frog or a snake in an unsuspecting place.

Young children who are polite.

People who say "Yes" to having their picture taken with Cranky Baby.

Real whipped cream (even though I haven't had any in a very long time).

Knowing that I'm the only one to have discovered the blackberry canes and blueberry bushes surrounding the building where I live.

Having a boyfriend with a very long fuse and the patience of Job who doesn't mind me referring to him as The Wookie.

Having a boyfriend who has never made me want to cry.

Having a father with a strange sense of humour.

Having a good mother.

Telling the long distance provider telemarketers that I don't make long distance calls.

Telling the insurance telemarketers I have no family to leave anything to.

The telemarketers who I can make laugh.

My internet provider customer service rep who when I said I was disconnected asked me "What did you do to it!?" very quickly and made
me laugh.

Darth Vader figurines. Not sure why.

Sugoi biking shorts.

My Olympic yo-yo that I've had since I was 6.

Thinking about my maternal grandmother calling me a little fart.

Talking to WW 2 veterans about their medals and service.

My iron cast Mennonite figurines I have in front of my computer to remind me of the simpler things in life.

The picture of the Wookie when he was a week old and had the hair of one of the Beatles during their first North American Tour.

The fact that my father sometimes asks about the Wookie before he asks how I am.

So there you have it. I could go on listing piles of things that make me happy. Actually, it's kind of like Oprah's gratitude journal only better. And it's put me in a rather (dare I say it?) happy mood. I suggest you try it. But if you can't find enough things to make you happy, try some of mine. Except for the Wookie, of course.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Another Cranky Baby Adventure

Melissa e-mailed me a new Cranky Baby video. In this adventure, Cranky baby has two run-ins with two different law enforcement agencies in two different provinces.....

Here's the link.


i need sleep

Scots, Nova Scotians, MS....and Cranky Baby

I was out getting groceries the other day at Pete's Frootique and took Cranky Baby with me. She was all over the place. Reaching for cake....

looking for sour cherries....she only found the sweet ones...

reaching for the home made potato chips....big no no....

in the pineapples....

with a new fan...

then a stop at the local fire hall...

checking out a police bike...

And all too soon the fun comes to an end....

Again, I managed to bail her out with only a warning and a promise of good behaviour. No more tampering with the fire equipment.

Today I will be attending the Halifax Highland Games. I will not be tossing cabers, piping, drumming, or doing a highland fling. I have set up a tent and will be handing out info about MS and chatting with people about the link among Nova Scotians, Scots, and MS. I originally wanted to set up my bike to accept donations for the Bike Tour, but the organizers said no to that. But I could set up an info booth/display. Here's some of the info:

As Canadians and Nova Scotians, we celebrate our heritage and our culture and our ties to the "old country". Food, music, dance, and literature are common things we share. Who in Nova Scotia hasn't heard of Robbie Burns or danced to a Scottish reel? The other thing we share is Multiple Sclerosis.

55,000 - 75,000 people in Canada have Multiple Sclerosis. In Atlantic Canada alone, we have 5,000 - one of the highest rates in the country. The MS Society in Scotland estimates 10,500 people have MS in Scotland. Based on recent population statistics, the two countries are almost equal in incidence of MS.

One of the big questions is why? Well, the geographical incidence of MS increases the further away from the equator you get. For example, Mexico has a population of 90 million, 15,000 of whom have MS. We have one third the population, but more than three times the incidence of MS. Canada and Scotland are quite far away from Mexico, yet, per capita, have a much higher incidence of MS.

Where did people from Scotland and other northern European areas settle when they left their home country? Many came to Canada. Early on they settled in Nova Scotia and branched out from there.

The ethnocultural portrait of Canada's provinces and territories reflects both the historical and current settlement patterns of the different waves of immigration to the country.

After Canadian, the other most frequently reported origins in 2006, either alone or with other origins, were English, French, Scottish, Irish, German, Italian, Chinese, North American Indian and Ukrainian.

The list of ethnic origins in 2006 includes cultural groups associated with Canada's Aboriginal people (North American Indian, M├ętis and Inuit) and the European groups that first settled in Canada, such as the English, French Scottish and Irish.

The largest group enumerated by the census consisted of just over 10 million people who reported Canadian as their ethnic ancestry, either alone (5.7 million) or with other origins (4.3 million).

The other most frequently cited origins were English (6.6 million), French (4.9 million), Scottish (4.7 million), Irish (4.4 million), German (3.2 million), Italian (1.4 million), Chinese (1.3 million), North American Indian (1.3 million), Ukrainian (1.2 million) and Dutch (1.0 million).

(Bold text is taken from the Statistics Canada Web site)

Our shared heritage hints at a genetic reason for MS. That may be part of it.

Aside from sharing a similar geography in distance from the equator, we share a lack of sunshine year round strong enough to enable our bodies to produce vitamin D. Recent studies have implicated this vitamin in MS.

BBC Scotland was recently in Halifax filming interviews with people of Scottish heritage and who also have MS for a future story about the connections between Scotland, Nova Scotia and MS. As well, the MS Society in Scotland is starting to jump on the genetics bandwagon in developing a national database of people with MS, something Canada has been working on for several years.

A recent poll has shown that one out of two Canadians knows someone with MS. How many do you know?

I'll be there most of the day. Tomorrow 3 or 4 of us will be at a fundraising flea market. With any luck we'll sell all our stuff and make millions of dollars for the Bike Tour. OK, maybe a couple hundred.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Leeches and Other Unrelated Stuff

I have been extremely busy for the past couple of weeks, as you may have noticed, and really haven't had the time to sit down and write anything of great insight about MS. As a kid, I would play outside in any weather, and even as an adult I like to be outside. I have always been a little sensitive to the heat, and with the MS, summer can be draining. As long as I have a short rest in the afternoon (after work) and drink plenty of fluids I'm usually OK.

That being said, summer is the best time for bug hunting. And for frogs. And salamanders. I'm afraid the bulk of my postings have been about bugs. And my new obsession, Cranky Baby.


Carl Zimmer is a talented and intelligent writer. I have mentioned him a couple of times in reference to parasites (not that he's a parasite, though you'd have to ask his in-laws I presume) and his writing can be found at Discover magazine. I'm currently reading his book about E. coli.
Yes, that sometimes nasty creature that lives in all of us, one that can sometimes kill. I have joked that when I've got a tummy upset I must have ingested someone else's E. coli. You see, your E. coli is good for you alone, but ingest something else's E.coli and there you can encounter trouble. Especially if you are immune compromised, very young, or very old.

I am also devouring other science blogs. Through Mr. Zimmer I have discovered one about leeches, by Mark Siddall, who besides being a curator at the American Museum of Natural History, is also Canadian. I can hear the collective "Yuck" as you read that(not the Canadian part). Actually, it was the sight of preserved leeches in the biology lab that convinced me to NOT go into marine biology when I was in university. They truly creeped me out. At 17 I didn't have the stomach for them, but as I have aged, I have become surprisingly tolerant of most of nature's creatures and now find them interesting. As a matter of fact, while swimming at a friend's camp a couple of years ago, I even found one in the lake and held it in my was a tiny thing, less than an inch long and actually very pretty, colourwise. No, it didn't latch itself on to me.

The other blog I have been checking out is Sharp Brains. I always knew that exercise was good for my whole body, but I never seemed to get any psychological benefit from it. Until I started biking that is. One entry at that blog struck a chord with me recently. Dr. McLeary talks about a holistic approach to brain health, something I have been harping on for a while.


I used to hate exercise. But put me on a bike and I'm off and running(so to speak). I still have two more weeks to prepare for the NS MS Bike Tour so will be ramping up the rides til then. When I'm not doing PR for the MS society or raising money for the cause.


Oh yeah, I go to work, too. If you can call what I do for a living work. But somebody has to entertain the masses.

So there you have it. Advance excuses for any lack of insightful posts about MS. The thing is, when I'm checking out blogs, books, bugs, and biking, I'm exercising my brain and coming up with new ways to relate the world around me to MS. So let's just say I'm doing research for my


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More NB Tour with Cranky Baby

Cranky Baby is apparently not as enthusiastic about bugs as I am.
I'll let you in on a little secret: the only reason I was able to place the butterfly on Cranky Baby or get anywhere near it was because it was injured and not long for this world. The woman who took the picture was amazed at my butterfly-wrangling skills until I told her the truth. I have taken to calling myself "The Insect Whisperer".


Monday, July 7, 2008

NB MS Bike Tour

The New Brunswick Rona MS Bike Tour was a resounding success. I got a late start on Saturday morning so was only able to ride 35 kilometres. Not bad in 3 hours, but the heat was too much for me. A little more than half way. The Wookie rode the whole thing both days. And then we had a four hour drive back home.

The banquet on Saturday night was great. The food was wonderful and the accommodations were excellent. We stayed on the campus of a private school just outside Saint John , New Brunswick. We may go back for it next year. And Cranky Baby was a big success. Most people made appropriate comments as they rode past me on the road and at the banquet she was officially introduced to everyone. Then they understood her purpose and didn't think I was so much of a nut.

I also realized that I haven't posted pics of the Wookie so here ya' go: This was on the drive to New Brunswick:

Here's one fifth of our team. Only a few of us rode the NB tour but it's good practice for the NS ride in 3 weeks.
At rest stop number 3 Cranky Baby had a bit of an attitude with an RCMP officer so she was put in the back of the police cruiser to cool off for a bit.
I bailed her out with promises of good behaviour. At the banquet, she met a number of folks including the Mayor of Saint John:
The next day, she and I were riding in a support vehicle and bringing up the rear. We stopped at the last rest stop before the finish and ran into the Wookie.

I took a whole bunch of pictures for Cranky Baby's next video and I also was able to find and catch some moths and butterflies. These two moths are called luna moths. The bottom one was a little paler in markings and colour but they're the same.

This pic gives you a better idea of the size of them, a little more than 4 inches in length with a similar sized wingspan.

And for the amphibian lovers, a tiny frog on a lilypad in the Wookie's pond.

I will spend my day off recovering from the weekend's events and cleaning up. Maybe a short bike ride, too.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

More Creatures

More exploring in the Wookie's backyard tonight. found this little pickerel frog:
And more dragonflies:
Tiny little beetles that didn't have a very good foothold on the leaves of this tree as they easily fell off with a slight breeze:
A nice bullfrog:

We are doing the New Brunswick MS Bike Tour this weekend so will probably not have access to a computer for a couple of days but I guarantee pictures and details upon my return. I will only be riding day one as I don't think I'm quite ready for two days of biking 60 kilometres (both days)but I'll be ready for the Nova Scotia ride at the end of the month.


Giant Water Bug

This is for the other Shawna of Nervus Rex:
This is a Giant Water Bug. The pic is from Wikipedia. They live in ponds and lakes hanging around at the bottom waiting for some unsuspecting fish, insect, tadpole or other creature to come by. They grab 'em, inject saliva which liquifies the animal from the inside, and then suck out lunch. They travel from pond to pond looking for mates and are sometimes found out of the water as they are attracted to lights. They range in size from about 1 inch to 5 inches. The largest I've seen was about 3 inches.

They sound and look pretty gruesome but they're interesting bugs. They sometimes play dead if you try to pick one up. They need to come to the surface of the pond to breathe air and the female lays her eggs on the back of the male who then carries them around until they hatch. They're excellent and fast swimmers and their bite packs a powerful punch.

My neighbour, Kay, knows of my interest in six legged creatures. She found one of these things last year outside our building and had a friend take a picture of it for me. A copy was made for her which she promptly slid into an envelope and then under my door. She wouldn't even look at the picture, she was so bothered by it. God love her.

Because they usually lie in wait at the bottom of ponds or hanging onto a stick, they are sometimes difficult to find. At the Wookie's pond, I'll stand on the edge with a long stick or bulrush and gently poke the bottom to see if I can stir anything up. Once in a while I am rewarded when one of these creatures swims away.

For Pa: The Museum of Natural History in Halifax has an excellent guide to our frogs and other amphibians. Actually, they're an excellent source for almost anything that moves in this province. And all summer long they've got a butterfly pavillion which we'll be checking out soon.

Harkoo: The bee story from last week was pretty big. It could have been a lot worse than it actually was, but the weather contained the bees for the most part and although there were several stings, no one suffered from allergic reactions and the driver of the truck was OK, too.

Which leads me to this: one of my earlier posts "God is an Iron" can be heard on Charles' podcast. Aside from black flies and mosquitoes, I have not been bitten or stung by other insects. With God's sense of irony, I suspect I'll die, not from natural causes, but from anaphylactic shock after a bee sting.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bugs in the Backyard

Yesterday, the Wookie and I spent some time in his backyard checking out the health of the frog pond. He had been excited earlier in the spring to discover a snapping turtle which neither of us had seen last year. It (or one just like it) had been there the year before. The Wookie was going to remove the remnants of a little pier but having discovered the turtle likes to sun itself there, decided to leave it.
Of course, there are a ton of frogs:
some snails:
I almost caught this little guy(gal?) and when it hopped away from me, it still had an inch of tail left. Not quite a tadpole anymore, but not quite a frog.
The dragonflies and darners were out as well, but harder to photograph with a digital camera. Click on the pic and look to the right.
Sometimes you can find a little cocoon woven between leaves of the bulrushes. I took this one apart:

Inside a mama spider, a worm for a snack, and I don't know what else as I grossed myself out:

I left the spider and her snack in some bushes, so she'll repair the damage and get back to business.

More frogs:

There are at least three types of frogs living in and around the pond, several species of dragonfly, snails, spiders, and other assorted bugs. And several large goldfish. It was high noon and getting very hot so the fish were staying away from the surface of the pond. I also caught sight of a couple of toe-biters. I'll go back with my net soon so I can catch one and take some pics. They are very scary looking things and can inflict a rather painful bite.