Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hallowe'en Pumpkins '12

Rough version of Master Yoda pumpkin pattern
stencil pattern
Master Yoda Pumpkin
I want to do a Yoda Pumpkin this year.  Had a hard time finding a stencil because my usual trick - "yoda colouring pages" didn't give me exactly what I wanted.  Changed it to "Master Yoda colouring pages" and narrowed down by selecting black and white and line drawings.  Found a fairly simple one on the first page of results.

Played around with MS Paint this time (normally I don't) to help visualize the final result.  I'll tape the black and white stencil to do the initial carving and use this as a reference.  Orange is pumpkin skin, yellow is carved pumpkin skin, and white is carved completely through.

The fine lines on his face and hands are going to be tricky, they will be easy to mess up or split off, but I think the final product will be awesome. I'm also going to try a trick with the lightsaber - I have a toy light up one that I want to insert into the pumpkin for an extra cool effect.

A few less wrinkles for simplicity - this is the 700 year old Yoda - and some awkward transitions from positive to negative space, but I think the final result looks pretty awesome!

Not sure what 2nd pumpkin will be.  No help from kids with ideas.  Mars says I should make a "pile of poo" pumpkin and Odin maniacally giggles at that.

2nd Pumpkin is Cookie Monster.  Used my usual pattern/stencil finding trick: "Cookie Monster colouring pages." A fairly simple stencil, just skin carved where the pattern is white taking care not to accidentally break off the chocolate chips.

Pumpkins 2011: Batman Pumpkin, Batman Logo Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2010: Tinkerbell Pumpkin, Transformers Pumpkin with Autobot and Decepticon logos
Pumpkins 2009: Scooby Doo and Shaggy Pumpkin, Mystery Machine Pumpkin, Yoda Pumpkin, Boba Fett Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2008: Ernie and Bert Pumpkin, Soccer Ball Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2007: Calvin and Hobbes Pumpkin, Spiderman Pumpkin, Toronto FC Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2006: Darth Vader Pumpkin, Homer Simpson Pumpkin 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

How to find FREE Pumpkin Stencils/Patterns

Halloween must be coming.  My visitor count is spiking.  Free Pumpkin Stencils/Patterns, Tinkerbell Pumpkin Stencil/Pattern, Transformers Pumpkin Stencil/Pattern, Scooby-doo Pumpkin Stencil/Pattern, (and variations in the wordings of those) are the most common incoming searches to my blog.

Its funny, because searching for free pumpkin stencils on the internet gets you free* pumpkin stencils or crappy pumpkin stencils (* crappy pumpkin stencils are free, but the one you want costs $3.95).

Order me for $3.95
free tinkerbell pumpkin stencil pattern carving
Free on the internet (with free instructions too!)
Do these Tinkerbell pumpkin carvings look similar?  Both come up when you search google for "Tinkerbell Pumpkin Stencil".  One costs $3.95, one is free (with no asterisk).

Look familiar?
Finding FREE PUMPKIN PATTERNS is easy.  Search google for
"tinkerbell colouring pages" (note the 2nd result!!),
"transformers colouring pages"
"Scooby-doo colouring pages"
"Batman colouring pages"

You can find just about any themed pumpkin stencil you want by substituting "Pumpkin pattern" with "Colouring page" and doing a google image search.  Most of my pumpkin carvings have been done doing just that.

Instructions for Skin Carving a Pumpkin (with Tinkerbell example)
Pumpkins 2012: Master Yoda Pumpkin, Cookie Monster Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2011: Batman Pumpkin, Batman Logo Pumpkin

Pumpkins 2010: Tinkerbell Pumpkin, Transformers Pumpkin with Autobot and Decepticon logos
Pumpkins 2009: Scooby Doo and Shaggy Pumpkin, Mystery Machine Pumpkin, Yoda Pumpkin, Boba Fett Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2008: Ernie and Bert Pumpkin, Soccer Ball Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2007: Calvin and Hobbes Pumpkin, Spiderman Pumpkin, Toronto FC Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2006: Darth Vader Pumpkin, Homer Simpson Pumpkin 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Backyard Biodiversity: Amphibians and Reptiles

Grey Tree Frog
When we moved in 5 years ago, one of the first things I did was explore the creek.  There were no frogs at all.  I was sad, because I spent many happy hours as a kid tromping through swamps catching frogs, and I wanted to do the same when baby Mars was bigger.  I'm guessing pesticide was a factor, the beautiful weedless manicured lawn is now an overgrown dandelion farm.  Lawn care is another story.  In the last two summers, we've noticed an abundance of frogs and toads in the creek and in the lawn.
Grey Tree Frog

Grey Tree Frog: A first for me, not sure I've ever seen one in the wild before.  We had launched the new boat, went to pick up Odin's life jacket that had been hung over the deck railing to dry, this little guy was hiding underneath.  Scooped him up to put him down out of the sun and he hopped onto my wrist and stuck.  Hopped a couple more times sticking to my jacket and ended up near my shoulder.  Awesome.

Leopard Frog: One of the first frogs to reappear, I noticed in the yard, hopping away from the lawnmower.

Green Frog:  The first comeback in noticeable numbers.  A careful exploration of the creek will see half a dozen green frogs, usually when they hop into the water to escape.  There are probably more than a dozen; some on creek banks, most in swampy areas that flood each spring and then alternate between muck and underwater depending on the water level during the summer. There were zero in the first 3 years, maybe a couple last year.

Green Frog
Baby Snapping Turtle
American Toad:  Irregularly seen, but around.  Found one of the teeny tiny baby ones on the driveway the other day.

Snapping Turtle: A medium sized one (50cm) has lived near/under our dock for a number of years.  Today (Aug 19th/2012) I came very close to being bitten by a baby snapping turtle.  We were looking for frogs and I saw eyes poking out of the muck, and I was about to do my patented frog grab on his head...  then I thought the eyes looked odd and the snout was quite long. This was the best photo I managed.  About 10cm long.

Painted Turtle:  One used to sit on a stump near the dock to sun himself, but I think he got tired of escaping every time the boys came near.  These were just up river from the dock where the bank is too steep for kids. 

Garter Snake:  One infrequently seen near the steps out front, where I've almost stepped on in a couple of times.  I think it made a home in the rock garden.  I unfortunately clipped one once with the ride-on mower.  Yet another good reason not to mow the lawn. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Backyard Biodiversity - Birds

We have 1.2 acres of land, three quarters of which is treed.  Even though we are in town it is a very natural setting.  The York River runs past the back, a small creek in a ravine on one border, and a 20+ meter buffer of trees on the other.  Across the river is designated as a flood area, so there are hundreds of acres with nothing but trees, water, and bugs.  It amazes me the diversity that can be found on our property.

Robins - we have a nesting pair that is one of the first bird returns each year.  They like to nest in a cedar hedge in front of the house.  They've already got a nest with 3 eggs on the go.  They also made a second nest under our front porch last year.  Mars likes it when we try to feed them worms.

Wood Ducks - we had a pair in the creek earlier in the spring - probably the same pair that seems to check out the area each year.  We put up a duck box this season to encourage them to stay and nest, but I haven't noticed them in a few days.  Wild and timid, they are easily startled away, so have been trying to avoid too much activity down by the water.  UPDATE: Sad to report a failed nest attempt in summer 2011.  The creek area was frozen enough that I checked out the nesting box over christmas.  Discovered six eggs mostly buried in the wood shavings, frozen solid and smelling terrible.  I don't know if human activity scared them off? 
Terrible blurry rushed photo of our Wood Ducks

Mallard Ducks - I think the creek is a bit of a way station, in spring thaw it looks more like a decent sized pond.  I've only seen Mallards there early in the spring.  I know a pair nests in the oxbow lake behind, and I've also seen a momma & ducklings upriver a kilometer or so.

Great Blue Heron - lived in the creek the first year we moved.  Another timid bird that we used to see from the road, but the activity of a young family (vs retired couple former owners) was too much.  I still see it nearby fairly regularly when kayaking.

Blue Jays - saw the first of the season the other day.  A regular visitor, but I think passing through rather than nesting on our property.  Later in the summer, we get a mob of six to eight that will check out the yard.  They will land on the window feeder, prop a tail against the window, and make a big mess - spilling sunflower seeds as they root through.

Hawk - of some kind.  My mum is a serious birder & says she has difficulty telling them apart.  Occasionally does a flyover.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird - we have a feeder, but I think they like someone else's better, an infrequent visitor.

Belted Kingfisher - another just passing through visitor.

Hairy Woodpecker at the peanut feeder
Hairy Woodpecker - occasional visitor, I think this one was passing through in the fall.

Downy Woodpecker - goes through phases, sometimes rare, sometimes daily while it demolishes a suet block.

Northern Flicker - one that confused me for ages.  Used to see them regularly up and down the street, but always flying away and never got a good look.  We normally get one regularly hopping around the back yard, this year a pair digging in the front.

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker - spotted by Leaf, I haven't been lucky enough to see it yet.  There is a standing dead tree in the backyard, the holes he has pecked keep getting bigger.  I've heard him across the river.  Update: August 8th, 2012 - Mars heard a new bird while having a bath.  I went out and after a few minutes of narrowing down where the calls were coming from, spotted a Pileated Woodpecker on the hydro pole calling away.  There was a pair, a second heard tapping in the trees by the creek, heard it call once, then a glimpse as it flew away.  The one on the hydro pole quickly followed.

Crow - used to be a regular Wednesday visitor as they hit the garbage up and down the street.  Sometimes the family will check out the compost pile. I try to feed them, but I think reaction to their garbage shenanigans has made them wary of humans.

Black-capped Chickadee - a year round resident.  I figure there are at least several pairs nesting nearby, but I've never noticed a nest.

Red Breasted Nuthatch - sometimes hits the suet, often the window feeder.W
White Breasted Nuthatch -  sometimes hits the suet.

American Goldfinch - an itinerant visitor, I like the vibrant colour.

Dark-eyed Junco - we had two pairs this spring, one in the front yard, one in the back.  I think they have moved on, though we've occasionally had them through the summer.

Red-Winged Blackbird - I was surprised to see this distinctive bird in our back yard last year.  Could only have been passing through.  I see them all the time kayaking up Faraday Creek.

Purple Finch - a later springtime arrival, usually a few pairs live here for the summer.
House Finch -  very similar looking to Purple Finch, but I think new this year.

Common Redpoll - some to a bunch, visits the hanging feeder, doesn't stay through the summer.

Sparrow - several kinds.  Haven't got good enough to differentiate them.
Clay-Coloured Sparrow - spotted in the front yard feeder.  The solid clay-coloured breast made it easy to identify.  (With my mum's help).

Ruffed Grouse - I've yet to see one, but discovered tracks in the snow today (March 1st/12)

Grackle - forgot this first time through.  A much disliked bird, I chase them off when they flock through.

Duck box 2012 note the papery looking stuff top right
Common Merganser -  I've seen these before up river while kayaking, but this spring (April/12) they were hanging around the creek.  At first I thought it was the wood ducks back since I saw motion but didn't go down for fear of scaring them off.   A later sneak with binoculars confirmed they were Common Mergansers, a male and female.  UPDATE (Aug 2012):  Checked the duck box today, much more down than before (last year I think Wood Ducks were in it), remnants of egg shell, some thick papery stuff (dried membrane?)  Never noticed ducklings this spring though, although avoided the creek since last year eggs were abandoned.  Lots o' spider webs!

Brown Thrasher - a new one, early summer 2012.  The property across the street cut down a couple acres of woodlot, I think the Thrashers may have moved from there to our place.  A breeding pair?  One possible youngster.  They are very timid, and move around in the undergrowth, so often hard to see.

Turkey Vulture - circling high overhead.  IDed by my mum.

Rose Breasted Grosbeak - (Maybe) My mum thinks she saw one in the back yard while visiting.  It would be awesome, we used to get them (as well as Evening Grosbeaks) regularly at our old place, but I've yet to see one here.

Pine Sisken - scoped this one way at the top of one of our very large pines using my new binoculars.

Cedar Waxwings - Woot new binoculars!  Spotted this as well out front.

Northern Cardinal - a female spotted below the feeder.  First cardinal we've seen in the 10 years we've been up here!

Wild Turkey - Jan 2013 - yesterday I finally saw the fox in the backyard.  Today was surprised to see a pair of wild turkeys meander into the back yard and stand around.  Turns out they were waiting for the rest of their flock - 9 in total.  Wandered around, we watched for 20 minutes, they've moved under the pine trees now.
Hooded Merganser - April 2015 - Very excited to see a new bird.  Was hoping to sneak down and see the Wood Ducks that arrived yesterday, saw this instead.

Spotted Sandpiper - May 2015 -  noticed an abundance of bird poop on the sandbank between dock & creek so snuck down the next day.