Monday, June 29, 2009

Oh No! The Squirrels Have Taken Over

We were away for three weeks. We arranged for someone to water the plants if necessary, but we were not prepared for the squirrels. How many can you count in this photo?

Counting two sets of ears bottom center, and two tails upper right but not far right, there are eight! We have been battling to keep them away from the bird seed and thought we had won that battle by installing cones on the feeder poles. Then they could have whatever the birds kicked over the side. I had bought a seed covered cylinder which I thought would keep the birds happy enough until we returned. However, the seed cylinder was not even touched.

But the squirrels (well, I suppose it could have been a rabbit because we did see one when we first arrived home) have decimated our two large bushes of Chinese Pink Hibiscus. They were in full flower when we left. Now there are no flowers and few leaves. As for my very special melon-colored hibiscus that is only about two feet tall and which I have been tenderly watching over.....well you can see what it looks like below.

Fortunately, pretty much everything else survived very well. The begonias were overflowing.

This is called the potato vine, which I think is a very ugly name for a vine or bush that is very pretty. I have three of these and they were all thriving too.

Even our Jacaranda tree was in full bloom -- still is. It is a whole month late this year.

And this is what we call an elephant's foot (don't know the real name), and it was blooming for the first time in its life. The foot is the bottom part that is large, fat and round. My youngest son bought this many years ago when it was just in a small plastic pot. It has been transplanted many times. I hope it isn't one of those which blooms once and then dies.

Poor Henrietta suffered a little too. I had intended to bring her in before we left, but I forgot. She has some tail feathers missing, but fortunately not too much damage was done. Squirrels again, I suspect. I have to find some more black feathers to repair her.....Now if that annoying black crow ever comes back...!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Seabirds Nesting

This was what I was able to do while we were cruising, so smooth was the ship. I copied this from a post card I bought on board. It looks quite simple and easy to do, but it actually took many days and hours. When I look at it, I remember the beautiful views from the large panorama room where I was sitting and it brings back the peaceful and calm memories.

I always feel I have to be doing something rather than just sitting. This was much better than reading, which was what most others were doing. I'm sure I didn't miss a thing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

All Together Now... Everyone Say......Aaaawww!

Finally, the HUSKIES!

I have to set the scene a little here, because it was pouring with rain when we arrived at the husky kennels. They had set up a team for the sled for us to see but of course there was no snow. There were approximately 250 dogs being trained for legitimate use as work dogs. They are all regularly exercised using sleds with wheels if there is no snow. It was COLD and very windy. We were well within the Arctic Circle.

If you are a dog-lover...


I can't believe how well they turned out considering the weather.

The first question everyone one wants to know..."Will they bite?" The answer is "NO". They are handled and socialized from birth and must have a good rapport with their owners as well as their team mates. They absolutely went crazy to be petted, barking and yelping to get attention. See video clip at the end of this post to hear them.

The white one is the leader of the team. She is highly trained and chosen almost from birth to be groomed for this position.

Look at those blue eyes!

He is only barking to say hello.

Of course everywhere was thick mud and soaking wet after such a down pour, but the dogs have a clean area on top of their kennels to stand and a cozy kennel with 4 inches of insulation in their kennels, which are also up off the ground.

Remember these are working dogs which also compete in iditarods. So when sleeping on the trail they curl up in the snow and their thick fur and skin oils insulate them. On this wet, cold day they could curl up in their kennels, deliberately made fairly small, so that the warmth of their body soon dries them off.
How regal does this one look?!! He is named after our cruise ship so I had to take this photo. You can see how muddy it was that day. I didn't venture too far out among the kennels. Too slippery.


Do I look pleased or what? What a cuddler he was and what a lot of cuddling he got.

I didn't even ask his name. I was too busy cuddling.

This was the youngest. There were three this size. Momma Husky had to be held back by the keepers while her babies were being handled. But she wasn't at all snappy. Just anxious for her pups and being a good mom. The keepers wanted us to hold them as part of the socializing of the whole family. Since this was the first day of the open season for the kennels there was much excitement.

Too much excitement. He was tired out. He looks pretty comfy, as does Jonas down below.

These two look cute enough for a calendar. I was there right at the right moment.

And how about this shot? This is the owner being given a kiss by one of his charges. You can see they are loved and well looked after.

Here is a survey of the grounds -- with sound effects:

Birds and Flowers in Norway

Barry and I took separate side trips to see the birds. Mine was up off the North Cape. There were not many birds to be seen on an ordinary day from the cruise/ferry ship. But here on this trip and in this photo you can see there were hundreds. I saw cormorants and hundreds of puffins, among many others, but they were too fast to photograph. Every speck of gray in the sky in this photo is a bird. Try clicking on it to enlarge the photo. That will give you a better view.

The ship was too rolly to to get a lot of shots. It was hard to stand up but our cold weather suits added to the difficulty. Kept us nice and warm ( except for the face), and we were well padded if we fell! We were quite close in to the rocks as you can see below. This photo also shows the rows of gannets, nesting on the cliffs. Gannets are quite rare, very large and somewhat like a refined pelican, because they dive after fish like a streamlined dart from a good height. We were in the Arctic Ocean here -- almost literally, because at one point when the boat was turning around we were definitely at a 45 degree angle. I wasn't too worried 'though because I've been in seas like this before, when I was growing up.

Barry went to see the Sea Eagles. The crew on the small boat throw out fish to attract them. Of course there were plenty of other birds to help pick up. I think that is a fulmer about three down from the top of the picture.

The Sea Eagles came and had a feast. They also are quite rare. They are something like our Bald Eagle but don't have the 'bald' head.

The flowers were just starting to come out in Bergen. Beautiful red Poppies -- very large.

Don't know the name of these, but they were quite attractive. I think I took this photo through the window at Grieg's home.

This I love. Of course it really doesn't come under the category of flowers but it was such a beautiful, sheltered woodland that I would have gladly gone exploring, that is until I discovered that it was private land.

There were rhododendrons everywhere and of every color....
...'though I've never seen yellow ones before.

Finally, these were just too beautiful to pass up. Yes, it was raining but I used my macro focus, at which I'm not very experienced and I was very pleased with the result.
Huskies tomorrow, I promise and then we will finish with Norway. If you've had enough, remember I had 350 to go through! I think I have been remarkably restrained :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Waterfalls and Waterfalls and more Waterfalls

This was our ship, the Ms Finnemarken, of the Hurtigruten shipping line. It is one of several that travel up and down the coast of Norway acting as a ferry, a cargo ship and a cruise ship. It was everything a cruise ship should be but without the casinos and theaters.

This was our route, from Bergen in the south to Kirkenes in the north (both marked with a red star) and back again. Eleven days in all. We made 67 ports of call, some just to pick up passengers and cargo and other longer stops in order to do some side trips. We cruised up the coast, exploring fjords, coastline and even made several stops in the Lofoton Islands. We travelled further north than iceland, Siberia and mid - Greenland. We sailed in the Arctic Oceans and the Barents Sea.

The cabins had everything a normal cruise ship has, even though it was smaller than some. The beds folded up into seats and there was a surprising amount of storage space.

Waterfalls and Waterfalls and more Waterfall

A few little known facts about Bergen and Norway:

1. The June temperature averages 62 degrees F in Bergen
2. Only 50% of the people in Bergen own cars. They LOVE walking.
3. Hotels and cruise ships do not provide face cloths!
4. Edvard Grieg composed much of his music in a beautiful home and grounds just outside Bergen.
5. Norway has the highest cost of living in the world. A cup of tea on the first day in the town cost me $4.60

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


We took more than 350 pictures between us. But how to decide which to show you?!!! Of course we have lots of really picturesque ones, which I promise I will show you some time this week. But I've decided to start off with some of the more unusual ones.

First, the houses. Gaily colored matchbox type with steep roofs. Really pretty to see when grouped together in towns and villages. Then as we got further and further north, of course there were fewer and fewer houses. Just an odd one here and there and sometimes for miles and miles. Remember we went far into the Arctic Circle. ( Trying to get a good map together to show you just how far.) But even an odd brightly colored house or farm lit up the dour landscape of the Arctic.

This has to be the quaintest McDonalds we have ever seen. It is in Bergen and yes, it really is a McDonalds. The building (built in 1710 -- and no, it wasn't a McDonald's then!) was on the slope of a hill as are most of the buildings in Bergen.

Trolls are a big thing in Norway. They come out of Norse mythology and are also known in parts of Scotland and northern England. Some depictions are much more ugly than this, but since I have never liked monsters of any kind, especially as a child, I didn't do much with photos of them.

Of course this is the land of the Midnight Sun and just to prove it I took a photo of our alarm clock at 1:00 a.m. on the window ledge of our cabin. True Photo -- not faked.

This was the view from our cabin window the first morning. I had some intention of taking a view from the window every morning as I woke up, but soon realized I would never be able to tell which was which. The rain and salt didn't do much for the photo either, so I quit doing that.

Anyway, this was too often the view that we had!!! So we spent the day where it was much more exciting -- in the large Panorama Room with large windows and comfy chairs. Barry went outside a lot of the time -- better photos and he went ashore at quite a few ports of call. We had 67 Ports of Call! When I describe the ship you will understand why.

I always thought I was a fish lover, but dried cod and other varieties were not for me. Too salty and smokey. But of course in the days of no refrigeration and when fish were plentiful this was the way it had to be done. We had lots of salmon among the buffet meals, but being a Yorkshire lass (long ago), I much prefer fresh haddock from the North Sea-- and I do mean fresh.

This is a close-up of the process.

Some houses still use grass sod on their roofs for insulation. I suppose that would compare to the thatched cottages of England. But thatch doesn't do well in the winds off the North Sea.

This was one of the more picturesque lighthouses and since I'm rather partial to lighthouses (especially Flamborough's) I decided to insert this here. There were many lighthouses to be seen along our route.

We think the photo below was taken in Molde , but we don't know what the building was. It seemed to be constructed out of mirrors and the sun (not setting, but not far above the horizon) made a dazzling display. We are hoping Rune of Visual Norway will be able to tell us about this building.

More to come! Scenic views, unforgettable side trips, and my favorite ...Huskies! 250 of them!!!
I will still work on getting a half decent map so you can see where exactly we did go.
Keep visiting.