Old Man Winter went easy on us
Well, if that was winter, it was sure easy. Soon it will be time to bring out the mosquito repellent and the suntan lotion; and which do you put on first? Now is the time to set the clocks forward again for daylight savings time, spring forward and fall back is the old saying to help remember which way to set the clock. Now if I could only reset the clocks in my cats as well. Good thing February was long this year, because it meant a first for my garden at Loon Lake, with snowdrops and eranthis blooming in the garden in February. While this is not news for gardeners in the Cache Creek and Ashcroft area, it is unusual for our higher elevation.
Mosquitoes are in the news
The Canadian news media have been covering the spread of the Zika virus by a particular mosquito, with many people fearing that soon we will have the virus in Canada. The particular mosquito that carries the virus is not native to Canada, proving that there are some benefits to living in cooler, more northern latitudes.
Many times in the spring and early summer when mosquitoes pester so much that I finally give in and go inside, I curse the little insects and wonder what purpose they serve. They are an important food source for many insect-eating birds, and the hordes of them arrive in time for feeding the little nestling birds, so we need mosquitoes if we want to keep our bird populations. Time to look for a good non-toxic bug repellent and screens on the windows.
Great Back Yard Bird Count
February brought many days of pleasant outdoor weather, and in the middle of the month I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count. The count for my yard was very like the numbers and species seen every year in mid-winter time. Generally there are around 17 to 18 bird species, and it was the same this year. The male redwing blackbirds announce the coming of spring with their arrival a week or so later. This year they were on schedule, arriving on February 21. Slightly later were the bald eagles and varied thrushes.
On the last day of February I sighted a bird that was new to me, a white-winged crossbill. Last year was a bumper year for spruce cones, and the crossbills are exploring the forest and enjoying the feast. For many years the spruce budworm ate the new growing tips on the spruce and Douglas fir; now the budworms have pretty well disappeared and the trees are setting new growth and producing lots of cones full of seeds, much to the satisfaction of the birds and squirrels.
Geese find Loon Lake a hard landing
Water birds are making their way back on their northern migration path. Several geese have flown in to Loon Lake but found a hard landing, as the surface is still ice. They didn’t stay long. Lots of small shallow lakes in the area have open water, but Loon Lake is always one of the last to freeze over and to open again in the spring.
You are what you eat
The Senate has released a report on ways that the Canadian government can deal with the issue of increasing obesity among Canadians of all ages. One idea suggested was a tax on sugary processed foods. Now I am not sure how one would measure what was sugary and what was just sweet, but I am sure manufacturers of processed foods are already lobbying against the idea.
Extra sugar in some form is one of those ingredients manufactures like to put in, as it affects our brains in such a way that we want more of the same. I think first off there should be clearer labelling that sugar has been added, and that it be printed in a type size at least 9.5 or larger. Restaurants and cafés should also be required to post food content information and the amount of sugar added per serving. The recommendations for healthy eating state that a child up to eight years of age should consume no more than 16 grams of sugar per day, and yet some of these snacks contain as much as 40 grams in one serving. Children in times past were more active, and an occasional sugar bomb could be run off. Today’s young people don’t have the same opportunities for outdoor activity, so this becomes a problem.
I would like to see efforts made to make available healthier alternatives in all places selling foods. When sugar was first introduced as a food it was expensive, and was used mainly as a food preservative at a time without refrigeration and little knowledge of food hygiene. Sugar in food helps it keep longer, and that is a plus for food sellers, but we now have other ways of preserving food where sugar is not needed. These days if you are on the road and hungry in this part of B.C. you will be hard-pressed to find a healthy choice of snack at most of the convenience stores and gas stations along the way. A 222ml serving of Canada Dry (less than one cup) contains 21 grams of sugar, which is close to the maximum amount of sugar an adult woman should consume in a day. So those gigantic servings at fast food restaurants are way over the top in sugar content.
Most local cafés also have limited menus, with a focus on fried foods. I know they serve what people order most, but how do we change this vicious cycle? Coffee shops could, for example, offer a fresh baked bun with a slice of cheddar cheese as an alternative to the extra-large and sugar-filled muffin or cinnamon bun. Sitting for hours and eating unhealthy snacks or chips, and chicken fried in batter, is one reason why our population has a problem with obesity and consequent health issues. Maybe if we all come to think of food as our primary source of nutrients and “medicine” we would eat differently. You are what you eat.