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Saturday, 9 September 2017

As of Lately,

I have been fairly absent from blogging lately due to many busy times. My husband's mother finally got moved to a much nicer retirement home after a year's wait, which meant us packing up her belongings, ahead of time, storing them at our house (or in my case, driving around with my vehicle packed to the hilts until the precise time came when she was to move in), and then moving everything into her new room. Precise is really the word, as we were told she had to come between 4:00 and 4:30 in the afternoon (on a work day!). She is now moved in and much happier, although not really unpacked and I suspect I will be taking some time this week to get her more unpacked (dementia - organization is not really her forte anymore).

As well, our son started at a new highschool this past week due to his previous one closing (thank you Ontario government) and the changes and adjustments that came with that are being dealt with. Daughter went back to her fourth year at university, taking on the roll of Don again in a residence. She has Don duty from 8:00 p.m. until 8:00 a.m. for a few nights. I asked her when she sleeps!! Hopefully not at class time.

We feel like we went from summer ( a very wet summer) directly into late fall. It went down to 6 degrees Celsius! (That is six degrees above freezing). I feel like I might as well just rip out my vegetable garden now.

Here are some pictures I took in the past couple of weeks of what is blooming right now. There is still lots of beautiful colour in the yard.

This is a flower that was gifted to me by a work colleague. This was its best year (all that rain!) It is informally known as turtle head, but I am not sure of the specific name.

Here are the blooms up close. It is a really lovely plant for this time of year.

Of course, Rudbekia (Black Eyed Susan) is in its glory.

I believe this is called Pink Diamond hydrangea. It has turned an even darker pink since I took this picture.

I don't know what this little guy will turn into.

Last weekend, husband and I went out for brunch and then drove around the general area, about an hour and a half away from our home. It was a pretty nice day (i.e. it wasn't pouring rain) and we drove quite a bit along a lake and marvelled at the beautiful homes, imagining what these people must do for a living in order to be able to afford them! At one point during our drive, we saw this.

What is going on with that dead tree?

Oh look! A face!

And another face!


In this portion of our province, you can see many rock faces which are part of the escarpment. Many moons ago, my husband did quite a bit of rock climbing. He looks at these rock faces and imagines how he would tackle them.

This is also the time of year for flocking. A couple of days ago, I walked out into the kitchen and it was a scene from "The Birds". The pictures don't really capture how MANY birds there were. I think they are starlings.


We are currently watching news and weather reports regarding Hurricane Irma. A friend of ours is waiting to see what happens for her mother who lives in Florida and will be going to a shelter today. I'm hoping that with all the pre-warning, as many people as possible have been able to be prepared and get some place safe. But it's not just the actual hurricane, it's the aftermath and how long it will take to clean up, wait for the water to recede, and rebuild if necessary. I can't imagine. We've been to Cuba a couple of times and know what type of housing the average person lives in. I also can't imagine what a category 5 hurricane will do to those! Take care, everyone!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Writing - You'll Never Know Until You Try

Writing has always come easily for me. I never found the concept of grammar difficult. Spelling isn't usually an issue. I enjoy words. I like finding out the origins of expressions. I so appreciate well written stories, books, instructions... I write a great deal for my job. This blog, however, was the first time that I had ever written for pleasure and allowed other people to read my writing.

I have never been one to put myself out there in situations where I think I may come off looking like a fool. For example, I do not possess great physical prowess, so I am always hesitant (read "never will") to try things like downhill skiing, roller blading, group sports, etc. for fear that I will be so atrocious at it (or will seriously hurt myself). I'm not saying this is a healthy attitude, but it's how I am. Please don't recommend counselling. The one thing which is in stark contrast with this chicken shit persona is speaking in public. I actually don't have a problem getting up in front of a large group of people and speaking as long as I am prepared, or know what is needed of me. But don't ask me to hit a ball, or dive into the deep end, or play piano. Please don't ever ask me to play piano in front of anyone except maybe my cat.

So it was a bit of a leap for me to blog and send my words out into the great "inter web". It was shocking to receive that first comment. It was a greater shock that people returned to read what I had to say. I'm still completely thrilled and delighted to see comments (unless it is that creepy weird Asian spam comment).

Many moons ago, when my crazy grandmother was still alive, she would say that I was going to write children's stories when I grew up. When I was little (4, 5, 6 years old or thereabouts) I spent a lot of time drawing stories in booklets of plain newsprint. I would draw out the various scenes of stories, often about the Easter bunny (still love rabbits!), then would narrate them to my grandmother as she was working away in the kitchen. I did this because my older sister did the same thing. She would draw stories for me and tell me the stories out loud. There was an ongoing one that involved a squirrel (Sammy?) I adored these stories. It wasn't unusual to create illustrated stories. This was long before technology or even cable or satellite tv. I drew and created stories for fun. But as I say, my grandmother was crazy, so what did she know? She had full on arguments with the radio.

Where am I going with this? I am trying to gather up the nerve (because I feel this is a brave thing to do) to take that first leap into writing. I get worried about the what-ifs. I think too far into the future. My husband, who is always so encouraging, has told me to not even think about publishers or rejections, or copyrights, but instead to just write. Just write something. I think I could write for children because I've read a great deal of junk written for children and question how it ever got published. I feel that I could write rhyming stories, humorous stories, stories that children could relate to.

With my humble little blog, I am asking for guidance, suggestions, practical details, anything that you could tell me because YOU have written something and got it published, or your brother has, or you have a neighbour who works for a publishing company, or you are a free lance writer, or your great aunt Matilda writes for Hallmark cards, or anything! I'm not digging for compliments. I'm actually hoping somebody out there has already been down this road and can offer up some helpful hints on how to even begin and how to go from writing in long hand on three ring binder paper to actually sending an idea to a publisher.

Thank you, ahead of time, for any and all suggestions!

Friday, 25 August 2017

What's For Supper / Nearing the end of August

There is a palatable change in the air. It is always this time in August that the crickets are noticeable, there's a bit of a snap to the morning air, many flowers have faded, while others become dominant. Although I LOVE summer, I actually really like how this time of year feels. Normally, flower beds look bedraggled and crispy, but of course this year with our relentless rain, everything is lush and full. The "snap" of the morning air was closer to "bloody cold" these past couple of mornings. We are supposed to go down to a low of 6 degrees tonight!! (Celsius - have no clue what that is fahrenheit, but 0 is freezing).

Normally, as well, I have a glut of garden produce, but the relentless rain caused a lot of blight, etc. so my glut occurred with my strawberries. I have some beans, some zucchini, quite a few cucumbers. The rabbits continue to trim the peas as soon as they grow a little, and the tomatoes, well let's all just bow our heads and grieve over the loss of the potential tomatoes. I've dug out a few potatoes (like buried treasure!!) but even they show the effect of too much moisture with hollow discoloured centres, although the rest of them are still quite edible.

Recently, blueberries were a very good price in the grocery store, so I bought a giant container. I seemed to be the only one eating them, so I had to decide how to use them before they became a loss. I got out my trusty recipe book.

I love these recipe books (there are three altogether, created by the two sisters pictured on the front cover). They were originally published as low fat recipes, but they are just tasty and fun, regardless of being low fat or not (sugar is the devil, anyway, not fat).


I love the names of their recipes, always with some kind of corny pun involved. I frequently write in my recipe books, with helpful future hints, or even a rating from the family. Obviously this recipe was a winner. So I made it again and indeed it was very good.

This was the oats mixture that gets put on top.


Here are the blueberries mixed with sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice.


This makes a big dish of dessert. I like it served warm with a little milk, but we've had it with vanilla yogurt, or frozen yogurt, or just plain. It does stain the dickens out of your teeth, however, so brush well after eating!


Today I got my hair dealt with, regrowth at the roots dyed and some lowlights dragged through my overly blonde hair. I sincerely hate getting my hair coloured, not because of the chemicals, or the price (although it is pretty pricey), but being captive for almost two hours having to make small talk with someone that I have very little in common with. I'm a fairly private person (who writes a blog... I know, a bit of a contradiction) and I just don't enjoy that constant banter of question / answer that is part of sitting in a hair stylist's chair. I have tried various hairdressers over the years. I know it's just my problem, probably other people think it's a lovely treat, but I just want to be quiet.

Anyway, after getting home, I embarked on something I've been wanting to do for a little while. I was inspired by Mama Pea over at A Homegrown Journal who has written a few times about her stuffed peppers. Now, I do NOT have any mature peppers yet (the poor little things, I don't think they'll ever see full maturity before we get frost!), but I have been harbouring a few zucchini in the crispers for a little while now. So, I looked up a some recipes for stuffed zucchini, had a look at what I had in the house and concocted some filling for my scooped out zucchinis. In no particular order or quantities, I combined ground beef, onions, green peppers, soft bread crumbs, egg, parsley, basil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, leftover cooked rice, and some plain spaghetti sauce. I let my stuffed zucchini bake away in a 350 oven for at least 45 minutes (the meat mixture was raw when I put it in the oven) and then put a little mozzarella cheese on top to melt. They were pretty good! I like that you get the flavour of meat / spaghetti sauce without the pasta, and it uses up at least two zucchini!


Here are a couple of hollowed out zucchini boats.


I really heaped up the meat mixture so each one got lots of filling. Here they are pre-baking. I didn't take a picture of the finished product, because we were hungry. I would definitely make this again, although the filling could change depending on what's in the fridge.

I've been typing this while listening to news casts about the hurricane affecting Texas and surrounding areas. I hope everyone is safe and secure. We don't get hurricanes here. I guess our natural disasters would be tornados and to a lesser extent, blizzards. It's always scary when nature takes over and is far more powerful than you are.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Jiggity Jig

Yesterday, we went to the "big city", well, a big city. Just husband and I. We went to Costco. This is a big deal because we never go to Costco. (It's a big box store where you have to buy a membership and you can buy all kinds of large amounts of things from office supplies to groceries to toys). We had been earlier this summer to renew a very expired membership, but their machine that takes the pictures and produces the membership cards wasn't working, so they sent us home with an official piece of paper saying we had paid.

We decided to officially get our membership cards and have a look around. Because we so very rarely go to Costco, the place still amazes me. The giant boxes of everything just astound me. I am also floored by the prices of food. There was a huge pie for an incredibly good price. Why would you bake???? My husband bought a great brick of old cheddar for the price that we would pay for one half that size. I can see why some people who live right in the city do their regular grocery shopping there.

Costco is also a very dangerous place, to me anyway. You can easily convince yourself that you need the 24 pack of coloured Sharpie markers ( I LOVE Sharpies), or the dual pack of Nutella, or the muffins that are the size of cakes. Heck, you could buy a mattress, or a refrigerator, or a sectional couch. But I have now discovered the best way to go to Costco. You must go there in a little two-seater car, which is what we did.  No back seat and a relatively small trunk completely prevents you from overspending! I actually had to take things out of boxes and throw the boxes away in the parking lot garbage can so they would fit in the trunk! I think the worst way to get to Costco is in a van, or a pickup truck. Then, you likely would leave with a refrigerator.

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As it turns out, we will never run out of packing tape, I will truly enjoy my Sharpie markers, there is a tray of giant muffins in my fridge, my new slippers are fabulous, we have enough extra strength no name ibuprofen for an infinite amount of headaches, and I've already stashed away the triple pack of goldfish crackers so my son doesn't eat them all in one day.

I am actually very glad that I don't live close to a Costco. I fear my control would be tested.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Save Some

It's Tuesday. Nothing special, just a normal Tuesday, so I made just a normal supper. We had burritos. You know, the kind made with Ol' El Passo tortilla wraps and ground beef seasoned with taco seasoning. Throw on some cut up peppers, onions, cheese, and salsa and there's dinner.

My daughter was working tonight and would not be home until after 9:00. That means she will want supper when she gets home. That means I had to remind my husband, when he went back for seconds that he has to save some meat for her. There was plenty of everything else, but a limited amount of seasoned ground beef. Sometimes (often) my husband will just "clean up" the food that is still there by eating it. I do have to mention that one, or both of our kids will want some of this when they get back home. This is standard. But I still say something. I must be annoying.

There is a reason, though. I don't know if you have a husband, wife, partner, dog, whatever, that cannot be trusted around food. Although this picture is not my daughter's, it is something she has done on various occasions with leftover take out food, usually pizza. (She does not include the death part).

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Sometimes it works, other times he doesn't even look at the box. There have been many sticky notes over the years. One thing I have had to hide is cheese. God love him, he really can't be trusted with cheese. I will put cheese in the crisper drawer instead of in the drawer where we keep sandwich meat, eggs, and cheese. In the past, when I was the lunch-making mama, I would sometimes buy special sliced cheese like Havarti or swiss for sandwiches. If I did not hide it, there wouldn't be enough for sandwiches that week.

His birthday was this past week. He LOVES Stilton blue cheese. I bought him a nice big piece, but I was planning on using a bit of it in the salad and to go with the steak I was making for his birthday dinner. So, I put it in a paper pharmacy bag and kept it in our other fridge until the birthday supper. It was safe.


I work in a place where almost everybody brings their own lunch from home. There is a fridge in which you can keep your lunch if it needs to be refrigerated. Every once in a while someone mistakes someone else's food for their own. This usually happens when it is not in an actual lunch bag. Some people bring their food in just a grocery bag, or they just have a yogurt or some fruit that they put in the fridge. I find this utterly ridiculous. If I made my lunch, I would know which one is my lunch!

But what is worse, is the person who just leaves their food in the fridge, and then forgets about it. I've gone on some mighty fridge purges at work, reading "best before" dates out loud before chucking them in the garbage. The mold encrusted food, the leaking container, the shrimp dear lord the shrimp, the very very old cream... it's all been tossed after I just can't take it anymore. How do you not know you've left your food for that long??

But I digress, my theme was making sure there are leftovers for those people who are not present at meal time due to varying work schedules by reminding my husband not to eat it all. You know, this is usually only a meat issue. I've never had to say, "Leave some of that salad!" or "Make sure there are still cucumbers!" or "Don't eat the last of the carrots!" It's not that he doesn't eat vegetables, but meat is really his passion.

Not to sound perfect, if there is chocolate in the house, there really is no hiding from me!

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Sometimes chips are on sale (potato chips = crisps to my lovely English readers) so I will buy a couple of bags. Both of my children are terrible for staying up late. One likes to be in front of the tv in the den until all hours and the other prefers his bedroom with his computer. They both like to snack. I hide the chips in my bedroom closet. I think they both know they are there, but they know my closet is off limits (like little kids at Christmas who know where the presents are hidden, but don't want to spoil the surprise). I like to have snacks in reserve if someone should drop by.

There have been many times over the years when I have gone to the fridge to get something that I was planning on making, or using in a recipe, or putting in someone's lunch only to look high and low, and then utter the famous words, "R., did you eat the ________?"   They are usually followed by a , "Sorry, I didn't know!!"

I shall finish with something that perhaps a few of us can relate to:

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Wednesday, 9 August 2017

A New Post.

I admit I've been a neglectful blogger. I just haven't had a lot to write about. However, I have taken some pictures, some from a while ago, so here goes a long, "picture-ful" post.

I had taken some flower pictures last week to show what's thriving.



Although this constant rain has been a pain in the neck and interfered with sunshine for most of the summer, my urns are doing very well. I try to fertilize every week or week and a half.


I took this picture for Joanne (Cup on the Bus) to show her my obedient plants and see if she thinks that is what she has in her garden. They are definitely August bloomers.


This clematis was given to me 11 years ago. It has bloomed once before. (I am a patient gardener). This year it is putting on its best show ever.


Quite obviously I have not managed to rip out all of my black eyed Susan. This picture is actually trying to show you one of my favourite fillers: Russian sage. Again, this year it is doing remarkably well and the purple plus the height create a lovely background for so many flowers. You can see my giant hydrangea behind it.


Onward to the vegetable garden, which you would think, would be thriving beautifully with all this rain. Not so much. This is a collection of about 4 or 5 cucumber plants. In previous years, the vines would have been roaming across half the garden. I am at least harvesting some cucumbers here and there.


May I now introduce to you the world's saddest patch of tomatoes. This well and truly breaks my heart. They developed blight very early in the season and there was no coming back. I even bought expensive copper-something-or-other powder that I mixed with water and sprayed on the leaves. It didn't matter. By now in other years, my tomatoes have been so huge that I've had to pound wooden stakes in along with the tomato cages so they didn't keep falling over from their own weight. Next year I will have to plant them elsewhere because I think the blight can stay in the soil. No, I do not put the dead leaves in my compost.


These guys are my only hope for toasted tomato sandwiches. Sniff. It reminds me of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree bending over with the weight of  one ornament.


Here is what husband has been busy with . Our shed now has a red metal roof like the rest of the structures on our property. He's been working away, strapping over the old shingles, and cutting the metal and putting it up. This morning he was finishing the ridge. Do you see him up there? I asked him if his running shoes had "sticky" enough soles. He makes me nervous. He built the shed himself about 16 years ago.


There he is!


This, to move onto a totally different subject, is the back of my daughter's head. She had just quickly put it back into a braid and I took a picture of it on my phone so she could see how incredible her hair looked. All those variations of colour are totally natural. Lucky duck. I'd have to shell out about a hundred dollars to get highlights like that!


Yup, so that didn't work. Sorry those are sideways. I am also too lazy to go back and try to turn them before uploading them again. Tomorrow is husband's birthday. He'll be a big 53 years old. Today I will bake a cake, a really good decadent chocolate cake, layered, for his birthday. That is what I do. To me, a homemade cake means 'I care' and 'you are important enough that I will make the effort to bake you a cake'. I remember being shocked and little disapproving when I first started going out with my husband and on birthdays in their family, they just got a purchased cake, and not even anything terribly special. Funny, the things that matter to one person, but not another.

Finally, I need to ask, are any of you getting weird comments on your blogs that are just pieced together comments written by other people and seem to be coming from an Asian source? What have you been doing with them? I delete them sometimes and other times click on spam, although truth be told, I have no idea what happens when you mark something as spam. I'm concerned it is some sort of virus infiltrating my computer and doing terrible things. Anyone know anything??

Hope you are all enjoying your second week of August. It is lovely and hot here (for the moment).

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Gorgeous Day, Hanging out with Alpacas

Well it doesn't get better than the beautiful day we had today. It was sunny first thing in the morning and the temperature was lovely and hot. We even hung out down by the pool for a while. Husband went in, but it was still too cold for me (76 degrees F). It is difficult getting the pool up to temperature this summer due to lack of sunshine (we use solar heaters) and the fact that any heat we have is lost over night. If we get a couple more sunny days, it will make a huge difference!

Today our daughter went to a local alpaca farm. She has a summer job working for a radio station, driving around to events and places helping to promote them by posting photos and writing information that goes on the radio's website and other social media. She had contacted the owners to see if they would like her to promote their business and they were happy to have her. My husband and I tagged along. I had visited this farm a couple of years ago with my kids and previously posted about it. This was the first visit for my husband.



We learned a lot about alpacas and how to raise them from the owner. (He is a retired secondary school math teacher and was a fantastic tutor for our son this year, too!)


They all wanted a treat from the bucket! They are very gentle. One thing I love about them is the sound they make which is little bit like Chewbacca from Star Wars.


I think this little one is about three weeks to a month old. I just wanted to hug it, but it stayed just an arm's length away.


My daughter really tried to get these little ones to come closer.


Almost!!


No, this isn't a disturbing picture of an alpaca having some sort of seizure. She is just enjoying a nice rolly dust bath.

I'm a real sucker for animals. If money were no object, I would have a perfect little hobby farm with chickens, ducks, a couple alpacas, maybe a sheep or two, perhaps a miniature horse. I do realize what a lot of work it is to have animals, so for now I'm more than happy to visit other peoples' farms.

The alpacas are tidy, inquisitive animals. They are not good at being solitary animals, you should always have at least two. The couple who own the farm make most of their money selling the fleece. I am certainly not a knitter, so the fleece is of little interest to me. Because these pack animals are originally from South America, they have all been given Spanish names.

Back home after supper, I put in some time raking and loading up more apples. At least this bunch is bigger than the first very small ones which made clean up easier.

It is amazing what a difference a change in weather can make in one's mood and perspective. I was about to say I am looking forward to another nice day, but when I just checked the online forecast, it indicated rain for the next seven days. Oh well, I have some books from the library to keep me happy for a few days.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Great Outdoors

When the heck did it become July 26th? Summer seems to be zooming by and I'd be hard pressed to say how I've been spending my time. Today, I awoke to a cool, drizzly morning. When I got dressed, I put on shorts, and a long sleeved top. It just felt too chilly for short sleeves. After the light rain passed over, I got outside to do a little weeding in my vegetable garden and a perennial bed. My goal has been to dig out the "baby" trees that have shown up where they shouldn't be. Many of these are walnut trees, no doubt planted by squirrels. The others are what I call Manitoba maples. Yesterday I got started on some and had to call on my husband because they were just too difficult to dig out. Well, naturally a small job became a big job and after much cutting, lopping, digging, and loading up of the Gorilla cart (three times) and dumping in the burn pile, most trees were gone. They had grown up in and around a giant old mock orange and some other shrubs.

I set my sights on smaller trees that had to go. I didn't start without my two best friends:


-gardening gloves and bug spray!

I managed to get rid of a few more, although there was one that I must confess I just cut off close to the bottom. I never would have been able to dig it out without a complete massacre of all plants and shrubs around it. I also tackled some basic weeding.

With those jobs being done, I moved on to the next one. It is an apple year with our old apple tree which only produces every two years. Someone else is also aware that it is an apple year.



Now, don't get me wrong, they can eat as many apples as they want. We don't use them as they are too tiny, sour, and insect ridden for us. However, they don't stop at apples. They enjoy beans, peas, and parsley.

They apples need to be raked up so that the grass can be properly cut. As well, they quickly rot and attract wasps. I got my rake and tackled the job.


The apples get raked into piles.


Then, the apples are scooped up and loaded into the Gorilla cart (what would we do without that thing??) and pulled by the lawn mower and dumped elsewhere. This process will continue several times throughout the summer until the apples are done dropping from the tree.


I did stop to admire my window boxes. They are doing well now, filling in nicely.


I really like creeping jenny in window boxes and urns. It makes them look so feminine and pretty.

Did I mention how much I love crocosmia? It is the reedy looking plant with the red flowers.


I came in to have a snack (and to bandage up a blister that I still managed to get even though I was wearing gloves), and then naturally it started to rain. So I did not get the raked apples loaded up into the cart yet, but they'll certainly be waiting for me when the rain does eventually end.

Guess who isn't the least bit bothered by the rain?


Thursday, 20 July 2017

Walk Around Wednesday- Blooms, Cat, Rain and more

Yes, I realize it is Thursday, but I planned on posting this yesterday, using photos I took on Tuesday. Come for a walk around the property with me.


-spiderwort


-close up of spiderwort bloom


-daylilies are in bloom - beautiful sunny yellow, so eye catching across the yard


-a soft, peachy orange


-a gorgeous, hot reddish orange daylily


-one of my favourites, these are big, sturdy blooms


-I like the colour combination of the "hot" daylilies with purple sandcherry


I only have two roses. This Hansa is normally quite healthy and prolific, but it didn't get cut back properly, so it has had to move forward from a severe cutting back too late this spring and is only now showing a couple of blooms. I'm not much of a rose officiando.


-taller cranesbill are now blooming and fill in spaces in most of my beds


-best year yet!


-purple coneflowers (Echinacea)


-one of my most favourite - crocosmia         -didn't realize how blurry this photo was until I uploaded it :( 


I am quite happy I took pictures of the current blooms, because naturally this morning began with thunder and torrential downpours. These pictures do not capture the intensity of the rain...




Scooter-the-cat-with-no-tail managed to make his way home through the rain and picked up quite a few sticky seeds in his fur on the way.


He's looking a bit bedraggled. I brushed the seeds out of his fur after he was done eating. I can hear him meowing from the windowsill again, as I am typing this.

How are your gardens growing? For those of you in hot, dry places, I would gladly send you some of our rain if I could!

Oh yes, one final addition: we now seem to be the proud "owners" of a skunk. It crawled under a little low porch (the one I stand on to hang laundry - on the two days it didn't rain), it rummages through my compost container (no I don't put meat scraps in it), and it digs around looking for grubs in the lawn. So far, smell is not a problem, and Scooter has not decided it is his long lost mommy, so we are o.k.  I'm just a little concerned about accidentally surprising it with dire results. Anyone have experience with a resident skunk?