Porcupine Adventures: An Epilogue

30 Oct

The real final chapter

Last day at the cottage was on Wednesday but on Thursday I had to return to help take the dock out of the water.

My cousin and landlord (they’re the same person) were both SHOCKED at the sheer volume of the porcupine poop covering the deck. Which I found surprising because I provided her a GREAT amount of detail in my descriptions of the situation including photographic evidence and scientific analysis. It’s almost like she didn’t WANT to believe me.

Anyway my new camera phone arrived while I was at the cottage and my return to the cottage allowed me to use it to capture some proper images of Bernadette.

Also Bernadette is adorable.

I also got some GREAT video and I pay like a hundred bucks a year to WordPress so I can upload videos but when I tried they downgraded the video to 240P – I didn’t even know they went that low. Anyway, here’s a link to the video on Youtube.

and if you are curious, here is what the video looks like using the native WordPress upload.


EDIT: so when I looked at the published video, it seemed ok so that’s that.

PT 6: The Final Battle

27 Oct

Battle Final!

On the weekend I had a couple friends over to play some poker and eat some food and drink some beer. Saturday afternoon we were sitting out on the dock having a grand olde time, talking and singing and laughing about memories past.

But I couldn’t enjoy myself. Not with the Bernadette situation remaining firmly unsolved. After a few days of observation it became clear how she operated. She would come home sometime between the hours of 4 AM and 9 AM where she would park her butt on a low tree branch where she would sleep until 4 PM. Then she would climb to close to the top of the tree and feast on the delicious bark that can be found only at the top (ask any giraffe). When it got dark she’d climb down and go do her business.

The problem kept scratching at me like some sort of animal digging or climbing somewhere. What was I going to do? If my cousin found out I was harbouring a fugitive (animal) at the cottage, she might never hire me again!

And then, as the sun was beginning to set over the water, and our conversation experienced a pause, it was during that moment of silence we heard sound of twenty or so porcupine turds falling 60 ft (20 m) on to the deck below.

And it was then that I realized: porcupines pooping on random people from up in the trees is not anyone’s problem, it’s just really, really funny. The turds don’t just go straight down, they ricochet off branches and land in people’s drinks and food. And maybe, just maybe, if the victim looks up – at just the right moment – he could get one right in the face.

So later that evening when she made her way down to the forrest floor, I stood by and watched. We made eye contact and exchanged a look of understanding.

I’m going to miss you, Bernadette. Hopefully we’ll both be invited back next year. And I’ll be sure to bring some little umbrellas for my food and drink.

The end.


27 Oct

Very rare!

The vast majority of decisions in life are simple binary provisions – Option A or Option B. Do we get a dog or a cat? Do we go see the new Marvel movie or do we watch an older Marvel on streaming? Wake up or go back to bed?

Regarding Operation Make Porcupine Go Away Now, with options Baffle and Sleeve firmly in the toilet, it was time to start thinking outside the cottage. So I went down to the dock to do some ideaing and after a few hours the best I could come up with was to wake up BEFORE Bernadette returns home from whatever it is she does at night (no judgement!)

The new option I came up with was: to be sitting and waiting for her at the base of the tree with a disapproving look on my face. When she came home in the morning, she’d see me and move to another tree (porcupines are non-confrontational creatures).

But there were a few problems. The main one being I had no idea what time she comes home every day. So I could wake up at 4 AM and she could already be up in the tree. Also, what would prevent her from coming back the next day? I’d have to get up super early and sit outside in the rain for the remainder of my holiday? No thank you.

PT 4: Planning

27 Oct

A porcupine don’t take a dump without a plan.

On my first day alone at the cottage I woke up invigorated with a new sense of purpose. I was going to solve this porcupine dilemma once and for all. But there was a lot of work to be done. First up I had to decide on which approach I would take.

Option A: Baffle

This design is attractive in its simplicity but complicated in its execution. At home if I had a problem like this I would simply cut a hole in the centre of an old trash can lid and then slice it from the centre to the edge and then put it around the tree.

But all the trash can lids here belong to my cousin and she HATES it when I destroy her things. Also as you can see from the photos the tree is HUGE. At the base it’s bigger than your average residential trash can.

Option B: Sleeve

This design also had some limiting factors. The main one being – what material do I use? Again if I were at home, I’d simply drive up to the Home Depot and pick up a thing of sheet metal (in the duct section). The circumference of the tree is about 36” (1 m) so I’d just need a couple (this tree has two trunks for some reason) of 24” x 36” pieces and some duct tape and we’re done!

But the problem is the car is back in Ottawa and the only sheet metal here, well, I’d have to make myself. FORTUNATELY my guests and I drank a lot of beer this week so I have plenty of cans from which I could stitch together a makeshift aluminium sleeve.

So if the tree is 36” (91 CM) around the outside and the sleeve should be about 24” (61 CM) tall and the useable cans area is 5” x 5” (12 cm x 12 cm) with some overlap I’ll need 6 cans high and maybe 8 or 9 cans wide – so that’s 48 beer cans times two trees and I am sad to report that my friends and I did NOT drink a hundred beers in the past week.



27 Oct

Design Time!

I decided to use my new porcupine expertise to devise a system to help keep the deck (porcupine) poop-free. Here’s what I came up with – make it so that when Bernadette returns from wherever it is she goes at night she has climb up a different tree that’s only a few feet away.

Here’s what I was thinking – the best way to keep her out of the tree is to prevent her from climbing it. There are two traditional ways one does this.

The first is to create a “baffle” that’s like an umbrella where the tree trunk is the umbrella handle. The rodent climbs up and when they encounter the baffle they have to turn around.

The second is to wrap part of the tree trunk with a “sleeve” made from a material that makes it hard to climb. Bernadette’s claws easily grip the rough bark of the tree. She wouldn’t be able to climb a smooth-surfaced tree.

Which one should I do?


26 Oct

The Next Morning: Part 2

On Wednesday we woke up after a wonderful night’s sleep and the first thing we did was check in the tree. Well that was the second thing, the real first thing we did was we noticed some fresh porcupine poops on the patio. And sure enough there she was, twenty feet (six metres) off the deck. Just sitting there.

I naturally assumed I was a porcupine expert but I realized I hardly knew anything about the creatures. In twenty-four hours I discovered that they can climb (and live in) trees, they’re huge, they’re herbivores, they’re only active at night, they’re not very fast, and they sport a good set of claws and they will return to their favourite tree on the second night.

And all of that had got me thinking: maybe there are other subjects that I’m not an expert on. I mean, is that even possible? I’m an expert on knowledge so… probably not.

What happened next?

I decided I should gently relocate our new friend to a different tree (you know, with the raining poops and all). How did I do this? Well, that is the subject of another, future blog post.

PT 1 – Was it REALLY Animal Poop Falling from Overhead?

26 Oct

Yes. Yes it was.

I’m at Foxbay cottage for a week of well earned rest and relaxation. Last Tuesday Sarah and I were sitting around the gas campfire and I noticed a small turd-shaped turd on the side table and I immediately contacted the cottage owner to get more information.

At first glance I thought it was an animal turd but also that it was the same size and shape (but not appearance) of the seeds of the tree above us. So when I heard one fall I just assumed it was from the tree. Even though when I broke it up with a stick it was all fibrous I thought there’s no way this is an animal poop. It’s probably just a baby-seed from the tree that has yet to turn into a proper seed. 

After we saw a squirrel jump from the tree we Google-image-searched “squirrel poop” and whilst the shape a colour were both good, the size was way off – these were way too big. 

I should qualify, one of the reasons we were so concerned about this is that Pepper ate one of the poops. And I read once that raccoon’s can spread terrible diseases in their leavings (raccoon was our first guess as to the source)

While I’ve never seen raccoon poop I assume it’s horrible and gross because racoons eat trash all day and you know the old saying – garbage in, garbage out – so I was leaning towards this not being a raccoon. 

I should also mention that at one point I felt some “rain” fall from the cloudless sky. Which was also unusual. At that point we started scanning the tree and we didn’t see any animals up there. 

Then like five minutes later we saw what appeared to be a rather large raccoon lumbering down the side of the tree.

It was starting to get dark and she noticed us so then she just parked herself on a branch. We moved in to take some photos and that’s when we discovered… 

It was NOT a raccoon at all. It was GIANT porcupine. 

After we snapped some pics I showered the porcupine pee off me and then started the BBQ. As I was cooking up the burgers I heard a noise in the bushes and I watched our new spiky neighbour walking towards the next cottages, never to be seen again…

Or was she… 

Dance Across Borders

8 Jan

Until tonight the only time I’d seen Dance Me Outside (1995) was at the Ottawa theatrical premier on March 8 of that year. Indie/Canadian cinema was not really my thing at the time so the only reason I ever saw this movie was because I’d scored a pass to see it for free. And the experience was strange because I didn’t care for the first 70 minutes of the film but the final 10 minutes erased all that because the ending was so fucking good.

Because of this, any time in the past 25 years when I’d think about this movie it always generated those hits of endorphins you get when your mind wanders to a wonderful experience from your past.

So tonight I decided to revisit it. I was worried that it hadn’t aged well – a movie about the experiences of First Nations’ people that was written, directed, and produced by white guys – could be a perfect storm of cringe.

But I didn’t find that at all. The social commentaries felt as relevant today as they would have been then and the casting (and performances) were great – most of the actors were hired locally in Parry Sound Ontario. The subplots were full of surprises that I’d forgotten, and the ending remained perfect.

So to summarize: Dance Me Outside (1995) – 8.5/10 – available on Apple’s movie service for $5 CDN (and it’s only 80 minutes so you should really give it a try.)

Dance Me Outside Poster Movie 11x17 Ryan Black Adam Beach Michael Greyeyes  Li...: Amazon.ca: Home & Kitchen


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Die Hard (1988) is not my favourite film

2 Mar

and it hasn’t been for some time.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now – it’s something I’ve revealed only to close friends and family. At the beginning I needed a shared secret that could be used to verify the identity of the person I was texting with. In a crisis situation I would ask some variant of “what’s my favourite movie?” and the kidnappers (having done some background research on me) would respond, “Die Hard.”

I would then abruptly end the chat, turn to my partner and tell him, “Your foster parents are dead” – the real answer eluding the villains and giving me (and my lovable but naive partner) the upper hand!

But as the years have passed my reasons for needing a secret passphrase have slowly evaporated, like unfrozen water in the sun. So I have chosen today to share with you what I have come to discover is my one true cinematic love – because it was thirty years ago today, on March 2, 1990, The Hunt for Red October (1990) was released in theatres.

I’m not going write about why HFRO is objectively the perfect film and current pinnacle of human achievement, I have another project lined up to explain all that. And I’m not going to go into why Die Hard (1988) has fallen from the top spot – it’s a great film, near-perfect and genre defining. Today is not about knocking things down, it’s about building them up.

So let us all enjoy Hunt for Red October Day as we celebrate with our friends and family. This business is under control.

And we’re lucky to have lived with it.



First Ever Guest Blogger! What Toilets and Travelling Have in Common

22 Jan

Hi, I’m Miri from Germany and I’ll be guest blogging today for our new best Canadian friends Jason and Sarah. It might sound a bit weird talking about “best friends” (Canadian or not), when you find out that we only spent two days together (also Jason and Sarah actually are the only Canadians we know… ). But let me tell you, you will soon find out why this does make sense.

We met them in November in Botswana at an incredibly breath-taking place called the Chobe Bakwena Lodge. Jason already took you there in his blogpost (in which, by the way, he never even mentioned us. Bloody good best friend, eh?!).

But first things first: the toilet thing!

We met Jason and Sarah the day we checked into this marvellous, luxurious lodge in Kasane, right after my husband Manu and I returned our rooftop-tent-camper-van, in which we had been travelling through Africa for the previous 17 days. Getting back to comfortable accommodations was an incredibly good feeling as I am not the most passionate camper (although this whole roadtrip-living-outdoors experience in Namibia and Botswana was absolutely amazing). If you understand German (or if your browser has a translation function), visit our blog to read about our adventures!

The most important reason for our obtaining “best friends” status with Jason and Sarah is that I (like Jason) have strong feelings about toilets. Specifically I don’t really like sharing. I’m not high maintenance but having a clean and private toilet is something I consider to be priceless. Well actually, not priceless… On our first honeymoon roadtrip through Western Australia – also in a camper van without any facilities – we purchased this practical travel toilet for the very affordable price of 35 dollar-adoos. Just look at it. Can you imagine how luxurious this was for me on this trip and how much hilarity was billed to this “thing”?

guest blog pic

I should mention the plastic disposal bags were not solid white like on the box but transparent.

So the four of us met and we were a perfect fit – like a toilet seat to toilet porcelain or like “Arsch auf Eimer” as we used to say in Germany. Having the same interests (toilets! but also Kebabs and traveling) and the same sense of humour is most probably the best base to build a friendship on. Have you ever heard someone say: Hey, our relationship is based on a mutual love of toilets?

So, what about the travelling? Why do Manu and I love to travel so much? First, it’s because of all the experiences, adventures, breathtaking landscapes, wild animals, and exotic food, the things that are stunning and so diversified in every single country. Second, it’s because of the people: the locals that open their homes and hearts for you and tell you their stories and secrets.


Jason took this photo! 

And then, there are these other travellers, like-minded people you meet along your journey and that might sometimes become friends. A good thing about travelling is that you develop a pretty refined sense of human nature and it helps sharpen your gut feeling. It’s this feeling as if you have known someone for a long time, although it’s the first time you’ve meet. I like to call it “friendship at first sight”. We had that feeling when we met Jason and Sarah.

So finally, what is the proof that, in fact, we are (best!) friends? Well, true friends know what’s best for you, right? With that in mind, it recently came to my attention that Jason and Sarah assumed that Manu and I would prefer to spend the final night at the luxury lodge with them and a bottle of free champagne instead of being pampered by the lodge in private with a special dinner for our second honeymoon. And then (without any consultation!) they proceeded to make their assumption a reality!

We may never know if this story is actually true, but in the end it doesn’t really matter as Manu and I would have made the same decision anyways. Or maybe it does matter, because now that I think about it, Sarah and Jason now owe us a special dinner the next time we meet! Maybe a Kebab…

If you want to read more about this (and other) shenanigans, check out Jason’s guest blog post on our Professional Travel Magazine Website (it’s mostly in English!)

Jan 11, 2019

PS: The pics in Jason’s Botswana Post are not as shitty as he thinks, but if you want to see more, feel free to visit our Botswana post!