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Flycatcher's World - Web, Words, and Wonderful Critters

Updated on March 19, 2015

Who the heck is Flycatcher?

Just another living creature in this dew-spangled web, I go by "Flycatcher" because:

1. Flycatcher was the name of my first retired racing greyhound, the Hound of My Heart;

2. I'm very shy, so it has always felt more comfortable to use a nickname when I'm writing online; and

3. As a kid, "flycatcher" was my name for a spider, and spiders are just so cool. They build a beautiful web to catch whatever drifts by, and this seems to me very appropriate for the way that someone with many diverse interests tends to explore the world.

my dogs
my dogs

More Than You Wanted to Know

For those who really feel the need for data and details, OK, here goes:

  • I'm a Canadian who's about half-way through what any of us can reasonably expect for a lifespan.
  • I've been self-employed for almost all my life, mostly in three areas and often in all three of these at the same time:
    • beekeeping - recently downscaled to a backyard sideline;
    • dog training - I teach dog obedience classes in the evenings, a couple of times a week;
    • writing and publishing - non-fiction trade books, mostly, but also technical writing and, increasingly as the years pass, web content on a wide variety of topics. I don't specialize as much as I used to but still find myself drawn to areas of history and society, arts and culture, with a sub-speciality in web-based technology and almost anything to do with the outdoors.
  • My greatest joy is to learn new things... which may just be a way of saying I've got a really short attention span. :)

Retired Racing Greyhounds - Greyhounds are habit-forming. It's impossible to adopt just one.

two black greyhounds
two black greyhounds

This photo shows a classic summertime activity around my place, taken a few years ago when I had two black greyhounds - one male and one female. Both were retired racing greyhounds, of course, and just a pair of big goofs. Greyhounds can get pretty competitive when they're running and playing together, so I put their kennel muzzles on them when they're turned out in the big fenced yard, in case you're wondering why they're wearing muzzles in the photo. Actually, greyhounds are incredibly gentle dogs with a lot of love to give once they convert from livestock to pets, and they make me laugh every single day.

On January 2, 2013, I lost the beautiful big boy to an aggressive form of bone cancer, far too soon - he was only 5 years old. R.I.P., my gentle giant.

Update: Most recently, I've adopted a mature ex-racing greyhound with epilepsy. Buster has grand mal seizures that can be quite alarming, but the rest of the time he's a perfectly normal, healthy, happy, handsome brindle boy - you'd never know there is anything medically the matter with him. In fact, at the age of 7 years, he's now gone "back to school" (at the dog training school where I moonlight) and has got up to Grade 3 in Obedience.

Running With The Big Dogs - These are the Porch Pet Gates that keep me (almost) sane...

My partner designed these pet gates to close off our verandah so the dogs can hang out there without going off to chase the barn cats or find a skunk. Then he drew up a nice set of woodworking plans for people to make their own, because just that's the kind of thing we get up to out here in the country.

Two of the dogs shown in this video are visitors, staying at "sleep-over camp" while their owners, friends of ours, are away on vacation. The rest of the dogs are mine. Aren't they a fine-looking pack?

My old Golden Retriever, Cinderella
My old Golden Retriever, Cinderella

A Bit More on My Pets

Animals of all sorts are welcome!

Up until the beginning of January 2012, I also had a very elderly golden retriever. (You may pause here briefly to admire her photograph. What a beauty, eh?) I miss her very much... but that's the way of life, isn't it? We just have to deal with it, as a fair trade for the joy that our animals give us in the short span of time that we have them. And to be fair, I have perhaps more than my fair share of "pets" to love and enjoy.

Besides the ever-changing cast of Smart Cats who patrol my place (putting terror into the heart of unwary rodents), there are the honey bees.

And, before you ask - no, I'm not going to give a name to every one of the bees that buzz around my garden. (Admittedly, though I have been known to get quite attached to the occasional queen bee, for which the other beekeepers tease me unmercifully.)

Beekeepers.  Photo by the author.
Beekeepers. Photo by the author.


Beekeeping has a way of getting under your skin...

I got my first "nuc" of bees in the spring of 1999, and over the years "the girls" have become an essential part of my lifestyle in spring, summer, and fall right up to frost. And in the winter, I sit around and repair the apiary equipment, and think about getting back out to the beeyard when the snow is finally gone.

For a number of years, our colonies were hired out for pollination services, to growers of apples, strawberries, blueberries and cranberries - each crop in turn as it came into bloom - but apiculture at that level tends to take the fun out of it and feel a lot like work! When I realized I couldn't remember the details of each hive's health without copious notes, I knew it was time to downsize and get back to the pleasures of backyard beekeeping. With just a few colonies to keep friends and family in honey, beeswax, and other products of the hive, there's time again to sit in the sun and listen to the bees' soothing hum.

My Beekeeping Workbench / Assistant - It's called the Bee-Mate, because someone around here (not me) likes bad puns.

I am not a tall person and not particularly strong, and beekeeping can be a pretty physical activity - especially if you've got honey supers loaded for harvest. Those boxes get very heavy! So, my partner, who is not only a keen woodworker but quite an inventor (you saw the video of our porch pet gates, right?) came up with this folding workbench that I could drag out to the beeyard with me to act as a spare set of hands and also reduce the amount of bending and lifting involved in working the hives. That was back in 2004, and I'm still using the Bee-Mate prototype model - it's stood up really well over the years.

Since 2004, our woodworking plans for the Bee-Mate workbench have been purchased by beekeepers all over the world, and a couple of US beekeepers are now licensed to make Bee-Mate benches for sale in their own states. How cool is that? :)

Breaking News! - Bee photo makes the big time!

I'm not a good photographer, but it's not too hard to take half-decent pictures of honeybees if you're a beekeeper with a camera - assuming your camera doesn't have honey smeared all over the lens. When you know your bees and they know you, you can get up very close and just take your time about getting a good shot, without worrying about the "camera shake" that afflicts shutterbugs who are nervous around thousands of stinging insects.

The Bee: A Natural History
The Bee: A Natural History
I was tickled pink and proud as Punch to be asked my permission for one of my own bee photographs to appear in a beautiful new book - this one!
Kitty (c) Flycatcher
Kitty (c) Flycatcher


And then there are the Smart Cats, who rule over us all...

Although a "dog person" from childhood, I was long ago tamed and trained by a series of Smart Cats. It's hard to claim that cats are "pets" exactly, as clearly it is the cats who actually own us mere humans... Ah, but if you're a cat lover, you know all about that in your own life, don't you?

My favourite cat at the moment is a dear old 17-year-old barn cat with no tail. She comes and goes as she likes, tormenting poor Peter the good-natured ginger tom, and getting treats off every household in a two-mile radius when she gets bored with mousing. A half-dozen different families are under the delusion that Shadow Cat is their kitty!

The photo here is a typical portrait of my second-favourite, Kitty (yes, that's her name - and no, I didn't name her!), who is almost impossible to photograph because she's far too curious about what that camera thing is.

You can read some of my cat obsession stuff here along with those of some other writer friends in a collection of feline-fancier articles that just seems to keep on growing... much like the collection of cat figurines from around the world that begins to look like it might take over my china cabinet. But who can resist just one more, when each feline friend is a treasure in his or her own right?

Right, so that's quite enough about me (and then some)... I'd love you to introduce yourself in the guestbook here, if you've got time to write a comment and say Hello!


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