Saturday, 19 October 2019

Feathers

Some good looking winners at the poultry show at the Fair!
When I was a child, my dad always kept chickens for eggs, and later for meat, when they stopped laying.  We got a delivery of two dozen baby chicks from the hatchery every spring, and it was my job to feed and water them for the first few days.  When they were big enough, they went outside to the henhouse and the enclosed chicken run, to keep them safe.   I don't think we ever lost any to the local fox.





Wednesday, 16 October 2019

The Musical Ride

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride were at our local Fall Fair at the beginning of October. They performed in a much smaller area than they are used to and had to cut some pretty sharp corners with their horses when executing some of the more complicated maneuvers.




I spoke to one of the riders while we both waited for lunch to be ready at the hamburger stand. She said she had been a rider for 3 years, and had almost finished her time with the Musical Ride and was going on to other duties in December.  I was surprised to learn that many of the riders had no knowledge of horses in their previous civilian lives, and when they apply to be part of the Ride they go through a year of training, and then are able to complete all the complicated patterns. I enjoyed watching the Ride so much, I watched it twice!

Monday, 14 October 2019

A Walk in the Woods

With the sun shining and the sky a vivid blue, I decided to get some fresh air. There are not many of these lovely days left and the cold winter winds are not far away. We haven't had a real frost yet, although one is forecast for tonight.
So I walked though the nearby woods by the local reservoir. The sign says "No Pedestrians, Sensitive Environment" or words to that effect, but if I stick to the path I'll be OK.  I could hear the Canada Geese on the water, honking and flapping their wings. No geese pics.... the bulrushes were too tall and I didn't want to get my feet wet!




 And a big surprise.... art in the forest! Lovely idea.



Saturday, 5 October 2019

RCMP and YRMU Horses

A couple of horses and riders from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (red jackets) and the York Region Mounted Unit (blue jackets) of the York Region Police Force were at the park for a "meet and greet" yesterday.
The Mounties are in town as they are performing the RCMP Musical Ride twice a day at the nearby Markham Fall Fair.

Pictures taken by Max age eight. He very sensibly didn't want to get too near those very large horses.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Billy Gauthier


Image result for billy gauthier imageI really enjoyed wandering around Billy Gauthier's exhibition of carvings, "Beyond Bones", this summer at The Rooms in St John's.     Billy Gauthier was born in Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Labrador, in 1978. He has Inuit and Metis ancestry and started carving in 1996 after visiting his sculptor cousin, John Terriak, who gave him some stone and some tools to try out. After successfully selling his second piece of carving, Billy decided to carve full time.   Billy creates intricately detailed carvings and uses natural materials such as stone, bone, antler, ivory, sinew, and baleen (whalebone), and his work often depicts traditional Inuit practices and spirituality.

Narwhal Hunt - Billy Gauthier  ...  anhydrite, serpentine, whalebone, labradorite, antler (caribou), antler (moose)
Here's what Billy Gauthier has to say about Narwhal Hunt:
“This huge sculpture was a piece that I have worked on for many years to bring to this conclusion. It was a piece that I kept on putting aside because I was not sure how to finish it. The sculpture inclusion in the exhibition became the incentive to complete it. Carving the base took a long time and designing the kayaks to balance on the waves required many drawings in the planning stages. Initially, I had intended to have only one kayaker but then to my eye it somehow did not seem balanced and needed a second kayaker. This of course meant more time was required and I had to work long hours to complete this piece in time. There is a lot of detailing in the figures with even their finger nails carved. I have always enjoyed carving faces and hands. I braided all the sinew which was a long tedious job. I am very happy with the result as it captures the power and the drama of the hunt in an exaggerated form. The hunters were finished in pieces of Newfoundland anhydrite gifted to me by (sculptor) Michael Massie when he came to visit my studio this summer.” 

Billy's carvings often address problems experienced by the Northern people in their every day lives as the Inuit communities adjust to life in the modern world, such as food insecurity, substance abuse, impacts of environmental degradation and loss of tradition.

Northern Fridgidaire Diet - Billy Gauthier  ...  serpentine, antler (moose and caribou), horn (muskox), slate base
Billy's comments on Northern Fridgidaire Diet:
"In the past we lived a traditional life of fishing and hunting and only eating wild “country foods.” Now that has all changed as we tend to buy and eat more groceries imported from the south in our northern stores. These junk foods often include high sugar content drinks, canned and processed packaged foods that are low in nutritional value and often high in saturated fats which have all contributed to our unhealthy diet.

This sculpture has an Inuk wrestling with all those demons that are in his fridge. You will see a milk carton, a loaf of bread, Reese’s peanut butter cups and cans of Pepsi — but I have also added a bottle of liquor and cigarettes that have created additional health problems in the north.

We are seeing an increase in diabetes and lactose intolerance due to this poor diet, lack of exercise and decline in consuming “country foods.” Obesity in Nunavut is 88% more than the national average in the rest of Canada over the last ten years. There are also the associated social problems created with addictions to drugs and alcohol. It is a fact that we have a genetic disadvantage to alcohol and it seems everyone in the north smokes. Canadian Government Health statistics state that 58% of Inuit smoke cigarettes with 46% starting to smoke at the age of 14 or younger. The Inuit never had a traditional ceremonial use of tobacco as an excuse like many other aboriginal peoples in the south.

This is a subject that I have always wanted to carve as “food for thought.” These health problems have always worried me and this was an ideal opportunity to voice my concerns. Even though I go fishing and hunting ptarmigan, rabbits, caribou and seal — I still go to the shops and buy too much junk food.

I admit I am guilty of many of these problems."

Northern Voices (Owl/Human Transformation) - Billy Gauthier  ...   serpentine, anhydrite, grouse feathers, ptarmigan feathers
Billy Gauthier's explanation of Northern Voices:
"In Inuit culture it is believed that humans and animals both possess souls, which is why all animals should be treated with equal respect. When viewing this piece you will notice both human and owl forms within the mask, in the center of each eye you’ll find a face, in one an owl and the other a human. This was made to show the equality of the two life forms rather than their obvious differences. The mask appears to be speaking, both through the owl’s beak and through a human face that has been carved at the tip of the tongue; this is to symbolize the equal importance of the cry of man and animal. In this day and age we often take note of the problems we face as humans, and all too often the voices of other forms of life go unheard. We as people are not the only ones inhabiting this earth so we need to listen to and respect all voices."
I was fascinated by Billy's intricate carvings and I spent a lot of time just looking and reading the information about him. At his very first solo exhibition a few years ago, he sold all 25 carvings on display in just 18 minutes.... amazing! You rock, Billy!

Monday, 16 September 2019

Morning Glow

As I sipped my first cup of coffee out on the deck, this was my view on a very misty morning a couple of days ago. The early sun's rays make the mist glow. A magic time of the day. A couple of weeks previously I had seen 4 foxes chasing each other on the grass in the distance. They have no fear of being near the houses.


Friday, 13 September 2019

The Sports Report

Lots of action going on all summer, but sadly the warm weather sports are all coming to an end.
All four grandchildren played house league baseball this summer. The two older ones played hardball, the two younger ones played softball.
Grandie Isaac's team, the Pirates, got into the finals at the end-of-year tournament, but lost the final game 8-7.... but were doing really well catching up. One more innings would have seen them on top, I'm sure!
Isaac spent two weeks at a boys Sports Camp in July, and had a terrific time, and is already planning to go again in 2020. It was sports all day every day, just the sort of life he loves. Now he has to persuade Mum and Dad to pay for it!
In August the family met at the Rogers Centre (used to be called the SkyDome, I still can't get used to the new name) for a Blue Jays game. We got there early enough to watch batting practice for both teams, but even though the boys (both big and little) begged and pleaded, they didn't get any stray balls thrown their way.
We watched the Toronto Blue Jays play Atlanta, but unfortunately, the home team lost, and we left just before the end of the game, to avoid the traffic jams.  Our beloved Jays have not done well this year, lots of lost games, but just wait.... we are going to be a winning team to watch in a couple of years. That's my prediction!!
And with summer coming to an end, winter sport is getting started.  We went to the home opener ice hockey game for the Stouffville Spirit, the local Junior A OJHL team. After watching baseball all summer, a game that's mostly slow and sedate with moments of wild panic, I was surprised by how fast and furious ice hockey can be!  It was a great game, but unfortunately, ended with a loss for the home team.
All the grandies will be getting their hockey gear together ready for the season to start at the end of September... they will all be practicing and playing every weekend so I'll be spending lots of time in the local arenas.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Say a Little Prayer

There was an unexpected guest welcoming me home a couple of days ago. He was resting on the inside of the window frame. He must have sneaked in through the open door, as all the windows have bug screens.

He (or possibly she?) is a green Praying Mantis, a very strange insect indeed. They have triangular heads with bulging compound eyes, three smaller eyes and a pair of antenna supported on flexible necks. They can see in 3D with all those eyes. They can turn their heads almost 180 degrees. Their front legs are enlarged and adapted for catching and gripping prey.
 I gently caught him in a kleenex, carried him outside and put him on the patio table where I could get a good look at him.... wow, what a weird creature.
I transferred him to the potted strawberry plant, and from there to a geranium.  The Praying Mantis is a predator, catching its dinner ambush style, moving fast and furious towards some unsuspecting live insect. It grips the intended food with the spikes on it's front legs. 
A PM this size would go for insects, but they are capable of killing prey 3 times their size. The larger varieties have been known to eat humming birds, frogs and lizards. They like their food sill squirming!
And if you are a male PM, watch out. Your lady friend might bite your head off in the process of making babies. Well, a girl's gotta keep her energy up to look after all those eggs!

Saturday, 7 September 2019

The Birthday Girl

Yes.... TessaDog is 12 years old, her birthday was yesterday. She's such a party animal!
Happy Birthday to an old mature lady who thinks she is still a puppy!

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Tansy

It grows wild in the hedgerows in the summer and attracts the bees, and I think it's such a lovely splash of sunshiney yellow.
Tansy is a perennial flowering plant in the aster family, native to Europe and Asia. but thrives in North America, probably introduced by the settlers arriving from Europe as long ago as the 1600s. In some places is considered a noxious weed. It's also known as Bitter Buttons, Golden Buttons or Cow Bitter.
It's had many medicinal uses including treating worms, digestive problems, fevers, rheumatism and measles. You can even use a solution of Tansy as a face wash, or bathe in it to ease joint pain.  It has been used as an insect repellent, and it was packed into coffins, wrapped in funeral winding sheets, and Tansy wreaths were laid on the dead.  It can also be used as a dye. A useful herb indeed.
Tradition says that if you plant it by your kitchen door, you will never be troubled by ants in the kitchen.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Music Selection

Happy September!
A visit to Fred's Record Store in St John's..... a selection of local music, including the late and great Ron Hynes. Never heard of him? He was regarded as one of Canada's premier singer-song writers, and many of his songs have become part of the fabric of Newfoundland culture. He was Newfoundland's poet. He passed away in 2015, far too soon.
But if you prefer your music live, a visit to the Rocket Bakery on Water Street on a Tuesday lunchtime.... traditional tunes being played around the table by some of St John's best known musicians.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Shipping News

The Port of St John's is a busy place. There are seagoing vessels of all sizes coming and going at all times in the harbour. In recent years, St John's has become a popular stop for the big cruise boats. The cruise ship usually arrives in the morning and the downtown fills with passengers and their cameras for the day, and then leaves for it's next port of call overnight. Around 30 cruise ship visits to St John's are scheduled in 2019.

 The MS Sea Princess is operated by Princess Cruises and was built in Italy in 1998. She can carry 2000 passengers and 900 crew.
 MSV Botnica is a state-of-the-art multipurpose offshore support vessel and icebreaker built in Finland in 1998 at a cost of $303 million.  Botnica is used as an escort icebreaker in the Baltic Sea during the winter months, but carries out subsea and offshore construction work supplying oil and gas drilling during the open water season.
 PSV Siem Pilot is a diesel electric driven offshore supply vessel and pipe carrier built in Norway in 2010. Siem Pilot is currently based at St John's, but in 2016 was in the Mediterranean, and was instrumental in picking up 2,400 migrants and carrying them to safety. Read about it here.
The St John's Pilot Boat is moored at a berth by Harbourside Park, right on the harbour's edge. All ships going through the Narrows are required to use the services of the Pilot to navigate the narrow entrance to the harbour. I was told that this is the oldest Pilot Boat still working in North America.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

R.I.P. JoJo

A sad day for the family. Goodbye to fluffy little JoJo. She came to live at OlderSon's house in 2001, a tiny feral kitten found starving in a barn. She never really warmed up to being with people, and spent most of her time happily hiding in the basement. She started venturing upstairs a couple of years ago and eventually seemed to enjoy tolerate being petted, especially if the person doing the petting had some fishy cat treats on hand. JoJo, you will be missed.


Sunday, 25 August 2019

Oceanex

It was a bright sunny morning in July and I was enjoying the view from Signal Hill, looking over the Atlantic Ocean, a great vantage point for watching the marine traffic that goes in and out of St John's harbour.
According to the Oceanex web site, Oceanex is a leading provider of intermodal transportation solutions to Newfoundland and Labrador from anywhere in North America. They have a fleet of ice-class vessels operating through the ports of Montreal, Halifax and St John's.

At the mouth of the harbour in the background is the lighthouse at Fort Amherst. It was built in 1951, the third lighthouse built on that site.  Below the lighthouse on the cliff are the remains of gun emplacements and pillboxes built during WWII to defend against German U-boats. Two of the guns are still there, but rusted over now. The original fortifications were built in 1770, but no longer visible.

Navigating a large vessel through the entrance to the harbour requires the services of the Pilot. The Narrows is the only entrance to St John's harbour, and at it's narrowest point is only 61 metres wide.  Not much room for error! It's about 11 metres deep. In the late 18th century a defensive chain was erected across the narrows from Chain Rock to Pancake Rock which could be raised in the event of enemy ships advancing into the harbour. During World War II a steel mesh was installed to prevent enemy submarines from entering the harbour.
The Oceanex vessel was heading towards the Oceanex Terminal at the far end of the harbour. It's the largest general freight terminal in Newfoundland, and is the only container, trailer, and RoRo terminal in the Port of St John's. (RoRo = Roll on / Roll off, like a car ferry)

A week after I left St John's this ship visited the harbour.

Photo borrowed from Dean Porter at http://wwwshipshots.blogspot.com/. Thanks, Dean.
Cunard's Queen Elizabeth, probably one of the largest ships to ever enter St John's harbour. She was built in 2010, is 964 feet long, and can carry over 2000 passengers and 1000 crew. That's a crew member for every 2 passengers! I wish I had seen this!

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Window on the World

As I ambled along the streets of downtown St John's this summer, I noticed that some of the residents are keeping an eye on things from the front window. It's comforting to know that the neighbourhood is under surveillance at all times.


But sometimes keeping your eyes open all day is just too much trouble, and you have to give in to the promise of a comfy couch nap in the sunshine.

Yawn...... purrrrr......

Monday, 19 August 2019

The Crow's Nest

One of the best hidden secrets in the City of St John's is the Crow's Nest Officer's Club. The entrance can be easily overlooked as you walk down the steps on the left of the National War Memorial on Duckworth Street. A plaque tells part of the story.
At the height of the Battle of the Atlantic in WWII, in 1942, St John's was the home port for the Newfoundland Escort Force, a handover point for the critical supply convoys across the Atlantic.  The Crow's Nest Officer's Club served as a retreat for the remainder of the war where allied naval and merchant officers could relax, share stories of victory and loss, and have a home cooked meal.  The Club has become a living museum owned and supported by volunteer members. It commemorates the contribution of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve,  and the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve during WWII.
The Crow's Nest was originally known as the Seagoing Officer's Club during WWII, opening it's doors on January 27 1942.  It was a safe space where officers could relax with other officers who understood the horrors of war only too well.  It still maintains it's war-time look and feel with an extensive collection of gunshield art and memorabilia from the Battle of the Atlantic.
I dropped in for lunch one Friday, and spent a couple of hours sharing a table with some fascinating people. The Club Secretary, Margaret Morris, was a fountain of knowledge about the history of the Club, and is passionate about preserving the stories and sacrifices of the men who served on those Naval ships so long ago.  And not only was there good conversation to be had, I enjoyed moose stew for the first time, washed down with an ice cold QV Iceberg Lager!
A couple of days later, I noticed that even though the Crow's Nest is usually closed on Mondays, there was a concert there that Monday evening.  Kelly Russell would be sharing his Tunes and Tales.  Kelly Russell is a leading musician in Newfoundland and has been part of many well known bands playing traditional music, and has been awarded the Order of Canada.  Kelly recreated the unforgettable characters of Uncle Mose, Grampa Walcott, Aunt Sophy, Skipper Bartle, and King David (a billy goat)..... great stories of the imaginary outport community of Pidgeon Inlet originally written by his father, storyteller Ted Russell. And shared the living traditional music of Newfoundland on his fiddle and his concertina.
Every seat was taken, and the audience were spellbound by his playing and his storytelling. What a lovely amusing and talented man.  Totally unforgettable evening, well worth my walk in the pouring rain to get there.