Monday, 19 April 2021

Dare Mighty Things

I got up early this morning so I could tune in to NASA TV and watch the Mars helicopter drone, called Ingenuity, take it's first flight. It was airborne for less than a minute, and rose about 3m above the surface before swivelling and then landing, the first powered controlled flight by an aircraft on another world. And that world is an incredible 178 million miles away.

Ingenuity will be commanded to fly higher and further as NASA engineers test the limits of this amazing technology. One of the project leaders compared the success to the first flight by Orville and Wilbur Wright, at Kitty Hawk in 1903, and in fact, Ingenuity carried a tiny piece of fabric from one of the wings of the aircraft that made that historic flight more than 117 years ago.

I was cheering loudly along with all the NASA engineers.

Ingenuity arrived on Mars in the Mars Rover Perseverance in February 2021. I love the fact that they are called Ginnie and Percy by the funloving NASA people.  You can read some of the technical stuff here.

Absolutely astonishing achievement.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Mr. Armstrong again

Back in 2015, a young tree was planted in front of my house. It was an Armstrong Maple, and was a replacement for an ash tree that had been killed by an infestation of the nasty Emerald Ash Borer. I was excited about my beautiful new tree. I called him Mr. Armstrong, and and wrote about him here.

But all is not well with Mr. Armstrong. For the last couple of years, I noticed that the main leader branch at the top of the tree had no buds or leaves. Last summer a tree specialist cut off the main spike, and the tree seemed to recover. However, the main trunk shows either insect damage or some kind of disease, and there's loads of grey and yellow lichen growing on the bark.

And further down I see a small shelf bracket fungus has started to grow, a sure sign of something that shouldn't be happening to a healthy tree.
Yet the branches are full of new spring growth and tiny delicate maple flowers.
It looks like Mr. Armstrong's in trouble.

Friday, 9 April 2021

Prince Philip

 

I saw Prince Philip and the Queen when I was about 10. It was 1956 (now I'm giving my age away!). Children from all around the area were loaded onto green double decker buses and taken to the nearby town of Barnstaple. We were standing on wobbly risers along the walls of the ancient Pannier Market, and everyone was given a Union Jack to wave. Not sure how we got them or where they came from. There was huge excitement.... we were going to see The Queen! It must have been deafening in there when she walked up the centre aisle with the local dignitaries, and Prince Philip just behind her, his hands behind his back, as usual. I remember she was wearing pale blue. I'm in this youtube video somewhere.... on the left hand side, indistinguishable from all the other excited flag wavers. Sorry, I don't know how to embed it.

https://youtu.be/RBOQnCGiD8Y

R.I.P. Prince Philip.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Out and About

The spring weather has finally warmed up which means that I can go for longer walks without wishing I hadn't made such a foolish decision to leave the comfort of my fireplace! I strolled along the newest portion of the Rouge Urban Trail, from Reesor Road to Durham 30 and back. The trail is easy walking, and suitable for strollers and wheelchairs too, and of course bicycles. Lots of families out with their bikes enjoying the sun.

Teasel - Dipsacus fullonum - this is a dried flower head from last year, still spiky and sharp. Teasels are actually part of the honeysuckle family. The spiky heads were formerly widely used in textile processing, cleaning, aligning and raising the nap on fabrics.

Coltsfoot - Tussilago farfara - one of the first splashes of colour to appear along the trails after the snow melts. The leaves, which appear much later than the flowers, are supposed to resemble the shape of a colt's foot. Not a native plant, and was probably introduced from Europe with the first settlers.

Rows of a crop that may be Winter Wheat, but I'm not certain. I just liked the uniformity of the rows, and the first real green I have seen since winter left.


Saturday, 3 April 2021

April Update!

I seem to have been AWOL from the blogging world for a couple of weeks. Starting today, Saturday, the whole Province of Ontario has been ordered back into another Covid lockdown due to rising infection numbers and overwhelmed hospital ICU. The restrictions are not quite as rigid as the previous lockdown, but won't make much difference to me as I'm not going much further than the grocery store! I've been keeping busy at home. 

I have been making dark brown pumpernickel bread. I was interested to learn that the dark colour comes from molasses, a spoonful of instant coffee, and two spoonfuls of cocoa! Surprising. Tastes terrific, I'm going to make this again.

A field of sunflowers, acrylic on paper, the flowers created by dropping rubbing alcohol onto wet paint.... sounds weird but it works!

More weirdness. Is this outer space? Or under the sea? I've been experimenting with different techniques and shapes and colours, well, I have to keep busy and I haven't actually painted anything worthwhile for ages. 

I call this one "I can't start the #@&%$*! lawn mower!"

OlderSon has been tapping his maple trees. The weather was perfect for running the sap for a few days, warm sunny days and chilly nights, but the season is over. It takes 40 litres of sap to boil down to 1 litre of syrup. He got just over 2 litres of syrup. I hope he invites me for pancakes when all this Covid disruption is over.

Oh... almost forgot, I got the first dose of Pfizer vaccine two weeks ago, next dose booked in July! The first step to getting back to "normal". I am so thankful.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

March 25 Art

Using gelli prints made earlier this month as covers for some small sketchbooks, using some of my mother's embroidery thread to sew the pages. Coptic stitch looks complicated but really it's easy.

If life ever gets back to "normal"  these little books could be for sale at our annual Art Show.



Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Battle Stations!

 No need to describe the fun being had here.... new Nerf guns!