Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Églantine, the Ontario Wanderer, and Calla. I'll let you figure out who is who and who does not have a Blogger name.

The good news is that new snow is falling for the new year and we are safe at home. Peace to you and yours!

Friday, December 30, 2005

OW in the City?

It's seldom that I venture into Toronto but it does happen.

In the photo above we are just getting into the edge of Toronto on one of the quietest days of the year. Usually this is three lanes of cars going into Toronto almost bumper to bumper going way too fast. Today it was very quiet. That's one of the reasons we went today. (On the north side of the city the roads are even worse. At times there are nine (9) lanes going each way full of traffic.)

Today we went into the city to see "Masterpieces from the State Hermitage Museum" from St. Petersberg, Russia at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It was cheaper than flying to Russia. I must admit I was disappoionted as much of it was from Catherine the Great's older collection instead of the "modern" collection. I think there are works in the Hermatage from the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists era that are quite wonderful and not in any of our books for various political reasons. Perhaps I shall still have to fly to Russia.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Tiny Fungus

It seems that both Rurality and I were looking at and photographing fungi yesterday. I was just slow to get my photos posted.

This shelf fungus was growing on a dead Staghorn Sumac shrub (Rhus typhina).

Here's a view from underneath. I could not find this particular fungus in my Mushrooms of Ontario book.

I am wondering if winter will come back. It been days and days of above freezing temperatures, fog, rain, and sighs! I cannot ski on this!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Tracking Notes

We've had three days of cloud, fog, rain off and on, wind most of the time, and generally not too pleasant to be outside.

Calla and I found fox tracks again yesterday.

Notice the difference in size amoung the six sets of tracks. OK, there may be more than six sets, but that's all I can see in the photo. Calla's footprints are the freshest. She, like everyone else, has gone from right to left in the photo. Her dog prints are in the upper part of the photo and show her claws a bit.You can see the prints of one front paw and one back paw. Sorry, I still can't tell front from back yet. Anyway, the second freshest set of tracks are of those of the red fox. They are the smaller tracks near the bottom of the photo. The red fox, when walking, tends to put its back paws in the tracks of the front paws so there is one imprint with the hind foot going over top of the front footprint. Under Calla's tracks you can see one track that I made the day before. We had a bit of snow overnight to partially cover that track. Under the fox's tracks, you can see one print from Églantine also from the previous day. Between the prints of Églantine and I, you can see faint traces of Calla and the fox also from the day before.

Below is a close up of the fox tracks.

As I understand the situation from my tracking book, the front paw has left its imprint toward the back of the print impression that shows a slight curved "bar" going across the track. When the back paw came down, it fell in the front part of the impression wiping out most of the front paw print but leaving the back part of the front pawprint showing in the rear part of the total impression. Confusing? Yes, but having written it out and having spent time looking at the print I think I can understand the impression better. Maybe a bit of colour will help.

(Yes, it was difficult to get that paint powder on the snow, and to print so small, and still be somewhat neat.)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

December 24 - Random Photos

It looks like we may be in for a green Christmas day or green and slushy-white at best.

While splitting firewood today, I found this structure in the middle of a split limb.

This apple got stuck in some branches on the way down to the ground.

I had difficulty stitching my winter solstice sunrise photo to my summer solstice and autumn equinox photos as I must have been in a slightly different location when I took the last photo. The sun positions are at least close to where they actually were but the middle of the photos did not quite stitch together as they should have.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

DILO Part 3

As I ran out of time in Part 2, I was writing about our Flickr sites. Both Églantine and I have Flickr sites but Églantine works at hers a lot harder. My excuse is that I also have my Wild Flower web site and this blog. Anyway, Églantine's photo stream has been visited over 5600 times compared to just over 1400 for mine.

When we had finished walking the dog, and taking photos along the way, I fed the dog and the cats.

Next I went to the barn to chop some wood for tomorrow's fire. I usually only have one or two days supply cut and carried into the house so I try to saw and/or chop a bit of wood every day. I hope the physical activity helps me keep in better health.

While Églantine was putting up her new photos on Flickr and doing other odd jobs about the house, I was working on my computer trying to find photos of a "sunflower house" project. I want to make a booklet for the children that helped us plant the sunflowers and morning glories. (This past spring and summer, Églantine and I and some friends and neighbours all pitched in to grow a sunflower house with and for three young children whom we would like to be at least part time gardeners and earth caretakers when they grow up.) As I searched through our many, many digital photos, I realized that I had no photos of the sunflowers as they are now, so I put on my outdoor clothing again and went out to photograph the remains one more time.

Since it was so close to noon already, I decided to choose a place to photograph the position of the noonday sun. I have documented the sunrise position of the sun at summer solstice, fall equinox, and now the winter solstice so now I want to try to document the noon sun position. It may be a bit of a challenge as the camera does not like the noon sun even with a polarizing filter. I may have to do some additional thinking about filters before spring equinox or next month if I choose to document every month.

Usually we try to keep lunch simple and whoever is in the kitchen first sets it up. Today it was I and I put out bread, margarine, mayonnaise, pickles, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, cheese, and left over breakfast pancakes for sandwich fare.

We also had instant coffee made with microwaved hot milk. It's a practise that I picked up in England years ago and have continued. It makes almost any instant coffee palatable even though I drink my coffee black at all other times.

After lunch, Églantine went to a funeral while I took Calla, and the camera, out for second dog walk of the day. On our walk, we followed our ravine trail to stay more protected from the cold west winds.

Églantine's late husband made trails for her to exercise upon so she did not have to walk on the rural highways and roads and I have been helping keep them up by mowing them in the summer and packing them down with snowshoes and skis during the winter during our dog walks. Here is a map of our trails that I made for our annual art show this past fall. (You can see that I included, for the art show, the locations of various outdoor sculptures that I have added to the property and the labyrinth path that Églantine and I made a couple of years ago.)

I coloured in today's morning walk with yellow and our afternoon walk in red. We try to walk almost all the trails each week at some time but we do have some favourites and some that get missed some weeks.

During our walk today, Calla and I saw a variety of tracks. The local white-tailed deer travel on and through the property everyday. The photo below shows the location where the deer hop the fence to get into the neighbour's property and continue on their way.

The bird track patterns are from the bird feeder area near Calla's daytime pen.

Below is one of several fox dens we have found on the property. This one was not used during most of the summer but obviously has in use since the snow.

One of the reasons that deer like to visit us is that we have lots of wild apple trees growing on our property. I suspect that the windfalls also attract various other animals that are prey for the foxes too.

Églantine and I were invited out for a simple, but elegant dinner during the early evening by an artist friend. Since I often go to bed very early, compared to most others that I am acquainted with, I was not able to finish this blog on the 21st. Below is my last conglomerate photo of appetizers, salad course, main course, and dessert. It was an excellent end to another day that had many more activities and projects that I wanted to do.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

DILO Part 2

We did not have a good winter solstice sunrise. I took a photo on the 19th that showed the sun position. If I don't get a good one tomorrow, I guess I shall use that one for the winter solstice position. I have photos of summer solstice and fall equinox to add to the winter solstice to make a collage of sun positions.

Calla, our dog, was patiently waiting for us to take her out on her morning walk. She usually gets only two walks a day during the winter compared to three or sometimes four during the longer summer daylight hours.

This is the beginning of our regular morning trail walk.

Both Églantine and I took frost photos. Églantine put her photo up on Flickr and already has had 20 people look at her photo. Mine will maybe get on Flickr tomorrow if I get this blog finished by then. She is much better at getting photos up and looked at.

Time to move out for supper. To be continued tomorrow....

A Day in the Life of...

I joined a Flickr group called "A Day in the Life of" or DILO for this December 21st solstice day and, of course, it has messed up the routine of the day by my trying to record it. I should be on my way to yoga right now but obviously I am not going to make it today. Well, actually, maybe it is a typical day as I am always trying to crowd in more events and activities than there is time to do in any one day. I've said it before and I'll say it again, "Retirement is often a real problem as there are not any days off to recover." That being said, here's my day so far...

I woke up late and got up at 4:40 a.m. I had to reread the DILO format to see what I was supposed to do as I had not taken time to do it recently. The maximum photos for the site is 5 with the possibility of putting up others at another site with a link from one of the 5. This is going to be my other site. You may want to continue to see what Ontario Wanderer is all about on Dec. 21 or you may want to move to other more important and interesting blogs. I leave that to you as I continue to carry on with my day. First Photos below....

The first hour or two of almost every day is taken up by checking up on e-mail, the weather, a variety of blogs and any flickr sites that I have time for before Églantine gets up. At this dark time of year, I usually wake Églantine up sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 depending upon .... etc. On 5 or 6 days out of 7, I make the breakfast. Most often it's oatmeal with nuts, raisins, dried cranberries or other fruit inside but sometimes I'll fry or scramble eggs or make homefries or get out cold cereal but this morning I chose to make whole wheat pancakes from scratch and threw in some cinnamon and banana pieces. We had it with margarine and Quebec maple syrup today.

Our usual end of breakfast routine on these cold days is to light the fire in the fireplace, have coffee, and read. (Didn't I tell you retirement was rough?)

To be continues as soon as I process more of the photos....

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

December 19th, 2005

So far it's quiet today. The temperature is warming up a little; OK very little.

This is one of the last Silver Birch leaves still on a tree and not under the snow.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Turkeys, Milkweeds, Ice, Snow, . . . .

Calla and I flushed out a dozen wild turkeys on our afternoon walk. One of these days I am going to get a good shot of turkeys. We were within about 20 metres of the flock when they all took off flying in several directions. About 10 minutes later, I heard them calling to each other in an attempt to regroup and managed to get this photo from a long distance away.

Yesterday when Églantine, Calla, and I were out, I went looking for and found some Swamp Milkweed stalks with pods. Églantine noticed that some seeds and pod parts looked like a face.

The pods of the Swamp Milkweed are a lot more delicate than the Common Milkweed.

Below is a close up photo of an icicle with the sun setting behind it. (Yes, I broke it off and turned it sideways. The icicle that is, not the sun.)

And, before I forget, just for the Kansas Reader, here is this morning's sunrise & snow photo with the temperature.

Yes, the temperature is in Celsius. (10 F & -6 F)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

New Snow

We had some new snow yesterday and it appeared that there was enough to get out my snowshoes and start packing down the trail around Églantine's property in preparation for skiing.

Here's our dog, Calla, wondering what I am doing with the camera almost down in the snow.

We went from 9 Mourning Doves and a Junco under the bird feeder to 15 Mourning doves later in the day. This was the best photo of the 9 + 1.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Now & Then Concluded

Sorry I missed posting yesterday. Hope the edge of the chairs did not bite too much.

The air temperature has gone up a lot in the last two days. It's almost balmy.


1981 Churchill Trip Concluded

I was anxious, frightened and a bit exhilarated when balanced on top of large canoe packs while riding an overloaded canoe going through fast and rough rapids. We had decided to risk the overloading after spending time lining the two remaining canoes down river for a half hour or so and making very little progress. We did make it to the end of the rapids and, much to my surprise and gratefulness, we found the missing canoe drifting slowly in large circles around an enormous eddy at the end of the rapids. We grabbed onto it and pulled it slowly to the shore where we checked the damage and our remaining possessions. Luckily for us, we had had all the packs and our shoes tied securely to the canoe so all we lost were the paddles and kneeling pads that had been loose in the canoe and much of our pride at not having been able to handle the canoe in rough water. Needless to say, everything not secured in plastic bags was soaked. Again, fortunately, almost all of our clothing and food were in plastic. I found my 35 mm camera inside my newly purchased "waterproof bags" resting in a small puddle of water. I took a few photos and replaced the film. There was a bit of water damage to the photos, but the camera continues to function 24 years later. My partner had not bought the expensive waterproof bags but put her camera in a simple zip-lock freezer bag. It was perfectly dry! I have been buying zip-lock bags for many items since then.

The next day was to be our last and it was but not in the way we expected it. There was a particularly bad set of rapids just ahead of where we had camped but we could not line the canoes on our side of the river so we had to cross the river to do the lining. My partner and I were not successful at getting across in time. Instead we had one of the wildest canoe rides that I ever want to take. The canoe was going through huge standing waves. There were times when I was looking up to see my partner high above me in the front of the canoe as we headed for sky and times when I was bracing to stop myself from falling down into the depths as she was far below me. All the time we were desperately hoping to miss all the rocks in the river. We were successful in that we made it through the roller-coaster ride and to the side of the river at the bottom of the rapids with the canoe about 3/4 full of water but we were still upright and nothing was lost or damaged.

Because of all the excitement and misadventure of rapids, we were being even more cautious at the next and last set of rapids when misfortune hit the final time. Our leader, while walking and hopping along the side of the river slipped on a mossy rock and went down hard. He put out his hand to help save himself and put a finger, on his dominate hand of course, out of joint and out of service. He pulled the finger and tried to get it back in place but was not successful. We put on a splint and again worked on our problem solving skills. We were fortunate in two ways this time. We had just passed the first road that we had seen on the 5-day journey so the plan seemed obvious. We were going to abandon the trip and walk out, no matter how long it took as travel. Without our leader being able to paddle, it would have been very difficult to finish on the river and we knew that we were only about 30 miles from our Goose Bay ending point. We took all of our packs out of the canoe and took them up to a clear spot by the "road" and I dug into my pack to get my tarp so I could keep items out of the sandy soil. I had just spread out my tarp, which was bright orange, when we heard a loud sound coming from above. We looked up to see a helicopter. It was the first sign of current civilization we had seen for the week. We all waved and jumped up and down and the helicopter actually landed.

It turned out that the bright orange tarp was actually a signal of trouble. I had had no idea that it would be of help in that manner. Anyway, the helicopter pilot was taking two men into a fishing site somewhere further along but he agreed to stop on the way back and give our leader a quick trip into town by air which he did. Our leader was dropped off at the Goose Bay hospital and properly put back together. He did lose the flexibility of that finger and had to give up some of his guitar playing ability but that was the only lasting effect, as far as I know, of his accident. The rest of us camped where we were for the night and started to portage our canoes and belonging along the road the next morning. It was not long before we were met by our leader and another person who had brought the van as far as they could along the road. Unfortunately, the van was still several kilometres away from us but, after some thought, we all went back to the van and started some road repair. There were several gullies washed into the sandy roadbed, but we were able to fill those with rock and logs and sticks and got the van to the canoes to collect them without having to portage them a long distance. Thus ended the Churchill River expedition. It was not as expected but all survived with minimum damage and only a few items were lost.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Now & Then # 7

One of these mornings, it will be warmer. Not today!


1981 Churchill River Trip Cont.

On day 5 we had our first major problem.

(You were waiting for this, weren't you. Didn't I say it was a real adventure?)

At this point in the trip we were about 120 miles from the beginning and only had about 60 miles to go. (I am pulling numbers off of another internet Churchill River adventure since I still cannot find my numbers or write up.) Anyway, we've come to one of two major rapids on the Churchill River. It is a class 3 rapid for those of you who know the class system and a rapid for experts only for those of you who don't know the system. It is recommended that everyone line this set of rapids for at least the beginning as it is at this point in the river that it makes a 90 degree turn and another river, the Minipi, joins the Churchill to add a huge volume of water. There are records of people drowning at this spot in the river and none of us wanted to add to that record. Before we even lined the rapids, we tied our canoes to some trees at the edge of the river and went to look at what was ahead.

Here you can see the river for miles ahead. There were miles of continuous rapids. Make a mistake here and you may be wet for a long time, if you get out. As I remember, the rapids were about 5 miles long after you made the 90-degree turn and met the swirling waters of the Minipi.

Have I dragged this out long enough yet?

Here is one of the last photos of the day. You can see the lead canoe, on ropes, being floated down the river and a bit away from the shore. The second canoe is hugging the shore tightly. My camera and I are at the stern rope on the third canoe and the canoe is pulling hard. I pulled the canoe back in to the shore and put my camera into it's two waterproof bags, one inside the other. My partner and I then gently started to let the canoe out again to make the corner. In the photo, you can see the water in the distance splashing against rocks and putting waves into the air. We moved as carefully as we could but, nevertheless, the canoe suddenly pulled out to a position where it was crosswise to the rapids. It was like trying to hold a locomotive back and my hands were not up to the challenge. My partner, a young woman, was in danger of being pulled into the river and I shouted, "Let go!" She did and we watched as our canoe rapidly went tumbling downstream leaving us 60 miles from the nearest road without our food, without our tents, without our extra clothing, without our shoes, without everything except the clothes on our bodies, our lives, and our friends with two other full canoes. What to do?

(To be continued....)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Now & Then # 6

It was another cold sunrise. Fortunately there was almost no wind.


1981 Churchill River Trip cont.

Having had our restful night on the rocks, we started out our day with some rapids. They don't look too bad from the shore, do they?

When one is out in them and it's a cloudy, damp day and the river wants to steal your canoe out from under your knees, it feels a bit different. We spent a fair bit of time lining the canoes through the worst of the rapids.

Little did we know that the rapids of day 5 would make our rapids of today look tame. Meanwhile, blissfully unaware, we did find a bright spot on this fourth day when the sun shone through during lunch break.

(To be continued....)