Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Wondering Where the Wild Things Are?

They are here at Pike Lake.

Moles are scurrying about under the snow and Kenya is very interested. She goes out on her lead and just spends her time following her nose.  Such a delicacate quivering goes on ... no rowdy excitement ... just intense curiosity ... and I haven't seen her salivate yet.

The bird feder is active ... on around and below ... the red squirrel was there yesterday.  Someone was out shooting squirrels the other day ... I guess he figured it was easier than closing in the holes in his house. Honestly!

A deer was killed a few days ago ... either hit by a car or fell off a cliff ... all their trails have been disrupted over there ... anyway, her body was a Kenya magnet and I was forced to hold onto Kenya by the tail ... and exert my dominance ... in order to keep her away from it.  She managed one little sniff and a lick of innards ... and then vomited all night ... and that is why she is tied outside these days.

The other three lake does are everywhere ... and can almost not be designated wild any more.

I haven't seen them but apparently there are twenty-some wild turkeys up in the fields of the nearest farmer.

In other news my poor little car may need a major suspension job ... will have to contemplate whether to spend large amounts of money on a car that will be fourteen in the fall ... how much is that in people years?  I canceled my snow tire change because we still have lots of snow up here ... and there would be no point in getting the tires changed if I am going to trade in my car soon.  I will get the oil changed.  I don't want her to suffer in her old age.

Today is teaching day ... so must run ... I have figured out that I clear $5 per hour for teaching ... $6 per hour for catering ... and $8 per hour for dog sitting!  Shows clearly what is valued in our society, doesn't it?

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Spring Has To Be Somewhere Around Here

The feeder is flocked with shivering birds I haven't seen all winter ...the ones that look like wild canaries and I always forget their name when they first arrive ... goldfinches ... Americans.

The sun is shining and the days are much longer ...

The snow is decaying and ugly and the odd mound of dog poop can be seen ...

I am beginning to spruce up the house in anticipation of a thorough spring cleaning.

I have started to dig my snow tires out from under a huge pile of snow and have scheduled my spring visit to Grant's Garage to have my tires installed, my oil changed and my suspension checked.

I am sorting clothes first by season and then into several piles and boxes ... ones for each season that I will probably wear ... ones I can't bear to get rid of even if I haven't worn then for several years ...  ones I will definitely give to the Sally Ann ... and ones that are fit only for the garbage bin.

But winter is hanging on up here with a cruel and frigid grip.  I washed my down parka the day before yesterday and had to pull it out to wear yesterday ... along with long underwear, winter boots, ice grippers, a hat and mitts.

And last night the air was so clear that CBC almost got lost in the cacophony of other voices.

My hydro bill corroborated the fact that this winter has been harder than the past couple of years, especially in the last two months ... my bill was $150 higher than last year's bill for this period ... Last year I turned off my heat line to the lake in March.  This year I wouldn't even think of it. And I am not one of the Ontarians being expected by her premier to freeze in the dark.

But it really must be spring ... after all it's almost April and an election is on the horizon.  Won't someone please tell the weatherman? 

By the way, check out CBC's questionnaire on your political position (the Compass)  ...I was surprised by a couple of things: first that the political spectrum in Canada is not a line running from left to right as it is elsewhere.  Instead there is one party to the distinct right and all the rest are clustered to the left of centre with the Liberals just a tad closer to centre.  Maybe Canadians should stand up and shout that a coalition would indeed be a great idea especially since that is obviously what Harper fears most and since over half the population votes for those left of centre parties anyway. The second surprise was that my responses coincided most often, not with the NDP or Liberals as I had expected but with the Bloc!  Of course those three parties and the Greens share a great many viewpoints, so it really was a toss-up. Except I have never even considered voting for the Bloc so I was surprised.

I have tried on all my slacks and now I am going back to my painting.  Have you any idea how many coats are required for vibrant colours? Enjoy the sunshine, but bundle up.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

My World Update

Just a quick post to let your know that I am alive and well and painting ... and reading ... and enjoying my insomnia by making love to a small clock radio in the middle of the night.  The radio waves seem to go directly into my body ... my heart hums ... I wonder if it is safe.  CBC Overnight is far better than CBC daytime programming.

Last night I heard all about attempts to translate Gunter Grass' newest offering ... an untranslatable book about the Brothers Grimm and their failed attempt to create a German dictionary.  They died before getting to the middle of the alphabet.  Grass has structured his book like a dictionary and to do a proper translation is impossible without creating gibberish from a masterpiece.

My staircase is going slowly.  I continue to live in the chaos of a small renovation.

Must cut this short as I have to prepare for my class this afternoon and put a third coat on a section of railing.

Have a great Wednesday and a fine end of the week.  Spring is in the air even if ice is still underfoot.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Those Firemen ...

Yesterday's firemen were standing looking up, up, up because there was a fire.  I didn't realize until Peter arrived for work after I had posted yesterday.  Apparently a tree fell on the live hydro wire and didn't trip whatever kind of safety device it should have.  Instead, the tree became a carrier of electricity and started several small fires on the mountain across the lake.  Peter saw it all, and he and someone else on the lake called it in.

So ... what happened all day yesterday ... and is continuing today ... and will likely continue until the contractor retires or dies ... is gouging (of more than one sort).  A huge earth moving machine with a crane and bucket which looks tiny against the mountain is attempting to knock down all the loose rock. 

The dogs and I went over to watch yesterday.  The bucket was slammed against the face of the hill and then a cascade of rock came down onto the machine.  This was repeated for a while and then the rubble was transferred to the truck which took it away ... somewhere ...   Then the clawing started, and still more came down. 

There is a limit to how high the crane can reach, but I guess they figure if they undercut enough, eventually they will reach bedrock.  I kind of doubt it because they are working on shale. 

And the crane is puny compared to the mountain.  It can cripple it but it can't destroy it completely. The poor mountain looks scarred and the mounds of rubble continue to grow despite the truckloads that are being hauled away.

Are they insane, or am I?

Probably me.  They have provided themselves with a never-ending task that will leach out thousands and thousands of tax dollars forever.

I took photos yesterday but cannot post them till Tamarack returns and can help me sort out why the computer software is not allowing me to export photos. 

I will also post a photo of the little jewelery box  when I can.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Looking at another microcosm ...

You may remember my mentioning the blasting taking place across the lake ... the widening of the existing road, despite the basic commonsense realization that if you cut the trees whose root systems are holding the nearly vertical mountain in place, and then blast and gouge away whole areas of supporting rock structure, that the mountain will crumble and fall piece by piece.

We told them this before they chose the cheapest solution just described.  Some of us are more knowledgeable about engineering, physics and soil than I am ... almost anyone is ... but even I know that erosion happens when you disturb the natural plant life that holds earth in place.

They had to have known.

However; they went ahead.  They based their decision on relative cost.  They always do.

I know ... the ubiquitous "they".  Well "they" in this case is the municipality ... the same municipality that has expropriated land to allow an existing plastic factory to have a cheaper place from which to operate ... no jobs for the region ... nothing positive at all except an ugly little industrial park producing ecologically unfriendly materials.    This is also the municipality that wants to put a septic waste facility for several  regions on the Gatineau River above  Wakefield; a facility that is not state-of-the-art as far as environmental controls are concerned. And a highway structure that may destroy the aquifer of the Wakefield spring on which many people depend for pure water.

I have not become actively involved in the ecological debates raging around the arbitrary  municipal decisions being made recently --- there are  too many for an old hermit to handle and many younger and more energetic activists are doing their damnedest to save out spring, to save our river, to save the environment, to save the character of Wakefield.  Thank heavens for their youthful energy and commitment.

But I think they will likely be just as ineffectual in the long run as we were with the blasting on the lake.

By the way ...chunks of the mountain have been falling ever since the blasting took place ... and the whole process seems to be accelerating.

On the weekend, a rock the size of a wood shed came down and blocked the road.  There was no emergency number to call, and the resident whose path was blocked, along with other neighbours, called the police who arranged to have a path cleared that would allow one vehicle at a time to use the road.

Since then the site has been visited by several trucks with different logos on them. Groups of official looking men spill out and contemplate the mess the mountain and the road have become.

This morning it was a  white municipality truck and a much larger red vehicle.  A group of five La Peche fire fighters tumbled out of the latter.  They clustered around looking up at the overhanging ridges of red rock to which clung some smaller trees. After half an hour they left.

Surely in a group of five practical men like volunteer firefighters there will be at least one sane head that will point out the obvious folly of cutting down more trees, of gouging back still more of the mountain.

The better solution would have cost more, but I suspect the costs are already approaching those of the better solution, and that the municipality will eventually be faced with having to do what they should have done initially anyway.

And I have not even touched on the real concern I have; safety.  What if that resident had arrived at that spot a few hours earlier ... at the moment the rock fell?  His car would have been crushed and him in it, or he would have veered to the right to avoid being struck.  He would have gone into the lake.

Does someone have to be badly injured  or killed before this municipality makes a sane decision?

I know that this is a very tiny matter, especially when the world is concerned with the real tragedies occurring in Japan and the Middle East.

Despotic politicians.  Puny man-made and ill-considered solutions to problems.  A failure to respect the terrible beauty of nature.

I know the crumbling mountain across the lake is insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it really is just a matter of scale.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Monday's Blues followed by Tuesday's Sunshine, and Wednesday's Update

Yesterday was a strange day.  I went in to pick up Shea who is our house guest this week and ran some errands in town before I collected him. All went well until I got home.  Then everything seemed to go to hell in a hand basket.

1.   My trunk wouldn't open, and that is where my groceries were.

2.   I put such things as wine and boxes containing kitchen supplies and paint cans, which were packed in the car interior on the sled and tried to get down the hill.  First one leg sank in up to the thigh and I fell into a most ungraceful sprawl in the snow.  With difficulty I hauled that leg out  and made my way down the hill sinking in to my knees with each step while preventing the sled from spinning out of control and making a much more rapid descent straight down the hill, over the retaining wall and into the building.

3.   Peter was working on the staircase and he tried to help me by using graphite in the keyhole to open the trunk. We ascertained that the inside lever was doing something at the latch end because we could hear its mechanism. But it was all sound and fury. Nothing happened to open the trunk.

4.   I made myself something to eat and headed off to visit Grant's Garage.  $28 later the trunk was working and we had no idea why.  I probably put something in the wrong place and it interfered with the latching mechanism.  The Toyota seat does not come out easily  and when Grant got it out,  I discovered huge amounts of sand and dog hair under the seat. When I get the car properly cleaned this spring I will clean that area too.

5.   I returned home and put away the groceries.  That was not easy as the the staircase and kitchen/pantry area were swathed in plastic.

6.   I let the dogs out with me while I unloaded the car and they stayed with me, so I let them out alone for a few minutes while I looked at Peter's handiwork.  Big mistake when one is a husky mix. They disappeared.

7.   I went out hunting and calling, took the car about 1 1/2 kilometres in either direction, asked neighbours if they'd seen them, and called some more.

8.   When I got home, Kenya was under the dining room table but there was still no sign of Shea.  I called Carlos.  He said Shea would come back; he always did.  He was right.  About an hour later while Peter and I were drinking tea, Kenya announced Shea's arrival.  An exhausted dog came in, had his cookie and curled up in a corner, and Peter headed home.

9.   By now I was exhausted but I tried on the clothes I bought and discovered I wanted to return almost all of them.  Problem was I couldn't find the bill.  Found all the others, but no Costco bill.  Damn again.

10.   Despite the exhaustion I had one of my now normal non-sleeping nights.  I have learned to survive the insomnia by bringing the radio into bed with me and turning it on when I awaken.  You'd be surprised how many good programmes air between midnight and 5 a.m. and music sounds better in the silent darkness too.

11.   Today has dawned bright and fairly mild and I am intending to take the dogs for a long walk as soon as Peter arrives and starts sanding.  Maybe the physical exercise will make me healthily tired in a way that mental stress does not, and I'll  have a sound sleep tonight.

And so the week begins!

Grey Wednesday  Update:

I am tired of eating sawdust, listening to incessant noise, and dealing with crusty snow that the dogs and I don't do well in.  The cake I made yesterday tastes fine but looks like a dog's regurgitated breakfast.  I will ice it today and hide the mess as best I can.  Yesterday I sent a a couple of bags of canned goods and other food a non-cook could cope with to a friend without a stove who is in a bind right now, but until the sawdust settles and can be cleaned up, it is awfully hard to find a clean pot or utensil let alone cook.  I hate renovations, especially messy ones ... and Peter, who is doing the really filthy work, is getting fed up too, so his temper is at least as short as mine. I hope our friendship survives our renovation!

I will get out this afternoon when I have my first professional haircut in about two years, and go to my class.  The dogs and Peter will remain stuck inside.

Hope your week is going better than mine is!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

When it comes right down to it ...

When it comes right down to it, I think first in terms of individual human lives rather than in big pictures.  I am a micro thinker, not a macro conceptualist.  Is that a word? That is why I ended up with a degree in literature rather than political science.  I can comprehend the pain of a single human being better than I can the force of numbers so reading about the Joad family as it struggled through the Depression had much more impact than reading textbook descriptions of thousands and thousands of North Americans who were out of work.

That is likely the reason  that, while I was stunned by the magnitude of this earthquake, and frightened by the thought of a nuclear disaster, it was Yoshiko I imagined, not the countless strangers who died under heaps of rubble.

Dear Barbara, thanks for your mail ask me about earthquake, Yes,yesterday when I was having tea at my home, suddenly terrible earthquake struck.... I hid under the table,I was so scared.... I couldn't sleep,tired ,so sad ,but I am OK now ,can't help ... mighty forces of Nature, terrible tragedy all over the Japan..... By the way, Did you get better? How are you? I have been thinking of you... please take care and keep in touch , Yoshiko 

Yoshiko is the only person I know in Japan.  She is in her mid-eighties and appears to be about 60 ... a diminutive woman who always looks stylish, even while traveling with a backpack.  

In the winter of 2009-10 she skied (downhill) 78 days in Japan and British Columbia. She wanted to make it up to the ski hill a day for every year of her life but the weather was less willing than she was. 

She is an artist whose water colours and other work hang in galleries in Japan and Europe. 

I met her two years ago when she came to River Echo to study English.  I was her driver, her guide and occasionally her dinner partner at local restaurants. 

Last summer she spent a week with me painting a tray.  Her snorkeling background gave her her colours and her subject matter. 

I hope she will be back at River Echo this summer or fall ... and I am very glad she is safe.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Failing Revolutions, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and More Rain

Is this Armageddon?  Today's news reports certainly suggest so.

Kenya was anxious all night because of the high winds ... and as a result I was too.  Twice I crept downstairs to make sure that the wet snow was not forming a river ready to invade my house.  The last time it was caused by a tree felled across the stream.  The winds are shaking the biggest trees here.

I gave Leonard a container of the beans yesterday.  They taste like candy.  Today Peter will be helping me get the staircase ready for painting, and I will package his food and send it home with him.  I will likely tuck in a helping of pasta with meat sauce for Leonard as his luck needs a boost these days.

But ... on the bright side, the little box is coming along and I am liking what it is evolving to.  I was asked to make a jewelery box for a baby.  It's not that easy to think of ideas for a grown-up present for a baby, so it has taken me a long time to figure out what to do with the jewelry box I found last summer at a garage sale in Wakefield.  I took it apart and sanded and primed the exterior ages ago but was hesitant about how to proceed.  I think it will be whimsical enough for a baby but grown up enough to last till she is older.

And here is what Robert Genn says about painting and art in general  ... he says it well ...

Art establishes and makes tangible a time, a place, a thought, an idea.
Art, properly made, enhances and enriches the lives of others.
Art gives an opportunity to endow new life and new meaning into the ordinary.
Art gives an opportunity to design your own world, and, as in your children, create a significant immortality.
Art is hard-earned work that is its own reward and has a degree of permanence.
Art, because it's so easy to do, and yet so difficult to do well, encourages humility in the human soul.
Art is an apprenticeship that can be stretched into a lifelong education.
Art thrives on democratic ideals, freedom of expression and rugged individualism.
Art permits you to step out of the labyrinth and into a quiet corner of your own private joy.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A B of a Day

The freezing rain has changed back again to snow, Leonard's tractor battery is dead, the deer are having a terrible time in the snow that has them floundering about in my woods seeking food, and the bird seed is disappearing rapidly now that the blue jays have returned.

I am cooking bananas (that refuse after almost two weeks to ripen) the Kenyan way.  You fry chunks of banana and onion in margarine, add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and cover with tomatoes or homemade tomato sauce and cook till the bananas are still firm but easily pierced with a fork tine.  They are good and can replace potato for a meal.

I also have a great big iron pot filled with beans that are baking.  I used Madame Benoit's recipe ... chunks of pork (not salted) ... an onion coated in mustard, a little salt and a lot of maple syrup. A friend told me that my original recipe using salt pork plus salt was VERY salty.  This one may have to have salt added at the end.  In the last hour you put cored unpeeled apples on top and coat them with a butter and brown sugar mixture.  The beans are sweet and fruity and crunchy on top.

I canceled my class yesterday because I was afraid none of us would get back home safely after 7 p.m.  and got started on a little box that is harder than a chair because I am trying to get the same effect in far smaller spaces ... and am discovering my own limitations!  However ... I shall persevere.

I am not looking forward to shoveling the steps ... and I have to since Leonard has left a wall of snow taller than I am at the top of the other route up to the road.

When is this winter that started in March ever going to end?

So ... dead batteries ... unhappy Bambis ... starving blue jays eating all the bird seed  ... unripe bananas ... baked beans ... and a box ... a B of a day.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Snow Day

I spent my day shoveling ... one bout with the steps ... a second with the car ... and a third spreading salt.

That snow is sodden and heavy.

But Leonard got my road plowed out and sanded by late afternoon and the people came around 4:30 for their table and chair and were pleased ... which made me pleased too.

I also made a very good pasta sauce using local organic ground beef and stew beef ... roasted peppers, celery, onions, tomatoes and garlic and then browned the meat and mixed in the roasted veggies and tomatoes, juice, wine, and herbs and simmered everything away all afternoon.

Kenya and I went out after supper and visited with Peter and Leonard and then headed home.

I always feel good when I take a walk in the snow when the temperatures are reasonable .... as they were this evening.

Life is good!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Hope these work

It has taken me all day, but here they are ... well ... one is ...

Another Wintery Post

Another Snowy Day

I am relishing the thought of a snowed-in weekend.  Peter will pick up his food in his AWD vehicle and Leonard will dig me out on Sunday.  I will put two more coats of polyurethane on the little table and chair set for Victor, and his parents will come and get it Sunday afternoon.

So the whole weekend is one in which I am buffered by weather ... the only real demand on my time will be to shovel the steps by Sunday afternoon.

What will I do?  Dunno ... but I have a bunch of movies, several books, a couple of new painting projects, and lots of food and firewood, so I have enough to keep me happily occupied.

I don't have any wine ... but that's not a real problem as I have been off wine this past while ... not totally off it ... but just not as interested in having a glass with dinner every day.  It may have something to do with breaking my meal cooking and eating habits since I started preparing meals for Peter.  If I am preparing meals at 9 a.m. there is a different atmosphere than there is at 5:30 or 6 ... it is part of my workday rather than the beginning of my recreational time. I also tend to eat strange meals at odd times.  This morning, because I was putting the finishing touches on Peter's fare, I ended up eating tortellini with Bolognese sauce and a bit of spinach cooked with sweet onion.  Yummy!  But not really a breakfast.

This week, Peter's menu is:  
* tortellini with sauce and salad
* gingerale pork chops with raclette potatoes and asparagus
* chicken stew with corn cobbler and brussel sprouts
* meat loaf with roasted medley potatoes and green beans
* Moroccan shrimp with spirited rice and spinach

Plus ... date bread, pumpkin cake and rhubarb stewed with other fruit and topped with yogurt, strawberries and maple syrup.

We are both eating well.  The raclette potatoes are wonderful ... and fattening ... you pre-cook some potatoes, toss with olive oil and put them in a baking dish .  Then you sprinkle on ham bits and cover with thick slices of mozzarella or raclette cheese and bake at 350 ish for about 20 minutes till cheese melts.

I am still reading about the plasticity of the brain ... and concurrently a memoir by Kurt Vonnegut's son who was/is a schizophrenic.  The brain is an amazing thing ... powerful ... frightening and wondrous in turn.

I wanted to post a photo of Victor's little table and chair but my software won't cooperate.  Will do so when I can ... I like it ... and I especially like the fact that it got me interested in painting again.  It has been a while.

My class this week was fun.  Pauline demonstrated how to make saffron rice and chicken with cheese and cream and then we studied about food while our dinner baked in the oven.  When it was ready we stopped the lesson and went into the kitchen and ate a great meal ... complete with salad and wine ...a fun evening.

This coming week Azra is going to teach us a Yugoslavian craft.  It is fun working with talented friendly women ... they tell me this is their only time in the week that is just for them ... unrelated to family or work ... just a relaxing leaning time with people they like.  Sometimes groups just jell perfectly ... aren't we lucky when it happens?

Have a great snowy weekend ... and let's hope that this is our last burst of winter!