Saturday, June 15, 2019

My weaving project and other stories

The duck that lost her nest and her two bodyguards left the Reservoir for a few days after the nest was destroyed but they are back now. Looks like the threesome are a thing now, tragedy has cemented their relationship. There are lots of fish nests all around the edges of both ponds with fishes guarding them. I'd love to get a photo of a fish guarding its nest but they see me coming and move away from the nest before I can snap a picture.

The parks people lower the water level on one pond in order to put a string of buoys around the beach swimming area, but over the years we dogwalkers have protested this action because it puts the fish nests in jeopardy. Some of us have gone so far as to volunteer to put in the line of buoys ourselves without lowering the water level, but I guess the town is not up for the risk of a bunch of seniors doing the work of paid staff. This year the guy who puts in the buoys did it without lowering the water level so far as to destroy the nests. He's a nice guy with a great sense of humour. We are always complaining to him about town policy with regards to the Reservoir and he passes on our complaints because as he says, it's job security for himself. As long as we complain he has enough work to remediate the park to our specifications for the foreseeable future.

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The warp...
My weaving course ended last Wednesday but none of us completed our projects. Our work has to be off the looms before the 24th because the looms are needed over the summer. Our instructor says this has never happened before and it seems to be the result of the Centre reducing the length of the course from 10 weeks to 8 and each of us having to take evenings off for personal reasons (funeral, wedding, writing competition, etc). So now I have to go into the city every other day for a week in order to finish. Road work season has started and there is now a half hour wait on the highway for that so my commute time is now two hours each way. And, I have to get a dogsitter for Hapi because it is now too warm to leave her in the car while I am in class.

...and the weft
In addition to all that, I had previously committed to doing some volunteer ushering this weekend for a show put on by one of the local high schools. So this is the weekend from hell, non-stop busyness. That's my idea of hell, busyness. By the time my project is finished I am going to be a basket case.

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Last Wednesday I took advantage of having to get a dogsitter by going into the city a little early to stroll the harbourfront boardwalk. The Bluenose II happens to be in town for a couple of days before decamping to Ontario for the summer. That ship is pretty controversial, being a classic example of a hole in the water to pour money into. However it is very beautiful and I feel like I have a personal connection to it because I once met its original builder at his boatyard just outside of Lunenburg, and back in the '80s I took my kids for a cruise around the harbour on it.

Another time I was taking the ferry from Chester to Tancook Island (see story here) and the Bluenose II happened to be in Chester then. Our ferryboat captain, as a joke, pretended to ram the ship. At the last minute he veered off, to the great relief of the Bluenose II crew lined up on deck and all of us passengers on the ferryboat.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Little Birdies

The lone neighbourhood crow
A couple of weeks ago a male cardinal brought his offspring to my bird feeder and showed the youngster how it works. Since then the youngster has been back several times. He or she is all brown, more brown than a female cardinal, so I don't know if it is a male or female. I was going to take down the feeder but after seeing the juvenile cardinal I decided to leave it in place a little longer. Today the father cardinal was back with the youngster and fed it several seeds from the feeder. Other days I have seen the youngster in my back yard just fooling around.

I also have a new crow visitor. Once it tried to get at my feeder but the bird is just too big. Another time I saw it strutting on the front lawn with all its head feathers fluffed up like a kind of mane. It was very handsome! I think it has claimed my lawn as its territory. There are usually a dozen or so crows that hang out in my neighbourhood but right now there is just one. I think the others are busy raising their young.

I wrote this a while ago when the trees were still bare of leaves. More recently I have returned to the Reservoir after a week away due to Hapi having discovered the duck nest (see previous post). Sadly but not unexpectedly the duck nest is no more, a few broken egg shells are all that remain. A friend recounted her own dog's discovery of the nest when it was still active, and the male "bodyguard" ducks chased her dog away. So I guess they really were bodyguards and not opportunists. But now they are all gone; I feel sad for the duck but it really was a bad place to nest.

Monday, June 3, 2019

My Pet Predator

Last week was the awards ceremony for the writing competition I entered. I was short-listed but did not win which was what I expected. But two other writers from my writing group and a husband (of one of the other writers) and myself headed into the city for the event. We went early enough to go for dinner beforehand and had a great meal at a tiny African restaurant just around the corner from the Art Bar where the ceremony was held. The winners in each category read their entries and then four people who were in a mentorship program read excerpts from their works in progress. One of the writers who came to the city with me is a poet and she was hoping to hear the winning poetry selection, however the winner was a no-show and they did not read that entry. Too bad, I think it would have been interesting.

We had a good time. I left Hapi with friends and unfortunately she howled most of the time that I was away. They were a little taken aback by that, they had never heard her howl. Separation issues I guess.

I took Hapi to the feed mill with me to get some seed potatoes, onion sets and pelletized lime. They let dogs into the store there. There is a feed mill cat who is unafraid of dogs and another customer had their dog as well. I let Hapi wander, I didn't think there was anything she could get into. Boy was I wrong.

One of the girls behind the counter had ordered chicks to raise for meat birds and her order had arrived and was sitting on the floor behind the counter. A big box full of very cute looking chicks. Hapi eventually made her way behind the counter and saw the chicks. She plucked one out of the box. The girl behind the counter was very fast, she got that chick out of Hapi's mouth in a split second. The chick appeared shocked but alive and hopefully not injured. I apologized profusely but she said not to worry, they were just meat birds.

I was a bit of a nervous wreck when I left the feed mill, I thought I'd take Hapi for a walk to calm my nerves. So we went to the Reservoir. There's a duck there with a nest. Apparently this is the second next that duck has tried to sit on, the first nest and its contents were destroyed by dogs. The current one is only slightly better hidden but I knew about it and roughly where it was from one of the other dog owners. On this particular day I found out exactly where the nest was. Hapi found it. She flushed out the duck sitting on the nest and proceeded to investigate its contents. Meanwhile I was running throught the bushes and across a ditch yelling, "No! No! No!"

I managed to get to the nest before Hapi could snatch an egg and I dragged her away. There were 8 eggs in the nest. A couple of male ducks had been patrolling the pond nearby and when the mother duck was chased off her nest squawking in protest, they joined her in the air, also squawking. I used to joke that those ducks were her bodyguards, but I think they are actually opportunists waiting to see if they can impregnate her again if the nest fails. At any rate the whole gang flew away.

I took Hapi home, thoroughly wrecked by the two incidents. What fun to have a predator for a pet! But I dare not go back to the Reservoir now, she knows exactly where the nest is and will continue to seek it out as long as it is there. Not that I think there is any hope that any of those eggs will survive, if the dogs don't get them then the eagles surely will. Not to mention raccoons, skunks or coyotes. But I just don't want Hapi to be the one to do it. So I am having to take her elsewhere for her morning walk.

Two geese hiding their babies on the left, beaver swimming by on the right
Today we went to the Gaspereau Canal. I saw two ducks, two geese, two eagles and a beaver. I saw the geese twice and it turned out that they had four goslings with them. When they saw Hapi and me they herded their charges across the canal and positioned themselves so that I couldn't see the babies.

Beaver lodge, just left of centre (looks like a heap of sticks by the water's edge)
The beavers around here are "bank beavers", they don't build lodges in the middle of a pond but on the banks of rivers. they don't build dams either, which is a good thing because if they tried to dam the canal they would be removed. One day last month the power company lowered the water level in the canal and you could see the whole beaver lodge including its underwater entry point (which wasn't underwater at the time).

Female eagle in tree, probably waiting for the goslings to appear
There are a lot of micro-hydro installations in this province. They are the original dams built back in the day when such things were quite small. The canal goes between two such dams operated by the power company here, my neighbourhood is powered by one of those dams. There is also a fish ladder around one of the dams for the Gaspereaux fish (they are called alewives in Toronto). Fishers along the river catch them with big dipnets every spring on their spawning migration up the river, and they are shipped to Haiti for food. Fishing season on the Gaspereau is a big deal, it just ended this past weekend. The power company is supposed to run their operation in such a way that the fish are not killed but periodically they screw it up and thousands of fish end up dead.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Mower Starts and Other News

Weaving at home: a rug
Turns out the lawn mower works just fine, the problem is me. I don't have the upper body strength any more to pull that starter cord hard and fast enough. I don't know which is worse, having a mower that won't start or not having a body that can start it. Well, at least I have a work around: my buddy J can drop by on his way home from work to start the mower so I can mow. I think he'd even mow for me if I asked him to. It may come to that one day, but not yet.

Anyway, I did manage to mow the lawn on Thursday. We seem to be in a weather pattern of rain downpours every other day and if I wait till the end of the day between downpours the grass is a little drier. Momentarily.

I've had many suggestions from sympathetic former mowers to get an electric or even a battery-powered mower. I did look into those possibilities on the internet, but the big problem with the alternatives to a gas-powered mower is that they do not do well with wet grass. I could use one for several months in the summer and fall, but in the spring the grass grows like crazy and the ground is soggy (and so is the grass).

One of my neighbours suggested I get a scythe. She confessed that she cuts her grass with a bread knife!

I said, "That must take forever!"

She said, "Yup, all summer."

I'll stick with getting J to start the mower on his way home from work.

I joined a potluck group and there was a potluck dinner last night, my second with the group. I avoided this group in the past because of my dislike of and lack of talent in cooking. Lately I have been facing down my concerns in that area with a phone app recommended by one of my sons. So I thought I should give it a shot. The first dinner I didn't know anyone and I brought an old standby, a sort of fruit crisp made with blueberries and strawberries. It wasn't great, and I took half of it home with me. Oh well.

Last night I made something from my phone app. First off it was way too big and second I again brought home at least half of it. Someone else made something similar that was way better. They also made a much smaller quantity so they didn't take any of it home with them. I ate and drank too much and ended up waking in the night due to that, and spent too much time fretting about my poor cooking skills.

Not even a phone app is going to improve my cooking skills. Either I have to quit the group or get my head around the fact that my contributions will be less than stellar.

The warp on my home loom
But in other news I got a lot of weaving and writing done this past week, due to the crappy weather. With a bit of luck I'll have the current project off my loom at home before the end of my weaving course. The last class I went to I was the only student and the instructor and I exchanged life stories while working on our respective projects. I finished threading the heddles and am halfway through sleying the reed.

I won't be going to class this week because of the writing competition awards and I will almost certainly have to come in one weekend to finish the weaving before the end of the course. But the instructor sold me a warping mill and I ordered some 2/8 cotton for weaving. I love looking through the catalog for colours. I ordered Cherry Red, Dark Orange, Old Gold (yellow), Magenta and Royal Blue. The catalog itself costs $40, one day I'll invest in one of my own. I look forward to using the warping mill for the next project.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The End of the World and My Lawnmower Won't Start

With all the rain my lawn is in dire need of a mowing but finding a day dry enough to do it has been a problem. I thought yesterday, Sunday, would be it but the lawnmower would not start. I got pretty frustrated trying to get it going and finally left a message for the guy who serviced the lawnmower a few weeks earlier. Surprisingly, he called back in an hour. Said it wasn't his fault, he was super busy and didn't think he had time to look at it, and it was my fault for doing something stupid anyway.

So then I was mad. Mad at him for lecturing me, mad at myself for doing something stupid, mad at the weather for raining and mad at the grass for growing. Took Hapi for a walk in hopes of walking it off, but it didn't help. Had a bath and then drank the last of the homemade vodka-raspberry-juice liqueur and ate some potato chips and watched a depressing TV show. That didn't really help.

Previous to all of that one of my sons told me that he had posted on Facebook a link to a scholarly paper that predicted the collapsse of civilization sometime in the next 10 years due to climate change. My son said he was making changes in his plans for the future as a result of reading this paper. We discussed it for a bit, I was a tad sceptical and especially so since my son seemed a bit vague on some of the political facts supporting this argument. I went looking for the paper and downloaded it intending to read it later. But with the lawnmower situation I was now more receptive to the idea of civilizational collapse. So by the time I went to bed I was in full blown existential depression.

Needless to say waking up didn't help much either, especially now that it was raining in earnest. Forecast is for a couple of days of this. I finally tried to read the paper my son had posted and I have to say it is poorly written, overly long and doesn't really make any kind of sensible argument at all. If this is the final word on civilizational collapse then we might have a few more decades to muddle along.

Found the lawnmower manual which recommended washing the air filter with soap and water, so I did that. Next step is to soak it in engine oil and replace it in the lawn mower. Who knows, maybe that will work. Then I'll call back the maintenance guy and tell him to p*** off, but if it doesn't I will bite my tongue and say nothing.

In the afternoon there was a brief letup in the rain so I took Hapi to the Reservoir. Forgot that the black fly are out in force so I walked quickly to stay ahead of them. I think if civilization does collapse they are going to miss us.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wild things

I was reading an article about human efforts to control the Mississippi River in Louisiana ("Louisiana's Disappearing Coast", Elizabeth Colbert in the New Yorker, March 2019). Colbert describes the various engineering projects over the past century and some of their unintended consequences. In passing she mentions the huge imbalance between humanity and wildlife. The total weight of all humans outweighs the total weight of all wild mammals by eight to one, the total of all humans plus our livestock outweighs all wild vertebrates except fish. There is no place on earth now that has not been affected by us in some way.

So when you think about it, what does "wild" really mean? I think it used to mean the natural world unaffected by us, creatures untrammelled by our influence. Does it any more? In some ways "the natural world" is just a kind of vast zoo (or garden) where creatures have the appearance of being "wild". Wilderness is a kind of illusion.

When did this happen? In my lifetime the human population has tripled, and presumably our impact on wilderness and the natural world has increased by some similar factor. Maybe when I was a small child there was still some true wilderness in existence? Or maybe it happened before that, I don't know.

I was talking to a friend on the west coast last winter (by phone) and mentioned skating on a local pond. At first he misunderstood and thought I was talking about a skating rink on solid ground and when I corrected him he called it "wild skating". He likened it to "wild swimming" which apparently is a thing in some places. I said that I disliked swimming in pools, I would rather not swim at all if there was no natural body of water to swim in (I suppose swimming at the reservoir is an exception, but it feels like a natural body of water). He was amazed and admitted that he had never done it, and this is a man who regularly engages in extreme hiking, camping and skiing in the mountains.

It would not have occurred to me to call what I did "wild". We had a good laugh about that.

What does "wild" mean now? Is it some historical concept? Or has it changed its meaning to something a little more domesticated?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

An expletive deleted children's story

The weaving project in progress
My big news this week is that I got shortlisted for a prize in children's lit. Actually happened over a month ago but I was sworn to secrecy until they published the official list, which just happened. It's terrible to be sworn to secrecy on something so exciting, and the release was palpable. I immediately fired off emails to friends and family and all of the friends—every last one of them—was just as excited as I was.

Deafening silence from family. A prophet in one's own land sort of thing I guess.

Eventually one brother, the one with the awful diagnosis, broke silence and the three sons one by one also chimed in over the next few days. Have not heard from brother #2, but I believe he does not check email regularly, or so I tell myself.

Anyway, I won't know till the end of the month whether it goes any further than being shortlisted and I don't really expect it will, but the shortlist is exciting enough. There's going to be an awards ceremony (multiple prizes in different categories) which conflicts with my weaving class and I almost feel like skipping the awards but that wouldn't really be kosher. Show up and congratulate the winners, hobnob with 'real' writers. Risk not finishing my weaving project due to too many skipped classes.

Being a 'children's writer' was not really what I was aspiring to but hey! I'll take it.

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The new couch
In other news I have rearranged and refurnished my living room. I was at a local building supply place a month ago to purchase a tool that was on sale and happened to see a couch there that interested me. It was in the paint and flooring department and there were a couple of customers sitting on it contemplating some flooring samples. I sat down beside them and decided it was comfy. My only issue was whether it would actually fit in my living room which is small and already overcrowded with furniture. So I took measurements and went home, took some more measurements and concluded that if I got rid of a couple of furniture pieces I might be able to fit the building supply couch in.

The old table
One of the furniture pieces that would have to go is my large dining table. It's a good table but it is too large for the small room and really only gets used for piling books and papers on. If it had a leaf that I could remove it would be fine but it doesn't. So I did a bit of moving stuff around and bought the couch. Huge effort to get it home and set up but worth it, I love the couch. Then some internet browsing to find a smaller table and thought I found the right table at the IKEA in the city. A trip to the city with a friend to look at it in real life, combined with a browse of the best Chinese grocery store in the city (or that's what the newspaper review of Chinese grocery stores said) and I came home with a Norden gateleg table (and dark dark soy sauce, noodles and dried mushrooms). The table's principal feature is that it has two huge hinged leaves so that it folds down to almost nothing.

This week I assembled the table. I had forgotten what IKEA assembly projects were like.

The instructions have no words, only pictures. There was a whole separate document of warnings, all in pictures only and some of them quite incomprehensible. At a certain point I was stymied, the hinge screws would not screw in. I tried an electric drill/driver but that did not help. The warnings document had a picture of a person phoning the IKEA store (as opposed to standing there with the manual in hand and a big question mark in a balloon above their head) so I did that.

The person with the heavy accent (I had to get him to repeat what he was saying numerous times because I couldn't understand him) told me to try harder. After huffily telling him that I had already done that (I think I used the F-word) he then told me to bring the table back to the store. I thanked him for his assistance and ended the call. The question mark was now multiple exclamation marks.

The electric drill was lying on the floor next to the offending hinges so I picked it up and selected an appropriate bit and reamed out the pre-drilled screw holes until the screws would go in. I may regret that in the future but for now it works.

I am happy with my new smaller table and the building supply couch. Hapi on the other hand is not, she hates change. She comes into the house and stands at the doorway to the living room and looks around with a big frown, then she turns and goes back outside. Aside from two brief inspections of the living room she has stayed outside ever since. Doggy disapproval is clearly communicated.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Spring kayak vacation

Milford House from the rear
I just got home yesterday evening from the 4-day kayaking trip, it was wonderful and I am tired but happy.

I find it impossible to take photos while out on the water but one of my fellow kayakers thinks she has come up with a solution, so maybe next time.

The place we stayed at, Milford House, is great and the staff very friendly and helpful. Although checkout time is 11 am, we wanted to stay out kayaking in the afternoon. We asked about toilet facilities (the main lodge is closed at this time of year, only the 3 winterized cabins are open and they were all occupied) and we were told that all of the non-winterized cabins were unlocked and ready to go for the summer season opening in a couple of weeks. So we were able to use a toilet in one of those cabins.

Our "cabin"
Our "cabin" was bigger than my house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a huge living/dining/kitchen space and a large verandah overlooking the lake. We had ample firewood for the woodstove, but since all of us use woodstoves routinely for winter heat we were not eager to try it out. We did light the fire one evening but very quickly had to open windows and doors to cool off.

Our deck
Milford House is the oldest lodge in the province, in continuous use for almost two centuries in spite of at least three major fires. There are over 20 "cabins" of various sizes all around the lakefront, each one well separated by space and trees from its neighbours. The lodge is situated on a chain of lakes joined by "runs" so there is lots of kayaking to be done exploring the lakes and runs. In the past we have camped on these lakes in warmer weather as there are several campsites and picnic spots around. Some of the campsites have been mapped but there are others only known by word-of-mouth. You only tell special friends of their location as it would not do to have them over-run.

Stopped in one of the runs

We saw a great blue heron fishing in one of the runs, it seemed to have staked out a space along the run as its territory. We saw several turtles sunning on logs and rocks, a couple of loons, several black ducks and a pair of Canada geese. On our first evening we saw one lone goose on the lodge back lawn, it paced back and forth and did not fly away when we walked by. It looked a little alarmed by our presence but seemed to be stuck there. I imagined that it was there for a rendezvous and dared not leave its post. The next day we saw two geese swimming together nearby and I thought that the rendezvous had arrived. We saw them several times over the time we were there. Whenever they took to the air they honked loudly and continuously.

Three of our four kayaks

Picnic stop
One afternoon after a long rainfall the lake was glassy smooth. Rocks emerging from the water were perfectly reflected as interesting symmetrical shapes. Sometimes they looked as if they were floating in mid-air. Very dreamlike.

In the evenings we had wonderful suppers and wine, we talked about what we had seen, our kids, our lives, all the usual stuff. It was great. Cell phone coverage was sketchy, also great. We are seriously thinking of making an annual thing of it. At this time of year there is maybe a day or two between it being too cold and wet and too buggy, so it is nice to be in a cabin rather than a tent. The black fly were out in great clouds but not yet biting, just being annoying. Spring is not Nova Scotia's best season. The autumn however is spectacular: warm, colourful and relatively bug-free. That's the best time to go camping.

I could have brought Hapi along as Milford House is pet-friendly, but she would have to have been locked in the house whenever we were out in our kayaks and a couple of the women were not keen on dogs anyway. I was fine with the break and she stayed home with a dogsitter.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Lonely goose

In the picture above is one goose. There used to be two, but the horse that also resides in this pasture rolled over on the other one and killed it. I'm sure this one goose is lonely now, it was always in the company of its fellow. I am sad for it, I used to enjoy seeing the two of them together. [Disregard the snow, this picture is a few weeks old]

My son who just lost his dog (my dog's brother) is coming to visit this summer, he wants to see Hapi and keeps asking how she is doing. He's afraid she'll sicken and die before he gets to see her again. She used to be his dog. Apparently my vet is worried too, I got a call from her office a few days ago asking how she was doing. She's fine! She's fine!

This month has been very wet and cool. My backyard lawn loves this but I do not, I need waders to walk to my compost bin. The grass is looking like it will need mowing before I leave but the ground is so soggy I dare not. I am afraid that by the time the ground dries out the grass will be knee-high. I don't need one more task before I leave anyway. Maybe this is the year to just turn my backyard into a "meadow".

Monday, April 29, 2019

Phone call

August 2017
My brother phoned me yesterday. Usually we only phone on birthdays and Christmas despite good intentions to do better than that. It was not good news.

He started by describing surgery on his wrist for a longstanding problem that had worsened in recent years, we had talked about this upcoming surgery on our birthdays (two days apart in early April) and so I thought he was calling to talk about the results.

Pre-surgery he was required to do a regular physical check-up, and it turned out that in his medical records was a 5-year-old diagnosis of liver cancer. Somehow that report was overlooked at the time. My brother has his suspicions about how that happened and it pretty much amounts to grounds for suing somebody, but that is kind of beside the point now.

At the time of the diagnosis the cancer was operable, but if nothing was done he had a prognosis of 18 months to live. Five years ago. Now it is not operable. He will do chemo for it but the prognosis is considerably dimmer than 18 months even with the chemo.

He has been healthy as a horse the past five years. He quit drinking, he ran, he lost a bunch of excess weight, he renovated his house and built a monster workshop/garage/guest apartment pretty much by himself. He still has no symptoms.

I'm kind of stunned. His first appointment with an oncologist is after I get back from kayaking. He is my youngest brother and I don't want him to die. I wasn't planning to go out west this year but maybe I should.