Sunday 30 August 2009

Critters in the garden

We in Muskoka are pretty tough. Rain, snow, sleet or hail - all on one day. We gardeners are having a tough, too. Between the earwigs and the least the bugs have lessened. (No, they are not gone, either!)

Don't get me wrong, our Muskoka days have been pretty fair, with clouds in the a.m., sun in the p.m. then thunderstorms in the evenings. Can't ask for more than this. (This week end was a bit of a write-off, coold and rainy, but you win, you lose!)

The weather controls our garden, but not my life. My wildflowers are the most adaptable; there are lessons here. My touch-me-nots are flourishing.

I listened to a great Freshair show. An excellent interview on the 'novice gardener' topic. While I have grown veggies in gardens since the 70s, it is helpful to be reminded that the weather and Mother Nature control our efforts. The novice gardener need not give up!

I have chosen to plant squash in a large, hollow tree trunk. I thought it would put it higher, it would get hotter and have more sun. So far no fruit has set. The expert said it is the fault of low temperatures, but the vines look lovely! What else can hope for? I moved them yesterday into the full sun. I hope it is not too late!

I love the city folks with tales of raccoons, which was the complaint of the interviewer. Poor sods.

We have raccoons with fleas.

Plus, deer, foxes, muskrats, squirrels that dig up all bulbs, nocturnal flying squirrels, bears (who like the wild berries), and ducks that all like my garden. It is a challenge but I have learned to live with them.

Now one critter not plentiful around these here parts is the gopher.
Our house is built on 500,000 million year old Precambrian shield rock. It takes up 1/4 of the basement. There are not a lot of gophers, as our topsoil is rather shallow. Much to my dismay, I spotted my first gopher around here last month. There was a surprise.

My friend, Nancy Tapley, at Bondi Resort, has put 7' chicken wire fences arounnancy's gardend all of her gardens, including the veggie garden. A massive amount of work. But she is a serious gardener! She has wild and domesticated critters all over her 200 acres! We both have wild turkeys. I captured a YouTube video of a pair last Thanksgiving. (Honestly!)

Some advise putting out bags of human hair or hanging stockings on trees, or posts, with Irish Spring soap in it. There are sprays you can buy, too.

You do what you have to do!

We have Canada geese, too. They kept my clover trimmed - I gave up on grass. Eva came back Thursday afternoon for a visit. She brought the troops. I haven't seen her very often, nor her brood, for weeks! Since they began to fly, they have been (gratefully) absent. They nipped at my water hyacinth and I had very few blooms! I am glad, too, as they were nipping at my petunias!

My heron patrols the lily pond and keeps the sunfish in check. Scares the pants off the frogs, too. The heron alighted on my handy raft - which gets more use by critters than people these days! She bid us well as we were getting ready to go out to dinner!

I watched CBC's The National's special feature, "It's a Wild Life", while I was working out, I might add! (Mental pat-on-the-back!) They had a segment on how coyotes, bear and moose are facing habitat loss due to encroaching humans. For this reason, some in the suburbs are having troubles. With more people feeding the animals, and more food available in gardens, populations are booming. For example, vegetable gardens are ripe for the plucking in suburbia. :-)

Homeowners are advised to pick up old fruit, e.g., from crabapple trees, as animals are drawn to these previously wild locations and this luxurious food fest. But some two-legged ones feed the bears or the raccoons, much to the chagrin of MNR staff and neighbours. You really have to educate people around you!

Cougars are causing problems in South Alberta. Stanley Park, in B.C., offers education programs on coyotes.

As with bears, you are encouraged to be noisy and scare them away. The coyotes are unafraid of children, and one in the CBC show went after a toddler, even while having a full belly. After months of complaints another bit a child in a play ground. Removing the offending critter leaves a space in the habitat for another animal of the same species who will move in quite willingly. Humans sure have imbalanced nature.

Check my post on keeping pets safe at the cottage! They are at risk from fishers, and the like.

We are advised to drive safely and carefully, too. They lose 24 moose to car accidents at Algonquin Park each year. All in all, we really have to figure out how to live with them. They cannot be shipped out to reserves as the whites did to the Native Peoples. We've learned too much to go back in time.

Saturday 29 August 2009

Accuracy in the media

My blogger friend posted an interesting reflection on Canadian, vs. American or UK spelling.

My other pet peeve are Canadian publications or shows citing America data. It doesn't always apply; especially in education and health care. I loathe the mid-day radio or talk shows that interview American authors. With a population of 300 million, let the Americans target Americans. Canadian publishers have a hard enough time promoting to 33 million Canadians whose TV programs, air and print media, seem to fawn all over the big name publishers.

Self-serving lobby groups are another bone of contention for me!
I belong to the Canadian Association of Retired People (CARP), which is an affiliate with AARP. Often, the headlines are grabbed from AARP-written articles. I find that some of their message apply, but others, especially health care for seniors do not apply. We have vastly different issues with our health care system; their's is hopefully becoming more universal, but I speculate still and post this elsewhere: American Health Care Reform. I saw the lobbying on-line in July!

I was reading alive (sic), a magazine purportedly "Canada's Natural Health and Wellness Magazine". As I read through it, I found issues of concern to healthy Canadians, but includes data from American sources. This confounds me. My tax dollars go to supporting this magazine.

An article about ADHD & diet, by Joey Shulman (who runs a weight loss clinic in Toronto- do you think she has a hidden agenda?), cites DSM-IV and the US National Institutes of Health as her sources for definitions. DSM, which I had to study for my Counselling & Psychology degree, really is a convoluted document, some say massaged by the big pharmaceuticals.

In another article on Autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder - ASD) by C. Leigh Broadhurst, she cites US Federal courts, and makes a connection between diet and ASD. Fair enough, but she is a US government geochemist and geobotanist. She is advocating for getting kids off Rx, and onto healthy eating. Not a mistake, but as an educator, I can tell you that I have taught a number of ASD students and for some the medications are the way to go. Tell me how these articles can purportedly be rightly printed in a Canadian magazine? If this magazine is for Canadians, it should be based on Canadian data and issues and written by Canadians.

To move to on-air media, many CBC Arts or entertainment programs (Q, The Hour, Ontario Today, Ontario Morning) interview American entertainers, musicians. Many news programs feature US-based books on issues like education and health care. We really must have a better focus. We know our Canadian health care and educational systems are vastly different. Yet, during my career in education, many of the bandwagons originated in the US, and were guaranteed to fail in a Canadian system. I think it is high time that producers weeded out the free advertising for big time American publishers and promoters, and focused on what it means to be Canadian.

Dinner out

My dear family spent two weeks with us. They sent money for utilities, as well as some cash for our 7th (count it!) wedding anniversary. They are perfect family visitors, masquerading as guests. As much as I miss them (they are a 5 hr. drive away) they are in my heart.
The cats bought a helium balloon for hubby, as they like that kind of fooferaw!

We went out for dinner to one of our local restaurants: Moon River Lookout.

What a treat.

Bala has several restaurants with chefs, we often visit them for hatchings, matchings, and dispatchings - we had our fair share in the past few years. This calls for an excellent dinner, timeout and away from cooking and time to be pampered.

We were.

The salad was amazing, with taste, cranberries, and pine nuts. Just perfect. Such presentation, too!

Our dear, well trained server Andrea, took a photo that managed to include the Moon River. What a sweetie!

A good time was had. We booked an early dinner, as they fill up and we like our early sittings. More time to go home and let a meal settle. The cats do not like us being out late, either!

The specials were the ones we chose - always a good choice.

Chilean bass, for me, and a meat combo of beef, duck and for hubby, was accompanied by delicious vegetables: potatoes, peppers, zuccinni and white asparagus. Delicious!

Beautiful presentation, as always, we are never disappointed at our restaurants. Nicely seasoned and well presented.

I failed to capture a photo of the main course, as I was so excited to start eating! It smelled and looked incredible. You'll have to visit to see.

Tonight's dinner was Canadian (back) bacon and Bondi Resort's fabulous free range eggs, in an omellette with mustard, green pepper and chopped tomatoes. No wonder I need to check my weight!

Many thanks to Nancy, the chicken whisperer, for the eggs, and our dear 'children', who fill our lives with their joyful perspective of the world.

Friday 28 August 2009

Reflections on water

The staff of life...
There must be a poem in here somewhere!

Too bad I have to scrape & sand paint in order to repaint the cottage, in preparation for repairs and some new eavestrophe. This is so much more fun!

If I were gainfully employed I'd be able to hire 'peeps'!
OK, back to work.

Bloggers: Celebrate your world

I love to write and reflect. This began in April, 2006, when I moved far from friends, family, and my social network, taking a new job closer to become a caregiver for failing parents. Previously I'd only written for educational publications.

I depended upon e-mail to keep in touch with the real world. Then, writing my book about my parents, I incorporated my e-mails into my text. The glory and beauty of Muskoka inspired me and kept me going. Here is an excerpt:

What a lovely drive into work. I felt a sense of peace in the drive. This was when I depressurized. The scene changed every day. I saw two large turkey vultures at the side of the road. They eyed me as I passed. On another day, there was a fox trotting perkily along the side of the road. She seemed happy that humans had made her a nice trail. It sure made hunting easier!

I drove by these gorgeous lakes and trees, noticing the snow and ice slowly melting, as I followed my daily route to work. Each day, nature painted a few more dabs of colour on the trees. They were red, yellow, and dark brown buds of promise and they looked beautiful. Then, in the night, nature painted the buds a little more and a little more until I could no longer see the trees and homes behind. Soon enough the leaves burst into beautiful green and the tiny, isolated cottages became invisible behind them once more.
I navigated my way home from work, oblivious to the furor at home. Along the highway, I passed sparkling lakes and shadowy forests; I turned the heat on in the car and opened up the sunroof. It was good to feel the sun.

Many face health issues with failing parents. I documented my trials here in Central Ontario, since navigating health care in rural Ontario is different than that of the city. Cuts are being made to rural health care, and this is going to impact access for those without means, such as transportation. Then, I realized that there is little documentation of issues like safety and the many so-called accidents (needless drownings) related to boats or swimming in cottage country. There is a pattern, and it is frightening.

In addition, what with the economic situation and the troubles newspapers are facing, I really believe it is we amateurs who must blog to celebrate and laud our regions. Local reporters are being cut from local papers. Local papers feature nationally syndicated writers, e.g., Arthur Black who resides in B.C., who have little to do with regional events. Add to that: none in provincial media appeared to mention Gravenhurst's tornado. The local papers (which publish weekly) captured the stunning images of friends helping friends, and crews cleaning up, but not until the Wednesday following the Thursday event.

Many thanks to my followers. I promise to visit you virtually in your neck of the woods.
Thank you, all, for your kind comments. I am reluctant to say 'thank you' each time, but I am most grateful. Plus, people do not always check back in once they post! I know I have lurkers who read and do not comment. My children read it to see what the old f@rts are up to!

Tomorrow I shall post about our lovely anniversary dinner. Scrumptious food and celebrated chefs abound in Muskoka!

Here is my video-celebration of Muskoka:

Thursday 27 August 2009

Summer is humming along

The summer is disappearing fast. Despite media reports, the afternoons have been delightful. Yes, July had some rain, but August has proven wonderful. The mornings and evenings were cool, but it usually warmed up.

We've been swimming and playing and enjoying life.

With the late Labour Day w/e some schools begin earlier than others. The lake is quiet. The w/e busy with tourists and seasonal visitors. The days have been luxurous. I continue to save up these images, like Frederick in Leo Lionni's tale. They will be put away, wrapped in tissue paper and, on those long, dark February days, I will unwrap them, hold them up to the firelight, examine them, smell and taste them again! Change helps us understand the past and live in the present, while we eagerly anticipate the future. Variety is the spice of life. Mind you, the tornado was a bit much, but it, too, will be fodder for conversation.

I've met a lot of photographers. It helps me to capture the beauty around me.
This man was at Arowhon Lodge Dining in paradise. We were busy hummingbird watching while waiting for the lunch bell.

We try to capture the beauty around us.
It is sometimes easier than it looks.

While he waited at the spot, the hummingbirds zipped around to the other bird feeder leaving him birdless! It was a fun dance.

He'd turn around and they'd be back.

Eventually, she gave in and let us capture her image. Hooray for zoom lenses!


This is the life!

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Just call me an old f@rt

Many kids can't walk and talk. How can they text, walk and talk? I am always amazed with new developments in technology. Don't get me wrong! I embrace it. I just ensure that my loved ones know how to use it! And I teach people how to treat me. I loathe being put on hold during call waiting. If they need to talk on a cell in my presence there is something wrong.

When I walk through a parking lot and some dude is arguing and yelling into his phone - I get irritated and upset. The same for restaurants, elevators, and other public places. Get your conversation out of my face! I tend to raise my voice in response, and my hubbie gets so embarassed! I loved the cartoon in which the one person takes a potatoe, puts it to his ear, then walks over to the offending cell phone user and says, "It's for you!"

Mind you, their parents are likely modeling the behaviour, as one young teen stated in an interview. Her mother does it, too. You live what you learn. The self-important people who cannot get in a vehicle and make it from here to there without going on their cell phones. They make the roads unsafe for all of us. What did we old f@rts do before we had cell phones? Oh yes. We waited until we arrived at our destination. We made plans. We thought ahead and thought of others. How important is it to text someone while driving, walking, or doing other things?

There is hope. There is a
But enforcement is difficult.
But the manners of some who feel the need to take attention away from the people they are with, to text people they are NOT with. What does this say about their character? I'd walk away.

Speaking of walking...

Teen Girl Falls In Open Manhole While Texting -

There is an increase of accidents, and some places have written laws forbidding talking on a cell phone while driving. Good thing, methinks. But TEXTING????? Is it just me?
Not only while walking, but while driving.

Texting while driving PSA sends strong message to teens

Imagine a Public Service Announcement to explain the hazards of texting while driving. What are they thinking?

Docs warn that texting could be hazardous to your health[PDF] -excerpt graph from this document.

Teen Driver Menace: Text-Messaging: Studies Show Texting While ...
Nearly 50 percent of teens admit to text messaging while driving

I can imagine these young people out on the savannah in prehistoric times texting, while from behind arrives a sabre tooth tiger that checks them broadside and reduces the gene pool.
Perhaps this is what will happen. The dumb ones will self-destruct and will not procreate.
One can hope.

Walking the path

Bonnie, artistic wench that she is, provided an excellent prompt.

With whom would I walk down the path in her photo?

My mother

There is so much she told me
I did not listen
or have forgotten
There was so much unsaid,
Which was understood.
So much said,
that was misunderstood.
There is so much to apologize for.
So much I tried to do.
I could not.
She would not.

Leave the baggage
Leave the garbage
Aside the path
The burdens weigh you down
Prevent you from moving forward.

Open your arms;
Open your heart.
I know, now,
All is forgiven.

Gravenhurst Tornado confirmed

Updates: Tornado confirmed in Gravenhurst!

"Environment Canada has confirmed that an F0 tornado hit Gravenhurst Aug. 20. An F0 is said to be the least-impacting..."

Winds between 60-110 kilometres an hour. Nothing to sneeze at (or in!). Amazing how GR didn't make any news.

Nor the Thornbury orchards (on Georgian Bay) that lost 85% of their crops.

I told you so!

I had queries on my YouTube video:
Tornado confirmed in Gravenhurst, Ontario
about whether nor not it was a tornado. Sure looked bad to me! It took all this time, however, for it to hit the weekly newspaper. This is the way local reporting is going.

Infertility & medical ethics

I blogged previously about the US single woman with 6 children, who had IVF and had 8 more children. Ethically, there is something wrong with this.

In a Globe article: Report calls on Ontario to foot fertility bill


A new report from a panel appointed by the McGuinty government is calling on the province to approve Ontario Health Insurance Plan coverage of pricey fertility treatments for those struggling to have a baby.

Conversations are interesting, but I fall on the side of caution. Why would our tax dollars go to pay for an unnecessary ($10,000) medical intervention, to correct an infertility problem. Genetics would tell us that those unable to become fertile would procreate and produce children who, as adults, would similarly be unable to procreate.

Then there are the cutbacks to local hospitals. This is not a medical situation, it is a medical intervention. I really wonder if we can afford this?
The article says,
The rate of multiple births from assisted reproduction in Ontario was nearly 30 per cent in 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available. In jurisdictions that control the number of embryos that can be implanted, the rate is about 10 per cent.
For example, I sit on the Board of Directors for our local Children's Aid and we have very many children who need to be adopted.

Another commentator said,
If the system were flush with money, I'd be more than happy to have IVF covered. But the fact is that our health care system is already desperately short of funds. There is no logic in adding the cost of such an expensive (elective) procedure to the bill when there already isnt enough money to go around. ... Nature did not design humans (esp females) to reproduce later in life. look at the numbers from a well documented study:
  • By age 30, 7% of couples were infertile
  • By age 35, 11% of couples were infertile
  • By age 40, 33% of couples were infertile
  • At age 45, 87% of couples were infertile
I really do wonder if this is good use of tax dollars? I think not. With more seniors requiring support for chronic diseases, and increasgin demands for LTC and home care, our system is going to be strained.

Funding fertility: the fight to have treatments covered
After a year of trying to conceive, the couple paid $6,300 for one IVF treatment at an Ottawa fertility clinic. A further $6,500 in drugs was covered by private insurance.

Watery Wednesday #50

watery wednesday
In Muskoka, every day is Watery Wednesday! This video was taken on Monday.

In the video: an airplane sails gracefully across the sky. The heron hunts by the water. She is unmoved by hubby announcing that he is making muffins, bless him! The cats seek moles or grasshoppers nearby; again the heron is unmoved. The sun begins to warm the air. Then, the lake traffic begins. The heron seems to ignore the boat that whips a child by on a tube.

But then another day dawns. Fishermen troll by, seeking the solace of the early morning.

Sipping my morning coffee, I amble towards the door. My morning ritual: coffee, computer, and a quick survey of the lakefront. Most days the lake eases into its diurnal rhythms, too. A rhythm I like to follow. For today, for now, there is relative quiet. A hubby with a To Do list that involves 8 stops, he leaves shortly.

If I am up at the usual time, a cat meowing to come in when the sun rises, I can see the wildlife by the lakeside. Today I slept in! It was a chilly day.

My gardens, in the 12 degree morning, are not happy. The squash has not yet set fruit. Too cool, with not enough heat. Oh, well. C'est la vie! The foliage, but especially the flowers, are a delight. Methinks it a bit late for fruit now. We shall visit the weekly markets.

The lake is different every day. I love the changes. Usually the wind is absent in the early a.m. Some days, like today, it comes from the opposite shore. Sending gentle waves directly towards me; caressing my face, soothing my soul. I inhale the scent of the outdoors. Lake moisture, the pines, the fragrant aroma of the Asiatic Lilies; all a sensual beginning to the day.
Guinivere protects hers garden.

The black and gray squirrels are in the oak tree; dive bombing anyone who chooses to walk below. Guinivere looks at me as if for protection.

The sun sparkles between the leaves as it rises to its zenith. Across the peninsula, water dances in the breeze. I wonder if my mother of all turtles is on his rock getting warm in the sun?!

The low hum of traffic, off in the distance, reminds me of my former working life. Early morning alarm clocks turned off in the predawn, a 62 km drive into work, recess bells, yard duty, parent-teacher meetings, schedules and deadlines. I still have nightmares about these things: being late for school, not finding my daybook, or an inability to keep control of a classroom of rambunctious kids. 'Tis bittersweet knowing that what I have learned about curriculum, discipline, and the like, I now leave behind me for others to learn. The book I meant to write, as yet unwritten. I sip my coffee and ponder life.

I luxuriate in my chimes that warn of a storm. Mom always said that the wind from this direction forewarned of a change in weather. And living here full-time I find this is usually true. I love the wind and rain. I know how much the lake and the land need the water.

The place begins to become more active. The red squirrel's chittering tells me that the cat is nearby. Disgusted that Sady is on patrol; he tells the whole world.

All is well and good with the My Muskoka watery world.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

turtle's life

Lake wildlife
-could she be any more relaxed than I?
paddling on a quiet shore
creature eyes me with some doubt
solitude a moment more
peaceful within
peaceful without

Near misses-dear drowning

In more news, from a tourist town: Pair saves girl from drowning

"Quick action averted another tragic drowning this summer, according to Gravenhurst residents."

A middle-aged couple saved a girl from drowning on Aug. 15, 2009. Since 911 wasn't called, it won't hit the books. I think these incidents need to be documented. Warnings need to be given at tourist information booths and on website.

I've been tracking drownings, and accidents, (land, sea & air) in Muskoka, but these kinds of situation are the ones from which we must learn.
"According to nearby residents Mary and Terry Galbraith, a girl around eight years old was struggling beneath the water at the Church Street parkette."

In this case, again, people from out of town swimming in a place where the bottom drops off suddenly. Fortunately, this is a story of heroes, rather than another statistic.
At right, people swimming in Bala Falls, after the two drownings, in August, 2009.
What to do? What to do?

And another drowning...

"Pat Gaughan was on a fishing vacation with his family at a cottage in Seguin Township last week when they began to hear people screaming sometime."
Shortly after midnight, a young man drowned after going out in a canoe. August 20, 2009. That makes 11 this season.

Two were injured near Torrance, on highway #169 Aug. 21, 2009. They were sent to hospital.
Aug. 24, an impaired driver drove his vehicle into Loon Lake (where a man drowned: Be careful out there, On 01 August 2009). Around midnight, the witching hour.

The boat traffic is amazing and frightening...


Monday 24 August 2009

Algonquin Park

What a treat to visit the park again! We drove in for lunch at Arowhon Lodge. yum. No moose, but that is ok!

Don't forget that it is near Deerhurst, the site of the June, 2010, G8 meeting. You may want to stay away for that!
But the trip to Alongquin is lovely. Here is a beaver dam off the Arowhon road.

I haven't been back in awhile. I used to drive through on my wat from Muskoka to Ottawa, but every other w/e, while holding down a teaching job 62 km from home, was too much. Especially with both parents dying of cancer. (Read the full story in my book! Living and Dying withDignity ) I had enough of forests, lakes and trees, as well as stress, bereavement issues, and depression.

The rescue plane. One of the most photographed images around!

A well-researched park is a well-protected park.
Their literature of excellent. I bought a couple of book: reptile & amphibians, lichen, but a great little store! That's my world!MWT White