Thursday 31 December 2009

Reading poetry

A hat tip to Juliet Wilson who blogged about preparing to read/perform poetry. Some ideas and advice can be found here [PDF], at the Reading Room.

Part of writing poety, is reading it!

A ShoutOut:
posted by The Weaver of Grass at The Weaver of Grass -
The weather here is abysmal - dark, grey, cold, sleeting - not a single thing to commend it. All the more reason then to enjoy our Poetry Reading Afternoon. Once a month a group of friends meet to read 

We are too far from kindred spirits to do this. 

My Poems
 I posted a few ideas on my Thank your teachers blog:

Choral Reading

  My Poems...

Signs of the times II: Requiem for Lola

A great tool, the GPS can help folks navigate their way through dangerous territory, finding streets, places of business, restaurants and gas stations when you feel lost and gone forever. In Muskoka it is a great tool. Roads, apparently going NE end up going NW. It can be confusing with Lake Muskoka in the centre and Bracebridge, Port Carling, Bala, Torrance, Gravenhurst surrounding it. You'll notice, those who know our region, that GPS & Google seems to feel that Southwood Rd. is a better route than Highway #169 from Gravenhurst up to Glen Orchard. They believed the GPS...

For those who travel, it can be a good thing, a GPS. But humankind has invented other tools, which utilised in conjunction with a GPS, make travel much better: snow tires, common sense, activated intuition, maps, emergency kits, a trusted co-pilot! (See a previous post:  Driving in Winter in Muskoka!)

Yes, there are issues with the GPS...

Following GPS device's directions strands couple for three days - The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2009
  • Bound for Reno from the Pacific Northwest, grandparents follow alternate route that directs them to a snowy, remote part of Oregon. They are stranded sans snow tires, gas, food...
Their mistakes? We won't call them errors...because that would imply that they might learn from their mistakes... They didn't fill up with gas before they left, ignored the signs saying, 'This road is not maintained in Winter', refrained from using snow tires or bringing chains.
The article goes on to mention other horror stories...

  • In June, 2009, an Atlanta man's three-bedroom home was mistakenly torn down by a demolition crew following GPS co-ordinates.
  • A month later, a Swedish couple on holiday in Italy misspelled their destination on a rental car's GPS. They were hoping to visit the island of Capri, but arrived instead in the town of Carpi, 660 kilometres to the north.
  • And in 2007, a British woman drove her $200,000 Mercedes into a river while following GPS directions to a christening. She was pulled from the car before it was swept away.

Signs are important in Muskoka, even if they appear a bit tipsy...I posted a previous 'SIGNS on the times article. They struck me as quite drunk, due to the snowplows that zoom merrily along in the dark at 4:00 a.m.! But heed them, nonetheless.

The first of the 12 steps is admitting you have a problem!

Rick, a family friend and regular solitary escapee to warmer climes in the south, wrote about their GPS event. Usually he travels alone, stopping in meeting up with friends in the US. This is their guest post...

For those of you who don't remember Lola, she was my trusted companion on many journeys over the last few years. Yes I admit she was a GPS machine but much more than that when you spend 10 days alone in a car driving to Arizona and back. She was always there with handy keep left directions, arrival times and turn right directions. Without her I never would have made it to Arizona, Florida and so many other places.

Sadly, on this trip Lola started acting strangely as we drove on the I 81.  Suddenly, and without reason, she kept asking us to leave the I 81 and take mysterious side roads . We were puzzled and luckily for me Sandy
[Rick's newly retired wife!] was there to say ignore Lola. If I had been alone I would as always have simply gone on these new exciting roads because Lola was never wrong.

As we progressed we noticed other strange  occurrences, shutting down and saying there were no roads while we were still on the I 81 , losing the satellite repeatedly and then not accepting any new Touch screen commands. Something was definitely wrong and I of course, moved to panic mode. Sandy reassured me and reminded me that she could read a map and we would be ok . This helped but my concern for Lola remained.

Later we removed an extra memory card thinking this may be the problem. It was, and Lola seemed to be functioning again. A few hours later, new problems began.

Suddenly we were in Baltimore's suburbs in an area that did not look too safe. That was it. We turned around and Sandy took over. Lola was shut off for the rest of that day.

The next day we tried again but Lola completely broke down and could not function at all.  This was it Lola, 5 year old technology, was done.

On arrival in Florida, we purchased a new GPS. We have named it Glenda after the wicked witch of the North. She has an assertive, aggressive American tone. This new technology works better even diverts around traffic jams automatically, etc.

Alas it will not be the same. Me: a very directionally challenged individual alone all the way to Arizona, totally dependent on Lola in getting there and back safely. This cannot be replaced and all I have are those memories.

Now, thankfully, I have Sandy with me and am not such a hopelessly dependent GPS individual.
If Lola cannot be saved she will rest on a basement shelf with a home made plaque testifying to her amazing service .


Wednesday 30 December 2009

Seeking the light

banquets, pagan lights, festivity
human tradition lauds creativity

storytellers refine their facile art
fires burn and warm the heart

God's creatures furry or feathered
diurnal, nocturnal all are weathered   
Mother earth protects her progeny
her forte lack of genetic homogeny

migration precludes hibernation,
brumation yet not estivation
living well through the seasons
no matter rhyme nor shining reasons

snow squalls decorate our latches
turkey tracks in snowy patches
quietly broken: susurration
critters refrained from migration

raptors glide in silent forest
seeking sustenance in chorus
mice digging tunnels under snow
little whiskers afeared to show

noisy woodpeckers: spots of colour
frantic in their feeding fervour
daytime bashing scarlet heads
seeking insectum in their beds

squirrels shiver atop the section
grateful for goober-type selection
loudly warn at every instance
feline friends to keep their distance
Visit for more poems!

This is 4th draft for this one...I will mull it over and revise it later!  just don't want to lose it!
 For more info on brumation, estivation, etc..... Time to estivate

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Lotsa movin' and shakin' goin' on!

The birds and squirrels are frantically raiding the bird feeders.

The woodpeckers, especially, like the new Lee Valley bird feeder. (A present from my daughter!) It collapses and has a wire outer edge.

I'm sure, once the 'coons arise from slumber, I shall be forced to retrieve it nocturnally, during last call for cats in the spring!

My favourite squirrel posed for me. His ear tufts are so adorable! But he is a bit skittish and runs when I open the door. I could clean the sliding glass doors, but it is so cold!

Margy write of Boats, Floats and Mountain Goats.  None here, I am afraid.

Carolyn responding to a previous post, reminds us of snowmobiles and avalanches out west. (She is visiting Ottawa, where I lived for 25 years!) My darling granddaughter was baking cookies with her other grandma. We had great summer visits!

It being the anniversary (is there a better word?) of the deaths of snowmobilers I scan our frozen lake with dubious confidence. The Globe celebrated the B.C. event by catching up on the small town ravaged by the horrific loss of 8 snowmobile riders. Another, who survived the tragedy, appears to have suffered PTSD and will never be the same.

Dec 26, 2009 ... After eight snowmobilers died in a back country avalanche three days after Christmas, 2008, survivors still feel guilt but ride on.

It is sad that many horrible things happened on Dec. 26th; Boxing Day to Canadians, my birthday to me and my family! The tsunami was written about, as well as this horrible event.

In the meantime, I took the cats down to the lake for a bit of walkies. They are so grouchy and play fight indoors, whinging in the sunlight in the window, whining to come back in shaking snow off frozen paws. You can see the fox prints at Sady's feet. Animals continue their fight for food.

Hubby, doing errands, and walking our client's dog, usually does this. I figured it was my turn.

The ice was nice and solid close to the shore, after night-time double-digit negative temperatures.

I noticed that large snowflakes had fallen, and were shining and sparkling like beacons, drawing me and my camera. They were hard to capture. But they caught my eye.
I was somewhat frozen and the cats weren't up to a full walk. I may not see them again, as the wind has covered them since with snow. Carpe Diem!!!!

This one looked like a maple leaf! Isn't that a hoot?

I trod on through the snow, feeling akin to Good King Wenceslas, but not inclined to sing. I deigned to wear socks, and was grateful for lined boots.

My scarf I was too cold to wrestle with. Hastening my trip I trod on, camera in hand. The sun, out for a time, has since been hidden by Lake Effect Snow Clouds.

Yes, they deserve capitals letters. They are an entity in and of themselves. Well worthy of respect and salutation. We seem to be christened with a several cm a day by these winds. Once Georgian Bay freezes up a bit more they will lessen. In the meantime we simply dress for it. I, for one, am grateful not to have yard duty any more.  Stupidvising intermediate teens (hormones on legs!) wearing little clothing, and not much sense, made me feel the cold in my heart, when I was not cold in my body.

The grasses I bought have survived a 2nd year, and true to their claims in my gardening magazines, they look as spectacular in winter as in summer. As long as I prop them with a collar!

The beautiful wine-coloured sumac berries have been shed, their red and orange leaves gone to death and decay beneath the snow. Their buds are ready for spring. A sign of hope.

The seasons, they change.

On that we can depend.

Monday 28 December 2009

Which creature is this?

One is usually a day or two behind in headers or posting, due to doing things other than blogging. (Laundry and dishes are done, which is why Brian is relaxing!)

You may notice I have changed my header a couple of times. This is because the temperatures have been fluctuating, and I like to reflect the scenery as it looks.  Being here daily, our neighbours and my readers, can see what the weather has been like and make travel decisions based on the view from here!!

A new critter has reared its ugly head lately...yet the weather contraindicates such...

The sunshine we had on Saturday, after the overnight storm. The photo (left) is from the 24th. Friday night's snowcovered the puddles and with only single digit freezing temperatures, I am not sure that the lake is safe.

On the right was the lake on the 26th . Then, more snow and sub-zero (C.) temps overnight, and voila. The lake looks frozen.

Now, I was down at the frog pond, only thigh deep, and it was still soggy. After all, ice is an accident waiting to happen. And we had several accidents, and near drownings last year even midwinter.

I was able to dig down into the frog pond today and found some water. This isn't a deep pond, either. It was positively brown on the 25th, and had melted in the last few days.

I stood on the ice on Saturday, and I could hear the wind sending the water rolling under the ice, crashing and bashing away. The water level is down and the water is lower than the level of the ice. Very interesting!

The wind is very powerful on a lake, even a frozen one. It pushes the water underneath the layer of ice. With water staying an even temperature, the churning waves even out the temperature, preventing freezing or thawing depending on the season.

We have been graced with another blizzard today, Monday. Lake Effect snow means that the other side of the lake has disappeared. I love my weather maps!

Just before I settled in for a long winter's nap, I took a walk as I saw some strange creatures on the ice.

Then they had a meeting in the middle of the refrozen lake.

They made loud noises, and were passing much gas, as they gunned and raced their powerful bodies across barely frozen lakeshore.  There was a race for top dog, and only one won! Maybe it was a battle to be the noisiest!

For more info: see this article on ice thickness. They suggest that 4" is required for 200 lb. (a person & gear), 5" for an 800 lb. snowmobile, 8" for a car. Unless you go out and test the ice, walk it and survey it you cannot be sure how thick it is. Ours is variable and I heard it creak much just yesterday.

  • When there is moving water the water flows under the ice at a constant temperature, melting the underlying layer of ice.
  • Do not walk in a group as this might be too much weight.
  • Daredevils, show offs and speed demons bother other users, and cause a hazard, as well as underwater currents that jostle the ice.
  • If the ice look smooth, it may have thawed and frozen over night. It is more of a danger

 I hope we don't lose any of our motorized critters this week. (But I hope I'm the one to capture it on film!) One of the neighbours has been cruising across private property (lawns, stairs), perhaps being on the ice will open up their territory.

MWT White
¸.·´¸.·*´¨) ¸.·*¨)
(¸.·´ (¸.·´ *Jenn

Sunday 27 December 2009

TIme to estivate

Each Muskoka critter does something different to make it through our winters. Currently, our raccoons are hibernating. They spent the summer and fall building up a thick layer of body fat.  The ducks are gone to warmer climes. Migration being the better part of valour. Our water isn't open, but they do stay about where there is open water and some food. I remember seeing ducks all winter around th frozen waters of Manotick Mill, near Ottawa.

The raccoons went from this...skinny in June

to chubby in October...

Depending upon the temperatures, they curl up and have a wee nap to make it through the winter. Once the paw prints in the snow cease, we know they are down for the count.

Eventually, they stop attacking our bird feeders. You can see from a photo before Thanksgiving (I was still wearing my clogs!), that our visitors came by.

The physiological changes are interesting, with decreased heart rate (by 95% in some animals), and generally lowered metabolic rates.
Bears and raccoons give birth while still in their dens in winter. Snugs as bugs in their rugs.

Access to food is the issue here. The lake is frozen. There is knee-deep snow covering the land.

Black bears, for example, get 75% of their nutrition from vegetable matter, 25% comes from smaller mammals, squirrels, birds (and their eggs), insects and amphibians. For the most part their protein comes from insects. We've all seen the videos of bears who use their claws to dig out ant hills and to break open hornets' nests. They fish and climb, using their great claws to get salmon from rivers and honey from wild bees nests. This bear had just run across the road in front of us, north of Gravenhurst.

It is the insectivores who are most susceptible to winter changes in Muskoka. Some insects hide in bark, in their nests, or under the debris on the ground, making them accessible to woodpeckers, but not the less armed creatures. The woodpeckers have been attacking my bird feeders, sitting in my bucket eating away.

Diapause, is common in insects, allowing them to suspend their normal life cycles between autumn and spring. The insect remains active, but they reduce their feeding, and reproductive development is slowed or halted. Insects may also undergo behavioural changes and begin to aggregate, migrate or search for suitable overwintering sites. Monarchs migrate far to the south, but it is very species specific behaviour. On a warm day in winter the flies flit about.

Reptiles generally begin brumation in late fall (specific times depend on the species). They become lethargic with sometimes minimal drops in temperature, finding a hibernaculum: a safe spot - burrows, rock crevices, caves and leaf litter.
I loved this snapper. He must be pretty sleepy about now. In a semi-frozen lake.
The Mother of all turtles in the summer, resting on a rock. All reptiles and amphibians are ectothermic (cold-blooded) animals, with few powers of thermoregulation.  The lake temperatures never go below 4º C. in the deepest spots, and I have often seen them swimming very late in the season. 

Estivation [or Aestivation]  is another form of torpor, dormancy, or sleep. It is common in invertebrates- those that estivate are trying to escape extreme heat or drought, and is a consequential dormancy in response to other  conditions in their environment. I could go for that myself! Think of humans on their Muskoka lake front, in a summer heat wave, having docktails! Pleasant thought!

The fox continues to go by every day. I see its prints in the ice and snow on the lake.

Some call hibernation a winter torpor and estivation a summer torpor. The squirrels are quite active, with bird feeders about, they have a food source.

Of course, they have to send out  Slow Eddy to dig out the feeders. He seems quite eager to do his part. Bats are no where to be seen, being insectivores in this part of the world.

    When an animal is in torpor, its body
slows down.  Its heartbeat and temperature go down.  In human sleep, a person can wake up instantly.  With torpor, the animal doesn’t seem to see, hear, or feel things going on around it.  It is groggy and it takes a little while for it to wake up.  This is not as deep a ‘sleep’ as hibernation and can last a very short time. You can see the difference when animal control agencies are tagging hibernating bears, for example. They don't fully rouse.

Diurnal torpor is when creatures ‘deep sleep’ for only part of a day.  The part of day depends on the  animal, obviusly. Bats are sleepy in the day, hummingbirds active by day. Spring peepers, one of the most delightful wee frogs around here, peep much of the night. I love our creatures, nocturnal, diurnal, hibernating, migrating or otherwise. I love the changing lake and wildlife.

¸.·´¸.·*´¨) ¸.·*¨)
(¸.·´ (¸.·´ *Jenn

The seal hunt in Canada

There is some discussion regarding protesters during out Vancouver Winter Olympics. While I am not a hunter, I have found some interesting conversations around this issue on Bill Anderson's site.

He wrote, in part...

If You’re Against Seal Hunting

After all, I am Canadian and I am not against the seal hunt.
The article shares the thoughts of an anti-seal hunting organization by interviewing a key figure in that organization. In the article, I read the following line,

"The majority of Canadians across the country may want the hunt banned, but because of key marginal seats in fishing constituencies in the east, it would take a brave politician to stand up and call for an end to it. Entire Article Here"

In case, in the slimmest of hopes, there is some credibility to this outrageous claim, I would like to remind the public that those against the seal hunt are against the following:

And Bill goes on to cite those who eat beef, poultry, wear leather... you know the story. The press continues around this issue, but I wonder about it all.

Aboriginal hunters have not hunted white seals since 1987. It is interesting hearing the animal lovers who protest.

Randy Jenkins, Director, Enforcement, Fisheries and Oceans Canada The hunting of harp seal pups known as white coats, or blue backs (the hooded seal pups), is illegal in Canada and has been since 1987. No person shall commercially hunt these animals and the Marine Mammal Regulations prohibit to buy, sell, trade or barter of these pelts.

Phil Jenkins, Spokesperson, Fisheries and Oceans CanadaFor the sealers that take part in the seal hunt it's a very important activity for them. Some sealers reports that they can make up to 25 to 30 per cent of their annual income just from the seal hunt. At the same time, those sealers will go on later in the season to fish for groundfish, shrimp, crab. So all together, all these activities, including sealing, are very important to the sealers. And you know for people who want to remain in their coastal communities in Canada, some of which are very remote, and where there isn't much other economic opportunity, it's, sealing is very important for them. And the products that they, that come from sealing are everything from fur, to leather to oil. Seal oil capsules are becoming a health, a very popular health supplement. And so, there's a wide range of products, including these of course, that help contribute to the economies of these coastal communities.

Yes, Indian Culture is rich. Respect for the slain animal, in a prayer, honours the sacrifice. The cycle of life complete. The ceremony with our Governor General countered a lot of critical talk when she participated and eat the heart of a seal.

CBC News - Canada - FAQs: The Atlantic seal hunt

27 Jul 2009 ... There are few issues more controversial in Canada and around the world than the annual seal hunt that takes place in the waters and on the

Canada's 2009 Seal Hunt

“We have made representations at all levels of the EU to inform them that the Canadian seal hunt is sustainable, humane and closely monitored,” said the Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. “Our government will continue to counter the misinformation campaign by the anti-seal hunt lobby groups, and we will continue to defend the interests and livelihoods of Canadian sealers.”

    Saturday 26 December 2009

    Dec. 26 Alyce Gwyldfire

    Today is my birthday and it was with great excitement I rose early. I knew that last night was the night that Alyce Gwyldfire (AKA Alice Wildfire) was coming. Brian, my husband, was teasing me by tapping on the wooden headboard imitating the sound of muskox on the roof. He warned me that I had to get to sleep or Alyce would not come. I was too excited to sleep. Even up here in Muskoka, we know that she will be here, despite rain, snow, sleet and hail (all delivered - often in one day - by Mother Nature - but that was one week's story).

    Ms. Gwyldfire is the magical matron who brings presents to birthday boys and girls. Santa only works once a year and he has special powers that facilitate his work. Our Alyce rides on a covered wagon drawn by a set of 12 musk ox, the same number as the tribes of Israel. It is the best vehicle for her because she travels all over the world and, not possessing the special powers of Santa (being a regular mortal), she needs protection from the elements. Here we have photos of the team, plus the reserve ox for (Heaven forbid) accidents and emergencies.

    Of course, Ms. Gwyldfire has so many birthdays to manage that she cannot possibly deliver presents to all. She has helpers – hordes of laid-off Welsh Coal Miners, no one really knows how many. The Welsh coal miners have two attributes: they are hard workers and, boy, can they sing Happy Birthday! Prince Charles is one of the official patrons: he is the Prince of Wales, you know.

    We believe the tradition started in 4th century France by Alyce’s ancestor: Angylina Sauvage de Feu. By 1000 CE the descendants of Angylina had spread the tradition throughout Europe and much of Eurasia. However, it wasn’t until the 14th century CE that her descendants, named somewhat like Charlemagne’s: Philomena the Plump, Charlotte the Chaste, and Wilhelmina the Wonky (whose later descendant made a small fortune in chocolate factories), had firmly established the tradition.

    By the late 1700s, the tradition had arrived in North, Central, and South America, with the French, English and Spanish conquerors. They spread the concepts of one religion, all land for Europeans and birthday surprises. However, it was not until the early 1900s that a direct descendant of Angylina, named Alyce, immigrated to North America where the unilingual authorities promptly renamed her Alice Wildfire. For 50 years the headquarters of this now worldwide operation was located roughly inside Connecticut, with much administration in Massachusetts.

    Location of WalesUnfortunately, in the 1950s the current CEO, Alice the 65th, was accused by the McCarthy Commission of being a Communist subversive, as she was distributing goods without profit. Forced to flee the United States, she relocated in Wales as the Welsh Authorities not only welcomed her Socialist leanings, but also gave her tax incentives. Originally, her workforce was drawn from several parts of the United Kingdom, however, with the failure of the British Coal Mining Industry, virtually all of the labour force became Welsh Miners.

    Over time, as is the case in many families, when Alyce’s family emigrated the local authorities (illiterate, uneducated ancient civil servants) made an error in her family name and it was changed from the original. In the big move to Wales, she decided to go back to her roots and was registered as Alyce Gwildfyre. She considered translating Gwyldfire into Welsh; however, no one could pronounce it (Gwyyd-ufel), so she held fast.

    Since the 1970s the organization has remained fairly stable and, despite technological advances, still retains the traditional flying musk oxen for the transportation division. That is why on every boy and girl’s birthday, presents magically appear after the traditional serving of cake, which is a story for another time.

    Original story by Brian Racine and Jennifer Jilks. Photos by, public domain, and Jen Jilks