Sunday, August 30, 2009

Trio of cuties

The other day, three baby barn swallows (HWB, they are barn swallows, right?) were perched on the power line outside our bedroom window. They sat quite happily in the sun as their parents flew over the nearby cornfield, collecting bugs to feed the babies.

Sunbathing and waiting for grub!

There goes Mum! or is is Dad?

Open wide, Junior!

Bug-laden cornfield!

Babies on the line. This is the view from our bedroom. The dogs are being problem children... they keep running into the field (which isn't ours) to steal corn.

I need a better long lens for my Nikon. If you want really beautiful bird photos, check out Shelley's blog!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bugs ’n’ Wood

Today's artist trading card swap is part of the Wood Fair at the Glengarry Pioneer Village. We were supposed to go with a wood theme for our cards. Here's what I came up with (click on image to enlarge):

All the news that's fit to cluck...

My girls are getting bigger all the time! They are so happy in their coop, and I give them a daily supervised outing. This little one loves to nestle in the grass. She'll sit there for half an hour!

Here's the super-deluxe coop with the best view on the farm! (And we're going to buy a proper ventilation fan. That thing in the window was in our basement when we moved into our house in Nova Scotia in 1998!)

Several of the girls are especially affectionate. Here's one perching on my knee:

And I think this is Anastasia perching on my foot. Now, I would just like it to be known that I do NOT go out in public wearing gym socks and Birkenstocks. My feet were cold in the house that day and I put my sandals on without thinking about the fashion implications. No one saw me except the chickens. Oh wait, now the whole world can see me. nevermind.

The only thing better than one chicken on your foot is two! I think they are a little disgusted by my fashion sense.

Right outside the coop door, the concrete on the floor of the barn is a bit broken up, and the girls absolutely adore taking dust baths there:

Yes, yes, you are indeed the MOST BEAUTIFUL chicken in the universe. Just don't tell your sisters I said that.

While I have names for the chickens, they have not been assigned yet as, apart from Anastasia, I have trouble telling them apart! I like this black one with all the brown feathers on her chest.They're hanging out by the coop door:

If you want to see how the coop looked when Gordon started on it back in April (!), go here.

I love my chickens!

PS: If you're in the Dunvegan area today (between Ottawa and Montreal), visit the Wood Fair at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum. It's a shame the weather is crap, because a lot of planning has gone into this fair and I think it'll be fabulous! Gordon is there right now, acting as a human traffic pylon (he is volunteering, since he's a member of the Stormont Dundas Glengarry Stewardship Council, but he's not considered worthy of actually directing traffic. HAHAHA! That glory falls to our older, wiser friend Bruce.) I'm going to my Art Trading Cards meeting at the hall in Dunvegan and am doing a book-signing afterwards.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My life as a sailor

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a member of the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve, in the musician trade. (In case of war, musicians were to act as stretcher-bearers on the battlefield, being not much good for anything else war-related.)

I joined the Naval reserve while I was in my final year studying music (clarinet) at the University of Toronto, and stayed in for six years, reaching the rank of Master Seaman (which wasn't much of a jump, since I was admitted one rank below, as a Leading Seaman.) My cousin, who was in the regular-force Army (and won a medal for his action as a UN peacekeeper in the Medak Pocket in the war in the former Yugoslavia in the early 90s) used to tease me because first, the Navy was considered laughable compared to the Army, and secondly, the reserves? Puh-lease! That's not the real military. Not to worry; I would never compare my military service as a clarinetist to his as a real soldier! That said, I did once have to guard the small-arms locker at HMCS York. My weapon was a telephone; I was required to call in every so often to say all was well. I suppose they would have sent in reinforcments had I not called, by which point I no doubt would already have had my throat slit.

Basically, being in the reserves was a fun part-time job that paid me to play clarinet. I also learned rifle drill for the rifle guard, though I never fired a gun. But I looked impressive! And I can polish boots like nobody's business. Of course nowadays, you'd be about as likely to find me on the planet Mars as you would in the military, now that I'm a granola-eating, organic-lovin', pinko bleeding heart socialist peacenik whatever-it-is. But back then, it was a huge amount of fun AND I met my husband Gordon there:

Mmmm. I love a man in uniform. Mmmm.

Nova Scotia International Tattoo, Halifax, 1991. We got married a couple of years later! I can't explain my hair, other than to say I had a bad case of hat-head.

That year, we played a gig on the flight deck of the destroyer the HMCS Athabaskan, which was just back from the first Gulf War and docked in Halifax Harbour. Here I am next to a Sea King helicopter (aka "10,000 bolts flying formation"), pretending to be a naval aviator in entirely-the-wrong-kind-of-sunglasses:

Note "Persian Pig" stencilled on the side of the 'copter. I was too cool for words, baby.

Like I said, we had fun in the Navy. On one long bus ride, we had a "Dirtiest Kiss" contest (out of uniform, of course. No PDA* in uniform! Civvies only!) These two sailors were the winners, but they cheated, since they ran into a nearby delicatessen for a prop just before the competition started...
(*Public displays of affection)

Oh, so rude. But fine musicians! As I recall, he played trumpet and she played... clarinet? Flute?

Meanwhile, I was in love with Sax Boy. Still am!

Gordon outranked me for awhile. That didn't last long. Ask Gordon where he ranks now.

In the summers, musicians (most of them university students) from reserve units across the country would form the Naval Reserve National Band, aka the NRNB. We toured the country playing gigs, and it was a hell of a lot of fun. We'd start in Nova Scotia and end in BC, and I never managed to stay on a military base; there never seemed to be enough spare rooms for the national band while I was a member. Instead we were accommodated in either university dorms or, for one glorious stretch in BC, a HOTEL. There were several romantic couples in the band, so we all switched roommates and ended up bunking with our boyfriends at the hotel, which must have been against some military regulation. Musicians, eh? Gordon and I weren't the only ones from the band who ended up married.

One of my fonder memories from the summer of 1990 is flying in a Hercules aircraft from Greenwood, Nova Scotia to Edmonton, Alberta. One of the flautists had a pet fish who made the flight with us, poor creature. The inside of a Herc is NOT a quiet place. We were allowed in the cockpit, and the view was fantastic. I drew portraits of everyone on their paper barf bags.

Another happy memory involves me playing a Weber clarinet concerto at the Mozart Festival at Whistler, BC. We played outdoors and you could smell the smoke from nearby forest fires. By contrast, the worst gig ever had the band playing at a bus stop outside a shopping mall in downtown Halifax. Nothing like taking in a lungful of diesel fumes every time you breathe!

Nowadays, the cl0sest thing I wear to a uniform is my beekeeping suit. But ah, the memories. Go Navy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Upper Canada Village, part 2

Right, some more photos from our trip to Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, Ontario.

This picture was just... strange.

"Something are justified, justice is not." I cannot make out the first word underneath the drawing. More to the point, why is a monkey, sitting on a tree stump while holding scales of justice, talking to two cats? What's with the knocked over candle? And a dish of cream for the kities! I wish I 'd asked the interpreter about this one!

Meanwhile, laundry flaps in the breeze. Okay, there was no breeze nor flapping. The temps were in the 90s that day, and humidex was over 100F. Everybody was melting.

I am SO glad that I have a front-loader instead of a bucket and washboard.

Here's a horse-drawn barge that my in-laws took back to the entrance while we wandered around a bit more.

There are lots of interpreters going around the village with horses, oxen, musical instruments...

Here's a very old hooked rug, done using the same techniques I use for my rugs. No doubt the colours were brighter when it was hooked a very long time ago. And I want a spinning wheel! That's my next "thing": I want to learn to spin.

Horse and farmer against a backdrop of the St. Lawrence River.

These birds were made with feathers!

A scenic door.

"The Physician's House" Most of the buildings on this site were moved here from other places, particularly from an area flooded in 1958 for a large hydroelectric project on the St. Lawrence.

A rather ornate coal stove in the Physician's house. Wood heating was the norm around here at the time; coal was for the better-off!

And in the Physician's house, a fine collection of blood-sucking leeches...

They are apparently fed only liver, so no human blood is needed for their upkeep.
If I need leeches, I can just go wade in the river at the back of our property!

A view of Christ Church, c. 1837.

The cheesemaker, and he was actually making cheese that day. He looks surprisingly cool for someone sitting in a room with two wood-fired vats of cheese. Remember, it was in the 90s that day! They sell the cheese in the village gift shop.

Cabbages in one of the many vegetable gardens.

The blacksmith. Another fun job on a stinking hot day!

Inside the Masonic Lodge. Those whacky Masons!

Beach's Sawmill. It was taking 20 minutes to saw a board off the tree that was going through at the time! Water power!

One of several log buildings on the site. We used to have a pioneer cabin on our farm, but it collapsed long before we bought this property and unfortunately there's nothing left of it.

And here we have an interpreter in the summer kitchen, making cucumber pickles. What you can't see is the roaring fire in the nearby woodstove, keeping everyone extra toasty-warm in the sweltering August heat.

And now for something completely different...

This room was upstairs in Crysler Hall, which is now the orientation centre. I believe it is intentionally a throw-back to the 1950s, because the room features information about the hydroelectric flooding project of 1958. I grew up with furniture like this!

And here's another interpreter strolling with his oxen.

Meanwhile, back at the entrance we have the juxtaposition of old and new.

The woodworking shop.

Garden-fresh veggies on a rustic bench.

The tinsmith's shop.


Hope you enjoyed your tour of Upper Canada Village! I highly recommend a visit.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We have a winner!

The winner of my first blog giveaway is Megan! Megan, I sent you an email asking for your mailing address, and will get a copy of Katie of the Sonoran Desert off to you this week. Congratulations, and I hope you enjoy it! And thanks to everyone else for the great snake stories.

Gordon did a fine job of picking the winner out of a bowl, with his eyes shut.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Last weekend we took the in-laws to Upper Canada Village, which I loved! I have tons o' pics, but I won't put them all in one post. Let's start with THE PIGS:

There were piglets roaming free in the 35C heat (with humidex of 40C --- that's 104F for you Americans!) But they managed to find places to cool off. likr around the horse trough!

Or there's always the time-honoured cooling classic of sticking your entire snout in the mud:

Nobody ever wants to move around much when it's steeeeenking hot!

Meanwhile, the big (and I do mean BIG) pigs were hanging out in the pig pen shelter.

These two piglets nipped into the barn for a nap...

...while a huge sow (take my word for it, because the photo doesn't do her justice) had a cool drink of water.

I definitely need a pet pig on our farm. Which means I'm going to have to give up bacon (although we do get really nice, nitrate-free organic bacon from Tamworth pigs raised near here!)

More pics to come!

PS: My dog Tristan got his third skunking of 2009 last night. And for some reason, Gordon's sandals also stink.

PPS: Of skunk. The sandals stink of skunk. Just wanted to clarify!