Saturday, May 29, 2010


I keep a couple of aquariums running, but the investment is casual. I like to watch them like I like to watch a fire. I've been curious about cichlid fanatics for a long time and yesterday sought out an international globe trotting chichlaholic by the Name of Spencer Jack. More chichlids than you could shake a crooked stick at. I was hunting down some rainbow species for the larger of my two tanks. I should have a broad selection to choose from in the next few weeks with any luck. Cool beans.

Here's one aisle. Note that below the tanks are open pools of fish.


Ever Spring Orchids

Toured the Ever Spring Orchid nursery for an hour or so yesterday. What a tight ship it must be to have orchids blooming year round in Manitoba. Everything seemed to be very controlled. The lighting was provided by 500w compact florescent bulbs. The walls and ceiling were decked out in flat white; no doubt to provide excellent reflection for the artificial light.

The floors under the tables were open dirt with greenery and very damp soil. There were fogging fans keeping the humidity high and the I'm sure the temperature was controlled carefully too.

Somewhere along my travels I had heard a story about how this place came to be. In short, an Asian family, dominant in the production of orchids in Asia, deemed Winnipeg to be desirably central to North American markets and sent a son to begin a business here breeding and selling orchids in this part of the world.

The nursery appears modest on one hand, but we only saw a small portion of the operation. I would have liked to have toured the entire facility. Apparently it takes them about 18 months to produce a flowering plant from seed. The fellow there suggested it would take about twice that time in Canada and that all their stock comes from Asia in juvenile form and is finished here for sale.

The full set of images is posted on my Flickr account:

Ever Spring Orchids

Ever Spring Orchids

Ever Spring Orchids

Ever Spring Orchids

Ever Spring Orchids

Ever Spring Orchids

Ever Spring Orchids

Monday, May 24, 2010

First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada

I'm a witness to many things. This is one of them.

It's funny how one minute you're watching kids learn to swim at the local country pool twenty miles from home and the next they're finished their first year at McGill for Polysci, and working with the FNCFCS and IDS the Pearson Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children's Rights. What wonderful horse power!

I would encourage you to accept this modest invitation to help keep the powerful accountable.


Hello Friends,

This summer I am interning at an organization called the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (or FNCFCS). It is a non-profit organization in Canada that represents First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children in the child welfare system. Currently, we have filed a historic complaint against the Canadian government and their inequitable distribution of child welfare services. We are supported by organizations such as: Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, The Assembly of First Nations, and Chiefs of Ontario.

The human rights tribunal will happen on June 2nd and 3rd in Ottawa. How you can help is by claiming that you are a witness on our website It is completely free and you will not be bombarded by junk mail (I promise!) Being a witness means you agree to follow the tribunal either by coming in person, following us on our Facebook page, our website or the media. Hear both sides of the story and then make up your own mind about whether or not Canada is treating First Nations children fairly. Either way by claiming you are a witness you are showing First Nations children that you care enough to watch over them! We are currently at 4666 supporters and our goal is 5000 by the time of the tribunal (so tell friends)! Thank you.

Most Sincerely,
Talitha Calder

Hummingbird moth

The lilacs attract a hummingbird moth. I think this one is called a "clearwing."

I love these masters of imitation. There were several out and about last evening. I wish I could have captured a better image of the critter, but without killing it and or more investment in time and energy than was available, this is what I could get. Neat eh?


A face full of porcupine quills

The dogs bolted while I blinked. They were gone for a couple of days. The unspoken rule in the country is that if you're confronted with a stray dog, it's your obligation to shoot it. Packing feral dogs are not what anyone wants. Except on the Native reserve, but that's another story all together. They are really dangerous.

Rosie will tease Tom into a grand tour of the neighbourhood at the slightest provocation. A rustling in the grass, a passing deer or just a fine morning will do. I would sure love to have some device to measure how far they travel when they go, because Rosie loses a lot of weight in the short time she's gone. Tom showed up unscathed after a couple of nights away and Rosie was a dozen hours behind him. She arrived home looking like a bag of bones.

Two and a half years ago they both got into a porcupine and although Tom got away with relatively minor damage, Rosie would have died without help from a vet. She was going to teach that porcupine a lesson and no doubt the animal would have been lucky to survive. However Rosie was a mess, inside her mouth and out. I don't have any images of the incident because they went directly to the vet, didn't pass go, and the vet was the only one collecting hundreds of dollars.

So it seemed unreasonable to make a special long weekend trip to the vet for such a minor infraction this time. I decided I would pull out what was easily accessible and managed to get a dozen quills pulled before I feared I was about to be bit by a famous cantilevered jaw full of carnivore teeth.

Fortunately I have dog and horse friends capable and willing to exercise a dominant position in such cases. We strapped Rosie's muzzle shut and my good friend Ray wrapped himself around her from behind and I leaned into her head with her to my left and started yanking. It was all over in about 20 seconds. The dog seemed to know it was the time and place where pain was inevitable. There was no fight in her at all. She's followed me around like... well, like a puppy dog ever since. I like to believe I'm being thanked, even through the blood and pain.

I had been counselled by amateurs to "cut the end of the quills before pulling them". For the life of me I don't see how this is of any use, unless of course the quill is projecting through the other side of some skin. Regardless, they are very nasty bits of technology those quills. Maybe we can get away with no skunk spray this year?


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Whitemouth River by canoe or how golf is of no interest

I'm home safe and sound after a four day tour by canoe down the Whitemouth River. I don't think I've done anything so physically challenging since the Polar Bear run.

Daryl was my host and I haven't been out to camp with him for many years so it was a great opportunity to ground that part of our friendship again in new country to both of us.

The River is obviously a small one and at it's head waters it's a drain through a marsh. The marsh and low land travel seemed interminable. We did not bring a topographical map with us. Instead we relied on others experience and a 30 year old annotated map by respected illustrator Real Berard. Mr. Berard's maps are filled with wonderful lore of the area. Even thirty years after the map was first published it was very accurate in describing the difficult sections.

However, the map is not to scale and that, combined with not having any other reference, made the time and progress lines challenging to follow. We also had widely differing input from others on the length and difficulty of this section of the river.

Here we are about to put in just below Whitemouth lake. The river was not high, but with any less water our progress would have been very much slower and any more and we would have run significantly more risk of getting into trouble in one way or another with the blockages, rocks and current.

Whitemouth River

We expected the head waters to be all about the low lying marsh lands and dominion of the beaver. We were right. Travel through this marsh was a long and switch back filled journey. The map intimated that a sighting of a nesting pair of Canada geese was a rare event. We saw hundreds of gosling along with the owls and snapping turtles that feast on them. The call of concerned parents were with us almost constantly as it was us that was the rare species in that part of the country.

Whitemouth River

The day was stellar. The weather was as close to perfect as we could have hoped for and best of all there were very few biting insects. A fine day to be alive.

Whitemouth River

Bear scat outside my tent at our first camp site. We passed one young black bear while we were on the water.

Whitemouth River

Another sweeper and a pack of wolves. As we came around another of the thousand bends in the river this day, we interrupted a pack of wolves crossing this tangle of river debris. We watched as two adults crossed and a juvenile turned back after spotting us. The members that had already crossed were reluctant to flee and leave the juvenile behind. One adult came back to stand back up on the crossing broad side to us when we were very close. An unusual and spectacular look at wolves in their element. I'm sorry I didn't get any decent images of them to share, but the images in my mind are treasured. There are four wolves in this shot on the left, but only one is even a little bit clearly pictured. Great camo.

Whitemouth River

Even more marsh and a bit of willow

Whitemouth River

The first three days of this trip were arduous to say the least. We had four portages and countless places where we had to be out balancing on precarious footing with strong current flowing around us as we hauled the fully loaded canoe over obstacles blocking our way. One of the pleasures of getting home was to have dry feet again. I went until late on day two without getting thoroughly wet though.

If there was a likely spot to punch the durable plastic canoe through the tangle we pulled hard and rammed the bow over and through. More often than not we would hang up and I would jump out of the bow and haul the canoe forward then Daryl would get out and we would pull the canoe through. I would then walk the gunnels on all fours or scramble across the packs back to the bow and then Daryl would push off and we'd be on our way again. I should have counted the number of times we did this. My legs say many more than I had trained for.

Although the area was crammed with beavers, we encountered no dams. We sure did evoke our share of slapping beaver tails though. On the first night, one climbed the bank at Daryl's feet, later on in the evening, and hurled itself back into the water with as much of a splash as it could muster. Both of us nearly jumped out of our skin after the silence of the night being broken so completely.

Whitemouth River

Shallow rocks and sweepers through the forest. One of the portage points.

Whitemouth River

Our day two camp site cut out of the hazel nut thicket - tent up, fire lit. Both of us were a bit taken aback by how little linear progress we had made up to this point. It wasn't like we didn't feel like we weren't working hard enough. We had scheduled an extra day on Monday in case we were a little late, but by the end of day two we were not a quarter of the way back to my car by the #1 highway. We paddled enough hours that neither of us wanted to go any farther and although we began hunting for camping spots early, we were stuck hacking out a spot in a hazel nut stand to make our dinner and rest.

Whitemouth River

Camp fire with dinner simmering - Pea soup, some fine cold smoked sausage, medium gouda, banock, a sip of rye and all was right with the world. The sounds of the forest were on display at night. With little or no wind, the critters were all visible to the ears. We awoke to a sprinkle of rain so we went back to bed for a half hour as it passed. Listening with my eyes and seeing with my ears... What a fantastically remote area. We saw and heard very little evidence of human activity until late on day three.

Whitemouth River

A big spruce sweeper where I had visions of my evisceration as I passed under it on my back, pinned to the canoe luggage.

Whitemouth River

A big upturned tree root in the river of which there were many. Between the bank erosion, beaver cuts and the fact that the river was often not as wide as the trees were tall, there was a lot of litter blocking our way until St. Labre creek joined the Whitemouth.

Whitemouth River

The river opening up in the last hour and a half of paddling on day three. After St. Labre creek added it's volume to the Whitemouth flow, the Whitemouth became a different river. It opened up into an idyllic and much more dedicated north bound route. I made a big mistake in not checking the fishing season dates and didn't even bring gear thinking the season didn't open until the long weekend in May. I would have loved to feast on the fruits of this river.

Whitemouth River

The third night camp was pleasant enough, but by that time we were beginning to see some cottage access to the river.

Given that we had been so wrong in our estimates of time and distance early in the trip, we were up and at it bright and early on day four. We both expected a long day on the water, albeit with easy paddling. The day began with several shallow rapids and riffles that were very pleasant to shoot. I am not used to paddling a fully loaded canoe though and was repeatedly surprised at how much water we were drawing and how heavily we caught on the underwater rocks.

We were surprised to find ourselves finished our trip shortly after mid day and a bit relieved that we had plenty of daylight left to get ready to get back to work on Tuesday.

Whitemouth River

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Touque toque

Tonight I put the needles away, collected the pattern notes, tucked the upholstery needle back in the packet from whence it came and filed them all back into the bottom drawer of the cedar chest right close to the yarn so they wouldn't feel too neglected. Hopefully there can now commence some fence post pounding and such.

The touque be done.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

kniky scarf

I had to rip this out numerous times to synchronise the width and length. I only had a very little bit of this yarn to play with. This type of novelty yarn is new to me.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Sometimes it's wood working

A new entry this morning on I don't often get to challenge myself with fine wood working, but I enjoy it when I get to play there.

I had no idea how I was going to make this long and very regular piece of wood agree with a discriminating eye so I just made a start and hoped it would work out. Apparently patience is a universal prerequisite for success. When I was done, it felt almost as good as my new bamboo double pointed knitting needles.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I was happy to find some morels left after the dehydrator was filled. Can one have too many morels? I think not. Breakfast baby!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

These needles feel so exotic

These needles feel so exotic. I was talking to Mum earlier today about procuring wool that's got more lanolin in it than the yarn I knit the sweater from this winter. Soft and smooth was on my mind. These needles are as smooth as silk and so light. I hope they work well. They feel fantastic.


Ram Wools Yarn Co-op was on my list of stops today on my city adventures. I was wearing a ball cap with a "Got Root" Tux Penguin on it and got busted as a Linux user. Apparently Ram Wools Yarn is a Linux shop using only open source software and operating systems for their business. How wonderful! What smart folks they must be. No malware to fear, no baffle gab from winduhs.

As I'm heading out the door with my purchases one of the women stopped me with, "Here's a free pattern for you." I like Linux humour. I never thought knitting and Linux would cross paths for me, but I have been happily proven wrong.


Maybe not for everyone.