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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

BOO! Happy Halloween

(I thank Gattina for sharing this banner)

When you live up a dark road in the country a mile or more from town little children do not show up at your door very often. Perhaps, it is the howling wolves that scare them away. More likely they are too lazy to make the two mile trip for a candy apple. (I remember going a long way just to get one. Among the shouts on the street, "Trick or Treat!" and "Shell out, Shell out or I will turn your house inside out!", you would hope to hear hear, " Mrs ****** is giving out candy apples."We made a bee line for her place.

For years, I made candy apples, not so much to entice kids to my door but to make a little girl happy. (Sometimes we did them together). I made enough for the whole school (about 50 kids spread over eight grades), so she could take them and share them with the other children, for which she got recognition and praise. Well, she is all grown up now and I have no connection with the young local kids so I do not make candy apples any more. I don't even have enough good teeth left to eat the left over ones!

In 27 years, I think I have had six kids come to the door on Halloween, usually they were brought my their parents. Each year I always had some candy treat to give out. Usually, my son and I ended up eating it ourselves. At least I always bought the stuff I liked, knowing I would have to eat it.

I remember when Parker was little and we were the only white folk living on our New Haven, Connecticut street, I took him door to door. To my surprise, (and theirs, I think) when my 4 year old tow-headed devil in red knocked on my black Muslim neighbours they announced they did not celebrate Halloween. I didn't know and it seems they could not get in the spirit of this pagan custom. Others did and we soon had more candy than a little child should eat.

Perhaps, this year someone will come by. The new kids near by are teenagers so I don't expect them unless they want to scare me with a trick! If they do they might get a surprise with a couple of sows coming snorting up out of the dark looking for a treat!

I hope everyone has a lovely Halloween, particularly if you have little ones to get all excited about it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

More on Water Bombers

Note: Mary enjoys my blog well enough to award me a little special plaque, One Sweet Treat, which I installed in my sidebar. Thanks Mary! I enjoy your blog also and visit it every day as you seem to be very productive with blog entries.

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In a previous post I drew attention to the use of water bombers Canada sent to California to help fight their brush fires. I thought I would write a bit more on these remarkable aircraft used extensively here in Canada to help fight forest fires in our vast forests much of which is not easily accessible by land vehicles.

As background, one needs to know that the airplane has been instrumental in opening up the Canadian North to use by more of us. It began by the romantic heroic exploits of the bush pilot in small aircraft flying into uncharted wilderness in small plane which could land on the multitude of lakes, in the summer, and snow, in the Winter. Even today the famous Beaver and Otter aircraft, or their immitators, are widely used.

Finally, the mapping of Canada, all the way to the North Pole was accomplished by aircraft photographing the land, from which maps and charts could be made. Mineral exploration would not be possible without aircraft. The most recent exciting explorations, the search for diamonds, is heavily dependent of aircraft in the far North. In less that 20 years Canada has become a major producer of diamonds.

Water bombers have become a very important part of forest fire supression across Canada.
These planes can be spotted all across Canada. Ontario maintains a fleet of them based in Sault Ste. Marie with others based in other centres. Every time I go the the Sudbury airport there is one parked there. Some of them are assembled in North Bay in a Bombardier factory at that airport.

Here is a brief history of the use of air craft in forest fire fighting.

click on photo to enlarge

Here is my up close and personal experience with a water bomber. A small fire began a 1/4 mile upsteam from me (a neighbour's burning of brush got away on him). It was not long before a water bomber showed up and flew low over the fire to take a look at it. Then it circled again passing about 1000 feet above my farm yard as we watched from the back door. At just the right moment it dropped it load of water on the fire. It then went away to pick up water on a local lake and returned for a second drop. Shortly, after that a crew of three forest fires technicians were brought in by helicopter to make sure the fire did not re- ignite. The camped overnight by the fire.

This fire could have been fought without a water bomber as it was a long the river. A crew could have been brought by truck and pumps set up by the river but to do so a fire of a couple of acres would have allowed it to grow to 20 or more acres during the delay. Waterbomber used at the early moments of a fire can prevent their growth.

Here is a You Tube video of a superscooper at work. You also get a brief look at the typical forest and water landscape around here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Miscellaneous Thoughts

I am not as stressed as I was the other day, when I blogged of endless tasked that seem to need to be done by Winter.

I have made some progress. I now have a new bathroom floor. I even have the toilet properly installed. It looks pretty nice and June has stopped needling me about getting it done. ( She hasn't figured out that I am passive-agressive and the more I am pestered the less likely I will do something.) So I am back to my mellow self! I am even making some good progress on the shed and hen house. The later now has an insulated ceiling and a double door against the cold.

With a face like this who can be mad at Babe for long.!!! Here she is at rest near the front of the house, turning heads as people pass on the road. It seem with pigs in Canada raised in large confinement sheds, few people get to see a pig up close and personal. When the Hydro Electric contractors showed up to remove my old "beer" fridge (a second inefficient fridge which I never used for beer as I don't drink. For me it has been an eggs and milk fridge) , the workers wanted to have their picture taken with Babe. One fellow seemed nervous of being near farm animals.. . . . .city boy!

Well we are seeing the last of the Fall foliage. These are the Tamarack (Larch) along the side of the road coming into River Valley. Behind them is a black spruce bush where I occasional pick Labrador Tea. The Tamarck are the "evergreen" that drop their needles. They are, more accurately, deciduous trees with needles. They are a lovely shade of yellow somewhat darker and brighter than the yellow of the leaves on the Ash trees that started the season.

I have been watching with fascination the Natural disaster of fires in California. In the midst of it all CNN showed one of the familiar Canadian Water bombers, which are widely used here. A couple of years ago one came swooping over my place to drop water on a small fire that had started across the river. ( Shortly after that a helicopter showed up with three firefighters who camped there overnight and put our any hot spots that might start.) These planes are quite remarkable as they can land of the water and scoop up 800 gallons and take off without stopping. They are very effective fighting fires in remote areas. With thousands of lakes to use, turn around time is never very long. Once the winds stop, I am sure they will be a big help in California. I wonder where the nearest lake or reservoir is?

Apparently, Quebec sent two "Superscoopers" and 8 pilots to fly them.

From British Columbia, Canada also sent a Martin Mars water bomber . This is the largest flying boat water bomber in the world. There are only two in existence and they are based on Vancouver Island on Sproat Lake

I cannot help be struck by the contrast of the response to the California Fires' disaster and the
Gulf Coast Katrina tragedy. It seem if you are white, middle and upper middle class rather than black and working class and poor, the response is so much more. You can be sure a year from now all the homes and business lost in California will be rebuilt while many homes in New Orlean will still be waiting to be rebuilt. It will be very interesting to watch all this unfold. I certainly wish the Californians well. It make me glad I live here and not in the land of disasters.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ain't Love Grand

Well it seems congratulations are in order. Congratualtions, Dominic and Laura!
They just got engaged to be married.

I have mentioned my neice in the occasional previous blog entry. She is my brother's oldest daughter.

This past year she became a member of the bar in North Carolina and made plans to move to Australia to be with her beau ( was never quite sure how to refer to him. He certainly is her significant other. I prefer the word "paramour". They have solved this difficulty for me for he is now her fiance.)

Dominic, the fiance, is an Australian. I believe they met in Europe a few years ago. This past year he hung around Charlotte, NC, but missed our family reunion so I have yet to meet him.

A couple of months ago, Laura moved to Australia, on the strength of her own qualifications and her Canadian passport. She has been going through a process of getting used to Australia again ( for she had spend time there previously as part of her training to become a lawyer) and, currently, she is preparing to qualify for the bar in that country.

A short while ago, I read in Laura's blog that they were planning a trip to Thailand. My thought at the time was , "Gee, she just got to Australia and now they are going for a visit to Thailand?
Must be nice! Well it turned out there was reason in their madness. (If you would like to see how the other half live and visit the Thai resort

This evening I got the letter announcing their engagement. Here is a little of it.

"Dominic and I just got back from a trip to Thailand. Last Thursday Dominic proposed to me on the beach. He said he wanted to go for a walk to watch to sun set but as we were leaving it started to rain very lightly. We took our umbrellas with us, and as we were walking along there was a little thunder in the far off distance so he asked me to join him under a tree that was hanging over the beach. There under the tree and with the umbrellas enveloping us and the waves and setting sun behind us he proposed. It was so romantic.

He said he designed the ring himself. It's a 1.75 carat brilliant cut ring with three rows of small diamonds along a white gold band. He was so excited to give it to me."

Laura is fairly low key so I suspect, Dominic wasn't the only one excited!!

I am sure the whole family is pleased for them.

No one is suprised at this development. I knew a couple of years ago when Laura wrote me that Dominic offered to pay off her school debt of $100,000. "Marry him before he changed his mind!" was my reaction.

They probably will come to North Carolina to get married, which I am sure will please my brother and sister-in-law and her sisters, Heather and Andrea.

It seems nice things do happen to nice people.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Two steps forward, one step back!

It is a spectacular day here today: warm, calm, bright! It is trying to lull us into thinking Winter is still far off. It really isn't and I would not care except I am trying to get a number of things done before the cold weather set in. For the most part this includes improving insulation in part of the house, particularly the cold room in the basement and insulation in the shed for the livestock, more insulation in the ceiling of the hen house and in the ceiling of the space in the shed for the critters. There is also lots of structural improvement necessary and some impovement to the pens for the pigs, which will farrow in the middle of Winter. I hope to also replace the shingles on ther front verandah. I keep putting this lower on the list but it badly needs to be done.

Some days I feel I am making real progress. And then, there are the setbacks! Two step forwards and onestep back . . . or is it one step forward and two step back? Some days it feels like the latter.

Here is the list!

In spite of all the rain, the river level dropped and my water quit as the foot valve in the river ended up on the new shoreline. One could learn to hate rural plumbing! Luckily, the check falve held and all the water in the system , including the hot water tank didn't end up in the river. (If it had I would have burned out the elements in the tank.) I manage to restore the water in a couple of hours rather than days.

The septic tank was letting me know it needed to be pumped out. Sewage was showing up where one does not want it. (I will spare you the detains.) The truck came to pump it out and apparently my system is blocked somewhere beyond the tank preventing the liquid from draining out. I will have to dig part of it up and investigate. (And, I thought it was because I had a woman in the house;) They use lots of water!) This job awaits doing before everything freezes.

Then the cleaning lady, who comes and does some cleaning for Dave and June was prevented from coming until I repaired some damage to the bathroom floor. My response was an overwelming desire to tell the agency to F*** O**!. ( But that would ruin my reputation of never swearing.) The cleaning lady only ever came and drank coffee with June and then mop the floor and leave. When ever I suggest she might do something useful. ie. clean the oven or wash the windows inside the house, she is not allowed this is not light housecleaning!!! June likes her, she needs the money and is a relative of Dave, so I confronted the bathroom floor problem, biting my lip, keeping my opinions to myself. There was a spot of damage near the tub which required replacing the floor right down to the joists: two layers of 1 inch planking, underlay and new linoleum.

As I began the bathroom work the toilet drain proved to be plugged with something. I suspect Dave but something he shouldn't have down the toilet. Twice I have cleared this drain. I think it is finally fixed, I hope so for I am about to install the linoleum and reset the toilet.

Well this morning the pig Babe conspired against me. She began to root up the lawn. I have 366 acres of bush and fields she could have chosen but, . . . not she attacked the ground by the house. Does she hear bugs and grubs under the sod?
Warning gardeners!
Don't keep a pig as a pet. The weather has been so moist and warm the lawn was looking very lush and green, better that in previous years. I almost began to fancy myself a gardener. The only good thing is now Dave has something outside to do. Ever since he helped with the wood he has wanted an outside chore. So he is out there with his little dogs and his walker replacing the sod ,"green side up". It is good for him to get out and get some exercise and fresh air.

I am back on track now as I am on a break from installing insulation in the hen house. After a short time the dust leaves you with breathing problems. Mercifully, I am almost done and will be installing an inner door to give the hen house an insulated double door against the cold.

Next the new top to the pump house and a new door on the opening I toss the manure out. I will be repairing the shed until the freeeze up.

Oh ya! that front veranda roof!!!

Perhaps, this will be a day of two steps forward and only one step back. So far I am not having visions of a new life in a nursing him!!!

Babe's handywork. She could have at least done it where I hope to build raised gardens for Dave to use next Spring.Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 19, 2007

Women's History Month

In Canada, October is Women's History Month. After seeing Mary's blog entry I thought it would be nice to write a blog entry of three Canadian Women I admire who are currently making history.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin

Madam Justice Beverley McLachlin is the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. She is the first woman to hold this position on a court that is well represented by women. It is her court that has ruled on many issues rising out of Canada Constitution and The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, affirming Canada as a more socially and politically society than our southern neighbour.

Canada should be proud that she has held this position on a court with several women. This contrasts with the American male dominated Supreme Court. It may be a long time before a women is the Chief Justice of the American Supreme Court.

Madame Justice Louise Arbour

Louise Arbour is one of the World's foremost international jurists. She was the lead jurist for the UN's Inmternational Tribunals for the genocide in Rwanda and the war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. She has been a very tough and ouspoken in pursuit of those wanted for war crimes. For a short while she sat on the Supreme Court of Canada, from which she resigned to answer a call to the United Nations as the U.N. High Commisioner for Human Rights. In this position she has been very outspoken on the criminal use of torture, for which John Bolton, the American Ambassador to the United States tried to give her a dressing down. Her tough style continues.

In Canada we first noticed her when as a jurist in Ontario she affirmed the right to vote by prisoners and later writing the damning report on the conditions in the Women's prison which resulted in a more progressive approach to incarcerating women in Canada..

The Right Honourable Michaelle Jean

Her Excellency The Right Honourable Michaelle Jean is Canada's Governor General and Commander -in-Chief, the ceremonial head of our government, the Queen's representative. She and her family were immigrants to Canada from Haiti. She is the first Afro-Caribbean woman to hold this post. She is a very accomplished woman who with style and grace carries out her duties and represents Canada well around the World.

These three women have come from diverse backgrounds that reflect Canada: Justice McLachlin is from rural cattle country Alberta, Louise Arbour is a francophone from Quebec who made her mark in all of Canada and the World and Governor General Jean was an immigrant.

Canada has had some remarkable women in its history. To read a little about them visit this site.

I particularly enjoyed the quotations from famous Canadian women. They certainly had some interesting things to say and ideas that came to change Canada for the best.

Moose Season

We are in the middle of moose hunting season around here. This is not my favourite time of the years. I am not in favour of hunting, particularly the Moose. Hunting moose is part of the rural culture in the North, now closely regulated for sustained hunting. While wild game is no longer a major source of meat for families, traditionally people like to get some moose meat as a special treat. With luck, I usually have a friend give me a little. It is a special treat to have someone give you a tourtiere in which moose meat was used.

The moose is the largest of the deer family around here. The white tailed deer plentiful not far from here have been moving into our are for a decade or so. The government is trying once again to reintroduce the elk. There are forest caribou north west of here. The large herds of caribou are hundred of miles into Northern Quebec.

The moose is the king of the boreal forest. They are often ghost like giants moving though and quietly eating browse or standing in the marshes feeding on water plants. Bulls are often solitary figures while small groups of cows and calves can be seen together.

They also can come crashing through the forest and do you harm, particularly when the rut is on. The moose is the most dangerous animal in the North., not the gentle black bear or the shy wolf. There are many encounters between moose and vehicles on the highways, they can be deadly for the moose and the driver of the vehicle.

There have been those who have tried to domesticate the moose. It is now illegal in Ontario for a private person to have poccession of a wild indigenous animal, which makes the picture below even more incredible.

This is the biggest bull moose I have ever seen. They get this big in Alaska. The fact that someone could raise and train a moose to harness to skid out logs is quite reemarkable and unbelievable.

In fact, this picture is probably a hoax. a clever photoshop job. I first saw in on a blog where the person suggested her father trained this moose to skid wood in British Columbia. The wood is too small . The logs look more like jack pine or black spruce for firewood or pulp. It has also been suggested it is from Northern Quebec where there is lots of black spruce and the writing on the coveralls is "Les Chevaux d' Abitibi" (a town in Quebec.) It has also been claimed that the picture is from St Joseph Island, near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The best story is that it is from Maine. It is a good story, but maybe not true. Just because a picture is worth a thousand words does mean it is true.! Still a great picture. Got my attention.

Moose have been trained to harness from time to time. Years ago, when Winters were long and cold and isolated, individual have tried and succeeded. They begin by hand raising orphaned calves. This old picture of a team of moose pulling a sleigh of cordwood is the real thing.

Somehow a moose with a saddle on it is not as majestic as a horse. This wild animal seems demeaned standing there. Even more so with a rider mounted. I would suspect their backs are not as strong as a horse.

In Russia, they have tried to farm moose in order to collect moose milk which is said to have special medicinal properties. The site I got this photo has some remarkable pictures of moose farming.
In Sweden, they have tried to make a cheese from moose milk.
Try as people might I doubt the moose would ever be domesticated. They are meant to be wild and stand as a symbol of the North, free and solitary. To see them in the wild is always a thrill for me.Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My IQ: Insightful Linguist

Today, I had some leisure time so I decided to do the online Tickle IQ test.

I have had IQ tests a couple of times in my life. The first was just before entering high school. We were never told what the actual scores were. They apparently were for the benefit of the counseling staff. The second time was when I was training for chaplaincy at Boston State Hospital in Boston. It was part of a battery of tests over three days as part of being part of research into somatatypes.
(personality, intelligence and psychological charateristics are correlated with body types a revealed in three standardized naked photos of the person. . . . . No I do not have those photos to share. They are in the archives of some Ivy League school along with hundreds of others. By the way I am a 5 1/2 - 4 1/2 -1 1/2 (mesomorph/ endomorph/ectomorph.) Not much linearity here.!

Psychologically, all I remember is "Food for me has ritualistic significance," "I have a large female component" and " I always seek the lowest position of comfort." (I may start watching TV standing but slowly I slouch, sit on the arm of a chair, sit on the couch, lie of the couch and end up watching TV lying on the floor.) I digress!

I assumed I was "smarter than the average bear" or I would not have gone as far in school as I did (after just barely getting out of high school) and achieved at the level I did. I scored 130 on this unofficial test.(100 is the mean)

I have never been sure what IQ tests actually measured. There certainly are other factors that are more inportant to academic success than IQ factors. I had three rules for myself in University, 1. Show up for all classes, 2. Get assignments in on time. 3. Make sure the professor knows you personally. No IQ factors here . It worked for me!

So doing one of these unofficial tests is just for your own amusement.

Here is the summary of the report on me:

"You are gifted with the natural fluency of a writer and the visual and spatial strengths of an artist. Those skills contribute to your creative and expressive mind. Insightful linguists can take complex concepts and articulate them to just about anyone. You have a gift with words and insight into processes and the way people think. These talents enable you to explain things clearly to people."

"Helen Keller is a great example of an Insightful Linguist. Blind, deaf and mute, she was still able to put things together in her mind and to understand complex ideas. She could do that because she was able to conceptualize ideas internally. Though she could not literally see, she had the visual and spatial skills necessary to understand patterns on an abstract level. She learned to read, write and ultimately became a writer on issues of social justice. You have an uncanny ability to work your way out of sticky situations using your talent with words. Crossword puzzles, debates — you're particularly well equipped to come out on top since you can read people well."

Like Charles Dickens, your verbal skills go far beyond having a good vocabulary. Dickens' genius was in the artful and descriptive way he crafted sentences. Also Dickensian, is your keen eye for detail and your adeptness for identifying the best way to express an idea based on your given surroundings and circumstances. Your ability to communicate your vision clearly will take you far. So enjoy being perceptive, and make the most of your abilities as an insightful linguist."

Hmmmmm! Interesting. I think I have been keeping my light under a bushel.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Fantasy Women

I was asked by Tee (bless her heart) to do this meme. I am supposed to list 10 fictional women I would like to be intimate with, shag perhaps, hang out with, be in the company of etc) ( I stretched the original idea.) I am not a big reader of fiction, except dramas, so I have slipped in a couple of real people whose lives read like fiction.

Here are the women of my fantasies imbedded in non-fiction (mostly).

Lady Chatterley As a banned book in my youth she thrilled me with her fascination for a man's most precious part. Later in life when i did become a wood cutter I used to tell the other loggers i did so because of Lady Chatterly. It was a private joke as I never met a logger who had read the novel. (Lady Chatterley's Lover. D.H. Lawrence) {sensuality}

Nora Torvald She had the courage to leave a comfortable professional class marrige in which she was not recognized or appreciated. In her day, this was scandalous and the price she would pay would be a very low station in life. (A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen) The classic feminist play {courage}

Julliet Her first love with Romeo was so overwelming and bitterweet. I would like to be reminded again of a first love. (Romeo and Julliet, William Shakespeare.) {pure love}

Ivy Rowe I discovered her in my first venture into Appalachian literature. She gave me an appreciation of the strength of the women of the hills. She was the center of a family living three generations through change. (Fair and Tender Ladies, Lee Smith) {family strength)

Florida Grace Shepherd While reading this book I wanted to save Grace. Through change she always landed on her feet. (Saving Grace, Lee Smith) I have not read all of Lee Smith's books but I suspect all her female characters are strong women. {resilience}

Miss Julie A woman who lived her own life according to her own rules. The ultimate "booty call" who separated sexual lust from love entanglements.(Miss Julie, August Stringberg) {available}

Eloise She is not a fictional character but as a nun her love affair the priest Abelard is a classic love story to die for. Oh to have a woman who would die for you. As a cleric, {I have harboured a lust for nuns.}

Anais Nin She too was a real person. She was a liberated woman before there were liberated woman.She is one of the great diariest of American letters. She seduced all them powerful men in her life and left them. She was a bicoastal bigamist for 20 years without her two husbands knowing of each other. (You cant make the stuff of her life up.
(See the film, "Henry and June". It is really about Anaise who was lover to both Henry Miller and his wife June). {Intellectual and self creating}

Anne Shirley What self respecting Canadian man would want to love Anne Shirley: so pure, so earnest, so Canadian. (Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery) {someone to bring home to mother.

Miss Daisy Who wouldn't want to spend some quality time with a grande Dame of a southern gal.
(Driving Miss Daisy, Alfred Hhry) {elegance}

As you can see I like strong intelligent independent women, who in the end don't need the likes of me to make their lives whole. It explains why I have loved and lost so many times I can live our my life with wonderful memories, alone.

I did not tag anyone and I don't think I will. It is an interesting exercise to revisit some of the interesting men or women in your reading, to whom you felt drawn, lustfully or otherwise.

The Frost is On the Pumpkin!

It seem the time has arrived to start the kitchen woodstove in the morning to take off the chill in the house. Almost every morning now the outside temperature is just below freezing. Leaving a hoar frost on everything outside.

Here you can see the frost on the grass recording my trip to the shed and back to feed, "les animaux" and to pick up the eggs.

My warped mind finds itself repeating the nasty ditty!

"When the nights are hot and sticky,
That's not time for dunking dickie,
When the frost is on the pumpkin,
That's the time for dickie dunkin'"

This explains why Newfoundlanders with their long and cold Winters have the most active sex life of any group in Canada! Out in the mild La, La, Land, the British Columbians are least active.

I love the cool dark mornings when I get to lay the fire and then cook my breakfast on it. Here is my cheese omlette just finished.
I thought I would do the toast on the stove also. Turned out will.

The warmth of the stove and the smells of food and wood burning embraces one and get you ready to face the day!
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 13, 2007

First Snow: Always Exciting

Do you see it. The snow!

The first snow of the year is always exciting. It is actually more rain than snow but definitely snow: big white flakes.

June got so excited she came barging into my room to make me look out the window. I could have been a nice shared moment except I was sitting with no clothes on. It turned into a "cover up moment", instead.

I took this picture just before I went down to feed my animals their morning snack and pick up the eggs. The cows and pigs didn't seem to mind the wet snow at all.

So folks!, you who live south of me, this is a foretaste of Winter. We have been warned. . . . . . there is so much to do here before the serious amounts of snow come and stay.
Posted by Picasa

Politicians: Playing the Fool

I like it when Canadian politicians do not take themselves too seriously and willingly submit to playing the fool. I think those on the left and out of power are more likely to behave publically unseamly, for the sake of humour. Am I wrong? Canadian politicians take themselves less seriously than those in other countries? Also, I think Canadians, don't like their politician being too full of themselves. There are very few personal scandals among Canadian politicians so this is the only way we get to laugh at their human foible.

Here is a cute video of Bob Rae allowing himself to play the fool with the Comic, Rick Mercer.
This is not the first time. CBC Television - The Mercer Report, Tuesdays at 8pm, 8:30 in NL.
It is so Canadian as they learn to shoot the rapids on the Ottawa River.

( For my American readers, Bob Rae is a former Premier of Ontario and a leader of the New Democratic Party of Ontario. He ran in the leadership race of the Federal Liberal Party.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Three Months, Three Weeks, Three Days

Well my girls, Ruby and Babe, are back a little early from their stay at Club Porcine where they spent intimate moments with the very charming and passionate Mr. Hog Landrace. They were eager to come home and were dropped off ready to eat as usual, looking good and with a smile on their lips. (Perhaps, I am projecting my feelings a little here)

So now we wait, three months, three weeks and three days to see what wonderful litters they will deliver. They both are capable of delivering 10 to 15 piglets in their litters. What fun with my shed full of squealing piglets.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What Makes Me, Me!

Well I have been tagged by Mary to complete a Random 8 Meme. I don't usually do this but she was so nice and apologitic in asking, I thought I would oblige.

Here are the rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.

2. List (8) random facts about yourself.

3. Tag 8 people at the end of your post and list their names, including a link back to their blog.

4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

Well, here I go.

1. I have had a full beard since 1967. Growing it cost me my first part time church job. My
37 year old son has never seen me with out it.

2. My mother died 30 years ago at the age of 61. She was the greatest influence in my life. She
still is. The interests she nurtured in me continue and the life lessons she taught me, teach
me still.

3. I was married to the love of my life. She decided she no longer wanted to be a wife and mother at the point we settled into family life: house, job, child. As a result, I raised a
son from age 3 as a single parent. I mourned for 20 years the loss of my marriage and
continue to feel badly over my part in having her leave.

4. Not for a minute have I ever regretted being a parent. My son has matured into a wonderful
person: teacher, husband, father, citizen. For seven years, I was also a single foster father to
a series of young boys.

5. I once was falsely accused of being sexually inappropriate with a neighbour's son. After a
police and child welfare investigation I was exhonerated, the victim of a "crazy" jealous
neighbourwho didn't want be to be nice to his family. This experience has scarred me more
than anything else.

6. I have a wonderful education, which enriches my life daily. I have a very rich interior and
intellectual life. I have never reached my full potential. I tell people I am a minister, by
profession; a electrician, by trade; and, a subsistence farmer, by choice.

7. I have always felt close to Nature. My one fully religious experience was while in a canoe on a
early morning fog covered lake. In the stillness and quiet, I felt complete and death would
have been acceptable in those moments. I do not believe in "God" in the usual way people do.

8. I have had several relationships of some length with women in my lifetime. I continue to
think highly of them all. I will never understand those who denigrate former partners which
they once shared a love. I like women who are strong, smart, and independent, which might
explain why I am alone currently.

I would like to tag others, namely:






I can't think of any others I would inflict this on.

Four more of my readers are invited to do this Random Meme.

Those who have been tagged are excused if they choose not to.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Election Day in Ontario

Today we go to the polls and vote for members of the Ontario legislature. This year we also have a referendum to vote on which is unusual in our political system.

For my American friends we have three main parties running: the Progressive
Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats. In the US the PC's are most like the left wing of the Republican Party. Their name says it all, traditionally progressive in social programs and conservative fiscally. The Liberals are most like progressive Democrats and the New Democrats are a mild socialist party like the most left wing of the Democrats. All in all Canada is a shift to the left on the spectrum of politcal views.

There are other parties as well that do not run in all ridings. The Green Party is much like the New Democrats but very concerned for the environmental issues.
There are also a couple of communists parties, The Communist Party of Canada, which hasn't elected a member since Tim Buck was a member of the Federal legislature in the early 1940's) and the Marxist Leninist Party. There are some others, I think, and possibly a couple of Independents. For now, we have in effect a three party system.

The reason I mention the parties is that the referendum we get to vote on if passed might see Ontario become a more multi-party system. The system proposed is a MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) system. Briefly, it will see us vote twice each election"; once for a representative for a riding on the current "first past the post system" and then for a party which has put forth a slate of potential members. They will be elected in proportion to the popular vote.
Here is an article explaining it further. Ontario Election Reject MMP, Conservatives tell voters

The object of this new system is to try to have the parties seats in the legislature more closely reflect their popular vote. Our current system can see the government formed by a party that gets as little as 40% of the popular vote while some parties that may get 10% or 15% may get no seats in the legislature. If this passes it will see us with more minority parties, more minority governments, requiring coalitions to govern, and the will of the people more faithfully represented.

The PC's are offically opposed, the Liberals take no position and the New Democrats are in favour.

I think the referendum will fail as no one seem to be out promoting it. It is confusing to some so they will vote for the status quo and it will require 60% to pass.

I have written all this by way of background to what I really want to say.

I have been struck often by the differences between the Canadian and American system for registering voters, and the election day process.

As I have mentioned we seldom have a referendum to vote on. Our ballot are simple. You put and X in the spot beside the candidates name. You fold it and put it in the box under the watchful eye of scrutineers (usually your neighbours,)representing each party. There are always enough polling places that they are convenient and quick to pass through.

In the American system, the process is cluttered with referenda and elaborate voting machines are used.

In Canada voting is a right so it is seen as a responsibility of the goverment to see that every one eligible to vote get to vote. A permanent voters list is maintained and for those who miss getting on it, for one reason or another, one can be qualified the day of the vote at the local polling station. There are also opportunities to vote ahead of time if you will be away election day. It is also possible to vote by proxy. Prisoners can vote and there is a way for people without a permanent residence, (the homeless) and copies of the proper ID papers to fill out a form that qualifies them. (This possibility is not widely known and the election officials could do a better job at using this program.) The forms are available at agencies that aid the homeless.

Technically, you need to be a citizen to vote but my experience is that your citizenship is never asked only your residence and a picture ID like a drivers license. The object of registering voters is to guarantee that as many elligible voters as possible are not frustrated into not voting.Who Can Vote?

In the US, there is a long tradition of limiting the number of voters. They see it as the responsibility of the individual to qualify to vote. If you are illiterate, a prisoner, homeless, aged, homebound etc, this can be very hard. At times, if you were a member of a minority you were frustrated by the system and possibly even threats of violence.

Gerimandering has been a long tradition in the US, where district lines are redrawn to favour one party or the other due to the demographics. As a result, the incumbant has a advantage over the other party's candidate.

On voting day, the number of voting places and their location can frustrate minorites and the poor with long line ups while more affluent communities have ample voting booths in convenient places. Even when people do manage to vote at times corruption and "faulty" voting machines has denied the counting of votes from some wards. This seems to have been the case in the last two presidential elections in Florida and Ohio, respectively.

It is my belief, that the Americans don't really trust democracy. In fact, until the 20th century, democracy was a seldom used word. It does. of course, mean "rule by the masses (or rabble if you prefer). It takes a leap of faith to believe that the collective wisdom of the masses can be trusted. The American republican structure of government has tried to limit who controls the government. This began with the electoral college presidential system. The use of property qualifications at times. The denial of women the vote. The frustration of Afro American from voting. The denial of prisoners or other institutionalized people the vote. The balance of powers arrangement of government limits the "power of the people. ETC.

Ironically, the best democratic system, can still be seen in the US in the Town Meeting form of local decision making, I always enjoyed these when I lived in the New England. They were often held in the historic church, an old Meetinghouse.

Elections need not be hard. Everyone should be allowed to vote. It should be easy to qualify and vote. There should be one person one vote under a fool proof system of counting. Under such a fair system, I would support the idea that everyone must vote under threat of a penalty for not voting. (Such as they have in Australia.)

In all my life, I have never voted for a candidate that has won and only once has my party formed the government to everyone's amasement (and later dismay). I continue to believe that it is a serious civic responsibility for everone to vote.

I am off to vote now. The Liberals will win. My party, The New Democrats, will hopefully get 20% of the popular vote and at least 15 seats. The referendum will fail badly as a good idea badly promoted.

May we never need more than a stubby pencil to make our mark and share in the health of the Polis. Damn, all voting machine!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Generation's Loss

My generation is the one that came of age with hope and idealism, willing to embrace change, believing that we could transform the world. For me, and I believe others it began with the election of President Kennedy and ended with the murder of John Lennon. Between those events, one by one, we lost our heroes to violence.

Even among Canadians, President Kennedy was our "President". His style, young and fresh, and his message of asking something of us for a better world struck a responsive cord in us as well as Americans. The opportunity to make a difference for my generation was symbolized best in the Peace Corp and in Canada CUSO (Canadian University Students Overseas) which was formed a few years earlier.

I remember exactly where I was when the President was killed. I was near Milton Ontario traveling toward Toronto on the 401 in my old Austin car. I cried alone and in disbelief. This was the first of many losses for me and others of my generation.

I was a great admirer of Dr. King. His was a big influence on my life both for his courageous stand for civil rights and also his strong voice against the Vietnam War. He demonstrated a way to bring about change through peaceful non-violent direct action. I lived in the United States during the height of his activity and alongside Americans I marched and protested and organized and did my bit to affirm civil rights and resist war. His death left these causes without their strongest voice.

I was not as caught up in the enthusiasm for Robert Kennedy but I hoped against hope he would sustain the youthful enthusiasm for change and idealism that his brother began, That hope and promise was dashed with his death.

Malcolm X spoke with a more radical voice for the necessity of change in the American Society. Many of my black friends listened when he spoke. They wants so much more for themselves and their country. His voice became more moderate and more inclusive in his later days. The result was his assasination at the hands of members of the Nation of Islam who disagreed with him. I came to appreciate him after his death when I read his speeches and studied his life.

What got me thinking of the losses of leadership for my generation is that this is the 40th Anniversary of the death of Che Guevara. He was the revolutionary's revolutionary. After sharing in the overthrow of the Cuban government, corrupt with American and mafia influence,
he went on to bring about change in other South American countries, only to be murdered by Bolivian forces, backed by the US CIA. His driving ambition was to bring about social change in Latin American countries in which upwards to 80% of the population was poor. He was seen a a threat to the "colonial" American corporate powers , which could not tolerate the possibility of another Cuba. Those who follow the politics of Latin and South American realise that the concerns of Che Guevara are now being addressed with the rise of socialist governments in many countries, ready to address the issues of the poor. (Venezuela, Argentina, Uraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile) While the United States is distracted with the Middle East, we may be seeing the beginning of the United States of South American. (The loss of US influence on that continent is one of the legacies of the Bush Administration.)

I include John Lennon in this list of loss of leadership for my generation bacause his life reflected much of what moved us from religiosity through drugs and youthful tribalism to desires of peace. "Give Peace a Chance " is a mantra that moves us still.

Is it any wonder that the generation that followed us was more self serving and materialistic. Hope and idealism for us was dashed, time and again, with tragic losses of leadership. I wonder how different the world would be if these individuals who held up a vision of the possibilities for our society had survived, to grow old and wise among us?

Canada did not lose its idealistic charismatic leader, Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Like the Kennedy's he was young, stylish and with a vision for Canada. His creation of a Constitution for Canada , with a broad bill of rights, and the acceptance of official federal bilingualism and multiculturalism has come to continue to transform the uniqueness of our culture and Nation. He did live to grow old among us? He was not without his critics. I for one will never forgive him for using the War Measures Act against the Canadian people on the false severity of a terrorist threat in Quebec. (There were to be a 1000 FLQ cells thoughout the province. In the end there was one.) For this mistake he owed Canadians an apology, which wasn't his arrogant style. He did change Canada forever and for the better, leaving us very different that our southern neighbours.

The paintings in this blog posting are part of the remarkable art called New Constructivism by Werner Horvath. Visit his webside for a look at his fascinating work. I like his political art but it is broader than that in scope. Austrian art - the New Constructivism of Werner Horvath

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Thanksgiving weekend is here: the leaves have all turned lovely colours, there is a chill in the air at nights, moose season opened, our American cousins are celebrating Columbus Day and the cranberries are in season.

In Canada we have much for which to be grateful. We find ourselves ranked in most studies among one of the best countries in the World in categories which measure quality of Life. I am sure most will give some thought to the blessings of our natural world, the industry and success of our people and the love and concern for our family and friends as we share in a traditional meal.

I find myself thinking of people around the World who need our assistance. We can do bettter, as a country and as individuals reaching out and helping people achieve just a fraction of what we have.

Have you every thought. . . . . .it would be so nice to be able to help just one individual or family directly with dignity. (I have an American friend, who I have never met, who sends money to a Cuban family through me. It is important to him. Shamefully, it is illegal for Americans to do so from their country.) Such a personal jesture is so gratifying.

Donating money to large international charities is important and encouraging the government to do so much more in international aid outreach in imperative but how wonderful it would be to feel the satisfaction of helping a specific person with whom you can follow with an ongoing interest.

Well there is a way! It is direct personal aid, but not charity.

I recently heard a discussion on the radio about this organization. Kiva is an organization which allows individuals to extend micro credit to people who are struggling to better their lives and that of their families. Through it you can lend money, as little as 25 dollars. The repayment rate of these loans to "poor" people is an amazing 99%. You risk little and get to aid someone directly and keep an ongoing interest in their economic progress.

On this Thanksgiving, I encourage everyone to consider becoming a part of the Kiva program. What better way to celebrate the bounty we have by reaching out and personally offering aid to others.

I hope you will visit the Kiva website and give it your consideration. It is an interesting site and you can at least come to understand the nature of micro credit and the kinds of individuals aided in this way.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Two Tales from a War

Every morning I rise early to read for about two hours, as the sun rises, about the political situations in the countries I am fascinated with: United States, Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela and Haiti.

This morning I happened to read two blogs from Iraq that are both relating experiences from a war zone. I think it is important to read some personal accounts which are not just statistics, and quickly mentioned and dismissed dreadful events.

I invite you to read these two accounts. I found them both moving and courageous. We are so fortunate that we will never have to live through such events. It is to bring a halt to such events that are daily in Iraq that we must continue to try to bring an end to this war.

Both accounts take place in Mosul, in Northern Iraq.

The first is "Sunshines" account of experiencing explosions in her street that were so close the windows of her home were shattered. It is not the first time. This fifteen year old Iraqi girl and her middle class family courageously stay in their city and country and live as normal a life as possible. They all escaped injury this time. (The October 3 entry)

The second account is a dramatic one of a fire fight by a squad of American soldiers. The writer/photographer is imbedded in the unit. It is a vivid description of the events. It left me wanting know more about the internal experience of the soldiers during and after the account.
Michael Yon writes a a former soldier and admirer of the military.

I hope you are moved a little by these tales from a war zone, as I was.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Pimping for the Porkers

Well, I finally did it. I arranged a month away for the two sows so that they might hook up with a lovely boar. I understand he is a big strapping and very horny Landrace. "Have fun girls. Come back pregnant!" How often do you get to say that to the ladies of your life.

This is Ruby. She is a Duroc pig. (red in colour). I gave her a home last year after she was already pregnant. She had a litter of 11. I raised 10 of them as one was delivered long after the others and it was too weak to survive. She has become a nice gentle sow although since I did not raise her I am a little cautious around her. I let her go all summer without being pregnant so she could get her figure back. She is in good shape now.

This is Babe. Click on this picture and you will see she is smiling. I think she is looking forward to Mr. Landrace. She is one of Ruby's offspring. I gave her to June, as she wanted a pet pig. Then June and David came to share my house, which worked out perfect for Babe.

Babe is a real pet. She is forever roaming free. I have even seen her over in the neighbour's garden a couple of times. (Fortunately she comes quickly when I call with my Arkansas Razorback call. "Sooooo We".! I am not sure they have seen her. In any case, they have not complained to me, yet. Every morning she is at the cellar door waiting for breakfast. When we are outside she will come and hang out with the people and dogs.

It is strange not having the pigs here. The first thing Dave mentioned to me this morning is that the pigs are missing. Last night, I coaxed them into a stock trailer. Four of my drinking neighbours came with the trailer and thought they could manhandle the sows into the trailer. I finally had to sent them away while I. " the pig whisperer" got them into the trailer. No way were they going to put a rope on my girls and unceremoniously drag them into the trailer.
In the end, they climbed in on their own to eat of the feed I put down in front of them.

"All aboard! for Club Porcine."

I miss them aready and hope they may even cut their time short. In the mean time it gives me a chance to work on repairs to the shed for having piglets in the depths of Winter is a challenge.

I thought I would share this lovely picture of my pet pig from years ago. His name is Boras (pronounced Boar Ass). I had him for years and he grazed the rough pasture with the cows and calves. He was a strong solitary figure. Not many pigs get to live out a full and stress free life. Boras did. He was a Hampshire pig, as you can tell by his charateristic markings.
Boras earned his life of liesure. He was one of four piglets I raised. The others were slaughtered for food. When my neighbour tried to shoot Boras he missed and the young boar took off and hid in the bush. As a result, I decided he would stay with me as a pet.
NOTE: It is bad business to kill animals in front of other animals. They all get very upset. I have only seen this done a couple of times and do not recommend it. Usually, the animals will want to come around the dead one out of curiosity and they seem to" morn". Cows, in particular, have this behaviour. They want to stay alongside the dead one and will try to follow you off the field when you are transporting it. Making unnerving mooing sounds. I don't usually like to ascribe human behaviour to animals but they sure seen to be grieving. The death of an animal for me is upsetting enough but with a" wake" of livestock around makes me feel even worse.
My place became known as they place with the big pig. People here are not used to seeing pigs on pasture. Tourists would even stop and want to have their picture taken with Boras. Most pigs in Canada are raised inside in confinement hundreds to a barn. Most are slaughtered before they are fully grown.
Most people thought Boras was a big pig. I guess he weighed maybe 800 pounds. But he was not all that big. I. at one time, had a big pig, a Polish White Boar which weighed 950 pounds and could crouch down in his pen with five foot rails and jump out. He also had 6 inch tusks. The day he scratched me with the tusks was the day I decided to ship him
Long after Boras died, if my son or myself ever tried to tell someone where we lived they usually said. "Oh the place with the big pig."
I miss Boras. He would have made a wonderful date for Ruby and Babe.
.Posted by Picasa
If you want to read about swine. The University of Oklahoma maintains a wonderful website on all kinds of Breeds of Livestock. Breeds of Livestock - Swine Breeds

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Marriage , eh!

It always surprises me a little to see couples still getting married, particularly when they have been a couple for years, with children, and a divorce or two in their background. Alas! it seems marriage still hold a lure for some in spite of Life's cynical reality. Too harsh? Well my cynical view of reality anyway.

The last census of Canada saw the number of people just living together ,"without benefit or clergy" or at least a government license, is greater than the number of people married. This new reality is particularly true in Quebec, once of fortress of the French Catholic church. This fact,says volumes of the profound nature of the quiet revolution in that province.

This past weekend, I went and officiated at a wedding in a town near here, as I do occasionally when asked and the couple can find me. I looked around the hall of Le Club Calumet, a francaphone social club and thought how typical this wedding is for me to be asked to be part of.
It is a wedding on the cheap for a couple already in fact married, with children. They feel some deep seated reason to formalize their wedding in a more or less traditional way. This in spite of Canada having the institution of "common law marriage". They lack funds and access to a church for while most are nominally Catholics divorce seems to still bar the door of the church to them. So I get tagged!

There are a few local halls around that can be used for a wedding. Besides Le Club Calumet, there is the Legion, the Knights of Columbus and an old school used as a community center. They are all the same: dreary with a bar at one side and pool tables or meal tables that need to be pushed aside and hidden in some way.

The hall is then decorated with chincey materials including the , oh so necessary, arch before which, or under which, the ceremony is to take place. I find these halls depressing, dark and smelling like stale beer. The are particularly dreary when early arrivals order themselves a beer from the bar which never seems to be closed. It is all very low brow. The whole affair and setting lack any real style.

When meeting with the couple ahead of time, I give my "best wedder planner" advice, ( not asked for but give) for I know what is coming and what works and does not work. My advice is ignored! I try to assure them that the wedding does not have to be grand to be done with style, meaning and some elegance. They assure me that is what they want but invariably cobble together ideas and elements suggested by friends and family that make it a faux affair, a poor imitation of a church wedding: recorded music, processional, recessional, little boy with rings on pillow, little girl with flowers and small version of bridesmaids dress. etc. The wedding I just did had all these. What struck me as novel was the child's "walker play table" set by the arch to put the flower girl, still in diapers, in. There was also the mother-in-law to watch over the child and see that she finally parades to the front. Of course, all these very young children involved does't work and never works!

I try really hard to do my part with dignity and grace with well chosen words specifically for the couple. I think I have gotten rather good at it over the years.

This time for the first time, I had to stop part way into the ceremony and tell them they had to turn up the lights as I was having trouble seeing my text. The icicle Christmas lights standing in for candle light, was not good enough for me to see. In the begining, I thought I could get by in the dim light, as I know much of the service by memory and newer elements were typed darker. Unfortuanatly it was too difficult. (Time to get my glasses renewed I guess.) I certainly will know better next time. My little glitch was minor compared to the three little children shuffling about. I was so thankful the service was short.

But you know, people liked it, the couple were happy, the kids were cute and the bride was "hot"! I guess the minister is not supposed to think that let alone say it.! People at wedding are very forgiving of little glitches and there are alway some.

It may not sound like it but I like doing weddings (perhaps i am not as cycnical as I let on) and getting to be part of a couple's happy moments.

Gee! was my own wedding, done on the cheap in a hall, as bad as some I have done. . . . . . .
Probably! Besides, it was to the love of my life and "shacking up" was not an option for us, back then.

For the lyrics and translation of the soulfull tune "Ne Me Quitte Pas", the tune playing , drop by here Sting - Ne Me Quitte Pas (English) Lyrics