Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance Day 2011

Brilliant golden leaves still clinging
halo the trees in the November morning sun
and cast into shade the cadet sentries
at each side of the cenotaph
rifle butts to the ground
heads bowed
in reverence and remembrance.
Clouds roll in bringing brisk winds
the flags snap and stand out stiffly
the wind noise
picked up by the sound system
rumbles behind it all
creating ghostly echoes
of the sounds of war
The crowd stands silent
Civilians, veterans, cadets
berets, medals and poppies abound
the troops march in to the open square
an eloquent and moving tribute
to the quick and to the dead
The Last Post once again issues
from the bell of the bugle
and dissipates into the heavens
tears fall, hats and caps are
held over hearts, memories
flood those who have served
and gratitude those who have not.
Orders are given and rifles fire
Their sounds driving lumps into our throats
While the wind, now icy
and with hints of snow
creeps into hands and feet and souls
and whispers “this is how it was for Them”.
Chaplains pray for the souls of those lost
Politicians speeches are carefully worded
subtle pleas for votes
A torrent of leaves is stripped from the trees
And hurtle violently toward the ground
in my mind they become
the countless and faceless dead
Blown away by the evil
of mainly forgotten wars
Familiar words “They shall not grow old …” are recited
A familiar hymn is sung “Abide with me
fast falls the eventide…”
Some of us know the words!
The cenotaph in Oshawa

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fred Eaglesmith

Fred the Auctioneer
In Sue Wiegand’s excellent blog “ Stories from a small town”, she reports that Fred told her that he hopes he does not “make it” until the day before he dies.
In my opinion, and that shared by all Fred Heads everywhere, he has already more than “made it”! Still, we all know what he meant by that, and I am pretty sure that all his fans hope he never does “make it” if it means that he stops being the Fred we know – the Fred that entertains people in small groups in halls and pubs and theaters. The Fred that allows you to get up close and personal.
His concert in Orono last night was a testimony to everything he espouses. He delights in entertaining.
During the concert, some home made pies were auctioned, and who but Fred was the auctioneer. He said prior to the auction that he and his group had played Ottawa last week in a 40 million dollar hall. “They don’t do pie auctions” he said – “they have benefactors”!
“It doesn’t get any better than this – a beautiful old town hall, a concert, and a pie auction”.
He told us that a man in BC, told by his doctors he had only a few weeks to live, told them he was not going until Fred came to town. “That’s better than Letterman” Fred said, referring to his recent appearance on that show. He told us that a boy who did not speak listened to one of his albums, and then started singing, and now speaks. “That’s better than a Tony!”.
I will not try to say anything about his music, other than this – If Norman Rockwell were a singer and songwriter, his name would have been Fred Eaglesmith.
The brief video is a little bit of the pie auction. I apologize for the very poor quality – totally my fault. My camera video was set on Compact, and I could not reset it to normal quickly enough. Hower, it will give you a bit of an idea of how the auction went, but in reality it was so so much better than the video shows.
Thanks for a great evening Fred, and perhaps someday you will include Carne Del Toro in your concerts.
Addition to original post

I have been asked to explain the reference to Norman Rockwell. He was a painter who captured on canvas a broad section of ordinary people doing ordinary things during a distinct era in America. He did it with humour and a sense of nostalgia, and his paintings are iconic. Fred also captures ordinary people doing ordinary things in his music and there is an underlying sense of nostalgia, generous doses of humour and often pathos. If you listen to "John Deere B" you will picture the work worn farmer longing to buy that decrepit old tractor to ease his work load, only to be disappointed because a big corporation outbids him and uses it for a lawn ornament.
In "Rocky", you will meet characters and circumstances that you can picture immediately, identify with, and perhaps shed a few tears because the characters you see are your family, or perhaps your own future.
In "Small Motors", who has not been to a country fair and seen that same old man the song talks about, sitting on a steel implement seat with a small motor at his feet – it’s brass gleaming, it’s gold letters aglow, it’s black paint spotless, and it’s little flywheel humming steadily to the puhtush puhtush puhtush sound of the engine.
Through Fred’s music you will see the characters in your mind’s eye more clearly than even Rockwell could portray them, because they are people you recognize.
Fred is chronicling working class America song by song

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Lesson in Canadian Citizenship

Becoming Canadian
A friend contacted us with obvious excitement – she was about to receive her Canadian Citizenship - would we like to attend the swearing in ceremony?
Of course we would, and we did.
We arrived to a packed courtroom, crowded with the friends and families of 42 applicants representing 23 countries. It was a colourful crowd in both clothing and skin, and there was a buzz of excitement in adults and children alike.
The judge made comments before and after the swearing in ceremony. His words were exceptionally well chosen, and were explanatory, advisory, and cautionary. As he spoke and the audience listened intently, I found myself experiencing an emotion that has been rare in recent years – patriotism, a sudden burst of pride in Canada, and in being Canadian! Perhaps the last time I truly felt this was during the Vancouver Olympics.
Another friend commented after the ceremony that “It was a wonderful message for the new Canadians, and also for me. We all need to be reminded of what we have and who we are”.
I don’t know if all swearing in ceremonies are as meaningful as this one was, and I doubt any judge could do a better presentation. I do know that all Canadians could benefit from attending one of these ceremonies.
In the picture below, our friend Monica is congratulated by the judge.
and below, the radiant smile of a new Canadian!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Morgan sings Someone Like You

Morgan sings Someone Like You

This song is originally by Adele, and is the song Morgan sang recently at her audition for Canada’s Got Talent. This is the short version required by the audition, but this video was done in our home on Thanksgiving.
We don’t know the results as the auditions were private and only attended by the video crew. Judges will determine the results by watching the videos. If she should make it to the second round, she will be advised by the end of October.
Regardless of the outcome, we are proud that she tried out! I hope you enjoy this video.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Little Brown Bat

Our very own Little Brown Bat
This little guy is not bothered by politics or legislation, or the evils of the world. He just does what his kind had done for eons!
In case you dont know what you are looking at, this is a little brown bat who has made his/her home behind the decorative window frame (see picture below) on our front deck.
He comes out at dusk and does his thing. Then he goes to his cozy home. In the afternoon he likes to stick his head out to get some sun. That is when I took this picture. If you enlarge it you can see the claws he uses to grasp the brick.
Big ears huh! Aint he cute?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Smart Meters – Boon or Bane?

Serious Questions - No Answers
and - you can not opt out!
I thought it was a no brainer – but – it turns out that may not be the case! Have we once again been the victims of an insidious breach of privacy as well as possible victims of harmful radiation?
I will not write at length since so many others already have. Suffice it to say there is a storm of controversy that you can see by simply googling “Smart Meters”, or, for a short discourse on the privacy aspect, go to this link.
You will be astounded at the information collected on your very personal life and habits if the allegations are true.
On the safety aspect, there are lots of condemnations by supposedly qualified experts. Try this link to see one expert opinion
At the very least, the public should be made aware that the controversy rages, and provided with legitimate answers to the questions, rather than hiding the fact that these questions exist. In none of the official government sites can I find any indication of the negatives.
I understand also, that there is no safety agency such as CSA or Underwriters Laboratory that have approved these devices.
If a drug manufacturer advertises a product, they can give the benefits, but must also give the potential side effects.
If the allegations on smart meters are true, then the side effects are potentially horrendous – starting with cancer caused by the radiation, and going on to the potential disruption of devices in the home including medical equipment – check out this link
In short, we have what are potentially illegal wiretap devices giving off dangerous radio waves that have been MANDATED for every home in Ontario with no public discussion.
I do not know if the allegations are true. I do know that there are enough serious and unanswered questions to cause grave concern.
The controversy over wind power (Windmills), and garbage incinerators, etc., has had huge media and public attention.
Smart meters ????
Here we go again on the slippery slope!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Memories of Black River

Prince Edward County
I knew it as Black Creek but probably pronounced it “Crick”. Being farm kids in the 40’s with the war only recently behind us, there was always lots of work to do. Still, several times each summer, Dad would tell us on a Saturday morning to dig some worms, and in the afternoon we would spend several hours on the bridge over the black water beside the cheese factory.
Curd was always on the menu, and we would go right into the back shop where the cheese was made and fresh curds would be scooped into bags for us. Somehow, I doubt we washed our hands very thoroughly even though we had been puncturing worms with our hooks.
The curds were brand new – juicy, salty, and squeaked when you chewed them. Not like the stuff you buy in stores today that are advertised as “fresh” but were made several days ago at least.
Today there is a new, and quite famous cheese factory on the same site, and we visit it several times a year to get fresh curd, and a kings ransom in various cheeses. The bridge is wide and modern, not like the one lane bridge that was there all those years ago.
The picture shows my brothers Keith (left) George (right) and I am the little guy with no pole. The cheese factory is just to the left - out of the picture.
The fishing poles were cut that day from a tree in our yard, and the fishing line was “reeled” by turning the pole around and around. The only high tech equipment was the store bought line and hooks. The floats, or bobs as we knew them, were hand made.
Today when children go to summer camps, visit other countries, and have all manner of entertainments, those little fishing trips of ours would not warrant a mention. In my memory though, they shine with the warming glow of nostalgia!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Amazing Cecropia Moth Caterpillar Pictures

Amazing Cecropia Moth Caterpillar Pictures
to fully appreciate you need to enlarge each picture by clicking on the picture, then clicking again for very large.
I found this guy on the base of a Manitoba Maple tree. I had never seen one before, but it is the caterpillar of the Cecropia Moth - Canada's largest moth.
I kept it to show the granchildren, but before they came it had wrapped itself in its winter cocoon. I will now keep it to watch it hatch in the spring. It needs to be kept outside over the winter in order to hatch.
The four little "legs" are for locomotion, while the other limbs (look like little yellow rubber boots) are for grasping the stem or stalk. Take particular note of them when you blow the pictures up.
Also note that the little protruberences lining its back look like little candles when enlarged.
He is altogether one of the most beautiful and grotesque creatures I have ever seen.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Without setting out to do so, I have become an observer of the habits of 3 different birds involving the way they deal with droppings in the nest. 4 years ago I allowed a pair of Barn Swallows to nest over our front door, much to my wifes immediate dismay, and to my later chagrin.
5 eggs and then 5 chicks in a tiny mud daubed nest.
Each day I took a picture, and each picture showed the rapidly growing brood, and the rapidly diminishing space in that nest. I observed that the babies would force their way through the crowd to the top, then position their derriere over the edge of the nest, and – bombs away – on the floor below. Soon there was a big pile of guano littering our deck under the nest.
When they had left the nest, and I took it down, there was not one dropping inside.
I do not recommend letting barn swallows build at your home. In addition to the mess, they are extremely aggressive, and will attack any and all interlopers on their territory. Not only that, they will also return the next year and insist on rebuilding on the ancestral site. It takes diligence and a broom to discourage them.
Bluebirds have a different method. For several years we have had the privilege of having bluebird broods in a birdhouse at the edge of our lawn. Lots of pictures to show for it, and they return each year. Currently, they are raising their second brood.
For some time I watched the male go to the house, poke his head inside, and then fly away with a small white package in his beak. When I cautiously opened the front of the house I found that the babies poop right on the front edge of the nest, just inside the entrance hole. The male picks it up, and carries it away, and not just anywhere, but far away.
When the brood leaves, you will find not one dropping in that nest.
Now, on the other side of this story are the tree swallows. Again, a nest built inside a bird house, and the nest is the epitome of perfection. It is lined with feathers all neatly interwoven to provide a cozy and comfortable place to raise the young.
However, their sanitary proceedures seem to be lacking, for when they finally leave the nest and I take it out of the box, it is brimming with droppings.
I guess birds really are a lot like people!

Saturday, July 9, 2011


this is definitely a RANT!

It started when a memory stick was lost. You know, one of those tiny things you stick in your computer and it will hold in memory fantastic amounts of information? Well, this one happened to hold some information about everyone who had gone to get a flu shot.
Hardly an earthshaking event, but certainly worthy of a review of security procedures, and perhaps some disciplinary action if the loss was due to personal negligence.
End of story, right?
A class action suit has been launched on behalf of all of the people who received those flu shots, although I am not sure how they knew who they were since the stick was lost.
Anyway, my wife and I are now part of that class suit. Do we want to be? NO.
Do we have to be? Yes. That is unless we want to fill out a form and opt out.
Am I happy about this? You can bet your sweet bippy I am NOT!
What is even more bizarre is that the law firm handling the suit happens to be the same firm where the current finance minister is a partner.
In a nutshell then, here is the scoop –
 We are a part of a law suit we did not agree to
 Our name and address and perhaps other information were given to at least one third party – the law firm
 I understand from newspaper reports that the class suit was authorized by the courts
 I understand the region is being sued for several millions of dollars, for the loss of privacy of the individuals and for mental suffering
The only suffering I have undergone is when I found out I was part of the suit, that my personal privacy had been breeched, not by the loss of the stick, but by the court that ordered the information to be given to the lawyers.
By the anger that almost consumes me to learn that unless I take a specific action of opting out, I am automatically included. (This one really ticks me off!)
By the vitriolic animosity I now bear against whoever the odious twerp is that started this thing.
Who are we punishing with this suit – the taxpayers? They will foot the bill, and of course, many of them are people included in the class action.
Will “the region” be chastised by the verdict if found to be against it. Can a “region” be punished? Don’t they need to find a scapegoat to hang out to dry?
If the region is found guilty (or whatever they “find” in these cases) and charged only ten dollars, will it satisfy the need to punish, or does it need to be one hundred million dollars to be effective, or what dollar amount in between?
If I get a dollar at the end of all this, will it mollify my supposed mental anguish, or is there another specific amount that is deemed appropriate?

I cannot put in words just how much I despise this whole fiasco, and more particularly, the various authors – whoever started it, the court that okayed it, and the lawyers that will all profit from it whatever  the outcome!
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ends & Beginnings

Time Flies

Graduation time.
The end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one.
Ashleigh graduates from Maxwell Heights high school as an Ontario scholar with two special awards, and prepares for university (Nipissing in North Bay) in the fall.
Jesse graduates from Sir Sanford Fleming College in Peterborough.
Mixed emotions. Sadness at the too rapid passing of time. Pride in their accomplishments.
Congratulations Jesse and Ashleigh!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Less Volume Please

A Little Less Volume Please!
A wise old owl sat in an oak
The more he heard the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard
Why can’t we be like that old bird? Author unknown
  • Remember what peace there may be in silence – From desiderata
  • Silence is a virtue – Ben Franklin (?)
Is it possible that we have become uncomfortable with silence? Can we not stand to be alone with our own thoughts? Who are all those people on cell phones talking to? What are they talking about? Why does that loudmouth guy in the airport think we are impressed because he paces back and forth all the while barking orders to some minion on the other end.
Why do we need to either fill every second with meanless gibberings ourselves, or turn on the tv or radio and let someone else fill our ears with their inane chatter?
I guess if you are reading this you already know I am old and crotchety – a dinasour! It is about networking you might tell me. It is about staying in touch you could say. It is about connectedness you will inform me.
It is about human communication and social intercourse you may try to convince me.
I would nod my thanks for the lesson, and think to myself, Bah – humbug (or maybe a less polite version)!
We are assaulted by noise these days. Our houses give off their electronic hums and clicks and buzzes. Our skies carry the sounds of jet engines. Cars are quieter now, but their tires screech around corners just as noisely as ever, and their Bose systems pound our ears with their deep bass THUMP THUMP THUMP.
Police cars and ambulances and fire trucks wail their distressing yodels 24/7. But for me, the worst noise is the constant droning of human voices saying nothing in a million words or more.
Not so long ago, going to church provided a few minutes of silence before the service started. People entered quietly, took their pew, perhaps bowed their heads and offered a prayer, then sat in the stillness while the organ played softly some familiar and loved hymn. No one would have thought to intrude upon their solitude. Now? Just try to sit quietly and meditate for a few minutes. You may as well be in the bleachers at a ball game.
So where do you go to get in touch with yourself and your spirituality for a few minutes? Does anyone actually do that now? The bible says “be still, and know that I am God”. Don’t be too still though, or you may be branded as an antisocial loner and misfit.
One of the things that bother me about telephone conversations is that there is no room for a pause. If you think there is, you just try it sometime. When you sit with someone on your deck, or in front of your fireplace, there is room for easy pauses in the flow of talk. A companionable silence. Not so on the telephone. A pause is embarassing. Don’t misunderstand, the telephone is a wonderful tool, great for short informative conversations, giving or getting instructions or directions, making appointments, and with a distant friend you don’t see often for longer conversations and catching up. I just don’t understand how you can spend an hour on the phone with someone you saw just yesterday.
So what is my point? I am not sure I know.
I thought about writing about the louts that chew gum in inappropriate places, the dipsticks that never take their hats off in the house or anywhere else, the general lack of common sense manners, the university grads that cannot spell, the drivers that pass and pull in one car in front of you because they just know they are more important, the snippy sales clerks that make “thank you and have a nice day” one word, or say nothing at all, - and a thousand other irritating subjects. These things just make me angry, and when I think about them too much, I develop a profound sense of futility.
I suppose in reality I am just mourning the passing of a more polite and genteel age. And more specifically, mourning the loss of quiet contemplation.
  • Words are silver, silence is golden – ancient wisdom
  • Nothing gold can stay – Robert Frost
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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Foxes and Bluebirds - a drama

For the last few weeks we have watched the antics of a family of red foxes in the field beside our home. A vixen and 7 kits!
It is like a National Geographic special. They romp and play, pounce and chase, and the vixen meticulously grooms each of the kits which they apparently enjoy immensely.
At the edge of this field is our bluebird house, and the male works hard to bring food to the female in the box, and also to drive off any interlopers – black birds, starlings, - anything that seems to threaten the welfare of his family.
Yesterday late afternoon saw a new development – an interface between fox and bird. The vixen was lying in the middle of the field with just her ears showing above the green of the wheat growing there. Suddenly she was attacked by both bluebirds – swooping within a hair’s breadth of her sharp teeth, and then returning to do the same over again and again. She finally got up and trotted slowly back into the woods.
What, we said to ourselves, was that all about?
We got our answer. The bluebird fledglings had left the nest. Their flying skills are very basic, and despite their frantic uncoordinated fluttering, they often crash into the lawn and would make a tasty little snack for a hungry fox.
Within a matter of hours they are much more accomplished flyers, although their short little tails, and still developing wings do not allow very long flights, so they sit on tree branches and immediately become invisible, while the parents, mainly the male, bring them their meals.
Two families – foxes and bluebirds – trying to survive.
Just one of the little dramas that takes place in the world of nature.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I'll Rant If I Want To!

Weed b Gon, Roundup, and THE LAW
Weed B Gon concentrate is now available in Ontario! I would like to think my blog caused someone to get their head on straight, but that is wishful thinking.
Roundup concentrate is still banned in Ontario! (mixed product is available). I suppose another million or so large pump style plastic containers have been added to our garbage mountain - but hey - I am sure our beloved government knows what it is doing - right? Meanwhile, all accounts I have read about roundup class it as one of the very safest and eco friendly on the market!

A Rant
So Weedex is illegal in Ontario – I understand it is ok for golf courses and certain other facilities.
I look in my garden shed and see my now empty sprayer containers for Weed B Gon and Roundup. Both are still legal products here although Roundup is now class 7. Aha I say – I will buy concentrate and refill.
Roundup is an herbicide (kills everything) and Weed B Gon is a selective broadleaf weed killer.
I use roundup to keep weeds from growing on my patio deck and in my driveway. I use Weed B Gon to spot kill dandelions in the yard. Both are effective products!
Not so fast buddy – I cannot find concentrate.
My Email to Scotts (makers of Weed B Gon) inquiring about concentrate gets a response telling me that Weed B Gon is illegal in Ontario. I respond saying that is incorrect – it is in fact legal, but my question was where I can buy concentrate. The answer to that comes from a different person apologizing for the first response and telling me that the concentrate is not available. Ok!
A quick google tells me it is available in the US and is still showing on various Canadian store websites.
I decided to have a go at Roundup concentrate.
A young lady at Home Depot informed me firmly that Roundup is illegal. I challenged her on that and her response was “Whatever – we don’t have it”. Ok!
Home Hardware shows it in their website. I hurry myself off to the nearest store. Yes, they have roundup, and it is locked up in a display case. I am told there that Roundup is only for use on poison ivy and that Roundup concentrate is illegal.
We are recyclers and like to think that we are concerned about the environment and act responsibly. I have no problem with banning a product that has serious negative implications for our world.
Would someone please explain the logic to me in allowing the use of these products but banning the concentrate? If you say it is a marketing ploy I will understand. It has to be more profitable to sell thousands and thousands of expensively packaged solutions than to sell a concentrate that can be used in the old dispensers. Still, this is a government ban. Perhaps that is all that needs to be said.
The instruction on the containers tells you to wrap in newspaper and place in the garbage. Both Roundup and Weed B Gon also mention refilling the containers using their concentrates. That seems to say it is not a marketing ploy, so the responsibility rests with the all wise government.
I stand in the garden center and watch the various sizes of Weed B Gon flying off the shelves. The center can hardly restock the product quickly enough. The containers range up to 5 liters in size. It is not only the two products I have mentioned – there are dozens of other products in containers that cannot be reused.
The end result as far as I can tell is that very large numbers (Millions??) of sturdy plastic containers with various types of spray attachments – trigger sprayers and pump up sprayers and battery operated sprayers (for those who cannot pull a trigger or pump up a sprayer) will be dumped into our garbage!
Would you care to hazard a guess on what the life of the various plastics used would be?
Is the use of the words Government and Logic in the same sentence an oxymoron?

Oh yeah – I almost forgot – I was told that the reason we cannot buy concentrates is because the McGuinty Government (AKA the Granny Govt!) thinks we are all too stupid or evil (or both) to mix them properly! Duh!

Would it be too much to ask that the Govt. at least mandate the use of recyclable containers?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dad & the HMS Louvain Sinking

My father joined the Royal Navy on October 1, 1914.
His ship, the HMS Louvain was torpedoed on January 21, 1918 by the German Submarine UC 22.
The following is an excerpt from an article written about the sinking.
“At 7:40pm German time on January 20, 1918, UC 22 spotted a steamer with an escorting destroyer. UC 22's commanding officer, Oblt.z.S Carl Scherb

decided to maneuver to lay a minefield across the formation's path and then proceed with a bow torpedo attack. The first mine is laid at 8:00pm, the last at 8:10pm.
UC 22 immediately thereafter begins her torpedo attack and soon fires a single torpedo at 600 meter range. The torpedo hits the steamer (Louvain); UC 22 is rather near the escort and is soon being depth charged. UC 22 finally surfaces about an hour after the attack and sees the destroyer at the attack site but the steamer is gone. The minefield prevents the U-boat from getting back to the attack site.
Conditions were sea state 2 with clear skys and very good visability. Given the conditions and the presence of an escorting vessel, I would presume Louvain must have gone down very quickly for there to be such a heavy loss of life. (Bendert lists 224 dead).”

The picture shows Dad in his navy uniform, but was taken in a studio in Scotland.

For more on this story, read AN INTERESTING LIFE in “Other Stuff” shown on the left side of this page near the top.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011



Until we had this personal encounter I had only ever had brief glimpses of a “butcher bird”!
I suppose I had images in my mind created by it’s nickname that this bird was a nasty piece of work indeed.
I was wrong. They are beautiful, and only obeying the laws of nature when they follow their practice of skewering prey on thorns or barbed wire.
In this encounter, the shrike had hit one of our windows but thankfully it was a glancing blow – not a direct head on collision. As a result it was temporarily stunned, and when I carefully approached, it looked at me but allowed me to pick it up and hold it.
I think it liked the warmth of my hand because it did not want to leave. I finally managed to gently transfer it to the deck rail where it sat for a few moments before finally flying off to a nearby tree.
I was thankful it was not seriously injured and grateful for the opportunity to get these (and many other) pictures.
A magnficent creature indeed!
 (click or double click for enlargement of pictures)

Monday, April 18, 2011


Bluebirds plus mealworms = good pictures!
It is always a delight to listen to the spring birdsong filling the air after a long cold winter. We are particularly happy to see our Eastern Bluebirds back for another season of nesting in the box near our home.

The pictures are from 2 summers ago. I had a difficult time getting good pictures of the female, but did manage to capture one with the male feeding her (although it is a bit blurry and not included), and the one shown below.

There was no problem however in getting good pictures of the male, and the four chicks.

The worms you see are small mealworms. The male carried worms to the box all the time the chicks were in the nest. After they left the nest, the female disappeared, and it seems the job of babysitting the chicks fell to the male. For a time he took worms to the chicks, but eventually he brought them to the feeder. By that time they were used to me, and I was able to get closeup pictures.

The previous season I took pictures inside the nest from day one until they took wing.

I have been amazed that among our aquaintances so few have ever seen a bluebird. I hope you enjoy the pictures of these beautiful little creatures.

(click or double click for larger pictures)
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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Harmony United Church Part 3

Memories to cherish

Except for a few minor details, the closing of Harmony United Church and the amalgamation of the congregation into Faith United church is completed.

Harmony has had a wide sphere of influence, and that continues. Out of our congregation came at least 3 candidates for ministry, all serving in various church charges today.

Children that attended Sunday school there, and Boy and Girl scouts will always carry memories of Harmony with them wherever they go.

From the proceeds of the sale of the property, some funds went to charities that Harmony had sponsored for years, some went to Faith United, and a portion was put into a foundation created in order to provide assistance to the deserving needy in years to come.

The legacy of the founding families will not die!

I had the privilege to symbolically hand over the keys to the people of Lifepoint Church – the organization that bought the property – on the occasion of their first service there. I was impressed with their enthusiasm and dedication, and their welcome to me was warm and heartfelt.

I also had the opportunity to present some of our hymn books, Voices United, to St. Marks United Church in Whitby. St. Marks was our church home when Beth and I lived in Whitby, and their new minister, Rev. Deb Foster, came to them from Zion United Church – a church that, like Harmony, was forced to close it’s doors this year.

At a recent funeral for a long time member of Harmony, many or most of the Harmony congregation attended, and it was like family getting together again. I don’t suppose that feeling will end any time soon.

There are lots of wonderful memories, far to many to try to document.

I will simply end with this one – at our final service on January 9, 2011, the children went to the front to join our minister Rev. Bob LePage. Attending that day was his son and daughter in law and their young daughter Clara.

When Clara saw “Papa” sitting on the steps of the altar she went and sat beside him. The sun was streaming through the stained glass and as they looked at each other the picture below was taken. (Note - Grandma Jan can be seen at the far right in the first row of the choir)

I think it is a wonderful image to keep in our hearts.
(click or double click for larger picture)

Monday, February 28, 2011


As I look at my "to do" list, I rationalize why I am not starting on any of the projects. I'll do them when ------

When March gets here
When snow is gone
And spring is near
And days are long
That’s when I’ll do it!
When trees turn green
when rivers flow
And buds are seen
And daisies grow
That’s when I’ll do it!
When winds are warm
When ground is dry
And never a storm
And clear blue sky
That’s when I’ll do it!
Today it’s freezing
Snow in the air
And I am sneezing
It’s just not fair
The fire is warm
The book is great
So where’s the harm
If those jobs wait
I’ll get at them
I swear I will
But not until -
the spring
That’s when I’ll do it!

E Mail

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.
The glorious light colours its way through the beautiful stained glass windows and falls on empty pews.  No longer a sanctuary, it has become an echoing abandoned hall. The silence that was once holy, is now suffocating and oppressive.The altar, stripped of its furnishings, is now just a platform with no special significance.
All that remains are memories and ghosts. And a forgotten echo of choir voices in my mind.
The congregation that made this building their home has scattered, some to one or another of the churches in the area, a few no longer going to church at all. But all with an empty aching longing for what was once theirs. The choir voices that were ours are now part of new choirs, their voices mingling with other families.
How can anyone describe the impact, the feelings, the emotions, the sadness that is carried in the hearts and minds of these people who were once a part of the family that was Harmony United Church?
So much goodness has been shown by other churches in the area. Loving empathy, enthusiastic welcomes to their congregations, and open arms to enfold and embrace. This helps and soothes and is deeply appreciated, but does not cure the anguish.
We are not “home” - at least not yet.
The final Sunday service on January 9. So beautiful and moving. Tears and laughter and reminiscing and hugs – all with the knowledge that this was the last, the final ceremony, and nothing would ever be the same again.
Life goes on for us all. We move about our daily lives, and for the most part we can ignore the pang that signals a void in our existence, until a word or song or memory suddenly thrusts the reality back into sharp awareness.
We understand our duty though. It is to integrate into a new family. It is to recognize that now familiar ache for what it is – just nostalgia – an aversion to change – a desire to go back to a simpler time, and so we force it down below the surface and put on our happy faces, determined to show that we are strong.
It makes me wonder – how did a building and a group of people become so important to us that we grieve so badly?
It makes me wonder – will any of us allow another building and another group of people to take the place of what was lost?
It makes me wonder – with all the nice words about moving on – about new beginnings – about the Divine purpose for us – why does it just feel like The End?
And yet – deep within there is the faint beginning of a new hope, a new horizon, and a new optimism that we will heal, and that our experience will make us strong.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

3 Painterly People

3 Painters in my life
How I envy those people that can do the things I cannot - Musicians, authors and painters among others. Today I want to think about painting.
Jules Feiffer said “Artists can color the sky red because they know it's blue. Those of us who aren't artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we're stupid.”

It is my very good fortune to count among friends 3 painters – I prefer that title to “artist” in this case because artist can cover so many areas and this is specific to painting.
I will not even attempt to define what art means to me except to say that some paintings move me to tears, some fill me with joy, and some speak to me on a level I do not understand and cannot explain. There are also those that leave me cold!

Picasso famously made the statement that “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Having watched children draw and color without restrictions or rules, I have come to believe Picasso’s statement is true. Sadly, the vast majority of humanity, including me, fall into the category of “lost artists”. Life has trained it out of us.
How fortunate we are then, that artists still exist among us.
My 3 painter friends are very different from each other in what they do and what they create, but all are bound by the same need to give expression to something within that escapes explanation in any form other than their art.
It is not my intention to do anything here other than tell you a little about these 3 unique individuals and let you see for yourself what their art is all about.

One is a professional and mostly self taught artist, coming to it later in life, but despite his years in industry, he would never think of himself as anything but a painter.
His name is Allison Robichaud.

One would never tell you he is a painter or artist. If asked, he would tell you what he did for a living before he retired. If the subject of art came up at all, he would say it is “only” a hobby.
His name is Michael (Mike) King.

The last has a degree in fine art, loves to paint, but while he knows his paintings are good, he does not think they have any commercial attraction. (It may be worth noting here that Van Gogh was spectacularly unsuccessful in selling his work!)
His name is Eric Sangwine. Let me start with him.

Eric Sangwine is by profession a librarian with the Oshawa Public Libraries. He has combined his love of history, especially the middle ages, with his sense of humour and creativity as a painter to produce highly detailed fanciful paintings that mostly deal with a specific incident from the past. His art is colourful, generally humorous, always tells a story, and when you watch people looking at his paintings they are smiling!
Eric is going to retire this spring and says he will devote his retirement to travel, painting, and likely eating sushi.
The pictures shown are – The music pageant – Robinson House (now a museum in Oshawa) at Christmas – Henry the V111
Visit his website at

Michael (Mike) King is retired from a lifelong career in the engineering division of General Motors. Mike has an insatiable curiosity (about almost everything), a love of nature, he relishes the artifacts of our recent past, and mourns the loss of the honored traditions of our pioneer ancestors. All of these things come together in his quest to capture some of these images on canvas. Someone once said that all paintings reflect the image of the painter, and in Mike’s paintings, you clearly see the inner man, and what enchants and captivates him.
The pictures shown are -A Painted Chair Mike donated for a “CHAIRity” auction – The bleached bones of a ship on a shore – A lighthouse at Long Point in Prince Edward County.

Allison Robichaud spent his career in industry in various management positions, but his only claim now is that he is a painter. I could add that he is also an author, having published one book on painting, and another currently in the works. He reminds me of a quote attributed to Michelangelo - “I’ve finished that chapel I was painting. The Pope is quite satisfied.”
Allison is highly acclaimed as a painter’s painter – a true “Plein Air” painter. As he approaches his 80th birthday, he continues to paint at a furious rate and old age has no choice but to wait until he is ready to accommodate it. Right now he has no time for it.
His love of our Canadian landscape is obvious, and the acclaim he has won is well earned and deserved.
The pictures shown are – Allison hard at work on a cold day – A lighthouse near his home – An autumn scene with ship

There are many famous quotes by and about painters. These are a few of my favorites
 Jean-Jacques Rousseau said "The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless."
 Claude Debussy said “Art is the most beautiful of all lies.”
 John Ruskin said “Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.”
There are critics of course, and here are two of them
 Frank Zappa said “Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.”
 Ambrose Bierce said “Painting is the art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic.”
I say, “everyone should have at least one painter in their life. Three is better”.
NOTE: All pictures can be enlarged by clicking once or even larger click twice!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Grandma's Birthday Tribute

It is true! I am married to a septuagenarian! January 24 was the official date, and we had a party with great friends. Alison and Ashleigh put together the visual presentation that captures lots of highlights of friends, family, fun, and love. Carole King proposed a beautiful toast to her friend Beth. Morgan played guitar and sang one of her compositions called Blind House. Ashleigh played the piano and she and Morgan sang the duet version of The Prayer. All in all a wonderful event. I hope you enjoy the pictures and the slide show.


Morgan has won awards for songwriting and singing. This song,Blind house, was written about 1 year ago.
The video purposely contrasts with the dark nature of the song.
I hope you like it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A beloved UEL pioneer

The Pioneer Spirit
As a child in “The County” I never knew my grandparents. My mother’s parents were living in Alberta, and my father’s parents were deceased. However, I had the great privilege to know and love my mother’s grandmother, my great grandmother Waity!
Born in 1868 she lived until 1952. My great grandfather Philip died when I was still a baby, so I have no memory of him.
Grandma Waity was a tiny woman, barely five feet tall, and lived alone in a log house near Point Traverse, or Long Point as I knew it, in the County of Prince Edward. The house was perhaps a mile from a dirt road, and about a half mile from Lake Ontario. Of course there was no electricity or running water. The log house still stands and is pictured in the book “The Settlers Dream”. I believe it is now in use as a private cottage.
I have clear memories of visiting her at her home, and even now I recall the smell of fried cakes as she pulled them from a huge cast iron cauldron.
A pair of ancient binoculars stood on a window sill that faced the lake. As with all the old homes of The County, there were hollyhocks and Lilacs in abundance.
In the 1980’s, Arthur and Bill Bongard who were rather distant neighbours often talked about her, and her fried cakes.
Sometime in the late 40’s or early 50’s she suffered a stroke and finally had to leave her lifelong home to come and live with us where she stayed until her death in 1952.
One of the pictures shows her with me at Warings Corners, likely about 1946, and we stand beside my parent’s 1927 Essex. Another picture shows my mother as a baby with her parents (my grandparents) and her grandparents (my great grandparents).
The third picture is the log house as shown in The Settler’s Dream, after it was abandoned.
I grew up with no electricity, telephone or running water, and all heating and cooking were done with wood or coal. Even so, I cannot imagine what it was like for her living alone in that remote log house, especially during the long and very cruel winters.
It remains a treasure to me that I have strong memories of a real pioneer, a grand daughter of original UEL settlers.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Digital Camera Magic

With my first pc, I also bought a Xerox copier, scanner, fax. When I found that the ink cartridges cost more than a new printer, I bought an HP unit. It too has all the functions, but I have never had much luck using the scanner.
However, I discovered the joy in using my digital camera to take pictures of old photographs, and have since digitized many of the old photographs in our various albums.
Not only does this provide digital copies, it also allows for editing of the pictures, and this to me is the amazing part.
Take for example a photo of my father taken in Wainwright Alberta in 1924. Imagine the camera that was used at that time. The photo is dark and without much detail. However, when digitized and edited, much of what was originally dark has become sharp detail. The picture shown had virtually no detail in the original.
Another was again of my father during WW2 when he was a guard in a prison camp in Nipigon in 1943. (both edited pics are shown below)
Again, the original shows no detail inside the tent, whereas the edited copy does.
It is true that care is required when taking the pictures. I find the best method is to sit in the light from a North window, using no flash, and with the close up setting on. You can use a camera stand to give stability, but I find it to be a nuisance, and it is better to just move the camera around until the picture is clear and square in the camera viewer, and with no visible reflection.
It seems to me it is nothing short of miraculous to be able to save all these old photographs in a form that will make them easy to store, easy to find when you want them, and easy to share.
There are many other benefits to a digital camera that particularly appeal to those of us old enough to remember when you had to use film, remember to buy flash bulbs, take film to a developer to have prints made, and then paste into albums.
I know there are purists out there (my friend Dan for example) that prefer the old methods, but for me, digital cameras are one of the best developments of recent years.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


We do meals on wheels. That means delivering hot meals to elderly or shut in folks throughout the city.
I drive while Beth navigates, and she delivers the meals to the home or apartment.
On many occasions she spends more time in the house than usual, and I have come to understand that means the recipient of the meal wants to talk.
In one house recently she spent perhaps 5 minutes. This was a large and very attractive home in a lovely older community.
When she came out she told me that the elderly owner had built the house himself. His son committed suicide. His wife died of cancer 3 years ago. His only other child, a daughter lives in Vancouver. Her husband is deceased. She now has cancer. She is attempting to sell her house and return to Oshawa to live with her father in the home he built. He hopes she can sell and move back soon.

Perhaps this is not such an uncommon story but it is a story that was told to a complete stranger within five minutes of meeting. It happens frequently.
Henry David Thoreau said “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”! This may be even more true of the elderly, particularly those living alone.
Imagine the extreme loneliness that makes a short visit from a volunteer meal deliverer a bright spot in someone’s day.
Imagine the intense desire for human interface that compels someone to share their deepest feelings, sorrows, and hopes to a stranger.
Imagine a life that seems pointless and futile.
How very sad!
John Prine is a songwriter and singer. For the song “Hello In There” he wrote these words

We know that old trees just grow stronger
Old rivers grow wilder every day
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say
Hello in there
If you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some ancient hollow eyes
Please don’t just pass em by and stare
As if you didn’t care
Say hello in there
Say hello.
The opportunity to brighten someone’s life occurs regularly, and it gives rewards both ways.
You and I can be an angel to someone if we want to.
Say Hello in there!

Monday, January 3, 2011


A friend asked for my list of “best” books for the year. How hard is that to answer? I responded as I normally do, not by trying to define “best”, but simply by listing the ones that come to mind first.
My library records tell me I took out almost 100 books, and along with those were the ones that friends loaned me. I know that as soon as I post this another bunch will come to mind!!
Here is my list.
*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society -a story of the war years on the Isle of Guernsey. A great read by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
*The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. (Brother of Dan Hill.) Wonderful book.
*Half Broke Horses and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (non fiction)
*Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese An epic story starting in Ethiopia and ending in the USA. Excellent book
*The Girl who played with fire, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (I am on the waiting list for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest by the same author - Steig Larssen)
*I've Got a Home in Glory Land by Karolyn Smardz Frost (Toronto Author - Great Book - Non Fiction)
*Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.
*The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
*The Kite Runner -and- A Thousand Splendid Suns (same author for both - Khaled Hosseini).
*Reading Lolita In Tehran by Azar Nafisi (non fiction).
*all the Body Farm books by by Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson.
*I currently have (among others) Ken Follets new book - Fall of Giants. It is a giant book. Hope it is good.
*In action books I highly recommend any and all of the Lee Child books. His hero is a guy called Jack Reacher, an ex army MP. Wonderful character.
*If you liked the Steig Larssen books, or Dan Brown books, you should enjoy books by Greg Iles. Particularly Blood Memory, Dead Sleep, and True Evil. I think Iles is a better writer!
*I am waiting for a book called The Friends Of Meager Fortune. A friend highly recommends it. The author is David Adams Richards.

My reserve list at the library is growing. I may have to do another post on books soon.