Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bookmark Canada

I had a chance encounter with a lady on the street this week. She saw me taking pictures and wondered if I would like one of myself with that background. I live here, but she is a visitor. In the city the conversation we had would probably never have happened. The friendliness of our village makes even visitors feel comfortable chatting with strangers.

It seems she is an executive member of something called Project Bookmark Canada. That's a national, charitable organization that seeks out, and marks, places that have been mentioned in Canadian literature with Bookmarks in the form of poster-sized ceramic plaques. There are currently at least 13 Bookmarks scattered across Canada, with a couple more in the works. This summer they have launched some themed contests. For example the most recent one Bookmark Summer Reads Campaign: Parks CanLit invited members of the public to read books by Canadian authors, and identify park land where literary scenes were set. Every two weeks they will announce a different theme.

Their supporters can also use their cameras and smartphones and share pictures of their favourite summer reading places on Twitter and Instagram using the #BookmarkSummerReads hashtag. For every picture shared, they get a chance to win a fun weekly prize.

Even if I don't become a supporter, I do think I'm going to keep track of what this group is up to.  I'll start by joining their Facebook page.

I notice they have a Bookmark in Ottawa.  Hunting that down will be much like going on another geocaching adventure, but I'll actually have an address to head for.  Any excuse to go exploring is fine with me.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Trouble Ahead for the Food Industry

In the last few of years I have cursed a number of hand held can openers. I have thrown several away and gone out an purchased new ones, and still I have trouble opening cans.  It doesn't matter whether you spend $20 for ones with the big plastic handles, or search out the cheaper, all metal variety, which are becoming harder and harder to find.  I have even tried the kind that cuts the entire top off the can below the rim.  They leave a very sharp edge, and I find that rather dangerous.  No matter how many can openers I have, I always seem to have to work my way through them to find one that will open the can.  I have heard that other people were having trouble too.

I have discovered, through trial and error, that perhaps I should not have thrown away some of the openers I disposed of. They might have opened a different can.  I now know I have one that will open any yellow labeled no-name product, but nothing else.  I suspect others will open some other types of cans, but will skip and sputter along the top of anything else.

Earlier this week I decided to make a bean salad consisting of kidney beans, chick peas and green beans, along with some green pepper and onions.  I set the three cans on the counter and proceeded to open them.  The first one opened easily, and without any trouble at all.  I couldn't help thinking I was lucky to have grabbed the right can opener for a change. The second can also opened, but it took a lot more effort on my part, to turn the key and cut the lid.  The by the time I got to the third can, I couldn't even dent the lid with that can opener, and had to try another one.  The second one moved about an eighth of an inch every time I turned the key a full turn. I would have tried another one, but it seemed to be stuck on the can so I just kept going.  It took a long time but least it wasn't skipping.  There is nothing worse than going all the way around the can and finding that the lid is still attached in more than one place, but depressed so that none of the opener blades can reach the metal to cut it.

I began to wonder if some of these products were canned in China or someplace so I read the labels.  Each and every one of them said they were produced in Canada, but they were all different brands and processed at different canning facilities.  That was a revelation to me.  The problem is not the openers, as I had always thought, but that the canning companies are each using their own can with apparently no standard rim size set by the industry.

This problem of getting a can open is fairly new, in the scheme of things.  We didn't use to have this problem.  I remember we could all open any can with whatever opener was available.

Standard can sizes have been around in the United States since the early1870's and I have no idea if the Americans are having the same kinds of problems as many of us here in Canada seem to be.  Perhaps the lids are being re-designed to have a shorter and thinner rim at the top. Maybe it even has something to do with metric sizes.  There is likely no universal standards for the can opener manufactures, and now it seems there is also no standards for the cans either. It's pure luck if you pick up the right opener for the right can the first time. If you fail, pick up another one, made by a different manufacturer, and try again.  It's not the can openers, it's the cans.

One would think, that our country would require a standard can, with a standard rim, that could be easily opened by young and old alike.  I'm getting too old to fight with cans.  Maybe that will end up being good for my health as I'll be forced to eat fresh food, or go back to doing my own canning.  Maybe all the other baby boomers will feel the same way.  I'm sure other age groups are becoming frustrated too. Canned food could end up sitting on store shelves until the expiry date just because we are tired of fighting to get it opened.  Food processors had better get their act in gear or they could find themselves out of business. We, the people, have that kind of power.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Zip Line Rescue Operations

Are you adventurous enough to try a zip line adventure?  I always thought it looked like good fun.  You get all harnessed up and safely zip from one end of the line to the other, and enjoy the view along the way. I wouldn't have hesitated to try it, if given the chance.


Recently, on vacation, we stopped at Grand Falls in New Brunswick. I noticed two zip lines across the waterway there.  One went from the bridge well below the falls, to the opposite side of the river. The second one went back across the river, right over some of the most turbulent waters. 

We spotted a group of young people out for a day's adventure. 

A couple of them got a little more than they bargained for when they found themselves dangling over the falls.
This one almost made it to the end of the line before the momentum came to a halt.

The other one was stuck in a more precarious spot.

How would you like it if you were zipping along and suddenly stopped dead, hanging over all that dangerous water?

It didn't take long before one of the attendants put on a harness and went to the rescue.

The first one was quickly brought to safety.  You could see the relief on the face of the person dangling further out when he knew it was his turn next.

Help is on the way.

Almost there.....


The rescuer wraps his legs around the stranded person and begins the long trip back.

Safe at last.
It's nice to know that the attendants do know how to get you back to solid ground if something causes you to stop sliding, but I'm no longer so sure I'd want to ride the zip line.  At least not over a wild waterfall.
It was more than enough adventure for me just watching this rescue!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tall Tales and Weather Predictions

Years ago there was a weatherman at CJOH in Ottawa who would forecast wonderful weekend weather, time and time again, only for us to experience wet rainy conditions. Many of us got to the point where we actually didn't trust his weekend weather reports, and some openly called him a liar.  Eventually he admitted that he didn't want to tell us when it was going to rain on a weekend, as he didn't want to spoil our fun. Of course, going where we planned to go and getting rained on also spoiled our fun, but I guess he didn't see it that way.

Technology has changed so much since those days that we don't even need to tune into the TV weather forecasts if we don't want to.  I can check my local weather on my computer, and I have a Weather Network app on my tablet.  If I want to, I can not only see the current forecast but also what's expected to happen over the next two weeks, or even hour by hour for the next 36 hours.  I don't have to even limit myself to where I am. If I am going somewhere, or planning a vacation, I can look at where I'm headed and see how things will be when I'm there.

Actually, I did that last year. We were planning to go to Nova Scotia for our holiday.  The weather was not all that great here, so I looked where we were going to see if it was going to affect us there, and if postponing a couple of days would be a good idea, so that we could follow the weather there, instead of it following us.  What I saw was that they seemed to be expecting rain every day for the entire two weeks we had available for travel. Since everything we like to do is outside, we decided not to go, and enjoyed a Staycation here, with day trips around the area. It was very enjoyable, but when it was over, I got plenty of reports from people who were in the maritimes during our vacation time who told me the weather had been wonderful.  I'm wondering if perhaps the forecasts I saw showed a 40% probability, but the graphics definitely showed raindrops each and every day.

This spring I discovered that Kingston was going to host an Artfest in a big city park and I have been looking forward to it more than any other event this year. We had planned to go for Canada Day, but once again the weather got in the way.  Or maybe it was just the weather forecast.

It was definitely not the nicest day here, and I was not even tempted to wander downtown to even see if the usual Canada Day festivities were taking place.  I checked the Kingston weather, and found that the only difference was that we were expecting possible thunderstorms here, but they were just expecting rain.  Either way, the weather put a damper on any plans I had for the day.  I just stayed in and read all day, and surfed the internet.

While online I discovered that we could get tickets to an adaptation of Pirates of Penzance at the 1000 Island Playhouse in Gananoque at a greatly reduced rate for that one night only. We jumped on this deal, and enjoyed an evening out. The rich costumes of the usual Gilbert and Sullivan production were nowhere in evidence in this adaptation. The troupe brought the story forward to 1926 and set it among the Thousand Islands.  The pirates in this story became rum runners on the Saint Lawrence River.  There was a great deal of talent on stage, and lots of giggles and outright belly laughs going on in the audience. My Canada Day may not have been what I had planned, but it turned out just fine in the end.

The following day I was once again online and saw lots of photos of the first day of the Kingston Artfest.  The sun appeared to be shining in those pictures. Lots of people were there, and lots of tents held a wide variety of artwork. I could have been there after all.

A little research shows me that weather forecasts are usually quite accurate within a three day time frame. I really have to stop looking at the weather forecasts when I'm making plans, because apparently all weather men lie, just in case what happens might spoil your day.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Goldfish, Not River Fish

image courtesy of Sommai at
There has been lots in the news lately concerning the invasiveness of goldfish in rivers, streams and ponds in Alberta and Toronto.

Many years ago, I had a friend who built a pond in her back yard, and then bought a few gold fish to put in it.  In the beginning, the fish were brought indoors during the winter months and put into an aquarium in the living room.  Goldfish grow according to how much space they have and soon the fish that lived in the pond during the summer were too big to all fit into the aquarium. She would then select a few for her winter amusement, to live in the aquarium, and bought a child's wading pool for the rest of them. Those ones got to live in that pool in the basement, and by spring had usually managed to reproduce. Now, some of the offspring were pretty and golden and got to live in the pond or the aquarium, while others were brown and deemed by my friend to be "river fish".  She would take those ones down and turn them loose in the Rideau River, where they may have been eaten up by larger fish.....or not.  If not, then they have had ample room to grow and become an invasive species here too. 

I'm not sure anyone would notice though as goldfish are carp. The common carp  (Cyprinus carpio)has been found throughout the Rideau River since the 1930s.  They were introduced into Ontario from the United States in 1880. This species, native to Europe and Asia, quickly spread throughout southern Ontario and has reached as far north as Sturgeon Bay, Ontario.

This fish has been blamed for destroying the spawning areas of many aquatic insects, amphibians and other fish by rooting in the mud along shorelines.  Uprooting aquatic plants increases the turbidity, which is rather like smoke in the water.  The suspended particles can block the grills of other fish, so they stay away.  If eggs have already been laid in these areas, they could be covered by these particles, which would interfere in their development.

There have been years when I have seen carp swim up to the dam here in town. They were fascinating to watch as they made like salmon, trying to jump up the onrushing flow of the water going over the dam. I don't think there is any way any of them could have gone upstream from that point, but they surely could go downstream.  I don't know if the carp I've seen here had anything to do with the "river fish" my friend turned loose all those years ago. I now suspect they fit right in with the rest of the carp in the river though. 

I have also seen schools of carp in  the Tay River in Perth, Ontario. The Tay is a tributary to the Rideau River, upstream from here.  Children like to get into the stream that runs though Stewart Park in Perth, in the spring  and pet the fish. Carp are rather docile and friendly enough to swim right up to a person.  That may be why they were domesticated in the first place.

While it's likely the giant goldfish in Alberta will upset the aquatic eco system, the list of native species found in the Rideau now includes the carp. When something has been around long enough, I guess it's considered normal. 

It is illegal to transfer fish from one body of water to another. That means you cannot legally do what my friend did.  Not only does such an act introduce a fish into waters where it does not belong, but if you also dump the water the fish has been living in into the river too that would also introducing bacteria and parasites to a new location as well.  Do not be responsible for upsetting the balance of nature, even if it's already been done in your area.

Don't flush your unwanted live fish down the toilet either. If you no longer want your finned pets, give them away, take them to a pet store, donate them to a school, or talk to a veterinarian about humane disposal.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Heyday Bargains

This past weekend we attended Heyday in Kemptville.  For the 55th year, the Kemptville District Hospital Auxiliary pulled together to create the best giant garage and/or yard sale you are going to find anywhere.  Held in the North Grenville Curling Club, what makes this yard sale the best, in my opinion, is that things are sorted according to category.  Not only are the books and clothing separated into their own areas, but lamps are with lamps, appliances with appliances, and glassware also has it's own separate table.

If you go there to look for something in particular, you can go to the correct area an see what's available without having to sort though a jumble of junk.  Both this year and last, we went looking specifically for chairs.  Last year my oldest son wanted some chrome chairs, and we found some that will likely last him the rest of his life, and they were only $3 each.  This year my sister-in-law mentioned she also needed some chairs for her kitchen. When the day came, she had a previously scheduled appointment, and couldn't make it to the sale. We told her we would look, and grabbed up 4 nice sturdy wooden chairs for her for a grand total of $20. 

Looking around the rest of the room, I discovered a nice frame, complete with mat (and a picture I'll dispose of), a wooden lamp (that will likely be painted black) and a grey shade to go with it, two necklaces, three books, a green vase, and three small ceramic pots with lids that are perfect for reheating things in the microwave.  Total cost to me for all that was just $5.  Where else can you get so much for so little. And it's all for a good cause.

I'm already looking forward to next year.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Down on the Farm

Our Friday Friends group decided to take a little photography trip last week, instead of doing out usual art projects. We didn't go far....just down the road to the local sheep farm.

As it turned out, there were other things to see besides just sheep.

There were large old trees

 and interesting garden gates.

The old stone farmhouse

had a peaceful place to sit out back.

The garden had some interesting mulch...wool scraps, as well as the usual straw, to keep the weeds down.

Flowers grow with wild abandon along the fence rows.

and critters help themselves to whatever they can find.

The cedar rails were piled up and ready, perhaps to repair, or make more fences.

 Some of the lambs are still being hand fed by the farmer and they live away from the rest.

Others are doing fine and even grazing on the grass now.

One of my friends was very excited to meet her first lamb. It had managed to get through the fence and came right to her.  She couldn't resist a snuggle.

Our friendly sheep farmer came out to chat with us for a while.  The same lamb my friend had was happy to greet him too.  It definitely likes people.  I hope he keeps it, as his cull list is growing longer day by day.

We had a wonderful time exploring and meeting the sheep. I know I got at least a couple of pictures that will inspire me to create, and I'm sure the others likely did too.